25 May 2015
Primary industries ministers and representatives from Australia and New Zealand met in Sydney on 22 May 2015 for the third meeting of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN). The meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP.
Ministers addressed a number of key priorities for the agriculture portfolio including outcomes of the recently announced Federal Budget and strategic priorities for their jurisdictions. New Zealand advised the forum of their recent Queensland fruit fly incursion and gratefully accepted the offers of assistance to counter this biosecurity threat.
Minister Joyce provided a progress update of the Agricultural Competitiveness and Northern Australia White Papers and noted the Australian Government is considering options to help accelerate the planning and construction of water infrastructure through these white paper processes.
State and territory ministers agreed to keep the Australian Government up-to-date on the progress of major water infrastructure projects and priorities for development in their regions.
The Northern Territory gave an update on activities of the Committee of Northern Australian Agriculture Ministers, and noted the positive progress to date.
Australian Government ministers committed in principle to improving the Country of Origin Labelling framework and agreed to work collaboratively to progress this initiative. New Zealand raised its concerns at the proposal and requested further discussion on the issues involved.
Ministers also noted the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) for sheep and goats, and agreed the NSW Farm Incursions Policy be used as a useful reference to address farm trespass issues. There was agreement that a consistent approach to farm trespass was important in maintaining the integrity of the biosecurity system and ensuring farmers were offered the same entitlements to privacy as the broader community.
Ministers’ were updated on assistance schemes currently available to farmers experiencing financial hardship, including as a result of drought. There was agreement that further consideration would be given to suggestions from States and Territories to the eligibility criteria for concessional loans.
Ministers then discussed trade development and endorsed a strategy to improve export opportunities for Australian agriculture. The focus of the strategy is to drive positive outcomes for industry and to promote Australia as a professional, organised and reliable trading partner.
Ministers also endorsed a pilot programme by the Victorian Government to case manage a small number of priority market access issues in relation to temperate fruit exports to China and Thailand.
A presentation was provided by the Bureau of Meteorology, about the predicted seasonal impacts facing jurisdictions in the future. Members discussed climatic considerations for their jurisdictions.
The next meeting of the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum is expected to be held in Brisbane in November 2015 and in New Zealand in early 2016.