10 May 2023.
AgForce has warned consumers the cost of groceries will continue to rise, following a federal budget of “missed opportunities” that seeks to further tax rural communities.
As Australians continue to feel the pinch at grocery stores, the farming organisation believes the “cost of living” budget has ignored many practical solutions that could have eased financial strain and strengthened the agriculture industry.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said there were some “considerable gaps” that needed to be addressed.
“Overall, it’s really disappointing,” she said.
“I think there were some real opportunities that have been missed and that’s a real shame for consumers and our farming community.
“It will ultimately hit shoppers in the pocket when they get to the checkouts.”
While the budget’s headline item for agriculture was an additional $1 billion for our essential biosecurity system, it came with a sting – producers must pay a protection levy that will take $153 million from their pockets over three years from 2024-25.
It means a grass-fed cattle producer will pay an extra 50 cents per head and a cotton producer will pay an extra 22.5 cents per 227 kg bale.
This is on top of the large contributions farmers already make to protect our natural environment through their levy payments and their own on-farm biosecurity management costs, such as for controlling invasive pests and weeds.
The budget also fell short in delivering the sought after funding injection into road infrastructure, critical to lift productivity and reduce the cost of production in our de-centralised state, and also raised the heavy vehicle road user charge by six per cent per year over 3 years - a move that has significant implications for our supply chain and rural communities.
Ms Somerset said the budget had done nothing to take the pressure of the nation’s food and fibre providers.
“Obviously we were looking for consistent biosecurity funding, but we weren’t looking for farmers to be funding it,” she said.
“Farmers are already a significant contributor to this system and so the move to have them foot even more of the bill is disappointing to say the least.
“Looking at the cost of living, this is only likely to further increase the price of food and consumers will pay the price.”
“As far as the roads are concerned, we need significant investment in infrastructure, and not just where we’ve had damage, but to actually finish our road networks and get those supply chain pathways firmed up for agriculture.
“It’s a critical expense and if we don’t keep investing in it, eventually we’ll end up playing a very expensive game of catch up.”
The budget did include some positive moves on workforce supply, including $370 million for the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme, as well as $76 million for reducing visa processing times, and an extension to pensioner work incentives.
However, this was counteracted by a more than 15 per cent increase in visa application costs, including for backpackers looking to work in agriculture.
Ms Somerset added: “There are many examples in this budget of the government giving with one hand but taking with the other – it is really disappointing for Queensland agriculture."
Media Contact: AgForce General President Georgie Somerset 0428 390 984