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Media Releases

Coalition boosts biosecurity with pig centre upgrade

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh today announced a major upgrade of Victoria’s specialist pig industry facility which will enhance the profitability of pig producers and help protect against the risk of disease outbreaks.
Mr Walsh said the $390,000 upgrade was further evidence of the Victorian Coalition Government’s strong commitment to boosting Victoria’s biosecurity capacity.
“This development of the Pig Specialist Centre in Bendigo affirms the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to the biosecurity of the pork industry and of the state’s livestock sectors more broadly,” Mr Walsh said.
“Under a memorandum of understanding with the Swine Industry Projects Advisory Committee, the Coalition Government will invest $120,000 to upgrade facilities at Bendigo this year, in line with the expanded role and functions of the centre.
“The Coalition Government has allocated a further $270,000 in 2014-15 as the new centre will double its staff as the project advances, increasing from the existing 4.4 FTE to 10 FTE. This includes recruiting an additional experienced pig veterinarian and a manager of vaccine development as soon as possible.
“I thank the Swine Industry Projects Advisory Committee which will provide $250,000 a year for three years to the Centre, and I recognise the contribution of the Victorian Farmers Federation Pig Group which has advocated strongly on behalf of its members.
“The Pig Specialist Centre will significantly increase the level of support for the industry by providing diagnostic services and undertaking disease surveillance, and developing and producing new vaccines which may not be available from private companies.
“It will also invest in and develop new training activities focusing on biosecurity risk as well as research and development that has a clear and practical application for pork producers.
“The pork industry has an excellent animal health status and the Coalition Government is committed to working with industry on strategic initiatives to ensure our livestock industries continue to be well protected from disease threats.
“Labor failed to understand agriculture but in the last three and half years the Victorian Coalition Government has worked closely with industry and co-invested on strategic projects that will make Victoria’s farmers more productive and more profitable.

Victorian Governments strong record on biosecurity

Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh today reaffirmed the Coalition Government’s strong record of improving Victoria’s biosecurity capacity.
“Biosecurity is a critical priority for the Victorian Coalition Government because we know that it underpins and protects our $12 billion agricultural industry,” Mr Walsh said.
“Victoria’s animal health and biosecurity systems meet and exceed international standards.
Suggestions of deficiency in Victoria’s service capacity or ability to respond to major incidents are flatly rejected.
“Under Coalition leadership, senior specialist roles of Chief Plant Health Officer and Chief Biosecurity Officer have been created to work alongside the Chief Veterinary Officer.
“The Coalition Government has led the nation by making significant investment in technology adoption like electronic identification for sheep and goats which offers greater protection to livestock industries in the event of exotic disease outbreaks like foot and mouth disease.
“The Coalition Government also works closely with individual sectors on biosecurity needs. For example, last week I struck an agreement with industry representatives to create a new specialist pig health unit within DEPI. The Victorian Government will invest $420,000 to upgrade infrastructure at Bendigo and boost staff from 4.4 FTE to 10 FTE, including recruiting a specialist pig health veterinarian.”
A clear risk for Victorian agriculture is Daniel Andrews and Labor’s plans to abolish the Department of Environment and Primary Industry – Labor’s 2014 Platform document states that Labor will ‘Provide for separate departmental responsibilities for resource management and environmental and sustainability manager.’
“Daniel Andrews and Labor fail to understand agriculture and they fail to understand the rural and regional communities whose economies are underpinned by primary production,” Mr Walsh said.
“The successful creation of DEPI has received wide accolades from the grassroots of farmers and communities, but the same Labor MPs who thought the North-South Pipeline was a good idea want to wreck the good work.
“With DEPI now regionally focused there is increased surge capacity to better manage local incidents, including biosecurity and animal welfare matters, and this was proven with widespread praise from landowners for DEPI’s animal welfare response teams during last summer’s bushfires.”

Grains partnership to drive productivity growth

Thursday, July 03, 2014
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh today announced a new $1.1 million partnership with Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) that will help to drive significant productivity growth in the state’s grains sector.
Speaking at the BCG Grains Research Expo in Birchip, Mr Walsh said the Victorian Coalition Government and BCG would each contribute $550,000 to the three-year pilot project to help Wimmera Mallee growers adopt new technologies and practices.
“Grain exports from Victorian ports increased 18 per cent in 2012-13 to reach $2.19 billion, making grains our most valuable agricultural export earner,” Mr Walsh said.
“Increasing global demand is providing significant export growth opportunities, but we must continually lift productivity for exporters and growers to be competitive and profitable.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has set the goal to double Victoria’s food and fibre production by 2030 and we are helping our state’s farmers become more productive and profitable through targeted research, development and extension partnerships in the $61.4 million Growing Food and Fibre initiative, as well as our extensive trade engagement work with key markets.
“We are also focused on developing partnerships such as this with our agricultural sectors, where we can work together to get the best outcomes for Victorian farmers.
“This is in stark contrast to the Labor Party, which is yet to even release its agriculture policy or announce a single election commitment for agriculture.”
Mr Walsh said as part of the pilot project, BCG would conduct regular, tailored activities to help growers to adopt technologies and management practices that improve farm performance.
“These activities will examine crop nutrition, tillage and controlled traffic systems, herbicide management and practices to cope with seasonal climate variability,” Mr Walsh said.
“They will also encompass business expansion and growth models to encourage production gains and improve profitability, including business self-assessments.”
BCG Board Chairman Caroline Welsh said the partnership with the Victorian Government was an exciting new opportunity to accelerate productivity growth in the grains industry.
“This project will help achieve that by providing growers with the support and information they need to adopt the latest productivity-enhancing technologies and management practices.”

Web portal to boost Central Highlands agri-business

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
An innovative new web portal has been launched which will connect fresh food producers and retailers, with the goal of ultimately boosting food and fibre production and creating jobs.
In Ballarat today, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said the Victorian Coalition Government had provided $28,000 from the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund to the myFarmStore project.
“The Coalition Government is proud to support local business initiatives in regional Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“The myFarmStore web portal allows users to search a regional map to find producers and others in the food industry chain throughout the Central Highlands region.
“The project will help improve local trade relationships and also comes at an opportune time with the growing popularity of ‘food tourism’. So far more than 65 agricultural businesses have provided input to the project, which will be delivered across Ballarat City and Moorabool, Hepburn and Pyrenees Shires,” Mr Walsh said.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said along with $28,000 from the Regional Growth Fund, Pyrenees Shire Council had contributed $8,000 to the project, with $2,000 of in-kind support from the Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum.
“Through the Regional Growth Fund, the Victorian Coalition Government is investing in community-led projects to strategically drive jobs, investment and innovation in rural and regional Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
“Since it was established in 2011, the Regional Growth Fund has delivered more than $400 million, generating well over $1.6 billion in total investment across almost 1,500 projects.”
Across Ballarat City and Moorabool, Hepburn and Pyrenees Shires, the Regional Growth Fund has provided more than $33 million to 133 projects, leveraging almost $82 million in total investment.
This includes $1.2 million for the $2 million project to replace Magpie Bridge in Ballarat;
$225,000 for the $450,000 Natte Yallock Community Centre in Pyrenees Shire; $300,000 for the $2.3 million Bungaree Community Facility in Moorabool Shire; and $30,000 for the $40,000 Creswick Industrial Land Review in Hepburn Shire.

New Game Management Authority begins work

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Victoria’s new Game Management Authority starts work today to regulate game hunting and provide better services to the state’s 46,000 licensed game hunters.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh said the establishment of the GMA fulfilled a key election commitment by the Victorian Coalition Government to provide a statutory authority dedicated to game hunting.
“The creation of the Game Management Authority reflects both the popularity of game hunting and the enormous contribution it makes to Victoria’s economy,” Mr Walsh said.
“As a recent Victorian Government study shows, hunting by game licence holders was worth $439 million and supported almost 3,500 full time equivalent jobs directly and indirectly across Victoria last year.
“The Coalition Government is committed to supporting and growing our state’s game hunting industry, to further boost local jobs and regional economies. We are currently developing a new Hunting and Game Management Action Plan to further develop the sector.”
Mr Walsh said the GMA would promote responsible and sustainable game hunting and would undertake administrative services including licensing as well as education, compliance and enforcement.
The GMA will also work with public land managers and provide advice to the Government on achieving better public land, pest management and broader game management outcomes.
“I’m also pleased today to announce the appointment of the GMA’s first Chairman and Board, and the inaugural Chief Executive Officer,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Hon Roger Hallam has been appointed Chairman and will lead the Board which consists of Deputy Chairperson Wendy Greiner, Michael Wagg, Alan Bowman, Eddy Kontelj, Margaret Donnan, Mark Little, Peter Bailey and Rodney Drew.
“The board members have been chosen for their collective experience across all relevant fields and are ideally qualified to lead the GMA and ensure it fulfils its aims and objectives.
“Mr Greg Hyams has also been appointed as the GMA’s CEO and has a wealth of private and public sector experience in regulatory and organisational change, strategic planning, risk management and governance.”

Walsh congratulates Young Grower of the Year

Friday, June 27, 2014
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh has congratulated Victorian organic stonefruit and vegetable grower Nathan Free on being named AusVeg Young Grower of the Year.
Mr Walsh said Nathan, of Alkira Organics, Lake Boga, claimed the titled at a prestigious award ceremony in Cairns last Saturday.
“The Young Grower of the Year award is presented to a vegetable or potato farmer who demonstrates commitment to the industry, innovation, business acumen and participation in the broader vegetable industry – and Nathan certainly fulfils these criteria,” Mr Walsh said.
“Already an accomplished producer, Nathan has demonstrated a high level of commitment to agriculture and is proof that the future of farming in Victoria is very bright.”
Nathan returned to his family’s Alkira Organics business, which also trades as Duralgai Horticulture, in 2007 to oversee vegetable production and packing on-farm.
Alkira Organics gained Australian Certified Organic certification in 2011 and now supplies major supermarket chains with premium organic produce.
Mr Walsh said the Victorian Coalition Government was committed to supporting the next generation of agricultural professionals, like Nathan.
“By supporting the next generation of the agriculture industry, we are supporting growth in our food and fibre sectors and building strong regional economies,” Mr Walsh said.
“This includes increasing the stamp duty exemption for young farmers buying their first farm property; appointing a rural industries careers adviser to work in schools to highlight agricultural career opportunities; and our Travel Support Program which recently allowed young farmer Chris Walsh to attend the Super Trade Mission to South East Asia.”
The 2014 AusVeg National Awards for Excellence Gala Dinner was held in Cairns on Saturday and honoured growers and other members of the Australian vegetable and potato industries for outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

Long-term trading future for Victoria and Indonesia

Friday, June 20, 2014
The 2014 Victorian Coalition Government's Super Trade Mission to South East Asia is continuing to build strong relationships with Indonesia, as businesses received a warm welcome in Jakarta this week.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh said the Victorian Government's second trade mission within 12 months, together with the reopening of the Victorian Government Business Office (VGBO) in Jakarta, sent the Indonesian business community a strong signal that Victoria is committed to a long-term trading relationship.
“The positive feedback from Indonesian businesses is that they are very keen to explore food import opportunities with Victoria, and they want Victorians to know that China is not the only major market for exporting into Asia,” Mr Walsh said.
“Indonesia took $551 million of Victorian food products last year, an increase of 26 per cent on the previous year.
“Like China, Indonesia has an expanding middle class population and a growing focus on high quality, verifiably safe food, of which Australia is recognised as a reliable supplier.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is helping to position our food businesses by re-opening the VGBO in Jakarta, and creating a new position of agribusiness and investment specialist to work in-country.
“The Victorian Coalition Government's trade mission program, together with our $100 million Food to Asia Action Plan, is putting more Victorian businesses in direct contact with new export opportunities and ensuring we are positioned to take full advantage of emerging consumer demand in key growth markets like Indonesia.”
During the mission's two day Jakarta leg, Mr Walsh met major food businesses Indofoods, Hypermart, Wings and Ranch Markets which all have established relationships with Victoria and have an interest in expanding business in the future.
“I also met with the Director of the Department of Agriculture Quarantine to discuss further the development of protocols for Victorian seed potatoes,” Mr Walsh said.
“Work between the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries and the Indonesian Government will continue and I am confident we can demonstrate that Victoria would be a supplier of high quality seed potatoes that could help Indonesia increase productivity.”
In 2012-13 Indonesia accounted for seven per cent of all food exported from Victoria.
The majority of Victorian food and fibre exports to Indonesia in 2012-13 were made up of grains ($261 million), dairy $116 million), meat ($112 million), horticulture ($42 million) and processed foods ($18 million).
The increase in the value of Victorian grains exports to Indonesia has been dramatic. Exports jumped from $150 million in 2011-12 to $261 million in 2012-13 – a rise of 74 per cent.

Dairy scholarships strengthen South East Asia ties

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The Victorian Coalition Government and Dairy Australia today announced a new scholarship program to forge closer links with South East Asian nations by providing their food industry leaders with a first-hand understanding of the state’s dairy industry.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh and Dairy Australia Trade and Strategy Group Manager Charles McElhone made the announcement today in Indonesia during the Victorian Government’s Super Trade Mission to South East Asia.
Mr Walsh said under the new scholarship program, each year 15 industry leaders from South East Asia would receive funding to visit Victoria and participate in a week-long program designed to deepen their knowledge of the state’s dairy sector.
“South East Asia is an important market for Victorian dairy exporters, worth more than $550 million in 2012-13, and demand from the region is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades,” Mr Walsh said.
“This new scholarship program will build closer ties between Victoria and South East Asia by providing their food industry leaders with in-depth and close-up experience of our dairy sector.”
Mr McElhone said the program would offer up to 15 scholarships a year, including up to two in each of the 6 ASEAN nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The remainder will be shared among the other ASEAN member nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei.
Mr McElhone said the participants’ week-long stay would potentially include visits to the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia, the Victorian Government’s Centre for Dairy Excellence at Ellinbank, AgriBio, dairy farms and processing facilities.
Mr Walsh said the scholarship program was another example of work by the Victorian Coalition Government to stimulate demand for Victorian food and fibre from key export markets.
“By building closer ties with South East Asia and investing in research and development to boost our on-farm productivity and international competitiveness, we are laying the foundations for on-going growth in food and fibre exports in the decades to come,” Mr Walsh said.

Victoria and Malaysia to build closer relationship

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Two-way investment opportunities in agriculture products and services and closer working relationships between governments have been discussed in a significant meeting between Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh and the Malaysian Minister for Agriculture YB Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
The meeting was one of the key engagements of the Victorian Coalition Government's Super Trade Mission which is this week visiting Malaysia, as well as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar, with 130 Victorian businesses.
"Victoria and Malaysia have enjoyed a close relationship for decades, and in more recent times this has been seen through Malaysia's growing interest in Victorian food and fibre products," Mr Walsh said.
"As well as importing $382 million of Victorian food and fibre last year, Malaysia is also very interested in Victoria's productivity-focused research and development work in the dairy and plant technology industries.
"Malaysia is also very keen to know more about Victoria's biosecurity and traceability systems for meat products, including electronic identification of livestock, with a view to adopting our technology and systems.
"A very positive outcome of the meeting was an agreement between Minister Ismail and I that our governments will work together more closely on areas of shared interest between our respective agriculture industries.
"I have also invited Minister Ismail to bring an agribusiness delegation to Victoria in August when the Malaysia-Australia Joint Trade Commission meets in Melbourne.
"I was very pleased to confirm directly with Minister Ismail that Victoria has world-leading food safety regulations and quality assurance systems that ensure we are consistent in our delivery of high quality, safe products that meet Malaysian consumers' high standards.”
Malaysia is an important trading partner for Victoria, taking five per cent of the state's total food and fibre exports of $9.4 billion.
"The value of Victorian food and fibre exports to Malaysia increased 35 per cent between 2008-09 and 2012-13, and there has been a boost after the Malaysia Australia Free Trade Agreement was signed one year ago," Mr Walsh said.
"The new agribusiness investment position at the Kuala Lumpur Victorian Government Business Office that I announced last week will help drive opportunities for Victorian food businesses, as part of the Victorian Coalition Government's $100 million Food to Asia Action Plan.”
Key Victorian exports to Malaysia include grains ($101 million), dairy ($100 million), meat ($67 million), prepared foods ($61 million), wool ($31 million) and horticulture ($20 million).

Better fishing and boating at states northern lakes

Friday, June 13, 2014
New floating jetties at Kangaroo Lake and Lake Charm in northern Victoria will provide safer and more reliable boat access to the popular waterways, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh announced today.
Visiting Kangaroo Lake, Mr Walsh said the Victorian Coalition Government was providing $134,970 to Gannawarra Shire Council to install the floating jetties in time for the opening of the Murray cod fishing season on 1 December.
“The Victorian Coalition Government recognises the significant social and economic value of recreational fishing to regional communities, which is why we continue to invest in projects that improve fishing opportunities,” Mr Walsh said.
“As part of this project, two floating jetties will be installed at the south-western boat ramp at Lake Charm, off Park St, while another will be installed at the northern boat ramp at Kangaroo Lake, off Lake View Road.
“The new jetties will allow boaters to keep their feet dry when launching, dock vessels without beaching them and secure boats while retrieving their vehicles and trailers.
“Lake Charm and Kangaroo Lake are also stocked annually by Fisheries Victoria, sharing in 55,000 Murray cod fingerlings and 30,000 golden perch this year.
“We want to keep this state a top fishing destination for the 721,000 Victorians who fish annually and the many tourists who travel here seeking a quality fishing experience.”
Mr Walsh said $113,000 had been provided from the Victorian Coalition Government’s Boating Safety and Facilities Program and $21,970 from its Recreational Fishing Initaitive.
“As well as funding improvements to boat launching facilities, the Coalition’s $16 million Recreational Fishing Initiative has also funded more fish stockings, new fishing reefs, more fisheries research and strengthened fisheries enforcement and education,” Mr Walsh said.
Minister for Ports David Hodgett said funding for the Boating Safety and Facilities Program has recently been boosted to $8 million, which demonstrated the Victorian Coalition Government’s commitment to improving boating and fishing facilities.
“Boating and fishing in Victoria are becoming more popular activities every year and we want to ensure they are safer and more accessible for all Victorians,” Mr Hodgett said.

Contact: Electorate Office: 274 Campbell Street SWAN HILL Vic 3585 Phone: (03) 5032 3154 Fax: (03) 5032 9483