Jump to a section on this page:
- Improved drought support, preparedness and resilience
- Relieving molasses shortages
- Lay pregnancy testing - regulatory change announced
- Preserved remote area tax concessions
- Key policy achievements
482 letters to stakeholders
18 submissions to Parliament (and more than 25 other submissions)
32 ministerial meetings
11 Parliamentary hearings.
With you, AgForce has delivered:
While some welcome rain arrived in early 2020, the severe drought continues in many parts of the state and drought assistance remained an area of significant work for AgForce at both state and federal levels. The Australian Government has responded to AgForce’s calls such as simplifying the Farm Household Allowance, including business-relevant asset tests and importantly lifting the time limit on payment from four years in a farming career, to four in every ten years. Additional funding for affected communities was also provided. The State Government has continued to fund their assistance programs and AgForce is contributing to their delivery of better climate risk management information and tools for farmers and improving in-drought business assistance programs.
With drought continuing for much of 2019, our producers required assistance sourcing vital molasses to continue feeding their livestock. AgForce connected producers across Queensland with an importer and assisted in bringing molasses into Queensland when domestic supply was impossible to source. AgForce helped secure over 4,000 tonnes of molasses when producers needed it most.
Accurate pregnancy testing is a key tool for cattle herd management to drive productivity and profitability of enterprises, especially those involved in live export. AgForce’s persistence in advocating to the Queensland Government has enabled people other than vets to legally perform paid lay pregnancy testing and ovarian scanning. Relive the moment of the announcement. In collaboration with vets and others, AgForce is developing an ‘industry-led accreditation scheme’ that will support implementing regulatory changes currently underway.
Tax concessions and payments help offset some of the disadvantages of living and working in remote areas of the state. The Productivity Commission undertook a review in 2019 and recommended ending or reducing these supports, worth $150 million nationally each year. AgForce made submissions and met directly with the presiding Commissioners and with relevant Australian Government Ministers to strongly advocate for the concessions’ retention and improvement. Following this advocacy, on 26 February 2020 Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar announced that no changes would be made, enabling these supports to continue.
Policy key achievements
Protection of agricultural land use
AgForce has developed Land Use Protection Principles in order to represent members’ interests under competing land-use pressures, particularly from the resource sector. AgForce ran a large consultation process in the Lake Eyre Basin, through which members and other landholders were able to stop the rapid implementation of Pristine Rivers regulations across the Channel Country. The proposed changes would have placed new regulations across the Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin and threatened the ongoing certainty required for managing extensive agricultural enterprises there. In line with the endorsed principles, AgForce members want to ensure there are “no negative impacts on existing or future sustainable agricultural opportunities.”
Better regulation of agricultural land
AgForce was the only group in Queensland to participate in a State Government review on the Land Regulations – the legislative instrument that sets leasehold rents (currently .75-1.5% of unimproved value a year) and conditions in Queensland. We understand that our advocacy and advice on this matter has meant current rent methodologies and conditions remain in place rather than increasing them to the state’s commercial rates (about 4.5% unimproved value a year). Further, we were able to identify a series of defunct provisions and Land Act anomalies that require immediate review and advocate for improvements in land tenure conditions for agricultural landholders.
Fighting for practical reef and management actions
AgForce drew a line in the sand and opposed the mandatory Reef regulations of the Queensland Government. We protected individual producer’s farm data and the content of the Grazing and Grains Best Management Programs (BMPs) becoming controlled by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, by deleting the data and dissolving the BMP partnership. Supporting the use of and investment into evidence-based Reef science, AgForce, our producer families, and other stakeholders pushed back against the Reef Protection Bill through submissions, public hearings, rallies, media, and meetings with Australian Government Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.
Championing new approaches to vegetation management
AgForce has achieved significant advancements through a long-term campaign built upon a member-survey that identified key priorities for vegetation and landscape management. These include:
- Resetting Policy: The Landscape Management Committee has prepared an alternative policy framework for sensible vegetation and landscape management calling for a repeal and replacement of the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
- Balanced Science: With the Royal Society of Queensland and NRM Regions Queensland, AgForce has negotiated and developed an agreed Rangelands Declaration for Queensland. This advocacy tool will drive towards greater understanding and consideration of the needs of the rangelands and its communities, including greater participation in land use planning.
- Political Representation: In advocating for the adoption of the policy framework mentioned above, AgForce has formed productive relationships with key political figures and stakeholders.
- Legal Standing: AgForce has been collaborating with other state farming organisations to better quantify the diminution of property rights and expropriation of property value due to vegetation management legislation as a basis for further action.
- Best Management Practices and Innovation: Nation leading, AgForce has been developing for all Australian agriculture a Natural Capital Policy towards replacing punitive legislation with mechanisms that reward farmers for looking after the land and building Natural Capital. The Landscape Management Committee has also developed and is testing a Carbon Certification for Landscape Resilience methodology so many more farmers can be engaged in the carbon and Natural Capital marketplace.
Streamlining national environmental regulation
Onerous, impractical, or unnecessary environmental regulation can be a costly and time-consuming maze for our members to navigate. With limited recognition in the industry of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and confusing overlays of state and local environmental regulation, AgForce has actively contributed with NFF to securing $150,000 nationally to inform farmers of their obligations and drive a message of the need for simplification through a recent review of the Act. AgForce continues to seek the removal of unnecessary ‘green tape’.
More accurate land valuations
AgForce has worked tirelessly to help members understand State Government unimproved land valuations and strongly support them in objecting to excessive valuations that lead to inflated rates and rents bills. AgForce has assisted members through running workshops in the Western Downs, South Burnett, North Burnett, and Longreach. Representation of our members in Preliminary Conferences with the Land Court and independent chaired mediation conferences in the Maranoa and North Burnett shire has resulted in an average 15 to 20 per cent reduction on their unimproved values. The service is also continuing to strive to give our members good advice on the current property market, supporting decisions that affect their property valuations, as well as advice regarding purchasing and selling properties.
Greater penalties for farm trespass
Following multiple unlawful farm invasions by animal activists, AgForce lobbied the State Government for greater penalties to deter protest activity that aimed to disrupt farm businesses. This effort included membership on the Animal Industries Security Taskforce and submissions on Parliamentary Bills. Tougher legislation was subsequently passed by the Queensland Parliament in February 2020, doubling maximum financial and imprisonment penalties for intentional acts by issues motivated groups whose aim is to be disruptive to businesses and ordinary people’s lives.
Greater cost recovery in negotiating gas agreements
Negotiating with coal seam gas companies can be stressful and expensive, particularly if an agreement can’t be reached. Following AgForce advocacy, news laws were introduced so that landholders can be reimbursed for expenses incurred in negotiating land access agreements, regardless of whether an agreement is reached. This now also includes the reasonable costs of crop and pasture agronomist services, in addition to legal, accounting and valuation expenses.
Strong Native Title representation
With funding support from the Federal Attorney General, AgForce, in conjunction with expert native title solicitors, provided over 400 lessees across 31 native title claim in Queensland with free legal representation in native title. At an average cost of $2,000 a year, this service saved landholders at least $800,000 in legal costs and leveraged value through an aggregated, coordinated response and bespoke advice to individual producers on native title claims.
Fighting for practical cultural heritage reforms
As the only agricultural group providing input to this landmark legislative reform, AgForce has been able to highlight the often very impractical issues and scenarios that would have occurred had the government’s proposals been implemented. In doing this, AgForce has remained at the table, working in step with other bodies to provide practical advice on the protection of cultural heritage throughout the sector.
Standing up for equal fair trade with powerhouse EU beef market
AgForce is putting pressure on the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, for good outcomes for beef producers in ongoing Australia – European Union Trade negotiations. AgForce emphasised the importance of this trade and argued that our beef producers need to be treated equally to EU competitors with substantial increases in market access.
We expect from this EU-deal:
- fair access to European consumers for our high quality, sustainable beef
- fair trade rules, including no more tariffs and quotas – the same conditions European beef producers have on their products entering Australia.
AgForce will keep lobbying Australian trade negotiators in collaboration with our members and national peak bodies including NFF, CCA, and the EU Red Meat Taskforce. Read the Queensland Country Life column.
Strengthening national cattle producers’ representation
Strong and effective producers’ representation at a national level is vital for future prosperity, and to improve on-farm productivity, sustainability and profitability for all cattle producers. To improve producers’ representation, AgForce supported strengthening the Cattle Council of Australia’s purpose: ‘to represent all Australian grass-fed cattle producers, and to set the strategic direction and develop the policies to guide and lead our industry to a sustainable and profitable future’. AgForce claims grass-fed beef producers need financial returns on levies paid, and the ability to influence how their levy is spent on research, development, and adoption, as well as marketing. The next steps will be to help develop better member and levy payer engagement, and to become more visible, effective, and efficient.
Doubling the value of Australian red meat sales
In October, the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) launched Red Meat 2030, the industry-led 10-year strategy to create profitable, environmentally sustainable, customer-focused red meat businesses. AgForce has been proactively engaging with the development of this 10-year strategy because projections suggest it determines how more than $2 billion dollars of investment will be spent. Ultimately, AgForce was positive but critical and we will continue to emphasise the importance of servicing the grass-fed industry to improve on-farm productivity, sustainability, and profitability for all Australian grass-fed cattle producers.
Supporting income diversification with rangeland goats
The AgForce Sheep & Wool Board has worked closely with the Rangeland Goat industry to progress its development as a sustainable income source for the future. This has included supporting increased processing capacity at Queensland’s largest goat meat works located in Charleville. We also lobbied the State Government and Parliament to ensure existing biosecurity provisions remain in place that allows tag-free movements of rangeland goats from the property of capture to a registered goat depot or abattoir.
Addressing industrial relations needs
AgForce’s IR consultant Warren Turner assisted over 200 AgForce members in managing their specific employment and workforce issues, including determining rates of pay, wage claims, managing terminations, unfair dismissals, workplace agreements, and visas. Warren also represents AgForce members on the NFF Workplace Relations Committee, which engages with the Australian Government on a wide range of key workplace issues, including dealing with the COVID-19 virus.
Securing the Great Artesian Basin
AgForce continues to support the funding partnership between landholders and governments to complete the capping of uncontrolled bores and piping of drains in the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). AgForce is providing landholder views into an Australian Government examination of regulatory requirements to protect the GAB with an expanding gas industry in the Cooper Basin in south-western Queensland. We also sought more make good agreement reporting in the Surat Basin relating to continuing coal seam gas developments.
Protecting access to water
In coalition with other irrigation groups, AgForce continues to defend Queensland’s agricultural interests in implementing the Murray Darling Basin Plan. This has included ensuring stock and domestic water rights are protected and not included in State Government water metering requirements. We have also helped ensure the costs of new metering requirements to be rolled out state-wide are minimised, particularly during the current drought.
Promoting more efficient and safer transport networks
AgForce advocated for fairer transport regulation, reducing red tape and ensuring good outcomes for members affected by the Inland Rail project. This effort includes:
- Actively lobbying for changes to the current Heavy Vehicle National Law, including pushing for better access for heavy vehicles on regional roads and bridges and less onerous fatigue management requirements, with progress expected in mid-2020
- Actively representing the interests of members affected by the Inland Rail project, securing several meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister in which we pushed for minimising impacts on, and fair compensation for, affected landholders, and a full extension to the Port of Brisbane to maximise industry benefits. We also represented members at a Senate Inquiry and hosted several Q&A workshops for members
- Supporting a trial livestock transport training program at Goondiwindi to address workforce shortages in the rural and regional livestock transport industry to secure more readily available low-cost transport options for members by fixing labour problems
- Actively pushing for safer regional roads for members at the Road Safety Roundtable with the Deputy Prime Minister
Making large vehicle movements easier
Need to move a header or a sprayer on local roads to get to your paddocks? Together with other organisations, including the National Farmers Federation and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), AgForce successfully advocated reducing red tape when moving large agricultural vehicles on many public roads. The new Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Notice came into effect in 2019. The Notice increases mass and dimensions limits, meaning most vehicle movements no longer require a permit, increasing efficiency of farm operations. For more information visit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website.
Saving grain growers time and money
The Grain Harvest Management Scheme (GHMS) continues to offer huge benefits to Queensland grain producers by allowing flexibility when carting grain. GHMS helps manage grain loading uncertainties by providing 7.5 per cent ‘flexibility’ above regulation mass limits. AgForce issues over 1,300 registrations each year, with free participation for AgForce members (the price of the scheme is rebated off membership fees). GHMS is designed to benefit the grain industry, the community, and the road transport industry.
Calling for a healthy stock route network
AgForce continued its 15+ year advocacy piece to underpin the health and funding of the more than 72,000 km of stock routes in Queensland that traverses our members’ properties with a series of responses to proposed new regulations. This is a work in progress and an ongoing area of effort.
No independent observers on low-risk live export voyages
A vibrant and viable live export trade is important to the Queensland cattle and sheep industries, including delivering northern jobs in remote areas and is worth $1.7 billion nationally. Equally important to industry is animal welfare and ongoing social licence to operate. AgForce collaborated with northern producers and live exporters (NTCA, NTLEA, KPCA, CCA, ALEC) to explore options to build community and political support for the trade and respond to government enquiries. This paid off when the government removed the requirement for independent observers to accompany every low-risk voyage, such as short-haul livestock export voyages, delivering a significant reduction in administrative burden and costs.
Better telecommunications services
AgForce members can access an Escalation Process with Telstra and NBN local. If you experience an issue with your connection/service and your issue remains unresolved after you lodged a complaint with Telstra or the NBN, AgForce can get your issue prioritised for resolution. The escalation process puts AgForce members in touch with specialist regional staff who understand the difficulties of living in remote areas.
Connecting the cattle industry
The Cattle Board and AgForce Regions organised a number of successful member and industry forums including What’s Your Beef? at Kumbia in Southeast Queensland in November 2019, and forums at Charters Towers in June 2019 and March 2020, with hundreds of attendees altogether. The purpose of these forums was to have broad conversations with members, non-members, and stakeholders to direct the future of the beef industry, set priorities, and provide networking opportunities. AgForce Cattle Board continuously builds its network with value chain partners to strengthen our influence at local, State and National levels. This includes processors, exporters, research and development organisations, vertically integrated operations, and beef retailers.
Leading strong biosecurity protection
AgForce is recognised biosecurity leaders at the forefront of current research into managing weeds such as giant rat’s tail grass, prickly acacia and fireweed. We help focus research activities, coordinate field days, share research progress and assist with member queries on weed, disease and pest animal control and how to undertake control activities within regulated native vegetation areas.
AgForce has a seat at many tables representing your biosecurity issues and needs. From national feral pig management groups and NFF Farming Systems to state-wide Minister Advisory Councils, pest management committees, and regional working groups, we are there. The AgForce name and brand are well recognised, trusted and respected.
Facilitating ongoing Agvet chemical use
Ongoing access to effective and affordable agvet chemicals and their continuing use is vital to achieving good biosecurity outcomes on-farm. For two years, AgForce has provided practical industry feedback into proposed regulatory Standards for using Schedule 7 agvet chemicals and vertebrate poisons. Queensland’s new Medicines and Poisons Act 2019 has resulted in major reform for all users of agvet chemicals and livestock medicines.
Spray drift issues were addressed by AgForce enabling regional discussion groups across multiple industries to work on localised solutions and promote adherence to agchemical usage stewardship. In addition to regional solutions, AgForce had national representation on spray drift issues through the National Farmers Federation and direct contact with the Federal Department of Agriculture.
Creating biosecurity awareness amongst sunflower visitors
We have elevated general community awareness about biosecurity and respect for farmers, their privacy and paddocks when visiting flowering sunflower crops to take photographs. This collaborative initiative has developed legacy products, signs, and social media messages that can be used by tourist information centres, councils, and growers across south east Queensland. This will ensure visitors can enjoy our rural landscapes while protecting farmers’ income and property.
Tackling the scourge of pasture dieback
AgForce’s lobbying and collaborative efforts resulted in the Australian Government and Meat and Livestock Australia investing $6 million into solving the pasture dieback scourge affecting vast areas of coastal Queensland pastures. We continue to ensure research is focused on the main causes and help communicate progress throughout our producer network. The industry needs a solution for pasture dieback.
Improved member success in securing firearm licenses
Firearms are an essential tool to achieve animal welfare and pest control outcomes on property. Refused Category H (handgun) Firearm Licence applications continue to be a significant issue for primary producers. AgForce’s efforts in providing producers with an application template, detailed information on how to complete an application, and one-on-one personal assistance has been rewarded with more renewal applications being approved by the Queensland Police Service’s Weapons Licensing Branch.
More funding for exclusion fencing
The Sheep & Wool Board have continued to lobby the Queensland and Federal Governments for funding to continue the roll-out of exclusion fencing cluster projects. Sheep producing areas of Queensland have benefited with both private and part-funded State and Federal Government grant schemes. Producers are recognising the benefits, not only in the control of wild dogs but also improved grazing management of paddock feed.
Supported coordinated wild dog control
Wild dogs continue to represent a significant threat to the viability, profitability and expansion of Queensland’s sheep and wool industries. AgForce continues to increase awareness of the impacts of wild dogs across livestock industries and promote integrated pest animal management through the Queensland Wild Dog Coordinator Project. AgForce has been active in monitoring local council baiting campaigns, and in encouraging councils to continue participation in coordinated baiting campaigns to assist primary producers. This has resulted in better control of wild dogs and their impacts.
More flexibility around cattle tick line following review
Landholders can apply to have the Queensland tick line moved in relation to their property’s location under a new system developed by the State Government in consultation with AgForce and other livestock industry stakeholders. A landholder or group of landholders who believe their properties are not in the correct zone can now apply to be rezoned – a more flexible system to better accommodate our producers’ varying circumstances. AgForce will keep working with the State Government and the Department as we advocate for more effective management of the line (eradication procedures and surveillance management).
Minimised COVID-19 disruptions
Through ongoing discussions and representations to state and federal agriculture ministers and local councils, we have helped minimise the disruption to agriculture since the COVID-19-related border closures. This has included having agriculture and its supply chain designated an essential service and working with governments to address impacts on members resulting from closures and restrictions. We have also promoted the value of our high quality, safe food and fibre production to urban populations to reinforce the trusted status farmers have in society.
Helping farmers go home safely at the end of the day
This year, AgForce introduced a new Safety and Workforce Policy Committee devoted to improving on-farm safety and workforce outcomes for members. This Committee is already hard at work to improve safety and workforce outcomes for members by:
- Establishing Farm Safety Workshops where members can attend a one-day AgForce event with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to have their safety questions answered
- Increasing communication with members about the easy steps they can take to improve safety for their family and workforce on-farm
- Actively lobbying the State Health Minister to sign on to the National Partnership Agreement on Q-fever, with the goal of securing further future investment in Q-fever for Queenslanders
- Surveying members on the obstacles to implementing a safety management system to better help them address their specific issues regarding safety in the future.
Promoting agricultural education for the next generation
AgForce has successfully completed the first year of a condensed schools engagement program funded by the Department of Education, Small Business and Training working with the Gateway Schools to Agribusiness. This program, which is continuing in 2020, helps to educate and excite interest in school children about agriculture and can be a pathway to employment in the sector.
Providing industry-relevant training is vital to ensure agriculture’s current and future workforce is ‘job ready’ with the skills our members need in their employees. AgForce participated strongly in the QATC (Ag Training Colleges) transition process ensuring that hard questions were asked, and industry views were made known. AgForce met regularly with the Minister and the QATC Project Management Office. AgForce had membership on the two regional consultation committees and continues to engage strongly with a broader range of interested stakeholders to find a sustainable model and future for the colleges.