Sugarcane growers, like all Australians, are committed to ensuring the health of the Great Barrier Reef and will work with the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce now agreed to by the Queensland Government.
The Chairman of peak commodity group CANEGROWERS Paul Schembri said it had been frustrating that the industry had so far attracted a disproportionate share of the spotlight and could face more regulation.
“We are determined to continue to play our part in sustainable solutions for a healthy Reef,” Mr Schembri said. “Growers are adopting industry best management practices which keep nutrients, chemicals and sediment on their farms.
“We remain concerned that the target of an 80% reduction of dissolved inorganic nitrogen is unachievable.”
CANEGROWERS supports clear and achievable goals which are applied across the Reef catchments and welcomes the State Government’s commitment to review the reef water quality targets.
“It is the responsibility of all industries, communities and stakeholders in the catchment to contribute to Reef water quality targets,” Mr Schembri said. “It is important that the $90 million committed to this effort is spent where it will drive the best environmental outcomes – by directly engaging with land stewards.”
CANEGROWERS opposes the big stick of regulation as a means of achieving water quality targets.
“Regulation is a blunt instrument that supports minimum standards of compliance at the expense of fostering a culture of innovation and excellence,” Mr Schembri said. “Compliance measures bring everyone down to a lowest common denominator and the money would be better spent on encouraging and assisting growers to move to and beyond industry best management practice farming methods.
“The sugar cane industry’s Smartcane BMP program is a far better approach than a big stick. It is focusing growers on productivity and profitability hand in hand with environmental sustainability.”
More than 60% of the cane farming area of Queensland is already within the Smartcane BMP program, either accredited in its key water quality modules or working towards that goal.
“Ongoing R&D and robust, solutions-focused science which involves growers and is well communicated to growers will help build on this Smartcane BMP success,” Mr Schembri said. “We also want to see more real time water quality monitoring throughout the catchment to identify trends and problems as well as provide data to prove that real change has been occurring in our industry.”