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Farmers fight back

Mareeba sugarcane farmer and Tableland Canegrowers Chair Claude Santucci believes the State Government’s proposed Reef Laws are too strict and invasive.

THE Reef Laws proposed by the Palasczcuk Government have been met with significant pushback from farmers, particularly sugarcane growers who deem the regulations far too strict and invasive.

One such farmer who is fighting to have the laws loosened is Mareeba sugarcane farmer and Chair of Tableland Canegrowers Claude Santucci.

“The rules and regulations the State Government plan to put forth are going to be a huge impost on growers,” Mr Santucci said.

“They are draconian and almost police state which is why we have such a strong opposition.”

Mr Santucci said the standards growers are required to meet as part of Smartcane BMP is already more than enough. Smartcane BMP has been working with farmers across Queensland since 2014 to record and verify their practice improvements, and Mr Santucci believes their approach is one that is far more collaborative than that of the State Government.

“With Smartcane BMP we’ve got to record fertiliser and chemical usage, our tilling of soil, our irrigation and water drainage management and ensure that it is at industry standard or above,” he said.

“So we’re doing all of the hard yards already, and with these rules and regulations proposed by the State Government they have the authority to approach my fertiliser and chemical retailer and access all of my invoices which is a gross invasion of privacy.

“Their big stick policy is extremely scary.”

Mr Santucci said canegrowers are passionate about managing the Great Barrier Reef; however he is calling on the State Government to work collaboratively with farmers to ensure there’s a happy medium reached.

“Work with us and we’ll get the right outcome,” he said.

“If you come with a police state mentality, the dog is going to bite back at some point and that’s what we’re seeing currently from a number of farmers.

“An example similar to what is being proposed now were the rules and regulations implemented by former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

“Her program was a miserable failure and her government’s inability to work in unison with farmers provided the same issues that we’re seeing now with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government.”

Climate change has been at the forefront of the State Government’s reasoning behind implementing such laws, yet Mr Santucci believes growers have been made to be somewhat of a scapegoat throughout the entire process.

“Farmers are more than happy to make improvements to their practices to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the reef, however we feel our impact is being overblown a bit,” he said.

“We growers are not saying we’re scientists, yet when qualified scientist Peter Ridd dared to question the science, he was labelled as a conspiracy theorist and climate change denialist which is worrying.

“That points back to the big stick approach I alluded to earlier – so the State Government has to be open to opposing opinions because we’ll never be able to work in unison if they’re not.”

The Reef Laws will continue to be a hot topic amongst the farming industry for quite some time if implemented, and many people will be interested to see if the Palaszczuk Government move forward with it as it has the potential to end up a political nightmare similar to that of the Adani coal mine.

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