Issue 28: Graincorp and ADM
AgForce has expressed concern about the pending takeover of Graincorp by American company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and the long-term impacts the potential ‘near monopoly’ regime would have on industry.
Specifically, the organisation is seeking a clear commitment from ADM that access to ports, the maintenance and access of ‘up-country’ sites (regional receiving sites) is maintained and sharing of key stock data and statistics remains available.
AgForce Queensland Grains President, Wayne Newton, said his board was seeking strong assurances from the company.
"As GrainCorp currently own the majority of port facilities on the east coast we are seeking strong assurance from both the Government and ADM they will always allow access to port and will not hinder trading or handling competition in the market," Mr Newton said.
"Furthermore, many of the up country sites are not working efficiently or effectively due to a lack of regular and appropriate maintenance.
"AgForce will seek a commitment from ADM they are willing to invest in and maintain country receiving sites.
"Additionally, we need to know what ADM's intentions are in terms of rail agreements, particularly in relation to the seven-year Aurizon rail agreement renewal, given AgForce has consistently maintained all grain, where possible, should be transported by rail.
"We would hope ADM would continue in this agreement or, ideally, invest in rail infrastructure of its own."
Mr Newton said concerns also stretched to data access.
"We have serious concerns about ADM's access to the entire east coast crop data," he said.
"We are apprehensive about how access to this information will be handled and how it will affect the Australian grain market.
“We continue to call for full grain stocks information to be made available to the entire grains market, to allow complete and fuller competition for growers' grain."
Issue 27: APVMA
AgForce is voicing concern that Government legislation pertaining to the registration of treatments critical to both agricultural production and veterinary medicine have been in reaction to lobbying from environmental groups and not based on solid science.
Last year the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced and is due to commence in July 2014. The amendments will mean all ‘agvet’ chemicals will be subject to mandatory re-registration every seven to 15 years, culminating in a reduced range of chemicals in the market place.
AgForce Grains Policy Director, Nina Murray, said AgForce, along with other organisations including the National Farmers’ Federation, were concerned about the basis upon which the changes were made.
“We are highly concerned that blanket negative perceptions about all chemicals, which are often exacerbated by environmental groups, have led to the Australian Government unnecessarily increasing the regulatory burden on agribusiness while also reducing certainty for registrants, damaging innovation and increasing production costs,” Ms Murray said.
“There is already reduced innovation and cost recovery opportunities for new pesticides and technologies being introduced into Australia and given this new legislation limited new agvet products will be introduced.
“This cuts our producers out of having access to the newest, safest and most innovative products available which is a disadvantage for all stakeholders including farmers, consumers and the environment.”
AgForce is seeking:
• Immediate repeal of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Bill 2012;
• Alignment with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) global approach to regulation of agricultural pesticides through harmonisation and sharing risk assessments using the international OECD formats where possible;
• Focus on improved communication with community about shared values with Australia’s high level of food safety and safe use of pesticides.
“There is no doubt chemicals should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and if there are problems they should be looked at – we absolutely believe this,” Ms Murray said.
“However, this blanket approach outlined under the legislative changes will be to the detriment of efficiency, production and potentially safety.”
Issue 26: Weeds
Weeds cost Queensland an estimated $600 million annually with individual landholders spending up to $100,000 controlling key species to create a growing impost on the state’s primary production efficiency.
Identifying weeds as an exploding cost to industry as part of the ’30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign AgForcesaid investment in control programs, research and development and the commercialisation of mass production of some control measures was required to ease the burden on the Queensland rural sector. As well as impacting on production weeds also adversely affect natural ecosystems and both human and animal health.
AgForce Policy Officer, Marie Vitelli, said Giants Rats Tail Grass and Prickly Acacia were of particular concern to Queensland agriculture.
“Giant Rats Tail has invaded more than 200,000 hectares between the NSW border and Rockhampton,” Mrs Vitelli said.
“It has also moved inland to Moura and there have been outbreaks around Mackay, Townsville, Ingham and Mareeba.
“In the case of Prickly Acacia, producers are spending between $16,000 and $100,000 each year to control it.
“We need adequate investment and resourcing to implement a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach to weed management into the future.”
Specifically AgForce is advocating for:
• Project funding to commercialise the method to mass-produce crow rot spores that reduce the vigour of Giant Tats Tail grass and Giant Parramatta Grass in Queensland and New South Wales;
• Increased R&D to develop improved herbicide and integrated control methods. There are currently only two registered herbicides for controlling Giant Rats Tail in pasture situations;
• Increased resources for western Local Government Pests Management Group and Flinders Shire Good Neighbour Policy program.
Kin Kin district beef producer, Ivan Naggs, said Giants Rats Tail grass was taking a toll on the production capacity of his property ‘Spring Ridge’.
“We spend 14 to 21 days a year spraying weeds here just to keep productivity,” Mr Naggs said.
“I know some people in the district who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to control it.
“It’s not sustainable.”
Issue 25: Wear Australian Wool
Pull on a woolly jumper, indulge in a wool suit or appreciate the comforts of wool socks to not only enjoy the best fibre in the world but to also support Australian sheep and wool producers.
Heralding ‘Wear Wool Day’ under the ’30 Issues, 30 Days’ campaign last Friday, AgForce Queensland said Australian wool is revered around the world and one of the most natural, comfortable, long-wearing and sustainable fibres available globally.
It’s a sentiment echoed by some of Brisbane’s leading retailers. Clay Rondo, Mitchell Ogilvie Menswear, said wool was a premium fibre and well suited to his clientele.
“Wool breathes well and in our marketplace the lighter fabric is great for the customer,” Mr Rondo said.
“In the old days wool was very heavy but now they have refined wool to make it very soft, supple and resilient to crushing.
“When we show it to a customer it gets them straight away.”
Australia has 73.1 million sheep and accounts for one-quarter of the global wool supply. However, traditional merino wool operations are increasingly turning to alternative production systems due to the dire impact wild dogs, drought and competition from cheaper fibres is having on the viability of the industry.
Despite this, Australian wool is renowned for its quality, versatility and resilience and, given this reputation, is well placed to expand its future markets. AgForce Queensland is calling for a range of measures to help facilitate this growth, including:
• Continued investment in on-farm R&D to increase profit margins for wool growers and improve the quality and competitiveness of wool exports;
• Continued support for AWI to deliver new knowledge to woolgrowers on improving wool quality and productive wool growing to reduce costs of production and improve on-farm profitability;
• Continued recognition and support to market Australian wool domestically and internationally;
• More investment and support for wild dog control programs across Australia;
• Support for programs aimed at opening new markets.
Mr Rondo said he sees great potential for increased country of origin labelling of Australian wool which is keenly sought out by the best mills and fashion houses in the world.
“The product we make feels good but the only way the buyer will know if it is Australian is if it is labelled that way,” he said.
AgForce's 30 issues in 30 days campaign is designed to draw the attention of decision makers to 30 of the most important issues impacting on the rural sector as Australia moves towards a Federal Election. For more information, and to view videos on key issues, click here
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