Farmers butt heads over sheep and 'poor' budget

Angry farmers wearing "keep the sheep" t-shirts have walked out on the federal agriculture minister enraged by his decision to end live sheep exports in 2028, while describing the budget as "poor". 

More than a dozen farmers and leaders of several peak agricultural groups left a post-budget wrap up on Wednesday, as Agriculture Minister Murray Watt began to talk about the ban.

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

"We don't want your money, we want the trade," National Farmers' David Jochinke said at a media conference afterwards.

But Senator 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," he 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.

Some in the agricultural sector have welcomed the attention placed on climate change.

“It’s good to see a commitment to invest in helping farmers reduce carbon pollution, hand in hand with the net zero sector plan for agriculture," Farmers for Climate Action's Natalie Collard said.

There were few surprises in the budget according to National Farmers' chief executive officer Tony Mahar, with much promised in pre-budget announcements, including the transition package for the live sheep export industry.

"The $107 million was to help cancel an industry," Mr Mahar told AAP.

Opposition agriculture spokesperson David Littleproud also condemned the "transition" package.

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

Senator Watt came under fire from within his own party about live sheep exports, with WA agriculture minister Jackie Jarvis repeating her opposition to the ban.

"Given your decision and subsequent package is not in the interest of WA, it is difficult to see how we can work collaboratively," Ms Jarvis wrote in a letter to Senator Watt.

The minister also came under pressure over a proposed biosecurity levy, due to be introduced in July but yet to pass the senate.

The Greens and independent Senator David Pocock have confirmed they won't support it.

Mr Littleproud said the legislation won't pass.

"It's gone, we're not supporting it, the Greens aren't, and I understand the cross bench aren't either," he said.

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