Australian Government, 2013-14 Budget

Part 2: Expense Measures (Continued)

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Farm Finance — support for farmers

Expense ($m)
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 34.9 34.2 0.6 0.4
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 6.0 20.8 30.0 30.9
Australian Taxation Office ‑7.0 ‑6.0
Total — Revenue 6.0 20.8 23.0 24.9

The Government will provide a package of measures to support and assist farmers experiencing acute levels of debt and to help improve their ongoing financial resilience.

Farm Finance includes:

  • the provision of up to $420.0 million over two years in concessional loans to eligible primary production businesses for the purpose of productivity enhancements and debt refinancing from 1 July 2013;
  • changes to the Farm Management Deposit (FMD) scheme to allow FMD owners to consolidate their existing accounts that have been held for longer than 12 months without triggering tax liabilities;
  • increasing the non‑primary production threshold for FMDs from $65,000 to $100,000, resulting in a reduction in estimated taxation revenue of $13.0 million over three years from 1 July 2014;
  • $6.3 million over two years to expand the Rural Financial Counselling Service by an additional 17 full‑time equivalent counsellors from 1 July 2013;
  • $0.9 million over three years for a communication campaign to increase awareness of the assistance package; and
  • the development of a nationally consistent approach to farm debt mediation process across all jurisdictions, to be developed by a working group comprising federal, state and industry stakeholders.

The concessional loans program will make available up to $30.0 million per annum for two years to each state and the Northern Territory for the provision of concessional loans to eligible farmers. Loans will be for a maximum of $650,000 per eligible primary production business, available for a period of up to 20 years, and will be administered by an appropriate state or territory delivery agency. The interest only concessional loan component will be available for five years, and after this time the loan will revert to a market rate and recipients will also commence repaying the principal.

The fiscal balance impact includes the concessional component of the concessional loans. In accordance with the Australian Accounting Standards, this is reflected as a negative impact when the loans are issued, which is reversed by a positive impact over the life of the loans. The concessional component does not impact on the underlying cash balance.

Further information can be found in the joint press release of 27 April 2013 issued by the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

National Drought Program Reform

Expense ($m)
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Department of Human Services 9.1 6.8 7.1 8.9
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 10.1 19.7 32.3
Total — Expense 9.1 16.9 26.8 41.2
Department of Human Services 5.2 0.2

The Government will provide $99.4 million over four years for a new Farm Household Allowance under National Drought Program Reform commencing from 1 July 2014. The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) will be available to eligible farm families in periods of hardship regardless of the source of that hardship. Eligibility for support will be determined through an assessment of the farmer's existing assets, liabilities and income.

The FHA will be paid at the Newstart Allowance rate and will be available to eligible recipients for a maximum period of three years, with the flexibility to come on and off the payment until the maximum period is reached. A condition of receiving the FHA will be completion of individually tailored reciprocal obligations targeted at assisting farmers to better manage their individual situation in the future. Reciprocal obligations could include training or development activities, both on‑farm and off‑farm, seeking professional advice or succession planning. This payment will replace the existing Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment and the Transitional Farm Family Payment from 1 July 2014.

National Drought Program Reform will be delivered in cooperation with state and territory governments. The reform will assist farm families during difficult times, improve farmer preparedness for future challenges including droughts and other variable climatic and business conditions and help farmers to become more self‑reliant. The reform also includes the following elements:

  • continuation of Farm Management Deposits and taxation measures such as current primary producer taxation concessions that support and assist farmer risk management;
  • a national approach to the provision of farm business training through a standardised Vocational Education and Training accredited skill set developed by AgriFood Skills Australia and key members of the farming and training sector and delivered through the Vocational Education and Training system by registered training organisations;
  • a coordinated, collaborative approach to the provision of social support services that aims to ensure that people receive support before reaching a crisis point; and
  • tools and technologies to inform farmer's risk‑management decision making including examining ways to improve the provision of information to farmers.

National Produce Monitoring System — pilot

Expense ($m)
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The Government will provide $25.4 million over five years to develop a pilot National Produce Monitoring program to identify risks associated with the use of agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines that are currently not being assessed. The program will complement and better integrate existing private and public monitoring activities and specifically address gaps in existing monitoring systems for food sold for consumption.

This pilot forms part of a wider regulatory framework for agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines being developed with the states and territories.

Funding for the program will be provided under the Sustainable Agriculture stream of the Caring for our Country program, with the expenditure already included in the forward estimates.

Plant and Animal Health — reduced funding

Expense ($m)
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry ‑0.5 ‑0.5 ‑0.5 ‑0.5

The Government will achieve savings of $2.0 million over four years through efficiencies in the Plant and Animal Health program. The program supports access to overseas markets and protects the environment and economy from plant and animal disease threats. The savings will be achieved with minimal impact on the delivery of the program's core activities. Funding of $194.3 million over four years will remain available under the program to support the delivery of the program's objectives.

Tasmanian Forests Agreement — implementation package

Expense ($m)
  2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education 5.9 4.9 4.9
Department of the Treasury 30.5 4.0 5.5 5.1 2.1
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 20.3 1.0 7.7 1.0
Department of Health and Ageing 0.5 0.5
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 0.5
Total — Expense 50.8 11.9 18.7 11.0 2.1

The Government will provide an additional $94.5 million over five years to support the implementation of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and help provide certainty for Tasmania's forestry industry, support local jobs and communities, and protect the state's forests.

The implementation package includes:

  • $60.0 million over three years from 2012‑13 in structural adjustment payments to assist with voluntary exits from public native forest operations for regional sawmillers and haulage and harvest contractors, to buy back wood supply contracts and to support nature‑based tourism;
  • $15.8 million over three years from 2013‑14 to establish an Innovation and Investment Fund for the Tasmanian plantation timber industry to encourage innovation in the timber industry as it transitions to a greater reliance on plantation timber;
  • $8.0 million over three years from 2013‑14 to support completion of a detailed residues study, and to contribute towards implementing appropriate ongoing solutions for the use of residues, informed by the study;
  • $3.5 million over four years from 2012‑13 (to be matched by the Tasmanian Government) for the establishment of a Special Council to oversee the implementation and durability of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and to support forestry industry certification;
  • a further $2.0 million per annum from 2014‑15 to assist in the ongoing management of the new reserves; and
  • $1.0 million over two years from 2013‑14 for the continuation of the existing mental health and wellbeing counselling services for affected forestry workers in Tasmania, currently being delivered through the Tasmanian Government Rural Alive and Well program.

The cost of this measure will be partially met from redirecting funding from the Biodiversity Fund and the Caring for our Country program.

See also the related measures titled Biodiversity Fund — redirection of funding and Caring for our Country — redirection of funding.

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