The government has responded to months of protests from the agriculture sector by announcing alterations to its contentious Biosecurity Protection Levy "to ensure it's more equitable and more transparent."
The measure was first announced in the 2023 Federal Budget as part of a new sustainable biosecurity funding model and is scheduled to begin on July 1.
The government had originally announced that the new tax would be based on 10 per cent of existing statutory agricultural levy rates.
However, the government announced on Tuesday that the BPL will now be set according to "an industry's average share of gross agriculture, fisheries and forestry production over a rolling three-year period."
Under the changes, some key commodities will pay less with the contribution of wheat farmers, for example, to drop from $8.1 million under the 10pc model to $5.7m under the new GVP model.
"The rates will be set using a common and equitable basis for all industry sector products and goods and will not be set by reference to 2020-21 agricultural levy rates," a statement said.
"In addition, imposition of the levy will be tailored to individual products and goods to reduce multiple imposition points across a product's supply chain."
The government also said that the changes will also now include sectors that previously would not have been included under the BPL modelling because they do not collect levy payments.
However, the policy intent, key parameters and contribution to Commonwealth funding remain the same as announced in the Budget package.
The levy will collect about $48 million a year from producers to help bankroll the revamped system.
Or, for every 1 per cent of gross agricultural, fisheries and forestry production, an industry will contribute a total of $500,000 towards the BPL.
The government statement said this industry contribution will then be "proportionately split between all producers in that industry."
Between 2019-20 and 2021-22, the cattle industry, including live cattle exports, contributed around 18 per cent of the gross value of production for our agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.
Under the government's revised model, it says that producers will pay around 18 per cent of the total BPL, or $9 million annually.
The contribution would then be split proportionately between all producers in the cattle industry.
The dairy industry contributed around 6 per cent of the gross value of production in that period, meaning that it would pay a total of $3 million for the BPL, to be proportionately split between all dairy producers.
The egg industry contributed around 1.2 per cent of the gross value of production in that period, meaning that it would pay a total of $625,000 for the BPL, to be proportionately split between all egg producers.
WINE GRAPE INDUSTRY
The wine grape industry contributed around 1.3 per cent of the gross value of production in that period, meaning that it would pay a total of $670,000 for the BPL, to be proportionately split between all wine grape producers.
The tuna industry, for example, contributed around 0.2 per cent of the gross value of production, meaning that it would pay a total of $97,000 for the BPL, to be proportionately split between all tuna producers.
Grain Producers Australia chief executive Colin Bettles said the organisation welcomed the adjustments that addressed "some of the many inequities raised by farmers and their representative groups and lack of transparency."
"However, we need to see the actual detail of these changes to know whether these modifications have actually improved fairness and addressed the significant, fundamental flaws in this proposal," he said
He said GPA remained concerned that agricultural producers were labelled 'beneficiaries' of biosecurity, "when we know there are many beneficiaries of strong biosecurity, from the paddock through to the supermarket checkout."
Farm groups had supported the concept of a sustainable biosecurity funding model for several years, but are opposed to the "broad range of issues" identified as points of contention in the current proposal.
These include stakeholders wanting clarification around how whether charges are appropriately set, applied and collected and a "clear line of sight" between the money being collected and placed in consolidated revenue and later spent on biosecurity.
They have also demanded transparent financial and performance reporting, clarity on whether the government plans to introduce a container levy and the model undergo regular review to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose.
Senator Watt said we have "listened to feedback from industry"
"We are making changes to the Biosecurity Protection Levy, to ensure it's more equitable and more transparent," he said.
"This is borne out of genuine consultation with industry groups, and I want to thank them for the constructive way in which they have engaged with the process."
Meanwhile, 50 agricultural representative groups, including livestock, grains, dairy, forestry and horticulture, recently wrote to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt two weeks ago asking that the levy be scrapped.
A Productivity Commission report released late last year highlighted flaws with the levy in a paper arguing that the government was using the "creeping growth of levies" as a mechanism for funding government activities.