As you read the paper today, know that there could be quite literally a thousand bureaucrats sitting at their desks in state capitals and in Canberra devising new ways to regulate agricultural industries.
Most, if not all of them, are well intentioned. But many would be wrong in thinking that more law will solve whatever problem they've been tasked with fixing.
Just because we can legislate or regulate, doesn't mean we should.
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that the vast majority of growers want to do the right thing. There may, however, be barriers to doing so. In these instances, encouragement or support is required, and carrots should always be used over sticks.
Secondly, we need to have an honest conversation about the capacity of growers to absorb and comply with an ever expanding set of laws, regulations, schemes and standards.
Each time government proposes a new law or regulation they're required to consider the impacts on industry. Often they identify compliance will require a couple of hours of work annually, or a couple of hundred dollars of additional costs.
While this might seem reasonable in isolation, no consideration is given to the mountain of existing regulatory work and costs this builds on.
If we value the important contributions that particularly smaller, family operated farms make to our food supply, their investment in local communities, and stewardship of the environment, then we need to rebalance the cumulative impact of regulation.
It should be noted however, not all regulation is imposed by government.
HARPS is the industry developed scheme harmonising the various food safety requirements of retailers. Consultation on a new version of HARPS is currently under way.
Horticulture will need to exert never ending vigilance over this scheme and process to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose and that any changes don't add to our costs without also improving food safety.
Growcom encourages growers to review the new version, and submit feedback either through us or direct to HARPS by January 31. More here: https://harpsonline.com.au/.