Unexpected funding gains for agricultural industry

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Cally DupeThe West Australian

Agricultural industry gains in this year’s Federal Budget were wide-reaching and unexpected in some areas, with the Government spending big on east coast rail.

It stumped up the full amount required to build an $8.4 billion Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail line, set to be completed by 2025, shaving 10 hours off the current rail time and making it competitive with road transport.

The calls from farming lobby groups to extend a popular tax write-off scheme were answered, albeit only until June 30 next year.

The Federal Government also extended the eligibility of businesses, from an annual turnover of $2 million to $10 million.

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But the National Farmers’ Federation’s call requesting Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison dedicate money to the Mobile Blackspot Program went unanswered.

Countryman explores the key points affecting agriculture in this year’s Federal Budget.

Concessional loans

Farmers will have new access to concessional loans if they max-out Farm Household Allowance payments, with new criteria meaning farmers will not have to live within an eligible drought-affected area to apply for a loan.

Eligibility will still be monitored but farmers not receiving any other form of Government support will be able to apply for concessional loans capped at $1 million, or 50 per cent of their debt.

The Federal Government has set aside $2.5 billion for concessional loans during the next decade.

New foreign workers levy

An annual levy of between $1200 and $1800 will be imposed on small businesses for every temporary skilled visa worker they use from March 2018. Employing workers on a permanent visa will result in businesses paying a $3000 levy.

The move has been labelled costly and a “barrier to employment” by industry, with the NFF seeking clarification from the Federal Government.

The aim was to raise $1.2 billion and encourage businesses to employ Australians.

Other levy changes

The $1.5 billion Federal levy on the big four banks and Macquarie has been estimated to raise $6.2 billion, but concerns were flagged that interest rates would rise.

Australian Egg Corporation’s request for an emergency levy on laying chickens to be scrapped has been granted. From July 1, the levy per one-day-old chick will be slashed from 1.4 cents to zero, as the industry completes its debt compiled by eradicating an avian influenza outbreak.

Other levies introduced at industry request have been budgeted for.

Small business tax break

Farming groups were elated, after a tax write-off scheme for small businesses was extended until June 30, 2018.

The move will allow businesses with an annual turnover of more than $10 million to immediately deduct purchases of up to $20,000.

The NFF led a campaign to expend the program but has questioned why it has not become a long-term arrangement.

Regional Investment Corporation

The Budget revealed the establishment of a Regional Investment Corporation aimed at streamlining and speeding up $4 billion in concessional loans and administering the National Water Infrastructure Loan facility. The corporation will launch next July and take administering the loans out of State Government hands.

WAFarmers president Tony York said the corporation could “see loans delivered more quickly at the farm gate”.

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