AgForce execs have a smile and a frown on their faces today following the Federal Budget overnight.
While they say the Federal Budget has “kept the faith” and delivered on election commitments to advance agriculture, Queensland farmers are eager for more details about what is planned for water infrastructure in the Great Artesian Basin, mobile phone services and the new Regional Growth Fund.
AgForce General President Grant Maudsley says the Federal Budget’s initiatives for agriculture including $8.4 billion for the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail and the continuation of the $20,000 immediate asset write-off provisions for small business are welcome.
“The inland rail project will help drive down transport costs for farmers right along the east coast of Australia and create regional construction jobs, but it is vital that genuine consultation occurs over the route, particularly with farmers whose properties will be directly affected by the development.”
“The extension of the immediate asset write off is a big positive for farmers who need to buy new machinery, equipment or fences and will help inject money into local businesses and regional economies.”
Mr Maudsley says AgForce is keen to see what the new Regional Investment Corporation funded in this Budget will deliver for Queensland.
“Whether a new Regional Growth Fund will support projects in parts of Queensland that are doing it tough.”
However Mr Maudsley says he’s disappointed there was not a boost to already announced mobile phone blackspots funding and nothing to provide digital support and capacity building in rural and remote areas.
“The need for more affordable and reliable phone and internet services is the number one issue for people living, working and travelling in the bush.”
“While there is funding in the Budget to continue the mobile phone blackspots program, we’d like to see the investment in telecommunications infrastructure increased and fast tracked.”
Mr Maudsley said the Deputy Prime Minister had flagged an ‘additional announcement about funding for water infrastructure in the Great Artesian Basin in the coming days’.
“The Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative has been a fantastic water saving program delivering wins for the environment, primary producers and rural economies, but the job is not yet done and further funding is needed to continue the program beyond 30 June.”
Other Budget initiatives welcomed by AgForce include:
- More than $1 billion for a National Landcare Program over five years, with a portion of the funding to be allocated towards the eradication of fire ants in south-east Queensland;
- Extending the eligibility of the existing Farm Business Concessional Loans Scheme;
- Confirming the election commitment of $8.3 million to support the Livestock Exports Global Assurance Program;
- Confirming the election commitment of $24 million for Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships.