Biosecurity threat to future of farms and regions

By Tracey Holley posted 20-10-2021 15:00

  
Plans to grow a strong future for agriculture will fly out the window if state and federal governments fail to recognise biosecurity as a top priority.

NSW Farmers is again urging governments to secure a pest- and disease-free future. With Biosecurity Chair Ian McColl saying a long-term funding model and robust response plan was key in the fight against emergent threats.

“One of the main assets of the Australian agricultural sector is our so-called ‘clean and green’ status,” Mr McColl said.

“It’s what drives demand for our food and fibre globally and it is basically why our produce carries a high premium here and overseas.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the state and federal governments’ funding commitments to biosecurity over recent years, but biosecurity is not a ‘tick and flick’ issue, and we need surety there is a long-term and sustainable model in place to bolster our defences against incursions.”

One example of a long-term funding model was a container levy, which NSW Farmers had been supportive of due to its potential to improve biosecurity measures. For a very small fee, state and federal governments could strengthen our borders against disease and pests.

Mr McColl said a single, widespread disease outbreak could cause billions of dollars in economic loss, not to mention extensive damage to our agricultural and native plants and animals.

“If we had a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak it would have a huge impact and shut down many exports overnight,” he said.

“This would have a major flow-on effect in our regional and rural communities and cost the Australian economy an estimated $50 billion over 10 years.

“We recently saw two live-rooted rose plants intercepted in Sydney; they had the potential to bring in a disease that would infect vineyards and could potentially decimate our wine industry.

“The threat of African swine fever continues to loom large over our pork industry, and regular detection of contaminated pork products at our borders highlights the real risk we face of an incursion.”

The CSIRO has warned of the increasing risk of disease outbreaks over coming decades and is urging Australia to adapt its biosecurity model, and Mr McColl said we as a nation must take meaningful action before it is too late.

“There’s no second chances when it comes to biosecurity,” Mr McColl said.

“We need to strengthen our borders against threats, and we need to ensure the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services are adequately resourced to respond to pest and disease outbreaks.”

Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Media Contact: Stephen Mudd | 0429 011 690 | mudds@nswfarmers.org.au
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