Program 1.10: Agricultural resources

​​​​Program objectives

  • foster and enable productive, profitable, internationally competitive and sustainable primary industries, including food industries
  • improve animal welfare outcomes, including for the export of livestock, by coordinated action at the national and internal levels
  • support the National Registration Scheme for Agricultural and Veterinary (agvet) Chemicals.

Program description

This is a wide-ranging program that encompasses key policy areas for our industries. Under this program we were responsible for policy advice and stakeholder engagement in areas including water reform, agricultural productivity, capitalising on new technologies and building a skilled rural workforce.

We were responsible for delivering regulatory reforms for live​stock exports to ensure animal welfare requirements are met throughout the supply chain, as well as working with industries and other stakeholders on broader animal welfare issues.

We led the development of the National Food Plan, which was launched in May 2013. The department was responsible for supporting Australia’s food security, including maintaining and improving Australian and international food standards. We also worked with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to ensure continued protection of human health and the environment.

More information on agriculture and food.

Through ABARES, we provided professionally independent, world-class multi-disciplinary research, analysis and advice to inform decision-makers within the department and other government departments, industry and private sector stakeholders on significant issues affecting Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries. More information is available at ABARES.

Key performance indicators

Table 11 Program 1.10—Agricultural resources—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator2012–13 targetPerformance
Effective policies, programs and regulations that contribute to enhanced productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainabilityAccurate and timely advice provided aMet
Engage with domestic and international stakeholders on industry issuesFive meetings aMet
Timely development of a National Food PlanPublish Food Plan aMet
Effective and timely contribution to amendments to Australia and New Zealand Food Standards CodeContribute to Food Standards Code aMet
Timely publication of annual Australian Food Statistics reportPublish in FebruaryMetPartially metMet
Timely development and implementation of the strategy and the associated actions for research and developmentFinalise strategy Implement actions a Partially met
Effective engagement with states and territories to delivery productivity workplanDeliver productivity workplan a Partially met
Work with jurisdictions on the development of priority national welfare standards100% aMet
Provision of funding to continue implementation of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy100% of funds committedMetMet
Improve assistance to official development assistance eligible countries that import livestock from Australia by providing training and improving their capacity to implement OIE animal welfare standards5–7 projects aMet
Maintain effective distribution of funding to help deliver improved animal welfare outcomes in existing and new approved supply chains100% of available funds distributed Partially metMet
Work with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to implement reforms to its systems and processes in a timely manner in accord with legislationImplement APVMA reforms a Partially met 
Progress reforms to the national agvet chemicals system in partnership with the states and territoriesImplement
reforms a
Partially met 
All levy funds paid to portfolio agencies100%MetMetMet
Timely and effective engagement with portfolio agencies to ensure compliance with statutory funding agreement (as relevant), legislation and to discuss industry activitiesTwo meetingsMetPartially metMet
Scientific and economic research
Underpinning research, advice, forecasts, projects, products and data services are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality85% aMetPartially met

a New performance indicator.


Food policy

Delivering the National Food Plan

The National Food Plan was launched in May 2013, and aimed to ensure a more integrated, coordinated and strategic focus on food policy along the supply chain.

The delivery of the National Food Plan followed two-and-a-half years of work that involved 16 Australian Government portfolios and 55 agencies. Its delivery marked the culmination of a comprehensive consultation process with a range of stakeholders and the community.

In June 2013, applications opened for the Community Food Grants program, to support the establishment or improvement of community initiatives such as farmers’ markets, food cooperatives, food hubs, community gardens and city farms.

Building food standards

We worked with the Department of Health and Ageing to develop government positions on proposed amendments to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. These included a new standard for the regulation of nutrition and health claims on food labels, which ensures such claims are scientifically robust while supporting industry innovation.

We also worked to advance Australia’s interests through the development of the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s international food standards (see Program 1.13) and by advocating for trade-enabling regulatory outcomes in our export markets.

We continued work with the food industry and state and territory governments to mitigate risks and maintain continuity of the food supply in a major emergency.

Live animal exports

Delivering livestock export reforms

In 2012, we completed implementing the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) regulatory framework in all but one of Australia’s markets, in line with the recommendations of the independent review of Australia’s livestock export trade (Farmer r​​eview). The only exception was Egypt, where the regulations are addressed through a government-to-government agreement.

The implementation of ESCAS was a significant milestone in the reform of the livestock export trade and was made possible through the collaborative efforts of government, industry bodies and exporters. More than 2.8 million sheep, cattle and goats have been exported since the implementation of ESCAS.

We also completed a review of the need for additional conditions for the export of breeder livestock. The review looked at the current system and processes and identified improvements to better ensure the welfare of exported breeder livestock.

Reviewing livestock export standards

We completed a review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and the Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group, in line with the Farmer review’s recommendations. The review steering committee engaged stakeholders across the livestock export chain, as well as the broader community through targeted consultation.

The final report contains details of the review findings on the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for the Export of Livestock and proposes terms of reference for a new standards advisory process to replace Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group.

Reviewing livestock inspections

We reviewed livestock inspection proc​edures at the Fremantle port. The review was to ensure that a thorough individual animal inspection is conducted by a department accredited veterinarian, as required under the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and in line with the recommendations of the Farmer review.

The final report made recommendations to improve inspections in all states and territories that export livestock. Most of the recommendations were referred to the Livestock Export Standards Advisory Group Review Steering Committee. The department consulted the states and territories on the implementation of one recommendation, with another recommendation to be implemented through regulatory and administrative arrangements.

Supporting supply chain improvements

We completed the program to encourage industry investment in approved supply chains in Australian livestock export markets. The program provided a reimbursement of 25 per cent of eligible investments in the ESCAS approved supply chains.

At the request of the livestock export industry, we reviewed and amended the grant guidelines to broaden the scope of eligible activities. However, there was limited uptake of the program, with applications received from eight exporters and one peak industry body. The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Supporting animal welfare overseas

The Improved Animal Welfare Program made significant progress in delivering projects and activities to support improved animal welfare outcomes in eligible countries that import livestock from Australia for slaughter.

We worked closely with agencies in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to support improvements and provided funding to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to develop and deliver training on the OIE’s animal welfare standards. The OIE successfully delivered training courses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey.

Animal welfare

Supporting Australian animal welfare

In February 2013, the AAWS launched its redeveloped website, providing improved accessibility for users and provide more comprehensive information on key animal use sectors and international activities (see Australian animal welfare).

The AAWS co-sponsored the World Society for the Protection of Animals to facilitate a second national workshop on planning for animals in natural disasters, and continues to sponsor implementation of the OIE Regional Strategy for Asia, the Far East and Oceania. The department chairs the coordination group for the strategy and provides secretariat support.

Building animal welfare standards

We contributed to the development of draft standards and guidelines for cattle and for sheep and the associated regulatory impact statement. The draft standards and impact statement were released for public consultation in March 2013. More information on animal welfare standards and guidelines.

International engagement

We maintained our commitment and support to the OIE’s animal welfare work. In November 2012, Australia participated in the third OIE global animal welfare conference in Malaysia, providing a number of presentations and chairing sessions.

The fifth meeting of the cooperative forum on animal welfare between Australia and the European Union was held in March 2013. The forum meets annually to review animal welfare issues associated with production and companion animals, animals in research, testing and teaching and animals in entertainment.

Australia chaired quarterly meetings of the quadrilateral animal welfare working group of countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States). A key focus was the development of international technical specifications for animal welfare. These are designed to encourage operators and governments to conform to the OIE standards and promote harmonisation of animal welfare standards, focusing on farm animals whose products are intended for human consumption.

Informing agricultural policy

Plant genetic resources

We facilitated agreement between the states and research and development corporations on the consolidation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture into a national centre. In conjunction with the already agreed Australian Grains Genebank, this fulfilled the 2006 decision by the Standing Council on Primary Industries (SCoPI) to establish a national centre. The centre will commence operations later in 2013.

Agricultural biotechnology

We collaborated with a group of countries to develop a joint statement on innovative agricultural production technologies. The statement outlines the intention to share information, encourage constructive dialogue on agricultural biotechnologies and promote science-based regulatory approaches that foster innovation and ensure a safe and reliable global food supply. The statement has been endorsed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Republic of Paraguay and the United States, as well as Australia.

Water reform

We advised the minister on the implications of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan for portfolio industries and other issues relating to broader water reform. The Basin Plan continued to be a focus of activity. We worked closely with the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, as well as other agencies to ensure the views of portfolio stakeholders were represented in policy deliberations on water reform.

In March 2013, ABARES released the report 'Meeting environmental objectives in the Murray–Darling Basin'. The report highlighted the need for policy tools that allow environmental water managers to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

The report identified options to help reduce the level of uncertainty that might accompany the entry of large environmental water managers into the water market and to mitigate the risk that poorly defined water storage rights could lead to environmental water managers adversely affecting other water users, particularly irrigators.

Managing agvet chemicals

Regulatory reform

We worked with state and territory governments towards increasing efficiency in agricultural and veterinary chemicals regulation and reducing the regulatory burden on businesses. SCoPI finalised an intergovernmental agreement, a funding model and regulatory model in May 2013. The Australian Government agreed to fund a National Produce Monitoring System pilot project to better inform future regulatory arrangements.

The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment Act 2013 was passed by Parliament in June 2013. These reforms, which are due to commence on 1 July 2014, seek to improve the effectiveness of the APVMA’s current arrangements and provide greater certainty to the community that agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines used in Australia are safe.

The Agvet Chemical Regulation Committee was created in March 2013 to replace the National Agvet Systems Policy Taskforce. The committee aimed to assist the Primary Industries Standing Committee (PISC) to develop strategic policy for the national agvet chemical regulatory system and implement the reforms. The department chaired the committee in 2013 and provided secretariat support.

International engagement

The department attended five international advisory meetings on agvet chemicals. In 2013, Australia became the Vice-Chair of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Working Group on Pesticides. The working group helps member countries harmonise activities relating to pesticide regulation and risk reduction. This includes developing systems for sharing information and discussing ways to reduce risks to human health and the environment.

Building rural research and development

Rural Research and Development Policy Statement

In July 2012, the Australian Government released its Rural Research and Development Policy Statement. The statement included the government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s report on rural research and development corporations and to the Rural Research and Development Council’s national strategic investment plan.

Following stakeholder consultation, legislation was introduced into Parliament to establish systemic refinements to research and development corporations in line with the policy statement. We progressed non-legislative actions associated with the policy statement, including preparing a resource to help rural researchers find private funding and promoting the Research and Development Tax Incentive to rural businesses.

Further work is needed to implement the policy statement and the department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Research and development corporations

We worked with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), the Sugar Research and Development Corporation (SRDC) and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to develop their new research and development plans. These plans demonstrate that the research and development corporations’ programs align with the Rural Research and Development Priorities and the National Research Priorities.

The department worked with the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL) to finalise its 2012–16 strategic plan and statutory funding agreement. The new agreement incorporates recommendations following an independent performance review of AECL and enhances its governance arrangements.

Scientific and economic research

Agricultural commodities

The data and forward looking information in the Agricultural commodities, Australian crop report and Australian commodity statistics were used extensively across the department for briefing and policy and program development on a range of issues affecting Australia’s agricultural and food sector. These included the prospects for rural exports, the impact of a high Australian dollar, live cattle and sheep exports and import competition for horticultural products.

Agricultural commodities was released quarterly and provided the outlook for Australia’s key agricultural commodities over the short to medium term. The Australian crop report, also published quarterly, provided a consistent and regular assessment of crop prospects for major field crops, estimates of area, yield and production and a summary of seasonal conditions on a state-by-state basis.

Complementing these reports is Australian commodity statistics, published annually. This is a compendium of historical statistics covering the agriculture, fisheries, food and forestry sectors and provides a set of comprehensive statistical tables on Australian and world production, consumption, stocks and trade for nearly 20 commodities.

Stakeholder engagement

The ABARES national Outlook 2013 conference, seven regional Outlook conferences and the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reached more than 1500 participants. In partnership with federal, state and territory organisations, ABARES shared its research and analysis across Australia in person with communities and online through Twitter and YouTube. Through Regional Outlook conferences, ABARES consulted stakeholders for the What Asia Wants and Moving Food studies under the National Food Plan.

A commitment to investing in research and development was showcased with the presentation of the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry at the Outlook 2013 conference. The awards were open to scientists aged 18–35 and were financially supported by the research and development corporations. Awards were made to 12 innovative projects, all aiming to keep Australia’s rural industries sustainable and profitable.

Farm surveys data

Our farm surveys data were used extensively to understand a range of issues affecting Australia’s agricultural sector and to inform policy advice on the levels and structure of farm debt on broadacre and dairy farms and the use of Farm Management Deposits. ABARES analysed its survey data to provide advice on farm business financial indicators, supporting the development of a standardised assessment methodology for farm household support payments.

During the year we produced a new series of 49 regional profiles covering the whole of Australia, based on the boundaries set by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Each profile presents an overview of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors in the region and the recent financial performance of the broadacre and, where relevant, dairy industries.

Blueprint for Australian Agriculture

ABARES provided technical assistance to the National Farmers’ Federation to develop its Blueprint for Australian Agriculture. The blueprint aims to inform and direct policy development and innovation for the agricultural sector and its supply chain in the short and long term.

Following a request for further information, ABARES provided a report to the National Farmers’ Federation in December 2012 on top priority focus areas identified by the blueprint advisory committee for further consideration.

Agricultural productivity

ABARES collaborated with the United States and Canada to develop comparable measures of agricultural productivity. Funded by the RIRDC, the study found that over the past 50 years Australia’s agricultural productivity has been maintained relative to the United States and has improved relative to Canada. This is despite challenges such as climate variability, remoteness from global markets and a smaller capacity for rural research and development.

Other productivity studies included an examination of how closer vertical coordination in agriculture can reduce the costs of guaranteeing product quality, by improving information flows along value chains. ABARES concluded there is a role for government to encourage innovation in business practices and marketing, secure access to overseas markets and reduce transaction costs that act as a barrier to farmers participating in value chains.

ABARES assessed policy areas reviewed by the Productivity Commission in its 2007 Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business, to identify areas of unnecessary regulation that could be improved to raise productivity in Australia’s agriculture and forestry industries.

More information about ABARES reports and publications released during the year.


Livestock exports

As the independent regulator of livestock exports, the department has undertaken a number of investigations in response to claims from third parties of animal welfare and regulatory breaches. The department investigates each allegation it receives of animal cruelty, as maintaining animal welfare standards is central to our work.

Some of our investigations resulted in department taking action including the removal of facilities from approved supply chains, requiring exporters to provide further information about proposed exports and issuing directions to be complied with by export licence holders.

In some cases, we also applied additional conditions to export approvals, such as requirements for supply chain officers to be in place to oversee operations in approved supply chains, further reconciliation requirements to account for animals in supply chains and additional auditing and reporting.

Agricultural productivity work plan

The work plan comprises a number of projects being delivered by Australian, state and territory government agencies under PISC. Project topics include building the agricultural workforce and business planning and farm management. A project on water reform has been completed, while several projects were revised to ensure continued relevance and improved outcomes.

The delays were largely related to resource constraints, competing priorities and the need to align with changing government policy.

The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Agvet chemicals

There were significant challenges in delivering the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agvet chemicals reforms. The proposed framework sought to harmonise a number of contentious elements that were outside the Australian Government’s legislated powers. However, through the leadership of the National Agvet Systems Policy Taskforce the reform package was delivered to COAG in December 2012 and an intergovernmental agreement was signed in May 2013.

A number of challenges remain to implementing the agvet chemicals reforms, which are due to commence on 1 July 2014. These relate to the complexity and range of reform measures required, balancing the needs and views of diverse stakeholders, undertaking parallel reforms to state and territory processes and enabling the APVMA to undertake its business-as-usual role while implementing the reforms.

The department’s targets for these key performance indicators were ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Sugar industry research and development reform

In September 2012, the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance put forward a proposal to reform sugar research and development arrangements. Under the reforms, the SRDC and the industry-owned research provider BSES Limited would be wound-up and their assets and research and development functions, along with the research coordination activities of Sugar Research Limited, transferred to the industry-owned company, Sugar Research Australia Limited.

The Alliance sought implementation by 1 July 2013. We developed legislation that provided the mechanism to implement key elements of this major reform. This involved extensive consultation with industry and other stakeholders, including the SRDC. The legislation was passed by Parliament in June 2013.

Scientific and economic research

ABARES identified an increased risk of not meeting its external revenue targets, largely attributable to reduced project funding from other Australian Government agencies and the department’s tightening fiscal environment. This risk is forecast to continue into 2013–14.​

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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