Delivered as responsible and providing "budget repair" while still prioritising essential services by NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey, the 2023-24 Budget was announced today.
However, much of the funding for agriculture was either towards a commitment to pre-election promises made by the Minns Labor government, or initiatives already announced.
Treasury has forecast a budget deficit of $7.8 billion for this financial year, but then anticipates an $844 million surplus in 2024-25, a $1.6b surplus for the 2025-26 financial year and a $1.5b surplus in 2026-27.
The 2023-24 budget allocates $298.5m for biosecurity and agriculture industries, a drop in the ocean for an industry which is hoping to be valued at $30b by 2030.
With biosecurity front of mind for many farmers, a significant amount of the agriculture money is dedicated to issues such as electronic identification for sheep and goats, Varroa mite and feral pig control, but, much of the allocated finances mentioned were from pre-promised initiatives.
The $39m to help in the mandatory implementation of eID for sheep and goats was announced months ago, as was the $77.2m allocated for the fight against Varroa mite to support the state's beekeepers, pollination service providers, and honey industry.
Also included in this budget was the $80m already announced to protect NSW from red fire ants, now at NSW's northern border, and the $13m Feral Pig Control Program.
Other biosecurity issues with funds in the budget was $10.2m for the white spot disease response for the prawn industry, as well as $10m to establish the Good Neighbour Program, targeted at weed and pest infestations between neighbouring public and private lands.
The pre-election promise to appoint an independent Agriculture Commissioner is catered for with a $5.5m investment for the role which is being touted as "providing more protection for our farmland, ensure food security and a more prosperous agricultural industry".
Another $2.3m had also been allocated for the establishment of the Independent Biosecurity Commission.
The budget provided $2.2m for the re-engagement of a Dairy and Fresh Food Advocate. This role's duties will include reviewing supply chains and addressing food security issues.
Landcare will receive $58.8m for 3000 groups across the state, while the Farm Business Resilience Program, which helps farmers adapt to climate change, will receive $11.1m.
In a bid to solve the healthcare worker shortage, the $10,000 incentive payment to move to rural and remote areas will be doubled to $20,000 and $4m has been allocated to address service shortage gaps highlighted in the 2020 Rural Health Inquiry.
The budget has also allocated $438.6m to recruit 500 extra rural and regional paramedics and $419.1m to begin delivering the Safe Staffing Levels in NSW Hospitals initiative in the hopes to recruit an extra 1200 nurses and midwives.
To keep 1112 nurses and midwives in the healthcare system, $572.3m has also been allocated to fund these positions, which were previously only funded until June 2024.
Regional rail and roads received significant funding, including last week's announcement by NSW Minister for Roads Jenny Aitchison of $724m for regional and rural roads.
The establishment of the Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund will receive $390m aimed at supporting regional councils to manage existing roads, especially those damaged by natural disasters, while $334m has been allocated for the establishment of the Regional Roads Fund to build new roads in rural and regional areas.
The NSW government has allocated $95.5m for the Fixing Country Rail program while the Fixing Country Bridges program has been allocated $333.9m to replace ageing timber bridges throughout the state.
There has been no significant investment in water for agriculture, however, the 2023-24 NSW Budget is providing more than $353m across the next four years to support various drought readiness projects including $222.4m for critical water supply infrastructure upgrades for Wilcannia, Eurobodalla and Cobar; $217.5m for Safe and Secure Water Program initiatives for regional towns; $6m to improve water security for Tamworth; $5m contribution to the Northern Rivers Watershed Initiative; and $13.6m to enhance drinking water quality by replacing crucial infrastructure in Yass.
The government is currently funding $220m of existing projects in its commitment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan including sustainable diversion limit (SDLAM) acceleration projects, the Northern Basin toolkit, and Northern Basin metering, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation project as well as off-farm efficiency projects.
Tocal College will receive $27.2m in funding to provide targeted agricultural workforce training, $29.3m has been set aside to deliver Yanco Agricultural High School upgrades, while $22.1m has been provided for additional National Parks and Wildlife Service field officers.
The budget also allocates $350m to the regional Development Trust Fund for what the government calls an investment in the future needs of regional communities.
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