Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Lobby group giving farmers a bad name

The Guardian, 2 May 2019:

The Queensland farm lobby AgForce has deleted more than a decade worth of data from a government program that aims to improve water quality in the Great Barrier Reef, in response to state government moves to introduce new reef protection laws.

Guardian Australia revealed in June that the state’s auditor general had raised concerns that agriculture industry groups had refused to share data from the “best management practices” program due to privacy concerns.

In recent months, AgForce and others had campaigned against the imposition of new reef protection regulations, which set sediment “load limits” in reef catchments and impose new standards on farmers.

The proposed new laws, which have been introduced to state parliament, also include a provision to allow the environment minister to obtain data from agricultural groups……

The Queensland environment minister, Leeanne Enoch, told the Courier-Mail the decision flushed “so much work and the taxpayer dollars that have been supporting it out to sea”.

“AgForce often claims that they are true environmentalists but this decision is not the action of a group that wants to protect the environment,” she said.

The Queensland audit office last year found that the success of the best management practices program could not be properly measured because the agricultural groups that receive government funding would not provide data on whether producers had actually improved their practices.

“This detailed information is currently held by the industry groups,” the report said. “Despite this work being funded by government, the information is not provided to government due to privacy concerns from the industry.

“These data restrictions mean government does not have full visibility of the progress made and cannot measure the degree of practice change or assess the value achieved from its investment of public funds.

“This means that the reported proportion of lands managed using best management practice systems could be overstated.”

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