OUR POLICY WORK

The VFF Grains Group actively works to represent our members' interests and to provide a unified voice for Victorian grain growers. We are proud that our policy and advocacy work is consistently delivering better outcomes for farmers and their families.

The current policy issues that we are working on are outlined in the table below.

For further information on any of these issues, please contact us
. You can also keep up to date with the issues we are working on by following us on Twitter or subscribing to our fortnightly e-newsletter, Snippets.


 

Addressing insolvencies 
in the grain trade

 
The 
VFF Grains Group supports the need for an open, efficient and transparent market to promote competition in the grains industry. Recent insolvencies in the grains industry, especially in Victoria, have cost the economy approximately $50 million. This also brings significant flow-on costs to rural and regional communities, and has
 wide ramifications for Victorian agriculture, sustainable productivity and the broader economy.

VFF Grains President Brett Hosking presented our Draft Industry Discussion Paper, 
Increasing Professionalism & Accountability of the Grains Industry, to the trade at the Australian Grains Industry Conference in July (the media release can be found here).

We were pleased to see the move from major grain marketers to shortened payment terms this harvest, as a response to pressure from the VFF and from growers. The major marketers are now offering payment terms of 14 days (End of Week) or fewer, a significant reduction from the 30+ days on offer in past seasons. This is a positive step for the industry, and will provide increased payment security for growers.


Managing potential header fire risk



The VFF has worked with the CFA to develop a voluntary grain harvesting guide that provides an objective way to measure and assess the potential fire risk on your property. The Voluntary Grain Harvesting Guide was released on 31 October, and is currently being trialled in the Warracknabeal region. 

The guide is based on the Grassland Fire Danger Index, and is based on a model that has been in operation in South Australia for a number of years. It uses temperature and relative humidity to determine the wind speed at which it is recommended that harvesting operations should stop. 

More information can be found here, or contact us for your copy of the information pack.

Grains contracts, payments & pools 



Grain contracts, payments and pools, are an ongoing issue for grain producers. We have adopted an active three-pronged approach to ensure a competitive and efficient market that promotes the interests of producers. This involves:
  - lobbying industry and government,
  - educating producers, and
  - providing member services.

We lobbied the government for oversight of national pools at Senate Hearings in 2012, and raised the issue of Pools not achieving EPRs with farmers prior to harvest in 2012 at the VFF Pre-Harvest Roadshow (the WEA reports can be found here).

We have also worked hard to increase awareness of the Personal Properties Securities Act (PPSA) and grain contracts at our Conferences and Pre-Harvest Roadshows. Payment terms and title transfer were key areas of focus in the 2014 Roadshow (15-19 Sept), and we were pleased to see that the market has responded to grower pressure by moving to 14 day payment terms this year. 

National grain grower representation



Grain Producers Australia (GPA) is currently the government-appointed industry Representative Organisation for the grains industry.

Among other roles, GPA represents producers on plant biosecurity issues. The Grains Research & Development Corporation also reports to GPA. GPA worked effectively with VFF and other State Farming Organisations (SFOs) in representing producers' interests in the debate over the Wheat Export Marketing Act, as well as other legislative reviews such as that of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which regulates the chemicals approved for use in agriculture.

Storage, handling & transport



Storage, handling and transport are three of the largest cost components to a grain producer’s bottom line. VFF Grains continue to work with bulk handlers and government to ensure that there is adequate competition between providers and investment in infrastructure to deliver the least-cost and most efficient bulk handling, export, and road and rail transport system to producers. VFF Grains also lobbies the Bulk Handling Companies with respect to site investment, segregations, testing, and port competition (see below). 


Competition in grain ports



One of VFF Grains' key focuses since deregulation has been to ensure competitive ports, storage and handling to drive down costs to producers and allow exporters to compete for grain. Access by all exporters to grain ports is essential to ensure this competition occurs. This means exporters must be able to both physically access a port with a vessel, and also see what stock is available up-country so they can bid the price up and accumulate cargoes. Without this, access is ‘impeded’ and competition is reduced.  

Along with GPA and the other SFOs, we were successful in our lobbying efforts to ensure the implementation of a compulsory or ‘Mandatory Code of Conduct’ so that all exporters have access to port infrastructure. Our joint submission in response to the draft Port Access Code can be found here. The mandatory code was released by the Federal Minister for Agriculture on September 19, and will commence on September 30 this year.

Wheat Industry Advisory Taskforce



VFF Grains and other SFOs were also successful in achieving the implementation of a national Wheat Industry Advisory Taskforce to examine related supply chain issues such as ensuring grain quality integrity which has suffered since deregulation in 2008.

Industry structure & consolidation
(e.g. ADM / GrainCorp)



Industry structure and consolidation continues to be a major industry issue, with recent examples including the Glencore takeover of Viterra and Archer Daniels Midland’s intended takeover of GrainCorp.

Our work on the ADM-GrainCorp issue focused on how ADM proposed to operate GrainCorp, as this had the potential to have a significant impact on its competitors' access to port and handling facilities and to stocks information. VFF would be concerned if ADM attempted to introduce a ‘closed-loop’ system in Australia which is a feature of American grain exporting, where exporters predominantly buy into their own bulk handling system and export from them exclusive of other exporters.  


Chemicals regulation & industry stewardship



VFF Grains participated in the review of the APVMA legislation, which impacts how agricultural chemicals being reviewed by the regulator for registration are assessed and/or reassessed over time. VFF Grains' concerns were that the revised legislation may have unintended consequences of chemicals being deregistered and that new and possibly preferable chemistry may not be registered because the regulatory research cost to the chemical companies would be too excessive.

Our approach has been two-fold, firstly to lobby Government to ensure that legislation and regulation does not have unintended consequences and utilises a fact-based framework. Secondly, we have been working with industry to improve grower education, training, systems, and practices. This will enable the industry to demonstrate to the APVMA and broader community appropriate practices and risk management protocols that demonstrate that farmers are good custodians of their land and have more invested than anyone in ensuring safe, responsible, and sustainable food production practices.

Fertiliser pricing & contracts



Fertiliser price volatility has been an ongoing feature of the grains industry. VFF lobbied fertiliser companies at the VFF Grains Conference in 2010 and also appeared at Senate hearings at the time, calling for increased transparency and standardised contracts to ensure fertiliser prices and supply were honoured. The industry has recently introduced standardised contracts, similar to grain contracts, that should increase certainty of price and supply for producers in a volatile market.


Grain receival standards
(e.g. test weight, varieties)

 


VFF Grains actively reviews grain receival standards from our members' perspective. For example, we opposed Grain Trade Australia's proposed increase in test weight for milling wheat from 2010 to 2013. This proposal is again under review and our efforts have been integral in forestalling a change that would have significantly disadvantaged growers.

We also lobbied Wheat Quality Australia in 2012, which saw the upgrading of Scout and Axe wheat varieties to Australian Hard classification for the 2012-13 harvest, with the resultant dollar benefits to growers of that quality of approximately $10 per tonne. In 2011, we were also successful in calling for Wheat Quality Australia and GRDC to commence a program of varietal review to introduce the APH classification to Victoria.