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Farmers helping to save the Great Barrier Reef

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke and Member for Capricornia Kirsten Livermore met with North Queensland cane farmers and graziers to discuss how new farming techniques are helping to save the Great Barrier Reef and boosting their businesses.

The properties are among more than 770 farms involved in the Rudd Government’s $200 million Reef Rescue program.

Mr Burke first visited the 860 hectare cane farm run by Lee and Chris Blackburn at North Eton, outside of Mackay.

The Blackburns received funding last year through Reef Rescue to adopt new technology such as global positioning systems in tractors to allow the more precise use of pesticides.

By cutting pesticide use, farmers save on input costs – making their businesses more productive and profitable – and the reef benefits from less run-off.

Mr Burke also met with natural resource management group representatives from the regional group Reef Catchments Mackay Whitsunday.

“These farmers are really leading the way in showing how we can deliver wins for both the reef and for producers – this is some of the most innovative farming I’ve seen so far,” Mr Burke said.

“Not only are they improving the productivity and profitability of their own properties, but they are showing other farmers in the region the benefits of these smarter technologies.”

Mr Burke also visited the grazing property ‘Glenalpine’, outside of Collinsville, which is run by Leanne and Barry O’Sullivan.

AgForce vice-president Ian Burnett and central Queensland acting regional president Chris Rolfe were also present to discuss the strong progress of Reef Rescue work on the site.

The O’Sullivans have significantly changed their farming practices to fence-off key sites from cattle grazing and allow native grasses to recover.

After just one wet season, grasses have regrown and now play an important role in capturing and storing rain water, which would otherwise wash loose soil into the Great Barrier Reef.

“I was very impressed by the O’Sullivans’ innovation in improving their business for the long-term, while delivering important environmental wins for the reef,” Mr Burke said.

“They explained the shift in their approach, from being more like miners and taking what they needed from the land to instead working with the land to ensure future productivity growth.”

by S. C.
09 october 2009, World News > Oceania

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