'Vague criteria' angers AgForce

AGFORCE has levelled criticism at the Bligh Government over new criteria intended to identify strategic cropping land around the state which it says give no confidence to the farming sector.

The government announced last year it would designate high-quality farmland as “strategic” to protect it from mining and urban development, but yesterday's announcement failed to indicate specific land areas.

The criteria include slope, rockiness, soil depth, drainage, pH, salinity and water storage.

AgForce policy director Drew Wagner said AgForce saw the government's commitment last year to identifying and protecting sensitive areas of farmland as a step in the right direction to secure food production and safeguarding farming.

But he said a lot more work was needed and urged the government to clearly articulate the level of protection strategic cropping land (SCL) will receive and specific areas to be protected.

He also urged the government to reconvene the Strategic Cropping Land stakeholder advisory committee, which had not met for six months.

“The loss of Queensland's highest value agricultural land has the potential to reduce the state's future capacity to grow crops with associated economic, environmental and social implications,” he said.

“AgForce continues to lead the call for government and the resources industry to recognise the consequences resource extraction has on the environment, underground water and the capacity for food producing.”

Environment and Resource Management Minister Kate Jones said some of the state's best soil scientists had helped her department to develop the criteria.

“The proposed criteria will now be used in drafting the new SCL legislation, to be introduced in Parliament later this year,” she said.

She said a planning policy identifying specific farming lands to be protected would be produced after the laws came into force but did not provide a timeframe.

A technical report and independent expert review are available on the DERM website at www.derm.qld.gov.au.

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