BIOSECURITY risks associated with on-farm trespassing were on the agenda when Agriculture Ministers from Australia and New Zealand met on Friday.
The Ministers agreed farmers must be offered the same entitlements to privacy as the broader community.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce chaired the third meeting of Primary industries ministers and representatives from Australia and New Zealand in Sydney.
The forum addressed key priorities for the agriculture portfolio, including outcomes of the recently announced federal budget and strategic priorities for ministers’ various jurisdictions.
A statement from the meeting said Ministers were in agreement that a consistent approach to farm trespass was important in maintaining the integrity of the biosecurity system and ensuring farmers were offered the same entitlements to privacy as the broader community.
It also noted the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) for sheep and goats, and agreed the NSW Farm Incursions Policy be used as a useful reference to address farm trespass issues.
Mr Joyce also provided a progress update on the Agricultural Competitiveness and Northern Australia White Papers and noted the Australian government is considering options to accelerate the planning and construction of water infrastructure through these white papers.
State and Territory Ministers agreed to keep the federal government up-to-date on the progress of major water infrastructure projects and priorities for development in their regions.
New Zealand advised the forum of their recent Queensland fruit fly incursion and gratefully accepted the offers of assistance to counter this biosecurity threat.
The Northern Territory gave an update on activities of the Committee of Northern Australian Agriculture Ministers and noted the positive progress to date.
Australian government Ministers committed in principle to improving the Country of Origin Labelling framework and agreed to work collaboratively to progress this initiative. New Zealand raised some concerns with the proposal, and requested further discussion on the issues involved.
Ministers were updated on assistance schemes currently available to farmers experiencing financial hardship, including as a result of drought.
There was agreement that further consideration would be given to suggestions from States and Territories to the eligibility criteria for concessional loans.
Ministers then discussed trade development and endorsed a strategy to improve export opportunities for Australian agriculture.
The focus of the strategy is to drive positive outcomes for industry and to promote Australia as a professional, organised and reliable trading partner.
Ministers also endorsed a pilot program by the Victorian government to case manage a small number of priority market access issues in relation to temperate fruit exports to China and Thailand.
The Bureau of Meteorology also gave a presentation about predicted seasonal impacts facing agricultural jurisdictions in the future, and members discussed climatic considerations for their regions.
The next meetings of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum are expected to be held in Brisbane in November 2015 and in New Zealand in early 2016.