Cane growers have been warned that they will again face “mountains of paperwork and hours of pencil pushing” to comply with Palaszczuk Government regulations being imposed on landholders in Great Barrier Reef catchments.Hinchinbrook MP, Andrew Cripps, said he was amazed to see Labor Environment Minister Steven Miles associate himself with the success of the former LNP Government’s Smartcane BMP program.
Mr Cripps said far from being supportive, the Palaszczuk Government was planning to reactivate Bligh-era regulations on cane farmers and graziers in North Queensland. He said the Palaszczuk government was currently in the process of recruiting compliance officers to ensure landholders were meeting the onerous requirements of the regulations.
“It was the former LNP Government that allocated the funding to roll out the Smartcane BMP program, an initiative which replaced Labor’s unnecessary regulations,” Mr Cripps said.
“To date, over 1100 Queensland cane farms covering around 190,000 hectares, or some 50 per cent of the state’s harvested area, are completing the Smartcane BMP program.
“The LNP’s Smartcane BMP and Grazing BMP initiatives relieved Queensland’s cane farmers and graziers from mountains of paperwork and hours of pencil pushing, imposed by Labor.
“I warn North Queensland cane farmers not to trust these hollow and deceptive words from Steven Miles, as we know Labor is preparing to redeploy compliance officers into the field.”
The criticism comes following a meeting between Environment Minister Steven Miles and CANEGROWERS Queensland chair Paul Schembri on Mr Schembri’s cane farm at Farleigh yesterday. Dr Miles said he took the opportunity to congratulate the cane-growing identity on his work towards his Smartcane BMP accreditation.
Mr Schembri has been a cane farmers for 41 years and operates three family cane farms with his brother in the Mackay region and is also director of CANEGROWERS Mackay and CANEGROWERS Queensland Policy Council.
““Paul is leading by example, working towards Smartcane BMP (Best Management Practice) accreditation along with his excellent stewardship as head of the Queensland sugar growing industry’s peak body,” Dr Miles said.
“When it comes to cane farming and protecting the environment, Paul and I are of the same view – cane farming best management practice helps ensure industry productivity while at the same time deriving sustainability benefits that protect the Great Barrier Reef.”
Dr Miles said the Queensland Government had allocated $5.85 million for the Smartcane BMP from 2014 to 2017.
Mr Schembri said Smartcane BMP helped cane growers with modules specifically tailored to improving soil health and nutrient management, irrigation and drainage management, and weed, pest and disease management.
“Meeting the practices in these modules helps cane farmers enhance their profitability and productivity, as well as meet legislative requirements,” he said.
Mr Schembri uses printed maps of his farms on top of which he records fertiliser and agricultural chemical applications to collate the business records supporting his BMP record keeping requirements. It also makes it easy for him to see at a glance what was done on his farm.
After harvesting, he compares harvest results from each block with fertiliser and chemical application rates. This helps determine the most cost-effective application of fertiliser and chemicals for his farm while minimising run-off.
Mr Schembri’s said there were many ways to keep records and Smartcane BMP recognises them all.
“They can be either on paper or electronic records, and various programs such as AgDat and the Smartcane BMP mobile app can assist with that,” he said.
“Either way, it’s the fact that accurate records are kept and collated that is important and the Smartcane BMP program can accommodate whatever approach suits the individual farmer.”
The Queensland Government has a target of reducing nitrogen runoff by up to 80pc and reducing total suspended sediment runoff by up to 50pc in key Great Barrier Reef catchments by 2025.
Mr Cripps said farmers needed support and assistance to adopt new and better land and farming practices that made their business more sustainable and viable, not threats of fines and criminal sanctions.
“The big smile and exaggerated handshake being shopped around North Queensland by Steven Miles at the moment doesn’t fool me,” Mr Cripps said. “Labor is in bed with the extreme green groups.”