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State Budget minimalist for agriculture

The State Government released the 2018-19 State Budget last week, which has left WAFarmers underwhelmed due to minimal new expenditure into agriculture and regional Western Australia.

WAFarmers President Tony York said the organisation had hoped for more out of the Budget, though he acknowledged the difficult financial situation currently constraining the Western Australian Government’s finances.

“We welcome the $45 million across four years to the building of the WA Grains Research and Development Capacity program, and the continued investment to support educational programs at Muresk Institute of Agriculture,” Mr York said. 

“We still hold concerns around regional education and are deeply disappointed that the State Government has not listened to the outcry clearly conveyed from the bush in regards to Moora Residential College and Community Resource Centres.

“As WAFarmers understands, the Budget does not have a significant allocation for improving Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development services, as the primary focus for the 2018-19 year will be completing the amalgamation of the Department; this will include an extensive review of its operations and strategic direction. 

“We look forward to seeing this review and hope that efficiencies are made and expertise and resources are maintained. We are now in the McGowan Government’s second year and we hope that the review will be completed promptly and recommendations implemented to increase capacity of DPIRD.

“There looks to be a projected loss of 100 full-time employees across the whole Department, which is concerning for the future of DPIRD. Given the significance of agriculture to the state economy, it will be a disappointing outcome if these vital Department resources are lost.

“We are pleased to see planned investment into regional road infrastructure, and eagerly await detail surrounding this investment to fully understand the commitment. It is hoped the government will engage communities and industry bodies to further understand localised issues.”

Mr York said was clear the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Alannah MacTiernan, had a specific interest in regenerative and conservationist farming. 

“We welcome the conceptual ideas of regenerative farming to improve productivity, but given it is not a priority for industry and the concept is not fully reflective of current conventional practices, we believe DPIRD will require significant resourcing and investment to deliver on the Minister’s desired outcomes,” he said. 

WAFarmers welcomed bushfire risk mitigation announcements and looks forward to collaborating with the government to ensure the Rural Fire Division and Bushfire Centre of Excellence pave the way for a much needed improvement in bushfire mitigation and management within the state.  

“WAFarmers was pleased to see the Budget for agricultural telecommunications has maintained an allocation of $15 million. We hope these funds, along with opportunities of co-investment with the telecommunications, are put to the best possible use for the best possible coverage; however it is disappointing that mobile blackspot funding has not continued,” Mr York said.

“Given the agricultural sector is a significant contributor to growth state product and the bulk of our product is exported, WAFarmers is disappointed that the overall budget for agriculture and regional development is at best static, as the whole primary industries sector is a worthwhile investment opportunity.”

Mr York said that despite some wins, there was nothing in the State Government’s second budget that stood out for agriculture or regional WA.

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