Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said today the state agriculture ministers yesterday agreed that state and territory governments will make necessary improvements to the National Livestock identification System for sheep and goats by building on the systems already in place.
Forcing electronic tags on industry ‘can’t be justified’
Each jurisdiction will aim for improved traceability, either by enhancing the current mob-based system or by introducing electronic identification ear tags, the statement said.
Mr Joyce said forcing electronic identification systems onto the entire industry simply can’t be justified in the current environment.
The decision was made by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum, comprised of ministers responsible for agriculture in each state and territory and chaired by Minister Joyce, in a meeting dedicated to the issue yesterday afternoon.
“The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum considered three options for the future of sheep and goat identification in the supply chain,” Minister Joyce said.
“National enhancement of the current mob-based system as endorsed by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum is by far the most sensible outcome and I’m very pleased with this result.
“This government has made a clear commitment to reducing unnecessary red tape for farmers and today’s decision improves traceability with the least possible burden on producers.”
WoolProducers concerned Vic govt might mandate EID
However, WoolProducers of Australia NLIS spokesman Steve Harrison said he was still concerned the Victorian Government might move to mandate the use of electronic tags for sheep and goats in the state.
“The saleyards are not set up and whether or not the abattoirs are set up to cope with electronic tags it will be the owner of the sheep that pays for an EID system.
“It is something that has to be driven from the ground up, rather than from the top down,” he said.
“It has got to be a national system for it to work.”
Cost of electronic tags is key factor
Two other options considered by the forum were based on the introduction of electronic identification systems. All options were analysed as part of a consultation Regulation Impact Statement prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research Economics and Science (ABARES), which received 108 public submissions on the issue.
“A key consideration for any option is the cost of meeting traceability benchmarks,” Minister Joyce said.
“The cost of electronic tags ranges between 80 cents and $1.60 per animal.
“These are costs that would need to be met by each state and the industry itself – forcing electronic identification systems onto the entire industry simply can’t be justified in the current environment,” Mr Joyce said.
“The majority of producers, industry bodies, veterinary organisations, animal welfare groups, researchers and governments who responded to the public submission process agree.”
Decision follows united industry stance
The agriculture ministers’ decision comes after farmer groups and stock agents in August restated their opposition to mandatory electronic tagging of sheep and goats, reiterating support for mob-based visual tag identification.
WoolProducers Australia (WPA) co-ordinated a collective letter on behalf of 10 organisations to the Federal, State and shadow agricultural ministers calling for the retention of the current paper-based system.
A copy of the Regulatory Impact Statement and all submissions can be found online and an ABARES decision Regulation Impact Statement for the implementation of improvements to the NLIS for sheep and goats is expected to be on the ABARES website today.