July 20, 2022
An emotional councillor broke down during Wednesday’s South Burnett Regional Council meeting as he described the effect an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) would have on the cattle industry.
Division 6 councillor Scott Henschen, a cattle producer in the Ironpot area, was speaking to motions about Council actions linked to the recent FMD outbreak in Indonesia.
Criticising the Federal Government and industry bodies, Cr Henschen said he was “furious” and “ropeable” about the lack of action over the threat FMD posed.
He said if if the Federal Government would not impose travel bans, quarantine measures should be seriously considered for travellers from Indonesia.
“It can be done with COVID, and COVID will be nothing (compared) to this,” he said.
Cr Henschen said the response to the threat so far had been “pathetic”.
“We have industry leaders and our politicians … pussy-footing around,” he said.
He said the “buck was being passed on” to primary producers to manage the threat.
“It’s too late when it gets to us,” he said.
Cr Henschen said Council needed to “put the fear of God into people”.
“At Gracemere this week 5200 head of cattle (were yarded), Charters Towers 2673, Dalby 6075, Roma 10,593,” Cr Henschen said.
“There is talk on the street … that because of this potential catastrophe to this country that saleyards and operators … are going to stop and limit numbers to saleyards because of mass fear.
“I took the unprecedented step yesterday as a primary producer. I sold cattle because I’m not prepared to shoot them.
“I do not think this country is aware of what this epidemic could mean. It has the potential to absolutely ruin this country.”
Cr Henschen said industry leaders and advocates were “sitting on their hands and doing absolutely nothing”.
He said AgForce and the National Farmers Federation were “letting this country down seriously”.
“Am I a member of AgForce? I was but I am not now. And I can rest assure you now, memberships in AgForce might just diminish,” Cr Henschen said.
The various motions – which covered awareness-raising activities, including a local forum – were passed unanimously.
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AgForce CEO Michael Guerin has suggested some people in the industry are over-reacting to the FMD outbreak.
In an opinion piece headlined “Foot and Mouth Disease: Now Is Not The Time To Panic”, Mr Guerin wrote that overreaction was “not uncommon at the moment, and understandably so, given the $80 billion impact an outbreak could have on our industry”.
“However, I want to reassure everyone that while AgForce takes the threat of FMD very seriously, now is not the time to panic,” he wrote.
“The country has rigorous biosecurity measures in place so that we don’t have to resort to extreme measures to keep this virus from our shores.
“We simply need to stay vigilant.
“Early detection is essential to reduce the potential impact of this disease, and the overriding message for producers is to stay alert, not alarmed.
“Remember, we have successfully kept FMD out of the country for more than 100 years, and if we stick to the tried and tested plans, we will continue to fend it off.
“Rest assured that Australian livestock industries have now elevated the country’s biosecurity system through stricter protocols at our borders, including sniffer dogs to detect illegal products that may carry the virus, and increased passenger screening on flights.”
In the piece – written before the Federal Government’s announcement that sanitation foot mats would be installed at airports – Mr Guerin said the measures which had been implemented so far strategically targeted existing risk pathways.
“The controversial decision not to install airport footbaths comes from a comprehensive risk analysis by biosecurity experts, who have concluded that a footbath at the airport does not address soil on shoes packed in luggage,” he wrote.
“AgForce is also working closely with the Federal Government on the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan, which contains the nationally agreed approach for the response to emergency animal disease incidents in Australia.”