Primary Producers SA (PPSA) wants the March state election to be a time when the huge contribution to the SA economy of food, wine and fibre is acknowledged with action to help improve the competitiveness of the sector.
Food, wine and fibre exports have increased by more than 50 per cent over the last decade, while non-agricultural merchandise exports have not increased.
Agriculture has contributed more than the overall 20pc increase.
It underlines the importance of the primary production sector.
We are 25pc of the economy and one in five jobs in the state are associated with the food industry.
The cost of doing business is the biggest issue for primary producers: competing not only interstate but internationally; any extra costs harm the industry and reduce exports and jobs.
Energy and water costs are hurting some industries badly, particularly irrigators and intensive industries, whether livestock or horticulture.
PPSA would like to see the large increases in NRM levies and the Emergency Services Levy addressed.
These levies have hit the bottom line directly, reducing competitiveness.
Transport is another major cost.
The current 90-day transport project is making major progress in reducing these costs, and we would like all parties to commit to supporting this unique partnership of industry and government departments.
Much of this reform has been done cheaply, and very targeted capital spending is seeing major improvements.
The increase in high volume access, the identification of route weak spots, and reforms of regulations regarding machinery movements are vital to industry.
PPSA want reform of the NRM system.
It has lost the confidence of many primary producers, who feel it is too bureaucratic and has a “top down” focus.
We want NRM boards to control their own budgets and staff.
There is a strong feeling that there are too many glossy documents and not enough “on ground action”.
PPSA also call for an independent review of water planning and management costs, as SA signed up to with the National Water Initiative but has not done.
PPSA is not anti-development, but believes agricultural land needs to be valued, and a long term view taken when development decisions are made.
Planning changes and mining can alienate and devalue agricultural land.
We must preserve the safe and clean image of our produce.
With exploration and mining, good process, consultation, compliance and compensation are vital.
We also feel that local regions affected should receive part of the royalties collected.
PPSA want to see more emphasis on research, development and extension, and biosecurity.
Done well, they help underpin the competitiveness of primary production.
We would like to see increased public education regarding the risks and benefits of biosecurity.
We want to see an increase in Government funding of SARDI.
Lack of extra funding will see a loss of capacity and capability, and risk the loss of industry funding which has been an increased to now be the dominant part of SARDI funding.
PPSA also want PIRSA maintained as a standalone department, with SARDI a unit of PIRSA.
PIRSA and SARDI are vital to the competitiveness and development of our primary industries.
We urge all parties and candidates to understand the importance of our sector to understand the difference they can make between a thriving sector and one held back by increasing costs and red tape.
In return we will be able to deliver more exports, more jobs and a better SA economy.
Rob Kerin, Primary Producers SA