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Foreign ownership of WA’s agriculture assets will be closely watched if the opposition wins the March 9 election.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the current level of foreign ownership of farmland in the state was reasonable at about 5 per cent, but he was concerned about it rising.

“We need to monitor this closely,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“Over time, perhaps what I’d want to do is set up a parliamentary committee to examine it.

“If it starts to grow and we lose control over our own farmland, I think a lot of people in Western Australia would have issues with that.
“I see it as a little bit different to investment in mining.”

Mr McGowan said Labor would abolish WA’s Potato Marketing Corporation.

“Under the system we have, if you’re a potato grower, you have to sell your potatoes to the Potato Marketing Corporation and then if you want to on-sell them, you have to buy them back at an increased price,” he said.

“You can only grow certain varieties of potatoes and what’s more, there is a Stalinist regulation system in place whereby your vehicle and the like - your home - can be searched to see if you have unlawful potatoes on your property.”

Regulating the industry reduced consumer choice and increased price, he said.

“That has been the experience interstate,” he said.

A talkback caller, however, said the regulator put a floor price on spuds, which would become the next battleground in the supermarket price war if it were abolished.

Mr McGowan said he believed potato growers should be allowed to grow a wider range of the vegetable and the market should set the price.

He also said he wouldn’t roll out more genetically modified crops in WA and would preserve more ancient forest.