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Last night at Parliament House in Canberra, Grain Producers Australia spoke about the critical importance of biosecurity for growers and the Australian grains industry, urging stronger safeguards and shared accountability.

GPA’s appearance at the public hearing of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s inquiry into the adequacy of biosecurity system highlighted why tougher protections are needed, and greater investment in preventative measures.

GPA Southern Director and Victorian grain farmer, Andrew Weidemann AM, said: “The first response from our grower members is that they don't want any of these threats arriving here in the first place”.

Mr Weidemann said biosecurity threats are growing due to increases in not only Australia’s local grain production – climbing from a $4 billion industry to $20 billion, over the past 30-years – but also the size and complexity of global trade and human movement.

“GPA's biosecurity advocacy acutely recognises these increasing demands and that we need tougher preventive measures with appropriate resourcing to protect growers, rural communities and the national economy against the social and economic impacts of devastating pests and incursions,” he said.

“For example, khapra beetle could cause an estimated $15.5 billion worth of damage over 20 years and a loss of access to important grain export markets for Australian farmers.

“GPA has advocated for the introduction of a levy on all imported containers entering Australia. In response to these escalating demands and complex challenges, we continue to support this.”

Pic: Andrew Weidemann AM.

Mr Weidemann’s opening statement to the Committee hearing also highlighted GPA’s long-standing work and engagement on biosecurity, representing the interests of Australia’s levy-paying grain producers.

This includes managing biosecurity through partnerships across industry and governments working with Plant Health Australia as a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

“The 2017 Craik report highlights GPA's longstanding partnership with PHA as an example of leadership in biosecurity, with our industry taking greater ownership of biosecurity issues which it can drive, with limited or no government involvement, through the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program,” he said.

“As the Craik report says, this collaboration provides a ready source of funds to pay the grains industry's share of approved emergency response plans that is drawn on to cover costs associated with incursions such as Khapra beetle and varroa.

“Khapra beetle is the grains industry's FMD or lumpy skin issue.”

Mr Weidemann said many grain producers like him are also livestock producers and have used the current FMD and LSD situation to better understand the relevant impacts and what proactive steps they can take to implement enhanced biosecurity protections within their own farm businesses.

“GPA is also aware that, while the public's current focus on biosecurity is related to two major animal health threats, in reality, a plant health disease could arrive before any of these. Therefore, complacency is never an option for us,” he said.

“That's why we continue to engage with our members actively on biosecurity to do all that we can to keep Australia free of such pests and diseases, which pose significant threats to the Australian grain producers, our industry, rural communities and businesses, and the national economy.

“When it comes to biosecurity, more can always be done, and we need to remain vigilant in order to prepare properly to protect individuals and the public good.”

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