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Minimum standards

Minimum practice agricultural standards have been drafted for sugarcane, beef cattle grazing and  banana  production. These are the results of extensive consultation across industry and other stakeholders.

New and expanded cropping and horticulture activities will also have to meet farm design standards. A draft of the farm design standards will be released for public consultation before they are made.

Sugarcane

The minimum practice agricultural standards for sugarcane will relate to:

  • Keeping records about soil tests and applying fertilisers and agricultural chemicals
  • Undertaking soil tests and using these results to determine nitrogen and phosphorus rates
  • Implementing a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget within two years
  • Minimising erosion and sediment run-off.

The minimum practice agricultural standards are detailed in the draft Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Activity standard for sugarcane cultivation in the Great Barrier Reef catchment (PDF, 480KB) and the draft Prescribed method for sugarcane (PDF, 1.32MB).

Grazing

The minimum standards will require beef cattle graziers to use measures to maintain land in good or fair condition.

Where beef cattle grazing is being carried out on land in poor condition, graziers must implement measures to improve land condition towards good or fair condition.

Where beef cattle grazing is being carried out on land in degraded condition, graziers must implement measures to improve land condition towards good or fair condition or prevent areas further degrading or expanding.

This approach limits the impact on graziers with well-managed properties and provides flexibility for graziers to choose the most appropriate action to improve condition for poor or degraded grazing land.  There are no mandatory measures such as destocking under the proposed regulations.

The range of measures recommended to be implemented to return land to fair or good condition align with well accepted grazing land management strategies for managing climatic variability including drought preparedness, management and recovery.

Due to climatic and economic conditions, it is acknowledged that it will be difficult for some areas to be returned to fair or good condition during and immediately following drought (or other natural disasters). Active enforcement of the regulations in these circumstances will be moderated on a case-by-case basis, following standard departmental practice in response to natural disasters.

The draft minimum practice agricultural standards are detailed in the Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Activity standard for beef cattle grazing in the Great Barrier Reef catchment (PDF, 395KB).

Bananas

The minimum practice agricultural standards for bananas will relate to:

  • Minimising erosion and sediment run-off
  • Keeping records about leaf tests and applying fertilisers and agricultural chemicals
  • Applying fertiliser according to maximum amount of nitrogen and phosphorus or implementing a farm nutrient management plan (using leaf testing).

The minimum practice agricultural standards are detailed in the draft Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA) standard for banana cultivation in the Great Barrier Reef catchment (PDF, 434KB) and the draft Prescribed method for bananas (PDF, 1.23MB).

New and expanded cropping and horticultural development

To protect the gains already made to Reef water quality, all new and expanded cropping and horticulture activities on more than five hectares without a cropping history will be required to have an Environmental Authority (permit) within six months of the new laws commencing. This will require the activity be set up to meet farm design standards. They will also need to comply with any minimum practice agricultural standards for the commodity.

This requirement will apply to land use change from grazing to cropping and to increases in the area under crops. However, it will not apply to a change from one crop type to another (e.g. a change from sugarcane to banana production) or to fields being cropped after being in fallow for a short time.

A cropping history will be demonstrated where cropping is occurring or has occurred during three out of the last 10 years (with at least one of the years being in the last five years). If the land has a cropping history, you do not need an Environmental Authority for cropping.

New cropping activity on land between five and 100 hectares is considered low risk. It will have a simplified application process with standard farm design requirements.

New cropping activity on 100 or more hectares is considered higher risk and requires a site-based land suitability assessment. It will need to meet tailored farm design standards to manage the water quality risks. Where water quality risks cannot be managed for higher risk cropping proposals, the new activity may be refused.

Banana growers who are relocating due to TR4 Panama disease will only be subject to the standard farm design requirements regardless of the size of the property.

The standard farm design requirements are being developed and will be subject to future consultation for a statutory period of at least 30 business days under Section 318A of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.