News

BJD puts emergency disease funds across States in spotlight

James Nason, 17/01/2013

The Bovine Johne’s Disease incursion in Queensland has thrown the spotlight on the differences that exist between each state when it comes to funding emergency animal disease responses.

Around 120 property owners in Queensland are currently enduring ongoing impacts after being placed in quarantine under a trace-forward program stemming from the detection of three animals with BJD on the Rockley Red Brahman Stud in Central Queensland in November last year.

Affected producers, grappling with the dilemma of managing stock on rapidly drying properties while being subject to movement restrictions, are still yet to learn if and how they will be financially assisted as a result of the control policy.

Queensland currently has no state-based emergency disease compensation scheme in place to draw upon.

The Queensland Government has stated it is working with industry groups such as AgForce to determine if a voluntary, opt out levy-based scheme such as that used by Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia should be established to fund this and future emergency disease issues.

South Australia applies a levy on the sale of each NLIS device, currently set at 60c per head, to cover beef and dairy cattle disease contingencies.

Producers can ‘opt-out’ of paying the levy, but if they do, they also waive any right to receive compensation from the fund should they be impacted by an emergency disease outbreak in future.

The SA Cattle Compensation Fund is managed by a producer advisory group and is maintained at around $1.5 million.

Additional funds generated beyond that amount are spent on areas deemed to be of industry importance, such as reducing BJD in the SA dairy and beef cattle herd.

Victoria uses a duty on the sale of all livestock to fund its emergency assistance scheme, which for cattle is levied at a rate of five cents for every $20 of the sale price of cattle, a flat rate of 15c per head for calves, and 90c per carcase up to 250kg and $1.30 per carcase over 250kg. 

Sheep, pig and goat producers also contribute to the fund through a levy based on a percentage of their sales.

In Western Australia the Cattle Industry Funding Scheme raises emergency disease management funds through a 20c/head charge on the sale of each animal.

Like South Australia, the Victorian and Western Australian programs both work on an opt-out basis and producers who do not pay forgo the right to receive assistance under the schemes.

The WA scheme has already been put to use as a result of the trace-forward program triggered by the detection of BJD on the Rockley Stud two months ago.

In December the committee that manages WA’s emergency cattle disease fund and the WA Department of Agriculture and Food agreed to immediately cull 295 bulls that were identified to have been brought into WA from the Rockley Stud to protect the state’s BJD-free status.

Six WA property owners received total funds of $630,000  (approx. $2135 per culled animal) in compensation from the fund as a result of the losses.

Queensland once imposed a levy on livestock producers to fund an emergency compensation scheme, but that was discontinued when a producer group launched a legal challenge that successfully argued it was unconstitutional for a State Government to impose a compulsory levy.

Two months after the initial outbreak, quarantined producers, impacted by movement restrictions in tightening seasonal circumstances and facing potentially serious losses if BJD tests trigger eradication measures on their properties, are growing increasingly anxious as they await for details on how the State's financial assistance package will take shape.

Cattle Council rules out RMAC fund use

Meanwhile, calls for the Red Meat Advisory Fund to be used to compensate producers affected by Bovine Johne’s Disease in Queensland have been ruled out by the Cattle Council of Australia.

The Australian Beef Association recently argued against the imposition of new industry levies on already financially strained northern producers and said industry should dip into the Red Meat Industry Fund to assist producers affected by the current BJD control and eradication program.

The fund, developed through compulsorily-acquired levies and holding in excess of $40 million, is managed by the Red Meat Advisory Council and is used primarily to contribute to the operating costs of peak industry councils including Cattle Council of Australia, the Australian Lot Feeders Association, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council  and the Australian Meat Industry Council.

ABA spokesperson Andy Rea said the industry reserve was being used to fund voluntary organisations which represented approximately 10pc of the industry, and said the funds should be used to assist industry in an emergency and to avoid the need for new levies.

Cattle Council of Australia president Andrew Ogilvie told Beef Central last week that the fund was developed for a range of reasons including national emergencies, but use for that purpose required agreement by all peak councils represented on the RMAC board.

He said that with producers in three states contributing to their own state-based compensation schemes, it was unlikely that the use of national funds to help producers in one state with no compensation fund would be supported. 

“The representatives from those states (WA, SA and Vic) would be pretty reluctant to allow Queensland to get into the RMAC fund when they have got no state-based fund,” Mr Ogilvie said.

“I don’t think it is a role for the RMAC fund.

“These health issues are state issues and I believe Queensland Government is trying to address that anomaly where they haven’t got a disease compensation fund.”

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