By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard

There’s a common phrase, originating in the military, that suggests manure moves downhill. It gets across the idea that bad decisions made by those further up the chain of command often have the greatest impact on people below them, with little opportunity for recourse.

This is a principle with which farmers are unfortunately all too familiar. It often applies to our relationship with state and federal governments and their attempts at regulating agricultural industry for public benefit. 

On 1 June this year the principle will apply again, from which time those expanding their cropping or horticulture operations in Great Barrier Reef catchments will be living downstream of new Queensland Government regulations intended to improve the quality of water flowing into the Reef.

Now, farmers wouldn’t otherwise mind living downstream of government, it’s just that the quality and quantity of the regulation leaving government isn’t always up to scratch.

The Department of Environment and Science have been consulting with farmers and industry bodies on the set of standards they propose applying to any new or expanded cropping or horticulture in Reef catchments over five hectares.

When originally proposed the standards were meant to apply only to how new production areas would be designed, ensuring that features were put in place from the get-go to minimise volume and velocity of runoff.

Since then however there’s been an amount of scope creep in the proposed standards, which now require farmers to meet annual and ongoing conditions, including for example keeping a minimum density of vegetation beside natural waterways.

This and other standard conditions not only represent an unwanted additional burden on top of conditions dealing with farm design, but also in many cases are an unfair impost on those expanding their operations that could just as easily be justified for everyone else.

Growcom has submitted a series of recommended changes on behalf of the horticulture industry that we believe will create fairness and remove red tape while still achieving better Reef outcomes.

The Department deserves credit for having already made improvements to previous versions of the standard conditions in response to industry input. We hope this continues to be the case.