From human tampering in the supply chain to an increasing global spread of plant pests and diseases, growers face a multitude of risks when it comes to protecting the health of their farm business.
Fortunately help is at hand, with the Australian Government investing $200 million into improving biosecurity surveillance and analysis through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
A key highlight of the White Paper investment is a partnership between industry, government, researchers, and environmental groups to build a new national plant health surveillance system, with Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie amongst the members of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resource’s Plant Health Surveillance Consultative Committee.
Dr Marion Healy, committee chair and First Assistant Secretary of the department’s Biosecurity Plant Division, said research into how to help growers and the community better identify and report pest or disease risks was a crucial first step in building a stronger plant biosecurity surveillance system.
“The response from consumers looking to support strawberry growers mirrors the findings of our social attitudes research, which showed that Australians are keen to protect our ‘clean and green’ environment and agricultural industries,” Dr Healy said.
“Though the research showed when it comes to identifying or reporting plant pests or diseases both growers and the general public can be unsure what to look for, how to find information, or who to talk to.”
In response to these findings the department launched the ‘Biosecurity Matters ‘Don’t be a Jeff’ social media campaign in March this year, where a hapless character named Jeff risks Australia’s biosecurity in a range of scenarios involving fishing, farm and garden biosecurity, and travelling. An associated website then offers further information on each topic.
The ‘Don’t be a Jeff’ videos have now received more than 300,000 views, with more than 5000 interactions, including shares, comments, and reactions from social media users.
This follows the release of the ‘Top 40 exotic and unwanted’ campaign in 2016, with videos, photographs and other information available from the department’s website to help growers and the general public identify National Priority Plant Pests.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is also investing White Paper funding into grower-led surveillance, working with Plant Health Australia and industry groups in the citrus, temperate fruits, potato, nursery and garden, and forestry sectors to develop tailored surveillance strategies and programs.
“Alongside other assistance measures the White Paper investment in improving plant health surveillance is critical to ensuring the continued success of our horticulture industries here and overseas,” Dr Healy said.
“Strong surveillance is crucial not only for early detection and response, but is increasingly important for proof of freedom data for export market access.
“Building industry capacity to improve surveillance practices is a key focus for our White Paper investment.”
For more information contact Annette Healy, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, on 02 6271 6449 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This initiative is part of the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the government’s plan for stronger farmers and a stronger economy.