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Government and ALRTA on growing productivity in agriculture

  • Posted on Tuesday 15th, May 2018.

The future of Australian agriculture, associated jobs and the economy is being supported through the Coalition Government's investment in productivity and growth in this year's Budget.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, said agricultural productivity growth was essential for the sector to reach its potential and hit the National Farmers’ Federation’s ambitious target of becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030.

"The future for Aussie agriculture is bright, but we can't slacken off,” said Littleproud.

“We must boost our production to secure the long-term wealth of the nation.

"The Budget delivers $20 million for implementation of the National Forestry Industry Plan, to boost regional forestry job opportunities and grow Australia's renewable timber and wood-fibre industry.

"The forestry sector directly employs more than 67,000 people (2016-17) and want to ensure our forestry industry remains competitive and can adapt to suit evolving market preferences.

"The Coalition is continuing the fight against the scourge of pests and weeds, delivering $6.6 million to manage their impact on productivity.

"Pests and weeds cost our farmers around $4 billion a year in livestock losses, disease controls and weed management costs which has a huge impact on a farm's productivity.

"This government wants to ensure farmers have access to the labour force they need to get their produce off the tree or vine and to market.

"That's why we are expanding a study into seasonal agricultural labour demand and supply conducted by ABARES to include more comprehensive data.

"The study will collect data on labour costs, number and type of people employed, the skills required in different industries and challenges in recruiting and retaining staff,” he said.

Littleproud said investments as part of the 2018-19 Budget build on investment of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

"We continue to give farmers a fair go through measures such as doubling farm management deposits to $800,000 and 100 per cent write offs on water storage and fences and write offs over three years for fodder storage to build drought resilience," he said. "Farmers and small businesses will continue to have access to the $20,000 instant asset write-offs for a further 12 months to enable them to replace or upgrade things like the old work ute."

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has backed moves by Littleproud to instigate a comprehensive review of the capabilities, investigative capacity and culture of the Australian independent regulator for live exports and the establishment of a whistle-blower hotline.

Chair of the ALRTA National Animal Welfare Committee, John Beer, said that Australian livestock carriers lead the world in protecting the welfare of live animals during road transport and there is no reason why international shippers shouldn’t be held to equally high standards.

“Caring for live cargos is a necessary part of the rural road transport task that is under constant scrutiny by markets, governments and the community,” said Beer.

“The footage shown on 60 Minutes last month demonstrated that current practices, monitoring, reporting and penalties applicable to live export vessels are not always delivering the animal welfare standards expected by the community and the livestock supply chain.

“While official statistics show that the mortality rate of 3.8 per cent on the particular voyage in question was not typical, this is no excuse and more must be done to make sure similar incidents do not occur in future.

“As a first world nation with modern values and an enforceable rule of law, it is important for Australia to play a leading role in improving live export standards.

“Over 130 countries around the world export livestock, but in establishing the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and requiring that all exported animals be slaughtered in approved premises, Australia has gone further than any other nation to protect animal welfare.

“Asian and Middle Eastern markets simply cannot afford to substitute live imports with chilled boxed meat, nor does Australia have the capacity to supply it.

“We already have some of the world’s best live exporters operating in Australia, so rather than surrendering the live export trade to less regulated competitors, we must take a hard look at this incident and do what is necessary to lift our standards further.

“Other nations rely on Australia to supply food to their growing populations and our domestic livestock supply chain benefits from international trade.

“In 2017, Australia exported 2.8 million cattle, sheep and goats valued at $1.4 billion. Independent research has shown that saleyard prices for older sheep would be around 18 per cent lower without an export market.''

“Live exports support more than 13,000 jobs in Australia, with wages in excess of $1 billion annually, and the vast majority being in rural areas.

“Domestically, Australian livestock carriers are subject to legislated Land Transport Standards.  Even so, our National Animal Welfare Committee has scrutinised our role in the supply chain and championed several important animal welfare initiatives.

“For example, we have published national guidelines for the safe design of ramps and forcing yards, worked with regulators to establish more flexible driving hours to deal with any animal welfare risk that might arise in transit, merged our truckCare animal welfare accreditation system with the award winning truckSafe system, develop a national effluent control strategy and established LivestockASSIST – a 24-hour national hotline dedicated to coordinating emergency responses.

“Our association now has a holistic approach to promoting positive animal welfare outcomes that commences with pre-transit livestock preparation, through loading, transport, unloading and emergency responses in the rare event that things go wrong.  We have published our approach in a National Animal Welfare Policy.

“The ALRTA supports the calls by Australian farmers and exporters to urgently improve animal welfare standards, monitoring, reporting and penalties applicable to live exports.

“We should not back away from this problem and leave it to other countries to resolve.  Australia must identify the root cause of the issue and lead the way by putting the right type of oversight in place as soon as possible,” said Beer.

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