No grains stewardship: PGA

No grains stewardship: PGA


Agribusiness
PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke is firmly against the implementation of a national grains stewardship program.

PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke is firmly against the implementation of a national grains stewardship program.

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DEBATE over a national grains stewardship program has been ongoing for the last three years and while implementation may still be some time away, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association remain steadfast against it.

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DEBATE over a national grains stewardship program has been ongoing for the last three years and while implementation may still be some time away, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association remain steadfast against it.

Earlier this month PGA Western Graingrowers chairman John Snooke reiterated his concerns about the implementation of a stewardship or quality assurance program, claiming that it would be an unnecessary intrusion into the daily activity of growers.

But Grain Producers Australia research and development officer Andrew Weidemann insists that most farmers are already recording the required information.

"What we should have done is just call it quality assurance because the reality is, that's what it's really about," Mr Weidemann said.

"We want to have one set of guidelines that the commercial sector can pick up.

"So we've been looking at a way to have one particular platform that the industry all agrees on, instead of having a multitude of stewardship programs."

According to Mr Weidemann, implementing a set of protocols would appease particular markets that require a higher level of understanding about the cargo.

"We're finding that the societies that pay more for their food, care more about their food," he said.

"We are growing food for people right around the world and they're the ones actually asking for this, asking what's been applied to the product in the growing process.

"What we're seeing is the emerging markets are requiring quality assurance of the grain they are purchasing."

And Mr Weidemann said these markets were growing rapidly, particularly with regards to pulses.

"Both domestic and international markets are raising questions, including the Japanese, some of the Indonesian countries, and some of the developed markets within Pakistan and India."

During his presentation at the 2013 PGA convention, Mr Snooke spoke little of what the stewardship involved, and focused more on the manner in which the stewardship was being refined.

He claimed its development was being done in a stealthy manner, with growers being kept in the dark.

"We're not quite sure if this is real or not," Mr Snooke said.

"I've tried through the department to get some clarity of the issue and they've been non-cooperative.

"We really want to find out what's happening behind the scenes so growers have an understanding of these programs, if they are going to be implemented and the reasons why."

But Mr Weidemann was unsure why such claims were being made by the PGA, adding that the lobby group had in fact been invited to participate in discussions every step of the way.

He said he was particularly puzzled by its unwavering support of genetically-modified crops, which already involved an in-depth stewardship program.

"There is a stewardship program that a grower must undertake before they can gain access to the technology," he said.

"So what we've been looking at is a way to have one model that everyone must adhere to.

"One particular platform that the industry all agrees on and instead of having a multitude of different stewardship programs, growers would just have one."

Mr Weidemann said it boiled down to keeping consumers happy.

"From a grains industry point of view we want to make sure growers are aware of their responsibilities when applying chemicals so we can assure consumers that farmers are doing the right thing," he said.

"At the moment there is nothing that we can fall back on, bar our hand on our heart, to say that we have a tool that demonstrates to any consumer that we're doing the right thing when growing your food."

Discussions about the stewardship are scheduled to continue early in 2014, but Mr Weidemann insisted that nobody was trying to rush the process.

Instead he said all of the State farming groups involved in its design were concentrating on research and models that would benefit the grains industry as a whole.

"We're talking about a tiered approach," he said.

"We've been looking at a way to go forward and decided on setting up two different modules, looking at grains protection and in-crop management.

"We'll look at the bottom level of what market requires, right to the very top end, where you might have a market which requires a full audited quality assurance package."

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