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Regulation of Agriculture

Inquiry report

This report was sent to Government on 15 November 2016 and publicly released on 28 March 2017.

The report is about regulation that affects farm businesses.

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  • Key points
  • Contents
  • Farm businesses are subject to a vast and complex array of regulations. Regulations are in place at every stage of the supply chain — from land acquisition to marketing — and are applied by all levels of government. The number and complexity of regulations affecting farm  businesses means that the cumulative burden of regulation on farmers is substantial.
  • The need for regulation is not disputed by farm businesses. In fact, some regulations, such as biosecurity and food safety regulations, were highlighted as providing clear benefits to  Australian farmers. Rather, Australian farmers want ‘better’ (or less burdensome) regulation.
  • Some regulations lack a sound policy justification and should be removed. Examples include restrictions on the use of land held under pastoral lease arrangements, state bans on cultivating genetically modified crops, barriers to entry for foreign shipping providers, mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, and the regulated marketing of rice in New South Wales and sugar in Queensland.
  • In other cases, regulation is the wrong policy tool. Regulatory changes to address community concerns about foreign investment in agriculture, for example, are costly and  likely to be ineffective. A better informed conversation about foreign investment is needed.
  • Other regulations and regulatory systems need to be reformed so they can more fully achieve their objectives.
    • Native vegetation and biodiversity conservation regulations need fundamental change so that risks and impacts are considered at a relevant landscape-wide scale. Environmental regulatory decisions also need to take into account economic and social factors.
    • Animal welfare regulations seek to achieve welfare outcomes that (among other things) meet community expectations. However, the current process for setting standards for farm animal welfare does not adequately value the benefits of animal welfare to the community.
    • The process for setting standards would be improved through the creation of a statutory agency responsible for developing national farm animal welfare standards using rigorous science and evidence of community values for farm animal welfare.
    • International evidence could be put to greater use in assessing agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals, reducing the time and cost taken to grant registration.
    • Road access arrangements for heavy vehicles should be streamlined and simplified.
  • Inconsistent regulatory requirements across and within jurisdictions make it difficult for farmers to understand their obligations and add to the cost of doing business. A more consistent approach would improve outcomes in the areas of heavy vehicle regulation and road access, and the use of agvet chemicals.
  • Governments could also reduce the regulatory burden on farm businesses by:
    • improving their consultation and engagement practices. There is scope to better support landholders to understand environmental regulations, and to reduce duplicative and unnecessary information gathering regarding water management by farm businesses
    • doing more to coordinate their actions, both between agencies and between governments
    • ensuring that good regulatory impact assessment processes are used as an analytical tool to support quality regulation making, not as a legitimising tool or compliance exercise.

Background information

Leonora Nicol (Media and Publications) 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

  • Preliminaries
    • Cover, Copyright and publication detail, Letter of transmittal, Terms of reference, Letter of extension, Contents, Acknowledgments and Abbreviations
  • Overview - including key points
  • Recommendations and findings
  • Chapter 1 About this inquiry
    • 1.1 Why regulatory burden matters
    • 1.2 There are regulations at every stage of the agricultural supply chain
    • 1.3 What the Commission has been asked to do
    • 1.4 Our approach to reviewing regulation
    • 1.5 Benefits, not just costs, are acknowledged
    • 1.6 Conduct of the inquiry
  • Chapter 2 Land use regulation
    • 2.1 The role of government in land use
    • 2.2 How is land use regulated?
    • 2.3 Agriculture on Crown land
    • 2.4 Planning, zoning and development assessment
    • 2.5 Conflicts between farming and residential land use
    • 2.6 Conflicts over land access for resource exploration and extraction
  • Chapter 3 Environmental regulation
    • 3.1 Why are governments involved in environmental protection?
    • 3.2 Environmental regulations: the current state of play
    • 3.3 What effect do the regulations have on farm businesses?
    • 3.4 Improving environmental regulations
    • 3.5 Other environmental regulations
  • Chapter 4 On-farm regulation of water
    • 4.1 Water and agriculture
    • 4.2 Farm access to water
    • 4.3 Farm use of water
    • 4.4 Farm disposal of water
    • 4.5 Water reporting
  • Chapter 5 Regulation of farm animal welfare
    • 5.1 The concept of animal welfare
    • 5.2 A role for government in farm animal welfare?
    • 5.3 Australia’s animal welfare system
    • 5.4 How are farm animal welfare standards set?
    • 5.5 Improving the effectiveness of farm animal welfare regulation
    • 5.6 Live export regulation
  • Chapter 6 Regulation of technologies
    • 6.1 Why are governments involved?
    • 6.2 Regulating genetically modified organisms and products
    • 6.3 New breeding techniques
    • 6.4 Regulation of drones
    • 6.5 Access to telecommunications infrastructure
  • Chapter 7 Agricultural and veterinary chemicals
    • 7.1 About agvet chemical regulation
    • 7.2 Reforming the regulation of agvet chemicals
    • 7.3 Excessive time and costs for registration
    • 7.4 Inconsistencies in control-of-use regimes
    • 7.5 Access to agvet chemicals for minor uses
    • 7.6 Labelling of agvet chemicals under work health and safety regulations
  • Chapter 8 Biosecurity
    • 8.1 Australia’s biosecurity arrangements
    • 8.2 Why are governments involved in biosecurity?
    • 8.3 Benefits and costs of biosecurity
    • 8.4 Issues raised about biosecurity
    • 8.5 Other regulatory issues
  • Chapter 9 Transport
    • 9.1 Heavy vehicles
    • 9.2 Rail
    • 9.3 Ports
    • 9.4 Coastal shipping
    • 9.5 Biofuel support programs
  • Chapter 10 Food regulation
    • 10.1 Rationale for food regulation
    • 10.2 Food regulation in Australia
    • 10.3 Regulation of food labelling
    • 10.4 Regulation of food safety in the production process
  • Chapter 11 Labour regulation
    • 11.1 The role of government in labour markets
    • 11.2 Access to overseas workers
    • 11.3 Workplace relations
    • 11.4 Work health and safety
  • Chapter 12 Competition regulation
    • 12.1 Statutory marketing
    • 12.2 Competition law
    • 12.3 Industry codes of conduct
  • Chapter 13 Foreign investment in agriculture
    • 13.1 About Australia’s foreign investment framework
    • 13.2 The importance of foreign investment to Australia
    • 13.3 A closer look at the new arrangements
  • Chapter 14 Export regulation
    • 14.1 Regulation of agricultural exports
    • 14.2 The regulatory burden of export certification
  • Appendix A Public consultation
  • Appendix B A brief history of statutory marketing in Australian agriculture
  • Appendix C Case studies: the burden of regulation on farm businesses
  • Appendix D Analysis of rice price premiums
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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