Tasmanian farmers today urged Premier Lara Giddings to maintain the state’s support for what they termed “the main game” in next Thursday’s state budget: agriculture as Tasmania’s most reliable economic driver.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) sought a continuing commitment to the agriculture sector as the central plank of its 2011 budget submission.

“This is the shrewdest investment the government can choose to make,” TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said today.

“Take the current irrigation scheme investment as an example. The state government’s share of the $400 million total is just $80 million; the federal government is putting in $120 million; and farmers are putting in $200 million. That’s just to get irrigation to the boundary fence. We estimate that farmers will be paying another $600 million to distribute that water around their land – before they turn off any product at all.”

Ms Davis said that this means a total infrastructure investment of $1 billion produces a conservative increase in farm output of $3 billion, using a low-range multiplier factor.

“In other words, every dollar invested by the government shows a direct return of $12.50 and a flow on effect of more than $35. There are not too many government investments that can guarantee that level of return” she said.

The TFGA is also seeking commitments to initiatives that aim to assist farmers and potential investors to make informed business decisions about agricultural investment and the transition to high-value food and agricultural products from irrigation.

These include: development of a plan for agriculture in Tasmania; continuation of the Wealth from Water and Innovative Farming programs; incentives address issues caused by browsing animals; and, importantly, initiatives to secure the future of on-farm forestry activities.

“A strong agriculture sector is vital to the future of Tasmania,” Ms Davis said. “The industry already employs more than 17,000 people and contributes significantly to the well-being of the state. Targeted investment by government, in partnership with farmers, will enable the sector to continue to grow and bring even more benefits to all Tasmanians.

“Farmers are putting their money where their mouths are – and the results of their investments are clearly visible across the state.
“This is the most sensible and safe investment the government can make in Tasmania’s future,” Ms Davis said.
Jan Davis, TFGA