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Agriculture Victoria canvasses sheep and goat duty options

Terry Sim, August 16, 2019

VICTORIAN sheep and goat producers are being asked to have their say on potentially increasing the 12-cent sale duty or levy they are charged when an animal is sold.

Agriculture Victoria today asked for industry feedback on whether to maintain or increase the duty, which has been unchanged since it was set at 12 cents in 1999.

The duty review options include no increase, increases to either 19, 28 or 35 cents, or staggered increases; initially to 19 cents and then by three or four cents per head each year for either three or five years.

The Victorian Farmers Federation supported an increase in the duty and is also discussing funding models for its programs, including potentially linking membership to the duty.

Agriculture Victoria Director of Food Regulation and Biosecurity Policy, Angela Brierley, said that the consultation would inform the review of the duty amount.

“This consultation is an opportunity to help determine what is an appropriate level to support programs of benefit to the industry,” Ms Brierley said.

The online consultation opened on the Engage Victoria website on 15 August and will run until 2 September 2019. Feedback will be considered by Agriculture Victoria in September and October this year. The earliest possible Agriculture Victoria expected to make a decision on the ongoing duty amount to be implemented in January 2020.

Agriculture Victoria said producers selling sheep and goats either pay the duty directly to the State Revenue Office, or their livestock agent collects and pays it on their behalf.

Currently, the funds support projects and program benefitting industry, such as raising awareness of biosecurity practices. The Sheep and Goat Compensation Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Minister for Agriculture about expenditure. The fund also allows for compensation to be paid to producers for sheep and goats if they are affected by a declared endemic disease.

Agriculture Victoria said the review comes on the back of the sheep and goat industry going through major reform, having transitioned from a mob-based identification process to an electronic identification system over the last few years.

“The review considers increasing expenditure on programs and projects and the ongoing subsidisation of National Livestock Identification System (Sheep) electronic identification tag costs for producers beyond 2021,” Ms Brierley said.

“There are six options provided for the ongoing sheep and goat duty amount, so we really want to hear from producers and industry regarding which of these they think is the right path.”

VFF supports a duty increase and adequate reserves

VFF Livestock Group president Leonard Vallance said the VFF has been discussing the inadequacy of the current 12-cent duty “and its inability to fulfil its obligations at that level.”

“We are very supportive of a rise in the duty to meet requirements.”

Mr Vallance said the purpose of the sheep fund has changed from the days in which it funded Ovine Johne’s Disease compensation.

“It is no longer fit for purpose for what the Victorian department’s projects do and what our StockSense programs do in proactive preventative extension work in disease control.”

He said the Sheep and Goat Compensation Advisory Committee would meet in mid-September to consider these issues.

“We are unclear as to what would be an adequate level of reserves for the sheep compensation fund to have.

“So the department has been asked to provide an assessment of that which was all subject to the outcome of the review.”

Mr Vallance said the fund’s reserve levels was important.

“If you haven’t got a reserve then the fund can’t do what it should be able to do in the case of exotic disease outbreak response.

“The amount of money in the sheep fund at the moment is less than optimal,” he said.

“We feel there should be an increase in the duty because it has been at that level for nearly 20 years and the value of sheep might have gone up a little bit.”

Mr Vallance said the VFF is also discussing what level of funding is required for current or future programs.

“This is also part of the discussion we have been having about changing the membership of the VFF,” he said.

“We floated that at our conference, that we need to change who the VFF is, how our membership is derived, who’s a member and who’s not a member, how much do you pay and do you want to be a member through levies or do you want pay a membership fee.

”It’s part of a very broader discussion and the levy (duty) rate is pivotal to the success of those discussions.

“Ninety percent of what VFF Livestock does is around animal welfare and disease, so why should only members pay for that when every producer gets the benefit of it?”

For more information on the consultation and to submit your feedback, visit engage.vic.gov.au/sheep-and-goat-duty-review

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