Biosecurity

Wool growers and others maintain rage on biosecurity levy

Sheep Central, February 14, 2024

WoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall: WPA still opposed to levy.

PEAK wool grower body WoolProducers Australia and other farmer bodies remain opposed to the Federal Government’s proposed biosecurity protection levy despite the release of details on a new model yesterday.

Under a new levy model announced by Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt at Senate Estimates yesterday agricultural commodity contributions to the level have been cut by more than 30 percent of previous estimates.

Under the new model, for every 1pc of gross agricultural, fisheries and forestry production, an industry will contribute a total of $500,000 towards the biosecurity protection levy. The levy was previously to be calculated based upon 10pc of existing agricultural levies paid by each industry.

However, WoolProducers, the National Farmers Federation and NSW Farmers yesterday remained opposed to the levy’s introduction or were requesting more details on its structure.

WPA chief executive officer Jo Hall said WoolProducers has been opposed to the introduction of the biosecurity protection levy since it was announced during last year’s Federal Budget.

“We have engaged in numerous departmental briefings and consultations on this issue, including presenting our submission into the public consultation process which outlined the inequities and confusion with the proposed levy,” she said.

“WoolProducers also highlighted the fact that producers should not be funding federal government regulatory functions as that is in contravention of the agreed roles and responsibilities of the National Biosecurity Statement, the lack of contributions from risk creators and the inference that this proposal would be acceptable based on the beneficiaries pay principle while ignoring that producers are not the only beneficiaries to good biosecurity and that the proposed levy did not meet governments own principles regarding the establishment of levies and as such this was a straight tax on growers.

“WoolProducers also raised concerns regarding the unfair position that the introduction of the BPL will place wool growers in, given the unique levy setting mechanism within the industry for R&D and marketing through WoolPoll,” Ms Hall said.

“WoolPoll is due to take place shortly after the commencement of the BPL on 1 July, 2024.

“Wool growers will be asked to vote on the rate that they want to allocate to RD&M a mere couple of months after the introduction of another tax which will ultimately see more money coming off their wool cheque,” she said.

“With the steady decline in wool prices this year it will simply mean less money in growers pockets which may influence how they vote in WoolPoll.

“The government’s announcement of the revised roll out of the BPL indicates that while they were listening in regard to the inequity issue and the provided clarification that products will only be taxed once through the supply chain, WoolProducers remains strongly opposed to the introduction of this levy/tax given the other significant issues we have raised have not been addressed,” Ms Hall said.

Future biosecurity funding must be equitable – SPA

Sheep Producers of Australia CEO Bonnie Skinner said the Australian sheep meat industry is reliant on and protected by the nation’s national biosecurity systems and the market access it affords.

“As such, our industry prioritises investments that enhance biosecurity.

“Sheep Producers Australia acknowledges the changes recently announced to the proposed biosecurity protection levy and looks forward to the opportunity for further consultation on the details of the amendments,” she said.

“The design of biosecurity funding mechanisms must be underpinned by adequate consultation and engagement with industry, and future funding must ensure equitable arrangements across all beneficiaries of the biosecurity system.”

NFF remains opposed to biosecurity levy

The National Farmers’ Federation yesterday acknowledged Mr Watt’s comments on the new model, but in the absence of further detail, said producers continue to remain opposed to the levy policy.

NFF president David Jochinke said the agricultural sector, along with supply chain participants, have overwhelmingly objected to the levy, identifying numerous issues with the policy construct and execution pathway.

“The 40th NFF Members’ Council in October – the sector’s chief policy-making forum comprising all NFF member presidents from state and commodity organisations – passed a motion opposing the policy,” he said.

“We acknowledge today’s comments by the Minister recognising the significant concerns of industry, including issues related to equitability and transparency.

“However, we still await significant further information concerning the levy’s design, and what it will practically look like for producers on the ground,” he said.

“We also want to see details on the potential impact on the existing levies system; transparency about how the collected funds will actually deliver dedicated, additional and tangible biosecurity outcomes; formalised producer oversight mechanisms; and proper recognition of existing producer contributions to the broader biosecurity system.”

Mr Jochinke said Australia’s 85,000 farmers, along with thousands of supply chain participants, are still faced with what appears to be “a fundamentally flawed proposal to be implemented in less than five months.”

“There is still a gaping hole in information and we call on the government to keep listening to producers and put in a process to properly address their concerns.

“Until such a time that these issues are addressed properly, we remain opposed to the levy,” he said.

No transparency on biosecurity levy – NSW Farmers

NSW Farmers policy director Ash Cooper said while the industry awaited clear details around a series of proposed changes to the levy bill, the peak farming body remained firm in its view that farmers should not pay an additional tax to fund the nation’s biosecurity system.

“Collecting an extra $50 million a year from Australian farmers to cover biosecurity costs is just simply double-dipping.

“Farmers are not only already contributing a significant amount of levy dollars towards biosecurity but are also personally bearing billions of dollars in costs each year in the fight against weeds, pests and other biosecurity risks on-farm,” Mr Cooper said.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, so we shouldn’t sit back and let farmers cop these costs when they’re already doing so much to manage these risks.”

Mr Cooper said farming groups continued to seek more detail on how the recent amendments would properly address concerns around the tax that had been identified by the agricultural industry as early as May last year.

“From what we can see so far, there is no detail on how some of the key issues NSW Farmers raised –such as only collecting the levy once on a product during its lifecycle – will be implemented if the levy comes into force.

“The change in shifting the levy rate to be based upon gross value of production may cause inequitable contributions across commodities forced to pay the levy,” he said.

“Worse still, farmers are being forced to incur significant extra costs to ensure biosecurity while there continues to be no container levy imposed on risk creators such as importers.

“If a biosecurity tax is to be introduced, it should be collected from passengers and products entering Australia, and not just farmers who are already contributing to the biosecurity cause.”

With the levy set to be implemented on July 1 this year, Mr Cooper warned now was the time for the Federal Government to take the advice of the agricultural sector on board before it was too late.

“We welcome the government’s talk of keeping our country safe from risks such as foot and mouth disease – but this is not the way to do it,” Mr Cooper said.

“A recent Senate committee report on agricultural levies heard our concerns around the levy, but now we need to see these concerns addressed and clarified in further changes to the biosecurity levy bill if it is going to proceed.

“We all need to work together if we’re going to develop a solution that will bolster our biosecurity and protect the prosperity of our industry for generations to come.”

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Comments

  1. Robert Leeson, February 15, 2024

    The levy should be applied to the biggest risk people and businesses. This includes people leaving Australia to travel overseas and return and all importers of goods coming into the country.

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