South West farmers Jeff Pow and Michelle McManus have raised serious concerns about the destruction of their livelihood after the state government started an aerial pesticide spraying program around their property on Wednesday.
The pair have owned Southampton Homestead near Balingup since 2010 and have built up a successful enterprise based around holistic land management – a farming technique which restores pastures and uses animals to build biodiversity without the need for chemicals and pesticides.
The pair won the 2015 WA Landcare award for innovation and sustainable farm practices. They are now named as a finalist for the national award in the same category for 2016.
Their business philosophy involves bringing fresh produce and poultry to market that have been raised 100 per cent chemical free.
But their property is surrounded by pine plantations managed by the Forest Products Commission which are being sprayed with metsulfuron and glyphosate (roundup).
Mr Pow said he has serious concerns about what the chemicals will do to his organic produce.
“These compounds will leach into the river and directly destroy the algal microbial communities which are the foundation of the food chain in this water system,” he said.
“This will devastate the marron and fish populations, including brown trout, rainbow trout and redfin, that currently inhabit the waterway.
“Losing the marron is particularly concerning as Southampton have started farming them as a new enterprise.
Forest Products Commission general manager Gavin Butcher said the commission notified neighbours of the spraying program and work with landholders to resolve concerns raised.
“The sawlogs from this plantation will be used to supply the Western Australian softwood industry,” he said.
“Weed control in young pine plantations is required to ensure the seedlings’ successful development and plantation productivity.
“The FPC has obligations under the Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 and the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 to control declared weeds present within their plantation.”
Last year the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it is probable that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans.
Mr Butcher said FPC uses products registered for forestry use of which glyphosate, an effective broad-spectrum herbicide, is one.
“As Australia’s agricultural and veterinary chemical regulator, it is the role of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to consider all relevant scientific material when determining the likely impacts on human health and worker safety,” he said.
“The current assessment by the authority is that products containing glyphosate are safe to use as per the label instructions.”
Mr Pow said he will now be required to undertake an expensive chemical testing regime of his produce for contamination.
“Should the results come back positive, it will effectively end our enterprise as the customers that buy our products are purchasing a clean, green and natural food,” he said.
“We sell 12,000 chickens a year and our customers will be unwilling to keep purchasing if the produce has any detectable levels of the compounds being applied by the FPC.”
– Andrew Elstermann, Donnybrook Mail