HOW DO TASMANIAN FARMERS VIEW FARM BIOSECURITY?

Mandy Bowling

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Mandy.bowling@tfga.com.au

 

ABSTRACT

Being an island state, Tasmania is free of many pests and diseases. There is, however, an increased risk of pests and diseases entering into Tasmania as tourism and trade continue to increase. Implementing farm biosecurity practices is therefore more important than ever to ensure Tasmanian farmers and produce are protected from pests and diseases.

To gain an understanding of the current attitudes and uptake of farm biosecurity in Tasmania, a short pilot survey was conducted. The survey was conducted both online and at Agfest 2018 (Tasmanian agricultural field day) by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association. Questions asked included:

  • Do you currently have a biosecurity plan?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your on-farm biosecurity knowledge? (1 being no knowledge and 5 being very knowledgeable)
  • How much do you agree with the following statement: Farm biosecurity is important (Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree)

A total of 44 participants responded to the survey, with 18 at Agfest and 26 online respondents. Responses were counted and collated and a percentage calculated. Upon analysis, 45.2% producers responded that they have a biosecurity plan in place, while 54.8% did not. When asked to rate their knowledge of farm biosecurity from 1 to 5, the majority rated themselves at 3 and 4, with 22.5% and 37.5% respectively. The majority of respondents also rated biosecurity importance highly, with 53.5% strongly agreeing with the statement that farm biosecurity is important, while 11.6% strongly disagreed that it is important.

Overall, there was some variation in farmer biosecurity uptake, knowledge and perceived importance. Variation between producers is not surprising, with previous research identifying four different producer farm biosecurity groups ranging from those with high farm biosecurity to low. Attitudes and farm biosecurity uptake in Tasmania also seem to be varied and understanding the reasons why some producers are not actively undertaking farm biosecurity is vital to improving farm biosecurity. From these results it could be assumed that to help producers implement farm biosecurity, it may be more of a case of demonstrating how rather than why, with producers already believing it is important.

It is important to note, that the results of the survey may be swayed towards producers that believe farm biosecurity is important. This survey was a voluntary survey and it is likely that those who already believe farm biosecurity is important would want to participate over those that are not interested. As a result of this, the numbers of producers with farm biosecurity plans may be even lower in the general population, as well as the rating of farm biosecurity knowledge and importance. A more detailed understanding of attitudes of farmers through a more comprehensive survey is needed. It is also important to gain an understanding of differences between small land holders and commercial farmers as well as between farming enterprises. This can then be used to improve farm biosecurity uptake on farms and protect Tasmanian agriculture from pests and diseases.


BIOGRAPHY

Mandy is a Farm Biosecurity Officer with the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA). She completed a Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours) in Adelaide, South Australia and is in the progress of completeing a PhD. TFGA is working closely with Biosecurity Tasmania on a Farm Biosecurity Engagement Project funded by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE). The project aims to improve farm biosecurity knowledge and uptake in Tasmanian farmers, regular on farm visitors and the wider community.