Tonight’s Federal Budget recognises the fundamental role agriculture and the regions are poised to play in Australia’s COVID-19 recovery and affirms the Government’s support for the farm sector’s goal to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.
“In what is arguably the most important Budget of a generation, tonight Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has outlined a pragmatic but bold spending agenda that will accelerate agriculture’s growth and regional Australia’s contribution to the nation’s bottom line,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“The NFF welcomes a combination of big-ticket, future-focused regional infrastructure spends and immediate cash injections needed to stimulate growth and to address the COVID-induced challenges facing farmers, including critical labour shortages.”
Horticulture is expected to have a labour deficit of 26,000 workers come March 2021. To encourage young Australians to immediately take up farm work, $17.4 million will be directed to $6k grants to assist with the costs of relocating to regional Australia. Temporary changes will also be made to expedite access to Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY for young people who choose to work on farm, in a package valued at $16.3 million.
The NFF will continue to call for a designated workforce solution to address agriculture’s ongoing labour challenges.
“We welcome the investment to see Australians pursue careers in agriculture with support to make higher education courses in agriculture more affordable,” Ms Simson said.
In direct alignment with the NFF’s goal to revitalise regional food and fibre manufacturing, the Government has tonight provided more detail of the previously announced $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Package.
The package includes an additional $50 million for Industry Growth Centres to progress manufacturing priorities for identified industries, including food and beverage.
More than $100 million will be directed to tackling supply chain vulnerabilities and building future resilience.
Coming off one of the worst droughts in living memory, Ms Simson said farmers welcomed the $50 million extension of the highly successful Emergency Water Infrastructure Scheme
“Now, we need the states to collaborate on this valuable program. We also welcome the commitment of $2 billion in grants to build new dams, weirs and pipelines.
“It’s been too long since we we’ve seen the development of serious water infrastructure in this country. The Government must as soon as possible get to work on making new dams a reality.”
Similarly, Ms Simson said investment in regional road infrastructure was always welcomed and commended the Government on its equitable spread of $7 billion across regional and urban projects with significant upgrades to key regional roads such as the New England Highway in New South Wales and the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia.
“We also applaud what is a pillar of tonight’s Budget, a $328 million congestion busting package for agricultural exporters.
“Making it easier for Australia’s export-dependent agriculture sector to export our sought-after products to the world, will be integral to agriculture achieving the growth needed for agriculture to tally $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.
“The package earmarks $222 million to modernise digital services for agricultural exporters and $35.2 million to reduce the constraints of red tape on seafood, meat, live animals and plant exporters.
“Exporters welcome the Government’s commitment to address outdated, frustrating regulations and to streamline the compliance process.
A $317 million continuation of the COVID air freight assistance package is also good news for exporters, as is an extra $51 million in grants to assist exporters with the cost of reaching new international markets.”
Key environmental announcements include: $36.6 million to progress the statutory review of the EPBC Act; $2.5 million to develop natural capital markets; and $10.6 million for the negotiation of bilateral agreements with the states.
“Additionally, there is now real money, $26.8 million, for the digital transformation supporting the data transition. The NFF continues to focus on a package of outcomes which this money will inform.”
Ms Simson said the majority of farm businesses were small businesses which would benefit from expanded tax concessions, including the extension of the instant asset write-off scheme for two years.
“We also welcome the expansion of the R&D tax incentive for businesses with a turnover of less than $20 million.
“Australia like many other countries, is in enormously challenging times,” Ms Simson said.
“Tonight, the Government has delivered a plan to help farmers kick-start our nation’s recovery, a plan which has agriculture and regional Australia at its heart.”
Others key measures include:
- $30.3 million to improve mobile and broadband services through the Regional Connectivity Program.
- $19.6 million to extend the drought function of the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency.
- $250.7 million for fuel security planning with a goal to increase Australia’s onshore diesel storage by 40%.
- $25 million to haul salvaged logs from fire-affected areas to timber mills.
- $141.1 million for the National Skills Commission to provide on Australia’s future workforce needs.
- $269.6 million for the Murray Darling Communities Investment package to implement Murray Darling Basin Reforms that are community-led.