AgForce has welcomed the acknowledgement in the Federal Budget of agriculture’s vital contribution to our country, our lifestyle and our economy, and the need to support farmers through natural disasters both now and into the future.
General President Georgie Somerset said the budget measures announced demonstrated solid support towards agriculture becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030.
“Producers welcome funding to support those affected by the current catastrophic flood, fire and drought events, as well as initiatives to mitigate the effects of future natural disasters,” she said.
“The allocation of $3.3 billion, including $300 million in requested grants, to support flood-ravaged producers across north Queensland, and the $6.3 billion allocated for those suffering hardship because of record drought are both welcome and prudent investments.
“We also welcome the Government’s foresight in supporting industry to reduce the risk and impact of future events, with a new $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund to reduce disaster risk, in addition to its $3.9 billion future drought fund.”
Mrs Somerset said she was also pleased that AgForce’s sustained advocacy for better connected communities had borne fruit.
“We welcome the continued investment in connectedness, with up to $100 billion promised over 10 years towards roads, rail and telecommunications infrastructure,” she said.
“The $220 million to improve mobile phone and internet coverage in regional and remote areas will improve lifestyle, health and business opportunities for our producers and their families.
“Specifically, the $160 million for the Mobile Blackspots Program and $60 million to improve regional connectivity, including a digital hub to provide telecommunications advice to regional users, are welcome initiatives.
“The investment in road infrastructure will go towards making transport of agricultural product more efficient and less costly, in particular for the ‘first and last mile’, as well as help make travel for farming families faster and safer and AgForce continues to seek regional road funding to ensure this continues to improve.”
However, Mrs Somerset said the budget missed an opportunity to acknowledge and more strongly support the industry’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions, enhancing sustainable food and fibre production, and ensuring food security.
Mrs Somerset said initiatives to reward producers for ‘storing’ carbon on their properties was a “very welcome but belated” acknowledgement of a farmers’ role in managing landscapes and climate change – and that much more needed to be done.
“The $34 million promised over four years for the Agriculture Stewardship Package is a long-awaited first step to reward farmers for the environmental outcomes they deliver in reducing Australia’s carbon emissions,” she said.
“After years of operating under onerous vegetation management laws we welcome this initiative and look forward to working with governments on further expanding these types of ecosystem services payments models.
“Wed still feel that much more needs to be done by Government to match the outstanding efforts by producers, and that doesn’t include more regulation.”
Mrs Somerset also acknowledged the Government’s efforts to facilitate better market access for Australian food and fibre, in particular the Export Market Development Grant and its commitment to eliminate tariffs on Australian products.
“The greater ability of farm businesses to more quickly and effectively write off assets is also a positive initiative in the Budget that complements the fast tracking of the reduction in the company tax rate for small to medium sized companies.
“With an election no doubt imminent, we will wait with interest to hear the Opposition’s Budget reply and will continue to work with all sides of politics on advancing sustainable agribusiness.”
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