National Farmers' Federation

Stress test finds biosecurity system sound, but farmers await funding

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the completion of a review finding Australia’s biosecurity system is “strong” and “sound”, but it wants no time wasted addressing the 14 recommendations identified.

In the four-week project, the Joint Interagency Taskforce: Exotic Animal Disease (EAD) Preparedness stress tested the complex biosecurity system through a cross jurisdiction and industry lens to ensure a coordinated national approach in the event of a Foot and Mouth or Lumpy Skin Disease incursion.

NFF President Fiona Simson said ensuring farmers, industry bodies and all jurisdictions were singing from the same hymn sheet was imperative in the face of a biosecurity incident.

“We don’t want a messy situation like we had through the COVID-19 pandemic with people stuck at borders and unsure what rules apply from state to state,” she said.

“Borders don’t matter when it comes to feeding people in Australia. For example, our farmers in Western Australia are feeding people on the east coast and vice versa, so a seamless and well communicated approach is important, not only to protect our animals and environment, but to ensure if a situation arises, the impact to our food supply chain is minimised.”

While the Taskforce’s report confirms Australia’s biosecurity system is adequate, it has identified improvements including strengthening communications and across border cooperation, and ensuring the system keeps in step with technology. What we also know from government advice is the risks from pest and disease incursion are also increasing so it’s timely to ensure Australia keeps up efforts to ensure the system matches the risks.

“While it’s critical to have the best plans in place, we have recently seen with Varroa Mite how incursions put extreme strain on our resources,” Ms Simson said.

“The 14 recommendations must be urgently actioned. Funding remains farmers’ primary concern and they are expecting the government to deliver on its pre-election commitment for sustainable, long-term biosecurity funding in next month’s Federal Budget.”

The NFF was one of eight industry partners involved in the Taskforce’s National Livestock Stand Still Discussion Exercise as part of the review. It welcomes the Taskforce’s continued work on biosecurity, which includes a live simulation next year of a FMD scenario.