Restrictive vegetation management laws must change so that Farmers can keep feeding Aussie families

AgForce is currently in discussions with both the Queensland
State Government and the Federal Government advocating amendment of restrictive
vegetation management laws making it harder and more expensive for farmers to
grow food.

The current laws impose restrictions on how farmers manage
their land to produce food, shut down new agricultural development and lead to
perverse environmental outcomes that could damage rather than improve regional landscapes.

AgForce
CEO Michael Guerin said the laws must change if Queensland farmers are
to keep feeding families throughout Australia.

“The
AgForce policy has always been that the ‘landscape needs to be managed.’
Landholders understand that the uncontrolled regrowth and restricted access for
weed control brought about by the Vegetative Management Act creates ‘feral
landscapes’ that are a harbour for pest animals and plants and can become
severe fire risks,” he said.

The laws were widely criticised for contributing to the ferocity
of wildfires in Central Queensland at the end of 2018 which resulted in the
loss of over 520,000 hectares, decimating valuable timber resources and killing
millions of wildlife species.

The impacts were much worse than they would have been due to the
limited management of state lands, which includes limited management of the
landscape, poor access and the build-up of fuel loads to extreme levels caused by
not allowing producers to manage fuel loads on their properties or clear
adequate fire breaks.

Mr Guerin said the recently released draft Reef Regulations
further highlight the need for industry to engage with Government in developing
workable solutions, rather than simply reaching for more regulation and red
tape.

“If passed into law, the proposed reef bill has the
potential for serious impacts on grain growers and graziers across the state.”

AgForce has also previously criticised the State Government for
using ‘selective science’ in an attempt to convince the community that its
heavy-handed vegetation management laws are necessary.

The Government creatively used data from the annual State
Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report to claim that its Vegetation
Management Act (VMA) was required to prevent land clearing for agriculture.

AgForce
General President Georgie Somerset said AgForce had pushed for the
Government’s new-found commitment to “enhancing the scope of SLATS and
vegetation information to support evidence-based decision-making”.

“We have been arguing for years that Government scientists should
have the resources they need to examine how much vegetation is growing in
Queensland not just how much is being cleared,” she said.

“AgForce has always said we are willing to engage in a
scientific, evidence-based approach to vegetation management that examines all
the facts, including how much vegetation has regrown and why vegetation was
being managed.”

“Farmers want fair, workable laws to grow more food, create
more jobs and look after the environment. Farmers love and care for their land
as much as anyone, and they know how to manage it responsibly, so you have to
wonder why the Palaszczuk Government wants to make their jobs more difficult.

“That’s why we’re calling on the Government to amend these
flawed laws as quickly as possible and instead work on a long-lasting solution
that delivers good outcomes for both agriculture and the environment.”

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