An investment in road and rail infrastructure to help reduce the cost of transporting farm produce from paddock to plate, additional assistance for drought-affected communities and the continued roll-out of wild dog exclusion fencing top AgForce’s wish list for 2018’s QLD Budget.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said agriculture was the fastest growing industry in Australia, and primary producers wanted targeted investment in infrastructure to help the sector continue to grow for the benefit of all Queenslanders.
“Demand for our high quality food and fibre is growing, but transport can make up 30 – 40 per cent of the cost of production so we need more investment in road and rail infrastructure that makes it safer, easier and cheaper to get farm goods to market,” he said.
“With billions of dollars set aside for Cross River Rail and $150 million already announced for a new arts centre in inner-Brisbane, regional and rural Queenslanders will also be looking to 2018’s State Budget for their fair share of new infrastructure investment.
“We’d like to see new funding for highway upgrades in north, central and western Queensland, and a pool of funds set aside for local councils to work with industry to address ‘first and last mile issues’, and to encourage planning works and freight route assessments which offer the greatest benefit to our regional economies.”
Mr Guerin said with more than half of Queensland still drought-declared and some areas now in their sixth year in drought, valuable government assistance measures needed to continue and be expanded.
“The ongoing nature of this drought has overwhelmed even the best efforts of producers to prepare, and the current government assistance measures, while welcome, are only designed for droughts that last two to three years,” he said.
“That’s why we’d like to see new measures such as relief from council rates and leasehold land rents for drought-affected primary producers, more funding for education support and mental health services in remote areas, and capital works investment to help revitalise regional and rural communities.”
Mr Guerin said he hoped the QLD Government would deliver on their election pledge to provide more funding for wild dog exclusion fencing in the State Budget.
“Wild dogs have had a devastating effect on the Queensland sheep industry for decades, but the roll-out of fencing supported by Federal and State Government programs is helping the sector to rebuild,” he said.
“While the QLD Government’s pledge of $5 million over two years to support more cluster fencing is welcome and a good start, we believe $5 million a year is needed to meet the enormous demand and ensure the job gets done properly.”
Other initiatives AgForce would be keen to see featured in the State Budget include:
- Funding for a quad bike safety rebate program similar to what has been introduced for primary producers in Victoria and New South Wales;
- Investment in the scientists and tools needed to ensure the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study examines the full picture on vegetation management both clearing rates AND growth rates;
- More funding for biosecurity awareness to ensure producers understand their rights and obligations;
- Increased financial support for research, development and extension to back up the words in a new 10-year ‘Action Plan and Roadmap’;
- A more permanent funding structure for the School to Industry Partnership Program, which helps inform school students about where their food and fibre comes from, and showcases agricultural career opportunities; and
- Extension of the intergenerational farm transfer duty exemption to include family trusts and companies.