Deliberations on the Fertilizers and Feeds Bill [B41-2012] and consideration and adoption of outstanding minutes

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

16 April 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

PMG was not able to attend the first part of the meeting, which was not advertised on the programme, and unfortunately has no recording or notes of what transpired in the first hour. Enquiries on this may be directed to the Committee Secretary. However, Members were discussing the procedure for the Fertilizers and Feeds Bill, following some  concerns that the public consultation process on the Bill that was conducted by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and indeed the public consultations in Parliament, may not have reached all the farmers who would be affected by the Bill. Some Members noted that the advertisements and notifications had probably failed to reach the small scale farmers who did not belong to any farmers’ organisations, yet they were going to be the most adversely affected by its provisions. However, another Member pointed out that the Bill had implications also for commercial farmers, and whilst she agreed with the need to find the best possible way to reach out to the small farmers, she suggested that others should not be ignored. It was possible that the poultry farmers, none of whom had commented, possibly just had nothing to say on the Bill, but it should be recognised that the Bill was introducing some concepts very different from the previous Act. Members discussed whether time and logistics allowed for the Committee to visit all provinces, thought that there probably were not that many people affected in the Western Cape and discussed how best to reach out. The Chairperson suggested selecting one province as a main convergence point for the Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West, but other Members countered this with a suggestion that the Committee should split into smaller groups, to be able to cover more ground, and that the Chairperson should consult with his counterpart in the Select Committee to try to ensure that between them, the two committees did reach out to all the necessary people. The MPs were also asked to address the matter in their constituencies. It was summarised that the invitation for public submissions would be reopened and public hearings would be held in Parliament. Secondly, the Committee would also go out to conduct public hearings with those that would not have the opportunity to come to Parliament, and details and logistics would be provided of that.

Members turned to the consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes, adopting minutes between 19 February and 19 March.  During the deliberations on matters arising, several Members noted that there were a number of outstanding issues on which the Department was supposed to comment, but had not reported back, including fishing matters, the use of implements and how they were distributed to the provinces, report-backs on spending by the provinces, and they agreed that the Secretary and Content Advisor would compile a list of these and try to obtain the outstanding responses. Secondly, several Members complained that this lack of response was indicative of a disrespectful attitude that hindered the oversight work of the Committee, and said that this was an issue that would be raised with the Minister and Director General on the following day. Members reiterated their concerns that 99% spending, yet only 51% achievement of targets by this Department was also indicative of a serious problem that would need to be resolved. It should be made clear to the Department that it remained accountable also to the NCOP despite the fact that it derived its budget from the National Assembly vote.
 

Meeting report

Fertilizers and Feeds Bill B41-2012: Deliberations
PMG was not able to attend the first part of the meeting, which was not advertised on the programme, and unfortunately has no recording or notes of what transpired. Enquiries for the first hour’s proceedings should be directed to the Committee Secretary. It appears that the Committee Researcher may have taken Members through the Bill and pointed out that areas of contention raised at the public hearings.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee needed to know who specifically should be targeted, in the provinces and rural areas, so that not everyone was lumped together.  He said that it would be difficult at this time to make a decision, even though Members could engage in a long debate related to the question of provinces and rural areas, but they needed to be guided as to whom to target in the rural areas and where the bulk of those individuals were, to avoid going to provinces that may be irrelevant for the purposes of this exercise.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked whether it would not be wise for the Committee to contact the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO) as to which municipalities, in which areas, the Committee needed to visit to reach out to the majority of the communal animal farmers; and whether NERPO could also assist the Committee with getting those farmers together.

Mr S Abram (ANC) said that even though NERPO could be of assistance, the Committee’s problem still remained, namely to decide how best to reach out to farmers who were not members of farming organizations, as the Fertilizers and Feeds Bill would affect them very adversely. The Committee needed to find a way of trying to reach a representative sample. NERPO of course could be consulted, as it, and it would be interesting to get their opinion. As far as other sectors were concerned, he pointed out that perhaps the known organisations should receive a letter and copy of the Bill, and be specifically invited to come and make a presentation to the Committee on the Bill. Without wanting to discriminate against any province, Mr Abram suggested that it was likely that small flock and herd farmers were to be found in the Northern Cape (NC), the Eastern Cape (EC), some in the Western Cape (WC) and KwaZulu Natal (KZN), the Free State (FS), Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West (NW) and some old Bophuthatswana areas. In general, unfortunately, eight provinces in the country possibly did not have the types of farmers whom this Committee needed to reach.

He suggested that MPs, including those who were not on this Committee, be asked to identify, in their own constituencies, groups of small flock and herd farmers. Organisations such as NERPO and African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) could assist the Committee by acknowledging where they had membership, in particular categories, and in which categories they had no membership. A farmer who might, for instance, deal in grain, and who knew the districts well could also be asked to assist the Committee in reaching out to people. The Committee needed to establish the principle that it must go out and talk to those farmers, and make sure that the farmers understood the implications of the Bill. The Committee needed to remember that although legislation was not cast in stone, it was expected to be on the statute books for some reasonable period of time, and in general it should be amended only when it no longer suited needs. For that reason this Committee needed to ensure that the legislation it was framing would suit the sector to whom it applied. The Bill was currently one-sided, as it looked to create regulations for the industry only. The other issue for Mr Abram was that the DAFF had not been able to prove to the Committee that wrong feed or other reasons may have led to an outbreak of a major disease in the country.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) reiterated that the Chairperson had spoken of oversight and public hearings. The Committee was indeed speaking of the public hearings, not oversight. It was small scale farmers whom it was suspected had not been consulted. She was not against the suggestion to consult with NERPO or another organisation, but said that the Committee still had to conduct public hearings. The Western Cape was more urban than rural, and she thought that from the remaining eight provinces logistics dictated that maybe the Committee should visit five provinces, of which the most essential was KZN, followed maybe by the EC, although if time permitted then it should aim to cover eight.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) said that this Committee should consult with the Select Committee at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which would enable this Committee to cover all the regions that it needed to, without duplicating areas that the Select Committee would have covered. She noted that her own constituency did not even know what NERPO was, and she wanted to speak on behalf of the vulnerable people and their dependents, to the officials in the provinces, who should then consult with the districts to identify outlying small scale farmers who had no other means of information.  That would give the Committee a way to reach the individuals in rural areas. She added that this Committee must now select a date to meet with the NCOP Select Committee as it was behind with its public hearings on the Bill, and in the meantime reach out to the small scale farmers who were yet unknown. She suggested that the Chairperson be mandated to consult with the NCOP Select Committee Chairperson who could identify whether Limpopo, North West, or Mpumalanga should serve as the central coordination point for public hearings.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane reiterated that the Chairperson had mentioned the large feed companies earlier. She believed that although their input was welcomed, the Committee should not that they did not represent the masses.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) suggested that the media be used to help reach rural areas on the public hearings for the Bill. The Bill mainly focused on big feed producers and farmers, whereas some small farmers that belonged to no farming organisation could not be reached through such organisations and had no knowledge of the Bill. The point had previously been raised about the contamination of kept feed by bird excrement, but Mr Cebekhulu’s interactions with a dairy farmer noted that this farmer had not experienced such contamination, as he kept his own feed.

Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Content Advisor to the Committee, said that the Bill as it stood was not intended for every farmer using feed for his animals. The definitions, as outlined in the definitions clause at (a) and (b) specifically excluded pets and cattle kept for domestic use and not for sale. It also excluded animals who were not kept for food production, like cats, dogs and others. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) had said, during its responses to the submissions, that this Bill was not intended to regulate keeping of feed for everyone who kept animals, nor to regulate everyone who produced fertilisers. It was still possible for Members to consult with people on the point, but she thought that most of the farmers did not really mix feed. When that did occur, the mixture was done from raw products and that excluded them from those paragraphs.

In terms of the consultations the Animal Feed Manufacturers Association (AFMA) and the Ostrich Business Chamber were consulted, according to the Department. There were also other organisations that were consulted during the drafting of the Bill. When the Bill came to Parliament, the Committee advertised for three weeks, in the national media, about the public hearings. She believed that other organisations, such as poultry farmers, could have submitted any concerns to the Committee. However, during those weeks of public advertising, only the organisations specifically consulted during the drafting of the Bill made submissions to Parliament. Members needed to discuss in detail those issues that had been raised during those hearings, as they were important. Members also needed to discuss the issue of fertilizers, which the fertilizer industry had raised when consulted later in the process. This industry had suggested that the Bill should be split, because regulations of fertilizers and feeds differed. In its current form, the Bill did not really deal with fertilizers. The legislation did not allow for joint sittings between this Committee and the Select Committee, because the NA must first finish its own processes and only after the Bill was passed by the House would it be referred to the NCOP.

The Chairperson noted that it was clear was that the chance should be given to re-open the process to further submissions by stakeholders. That meant that another public hearing should be arranged, with a broader base, not one that was “project-managed” by a specific body. The Committee had to know which provinces to target. Even though the Committee also needed to decide whether or not it needed to have a joint sitting with the NCOP, the Chairperson reiterated that each Committee followed different processes. The Committee must know whom it was targeting in each province, and whether there were individuals that attended to their own food mixes for their animals.

Ms A Steyn (DA) said that the previous Act excluded self-feeders, whereas the new Bill included them, and that was the most contentious part of the Bill. If a farmer prepared his/her own feed and used it with his/her animals and then sold those animals, and something happened to them after sale, the seller could be in difficulty in the case of dissatisfaction by the buyer. The new Bill was bringing self feeders using raw materials under scrutiny, which had not been done before, and it was clear that people did not know or understand this distinction. This emphasised the need for more public hearings so that people could be made aware of how the new Bill would affect them. Her proposal was that the Committee should focus upon four provinces, (NC, EC, Mpumalanga and KZN), with the Committee split to allow for a greater spread. However, the other provinces would not be entirely excluded.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane said she had a serious problem with the statement that the Bill was not meant for everyone. This seemed to imply that self-feeding small scale farmers who might only buy feed for their animals during droughts would be forced to comply with the Bill if it were passed as currently worded. She also differed with the Chairperson’s statement on the possible nomination of a central area for provincial hearings, in the northern parts of the country, and agreed that it would be preferable for the Committee to divide into smaller groups to cover provinces that were clustered on one side of the country.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee seemed to have reached stagnation on the decision on who should be targeted for the proposed reopening of submissions and the public hearings. He had thought that the Committee should agree that it needed to target the small holding, small scale farmers.

Ms Steyn said she believed that both small scale and commercial farmers should be targeted. As she had mentioned earlier, the commercial farmers were not included in the previous Act, and many self feeding small scale and commercial farmers were still in the dark concerning the Bill. This Committee should allow all farming organisations to present. The logistics would dictate that some meetings should be held in more rural communal settings, and others in more commercial settings, in a particular province.

Ms Phaliso said that during the previous public hearings the usual stakeholders came to Parliament. However, Members later learned, having consulted with those in their constituencies, that people in general did not seem to understand what the Bill was about. The  Bill was clear about which sector to focus on but what was coming out of these deliberations was that the Committee had to go out to the individuals who could not come to Parliament. She referred to the previous suggestion that the Chairpersons of this and the Select Committee should work out the logistics of how and where to reach the outlying farmers. She did not think this Committee could make a decision on this alone.

The Chairperson noted that Members had now agreed that two processes must unfold. Firstly, the invitation for public submissions would be reopened and public hearings would be held in Parliament. Secondly, the Committee would also go out to conduct public hearings with those that would not have the opportunity to come to Parliament, and details and logistics would be provided of that.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
19 February

The Chairperson invited the Committee to query the attendance of colleagues. He asked that Members concentrate on the contents, and deal with matters arising thereafter.

Mr L Van Dalen (DA) raised an objection to bullet point 3.4 on the third page, and suggested that it be rephrased to show how Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was addressing issues of transformation in the fishing industry, and the recommendations from the Committee on that document.

The minutes were adopted with amendments

In respect of Matters Arising, Ms Steyn said there were a lot of issues, summaries and decisions taken that still needed detailed clarification. She requested that a list of all outstanding issues should be sent to the DAFF and either this Department must be asked when it would respond, or a date be set to discuss those issues with the DAFF. It was not satisfactory for the DAFF to simply overburden the Committee, in one day, with a lot of documents that amounted to presentations, without explaining outstanding issues.

Other Members agreed with that proposal.

Mr Van Dalen asked if the Committee could not mandate the Secretariat and the Researcher to follow up on all the outstanding issues, to ensure that the Committee received everything from DAFF.

The Chairperson noted a technical amendment.

The Chairperson asked the Content Advisor to assist the Committee and follow through on the outstanding issues.

22 February
The Chairperson reminded Members that that meeting was an emergency session and there were some technical amendments.

Ms Steyn said that the Committee had asked Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) that the list of vaccines that was not available at that time be sent to the Committee, showing the period for which they were unavailable, and the reasons for this.

The minutes were adopted with amendments

5 March
These minutes were adopted, with no amendments.

12 March
Ms Steyn asked if, under the heading of outstanding issues, it was possible to make reference to the deliberations and concerns, so that the Committee could be reminded of which issues exactly were being detailed.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane wanted to know whether the DAFF had responded to the questions that the Committee had put to DAFF during that morning’s session.

Mr Abram wanted to know whether the DAFF had responded to his question about unused implements and tools, because the DAFF had been asked again in a subsequent meeting about what it was doing about those tools, and it seemed that nothing was being done.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane felt the DAFF was undermining the Committee, and asked how the Committee should move forward in dealing with the failure of the DAFF to respond to questions from its own oversight Committee.

The Chairperson said that whilst this was indeed an issue, he wanted to concentrate, for the moment, on the adoption of the minutes and outstanding issues.

Ms Phaliso said that Mr Abram’s opinion was not a true reflection of the tools and implements discussion, and arising out of that discussion, there was a decision taken that the DAFF should attend to that matter immediately.

The Chairperson asked whether the Committee agreed to the wording.

Ms Phaliso replied that DAFF, instead of submitting a reply during a later meeting, should have responded in writing to indicate whether it was indeed attending to the tools and implements issue.

The Chairperson asked if she was saying that the matter was not correctly recorded, and when Ms Phaliso said that this was her concern, read out an amendment, which was agreed to.

The minutes were adopted with amendments.

The Session 2 minutes of the same day were adopted without amendments.

13 March
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that this meeting was a public hearing on the Bill.

Ms Steyn noted a technical amendment.

Mr Abram said that in the paragraph under ‘officials in attendance’, there were substantive amendments needed.

The minutes were adopted with amendments

15 March
Mr Abram noted that he had submitted his apologies, although they were not recorded here.

Subject to that amendment, the minutes were adopted.

19 March
The Chairperson noted that there were two sets of minutes.

In relation to Session One, Ms Steyn noted that the Committee had asked the DAFF what it was doing to assist farmers that had declared that they were defaulting on their payments.

The minutes were adopted.

In relation to Session 2, Mr M Cele (ANC) asked that his apology be recorded, as he had sent it through.

Ms Steyn said that there were two issues missing. Firstly, the Committee had been concerned with the financial status and had asked that DAFF re-look at the implications of the cost of the Bill. Secondly, the Committee wanted to know about inputs into the consultation process, and summaries of discussions DAFF had held with farming communities.

Ms N Twala (ANC) said that the question of farmers in the aquaculture industry should also be considered, in the selection process for consultation about the Bill in the provinces.

The minutes were adopted with amendments.

General comment on minutes
The chairperson applauded the Secretariat of the Committee.

Ms Steyn asked if it was possible that the Committee obtain electronic copies of adopted and outstanding minutes, as the PMG minutes were not officially accepted.

The Chairperson said that generally the official minutes were available about a week after a particular meeting, but could be made available sooner, if the Secretariat managed to prepare them.

Mr Abram reiterated that the Committee Secretariat should highlight all the major decisions taken. He expressed his concern that DAFF, whom the Committee oversaw, seemed to be treating the Committee with contempt, and this was letting the country down. Something was not right with the DAFF as it spent 99% of its budget but only achieved 51% of its targets. It was the Committee’s duty to get to the bottom of why the DAFF was failing. The fishing industry had not been surveyed for a year, and the DAFF had not conducted a proper Total Allowable Catch (TAC) survey either. The DAFF seemed to be not serious about its mandate, especially with regard to the unused implements and tools which could be easily damaged by the elements. It was not enough for DAFF to say that its mandate ended when it handed over items to provincial departments, because it was using the nationally-allocated budget. Answers must be given to the Committee’s questions.

The Chairperson asked that Mr Abram raise these points during the meeting planned with the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director General on the following day, when DAFF would be presenting a budget and a strategic plan. The Committee would have enough time to engage the DAFF on budgetary and the strategic plan issues. He reminded the Committee of the discussion with the Office of the Auditor General, during which the Committee had reflected on the DAFF’s plan and annual report, and had discussed the apparent mismatch between expenditure and targets, which should also be raised in the following day’s meeting.

Mr Abram thanked the Chairperson for his consideration, but he reiterated that he was quite frustrated with the DAFFs conduct and that the Committee “must read the Riot Act” to DAFF. It was not only a question of delivery, but also a question of what impediments officials were facing in performing their duties, which was not an opposition-type comment, as alleged, but one that was truly applicable to South Africa. The only mechanism to hold the provinces to account was via the NCOP. Some provinces were not performing and others were using agriculture to loot money. If there were shortcomings in the concurrent responsibilities, that was a constitutional issue and the Committee should make it clear that DAFF was accountable also to the NCOP despite the fact that budget came via the NA.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane reiterated her earlier concern about the apparent contempt the DAFF showed for the Committee and asked what would be done about that.

The Chairperson noted that this Committee had battled to get some paperwork from its predecessors, including documentation on the study tour to Brazil. This Committee must ensure that it compiled the all the paperwork needed for a handover to the incoming Committee, so that it would not get confused and would be able to track previous work done by this Committee with DAFF.

Mr Van Dalen said that the Chairperson should guide the Committee in getting what was needed from the officials of the DAFF.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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