Horticulture body accuses Queensland government of industry bias

Source: Fresh Plaza

Jane Richter is one of 398 Queensland farmers who was approved for the joint federal and state funding scheme (EWIRS). But after what she thought was a government greenlight to install crucial drought infrastructure on her passionfruit farm, she was told that the government’s funding had run out.

She was not alone. More than 2000 farmers across the country fell victim to oversubscription, forcing the federal government to top up the rebate scheme with another $50m last federal budget. Contingent on access to the additional funding is the requirement that states match the federal government dollar for dollar.

Queensland is the only state not to sign up to the topped up scheme – which was extended on Wednesday – arguing the state has offered its own EWIRS scheme since 2013, which has already paid out millions.

However, unlike the federal scheme, Queensland’s EWIRS scheme is limited exclusively to primary producers. This leaves permanent growers like Miss Richter in the dark to when they will receive their entitled rebate.

“It’s just a game of pass the buck between the federal and state governments,” she told queenslandcountrylife.com.au. “The scheme was offered to permanent tree and vine plants, which unlike livestock you can’t just move towards water.”

Miss Richter said she has been in communication with the state government since the federal government topped up funding in October last year. “It feels like the state have never cared about this issue because they’re dealing with federal money and not state money. It has been grossly mishandled. It was always going to be a problem if you have federal money being administered by the states and we’ve been punished for it.”

Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard said that the unwillingness from the state to provide growers with drought infrastructure that is currently offered to primary producers is part of an alarming trend of industry bias. “It’s an obvious reference to livestock industry, it’s exclusive to one side of the agricultural industry. There’s a two to one difference between funding for livestock biosecurity programs compared to the rest of industry. Another example of bias.”