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Weeds a ‘slow-moving bushfire’: NSW Farmers Association

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NSW Farmers Association, Media Release, 26 February 2024

Farmers are fighting a “slow-moving bushfire” as invasive weeds such as African lovegrass and serrated tussock explode following a wet summer.

NSW Farmers Cooma branch chair Craig Mitchell said the state’s struggle with weeds had reached a tipping point, with some public and private land managers failing to meet their responsibilities.

“We need to think of invasive species like African lovegrass as a slow-moving bushfire,” Mr Mitchell said.

“When there is a bushfire, we all get out there and help put it out.

“We need to have the same attitude when it comes to weeds if we’re going to have any chance of getting them under control.”

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimated in an average year, pest weeds and animals cost farmers at least $5.3 billion, with weeds accounting for 82 per cent of the total cost.

These costs would continue to increase, Mr Mitchell said, and were being compounded by the time and resources required to control the issue on-farm.

“The chemicals are expensive enough, but the time is a huge problem as well,” Mr Mitchell said.

“With weeds like serrated tussock, it takes me weeks to get it under control and it’s getting worse every year.

“We’re fighting with one hand tied behind our back if we don’t all tackle this problem across all lands in a coordinated way.”

Failure of some land managers to address the problem remained a great concern, as weeds continued to gain ground throughout regional NSW.

“As these invasive species cover more ground, we’re seeing farm production decrease and the cost of production skyrocket as farm businesses grapple with the problem.

“The problem is not confined to farm profitability – unique native grasslands are being slowly overrun and degraded by weeds,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Constant vigilance is now the only way forward when it comes to weeds – as soon as you see them, you’ve got to control them.”

As NSW awaited the appointment of an Independent Biosecurity Commissioner to improve future management of invasive species, Mr Mitchell urged all land managers to work together on weed control.

“We need a cross-tenure, cross-landscape approach to managing weeds that’s more intensive and enforceable than anything we currently have in place,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Until we get that, we need to create and execute a solid weed control plan on our own properties, or else we risk losing the battle.”

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