By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Like other industries, horticulture has its own Best Management Practice (BMP) program called Hort360, which is owned on behalf of the industry by Growcom.

And like other industry BMP programs, Hort360 is similarly affected by the legislation currently before the Queensland Parliament, better known as the Reef Regulations.

While we can all get behind doing our best for the Great Barrier Reef, industry bodies have legitimate concerns about this legislation. It represents a significant extension of government power, to enter private property and compel business to hand over sensitive information.

But we should anticipate the Reef Regulations will pass this Parliament without any major amendment.

So Growcom will be working constructively with the Government, and will also be taking comfort in the choices that are available.

Growcom, on behalf of horticulture, has a choice whether Hort360 is recognised under this legislation. And if we do decide to have it recognised, even then individual growers can opt out of having their information shared with Government.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail.

Much about what farm data can be requested will be defined in yet to be drafted standards and guidelines that will underpin the Reef Regulations. Our decision to have Hort360 recognised will depend on this detail.

Great care will be required in fleshing this out. Our concern is for the privacy of Hort360 participants, and also for the effectiveness of the Hort360 program itself.

Hort360 has not been designed to determine “good” from “bad” as the Reef Regulations require. It has been designed for the sole purpose of encouraging “better”.

Our long experience with vegetables suggests that using a carrot as you would use a stick will affect its edibility.

Where there are other regulatory options available Growcom will be reticent to compromise the Hort360 program that has proven to be an overwhelming success. We already have over 900 growers involved who are not just reducing their environmental impacts, but boosting their profitability through more effective use of farm inputs.

We encourage all horticulturalists to join the program, safe in the knowledge information about their business will only ever be used with their consent and for the purpose it was originally collected.