GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group held its first meeting of the year in Canberra this week and considered a range of policy issues affecting the grains industry nationally. The NPG welcomed two new members, Frank O’Hare and Paul Kelly, and the return of Michael Hunt, Tristan Baldock and Kallum Blake, all representing the Western Region, following the election in December.
High on the agenda were:
- the urgent need to reduce freight costs
- agricultural vehicle access and safety on roads
- port access
- ensuring effective levy investment to drive innovation
- ensuring ongoing access into international markets, and
- wheat classification.
The NPG identified the key issues affecting growers which they want to focus on this year. Through the meeting, the NPG also discussed the needs of farmers and presented a range of potential solutions directly to key policy decision makers.
REVIEW OF THE BULK WHEAT PORT CODE
With the Code under review, the NPG met with the Department of Agriculture to convey GrainGrowers’ position supporting the retention of a mandatory code, and calling for a number of improvements to the Code to ensure fair and transparent access to port. A draft report of the review is due to be released by the Department in March.
Wheat Quality Australia presented on their current projects to deliver a market driven classification system for Australian wheat, proposing changes to the current wheat variety classification system. The NPG provided feedback on some of the potential opportunities and risks for growers.
NATIONAL FREIGHT STRATEGY
The NPG met with members of the expert panel developing the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities, to hear about progress with developing a national approach to improving freight productivity – with a 20 year outlook. The NPG acknowledged the panel’s understanding and focus on regional issues and agriculture, and encouraged them to make recommendations to the Government which tackles the investment, regulatory and governance issues which plague regional and urban freight.
Underpinning efficient freight is the need to reduce red tape on roads. The NPG has made positive progress towards securing a Class 1 Notice with practical and realistic dimension limits (covering the bulk of the fleet) which apply to all broadacre areas, without the need for permits.Through a collaborative effort with state farming organisations and the NFF, GrainGrowers is working closely with the NHVR to progress this notice, encouraging it to be put in place as soon as possible. GrainGrowers also acknowledges the work of NHVR in its new permit system which makes it easier and quicker for growers to apply for permits when they are required.
GRDC STRATEGIC PLAN AND LEVIES
The NPG discussed the findings of a GrainGrowers survey on RD&E needs with GRDC’s Managing Director, Steve Jeffries. GrainGrowers’ recent member surveys and interviews with growers demonstrate strong support for the GRDC and have provided a strong basis for GrainGrowers’ input into GRDC’s 2018-2013 strategic plan based on enduring profitability.
Steve Jeffries also provided an overview of 2017 annual performance and a summary of the operating plan for 2018.
UPDATE FROM NFF
Tony Mahar, CEO of the National Farmers’ Federation gave a presentation about the key issues NFF and its agricultural committees are grappling with to grow the value of Australian agriculture. GrainGrowers continues to work closely with the NFF to deliver results for grain farmers across Australia. The NFF’s priorities for 2018 include:
- Energy: A response to the Finkel report that solves the energy ‘trilemma’ of affordability, reliability and emissions
- Communications: Ongoing funding for mobile coverage and suitable safeguards for voice and datMurray Darling Basin: Commitment to work together to ensure the delivery of the basin Plan on time and in full.
- Murray Darling Basin: Commitment to work together to ensure the delivery of the basin Plan on time and in full.
ENSURING MARKET ACCESS
The NPG was briefed on recent policy efforts by GrainGrowers on international trade and market access. Ongoing issues, such as reduced access to glyphosate by European farmers and tariffs on pulse imports to India were discussed in detail and the NPG explored a range of potential solutions.
Following feedback from growers across the country, NPG members met with the APVMA and CropLife to explore options for improving chemical label integrity and also clarity of information about products on labels.
SHARING RURAL ROADS PROJECT
The NPG members, and the new Australian Grain Leadership Program participants, took part in an inaugural focus group as part of a NFF/NHVR project to develop better awareness for all road users about sharing rural roads with agricultural equipment. This focus group explored issues involved with the safe movement of large agricultural machinery on rural roads.
The project will also include a review of all current statistics to understand how much is known about ag vehicles on roads, and focus groups and surveys with industry operators and other drivers about experiences and concerns. The project’s findings are due to be released in May this year.
The meeting was held in conjunction with the first meeting of participants in the 2018 Australian Grain Leaders Program. The AGLP participants from all over Australia shared their projects with members of the NPG and also attended a session to see how NPG formulates policy.
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:
Northern Region: Peter Thompson; 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: https://www.graingrowers.com.au/policy/policy-group
P: 0408 014 843