The first agricultural commissioner has been appointed to the Australian competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Mick Keogh will lead the Agriculture Enforcement and Engagement Unit team created at the end of last year and staffed with rural investigators and engagement officers, according to an ACCC press release.
The new unit is funded by the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper released in July 2015, which had a mandate to appoint a new commissioner as well as help farmers achieve a better return at the farm gate. It has promised A$11.4 million ($8.17 million; €7.45 million) in funding to boost ACCC engagement with the agricultural sector and create “a more farm-savvy and proactive ACCC [to] encourage fair-trading and strengthen competition in agricultural supply chains”, according to its website. Other white paper projects include improving transport and infrastructure to decrease costs often passed on to farmers.
Keogh has been appointed to a 5-year term. His first focus will be on the sugar industry, according to Reuters.
Farmers in Queensland have been able to select who sells on their sugar since new laws came into force at the end of last year. Foreign sugar millers with plans to process and market Australian sugar on Australian territory, including Chinese food and agriculture supplier China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (Cofco), are lobbying to change the rules again.
Most recently Keogh was executive director for the Australian Farm Institute, a chairman of the National Rural Advisory Council and a member of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Sustainable Agriculture Flagship Advisory Committee. He was previously general manager of policy for the New South Wales Farmers’ Association, according to the Australian Farm Institute website.
“Competition and consumer issues in the agriculture sector are a priority area for the ACCC. Mick Keogh has a long history of involvement with the agriculture sector and his experience will be invaluable to the ACCC when making decisions on agriculture matters,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a press release.