Terrain NRM soil health coaching workshop success for Tully producers

Growers in the Tully region welcomed the opportunity to participate in a soil health coaching workshop to improve their mentorship skills in regenerative farming practices.

The one day workshop held in May, was coordinated by Terrain Natural Resource Management group, and delivered by agro-ecologist and soil health expert, David Hardwick from Soil Land Food.

Sharing his passion for regenerative farming practices, Mr Hardwick’s workshop focused on equipping northern producers with the tools necessary to provide confident extension to their peers and facilitate behavior change to promote healthy landscapes.

Terrain NRM Tully Basin coordinator Fiona George said the workshop attracted the attention of eight growers and four extension staff.

“It was useful to have both growers and extension professionals in the same forum, as essentially we were teaching the growers how to improve their extension skills,” she said.

Soil health was one of the many topics covered on the day, with growers also receiving training in areas to improve their extension and communication skills.

Mr. Hardwick said the growers who attended the workshop were already great communicators, regularly bouncing ideas, and openly sharing knowledge with their peers.

“These guys are already getting a number of calls a month from other farmers wanting to talk through ideas and results, or get a feel for how regenerative practices might fit into their farming system,” he said.

“This workshop was about equipping those guys with tools to better support their peers through change.”

Growing confidence - Tully farmers gather to discuss soil health and regenerative farming practices.
 Growing confidence – Tully farmers gather to discuss soil health and regenerative farming practices.

With more producers converting to regenerative farming practices, it was felt the importance of maintaining peer to peer networks would be integral for positive growth.

“Implementing regenerative practices that improve soil health makes absolute sense for improving long-term productivity and profitability, but change isn’t without challenges,” said Mr Hardwick.

“Soil health is a really important topic. Knowing how to communicate soil messages, and understanding the process of change that people go through when they learn new things, helps support people through that.”

Ingham cane grower Michael Waring attended the Tully workshop and said through Mr Hardwick’s teachings he was able to improve his interpersonal skills to enable him to communicate in a way that was relatable and relevant.

“There’s no point rabbiting on to your neighbor about specific species of cover crop to use, if all they’re wanting to find out about are the benefits of cover cropping, he said.”

“Everyone’s at different stages, sharing relatable information is as much about listening as it is talking.”https://e24807a6fe6220fe1709d50dd47316f3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The soil health coaching workshops were made possible by the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project, funded through the Queensland government’s Reef Water Quality Program, and coordinated by Terrain NRM as part of its leadership training offered to farmers.

Farmers wanting more information on regenerative farming:

The Lower Wet Tropics Soil Care Group: Alan Lynn on 0419 722 101 or Michael Waring on 0428 771 361.

The Wet Tropics Soil Care Group:Mal Everett on 0439 829 159.

The Regenerative Cane Network: Michael Waring on 0428 771 361.

Bundaberg farmers forced to irrigate like it’s the 1999’s after 22pc allocations announced

Irrigators on the Bundaberg water supply scheme are coming to terms with their recently announced allocations (AA) for the 2021-22 water year.

With recent rainfall recorded across the Wide Bay region over the weekend, some growers were rewarded with widespread falls and inflows into their on-farm dams.

The rain arrived just after Sunwater released a statement on Friday July 2, announcing medium priority allocations for the Burnett sub-scheme, other wise known as Paradise Dam, are 22 per cent.

Medium priority allocations for the Kolan sub-scheme (Fred Haigh Dam) are 98pc, while high priority allocations for both sub-schemes are 100pc.

The AA for Bundaberg growers is slightly higher than the 14 and 17pc prediction Sunwater released back in June.

A spokesperson for Sunwater said the 2021-22 water year allocations cannot decrease as dam capacity levels reduce.

“It is important to note that should inflows occur allocations can increase to a maximum of 100 per cent, as they did during the 2020-21 water year,” the spokesperson said.

“We understand the significant pressure drought conditions are having.

“Over the last 24 months the Burnett has seen some of the lowest rainfall on record for the region. Across the catchment, prevailing dry conditions have impacted all Sunwater water storages.

“Sunwater is hopeful the rainfall forecast in coming days delivers inflows to water storages in the Bundaberg region, and provides a boost to the announced allocations.”

Sunwater said it will continue to work with customers to ensure there is as much water available as possible for irrigators and the community.

Bundaberg businesses feel impact  

Irrigators and business owners in the Bundaberg region fear the district will be plunged back into the economic stagnation of the 1990s and early 2000s after the formal release of the announced allocations.

Local business owner, Tony Denton, Adds Up Engineering, has operated an engineering business in the Bundaberg region for 23 years and employs almost 20 staff.

Mr Denton said he remembers how tough it was in this area before Paradise Dam was built back in 2005.

“In the 1990s and early 2000s, in particular, things got really tough due to low water allocations for local farmers,” Mr Denton said.

“To learn that in 2021 farmers have been given an AA of 22pc, it’s like a bad dream”.

“My business relies on building equipment for farmers. If farmers are struggling it puts a lot of pressure on my business to keep my 20 staff in a job.”

Mr Denton paid $1.4 million in wages last year including pay roll tax, but if things continue to slow down he fears jobs will be lost.

“People may not realise it yet, but Bundaberg is about to go through another tough time because the low water allocation farmers are receiving from Paradise Dam will have a big impact on local jobs and local spending,” he said.

“To be brutally honest, jobs will be lost in my business if farmers stop ordering new equipment.”

AA HISTORY: This graph showcases the historically low announced allocations which Bundaberg growers from 1995-2003 faced.
 AA HISTORY: This graph showcases the historically low announced allocations which Bundaberg growers from 1995-2003 faced.

Back to the future for farmers

Local agribusiness lawyer, Tom Marland, is running the class action against the state government over the mismanagement of Paradise Dam.

Mr Marland said the AA from Sunwater feels like a scene from ‘Back to the Future’.

“Sadly, local farmers will be forced to irrigate like they did in 1999, when the AA in July was just 20pc,” Mr Marland said.

“Local records show that from 1995 to 2002 the AA in July were between 5 and 35pc, with the exception of 1996 when the AA in July was 50pc.

“Growers are going to experience major income losses on a 22pc AA and those are the kinds of losses we will be seeking to claim in the class action”.

Destructive coconut rhinoceros beetle a ‘stone’s throw’ from Australia as it spreads through Pacific

Australia’s sugar, pineapple, mango, and coconut oil industries are facing a major threat from a destructive pest beetle sitting on the nation’s doorstep.

The coconut rhinoceros beetle has bulldozed its way across the Pacific in just a few years and is now in Papua New Guinea, University of Queensland researcher Dr Kayvan Etebari warned.

“If it gets into Australia, coconut oil palms and many other palms found in the forest and in home gardens will be at risk,” Dr Etebari said.

“If it gets into Australia, coconut oil palms and many other palms found in the forest and in home gardens will be at risk,” Dr Etebari said.

It has been a year since another invasive pest, the fall armyworm, was first detected at Bamaga at the tip of far north Queensland and has since devoured crops across most states and territories.

Dr Etebari said the fall armyworm came down the island chain from PNG. 

“Last week it got into Tasmania,” he said.

The coconut rhinoceros beetle, a native of South-East Asia, has been in Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga for a century, but was successfully controlled by a virus for the past 50 years.

However, that biological control is now failing.

Stone’s throw away

Central Queensland horticulturalist Neil Fisher has been watching with growing concern the beetle’s rapid march from the South Pacific across to Guam and Hawaii to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Solomon Islands.

“The move through Papua New Guinea has been quite swift and we’ve seen large-scale coconut plantations and oil palm plantations being destroyed,” he said.

“Our border security is the Torres Strait and it’s only a matter of kilometres, just a stone’s throw from Papua New Guinea into north Queensland.”

A coconut rhinoceros beetle with a number on its back perches on a blue-gloved finger.
The coconut rhinoceros beetle was stopped in its tracks by a virus introduced 50 years ago, and it stayed put — until now.(Supplied: Forest and Kim Starr)

Councillor Fisher, who is also the deputy mayor of the Rockhampton Regional Council, said it was a concern shared with council colleagues in Cairns.

“There are miles of coconut-lined beaches to the north of Cairns and to lose those would see erosion coming back. You could lose two or three kilometres of actual shoreline,” Cr Fisher said.

The beetle causes damage by boring into the plant’s stem and feeding on the sap, damaging the developing leaves.

The plant will then be defoliated and will die during a heavy infestation.

The beetle lays eggs in decaying matter and then moves on.

“We knew it was a risk, but it wasn’t until it got into large horticulture and agriculture areas in Hawaii that suddenly the red flags went up,” Cr Fisher said.

He said Hawaii had similar horticulture and plant culture to Australia.

On top of the obvious economic threat to the country’s $2 billion sugar industry and $53 million pineapple industry, Cr Fisher said the beetle could pose a threat to other plants.

“If it’s in pineapples, what about bromeliads? It’s an up-and-coming collector choice for gardeners. And if it can get into sugar cane, what is the risk to other canes and bamboos?” he said.

Cr Fisher said it was important to work with universities to find a new biological control to keep the insect at bay.

COVID-19 similarities 

Dr Etebari and his team at UQ are studying why the virus is no longer controlling the beetle and their findings would be critical to managing the pest if it got a foothold in Australia.

“The question is how do we stop it? And what’s gone wrong with the control that’s been effective for the past five decades?” Dr Etebari said.

The researchers discovered that there have been several new waves of beetle invasions, not one as previously thought, as well as different types of beetles.

They also found there were variations to the beetle virus which was originally sourced from Malaysia.

“It’s similar to how other scientists spot different strains of COVID-19. We are detecting variations in the beetle virus in the Pacific,” Dr Etebari said.

“In our case the problem is more complicated because there are different types of beetles and different strains of the beetle virus.”

Their next step was finding out how the virus variations behaved in the different beetles and how that could be used to control them.

Dr Etebari said it was important for Australia to help its Pacific neighbours to tackle the pest, not just for economic reasons, but also humanitarian.

“It’s a serious threat to livelihoods across the Pacific islands as the coconut tree provides essential resources like food, copra, building material, and the coastal protection for more than five million vulnerable people,” he said.

A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment spokesperson said it was working with biosecurity counterparts in PNG and Solomon Islands to track and monitor the spread of the new beetle strain.

The department was also actively monitoring the spread of the beetle strains through PNG, particularly in the Western Province and PNG Treaty Village areas bordering Australia’s northern Torres Strait Islands. 

The spokesperson said the department was also supporting regional initiatives that were dealing with the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

New free trade agreement to deliver jobs and business opportunities in Australia and The United Kingdom

  • Joint media release with: The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister

15 June 2021

A new free trade agreement with the UK will deliver more Australian jobs and business opportunities for exporters, bringing both countries closer together in a changing strategic environment.

Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have agreed on the broad outlines of an Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The FTA is the right deal for Australia and the United Kingdom, with greater access to a range of high-quality products made in both countries as well as greater access for businesses and workers, all of which will drive economic growth and job creation in both countries.

Australian producers and farmers will receive a significant boost by getting greater access to the UK market.

Australian consumers will benefit from cheaper products, with all tariffs eliminated within five years, and tariffs on cars, whisky, and the UK’s other main exports eliminated immediately.

The UK will liberalise Australian imports with 99 per cent of Australian goods, including Australian wine and short and medium grain milled rice, entering the UK duty free when the agreement enters into force.

Beef tariffs will be eliminated after ten years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 110,000 tonnes in year 10.

In the subsequent five years a safeguard will apply on beef imports exceeding a further volume threshold rising in equal instalments to 170,000 tonnes, levying a tariff safeguard duty of 20 per cent for the rest of the calendar year.

Sheep meat tariffs will be eliminated after ten years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 25,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 75,000 tonnes in year 10. In the subsequent five years a safeguard will apply on sheep meat imports exceeding a further volume threshold rising in equal instalments to 125,000 tonnes, levying a tariff safeguard duty of 20 per cent for the rest of the calendar year.

Sugar tariffs will be eliminated over eight years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Dairy tariffs will be eliminated over five years. During the transition period, Australia will have immediate access to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes, rising in equal instalments to 48,000 tonnes in year five. Australia will also have immediate access to a duty-free quota for non-cheese dairy of 20,000 tonnes.

Working Holiday Visa makers in the UK will get expanded rights and will now be able to stay for three years with an increased cut off age of 35.

Professionals will benefit from provisions to support mutual recognition of qualifications and greater certainty for skilled professionals entering the UK labour market.

This ambitious bilateral free trade agreement will help pave the way for the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The two countries will now finalise the text, and carry out the domestic processes required to enable signature and the subsequent entry into force of the FTA.

Media enquiries

Government commits almost $330 million to Great Barrier Reef in state budget

A $270 million funding injection is set to bolster the efforts of farmers from the Far North to the Wide Bay, who are working to reduce runoff and improve water quality.

Announced as part of the 2021-22 state budget, the funding forms part of the almost $330 million the Palaszczuk government has committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef, regenerating land, and supporting tourism.

The investment in the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program will go towards a number of initiatives, including best management practice programs.

NQ Dry Tropics CEO Scott Crawford said improving water quality was one of the most important ways to support the Great Barrier Reef’s outstanding World Heritage values, while looking after local farming industries and their communities.

“In recent years the Queensland government has invested significantly to address the threats to the long-term health and resilience of the reef, including improving water quality runoff,” Dr Crawford said.

“This announcement means the momentum gained through the last few years of investment can continue.”

The investment has been welcomed by Canegrowers, who are also calling for greater support for the role agriculture can play in reducing carbon emissions.

“Importantly for the sugar cane industry, continued support and recognition of growers working through best management practice farming programs such as Smartcane BMP, is needed,” Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said.

“We know that voluntary programs which take a whole-of-farm and individual approach, encouraging innovation, are much more successful than regulations will ever be in ensuring sugar cane businesses are sustainable, profitable and productive into the future.”

Mr Galligan said Smartcane BMP had momentum, with more than 35 per cent of cane farms now fully accredited.

“Now industry research is indicating it is proving to be successful in reducing carbon emissions and this role that farms can play to address climate change should be recognised and rewarded,” he said.

The reef credits scheme also received a $10 million top-up as part of the commitment. The scheme was developed by GreenCollar and launched in 2020.

GreenCollar water quality general manager Carole Sweatman said it was great to see the government assisting in creating jobs and improving agricultural prosperity.

“When it comes to the future health of the Great Barrier Reef there are local solutions that can improve its ecology, while creating jobs and improving agricultural prosperity too, so it’s great to see the government putting further and significant funding into this,” Ms Sweatman said.

The state government is also investing $60 million in round two of the Land Restoration Fund.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the 18 projects involved in round one of the LRF had restored thousands of hectares of land and stopped 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Ms Palaszczuk said her government backed the reef, backed the land and backed the thousands of jobs and industries that rely on a healthy environment.

Terrain NRM CEO Stewart Christie said they welcomed the new investment for the reef and land regeneration.

“This is good news, not only for our environment but also for jobs and our local economy,” Mr Christie said.

Public submissions on reef regulation reversal bill due by Wednesday 30 June

Submissions are being sought on the Environmental and Other Legislation (Reversal of Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) Amendment Bill 2021 put forward by Katter’s Australian Party in April.

Agricultural industry representatives attended a public hearing into the bill in Brisbane last Friday, criticising the Palaszczuk government’s Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Act introduced in 2019.

The KAP’s bill has been referred to the Health and Environment committee for detailed consideration and a report is to be prepared by October 21.

The bill before the committee seeks to repeal amendments made in 2019 to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said the measures in Labor’s legislation were based on “questionable science”.

“This is unfair legislation we are trying to reverse, on behalf of affected Queensland farmers, who are impacted by the state government’s draconian legislation that controls farming practices in the six reef catchment areas of Queensland,” Mr Dametto said.

“Until this science is independently audited, replicated and checked – the 2019 ALP legislation must be reversed.”

AgForce Reef Taskforce chair Alex Stubbs said the reef regulation reversal bill was a chance to go back to the future on reef regulations.

“This bill, if passed, will take us back to the level of regulation and penalties units we had in 2009,” Mr Stubbs said.

A public hearing will be held in Brisbane on Friday, September 3. The Health and Environment committee is inviting submissions addressing any aspect of the bill from all interested parties.

Written submissions can be sent via email to hec@parliament.qld.gov.au before June 30.