Be a part of the White Paper process urges Joyce

09 Jul, 2015 01:00 AM
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If you drive it from your end, and I drive it from mine, I think we will meet in the middle

FARM Weekly journalist JACINTA BOLSENBROEK had a one-on-one interview with Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce following the launch of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and how it might influence the WA rural sector.

IN discussing the White Paper, Barnaby Joyce started with a plea that farmers in WA read the White Paper, be a part of it, and drive it.

"Don't think there is some messianic figure that makes things better, you have to grab it, look to see 'this is what they've done, this is how I am going to be a benefactor of this and this is where future improvements need to be made'," Mr Joyce said.

"If you drive it from your end, and I drive it from mine, I think we will meet in the middle at a happy place."

WA's agricultural sector including wheat and live animal exports, beef production, irrigation and WA's northern Ord development, will be influenced by the White Papers proposals, including returns back to the farm gate, infrastructure, water and native title being top priorities.

Mr Joyce said WA was a good example for agriculture in Australia.

For example he said he is an avid believer in co-operatives and will be basing the White Paper's $13.8 million two-year pilot program to provide knowledge and materials on cooperatives, collective bargaining and innovative business models, on WA's CBH Group model.

It will provide knowledge and materials on co-operatives, collective bargaining and innovative business models.

It will help farmers to establish alternative business models (including co-operatives) and manage contract negotiations.

"I think one of the best co-operatives in Australia is CBH Group," Mr Joyce said.

"It's one of our biggest farming organisations and it's a co-operative.

"When people tell me co-operatives don't work, I say (look at) CBH.

"This is how Australia started, with co-operatives, and it shouldn't be the end of them."

Pest, diseases and weeds

Other proposals within the White Paper include a $100m to protect our agricultural industries from the impacts of pests, disease and weeds, and to more effectively manage established pest animals and weeds.

Mr Joyce said the new funding would support pest and disease eradication and management programs, as well as enhancing emergency response capability.

"From 1 July, 2015, an additional $50m over four years will support eradication programs for exotic pest and disease incursions and to enhance emergency response capability," Mr Joyce said.

"We are providing $8m to establish the Immediate Assistance Fund to support access to, and deployment of, national and international experts and specialised equipment required for pest and disease eradication.

"We will also be investing $50m over four years to better manage established pest animals and weeds, including wild dogs.

"We've heard through the White Paper process that farmers need help to reduce the impacts of pest animals and weeds on agricultural production."

Mr Joyce said the money is on the table for pest and weed management in WA, which will give people the capacity to go into programs.

He said if WA pushed for wild dog fences, then that is where the money would be allocated.

"They will be able to borrow what they are already doing in Queensland and New South Wales as to how to go about that," he said.

"The only stipulation I have is, they have to begin and end at the same spot; so they have to have an enclosure, they have to have a plan to eradicate within that enclosure, and an ongoing management plan.

"You have to make sure the area is as big as possible, you can't just have one local farmer asking for a fence around their place and have the Commonwealth pay for it."

Biosecurity

While the Department of Agriculture and Food is under criticism over cuts and the future of biosecurity, Mr Joyce said it is still a number one priority federally.

A $200m funding increase for biosecurity was included in the White Paper to protect farmers, encourage growth for the future, and to benefit all Australians.

"If we get an incursion of Food and Mouth into WA it would devastate northern WA, and even the whole economy, the beef industry, the sheep industry, the wool and pork industry," he said.

"We have to be on the balls-of-our-toes with this stuff.

"I had to basically re-boot the amount of money invested into biosecurity to make this happen.

"We have invested and it is the biggest expenditure at the Federal level, at $200m, this is substantial.

"You just don't have an agricultural industry if you don't have biosecurity protection."

Red tape reduction

Mr Joyce outlined that the red tape commitment in the White Paper - to reduce red tape from the economy by $1 billion each year - is not just another statement made by government.

The best way for WA farmers to know that the government will follow through with their plans to reduce red tape within industry, is that there is now a policy from government that they have to do it, according to Mr Joyce.

"I would say over the coming year you will see the implication and the process of how we are going about it," he said.

"Basically it will revolve around farmers, and they have to be part of the solution themselves.

"They have to say themselves 'this piece of regulation is ridiculous and to remove it'.

"Whether we do it at a Federal or co-ag level or through private industry - we work together.

"People need to tell us what (barriers) are and we can work to get rid of them."

Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System

The government has proposed to reform the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), cutting almost $1.7m worth of red tape on industry annually.

A risk-based approach to ESCAS auditing will allow auditors to focus on areas of greater risk, and will also encourage exporters to use facilities with a good record of compliance.

Mr Joyce said the need for constant review is a necessity to assist industry.

He said that if an Australian exporter was to go through the process and gain access to an overseas abattoir, then he saw no need for another Australian exporter to go through the same process - once the supply chain was approved, the foreign abattoir would be accessible to all Australian traders.

Mr Joyce said the ESCAS system is the best (assurance) system in the world.

"This inherently means Australia is always going to be reviewing it to make improvements," he said.

"What I always stand up against, is those people saying 'stop the live export'.

"That would be insane, because that would mean that the only country in the world that is trying to do the right thing is shut down."

WHAT THE LOBBY GROUPS THINK

WAFARMERS president Dale Park said the release of the long awaited Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper brings some promise to WA.

"I am optimistic about the paper in general," he said.

"If we are going to double our value of agricultural production in the next 10 years, we need to do the things they are talking about in the White Paper."

Mr Park said it is encouraging to see some of the recommendations made by WAFarmers incorporated in the White Paper.

"They have taken our advice on farm management deposits, so we are happy with that," he said.

"What they have done is good, as it is recognising agriculture, which is more than what our State Government does.

"It's a great step forward.

"The State Government should take a look at this White Paper and start recognising that they should be trying to get agriculture as positive and as globally competitive as they can without fault, by not putting up the price of exporting."

Mr Park said he was 70 per cent happy with the proposals in the paper.

"The talks on red tape, well we know that won't happen," he said.

"I don't believe what they say about red tape, we keep hearing governments say what they are going to do, but it never seems to happen."

PASTORALISTS and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said while there were some positives, he gave the White Paper a 50 per cent pass mark in terms of its assistance to WA farmers.

He said it was a moderate document that addressed housekeeping issues.

"I don't think in anyway it addressed the real fundamental issues of what's causing our problems," he said.

"I think the cost of production in Australia is just too high, it's an expensive place to do things.

"To a Wheatbelt farmer, what's the big difference going to be?

"Quite honestly I can't see (the White Paper) making the $20,000 to $30,000 difference to a WA Wheatbelt farmer that he needs.

"There is no doubt it's Eastern States-centric, I think WA constantly misses out."

Mr Seabrook said it is a patch-up job, that wouldn't assist WA farmers in being competitive to feed Asia.

"Drought loans won't progress us, it's backyard stuff, just a distraction," he said.

"There are a few positives, but there where no big ticket items.

"I just want to see everyone putting money away and doing well."

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