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Balanced plan to grow agriculture and protect environment

AgForce has outlined a plan to drive sustainable agricultural production and deliver good environmental outcomes for Queensland without strangling farmers in red tape.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said the ‘Healthy Environment, Healthy Agriculture’ policy aimed to put an end to vegetation management laws being used as a political football election after election.

“Farmers need balanced and sensible vegetation management laws so we can put food on family dinner tables across Australia and throughout the world,” he said.

“Since 1999, there have been 38 amendments to vegetation management laws, which has confused and frustrated farmers, stifled regional development and eroded trust in government.

“Farmers care about their land and know how to manage it responsibly, so why make a hard job even more difficult? Enough is enough, let’s get this issue sorted out once and for all.”

Mr Maudsley said the policy AgForce was releasing advocated:

  • A simpler, landscape scale approach to how vegetation is managed with plans negotiated between the landholder and the QLD Government to achieve sustainable, defined environmental and primary production outcomes;
  • Clear and concise processes for high value agriculture and irrigated high value agriculture applicants and an appropriate right of appeal if permits are not granted;
  • A staged approach to high value agriculture permits with applicants to successfully ‘prove up’ each stage of large scale developments before proceeding further;
  • Extension workshops for landholders to refresh their knowledge and understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the vegetation management framework.

Mr Maudsley said the focus of the vegetation management framework should be on achieving the best environmental and primary production outcomes, rather than prescriptive and complicated regulations.

“The central plank would be a ‘Baseline Area Management Plan’, which would include property maps based on historical data and contemporary satellite imagery, and an agreement between the QLD Government and landholder about how vegetation management would occur,” he said.

“This approach would provide greater certainty to primary producers who would be able to manage their land to achieve an acceptable environmental outcome while still maintaining their property’s productivity and profitability.

“For Government, it means vegetation management activities are known, better defined and documented, and easily monitored.”

Mr Maudsley said high value agriculture developments could provide much needed social and economic opportunities, particularly in north Queensland, but only four of 21 applications had been approved in the last two years.

“AgForce believes the QLD Government’s proposal to ban high value agriculture permits is short-sighted and unnecessary,” he said.

“We would instead advocate amending regulations to include a staged approach in which an applicant ‘proves up’ each stage and demonstrates an effective outcome through clearing vegetation, cultivating and planting before moving to the next phase of development.

“In addition, AgForce also believes it is reasonable to request that clear and concise processes be put in place for applicants to work towards and once criteria are met, a permit should be issued, and if not, there should be an appropriate right of appeal.”

Mr Maudsley said the Queensland Government’s own Statewide Landcover and Tree Study revealed that only about 0.1 per cent of the state’s vegetation was cleared each year and about two thirds of that was to control regrowth.

“AgForce has always said we are willing to take a science and evidence based approach to this issue, which means looking at all the facts, including how much vegetation has grown not just how much has been cleared,” he said.

“With global demand for Queensland’s high quality food and fibre soaring, we need policies that support a healthy agricultural sector and a healthy environment, which is exactly what AgForce’s plan seeks to achieve.”

Source: AgForce

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