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Long-awaited red tape report delivers for farmers

18 January 2019

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) says a commitment by government to ease the red tape burden constraining the farm sector is a welcome start to the new year.

The Government today released its response to the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into the Regulation of Australian Agriculture.

The response was almost two years in the making, but the end result contains clear wins for farmers and specifically, the endorsement of many of the NFF's key asks in its submission to the Inquiry.

"The Government has listened to the across-the-board red tape frustrations of agriculture and committed to recommendations of the Commission in areas such as such natural resource management, animal welfare, GM technology and the regulation of heavy vehicles," NFF President Fiona Simson said.

Cutting agriculture's regulatory burden is a key priority in NFF's Roadmap to see agriculture increase its farm gate output from $63 billion in 2016-2017 to $100 billion by 2030.

Ms Simson said the NFF supported all responses to the PC's environment and water recommendations.

"In particular, we welcome the response to Recommendation 3.3 which identifies the opportunity for a smart and sustainable interaction between agriculture and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The NFF sees the on-foot review of the EPBC Act as a watershed moment for the intersection of agriculture and environment regulation and eagerly await what is, the imminent release of this report.

"The NFF continues to pursue a framework for farmers to be rewarded for the management of their biophysical assets," Ms Simson said.

"The NFF 2030 Roadmap envisages that by 2030 five per cent of a farm business' income should come from 'ecosystem services'. We need to start building a model for this now."

The response also endorses sensible changes to the labelling of foods derived from GM technology; a lifting of the remaining state-based moratoria on GM crops and a doing-away with state government's ability to impose moratoria on GM into the future - noting these are matters for state and territory governments.

Importantly, the Government has lent its support to a risk-based approach to reducing the regulatory burden for farmers who need to move oversized agricultural machinery on public roads.

However, Ms Simson said the NFF remained anxious to see a finalised National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Notice.

"Such a notice would determine whether the Government's support of Recommendation 9.3 will deliver less onerous road access for large agricultural vehicles in practice and not just on paper."

The Government has not supported a recommendation for the establishment of an 'Australian Commission for Animal Welfare', noting the existing process for developing farm animal welfare standards, of which the NFF supports.

The response dismisses a recommendation to lift the Foreign Investment Review Board's threshold to its previous level of $252 million.

Ms Simson said it was ironic that a response to recommendations to bust red tape had taken almost two years to materialise, and hoped the Government would move faster to implement the endorsed changes.

"Agriculture's pursuits of $100 billion in farm gate output depends on the coming to fruition of improvements like those committed to in this report," Ms Simson said.

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
P: 0408 448 250
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