National Farmers' Federation

White Paper unveils major benefits for farm business

The Federal Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, launched by Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott MP in Woolsthorpe today, contains a host of valuable initiatives to boost the profitability and competitiveness of the Australian farm sector.
President of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Brent Finlay said the White Paper—a central Coalition election commitment—looks to create a stronger business environment for farmers and generate better returns at the farm gate.
“This is an important day for Australian agriculture. 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, alongside the Northern Australia White Paper, the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, Austrade’s renewed focus on Brand Australia and other key announcements over the year, together create the environment for agriculture to reach its full potential.”
The White Paper delivers on a number of the NFF’s key priorities, including a stronger business environment, research and development, drought and risk management, infrastructure and trade and market access.
Stronger business environment
“We’re pleased to see the allocation of $11.4 million for an ACCC Agriculture Commissioner, to support fairer supply chain outcomes. The NFF has long called for increased ACCC resources to effectively monitor market activity,” Mr Finlay said.
“The White Paper also has a number of great initiatives for farmers, including changes which will see Farm Management Deposit (FMD) limits double (to $800,000) and enable FMD accounts to be used as farm business loan offsets.
“These changes will help strengthen the resilience of farm businesses, and ensure farmers get a fairer deal from their banks, allowing investments to offset farm debt.”
Research and development
“Our vision for Australian agriculture is that we can double the value of production by 2030. Operating in one of the world’s most volatile climates, and faced with the challenge of meeting increasing global demand for food and fibre, strong R&D outcomes are vital,” Mr Finlay said.
“Notably, the White Paper includes $100 million to extend the Rural R&D for Profit Programme to 2021-22, a focus on advanced technology, biosecurity, soil and natural resource management research, and an additional $100 million to support pest and weed management.
Drought and risk management
The current Drought Concessional Loans Scheme will be replaced with a permanent, low interest loan scheme for drought-affected farmers, capped at $250 million per year for 10 years.
“The NFF has publicly raised concerns about the current structure of the concessional loan scheme. We hope that the new loan scheme, effective from 1 July 2016, will address some of our key concerns and deliver an effective and lasting drought support mechanism,” Mr Finlay said.
“Insurance is an important tool to manage risk and maintain farm cash flow. The Government has committed to match costs of up to $2,500 for advice and assessment on insurance options, including multi-peril crop insurance. This is an important preparedness measure, and will be welcome news for many farmers.”
The White Paper includes $500 million for water infrastructure, $1 million to map out agricultural infrastructure priorities; and confirmation of $60 million for the Mobile Blackspot Programme.
“We hope that gaining better insight into existing infrastructure needs will lead to strategic and significant investment over the long term,” Mr Finlay said.
“The new National Water Infrastructure Development Fund has huge potential and we look forward to working closely with government on plans for new water assets.”
Trade and market access
Australia’s robust biosecurity system remains one of the best in the world, and underpins Australian agriculture’s market access. An extra $200 million over four years will strengthen surveillance and deliver more advanced and effective biosecurity data systems.
“The NFF has been a leading advocate for ongoing measures to boost Australian exports. An additional $30 million to fund overseas agricultural counsellors will help overcome technical barriers to trade, currently inhibiting industries such as horticulture, rice and pork,” Mr Finlay said.
The NFF looks forward to working closely with Government over coming months in the implementation of White Paper initiatives for the benefit of Australian farmers.

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