AgForce has moved quickly to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Queensland environment and the integrity of members’ data, following the introduction into Parliament of the Reef Protections Bill*.
When passed, as early as today, the Bill will give the Queensland Government the power to compulsorily acquire the data of over 3,000 farmers, voluntarily supplied by them to participate in the industry’s Best Management Practice (BMP) programs.
The BMP programs have been developed by industry to help producers benchmark their operations and identify opportunities to implement industry best practice, thereby improving their productivity and sustainability.
However, CEO Michael Guerin said the risk that the Government may use member’s data for purposes for which it was not provided, such as determining compliance with the new Reef regulations, meant that AgForce had to act to protect its members.
“Given our commitment to BMP participants to protect their information, we have been left with no choice but to permanently remove this data,” Mr Guerin said.
“The inevitable consequence is that the BMP programs, which have done so much to improve the sustainability of grazing and grain production over the past decade, and seen Queensland agriculture become a world leader, are effectively over in their current form.
“This is a heartbreaking outcome, because protecting the Reef, one of our international icons, and preserving the natural environment is a primary concern of agriculture.
“However, AgForce is now working on a strategy to implement an even more effective program to improve environmental outcomes, like reducing erosion and runoff, sequestering carbon, conserving soil moisture and increasing bio-diversity.
“Our ‘Natural Capital’ program will form the basis of a scheme to incentivise producers to provide environmental outcomes far above and beyond those that would have been achieved by the Government’s punitive legislation.
“Experience has shown that such legislation is an expensive way to ensure minimum compliance, rather than empowering genuine, enduring behaviour change and proactive implementation.
“AgForce strongly opposed the Bill on the grounds that it won’t guarantee any benefit to the Reef in terms of water quality and is an unnecessary impost on farmers of even more red tape and expensive fines for non-compliance.
“Farmers and graziers manage over 80 per cent of Queensland’s landscapes, and are proud of their reputation as responsible stewards of the land.
“We are looking to work collaboratively with industry and community partners in developing our Natural Capital tool so Queensland’s environment flourishes into the future.”
* Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures & Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019)