A summary of Australia’s recently released Agricultural Competitiveness White paper as submitted by the Australian Government.

Stronger farmers, stronger economy

Agriculture has always played an important role in the success of our nation—it touches all Australians.

The Government is committed to strengthening the sector and ensuring it remains as competitive as possible, because stronger farmers mean a stronger Australian econ​omy.

The opportunities for the sector are enormous. We sit on the edge of the strongest growing region in the world, have a developed agriculture sector, have world-class food safety and environmental credentials, possess modern technology, have a strong economy and employ skilled labour.

The agriculture sector is well placed to prosper.

For the past 18 months the Government has listened to the challenges that farmers are facing and discussed what is required for them to be successful on the land. From this feedback we h​ave developed the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

The White Paper outlines the initiatives and commitments by the Australian Government for each of our five priority areas for action. It is a $4 billion investment in our farmers.

Our vision is to build a more profitable, more resilient and more sustainable agriculture sector to help drive a stronger Australian economy.

Priority 1: A fairer go for farm businesses

The Australian Government is helping farmers achieve a better return at the farm gate.

Fairer competition for farm produce

We are investing:

  • $11.4 million to boost ACCC engagement with the agricultural sector including a new Commissioner dedicated to agriculture. A more farm-savvy and proactive ACCC will encourage fair-trading and strengthen competition in agricultural supply chains.
  • $13.8 million in a two year pilot programme to provide knowledge and materials on cooperatives, collective bargaining and innovative business models. This will help farmers to establish alternative business models (including cooperatives) and manage contract negotiations.

Better regulation

We are committed to reducing red tape from the economy by $1 billion a year. Less red tape makes business easier for farmers.

  • $20.4 million is allocated to further streamline agricultural and veterinary chemicals approvals. Farmers will get access to new farm chemicals more quickly, reducing the cost of doing business.
  • Productivity Commission reviews into reducing regulation for the Australian agriculture, marine fisheries and aquaculture industries. This will let farmers and fishers get on with their business.
  • Improved country of origin labelling to let consumers know where food is grown and processed.

A better tax system for farm businesses

  • Farmers will be able to opt back into income tax averaging after 10 years.
  • Farmers will be able to double their Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) to $800,000.
  • Banks can allow farmers to use FMDs as a loan offset, reducing interest costs. ABARES has estimated that, if all FMD holdings are used to offset loans, the benefit to the farm sector in interest savings could amount to ​$150​​​​ ​​​​million a year.
  • Accelerated depreciation for fencing has been simplified—farmers are able to ​immediately deduct the cost of new fencing in the year of purchase.​
  • The Growing Jobs and Small Business package announced in the Budget will benefit 97 per​ ​cent of farmers.
  • Through the Tax White Paper the Government will deliver taxes that are lower, simpler and fairer.

For more information about A fairer go for farm businesses see Chapter 1 of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Priority 2: Building the infrastructure of the 21st century

We are planning ahead and thinking innovatively when it comes to our infrastructure.

  • $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund for farmers’ future water security. The Fund is comprised of $50 million to undertake the detailed planning necessary to inform future water infrastructure investment decisions and $450 million to construct national water infrastructure, in partnership with State and Territory governments and the private sector.
  • CSIRO’s TRAnsport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TRANSIT) will be expanded to support future decisions on transport infrastructure investment to benefit agriculture.

The Government is already delivering on its commitment to invest $50 billion for current and future infrastructure.

The Government is also already investing an additional $60 million on top of the $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme to improve mobile coverage across regional Australia.

The Government is delivering on the $29.5 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout. Improved access to technology will give farmers more market options, and therefore a stronger position to negotiate on price.

For more information about Building the infrastructure of the 21st century see Chapter 2 of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Priority 3: Strengthening our approach to drought and risk management

Drought is one of the biggest challenges farmers face and it has a significant impact on agricultural output, productivity and farm incomes.​​

Farmers can use many of the new, practical White Paper initiatives not only in drought, but to manage the other risks they face.

Preparing for drought

  • $3.3 million to give farmers more accurate, more local and more frequent seasonal forecasts.
  • Immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water facilities for farmers and depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder storage assets over three years.
  • $29.9 million over four years for farm insurance advice and risk assessment grants to help farmers evaluate options.

In-drought support

  • Up to $250 million in Drought Concessional Loans each year for 11 years.
  • $22.8 million to increase Farm Household Allowance case management for farmers.
  • Increased financial counselling services and improved access to community mental health.
  • Farmers in drought can access their FMDs when needed, without losing tax concessions.
  • Additional advice and help from the Australian Taxation Office.
  • $35 million for local infrastructure projects to help communities suffering due to drought.
  • $25.8 million over four years to manage pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas.

For more information about strengthening our approach to drought and risk management see Chapter 3 of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Priority 4: Farming smarter

The agriculture sector needs access to the most advanced technologies and practices to continue to ‘farm smarter’.

  • $100 million extension of the Rural R&D for Profit Programme to 2021–22 to get research onto the farm.
  • $1.4 million research boost to match industry levies and contributions in the export fodder and tea tree oil industries.
  • $1.2 million to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation for small industries.
  • New RD&E priorities to direct levy funds to areas that will improve farm gate returns.
  • Reduce RDC administration costs to leave more money for RD&E.
  • $50 million to boost Australia’s emergency pest and disease eradication capability.
  • $50 million to give farmers better tools and control methods against pest animals and weeds.

The Government is already helping farmers access skilled and reliable labour by:

  • Focusing on better training through the $664.1 million Industry Skills Fund.
  • Making visa programmes more flexible by expanding the Seasonal Worker Programme Australia-wide, and the Working Holiday Maker (417 and 462) visas in northern Australia.
  • Establishing a new Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration to review the list of occupations available for sponsorship under the 457 visa.

The Government is also supporting farmers and other land managers to tackle practical environmental projects. This includes the $1 billion National Landcare Programme, while the $700 million commitment to the Green Army will provide training in conservation management.

For more information about Farming smarter see Chapter 4 of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Priority 5: Accessing premium markets

Improving international trade will grow farm businesses and increase financial returns for farmers.

  • $30.8 million​ to break down technical barriers to trade and appointing five new Agriculture Counsellors.
  • ​ $200 million to improve biosecurity surveillance and analysis nationally, including in northern Australia.
  • $12.4 million to modernise Australia’s food export traceability systems to further enhance our food safety credentials.
For more information about Accessing premium markets see Chapter 5 of the Agricultural Competitiveness 
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