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Levy payer registers – Frequently asked questions for horticulture growers

Publication date: 8 December 2020

What is a levy payer register?

A levy payer register is a database of the details of individuals and organisations who pay industry-specific levies and charges. Levy payer registers have been enabled to bridge the gap between rural research and development corporations (as key levy recipient bodies) and the producers who fund their activities.

In almost all industries, RDCs do not currently know who has contributed levies, therefore representation of levy paying growers and producers is not as accurate as it could be. Levy payer registers seek to improve this representation and communication between RDCs and producers.

All 15 RDCs can establish a levy payer register if they choose. Grains, wine and grape and sugar have implemented levy payer registers to date (in addition to the dairy and wool industries pre-existing registers). Meat and livestock will implement a levy payer register and horticulture and the industries covered by AgriFutures are considering levy payer registers.

Where does the information for levy payer registers come from?

Levy collection agents (intermediaries, buyers, wholesalers etc) will be required to provide levy payer information when submitting levy returns. This information will include: name of the levy payer; contact details; ABN (if any) or CAN (if any); and the amount of levy or charge the levy payer has paid or is liable to pay. In almost all cases this information is already collected and stored by levy collection agents under existing legislation requirements. There is no additional administration burden or reporting requirement from producers.

Once a levy payer register is established a levy collection agent and/or producer may not opt out of the levy payer register. Producers will have control over their relationship with Hort Innovation. Growers can opt out of communication.

Why does Hort Innovation want to establish a register?

Hort Innovation has the responsibility to work with each horticulture industry to make strategic investments in R&D and marketing programs, specific to their needs and priorities. Each financial year Hort Innovation invests ~$122 million raised from an estimated 11,500 horticulture businesses and Australian Government co-contributions.

The primary purpose of the levy payer register is to engage with levy payers directly to understand R&D and marketing needs, design investments and keep levy payers abreast of relevant knowledge being created by the innovation system.

A levy payer register will enable Hort Innovation to:

  • Consult and communicate directly with levy payers.
  • Understand where the producer-raised levy money is coming from and model investments and extension activities based on accurate levy information.
  • Allocate accurate voting entitlement for Hort Innovation levy paying members with reduced administration effort and cost.

What are the benefits for producers?

In addition to the industry wide benefits of a levy payer register, such as approved representation and communication, specific benefits for producers include:

  • Producers will be able to access their own information through an online Levy Payer Portal. Producers will be able to update their personal information, see how much levy or charge they have paid on each collection product, and which RDC (who has established a levy payer register) receives those funds through using the portal.
  • Hort Innovation will be able to implement automatic and accurate voting rights allocation for producers who are, or become a member of Hort Innovation, without further paperwork needed from the producer (e.g. removes the current self-declaration process).
  • Producers may receive targeted invitations for panels, projects, extension opportunities that related to their specific production business (or opt-out of receiving these communication and opportunities)
  • Over the long term, producers will see improved value from the industries levy investments via Hort Innovations increased knowledge and capabilities.

When will the horticulture industry register commence?

Hort Innovation is still consulting with industry and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) and will advise of exact timelines as soon as these are known. The roll-out of a register across all Hort Innovation’s levied industries may take 18 months or more to fully implement.

How will the data be governed and protected?

Levy payer information is held securely by the department and may be used only for the purposes specified in the legislation. 

The department and the RDCs are bound by the Privacy Act 1988 and are Australian Privacy Principle entities.

Use of data is set out in section 27B of the PILCC Act. Information in the levy payer register may be used:

  • To maintain a register of levy payers
  • To maintain a register of persons eligible to vote in any poll conducted by or on behalf of the body
  • To make public any information of a statistical nature
  • In performing any of its functions under a law of the Commonwealth or a contract between the Commonwealth and the body
  • To determine whether a person is eligible to be a member or shareholder of the body (where relevant).

In addition to these restricted legislated conditions of use, Hort Innovation will implement internal levy payer register policies and procedures to protect and limit the use of levy payer data. For example, only certain roles within Hort Innovation may hold delegation to access the register data as a whole. Other roles may have delegation to access only partial data – the smallest amount of data that is required for completing the task at hand.

Looking for more information?

Producers can contact Hort Innovation via levypayer@horticulture.com.au to express an interest in receiving more information or to ask questions.