Senate inquiry sorts through hodgepodge agricultural levies system

Agricultural levy payers want more of a say in how their levies are determined and spent but current systems deny many of them adequate representation according to a report tabled in the Senate today.

Senator for South Australian Anne Ruston said the Senate inquiry into Australia’s agricultural levies found a hodgepodge of systems which in some cases raised questions about whether levy payers were getting value for money.

"In some cases, organisations benefitting from these levies don’t even know who all of their levy payers are," Senator Ruston said.

"Key recommendations in the report focus on the need for industry and the Government to comprehensively identify levy payers, and for the organisations claiming to represent them to improve their systems and demonstrate to the Government they are truly representative.

"At the moment, there is a great deal of confusion in the industry about what really constitutes a peak industry body. It’s pretty obvious we need some uniform, transparent and robust criteria for recognising these organisation in legislation for the purposes of collecting levies, and that the process must be contestable.

"On behalf of industry the Government collects hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural levies for research, development and marketing purposes.

"It’s a lot of money, and levy payers need to know that it’s being spent in a way which achieves the outcomes they want, and which their industries need.

"The Coalition Government’s commitment to agricultural research and development is exemplified by the $100 million provided in the 2014-15 Budget in addition to the money taxpayers provide to match levies paid for research and development purposes.

"However the Government is obliged to ensure that this money is achieving, in the most efficient manner, outcomes which benefit agricultural production, sustainable natural resource management and farm profitability."

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