Federal Government responds to report calling for less regulations for agriculture

By Country News

The Federal Government has responded to a report calling for less regulation in the agriculture industry, reaffirming its commitment to reducing red tape.

The Productivity Commission review, released in March 2017, found regulations imposed on the agriculture industry needed to be wound back or reviewed.

The report found there were ‘‘a vast and complex array of regulations at every stage of the agricultural supply chain’’ and that some regulations ‘‘lack a sound policy justification’’.

The commission made a total of 29 recommendations, including reviewing the government’s engagement with landholders on environmental regulations, removing prohibitions on genetically modified crops and increasing screening thresholds for foreign investments.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said more than $125million had already been saved through reducing red tape.

‘‘There are more opportunities to cut red tape in land use, water, animal welfare, agricultural and veterinary chemicals, biosecurity, transport, labour, competition and exports,’’ he said.

‘‘The government will not relax screening thresholds for foreign ownership of our farmland and agribusinesses as suggested in the report. We’ve struck the right balance — we’re protecting the national interest and attracting foreign investment.

‘‘Many of the report’s findings are already well under way both at Commonwealth and state level ... People work hard on the land and we don’t want them drowning in paperwork too.’’

Many industry bodies told the commission that while they recognised the positive effects of some forms of regulation — primarily biosecurity and food safety regulations — other forms of regulation were difficult to navigate.

The government voiced support for 15 recommendations, noted 11 other recommendations, supported two in-principle and did not support one.

‘‘Many of the report’s findings reaffirm the direction of reforms already under way at Commonwealth and state level. However, the findings confirm that work still remains to be done. The government acknowledges this and commits to renewing efforts to push for better outcomes for farmers, business and communities,’’ the government response said.

‘‘Much of the direct regulatory responsibility for the Productivity Commission’s recommendations rests with state and territory governments.

‘‘The Australian Government will continue to work closely with those governments to improve regulation, particularly where national action is preferable or required.’’