Handed down on Tuesday, the first State Budget from Labor in more than a decade has included funding for key election promises such as an Independent Agriculture Commissioner, an Independent Biosecurity Commission and a Good Neighbours Program to address pest and weed problems on public lands.
A feral pig control program announced at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference in July was also included in the State Budget, but so too were cuts to dam projects.
President Xavier Martin acknowledges there were additional commitments, including for the Regional Trust Fund, that were welcomed, but there were missed opportunities for the agricultural sector.
“Budgets are about carving up the pie – by investing in agriculture they could have grown the size of that pie,” Mr Martin says.
“Road repair funding and $100 million for the Bells Line of Road is a start, but we’re not going to see a tunnel through the Blue Mountains connecting paddock to the new Western Sydney Aerotropolis and port.
“Regional and shire councils need certainty of ongoing funding if there is to be an overall improvement in the state of our regional, rural and remote roads.
“Agriculture has the potential to be an economic dynamo for the state economy and the sector has a critical role in the cohesion of strong and resilient regional and rural communities.”
Despite a big focus on biosecurity, there was a concern among rural communities that the feral pig funding would not deliver a sustained and ongoing impact.
“This is a good start, but $13 million for one year of feral pig control is a drop in the bucket for this problem, we need to break that breeding cycle,” Mr Martin says.
“It will require taking out 70 per cent of the breeding population per annum, which is a longer-term commitment to maintain momentum in tackling this problem because of the enormous threat it poses for the state’s biosecurity outcomes.
“The big investments in traceability won’t mean much if we get an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that tears across the state with all these pigs – this is a clear and present danger and we need to tackle it accordingly.”