Grains Research and Development

Date: 16.01.2017

New laws to tighten biosecurity risk management

Author: Rachel Taylor-Hukins

Photo of biosecurity sign at farm gate

Signs directing farm visitors where to report will be expected as part of growers' legal obligations to manage biosecurity risks.

PHOTO: PHA

New biosecurity legislation in NSW and Queensland is aimed at boosting individual responsibility for preventing the spread of pests and diseases, with other states expected to follow suit as their legislation is progressively reviewed.

Increased tourism, trade and the ease of overseas online shopping have all increased the risk of new pest incursions, along with transport via wind and water currents.  

Wheat stripe rust is thought to have arrived in eastern Australia in the 1970s on a traveller’s clothing. Since then there have been incursions of ascochyta blight, silverleaf whitefly, wheat streak mosaic virus and, as recently as May 2016, Russian wheat aphid.

Australian grain growers play a crucial role in monitoring crops and in implementing measures to reduce the risk of spreading pests.

The new legislation

The Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014 came into force in 2016, setting out the active role that Queenslanders must take in managing biosecurity risks under their control. 

Everyone must take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread a pest, disease or contaminant. They also have a responsibility to report unusual events that might be related to biosecurity. This includes moving an animal, plant, turf, soil, machinery and equipment that could carry a pest, disease or contaminant.

The New South Wales Biosecurity Act 2015 has similar provisions known as the General Biosecurity Duty and it comes into effect in 2017. 

It states: “Any person who deals with biosecurity matter or a carrier and who knows, or ought reasonably to know, the biosecurity risk posed or likely to be posed by the biosecurity matter, carrier or dealing has a biosecurity duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the biosecurity risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised.”

In simple terms, the new expectations are that:

  • grain producers will be aware of the biosecurity risks associated with their work or day-to-day activities and will put in place measures to reduce these risks on their property;  
  • landowners will be expected to stay informed about, and appropriately manage, the weeds and pest animals (such as wild dogs) that could be on their property;
  • transporters of agricultural produce will be expected to check whether the transportation of goods could spread diseases or pests and, if so, to manage the risks appropriately;
  • if you live or work in a biosecurity zone (for example a builder or developer in the fire ant biosecurity zone) you will be expected to know what can and cannot be moved into and out of the zone and any other precautions required; and
  • home gardeners will be expected to know the basics about reducing the risks of spreading a pest or disease and the problem pests in their local area.

The two crucial roles for grain growers are monitoring their crops and implementing measures to reduce the risk of spreading pests.

Surveillance

Pests have the greatest chance of being eradicated if they are found early. As a result, early detection and reporting is an important role for growers, consultants and even members of the public.

Growers and consultants are in the best position to first detect exotic pests. Historically, that is how most exotic pest incursions have been found – by people who are familiar with their area and know which pests, diseases and weeds are normally around. 

Under the new legislation, growers and agronomists are expected to monitor crops, become aware of exotic pest threats and report anything unusual immediately. Growers are also expected to implement farm biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of spreading pests.

Most measures are straightforward. For example:

  • put up signs directing all visitors where to report when they arrive;
  • provide a parking area and use farm vehicles to travel around the property whenever possible;
  • check that any machinery coming into production areas is clean;
  • clean any machinery leaving the property; and
  • record inputs and outputs for tracing purposes.  

The Grains Farm Biosecurity Program can help you to upgrade your on-farm biosecurity and to become familiar with serious exotic pest threats to keep an eye out for. There are also videos and generic advice available on the Farm Biosecurity website.

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