No news still good news for agriculture

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DPIRD plant pathologist Ben Congdon, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, DPIRD plant virologist Brenda Coutts and DPIRD molecular plant pathologist Monica Kehoe.
Camera IconDPIRD plant pathologist Ben Congdon, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, DPIRD plant virologist Brenda Coutts and DPIRD molecular plant pathologist Monica Kehoe. Credit: Cally Dupe

An already-announced $131.5 million cash boost for Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development – set to reverse a planned $40 million in cuts and maintain a staffing level of 1580 full time employees – formed the agricultural centrepiece of today’s State Budget.

There was little which had not already been announced for agriculture when WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt handed down his third budget at State Parliament today, labelling it one of “tough decisions” and full of “strong fiscal resolve”.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced the additional funding boost for DPIRD on April 18, with the goal of stabilising staff numbers and “allowing DPIRD to fill its critical role”, while also ensuring it could “rebuild capacity and capability”.

The funding included $3.3 million to upgrade laboratories at DPIRD’s South Perth site and gave long-term cash for previously short-term programs, including Boosting Biosecurity Defences, Asian Market Success, and Boosting Grains Research and Development.

WA Labor claims the previous government’s projects would have seen DPIRD staff numbers drop from a current 1640 full-time staff members to 1300 in three years time.

By 2023-25, staffing numbers would have dropped below 1000.

The $131.5 million means DPIRD would have a full-time equivalent staff base of about 1580 by 2022-23, which Ms MacTiernan said “provided the certainty DPIRD needs to finalise its post-amalgamation restructure”.

WAFarmers welcomed the DPIRD cash splash, saying it would “lock in current staffing at 1580 full time equivalent staff members, about 1000 of which would work on agriculture-related issues”.

WAFarmers president Rhys Turton said the budget was a sign the Government was finding its feet and taking the agriculture industry “seriously”.

“Credit is needed where credit is due, the treasurer and Agriculture Minister have delivered a good budget which will help set up agriculture for the next four years,” he said.

For a full budget breakdown, and what it means for you, pick up a copy of next week’s Countryman.

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