National Farmers' Federation

Border crossing a ‘line in the sand’ moment for fire ant response

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has joined with other agriculture and environment groups in expressing its extreme concern over the recent discovery of Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) in northern New South Wales. 

NFF President, David Jochinke, said the incursion underscored the critical need for immediate and comprehensive funding and response actions to eradicate RIFA before it’s too late. 

“Allowing RIFA to proliferate across the landscape poses a severe threat to Australia, with potentially catastrophic agricultural, economic and health consequences,” Mr Jochinke said.

“The cross-border spread of the southeast Queensland infestation must represent a ‘line-in-the-sand’ moment for our response efforts. 

“We can’t underestimate the risk fire ants pose to Australian agriculture, our environment and society at large, with the economic impacts running into the billions, potential native flora and fauna loss and hundreds of thousands of additional medical consultations.”

Importantly, the 2021 National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Strategic Review outlined that a pathway to eradication remained possible with the appropriate funding. 

In October the NFF welcomed the $268 million commitment for the National Fire Ant Eradication Program by the Commonwealth, however the events of recent days should cause all jurisdictions to reconsider their efforts and actions to address this pest.  

“The ongoing spread of RIFA also highlights the importance of ensuring our biosecurity system is adequately and comprehensively funded by all governments and that risk creators are contributing to funding response efforts. 

“Producers and communities will shoulder the burden of the continued spread of RIFA, and it remains imperative that risk creators, such as importers, continue to fund broader response and eradication efforts,” Mr Jochinke concluded.