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Q&A: Victorian Grains Industry Biosecurity Officer Jim Moran

Contact details: Email Phone 0418 377 930

Jim Moran has been the grains biosecurity officer for Victoria since 2010. Managed by Plant Health Australia, the national Grains Farm Biosecurity Program was launched in 2007. It is funded by grain growers through Grain Producers Australia together with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments. Jim Moran answers some questions about himself and the role.

· How did you become involved in agriculture?

I graduated with a degree in Agricultural Science from LaTrobe University at Bundoora, Melbourne, in 1992. It was an odd choice for a city kid but captured my attention straight away and ever since. My first full time position following this was as a technical specialist with a vegetable seed company based in the wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Footscray, Melbourne. I learned firsthand about the economic fundamentals of supply and demand, price and quantity and what can interfere with that. I sold vegetable seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, related machinery and equipment. It was great engaging with growers, both in the market and on their market gardens, but I don’t miss the 4am starts.

After five years, a wedding and a 12 month journey around Australia, I started working with what is colloquially known by farmers as “The Ag Department”. Now called Agriculture Victoria, I have been here in different positions, functions and roles for more than 25 years. I’ve worked in farm business and succession planning, environmental management systems development, small landholder engagement, grants and funding coordination, and in 2010 became Grains Industry Farm Biosecurity Officer. In addition, I have been deployed to many emergency responses, including fires, floods, locusts, as well as various animal, apiary and plant pest and disease outbreaks.

· What are your aims as a biosecurity officer?

Achieving excellent biosecurity actions and outcomes. This involves undertaking regular surveillance to facilitate early detection and rapid eradication of exotic pests or disease. Maintaining market access through evidence-based area freedom claims. Developing biosecurity preparedness, resilience and responsiveness in grain farmers through the introduction of biosecurity tools, tactics and awareness. It would be nice to see a biosecurity gate sign on every farm gate as you drive by.

· What do you enjoy most about your role as a biosecurity officer?

The role has many facets and I enjoy them all. I write a lot of media articles about biosecurity for magazines, newspapers and e-newsletters. These inevitably find their way onto Twitter, various web pages and lead to a radio interview or two (even a podcast).

The team I work with have developed many pest and disease fact sheets, biosecurity booklets, biosecurity farm planning tools and other useful items. We have developed training tools and I particularly enjoy delivering presentations and running biosecurity training in various workshops to captive audiences.

Victoria has a “Sentinel Silo” surveillance program for Khapra Beetle, and I thoroughly enjoy engaging with the many farmers who have traps on their properties. I also enjoy visiting the different sea ports that host traps.

Field Days, conferences and information updates are also a great chance to meet and greet farmers and industry colleagues and I enjoy these as well.

· Are there priorities specific to your region? What are the top three?

In Victoria, currently the three priorities are:

· “Sentinel Silo” Khapra beetle surveillance.

· Awareness raising about the various facets of biosecurity in regular media releases.

· Distribution of biosecurity gate signs and grains biosecurity booklets.

Prospective priorities include:

· Stamping out roadside dumping of grain, based on the biosecurity risks associated with such littering.

· Increasing the sites for Khapra beetle surveillance.

· Increasing surveillance for the Phosphine resistance project.

· Increasing awareness of containerised grain biosecurity and surveillance for Khapra beetle

Give an example of how your work with the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program has helped the industry

In Victoria, distribution of awareness raising booklets, biosecurity gate signs and on farm surveillance has been a massive success. Thousands of signs have been distributed and appear on many farm gates.

The “Sentinel Silo” surveillance program has many traps in various locations looking for Khapra Beetle. This evidence of absence is important for our area freedom claims to customers. It also provides an opportunity for early detection and increase the chance of eradication should any arrive.

Incorporating biosecurity planning in whole farm planning courses, presentations at GRDC Updates and grower forums. This has helped develop a readiness and resilience in farmers.

Attending numerous responses for plant health and animal emergencies in key field surveillance positions. This preparedness is valuable for a response should any of the 300 priority grain pests and diseases arrive in Australia.

· What’s one thing you wish more growers would do to reduce their biosecurity risk?

Control who and what enters the property and in what condition. That is, ensure nothing is being carried onto the property that may harm it later. Dirty vehicles and machinery can carry pests, weeds and diseases that at best could be a minor management headache or at worst, could shut down your entire business.

The gate signs assist this by asking all visitors to contact the farmer before entering the property. The farmer can assess the risks posed and send vehicles, machinery away to be cleaned.

· What’s your vision for the future of biosecurity in Australia?

Biosecurity will become everyone’s business. Whatever a person’s role in agriculture, biosecurity and excellent hygiene will be front of mind, all the time. People will be conscious of any pests, weeds and diseases hitchhiking on themselves, their vehicles, livestock and machinery, and intervene with appropriate tactics to ensure they do not spread anything to another paddock or property.

Technology will provide cheap and easy surveillance and reporting tools so everyone can look for pests and diseases that may impact their livelihood. More and more pests and diseases will be the subject of surveillance, providing live reporting of the health (pest free status) of the Australian grains industry.


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