How the Federal Budget 2023 will impact Agriculture
10 May 2023
Last night we saw the first full budget from the Albanese Labor government, with biosecurity the big winner for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as the nation looks to protect the successive record years of production from pests, weeds and diseases. Let us take a deeper dive into the biosecurity wins and other measures impacting the agribusiness sector for the 2023-24 budget.
With Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) and African Swine Fever (ASF), some of the many but more commonly heard of biosecurity threats on the nations doorsteps, farmers will welcome the increased funding aimed at protecting the industry. On the flip side though, they will be asked to dig a little deeper as one of the financial contributors to this increase.
With what was a declining budget over the forward estimates, the government has committed just over $1bn in new biosecurity investment over the next four years to keep up with the increased threats faced today and in the future. This includes $845m over four years going towards maintaining biosecurity policy, operational and technical functions on a sustainable basis.
The Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program is supported with $40.6m over four years to protect our Northern Australia coastline from biosecurity risks. With proximity to Indonesia, Timor-Leste and approx. 4kms separating PNG to the Torres Strait Islands, this is an important frontline against the biosecurity risks mentioned.
However, biosecurity is a shared responsibility from those that visit our shores, import goods into Australia, or those that produce Australia’s food and fibre. As such, from 1 July 2024 a new Biosecurity Protection Levy on all domestic agricultural, fisheries and forestry producers will commence. The levy will collect an amount equivalent to an extra 10% of 2020-21 levy rates or another comparable metric where such levies are not in place. The levy not commencing until 1st July 2024 ensures there is time to plan and negotiate new arrangements.
For producers, some of these increases based on levy rates as of 1 July 2020, are as follows:
A cattle (grass fed) producer will pay an extra 50 cents per head (cattle and livestock producers charge)
A cotton producer will pay an extra 22.5 cents per 227kg bale (cotton levy)
An egg producer will pay an extra 3.25 cents per chick (eggs promotion levy)
Live Sheep Export Phase Out
Leading into the election, the Federal Labor Party were open about their intention of phasing out the live sheep export industry, and that promise is now turning into a commitment. Impacting the WA sheep industry, $5.6m over two years has been committed for an independent assessment and consultation process to be undertaken that will make recommendations to the government about how and when to phase out live sheep exports by sea. Time will tell whether this commitment will lead onto the Live Cattle Export market in future budgets or terms of office.
Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
Last active in 2014, the government has committed $5m to develop a new Australian Animal Welfare Strategy to strengthen animal welfare transparency and assurance as the country looks to gain greater market access with Free-Trade Agreements, especially with the EU negotiations still being undertaken, and animal welfare under increasing scrutiny. This announcement complements the previous budget announcement in October 2022 to establish an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports.
Instant Asset Write-Off
For 12 months from 1st July 2023, small businesses with annual turnover of less than $10m will be able to immediately deduct eligible assets costing less than $20,000. A small win for the instant asset write-off as it was due to drop to $1,000, and supply chain issues have presented challenges in receiving plant and equipment purchased before June 30th.
A permanent lift to the instant asset write-off would greatly assist in future capital expenditure replenishment. Yet, given the inflationary pressures and rising acquisition costs of plant and equipment, a higher limit would have also been welcomed to allow for more significant purchases.
Increased deductions for SMB expenditure on electrification and energy efficiency
An additional 20% deduction will be available for small and medium business (aggregated turnover of less than $50m) expenditure supporting electrification and energy efficiency. This measure includes assets that upgrade to more efficient electrical goods, such as energy-efficient fridges, and demand management assets, such as batteries or thermal energy storage.
Total expenditure for this measure will be capped at $100,000, with a maximum additional tax deduction available being $20,000 per business. This applies to eligible assets or upgrades first used or installed ready for use between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2024. Another temporary measure from the government giving business owners just 12 months to plan, act, and deliver on capital expenditure.
Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) program
With the labour market continuing to have a current unemployment rate of 3.5%, which is predicted to rise to 4.5% by the June quarter of 2025, the agricultural industry and especially horticulture, will continue to turn to programs encouraging overseas workers coming to our shores.
Whilst there are new investments to skill-related developments, community liaison officers for Pacific workers, and strengthened worker protections and compliance operations in Australia, there were no new announcements to address the ongoing labour shortages and improve access for smaller producers. Therefore, the industry may see this as a bit of a missed opportunity.
Natural Heritage Trust
With a focus on sustainable farming practices, $302m has been committed over five years for the Climate-Smart Agriculture package, which aims to drive agricultural productivity, competitiveness, and sustainability by supporting farmers to:
Adopt climate-smart practices that reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change
Understand and benefit from participation in carbon and biodiversity markets
Apply natural resource management practices that improve soil health and protect natural capital and biodiversity
To aid the adoption of climate-smart, sustainable agricultural practice, $40.7m will be invested to support a network of Sustainable Agriculture Facilitators, which will provide services to improve farmers knowledge and uptake of climate-smart practices, as well as aid farmers’ understanding of carbon and biodiversity markets. This will greatly assist agribusinesses when they look to make critical investment decisions for their future sustainability.
National Soil Action Plan
With healthy and fertile soils being an integral part of faming sustainably, $20m has been set aside to partner with state and territories to implement a National Soil Action Plan, along with $36m from the Natural Heritage Trust to implement a national soil monitoring program.
Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market scheme
The commencement of the issue of biodiversity stewardship certificates under the scheme, the sale of which would be treated as primary production income, will be delayed till 1 July 2024. The delayed introduction aligns the commencement with the Nature Repair Market (NRP), which is part of the government's Nature Positive Plan.
Australian Carbon Credit Units
$18.1m has been allocated over two years to implement priority reforms to the operation of the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) scheme as part of the Government’s initial response to the Independent Review of Australian Carbon Credit Units. Functions relating to method development activities for ACCUs have been transferred from the Clean Energy Regulator to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.
Not so long ago, Australia faced severe bushfires before a period of storms and floods impacted towns and regions, while Tropical Cyclones continue to impact our Northern regions. With the East Coast of Australia drying out this season, it would be expected that many will face grass and bushfires later this year. In 2020, nearly 70% of Australians were impacted by a natural disaster of some sort.
In 2023‑24, the Government is providing $200m through the Disaster Ready Fund to support projects like levee upgrades, seawalls, and bushfire risk reduction projects and $236m will be spent over the next decade to address to remediate high priority flood warning infrastructure and address critical reliability risks. The Bureau of Meteorology will acquire, upgrade, and integrate local and state government-owned rain and river gauges into its existing flood warning network.
The Government will provide $148.6m over four years towards the sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin. This funding includes $103.7m for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to prepare for and undertake the first statutory review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 2012, with updated science to enable the Basin to adapt to the impacts of climate change. $44.9m has been allocated to provide advice and work with Basin states as well as affected communities on the Basin Plan.
There were also significant savings, with multiple water projects being cancelled including the Dungowan Dam in NSW and Emu Swamp Dam in QLD and the Fingal Irrigation Scheme in TAS and Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme in WA. These savings total $832.2m. The dam wall raising project for Wyangala Dam in NSW and the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme project in QLD remain deferred for now.
With the agricultural sector relying on the movement of produce by road, there will be some impact for the transportation costs incurred in these road movements. The Heavy Vehicle Road User Charge rate will be increasing from a rate of 27.2 cents per litre in 2023-24 to 32,4 cents per litre in 2025-26. This budget measure is expected to raise around $1.1bn for the bottom line.
Check out the full coverage from the Federal Budget 2023/24 here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the thought or position of Findex Group Limited.
Budget fact sheets, Agriculture.gov, 2023
Budget overview, Budget.gov, 2023
Delivering for a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 2023
Budget 2023-24, Budget.gov, 2023