The Reef protection regulations include record keeping requirements that agricultural advisers must meet.
There is also the opportunity for third party programs such as industry Best Management Practice programs or like programs to become recognised accreditation programs.
What are the requirements for agricultural advisers?
From 1 December 2019, agricultural advisers, such as fertiliser sellers and agronomists, operating in Reef regions need to keep records of any tailored advice provided to agricultural producers or to people seeking advice on their behalf (such as farm contractors) about meeting regulated minimum practice agricultural standards and the requirements of a farm nitrogen phosphorus budget (sugarcane only).
Tailored advice means advice about meeting the minimum standards and farm nitrogen phosphorus budgets that is not general in nature and is specific to a particular property and related set of circumstances. The requirement to keep records of advice is also limited to advice that has been provided for a fee or reward.
Advisers must also ensure that any advice provided is not false or misleading, e.g. contrary to the legislative requirements.
Records need to be kept to demonstrate activities are being undertaken in accordance with the minimum agricultural practice standards.
The government has committed to not commencing the regulation to acquire specific agricultural data from the broader agricultural sector, such as data about fertiliser and chemical use, soil testing and crop yield.
Who is considered an agricultural adviser?
Under the new regulations, an agricultural adviser is any individual who provides advice for a fee or reward. Advisers include agronomists and other technical farm management specialists, including fertiliser sellers who give advice about the application of a fertiliser product containing nitrogen or phosphorous.
Agricultural officers, extension officers and other individuals are not required to keep records of advice if it is general in nature e.g. that does not take into account specific needs.
What are the record keeping requirements?
The record of advice must include, amongst other things, a summary of the advice given including any recommendations.
If the advice makes a recommendation about the application of a fertiliser product, the following details must be recorded:
- the name, or a description, of the product
- the application rate recommended for the product
- the method of application recommended for the product
- the timing and frequency of application recommended for the product.
Records must be created within five business days after providing the advice, and be kept for a minimum of six years.
A copy of the advice must be provided to the producer or to the person seeking advice on behalf of the producer about meeting the standards. Producers are also required to keep the record of advice provided.
When do the requirements apply?
The requirements for agricultural advisers will apply from the time the minimum standards and the requirements for a farm and nitrogen budget (sugarcane only) apply to producers over the next three years from 1 December 2019. Refer to the timeframes.
Will advisers be subject to penalties?
Under the new regulations, agricultural advisers can be penalised if they provide false or misleading tailored advice to a producer.
Recognised accreditation programs
What is a recognised accreditation program under the regulations?
The new regulations provide the opportunity for third party programs such as industry Best Management Practice (BMP) programs or like programs to voluntarily become recognised accreditation programs.
The accreditation programs must include all of the following:
- modules that are consistent with, or better than, the minimum practice agricultural standards
- accreditation of producers who comply with the program’s requirements
- maintenance of a register of producers who have been accredited
- collection and reporting of information about the operation of the program
- a process for reviewing decisions and resolving disputes regarding the program
- regular review and evaluation of the program.
Will existing BMP programs be automatically recognised?
Owners of existing industry BMP programs can voluntarily apply for recognition. Program owners will have until 1 June 2020 to:
- ensure the accreditation program is consistent with relevant minimum practice agricultural standards
- provide a copy of the program to the Department of Environment and Science, where it has been amended to ensure it is consistent with the minimum standards
- ensure producers already accredited under the existing accreditation program are carrying out their activities in compliance with the relevant minimum practice agricultural standards.