Agriculture Ministers' Forum

​​​26 July 2017

Agricultural ministers and representatives from Australia and New Zealand met in Melbourne, Victoria on 26 July 2017 for the fifth meeting of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum. The meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Anne Ruston on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and AGMIN Chair, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP.

Ministers addressed a number of key priorities for the agriculture portfolio. The meeting began with a presentation of Priorities for Australia’s Biosecurity System, an independent review of the national biosecurity system and the agreement that underpins it. Ministers agreed this report provides a roadmap to guide their commitment to ensuring the national biosecurity system evolves to respond to future challenges - Agriculture Ministers' Joint Statement​. The report is available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website -Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system.

Ministers agreed to the proposed expansion of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in South East Queensland. The 10-year program supports recommendations from an independent review completed in 2016. A governance plan and the development of a National Program Steering Committee were also agreed by ministers to provide strategic oversight of the program.

The meeting discussed the importance of better preparedness for plant and animal biosecurity incidents. This included the importance of finalising an Aquatic Deed between industry and government for responses to aquatic emergency animal disease outbreaks and the development of protocols for jurisdictions to share information on biosecurity breaches and minimise the impact of market access restrictions during incidents.

Ministers also agreed to new Standards for cattle and pigs under the National Livestock Identification System, which will fill existing gaps in Australia’s emergency animal disease preparedness arrangements.

Farm support initiatives were discussed, including the Farm Household Allowance and establishment of the Regional Investment Corporation. Ministers agreed to terms of reference for a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform, which will include targeted consultation with key stakeholders.

Ministers noted a 28 March 2017 Productivity Commission Report on Agriculture Regulation in Australia. Along with considering recommendations relating to land use, animal welfare and food regulation, ministers agreed to collaborate to improve road transport for primary producers and movement of agricultural machinery. Ministers re-committed to the development of nationally consistent regulation of agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals and agreed to specific proposals around record keeping and training requirements.

Ministers agreed to work together on relevant recommendations to improve fisheries management arrangements in response to a 24 May 2017 Productivity Commission report on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture. Discussions also noted jurisdictions’ work with the organic industry to coordinate activities to better support its growth and the agricultural sector’s access to premium markets.

Ministers noted the importance of the Seasonal Worker Programme as a labour source for agriculture and asked officials for advice on its effectiveness and opportunities for further improvement.