4.1 Agriculture Portfolio

The Agriculture Portfolio’s role is to develop policy advice and provide services to improve the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry and related industries.

Matters dealt with by the portfolio extend across rural adjustment and drought issues, rural research and development, commodity marketing, biosecurity and food security policy and programmes.

The Minister administers 88 pieces of legislation ranging from the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemical Products (Collection of Levy) Act 1994 to the Wool Services Privatisation Act 2000.

The Agriculture Portfolio will receive total resourcing of $2.2 billion in 2013-14, of which $737.6 million is departmental funding and $1.4 billion is administered funding. 4,800 people are employed in the portfolio.

A key aspect of the Department of Agriculture is its Biosecurity Group. This division, which was previously constituted as the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, provides quarantine inspection of animals, plants, passengers, cargo and mail arriving in Australia, and inspection and certification of a range of agricultural products exported from Australia. It also undertakes activities to protect the economy and environment from the impacts of unwanted pests and diseases. Funding for biosecurity activities is around $570 million per year and represents about 26 per cent of the portfolio’s resources. With approximately 3,500 staff in biosecurity activities, it accounts for the vast majority of the portfolio’s workforce.

The portfolio funds 15 Research and Development Corporations of a predominantly rural nature – six statutory and nine industry owned. These corporations perform industry regulatory functions and fund research and development and investment in their specific sector using industry-specific levies matched by Commonwealth funding and State contributions. Some $650 million will be provided in this area in 2013-14, including a Commonwealth contribution of approximately $250 million, representing 30 per cent of the portfolio’s resources.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) is a key division within the Department of Agriculture. It provides an integrated research capacity to analyse agricultural industries and commodities and agricultural-related issues such as climate change, sustainable resource management, biosecurity and food security.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority regulates and monitors commercial fishing, domestic licensing and participates in activities to deter illegal foreign fishing.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regulates the use of agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines.

 

Table 4.1.1: Portfolio resourcing: Agriculture

Funding ($'000)

Staffing

Entity

Departmental

Administered

Total

ASL

Department of Agriculture

               411,622

           1,388,256

            1,799,878

         4,258

Cotton Research and Development Corporation

                 21,883

                            -

                  21,883

               14

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation

                 26,709

                            -

                  26,709

               13

Grains Research and Development Corporation

               182,096

                            -

               182,096

               61

Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation

                 22,920

                            -

                  22,920

               11

Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

                 23,202

                            -

                  23,202

               27

Sugar Research and Development Corporation

                    9,117

                            -

                    9,117

                  8

Wine Australia Corporation

                 12,434

                            -

                  12,434

               49

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

                 26,339

                 22,038

                  48,377

             189

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

                    1,324

                 30,630

                  31,954

             183

PORTFOLIO (1)

737,646

1,440,924

2,178,570

4,813

Source: Department of Finance. 201314 Budget updated for machinery of government changes.
(1) As individual entity resourcing includes inter-agency transfers and payments, total resourcing for the portfolio may be overstated by this amount.

The Department has responsibility for drought assistance measures including the Farm Household Allowance which commences from 1 July 2014. This allowance will be available to eligible farm families in periods of hardship regardless of the source of that hardship, with eligibility for support determined through an assessment of the farmer’s existing assets, liabilities and income. This payment will replace the existing Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment and the Transitional Farm Family Payment.

The Department is responsible for overseeing a programme of concessional loans to eligible primary production businesses for the purpose of productivity enhancements and debt refinancing. These programmes are funded up to $210 million per year and will be delivered by the States and the Northern Territory through appropriate delivery agencies such as regional adjustment authorities.

The Department has responsibility for the oversight of some $630 million in levies and user charges. In addition to industry levies to fund the Rural Research and Development Corporations, the Department cost recovers approximately 65 per cent of the revenue for biosecurity services. Costs are recovered from importers and exporters for services such as export certification, cargo and vessel inspections, processing of import permits and post‑entry quarantine for plants and animals. The Department also collects levies for animal and plant health and supply chain assurance.

Chart 4.1.1 is a graphical representation of the relative size of bodies within the Agriculture Portfolio. The diagram is more comprehensive than Table 4.1.1, as it shows all FMA Act and CAC Act bodies in the portfolio and not just those entities that are directly appropriated or funded by the Commonwealth.

Chart 4.1.1: Agriculture

This chart shows the Department and Portfolio agencies, as described above, diagrammatically.

This chart shows the Department and Portfolio agencies, as described above, diagrammatically.