25 October 2019
The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) held its 8th meeting today in Melbourne. Agriculture ministers from Australia and New Zealand met to progress priority issues affecting the sector. The meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Senator the Hon. Bridget McKenzie.
The meeting began with Ministers providing an update on key priorities and challenges faced by the agriculture sector and rural and regional communities in their respective jurisdictions. Ministers expressed concern about the forecast continuation of dry conditions and how continued drought would put further pressure on farmers and their communities. Ministers provided updates about the programs they are delivering to support farming families and their communities through hardship. Reflecting the importance of action on drought, Ministers agreed to meet before the end of the year in a drought-affected community, to provide further updates on actions taken in response to drought and related programs. Recognising the National Farmers’ Federation’s role as the peak farmer representative body, Ministers will invite the NFF to discuss their drought strategy at the meeting.
Climate change and agriculture
- the coordinated national approach and proposed work program to support the agriculture sector adapt to climate change and manage emissions.
- tasking the Agriculture Senior Officials’ Committee (AGSOC) to oversee delivery of the proposed work program, in line with proposed governance and implementation arrangements.
- releasing the initial reports commissioned as an input to the project.
Australian food and fibre plan 2030
- the Prime Minister’s announcement on the development of a national plan for agriculture, fisheries and forestry to enable them to achieve their goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030.
- the broad policy themes currently guiding the development of the national plan.
- the work underway to reform the Research and Development Corporation system.
- the intention to release a version of the Food Export Review following consultation with the Food Ministers’ Forum and their officials group.
- there is scope for governments to better align implementation efforts of their respective agriculture and advanced food strategies as part of this work.
- to a workshop in February 2020 to develop a joint ministerial statement of commitment and discuss contributions to a cross-jurisdictional delivery plan against agreed high-level themes.
- to nominate a senior official from each jurisdiction to support this work.
National drought agreement reporting framework
Ministers noted the update on the process to develop a progress reporting framework for the National Drought Agreement.
- the first report to the Council of Australian Governments be prepared as at the end of 2019 to present to Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2020.
- to meet before the end of the year in a drought affected community, to provide further updates on actions taken in response to drought and related programs.
- invite the NFF and request they present their drought strategy at the meeting.
Farm debt mediation
- that the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (the Royal Commission) final report released on 1 February 2019 recommended “a national scheme of farm debt mediation should be enacted” and “banks should offer farm debt mediation as soon as a loan is classified as distressed”.
- that since the release of the Royal Commission’s final report, the Australian Government has issued a response and an Implementation Roadmap agreeing with the recommendations relating to farm debt mediation.
- that Government will continue to develop a national farm debt mediation scheme.
Animal welfare governance
- to the overarching principles and key requirements for a new national governance framework for farm animal welfare.
- to an independent panel to supervise drafting of new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.
- to determine membership of the panel out of session and for the panel to update ministers in February 2020.
Minister’s noted that the Agriculture Senior Official Committee (AGSOC) Animal Welfare Task Group will continue work on other priorities, including the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Pigs.
Welfare of retired racehorses
Ministers noted the Queensland and Australian Government investigations of alleged animal cruelty at a Queensland horse slaughtering facility and discussed a national approach to the management of retired race horses.
Ministers agreed to advise Racing Ministers on animal welfare. Ministers further agreed to AGSOC reviewing the implementation of the Australian Land Transport Standards and Guidelines in respect of horses.
Trespass laws — responding to animal activist and other activist protests
Ministers discussed actions taken by state and territory governments to ensure appropriate penalties for farm trespass and adequate enforcement. Ministers noted that farmers have raised concerns that trespass onto agricultural land could breach biosecurity protocols, and that it can also make them and their families feel unsafe on their own land. Ministers further noted the steps the Australian Government has taken to address the issue of activists promoting farm trespass.
Ministers noted the update on the progress of the review of the implementation of the National Soil Research, Development and Extension Strategy and agreed to collaborate on a national soils strategy led by the Commonwealth.
Labour force, skills and education
Ministers noted the update on agricultural education and the work plan for the Commonwealth Agricultural Labour Working Group.
African swine fever
- that African swine fever (ASF) has spread to parts of Europe and Asia, including Russia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea and Timor Leste.
- that the Australian Government Department of Agriculture (the department) has taken action to manage the increased risk associated with ASF and is monitoring this changing situation, however, as with all biosecurity threats, ‘zero risk’ is not possible.
- that on 6 September 2019, the Minister for Agriculture, Senator the Hon. Bridget McKenzie convened a roundtable discussion, which included government and industry leaders focusing on the biosecurity and trade implications of ASF.
- that if ASF was to reach Australia it would adversely impact on pig producers and related industries.
- that jurisdictions have agreed to commit resources to participate in a simulation exercise in November 2019, to be followed by a larger exercise in 2020 with Ministers, Australian Pork Limited, producers and Animal Health Australia involved, to test Australia’s response arrangements.
Ministers agreed that at their meeting in February 2020, Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Australian Pork Limited will be invited to report back to Ministers as part of a deep dive into the matter.
Government policy positions for an Aquatic Deed
- that governments give in-principle support for an Aquatic Deed that addresses issues of consistency amongst emergency response deeds.
- a draft deed reflecting these positions be presented to industry for signature following final consultations with the Tasmanian salmon industry.
- that the National Biosecurity Committee will work with relevant aquatic industry parties to increase their understanding of biosecurity responses.
Australia’s next National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy
Ministers endorsed Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy—2020 and Beyond (the next national AMR strategy). Ministers agreed in-principle to the establishment of a proposed ‘Antimicrobial Resistance Governance Group’, to be co-chaired by the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer to ensure a One Health approach. Ministers noted that the Australian Government Department of Health will also simultaneously submit the next national AMR strategy to the COAG Health Council and noted that the next national AMR strategy will be presented to COAG.
Strengthening Australia’s fruit-fly management system
Ministers agreed that all jurisdictions are committed to strengthening the national fruit fly management system, to protect Australia’s valuable horticulture export trade and international reputation.
- that Australia’s access to premium markets for horticultural products is still being impacted by the significant number of detections and the outbreaks of fruit flies over the past two years.
- that all jurisdictions have signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Strengthening Australia’s Fruit Fly Management System (the Agreement). The Agreement was endorsed in principle on 8 February 2019 at the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) to collaboratively strengthen and maintain the Australian fruit fly management system.
- the annual update on progress to strengthen the national fruit fly system through the Australian Government’s Smart Fruit Fly Management measure. The annual update is an agreed action from the AGSOC meeting held 13 December 2018.
Harmonising off-label use in agricultural chemicals
Ministers agreed to initial reforms to improve the harmonisation of off-label agricultural chemical use.
Ministers noted their confidence in the advice provided by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) that approved products containing glyphosate can continue to be used safely according to label directions.
Ministers agreed to seek advice from relevant research and development corporations (RDCs) and other stakeholders, particularly relating to community expectations, market access, consumer preferences and supplier liability and risk.
Commonwealth’s Deregulation Taskforce
Ministers discussed their obligations following the COAG agreement, the approach and work program in each jurisdiction. Ministers agreed to work together to reduce the regulatory burden impacting industry and business, and identify a small number of specific matters that Agriculture Ministers can work on collectively.
Misleading labelling of plant-based foods
Ministers agreed that further action is needed to ensure consumers are not being misled about plant-based foods that mimic meat and dairy products. Ministers will write to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation and the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs urging further action on this issue.
Beekeeping in national parks
Ministers agreed to write to the Environment Ministers’ Forum to consider action to provide safe locations for bee hives in national parks.
Overseas market development and promotion
Ministers noted the importance of a united Australian presence in international markets at a time of increasing competition and volatility in international markets and agreed to explore opportunities for a more coordinated approach to overseas agrifood market development and promotion.
Ministers noted work by Australian Eggs with CSIRO to investigate innovative approaches for egg traceability, expected to be completed late 2019 and further noted a possible review of the Australian Egg Standards by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FZANZ) following recent Salmonella incidents.
Ministers noted that following this, the Agricultural Senior Officials’ Committee (AGSOC) would work with the Food Regulation Standing Committee (under the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation), and Australian Eggs to:
- investigate national harmonisation of egg accreditation and stamping frameworks, including undertaking a regulatory impact assessment
- review latest research including the Australian Eggs GS1/CSIRO report on current egg traceability systems and other available technologies for the egg industry
- seek opportunities to improve the functionality of egg accreditation and stamping for producers, consumers and governments, and
- provide a report back to Ministers.
Enhancing Australia’s traceability systems
Ministers noted progress to reform Australia’s National Livestock Identification Scheme and Property Identification Codes, and further:
- that stakeholder consultation is underway on proposed property identification arrangements
- that, through the NBC, jurisdictions have taken responsibility to deliver specific work items relating to the livestock reform recommendations they are responsible for.
Ministers noted Stage 2 of the National Traceability Project has concluded and endorsed, for public release, the National Traceability Framework Enhancing Australia’s world-class agricultural traceability systems, which includes a template for an industry action plan. Ministers noted the industry action plan has been populated by eleven industries, endorsed the summary of the industry action plan for public release and agreed the recommendations for the role of jurisdictions in implementing the industry action plan, including that six-monthly updates on progress will be provided to AGSOC.
Ministers closed the meeting recognising the strong collaborative approach taken by jurisdictions and unanimous agreement to actions arising from this meeting. Ministers agreed to meet biannually with the next meeting in Tasmania in February 2020.