For primary industry research, the budget did not bring any particular new support. Land and Water Australia will wind down its operations in the coming months. Cuts to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the Sugar Research and Development Corporation are also evident: the portfolio of agricultural research in general is shown in the figure below.
The largest increases in the non-levy component (i.e. funding coming from the Government) are going to grains and climate change initiatives. Horticulture, for example, will have a decrease of $0.9 m. However, industry contributions are projected to increase in about half a million in this same area of the agriculture portfolio.
Disappointment on the lack of support for rural industries has been voiced already:
-Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council , is pleased about spending in national infrastructure:a $3.4 billion expenditure will benefit road freight in the Hume, Pacific and Bruce highways which form the corridor between Melbourne and Cairns. However, the AFGC is concerned “about the lack of investment in Australia’s rural sector”.
-The National Farmers Federation vicepresident Charles Burke also expressed concern, saying that the cuts to rural R&D were “really disappointing” and “counter intuitive”, contradicting some of the Government’s policy platforms.
However, there are some encouraging developments in this budget:
-The Government will invest $464.3 million over four years, with $38.7 million in 2009â€‘10, to support increases in food production globally and strengthen the ability of countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa to address food insecurity.
-CSIRO will increase research into food production and food security. In paper, it looks like they will be able to do so with an improved budget with respect to the previous year. CSIRO’s budget increased from $675.8 m in 08-09 to $715.7 m in 09-10.
-Biotechnology and nanotechnology received some coverage in the budget, through a new National Enabling Technologies Strategy, which aims to create a bridge between regulators, firms working in these spaces and the community. The initiative will fund biotech and nanotech laboratories and research focused to develop measurements and standards for industry regulation. Also, the new Super Science Initiative (worth $1.1 billion) will fund infrastructure in biotechnology, nanotechnology and ICT.