​Media Release

Coalition delivering for agriculture and water in 2015

24 December 2015

In 2015, the Coalition Government’s strong plan to reinvigorate Australian agriculture and deliver improved farmgate returns is bearing fruit, with renewed confidence and productivity in many parts of the sector.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said this was a year of solid achievement for the government working to deliver for Australian farmers, businesses across the agricultural supply chain, regional Australia and the Australian economy more broadly.

“The Coalition Government is continuing to implement measures to create jobs and grow regional economies, while ensuring that Australian farming remains innovative, competitive and profitable into the future.

“In July, we launched the $4 billion Ag White Paper and set about implementing it immediately. We have started rolling out more research and development funding, better on-farm depreciation measures, more certain drought support, additional resources to increase overseas market access, and $500 million for water infrastructure among a number of other White Paper initiatives,” Minister Joyce said.

“Our free trade agreements with Korea and Japan are already delivering better farmgate returns—and there’s more to come with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), which entered into force on 20 December, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership for which negotiations were finalised in October.

“In the first half of the year, beef exports to Japan increased 33 per cent in value compared to the same period in 2014, and almond exports rose a massive 360 percent in value. Over the same period our wine exports to Korea rose by almost 50 per cent in value.

Since September 2013, the young cattle indicator price has risen 101 per cent, goat prices by 145 per cent and table grape prices soared by 208 per cent.

“We are introducing new and more meaningful Country of Origin Labelling for food, to give Australian consumers a clearer idea about the origins of the food that they buy. Many said that this could not be done – but we remained committed to developing the policy and I am very pleased that we are closer to delivering on this commitment.

“We have also brought in a stronger and more transparent foreign investment framework, to ensure that all Australians have confidence that foreign purchases of Australian agricultural land worth above $15 million and foreign investments in agricultural businesses valued over $55 million would be subject to appropriate government scrutiny. These changes are not about blocking foreign investment, but simply ensuring that such investment is in the national interest.

“We embarked on the biggest overhaul of biosecurity legislation in the nation’s history, passing the Biosecurity Act 2015 into law and opening the $379.9 million Post Entry Quarantine facility near Melbourne—helping to protect farmers and our environment from the impacts of exotic pests and diseases that could significantly increase production costs and close down markets.

“In September, I welcomed the return of water policy to my department and recommitted the Government to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin plan to maximise social and economic benefits while delivering the necessary environmental outcomes.

“We delivered on our promise to legislate a cap on surface water purchases at 1500 gigalitres—and on average we are investing $2.5 million every single day for water infrastructure upgrades in the Murray–Darling Basin over the next four years. We have also formally responded to the independent review of the Water Act 2007, and have introduced legislative amendments as part of this process.

“We remain committed to supporting both farming families and communities doing it tough as a result of drought – to date, over $403 million has been approved in concessional loans to 758 farm businesses and at last count, 5,632 claims for Farm Household Allowance have been granted.

“We’re providing $35 million for local infrastructure and employment projects, and have already approved 28 projects worth over $9.5 million in Balonne, Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Bulloo, Burke, Mckinlay and Paroo shires in drought-affected areas of Queensland and more job-creating projects in additional local government areas will be announced in the weeks ahead.

“Since September we have extended the eligibility for the Drought Communities Programme to six additional remote Local Government Areas and have now invited 20 shires and councils to put forward job-creating project proposals.

The Coalition Government is also delivering $25.8 million for pest and weed control in drought affected areas, $20 million to expand social and community support programmes and $1.8 million to extend the rural financial counselling service in drought-affected areas.

“We have delivered a great deal this year and I recognise that there is more to do. My priorities continue to be generating better returns through the farmgate—and through that, creating more jobs and prosperity in regional Australia and across the economy more broadly.

The contribution of agriculture to Australia’s national income was evidenced by our rural exports which achieved a 9.7 per cent increase in value in 2013-14, and a further 7 per cent year-on-year increase to $42.6 billion in 2014-15. Similarly in the first quarter of 2015-16 rural exports increased by 12.3 per cent over the same quarter in 2014-15. 

“Finally, and on behalf of my Assistant Minister, Anne Ruston, I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas – and of course encourage everyone to celebrate this festive season with their favourite Australian grown seafood, red meat, fruit and veg, cheese, poultry or ham – and to consume their preferred Australian beverage in moderation!”​

2015 Achievements

$4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper launched in July
Transfer of water policy back to the Department of Agriculture
Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement entered into force in January
China Free Trade Agreement signed in June 2015
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations concluded between Australia and 11 other countries in October
New $379.9 million Post Entry Quarantine facility opened in Melbourne in October
Biosecurity Act becomes law in June 2015, to be implemented in 2016
Water Amendment Bill passed, capping surface water purchases at 1500 gigalitres
Legislation introduced in to Parliament to implement the government's response to the independent review of the Water Act
Launch of the $25 million project feasibility stage of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund
First sale of Commonwealth Water in southern Murray–Darling Basin – 22.864 gigalitres
$2.5 million invested on average every day for infrastructure upgrades in the Murray–Darling Basin
Legislation to reform rules for foreign investment in Agriculture – lower screening threshold for private sector foreign purchases of agricultural land from $252 million to $15 million from 1 March, and of agribusinesses to $55 million from 1 December; and establishment of foreign ownership register for agricultural land from 1 July
Interest rates for Farm Finance, Drought and Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Schemes lowered to 3.55%, 3.05% and 2.71% respectively from August
$192.8 million in Farm Finance loans to 404 approved farm businesses to date
$196.2 million in Drought Concessional loans to 324 approved farm businesses to date
$14.7 million in Drought Recovery loans to 30 approved farm businesses to date
2015-16 Drought Concessional Loans Scheme open for applications in NSW, SA, Vic and Qld as at 1 December
2015-16 Drought Recovery Concessional loans Scheme open for applications in NSW and QLD as at 1 December
5,632 claims for Farm Household Allowance granted to date
Money held in Farm Management Deposits reaches record high—over $4.6 billion as at 30 June
Exposure draft for changes to Farm Management Deposits released in November
$15 million for pest animals and weed management in drought-affected areas
$35 million for local infrastructure and employment projects in drought-affected local government areas, with eight local government areas already allocated funding
$20 million to expand social and community support programmes in drought-affected areas
$1.8 million for additional rural financial counsellors in drought-affected areas
Over 11,000 calls to ATO hotline for drought-affected tax payers by December
$6.6 million to small exporters to improve market access under Package Assisting Small Exporters Programme
$1.3 million in rebates to small exporters to assist with registration charges
Five new Agricultural Counsellors appointed to key markets in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Middle East
Review of ESCAS finds more than 99 per cent of live animals exported without incident

Technical market access opened:

  • live animal new markets—Malaysia, Philippines and China
  • mangoes and lychees to the US
  • lentils to Saudi Arabia
  • genetic materials into Chile, Mexico and Colombia
  • signed protocol to support wheat and barley exports to China
  • blueberries to India
  • mandarins, oranges and table grapes market access reopened to Vietnam
  • improved import protocol arrangement for breeding heifers and buffalo to Indonesia
Joint Framework on Expanding Cooperation with China signed in November
New Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis regulation and guidelines released for public consultation
$50 million to manage established pest animals and weeds
$50 million to boost emergency pest and disease eradication and national response capability, including over $20 million committed to eradication responses, including industry cost-shared apportionments
National Fruit Fly Research, Development and Extension Plan established in May
Biosecurity and export certification costs reformed
Stakeholder consultation workshops on $3.3 million project for more localised, accurate and frequent weather forecasts
Six new indigenous Ranger groups signed up for biosecurity work
ACCC Agriculture Enforcement and Engagement Unit established, call for expressions of interest to serve on the Agriculture Consultative Committee opened in October
Independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct
Country of origin labelling reforms announced in July and underway
PC Inquiry into agriculture red tape launched in November
Workshops held for freight modelling for agriculture in the expansion of CSIRO TRANSIT
Fairer tax depreciation arrangements for fencing, water infrastructure and fodder storage assets
Improved Agvet chemicals regulations for low risk stock and pet food, reducing red tape by $7.8 million
Stakeholder workshops for Agvet Chemicals Regulation reform
$250 million for research and development in matched government payments
Additional $200 million for Rural R&D for Profit Programme to 2022 including $26.7 million allocated in first round
Additional funding to RIRDC for small industries
Clear, farmer-oriented priorities to target rural RD&E funding announced in July
Forestry sector records all-time high in value of exports up 10 per cent to $2.8 billion in 2014-15
Independent review of Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement
No solely Australian government managed fishery subject to overfishing for second consecutive year
Orange Roughy (in the eastern zone of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery) removed from overfished list for first time since 2001
Joint Communiqué with Indonesia to combat illegal fishing