SYDNEY, AAP – A $600 million budget commitment to Australia’s agricultural sector fails to adequately address a potentially deadly livestock disease that could decimate the cattle industry, stakeholders say.
The budget doesn’t spend enough on Australia’s biosecurity system, with insufficient investment in lumpy skin disease, National Farmers Federation CEO Tony Mahar said.
“An investment of $15 million in financial year 2023, to ward off a lumpy skin disease incursion falls short given the serious risk to international market access,” he said.
Australia’s chief vet Mark Schipp is visiting Indonesia where the disease was first recorded in March. He is assessing the threat posed to Australia.
Speaking to AAP from the Riau province Dr Schipp said the threat level to Australia had increased, and warned there is potential for the disease to be carried by insects.
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The condition can cause depression, weight loss, infertility and death in cattle and buffalo.
The Cattle Council of Australia has called it the most important biosecurity issue that has faced the $40 billion red meat industry, in decades.
The budget invested $61.6 million to boost northern Australia’s frontline biosecurity, which includes protecting Australia against lumpy skin disease.
Responding to the criticism, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said keeping the disease offshore is the best way to protect Australia.
“Our chief veterinary office has been to Indonesia and Singapore in the past week to keep the government informed and help our neighbours,” he told AAP.
More than $590 million in new funding has been spent since last year’s budget to strengthen biosecurity including tackling significant threats like lumpy skin disease, Mr Littleprooud said.
The Farmers Federation said the budget’s $2 billion regional accelerator program to drive growth, invest in skills and strengthen the supply chain, will help to revitalise the regional Australia.
Another highlight for farmers included changes to the tax treatment for the Australian Carbon Credit Units and biodiversity certificates, Mr Mahar added.
The government expects the move to reduce taxes paid by eligible primary producers by $100 million over four years.