Biosecurity has always been a hot topic for Federated Farmers, but over the last 12 months the plethora of biosecurity issues has brought the subject to the fore.

For the most part, biosecurity has tended to sit in the "out of sight, out of mind" area but it deserves to be higher in the collective consciousness given that a strong biosecurity system underpins New Zealand's primary industries.

We only have to look back over the last 12 months to see the impact that failures in any part of the biosecurity system have on New Zealand agriculture.

The world's worst cropping weed, velvetleaf, arrived in contaminated fodder beet seed. The plant is remarkably successful as a legacy pest as any seeds will last in the soil for up to 50 years. If farmers ignore the problem for any length of time, instead of growing pasture, maize or other crops, they will be growing velvetleaf.

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Federated Farmers is working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on how we can manage the velvetleaf scourge in the future but without an effective, centrally-led, long-term management programme we will not achieve the goal of eradication.

There is some concern that velvetleaf will become another legacy pest for farmers, Federated Farmers, regional councils and levy bodies to deal with, when they are already dealing with a plethora of environmental, compliance and market issues.

The arrival of pea weevil in contaminated pea seed has resulted in Wairarapa farmers forgoing two years of income from pea production to eradicate the weevil from the region.

All current indicators are that we are on track to wipe out the weevil from our shores but anyone planting peas (in urban or rural environments) could put this in jeopardy.

MPI's Import Health Standards (IHSs) underpin the biosecurity system in New Zealand, and state the requirements which must be met before risk goods can be imported.

Federated Farmers regularly submits on any new IHS proposed and any amendments made to existing IHSs.

We recently put our views on two IHS. The first was the amendment made to the IHS Seed for Sowing pea seed requirements, where we supported the proposed amendment to require all pea seed to be fumigated (prior to arrival or on arrival) to enhance the elimination of biosecurity risk.

The second submission related to the proposed IHS for Phase 3 Mushroom Substrate and a proposed IHS for Processed Animal Manure. While we had some concerns about why this product needed to be imported into New Zealand when companies are successfully producing the material here, we would only object to the new IHS on issues of biosecurity risk - and there were many.

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We opposed the proposed Mushroom Substrate IHS and Processed Animal Manure IHS on the basis that the measures outlined were not sufficiently robust to address the biosecurity risks associated with such imports.

Biosecurity does not stop at the border, there are steps farmers can undertake to increase on-farm biosecurity. To reduce the threat of any incursion from seed contamination, ask for the purity and germination test results on the seed you are purchasing and, though it may cost a bit more, only purchase seed from reputable agents.

If you have contractors regularly coming onto and off the property, ask them if they have thoroughly washed down their machinery. This will stop the spread of unwanted weeds.