Funding praised ahead of budget

By: Andrew Hobbs

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Farmer groups have welcomed funding commitments for manufacturing and water infrastructure ahead of the release of the 2020-21 Budget this evening.

Funding praised ahead of budget
Additional funding for water infrastructure has been welcomed by farmer groups. Image courtesy Alamy

 

Agriculture groups were also quick to welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment, last week, to invest "an additional $1.5 billion in specific industry measures" to back a plan to make Australian manufacturers more competitive.

Morrison told the National Press Club last week that the funds would be used to "to build scale in areas of competitive strength… and to secure sovereign capability in areas of national interest."

Included in a list of six "National Manufacturing Priorities" named was food and beverage manufacturing, which Morrison said was the largest employer in Australia’s manufacturing sector.

"Australia’s status as a leading agricultural producer with a premium reputation for safe, clean produce gives us a real edge here, a vital edge," he says.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) president Fiona Simson welcomed the announcement, saying it made sense in the current climate to play to Australia’s economic strengths.

"But there is still enormous scope for growth – particularly in our regional centres – as COVID-19 makes people second guess life in our capital cities," she says.

"With targeted investment in advanced manufacturing, and the right policy settings for things like labour, skills, energy and telecommunications, we can start to lure back industries which have flown the coop in recent decades."

Simson added that she also hoped a $107 million Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, also announced during the Press Club luncheon, could be used to sure-up vulnerabilities in the ag supply chain exposed by COVID-19.

"COVID-19 has reminded us just how anaemic our manufacturing capacity is for critical farm inputs – things like chemicals, fertilisers and machinery," she says.

"Making everything here in Australia will never be the answer, but it’s a sensible time to take stock of our vulnerabilities and see what can be done to address them into the future."

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Grains Group President Ashley Fraser also welcomed the supply chain investment.

"We need to use this opportunity to explore ways we can improve our grain production security through domestic manufacturing, domestic reserves and diversified supply chains," he says.

"With food and beverages identified one of the key priority areas of domestic manufacturing investment, there is a fantastic opportunity to add value to our products," Mr Fraser said.

Water Infrastructure

The government also announced it would double its funding for the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme – supporting the construction of bores, dams and pipelines – to $100 million in total.

The funding was initially announced in the 2018-19 Budget as $50 million over three years – to conclude at the end of 2021.

Water Minister Keith Pitt says an extra $50 million will be made available this financial year to drought affected livestock producers and horticulturalists with permanent plantings.

"This investment in our farmers provides rebates up to 25 per cent of the eligible infrastructure costs, capped at $25,000," he says.

"The scheme, which was managed by states and territories, was over-subscribed by an estimated 2000 applications."

The roll-out of the expanded scheme is currently being negotiated with all states and territories, including co-funding arrangements, as the state and territory governments are responsible for administering and delivering the rebates.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar called on state and territory governments to commit additional funds to the program.

"We are calling on state and territory governments to show the same commitment to Australia’s farmers as the Federal Government and allocate the necessary funds," he says.

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