Agricultural Debt Management Bill: voting; NAMC Levy Application; Veterinary Professions Amd Bill: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

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This Report is a Contact Natural Resource Information Service
Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament

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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 September 2001
AGRICULTURAL DEBT MANAGEMENT BILL: VOTING; NAMC LEVY APPLICATION; VETERINARY AND PARA-VETERINARY PROFESSIONS AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Advocate P. Holomisa

Documents handed out:
Agricultural Debt Management Bill [B 54-2001]
Application of Statutory Measure in the Deciduous Fruit Industry in Terms of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, 1996 (National Agricultural Marketing Council)
Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill (Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs)

SUMMARY
The Committee finalised their discussion on the Agricultural Debt Management Bill and formally adopted it with amendments. The National Agriculture Marketing Council presented an application by NAMC for a levy on apples and pears. The Committee decided to postpone discussing the presentation as members had not had time to consider the accompanying documents.

The Department of Agriculture briefed the Committee on the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill. In depth discussion was deferred to a later date when the Chairperson of the South African Veterinary Council would be available to conduct a detailed presentation to the Committee.

MINUTES
The Chairperson stated that there had been an outstanding clause for discussion from the previous meeting of the Committee on the Agricultural Debt Management Bill. He confirmed the amendments the Committee had agreed to in the previous meeting before he opened discussion on the outstanding clause. The Chairperson proceeded to read the amended clauses (Appendix "1"). The amendments were confirmed with the exception of clauses 5.2. The Committee Members proceeded to discuss this particular section of the Bill.

Agricultural Debt Management Bill
Clause 5.2
Mr R. Schoeman (ANC) asked whether there had been agreement on the specific reference to "emerging farmers" in the clause.

The Chairperson asked whether mentioning the word "emerging farmers" would not lead to a need to further define what the Committee meant by "emerging". He said that the way in which the clause amendment was written appeared to be definitive enough to mean that the target beneficiaries of the funds would be black farmers.

Mr D. Du Toit, Deputy Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture, argued that the principle was very clear and acceptable in the wording of the clause and the Committee appeared to agree in principle to its contents. The Deputy Minister added that there seemed to be a need to tighten the wording merely for clarity.

Mr D. Hanekom (ANC) said that members needed to have confidence in the Minister and the Department to implement the law and direct funding to the most needy farmers.

Mr Schoeman suggested that there might be a need to also define the meaning of "agricultural development" in the amendment.

The Chairperson asked if members could not be satisfied with the wording in the amendment as it was, because it was specific enough without inviting misinterpretations.

Dr E. Baloi (ACDP) responded by saying that the problem would arise only if a person abused the clause by interpreting it in a way that was not intended. He argued that a millionaire farmer could present an "agricultural development project" proposal to the Department, and would argue that he qualified under the law.

A suggestion to change the wording to substitute "developmental" for "development" was made and the Committee accepted the change.

The Committee discussed a point in Section 5.2 on separating the process through which money in the Agricultural Debt Account (Account) would be accessed outside of the normal budget vote of the Department of Agriculture. Members had raised concerns that the existence of the Account could lead to the Treasury Department treating it as a financial source for the Department. Members were also concerned that the use of the funds in the account would not be limited to the original objectives of the Account.

Mr A. Botha (DP) stated that there was a need to ensure that the funds of the Agricultural Debt Account were kept separate from the normal Departmental budget.

The Chairperson related a conversation he had with the Minister of Agriculture where the Minister had said that the Treasury was not amiable to any other form of appropriation of the Agricultural Debt Account (Account) other than the normal parliamentary appropriation process. The Minister had reported that the Treasury was insisting that the Account funds were Treasury funds.

Mr Du Toit said that the funds constitutionally belonged to the Treasury. He said that if funds were to be obtained from the Treasury, Parliament had to appropriate them. He said that to ensure that the funds were allocated relevantly, Parliament would need to be very specific about the amount of money and the purpose of the appropriation. He said that the only problem existed in the Treasury's ability to control and reduce the Departmental budget if it perceived the existence of a separate fund as a financial source for the Department.

Mr P. Ditshetelo (PAC) suggested that the Committee should concede that the Treasury would not be swayed in following any process that was not the normal appropriation route.

The Chairperson suggested that the solution lay in the Parliamentary Committee making sure that it clearly specified how the funds would be allocated in the appropriation process. He proposed that the final wording on Clause 5.2 should read "must" in the place of "may".

The Deputy Minister commented that "must" would be too strong a word to use in the given context. He said that the word would suggest that Parliament was being instructed. He said that this would be unconstitutional.

The Chairperson suggested that the final wording of the amendment contain the word "must" and let the State Law Advisors determine its constitutionality. Committee Members indicated their support for the Chairperson's suggestion. The Chairperson proceeded to read the Committee's report to Parliament.

The Committee passed the Amendment Bill and approved the report for submission to Parliament.

National Agriculture Marketing Council Levy Application
The Chairperson invited the representative from the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC) to present to the Committee. He also informed members that there was a need to make a decision on the issue by 28 September 2001.

Mr C. Gladwin from the National Agriculture Marketing Council presented to the Committee on the application by the Deciduous Fruits Producers Trust (DFPT) for statutory measures to be applied on apples and pears. He said the measures would apply to apples and pears produced for fresh domestic consumption and export, as well as apples utilized for the production of fruit juice concentrate. Mr Gladwin stated that the application for statutory measures was made by the DFPT as the umbrella body of the South African Apple and Pear Producers' Association (SAAPPA), and that the application was in terms of section 10 and 11 of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, Act No 47 of 1996. He reported that the Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture had taken cognisance that the statutory measures requested were consistent with the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act.

Mr Gladwin listed the statutory measures for which the application was made. He stated that section 15 of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act dealt with the introduction of a levy to finance research projects, information technology transfer, plant improvement, information and marketing statistics and market development and access to new markets. He added that section 18 of the Act dealt with records and returns and lastly, section 19 of the Act dealt with registration. He stated that the proposed levies for fresh apples were 1.5c with the domestic market guideline price R/kg between R1.50 - R2.00. For the export market, he stated that the levy would be 1.5c with the guideline price R/kg of between R3.00 and R4.00. He said the levies for apple fruit juice concentrate would be 0.6 with the guideline price R/kg of between35 - 40c/kg. He said for pears the levy of 1.5c with the domestic market guideline price of between R1.20 - R1.50. He said for the export market the levy would be between R2.50 - R3.00/kg.

In giving the history of the application Mr Gladwin reported that a referendum had been held between 23 and 30 August 2000 where all producers were given an opportunity to cast their vote. He said the result of the referendum showed that smaller producers were in favor of the statutory measures while the majority of the industry voted in favor of retaining the voluntary funding mechanism. He reported that after the voluntary system had proved to be unworkable in the apples and pears industry, the decision was revisited. This resulted in 80% of apple and pear producers supporting the application.

In conclusion Mr Gladwin stated that the proposed statutory measures would further the objectives of the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act and they would not be detrimental to food security, employment opportunities in the sector and to fair labour practice.

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and invited questions from members.

Mr A Botha (DP) wanted to know why NAMC had not given the Committee enough time to consider their submission. He said that the letter was sent within the 30 days that the Committee had to consider and decide on the issue. He also said that the accompanying documents had been made available to members too late for them to read, research and apply their minds to the matter.

Mr J. Arendse (ANC) said that in his opinion, Committee Members were given enough time to read the documents. He also said that the 30 days the Committee had to decide on the matter was enough time for Members to discuss the issue.

Mr E Baloi (ACDP) asked for a show of hands to determine how many Members had been able to read the accompanying documents.

Mr D Hanekom (ANC) asked for the date when the letter was submitted to the Committee as this would determine the date on which the 30 day period would commence.

The Committee Secretary said that he was not sure of the exact date, but that he thought the letter was received two and a half weeks before.

The Chairperson noted that a significant number of Committee Members had not had time to read the accompanying documents. He also noted that the 30 days required for the Committee to decide was not about to run out for another two weeks. He then suggested that discussion on the matter be postponed to the Tuesday of the following week.

Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Amendment Bill
Mr G. Bower, President-elect of the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA), presented to the Committee on behalf of the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). Mr Bower opened his presentation by saying that he felt that his competence in presenting to the Committee would be limited to the general aspects of the Bill. He reported that it was his understanding that the detailed presentation would be done by the Chairperson of the SAVC, Dr Arlington.

Mr Bower outlined the main objective of the Amendment Bill as being the changing of the composition of the SAVC. He explained that the constitution of the Council was out of date and it was not in line with the principles laid down in the Constitution of South Africa. He reported that there was a process of consultation that the Council had undertaken where it emerged that there was exclusion of certain members of the South African population because of past policies and exclusionist admission policies of academic institutions. He said that the need to make the Council more representative in terms of race and gender and more balanced in terms of professional representation and national spread in its representation was identified. He revealed that the consultation process pointed to a need for the Council to take into account the needs of previously disadvantaged communities, its clients and customers and for improved communication to the Council's general members. He also reported that there was apathy about the profession and stated that the Council wanted to promote the importance of the field to South Africans, especially among young black people.

Mr Bower stated that the Bill also aimed to make provision for the Council to set standards and examine applicants for specialisation. He said the Bill also aimed to allow veterinary practices to be done as registered companies and for the Council to hold disciplinary hearings and apply fines. In conclusion, he announced that a number of stakeholders were consulted in the drawing up of the Bill and referred Committee Members to page nine of the Bill for the list of consulted parties.

Mr Mafulazi (ANC) asked whether comments from the consulted parties could be made available to Committee members as it would assist them in getting a fuller picture of what all stakeholders thought of the Bill.

Mr D. Hanekom (ANC) said that it might not be necessary to obtain every comment as the Department had already looked at them in the process of drawing up the Bill. He however said that it was important for Committee Members to at least know what the comments of those who may have objected were.

Adv. R. van Zyl, Legal Advisor, Department of Agriculture, said that the Department would do what was possible in providing comments from consulted parties to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked Adv. van Zyl to take the Committee through some of the amendments.

Adv. van Zyl addressed section 33 of the Bill, which dealt with disciplinary procedures. She said that the Department wanted to propose a section 3(a) that established an appeal procedure. She said that currently there existed no appeal procedures and this left defendants with the only option of expensive legal proceedings in court. She argued that an appeal process under the Minister of Agriculture would be a cheaper alternative available to defendants.

Adv. van Zyl stated that the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa had approached the Department to consider an amendment to section 29 of the Pharmacy Act. She said that in section 29(3)(a) of the Pharmacy Act, there was an oversight in leaving out veterinary practitioners from a list of medical practitioners who were allowed to hold medicine at their places of work. She said the amendment would be to re-instate veterinary practitioners onto the list.

Mr Du Toit, the Deputy Minister, asked Committee Members to look at the whole Bill from a wider point of view. He said that the transformation of the veterinary profession was not going very well. He said that there were very few black people in the profession, mainly because of the high cost of entry into the field and academic requirements. He reported that in 2001, only three black students were admitted to study veterinary science. He asked Committee Members to start thinking about ways in which the profession could be stimulated, as it was very important to agriculture in the country.

Dr Bower expressed his willingness to work with the Committee on issues relating to the profession. He said that the profession was doing very well professionally in South Africa as it had set very high standards. He said that it was however very crucial that work be done to improve the public's perception of the profession. He announced that the SAVA had a public relations and communication plan that he was willing to share with the Committee.

Dr Baloi (ACDP) said that he was fully behind the sentiment expressed by the Deputy Minister and Dr Bower about raising awareness on the importance of the profession.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked why the Bill stipulated only two official languages for use by the Council, one of them being English. She also asked whether the clause about veterinary practices converting into companies was not going to unfairly disadvantage poor communities.

Adv van Zyl responded to Ms Ntuli with the answer that the language stipulation only affected the staff of the Council. She said that it was common practice in the country for state agencies to use English as the basic language while translations would be provided to any of the other languages. In response to the question about converting practices into companies, she said that no veterinary practitioners would be compelled to convert their practices into companies. The clause simply allowed for the option to be available to them. She said that practitioners would choose to register as companies as this would give them liability protection they did not have when practicing as sole practitioners and also for better tax management.

Mr Bower said that it was important to look seriously at community veterinary clinics to make the service available to communities that could not afford commercial rates. He said that there was a pilot programme in the Eastern Cape Province, which needed support and should be replicated through out the country.

The Deputy Minister suggested that there might be a point behind investigating options where veterinary students would undertake community service. He said that the country needed veterinary practitioners and added that the livestock industry needed a vibrant veterinary service. He asked the Committee to make 2001 the year for promoting the veterinary profession.

The Chairperson closed discussions, to continue with them next Tuesday.

The copyright in this material subsists with the Contact Trust. Further distribution or copying of this material is prohibited without the prior agreement of the Contact Trust.
Appendix 1

AMENDMENTS
Agricultural Debt Amendment Bill

Clause 3
On page 3, line 27, after "collected" to insert " or written off".

Clause 5
On page 4, line 8, after "(c)" to insert ", and".
On page 4, line 11, to omit "may" and to substitute "must".
On page 4, line 12, after "utilized" to insert " for agricultural developmental programmes".
On page 4, line 15, to omit "with or without amendments".

Clause 8
On page 5, line 3, to omit paragraph (d).
On page 5, line 4, to omit "(e)" and to substitute "(d)".
On page 5, in line 6, to omit "(f)" and to substitute "(e)'.
On page 5, in line 8, to omit "bought" and to substitute "acquired".
On page 5, line 22, to omit "may write off debt relating to the account in accordance with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act" and to insert the following paragraphs:

(a) "may write off debt relating to the account";

(b) "must write of such debt in accordance with the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act and a policy determined by the department."

On page 5, line 25, after "any" to insert "suitable".
On page 5, line 28, after "any" to insert "suitable"
On page 5, line 30, after "other" to insert "suitable"

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