Coalition releases $147m ag policy

Countryman
Camera Iconshadow minister for agriculture and food security John Cobb at Dowerin this week. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

The additional $15 million pledged to small exporters in the Coalition's agricultural policy has been welcomed by WAFarmers.

President of the peak farm lobby group, Dale Park, said the Coalition's rebates commitment would "enable small exporters to remain competitive in a challenging environment".

The rebates for small exporters were part of the Coalition's $147 million policy announced overnight by shadow minister for agriculture and food security John Cobb.

Mr Cobb said the policy was designed to ensure the future profitability and sustained growth of the Australian agriculture/agribusiness sector.

"Under a Coalition Government, agriculture will be one of the five pillars of the Australian economy," Mr Cobb said. "Australian agriculture is among the most innovative and efficient in the world, but it is under immense pressure from high input costs, overseas competition, a high Australian dollar and restrictive government policy.

"There has been a dramatic increase in the cost of production and a collapse in profitable trade policies, both of which have been significantly influenced by the alliance between the Labor Party and The Greens.

"After six long years of neglect and anti-agricultural policies under Labor, the Coalition's framework reflects a commitment to the future prosperity of Australian agriculture. It is this profit that will underpin food security."

Mr Cobb said the Coalition had an enormous role to play in meeting the domestic food shortfalls of other countries and setting global benchmarks in productivity and production.

"We will help farmers help themselves," he said.

The Coalition's key agricultural initiatives are: Increase the Federal government's contribution to R&D by $100 million; $15 million in the form of rebates to small exporters for Export Certification registration costs; $20 million to strengthen biosecurity and quarantine, establish a Biosecurity Flying Squad as a first response unit and create a first response biosecurity and containment fund to tackle alien pest and disease incursions; $8 million towards minor use chemical permits to increase access to new technology and safe, effective pest and disease control options; $2 million dollars over four years to assist with the integration of agriculture into school curriculums; $2.2 million over two years from the Caring for Our Country/Landcare program to fund Native title respondent funding for the equitable finalisation of existing native title claims.

WAFarmers said the Coalition had provided a "positive step forward for agriculture".

Mr Park said Labor's agricultural policy had not delivered on the real issues and lacked detail.

"Throughout the election campaign, WAFarmers has been detailing its five policy priorities which indicate the issues of biggest concern to our members," Mr Park said. "The Labor party's plan reflects only one of those priorities - the need for a foreign investment register for all existing and future investment ventures.

"However, this was a commitment made by the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year and was an expectation farmers already held for the Labor party."

But Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the Coalition's policy was light on vision.

He said Mr Cobb had not even mentioned Australia's biggest export market - Asia.

"Not a word about securing new well-paid agriculture jobs ... and absolutely zero about investment in skills and driving workforce productivity," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Labor's agricultural policy included a $28.5 million Asian Food Markets Research Fund to "drive market access, ensuring Australian producers and distributors are exporting food on equal terms with our global competitors".

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