What does the Reef 2050 Plan mean for the agriculture sector?
The Reef 2050 Plan does not make any new government policy commitments about agriculture.
However, the Plan recognises agriculture as the primary land use in the Reef catchment and the main source of sediment and nutrient run-off into the Reef lagoon. It is, therefore, a major focus for accelerated action and funding to reduce impacts from land-based activities.
The agricultural sector will continue to take the lead in reducing the impact of pollutants from farmland.
The agricultural sector is also involved in other areas of the Plan including actions to limit the impacts of climate change such as investment in carbon farming projects and developing bioenergy.
How does the Reef 2050 Plan relate to the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan?
The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan sits within the Reef 2050 Plan framework and guides how industry, government and the community will work together to improve the quality of water flowing to the Reef. The plan is reviewed every five years with the current review due to be completed in 2023. It involves a staged process including reviewing the land and catchment management targets (Figure 1), updating the Scientific Consensus Statement, and updating the actions with key stakeholders consulted throughout.
The review of the targets has started with an independent review of the land management practice adoption target for agriculture.
The early review of the management practice adoption target for agriculture is in response to concerns raised, primarily by the agricultural sector, about whether the current targets are achievable, evidence-based and how well the land management targets relate to water quality improvement.
The review is being delivered by a consortium of specialists and involves consultation with stakeholders and commodity-specific technical experts.
A Stakeholder Partnership Group (SPG), involving industry, conservation groups, natural resource management organisations, and government representatives supported by an independent chairperson, is providing input into the review. A Technical Working Group (TWG) with members nominated by the SPG is engaged to advise on technical aspects, including scenario development and data analysis.
Figure 1: 2025 land and catchment management targets in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022.
2025 land and catchment management targets
- 90% of land in priority areas under grazing, horticulture, bananas, sugarcane and other broad-acre cropping are managed using best management practice systems for water quality outcomes (soil, nutrient and pesticides)
- The management of urban, industrial and public land uses for water quality shows an improving trend
- The extent of riparian vegetation is increased
- No loss of the extent of natural wetlands
- 90% of grazing lands will have greater than 70 per cent ground cover in the late dry season
How the Reef 2050 Plan and the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan fit within the bigger picture of Reef management is outlined in Figure 2.
Figure 2: How the Australian and Queensland governments are working to improve Reef water quality
How is the agricultural sector already contributing?
The agricultural sector is taking positive steps to support progress towards the targets. For instance, best management practice (BMP) programs including the sugarcane industry’s Smartcane BMP, Banana BMP and Hort360 GBR are examples of strong partnerships involving the agricultural sector, land managers and governments to improve the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of farm enterprises.
Many landholders are making transformational changes that reduce run-off from their properties into local waterways. They are also developing and adopting innovative techniques to improve local water quality.
Read more about these success stories in the Reef Report Card 2020 case-studies. As of February 2022, there are 694 fully accredited growers and a further 1,604 growers engaged in Best Management Practice programs.
The updated Reef 2050 Plan builds on these achievements, while recognising the need to accelerate the adoption of improved land and catchment management practices to meet the targets.
How was the agriculture sector involved in developing the Reef 2050 Plan?
The Reef 2050 Plan was developed in consultation with the Reef 2050 advisory bodies and stakeholders.
The Reef 2050 Advisory Committee includes representatives from the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, AgForce and CANEGROWERS. These organisations also made submissions on the draft Plan.
What’s next for Reef 2050?
The Australian and Queensland governments will continue to work collaboratively with partners to implement the updated Reef 2050 Plan. Water quality improvement continues to be a key area for investment.
The agricultural sector will be engaged directly and through its representatives on the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee.
How can I get involved?
If you are a farmer, please visit https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/agriculture/sustainable-farming/reef for information about programs and support tools.
Get on board
Protecting and caring for the Reef is a collective effort. Dive into the Reef 2050 Plan to learn more about how we are working together to help support the Great Barrier Reef.