Minister for Agriculture media release 5 May 2015.
The Andrews Labor Government will deliver the Murray Basin Rail Project with funding confirmed in the 2015-16 Victorian Budget.
The Budget includes up to $220 million for the project once the business case is finalised, which is expected to occur in coming months. $30 million was fast-tracked in February to get work started.
The project will standardise rail freight services, increasing efficiency and improving access to ports so our export industries can stay competitive and our farmers, producers, families and communities get the support they need.
Agriculture and our farming families sit at the heart of rural and regional Victoria, with our food and fibre industry contributing more than $11 billion to our economy and way of life.
That’s why the Labor Government’s first Budget has prioritised investment in agriculture that will create jobs and drive economic growth to support our regional and rural communities.
In addition to the Murray Basin Rail Project, the Budget also provides $45 million in initiatives to secure the future of farming families delivering on key election promises designed to build industry capacity, grow exports and support the creation of new jobs.
The new $20 million program Food Source Victoria will bring producers from the same regions and specialities together to market their produce to boost exports and grow our local industries.
This program will deliver grants to conduct research, develop and implement marketing plans, support product innovation and build skills to effectively compete in export markets.
A further $1 million will be invested in the Horticulture Innovation Fund, while $1 million will be dedicated to boost cellar door visits and grow wine exports with a Victorian Wine Tourism Strategy.
Both of these initiatives will promote industry-driven research and development, growing the horticulture and wine sectors and helping to create the agriculture jobs of the future.
An additional $130,000 will be used to form an advisory council to steer further development of the wine industry.
The Budget also delivers on a key election commitment to establish a new Young Farmers Scholarship Program, providing $760,000 over four years to attract the next generation of farming families to a life on the land.
This program will provide young farmers with the opportunity to grow their skills and invest in new technologies and business efficiencies, ensuring our regions retain the talent needed to prosper. It will be supported by a special Ministerial Advisory Council on Young Farmers to advise the Government on how to attract the next generation of farmers and growers and keep them on the land.
The Labor Government has also secured the future of the National Centre for Farmer Health by providing $4 million over four years so the Centre can continue its ground breaking work in improving the health and wellbeing of Victorian farmers and their families.
A further $1.54 million to continue the Rural Financial Counselling Service will ensure we support farming families and our rural and regional communities during hardship.
Also included in the Budget is $9.4 million to support critical biosecurity services that maintain market access and the productivity of Victoria’s agricultural industries. This is in addition to ongoing funding for biosecurity.
This funding will support the continued implementation of measures to better prepare Victoria for an incursion of a serious livestock disease, with a focus on preparation and early detection. It is critical to protect Victoria’s agricultural exports.
Maintaining and growing market access for Victoria’s agriculture will be further supported with funding of $5.22 million to support trade negotiations and address trade barriers.
Other agriculture funding commitments include $600,000 to examine policing of food labelling laws and an additional $1 million for funding the Fox Bounty Program in 2015-16.
Food Source Victoria, the Horticulture Innovation Fund and the Victorian Wine Tourism Strategy will each receive funding from the $500 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund and align with the fund’s overarching focus on job creation.
The National Centre for Farmer Health is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford
“Agriculture isn’t an industry of the past, it’s an industry of the future. We need to invest in food and fibre now, so our farmers, growers and innovators can lead the world.”
“Andrews Labor Government is delivering the Murray Basin Rail Project so our farmers and industries can stay competitive and get the support they need.”
“This Budget ensures we can find and support the next generation of Victorian farmers and growers, because food and fibre are the future of our economy.”
“We’re putting the health and well-being of our farming families first by saving the National Centre for Farmer Health and continuing to deliver much needed support through the Rural Financial Counselling Service.”