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‘DON’T TREAT OUR FARMERS LIKE RUBBISH’: 

Support our Bundaberg farmers' battle against rates hikes of up to 235%

Farmers across every sector of the industry in Bundaberg region have been hit with crippling rates rises of up to 235% in Bundaberg Regional Council's 2020 Budget. Our farmers are central to our local economy and support tens of thousands of local jobs and this rates hike is aleady filtering through to Bundaberg business and households across the region.

Bundaberg's farming industry is already struggling under the weight of drought, COVID, water security issues and a rising tide of costly and time-consuming unwarranted red tape. This rates rise by our own council - which is ripping millions of dollars out of our farming industry - is quite literally pushing farmers off the land. Council must reconsider this rates decision made in the 2020 Budget.

You can sign the petition here to show your support for Bundaberg's farmers: https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/dont-treat-bundy-farmers-like-rubbish-reverse-the-235-rates-hike.html?

Brian Gordon, Northside Produce

Insight from Dr Peter Ridd

This is more insight from Dr Peter Ridd, the renowned Great Barrier Reef scientist who is standing alongside Aussie farmers who put more than 88% of all food and drink on our family and household tables. It follows the Senate Inquiry into the Reef Regulations held on 27 and 28 July.

Senate hearing transcripts can be found here

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/GreatBarrierReef/Public_Hearings

Confession 1

The Senators extracted some remarkable information from various GBR science institutions during the Senate Inquiry. We will go over some of these in the next few posts.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science stated that the “inshore Reefs”, which they claim are affected by river plumes carrying farms mud and pesticides, are only 3% of the Reef. Half of these 3% are north of Cooktown where there is no agriculture. Even for most of the inshore reefs near the agricultural areas, the measured pesticide concentrations are extremely low or undetectable. Mud concentrations from the rivers on those inshore reefs are about 1% of the natural concentrations that occur naturally by resuspension by waves.

So 97% of the Reef is totally unaffected by farm mud or pesticides. And there is only a tiny affect on half of the remaining 3%.

How much closer to negligible can the farmers influence be?

Many thanks to Senators Canavan, McDonald, Rennick, and Roberts (in alphabetical order).

Note: all confessions were extracted ethically without any instruments of torture.


Confession 2

Large corals have yearly growth rings like trees so drill cores from large corals give a history of growth rates going back to the year 1600. The data shows no reduction in growth rate due to agriculture which began around 1900. This confession was like getting blood out of stone, the result of tenacious questioning by the Senators of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

If all the mud and pesticides are poisoning the Reef, the first thing that will happen is that coral growth rates will slow. Growth rates should have started declining in 1900 and declined even further in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when pesticides and fertilizer were used in quantity. But coral growth rates in this period, if anything, increased slightly. Since the 1970s agricultural practices have greatly improved to retain soil and limit fertilizer and pesticide losses. Things have got much better since the 1970s.

At the Senate Inquiry, AIMS tried to dodge this attack by saying the data only includes one type of coral (the boulder-like Porites species) and is not indicative of other types of coral. But AIMS conveniently forgets that they have used this same data on the Porites to claim that climate change is damaging the Reef – ALL the corals of the reef. They can’t have it both ways when somebody starts asking hard question. This just damaged the credibility of the organisation even further. But we should be happy that they finally confessed the obvious.

In any case, here is more excellent evidence that the impact of farming is negligible.

Again, many thanks to Senators Roberts, Rennick, McDonald, and Canavan (in reverse alphabetically order).

Note: Although this confession was extracted ethically without the use of instruments of torture, there was a period during the Senator’s questions when I thought they might have to get out the thumbscrews.


Confession 3

AIMS claims the reef is dying. It produced Reef-average coral growth rate data for the 400 years between 1600 and 2005, but for the last 15 years – NOTHING. For the most important period of interest, we are without data of arguably the most important measurement on the health of the Reef.

Large corals have growth rings like trees and drill cores can be used to document coral growth rates going back centuries. AIMS first started doing these measurements before the hysteria about the reef started in the 1980’s. The coral growth data from 1600-1990 showed, if anything, a slight increase in growth rate. But AIMS then did more measurements around 2005 which supposedly showed a calamitous fall in growth rate from 1990-2005. They proclaimed to the world the Reef was dying.

The only problem was they used a different methodology for the later measurements – they used smaller corals whereas the original measurements in the 80s used very large corals. They failed to make sure this methodology would yield similar results. With Eduardo da Silva and Thomas Stieglitz, I showed this methodology was flawed and we published a corrected growth curve that showed no change in growth rate between 1990-2005.

But AIMS just retreated into a bunker and would not admit they made a mistake. Piers Larcombe and I made the suggestion that if they did measurements again, using the original methodology, we would be able to see if their 1990-2005 data was untrustworthy and would also be able to fill in the missing data from 2005-2020.

The Senators were like a dog with a bone and finally extracted the confession that there was no data between 2005 and 2020, and that it would be a good idea to check if the 1990-2005 data was untrustworthy.

If we take lots of coral cores from large corals right across the reef, as was done in the 1980’s we can again track the coral growth rate over the last centuries, check the untrustworthy data from 1990-2005 and fill in the missing data for the last 15 years. I predict this will show that there was no fall between 1990-2005, and that coral growth rates over the last 15 years are the same as they have been for centuries. You can see why AIMS might not be too keen to do this work.

Note: coral growth data is different to coral cover data. Coral cover is the percentage of the seabed that is covered by coral. This latter data is available from AIMS from 1985 to 2020.

See pages 8-12 of the transcripts on 27th July 2020 https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/GreatBarrierReef/Public_Hearings



Confession 4

Hallelujah - an honest appraisal of this threat.

So why are farmers forced into tough new legislation on pesticides when there is no risk? Why was this statement not in the 2019 Reef Outlook Report? Why did AIMS and GBRMPA and JCU not tell the State government this when they were drafting the latest Reef legislation? Why was it necessary for bulldogs Rennick and Robert to extract this confession of such fundamental importance? This should have been well known. The science organisations should have been shouting about this wonderful news.

The idea that pesticides are killing the reef is obviously ridiculous. Certainly, there may be some issues in the creeks and rivers, but there is very little indication that there are any major problems even there. By the time the water is diluted in the ocean, there is no chance that the Reef, 50 to 100 km offshore, is in danger.

I am reminded of an artificial wetland that Tully farmer Peter Jackson has built. His farm drains into this billabong. If there is going to be poisonous water, this is where it should be – before it is diluted by the rivers and ocean. But Peter Jackson’s billabong is teaming with life and he is proud of it. He will show you the picture of the Barra he caught in the billabong – he caught it with the bucket of his excavator. If the water at the bottom of this farm is teaming with life, it is obviously not going to be poisonous on the Reef way over the horizon.

But let’s be fair to AIMS. He gave a straight answer to a straight question. I commend Dr Hardisty for this. We are starting to get somewhere.

This statement by AIMS was an answer to a “question on notice” from Senator Rennick.



Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information 

Your health is our priority as we deal with the coronavirus and together we will get through this. It is crucial that people continue to listen to the advice from our medical professionals when it comes to social distancing and hygiene.

Below are phone numbers and websites which might be useful if you’re looking for information:

And please remember, stay 1.5 metres away from others, wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, avoid touching your face, ensure you cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, and if you are sick, please stay at home.


Projects and Events

Smartcane BMP

The “Smartcane BMP” Program is an opportunity for sugarcane growers throughout the state to showcase their farming practices. Smartcane BMP Facilitators in your local CANEGROWERS office are available to assist growers to register on the Smartcane BMP website and to complete assessment questionnaires about various aspects of their farming practices. Growers who have registered on Smartcane BMP and completed the assessments are invited to seek assistance from their local facilitator to achieve Smartcane BMP accreditation. Facilitated training and assistance sessions are held at CANEGROWERS office each Thursday morning. For further details on the Smartcane BMP Program click here.

Insurance

CANEGROWERS Insurance Scheme  - owned by growers, working for growers, was commenced in 2012 to look after our members’ insurance needs. Wide Bay Authorised Representative Ray Goodwin has extensive experience in looking after the insurance needs of the rural sector and has assisted many of our members to ensure that their insurance cover is tailored to their requirements. Ray provides a personalised on-farm service to growers, primarily servicing CGU’s Canepol insurance policies. He also has access to a broad range of other insurance products and alternative underwriters so that appropriate insurance cover can be obtained for all aspects of members’ businesses at the best price.

To contact Ray to discuss your insurance needs call 4151 2555 or on mobile on 0418 891 783.

Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Ltd

Our Mission is to provide representation, leadership and services and promote unity in the interest of growers.

Our Goals are to provide an effective and efficient service through a focus on growers' key concerns within a changing environment. To maximise grower and industry proceeds by marketing current and future sugar production through a structure that is transparent and accountable to the industry. To ensure that industry growth is managed and market driven within a sustainable sugar industry. To ensure environmentally and financially sustainable production through managing and coordinating inputs and resources.

Our Vision is to ensure a secure and profitable future for Bundaberg cane growers.