FARMING CHANGES: Farmer and lobby groups claim State Government-enforced reef regulations will create more problems for canegrowers in an already struggling season.
FARMING CHANGES: Farmer and lobby groups claim State Government-enforced reef regulations will create more problems for canegrowers in an already struggling season.

Fear new sugar laws will sour cane industry

NEW run-off laws for the Great Barrier Reef will sour Queensland's sugar cane industry, farmers have warned.

Lobbyists have slammed the Palaszczuk Government's new Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.

Canegrowers Queensland's Paul Schembri says the latest agricultural reform could see farmers "demotivated" and not wanting to "continue the journey of environmental sustainability".

He said it added to the burden of drought, lack of water and regulations on farming across the state.

Farmers must will have to comply with new run-off regulations in at least five catchment areas of the Great Barrier Reef, which include the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions.

Canegrowers must also keep detailed soil tests and records of fertiliser and chemical use in order to minimise run-off.

About 14,000 farmers across the state - including 4500 canegrowers - are expected to be impacted.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch maintains the reform will help reduce sediment pollution of the water in the catchment areas and improve the health and quality of the Reef.

Mr Schembri told News Regional Media the changes would result in thousands of farmers being "bureaucratically handcuffed" to unworkable legislation and a "busted" business model".

"The first reef bill was introduced by Premier Anna Bligh: that was portrayed and touted as being the panacea for the reef and by regulating farmers you would fix up all the problems," Mr Schembri said.

"Here we are in 2019, the government have unleashed this bureaucratic monster.

"The more they smother farmers with regulations, apply a regulatory baseball bat to them, the less environmental dividend they will get.

"All this bill does, is (add) this bureaucratic overlay that gets in the ways of farmers investing in technologies and innovation to make us environmentally sustainable."

Ms Enoch has repeatedly claimed the legislation will allow the State Government to ensure the protection of the GBR and the thousands of jobs that rely on its health.

The Department of Science's latest Water Quality Report Card revealed there was poor progress toward the land management practice targets across all Queensland industries and water quality targets were "very poor".

Ms Enoch said farmers would be entitled to $10.1 million in rebates to get advice for meeting the regulated requirements.

Australian Marine Conservation Society CEO Imogen Zethoven said the laws were "the right response to the scientific consensus" about agricultural run-off "damaging inshore ecosystems". - NewsRegional