As MPI announces a further two farms have been infected with the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, farmers face the prospect of forking out for a higher industry levy to help pay for eradication costs.
Two beef farms, in Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay, have been confirmed as being infected with M bovis, taking the national tally to 42 infected properties.
The farms, an Ashburton property with 204 animals and a Hawke’s Bay farm in Poukawa with 36 animals, are linked to other known infected properties through animal movements.
The announcement comes as industry leaders wrestle with the issue of which sector – dairy or beef – will pay the lion’s share of farmers’ contribution to eradication costs.
When the Government announced the eradication option in May, farming leaders agreed to shell out $278 million of the $886m total cost of eradication.
Since then negotiations have continued over the thorny question of how much dairy farmers will pay compared with their beef colleagues.
Already a dairy farmer with an average sized herd of 413 cows pays $6205 a year to DairyNZ, which advocates on behalf of farmers and carries out scientific and support work.
Initially Beef+Lamb NZ said it would likely be a 80:20 split, with dairy farmers paying the lion’s share but a dairy leader who did not want to be named said thinking had changed.
“At first it looked as though it was mainly a dairy problem, but now more and more beef farms have been affected.”
While the disease was originally detected in the dairy sector, the number of infected beef farms has crept up and is now higher than the number of infected dairy properties.
According to the latest figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), there are 20 infected beef farms, 17 dairy and three “other”. The figures don’t include the two latest beef properties confirmed as infected.
Dipton sheep and beef farmer Peter McDonald said it was imperative for the industry good groups to make sure there was fairness right across the board on what portion of the pie everyone had to pay.
“I know where it shouldn’t fall, it shouldn’t fall on sheep farmers, so it’s got to be itemised out.”
“You would think Beef+Lamb on the cows that are being culled and all the dairy stock that goes through the plants collect the levy. Dairy farmers will probably be paying an extra levy – they may be concerned they are getting a double hit. There needs to be fairness in this.”
Farmers are unlikely to get a vote on any levy increase. DairyNZ, which already collects about $67 million through levies, is able to lift them to a maximum already voted on to cover unexpected costs like disease outbreaks.
The levy is currently set at 3.6 cents per kilogram of milksolids but could be lifted to a maximum of 5c kg/MS.
B+LNZ is already looking at increasing its sheepmeat levy from 60 cents a head to 70c/head and its beef levy from $4.40 to $5.20/head.
However, that proposal is not a targeted response to M bovis, with those funds likely be raised through a separate biosecurity levy.
The additional levies would instead be used to push B+LNZ’s Taste Pure Nature origin brand and the Red Meat Story, lift the sector’s environmental performance and reputation, and strengthen biosecurity response capabilities.
Consultation on the levy proposal closed earlier this month and farmers will be advised of the outcome in mid-August.
By: Gerard Hutching and Esther Taunton