Ag plan welcomed but room for more investment

Nationals Senate candidate Mick Harrington and Nicholls candidates Sam Birrell (Nationals) and Steve Brooks (Liberal) with outgoing member Damian Drum and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud at the launch of the Coalition’s Plan for Agriculture and Fisheries. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Industry groups say while many of their federal election priorities have been covered in the Coalition’s Plan for Agriculture and Fisheries, there is still room for more detail and investment.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud launched the $1.75 billion plan at Ardmona on May 11.

Just $1.75 million of the $1.75 billion Mr Littleproud spruiked was new funding, with the rest announced in the federal budget last month.

That $1.75 million was to improve horticulture market transparency and bargaining power for growers.

AUSVEG, Australia’s peak industry body for the vegetable and potato industries, welcomed continuation and extension of the Australian Agriculture Visa, a strong focus on improving trade conditions for horticultural exporters and additional support for biosecurity systems.

“AUSVEG also notes the funding announcement to improve market transparency and bargaining power for the industry, including funding to improve market transparency across perishable agricultural goods supply chains, which also aligns with its election priorities to ensure a profitable and productive future for Australia’s vegetable and potato growers,” AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said.

But he said the plan did not include a commitment to establish a national labour hire licensing scheme, which would help protect vulnerable workers and growers against illegitimate labour hire operators.

“The horticulture industry relies heavily on labour hire to supply a workforce, and the majority of growers and labour hire contractors do the right thing and look after their workers,” Mr Coote said.

“A national labour hire licensing scheme will support vegetable and potato growers by making our entire sector a fairer, safer and more attractive workplace for workers.”

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson acknowledged the Coalition’s ongoing support for the NFF-led goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.

"The Coalition’s election plan for agriculture includes many of the investments included in the recent federal budget, including highly positive commitments to reward farmers for their biodiversity stewardship; reduce export red tape via new digital platforms; and support the development of domestic food manufacturing capability,“ she said.

"We acknowledge a new commitment to develop a domestic industry code for Australia’s organics industry."

Ms Simson said the NFF continued to call for a sustainable, renewable biosecurity funding stream to arm agriculture and the natural environment against the many and varied pests, weeds and diseases ready to infiltrate Australia’s borders.

She said Australian farmers were confronting the imminent threat of two potentially disastrous livestock diseases in foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease.

"The seriousness of these diseases and their potential devastating impacts on livestock, producers, communities and the economy cannot be overstated,“ Ms Simpson said.

"If there ever was a time to throw the kitchen sink at smart, strategic biosecurity planning and funding, it’s now.“

No policies specific to the Goulburn Valley were announced during the May 11 visit.