GPA chairman and Victorian grain grower Andrew Weidemann, pictured speaking at a GRDC Grains Research Update, says MRL breaches can potentially cost the industry a market entry worth millions of dollars and harm Australia’s reputation as a safe food provider.
Grain growers and their advisers in the southern cropping region are being called on to do their bit to protect Australian grain’s well-earned reputation for quality and reliability.
Careful management of agricultural chemicals and good hygiene practices on-farm will help prevent maximum residue levels (MRLs) being unintentionally exceeded and thereby jeopardising access to valuable markets.
Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann says MRL breaches can potentially cost the industry a market entry worth millions of dollars and harm Australia’s reputation as a safe food provider.
“Maintaining our valued reputation relies on diligence by the industry in its management practices,” said Mr Weidemann when addressing Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Updates in the southern region.
“Careful management of agricultural chemicals and good hygiene in the field, in on-farm grain storage and handling, and post-farm gate, combined with clear lines of communication, are critical.
“Simple actions such as cleaning trucks after fertiliser cartage are crucial awareness steps that should be paramount.”
Mr Weidemann, a grower from Rupanyup in Victoria’s Wimmera region, said MRLs varied from country to country so awareness of overseas trading partners’ MRLs was essential in order to protect those international markets.
He said a number of issues were creating a need for the grains industry to work together to assure and protect its reputation, including:
- Markets are becoming increasingly concerned about food safety, more stringent about MRLs and increasingly sophisticated in grain testing;
- Markets are becoming more aware of, and demanding of, standards of farming practice in relation to food safety, environmental and workforce management;
- Customers are establishing their own audited assurance and certification programs; and
- Chemical drift to other properties and MRL breaches are placing increased pressure on chemical registration and use restrictions.
Mr Weidemann said that while new approaches to combat weeds, pests and diseases were essential, real care was needed when managing these agricultural chemicals.
“Adoption of best practice stewardship provides benefits to many sectors of the industry, especially those sectors where investments are long term and high risk, including companies developing herbicides, plant breeding companies, grain marketers and our customers.
“The benefits will also flow to our growers, as they will have stewardship over farming systems that are sustainable. And they will be able to pass on valuable technologies to future generations of growers with the confidence that those technologies have not been abused and devalued, which will ultimately increase their property values.”
Mr Weidemann said that over the past five years, GPA in collaboration with key industry stakeholders had been exploring the need for good pre- and post-farm gate practice to be recognised.
In 2013, the post-farm gate sector adopted the Australian Industry Code of Practice, and in July last year, the pre-farm gate sector launched the growers’ guide Growing Australian Grain (http://grainsguide.grainproducers.com.au), a document that has been approved by grower organisations across Australia.
Mr Weidemann said the principles within the guide were a way of publicly recognising the good farming practices of Australian grain growers and promoting this good practice to customers and stakeholders.
“The aim is for these principles to be embedded in existing quality assurance programs, record-keeping practices, supplier declarations and chemical use requirements,” he said.
“These common principles can give consistency and reliability of the integrity of Australian grain.
“It is hoped this will make a simpler, streamlined system for growers by avoiding the need to complete a plethora of assurance and other records for different purposes.”
Andrew Weidemann, GPA
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli