IN THIS SECTION:
Access to Markets
Achieving new export market opportunities and reducing trade distortions within global markets is essential for Australia’s farmers, who export some 60 percent of their produce.
The NFF supports foreign investment into Australian agriculture and recognises the important role it has and will continue to play in a vibrant agriculture supply chain. It has delivered significant amounts of capital into our production systems which has improved our efficiency and ensured that our farmers can continue to compete in a highly distorted global marketplace for agricultural commodities.
In recent years the amount of foreign investment coming into the sector has risen significantly. Much of this increased investment can be attributed to the ongoing competitiveness of the Australian agricultural sector and the widespread recognition that Australian agriculture is on the cusp of a considerable period of growth. In light of this, Australian agriculture needs the appropriate framework to continue to attract foreign investment and but to also ensure that it remains in the best interest of both the sector and the nation.
The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is responsible for assessing whether foreign investment is in Australia’s best interest. The NFF supported recent amendments to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975, including the requirement that the FIRB apply a $15 million cumulative screening threshold for agricultural land and $55 million for agribusiness, will help to ensure that due consideration is given to foreign ownership coming into the sector. These amendments also provide for more transparency by establishing a register of foreign ownership of agricultural land and water. Additionally, the FIRB has been provided with resources to assess foreign investment through the implementation of a capped cost-recovery model when foreign investors are screened.
- Ensure that foreign investment adheres to Australian law, especially tax and competition law and complies with existing and new industry production and/or transaction levies.
- Continue to ensure the FIRB is well resourced to undertake clear assessment of investment proposals, and post-approval monitoring of any investment conditions.
- Harmonise the legislated time frames for assessing foreign investment with other the regulatory time frames, including the ACCC mergers and acquisitions impact assessment.
- Attract future foreign investment by creating clarity in the FIRB approval process for foreign investors and by maintaining an active FIRB presence overseas.
The NFF believes that agriculture must be at the heart of any trade agreement being negotiated by Australia and that the Australian Government must strongly pursue full and open access for all Australian agricultural products.
The NFF is of the firm view that agricultural trade needs to be free and liberalised and distortions such as tariffs, subsidies and other technical market access barriers should be removed. In contrast to almost all OECD countries, Australia provides no trade distorting measures, little or no subsidies and the sector relies on a free an open trading environment to ensure ongoing profitability.
- Continue to pursue completion of commercially advantageous trade agreements that provide improved opportunities for Australian farmers and agribusinesses
- Ratify signed trade agreements such as the (Trans Pacific Partnership) to ensure they come into effect swiftly.
- Ensure the agricultural sector is at the centre of trade negotiations to adequately address unique requirements to the trade in agricultural goods such as biosecurity standards.
- Increase resources to address technical market access issues including by expanding the number of agricultural counsellors.
- Safeguard Australia’s biosecurity system by allocating adequate resources to protect our production capacity, and underpin a strong science and evidence-based regime.
Also available are the NFF media releases re recent trade announcements: the Feb 2016 release re Trans Pacific Partnership; the October 2015 release re bipartisan support for the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Cairns Group Farm Leaders
The NFF is the Chair and secretariat for the Cairns Group Farm Leaders - a forum of global farm organisations from the 18 'Cairns Group' nations.
Established in 1998, the Cairns Group Farm Leaders represent millions of farmers dedicated to free trade. Farmers recognise, more than most, the need to free-up international markets.
World Farmers' Organisation
The NFF is a member of the international agricultural advocacy body, the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO). The WFO brings together national farming bodies from across the globe to create policy and advocate on behalf of the world’s farmers - providing benefits to Australian farmers.
WFO’s mandate is to advocate on behalf of the world’s farmers for the improved livelihoods of producers, their families and rural communities. It provides international representation of farmers at key international forums, like the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The NFF regards competition within the marketplace as a major driver of industry innovation, investment and international competitiveness. It is critical that competition laws are effective at maintaining and improving competition across the agricultural supply chain.
Agriculture relies upon open and transparent marketplaces that promote competition within agricultural supply chains, thus enabling farmers to get the best price for their produce. The farming sector is fragmented, made up of small to medium sized businesses in remote areas with limited access to market information. Fluctuations in input costs, limitations in infrastructure and the perishable nature of produce leave some farmers in an economically vulnerable position.
Currently, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) does not provide sufficient protection against anti-competitive behaviour from firms with substantial market power. The government commissioned an independent review of competition legislation, the Harper Review, in 2015. The review looked at competition policy across the economy and focussed on Section 46 and the proposed effects test. NFF supports the vast majority of the suggested recommendations.
To ensure a fair, competitive and transparent marketplace, the NFF supports the following measures:
- Amend section 46 of the CCA to replace the existing purpose test with an ‘effects test’, shifting the onus of proving a company’s purpose of conduct to the effect the conduct had on markets.
- Raise awareness about the Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit and provide resources for small businesses to facilitate their engagement in the ACCC processes.
- Ensure proposed changes to the Horticulture Code of Conduct and other Code of Conducts relevant to agriculture are implemented and monitored to assist farmers in dealings across the supply chain.
Also available are NFF media releases re recent competition announcements: the February 2016 Release re support for the effects test; the November 2015 Release re calling for the continuing case for legislation to Section 46 of the CCA.
The NFF believes that Australian consumers should be provided with clear information to enable them to make informed choices about the food they purchase and consume – and, as a result, we are supportive of efforts to improve truth in labelling.
We also believe that Australian farmers should have the opportunity to capitalise on their reputation for producing clean, green and quality food and fibre, by generating premiums for this reputation wherever possible – and again, labelling can play an important role here.
While the predominant driver of food labelling is providing consumers with information regarding nutrition and health, our focus in the labelling policy debate has traditionally been on the issue of country of origin labelling. In recent times, however, the NFF has also expanded its policy interest into the labelling of other consumer attributes, such as genetically modified (GM) produce, environmental claims and farm production methods as the debate around labelling in these areas has increased.
While we support voluntary measures to provide information about non-health related attributes in labelling, we also acknowledge that this issue is very complex. The NFF's guiding principles around labelling are that labelling laws must be practical to implement, should not impose unreasonable costs, and must not lead to adverse trade implications.
NFF NATIONAL CONGRESS
Talking 2030 Roundtables