We often hear about the value of Queensland’s agriculture sector from governments, and for good reason given in 2019 we were a $17 billion industry despite the ongoing drought. We also often hear about how much of what our farmers’ produce is exported, helping the balance of payments and contributing to the State’s economy. Agriculture and the food supply chain also employ over 300,000 locals, or roughly one in seven Queenslanders, while everyone enjoys its fresh, nutritious and safe produce. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has ensured food security for all Queenslanders and provided a sense of purpose and economic opportunity for many more.
However, what we don’t often hear is a clear, well-articulated vision for the sector. The Queensland Government had their opportunity to chart a course forward with last week’s 2020-21 State Budget. while they delivered on their election commitments, this year’s Budget was again a missed opportunity to address some critical competitiveness and productivity issues, and embrace exciting growth opportunities for the sector, which would benefit all Queenslanders.
QFF welcomed the reduction in irrigation water charges for the state’s farmers, provide electricity bill relief for small businesses, additional TAFE facilities for agricultural skills and training, and support for the Reef Credits initiative. The government should also be commended for listening to QFF and providing price relief for critical input costs, funding for resilience and risk reduction, dam safety improvement projects and biosecurity. However, more information is needed to address the uncertainties around implementing some of these significant initiatives. While some obvious and overdue funding measures were missing in the budget such as abolishing stamp duty on agricultural insurance, capital investment for strategic water infrastructure projects and support for agritourism.
The agriculture sector is the only one that can deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity for relatively low risk. However, without more targeted and deliberate action from government, agriculture will not fully capitalise on the exciting opportunities that are unquestionably available. With Budget Estimates scheduled up to 15 December, the sector looks forward to learning further details about the government’s support for agriculture.