The Federal Opposition says it wants the Federal Government to explain why funding for a program designed to help farmers adapt to climate change is about to be terminated just as Exceptional Circumstances support programs come to an end.
Shadow opposition spokesman for agriculture and food security John Cobb said the Federal Government is set to cut the FarmReady program in next week’s budget, with departmental staff from the program already having been re-assigned to other areas.
FarmReady replaced the Howard Government’s FarmBis program and provides assistance to farmers and rural land managers to gain access to business and natural resource management training and education.
“I am astonished that a government that wants to scrap Exceptional Circumstances and replace it with a system that increases drought preparedness would then cancel FarmReady which works to improve farmers’ management skills,” Mr Cobb said.
“According to the Agricultural Department this program, is to help manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Yet when we have the incoming carbon tax, which will have a major impact on farmers and associated industries, the government is stopping the one program that helps farmers adapt.”
Mr Cobb said the opposition understood the Federal Government was planning to axe several agricultural programs as it sought to strip $50 billion in spending from this year’s budget.
“The government continues to talk up the importance of the farm sector through its food plan and opportunities in Asia yet at the same time cutting valuable resources and increasing regulations,” Mr Cobb said.
“The government needs to match its words with actions and continuing programs such as FarmReady would be a good start.”
Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig confirmed that the FarmReady program would terminate in June, but said that has long been known.
“FarmReady has always been a four year program scheduled to end in June 2012 – that’s no surprise and Mr Cobb knows that,” Mr Ludwig said.
“The Gillard Government takes climate change and training seriously and has introduced a number of new programs to assist landowners act on climate change and access training including the $1.7B Land Sector Package and the $1.75B Skills for all Australians Package.
“Mr Cobb is nothing but negative – he likes to run around talking down Australian agriculture and scaring people. It doesn’t change the fact that the outlook for our industry is bright.
“There will be countless stories between now and Budget night and like this one, many will be short on facts. The Government doesn’t comment on Budget speculation, except to say that we will continue to manage the economy for working Australians.
“If Mr Cobb wants to give farmers any certainty, he’d come clean on what programs will face the axe under the Coalitions $70 billion worth of service cuts.”