Keith Pitt MP Federal Member for HINKLER

Australian Pineapple Growers Gala Dinner, Hervey Bay

**CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**

It's great to be here in Hervey Bay representing the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of the Nationals Barnaby Joyce:

  • Australia’s $8.3 billion horticulture industry (in 2013-14), including the almost $57 million pineapple industry, make an important contribution to economy – and to our way of life.

  • More than 52,500 people were employed in Australia to grow fruit, vegetables and tree nuts for domestic and export markets in 2013-14.

  • Agriculture is a pillar of our economy, and the Australian Government is committed to ensuring the sector is strong and profitable.

  • The Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce recently released the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

  • The White Paper outlines the practical actions we’re taking for a strong and prosperous agricultural sector.

  • Australia’s horticulture industry stands to benefit from a range of measures under the Ag White Paper, which will give primary producers a fairer go; support smarter and more innovative farming; invest in better water, transport and communications infrastructure; work to give producers access to premium markets; and improve drought and risk management.

  • The measures under the White Paper focus on these five priority areas. I know you are here to have a good night, and not to hear a politician go on and on so I’ll only touch upon them briefly.

  • A fairer go for farm businesses:

    • We are supporting farming families and primary producers by creating a stronger business environment with better regulation, healthier market competition, more competitive supply chains and a fairer tax system.  We’re making sure our growers don’t get the rough end of the pineapple, as it were.

    • The Government will help producers achieve a better return at the farm gate, including by investing $11.4 million to boost ACCC engagement with the agricultural sector including a new Commissioner expert in agriculture. A more farm-savvy and proactive ACCC will encourage fair-trading and strengthen competition in agricultural supply chains.

    • The White Paper and the 2015 Budget deliver a better tax system for farm businesses by enabling banks to allow farmers to use FMDs as a business loan offset, reducing interest costs estimated at up to $150 million a year, from 1 July 2016. It will enable farmers to double their Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) to $800,000, from 1 July 2016. They can opt back into income tax averaging after 10 years, from 1 July 2016; And they can immediately deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure on their tax.

  • We are building better water, transport and communications infrastructure that is reliable, efficient and cost-effective to support the development and growth of the agriculture sector:

    • The Government’s $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund will provide future water security for our farmers.

    • CSIRO’s TRAnsport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TRANSIT) will also be expanded to ensure future decisions on transport infrastructure investment deliver maximum benefit.

  • Smarter and more innovative approaches to farming based on a strong R&D system that drives future productivity growth, and effective natural resource management policy.

    • We are investing:

      • an additional $100 million to extend until 2021-22 the Rural R&D for Profit programme, which encourages innovative partnerships between RDCs and other organisations;

      • $50 million for better tools and control methods against pest animals and weeds;

      • $1.2 million to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

  • Protecting our agricultural industries from pest and disease incursions is of course vital to their productivity and profitability. The Ag White Paper delivers a $200 million funding increase for biosecurity across Australia.

  • The White Paper also supports stronger drought and risk management—including an enduring drought policy which provides farm businesses and rural communities with certainty about how and when the Commonwealth with help farmers with drought.

    • The government will invest $2.97 billion to support farmers and rural communities to strengthen drought preparedness and risk management.

  • Finally, the white paper aims to maximise our access to premium markets—giving our producers and exporters access to the broadest and best possible range of markets, building on our existing achievements, whilst maintaining a strong biosecurity system that underpins our reliable, clean, green reputation.

    • $30.8 million in new funding will be invested to help us tackle technical barriers to trade and grow as well as maintain markets. This will include additional counsellors in key markets working tirelessly for our agricultural industries.

    • The government is also responding to consumer demand by developing Country of Origin Labelling.

    • We are by working with industry to improve country of origin food labelling – with a focus on simple, clear, and diagrammatic.

    • We have so far undertaken community online consultation, with over 16,000 responses and 14 consultation sessions with food producers, manufacturers, and other interested stakeholders to ensure we can achieve the best possible framework.

    • Once we have agreed on the best way forward, we will work with state and territory governments to seek their agreement, as they have responsibility for food regulation and consumer laws.

•        This is an exciting time to be in agriculture, and there are big opportunities ahead for the sector are enormous.

•        We are neighbours with the strongest growing region in the world, have world class clean and green credentials, utilise modern technologies, and a skilled workforce.

•        Through the Ag White Paper the Australian Government will deliver the investment, practical support, and policy settings necessary to help the sector realise a bright and prosperous future.

[ENDS]

Authorised by Keith Pitt, Federal Member for Hinkler, 41b Woongarra Street, Bundaberg QLD 4670

Website by VA