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Key programs retained but more needed for agriculture – for all Australians

10 May 2011

Key programs retained but more needed for agriculture – for all Australians

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to funding for some key agricultural programs, yet emphasised that future government investment is still required that goes well beyond the scope of today’s budget.

“The NFF was preparing for a conservative Federal Budget that looked to redirect the economy back towards surplus following the fiscal hits of the global financial crisis and the January floods and cyclones. From this perspective, tonight’s budget has not been surprising”, said NFF President Jock Laurie.

“Yet while we welcome injections in the areas of Environmental Stewardship, regional infrastructure, the drought pilot extension, mental health, regional migration and capital depreciation concessions, the Government must not lose sight of some key priorities for agriculture that remain in limbo without funding security.

“There remains unfinished business relating to the Beale review on enhancing Australia’s quarantine system while, key infrastructure initiatives such as the National Freight Strategy need funding to bring the vision to reality.

“In addition, we cannot hope to bolster flagging productivity growth and improve environmental outcomes without an improved commitment to research, development and extension.

“Australian agriculture cannot meet its many major challenges, such as doubling food and fibre production over the next 50 years from a dwindling resource base, without significant additional investment.

“In terms of what is included in tonight’s Budget, the NFF is pleased that the Government has extended funding for the overwhelmingly successful Environmental Stewardship Program.

“To discontinue its funding now would have halted all of the positive momentum that the program has built in enhancing the way in which environmental outcomes are delivered, acknowledging that a ‘lock up and leave’ approach to natural resource management is an outdated concept.

The NFF welcomed greater flexibility around Farm Management Deposits for those recovering from natural disasters and the Government’s proposed $5,000 instant asset write-off for small business to cover capital purchases such as motor vehicles.

In terms of farm sector labour, the NFF also welcomed the announcement of an additional 6,000 intake towards the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and the lowering of the bottom marginal tax rate under the Pacific Seasonal Worker scheme.

While the NFF remains committed to drought policy reform, today’s extension of the WA drought trial is a prudent measure that recognises the complexity of this policy challenge and gives confidence to the farm sector that these reforms will not be rushed or based on insufficient data.

The NFF also welcomed increased funding towards mental health.

“The NFF cannot overemphasise how critical the issue of mental health has been for Australian farmers in the wake of the stress and hardship that has arisen from natural disasters and poor seasons. This issue has taken a huge toll on our people and we hope today’s announcement will go some way towards healing this illness that has had such an effect on our regional communities,” Mr Laurie said.

However, the NFF was disappointed by changes to the fringe benefits tax rules on company cars that will have a disproportionate impact on regional communities whose residents are subject to the tyrannies of distance and have less access to public transport.

[ENDS]

Media Contact: Matt Linnegar on (02) 6273 3855 or 0428 264 823

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Media Enquiries: Ruth Redfern on 02 6269 5666, 0408 448 250 or .

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