Saturday 4 July 2015 (Canberra) – The Australian plant science industry welcomes the Federal Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper released by the Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott MP and the Minister for Agriculture the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP today. Australia’s agriculture industry has had tremendous success in the face of many challenges and the White Paper provides a clear vision supported by targeted policies to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“Four years ago I highlighted the importance of a long-term strategic vision for agriculture for the same reasons the nation has one for defence,” said CropLife Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Matthew Cossey. “Minister Joyce should be congratulated for delivering a White Paper that sets appropriate policies for a healthy agriculture sector while ensuring innovation is encouraged and unhindered by onerous red-tape and unnecessary regulations.”

“While White Papers provide stability and long-term strategic focus, they are living documents and we should look to review and re-energise this document in five to eight years-time while maintaining focus on a competitive and sustainable agriculture industry. A bi-partisan approach to managing such a process is the key to long-term success for Australia’s agriculture industry and I congratulate Minister Joyce for driving this process.”

“We commend the funding of $20.4m allocated to further streamline agricultural and veterinary chemicals approval. It’s essential those funds go into real outcomes and not simply absorbed in administrative costs by the Department of Agriculture,” said Mr Cossey. “The pressure is directly on the Department to get real value from the funding.”

“The Minor Use and Specialty Crops program is still the single best investment for farmers to access essential crop protection tools and an allocation of some of this White Paper funding to the program would deliver a big return to the farming sector.”

“For some time the plant science industry and the farming sector has advocated for a program to address a number of inconsistencies in, and market failure caused by, the regulation of agricultural chemicals. This failure comes from the fact that the cost of regulating a crop protection product in Australia is three times more than in the United States even though the size of the Australian market is one-tenth the size of the United States’ market,” said Mr Cossey.

“The government’s initial $8 million commitment to the Minor Use and Specialty Crops program was a responsible decision in the midst of last year’s tough federal budget. Similar programs in the United States have demonstrated that every dollar invested in a minor use program generates a net return to the economy of $500. Not only is the Minor Use and Specialty Crops program a smart investment that will increase the productivity of Australian agriculture, it stands to enable more environmentally friendly pest management practices.”

“The Australian plant science sector and agriculture industry more broadly simply needs a clear vision and stability in the regulatory environment to allow it to invest long-term and deliver outcomes for the nation. We commend the government for delivering a White Paper that is the foundation document to achieving that and we look forward to working with government and the broader farming sector to ensure the implementation of the vision in this document,” Mr Cossey concluded.

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