On 31st October 2011, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance was joined by 18 organisations and a further 10 individuals in expressing our collective concerns about the limited nature of the process being undertaken by the Federal Government for the development of Australia's first-ever National Food Plan. On 5 December 2011 the Minister responded to our concerns. Read his reply here: Hon. Joe Ludwig Response 5 Dec 2011
On 5 December, the City of Melbourne concluded its first consultation phase for its proposed Food Policy. The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance has welcomed this initiative, recommending that the Policy be firmly based in the principles of democratic participation, the human right to adequate food, and with the highest priority accorded to guaranteeing the viability of local and regional farmers, who will form the backbone of a thriving and fair food system.
Read our comments by clicking on the following link: AFSA Comments Melbourne Food Policy 9 Dec 2011
On 27th October the Federal Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, announced that his Department was reviewing the submissions made to its Issues Paper for the development of a National Food Plan. At a date yet to be specified, the Government will release a Green Paper, which ‘will outline the government’s vision and approach to food policy and canvas potential changes to policy, programs and governance arrangements’.
In an Open Letter to the Minister, AFSA and 28 co-signatories expressed our continuing concerns about the limited nature of the development of the Plan to date, including the refusal to make the workings of the industry-dominated Advisory Group transparent. This can only lead to misgivings that the main purpose of the Plan will, as the emphasis of the Issues Paper suggested, on making the food industry more ‘competitive and productive’, rather than on delivering a food system for all Australians that is fair, sustainable and resilient. That sort of food system has to be developed in a more directly democratic and participatory way, as opposed to the top-down and narrow nature of the consultation that the Government is presently engaged in.
Today (2 September 2011) the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance made its submission to the National Food Plan Consultation, being conducted by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. Our submission challenged the core assumptions and general approach which the Issues Paper reflected, with the following paragraph summarising our perspective:
Basically, the main point we want to make is that the Issues Paper in its essential aspects and its core assumptions continues to perpetuate the comfortable presumption that the future will look much like the past, and therefore downplays the urgent need for change towards much more resilient, sustainable and fair food and farming systems. We need a National Food Plan that presents to the Australian public a convincing vision of food and farming systems that will successfully meet the pressing challenges of the present and the future. At the heart of this vision must lie the recognition that food is a basic human right that everyone is entitled to; it is not simply another commodity produced for export and profit."
Download the full submission here: AFSA Response to the National Food Plan Issues Paper (Sep 2011).
Organisations representing over 500,000 Australians endorsed the call by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance for its inclusion in the National Food Policy Advisory Working Group.
Farmers' groups such as Biodynamic Agriculture Australia and the Carbon Coalition, the Australian Farmers' Markets Association, community networks such as the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Networks, and environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth and the Queensland Conservation Council, all supported this call, which to date has not been met with a positive response.
AFSA calls on all its supporters and like-minded organisations to write to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, insisting that this group's membership be broaded to truly reflect the diverse range of actions and perspectives on food and farming in Australia. AFSA also urges all its supporters to work with us and like-minded groups in building a truly democratic and participatory process for developing national food policy in Australia.
You can download the letter with the full list of supporters here.
Text of the letter
Senator Hon Joseph Ludwig
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Canberra ACT 2600 Australia
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
31st March, 2011
Food Policy Advisory Working Group
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 22nd October 2010, in which you advised that a wide range of stakeholders and views would be considered in developing a National Food Plan for Australia. Subsequently, you announced the formation of a National Food Policy Advisory Group in December 2010.
We now urge the inclusion of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance national spokesperson Michael Croft, of Mountain Creek Farm (near Canberra), on this Food Policy Advisory Group. As now constituted, this Group’s membership is too narrow, and excludes the new ways of thinking necessary to the transformation of Australian food and farming systems. In the formation of policy on such fundamental matters as food and agriculture, a wide diversity of voices, opinions and expertise needs to be heard and acted upon.
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) speaks to the aspirations of the many millions of Australians – farmers and non- farmers alike - who want a more equitable, sustainable, resilient and democratic national food system. We have set out the vision of such a system in our Manifesto, launched on 10 December, 2010. This is the vision of Food Sovereignty, now a global movement for change embracing hundreds of millions of people in every continent, led by the family farmers’ movement, La Via Campesina.
Australian and global food systems are at a critical juncture. Political, farmer, community and business leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations of a national food system that can be truly multi-functional, resilient and sustainable: creating jobs and prosperity; nurturing generations of healthy Australians; caring for the land, its magnificent and diverse ecosystems, and for the people who live and work within them.
The need for bold change is urgent and unavoidable. ‘Business as usual’, in food and farming, is no longer an option, but that is the mind set of those already appointed to the National Food Policy Advisory Group. Our soils are degrading. Our farmers are in crisis. Our national health is deteriorating – shockingly, the current generation of children will be the first in our history to have a reduced life expectancy, as a result of the obesity epidemic. This would be an appalling legacy to leave for future generations.
Yet a transformed national food system can address all these challenges: it can restore our soils and ecosystems to abundant fertility; it can provide high-quality food for all; and it can do so in ways that guarantee the viability of farmers, so that young people will once again want to embrace agriculture as a career of choice.
AFSA has received direct written endorsement of its inclusion on this Advisory Group from the following diverse array of organisations right around Australia. Collectively these organisations have membership and support bases of more than 500,000 individuals, farmers and non-farmers alike:
- Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network
- Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
- Australian Farmers Markets Association (150 farmers markets across Australia)
- Biodynamic Agriculture Australia
- Canberra Food Fairness Alliance
- Carbon Coalition Food Alliance (Victoria)
- Food Connect Foundation
- Food Irradiation Watch
- Friends of the Earth Australia
- Gene Ethics Greenpeace Australia, True Food Network
- Healthy Soils Australia
- Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE)
- Organic Federation of Australia
- Queensland Conservation Council
- Resources Consulting Services
- Slow Food Australia
- South Australian Organic & Biodynamic Alliance
- Sustain Queensland
- Sydney Organic Gardens Pty Ltd
- Tasmanian Community Gardens Network
We would welcome the opportunity to brief you and your colleagues directly about AFSA and the unique and deeply participatory perspective we will bring to the Advisory Group.
Nick Rose National Coordinator,
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance