Farmers advised to prepare for tagging
Imagine if a government ordered every New Zealander to carry an identification card.
Civil libertarians would be stunned and Green MP Keith Locke would call for direct action. MPs would cross the floor against totalitarianism. On July 1 next year, George Orwell’s 1984 will meet Animal Farm when the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (Nait) takes effect.
The technical side of Nait is straightforward. It’s a radio frequency identification ear-tag for cattle (and deer, from 2013) which stores data linking people, property and livestock. This provides lifetime animal traceability – from paddock to plate so to speak.
The idea is that we always know where livestock are so we can respond quickly if disaster strikes. Its promoters say it is a tool to safeguard New Zealand and the income we all depend upon.
Federated Farmers has worked hard to ensure what will become law is practical and effective. The cost of the tag is the least of our concerns – we’re more worried about the time needed to enter data on each animal into a web portal.
Although Nait has received seed money from government, it will be funded from farmer levies. Fines for non-compliance range from $10,000 to $20,000. As this system is for tens of millions of animals, we’re concerned the database won’t be up and running until February. Despite being internet-based, Nait is being introduced five years before the rollout of rural broadband will be finished as well. The lack of rural broadband means many farmers will be forced to phone in their information.
On biosecurity, tens of millions more ruminants will remain out of Nait than in it. Then there are the hundreds of thou- sands of feral livestock running around our forests. Arguably the biggest risk comes from those animals living off the grid. Ironically, Federated Farmers’ position was the same as the one the European Commission has just arrived at: a voluntary electronic identification system.
Now we await the largest farmer education campaign New Zealand has ever seen and one that needs to include smallholders. The scheme must use every channel agriculture offers – from A and P Shows to Fieldays, as well as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb. It will also include Federated Farmers. It would be wrong for us to put our heads in the sand when Nait will become law. We remain sceptical and will be watching it and those farmer levies.
The clock is ticking and anyone with cattle or deer literally needs to get Nait-ed.
Sunday Star Times
TAGGED: Farmers are being advised to start phasing into the compulsory National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme for cattle and deer by tagging livestock.