Budget doesn't recognise agriculture role in supporting jobs
THE Queensland Farmers Federation has come out swinging at the State Budget 2017, saying it fails to acknowledge agriculture's role in supporting jobs throughout the state.
Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) president Stuart Armitage said while there were positives in the budget around investing in regional Queensland jobs and programs, there was a lack of acknowledgement of agriculture's role in supporting jobs and growth throughout the state.
"The number one issue across agriculture, and for many other regional businesses, is unsustain- able electricity prices,” he said.
"The government's plan to address this was outlined prior to the budget, however QFF is reserving judgment until some price relief is demonstrated,” he said.
"We welcome continued investments in drought support, Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority funding, money to help cap bores in the Great Artesian Basin and the $1.3 million Growing Queensland's Food Exports program, but many issues are under-addressed.
"QFF commends the government's continued investment into biosecurity through the containment and eradication of white spot disease and panama tropical race 4; however, funding to build much- needed capacity is missing.”
"Queensland agriculture has been calling for a considered and substantial bolstering of the state's biosecurity capabilities to ensure we have a system that appropriately invests in precautionary as well as reactionary measures.”
However, Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the QFF's assertion that the budget overlooks the role agriculture plays in Queensland's rural
and regional economies does not stand up to scrutiny.
"On the contrary it provides a targeted $5.2 million Rural Economic Development package as the heart of a drive to maximise investment growth and support rural communities,” he said
"It provides an additional $16 million investment in the Queensland Climate Risk and Drought Resilience program over five years to build on the $3.5 million allocated in 2016-17 to establish a program that is providing tools for producers to better manage climate risk.
"The latest AgTrends report underlines the strength of the state's agricultural economy.
"It estimates the total value of our primary industry commodities for 2016-17 at $19.95 billion - 20% greater than the average for the past five years and $1.5 billion more than was forecast late last year.
"It is remarkable that this growth has been achieved despite the long-term impacts of a record drought, STC Debbie, white spot disease and other substantial challenges.”
Mr Byrne said there was $3.4m provided over four years to establish the new Office of Farm Debt Restructure.
"In this Budget there is more specific funding to help fruit and vegetable growers to find and expand Asian export markets to exploit the opportunities created by recent free-trade agreements.”
Mr Byrne said there was $1.25m to help drought- affected landholders to better control weeds and pest animals.
"There is $20.9 million over three years to implement the biggest reform of fisheries management in Queensland's history.”
"It is a Budget that delivers on our continuing commitments for rural communities and builds on and exceeds the recommendations of the Rural Debt and Drought Taskforce.
"It supports the remarkable progress we have made in two years to tackle the scourge of wild dogs.
"At the 2015 election we pledged $5 million over three years to eradicate feral predatory animals.
"Since then we have provided grants of $8.5 million for producers to construct wild dog exclusion fences and a one-off loan of $18 million to Longreach Regional Council that will lead to the construction of fencing to protect 900,000 hectares of grazing land.
"This Budget is a seamless continuation of the measures we have taken to realise the vision of our Food and Fibre policy - a policy which is delivering in spades for the sector.”