Liberals announce ag policy

28 Feb, 2013 01:00 AM
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We trust farmers to farm their land as efficiently as possible...

THE Liberal Party has joined the WA Nationals as the only two parties to release agricultural policies in the lead up to the State election.

With just nine days to go until what should be an intriguing election, Premier Colin Barnett released his party's plan for agriculture in Calingri on Monday.

This is some way behind the Nationals, which released its plan on January 23.

The Nationals talked up their $300 million policy this week, as the Liberals announced funding of $42.25m in its plans for WA agriculture.

Mr Barnett's policy outlined reducing red tape and government regulations as a key focus should his government be re-elected on March 9.

Other commitments inlcude establishing a $20m State biosecurity fund, $750,000 into the expansion of the Buy West, Eat Best initiative, $1.5m for Specialised Food Centres Fund (SFCF) and establish a $20m agricultural sciences research and development fund.

But many of the policy points in the Liberal's plans, such as supporting commercially viable Tier 3, supporting farmers' property rights and the creation of a new environmental regulator, didn't have costings.

The Nationals also said its funding would come from Royalties for Regions for its policy and the Liberals have said all the funding has been costed and sent through Treasury.

Mr Barnett admitted it was a broad ranging policy but said it was designed to have less government interference in farming.

"We trust farmers to farm their land as efficiently as possible and look after the environmental conditions and the quality of the land," Mr Barnett said.

"We will use our influence as a major player in Asia to create more opportunities for farmers and we will do a number of other things in terms of research and biosecurity."

Mr Barnett recognised agriculture as a major industry in WA being worth $7 billion a year and employing more than 30,000 people.

"During my time as Premier the most common complaint I hear from farmers is the excessive interference in the way in which they go about farming their land," he said.

"Too much regulation, too much reporting and a lot of it is unnecessary.

"Those issues arise across a range of portfolios agriculture, environment, transport, water and so on - so the first initiative, through the Department of Premier and Cabinet, will be a re-examination of all the regulations and the objectives will be to reduce the amount of regulation and interference as they go about farming.

"Farmers do look after their land and they have the greatest interest in looking after their land."

The Liberal policy also ensured that property rights and pastoral leases would be looked at in the next term of government if they are re-elected.

"For a long time many farmers have felt they have not been fairly treated when some of their land is required for an easement whether it is for powerlines, water pipelines, gas pipelines or even a transport route," Mr Barnett said.

"By law, farmers do receive compensation but that is only for the directly affected land.

"We will change the law so that when compensation is determined for an easement across a farmer's property, not only will the land directly affected be taken into account but also any adverse affect on the value of the property.

"I think that is a principle which has come through law reform reports and I think that will be a fairer deal for farmers if they do find the value of their property or indeed their farming interfered with public infrastructure going in."

He said pastoral rents would take into account economic conditions before being valued.

"We will be doing all that we can to ensure that pastoral leases are renewed past 2015

"We will continue with the process of assessing pastoral rents but we will also take into account that as the values of properties and the rents are assessed, we will give consideration to the economic condition of the industry at that time and given the size of WA, there will be a difference in circumstances throughout the State from one side to the other."

Mr Barnett also acknowledged many farmers, particularly in the Wheatbelt, were going through a tough period.

"I am very conscious of the fact, in particular in the Wheatbelt, that this is a difficult time in terms of getting refinancing and getting the funding to put in this year's crops and that is causing a lot of heartache and stress throughout the Wheatbelt," he said.

"So I hope those farmers who are affected can get through this period.

"Of course we have had a series of dry seasons as well which has made growing very difficult.

"On the other side, there are great opportunities for agriculture to expand.

"We have 2 billion people living to our north with growing incomes, a difference in food consumption patterns and urbanisation, so we do have a lot of opportunities.

"And as a State we can use those opportunities not only in agriculture but also mining and petroleum to try and leverage off some advantages.

"For many of those developing nations their biggest issue is food security, they rely on us now for mainly minerals but we can use that at a government-to-government level to expand opportunities for our farmers and hopefully give them greater financial stability."

Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman said some of the Liberal policy looked like a "cut and paste from the Nationals".

"If you look at their commitment of about $42m and our commitment of $300m over five years, $40m of their policy is virtually cut and paste straight out of the Nationals' policy," Mr Redman said.

"I believe the Nationals' policy actually gives a long-term vision for agriculture and seizing the opportunity in Asia and I would describe the Liberal policy as a bit of a watered down Nationals policy.

"Broadly I don't have a problem with a lot of the policies in there.

"We absolutely agree with reducing red tape and some of our initiatives we put a price tag on."

Mr Redman admitted the two policies would have to be a bit of collaboration if both parties govern together.

"Absolutely (it would be collaboration) but the Nationals are going into this election as an independent party," he said.

"We have laid out a vision for agriculture and we will be taking that to the campaign and if we get the balance of power we will be delivering on that."

Labor's agricultural spokesman Paul Papalia said regional WA should be asking themselves which promises were real and which were fake.

"Which promises are just being made for the purposes of winning the election and which ones are they going to break immediately after the election when they form government?" Mr Papalia said.

"The Nationals recently announced a $300m 'vision for agriculture' which has yet to be endorsed by Mr Barnett and the Liberal Party and is not included in Liberal Party budgeting.

"Mr Barnett needs to reveal which promises are real and which are just being made for the purposes of the campaign," Mr Papalia said.

"Mr Barnett and Mr Grylls have form around breaking election promises.

"Before the last election, the Nationals promised to fund Tier 3 rail - they broke that promise.

"Mr Barnett promised a railway to Ellenbrook before the last election but broke his commitment in office.

"Now the Liberals and Nationals are making different promises again before an election.

"Mr Barnett and Mr Grylls must be honest with the people of WA - which promises will they break if they are re-elected.

Mr Papalia said it was also disappointing to not see any funding for Tier 3.

"It is also striking that neither of them could find it in their hearts to fund Tier 3, but we could," he said.

Liberals' Agriculture Policy

n Cutting red tape and regulation for farmers

n Improved access to external markets

n Establish a $20 million State biosecurity fund

n $750,000 into the expansion of the Buy West, Eat Best initiative

n $1.5million for Specialised Food Centres Fund (SFCF)

n Establish a $20 million agricultural sciences research and development fund

n Supporting commercially viable Tier 3

n Supporting farmers' property rights

n Creation of a new environmental regulator

n Ensure pastoral leases set to expire are renewed.

n Ensure annual rent examinations take into account the economic circumstances of the industry.

n Ensure that lease monitoring requirements imposed on pastoral lessees are suitable, practical and not unjustifiably onerous.

Nationals WA Agriculture Policy

$300million over five years

n $20 million for R&D grants for grower groups

n $6 million for research into market opportunities in Asia and targeted assistance to access these markets

n $20 million to boost grains research and development through AEGIC

n $5 million to establish an Organic Industry Research Centre in Bunbury

n $15 million to establish a Northern Beef Industry Development Centre in the Kimberley

n $10 million to establish a Sheep Industry Development Centre in Katanning

n $10 million to help grain growers better manage risk

n $40 million to implement a statewide Water for Food initiative

n $2 million to conduct a Statewide infrastructure audit

n $75 million infrastructure and logistics fund

n $20 million to implement the WA Open for Business Initiative and establish the Office of Inward Investment.

n $7 million to develop "Brand WA" to sell WA to the world

n $20 million to bolster WA's biosecurity defences

n $20 million to increase the profile of WA agriculture

n $20 million to boost business skills of agriculture and food businesses

n $10 million to support the development of Muresk.

Labors' Agriculture commitments*

n Wants to see a transition to frozen meat exports away from live exports over 10-15 years

n Committed $30 million for Tier 3

n Supports the deregulation of the potato industry

n Opposed to GM and has been supportive of an embargo.

*The party is yet to release an official agricultural policy.

FarmWeekly
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READER COMMENTS

Another farmer
2/03/2013 10:12:53 AM, on Farm Weekly

Mr Papalia this is not about finding things in hearts this is about an unviable rail line that will need continuous funding not just an injection for one year!

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