Why are regulations required for grazing?
Over time, unsustainable grazing practices reduce pasture and ground cover which increases the risk of valuable top soil being lost when it rains. Reduced ground cover also increases overland flow causing gully and streambank erosion and sediment and nutrient run-off to waterways.
Ground cover is a key indicator of land condition and refers to pasture plants, plant litter, tree leaf litter, twigs and woody debris that can protect the soil surface from erosion.
The minimum practice agricultural standards for grazing focus on retaining and improving ground cover and land condition to minimise soil loss.
The Queensland Government has made a commitment that the minimum practice agricultural standards will remain substantially unchanged for the next five years.
What are the requirements for graziers?
Under the Reef protection regulations, all graziers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions will be required to:
- keep general records from 1 December 2019, for example of fertilisers applied to land
- comply with minimum practice agricultural standards as this requirement is applied to each region over the next three years.
Why is the Cape York region excluded from most of the new requirements?
Most of the requirements do not apply to existing producers in the Cape York region as the region has met its water quality targets.
However, from 1 June 2020, any new or expanded commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York region on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or any work takes place.
What records do I need to keep?
All graziers will be required to keep general records from 1 December 2019 and then minimum standard records as the minimum practice agricultural standards are rolled out across each region.
Records can be in any format but must be made within three business days, kept for at least six years and be available when requested by an authorised person such as a compliance officer.
Records need to be kept to demonstrate activities are being undertaken on the property 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.
For a full description of the record keeping requirements for graziers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.29MB).
For graziers, general records must include:
- name of the grazier (i.e. the person(s) carrying out the activity)
- name of person making the record
- company name (if applicable)
- property address/es
- postal address
- farm identification number/s (if applicable)
- a list of the lots included in all the farms within the agricultural enterprise
- records of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud/mill ash applied and specifically:
- location of each application (e.g. farm number with block name or management zone)
- date of each application
- agricultural chemical and/or fertiliser product (including mill mud/mill ash) applied to each location with product name, application rate (kg/ha, L/ha or tonnes/ha for mill mud/mill ash) and for fertiliser product percentage of nitrogen and phosphorus.
Minimum standard records
For graziers, minimum standard records must include notes about the measures taken to retain or improve land condition. Specifically, records must include:
- details of the measures taken
- date the measures were implemented
- location on the property (relevant paddock) or whole property where the measures were implemented.
What minimum practice agricultural standards do I need to comply with?
The minimum practice agricultural standards for graziers do not mandate any particular action or measures. Instead graziers are required to determine their own actions to retain or improve land condition.
Under the regulations, graziers are required to take action where land is in poor or degraded condition. Land condition is measured by the amount of ground cover at 30 September each year. On paddocks where ground cover is less than 50%, land is considered to be in poor condition, and less than 20% is considered degraded condition.
It is recognised that:
- For some land types it may not be possible to achieve 50% ground cover at 30 September each year even when taking all reasonable steps.
- It may be impractical and cost prohibitive to improve some areas of very degraded land, e.g. severe gullying or scalded areas. If so, measures must be taken to prevent these areas from further degrading or expanding.
Under the Reef protection regulations, there are four standard conditions for graziers:
Standard condition 1
For land in good or fair condition, continue using measures to maintain the land in good or fair condition.
Standard condition 2
For land in poor condition, measures must be implemented to improve land condition towards achieving good or fair condition.
Standard condition 3
For land in degraded condition, measures must be implemented to improve land condition towards achieving good or fair condition OR prevent areas of degraded land condition from further degrading or expanding.
Standard condition 4
General and minimum standard records must be made within three business days, kept for at least six years and be made available upon request.
For a full description of the minimum practice agricultural standard requirements for graziers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.29MB).
You can also refer to the Grazing guide for information on how to comply.
What about other requirements for records about agricultural chemicals?
You might also be required to keep records because of other legal requirements.
For example, the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988 requires graziers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions to meet prescribed conditions (including record keeping) for using, preparing, storing and possessing ametryn, atrazine, diuron, hexazinone and tebuthiuron.
For more information on this requirement, please refer to Managing agricultural chemicals.
When do the regulations apply?
From 1 December 2019, all graziers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions will need to keep general records and then, as the minimum practice agricultural standards commence for their region, minimum standard records.
Minimum practice agricultural standards
The minimum practice agricultural standards for graziers will apply as follows:
- Burdekin region from 1 December 2020
- Fitzroy region from 1 December 2021
- Wet Tropics region from 1 December 2022
- Mackay Whitsunday region from 1 December 2022
- Burnett Mary region from 1 December 2022
Record keeping requirements
Minimum practice agricultural standards
1 December 2019
1 December 2020
1 December 2019
1 December 2021
Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday and Burnett Mary
1 December 2019
1 December 2022
Are best management practice accredited producers compliant with the new regulations?
The regulations provide the opportunity for third party programs such as industry Best Management Practice (BMP) programs or like programs to become recognised accreditation programs. Programs can be recognised if they accredit farming practices that are consistent with, or better than, the minimum practice agricultural standards under the regulations. Producers who are accredited under a recognised program will, therefore, be deemed to have met the minimum practice agricultural standards for the duration of their accreditation.
Producers who are accredited under a recognised program and continue to meet the terms of accreditation will be deemed to have met the minimum practice agricultural standards for the duration of their accreditation. Producers accredited against a recognised program will not be the focus of compliance activities.
Despite the absence of the Grazing BMP, the Queensland Government will acknowledge graziers that achieved accreditation under the former Grazing BMP. These graziers will be considered as a low compliance risk for five years from 1 December 2019.
In addition, the Queensland Government will acknowledge graziers participating in the Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) Program as a low priority for compliance visits for the duration of their involvement in this program.
How will compliance work?
Compliance officers from the Department of Environment and Science will meet with producers to help them understand what is required under the minimum practice agricultural standards.
The compliance program is prioritising its efforts on the areas that represent the greatest water quality threat to the Reef.
Where can I find more detailed information?
You can register to receive an information pack as well as regular updates on the regulations.
What support is available for graziers?
Programs and support tools are provided by the Australian and Queensland governments and industry organisations to help graziers identify opportunities to improve farming practices. For more information visit Grazing support programs.