Hopes hay from WA could soon be boosting local fodder supplies have taken a hit, with WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan appearing to dismiss the SA government's request for her to issue pest-free guarantees, and instead arguing SA's tight biosecurity rules should be relaxed.
Green snails can be found in parts of WA, but are not present in SA.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone has written to Ms MacTiernan asking for confirmation that the pest is not present in hay from the northern wheatbelt.
"SA could immediately allow entry of hay from WA, if Ms MacTiernan could provide confidence that deliveries are free from green snail," he said.
Mr Whetstone said agriculture would be threatened if green snails were to become established in SA, so pest-free assurances were essential.
Green snails are regulated under the SA Plant Quarantine Standard, so consignments of WA hay could enter the state with "appropriate treatment and certification".
"No one wants to see biosecurity compromised to the long-term detriment of our industries to address short-term drought pressures," Mr Whetstone said.
In response to questions from Stock Journal, Ms MacTiernan said while she "sympathised" with drought-affected farmers, short-term solutions were "in the hands of the SA government".
She said WA farmers already had to jump through hoops if they wanted to send hay to SA.
WA farmers intending to export hay to SA were required to set up baits on their properties, to be routinely observed every three months.
"For example, a 500-hectare property would require 245 kilograms of baits to be laid in trails totalling 53.6 kilometres," she said.
We are at the point now where producers just need feed.
For WA producers exporting hay to SA for the first time, baits would need to be laid in spring in a particular year and then be surveyed by an authorised inspector and found free from green snails after the following March.
"If a producer does not meet this requirement set by the SA government, we cannot transport hay into the state," she said.
Ms MacTiernan said Vic and NSW recognised that the majority of WA was free from green snails, and were happy to accept hay from the state.
"The SA government could consider implementing exceptional circumstance exemptions for hay exported to SA from our wheatbelt region, under certification that the product is grown and packed on a property more than 25 kilometres from a known green snail infestation - which is the same certification accepted for trade with NSW and Vic," she said.
At the moment, hay in transit through the state does not attract the same import conditions as deliveries destined for SA.
Livestock SA chief executive officer Andrew Curtis said the hay was urgently required.
"We recognise that hay from WA would be very expensive, but we are at the point now where producers just need feed," he said.
Recent rain across SA has been a welcome change, however Mr Curtis said producers were not yet "out of the woods".
"A lot of the state hasn't had sizeable falls, and it's cold so we're not expecting any major pasture growth through to the spring now," he said.