WAFarmers has welcomed the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry Report into Regulation of Agriculture calling it a good blue print, though has acknowledged that there is more action needed.
WAFarmers President Tony York said the Productivity Commission had highlighted that there are ‘a vast and complex array of regulations at every stage of the agricultural supply chain’ in their 717 page report.
“We were pleased to contribute in the earlier stages of consultation as it offered an excellent and much-anticipated opportunity to garner efficiencies for agriculture and streamline processes,” he said.
“Given farmers are generally classified under the small business umbrella, unnecessary administration can impede our ability to conduct this business, and as a farmer myself, I fully understand the difficulties that the seemingly never-ending red tape can have on business production and, sometimes, morale.
“Producers recognise that regulations are necessary to our industry, community and economy, and that our increasing level of scrutiny of work place and safety standards makes us expensive against our competitors and highlights a need to be realistic and efficient in implementation.
“What the industry wants, however, is for the heavy burden of regulation to be eased and for the future regulations to be justified on the basis of evidence and an understanding of agricultural businesses.
“The Productivity Commission has gone to some lengths to address these issues in their report, and for the most part, we welcome their findings.”
WAFarmers’ response to some of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations are below.
On-farm regulation of water
- WAFarmers supports recommendation 4.1 which states that the Australian Government should implement the findings of the Interagency Working Group on Commonwealth Water Information Provision to reduce duplicative and unnecessary water management information requirements imposed on farm businesses.
- A reduction in, and consolidation of, the amount and types of data required for reporting by irrigation companies would decrease the cost of business for irrigation companies, with the subsequent flow on benefit of reduced charges for farming businesses.
Regulation of farm animal welfare
- While we support recommendation 5.1 that the Australian Government should take overall responsibility for ensuring scientific principles guide the development of farm animal welfare standards, we do not support their recommendation to develop another independent body for animal welfare.
- That said, the body – the Australian Commission for Animal Welfare – would not replicate, but replace the current national structure, and is an advisory body not a regulatory body. We did say in our submission to the draft report in August that any body established should be of an advisory role only, so this is a silver lining.
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals
- Recommendation 7.1 says the APVMA should make greater use of international evidence in its decisions on agvet chemicals (including by making greater use of data and assessments from trusted comparable international regulators).
- WAFarmers supports this recommendation, as it is likely to provide efficiencies in the registration process. Not allowing the use of international evidence will result in cost imposition on Australian farmers to gather the evidence locally. It is also likely to result in the loss of important chemicals.
Foreign investment in agriculture
- Recommendation 13.1 says the Australian Government should increase the screening thresholds for examination of foreign investment in agricultural land and agribusinesses by the Foreign Investment Review Board to their previous level of $252 million.
- WAFarmers does not support this recommendation, as we consider the current thresholds to be appropriate. However, there is scope to increase the threshold from $15 million to $55 million as this is more in line with purchases purchased through foreign investment. Further, we would request more transparency on the criteria used to assess the foreign investment, including national interests, to provide the assessment process with better transparency. WAFarmers welcomes the development of a foreign investment register, however the register should be made public to maximise transparency.
We are pleased that the Productivity Commission did not recommend any cuts to biosecurity (or food safety) other than auditing. It highlights Australia’s famed reputation both locally and internationally and reaffirms our need to maintain our clean and green image through stringent biosecurity methods.
The report itself says that “the number and complexity of regulations affecting agriculture means the cumulative burden on farmers is substantial” – government now needs to take heed of the Productivity Commission’s advice and streamline and consolidate the existing regulations to ensure they are measurable, efficient and in balance with all interests.
In light of the relocation from Canberra and expected reduced capacity for a period at the new facilities in Armadale, it is all the more important not to repeat international data that could be applied in Australia and reduce time and costs as recommended by the findings.
We look forward to seeing how the information is received, what recommendations are actioned, and how WAFarmers might be able to assist further in easing the regulatory burden facing our members and the greater WA farming community.