Ag schools to give up part of farm trust

Talitha WolfeAlbany Advertiser

WA College of Agricultural Denmark and four other regional agricultural schools will be forced to hand over $200,000 annually from their trust to the State Government.

The Department of Education will retain 20 per cent of the Agricultural Education Farm Provisions Trust, which is used for farm development and the purchase of farm machinery and equipment for WA agricultural colleges, from 2019.

Agricultural colleges in Cunderdin, Denmark, Harvey, Morawa and Narrogin, as well as the Esperance Senior High School Farm Training Centre, each contribute 40 per cent of farm revenue to the trust annually.

The trust is used to promote and support agricultural education programs in smaller schools such as Mt Barker Community College.

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The Albany Advertiser understands the annual dividend to the Department will be about $200,000.

Member for Warren-Blackwood Terry Redman said the proposal would risk the safety and education of the students.

“It is madness to disrupt a system that has a high degree of collaboration between colleges, clearly covers a range of costs, and reduces the need to access government funds for operational or machinery costs,” he said.

“We won’t see the impact immediately, but over time you will see compromise on the quality of equipment and timeliness of machinery upgrades.”

The former Denmark Agricultural College principal said this would diminish the incentive for the colleges to be profitable.

Minister for Education Sue Ellery confirmed the department would retain the share from 2019.

“Currently, each agricultural college retains 60 per cent of the income they generate and 40 per cent is retained by the trust, which is then distributed to colleges based on their submissions for new equipment and items,” she said.

“The agricultural colleges generate an income from selling their produce (eg milk, pork, wheat).”

Dismissing comments $64 million in education cuts were targeting the regions, Ms Ellery said the savings were being applied across the State, including metropolitan Perth. “Our priority has been to minimise the impact on students while doing our bit to help fix the budget,” she said.

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