FARMERS are concerned they could be forced to "double-up" on levies, as the government looks to implement long-term sustainable funding for the nation's biosecurity system.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has stopped short of promising long-term sustainable funding for biosecurity in Tuesday's budget, but his rhetoric strongly suggests the government plans to deliver on its election commitment.
A recent independent report, commissioned by the Invasive Species Council, found those who create risks, such as importers, should be the main financiers of the biosecurity system.
Senator Watt endorsed the report, which also stated that those who benefit from the nation's biosecurity system, such as farmers, should also bear some responsibility for its financial upkeep.
Senator Watt said the report was "very interesting" and "repeated and confirmed" what the government had been saying around biosecurity.
"The report essential said we do need for people who create the biosecurity risks... need to pay their fair share,"
"As do people who benefit from the biosecurity system. Really only after that should we be looking to government to top up that funding."
Comments about benefactors of biosecurity paying more have raised alarm bells within the agriculture industry, with farmers already paying levies that go towards biosecurity organisations such as Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia.
NSW Farmers biosecurity committee chair Ian McColl said although sustainable funding would be welcomed, raised concerned about the possibility of farmers getting hit with double-ups on fees and charges.
"We already pay a large amount in fees and charges, and also through the investment of levy dollars - many of our levy dollars go to biosecurity - to help support Australia's biosecurity system," Mr McColl said.
"The big threat we're facing is from pests and diseases coming in from overseas, which have the potential to devastate our economy and shut down multiple industries - from agriculture to tourism.
"We welcome a commitment to a long-term, sustainable biosecurity funding model, but double-dipping into agriculture is not the way to do it."
Senator Watt said the industry would have to wait until budget night to find out about biosecurity funding measures, but indicated the government would take the recent report "into account in our thinking".
"I thought that was a really important contribution that was made by an independent group who knows a lot about biosecurity," he said
"The risks keep growing and the costs of providing biosecurity services keep going up. We've really got to think about how we pay for these services."
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