Best practice grains guide

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

The national grains industry stewardship program, now referred to as the National Grain Guide, has been released with the support of eight grain industry bodies across Australia.

Several years in the making, the guide, titled Growing Australian Grain: Safely Managing Risks with Crop Inputs and Grain On Farm, was launched at the Australian Grains Industry Conference in Melbourne on Monday.

But while the guide is a voluntary code, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association continues to oppose its introduction, saying it will inevitably be used for the development of a regulatory approach to stewardship in the grains industry in the future.

According to PGA western grain growers chairman John Snooke, the reason for the development of the guide remained spurious at best.

"The guide disappointingly does not acknowledge that 99.9 per cent of farmers knowingly adopt the right practices for their individual businesses," he said.

"The PGA believes the content of the guide will inevitably be a base-line regulation for a future nationally mandated stewardship program and will always oppose such a measure."

However, according to Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann, the guide is a voluntary, self-help program built on best management practices, taking a positive approach to managing on-farm risks in all forms.

Mr Weidemann said the guide stepped through the processes and protocols required to meet local and global obligations and commitments, tracing all farm inputs including chemicals, fertilisers, machinery, equipment and grain storage.

He said the guide also covered weeds, pests, diseases, biosecurity issues and farm health and hygiene.

"What we do on-farm today has very wide implications, with consumers wanting to know more about how their food is grown and what happens during the production process," he said.

"Everyone is aware of steps such as testing for chemical residues, but there is a much bigger picture and the grains guide will help demonstrate that Australian grain growers, working within a combination of regulatory standards and good practices, are active managers of potential risks to grain quality and integrity, as well as risks to staff and others involved with fertilisers, farm chemicals and farm equipment.

"In developing this guide, we examined each step in the on-farm cropping cycle, identified the risks and responsibilities involved, then produced a checklist that individual grain growers can use or adapt to suit their farm."

The guide integrates and incorporates more than 30 industry and government codes of practice, regulations and legislation and risk management criteria into a single framework.

It captures the steps in all farming operations via a pro forma list of annual activities and actions, from pre-planting through to production, harvesting, storage and transport, with safety an important element.

The guide has been given the thumbs up from both WAFarmers and the WA Grains Group, with both being part of the consultation and design process.

WA Grains Group chairman Doug Clarke said the guide illustrated to buyers that they could rely on Australian grain.

"With this guide the grain industry now has a national plan that fits with the tightening phytosanitary requirements of nations that import our products, so that governments do not overreact should there be a one-off or minor incursion," he said.

Growers can download the guide at www.grainproducers.com.au .

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