Australia's $4 billion agricultural white paper focuses on drought and water

Farmers hoping for rain in NSW. Photo: Getty Images

The Australian government released its Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper today, hoping to improve the farming sector’s global competitiveness.

The long-awaited paper, originally been promised to deliver within 12 months of the 2013 election, proposes increased drought assistance and tax concessions for farmers, including investment in water infrastructure and fencing.

Farmers will also be able to offset business loans and reduce interest costs through the Farm Management Deposit (FMD) scheme.

“We’re determined to make the sector even more competitive and to deliver practical actions that will keep our farmers and farming families profitable and resilient,” said prime minister Tony Abbott.

Earlier last year, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce looked for ways to increase Australia’s $51 billion farming industry singling out issues such as food security, drought management and effectiveness of incentives for investment as key areas shaping Australia’s future global competitiveness.

“One day the coal will have been dug up, the gas will have been extracted, but we will always need food and our land forever,” Abbott told reporters in Victoria.

The new white paper will also focus on improving the current drought policy with up to $250 million in concessional loans for drought-affected farmers each year, for 11 years.

A Farm Household Allowance will provide basic income support to farmers affected by droughts or other financial issues for up to three years.

Abbott says the white paper is critical in building a “strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia” and will ensure that agriculture will be part of the “five pillar economy”.

“A strong agriculture sector contributes to a strong economy, and that means more jobs, more exports, higher incomes and better services to the community,” he said.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.