Ms DAWKINS question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr ROCKLIFF
The last survey of rural confidence found that Tasmanian farmers are feeling flat about the year ahead. In fact, the last confidence indicator is down to 2014 levels of 4 per cent, having dropped 17 per cent from the last survey. Did you know there are only 12 artisan cheese makers in Tasmania and no operating organic dairies? Why have the benefits of niche products and niche producers not been promoted in this Budget? Will you sit by while the dairy industry is in freefall due to the duopolies' protracted price wars?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I understand her passion for small farms and enterprises and I agree they have a very important place in Tasmanian agriculture, along with medium to large enterprises.
The state Budget helps farmers a great deal. When we talk about the growth of agriculture and our vision for agriculture growing at tenfold the farmgate value to 2050, we include all farms and enterprises, whether they be conventional or organic agriculture, and promote and support that innovation. We are on track. Agriculture is a key pillar of the Tasmanian economy and we recognise that the farmgate value is now around $1.44 billion.
This year's Budget continues investment in strengthening right across agriculture, particularly in biosecurity. We have doubled the dog teams in Biosecurity and there will now be 12 dogs on the beat at our major airports and mail centres. That is very good news, particularly in supporting our agriculture and exporters and recognising the large influx of tourist numbers coming into Tasmania. We will be there to resource that demand. I am also pleased that we will have a biosecurity officer stationed on King Island.
Despite strong investment and growth in Tasmania's agriculture sector since we were elected, 2015 has been a tough year for primary producers, with drought conditions, dairy prices and a reduction in poppy crops. It is facing some pressure at this time, some of it weather-related but also global demand-related, particularly with poppy production and raw narcotic material and dairy prices.
We need to support our farmers affected by the drought and the current dairy and industry cuts so we are providing an additional $135 000 over the next three years to the Rural Financial Counselling Service administered by Rural Business Tasmania. A further $570 000 will be provided to Rural Alive and Well to continue its very important outreach services in 2016-17. This assistance is in addition to the $2.45 million worth of initiatives to support farming families and rural communities that I have progressively announced since November last year and complements the Australian Government's Dairy Assistance Package. Despite the challenges being experienced, the Government remains very focused on growth and supporting our farmers. Whether niche farmers, conventional farmers, medium, small or large enterprises, we will be there to support our farmers.