Farmers welcome budget support
There are always winners and losers in every federal budget, and this year agriculture has emerged as a clear winner, with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) saying that last night’s budget delivered a “shot in the arm” for agriculture and regional Australia.
NFF President Fiona Simson says the 2021-2022 budget papers specifically referenced the NFF-led goal for agriculture to be Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030, outlining spending initiatives that will provide tangible benefits to farmers and bush communities.
More than $5 billion investment in freight and regional roads across every state and territory will go a long way to addressing the NFF’s previously highlighted concerns about the $1.3 billion annual gap in regional infrastructure spending.
“The cost of getting produce from farm to market is one of farmers’ largest cost imposts and a key determinant of our ability to compete on the world stage,” Simson says.
Farmers had also called on government to invest in the development of a long-term trade strategy that consolidates and diversifies agriculture’s export market base, and the budget responded with $213 million for trade, including enhanced representation and promotion of Australia’s interests through the World Trade Organisation and the establishment of a new international agriculture envoy program to protect agriculture’s export interests.
Another big issue on the table is climate change, which Simson says represents both an enormous challenge and opportunity for farmers.
“Farmers are poised to continue to lead the nation in its reduced emissions future,” she says. “The $237.9 million to help farmers better understand and manage their soils across a number of portfolio and priority areas acknowledges the importance of gaining a better understanding of soil carbon measurement and planning.”
Farmers are still facing critical workforce shortages, and while the NFF continues to call for a dedicated agriculture visa solution and an apprenticeship-style qualification, it has also welcomed the approximate $30 million in funding for some of the initiatives proposed in the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy, including development for agriculture career pathways and data to better understand the sector’s skills needs.
Agriculture continues to play a key role in our nation’s economic recovery. Despite the challenges of drought, COVID-19, fire and floods, the agricultural sector is expected to reach a record $66 billion in production in 2020-21.
“This budget is recognition of the crucial role a strong and profitable farm sector plays in Australia’s overall economic prosperity,” Simson says.