Farmers welcome biosecurity boost but warn against double-dipping

The state’s peak farming body has welcomed reports the federal government will deliver a long-term, sustainable funding model for biosecurity, but are concerned about possible double-ups on fees and charges. 
NSW Farmers Biosecurity Committee chair Ian McColl said more funding for biosecurity in next week’s budget would be very welcomed, with the recent seizure of 38 tonnes of illegally imported meat proving the need to do more.
“There are no second chances when it comes to biosecurity, which is why we have been calling for action and welcome progress,” Mr McColl said.
“A single, widespread disease outbreak could cause billions of dollars in economic loss, not to mention extensive damage to agriculture, tourism and the environment.
“We need to ensure authorities are properly resourced to prevent – and respond if need be – to pest and disease outbreaks, and this increase in funding is a good thing.”

However, Mr McColl  said biosecurity was everyone’s responsibility and was concerned the federal government was looking at charging farmers with extra fees and charges to pay for the biosecurity boost.
In discussing the move with the media, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said he wanted to make “the beneficiaries of the (biosecurity) system pay their share as well because it’s in all of our interests to keep agriculture safe and have a strong biosecurity system”. 
Mr McColl said farmers already made a huge contribution to biosecurity, and the federal government should not ‘double dip’.
“We already pay a large amount in fees and charges, and also through the investment of levy dollars – many of our levy dollars go to biosecurity – to help support Australia’s biosecurity system,” Mr McColl said.
“The big threat we’re facing is from pests and diseases coming in from overseas, which have the potential to devastate our economy and shut down multiple industries – from agriculture to tourism.
“We welcome a commitment to a long-term, sustainable biosecurity funding model, but double-dipping into agriculture is not the way to do it.”
Mr McColl said risk-creators, such as importers of contaminated machinery, should be made to shoulder more of the burden.
“Everyone Australian benefits from our strong biosecurity system, and everyone has a general biosecurity duty to not bring any threats into Australia,” Mr McColl said.
“We need to be proactive internally, and we need a general raising of standards across the community.
“When people saw the threat to our country from foot and mouth disease last year everyone paid attention, everyone wanted to put their shoulder to the wheel, that needs to be the new normal.”

Date: Thurday, May 4, 2023
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]