THE Productivity Commission has launched an investigation into agricultural red tape that has started immediately and is due to report by August 2016.
The inquiry into farm sector specific regulations was an initiative announced in the Coalition government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper released mid-year.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce released the inquiry’s terms of reference today.
A joint statement from the two senior Turnbull government ministers said regulation had important objectives, including protecting consumers from unsafe food, protecting the environment and supporting the export of goods.
But it also said poorly implemented and administered regulation and the cumulative impact of regulation can have adverse effects on farm businesses.
“The inquiry will focus on regulation with a material impact on domestic and international competitiveness of farm businesses and the productivity of Australian agriculture,” it said.
”It will define priority areas for removing or reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens where doing so contributes to improved productivity for farm businesses as well as the wider economy. It will also take into account regulation in key supply chains.
“The Productivity Commission will consult broadly with government and non-government stakeholders in developing its recommendations and will examine submissions made to the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and other relevant material in the public domain.”
The Agriculture White Paper said the government was delivering on a commitment to reduce red tape across the economy by $1 billion a year with the agriculture sector’s regulatory burden cut by $24.5 million in 2014.
“All sectors of the economy, including the agriculture sector, will be beneficiaries of these efforts,” it said.
“Further to this commitment, the government will continue to identify and reduce unnecessary regulation.
“We will establish Productivity Commission inquiries into ways to reduce unnecessary regulatory costs on Australian agriculture, with a separate inquiry into regulations affecting marine fisheries and aquaculture industries.
“Importantly, the investigations will look beyond Commonwealth regulations, to the regulations imposed by other levels of government.”
The White Paper said ways of improving delivery of the federal government’s multi-million drought concessional loans and drought recovery concessional loans would be discussed with State and Territory governments.
“The Commonwealth wants to see loans streamlined and efficiently delivered, minimising red tape for farmers,” it said.
The National Farmers’ Federation’s submission to the Agricultural White Paper said the farm sector was being “limited in its efforts to seize international market opportunities through a tangle of complex regulations which increase costs to industry and to governments and limit the competitiveness of individual businesses”.
“Over time, farm businesses have faced a greater level of accumulated red tape, driven through government decisions made in isolation, impeding their ability to take advantage of growing global demand for the food and fibre they produce,” it said.
“Through the development of the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture, stakeholders from across the agriculture sector rated regulatory burden as one of the key issues increasing costs in farm businesses and reducing competitiveness of the sector.”
The NFF submission made a list of demands on red tape including conducting detailed analysis of the specific nature of the red and green tape burden - for a range of farm enterprises - to support a “comprehensive articulation of the problems and demonstration of the impacts”.
It asked the government to set ambitious targets to reduce red and green tape affecting Australian agriculture and to document regulations that have an unnecessary burden on the farm sector and establish a clear timeframe for their removal.
NFF also said red tape reduction should be tackled at a cross-jurisdictional level, with the States and Commonwealth governments “working collaboratively to identify areas of overlap, duplication or confusion with which farm businesses need comply”.
NFF president Brent Finlay anticipates that a detailed analysis of the regulatory burden imposed on farm businesses will provide the policy settings to generate greater certainty for farmers and new investors into Australian agriculture.
“Agriculture has been signalled as one of the five pillars of the Australian economy. Surging global demand for Australian food and fibre translates to huge opportunities for farmers and agribusiness alike,” Mr Finlay said.
“A continued commitment from the government to reduce unnecessary red tape on farm businesses will ensure the regulatory environment facilitates, rather than hinders, agriculture’s growth.
“The NFF has always believed that regulation can play an important role in supporting the farm sector – a key example being our world-class biosecurity regime.
“However overall levels of regulation continue to exceed what is necessary. We must take a cross-jurisdictional approach to red tape reduction, with states and the Commonwealth working together to identify areas of duplication or overreach.
“We commend the Government for delivering this important initiative which forms part of the Agricultural competitiveness White Paper. The NFF looks forward to lodging its submission aimed at improving the current regulatory environment for farmers and agribusiness."
For more information on the inquiry visit the website.