WA'S two peak agricultural lobby groups met with Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce last week during his first visit to southern WA since his appointment to Cabinet last year.
In separate meetings, newly re-elected WAFarmers president Dale Park and new Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook took the opportunity to address their concerns, issues and priorities with Mr Joyce, although no key outcomes resulted.
WAFarmers president Dale Park said the meeting with Mr Joyce was productive and he appreciated the opportunity to speak with the Minister about key issues of importance to the industry.
Discussions between WAFarmers and Mr Joyce centred on drought concessional loans, labour shortages in regional areas and Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Japan and China.
At the forefront of discussions for WAFarmers was the distribution of drought assistance funding to struggling WA farmers.
At the meeting, WAFarmers agreed with a suggestion by Mr Joyce that loans in WA should be administered by the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority.
And Mr Joyce agreed that drought-affected WA farmers should be subject to the same terms and conditions as their Eastern States counterparts during the application process.
"We thank Minister Joyce for the opportunity to discuss these important issues with him and look forward to a continual and fruitful dialogue into the future," Mr Park said.
Mr Seabrook said the meeting presented an opportunity to address concerns about the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), native title funding, the use of 457 visas and the cost of production in Australia.
Discussions between the Mr Joyce and the PGA were dominated by ESCAS.
"The Minister is well aware it is a fairly unworkable system at the moment and he is working at streamlining it," Mr Seabrook said.
"He did say up front that ESCAS is for keeps, the name ESCAS is with us, from a social point of view it is not possible to walk away from it, but he will work with us to do whatever he can to make it work." Mr Seabrook said Mr Joyce was very keen to emphasis the Memorandum of Understanding, which was an ESCAS requirement, had been waived.
Mr Seabrook said the Minister indicated the recent resumption of the live export trade to Egypt was only in its early stages and the industry could expect to see some movement in the next 12 months.
Mr Seabrook said Mr Joyce was working hard to gain access to Iran.
"This was the Minister's first trip to the south of WA, the last thing we wanted to do was walk out of the room with him thinking we want the world on wheels," he said.
"So we very quietly had to say 'these are our concerns ' which we thought he could help us with (and which) we would like to help develop over time in further consultation.
"There is no point in us walking out of the room with his ears burning.
"The PGA very rarely asks for a great deal, we don't ask for subsidies, handouts, drought relief, we just want government to step aside, get the costs out of the system, and let us run our business.
"I don't know whether he has a full grip on the difference between WAFarmers and the PGA because they tend to want to ask for a lot of things from government, we very rarely ask at all."