Farm­ers given cash to pro­tect our reef

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

CLOSE to 20 lo­cal farm­ers from the re­gion are ben­e­fit­ing from the Reef Res­cue grants pro­gram which as­sists farm­ers to up­grade their farm­ing prac­tices to re­duce pol­lu­tion to the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Over 200 farm­ers in North Queens­land re­cently re­ceived govern­ment grants amount­ing to $3.5 mil­lion to pay for im­prove­ments to the way they man­age their farms.

Nine projects from the Moss­man and Dain­tree area were sub­mit­ted, six were funded, in­clud­ing two large mill area projects.

CEO of Moss­man’s Agri­cul­ture Ser­vices Dar­ryl Parker ap­plied for the Reef Res­cue Grants in the first round to pur­chase a fer­tiliser box and shielded sprayer to im­prove her­bi­cide man­age­ment.

“We ap­plied for the grant in 2008 on be­half of the smaller sug­ar­cane farm grow­ers in the com­mu­nity. Farm­ers are able to use the fer­tiliser box and the shielded sprayer when they need it,” he said.

The fer­tiliser box buries the fer­tiliser un­der the ground as op­posed to it sit­ting on the sur­face of the soil, which pre­vents the fer­tiliser from mov­ing or wash­ing down into the drains when early rain hits the sug­ar­cane.

“This ben­e­fits us as the fer­tiliser is not washed away, but is also ben­e­fits the reef as none of the chem­i­cals are washed into the ocean,” Mr Parker said.

Chem­i­cals such as Roundup can kill the sug­ar­cane there­fore farm­ers use a shielded sprayer to ef­fec­tively spray weeds with­out dam­ag­ing any of the cane.

Last year 132 projects in the far north were funded by the pro­gram and this year the num­ber of grants in­creased by 50 per cent.

Pro­gram Of­fi­cer Fiona Ge­orge says that Ter­rain en­cour­ages farm­ers who have not re­ceived grants be­fore to ap­ply.

“We are re­ally pleased to see farm­ers ap­ply­ing for Reef Res­cue grants that hadn’t pre­vi­ously been funded. This year 203 farm­ers re­ceived in­cen­tive grants for the first time in North Queens­land, tak­ing the num­ber of farm­ers funded by this pro­gram to over 500,” she said.

“The fund­ing grants are a win-win for farm­ers and the en­vi­ron­ment, as they not only res­cue the im­pact on rivers and streams but en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits are achieved through farm ef­fi­cien­cies as well.”

Moss­man’s Agri­cul­ture Ser­vices re­ceived 50 per cent off the fund­ing for both the fer­tiliser box ($15 000) and shielded sprayer ($11 000).

“I be­lieve that the Reef Res­cue grants are a great idea as it has given smaller grow­ers the con­fi­dence to ap­ply for the equip­ment them­selves af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that the gear worked well for them,” Mr Parker said.

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