The National Farmers’ Federation and its state and commodity members have convened today for the first time in the Federation’s 41-year history via video conference for the Federation’s biannual Members’ Council meeting.
Usually held in Canberra, Members’ Council is the forum for the formal adoption of NFF policy positions on issues of federal importance to Australian agriculture. The meeting was the first of its kind since the summer’s bushfire disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addressing NFF members, President Fiona Simson said agriculture’s ability adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic had put it in good stead for the months ahead.
“The farm sector was briefed on impending restrictions and, perhaps faster than any other industry, responded immediately to the changed operating environment.
“This action saw agriculture recognised as an essential service and ensured critical functions such as livestock selling centres, wool auctions, shearing sheds, interstate movement of livestock and goods were able to continue – subject to the necessary procedures and precautions.
“Importantly, the NFF and our members were successful in calling on the Government to extend the visas of foreign workers already in Australia. The NFF also developed a Workplace Guide to assist farmers in their safe management of farm workers.”
Ms Simson also noted the NFF’s #GotYourBack campaign, to reassure Australians of the nation’s food security credentials.
“It was important for farmers to act to ease the angst of their fellow Australians and to assure shoppers, in the face of panic buying, that there was more than enough food to go around. To date this messaging has reached more than 6 million Australians.”
Today Members’ Council endorsed a new NFF policy on biosecurity, outlining how critical biosecurity is for primary industries, the community and the environment, highlighting issues with the national system and setting out priorities for industry.
“Biosecurity is absolutely central to the success of our primary industries, and to our ambition to grow farm gate output to $100 billion by 2030,” Ms Simson said.
“Biosecurity not only protects primary industries, people and the environment from the impacts of unwanted pests and diseases, it protects our markets and our national economy.
“We operate in a global environment, and the movement of goods and people across borders will only continue to increase – heightening the risk of a major pest or disease incursion that could have dire consequences for our industries.
“Ensuring Australia’s biosecurity system is innovative, adequately resourced and operating efficiently is critical and the NFF believes this should be a shared priority for governments, industry, and the broader community.”
Ms Simson noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had put biosecurity into the global consciousness, bringing home just how quickly new diseases can spread and demonstrating the importance of everyone playing a role.
“A partnership approach is essential to deliver a modern system that successfully manages biosecurity risk.
“The NFF is calling for a national biosecurity strategy and long-term investment plan for the system, collaboratively developed, funded and implemented by governments and industry.
“We would welcome the opportunity to work with governments and across industry to promote the importance of biosecurity and ensure the system is fit for purpose now and into the future,” Ms Simson said.
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