Cow dis­ease costs farm­ers $278m


Most farm­ers are rec­on­ciled with shelling out $278m as part of their cost to ban­ish the My­coplasma bo­vis cow dis­ease from New Zealand shores.

Dairy farm­ers will fork out the greater pro­por­tion - per­haps more than 80 per cent - of the cost with sheep and beef farm­ers pay­ing the rest.

Most of the bill will land in the first few years in ex­change for Cabi­net sign­ing off on Mon­day a joint erad­i­ca­tion de­ci­sion be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try groups.

The Gov­ern­ment has de­cided to cull about 126,000 cat­tle on top of the 26,000 al­ready be­ing de­stroyed in an at­tempt to knock off the dis­ease.

All cat­tle will be re­moved from in­fected prop­er­ties and most re­stricted prop­er­ties, at a cost of $886m in a phased erad­i­ca­tion.

Two-thirds of the to­tal cost - some dis­tance to the es­ti­mated $1.2 bil­lion to man­age the dis­ease - will be borne by the Gov­ern­ment.

The farmer con­tri­bu­tion would likely come from an ad­di­tional levy with pos­si­ble lend­ing as­sis­tance from the Gov­ern­ment.

Both DairyNZ and Beef +Lamb NZ said they did not have to seek con­sent from farm­ers for the ex­tra levy. Un­der the Gov­ern­ment In­dus­try Agree­ment (GIA), a levy can be raised to deal with emer­gen­cies such as M. bo­vis.

‘‘We will not fund M. bo­vis from our ex­ist­ing levy. We’ll look at in­tro­duc­ing an­other levy or some other mech­a­nism. We have al­ready en­gaged with our farm­ers through the GIA and within that there is a pro­vi­sion to in­tro­duce a GIA levy,’’ DairyNZ chair­man Jim van der Poel said.

DairyNZ did not yet know what it might cost an in­di­vid­ual farmer.

‘‘We have to work out whether we fund that over one year or over a num­ber of years.’’

Mata­mata dairy farmer and Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers dairy chair­man Ben Moore sup­ported the de­ci­sion. He said he was com­fort­able if his milk in­come was levied with the funds go­ing to­wards erad­i­cat­ing the dis­ease.

He said he was also pleased with the news the MPI would try and speed up the com­pen­sa­tion process for farm­ers who had their cat­tle culled.

It also gave farm­ers cer­tainty about the fu­ture now that a de­ci­sion had been made.

‘‘Now we can get on with farm­ing.’’

The de­ci­sion also won the sup­port of in­dus­try groups. Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Katie Milne said get­ting rid of M. bo­vis was prefer­able to liv­ing with it, for years on end, prob­a­bly with­out any com­pen­sa­tion avail­able for farm­ers in fu­ture when it did hit and could not be con­trolled.

‘‘For me per­son­ally, the only ‘sil­ver lin­ing’ of this biose­cu­rity re­sponse is that the whole farm­ing sec­tor has worked to­gether so well. Now we have to crack on and give it our best shot to re­cover from this threat.’’

Van der Poel said the de­ci­sion re­flected their hope that the dis­ease could be erad­i­cated.

‘‘Our farm­ers have been wait­ing for al­most eleven months on a way for­ward and part of the chal­lenge has been a lack of cer­tainty about the longterm so­lu­tion for New Zealand. To­day we have that cer­tainty.

‘‘Over 99 per cent of our dairy herds in New Zealand have no signs of this dis­ease, and we want to keep it that way.’’

DairyNZ chair­man Jim van der Poel says the in­dus­try cost of erad­i­ca­tion will come out of a spe­cial levy.

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