By Aaron Goodwin
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and industry members are underwhelmed by the 2021-22 Queensland State Budget, which the QFF says, appears to be all style and not enough substance.
QFF CEO Dr Georgina Davis said the Budget’s headline numbers could not disguise that it was again a missed opportunity to address some critical productivity issues and exciting growth opportunities that would benefit the sector following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“QFF commends the state government for investing $71.4 million over four years in the Queensland Drought Assistance and Reform Package to support farmers experiencing the impacts of drought on their properties and ensuring this assistance is more equitable across the state’s various agricultural commodities,” Dr Davis said.
“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 for when the rain does fall.
“We also welcome funding to continue important workforce and skilling programs, but would have also liked to see a greater focus on reducing youth unemployment by creating career pathways to all the employment opportunities across Queensland’s agriculture sector.”
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Palaszczuk Government has a long history of working with industry and investing in the key initiatives that the sector needs.
“This $523 million budget is no different, with investment to strengthen and safeguard the sector from biosecurity risks, continue to support those producers and communities who are affected by the ongoing drought, while also investing in farming of the future,” Mr Furner said.
“We are backing our farmers to help deliver Queensland’s plan for economic recovery through a fourth round of Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants.
“RED Grants offer co-contribution grants to agribusiness projects to strengthen primary production sectors and bolster rural communities.
“The first three rounds of the scheme created 1800 jobs across regional Queensland and this new investment will see the creation of 600 more.”
Dr Davis said that the QFF acknowledges the significant infrastructure investment targeted towards regional needs and increased investment into biosecurity, but notes it is insufficient to ensure the eradication of the red imported fire ant.
“Additionally, the Budget has increased expenditure for the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, Nature Refuges and established a new $500 million Carbon Reduction Investment Fund,” Dr Davis said.
“QFF hopes this funding continues to support farmer participation in Best Management Practice programs and boost other initiatives that support sustainability in the agriculture sector.
Dr Davis said the state government needed to demonstrate a more strategic intent towards agriculture and long term, targeted stimulus-type investment if the sector was to take the next step change forward.
Key highlights of the 2021-22 budget include:
-Increased funding of $42.5 million over four years to continue fisheries reform, which paves the way for a world-class fisheries management system
-Continued support for producers and communities affected by the ongoing drought with funding of up to $71.4 million over four years for the Drought ——-Assistance and Reform Package – assisting producers to prepare for, manage, and recover from future droughts
-Increased funding of $10.9 million (and $5.9 million in capital funding over three years) to finalise long-term decisions on the future assets formerly held by the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges, including developing a new Central Queensland Smart Cropping Centre at Emerald
-Increased investment in Biosecurity Operations of $8.8 million over four years and $1.1 million ongoing from 2024-25 for African Swine Fever prevention and preparedness, biosecurity emergency operations, marine pest surveillance and plant diagnostics
-An additional $2.6 million in 2021-22 to enhance implementation of the Australian Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme to fill seasonal employment gaps in regional areas