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Farmers shocked and dismayed by agricultural R&D cuts

6 May 2009

Statement by Charles Burke, NFF Vice-President

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is angry and disillusioned about today’s revelation that the Rudd Government will cut research and development (R&D) in griculture, including in the area of climate change research.

The NFF was crystal clear in its pre-budget submission: "agricultural R&D investment is at critically low levels at present with state and federal governments slashing their contribution over many years".

The NFF specifically called on government to increase funding, so it will astound the farm sector that R&D funding is being carved out. The Government can expect a deep and negative response.

If the Government believes so fundamentally in the challenge climate change will present agriculture, as they keep saying, how can it justify cutting research into areas such as climate change, resource management and water - it is counter-intuitive.

The Government, including Minister Burke himself, has spoken continuously about the need for productivity improvements and the challenge of food security and climate change. How can the so-called Razor Gang expect farmers to meet this challenge if they slash already wafer thin investment?

The Government has an obligation to support the development of tools, techniques and technologies to assist farmers manage challenges such as the vagaries of the climate and the scarcity of agricultural land and water.

Quite simply research and development underpins the development of these tools.

If R&D programs are cut without them being replaced elsewhere farmers would be right to feel the Government is leaving the field when the going gets tough.

The NFF understands the pressure the budget is under. Indeed, after 10 years of drought farmers know a bit about tight finances, but the fact is that there simply is no 'fat' to cut in the agricultural portfolio, it is threadbare enough already.

To make matters worse, industry has not been consulted in regard to this cut in funding to Land and Water Australia and the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation.

The strength of the current R&D system in agriculture is a government and industry partnership. This has the potential to set an extremely dangerous precedent and the NFF will fight to have R&D funding reinstated.

[ENDS]

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