The Victorian government is set to free up regulations governing the sale of packaged meat from farm gates and at farmers' markets.
The government is making changes to the Meat Industry Act (MIA), which governs meat safety regulator PrimeSafe's licencing of meat processing facilities and transport vehicles.
Under the changes, small producers who do not slaughter or butcher their own animals, will be able to register as a food business with their local council,
The government intends transferring the regulation and food safety checks for sales of pre-packaged meat from PrimeSafe, after Agriculture Victoria said the laws would be "carved out" of the MIA.
"The carve-out aims to provide more straightforward requirements and less regulatory burden for businesses undertaking low-risk activities, including, and related to the retail sale of packaged meat," Agriculture Victoria senior policy analyst Katie Day told the Victorian Farmers' Market's Association (VFMA).
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"Ever since we started selling to farmers' markets it's been an impossible grey area and finally they have listened," Brooklands Free Range Farm, Blampied, co-owner Natalie Hardy-Hurst said.
"From what I am seeing, it's saying you can store meat on farm, have retail sales on farm and have a wholesale operation as well - this is a great solution."
Ms Hardy-Hurst and other small producers said PrimeSafe sought to impose onerous conditions and costs on the storage of packaged meat on-farm, prior to it being sold, in what had been an "ongoing battle" for the past six years.
"It's meant having to pick up meat at ridiculous hours, or hire PrimeSafe vehicles to transport it," she said.
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Ms Hardy-Hurst said Brooklands had a "proper, walk-in cool room", paid for under a state government agricultural artisanal grant.
"When we tried to register the cool room, we were told we couldn't store packaged meat here unless we paid all the PrimeSafe fees and called ourselves a registered butcher," she said.
"But we don't do all the things a retail butcher does - we could basically have an app with our cool room temperature recorded and they could log in anywhere - which, for packaged meat, is all that should need to be inspected."
The PrimeSafe website says a third party audit, twice a year, would cost $1800, on top of $175 application fee and annual licence of $350 required for a butcher's shop.
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Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance president Tammi Jonas said her organisation and the VFMA had been lobbying the government to make the changes since "at least" 2016.
"It's such a simple common sense change to the legislation to let council regulate pre-packaged meat, at registered premises and on farms," Ms Jonas.
"It's a super-low risk activity.
"We have always maintained the position PrimeSafe should be the regulator for processing, not of storage and distribution."
Legislative change took time, but Victoria had three Agriculture Ministers since the matter was first raised in 2016, she said.
The other issue was the cost of regulation.
"We have a four audits a year, in NSW they have one - I pay $1600 a year, they might pay $400," she said.
"There are some problems of interpretation, by the regulator, but the legislation itself is still in need of further reform, especially around testing and audit requirements."
Warialda Belted Galloways, Clonbinane, sells meat at farmer's markets, and co-owner Lizette Snaith said her and husband Allen said they would like to store it on farm and possibly sell it from a farm-gate shop.
She welcomed the changes, saying PrimeSafe had also told her to build a butcher's shop, at a potential cost of $250,000.
"We don't want a butcher shop, we don't want to process meat here," Ms Snaith said.
"It's been a long time coming but it's definitely a positive move.
"If we had been able to do this, we would have done it 25 years ago, and started with a shop."
VFMA field officer Peter Kenyon said Agriculture Victoria had asked for his members to give feedback on the changes to the legislation.
He said many small producers believed Victoria had much more stringent food safety regulations than were required.
"Is it delivering food safety standards, or is it bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy? Mr Kenyon said.
Agriculture Victoria intends the amendments to start on January 1, 2023