Environmental stewards step up

Smartcane BMP program on rise as farmers fight reef regulations

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Third generation Herbert River district cane grower Steve Guazzo has recently gained his Smartcane BMP accreditation.

Third generation Herbert River district cane grower Steve Guazzo has recently gained his Smartcane BMP accreditation.

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Cane farmers are voluntarily signing up to their industry's best management practice program in retaliation to heavy-handed reef regulations.

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CANE farmers are voluntarily signing up to their industry's best management practice program in retaliation to heavy-handed reef regulations.

Keen to prove that they are environmental stewards, more than 100 growers in the Herbert River district have signed on to Canegrowers Smartcane BMP program.

The accredited businesses now manage 40 per cent of the region's sugarcane land at or above the program's benchmarks.

Third generation grower Steve Guazzo, who has been farming in the region for about 40 years, manages 360 hectares of cane land in the Trebonne and Lower Stone areas.

Mr Guazzo said he wanted to get formal recognition that he and his family are working their land responsibly.

"Cane growers feel under pressure about their farming practices but I believe most are doing a good job and the Smartcane BMP process is about documenting what you are doing," Mr Guazzo said.

"I'm a third-generation grower... and like many farmers up and down the coast, my family is still successfully producing sugarcane because we've been improving our technology and practices to minimise our impact on the environment while providing an economic base for regional Queensland."

Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said growers had been encouraged to sign up to the program to escape some of the scrutiny they expect to be subjected to under the new reef regulations.

"We've seen over the last six months a fairly substantial increase in activity around BMP and the uptake of it," Mr Schembri said.

"It confirms what we've always felt - that farmers have always had the skills, determination and all of the prerequisites required to manage their farms in an environmentally friendly way.

"Farmers are getting on with it, doing it without the need for bureaucratic baseball bats.

"The government in introducing the bill did agree to concessions around farmers that are BMP accredited.

"What we do know is that BMP accredited growers will be exempt from audit processes under the reef protection bill."

Mr Schembri said Canegrowers had facilitators who were proactive in encouraging farmers to get involved, which had led to increasing participation rates.

Mr Guazzo agreed there was plenty of support available to growers and encouraged others to get on board.

"Growers shouldn't be daunted, even though book work isn't their favourite thing and they'd rather be getting their hands dirty on the farm," Mr Guazzo said.

"I'd urge them to take their time and work through it with the Canegrowers staff who are there to help - they might find it's not as hard as they think."

The program has funding from the Queensland government until 2022.

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