|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Agriculture to 1985
In the early days of settlement, sheep suffered from diseases such as scab and catarrh. Numerous regulations were made to prevent the spread of disease and for the provision of care for diseased stock on stations established for the purpose. These regulations were administered by Stock Inspectors appointed by the Superintendent of Port Phillip (VRG 11) and later the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) and the Chief Secretary (VRG 26).
The first official recognition of the part agriculture might play in the Victorian economy came with the establishment in 1859 of a Board of Agriculture within the Chief Secretary's portfolio by an Act for the Establishment of a Board of Agriculture (22 Vic., No.83). The Board consisted of the Chief Secretary, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, three persons appointed by the Governor-in-Council and representatives of Agricultural Societies. The Board's main business was to distribute Government grants in aid among agricultural societies, and to conduct an experimental farm at Royal Park. It was also responsible for disseminating information about agricultural practices and conducting classes for the study of agriculture. The Board was abolished by an Act of 1870 (34 Vic., No.380) having failed to demonstrate its usefulness.
Large scale selection of land began early in the 1870's, in many cases by people with limited knowledge of farming, and it became obvious that some Government assistance and regulation would be necessary. In 1872, a Minister of Agriculture (VRG 34) was appointed, taking over responsibility for functions previously administered by the Chief Secretary including the control of stock diseases and the right to destroy stock and compensate owners. In the same year, a Department of Agriculture (VA 618) was established as a branch of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
Initially the Agriculture Department comprised mainly stock and sheep inspectors, concerned with preventing the spread of disease and the eradication of sheep scab. In the same year a Diseases in Stock Act was passed to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease, and in 1873 outbreaks of phylloxera in Europe led to the proclamation of the Vine Diseases Act and under its provisions the prohibition of imports of vine cuttings to Victoria.
Later Stock Diseases and Vegetation and Vine Disease Acts made the Department responsible for the eradication of an ever-widening range of diseases, the prescription of quarantine areas, prohibition of the import, slaughtering and destruction of stock and the granting of compensation to owners. This involved a much closer supervision of farming activities and in the case of cattle and pigs led to a series of Cattle and Swine Compensation Acts, which included the imposition of duties on sales to raise money for compensation to farmers whose stock was compulsorily destroyed. This supervision of diseased stock was extended to bees in 1910.
About the late 1880's and the early 1890's the Department employed a chemist, an entomologist who dealt with noxious insects, and experts in dairying, fruit growing, wine making, drying fruit and growing perfume herbs. From 1882 the Department of Agriculture was removed from the administration of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey and was established as a department in its own right.
Experimental farms were set up at Werribee and Rutherglen in 1912 and a number of others at various later dates, dealing with particular forms of agriculture of interest to particular districts.
Some regulatory powers regarding marketing of primary produce, particularly of stock, had existed from early times under some sections of the Auction Sales Act. They were made more specific by the Fruit Cases Act and the Fruit and Vegetable Packing and Sale Act, which regulated packing of fruit. The powers were expanded considerably in 1920 when dealers in farm produce were required to take out licences and further increased in 1935 when the Marketing of Primary Products Act led to the establishment of several marketing boards.
(Source: Victorian Year Book 1971, p.105-108.)
Notes on the Divisional structure of the Department of Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture operated through various divisions over time.
Because of the frequent combination of cereal growing with sheep production, the management of sheep in relation to cropping developed as part of the responsibilities of the Division of Agriculture. That Division also advised on stock management on irrigated and dryland pastures.
The Division of Horticulture was created in 1923. It had previously been a branch of the Division of Agriculture.
The Livestock Division undertook control and extension activities in relation to the animal industries. As supervision of shed and factory hygiene and standards in the dairying industry rapidly expanded, a separate Division of Dairying was established in 1934 from the Dairy Industry Branch of the Division. The Dairying Division in time extended its activities into the sphere of dairy cattle husbandry and pasture management.
The Divisions of Animal Industry and Animal Health were formed early in 1966 from the former Livestock Division.
The Division of Animal Health became responsible for research and extension work in the field of animal diseases and control of stock diseases (including quarantine and preventative medicine and eradication of infectious diseases), artificial breeding and bee production. The Division also assumed responsibility for developing veterinary diagnostic services.
The remaining staff and responsibilities of the Livestock Division were allotted to the Division of Animal Industry and the Pasture (Agrostology?) Branch was transferred to it from the Division of Agriculture. The Division of Animal Industry comprised five branches (Sheep Industry, Beef Industry, Pig Industry, Poultry Industry and Pastures) and two research centres (Pastoral Research Station, Hamilton and S.S.Cameron Animal Research Laboratory, Werribee) with a small research group at the Rutherglen Research Station and responsibility also for the development of a Turf Research and Advisory Institute at Frankston. Its activities were limited to research (in such areas as breeding, feeding, reproduction and management) and extension (including farm visits, short courses, media coverage and discussion groups) with no regulatory responsibility.
The Ellinbank Dairy Research Station was transferred from the Livestock Division to the Division of Dairying.
Agriculture 1985 to 1992
In 1985 the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs assumed responsibility for agriculture from the Minister for Agriculture.
By 1985 the chief responsibilities of the Minister were setting and regulating standards for primary production (apart from mining and forests), providing research and development as well as advisory and technical services to agriculture and rural industry, regulating marketing of products and developing marketing strategies and promoting trade.
In addition to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and its regional offices, research institutes and experimental farms, the portfolio comprised a number of statutory authorities concerned with regulating rural industry and marketing its products, e.g. the Australian Barley Board, Citrus Fruit Marketing Board, Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board, Victorian Abattoir and Meat Inspection Authority, Victorian Dairy Industry Authority (VA 711) and the Victorian Egg Marketing Board. The Market Trusts which manage the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market and Western Metropolitan Market also operated within this portfolio as did a number of industry negotiating and advisory committees, e.g. the Tomato Processing Industry Negotiating Committee and advisory committees.
The Department was concerned with -
setting standards for, maintaining and improving agricultural productivity and product quality,
controlling, treating and eradicating plant, animal and product disease,
controlling pests and insects,
regulating use of agricultural chemicals and fertilisers,
regulating and monitoring production and distribution of agricultural products (such as milk, fruit, eggs, vegetables, grain, poultry and livestock),
marketing and developing trade in agricultural products,
It provided research and development, advisory, technical and publication services to the industry to promote improved productivity, better quality produce, animal welfare and disease and pest control. The Department developed general marketing strategies, promoted trade development and sponsored individual product promotions including fish marketing. The Department also operated a Garden Advisory Service relating to home gardening and household pests.
The Department operated through an extensive network of regional offices which included research institutes and experimental farms. Its research and development activities covered many fields, for example cropping, dairying, vegetables production, pastoral land use, animal husbandry, irrigation and salinity. The results informed the Department in its standard setting role and were disseminated to the industry through the advisory services provided by regional offices and the Department's publications. DARATECH Pty. Ltd., a company wholly owned by the Victorian Government, commercialised the research and development work conducted by the Department and other government agencies.
Agriculture in the 1990s
From 1995, Agriculture was no longer administered by a separate Department. Agriculture Victoria was part of the Department of Agriculture, Energy and Minerals.
The provision of a range of agricultural services continued under a regional structure which included all departmental research institutes, district offices and veterinary laboratories. The Quality Assurance Division of the Department was responsible for the Animal and Chemical Standards Branches and the Market Reporting Section. The Rural Policy and marketing Division dealt with policy advice and planning and the marketing of Victorian food. Research and Development was supervised by the Office of the Chief Scientist.
Further administrative change in 1996 made the agriculture function part of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. The Agriculture and Chief Scientist Division of the Department have responsibilities for the Agriculture Industries Program, the Agriculture Quality Assurance program and the quality of science in the Department. Advice continues to be made available to producers, research is carried on by Agriculture Victoria at a number of research centres across the State and situated in production areas to assist and facilitate export development. Since 1998 DARATECH Pty Ltd has been known as Agriculture Victoria Services Pty Ltd,.
There have been substantial changes in the regulation of the marketing of agricultural products. Authorities such as the Victorian Egg Marketing Board, Victorian Dairy Industry Authority and negotiating committees for other produce have been dissolved with marketing to be de-regulated. Co-operative marketing of barley with South Australia through the Australian Barley Board has ceased with a company becoming responsible and wheat marketing has become a wholly Commonwealth function. Citrus marketing has continued to function under statutory authority through the Murray Valley Citrus Marketing Board established under complementary legislation in Victoria and New South Wales.
A number of statutory authorities established under the Agricultural Industry Development Act 1990 and responsible to the Minister for Agriculture are designed to foster sustainable industry development, provide marketing support services and fund and encourage research and development. These include the Murray Valley Wine Grape Industry Development Committee, the Northern Victoria Tomato Industry Development Committee and the Victorian Emu Industry Development Committee. The Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 provided for the establishment of a number of advisory committees to advise the Minister relating to sheep and goats, cattle and swine as part of the compensation provisions in the Act. Food standards are monitored and maintained through such agencies as the Victorian Meat Authority and Dairy Food Safety Victoria.