Farming bodies disappointed by biosecurity levy

By Country News

Farming bodies have expressed their disappointment the Federal Government will not pursue the implementation of the biosecurity import levy.

The levy was first proposed in a 2017 independent review, which found the national biosecurity system was underfunded.

The review recommended the introduction of a levy on imports to generate revenue for biosecurity functions that could not be cost recovered.

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the farm sector strongly supported the levy as an important new source of funding for an overstretched system.

“We need a firm and clear commitment from government that they are serious about maintaining the biosecurity of this country,” he said.

“Biosecurity is absolutely fundamental to agriculture, and the way biosecurity levy proposal has been handled is of concern to Australia’s farmers.

“The imports levy was recommended by experts as a means of targeting a risk-creating activity to generate a sustainable revenue stream for important biosecurity activities like surveillance and research and development.”

Mr Mahar said he hoped the government still had an appetite to look at sustainable long-term funding arrangements for biosecurity.

NSW Farmers’ biosecurity committee chair Ian McColl said the decision led to uncertainty about long-term sustainable funding mechanisms for the biosecurity system.

“Agricultural industries welcomed the announcement of the levy in 2018 to ensure our biosecurity resources could cope with increased movement of goods,” he said.

“We’re now seriously concerned that the Federal Government has no plans to reduce the pressure on our overstretched system, which is especially important as we face threats such as coronavirus, African swine fever and the fall armyworm.”

Mr McColl said Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud needed to demonstrate how ongoing funding through existing arrangements would support the implementation of the recommendations from the independent review.