South Canterbury rural consultant Sarah Barr says there is a huge degree of anxiety on the ground over the surge in the Mycoplasma bovis eradication effort.
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says the group is committed to make a decision about the next steps in the biosecurity response next week.
O’Connor says everyone understands that farmers need certainty about a future plan.
“On the table are two key options – either completely 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). This decision will be taken jointly by the Government and farming industry representatives,” says O’Connor.
“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.
“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.”
DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel says the past 10 months have been challenging for farmers living with a great deal of uncertainty.
“We expect to be able to relieve some of that concern once this difficult decision has been made. Today’s meeting was very helpful with a lot of useful information sharing and constructive discussion.”
Beef+Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison says farmers can be assured that the Government and sector groups are working extremely hard on this issue.
“We all see farmer welfare as a key issue and are committed to helping farmers on the ground, no matter what future management option is pursued.”
Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says while Mycoplasma bovis is challenging, the degree of cooperation was positive.
“This disease is challenging for all involved, but if there is one positive it is how farmers, farmer representatives and Government are working together. Whatever option is taken, we need to keep doing that.”
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.
O’Connor says the Government is committed to a resilient primary sector.
“The Prime Minister and I had very informative meetings with farmers in the Waikato and Ashburton yesterday. We can see just how much farmers are hurting in the midst of this unprecedented biosecurity event.
“To date we’ve undertaken constructive actions including: the investment of $100 million to the response, including funding compensation for affected farmers, a national bulk milk testing programme to help determine the geographic spread, and taken steps to upgrade the NAIT animal tracking system which is so vital to managing a disease response like this.”