Cane grower Justin Blair and Sugar Services Proserpine's Christine Peterson are leading the way in Best Management Practices in Proserpine.
Cane grower Justin Blair and Sugar Services Proserpine's Christine Peterson are leading the way in Best Management Practices in Proserpine. Shannen McDonald

'Progress marches on': Regulation a chance for innovation

NEW reef regulations passed last month are likely to bring change to the sugar industry but in Proserpine there is a growing push for farmers to embrace the opportunity for innovation.

According to Sugar Services Proserpine Best Management Practices (BMP) facilitator Christine Peterson, change is inevitable in any industry and cane farming isn't any different.

Farmers in the Proserpine region are already getting ahead of the game through BMP accreditation putting farmers in line with, or exceeding the requirements of new reef regulations.

Fourth generation cane grower Justin Blair has recently transitioned to managing the family farm himself, which celebrated its centenary earlier this year.

He said attaining his own BMP accreditation was a way for him to keep in line with industry standards.

"I wanted to do the program just to keep up to date; expectations of cane farming are changing all the time so it's good to know what you have to do to be compliant with the regulations that come out," Mr Blair said.

Ms Peterson said although the BMP accreditation still involved a third-party audit, just as the new regulations will, BMP allows farmers to move at their own pace.

"Growers have been really good at changing their own goal post in the past, I mean if they hadn't, we'd still be burning cane and cutting it by hand and personally I think locally, they are a very innovative bunch," Ms Peterson said.

"It doesn't matter who is changing the goal post - I think our local growers can meet those requirements without a problem.

"It's productivity, profitability for the grower and farming in a sustainable fashion.

"We talk about productivity and that's economic sustainability but we want them to be environmentally sustainable as well."

For Mr Blair, both the Gregory River and Myrtlevale Creek run next to and through his Myrtlevale farm respectively, making him conscious of the role he plays in protecting the natural environment surrounding his crop.

Investments into his farm include a weather station and a weed, pest and disease management plan, and are all key aspects to Mr Blair's commitment to continuing to improve his farming practices.

"You want to take care of the environment and any animals that are living there, including us," Mr Blair said.

"I have a son who is turning two this month, so there is also that aspect of wanting the farm to be in good condition for if and when he might like to take over."

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