Minor use program a smart investment in Australian agriculture – Government delivers on election commitment

    13 May 2014

    Tuesday 13 May 2014 (Canberra) – In the midst of a tough federal budget, the government’s responsible decision to deliver on its election commitment to fund a minor use and specialty crops program is to be congratulated as an initial smart and responsible investment in Australia’s future agricultural competitiveness.

    “The government’s initial $8 million commitment, if utilised properly, will be a profitable investment in Australia’s agricultural sector. Economic analysis of the United States’ minor use program has estimated that for every dollar invested by the US government in a similar initiative, the program facilitates a return to the US economy of US$550,” said Matthew Cossey, Chief Executive Officer of CropLife Australia.

    “Minister Joyce should be congratulated for delivering on the promise to fund minor use, despite the significant pressure on the federal budget. The program will result in productivity and economic gains for the Australian farm sector.

    “Not only will a minor use program increase the productivity of Australian agriculture, it stands to enable more environmentally friendly pest management practices. Accessibility to modern, target-specific chemicals can reduce the excessive use of older, broader-spectrum chemicals. A minor use program also encourages more investment in developing these products.

    “In a report last year, ABARES confirmed that improving access to agricultural chemicals for minor uses is a simple, effective way to address inconsistencies, which are damaging Australia’s agricultural productivity and diversity. 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.

    “As the cost of developing data and registering products continues to increase, so too does the risk that the nation’s farmers will not have adequate access to tools and products to control pests, weeds and diseases. The small size of Australia’s crop protection product market on a global comparison means that the implementation of this initiative is vital so that Australian agriculture is assured access to the latest innovations from the plant science industry and their full range of uses.

    “It is estimated that a fully funded minor use program will cost around $45 million. Today’s $8 million first investment shows that the government is committed to ensuring that farmers have access to the same products as their competitors overseas, creating a more diverse and productive sector.”

    “The obligation now is on the Department of Agriculture to ensure this funding actually goes to delivering outcomes through an effective program and is not just absorbed in unnecessary administrative costs. All relevant organisations in the sector have already been working to assist in delivering on that outcome.

    “The minor use program will improve responsible and effective chemical product usage, while ensuring that Australia’s farming sector is a world leader in environmentally friendly, sustainable, integrated pest management systems through access to the latest chemistry. Australian farmers must be able to access the latest technologies and innovations to remain globally competitive and continue to produce safe, high quality food, feed and fibre.” Mr Cossey concluded.

    Contact: Jaelle Bajada (Manager – Public Affairs)  Ph: 02 6230 6399  Mob: 0410 491 261