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Ag survives tough budget, but more investment needed for growth

8 May 2012

In a tough Budget in which agriculture has not emerged unscathed, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is pleased by the Government’s recognition of Australian agriculture’s strong growth prospects by committing new funding to key industry priorities.

“The NFF called on the Government to deliver two things in this year’s Budget: to deliver on the funds already committed and promises made and to create a platform for future investment in our food and fibre sectors,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“We are pleased that the agricultural sector has largely held its ground in tonight’s Budget and welcome areas of new investment.

“The commitment to $379.9 million towards a new post entry quarantine centre as well as funding towards pest and disease eradication efforts is a positive signal from the Government that improving Australia biosecurity system remains a priority.

“Let’s not pretend that the job of implementing the Beale Reforms is now complete as a result of this announcement – far from it. However we at least know that our quarantine system is not being compromised while we await the roll out of remaining reforms.

“The NFF also voiced its concerns in the lead up to this year’s Budget that the Caring for Our Country program was at risk. This program has been vital in providing incentives for those who manage more than 60 per cent of our landscape - Australian farmers - in undertaking environmental management practices.

“Tonight’s commitment to continue funding Caring for Our Country for another five years from 2013-14 is recognition of the vital role that farmers provide in caring for our natural resources.

“The NFF has also been pleased that tonight’s Budget has incorporated support for the work of the Bureau of Meteorology, the commitment of funds to aid the implementation of the EPBC Act reforms and flood levy exemptions for those suffering flood damage.

“On the downside, the NFF is extremely disappointed about the removal of funds for agricultural programs such as FarmReady, the National Weeds and Productivity Program and components of the Community Networks and Capacity Building Program.

“At a time when preparedness and resilience is a key focus for the farm sector, the NFF is particularly dismayed by the inability of the Government to find funds for the FarmReady program – a program that has provided much needed tools for farmers looking to manage their risk.

“This will be tough news for many farmers to swallow, especially as it comes hot on the heels of the recent announcement that interest rate subsidies have now been removed with no replacement policy to fill this void.

“We called on the Government to use this Budget to invest strategically in the future of Australian food and fibre production. In finding additional funding for biosecurity and natural resource management programs they have laid a modest foundation.

“However, to build a truly strong platform to deliver on the challenges faced by agriculture, more commitment and investment will be required in areas such as productivity based research and development, infrastructure, improving labour capacity and developing new tools to manage climatic risk.

“Only this will ensure that agriculture can continue to capitalise on the vast opportunities that present themselves and deliver much needed diversity to the Australian economy,” Mr Laurie concluded.

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