Budget 2019: How did Australian agriculture fare?

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, delivered his first budget and the last before the next Federal Election. For 2018/19 we’re still in a deficit, but pending numerous economic factors there’s a $7.1 billion surplus forecast for 2019/20. As usual a budget before an election is a pitch to voters, but how did Australian agriculture fare?

On the whole drought and flood disaster relief, infrastructure, market access and farm labour were the big ticket items, with some interesting new initiatives such as the Agricultural Stewardship Package for biodiversity and National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation.

Drought Support
Still no funding for a forward looking National Drought Policy. However, the government included $4.2 million for a National Drought Map.

Previously, income generated from the forced sale of livestock affected a farmer’s eligibility for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). To improve the uptake of FHA, this income will be exempt and instead must be invested in a Farm Management Deposit. The cost of this exemption is expected to be $3 million.

Beef Australia 2021
Beef week (2 – 8 May 2021) is receiving additional support with $3.9 million over three years allocated in funding for the three-yearly event held in Rockhampton.

Farm Labour
Still no funding for an agriculture-specific visa, but the government did announce a 12-month pilot program addressing seasonal worker shortages. The pilot would operate in three regions – yet to be selected.

Seeking to incentivise Australians to take up seasonal work, the government has allocated $24.1 million to expand the current Harvest Labour Service to five new horticultural regions. A further $1.9 million over four years is aimed at developing a long term view on these recurring issues with the creation of a National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Climate Solutions Fund
$2 billion was earmarked for the CSF back in February, and included in today’s announcement. It adds to the emissions reduction fund which focused on providing opportunities for farmers, businesses and Indigenous communities to develop emissions reductions projects with local benefits.

Fast Rail Corridors
It seems like “Fast Rail” is the dream that won’t die, and drew some chuckles from the Opposition upon announcement. While a recurring theme, with many reviews, feasibility studies and investigations to date, further funding was allocated to look at targeting key regional fast rail routes such as connecting Sydney with Wollongong, Newcastle, Bathurst and Parkes.

Regional and Remote Airports
$100 million was allocated in the budget for the improvement of regional and remote airports through additional safety measures and improved access.

Enhancing Australia’s Agricultural Trade
$29.4 million has been earmarked for growing Australian agricultural exports and trade. The investment covers four key areas:

  1. Accelerating horticulture market access ($11.4 million)
  2. Enhancing industry action on non-tariff measures ($5.1 million)
  3. Package assisting small exporters – extension ($6.1 million)
  4. Australian Trade and Market Access (ATMAC) Programme ($6.8 million)

Weather Monitoring
Radar coverage is set to improve across NSW and Queensland with $77.2 million allocated over 23 years. The Moree radar will move to Bogabilla along with numerous other changes to radar locations.

National Leadership for Agricultural Innovation
This initiative will receive a boost of $2.9 million over three years for the establishment of an advisory panel to strengthen leadership and investigate ways of modernising the innovation system.

Agriculture Stewardship Package
The four year package comprises three key areas and focuses on improving, quantifying and certifying farm biodiversity. The package will cost $34 over four years with the three key areas:

  1. Agriculture Biodiversity Policy
    • The policy will target the development of a national biodoversity vision involving both community and farmers.
  2. Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program
    • Grants will be available to incentivise the adoption of improved biodiversity practices
  3. Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme
    • $4 million of the total funding will be allocated to the National Farmers’ Federation to develop and trial the certification scheme.

These are the standout areas identified so far, but check back regularly as this will be updated as new areas of interest are found.

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