EPA fines highlight importance of on farm data

Spray drift complaint might have been avoided if wind speed records were kept


Horticulture
When residents live next to agriculture there will be complaints about contract work, but farmers doing the right thing can protect themselves by recording data - like wind speed and direction - so they have truth on their side when the EPA asks questions about a spray drift incident.

When residents live next to agriculture there will be complaints about contract work, but farmers doing the right thing can protect themselves by recording data - like wind speed and direction - so they have truth on their side when the EPA asks questions about a spray drift incident.

Aa

An Environmental Protection Agency investigation into alleged pesticide spray drift from a macadamia plantation near Lismore was never proven because there was no evidence. But there should have been.

Aa

A Northern Rivers macadamia farm and its contractor were punished by the Environment Protection Authority last week over a case involving a neighbour's complaint about chemical drift.

No one could actually verify the fact that a contractor on a Rosebank farm near Lismore had sprayed pesticide while it was blowing a gale - up to 52 kilometres an hour as was claimed - exceeding chemical manufacturers' guidelines.

Bureau of Meteorology wind data for the district comes either from Cape Byron, 23 metres above the ocean, or Lismore airport, which at 11m and on the Wilsons River floodplain typically receives less than half that breeze.

While there was no evidence to suggest the claim was true or not, there should have been, and that's why the EPA slapped Seabreeze Macadamias with a $1000 fine for incomplete records of farm activity on the day.

"We recommend producers buy an anemometer and log wind speed during spraying activities," said Australian Macadamia Society chief executive officer Jolyon Burnett.

"It is important to log data. The only reason this grower was fined was because of incomplete records."

The EPA issued an official caution to the spray contractor for not holding a licence to undertake ground applicator work, a requirement now one year old. The contractor said he didn't know that.

Neither did the AMS, which was unable to inform its member growers. However, everyone is now being made aware of the need for contractor licencing at grower meetings taking place this week.

Beyond compliance Mr Burnett said the logging of on-farm data was the hallmark of modern best practice, but to get all growers on board required a big cultural shift.

"Best standard business practice should be about measuring pesticide rates and fertiliser applications and we will see an increase in the area," he said.

As well, the AMA welcomed new initiatives like the $500,000 now available to rehabilitate priority coastal catchments through Local Land Services and Queensland's brand new reef protection legislation which will help guide farmers when it comes to best practice.

Meanwhile, the production of macadamias globally continues to grow at about seven per cent with demand exceeding that and leading to stable prices above $5/kg for nut in shell at 10 per cent moisture.

Dry summer conditions will lower forecasted harvest tonnage by 5500 tonnes to 48,000t. Last year's record production was 52,000t.

Queensland now supplies 53 per cent of product with Bundaberg district contributing 40pc and the Northern Rivers 35pc. South-east Queensland and isolated plantations on the mid North Coast make up the remainder.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by