Federal Budget 2021-22 hints at an election close enough to taste

The 2021-22 Budget has a smattering of goodies for the faithful with an obvious hole of oblivion being filled with those not yet eligible to vote as global warming and education are put on the back-burner

It’s a farmers budget in 2021-22 with a significant investment in making us just a little greener to satisfy a fussy customer base that want cleaner produce – all of this while paying farmers to get onboard

With farming the best it’s been in a decade and the agriculture industry as a whole looking at boundless expansion, the government has shored up the industry with a whopping $850 million promised for the kitty.

This money will be used to support Australian Agriculture at all levels, and also to protect brand Australia.

There has been over $400 million put aside for a biosecurity spend – and just under $30 million of that will go into the eradication of feral pests.

Agricultural Minister David Littleproud said enthusiastically, We want to see cartridges on the ground, we want to see dingoes, and deer, and pigs lying next to them.

“That’s the only way that we’re going to clean up the risk of biosecurity risk, particularly with our pork and beef industries, and our sheep industry. And making real money, real action on the ground.” David Littleproud concluded.

Many farmers have been pleading for a clean-up of feral animals for some time, so their votes will be secure, so too will be gun shop owners and ammunition makers as those cartridge sales go through cash registers and pile-up on the ground.

The government did surprise somewhat with a tilt at more funding for Biodiversity with a little thing called the Biodiversity Stewardship Program, that includes funding to trial a trading platform.

Now this ties in with the carbon model already in place where farmers can get paid for carbon credits. Mind you collecting these will be similar to cashing in Bitcoin after you have lost your account password.

This plan, if it comes to fruition, would make us the first country in the world to measure improvement in biodiversity in order to pay farmers for their role.

So it does appear, farmers can expect to add a biodiversity payment on top of the carbon payment.

This is starting to sound interesting, but “privileged old money” investors beware as the government has a plan to stop you from buying up valuable farmland and locking it up for a healthy payout.

The Biodiversity Stewardship Program is about managing landscape that is unproductive at the moment, and turning it into productive land by a payment for your stewardship – which farmer’s were invariably doing anyway to reduce pests and weeds on it.

For those small number of agricultural voters not yet on board, the ones that don’t like having to pay the bill for our country’s social conscience, to get the reduction in emissions school kids cry out for.

The ones that hate the vegetation management laws imposed on them, those with property rights taken away from them by miners. Take heart, the Biodiversity Stewardship Program is the way to square the ledger, according to the government at least.

The trading platform has been “budget promised” to be out by the end of the year. With the money already set aside there is only a matter of getting a “yet to be determined someone” to run it.

The Business Council of Australia has been indicated as a willing partner, but nothing is concrete.

This is an important step to implement, as it will enable farmers to put a biodiversity seal on their product. Something buyers in Europe and the UK see as currently lacking and a reason to discount Aussie farm produce, or neglect it entirely as part off their shopping list.

But getting back to more tangible income potential with an esoteric name, biodiversity payments.

This is where we’ve got landscapes that, through state government legislation, is locked up – through state vegetation management laws. Country that can’t be cleared or currently used for income purposes.

What the government is hinting at through the Biodiversity Stewardship Program if they can measure the improvement in biodiversity through the stewardship of the farmer, then they will give them a biodiversity payment.

But let’s get back into the real tangible cash splash. There is $200 million up for grabs under the national soil strategy.

This will be paid as rebates for farmers who get their soil tested, potentially for the carbon levels, and for funding to buy private soil data.

You have to ask why this is being done and part of it is for the government to build up a databank, around soil carbon measurements. Once that is achieved, some currency can be added to the Biodiversity Stewardship Program, once you have the data.

If farmers can be supported financially for biodiversity stewardship, and also for soil care, we will be the first country to crack that code.

Where the balance of $850 million will be spent

The Morrison-McCormack Government is backing Australian farmers to help secure our recovery with around $850 million in funding for the sector.

And for that commitment the government expect in return, growth and resilience in agriculture with an industry sector goal of $100 billion in annual sales revenue to be achieved by 2030 through the previously announced Ag2030 plan.

Currently,the gross value of agricultural production for 2020-21 is at a record $66 billion but is expected to fall to $63.3 billion for 2021-22. Big ask to reach $100 million by 2030, but let’s give it a try.

These are the areas where the money will be spent for farmers

•                $400.1 million to strengthen biosecurity;

•                $32.1 million to extend opportunities to reward farmers for the stewardship of their land;

•                $29.8 million to grow the agricultural workforce;

•                $15.0 million to improve trade and market access; and

•                $129.8 million to deliver a National Soils Strategy.

This Budget aims to deliver outcomes for primary producers and gives them the protection and assistance they need to do what they do best – grow the finest produce in the world, feed Australians and export to the world.

The Budget also provides funding to respond to recommendations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements and transform our federal emergency management architecture.

2021-22 Budget spending on farming in more detail

$15.0 million to support technical market access and increase Australia’s influence over global trade rules

$9.0 million to improve access to safe and effective agricultural and veterinary chemicals

$84.1 million for a range of measures to invest in our critical frontline biosecurity personnel and resources

$80.9 million for a range of measures to modernise our biosecurity ICT systems, employ new technologies at the border and improve data analytics for intelligence gathering

$235.1 million for a range of measures to strengthen the Government’s biosecurity partnerships with importers, companies, producers and the community. This includes $29.1 million to support communities to manage established pest animals and weeds

$32.1 million to expand the Biodiversity Stewardship Package

$129.8 million toward a National Soils Strategy Package

$67.0 million to improve the handling of organic waste

$5.4 million to fund projects that improve market transparency in the perishable agriculture goods industry, in response to the Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry by the ACCC

$1.5 million for Agricultural Innovation Australia to develop investment strategies for four new National Agricultural Innovation Priorities

$11.9 million to support innovation in the forestry sector, including extending the existing nine Regional Forestry Hubs and creating two new Hubs, and undertaking a feasibility study to build on the work of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation

$0.9 million to extend and broaden the Tuna Champions program

$25.2 million to attract Australian workers to modern agriculture, particularly school leavers and young people

$4.6 million to build workforce management and planning skills for agricultural employers

$0.8 million for the Regional Investment Corporation to administer $37.5 million in existing loan funding for Plantation Development Concessional Loans, delivering on the government’s election commitment

An additional $5.0 million in 2021-22 to deliver the Rural Financial Counselling Service to farmers in hardship

$3.5 million to extend the Drought Communities Small Business Pilot Program for 6 months to continue to provide free financial counselling to small businesses in rural and regional Australia doing it tough

$14.7 million to waive repayment of Business Income Reconciliation debts accrued under the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), in line with recommendations of the 2018 independent review of the FHA

$170.5 million through the Future Drought Fund, which provides a sustained investment of $100 million each year to build drought preparedness. This funding will deliver a range of programs and activities to support the long-term drought resilience and preparedness of primary producers, rural and regional communities

$61.1 million to establish the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) – for more information visit www.recovery.gov.au

$615.5 million over the next six years for the mitigation focused Preparing Australia grants program

$92.1 million to enhance Emergency Management Australia’s (EMA) disaster preparedness and response capabilities, comprising of a Common Operating Picture for near real-time situational awareness, designing a National Messaging System, and a national emergency management exercise capability

$209.7 million to establish and operate the Australian Climate Service to support the climate and disaster risk information needs of our emergency management agencies EMA and the NRRA

Australian farmers are the backbone of our economy and with significant investment in the 2021-22 Budget, the Government is helping secure the sector and Australia’s recovery.

For more detailed information on the 2021-22 Budget go to: www.awe.gov.au/budget