THE National Farmers Federation is calling on the Albanese government to increase its focus on food supply issues after last month’s federal budget.
NFF President, Fiona Simson, said the rising cost of groceries was a key concern for Australians, and more could be done to increase food production and contain inflation.
Ms Simson said the budget was “wanting” when it came to some of agriculture’s greatest challenges, particularly amid a labour crisis, skyrocketing costs, and flooding.
“These pressures on farmers are being felt by everyday Australians, who are witnessing supply and price shocks on supermarket shelves,” Ms Simson said.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to the pressure this is putting on household budgets. There are steps the government can and should take to boost output and ease supply and cost issues.”
She said this could include improving access to labour, bolstering supply chain infrastructure, and securing access to water.
Ms Simson slammed a failed commitment to cover worker travel costs under the Pacific Australia labour mobility scheme, which will instead be replaced with an underwriting scheme.
She said additional biosecurity funding remained elusive, with much of it containing previously announced measures included from the previous Coalition government’s March budget.
The budget contains $4.6 billion in cuts to water infrastructure projects that were committed to under the previous government.
It does instead fund water projects, including in Cairns and Tasmania, with $278 million in five years.
The budget papers signal an unpublished number allocated to deliver water recovery under the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The number is withheld due to commercial sensitivities.
But Ms Simson commended $757 million to fund a suite of internet and mobile black spot programs for the bush.
“Connectivity is critical for productivity, safety and social connectivity in the bush,” Ms Simson said.
“These commitments are extremely welcomed by the sector but can’t just be a flash in the pan.
“Australia is a big country and we need sustained investment to ensure services in the bush keep pace with those in the city.”
The budget confirms the government’s pre-budget announcement that it would scrap regional development schemes under the previous government and replace them with two new $1b funds.
It confirms establishing a $15m National Reconstruction Fund with $500m of this to go towards projects in the farm sector.
Ms Simson said she was also looking forward to working with the federal government on how its climate change and energy policies can prioritise agriculture around low emissions and abatement.
The budget provides $4m in four years to establish an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare by expanding the functions of the Office of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports.
“Australia’s farmers and live exporters are world leaders in animal welfare practices,” Ms Simson said.
“It is important that the office does not add unnecessary red tape and is informed by science and not driven by ideology or political motives.”
There is $1.1 billion to extend the Natural Heritage Trust to support sustainability projects with $302 million of this earmarked for the farm sector.
“This is a critical announcement that will help farmers understand and respond to climate change, and access new environmental markets,” Ms Simson said.
“We also welcome the restating of the measure that would support the introduction of legislation to treat carbon and biodiversity income as farm income.”