Bruce Maynard is a 4th generation farmer in South-West New South Wales who began making progressive changes to his farming practises in the early 1990s. These practices include “no-kill cropping,” a system which relies on retaining full grasslands and consuming little to no external inputs, eliminating the need for herbicides, fertilisers or pesticides, “stress-free stockmanship” and “self herding.”
In 2022 Mr. Maynard was the recipient of the Bob Hawke Landcare Award for sustainability in farming work. Mr. Maynard has been a vocal critic of the use of chemical sprays in agriculture and the Australian cotton industry.
Cotton Spray Drift
In May of 2020 Mr. Maynard spoke as a representative of a local community group, the Lower Macquarie Overspray Group, criticising farm chemicals drifting over and causing damage to established Peppercorn trees within the areas of Narromine, Trangie and Warren.
Narromine Shire Council’s mayor, Craig Davies, was sceptical of Mr. Maynard’s claims:
"Given Mr Maynard has made allegations of this type on numerous occasions and the EPA are yet to verify to the voracity of them, we are finding it difficult to take him seriously…Recently we've had the lowest rainfall for a three year period in white man's history. Trees have died everywhere."
In July of that same year it was revealed that a government report, which stated that the chemicals used in cotton farming were the most likely cause of trees losing their leaves in parts of central western NSW and that they could pose a threat to human health, had been blocked from the public eye despite being circulated internally two years prior.
Despite Mr. Davies suggestion of drought being the cause, the report conclusively rejected this, stating that the leaf loss was “definitely not a result of environmental conditions such as prolonged dry weather,” and furthermore suggested that cotton farming sprays was the cause:
"It was most likely the result of a large area spraying with temperature inversions moving fine particles of chemicals further than would be expected ... Symptoms of peppercorn trees were not apparent in other non-cotton growing areas."
Despite the report also calling for community mediation, Mr. Maynard stated this had not taken place:
"The peppercorn trees are showing clear evidence that we're being exposed to something on an annual basis and it's across all our areas and towns…In the long run, this is about two things: health and also our businesses, because we are at risk for things outside our control."
While the exact chemicals which may have drifted were not specified, cotton defoliants include chemicals such as Dimethipin, Diuron and Thidiazuron, each of which are likely to be carcinogens and have been linked damage in the Great Barrier Reef.