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Inquiry into Red Imported Fire Ants in Australia


Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.


Public Hearing – Newcastle, Tuesday 5 March 2024, 10am-10.30am.


 Thank you for providing Grain Producers Australia with the opportunity to submit our members’ views to this inquiry into Red Imported Fire Ants in Australia (RIFA), by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.


Firstly, we’d like to recognize the contribution and service of Senator Linda White to this Committee and the Australian Parliament – and provide our sincere condolences to Senator White’s family and friends, members of this Committee and the Australian Labor party, at this difficult time.


GPA represents the interests of Australian grain producers on national policy and advocacy, aiming to deliver a more profitable, sustainable and globally competitive grains industry.


Our members are grain producers directly, and the grain producer members of state farming organisations; including AgForce and NSW Farmers.


GPA also holds legitimate responsibilities under legislation representing 22,500 levy-paying grain producers who grow broadacre, grain, pulse and oilseed crops throughout Australia – including on matters of RD&E and biosecurity.


These roles represent all growers on vital industry matters which help deliver shared social and economic benefits for the nation.


Grain growers contribute 1.02 per cent of their net crop sales to these levies, comprising the GRDC for RD&E, Plant Health Australia (PHA) membership and as signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) for biosecurity management responsibilities, and National Residue Survey (NRS) testing, for grain quality and market access.


Background to GPA Submission

GPA has engaged with our state member groups to support their views, in developing our submission – which is key to our policy development and advocacy processes.


We support our members – in particular, AgForce and NSWFarmers – who strongly support continued efforts to achieve eradication of RIFA. This is especially important given RIFA were first detected in South-East Queensland in February 2001 and most recently in NSW.


GPA’s submission aims to reinforce key messages about the significant contribution growers already make to existing biosecurity programs funded by levies, through to PHA and the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), and the governance arrangements.


In particular, we’d want to emphasise the difference in funding and governance arrangements in the RIFA response, given its categorisation as an environmental pest due to the broader impacts across society and communities; including human health.


Our submission also reinforces the need for current research to accurately understand the potential impacts of RIFA on the Australian grains industry, and the broader community and economy, to ensure we take a scientific and evidence-based approach to policy development and solutions.


GPA has already held discussions with GRDC and PHA recently, to try to initiate a new research project, aimed at developing a fact-based understanding of RIFA’s impact on local grain crops.


This is in contrast to the continued reliance on studies from the US, which claim “farmers can expect anywhere from 15% to as much as 95% damage to grain crops if fire ants are found on their land”.


These overseas studies focus on crops such as soybean, which are not major crops in Australia.


GPA supports an evidenced-based approach to identify priorities for the Australian grains industry, as demonstrated in the Grains Biosecurity Plan, which has been developed through ongoing engagement between grains stakeholders, governments and with scientific expertise.


This Plan identifies grains specific threats, listing and ranking about 1400 pests – including those of high priority which have higher entry, spread and establishment potential and subsequently economic impacts.


This Plan also includes an implementation table detailing 50 projects of varying priority (including RD&E) that need to be funded, to deliver these enhanced biosecurity protections.


We welcome the Committee’s questioning about grains industry priorities for biosecurity - including areas such as varroa, which we’ve been involved with, through PHA processes.



GPA Chief Executive, Colin Bettles.


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