APC reaches for broadacre farms

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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WA farmers are divided over whether the legislation governing the Australian Produce Commission in WA should extend its reach to broadacre farming.

The APC operates under legislation which enables producer committees to be formed and collect a fee for service that would be used to benefit those producers.

However, the Act, established in 1988, currently excludes broadacre cropping and grazing, and the commission is gauging appetite on having that restriction removed.

APC chairman Dr William Ryan said the APC wrote to growers earlier this year to request feedback on whether they support a proposed amendment, but received little response.

He said a removal of the exemption did not mean the industry was obliged to set up APC committees.

Dr Ryan gave the example of an avocado committee under the APC.

This industry had decided there were no projects they wanted to undertake, so their fee for service was set at zero.

"There is a lot of flexibility within the Act about what these committees can be used for," Dr Ryan said. "They are very much designed to provide the framework for the industry to embark on activities for the benefit of that industry."

Both the WA Beef Council and Sheep Industry Leadership Council are supportive that the Act be extended to include broadacre faming.

WA Beef Council chairman Tony Hiscock said there was a lot of misconception that an amendment to the Act would automatically lead to more fees.

"If the industry does not want a certain committee, then it won't happen. These committees will only be established if the industry decides there is a need," he said.

"But at the moment even if the broadacre grain or grazing industry did want something, they can't because it's not in the Act to do so."

Mr Hiscock said his group was hearing positive feedback, both directly and indirectly, from producers as well as others along the supply chain in relation to broadacre farming being included.

"I can't say at this stage whether the whole cattle industry would support the formation of a particular committee - a tremendous amount of work would need to be done to establish that - certainly in principle having the Act changed so that industries can pick up that option if they want to makes logical sense," he said.

Sheep Industry Leadership Council chairman Rob Egerton-Warburton said an amendment to the Act would mean individual broadacre industries could focus on specific areas to benefit that particular group.

"There are areas in the sheep industry, or any industry for that matter, that are very locally based or specific," he said.

"An APC committee could focus on areas such as marketing, promotion or quality assurance, that aren't typically funded through the normal networks.

"Therefore, an amendment to the Act would allow an opportunity … to establish such a committee and collect contributions."

But Pastoralists and Graziers Association grain section president John Snook said his organisation opposed the move, saying it would inevitably mean another levy for growers.

"We are burdened with enough levies and are absolutely opposed to having another," he said.

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