NEW South Wales Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders has again refused to clarify what level of funding his government is prepared to commit for producers for the mandatory rollout of electronic identification of sheep and goats in the state.
NSW Farmers today called out the New South Wales and federal governments to increase their funding commitments for the mandatory EID system rollout.
The Federal Government has committed $20.1 million for co-investment with states and territories to support transition to a national EID system and the NSW Government has committed $3.5m, announcing grants for processors and saleyards, but not yet for producers.
As cost-sharing discussions continue between the states and the Federal Government, NSW Farmers has estimated that even if the state was to be allocated half of the Federal Government’s current commitment, the NSW Government would need to match this.
The peak NSW farmer body called for a substantial investment from the state and federal governments to make the traceability reform achievable in the state.
NSW Farmers said a move to electronic identification (EID) for sheep and goats will far exceed the $20 million offered by the Federal Government, and with a timeline set for mandatory tagging, farmers are in the dark on what financial support will be made available.
NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin said 80 percent of NSW sheep and goat producers were not using EID at present, meaning there would need to be significant state and federal financial assistance to assist in the transition.
“Farmers are rightly becoming increasingly concerned about the costs associated with implementing eID for sheep and goats, following Minister Saunders’ mandating of the traceability system last year.
“While the NSW Government’s timeline is public, it remains unknown what financial support will be made available to farmers so they can implement EID as they are now required to do,” he said.
“We asked farmers how much this will cost them and what training, education and support they need, and it’s clear both levels of government will need to open their wallets.”
Mr Saunders announced the state would join a national traceability effort in July 2022 following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Indonesia. Under the proposed NSW EID timeline, agreed to by NSW Farmers and the State Government, sheep and farmed goats born after January 1, 2025 will require an electronic tag before leaving a property, and from January 1, 2027 all farmed sheep and goats will require an EID tag.
Mr Martin said the Federal Government’s $20.1m commitment was nowhere near enough as it had to be shared between all states and territories.
“There will potentially be less than $10 million from the Commonwealth to support NSW producers, and Commonwealth funds are dependent on a NSW Government co-contribute, so our state will also need to make a substantial investment.
“But there’s been no funding clarity, and producers are rightly concerned about what financial support will be made available to help them meet the government’s timeline,” he said.
“People want to be able to make business decisions– some producers are already transitioning hoping to receive some support – so they need to know how financial assistance will be provided and how much it will be.”
Mr Martin said moving to EID will be a costly exercise.
“The equipment producers will need to purchase can range from a couple of thousand dollars for a wand reader, to tens of thousands of dollars for EID drafters.
“Data from EID users reveals there is a significant cost in infrastructure modifications to pens, races and yards to install EID technology,” he said.
“Users of EID reported their costs ranged from $40,000 to $70,000, and with 66 percent of producers surveyed saying they will need to modify infrastructure on their farms, the costs of the total rollout are going to be significant even before the cost of tags and readers are taken into account,” Mr Martin said.
“Producers want certainty that NLIS EID tags will be affordable not just now, but well into the future, and there is a growing concern about increased tag and NLIS device costs.
“Governments must play their part in supporting economically-affordable NLIS devices, and the move to EID can’t progress until farmers get the financial assistance they need,” he said.
No funding commitment for producers from Saunders
Mr Saunders told Sheep Central today that NSW has led the country in implementing a mandatory sheep and goat electronic identification system ever since he introduced it at a National Agriculture Ministers Meeting in July last year.
“The concept was backed in by NSW Farmers at their annual conference and has also been supported by other jurisdictions.
“We have always said a successful roll out of this significant reform must be industry-led and backed by funding from both state and federal governments,” he said.
“To date, the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government has invested $3.5 million in ensuring we get this reform right.
“This includes grants of between $5000 and $15,000 for saleyards and processors to commence planning for essential modifications associated with their business in relation to EID,” Mr Saunders said.
“We also are continuing to work with the Commonwealth Government to finalise a cost sharing model to support the broader roll out of the mandatory electronic identification for sheep and goat producers in NSW.
“I remain committed to providing NSW producers with the smoothest possible transition throughout this process, while maintaining a strong focus on biosecurity,” he said.
“We have consulted extensively with NSW Farmers and other industry stakeholders and will continue to as we roll out this critical system.”
NSW Farmers clarification
However, a NSW Farmers spokesman said the association had provided in principle support for a national traceability scheme contingent on several conditions being met.
“To say NSW Farmers “backed it in” misrepresents the situation.
“NSW Farmers continues to work through issues arising as a result of the minister driving this reform at a national level, and will continue to strongly advocate for the interests of farmers on this matter,” the spokesman said.
NSW Farmers’ policy on mandating sheep and goat EID nationally states:
In response to the heightened risk of Foot and Mouth Disease and the NSW Government’s decision to support a National EID system, NSW Farmers provides in principle support for the development of a National individual traceability system for sheep.
This national system must:
a. Have jurisdictional harmonisation;
b. Reduce tag costs to an economically affordable level (i.e. national tag tender);
c. Financially assist farmers and the supply chain to invest in technology;
d. Be underpinned by an equitable funding arrangement across the supply chain;
e. Ensure NLIS database has proven capability;
f. Retain the option of tag free pathways;
g. A staged roll out over a five-year period;
h. Be developed in consultation with producers; and
i. NLIS is the only system that is available for stock movements.