Agriculture urged to engage with Government on Reef regulations

AgForce is urging everyone who works in or has an interest in protecting Queensland’s agriculture industry, and the Great Barrier Reef, to have their say on draft Reef regulations for new or expanded cropping and horticulture during the Government’s public consultation period.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said it was important that as many people as possible – people interested in cropping, soil cultivation, and anyone who values the future of food security in Australia – to write to the Queensland Government between now and 17 February to make their voice heard.

“This latest Standard up for public consultation follows others that have already been implemented and continues a worrying trend of levelling complete responsibility for maintaining the water quality of the Reef with agriculture,” Mr Guerin said.

“The facts are agriculture’s role couldn’t be smaller.

“Industry groups and many independent Reef scientists are now challenging general scientific opinion that farm runoff affects Reef health.

“Of much greater significance are the effects from rising sea temperatures on the Reef.

“Pollution from manufacturing and transport – the kinds of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and cause real damage, much longer and far worse than anything that can be directed at agriculture.

“What is true, however, is that the continued implementation of Reef regulations and standards by the Queensland Government will decimate agriculture, many farming families, entire communities, and the industries reliant on primary production.

“It seems to me, and to many others that I have spoken to during this time of COVID, that this is the last thing we should be doing.

“Instead, we need to focus on strengthening agriculture and our regions, not binding farmers up in unnecessary actions on land and record-keeping that do not address the major issues of increasing ocean temperatures and coral predation on the Reef.

“The Reef and agriculture can co-exist. But it will take genuine consultation from all sides to make any changes.

AgForce estimates that producers managing approximately 2.7 million hectares of undeveloped or unused cropping land across six Reef catchments will need to apply for a permit prior to commencing any soil cultivation after 1 June 2021.

Mr Guerin said this latest Reef Standard would apply to all crops grown and sold off-farm for a fee or reward.

“That’s going to come at a cost, and that, along with the expense from other Reef Standards that have already been implemented, is going to drive people away from the industry and restrict greatly, if not completely halt, any thought of a northern expansion,” Mr Guerin said.

“AgForce supports the position of the Federal Government and other industry groups who have been calling for the establishment of an Office of Science Integrity to ensure quality assurance of science used to inform Reef policy.

“We will continue to offer constructive feedback on industry’s behalf if the Queensland Government wants to listen.

“We believe them when they say they want agriculture to help rebuild Queensland’s economy post-COVID.

“Well, the test is here now to see if they will continue down the path of laying the burden of responsibility for the Reef solely at the feet of agriculture, or if they will meet us at the table and find constructive ways forward.”

To have your say on the updated draft standard conditions for new or expanded cropping and horticulture activities in the Great Barrier Reef catchments, contact the State Government’s Office of Great Barrier Reef before 17 February 2021 on

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