Agriculture Ministers' Forum

21 February 2020 - Launceston


The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) met today in Launceston to progress priority issues affecting the agriculture sector. The meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon. David Littleproud MP.

The meeting commenced with a presentation from Dr Andrew Johnson of the Bureau of Meteorology on recent climatic events including bushfires and the drought, and the outlook for the future, which is generally marked by warmer and drier seasons. This was followed by updates from all ministers on current conditions and recovery measures in their jurisdictions. The Hon. Shane Stone AC QC, Coordinator-General of the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, and Major General Andrew Hocking, Deputy, Engagement and Operations for the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, reflected on recent events and outlined the work being undertaken to assist communities recover.

Ministers discussed key issues impacting the agricultural sector, and what governments can do together to build the portfolio into a $100 billion industry by 2030.

Implementing and reporting against the National Drought Agreement

Ministers endorsed in principle an interim report on Australia-wide implementation of the National Drought Agreement for finalisation and submission to the next COAG meeting, and agreed that the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment would continue to lead the development of the framework in collaboration with state and territory governments.

Biosecurity threats, including an update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Ministers discussed the increasing pressures on the biosecurity system. In the face of the current Coronavirus threat, Ministers agreed to continue to cooperate to assist in responding to agricultural and fisheries trade impacts.

Fruit Fly Preparedness

The Hon. Guy Barnett, Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries and Water, provided members with an update on the current fruit fly prevention measures in the state, noting that Tasmania is fruit fly free. Ministers discussed plans for future action, including the use of sterile insect technologies, across the nation.

African Swine Fever

An update on the spread of African Swine Fever overseas was provided to Ministers. Ministers also discussed the actions being taken to manage increased risk and prepare for the disease should an incursion occur in Australia.

Independent Panel for Poultry Standards

Ministers agreed the membership of an independent panel to finalise drafting of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry and noted the importance of completing this work expeditiously.

National Horse Welfare and Traceability

Ministers agreed that Queensland will lead the development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock at Processing Establishments. Queensland will also lead a review of the suitability for horses of the existing Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock subsequent to completion of coordinated action on horse welfare during transport, as agreed by agriculture senior officials on 19 December 2019.

Ministers agreed that a working group, co-led by Queensland and Victoria, with support of other states and territories, in consultation with industry, will develop a proposal for a national horse traceability register.

Growing Australian Agriculture to $100 billion by 2030

The Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment gave Ministers a presentation on growing the sector to $100 billion by 2030. This facilitated a useful discussion on growth ambition and collaborating efforts across governments to support a viable long-term agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries. Particular areas of focus were on the importance of trade, innovation, water, and research and development.

Agricultural Innovation System Reform

Ministers noted that momentum for change had been cultivated through work to develop a vision for the future of Australian agricultural innovation, including to modernise rural Research and Development Corporations and seek to coordinate innovation systems undertaken by States and Territories. They emphasised the need for ongoing actions to help promote Australia as a world leader in this area and to promote greater commercialisation and uptake.

Building Resilience through Better Business Management Skills

Ministers noted the need to work together to support producers build on farm resilience and asked officials to develop a national program to build business management and planning skills. The Commonwealth confirmed work on programs to build long term drought resilience under its Future Drought Fund would start shortly, with the funding plan now agreed.

Other issues discussed including the emergence of the hemp industry and wine labelling.

The next meeting of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum will be held in Western Australia.