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Agricultural chemical bill passes: More red tape for farmers

15 May 2013

The passing of the agricultural and veterinary chemicals amendment Bill by the lower house of Federal Parliament today is potentially another cost and regulatory burden for the agricultural sector, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today said.

NFF President Duncan Fraser said the Bill, designed to make the system under which chemicals are registered for use in Australia more efficient, could actually have an adverse effect and add an extra layer of regulation for farmers – at a time when the Government has committed to cutting red tape.

“While we welcome the Government’s response to NFF calls to delay the implementation of the Bill for one year, allowing farmers and our regulatory systems to prepare for the changes, they have not resolved some of the underlying problems with the Bill,” Mr Fraser said.

“We have called for the Government to take a strategic approach to agricultural and veterinary chemical regulatory reform, aimed at improving the efficiency of the regulatory body that oversees chemical use in Australia, but unfortunately the Bill does not achieve this. In fact, what we have seen today is far from strategic, but rather the Government disregarding its own commitment to cutting onerous regulation by slapping yet another regulation on agricultural and veterinary chemicals in the introduction of mandatory re registration, without any demonstration that this will not increase farmers’ costs.

“Agricultural chemicals are essential for Australian farmers to continue to produce food and fibre for the nation, and the world, yet today’s decision may mean that our farmers may lose access to the safe and effective products on which they depend to manage pests and weeds.

“The Government has consistently told us that this regulatory reform, which includes the mandatory re registration of all products, will not be a significant cost to our farmers. Yet in developing these changes, the Government did not undertake a clear analysis of the costs and benefits, despite repeated calls for them to do so – so they have no clear idea of the costs that farmers will face. As such, we now call on the Government to ensure the proposed changes will not have adverse impacts on the costs of chemicals for farmers, and the availability of safe and effective chemicals in the Australian market.

“Essentially, what farmers need is a system of chemical regulation that ensures that new chemicals can be tested, and once deemed safe for both human health and the environment through a risk based approach, can be allowed onto the Australian market in a timely and cost effective way. But today’s legislative changes could potentially lead to less chemical products on the market – not due to environmental and health concerns – but rather the commercial decision by chemical companies not to re-register products due to the cost and burden of doing so.

“The changes could also lead to a delay in the introduction of new and safer chemical products onto the Australian market, and higher prices for agricultural and veterinary chemicals for farmers at a time when our farmers are already facing very high input costs.

“The Government does not have a great deal of influence over many of the increased pressures on farm profitability, like the high Australian dollar, but this is one area where the Government does have direct influence. Yet today, less than 24 hours after the release of the Federal Budget and its farm household support payment, it cannot rule out that this Bill could lead to increased cost pressures on farm businesses,” Mr Fraser said.

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