Production

What happened to Qld’s cattle biosecurity fund?

James Nason, July 14, 2015

Windmill in Outback AustraliaTwo and a half years after the Queensland Government injected $5 million in seed funding to kick start a Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund, there are still no firm plans in place to progress the scheme.

The funding was announced by then Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh in the wake of the November 2012 detection of Bovine Johne’s Disease in a Central Queensland stud cattle herd.

Mr McVeigh announced a $2 million grant and a loan of up to $3 million to be matched dollar-for-dollar by cattle producers through a voluntary industry levy.

Despite that positive start no agreement has yet been reached on how the voluntary levy will work and how much producers will be asked to pay.

Some states have similar schemes already in place.

Producers in South Australia and Western Australia for example pay voluntary levies to support disease management and contingency funds in their respective states.

In both schemes producers can “opt out” of paying the voluntary levy. However those who choose not to pay do so in the knowledge that they cannot receive assistance from the fund should they be affected by a future disease incursion.

South Australia applies a levy of $1.10 on the sale of each NLIS device. That may soon change however. Livestock SA says the program is not generating enough funding to cover the scheme’s costs, which pays for a range of activities including disease control and eradication, trade risk management, NLIS compliance monitoring, and industry development. Livestock SA also argues that the program places an unfair cost burden on cattle breeders because they effectively buy all of the NLIS tags.

It is lobbying to replace the scheme with a $1.50/head voluntary transaction levy to generate adequate funding and spread the cost more equitably from just breeders to traders, backgrounders and lot feeders as well.

Western Australia’s Cattle Industry Funding Scheme applies a charge of 20c/head on the sale of all cattle/carcases produced in the state.

Victoria collects a stamp duty on the sale of all livestock to fund a Cattle Compensation Fund and a companion program for sheep. The duty for cattle is levied at a rate of five cents for every $20 of the value of each cattle transaction, capped a limit of $5/hd. (In addition to biosecurity compensation, the Victorian fund also helps to subsidise the cost of NLIS tags in the state, which is why NLIS tags in Victoria cost less than $1 compared to $3 in Queensland)

Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory do not have state/territory-based producer-funded biosecurity schemes in place.

In announcing seed-funding for the Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund, the then LNP Government proposed a voluntary transaction levy rate of between 50 and 70c per head.

Based on an average number of cattle transactions in the State of 4.5 million transactions per year, the Queensland Government estimated that the fund would generate around $2 million (at a 50c/hd levy rate) to $2.8 million (at 70c/hd) per year.

At the time the Newman Government said it did not expect individual producers to bear the cost of control programs, such as the Queensland BJD response, which ultimately benefited all in the cattle industry. Establishing a voluntary fund would ensure that producers caught up in such high cost control efforts could be better assisted financially.

However, it was also a difficult time to sell the idea of a new levy to producers – more than 60pc of the state was officially drought declared (that has now grown to more than 80pc) and cattle prices were at 15 year lows.

Cattle prices have since improved but the talk of the Queensland Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund has all but slipped off the radar, as did the LNP Government when it was voted out at the start of this year.

The new Labor State Government has told Beef Central that the previous LNP Government had “stopped work on the proposal” but the new Government that the fund was still under consideration by the Government.

A spokesperson for Queensland agriculture minister Bill Byrne said the Government is awaiting the outcome of the National BJD program review, which could help to guide the scale and structure of a future program. The Queensland Government is also currently conducting a three-month review of the State’s entire biosecurity capability, the outcome of which may also influence the make-up of a future cattle biosecurity fund in the state.

However the spokesperson also suggested that the ball was in industry’s court, stating that there was there was nothing to prevent the industry establishing its own fund without Government intervention.

AgForce told Beef Central that it has raised the issue with Minister Byrne and his representatives numerous times both in person and in writing.

“We continue to seek a collaborative industry-government approach in moving this forward in unison with the State Government,” a spokesperson told Beef Central.

The National BJD Program review panel is due to have its next meeting in Melbourne next week followed by another meeting in Perth soon after that. It is currently working on a time frame of having a new BJD program in place by February 1, 2016.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.

Comments

  1. Eddie Streeter, July 22, 2015

    The two farms at the centre of the Panama outbreak in bananas have received $700,000 in compensation for lost income. I fail to see the difference here between the BJD out break and the outbreak of Panama. We may have to start voting Labour Wallace!

  2. John Gunthorpe, July 15, 2015

    Totally agree Wallace particularly considering BJD only costs Northern Australia $300,000 annually and is the least significant cattle disease of all those faced by producers. My estimate is that the 200 or more producers served quarantine notices by the CVO in prosecuting the Protection Zone policy have incurred costs of $60 million not to mention the stress and social costs resulting.
    If Queensland were to follow the Victorian approach and charge stamp duty at the same rate they would raise about $8 million a year and proper compensation could be paid to these unfortunate families. Many were discouraged from submitting a claim for compensation because they did not fit the template for a claim.
    Now we are spending another small fortune sending 20 or more bureaucrats around Australia with their expensive consultants trying to find justification for the injustice inflicted on cattle producers when bureaucratic zealots tried to eradicate BJD when no other beef producing nation in the world has attempted it. Industry’s ability to waste levy funds never ceases to amaze.
    Full compensation is needed to right the wrongs done to these cattle producers.

  3. Wallace Gunthorpe, July 14, 2015

    If the same effort was put into establishing our bio security fund as was spent on persuing the trace forwards of the Q2012 BJD infection to the detriment of all those involved we would have a fund up and running !
    Let’s finally see some leadership from Bill Byrne,AgForce and QDAF and get our bio security fund established !
    There has been too much time and money spent chasing shadows !

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -
FREE!