Federal Budget Under Fire: TasFarmers Calls for Strategic Investments

15 May 2024

TasFarmers, Tasmania’s peak agricultural organisation has expressed disappointment in this year's federal budget saying it was underwhelming, lacked strategic vision, and failed to grasp the economic opportunity presented by agriculture and even going so far as to suppress it.

The President of TasFarmers, Ian Sauer, said the government had failed to grasp several opportunities in water, education and getting rid of the proposed biosecurity tax. He said it clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the challenges faced by rural communities beyond the urban divide.

Mr Sauer, said, "It's disappointing, it is as though the government does not understand what happens outside the speed limit of the towns.

“In Tasmania, we had hoped to see investment into the Greater South East Irrigation Scheme as demand in this key agricultural area of the South East Tasmania increased.

"Tas Irrigation and TasWater are foreshadowing water charges will increase as a result of there being no funding in the budget for the scheme and the state will miss out on $120 million of on-farm investment in the state.

"The scoop here is we'll be taking this up directly with the minster in Canberra today, when TasFarmers CEO, Nathan Calman, and I meet with the minster and his staff to talk on a range of issues including the budget and the failure to fund the South East Irrigation scheme directly.

Chair of the TasFarmers Water Committee, Malcolm Green believes the “opportunity for long term and strategic value adding to the agricultural industry was well and truly missed by the non-funding of the South East irrigation scheme.”

“The looming surge in water charges, anticipated to escalate from around $200/ML to approximately $1,200/ML, will inflict a severe blow to on-farm economics. Such a staggering rise will render irrigation-based farming economically unviable.”

“TasFarmers looks for the long-term strategic plans that value adds to our industry, the key projects and issues that have capacity to build gross domestic product, that create jobs and improve our worlds,” Malcolm Green said.

Mr Sauer commented he was also disappointed there was no long-term foresight for education, training or labour.

"There is nothing linking education and training, the government instead has made deep cuts to its Harvest Trails Information service program of $47.3 million, designed to connect workers to employers and inadequately provided $500,00 of funding toward the AgCareerstart program, which required 4.4 million to keep building on the already good work done.

Mr Sauer said, "In recent years, governments plural, are spending money, but not on the longer term and strategic, instead on short term sugar hits.

One of the few positives of the budget is the continuation of the 20% tax write off, however Mr Sauer notes “The continuation of the $20,000 instant asset write off is positive but of course because of the economic situation in the rural sector people may not be spending as much, meaning “it’s all underwhelming from the farmers view”.

Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity of this federal budget was the failure to scrap the proposed Biosecurity Levy.

Mr Sauer stated “the government had the opportunity in the budget to get rid of the Biosecurity Tax and they didn't.

“Which again calls into question why the Government wants farmers to subsidise the business model for importing foreign goods” he concluded.

TasFarmers believes that farmers should not be expected to foot the bill for the increased risks to our natural environment that the importation of foreign manufactured goods creates.

In addition to the burden of a new tax the industry is being further suppressed and dismantled by special interest groups.

Mr Sauer said, “The allocation of funds, $107 million, to shut down the live sheep trade appears to primarily be for the benefit of those living outside of the agricultural industry and does not support primary producers.

“Only half of the budget money is going to the actual producers and supply chain partners, it what is obviously an effort to buy inner city votes at the next election,” he said.

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