Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Egg farmers could be heading for trouble if they adopt the new 'free range' standards proposed by Ministers.
Egg farmers who follow the new 'free range' standards proposed by Ministers for Consumer Affairs and the Federal Small Business Minister Kelly O'Dwyer could face trouble with planning laws as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. I wrote to Victoria's Planning Minister Richard Wynne, asking if the Minister could intervene in the decision to allow egg producers with stocking densities of 10,000 hens per hectare to be classified as free range instead of the accepted standard of 1500 hens per hectare. Mr Nick Wimbush, Acting Executive Director,Planning and Building Systems of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning responded, saying “It is not possible for the Minister to issue a directive regarding free range egg production as each proposal must be considered on its individual merits and circumstances in line with land use definitions. However, he said “changes to national labelling laws do not change these land use definitions or the farming zone. I recommend that an egg farmer considering increasing their stocking density in response to the labelling law changes contact the planning department of their municipal council for advice about whether planning approval will be required.” The ACCC has already said that it will review is guidelines for free range egg production in light of the recent ministerial decision. ACCC action in the Federal Court resulted in several fines of $300,000 against businesses which falsely labelled their eggs as free range.