Minister declares ag to hit $71b next year thanks to budget splurge

Minister declares ag to hit $71b next year thanks to budget splurge

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HIGH HOPES: David Littleproud is optimistic about agriculture's growth off the back of the budget. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

HIGH HOPES: David Littleproud is optimistic about agriculture's growth off the back of the budget. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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The ag industry is expected to grow by $5 billion next year because of the measures taken in the budget, the Ag Minister says.

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AGRICULTURE will be a $71-billion industry next year off the back of the federal government's budget, the government has declared.

Around $850 million was dedicated to $66-billion industry in the 2020/21 budget, with big spends on biosecurity ($371m), improving soil quality ($197m) and building resilient rural communities.

With so much money on the table, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was even more optimistic than the $71-billion prediction, labelling the $5-billion increase "a modest estimate".

"The return on investment is seen, it is real and tangible to the Australian economy," Mr Littleproud said.

"That is what we are putting our money in enforcing agriculture as a key pillar of our nation's economy."

Agricultural research and development received a significant amount of funding, and $15-billion worth of infrastructure projects - many of them regional - will be supported.

It was a budget with so much spending, it was difficult to find any areas that missed out.

However, trade and strengthening agriculture's workforce - both of which had millions of dollars poured into them - were two issues that could have used more funding.

GrainGrowers chair Brett Hosking said the budget was a "big lick of money" for agriculture, but there was an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot and invest further in trade.

"We're seeing canola prices going crazy worldwide, wheat prices are really jumping ahead and we're even seeing opportunities for a lot of barley despite the hit it's had from China," Mr Hosking said.

"There's some real opportunities while the demand's there to be building really strong strategic trading partnerships that could last for a long time beyond this."

Farmers For Climate Action president Charlie Prell welcomed the eight drought resilience hubs that will be regionally-based across the country.

"That was one of our asks, but we want to make sure that money is used correctly," Mr Prell said.

The additional $32m to expand the biodiversity pilot to remnant vegetation was also "really important", but it is only a small step in the battle against climate change Mr Prell said.

"We need to make sure that we don't assume we can offset everything and move on with our lives - that's not how it works," he said.

"Scott Morrison said we'll meet our Kyoto climate obligations at a canter. Well the rest if the world is now galloping and we need to catch up."

WoolProducers Australia chief executive Jo Hall said many of the industry's concerns were met with funding, including $29 million for a coordinated approach to feral animal control.

Ms Hall was also satisfied with the $170m to strengthen internet and mobile coverage in regional Australia.

"Many woolgrowers live and work in parts of Australia that suffer poor connectivity and provision of telecommunications services," Ms Hall said.

"Improvements to regional telecommunications was a key theme of WoolProducers Pre-Budget submission.

"Reliable and affordable telecommunications is important for farming families in order to access the digital economy for their business, education, health and social needs."

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