A plan to slash funding to Victoria’s fight against Queensland fruit fly will make it harder for our farmers to fight off outbreaks of the destructive pest.
The Andrews Labor Government has confirmed today it will slash fruit fly funds in the 2021-22 State Budget with just $5.3 million to be allocated to community grants over the next four years – a cut of $2.54 million.
The Budget will allocate a total of $6.4 million for the community grants as well as management efforts by Agriculture Victoria, despite the previous program putting $7.84 million into grants alone.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh slammed the cuts, saying it left farmers exposed when they could least afford it.
“The Andrews Labor Government’s cuts to critical biosecurity programs couldn’t come at a worse time,” Mr Walsh said.
“The seasonal worker shortage and growing uncertainty on access to key markets in China are putting serious pressure on producers and our $2.95 billion horticulture sector.
“Labor should be backing our producers and supporting them to be more productive and profitable, not gutting funds from programs that are a crucial part of protecting their livelihood.”
Labor’s Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas bizarrely claimed today the funding cut would “empower industry and the community”.
Mr Walsh said more, not less, funds should be put into biosecurity to protect the sector, which employs nearly 15,000 Victorians and generates $1.6 billion in exports – 14 per cent of Victoria’s total food exports.
“Our agriculture sector rightly expects governments to be focused on strengthening biosecurity to better protect farmers against damaging pest outbreaks,” Mr Walsh said.
“Cutting millions from biosecurity shows years of multi-billion-dollar cost blowouts and poor management of the COVID pandemic has come back to bite the Andrews Labor Government. But it’s our farmers who are wearing the consequences.”