Growcom calls for major parties to announce agricultural policies
With only a month until the federal election, peak horticulture body Growcom today called for the major parties to outline their agricultural policies.
Chief Executive Officer Alex Livingstone said it was pleasing to see that in recent weeks both major parties had “made the right noises” in accepting the need for a ‘sustainable Australia’ rather than just a ‘big Australia’, whichever side of the population debate they are on.
“The Minister for Agriculture and for Sustainable Population Tony Burke recently gave a television interview which acknowledged many of the arguments Growcom has long been putting forward, such as Australia’s finite natural resources, the folly of building cities on our most fertile land and the need to encourage people to settle in regional and rural areas where skills and labour are needed rather than add increased pressure on cities,” said Mr Livingstone.
“Now the parties need to ‘walk the talk’ with the release of their vision for a sustainable and vibrant agricultural food production sector, recognising the advantages the Australian population enjoys of being able to consume its own fresh local food grown from its own lands and ensuring the sector can thrive as an innovative, competitive and resilient sector capable of feeding a burgeoning population and of taking advantage of increasing world food demand in the decades ahead.
“Horticulture is worth more than $2 billion each year to the Queensland economy alone. It is the backbone of many regional communities and an important source of regional employment. And as part of a bigger picture, fresh locally grown food is a vitally important component in fighting the incidence of obesity and such diseases as diabetes and coronary heart disease in this country.”
Mr Livingstone said other key policy areas which needed to be addressed at the federal level included:
* Implementation of recommendations by the Productivity Commission on federal drought policy – recognising that a trial is now under way in Western Australia but that it will require long term engagement with industry to complete the roll out of a federal drought program which recognises the specific needs of irrigated agriculture.
* Labour policy settings which recognise the particular challenges of the horticulture industry in securing a reliable workforce, and the price taking nature of the fresh produce industry.
* Adequate resources to provide an import risk assessment system which maintains high quarantine standards in order to protect Australia’s horticultural production from pests and diseases; effective coordination; preparedness and planning to manage pest and disease incursions and uniform biosecurity requirements between states in order to facilitate domestic interstate access which makes up the bulk of horticultural trade.
* Clear and transparent country of origin labelling – in particular the amendment of Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Standard 1.2.11 so that loose fruit and vegetables cannot be labelled as a mix of local and imported produce, but must be separated according to country of origin and the introduction of a compliance regime with regular spot-checks of supermarkets and fruit and vegetable stores to ensure correct country of origin signs are being displayed with loose fruit and vegetables.
For several months Growcom has been visiting regional electorates to brief both sitting members and candidates on the key federal election priorities for the horticulture industry. These visits will continue in the weeks ahead.
A copy of Growcom’s policies for the election is available at www.growcom.com.au