Will farmers be forced into unprofitability?
The Australian Cane Farmers said today that new laws to further protect the Great Barrier Reef would be challenging for farmers as they would impose costs onto financially stressed farmers and may limit diversification and innovation.
Responding to a statement by Leeanne Enoch, State Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Don Murday, Chairman of Australian Canefarmers, said farmers will likely be forced to hire expensive consultants, just to continue to operate their businesses.
Ms Enoch said the new laws focus on reducing run-off from agriculture and direct sources of pollution from intensive land uses, such as sewage treatment plants, aquaculture and mining.
“A range of stakeholders including farmers and conservation groups have been closely involved in consultation on the legislation for two years and I thank them for their collaboration.
“There will be a range of grower and grazier tools to support the staged roll-out, including a transitional program providing a financial rebate to help farmers get the advice they need to meet minimum practice standards,” she said.
She added if we don’t shift the dial and make major changes, the Great Barrier Reef will continue to deteriorate.
“We also need regulation to drive progress towards the targets that will create long-term change.”
But Murday questioned her comments. “If the cane sector makes major changes and the Great Barrier Reef continues to deteriorate, what will this mean for agriculture in coastal catchments?
“If targets are not met, will Government force farmers into unprofitability?
“Australian farmers cannot be expected to become unprofitable and bear the financial cost of action to remedy a situation, which scientists tell us is largely caused by greenhouse gases from the northern hemisphere,” said Murday.
Ms Enoch said we (her government) will continue to support voluntary efforts through the record $330 million investment in the Reef, with $261 million of this going to water quality programs.
“But we also need regulation to drive progress towards the targets that will create long-term change.
“If we don’t shift the dial and make major changes, the Great Barrier Reef will continue to deteriorate.”
Murday said we are not in the business of buying expensive fertiliser, just to lose it into the environment.
“Our farmers are experienced business people who are constantly aiming for increased productivity.
“Our farmers are engaged in the industry’s BMP program; and Bonsucro, the international sustainability standard is working through the industry, as markets require higher volumes of sustainably certified sugar.”
Murday said a fundamental concern for us is that the Bill contains provisions which will effectively constrain innovation and diversification into new clean, green, higher-value products.”
“Capping each catchment, is a system that could easily be open to political interference, further decreasing catchment limits and business viability.
“The Queensland Government must understand that any imposition on the financial viability of Queensland’s farming businesses, which are mostly family owned and run small businesses, could place the state across the line of needing to make good on losses, through environmental service payments to farmers,” said Murday.
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