X-rays step up state bio-security efforts

NEW mail x-ray machines will be rolled out in Tasmanian postal facilities and sanitation foot mats will be installed at the state’s air and sea ports as the Government works to boost bio-security measures in the face of multiple threats. Indonesia is currently dealing with an outbreak of Foot and Mouth and Lumpy Skin Disease that have the potential to decimate Australia’s livestock industry.

Tasmanian farmers and Tasmanian Country have been calling for the Government to step up its defences. The latest announcements are designed to strengthen the state’s biosecurity response. Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer said three industry-leading x-ray machines had been ordered and would be installed in Australia Post’s mail sorting and distribution centres at St Leonards, Mornington and Derwent Park, further bolstering border efforts to maintain Tasmania’s pest and disease-free status.

“The new scanners will provide improved package penetration, image quality and biosecurity risk detection capabilities, helping to further protect Tasmanian industry from emerging biosecurity threats,” Mrs Palmer said. “Screening of international post at Tasmanian mail centres is in addition to the surveillance processes undertaken by the Commonwealth, where x-ray technology and detector dogs are also used.”

The Tasmanian Government has also committed to installing foot sanitation mats at all regional air and sea ports to complement those being introduced by the Federal Government at the Hobart International Airport. Mrs Palmer said the Government had also provided an additional $11,500 to the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association for the printing and distribution of 800 farm biosecurity signs. Farmers can get these signs for free from the TFGA.

A new series of industry workshops is being developed and the Department of Natural Resource and Environment Tasmania is working closely with Dairy Tasmania and the TFGA to deliver a new series of FMD producer workshops around the state in August. FMD is highly contagious and can affect a number of livestock species. It is estimated it would cost Australia’s farming sector $80 billion over a decade if an incursion occurs. Steps are being taken nationally to roll out electronic livestock tagging of sheep and goats.

The State Government has indicated it plans to fast track the implementation of the system here and will release a draft Tasmanian Primary Produce Traceability Strategy for public comment in coming weeks. Mrs Palmer said the strategy would guide the development and delivery of Tasmania’s primary produce traceability arrangements.

Under the current Animal Brands and Movement Act 1984 and Regulations 2014 there is a requirement for cattle to be tagged with electronic identification (eID) tags and to report movements of stock through the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database. Sheep, goats and pigs are not required to use eID tags but farmers are encouraged to use EIDs. Mrs Palmer said Tasmania was currently drafting new Biosecurity (Traceability) Regulations that will sit under the Biosecurity Act 2019 and replace the Animal Brands and Movement legislation.

“It is anticipated that the first tranche of the new regulations will require cattle, sheep, pig and goat movements to be made in accordance with the NLIS Standards that are applicable for each species,” she said. “Tasmania is likely to require eID for sheep as part of the reforms required under the new legislation.”

King Island sheep farmer Robbie Payne is supportive of tracing processes but has some concerns around cost. “I have resisted the need to move to electronic tagging for sheep but with current biosecurity situations worsening I do feel the move to a National adoption of EID for sheep and goats would support our ability to trace an endemic situation if it occurs,” Mr Payne said. “The cost of Electronic tags for some producers will be hard to justify but I think the overall benefit for Australia would be beneficial.”

Shadow Primary Industries Minister Janie Finlay has called for subsidies for farmers, saleyards, and processors to support the rollout of electronic livestock tagging.