In recent weeks, a number of concerned AFSA members have reached out to us seeking clarification on alarming claims perpetuated by far right organisations on social media about the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Legislation Amendments (ALA) Bill, which is currently sitting in Parliament.
The claims made on social media assert that the Government is seeking greater control and increased surveillance powers, which will disempower small-scale farmers and home gardeners. As a farmer-led organisation that advocates for the rights of small-scale producers and individuals to have autonomy and agency over their practices of growing ethical and ecologically-sound food, we would like to assure our members that we are not concerned about these amendments.
We engaged the AFSA legal team to look into the source of these claims, and discovered that they originate with far right groups spruiking anti-mandate, anti-vaccination and libertarian ideologies that AFSA publicly condemned last year in a statement against facism in the fair food movement. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the surface contentious and uncomfortable debates within our community, about the kinds of freedoms, rights and responsibilities we hold as individuals and to each other. While we hope that conflicting ideas and debate do not weaken or divide our movement, AFSA also stands firmly against facism and the dissemination of untruths that lead to fear in our community.
Directly addressing fearmongering spread through this latest right wing campaign against the Andrews government, AFSA supports the substance of the ALA Bill, and shares the following FAQs from the government:
- The Victorian Parliament is considering proposed amendments in the Agriculture Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 (the Act) to better protect the public, farmers, animals, the environment and trade from potential harm caused by agricultural and veterinary chemicals.
- Proposed amendments to the Agriculture Legislation Bill will not allow searching of persons without a warrant. The amendments include a requirement for an Authorised Officer to present identification and to take reasonable steps to notify the occupier before an inspection.
- Rare circumstances under which identification may not be provided by an authorised officer would be if there was a risk of evidence being destroyed. For example, if an Authorised Officer was in a paddock of bushland and collected a sample of a suspected illegal bait, notifying the occupier could allow them to remove or destroy the evidence before the Authorised Officer could get a sample analysed and return with a search warrant.
- No changes are proposed to the limited circumstances when destruction notices can be issued. Destruction notices can only be issued when the sale or use of a chemical product, fertiliser or stock food is prohibited; or the agricultural produce is- or likely to be – contaminated.
- An additional offence for ‘false and misleading conduct or information’ is proposed to deter false information being provided to an Authorised Officer. The penalty units are consistent with existing fines.
We ask that our members take time to read this response from Government and share with your communities to stop misinformation from circulating even further.
In fact, the ALA Bill signals an imminent victory for farmers in Victoria, who will be able to store meat in fridges on farm under a class 3 registration with local councils before selling directly through CSA, to butchers or at farmers’ markets. This is a battle AFSA has been fighting for the past six years alongside our allies at the Victorian Farmers’ Market Association (VFMA).
In a time of continued instability and uncertainty, we must remind ourselves of the importance of solidarity in our movement. Solidarity is the galvanising force of the growing food sovereignty movement, and one which we need to keep building momentum. Conversely, fascism and libertarianism have no place in our movement. These conversations are difficult and uncomfortable, but they are crucial in strengthening this sense of solidarity.
For anyone who would like to discuss these claims further, feel free to send us an email.