VFF calls on Labor’s new Ministerial team to hit the ground running
Thursday 4 December, 2014


THE Victorian Farmers Federation has called on Labor’s new Ministerial team to hit the ground running on delivering policies and infrastructure that grows the state’s food and fibre production.

“We want to sit down with Premier-elect Daniel Andrews and his team as soon as possible to help lay the groundwork on a raft of rural issues that need to be addressed,” VFF president Peter Tuohey said.

“In particular we’ll need to work with Labor’s new Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford to ensure the roll-out of $30 million in federal drought concessional loans to farmers in the states west and north west. 

“The state will play a crucial role in delivering this funding.” 

Mr Tuohey said rail and road infrastructure were key issues for farmers as they pushed to boost the state’s exports, economy and jobs in the wake of the decline in manufacturing jobs.      

“We need a major injection of funding into the state’s rail freight network to get grain off the roads and onto rail, which will cut farmers freight bills and rural councils road maintenance costs,” he said.

“And there’s still a swag of rural electricity and water infrastructure that needs funding.  

“Our Water Council Chair and staff are keen to discuss the future of the Water Bill 2014 and irrigation infrastructure projects with the new Minister for Water, Environment and Climate Change Lisa Neville. 

The VFF wants a significant proportion of the funds derived from the sale of the lease on the Port of Melbourne ($5b-$6b) and Rural Finance Corporation ($460m) invested back into rural Victoria.

“Food and fibre are the Port’s biggest export sector and RFC was built on farmer finance,” Mr Tuohey said. “So, it’s only fair a large portion of the sale proceeds go to rural Victoria.”

The VFF’s top priorities for discussion with the Andrew’s Government are:

$460m from the sale of the Rural Finance Corporation: The RFC was built on the back of farmer finance. The VFF is calling for the funding from the RFC’s sale to be directed to rural Victoria.   

Upgrade the regional rail freight network: Invest up to $250 million in upgrading and standardising the Mildura rail freight line. Prior to the election Labor said it would not commit to an upgrade until it had seen a business case for the project.

Young Farmers Duty Exemption and Concession Scheme: The scheme allows young farmers (aged 35 and under) buying their first rural property to obtain a full stamp duty exemption on purchases worth up to $300,000 (worth about $13,000). A duty concession applies for purchases of a single parcel of farmland valued in excess of $600,000, but not in excess of $750,000.

Future Harvest: The VFF will be working with the Labor Government to develop the VFF Young Agribusiness Professional’s program – Future Harvest – which is aimed at recruiting 18-35 year old into agricultural careers. And we look forward to working with the Government  on its Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council. 

Right to Farm: Re-establish link between agriculture and developments in the Farming Zone. (The former Coalition Government removed this requirement) 

Fire Services Property Levy: Labor has committed to review the FSPL with a view to making it fairer. The VFF is seeking cap on FSPL paid per hectare, given the high cost of a CIV-based levy on farmers in areas with high land values (e.g peri-urban).

Rates & Local Government: The VFF has highlighted the state’s rural rating system is unfair and the current funding system for local government is unsustainable. The VFF has repeatedly called for an inquiry into local government sustainability

Department of Environment and Primary Industries: In Opposition Labor joined the VFF in raising concerns at the impact of the Coalition’s decision to cut DEPI staffing by 24 per cent. During the election campaign Labor’s Shadow Agriculture Minister committed to review DEPI resourcing. The VFF is concerned at DEPI’s loss of R&D capacity, biosecurity, compliance, enforcement and advisory services. 

o Water Bill 2014: There are many elements of the Bill, which should be implemented. However the VFF is keen to sit down with the new Government to review the bill.
o Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project: Keen to discuss timelines and irrigator concerns with the new Water Minister. 
o Macalister Irrigation District 2030 Project: The VFF will seek a commitment towards the $60 million cost of Stage 1B of the project. 
o Bunyip Food Bowl pipeline: The VFF is keen to discuss the delivery of more recycled water from the eastern Treatment Plant to farmers in the region.

Port of Melbourne: As Victorian agriculture’s export gateway, the Port of Melbourne needs independent oversight. The VFF will seek Government support to appoint the Essential Services Commission oversight of port pricing and access.

$500m Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund: The VFF is keen to see funds allocated to extending the highly successful Cattle Underpass program

o Assisting rural councils with their infrastructure backlogs.

$1 billion over eight years for country roads: The VFF is keen to see this funding allocated to
o Key road freight corridors.
o Bridge upgrades

Drought support: The VFF will work with the Labor Government to Ensure drought-affected farmer have access to financial counselling. The rapid rollout of the $30 million Federal Government drought concessional loans. Monitor the Victorian drought and farmer needs – e.g assistance for water carting. 

$20 million Food Source Victoria Plan: The VFF will work with the Labor Government to identify how this program is managed. Labor’s commitment is to: “Invest $20 million in Food Source Victoria, a new program to build alliances of producers – hailing from the same region and home to the same specialty. The regional alliances will focus on high-quality goods and collectively market their produce for export.

Australian-first Government Procurement Policy: The VFF will seeking Government and will sound out the new members of Victoria’s Upper House to develop a stronger policy within government departments on Australia-First Sourcing.

Onshore Gas: The VFF has a policy of opposing the lifting of the current moratorium on onshore gas until the next state election in 2018. Labor made an election commitment to “maintain a moratorium into non-conventional gas extraction, until such time as science proves that it’s safe and there is broad community support for its application.”

Genetically Modified crops and pastures: The VFF is keen to work with the new Agriculture Minister to develop a consultation process on the development and roll-out of GM pastures and crops.  

Energy: Labor has committed to extend the VEET scheme. If the scheme is to be extended the VFF is keen to ensure farm-based technologies are recognised (deemed) under the VEET. Farmers need to be able to claim VEECs on variable speed drives that deliver efficiency savings of up to 45 per cent on poultry-shed induction fans, irrigation pumps, dairy vacuum and irrigation pumps.

Riparian fencing: The VFF will be seeking a commitment from the Labor Government that riparian (waterway) fencing remains voluntary. The cost of fencing off waterways should be borne by the whole community, not just farmers. 

Murray Park Legislation:  The VFF is opposed to the gazettal of the Murray Park.

Native vegetation: The VFF wants to work with the Labor Government on:
Expanding current exemptions to clear native vegetation.
Rationalise local government overlays, which need to be more targeted.

Farm Biosecurity: The VFF wants to see legislation introduced that protects the biosecurity of farms in the face of animal activist invasions.   

Electronic Identification of sheep: The VFF supports the Government’s position that: “Labor won't be introducing the mandatory electronic tagging of sheep until there is a nationally consistent approach that is affordable for farmers and well supported by industry”.

Grain Trader Licensing: The VFF will be calling on the Labor Government to support its push for licensing of grain traders following a series of trader insolvencies over the past two years that cost growers about $50 million.

Fox Bounty: The VFF will work with the Government on continuing the $10 Fox Bounty.

Media Contacts
Peter Tuohey, VFF President                            0428 952 425 
Tom Whitty, VFF Media Manager                      0417 165 784