Following calls for action by the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) and Australian Pork Limited, the Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie announced that the Government would fund a new National Feral Pig Coordinator. Feral pigs are a major pest to Australia's $60 billion agriculture industry and cause serious damage to the natural environment.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said the exact economic cost of feral pigs across all agricultural commodities and the environment was unknown, but significant.
"Experts estimate that feral pigs cost nearly $15 million a year in production losses in the wool, sheepmeat and broadacre cropping industries alone. In addition to production losses, farmers face the cost of managing feral pigs, which prey on lambs, eat crops, damage fences and waterways and spread disease. Feral pigs inhabit nearly half of the Australian land mass, and like other pest animals they don't respect jurisdictional borders or property boundaries.
"National coordination of efforts to control feral pigs is absolutely critical. We congratulate the Government for moving to establish a National Feral Pig Coordinator to work with state and territory governments, industry, researchers, natural resource management groups and the community to crack down on feral pig populations."
Feral pigs can host or spread a number of endemic parasites and diseases – such as leptospirosis and brucellosis – that pose a significant risk to livestock health and human health. They also have potential to spread highly damaging exotic diseases, such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease. A recent report by ACIL Allen Consulting found that a large scale outbreak of ASF in Australia could cost nearly $2 billion over five years.
Chair of the NFF Farming Systems Committee and 2019 Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year, Melinee Leather said the farming community needed no convincing as to the seriousness of this pest.
"Feral pigs are a huge issue for farmers across the country, and farmers spend significant time and money on control efforts. On my own property in Central Queensland I've seen the damage that feral pigs can do and we regularly invest in control programs to mitigate that damage and the disease risk to our cattle.
"The reality is that successful control of pests like feral pigs needs collaborative effort, and a strategic, long-term approach including research on new control options. We're delighted that the Federal Government has listened to industry's call for action and announced that it will fund a national coordinator. We look forward to working with the Coordinator to develop a national plan for feral pig control," Ms. Leather said.