The State Budget has provided yet another example that the Queensland Government doesn’t understand agriculture and has no clear vision for its future.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said that when the headline program in the Agriculture and Fisheries portfolio is a shark netting program, Queensland’s farmers and the rural and regional communities that depend on them should be “very afraid” indeed.
“It is clear the Government doesn’t understand agriculture or actually appreciate its vital importance to the economic, employment and social fabric of rural, regional and remote Australia,” Mr Guerin said.
Mr Guerin said that AgForce welcomed additional funding for ongoing drought management, Great Artesian Basin capping and piping projects, and improved fire management on State land, but it was concerned there was no comprehensive strategy behind the spending.
“The Government continues to demonstrate that it has no vision for the ongoing growth and sustainability of agriculture, which contributes nearly $14 billion to the State economy every year,” he said.
“The Treasurer claimed that the Budget was for regional Queensland.
“Well, the best way to support regional Queensland is by developing a visionary road map for the agribusiness and food production sectors that contribute so much to these communities.
“A concrete plan like that would support employment growth and encourage private sector investment.
“We hope the State Government gets behind the one we and other key stakeholders are currently working on with the Department of Agriculture.
“It doesn’t just need to be adequately funded, but also supported by a program to reduce the red and green tape that prevents producers from productively managing their land and actually results in land degradation and other negative environmental outcomes.”
Mr Guerin said the industry welcomed initiatives in the Budget to improve market opportunities.
“The allocation of $3.6 million over three years to mitigate pest and disease risks through the National Biosecurity System and $3.8 million over four years to support agribusinesses to meet their compliance obligations will provide a boost to the industry’s productivity and export opportunities,” he said.
“We would also be very interested to know more about the new export hub for regional Queensland, and the opportunities it might bring for broadacre agriculture.”
Mr Guerin said the primary industries and regional communities were relieved to see $7 million allocated over two years to transition the Queensland Agricultural Colleges to a more modern training model after they are effectively shut down at the end of this year.
“We are also pleased with funding to improve vitally important transport infrastructure – including the Kennedy Development Road and Barkly Highway – but urge the Government to commit to developing a modern, integrated transport network that has the capacity to cost effectively meet the needs of a fast growing industry.”