Farmers fuming over live sheep export ban and budget

Liv Casben
2 Min Read
More than a dozen farmers and leaders of agricultural groups walked out of a federal budget wrap up.
More than a dozen farmers and leaders of agricultural groups walked out of a federal budget wrap up. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Angry farmers have walked out of a budget breakfast enraged by the live sheep export ban, with the trade to end by May 2028.

More than a dozen farmers and leaders of several peak agricultural groups wearing “keep the sheep” T-shirts, walked out of the budget wrap-up, when the Agriculture Minister Murray Watt started talking about the ban.

The federal budget allocated $107 million over the next five years to help farmers transition away from live sheep exports.

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“We don’t want your money, we want the trade,” National Farmers’ David Jochinke said at a media conference shortly after Wednesday’s walk out.

But the agriculture minister Murray Watt dismissed the move as a stunt.

“While a handful of the NFF leadership walked out, a couple of hundred ag leaders ...stayed to hear about the government’s $5 billion investment in agriculture in last night’s budget,” Senator Watt said.

The 2024/25 budget delivered $789 million over the next eight years for the agricultural sector, with a focus on mitigating the threats of climate change.

“The centrepiece of last night’s agriculture budget was nearly $520 million to support programs and initiatives in a rejuvenated Future Drought Fund,” Senator Watt said on Wednesday.

Almost $64 million will be spent over 10 years to support agriculture in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as Australia moves to net zero by 2050.

“We want to build the capacity of farmers, land managers and their advisers to integrate carbon emissions reduction knowledge and practices into their core business,” Senator Watt said.

But farmers say there were few surprises in Tuesday’s budget, with much of the money promised in pre-budget announcements, including the rejuvenated drought fund and money for live sheep exports.

“The $107 million was to help cancel an industry,” National Farmers’ chief executive officer Tony Mahar told AAP.

Opposition agriculture spokesperson David Littleproud also condemned the package.

“Farmers don’t want compensation... a future coalition government will reinstate the live sheep export trade,” Mr Littleproud said.

Amid farmers’ continued opposition to a biosecurity levy imposed in the last budget, the Greens confirmed they won’t support it, meaning the legislation has effectively been shelved.

“If the government needs an extra $50 million to boost biosecurity border security, it should look elsewhere,” Green’s senator Peter Whish-Wilson said.

The news has been welcomed by Grain Producers Australia, who praised the Greens senator along with independent David Pocock and coalition members.

“We’re thankful that they’ve taken the time to listen and be pragmatic,” Barry Large from Grain Producers Australia told AAP.

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