Farming leaders and Govt make progress towards Mycoplasma bovis decision

Farming leaders and the Government have met again today to discuss ways to combat Mycoplasma bovis, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

All those involved understand that farmers need certainty about a future plan and are committed to make a decision about the next steps in the biosecurity response next week, he said.

Two key options are on the table –

* Getting rid of the disease from New Zealand over time (phased eradication), or

* Long-term management (how we can all manage the disease, protect farms and slow any spread of it).

The decision will be taken jointly by the Government and farming industry representatives.

“Today’s meeting was constructive with all participants, including the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, updated on the known extent of the disease, the effects it’s having and the costs, both social and economic, of dealing with it,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Farmer, rural community and animal welfare is at the heart of the difficult decision. Clearly we want to make the best decision for farmers and the country.”

Organisations represented at the meeting were DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

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23 NAIT improvements will begin today but some await new regulations

Work will start immediately to improve New Zealand’s animal tracing system, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

After securing the release of the year-late report on the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system last month, officials have worked through the 38 recommendations and advised 23 can be implemented promptly by the management agency OSPRI, he says.

“NAIT has let us down in a time of great need as we manage the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

“The hunting down of Mycoplasma bovis has been slowed by the poor uptake of NAIT. For the minority of farmers who fully complied with NAIT, the tracing of animals for Mycoplasma bovis has been smooth.

“This is why it’s crucial we fix the system. NAIT is hard to use and farmers have not been told of the benefits of compliance.”

The 23 changes include:

• The NAIT number will be assigned to a particular location – not a person

• The NAIT interface will be improved to make it easier to enter information and a mobile app will be developed for use in the field

• The performance of accredited agencies will be better managed, particularly those providing information to NAIT on behalf of farmers.

“I’ve asked officials to take a tougher approach to NAIT compliance and the Ministry for Primary Industries will work with OSPRI to do this.

“As an interim measure, MPI’s animal welfare officers will carry out NAIT enforcement as part of their regular farm visits. Farmers need to play their part by ensuring they meet their legal NAIT obligations, especially with moving day upon us.

“MPI will also work with OSPRI to identify appropriate performance targets that will allow regular monitoring and evaluation of the scheme’s performance.”

Most of the remaining 15 recommendations require regulation or legislation change to implement.

Officials will consider whether transporters should have a formal role in the NAIT scheme and the timing for bringing in other animal species.

There will be consultation before moves are made on the remaining recommendations.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

Budget provides $15m extra for the Sustainable Farming Fund

Budget 2018 includes $15 million of new operating funding over the next four years for the Sustainable Farming Fund to support more inspiring ideas in applied research and extension projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for New Zealand.

In a joint press statement to announce this, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw say the Government is investing in projects to build sustainability, productivity and resilience across the primary sector as the Government works alongside farmers and rural communities to provide leadership on some of New Zealand’s most pressing issues.

The Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) encourages unique collaborations among farmers and growers, scientists and researchers, iwi, local government and others who are making a real difference for our rural communities and the wider primary industries, Mr O’Connor says.

“There has been a massive oversubscription to the fund in recent years, meaning good projects aren’t getting a look-in because the previous Government did not provide enough investment for the fund,” he says.

“In the last SFF round, 86 eligible applications were received but only 28 of these could be accepted.”

Mr Shaw says these projects are led by those on the front line and help find ways to optimise the use of the country’s natural resources and protect the environment for future generations.

“We have set an ambitious target for New Zealand to become a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050,” Mr Shaw says.

“A range of forward-looking measures are required to achieve this. Cleaner, smarter farming is central to our plan for sustainable growth.”

Mr O’Connor says the SFF funding boost builds on work the Government has already prioritised.

Last year, he announced the pilot for SFF Tere, which translates to “be quick, swift or fast”.

“Smaller producers are often key innovators, and four SFF Tere projects are already progressing,” Mr O/Connor says.

“I’m looking forward to doing more to help our primary sector increase value and resilience, with a head start on ever-changing consumer tastes.”

The move announced today was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Green Party.

Mr Shaw says the Government is committed to partnering with the agricultural sector to achieve shared goals for sustainability, modernisation and profitability.

“This boost to the Sustainable Farming Fund injects fresh energy into projects that explore how to farm less intensively and more in tune with the environment, while retaining profitability.”

Find out more about the Sustainable Farming Fund at mpi.govt.nz/SFF.

 

$9.3m in Budget to strengthen biosecurity and protect the foundations of NZ’s primary sector

The Coalition Government’s biosecurity initiatives receive $9.3 million in new operating funding in Budget 2018 over the next four years to improve offshore biosecurity systems and  better manage the risks posed by imports.

Further investment in biosecurity is needed as New Zealand’s global trade and tourist numbers increase, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says in a press statement

When he took up his portfolio six months ago, the Ministry for Primary Industries had several biosecurity responses under way, including Mycoplasma bovis, myrtle rust, Bonamia ostreae and kauri dieback.

Furthermore, ships carrying the brown marmorated stink bug have been turned back.

Besides the new funding, the Government will speed up the review of import health standards.

“Our plan makes sure the exotic pests and diseases that could devastate our economy and wildlife have less chance of making it here in the first place, giving growers and farmers greater certainty about the health of their crops and animals,” Mr O’Connor says.

“This Government’s leadership will improve the resilience of our primary sector. We moved quickly this year to put up $85 million new operating funding in 2017/18 for the frontline response to Mycoplasma bovis in partnership with the primary sector.”

 
An update will be provided in coming weeks on the next steps of the plan to deal with Mycoplasma bovis, a disease which Mr O’Connor described as a regrettable example of why biosecurity in New Zealand must be properly funded.

Another concern had been the underfunding of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) during a time of increasing workload, he said.

“Budget 2018 addresses this with new operating funding of $38 million over two years for MPI to ensure our primary sector is well supported by Government initiatives as we work together to grow New Zealand’s reputation as the most trusted source of sustainable and premium natural products in the world.”

The Government is already reorganising MPI to house four business units so officials can concentrate on their core responsibilities of biosecurity, food safety, fisheries and forestry.

People around the world increasingly were buying products that align with their values, Mr O’Connor said.

New Zealand has a natural advantage, with a good record of animal welfare, grass-fed stock and brand recognition and the Government is determined to help this continue by properly funding MPI and the  critical biosecurity system.

 

Science boost for Overseer farm management tool

The Coalition Government and the primary sector will work together to boost the science behind the valuable Overseer farm management tool, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker announced in a Budget press statement.

Overseer is a tool used by a range of primary industries and regional councils to help measure nutrient use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Well-used, it can assist farmers to minimise waste and maximise profits,” says Mr O’Connor.

The Budget includes an investment of $5 million of operating funding over the next four years to enhance it.

The extra funding for Overseer will enable:

• quicker adoption of environmentally friendly farm practices

• the inclusion of a wider range of land types and farming systems

• a more user-friendly interface.

“All farmers and growers want to keep their fertilisers on their paddocks and crops, and they want the best tools to manage their environmental responsibilities,” Mr O’Connor says.

Mr Parker says the extra funding in the Budget opens up opportunities for farmers to trial new technologies, techniques and tools that would otherwise be too risky or expensive to try.

“We need practical, science-backed tools to achieve this Government’s goals to improve land use, achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050, and help clean up our rivers so our kids can swim in them without getting crook.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries, AgResearch and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand each hold one-third stakes in the Overseer intellectual property.

 

Biofouling rules take effect to take hard line on biosecurity risk from dirty vessels

New Zealand has become the first country in the world to roll out nationwide biofouling rules to stop dirty vessels from contaminating our waters, says Minister of Biosecurity Damien O’Connor.

The new rules came into force yesterday to better protect New Zealand’s unique marine environment and other vital industries from biosecurity risk.

About 90 per cent of non-indigenous marine species in New Zealand, such as Mediterranean fanworm, Japanese kelp and Australian droplet tunicate, arrived on international vessels, Mr O’Connor said.

These incursions harm our aquaculture industries, fisheries and native marine ecosystems.

Under the new biofouling rules, operators must prove they’ve taken appropriate steps to ensure international vessels arrive with a clean hull.

Biosecurity New Zealand officers will take a hard line on vessels that can’t provide evidence they meet the rules, Mr O’Connor said.

Divers will carry out inspections of hulls.

Officers will also have the power to direct vessels for cleaning and order the vessel to leave New Zealand if the fouling is severe.

Vessel operators will meet the costs of any compliance order.

“The shipping industry has had four years to prepare for the changes and ignorance of the new requirements will not be accepted,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The definition of a clean hull will depend on vessel type and its itinerary.

“For example, the rules are stricter for vessels that are staying in New Zealand for a long time with the intention of visiting a range of ports.”

The Minister is urging all international vessel operators to make sure they know the rules before they arrive in New Zealand.

Source: Minister of Biosecurity

Mycoplasma bovis update from the Minister’s office…

A press statement from the Minister of Agriculture and
Biosecurity Damien O’Connor on Mycoplasma bovis late this afternoon emphasised four points:

 * Farming leaders and Government discuss next steps

* $307,000 for rural support trusts

* $7.8 million for animal feed

We will fix NAIT alongside the farming industry

Mr O’Connor says a top-level meeting with farming leaders about Mycoplasma bovis focused on helping farmers through the next few weeks.

“We all committed to make a decision about the next steps in the M.bovis response within the next couple of weeks. We talked about phased eradication and long-term management.

“It is a difficult choice that we will make together once we receive more advice from the Technical Advisory Group in the coming days.

“Farmer welfare is paramount to all of us. We are committed to helping farmers on the ground who are caught in the M.bovis response.

“We’ve given $307,000 to Rural Support Trusts to help farmers. And there is $7.8 million of funding that has been committed to help those struggling with feed issues.

“Over the next few weeks farmers who are not under controls are allowed to move stock, but they must adhere to their legal National Animal Identification and Tracing requirements and record animal movements.

“If you are concerned about moving your stock then be prudent, seek advice from your industry groups and MPI. The same goes for sourcing feed.’’

 

DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle (whose views are incorporated in the statementsays that this has been a tough road for farmers.

“It’s simply devastating to find out you have this disease on your farm and know what it could mean for your animals. The government and sector groups are working closely, putting our farmers and animals at the forefront of our thinking.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says:

“We have huge sympathy for the affected farmers and their families. The government and industry are working extremely hard to bring some certainty. For B+LNZ, our focus is on getting a clear direction for the future of the response as soon as possible, and learning everything we can to avoid our farmers going through this again.”

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says we are all in this together.

“Feds is totally committed to working with government and the other industry bodies to get to the right outcome – whatever that looks like.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to figure out what is the best way forward.”

Mr O’Connor says the Government and farming groups are committed to improving the NAIT system.

“It hasn’t worked as well as it should have. I know farmers are keen to improve it and I’ll work alongside them to achieve that.

“We realise that compensation is a major source of concern for farmers. DairyNZ has recently committed 10 additional staff to advise farmers on preparing their compensation claims – recognising that the more complete a claim is when it’s lodged, the faster MPI can turn it around.

“In addition, MPI has committed that farmers whose animals are being culled due to presence of the infection, will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged,” says Damien O’Connor.

B+LNZ has committed additional funding for the Rural Support Trusts to help drystock farmers through the compensation process, and employed additional resource to work with farmers on M.bovis and wider biosecurity management.

Mr O’Connor again met with leaders from DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Fonterra and the Meat Industry Association this afternoon.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity