Exotic pests and diseases are a primary threat to the agricultural sector.
Recently appointed Federal Agriculture Minister Senator The Hon Murray Watt has outlined threats to farm biosecurity, the escalating cost of farm inputs and the workforce shortage as key priorities in his new portfolio.
At a recent Agriculture Industry Roundtable hosted by the Minister in Canberra, it was clear that many of the priorities across the various commodity sectors are closely aligned, providing a unique opportunity for industry and government to partner on issues that truly matter.
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) attended and contributed to the roundtable.
Among the key priorities was a collective call from Australia's agricultural leaders to strengthen our biosecurity capability to prevent or, in the case of an incursion, respond effectively to pests and diseases threatening the industry.
Australia's dairy farmers are on high alert as lumpy skin disease (LSD) and foot and mouth disease (FMD) are currently moving through Indonesia.
These serious, trade-limiting diseases jeopardise Australia's $75 billion agriculture sector; incursions could become a reality if not addressed immediately.
On the dairy sector's behalf, ADF partners with other sectors and governments in the prevention of, preparation for, and response to, an exotic disease.
At an industry level, ADF has worked with the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC), National Farmers' Federation (NFF), and the relevant industry service providers to form a high-level cross-industry taskforce.
The taskforce was established to ensure coordination and collaboration across all vulnerable industry sectors.
At the farm level, we urge farmers to remain vigilant and contact their local veterinarian or immediately call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline (1800 675 888) if they see any signs of LSD or FMD.
Through Animal Health Australia, ADF assists willing farmers to undertake animal health training courses to enable them to assist should a response to emergency disease incursion be required.
Despite the long-running acceptance of biosecurity being a shared responsibility, there remains shortcomings with national peacetime coordination of biosecurity activities, sustainable and multi-sectoral funding, and the combining of the existing industry - and government-based biosecurity networks that, if "stitched" together, would be a powerful tool in Australia's fight against rising biosecurity threats and inevitable incursions.
The dairy industry needs to play its part in a strengthened biosecurity system.
We want to join our comparative advantages (understanding our production systems and how to meet consumer and community expectations) with those of governments (funding support and understanding the regulatory environment and how it interacts with national and international communities) to improve the nation's biosecurity credentials and empower our readiness to prevent and, if necessary, deal with any incursions.
Only with sustainable funding and a strong governance arrangement can this be achieved.
It appears that the Minister is bringing a welcome collaborative approach to the portfolio, which is critical.
Farm visits are already underway, and a series of roundtables with key sectors is in the works.
Recognising that not every issue affecting farmers is central to the agriculture portfolio, ADF will also engage other ministerial portfolios such as health, trade, infrastructure, transport and regional development to ensure issues facing the Australian dairy industry are addressed.
These issues are of course, relevant throughout the supply chain, and therefore a collective industry approach with the processing sector is required to ensure a united voice to government.
Key to ADF's advocacy efforts and policy development are its Policy Advisory Groups (PAGs).
The PAGs are formal committees of ADF, ensuring dairy farmers' interests are represented at national and international levels.
Five PAGs are now merged into three: Economics and Trade; People and Communities; and Farm Operations.
It is important for us to have a streamlined process to effectively manage policy development. We are delivering on this objective by aligning ADF's PAGs more closely with the NFF committee structure.
ADF is a proud and longtime member of the NFF, and a key part of our policy development journey is to send delegates and policy guidance into the NFF framework.
By rationalising our PAGs, each is now going to cover more topics and effectively develop policy positions on issues critical to dairy farmers.
As such, ADF continues to play an essential role in policy advocacy for dairy farmers nationwide.
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