Federal Budget provides support but not strategy

The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has acknowledged spending in the agriculture portfolio in the 2021-22 Federal Budget but noted the government’s lack of strategic vision to enhance the sector’s competitiveness, prosperity and growth.

QFF CEO Dr Georgina Davis said while the federal government had delivered welcome and much needed funding for biosecurity, trade, drought management and biodiversity, the targeted investment required to help drive the agriculture sector forward was conspicuous by its absence and quantum.

“QFF welcomes the federal government’s support to expand agricultural export markets, strengthen the country’s biosecurity response to protect agricultural and regional communities, and extend the instant asset write-off for eligible machinery and equipment,” Dr Davis said.

“With agriculture expected to produce more in the future with less, the federal government should also be commended for investing $197 million over the next four years to begin implementing the 20-year National Soil Strategy and expanding the biodiversity stewardship pilot, which gives farmers another income stream through improving on-farm biodiversity.”

However, Dr Davis said that some of the critical and important bigger picture issues the agriculture sector was facing had been ignored.

“Spearheaded to invest $15.2 billion over 10 years in infrastructure, roads and rail projects, the Budget has all but forgotten Queensland, providing only $1.6 billion, half of which will not be delivered within the four years of the forward estimates, and failed to fund key developments including the Emu Swamp Dam and the Bundaberg East flood levee.”

“Limited funding for climate change mitigation comes as consumer, shareholder and regulatory pressure is growing for the sector. Agriculture requires policy settings that ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon future and focused measures and incentives to achieve net zero and renewable energy targets, and other ‘green market mechanisms’.”

“The $4.2 million initial investment in the National Agricultural Innovation Agenda suggests the government recognises agriculture has historically not only benefitted from technology adoption but excelled at maximising productivity and financial returns, but the level of funding is disproportionate with the current needs and opportunities.”

“Additionally, with the Budget suggesting international borders will not reopen until mid-next year, we acknowledge the $29.8 million for the Employment in Agriculture package. However, the initiatives will not provide any solutions to the immediate and unprecedented agriculture labour market disruption which continues to restrict farmers’ productivity and profitability.”

“While funding for childcare subsidies is welcome it does little to assist many farm businesswomen who often do not qualify due to farm assets, thereby limiting women in achieving their career aspirations and exposing them to financial insecurity.”

“With this Budget widely considered the last before the next federal election, the government has failed to demonstrate strategic intent and deliver joined up investment to enable the Queensland agriculture sector to fully capitalise on the exciting opportunities that are unquestionably there.”

Source: QFF