CANEGROWERS in Queensland will lead development of a new world-class best practice system, in a move described by a Canegrowers spokesperson as a “game changer” for the industry.
The project puts the responsibility of developing the new international standard for sustainable sugarcane production squarely in the court of industry, moving away from the regulation put on sugarcane growers to shore up the green vote in the 2009 State election, said Canegrowers chief executive officer Steve Greenwood.
“This project will change the face of the Australian sugarcane industry,” he said.
“Who better to drive a rock-solid system than the agronomists, researchers, scientists, and sugarcane stakeholders who have an international reputation for leading the world in proactive technology and practices for sustainable sugarcane growing?
“Canegrowers will be charged with driving a system which will be internationally held up as the one to follow; rooted in the science - about practical profitable and sustainable farming, not red tape and rhetoric.
“Regulation will be stripped back as the industry sets up its own world-class best practice system and demonstrates it has met milestones put in place by the government under the agreement signed on Monday.”
In the lead up to the State election earlier this year, Canegrowers had sought the removal of “burdensome regulations” from sugarcane growers, lobbying for the industry to be tasked with developing its own best management practice system.
“It is pleasing to see that the incoming government has listened and started a large-scale project to deliver on its election promise to reduce red and green tape,” said Mr Greenwood.
Canegrowers has secured $3.5 million for development of a best management practices (BMP) program, with full roll out of the BMP scheduled for December 2014. Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell made the announcement at the Canegrowers Queensland board meeting on Monday, to 21 directors representing every major sugarcane growing region in Queensland.
Mr Greenwood said for the first time, Queenslanders will be able to clearly see the green credentials of this iconic industry – one which remains the lifeblood of many regional communities along the coast.
“This project will see Canegrowers drive and implement a robust system for the sugarcane industry, which will provide watertight assurance to the community that our cane industry is leading the world in productive, profitable and environmentally sustainable farming,” he said.
“Our farmers live and work in some beautiful areas, and they drove the change to improve their environmental performance over the past 30 years which is now evident along coastal Queensland.
“Adopting the latest technology and practices is not easy but the sugarcane industry has done it. They’ve had some tight years with low prices and cyclones, floods and droughts; but regardless, cane growers have stepped up to a point where their international counterparts recognise them as world’s best.”
A proactive federal government program known as Reef Rescue has accelerated the change exponentially in the past three years by helping growers afford the transition to new practices sooner than they otherwise would have been able. In three short years, for every dollar contributed by the government, a third of the State’s sugarcane growers have put in two; resulting in $113 million dollars’ worth of on-farm projects focused on practice change for water quality outcomes in nutrient, sediment and chemicals.
“Now we have a golden opportunity to develop a system to show Australia exactly how far we’ve come - to develop a system Australians can take pride in on a global scale.”