Flood-ravaged farmers lose out in $10M political game

Queensland primary producers working to rebuild after the devastating floods in February are now facing a new challenge, one that threatens to render large areas of the State practically unproductive.
The highly prolific and difficult-to-eradicate prickly acacia has been spread throughout vast tracts of western Queensland by the floodwaters flowing south, across the Channel Country and north into the Gulf.
Left unchecked, this invasive weed can create large thorny tickets in just months. It chokes out pasture, resulting in erosion and waterway degradation and makes grazing cattle difficult.
It is estimated that 33 million hectares are already infested with the weed, and with floodwaters spreading the seed and providing perfect growth conditions, the problem is expected to intensify.
But now $10 million jointly promised by the State and Federal Governments to control the weed looks to be lost in a political squabble in which the only losers will be Queensland farmers.
As reported in rural media last week, the Governments are arguing over their commitment to fund a program to protect our important grazing lands.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said the stand-off threatened to compound a flood disaster into a weed disaster, and called on both levels of government to honour their commitments.
“The Federal and State Governments both acknowledge the threat that prickly acacia poses to the environment and to agriculture, but are prepared to allow this crisis to worsen while they bicker,” Mrs Somerset said.
“The producer-led group tasked with managing the program – Desert Channels Queensland (DCQ) – say they are ready to go to work but so far have not yet received a cent in funding.
“It is breathtaking hypocrisy for a State Government which pays so much lip service to environmental preservation, and has introduced Australia’s strictest vegetation management laws with such a debilitating impact on producers, to risk one of the country’s worst pest plants flourishing for the sake of political point scoring.
“Losing the promised funding would be an appalling kick in the guts for producers who have already lost so much else this year.
“Whatever happens with the State Government’s share, we need the Federal Government to continue to honour its commitment. Although $5 million is not enough to solve the problem, it will at least allow us to make a start.”
Mrs Somerset said the worst thing was that we had to find all this out through the media.
“No one from Minister Furner’s office or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has bothered to contact AgForce in relation to this issue,” she said.
“This State Government’s record of engagement and collaboration with primary producers is appalling and appears to now be endemic. We are still waiting, nearly two years later, for it to release its invasive weeds report that deals with weeds such as prickly acacia, giant rat’s tail grass and fireweed.
“Industry needs governments at all levels to work together to help agriculture grow sustainably, and ensure environmental programs that support productivity are funded and delivered collaboratively and swiftly.”
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