AGRICULTURE and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce has released the first round of grants from the $5 million Leadership in Agricultural Industries Fund.
It came after Mr Joyce was given a prod earlier in the week by Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon over delays in revealing which farm sector representative groups had been awarded funding.
“More than a year since the election, not one cent of Leadership in Agricultural Industries funding has been spent,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
The Fund, revealed in last year’s federal election campaign as a Coalition farm policy promise, is believed to have attracted about $25m in grant applications for the $5m bucket of money.
The 27 successful grant recipients include the Cattle Council of Australia to establish a new peak body, Sheepmeat Council of Australia to develop a Future Flock Network and WoolProducers Australia for the Raising the Baa Leadership Program.
Mr Joyce is expected to make further announcements of successful applicants in time.
He said the Fund provided wide-reaching benefits and supported farming, forestry and fisheries representative organisations to boost their leadership skills long into the future.
“The Coalition government recognises strong industry leadership is critical to agriculture remaining one of the pillars of our national economy, building on the sector’s outstanding performance as the key driver of national GDP growth in 2016-17,” he said.
Mr Joyce said Cattle Council would receive $500,000 to support activities leading to the establishment of Cattle Australia - a new representative body to provide leadership across the grass fed cattle industry - and for leadership capacity building once the entity is established.
“This industry led reform is welcome news and a much anticipated development for the cattle industry,” he said.
“This funding gives effect to the recommendations of the Senate Committee inquiry into the red meat sector which saw a role for government to assist Cattle Council of Australia transition to a new producer representative body.”
Cattle Council President Howard Smith said his group had been working hard with many industry stakeholders to implement change across the sector since 2014.
“It is a credit to the current government and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce that their commitment to Australia's beef industry, beef producers and regional family businesses has remained strong,” he said.
“Cattle Council has remained committed to the restructure and providing Australia's beef producers with better representation.
“We have undertaken incremental change over the past few years and with this announcement we are now equipped with the resources to take the next big step.”
Troy Setter, Independent Chair of the Implementation Committee said the announcement provided “a clear pathway to implement a direct elect model that best serves the needs of our industry”.
"We look forward to industry support as we implement this significant change,” he said.
WoolProducers Australia welcomed the $187,430 grant it received saying it represented a positive long term opportunity for the Australian wool industry.
Identifying and preparing dynamic future leaders by addressing the representative capacity building gap that currently exists within the industry will result in a robust, innovative and sustainable Australian wool industry, CEO Jo Hall said.
“The WoolProducers Raising the Baa Leadership Programme” will provide an innovative and supportive environment for leaders within the wool industry to continue to develop and refine their leadership skills in order to contribute to building our industry” she said.