By Growcom CEO David Thomson

In spite of a perceived lack of evidence to support farm management practice regulations in the horticulture industry, the Palaszczuk Government last week introduced the new Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

Growcom remains opposed to the proposed legislation and would prefer to see the state’s investment used to assist growers with the financial burden of implementing on-farm practice change.

We believe the addition of new cropping development rules will stifle the growth and diversification of the horticulture industry. Without the ability to rotate land and open new areas, we will most likely lose several crop commodities thus reducing market availability.

Horticulture within the Great Barrier Reef catchment is worth more than $800 million at the farm gate per annum, encompassing around 1200 farms growing 120 different crops. The region is responsible for the majority of Australia’s bananas, tropical and sub-tropical fruits, mandarins, macadamias, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes and early winter vegetables.

For the past 10 years, Growcom has been working with growers in Reef catchments to improve on-farm practices and address the environmental impacts of agricultural run-off from farmland entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon through our voluntary best management practice program, Hort360.

It has been our experience that farmers have embraced practice change and made appropriate on-farm improvements to limit their impact on the Reef.

Hort360 has allowed the horticulture industry to be guided by best practice to make decisions that work for farms and businesses without the need for government regulation.

Continuation of voluntary programs, such as Hort360, will provide pathways to industry recognised certification programs and broader benefits to the sustainability of horticulture production systems than just meeting a regulation offset.

Growcom looks forward to further consultation with the Queensland Government regarding the proposed implementation of Reef regulations. Given the diversity of our industry we see fit that these regulations, if they are introduced, should apply to all horticulture commodities to remove any potential disparity between crops and cropping systems. Without adequate modelling per crop and associated research there will continue to be a disconnect between BMP standards and Reef regulation.