Positioning agriculture to reach its target of $100 billion value in a decade’s time was the centrepiece of the Morrison Government’s pitch to the bush in Tuesday’s Budget. There were several big-ticket agriculture proposals but the focus was on $328 million to grow food and fibre exports as part of a COVID-19 economic recovery plan. Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the spending was designed to help industry reach its $100 billion goal by 2030. The majority of the $328 million windfall — called Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters Package — included $222 million across four years for digital services to take farmers to markets, creating a one-stop digital shop for lodging export paperwork. It also included $71.1 million across three years for Australian export services, $14.3 million across three years for improving regulation post-COVID-19 — including targeted intervention for the seafood and live export sectors and providing dedicated case managers to help exporters diversify their markets — and $10.9 million across three years to build a more competitive export meat industry, working with industry to streamline export and production costs to remain competitive. The package also included $10 million across four years for busting congestion for plant export industries to help streamline border clearances for plant exports. Mr Littleproud said the $328 million investment would reduce red tape and cement agriculture’s role in the nation’s COVID-19 recovery. “This suite of reforms will modernise Australia’s export systems by slashing red tape and streamlining regulation and service delivery for farmers,” he said. “We are making it faster and cheaper for farmers to get their product to market, while retaining the levels of quality and assurance making our exports world-class.” The popular International Air Freight Mechanism, introduced in April to help exporters get their agricultural product overseas, was extended, taking the project spend to $668 million. Closer to home, WA’s Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Route Network received $80 million — a surprise to those behind plans to upgrade 4400km of the State’s most important agricultural freight roads. There was also $16 million to seal 17km of the 180km-long Wiluna to Meekatharra road. The road projects formed part of WA’s $1.1 billion infrastructure boost to upgrade roads, replace bridges and build interchanges and freight networks in major Budget measures expected to generate close to 7000 new jobs Statewide in four years. Agricultural labour received a boost, with $17.4 million in relocation assistance and $16.3 million to incentivise young Australians to take up farm work by changing Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY independence eligibility. The Federal Government also axed the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility — the centrepiece of the 2016 budget — after it made no loans in three years. The funds will instead be transferred to the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, taking that spend to $3.5 billion — allowing State governments to apply and co-contribute to the cost of dams and irrigation networks. The Federal Government also made $50 million available through its On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme after it turned down about 2000 farmers when the initial $50 million ran dry sooner than expected. The Budget also included $27 billion in new tax write-offs, allowing 99 per cent of small, medium and big businesses with a turnover of $5 billion to write off the full value of assets purchased — an expansion of the Instant Asset Write Off. Members of the Preston family were flat out at Cranbrook when the Budget was announced, but a few things pricked up their ears. Family patriarch David Preston farms with his sons Mark and Neil Preston, cropping 1300ha, canola, wheat, barley and lupins with about 600ha for sheep production. The Cranbrook family welcomed the $50 million water rebate scheme, saying it was a “no-brainer” to help farmers nationwide. “We are happy to put our hand in our pocket, and we not want a hand out but this helps at lot,” David said. “It is far better to help people become self-sufficient in dry seasons than give straight handouts.” While the Prestons welcomed the $80 million into the WSFN project, they would like to have seen more investment into rail in WA. “There is so much grain on roads that aren’t designed to carry that tonnage, I would have liked to have seen some more investment into rail in WA,” David said. Mark Preston welcomed the $10.9 million to build a more competitive meat industry, saying he hoped it would boost export values.