In a major overture to Australia's farmers, the coalition has pledged to boost funding for rural research and development (R&D) by $100 million if elected on September 7.
Shadow agriculture spokesman John Cobb on Wednesday promised an Abbott government would make the cash available to the fifteen rural R&D corporations that drive innovation across the agriculture sector.
It's been welcomed by the National Farmers Federation (NFF), who have not only been calling for increased investment in R&D but more clarity from the coalition in general about their agriculture policy.
Mr Cobb said a decrease in R&D investment under Labor had seen a decline in productivity growth in Australia's farming sector, and the cash would make a real difference.
"We fundamentally believe Australia must invest in our farmers and farm sector now if we are to have a prosperous, sustainable and profitable future," Mr Cobb said in a statement.
Labor might pay lip service to the benefits of R&D, but the reality was the federal government had "emaciated" the agriculture budget from $3.8 billion in 2007 to less than $2 billion today, he added.
The NFF has made greater funding for R&D its top election priority, calling for a one per cent increase in spending by 2015 - an extra $281 million over the next two years.
NFF chief executive Matt Linnegar said if the coalition wins the election, they'd be working closely with an Abbott government to ensure their election pledge turns into a core agricultural policy.
"We can't stress strongly enough how important an increase in funding for agricultural RD&E (research development and extension) is to our nation's farmers and the future of Australia's agricultural sector," he said.
He also welcomed another rural promise made by the coalition on Wednesday, to reinstate $2.2 million for native title respondents should they be elected.
The farming lobby was outraged in November when Labor cut funding for native title respondents but kept it for claimants, claiming it was unfair and left farmers footing hefty legal bills.
In its recent election "scorecard" for the major parties, the NFF put the coalition behind Labor on its policies for Australia's agriculture sector.
Given the onus placed by the NFF on rural R&D investment, this latest announcement could go some way to improving their standing.