Cattle producers in central Queensland argue the federal government's proposed biosecurity levy, which would see farmers paying hundreds of dollars more a year, would significantly impact their bottom line.
From July 2024, a new levy will be introduced "equivalent to 10 per cent of the 2020-21 levy rates".
This will mean a grass-fed cattle producer will pay an extra 50 cents per head, for a total of $5.50.
As part of the new levy, farmers will contribute 6 per cent ($47.5m) of the overall biosecurity measures, which will also see importers contribute 45pc ($350.9m), taxpayers 44pc ($363.6m), online shoppers 3pc ($27.1m) and Australia Post 2pc ($15.4m).
Moura region graziers Mark and Helena Collins, Unumgar, aren't sure how the proposed biosecurity levy would benefit "grassroots producers".
The Collins operate a breeding and fattening operation, with a small amount of opportunity dryland cropping on the side.
They predominately run 300 Angus and Brangus cross breeders, targeting the store market.
Mr Collins said they were forced to adjust their cattle numbers accordingly due to the dry conditions.
"We're still holding out for water here and have been since 2019," he said.
Any increase in the levy at this point in time would impact their bottom line, Mr Collins said.
"We're really concerned because we're in the midst of a market collapse, regarding price for beef at the moment," he said.
"Saleyard and meatworks prices are way down and there's a raft of issues around our supply chains that are causing that and of course, a flood of cattle onto the market.
"The timing of this at the moment for the cattle industry is not good, when we're fairly stretched with our profits at the moment."
Mr Collins questioned how the federal government's biosecurity levy would work to prevent diseases such as foot and mouth and lumpy skin.
"Those diseases will devastate our markets and we'd be shut out of international trade," he said.
"We do need a robust biosecurity system and we do need more infrastructure or more support for biosecurity, but is this the best way to do it, via a levy?
"I think we need to have a further look at it and it seems to be very rushed and no one understands the full consequences."
Mr Collins said the federal government needed to go back to the drawing board and consult with industry to put forward a more cost-effective alternative.
"There's a lack of transparency from the federal government and I don't understand where the money is going to be actually spent," he said.
"In no way, shape or form, has anyone been able to describe what is going to happen on the ground.
"We're no longer talking about biosecurity, we're talking about our whole levy system.
"Northern Australia needs people on the ground, and we need optics on to how that'll work."
Mr Collins said government interference in farming operations continued to shape "poor policy" for the rural sector.
"While this proposed biosecurity levy might be well intended, (government) don't certainly know what I know about my land and my business," he said.
"An increase in levy should not be forced upon rural sectors of any commodity."
The publisher of this masthead, ACM Agri, is the proud media partner for this National Farmers Federation campaign.
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