Federal Govt unveils long-term vision for ag

Sheep Central, July 4, 2015

The Federal Government has laid out its long-term plan to guide the future of Australian agriculture.

Key elements of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper launched today include:

  • An allowance for farmers to use FMDs as a business loan offset, reducing interest costs estimated at up to $150 million a year, from 1 July 2016;
  • The ability for farmers to opt back into income tax averaging after 10 years, from 1 July 2016;
  • Farmers will be allowed double their Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) to $800,000, from 1 July 2016;
  • These follow the measures announced in the recent Budget that will allow an immediate tax deduction for fencing and the cost of new water infrastructure; and accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder assets.
  • The appointment of an agricultural enforcement and engagement unit to be established within the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate farmer complaints surrounding bullying or price manipulation. “A more farm-savvy and proactive ACCC will encourage fair trading and strengthen competition in supply chains [thereby helping farmers] … to achieve a better return at the farm gate,” Mr Joyce said.
  • $13.8 million in a two year pilot programme to provide knowledge and materials on cooperatives, collective bargaining and innovative business models. “This will help farmers to establish alternative business models (including cooperatives) and manage contract negotiations.”
  • $20.4 million to streamline agricultural and veterinary chemicals approvals.
  • Improved country of origin labelling will also let consumers know where food is grown and processed.
  • The Government’s $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund will provide future water security for our farmers. The Fund is comprised of $50 million to undertake the detailed planning necessary to inform future water infrastructure investment decisions and $450 million to construct national water infrastructure, in partnership with State and Territory governments and the private sector. $200 million of the Fund will be dedicated to northern Australia projects.
  • The $29.5 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout will improve access to technology and give farmers more market options.
  • An additional $60 million on top of the $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme to improve mobile coverage across regional Australia.
  • Up to $250 million in Drought Concessional Loans each year for 11 years.
  • $22.8 million to increase Farm Household Allowance case management for farmers;
  • increased financial counselling services and improved access to community mental health;
  • access for farmers to their Farm Management Deposits when needed, without losing tax concessions;
  • $35 million for local infrastructure projects to help communities suffering due to drought;
  • $25.8 million over four years to manage pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas;
  • $100 million to extend the Rural R&D for Profit Programme to 2021–22;
  • $50 million to boost emergency pest and disease eradication capability;
  • $50 million for better tools and control methods against pest animals and weeds;
  • $1.4 million to match industry levies and contributions in the export fodder and tea tree oil industries
  • $1.2 million to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.
  • $200 million to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis nationally;
  • $30.8 million to break down technical barriers to trade and appointing five new overseas Agriculture Counsellors;
  • $12.4 million to modernise Australia’s food export traceability systems to further enhance our food safety credentials.

Federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce said the White Paper is “an investment in our farmers and our competitive strengths in agriculture”.

“This is a vital part of our plan to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.

“A strong agriculture sector contributes to a strong economy—and that means more jobs, more exports, higher incomes and better services to the community.

“We’re determined to make the sector even more competitive and to deliver practical actions that will keep our farmers and farming families profitable and resilient.

“We are lowering tax, cutting red and green tape, building infrastructure, encouraging trade, developing northern Australia, and supporting business to innovate and create jobs.”

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