“Up till now, the local Smartcane BMP facilitator has been uploading examples of records for an auditor to assess via computer,” Program Manager Mick Quirk says. “On-farm audits are more efficient as the industry auditor can talk directly with the grower and clarify any questions on the spot.”
For Mackay district growers John and Phil Deguara, a visit by an industry auditor meant their Brightly home farm of 250 hectares plus lease and share farms could all be assessed on the same day. “It was so much better than trying to collate a whole lot of documents, passing them to the facilitator and then having to go back and forth with questions. It was much easier to just show the auditor what we are doing,” Phil said. “The properties are all farmed on the same principles, with controlled traffic, so anything the auditor wanted to see we could find the proof or more information right then and there.” Industry auditor Lana Shoesmith spent around three hours on the Deguara’s farms and Phil is recommending the process to other growers.
“We started in the office and went through our recording program on the computer for fertiliser and chemical use – it’s easier to show someone how it works than try to print it off,” Phil explained. “Then we went out and looked at the chemical shed and spray tractor, planting and harvesting equipment, basically everything and we went for a drive around the farm and looked at the different operations.”
“The job of local Smartcane BMP facilitators isn’t changing,” Mick says. “They will guide and assist you to benchmark your practices and to gather and organise the records and documents needed to achieve accreditation.
“When the facilitator thinks you are ready, they’ll complete a checklist to confirm you have everything required and send this to me and I’ll organise a day and time that suits you, the facilitator and an industry auditor.
“Industry auditors are not there to judge or badger – they are simply an independent set of eyes, and ears, for observing your records and farm and for hearing about how you farm.” The whole process should take about two hours for a non-irrigated farm and up to three hours for an irrigated farm, depending on size of the farms in the business and how close they are to each other. Both John and Phil are now accredited in Smartcane BMP’s three core modules adding their weight to the industry drive for productivity, profitability and sustainability.