We often hear about the value of Queensland’s agriculture sector from governments, and for good reason given its forecast to be worth $19.02 billion in 2020-21. 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 348,000 locals, while everyone enjoys its fresh, nutritious and safe produce. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Queensland’s farm businesses steadied the ship and ensured food security for all Queenslanders.
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 this week’s 2021-22 State Budget. Unfortunately, it appeared to lack substance and missed an opportunity to address critical productivity issues and exciting growth opportunities that would benefit the sector and its communities.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation commends the government for investing $71.4 million over 4 years in the Queensland Drought Assistance and Reform Package to support farmers experiencing the impacts of drought on their properties. We also welcome funding to continue important workforce and skilling programs. The Budget also increased expenditure for the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, Nature Refuges and established a new $500 million Carbon Reduction Investment Fund. While the funding towards regional infrastructure was well overdue and very welcome.
However, the Budget failed to abolish stamp duty on agricultural insurance and establish a Discretionary Mutual Fund to provide a flexible option for crop insurance and empower farmers with a long-term industry owned tool for managing risk. And biosecurity funding, while boosted, is still insufficient to ensure the eradication of the red imported fire ant.
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.