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TAS Country : July 28th 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011 Tasmanian Country 7 Opinion Proposed spray laws flawed TFGA matters with Jan Davis OUTCRY: Farmers are worried that proposed new spray regulations will be counter-productive. ONE of the most difficult jobs that the TFGA does is to continually educate politicians and bureaucrats about the damage they can cause the state's agricultural industries through ill- conceived changes to the rules that impact unnecessarily on the way far- mers work, and increase the cost of doing business. About three years ago the Govern- ment proposed the introduction of new regulations governing the spraying of chemicals. After much outcry at the time, including detailed and critical com- ments from TFGA, the proposed regu- lations have been rewritten and a draft Bill has recently been circulated for comment. I should stress from the outset that TFGA supports the responsible use of sprays. We support a chemical application regime that recognises the rights of neighbours and other landholders, whether they are also farmers or not, and that takes account of heightened community expectations concerning such matters as spray drift, especially near watercourses. We drove a tractor through the original amendments proposed by DPIPWE. Unfortunately, while some of the worst problems of the initial proposition have been addressed, the revised version is still fatally flawed. For a start, the draft regulations actively discriminate against farmers because all other landholders, includ- ing governments, hobby farmers and home gardeners, are exempt from the proposed onerous conditions of spray use. Government contractors spray large areas of land, including roads and rail lines which run alongside water- courses. Hobby farmers and home gardeners often have access to the same chemicals as farmers, yet there is no requirement for them to be trained in chemical use. These are potentially high-risk ac- tivities, but these sectors are not required to comply with the same rules as farmers. That clearly doesn't address the issue of potential chemical contami- nation --- which is what these proposed new rules are meant to be all about. It will be difficult to determine responsibility for any contamination --- and farmers will no doubt get the blame for problems caused by others. Residue levels The regulations also mandate zero residues of any chemical, no matter what chemical and no how small the residue. This standard is simply not possible to achieve. Many chemicals are naturally occurring, and residues can come from many sources. We already have an internationally recognised heavily regulated system of maximum residue levels (MRLs) --- why would we be setting out to develop a new and contradictory system? Under these draft regulations, detection of any level of any residue, no matter what its source or risk, could lead to unwarranted and highly damaging publicity against Tasmanian produce when, in fact, the residue may not be the result of chemical spraying or the residue levels may meet or exceed world health standards. The TFGA is not averse to the regulation of chemical spraying where this can be shown to deliver effective outcomes that address real problems within a cost-effective system. However, we compete in tough, commercial markets where there is little opportunity to pass on increased costs. Any increase in regulatory costs will impinge on already slim margins, and make farming in Tasmania less sustainable. Yet here we face a new regime of controls that won't apply to any other chemical user in Tasmania; and also are far more extreme than apply to farmers on the mainland or overseas. Poor regulations do nobody any good, farmers or the community at large. If the purpose of these draft regulations is to better manage use of chemicals, that's well and good, but there is a lot that needs to be done to ensure they deliver on that aim. TFGA is happy to work with government to improve the proposed regime. However, if the purpose is simply to layer more unnecessary costs and red tape onto farmers for the sake of it, we'll come out fighting. GET ALL THE FESTIVAL DETAILS & TICKETS ONLINE AT www.deniutemuster.com.au ALL STORES OR CALL 03 5881 3388 SEPT 30 & OCT 12011 ROUND UP YOUR MATES - LET S CELEBRATE! 2 DAYS OF NON STOP ENTERTAINMENT
July 21st 2011
August 4th 2011