Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan and Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri met with Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Dawson MP George Christensen in Canberra on Tuesday. Picture: Contributed
Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan and Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri met with Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Dawson MP George Christensen in Canberra on Tuesday. Picture: Contributed

Canegrowers hit back at ‘dispiriting’ E-grade report card

Sugarcane farmers have hit back at a scathing grade on the Reef Water Quality Report Cards and will take their grievances to the nation's capital.

Growers from the Wet Tropics down to the Burdekin were scored E, or very poor, on areas of nutrient, pesticide, soil and irrigation management in the 2019 reports released last week.

The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Wet Tropics region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.
The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Wet Tropics region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.

Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan, who met with Environment Minister Sussan Ley together with Queensland chairman Paul Schembri on Tuesday, said while the report cards pleasingly recognised growers had reduced dissolved inorganic nitrogen use, they did not reflect reality.

"The report continues to grossly misrepresent sugarcane farming's overall adoption of the most sustainable farming practices," Mr Galligan said.

"The lack of alignment between the Paddock to Reef reporting process, which informs the Report Card, and what is accepted sugarcane growing best practice as defined and accredited under the Smartcane BMP program, is a glaring fault.

The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Mackay Whitsunday region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.
The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Mackay Whitsunday region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.

"(The) Report Card continues to ignore the overall effort towards water quality outcomes where growers have voluntarily participated in Smartcane BMP to the extent that 35 per cent of the sugarcane land is farmed by accredited growers and 80 per cent is enrolled in the program."

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Ms Ley said the 2019 reef protection laws had achieved "pleasing" compliance with chemical, erosion and other practice standards.

"The overall reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen, the reef's highest risk marine pollutant, was 4.3 per cent in the 2018-2019 year alone," Ms Ley said.

The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Burdekin region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.
The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 for the Burdekin region. Picture: Department of Environment and Science.

"The cumulative reduction of 25.5 per cent since 2013 is positive for the future of the reef.

"The report shows that where strong programs are in place, that we can and are making a difference."

But Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri said further fertiliser reduction targets and laws would have concerning social impacts on farmers.

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He said new state guidelines requiring farmers to go through an application process to bring spare land under cane were "madness" as the land already fell fun under the Reef Protection Bill.

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed
Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed

"It's like having your ticket clipped twice in the same car park," Mr Schembri said.

"We're getting into this cycle of duplication of bureaucracy.

"At some point, if it doesn't translate into something that's practical, sensible and farmers can work towards, it's going to be not helpful to us in investment decisions."

Mr Schembri said the reef regulations dial had to be eased backwards if Queensland wanted to become a sustainable home for bioindustries.

Queensland Environment and Great Barrier Reef Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the five-yearly review of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan would consult with industry and stakeholders as it began with an independent review of land management practice targets.


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