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Federal Budget “shot in the arm” for ag

Beef Central, 12/05/2021

The 2021 Federal Budget has been described by the National Farmers Federation as “a shot in the arm for agriculture and regional Australia”, with welcomed investment in biosecurity, infrastructure, trade, telecommunications, climate change adaptation and health services.

Other industry representative groups including the Australian Meat Industry Council also welcomed the budget’s outcomes for regional and rural Australia.

Some key budget inclusions of direct relevance to the ag sector include:

  • $129.8 million to deliver a National Soils Strategy National Soil Strategy;
  • $32.1 million to extend opportunities to reward farmers for the stewardship of their land;
  • $29.8 million to grow the agricultural workforce;
  • $15.0 million to improve trade and market access;
  • $60m committed to trial low-emissions feed supplements for livestock;
  • $5 billion investment in freight and regional roads across every state and territory, including upgrades Queensland’s Bruce Highway, the Northern Territory’s National Network Highway, South Australia’s August Highway and Tasmania’s Midland Highway;
  • $29 million for a strengthened and more coordinated approach to feral animal control;
  • $371 million over four years announced last week to expand and modernise an ailing biosecurity system;
  • $213 million for trade including the enhanced representation and promotion of Australia’s interests through the WTO and the establishment of a new international agriculture envoy program to protect agriculture’s export interests;
  • $209.7 million for enhanced climate services including more granular climate and weather data and forecasting;
  • $153 million in funding to improve bush communications with $68 million quarantined from existing funding for northern Australia; and
  • A $65 million expansion of bulk billing rebates in the bush

NFF President Fiona Simson said the 2021-2022 Budget papers specifically referenced the NFF-led goal for agriculture to be Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030 and outlined spending initiatives that would provide tangible, on the ground benefits to farmers and bush communities.

Ms Simson said the NFF has been critical of the massive underspend in the infrastructure portfolio and the $5b commitment to freight and regional roads was weclomed.

“These projects will go a long way to addressing NFF’s previously highlighted concerns with the $1.3 billion annual gap in regional infrastructure spending. The cost of getting produce from farm to market is one of farmers’ largest cost imposts and a key determinant of our ability to compete on the world stage. Work must commence on these infrastructure projects as soon as possible,” Ms Simson said.

Climate change was both an enormous challenge and opportunity and Australian farmers were poised to continue to lead the nation in its reduced emissions future.

“The $237.9 million to help farmers better understand and manage their soils across a number of portfolio and priority areas acknowledges the importance of gaining a better understanding of soil carbon measurement and planning.

On the flipside Ms Simson said the allocation of only $153 million in funding to improve bush communications with $68 million quarantined from existing funding for northern Australia.

“This falls short of securing the future of the Mobile Blackspots Program beyond this year, as called for by the NFF. The NFF implores the Government not to become complacent in its funding for regional communications,” Ms Simson said.

Especially important was some recognition of the inequality regional, rural and remote Australians face when it comes to accessing health care.

“We welcome the major commitment to mental health services in tonight’s budget – with $2.3 billion to support intervention, suicide prevention and services. We hope that regional Australia is set to receive a strong share of this allocation.

“The NFF welcomes approximately $30 million in funding for some of the sound initiatives proposed in the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy including for the development for agriculture career pathways; data to better understand the sector’s skills needs and to help farmers to better understand their compliance responsibilities.”

Budget delivers for parts of meat supply chain

The Australian Meat Industry Council welcomed the contents of the Budget, which it said had delivered on several areas for the meat supply chain as it recovers from the events of 2020 alongside other parts of the manufacturing sector.

The budget provided funding commitments to some key issues for the meat supply chain in the areas of workforce, trade and biosecurity, digital connectivity and small business support, AMIC said in a statement.

However, the prolonged international border closure and decreased access to workers has not been addressed in the budget and remains a significant and immediate problem for the processinbg sector.

“National workforce shortages averaging 5000 people at any one time are significantly impacting our red meat processing plants in rural and regional communities and this will remain the case while there is no timetable for the reopening of international borders to enable us to source overseas workers,” AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson said.

“While overseas workers only make up a small part of our workforce (10-15 percent in plants which employ overseas workers) they are an extremely critical part of our workforce make-up and without them, it will be increasing difficult for us to help government achieve its target of $100b in farm gate output by 2030,” AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson said.

“We have been working with the government on these issues and will continue to collaborate on a strategy to find mutually beneficial solutions.”

Investing in skills and employment

AMIC welcomed the government’s moves to extend financial support for employers and employees to get more people into employment and provide increased training opportunities. This includes:

A $500m commitment to expand the JobTrainer Fund by a further 163,000 places and extend the program until 31 December 2022 (to be matched by state and territory governments).

A $2.7b boost to extend the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements Program to support more than 170,000 new apprentices and trainees by subsidising businesses 50 per cent of wages over 12 months for new apprentices/trainees signed up by 31 March 2022.

Delivering pathway services for 5,000 women to commence a non-traditional apprenticeship.

“We must note however, that in the short-medium term, the Australian meat industry is managing an ongoing shortage of workers and whilst it is doing everything it can to find solutions, the sector needs support for employment programs to help attract, recruit and retain workers to fill current vacancies from domestic and international sources,” said Mr Hutchinson.

“From a long-term perspective, our meat industry supply chain needs employment training programs that are structured to support and achieve a workforce that is skilled, stable and permanent.”

Biosecurity

AMIC supported the Morrison-McCormack Government’s commitment to biosecurity with a $400.1m boost and a further $58.6m to continue efforts to address the risk of an African swine fever outbreak.

African swine fever is a contagious disease from domestic and wild pigs and has never occurred in Australia, but its movements mean it is a significant threat to our meat industry and trade because there is no vaccine available.

“Biosecurity is fundamental to underpinning the Australian meat supply chain from producers through to processors, manufacturers, retailers and exporters,” said Mr Hutchinson.

“Every dollar of investment by the government on biosecurity delivers multiple direct and indirect benefits to the Australian agriculture and manufacturing industries.”

Exports

AMIC welcomed the government’s investments in trade diplomacy, with a funding boost of $198m to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which is likely to result in additional resources both in Australia and in markets.

Technical market access in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will be bolstered with $15m, which will go some way to countering growing non-tariff barriers to trade and assist Australia to increase our influence over global trade rules. In addition, $87.7m has been earmarked for the Agribusiness Expansion Initiative to assist Australian exporters to diversify and expand export markets.

Manufacturing and supply chains

AMIC welcomed the government’s 10-year, $1.5b Modern Manufacturing Strategy which prioritises government and industry co-investment in critical areas including the food and agribusiness sectors. “We are pleased that the Manufacturing Strategy recognises the critical role that red meat processing plays in ensuring food security and underpinning agricultural manufacturing,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Small business

In addition to red meat processors and small goods manufacturers, AMIC also represents thousands of independent local butchers many which are small businesses. AMIC supports several budget commitments made for small businesses including:

A $12.7 million expansion of Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Services which will support adoption of digital technologies and an additional $15.3 million for driving business uptake of e-invoicing which could deliver significant net benefits over 10 years.

Business tax incentives including the temporary full expensing and loss carry-back announced in last year’s October budget will now be extended for 12 months until 30 June 2023. The extension of these measures is planned to deliver an additional $20.7 billion in tax relief to businesses and support around $320 billion worth of investment.

 

For information on the 2021-22 Budget visit www.awe.gov.au/budget

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