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    Victoria Farmers Federation president Emma Germano.

AgLife: VFF: State budget a mixed bag

Victorian farmers’ peak body has spoken of both disappointing and welcome elements in last week’s State Budget.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said the budget failed to invest in regional freight routes but had included some key investments for agriculture.

She said the State Government had missed an opportunity to drive growth in the regions by not investing in freight routes and regional road maintenance. 

“Regional communities and farmers will be disappointed that just weeks after calls for the lowering of speed limits on regional roads, the government has failed to adequately invest in the maintenance and upgrades required to make rural and regional roads safe,” she said.

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“Last year $6.9-billion was invested in regional Victoria, a strong signal of the importance of our regional economy to the state’s prosperity. This year that number is $3.7-billion.” 

Ms Germano said some welcome areas of investment included regional mental-health services, traceability and emergency services. 

“Farmers are uniquely vulnerable to many factors that contribute to poor mental health and the VFF looks forward to seeing this funding flow through to improving rural and regional mental-health outcomes,” she said.

“The important investment into traceability and product integrity will support the future of Victoria’s food and fibre industries and the VFF looks forward to working with the government in implementing this program.

“The Black Summer bushfires demonstrated the vulnerability of our regional communities to the threat of fire. It’s a vital investment in our emergency service capabilities continuing in this budget with the $71.2-million CFA digital radio upgrade, investment in the replacement of Country Fire Authority stations at Serpentine, Metcalfe and Irymple and $104-million for recovery initiatives including financial counselling and mental-health support.”

Ms Germano said the VFF was disappointed the budget did not include funding to provide Victorian farmers access to an On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme, but understood Victorian and federal governments were in discussions on the matter. 

Ms Germano said the introduction of new taxes could stymie growth in regional areas. 

“The government has introduced new taxes that could stifle agricultural investment and housing stock growth in regional Victoria,” she said.

“The stamp-duty increase and windfall tax will all hit farmers and regional developers. 

“Combined with the failure to fund the $20,000 first-home-owners grant, this will seriously impact the development of desperately needed new housing stock in regional Victoria.

“It’s tough enough to find a house in regional Victoria and, unfortunately, this budget is only going to make it tougher.” 

Other key budget investments identified by VFF include –

• $3.6-million to fund the operation of the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme for one year. 

• $15.9-million for Murray River bridge crossing upgrades. 

• $41.6-million to improve heavy-vehicle road access and priority bridge upgrades.

• $20-million for the agriculture climate-change pledge announced before the budget. 

• $5.8-million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service.

• $6.3-million for Victoria’s fruit fly strategy announced before the budget.

• $1.4-million for the Victorian Rural Women’s Network.

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire May 26, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!