White Pa­per wel­comed

But govt. can still do more

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS - By So­phie Burge

Aus­tralia’s agri­cul­tural and food sec­tor has been given a $4 bil­lion boost fol­low­ing the un­veil­ing of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Agri­cul­tural Com­pet­i­tive­ness White Pa­per.

Re­leased by Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott and Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Barnaby Joyce in Woolthorpe, near War­rnam­bool, the White Pa­per con­tains a host of ini­tia­tives aimed to boost the prof­itabil­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Aus­tralian farm sec­tor.

It in­cludes low­er­ing farm taxes, an agri­cul­ture watchdog, $500 mil­lion in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing, $250 mil­lion a year in drought loans, $100 mil­lion in re­search and de­vel­op­ment fund­ing, plus biose­cu­rity and pre­mium mar­ket ac­cess fund­ing.

Over­all, the $4 bil­lion plan aims to build a com­pet­i­tive busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment for farm­ers and set out ma­jor changes to Farm Man­age­ment De­posits, al­low­ing farm­ers to use FMDs to off­set loans which re­duces in­ter­est bills by up to $150 mil­lion.

The money will also in­vest in ru­ral in­fra­struc­ture, drought pre­pared­ness and re­search and de­vel­op­ment fund­ing.

Although South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair John Brad­ford wel­comed the White Pa­per, he be­lieves the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment needs to do more to se­cure Aus­tralia’s farm­ing in­dus­try into the fu­ture.

‘‘It doesn’t re­ally af­fect us here. White Pa­pers don’t grow food — wa­ter and rain grow food,’’ Mr Brad­ford said.

‘‘How­ever, it’s great they’ve re­leased this White Pa­per as it says to me that the cur­rent Ab­bott Gov­ern­ment is start­ing to re­alise that we’ve got an obli­ga­tion to feed the world.

‘‘Just look at the way for­eign in­vestors are buy­ing our farm land — other coun­tries are recog­nis­ing that we’ve got clean, fer­tile land and we need to be aware of that.’’

Mr Brad­ford re­ferred to Prime Min­is­ter Ab­bott’s state­ment upon un­veil­ing the White Pa­per which recog­nised the ‘‘the world is hun­gry, lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally’’ for the high qual­ity food that Aus­tralia is pro­duc­ing.

‘‘Mr Ab­bott said we don’t have a wa­ter prob­lem, but rather we have a wa­ter man­age­ment prob­lem, and that’s some­thing I fully agree with,’’ he said.

Many could ar­gue against the fact that of the new ini­tia­tives in the $4 bil­lion bud­get, up to $245 mil­lion of those ini­tia­tives were al­ready re­leased in the May Fed­eral Bud­get.

This in­cludes $160 mil­lion of fund­ing for mo­bile phone black spot pro­grams and $35 mil­lion in fund­ing in­fra­struc­ture projects to help drought-hit com­mu­ni­ties.

De­spite this, Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Brent Fin­lay said the White Pa­per — which was a cen­tral Coali­tion elec­tion com­mit­ment — will likely cre­ate a stronger busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment for farm­ers and gen­er­ate bet­ter re­turns at the farm gate.

‘‘Af­ter al­most two years, and more than 700 sub­mis­sions, we fi­nally have a clear com­mit­ment from gov­ern­ment to foster a stronger, more pros­per­ous and vi­brant agri­cul­ture sec­tor,’’ Mr Fin­lay said.

‘‘With mea­sures to­talling more than $4 bil­lion, the White Pa­per seeks to bal­ance tan­gi­ble on-farm ini­tia­tives with long term sus­tain­abil­ity.

‘‘The White Pa­per (will help) cre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment for agri­cul­ture to reach its full po­ten­tial.’’

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