We have made a response to the State Government’s proposed reforms for animal industries, a summary of our key areas of concern and recommendations is below. Thank you to Amanda McLaren from Yapunyah, Kelvin Slade from Willow Zen, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, Sustain, Darren Doherty, Cr. Sebastian Klein and all the producers who completed our survey for informing this submission.

 

Key Areas of Concern to MFM

  1. Increased regulatory burden: 91% of farmers surveyed by MFM believed the proposed regulations would not reduce the amount of red tape their business faces, due both to permit requirements regardless of farming system (grazing or intensive) and setbacks in the Farming Zone. The proposed regulations as they stand will increase the regulatory burden imposed on small scale producers, and see the majority of producers in MFM’s network adversely impacted and their business development opportunities impeded.
  2. Uneven playing field for small vs. intensive producers: Excluding pastured poultry and pig farmers in the grazing animal category, and requiring pastured producers to obtain permits for their operations in the Farming Zone creates inequity between how different pastured grazing animals are treated by the proposed regulations.  The reforms in this instance are not meeting the objective of delivering a “graduated approach to planning controls based on risk.” A concern of MFM’s is that small scale, yet commercially oriented pastured pig and poultry farmers will be assessed as if they were running the same as large-scale intensive or export-focused producers, when in fact they are entirely different systems based on their farming practices (grazing vs intensive).
  3. Impact on rural and regional development: The long term economic development of many rural and regional areas will be threatened by the increased burden on a community wide scale if numerous small farm businesses cease employing locally and spending locally. The proposed regulations will stifle, not liberate, small farming communities. Young farmers looking to enter the agriculture sector will be further restricted in the land available to buy or rent when having to consider 100 or 200m setbacks as ‘dead’ land they are restricted in using.
  4. Consumer sentiments: rural and urban: The average annual spend on pasture-raised pig and poultry products by a metropolitan Melbourne shopper at MFM markets is $1,700; for a rural or regional respondent it is $980. This indicates that metropolitan Melbourne consumers of pasture-based animal products are significant contributors to the economic lives of these farms and choose to support them for reasons other than ‘supporting their local community’.  Urban consumers are engaged and passionate about this issue and will voluntarily contribute their own time and energy to support the businesses and farming systems they believe in.

 

MFM’s Recommendations

  1. Simplify the categories of animal production systems to ‘Grazing Animal Production’ and ‘Intensive Animal Production’. Remove the categories of ‘Pig Farm’ and ‘Poultry Farm’ and instead categorise those producers by their farming methods.
  2. For new housing developments in the Farming Zone, buffer distances from farming operations should be maintained on any property where new dwellings are proposed to be built to ensure that dwellings (or other sensitive uses) are built away from farming operations.
  3. Base permit trigger points on livestock stocking densities or nutrient management loads, rather than numbers of livestock. Utilising livestock density is more reflective of farming methods and potential impact on landscape and amenity than stock numbers.
  4. Complete a Regulatory Impact Statement of the proposed reforms urgently, and allow more time to consult with the wider community regarding these proposals. The likely impact of the proposed reforms on all stakeholders, including community, councils, developers, farming businesses, affiliate organisations like MFM and individuals need to be ascertained before any reforms are finalized.

You can read our submission in full: MFM Planning For Animal Industries Submission