While Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor may be less outwardly critical of the Government-backed R&D programme, his National counterpart is still not impressed with the scaled back funding.
“Unfortunately that’s going to mean less [research and development] in the primary sector, which is ultimately going to mean we’ll be less competitive,” said Nathan Guy, National’s agriculture spokesman.
Launched in 2010, the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) invests in long-term programmes in the primary sector to boost innovation and ideally, profitability.
But the coalition Government made some changes to the fund, with Mr O’Connor slamming the scheme as a “slush fund” for what businesses should be paying for themselves.
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The Government launched a review of the PGP to re-evaluate and prioritise Government’s spending, and scaled back PGP funding by $80 million in the 2018 Budget.
“[Mr O’Connor] has reduced the funding considerably, almost to half, which should be a real concern,” said Mr Guy.
The PGP review was completed in May, which found that that the R&D initiative is "a worthwhile public investment".
“He’s bagged it for years and years in Opposition, and now he publicly admits he’s gonna have to swallow the small dead mouse.”
On Wednesday, Mr O’Connor launched Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) with a $40 million budget as a “best of” the PGP and the Government’s Sustainable Farming Fund.
“Government wants to help extract more value from what they already do, in a sustainable way that means our natural resources will be there for future generations,” he said in a statement.
The first SFF project, which will be aided with some $29 million in PGP funds, is in partnership with the Dairy Goat Co-operative in order to strengthen the goal milk industry for infant formulas.
Watch the full interview with Nathan Guy above.