COMMUNIQUE: GrainGrowers' National Policy Group Meeting, 5-6 April 2017, Sydney

At its second meeting for the year, GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group discussed and progressed a range of policy issues affecting the grains industry nationally.

In particular, GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group committed to securing a reduction in red tape constraining farm businesses; working with National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to achieve a harmonised Class 1 Ag notice as soon as possible; and improving coordination of industry good activities (including market promotion and development and technical trade support) as matters of priority.

Red tape in agriculture – Government must now act

The NPG supported most of the Productivity Commission (PC) recommendations on how to reduce red tape in agriculture and will now push Government to make the necessary changes to lift the burden from grain farming businesses. The NPG was pleased the PC report reflected the bulk of recommendations contained in GrainGrowers’ submission and clearly showed the extent of unnecessary red tape which is ham-stringing agriculture. The findings showed that the sheer number, complexity and duplication of regulations mean that regulators have lost sight of the big picture outcomes and are more intent on tying up farmers in red tape than having simple ways to achieve social, environmental and industry goals. (For more information: http://bit.ly/2oVI9z6)

Class 1 Agricultural vehicle and combination notice


The NPG reviewed the current draft of a national Class 1 Agricultural vehicles and combination mass and dimension exemption notice. This is an important piece of work being done by the NHVR and is all about combining multiple state-based notices into a single national notice. This much needed notice will ultimately provide a consistent standard across all jurisdictions for agricultural vehicles and combinations and so farmers will have clear rules about dimensions and masses regardless of which state they operate in. The NPG was able to provide direct input to the NHVR on further changes required to key areas such as load carrying, vehicle and combination lengths and widths, vehicle overhang, pilot vehicles and mass on axle limits to better reflect the current industry fleet and practices. It was refreshing to see a very practical and pragmatic approach by the NHVR to fix what is agreed by all as a red tape nightmare which is directly affecting farm productivity and harvest efficiency. In response to a request from the NHVR for more industry specific data, GrainGrowers will survey grain farmers to provide hard data on the current grain fleet and harvest issues so that the numbers in the draft notice reflect ‘real life’.

AGIDG update and industry good activities

NPG heard progress on a National Grains Industry Strategy from GrainGrowers’ General Manager - Policy & Innovation, David McKeon, who sits on the Australian Grains Industry Discussion Group (AGIDG), a collective group of nationally based representative grains industry organisations. The AGIDG has identified a number of industry good functions/activities where improvements could be made and will put out a draft strategy mid year. NPG members are especially looking for a better, simpler and coordinated national approach to market promotion and development, and strategic and technical trade issues, supported by a sustainable and fair funding model, which strategically grows Australian grain markets.

ACCC consideration of AGT acquisition of InterGrain


After discussions with ACCC Agriculture Commissioner Mick Keogh about the Commission’s preliminary views about the proposed AGT acquisition of InterGrain, NPG considered next steps for the process. While acknowledging the loss of competition in barley breeding this merger would cause on paper, NPG believe that, in light of InterGrain’s current financial position, the goal should be to retain the barley germplasm within Australia for the benefit of growers. Accordingly, the NPG do not oppose AGT’s acquisition of InterGrain, and this is consistent with its initial position. GrainGrowers will now explore possible conditions which should be imposed on the acquisition relating to EPRs and germplasm, and will then prepare a final submission to the ACCC.

GTA 2017/18 standards review

GrainGrowers, on behalf of growers and contractors in Tasmania, has called for a change of the moisture content receival standard for wheat and an amendment to 13.5 per cent (up from the current 12.5 per cent) to allow for the higher ambient moisture content in Tasmania. GrainGrowers made the proposal in a submission to Grain Trade Australia which is currently undertaking its annual review of Trading Standards.

(More details: http://www.graingrowers.com.au/policy/submissions)

Australian Farm Institute priorities


NPG received a presentation from Australian Farm Institute Research General Manager Richard Heath about progress on digital agricultural research and the Precision to Decision Project. The NPG also took the opportunity to discuss the AFI priorities for the year ahead, including energy policy, agricultural census data and statistics, and competition policy.

Background

GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group is made up of 15 growers from major grain growing regions in Australia.

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:

• Peter Thompson Qld

• Emma Thomas NSW

• Bob McCormack NSW

• Mark Hoskinson NSW

• Ian Gourley NSW

• Keith Harris NSW

• Terry Fishpool NSW

• Bruce Schwartz NSW

• Richard Rice NSW.

• Cam Parker VIC.

• Michael Hunt SA

• Tristan Baldock SA

• Colin Nicholl WA

• Kallum Blake WA

• Steve Tilbrook WA

http://www.graingrowers.com.au/policy/policy-group