Farm planning changes worry
AN Australian farming and food organisation believes the enterprise of North East small farmers freeranging pigs and poultry will be at risk unless the Victorian government makes radical changes to draft animal industries planning controls.
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance – which represents about 250 small-scale farmers – has this week launched a petition to alert the government to the effect of the draft changes on farmers and their communities.
Alliance president Tammi Jonas, who on Sunday and Monday was in the North East where there is a growing number of small-scale producers, told the Times-Observer the government in 2015 had established an Animal Industries Advisory Committee.
It had been set up to determine how the state planning provisions might, as the government described the strategy, “better support the establishment and expansion of productive…animal industries… balancing environmental outcomes and community expectations”.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne has subsequently released a ‘Planning for sustainable animal industries’ discussion paper about the draft recommendations which is open for public comment until November 14.
In contention is a proposal to introduce a system of “graduated” planning controls.
“The draft graduated controls don’t appear to reduce red tape for small-scale commercial farmers, nor homesteaders or hobbyists, and yet they make it easier than ever before to set up a 1000-cattle feedlot,” Ms Jonas said.
“The proposed new controls would mean that farms like mine (at Eganstown near Daylesford) with 12 sows and two boars – so about 100 pigs on 10 hectares of our 28-hectare farm at any time – would have to apply for a permit just like those with 1000 pigs in a shed.
“…Yet the farmer next door could put up to 1000 cattle in a feedlot right up to our fence line without a permit or a buffer.”
Ms Jonas said the proposed graduated provisions would allow a hobbyist poultry grower to keep up to 200 birds without a permit but require a 50-metre setback from dwellings on another property.
“The next level, allegedly designed to better enable low-risk, small-scale pastured livestock production in (a shire) farming zone, only allows up to 450 birds and requires a 100m setback,” Ms Jonas said.
“For pigs, the ‘streamlined application process’ would only apply to farms with up to eight sows and one boar plus ‘only’ their progeny, ruling out buying in new breeding stock to maintain genetic diversity, a real concern for the heritage breeds movement.”
Ms Jonas said the draft scheme failed to account for stocking density.
She said it would allow intensive shed farms to add 150,000 chickens to a range area without any of the restrictions placed on a small farmer with 500 chickens, and feedlots of up to 1000 cattle in a farming zone without a permit, while 100 pigs or 450 poultry in highly mobile systems would trigger a notice and review process.
“If we don’t get this right this great number of new farmers wanting to come into farming – when put off at the outset with obscure rules and what will be a $1300, more or less, permit fee – will say it’s too hard,” she said.
“We don’t need a permit – we’re farming in the farming zone. I keep coming back to it.”