18 March 2024. 

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has prepared the information below about the proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy and why NFF and industry are opposed to it. 

What is the proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy?

The 2023-24 Commonwealth budget proposed a ‘Biosecurity Protection Levy’ (Levy), a charge on agricultural producers up to a maximum of 10% of existing levy contributions, to help fund biosecurity activities undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

This was announced as part of the Government’s broader biosecurity package, which included a range of biosecurity investment and revenue items. The NFF publicly welcomed a number of these actions.
The recent Departmental consultation process outlined that the Levy will not be subject to producer voting arrangements in relation to its establishment or change, nor will producers or their representative bodies have a direct role in determining its use.

Further, funds will not be directly appropriated to DAFF, with the additional contributions to be placed into consolidated revenue.

The Government proposed changes to the policy in February. The changes principally related to the method of calculation for the levy, with the proposal now to use an industry’s gross value of production as the basis of calculation rather than a flat 10% charge on the existing levies paid by an industry.

The policy – which will impact nearly all of Australia’s 80,000 producers and thousands of supply chain participants – will come into force in just a matter of months on 1 July 2024.

What is the NFF’s position?

While the NFF supports ongoing efforts to ensure our biosecurity system is appropriately resourced, we continue to oppose the updated version of the proposed Levy, principally, due to concerns over the specific constructs of the policy.

It is important to note that the sector does not object to the Levy on the basis of simply not wanting to contribute more to biosecurity systems. Australian producers already contribute significant amounts to biosecurity systems and remain open to sensible opportunities to invest in actions that deliver tangible and additional biosecurity outcomes.

What are the NFF’s specific concerns about the Biosecurity Protection Levy?

Its inconsistency with established levy imposition and collection principles;

The policy presents a risk in reducing producers' confidence in the existing levies framework given it does not accord with long-standing levy establishment principles – including proper establishment processes, industry support, equitability and accountability – and as such, risks significant impacts on the Rural Research and Innovation System.

Its inconsistency with the agreed principles of the National Biosecurity Strategy;

Stakeholders from across the business, agricultural, environment and community sectors came together to produce and endorse the National Biosecurity Strategy (NBS) in 2022, with all state and territories also signing on in support. This policy is inconsistent with many of the tenets of this strategy - in particular those related to funding - undermining both the strategy and the Levy’s policy foundations.

The transparent use of the collected funds to deliver dedicated, additional and tangible biosecurity outcomes;

The sector is concerned by the position of the Government that the funds will not be specifically hypothecated for additional biosecurity activities but rather will go into consolidated revenue.

The lack of recognition of existing producer contributions to the biosecurity system;

Producers already contribute significant amounts to biosecurity activities and pest & disease management, through their existing levies systems, on-farm activities, investments in traceability systems and contributions to state and regional landholder agencies.

The apparent abandonment of the Importer Container Levy policy;
Producers remain disappointed that the proposed Importer Container Levy has not been implemented by the Government at the very least alongside the levy on producers. The agricultural and environmental sectors have both supported a broad-based charge on risk creators such as importers, and it is only reasonable that the reasons why it isn’t being implemented are made clear.

Further information
Further details on the NFF concerns can be found in our submission to the recent consultation process, available on the NFF website.