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Government to consult with industry on biosecurity

By Barry Large, Grain Producers Australia Chair

Last week's "mini" federal budget provided some positive signs for Australian grain producers who have been calling for greater resourcing and investments to strengthen biosecurity prevention and protections for growers.

However, with more action needed and promised by Canberra, raising expectations of good, sustainable outcomes being delivered in the full budget in May next year and beyond, there's no room for complacency from the new government.

Grain Producers Australia (GPA) welcomes the comments by Federal Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt, in his speech at the CropLife budget breakfast last week, hosted by the National Rural Press Club.

Minister Watt's statement about the budget delivering a "substantial down payment" on the government's election commitment to deliver long-term sustainable biosecurity funding, was positive news.

We clearly support Minister Watt's commitment to start a new process and properly consult with industry and other stakeholders on sustainable biosecurity funding.

Pic: Barry Large, Grain Producers Australia Chair and WA grain producer.

GPA also welcomes statements that this conversation will formally start this week and this process will include meaningful conversations with stakeholders about the introduction of a biosecurity levy to ensure the new government doesn't repeat the previous government's mistakes.

GPA has long advocated for the introduction of a container levy, given containers are a major vector for serious pests coming into Australia.

We welcome fresh moves to explore a more equitable system, where importers are contributing their fair share towards the actual costs of biosecurity activities to better manage risks.

Biosecurity isn't the only major challenge GPA is continuing to work on.

Growers in Western Australia and South Australia may be looking at a good harvest, but our thoughts are with what's happening for growers on the east coast of Australia right now.

Unfortunately, extreme weather and flooding in recent weeks has caused significant disruption and pain for many growers and grain farming communities throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Excessive and untimely rainfall has dashed the hopes of a good harvest for many growers and communities and washed away vital value.

Recent forecasts put the national crop at 62 million tonnes, which is similar to last year's volume that produced about $26-27 billion worth of grain.

However, we expect it will fall way short of that mark this year.

These losses are even more concerning given this is the most expensive crop we've ever planted due to record high input costs.

It seems there's hardly been a break in the rain falling this year, delaying crop maturity and harvest.

It's now causing significant downgrading in grain quality, un-harvestable crops, crop disease and serious damage to roads and infrastructure - putting even more costs and pressure on the logistics supply chain and our ability to move grain from farm to markets efficiently.

The damage to roads in particular has also seriously impacted the safe and efficient movement of farm machinery, and ability to plan for this effectively, along with coordinating harvest workers.

GPA has held meetings with our east coast members to ensure we stay in touch with each other and be proactive where we can, to provide any support and push for any immediate or long-term solutions.

We've also communicated with government stakeholders and media to ensure everyone is aware of the difficult circumstances and challenges we're all facing, and any assistance needed.

This includes writing to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Agriculture and Emergency Management Minister, Murray Watt, and Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister, Catherine King.

This has also been reinforced during our regular and ongoing engagement with political representatives, including GPA chief executive, Colin Bettles, holding various meetings and talks in Canberra during budget week.

Some of the key messages we've shared include:

· many growers are continuing to wait for the rain to break to get out and inspect their paddocks, to assess the actual damage and make informed management decisions;

· more rain will further exacerbate wet conditions and loss of crop value - with expected increases in the volume of downgraded grain, un-harvestable crops and disease impacts; and

· optimising yield and value of this year's crop is highly critical to support grower productivity and sustainability, given it's the most expensive crop planted due to record high input costs.

On behalf of everyone at GPA, I'd like to reinforce the need, as we go through harvest, to stay in touch and communicate with your mates and others in your community. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Our work with Rural Aid - through GPA's mental health initiative working with national ambassador Brad Hogg, Nufarm and Lifeline - is also a constant source of support and awareness building.

Rural Aid issued some new communications this week, with timely messaging.

It also provides free and confidential counselling, fodder, domestic water, financial assistance and access to volunteers via The Farm Army.

For more information, call: 1300 327 624, or for counselling call: 1300 175 594.


This opinion article, Government to consult with industry on biosecurity, was first published in the Stock & Land on 1 November 2022. HERE


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