Issue No. 12: Great Artesian Basin Sustainability
AgForce Queensland has called on the Federal Government to continue its investment into the protection of the sustainability of one of Australia’s most precious water resources, the Great Artesian Basin (GAB).
Focusing on the issue as part of its ‘30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign, and the organisation said the best way to offer this protection was through continuation of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) Phase Three which, since 1989, has functioned as a partnership between landholders and the State and Federal Governments.
The initiative aims to save water and reduce negative environmental impacts through the rehabilitation of free flowing bores and the replacement of open bore drains with pipes, also known as ‘capping and piping programs’. GABSI subsidises this rehabilitation to amaximum of 80 per cent while 20 per cent of costs are met by the landholders.
AgForce Queensland Senior Policy Adviser, Dr Dale Miller, said Government support was critical to ensure that capping and piping remained affordable for primary producers.
“The Great Artesian Basin is a large series of aquifers which underlies about 22 per cent of the Australian continent and it’s been avital resource for primary producers, particularly in the rangelands, in terms of growing and developing their businesses,” Dr Miller said.
“GABSI is a value-for-money program that has wide support from conservation groups, from primary producers, from the resources sector and from government.
“Piping and capping is an expensive exercise and without this input from Government landholders would struggle to meet these costs, particularly those who have multiple bores in need of rehabilitation.
“In the current tight budget cycle the Australian Government has cut $23 million from the program and is looking to end Phase Three of the program next year.
“This is a vital sustainability program for primary producers and we want to make sure the program continues beyond 2014 and that the currently unspent money within the program can be rolled over and made more available.
“With drought and current market challenges, budgets for primary producers are also tight and so the ongoing partnership with government is the key to achieving sustainable use of this important water resource.
“The Queensland Government strongly supports the program and we are looking to the Federal Government to provide future funding certainty.”
Grain producer, Kim Bremner, said continuation of capping and piping of bores was imperative to environmental and production outcomes.
“Well over 50pc of bores have been capped and piped but this needs to be continued.
“As a result of this bores pressures have risen almost back up to original levels, its’ more efficient use of the water, it helps with planning, it helps with pasture management – it’s got to be done and it’s got to be finished through GABSI.”
Issue No. 13: Animal Welfare
Increased recognition of the ongoing investment in animal welfare by Australian primary producers and the world-leading work undertaken by the cattle industry was today identified as a priority by AgForce Queensland in the ’30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign.
Animal welfare has come under intense scrutiny from both the public and government in recent years, particularly since the temporary suspension of the Indonesian live cattle trade in 2011.
AgForce Cattle Board President and Rolleston district beef producer, Howard Smith, said there was a fundamental lack of understanding from both government and many sectors of the broader community as to the high standards put in place by industry and the ongoing commitment from Australian producers to leading the world in animal welfare.
“Much of the public perception has been driven by extreme animal groups attempting to railroad the animal industries,” Mr Smith said.
“The fact is the Australian agriculture industry invests many millions of dollars each year ensuring animal welfare standards are adhered to and educating our customer countries.”
Specifically, AgForce is calling for:
• Practical, economic and safe animal welfare measures which are appropriate to the Queensland environment and science-based;
• Industry must be contribute as experts in policy making which pertains to animal welfare;
• Minimal levels of compliance throughout the supply chain as per the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines.
“Good welfare practices go hand in hand with good productivity and better quality product so a lot of these things really create a win-win for animal welfare and for production.
“Producers now also have the capacity to benchmark themselves on animal welfare through the Grazing Best Management Practice (BMP) program.”
Issue No. 14: Drought Support
Drought now grips close to 50 per cent of Queensland and as primary producers struggle to sustain livestock and meet expenses, AgForce Queensland has urged government to reassess its plans for assistance of drought affected producers.
Under current reform of drought policy the Australian, state and territory primary industries ministers have already agreed upon a framework for a new national package of drought programs to replace the existing Exception Circumstances arrangements.
However, AgForce Queensland Senior Policy Adviser, Dr Dale Miller, said the proposed new package currently placed unfair restrictions on eligibility for farm household income support during drought and lacked crucial ‘in-event’ business support.
“Governments are currently focussed on supporting drought preparedness, and industry resilience is certainly an outcome that AgForce supports. However the current package lacks clear measures for providing support during severe droughts that exceed reasonable efforts to prepare for and targeted support for new entrants who have had limited time to prepare,” Dr Miller said.
“In the past decade we have seen that drought conditions can persist over many years, yet the current farm family income allowance in the new package is limited to just three years in the life of a primary producer. This time limit is unrealistic.
“The government has also decided that new measures would only be considered after they find existing programs to be deficient. Unless this process is rapid, this opens up the risk that a prolonged period will result before adequate supports become available.
Boulia district beef producer, Rick Britton, said ongoing costs were crippling drought affected producers.
“One of the biggest issues during drought is cash flow,” Mr Britton said.
“It may be drought but we still have to pay leasehold land rentals, registration and other government charges.
“This presently has been made worse because many people have had to destock and sell off cattle in a declined market.
“If it doesn’t rain soon it’s going to be very tough.”
AgForce is highlighting 30 issues of critical importance to agriculture in 30 days – click here to learn more