Local Hepburn Shire voices heard for small farm growth

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Local farmers met with Victoria’s red tape commissioner to discuss their experience of regulation during a consultation session last week. 

RED TAPE: Daylesford Macedon Produce chair Alla Wolf-Tasker AM says regulations prevent consumers from getting food direct from the farm-gate as it is likely processed and packaged elsewhere to meet standards. Picture: Dylan Burns.

RED TAPE: Daylesford Macedon Produce chair Alla Wolf-Tasker AM says regulations prevent consumers from getting food direct from the farm-gate as it is likely processed and packaged elsewhere to meet standards. Picture: Dylan Burns.

Victorian red tape commissioner Dr Matthew Butlin made the visit to Daylesford’s Lake House as part of consultation with local producers across the state. He will provide recommendations and feedback to remove barriers to growth for farm-gate businesses to government and regulators.

“My job looks for ways to do regulatory work more efficiently, because not only do we want safe food, we want a good choice and a range of foods,” he said. 

Dr Butlin said he had seen the issues with regulation raised at the Daylesford consultation affect farmers across the state. 

“The pattern of issues tend to involve how food is regulated, planning and sometimes people encounter building regulations that seem a bit strange,” he said. 

“I do see evidence that in a number of areas regulation seems to have been originally developed with large scale farming in mind... but when you are wanting to try something that is new or a bit different or small scale some of those costs of regulations designed for big organisations can be very substantial when you are a small player.”

Dr Butlin will continue consultation with farmers across the state over the next month before presenting a report of findings and recommendations to the treasurer.

He will also provide feedback to regulators including local councils, Department of Health and Human Services food safety unit, Prime Safe and Dairy Food Safety. 

Daylesford Macedon Produce chair Alla-Wolf Tasker AM said the consultation was a great opportunity to hear a collective voice. 

“What we had is not one person talking about a particular issue but three others reinforcing the fact that they have had the same experience,” she said. 

“There is an awful lot of potential being stifled as a result of red tape. One of the things I had always wanted was to be able to develop a local food community much like what I saw when I was training as a chef in France. It didn’t exist here because Australia was built on big agricultural concerns where food was a commodity grown on big farms and transported elsewhere. It was not about a local economy at all and it certainly wasn’t about small scale artisanal farms. We now have it but we are not taking full advantage. 

“I can’t just roll up at a farm and ask for some meat, because it is usually processed elsewhere, packaged elsewhere and it needs to have particular storage regulations around it. But most of the regulations are around big business, they are not designed for small business, so the access to that food is quite difficult.

“The winds of change are starting to move but it is a big system and I think that it is about the recognition that the Australian agricultural industry isn’t just about big agriculture, it is also about these really small sustainable farms.”

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