Biosecurity is not a word that piques the general public's interest or makes for flashy headlines, but if there was ever a time we needed Australians to know about biosecurity, it's right now.
We are in a truly unique threat environment. We've not seen anything like this before.
Varroa Mite has arrived on our shores, Lumpy Skin Disease is working its way through Indonesia, and foot and mouth disease is now confirmed in Bali.
Farmers across Australia are holding their breath right now.
If any one of these pests or diseases took hold in Australia, it would be devastating - for our animals, for us as farmers, and for the whole economy.
This is not just a farmer problem.
It affects every single Australian and while we don't need to panic just yet, if all Australians understand what biosecurity is and what they can do it helps arm us against a potentially devastating situation.
Foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious animal disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
Human infection is extremely rare, but what's important is people can carry the disease on their clothes and shoes and transmit it to other animals.
There is a plan if foot and mouth disease arrives on our shores, but unfortunately if this happens the fallout would be immense.
Infected animals would be euthanised, our trade markets would likely snap shut and the CSIRO's estimates a major outbreak would cost our economy $80 billion.
That $80 billion represents around three per cent of Australia's GDP, which could easily tip Australia into a recession given the current global outlook.
While all biosecurity threats and incidents are devastating and important, you can see why we want to do everything we can about foot and mouth disease.
We need all travellers returning from Indonesia - and we know just how many Aussies love to find the sun in Bali - to understand foot and mouth disease and how serious this situation is.
They can help by avoiding farm visits or going near livestock while in Indonesia. Also, we ask they thoroughly wash their clothes and shoes, making sure there are no remnants of soil or mud.
The other thing they need to do is be honest with biosecurity officers and listen carefully to their directions.
This is our call to arms. If farmers, government and Australians all prioritise biosecurity, we have a weapon to protect our clean, green environment.
- Fiona Simson is the president of the National Farmers Federation
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