CANEGROWERS has warned the Queensland government it is risking the sugarcane industry’s contribution to the state’s economic growth with changes to vegetation management laws.
It lodged a submission with the committee reviewing proposed amendments to the Vegetation Management Act on Thursday.
“The future holds some exciting opportunities for sugarcane growers to help create jobs and economic security for their communities,” CANEGROWERS CEO, Dan Galligan said.
“But these opportunities won’t be fully realised if the proposed amendments are passed because they will stop farmers from growing or better managing the productive use of their land.
“The Queensland government is happy to spruik our industry and our CANEGROWERS members as able to provide the raw and natural feedstock for a range of new, green ‘biofutures’ industries – and this diversification into alternative uses of the crop excites the industry.
“The government also has a target of increasing food production and exports to help feed the growing and increasingly affluent populations of the nations in our region – another great opportunity.
“But sugarcane farmers will not be able to meet these expectations and targets while they are hobbled by legislation that inhibits them from making the most productive use possible of their land.
“The government is offering opportunities with one hand and taking them away with another.”
In its submission, CANEGROWERS warned that even maintaining the viability of the current sugar milling operations in Queensland required some expansion, as evidenced by the incentives that most sugar milling companies were offering growers to encourage increased plantings.
The proposed amendments put roadblocks in the way of the sugarcane industry by:
- Removing the provisions that allow clearing for High-Value Agriculture (HVA) and Irrigated High-Value Agriculture (IHVA);
- Including anything that hasn’t been cleared for 15 years in the definition of High Value Regrowth;
- Requiring growers to get a permit to manage and maintain waterways; and
- Replacing self-assessable clearing codes with the need to gain approval under an Accepted Development code.
“CANEGROWERS is well known for its commitment to water quality outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef and with 70 per cent cane farm involvement in the best management practice program Smartcane BMP, CANEGROWERS members are reaching sustainability goals,” Mr Galligan said.
“The HVA and IHVA provisions for vegetation management have been selectively and carefully used by growers, so there is no valid reason to deny them access to this mechanism for managing their land in the future to improve productivity.
“Between December 2013 and February 2018, there were just 19 sugarcane development approvals under these provisions totalling only 1490 hectares – small areas cleared for specific purposes.
“Each approval was for a small amount but for the farms involved they had a big impact to that particular farm’s management and profitability.”
Mr Galligan said CANEGROWERS had been disappointed in the lack of government-industry consultation in the development of the proposed amendments.
“CANEGROWERS supports the existing framework as being a sensible balance between environmental sustainability and agricultural production.
“We stand with other agricultural industry groups in urging the Queensland government to reconsider these proposed amendments and to sit down and talk to industry.”