Finally a budget for the industry | OPINION

Finally a budget for the industry | OPINION

OPINION
Opinion
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It seems it took COVID to make the feds throw money at regional opportunities.

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EDITORIAL

NEEDED: The federal budget needed to take steps to help agriculture and it appears it has.

NEEDED: The federal budget needed to take steps to help agriculture and it appears it has.

AS Australia rallies to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this month's federal budget was always going to be of the utmost importance.

According to a number of industry bodies, it is a good budget for the agriculture sector.

There are incentives for workers to move to regional areas and work in the sector, help for growers to continue to export their produce overseas and tax incentives promoting businesses to expand their infrastructure.

Surely all these measures will fix the problems faced by the average Joe, fighting to make his enterprise profitable, right?

The question we should all be asking is why has it taken something so drastic as COVID-19 for the federal government to meaningfully address some of these issues?

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Every year before the picking season or harvest time, if you asked a producer what one of their major concerns was, many would say finding the labour to help get fruit off trees or veggies out of the ground.

It has taken something like COVID for the government to act on labour shortages.

This is because approximately half of the harvest workforce is unable to enter the country due to restrictions.

Yes, it is admirable that the budget has looked at the labour shortage issue and implemented the regional worker relocation rebate of $6000.

But, remember it wasn't that long ago the government implemented the backpacker tax, making it uninviting for seasonal workers to come to Australia.

Maybe I'm looking at this like the glass is half empty.

If the one-off $6000 relocation rebate helps get Australians from the city into rural areas working harvests then I'm all for it.

To be eligible, they must be willing to work in regional areas for at least six weeks and hopefully the two-year, $17.4 million investment is used up successfully.

The continuation of the International Freight Assistance Mechanism is a positive move for producers.

Set to continue into 2021, the mechanism helps enterprises export top quality produce to important markets overseas.

While it is crucial under the current circumstances, why is this set to end in 2021 and not something to continue on an ongoing basis?

It may be hard tell how beneficial this budget will be, but I will judge it on if agricultural enterprises can survive these unprecedented times.

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