Australian Eggs' current five-year Strategic Plan concludes in 2021.
The Strategic Plan has a major impact on how levy funds are deployed on behalf of stakeholders as it sets out the goals and key focus areas that inform the development of each Annual Operating Plan.
Across 2020, Australian Eggs has completed the consultation process for the development of the new Strategic. The Strategic Plan will be finalised in early 2021.
RDC Industry Representation Proposal
At the request of egg industry representative bodies, Australian Eggs has prepared and submitted proposal to the Minister that would allow Australian Eggs to broaden its activities to undertake strategic policy development.
For the egg industry this would involve Australian Eggs engaging in activities currently provided by Egg Farmers of Australia. The key benefit of Australian Eggs undertaking industry representation would be to provide for secure funding for policy development and advocacy through the levy system.
The Minister will only approve a proposal of this nature if there is strong industry support. To test this, an electronic poll was conducted between Tuesday 1 and Friday 11 December 2020 to capture the views of levy payers. The poll confirmed that the proposal has the support of a majority of Australian Eggs members and levy payers that hold a majority of the national flock.
It is expected the Minister will form a view on the proposal early in 2021. Further information on the RDC representation proposal is available here.
EADR LEVY OBJECTION PERIOD
On 16 November 2020 Australian Eggs wrote to all known levy payers to provide notice of the objection period for the activation of the Emergency Animal Disease Response levy (EADR levy).
The EADR levy is currently at zero and a request was been made to the Minister on 18 November 2020 to increase the levy to 1.1 cents per laying chicken to cover the egg industry contribution to the cost of the response and compensation for the avian influenza incident that was initially identified on 31 July 2020.
Like other egg industry levies, the EADR levy is applied to the sale of day-old chicks to provide an efficient mechanism for collection. Details of the levy system are available through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website through the following link: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/levies
The levy activation process requires a 30 calendar day objection period to be provided to allow for levy payers to raise objections in relation to the activation of the EADR levy. The 30 day objection period commenced on 18 November 2020 and ends on 18 December 2020.
In order to lodge a valid objection, levy payers need to include the following information:
- that they are an actual or potential levy payer;
- the reason(s) for their objection; and
- evidence to support their objection.
Responses to objections
Australian Eggs has received two objections in response to the notification of the objection period. Responses to the issues raised in the objections are set out below.
Can Australian Eggs cover the egg industry contribution to the cost of the response and compensation for the avian influenza incident using existing RD&E or marketing levies?
It is not possible for the egg industry contribution to the incident to be met through other levies. The levy system provides for levies to be imposed for particular purposes and governance arrangements apply to ensure that levies may only be used for that purpose. As a result, it is necessary to increase the EADR levy in order for the egg industry contribution to the incident to be met.
Should evidence be required of adequate biosecurity programs for impacted farms before the levy can be activated?
The EADR levy process forms part of commitments the egg industry has made as a signatory to the Emergency Animal Diseases Response Agreement. These commitments were in place at the time the avian influenza incident arose in July 2020 and it is not possible to revisit the nature of those commitments retrospectively.
Emergency disease incidents will impact particular businesses and may involve compensation being paid to particular businesses but the objective of EADRA is to provide benefits to the entire egg industry. By providing a process for the prompt reporting of, and response to, incidents to contain their spread and return the industry to freedom from emergency animal diseases. By supporting this process, all egg farming businesses invest in protecting their business and the sustainability of the egg industry.
It may be possible to consider future levy arrangements and potentially incorporate an evidence based approach. However, there are practical obstacles to doing so as evidence can be difficult to obtain and assess and this could undermine the efficiency of the levy process.
In addition, the levy system does not provide for levies to be imposed on particular segments of the industry or particular businesses in particular circumstances. Levies are imposed on the whole industry and any future reforms would need to consider an appropriate arrangements for levies to be imposed on an industry-wide basis.
Should compensation costs be based on the production system impacted by an emergency animal disease outbreak?
As stated above, the objective of EADRA is to provide benefits to the entire egg industry. The levy system does not provide for levies to be imposed on particular segments of the industry such as cage, barn, free range or intensive free range farming systems. Levies are imposed on the whole industry and any future reforms would need to consider an appropriate arrangements for levies to be imposed on an industry-wide basis.
Australian Eggs works closely with egg industry representative bodies (IRBs) to ensure it has the benefit of industry knowledge and egg farmer feedback.
The main IRBs that Australian Eggs has close contact with are:
- Egg Farmers of Australia
- Queensland United Egg Producers
- Commercial Egg Producers of Western Australia
- Commercial Egg Farmers of South Australia and Tasmania
- New South Wales Farmers Egg Committee
- Victorian Farmers Federation Egg Group
Australian Eggs is also open to engaging with other IRBs that are currently operating or may form from time to time.
Australian Eggs’ engagement with IRBs is conducted in both a formal and informal basis. In preparation of the current Annual Operating Plan, Australian Eggs engaged with IRBs to report on activities to date and outline how the Strategic Plan would be brought to life through refinement of the marketing and research, development and extension activities. This included the incorporation of insights from the Australian Egg Industry Sustainability Framework into the Australian Eggs work program to ensure that priority issues identified by the public could be progressed.
This consultation revealed broad support for Australian Eggs’ strategic direction with emphasis placed on addressing recent Salmonella Enteritidis incidents through extension activities and further research.
In terms of informal engagement, Australian Eggs maintains regular contact with IRB representatives on emerging industry issues. For example, Australian Eggs operates informal consultation groups on specific issues including anti-microbial stewardship, industry statistics and export activities, and many IRB representatives participate in these processes across the year. Australian Eggs also responds to IRB requests for outputs that are consistent with our activities, such as the recently released Salmonella Risk Assessment Toolkit.
There is a significant degree of overlap between the representatives on IRBs and egg farmers such that IRB representatives have the benefit of a range of Australian Eggs’ engagement activities such as periodical and electronic newsletters, attendance at forums, participation in workshops and participation in industry consultative committees.