AUSVEG is the peak industry body for Australia’s vegetable growers. Since COVID-19 emerged in 2020, just as growers have laboured to ensure Australian families are fed and healthy during the pandemic, AUSVEG has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to advocate to all levels of government and deliver services to benefit vegetable growers around Australia. AUSVEG National Manager – Communications Shaun Lindhe details the work that AUSVEG does for vegetable growers and what this has delivered during the pandemic.

Grower advocacy: Government relations, public affairs and industry representation

Speaking up for growers and the wider industry

AUSVEG has strong ties to Federal Government ministers and advisors and relevant department officials in Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Trade, Immigration, Jobs and Employment, as well as labour hire providers and key industry stakeholders.

The most important of these issues currently is the cost and availability of labour, which AUSVEG’s dedicated public affairs team is addressing in three ways:

  1. Increasing labour supply: AUSVEG works with the Federal Government to modify visa settings to improve access to international labour, and portraying a positive image of the work and career opportunities that exist in horticulture.
  2. Ensuring ethical employment practices: AUSVEG promotes programs such as Fair Farms to ensure employees have positive, safe, fulfilling experiences working in horticulture.
  3. Ensuring the supply chain applies appropriate ethical sourcing standards: so that the growers who do the right thing are not undercut buy those that do not.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • Held direct meetings with numerous politicians to advocate for vegetable growers, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce MP, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud MP, Michael McCormack MP, Darren Chester MP, Scott Buchholz MP, Nola Marino MP, Senator Michaelia Cash, Alan Tudge MP, Damian Drum MP, Anne Webster MP, Senator Raff Ciccone, Senator Susan McDonald.
  • Strongly advocated for the Agriculture Visa and the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement to ensure businesses have access to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
  • Ensured vegetable growers’ interests are considered by the National Farmers’ Federation through its Horticulture Council, which is managed by AUSVEG National Manager – Public Affairs Tyson Cattle.
  • Liaising with state farming associations and vegetable industry members on upcoming Federal Election policy platforms to ensure vegetable growers’ issues are included.

Making growers’ voices heard and ensuring their levies are invested well

AUSVEG provides policy advice and oversight of levies expenditure via representation in key decision-making forums.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

Over the last 18 months, AUSVEG has been involved in recent meetings of the following:

  • Hort Innovation Vegetable Strategic Investment Advisory Panels, which direct the investment of levies based on industry priorities.
  • EPPRD’s National Management Group and Consultative Committees, which oversee and manage the country’s response to new pest and disease incursions.
  • The Standards Development Advisory Group of Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).
  • Federal Government forums and committees, including the Healthy Food Partnership.
  • Forums for government regulators, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  • Industry and government Trade Advisory Panels.
  • Industry reference groups for key industry projects and investments.

Connecting with growers: Extension, Hort Connections & industry communications

VegNET: Working with growers to improve productivity and profitability

AUSVEG has extensive experience in delivering practical, informative and contemporary activities to build knowledge and awareness of relevant and productive business practices, production methods and research to help improve business productivity and profitability.

AUSVEG is leading the Hort Innovation-funded VegNET extension project, which is a nationally-coordinated, regionally-delivered project to improve Australian vegetable growers’ knowledge and skills to implement best practice management on-farm through a variety of delivery mechanisms.

All major growing regions in the country have been targeted with 10 regionally-based extension experts to ensure that all growers – no matter what their business is – benefit from the best resources and support to improve their operation (see page 22).

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • Launch of the five-year VegNET program, which will ensure growers from all major growing regions will have dedicated, tailored support from regional development officers who will support vegetable businesses in their regions to improve their productivity, profitability and competitiveness.
  • Delivered webinars on topics of importance to vegetable growers, including serpentine leafminer, the international trade landscape and fall armyworm.
  • Assisted growers through the delivery of on-the-ground biosecurity preparedness for vegetable growers.
  • Delivered agriculture industry-wide extension for the pest surveillance project iMapPESTS, which is working with vegetable growers to develop smart surveillance and cutting-edge diagnostic technologies.

Delivering Hort Connections, the national industry event

AUSVEG is the co-host (with PMA A-NZ) of Hort Connections, the largest horticulture industry event in Australia, which brings together growers, suppliers, marketers, buyers, researchers and government to network and address key industry opportunities.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • Hosted Hort Connections 2021, which attracted 2,200 delegates in-person, despite then-Victorian lockdowns.
  • Delivers the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar, which brought together the industry’s most innovative researchers and thought-leaders to speak with growers about the latest research and technologies.

Speaking to growers and the community

AUSVEG has a long history of providing successful and effective communications, publishing magazines, directly engaging with journalists and sending industry-focused newsletters to update growers on the issues that are important to them.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • AUSVEG delivers the Hort Innovation National Vegetable Industry Communications program, which includes funding to communicate research in the Vegetables Australia magazine, the AUSVEG Weekly Update e-newsletter as well as across AUSVEG’s social media and online channels.
  • Through this program AUSVEG is working closely with the VegNET project to deliver regionally-tailored podcasts and videos for each major growing region based on the issues and priority areas that are affecting growers in these regions.
  • Media coverage across all major national and regional print publications, as well as radio and TV coverage on all major networks, on issues that are important to growers.
  • AUSVEG is a key industry partner for The Fruit & Vegetable Consortium, which brings together key organisations to collectively advocate for comprehensive joint action to improve fruit and vegetable consumption in Australia (see page 62).
  • Since March 2020, AUSVEG has distributed over 120 newsletter and advocacy updates directly to growers and industry.

International trade: Export development & trade advice

Building export capability and developing international markets

AUSVEG employs a team of international trade experts who provide tailored resources, practical advice on the exporting process for fresh produce and market development strategies. The team works with exporting growers in Australia and in-market customers to provide businesses with the skills, know-how and networks to supply international markets with high-quality fresh produce. AUSVEG’s exporting expertise includes, but is not limited to:

  • Export readiness training and capability development.
  • Industry and business export development assistance.
  • Market entry strategies and advice.
  • Showcasing at international trade events.
  • Designing and delivering in-market knowledge sharing and networking tours for exporting businesses.
  • International buyer engagement and supplier linkages.
  • Trade barrier and technical market access advice.
  • Market insights, data and analysis.
  • Government engagement and industry representation.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • Advocated for vegetable growers in recent trade negotiations, including IA-CEPA.
  • Advocated growers’ concerns directly to Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan, Austrade and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on issues including sea- and air-freight costs, input costs and the impacts of COVID on international trade.
  • Undertaken a leadership role to liaise directly with the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) team to provide assistance for vegetable growers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photography by Flick & Dave.

Biosecurity & technical expertise

Protecting vegetable growing businesses from pests and diseases

Biosecurity planning

AUSVEG has a dedicated team of industry-leading biosecurity experts who develop and help implement biosecurity plans for vegetable growing businesses to help protect their farms from the spread of damaging pests and diseases. AUSVEG is involved in many biosecurity projects that focus on increasing growers’ capacity to adopt biosecurity best-practice on-farm.

Grower representation

AUSVEG represents the interests of growers on biosecurity matter as a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD). This is the agreement between governments and industry that defines how new pest incursions are managed and how the costs of treating such incursions will be shared. Without this agreement, the full impact of the arrival of new pests and diseases would land squarely on growers.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • Held 25 virtual and hybrid-model workshops on pests of importance to vegetable growers, including serpentine leafminer, fall armyworm and American serpentine leafminer.
  • Represented growers’ interests on the Consultative Committee for Emergency Plant Pests on incursions of significant concern, including tomato-potato psyllid, serpentine leafminer, fall armyworm, and American serpentine leafminer.
  • Promoted biosecurity best-practice to growers at workshops, via webinars and through one-on-one consultations.
  • Liaised with Plant Health Australia and Hort Innovation to advise on biosecurity-related investments to protect Australia’s vegetable growers from harmful pests and diseases.

Helping vegetable growers protect the environment

AUSVEG employs experts in environmental stewardship and best-practice to provide vegetable growers with information about how they can improve their environmental management and increase the sustainability of their production businesses.

AUSVEG manages EnviroVeg, which is an industry-led environmental best-practice management program for vegetable production businesses that provides resources for sustainable growing techniques and represents vegetable businesses as responsible stewards of land, water and biodiversity.

Recent outcome for vegetable growers

  • Over 320 vegetables growers have been involved in EnviroVeg in the last 18 months, delivered by AUSVEG and funded using the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.

Keeping produce free from pests and diseases

AUSVEG has a detailed understanding of the pests and diseases that impact the vegetable industry, as well as the chemical and integrated pest management options to control any outbreaks. AUSVEG works with growing businesses to develop and implement plans to prevent the spread of pests and diseases, as well as research organisations, agronomists, chemical companies and others in the supply chain to increase the capacity of the vegetable industry to manage pests and diseases.

AUSVEG is involved in government and industry forums that ensure decisions around pest, disease and management options are informed with the ‘on-the-ground’ experiences of growers and that government and industry investment is directed in the most relevant areas.

Recent outcomes for vegetable growers

  • AUSVEG has been involved in recent EPPRD forums and committees on behalf of vegetable growers.
  • AUSVEG has worked with industry organisations and commercial companies over the last 18 months to ensure that vegetable growers’ concerns are addressed through the latest innovations, products and technologies.
  • Provides ongoing feedback to government departments on matters relating to pest management and border protection, including recent pest incursions.