Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine.
Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine. Peter Carruthers

Canegrowers reflect on Labor's election commitments

THE issue of grower choice and sugar marketing was flagged as a key issue by Canegrowers leading into the state election.

Pre-election, Labor was the only party that wouldn't commit to a grower marketing choice policy and also refused to reduce on-farm regulation in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

Proserpine Cangrowers manager, Mike Porter said the the lobby group was "disappointed” Queensland Labor wouldn't commit to upholding the grower choice in marketing legislation.

In regard to regulation of on-farm practices, Mr Porter indicated Labor's intention to keep regulation was not the best possible outcome for the growers of the Whitsunday catchment.

"Our elected people here are certainly in favour of a voluntary approach rather than a regulation but we believe that provided our growers are taking up voluntary BMP (Best Management Practice), there is no need to to enforce regulation,” he said.

In the lead up the election, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said according to the latest Reef Report Card, a collaborative effort by all stakeholders was beginning to yield results.

"But nonetheless, the advice from experts is that our progress in reducing the pollution running into the reef is not fast enough,” she said. Labor has given an undertaking to further fund the BMP Smartcane program whose funding is due to expire at the end of next year. "The Palaszczuk Government sees voluntary BMP programs like Smartcane as the primary tool to achieve water quality targets,” the spokesperson said.

The Labor Government between 2015 and 2017 has sunk $5.85 million into the Smartcane BMP program and plans to invest a further $21 million in the next five years to improve BMP take-up across all agricultural industries.

Mr Porter made it clear Canegrowers was an apolitical organisation and was compelled to work with what ever party wins government.

"We asked before the election for parties to state their views and policies on different issues which affected our industry and that included the Great Barrier Reef and continued support for BMP and all the major parties pledged that support,” he said.

"BMP is the best way of delivering water quality improvements to the reef... and it is gratifying to see the government is looking at all industries to lift their game in respect to water quality on the reef.”

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