The Queensland Government has announced it will put forward $5 million to kick-start a new biosecurity fund designed to assist cattle producers affected by disease outbreaks in the State, including those impacted by the current Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) control response.
Cattle producers will ultimately fund the scheme themselves through a levy, but details on how the levy will work and how much producers will be asked to contribute are yet to be finalised.
Queensland is considering state-based biosecurity funding models already in use in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, which are based on voluntary ‘out-out’ systems, under which producers have the option not to contribute.
Those who choose not to pay effectively forgo their right to receive assistance from their state's should they be affected by a future disease outbreak.
The Queensland Government has announced it will provide a grant of $2m to start the Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund, plus a further $3 million loan to be matched dollar-for-dollar by cattle producers when the levy is up and running.
That seed funding will enable the scheme, once established, to provide immediate financial assistance to those affected by the current BJD outbreak, but again the details on who will be assisted and how much they will receive has yet to be determined.
The fund was launched by Queensland premier Campbell Newman and agriculture minister John McVeigh at the Gracemere Saleyards near Rockhampton in Central Queensland on Friday morning.
Mr Newman said the fund was particularly significant given the current outbreak of BJD, which has left more than 100 producers impacted by quarantine lockdown.
“Beef production is the state’s most valuable agricultural industry and is essential to the Queensland economy,” Mr Newman said.
“It is worth more than $4.5 billion a year and supports more than 13,000 jobs, as well as an additional 12,000 jobs in meat processing and 30,000 along the supply chain.
“This is about getting an assistance program operating now that can help producers caught up with BJD and any further disease outbreaks in our beef industry in the future.”
Premier Newman said he was pleased industry was already working on the voluntary levy.
“This approach is in place in other states, but has been lacking here in Queensland,” he said
“I strongly urge the cattle industry to take advantage of this seed funding and use it to build this scheme so that monetary support is available for future disease outbreaks.”
Agriculture minister John McVeigh said his department was working closely with industry on how levy contributions could be made and how the fund would be managed.
“The priority will be helping producers whose businesses are being impacted by movement restrictions and having to test animals as part of the current BJD response,” he said.
“We’re aiming to provide affected producers with details over the next few weeks on how they can access support.
“The Newman Government does not expect individual producers to bear the cost of eradication programs that ultimately benefit all in the cattle industry.
“Industry wants to retain Queensland’s Protected Zone status for BJD and eradicate the disease from affected properties, and we’re making progress.
“I hope with this funding we will ensure we continue to reach this goal.” It is welcomed by AgForce, this is something that we have been lobbying for a period of time.
Queensland livestock producer representative group AgForce which has been lobbying for an assistance package since the outbreak began said the creation of the Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund was a positive step towards managing disease outbreaks in the sector.
AgForce General President, Ian Burnett, said the fund would provide a basis upon which assistance to producers, particularly those affected by Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD), could commence.
“Producers across Queensland will suffer financial consequences as a result of the quarantine measures State Government has had to put in place as part of its obligation under the Stock Act to respond to notifiable diseases,” Mr Burnett said
“It is right that these producers be assisted to help ease their financial burden.”
Mr Burnett said AgForce maintained its position to support eradication and the protection of Queensland’s BJD ‘Protected Zone’ status.
“It is important we do all that we can to maintain this status to mitigate any risk of damage to our clean image and market access and to uphold any economic advantage we have.”
Mr Burnett said it was now important Government consult closely with the cattle industry to develop a framework around which any levies may be built.
“We appreciate this initial funding and now implore Government to consult as widely and as comprehensively as possible with stakeholders and to move forward on delivering assistance to impacted producers as quickly as possible,” he said.
“Queensland beef producers are a key contributor to the State’s economy and any decisions made on how industry is levied must be in the best interest of the entire industry.”
Agforce cattle board president Howard Smith told Beef Central that there was still a lot of detail to work through.
“One size doesn’t fit all, even in the BJD situation it is very complex, a ‘per head’ basis might be acceptable in some cases, while for others it wouldn’t be, so there is a lot of detail to be worked through to ensure it is fair and equitable,” he said.