GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group held its second meeting for the year in Melbourne this week, prior to a GRDC and Representative Organisations Workshop, a meeting with Graincorp, and attendance at the Australian Grains Industry Conference.
Combating off-target spraydrift
GrainGrowers' policy unit reported on various initiatives and discussions with regulators and industry to combat off target spraydrift as a matter of urgency. NPG members identified a range of factors to consider: including more consistent education and awareness; improving the training (and the quality of trainers), licencing options and the need to consider the chain of responsibility which should exist from retailer, to purchaser through to operator.
NPG held a lengthy discussion about the impact of drought across the country, with very low expectations for harvest across NSW and Queensland and WA in particular. Coupled with this, there is major concern about seed availability for planting next season, and about the financial strain replanting will have on growers. GrainGrowers continues to advocate a 12 point plan for drought, focused on providing a safety net and expanding preparedness measures and the need to support regional areas. Currently, GrainGrowers is developing further measures to help growers and rural communities recover from drought, including advocating re-invigoration and changes to the Managing Farm Risk Program.
Review of the Wheat Port Code
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has proposedthat the Wheat Port Code be expanded to include all grain and to extend "acting in good faith provisions" upcountry. In response, and as a result of recent discussions with agencies, the trade and growers, NPG resolved to call for a full market study of the grains supply chain to identify industry practices and policies which may be adversely affecting the competitiveness of the grains sector. This market study would be similar to those undertaken by the ACCC in the beef, horticulture and dairy industries.
Quality of wheat in Australia
Agricultural consultant, Dr Richard Williams from groIQ addressed the NPG meeting about early progress on the GrainGrowers-commissioned wheat research project, which aims to find out if Australia is growing the quality of wheat which gives grain farmers the best returns. The project was launched at the Australian Grains Industry Conference on Wednesday. Dr Williams' report is expected to be completed by October this year.
Update from ACCC Agriculture Unit
The NPG had a constructive discussion with the ACCC Agriculture Unit and explored a range of current issues affecting the grains industry including:
- the "right to repair" agricultural machinery, as access to software codes and parts become more limited, and fewer (independent) repair outlets and mechanics are available, or allowed, to repair equipment without affecting warranty
- the need for better consumer/small business protections such as warranties based on operating hours, not calendar months
- the ACCC's approach to enforcement action, and investigations relating to consumer law breaches, and
- an update on some recent prosecutions.
Building public trust
Deanna Lush, Churchill Scholar and General Manager of AgCommunicators, addressed the NPG about ways Australia can improve public trust of agriculture, based on her studies overseas. NPG members strongly support the need for a focused effort to build awareness and support for farming activities.
GRDC - the next five years
The policy unit led a wide-ranging discussion with the NPG about the GRDC's next five year strategic plan which has just been released. GrainGrowers, as one of the appointed Representative Organisations, provided extensive member feedback for the plan and is pleased with the strong focus on investment that will transform the industry, rather than research with only incremental improvements. GrainGrowers will continue to work closely with GRDC to monitor the plan's rollout and to track the return achieved on the $1 billion investment in the next five years.
Also discussed was the fact that a grains levy payer register is likely to be established in the next few months.
Ensuring market access
The NPG discussed recent policy efforts by GrainGrowers on international trade and market access including the signing of the TPP-11 Agreement; negotiations under way for the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement; the welcome start of negotiations for the European Union Free Trade Agreement; negotiations under way for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership; and the importance of the grains industry's Non-Tariff Measures report.
Regional Telecommunications Review
GrainGrowers is preparing a submission for the Regional Telecommunications Review based on NPG discussions and the feedback via survey of more than 700 farmers. There is widespread concern about the poor coverage and lack of service which remain a major barrier for the sector and inhibit adoption of future technology.
Improving freight costs for growers
In a report to NPG, the policy unit discussed the wrapping-up of a major freight project which models costs in the grains industry and tests a number of options to achieve more efficient freight. Further details will be released soon.
GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group is made up of 15 growers elected from across the major grain growing regions in Australia, and informs industry policy.
The NPG meets several times a year face to face. Members also hold teleconferences regularly to debate important issues coming up throughout the year.
Current NPG members are:
Northern Region: Ian Gourley; Keith Harris; Terry Fishpool; Bruce Schwartz
Southern Region: Richard Rice; Cam Parker; Emma Thomas; Bob McCormack; Mark Hoskinson
Western Region: Tristan Baldock; Kallum Blake; Michael Hunt; Paul Kelly and Frank O’Hare.
- More information: http://www.graingrowers.com.au/policy/policy-group