An alliance of Australian agricultural organisations dependent on levy-based funding say they remain concerned by the threat of political intervention in the national R&D levy system.
“The current system is the envy of the agricultural world,” a statement issued today by the Across Agriculture Group* said.
Members of the group, representing 18 prominent agricultural sector representative bodies, warn that disallowance motions brought by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, opposing the increases to several horticultural industry levies,have the potential to destroy Australia’s agricultural levy system.
“Senator Leyonhjelm has an ideological opposition to levies in general and has publically stated that his preference is for levies to go entirely,” the group said.
“The Australian agriculture industry,represented by the Across Agriculture Group, is united in its support of the current levy system which provides for Australia’s world-leading research and development,marketing,and plant and animal health systems.”
“While the disallowance motions relate specifically to the onion,mango and mushroom industries on this occasion,the agriculture industry as a whole is deeply concerned about the potential ramifications this dangerous precedent sets for Australian agriculture more broadly,” the group said.
It said the same sentiment had been echoed by Labor’s shadow agriculture minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, who warned that a disallowance of the measures would threaten the viability of the levy system and would set a bad precedent. The Coalition was also opposed to any changes to the system, the Across Agriculture Group said.
“The decision to increase the mango, mushroom and onion levies followed an extensive and comprehensive industry consultation process for all three industries and was the culmination of a five year process that strictly adhered to the Department of Agriculture’s Levy Principles and Guidelines.”
“The proposals to increase each of these levies were instituted by growers who recognised the need to invest in their industries for the benefit of all levy payers. Levies are vital to the continued growth and development of the agriculture industry,” a group spokesman said.
“The levy system underpins the R&D capability, biosecurity capability and marketing capability of the entire agricultural sector in Australia. Overtime, State and Federal Governments have withdrawn funding for agricultural extension services and grower funded levies ensure that investments are still made in the industry, for the benefit of all growers.”
“Although Senator Leyonhjelm is philosophically opposed to levies,we hope he can respect that democratic process that has been followed and the wide-reaching ramifications a disallowance of the regulations will have on all of Australian agriculture.”
* Organisations participating in the Across Agriculture Group (representing producers who pay the levies) include:
- The Australian Lot Feeders Association
- National Farmers Federation
- Australian Pork Limited
- Australian Dairy Farmers Limited
- Australian Forest Products Association
- Sheepmeat Council of Australia
- Australian Mushroom Growers Association
- Cotton Australia
- Rice Growers Association
- Grain Producers Australia
- Australian Honey Bee Industry Council
- Australian Chicken Meat Federation
- Australian Fodder Industry Association
- Lucerne Australia
- National Aquaculture Council
- Wine Grape Growers Australia.