AU: Ag groups come out in protest against changes to agricultural levies
Agricultural groups have come out swinging in a ferocious public campaign aimed at blocking “political intervention” on changes to agricultural levies.
A dis-allowance motion by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm that aims to reverse increases to the onion, mango and mushroom levies has angered key industry players, including the National Farmers Federation (NFF).
According to the Across Agriculture Group (AAG), which is convened periodically to lobby collectively on issues affecting grower levies, the new Senator’s disallowance motion could potentially destroy Australia’s agricultural levy system.
The AAG was recently convened by the Australian Lot Feeders Association’s Dougal Gordon and involves 17 other groups, including Grain Producers Australia and pork, dairy, rice, cotton and mushroom peak bodies.
They’ve defended the Australian agricultural levy system as being world-leading and accused Senator Leyonhjelm of being driven by an ideological opposition to levies.
At a public protest held in Tasmania on Thursday, industry groups demanded the ALP, Greens and Palmer United Party support agriculture by publicly stating they’ll vote against the dis-allowance motion in the federal Senate on August 26
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie who firstly argued strongly in support of blocking increases to marketing and research levies for mushrooms now says she’ll vote against a dis-allowance motion moved by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm to stop increases in levies for mushrooms, mangoes and onions.
Ms Lambie attended the rally in Tasmania today.
“It became clear to me after many local phone calls late last night that Tasmanian Primary Industries and rural workers would be better off if the levy increases were allowed to stand,” she said.
Former Onions Australia chairman Brian Bonde is a strong supporter of the levy system.
He said that it underpinned Australia’s agricultural research and development, marketing, plant and animal health systems that had made it one of the leading agricultural producers of the world.
“The onion, mango and mushroom industries have joined in a bid to fight off Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm’s motion to disallow the regulations implementing the industry-supported changes to the levies,” Mr Bonde said.
“The motion has been tabled, notwithstanding the industries conducting a rigorous five year process of consultation, investing grower funds and conducting AEC independent ballots.”
Mr Bonde said that the industries welcomed support from The Greens, who had publicly stated their support for the levies system, as well as from Opposition Agriculture Spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, who said that levies were an important aspect of agricultural industries.
Robert Gray, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Mango Industry Association, said that the mango levy is essential to the future of the industry. “During the 2012 / 2013 mango season, there was a significant incidence of an issue called Resin Canal Discolouration. While this issue only affects the appearance of a mango it can drastically reduce the price a mango is sold for, hurting growers back pockets. The industry recognised that this was a serious issue, and during the 2013 / 2014 season, used funds from the mango levy to initiate a research project to assess the issue and look at possible causes,” he said.
Mango levies receive widespread support from the industry and are recognised as being vital to the growth and prosperity of the Australian mango industry. Levies fund research and development, biosecurity measures, are used to work toward market access for mango exports, and marketing programs that ensure ongoing demand for the popular fruit.
“The levy system allows our industry to invest in issues that could cause significant damage to our growers if not addressed. The issue of Resin Canal Discolouration is just an example that paints a picture of the need for the levy system. Without the compulsory levy, the industry would have little or no options to deal with issues like this.
“If the Senate vote to disallow the levy is successful, it could put the whole levy system in disarray. The levies in question were passed by a majority of mango growers. The final decision should rest with the growers as they pay the levy and will be most affected by the dis-allowance,” Mr Gray said.
Publication date: 8/21/2014