Farmers are seeing red after learning they will be hit with yet another levy to fund the Albanese Government’s revamped biosecurity funding model, with industry leaders labelling the new tax an “unfair added burden”. The $1.03 billion “sustainable” funding model, handed down in last week’s Federal Budget, is designed to lock-in a consistent annual funding stream to protect Australia’s $90b agriculture sector from pests and diseases. As well as slugging importers and taxpayers with added costs, the Government will introduce a new “biosecurity protection levy” for all producers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The levy, which takes effect on July 1 next year, will be set at an equivalent rate of 10 per cent of the industry-led agricultural levies of 2020-21, raising about $153 million over three years. In other words, farmers across the board will shell out about an extra 10 per cent on top of what they are already paying in agricultural levies — a move that has angered WAFarmers president John Hassell. “The general community and importers create most of the (biosecurity) problems, and to slug the farmers who are already paying their fair share is an unfair added burden,” he said. “Farmers are supposedly only paying a small proportion, but we’re not creating the problem... it’s an extra $51m a year out of the growers’ pockets.” WHO PAYS HOW MUCH? Under the new model — which sees the government’s biosecurity spend extend beyond forward estimates for the first time — farmers will supply about six per cent of the total funding for biosecurity each year, while importers will pay 48 per cent and taxpayers about 40 per cent. Some $1b will be spent on biosecurity over the next four years, followed by an additional $268.1m per year ongoing from 2027-28. According to Budget papers, the biosecurity protection levy will cost grass-fed cattle producers an extra 50 cents per head, egg producers an extra 3.25c per chick, and apple growers about an extra 0.19c per kg of fruit. Cotton producers will pay an extra 22.5c per 227kg bale and honey producers an extra 0.5c per kg. Countryman requested similar figures for producers not listed in the budget papers — including grain growers and sheep producers — but the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would not provide the numbers. “The levy will collect an amount equivalent to 10 per cent of 2020-21 levy rates or another comparable metric where such levies are not in place,” a DAFF spokeswoman said. “The department is working on implementation arrangements, including determining those commodities that are not currently subject to levies, and will be consulting with producers to finalise these arrangements in the coming months.” FARMERS ‘BLINDSIDED’ York farmer Tony Seabrook, president of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, described the levy as “a hiving off of government responsibility”. “On the face of it, it’s not a big increase, but when you start adding up all the levies that we’re paying, then all of a sudden you get some perspective,” he said. WA Grains Group chair Alastair Falconer, who farms at Coorow, said he was “completely blindsided” by the announcement. He added that while importers and transporters could pass on added costs, farmers could not. “We’re at the bottom of the line and we can’t pass them on; we sell to whatever the market is, and that’s it,” Mr Falconer said. “It’s not like we can say to our grain marketer ‘can you give us an extra five bucks a tonne to cover our freight?’ It’s not going to happen. “There definitely needed to be more money spent on biosecurity … it’s just disappointing that farmers have been the ones asked to pay for it again.” The National Farmers’ Federation was scathing, labelling the levy “a surprise raid on farmers’ hip pockets”. NFF president Fiona Simson said farmers, who had long been calling for a long-term biosecurity funding model, had been “dealt a bittersweet hand”. “The move to have farmers foot the bill is a bitter pill to swallow. We’re already significant financial contributors,” Ms Simson said. “What’s more, we bear the cost of managing historical pest and disease incursions and face the enormous threats posed by pests and diseases on our doorstep.” INDUSTRY ‘MUST PLAY CENTRAL ROLE’ Cattle Australia said in a statement it did not support any move to recover biosecurity costs from producers “without producers having a seat at the table as to how the funds are raised, administered and directed”. “While we are pleased to see more ongoing funding allocated to Australia’s biosecurity network, it will be critical that industry plays a central role in how the new levy will be raised, managed and directed towards industry priorities,” the statement said. “While biosecurity is a shared responsibility, it remains that those who create the risk must carry the biggest share of costs. “The existing Cattle Transaction Levy, on farm, and supply chain biosecurity management, already invests millions each year into protective measures and biosecurity. “This investment is not reflected in the budget papers or the government narrative.” Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt defended the new funding model, saying it was “the fairest approach” and describing the biosecurity levy as “a pretty modest ask of farmers”. “We’re trying to spread the cost of increasing biosecurity costs across pretty much everyone who’s got a stake in this,” Senator Watt told Sky News last week. “Farmers, through those levies, will only end up paying six per cent of the total cost of our biosecurity system. “I think that’s a fair contribution given that farmers obviously are big beneficiaries of our biosecurity system.” The Commonwealth expects to net $586m in agricultural levies in the 2023-24 financial year, rising to $614m by 2026-27.