BMP data deleted over privacy fears

AgForce dumps best management practice data

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AgForce will delete a decade's worth of best management practice data to protect the privacy of Queensland producers.

AgForce will delete a decade's worth of best management practice data to protect the privacy of Queensland producers.

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AgForce will delete a decade's worth of best management practice data to protect the privacy of Queensland producers.

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A decade's worth of best management practice data will be deleted in the next 24 hours to protect the privacy of Queensland producers.

Under the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, the government would have the power to request data from the agricultural sector, including information that would allow the government to determine where the minimum standards are not being met.

This could be required across Queensland and not limited to what are currently deemed reef catchments.

The bill will introduce new minimum standards to limit nutrient and sediment runoff in all Great Barrier Reef catchment areas, however these minimum standards have not been clearly outlined in the legislation.

In a meeting with program participants on Wednesday night, AgForce chief executive officer Michael Guerin outlined the reasons behind the decision to delete all data from the Best Management Practice program.

"Given what's coming with the reef bill, we feel we have no choice but to act to protect the interests of the reef, more broadly the environment, and members' privacy under the BMP program that we operate," he said.

"To put an industry that cares so strongly about the reef and environment in such a compromising position, it is very hard to understand.

"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."

AgForce could face fines of up to $6527.50 per offence under the Environmental Protection Authority for failing to provide the information, if requested by government.

Mr Guerin said AgForce had been forced to act to protect the data from being misused.

"As soon as the bill passes Parliament, which could be as early as Thursday, the government could compel AgForce to hand over data for the government to use in compliance and control activities," he said.

"This is data that producers have provided in good faith to improve on-farm practices on the understanding it would only be used for this purpose."

The reef protection bill will accelerate Queensland's progress to meeting commitments under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said the laws were recommended by an expert taskforce that undertook research into how to improve the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

"For the last decade, the Queensland government has supported agricultural industries to voluntarily improve their practices," she said.

"However, uptake has not been fast enough and water quality has continued to decline.

"The legislation currently before Parliament is a direct response to the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce's recommendation to introduce water quality regulations across all Reef catchments."

The story BMP data deleted over privacy fears first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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