Last night, Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the much-anticipated federal budget for the 2018-2019 financial year, and likely the last one we’ll see before the next federal election.
As in all years, there are winners and losers in this budget. Road and railway projects will see increased funding nationwide, as will mental health services. On the flipside, the ABC, welfare recipients and foreign aid will see less funding.
But how does the federal budget impact Australia’s agriculture industry?
Here are the six key takeaways from the budget papers released last night; to read those papers in full, click here.
Extension of the $20k immediate asset deduction scheme
The $20,000 immediate asset deduction, which enables small businesses with turnover of less than $10 million to immediately deduct assets up to $20,000 (rather than depreciate those assets in the small business pool) has been extended for another financial year.
That means eligible small business owners – including farmers – can deduct the cost of business assets of up to $20,000 (such as The Yield's Sensing+ technology) from their taxable income for another year.
We go into more detail about the immediate asset deduction scheme here.
Increased budget for biosecurity
The Federal Government has committed $101.6 million over four years to tackle biosecurity issues for farmers, with that figure to be invested in better detection technology, improved response plans and better screening of imported food.
Tasmania’s recent fruit fly outbreak, which has threatened the state’s lucrative fruit export market, has been specifically called out in the budget, with $20 million allocated to help eradicate the pest over the coming financial year.
And from July 2019, another $6.6 million will be available to further fight animal pests and weeds in Australia.
In order to improve screening practises, the Government will implement a biosecurity levy on imports, which will go towards identifying exotic pests and diseases.
Increased budget for GPS technology
The Federal Government will invest $224.9 million over four years to improve GPS capability across the country.
This money will be used to provide accurate positional, navigation and timing (known as PNT) capability, which will improve GPS capability nationwide. In areas with mobile coverage, PNT data will have an accuracy of 3 to 5 centimetres; elsewhere, up to 10 centimetres.
Industries likely to see the benefits of improved GPS capability include agriculture, aviation and transport.
Improvements to regional infrastructure
The Government has committed to improving transport links in regional Australia, including roads, railways, bridges and airstrips, which will have a direct impact on agriculture logistics and supply chains.
Over the next 10 years, the budget adds a further $24.5 million to an existing fund of $75 billion designed to upgrade roads, rail lines and bridges.
There has also been a commitment of $3.5 billion to upgrading ‘roads of strategic importance’, which will improve both efficiency and safety of key freight routes nationwide, including the Great Northern Highway and Bindoon Bypass in Western Australia, the Barton highway between New South Wales and Canberra, and regional corridors in Northern Australia and Tasmania.
Additionally, $24 million will be spent over four years to improve regional airstrips.
Boosts to trade and export
Over six years, the Government will spend $51.3 million on expanding Australia’s network of on-the-ground agricultural trade councillors – by extending existing positions in Vietnam, Malaysia, the Middle East, China and Thailand, and adding new positions to emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.
The role of the councillors is to eliminate trade barriers, keep markets open and alert farmers to new trade opportunities.
The Government is also committing $3.6 million over five years to help beef exporters maintain access to the Indonesian market.
Understanding labour gaps
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) has been allocated $4.7 million to improve the collection of labour force data from the agricultural sector, to better understand the industry’s seasonal labour needs.
ABARES will collect data on labour expenditure, the number and type of people employed on farms what industries they are working in, and why it is so hard to recruit and retain workers, with the end goal of painting a clearer picture of the skills and labour gaps that farm businesses face.