Budget cash for farmers hailed

By Country News

Funds for drought support, dairy code of conduct, improved export market access and regional roads, rail and airports were all included in last week’s federal budget.

NSW Farmers’ president James Jackson welcomed the ‘‘back in black’’ federal budget, saying there were positive commitments including $6.3billion in drought support.

The budget also includes $1.9million over four years for a dairy code of conduct, with $8.7million to be provided over 11 years from 2019-20.

The cost will be partially offset by redirecting funding from the Rural Research and Development for Profit Program, according to budget papers.

‘‘Competition remains a key concern for farmers, particularly dealing with the oligopoly power of processors and supermarkets,’’ Mr Jackson said.

‘‘Like the Treasurer (Josh Frydenberg) said in his budget speech, the drought has taken a heavy toll and the Federal Government has adopted such measures as extending the Farm Household Allowance and investment in mental health services in response.’’

The 2019-20 budget has also committed $29.4 million, over four years, to enhance Australia’s agricultural exports which includes funding to increase market access, improved access to plant genetics for the horticulture sector and more than $11 million to minimise the impact of non-tariff trade barriers.

‘‘While the budget does include some measures to help recruit seasonal labour, no news regarding an agricultural visa is disappointing. It’s a practical solution to improving access to labour, particularly in the horticulture sector.’’

The VFF welcomed the budget, calling on the Victorian Government to ensure its next budget focused on the importance of agriculture, but was disappointed not to see an agriculture visa included.

‘‘This is something the agricultural sector has been pursuing for some years, yet the government has failed to recognise the importance and critical need for this,’’ president David Jochinke said.

It was a view shared by National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson.

‘‘Farmers are leaving produce on the vine to rot because they just can’t source the workers they need. It’s time the government stopped pontificating on this one and delivered the known solution in the form of an ag visa,’’ Ms Simson said.

‘‘Our labour woes are just one example of where we need a more strategic approach by government to complement our vision to reach $100 billion by 2030.’’

Other measures, including $160 million for the fifth and sixth round of the Mobile Black Spot Program and $60million to improve the NBN Sky Muster, were welcomed by Ms Simson.

Under the budget, instant asset write-off — which allows businesses to write off assets (such as tools or equipment) against their taxable income — has been extended and expanded.

It will now cover individual purchases under $30000, up from $25000, and can be used by businesses with annual turnover of under $50 million, up from a $10 million limit previously.