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Budget drought hits the bush

By: Thanh-Loan Nguyen
27 May, 2010

Feature of the week: It's going to be a dry year in terms of Federal funding for the agricultural sector in 2010/2011, with farmers and agricultural groups around Australia bluntly ignored in this year's Federal Budget.

The Rudd Government delivered no new policies for agriculture, and the central focus on introducing climate and environment funding research initiatives, while delivering some benefits, will also negatively affect farmers around the country. 

President of the National Farmers Federation, David Crombie, expressed his disappointment in this year's budget.

"Predictably the government is staking a claim to economic responsibility, but where is the investment in Australia's future?"

However, some notable budget highlights included a $37 billion investment in land transport across Australia, and an additional $6.5 million funding for drought reform to those farming families most in need.

Despite this, Crombie is not convinced that the government's plan to boost the economy is the best solution.

"We recognise the government's commitment to pilot drought reform and infrastructure funding, particularly rail, but a long list of important issues were not tackled. Smart long-term nation building investment is needed to kick the economy into top gear," said Crombie.

Meanwhile, The National Farmers Federation CEO Ben Farger, has slammed the government for not addressing the issues of serious workforce shortages in rural communities.

"We feel this sector of the economy, along with mining, has kept our country out of recession. We don't think the government has addressed the long-term strategic plan for Australia.

"We note the government highlighted a focus on directing the money to sectors such as mining and construction. We recently estimated that as we come into better seasonal conditions in parts of the country we would need 100,000 people to fill farm-related vacancies. It's complex, but we know we need to focus on workforce issues, labour skills and people in regional Australia.

"Sometimes we win and get positive change, sometimes we don't and things stay the same, and sometimes governments make decisions that in our view take us backwards," Fargher explained.

Fargher claims the 2010 Federal Budget did not implement a smart long-term nation building investment in key areas such as research and development, promoting businesses in regional areas, protecting our borders from disease and working with farmers for environmental benefits.

"So far we are not convinced that we are receiving many incentives and that's something we have to take up with the government," he said.

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