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Australian grain producers are calling for a bipartisan and collaborative approach to genuinely improve the regulation of pesticides, which play a vital role in underpinning the nation’s safe and sustainable grain production systems.

Grain Producers Australia RD&E Spokesperson, Andrew Weidemann AM, said recent revelations about the APVMA’s performance had triggered a slew of salacious, politicised media reporting – and another review, with a range of potential consequences. HERE

“Amid sensationalist headlines, political finger pointing, multiple reports and performance reviews and ongoing leadership changes at the APVMA, we need to remember some salient facts,” he said.

“The APVMA’s ongoing assessment and approval of pesticides that are safe for the environment and human health has helped deliver two national record grain crops over the past two seasons, totalling about 140 million tonnes and valued at close to $60 billion,” he said.

“Producers will and do inevitably wear the costs of any inefficiencies; either through cost-shifting or the opportunity cost of vitally important products not being approved for on-farm use.

“That’s why GPA supports an independent regulator with a science-based and evidence-based approach to conducting product approvals and assessments in an efficient manner.”

Mr Weidemann said growers wanted genuine solutions and did not support the APVMA’s politicisation and use as a political football.

“We need genuine efforts with all stakeholders working collaboratively to future-proof the system, with continuous improvement at the forefront of performance,” he said.

“Let’s not forget people are also key to the APVMA’s performance whether the Authority’s head office is located in Canberra, Armidale or anywhere else.

“Politicising the regulator will only diminish its capacity to attract and retain the best, and most capable staff, with the expertise needed to balance good regulatory compliance with efficiencies that ensure farmers’ needs are met, and not strangled by red tape and needless bureaucracy.

“This has always been the APVMA’s core challenge – long before Barnaby Joyce or Murray Watt’s time as Agriculture Minister.

“Minister Watt now has another opportunity to deliver real, lasting reforms through firm action.

“GPA looks forward to engaging and supporting him and the government in delivering these results, through the rapid evaluation of the APVMA’s structure and governance, as announced on Friday.”

Mr Weidemann said GPA had originally expressed concerns about the APVMA relocation in 2016 and potential loss of expertise, with direct impacts on product approvals and future efficiencies. HERE

The report from the rapid evaluation of the APVMA is due to be provided to Minister Watt by September 30 this year, making recommendations on future governance, structure and funding arrangements.

GPA welcomes constructive engagement in the review process, to be conducted by former public servant Mr Ken Matthews AO, and further collaboration with other APVMA stakeholders.

Mr Weidemann said GPA also noted the Minister’s comments about the Clayton Utz review, and the report on it that he released last week “does not indicate any instances where ag-vet chemicals have been registered inappropriately. Indeed, several programs that monitor pesticide residues in agricultural produce and the environment, including the National Residue Survey, have not raised any concerns.”

“GPA cautions against any politicisation of the APVMA which could see key facts such as this one lost and subverted, in the blind rush to win votes, score points or sling mud,” he said.

“This approach will only serve to weaken the system and embolden the cause of extreme activists who ideologically oppose the use of all pesticides in food production, regardless of any scientific facts and evidence.

“Ultimately farmers and consumers will pay the price for this reckless approach, which also poses serious risks for all Australians, as we confront a major cost-of-living crisis.”

Mr Weidemann said GPA welcomed the Albanese Government’s commitment to take firm action and ensure the integrity of Australia’s agriculture and veterinary chemicals regulation system.

He said within this reform process, the Federal Government can also consider a deeper underlying issue for the APVMA, outside of its location and accusations of pork barrelling. That being, the fact it serves two masters – but only one of them provides a source of funding, to do the job properly.

“If the APVMA’s performance is measured against the need to ensure public health and environmental safety outcomes, as well as deliver commercial products to ensure farmers produce food that’s safe, sustainable and affordable, then a more equitable funding balance/source should also be considered,” he said.

“We also note the following comments by CropLife Australia, in their media release pertaining to this matter and relevant accountability.”

“Australia is the only OECD nation whose regulator is entirely funded by an industry fees and levies cost recovery model. CropLife would welcome a genuine funding commitment from the Australian Government, to the APVMA aligning it with other global regulators such as Canada, the USA, the EU and many others. However, while it’s been confirmed that the cost recovery arrangements of the APVMA do not result in inappropriate industry influence on the Regulators’ decisions, any such perceptions could be eliminated entirely through government funding of the Regulator.”



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