The BJD issue currently testing the wisdom and unity of the beef cattle industry highlights an underlying deficit in industry policy which should be corrected.
The whole industry becomes vulnerable in the event of a disease incursion.
The lack of an established compensation process for those affected by a disease outbreak seriously heightens the industry risk factor.
The risk comes from producers being unwilling to be identified as having the disease in their herds because of the detrimental economic effect to their businesses.
Prescribed stock slaughter and quarantine for testing are costly impositions.
Disease not reported and acted upon early in outbreak events will be detrimental to animal welfare and will multiply the eventual costs to industry.
The livestock production and processing sectors are particularly vulnerable in export markets which are universally sensitive to animal health considerations.
It is a serious industry risk factor but there is a way to reduce this risk.
The answer lies in mechanisms used in BTEC – the national brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication scheme, in AUSVETPLAN – the strategy for exotic disease outbreak response, and in EADRA – the Emergency Animal Diseases Response Agreement. BTEC legislation provided for a levy as a funding source for disease eradication and for compensation.
AUSVETPLAN has the exotic disease response strategy framework and EADRA provides a basis for Commonwealth, State and Industry to act together which is an absolute necessity.
What is lacking but needed is a compensation fund as a known source of security for livestock producers who are affected by a ‘declared’ disease outbreak. It is sensible insurance. It is unlikely that the current BJD conflict would have developed to the current extent if a compensation capacity was in place. And the next disease outbreak may be just around the corner.
Paul Wright BVSc was engaged in the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC) as a veterinarian and in BTEC policy reform and producer liaison in the last difficult stage. He has had experience with FMD in the UK in 2001 and Equine Influenza in 2007.
Jock Douglas AO represented the National Farmers Federation on the National Exotic Diseases Sub-committee involved in devising AUSVETPLAN and involved in BTEC implementation and policy reform.