The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia says the attack on Reef science by the CANEGROWERS organisation threatens investment to improve water quality and boost farm production.
Mr O’Gorman said a board member of Queensland Cane Growers Organisation Ltd (CANEGROWERS), the peak body for sugar cane farmers, recently labelled Reef science “unsubstantiated scaremongering”.
“The science is settled and has been endorsed by the Morrison government and in fact by both sides of politics at State and Federal levels,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“But CANEGROWERS are supporting outlandish claims, such as that coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef is the same now as in the mid-1980s. The declines in coral cover are well documented.
“This attack on science, encouraged by the CANEGROWERS organisation, is hypocritical and ultimately damaging to both individual cane growers and the sugar industry as a whole.
“Why hypocritical? Over the past decade, tens of millions in taxpayers’ money have supported many cane farmers to reduce excess fertiliser, pesticides and sediment in runoff, including projects managed by CANEGROWERS.
“These public funds were made available based on the accepted research that polluted runoff from agriculture was harming the Reef.
Individual cane growers have matched this investment with their own efforts, making it a great success story about innovation in Australian agriculture.
“Now CANEGROWERS seek to denigrate the very science that delivered public financial assistance to increase farm efficiency and productivity.
“This undermines the good work of the many farmers who have acknowledged the science by improving their practices.
“CANEGROWERS attack on Reef science is part of a self-destructive campaign against the Reef regulations now before the Queensland Parliament.
“Polluted farm runoff harms the Reef. The Reef is in danger. Stronger regulations are needed to move all farmers to best practice, both to protect the Reef for future generations and to stimulate on-farm investments that improve agricultural efficiency and productivity.
“CANEGROWERS need to state clearly where they stand on Reef science.
“Their attack on science begs the question: how can CANEGROWERS continue to accept Federal and State taxpayers’ money for farming innovations to improve Reef water quality and lift farm productivity, if they oppose the very science that underpins this investment?,” Mr O’Gorman said.