NFF CEO Tony Mahar said the Federal Government COVID-19 stimulus package was a welcomed boost for agriculture and the bush.
“Many farmers and the communities they support, are already doing it tough from the prolonged hardship of drought and in some regions, bushfires and floods.
“The measures in today’s (March 12 2020) stimulus package will benefit farm businesses, small businesses and households.”
Specifically, the package will direct $1 billion to a ‘regional and community fund’ to support industries affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19 including agriculture.
“We await more details about how this investment will be distributed,” Mr Mahar said.
“The NFF hopes the stimulus will be directed to those industries and regions already directly affected by the virus, for example the seafood industry and fishing communities.
China’s demand for high-end products such as Western Australian rock lobster, prawns and scallops, fell almost to zero soon after the virus took hold.
The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science forecasts the effects of coronavirus could wipe $389 million off the bottom line of Australia’s seafood industry.
Farm businesses are also suffering from a decline in the international workforce they rely on.
“A large proportion of the agricultural sector including the horticulture, pork and grain sectors depend on seasonal workers or backpackers,” Mr Mahar said.
“We do not want to see a threat to the supply of fruits such as bananas, berries and citrus should there be a major disruption to these working visa arrangements.
“About three quarters of Australia’s agricultural output is exported.
“As the spread of the virus expands and market access and freight capacity contract, we can expect a wider negative impact on agriculture.”
Mr Mahar said the general taxation measures in the stimulus package would also provide a boost to agriculture and regional economies.
“The 50 per cent accelerated depreciation deduction over and above existing deductions is welcomed, as is the extension of the instant asset write-off from $30,000 to $150,000 to businesses with a turnover of more than $500,000.
“It is crucial that regional small businesses are able to keep employees on the books and to this end, we welcome the 50% wage subsidy for apprentices.
“We’d like to see such a subsidy extended to farmers for their workers, most of which are not employed pursuant to a formal qualification.
“The one-off household payment of $750 will no doubt help many farm households, who are impacted by COVID-19.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF supported the Government’s approach to ‘modest, targeted and scalable’ stimulus package.
“We are in unprecedented times and it is crucial that the Government is able to, when appropriate, step up the help on offer for those directly impacted by the economic fallout of the virus and the economy as a whole.
“Agriculture’s prosperity depends on an overall healthy economy.
“The NFF also recognises the Federal Opposition’s support for the package and for seeing that the money gets out the door as soon as possible,” Mr Mahar said.