The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has acknowledged the increased spending in the agriculture portfolio in yesterday’s 2019-20 State Budget but has questioned some of the government’s funding choices as the sector continues to lose value.
QFF CEO Travis Tobin said that while competition between various sectors of the economy was inevitable, agriculture seemed to be missing out on its fair share of stimulus funding needed to address some critical competitiveness and productivity issues and progress growth initiatives.
“Credit to the government for maintaining funding for drought relief and disaster recovery arrangements and continuing to recognise the importance of biosecurity with funding for control and eradication programs of exotic pests, diseases and weeds. An unwavering commitment to these areas is a must for the sector,” Mr Tobin said.
“The government should also be commended for listening to QFF and recognising that dam safety is a public good that should not be borne by farmers, with funding allocated for SunWater’s Dam Improvement Program.”
“Some obvious and overdue funding measures that were missing in the budget were abolishing stamp duty on agricultural insurance, backing for the holistic industry-led schools engagement program and better addressing electricity and water affordability.”
Mr Tobin said the government needed to demonstrate a more strategic intent towards agriculture if the sector was to take the next step change forward, and the lack of long term, targeted stimulus-type spending was starting to show.
“At all levels of government, our sector seems to continually suffer from a trade-off with the funding received between ‘support and necessity’ spending and genuine levels of investment in some of the competitiveness and profitability challenges that we must address to drive the sector forward.”
“For example, in 2018-19 the Queensland agriculture sector will likely be worth around $3 billion less than it was in the 2016-17 financial year, despite the state’s drought declarations reaching record levels at 87 per cent and Cyclone Debbie hitting in March 2017 of that year,” Mr Tobin said.
“Without more targeted and deliberate action from government, agriculture will not fully capitalise on the exciting opportunities that are unquestionably there.”