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NSW Farmers vote for national sheep EID with ministerial support

Terry Sim, July 20, 2022

NSW Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders puts his case for national sheep EID traceability to the NSW Farmers conference.

NSW Farmers delegates have given in-principle support for a national electronic identification system for sheep, after hearing the state’s Agriculture Minister offer his backing.

At the NSW Farmers annual conference this morning, delegates carried an urgency motion supporting a nation sheep EID system, brought forward to allow Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders take their decision to meetings of state and federal ministers and department secretaries this week.

“Let me assure you the New South Wales Government will have skin in the game to support you, I need you to have skin in the game as well to make sure that we’re doing the right thing all the way along, but we need to transition together as one and I’m sure we can,” Mr Saunders said before the motion debate.

Mr Saunders later said the issues the farmers faced were the issues he also faced.

“And I will always back you, I will always stand shoulder to shoulder with people who are doing what they do passionately in the best possible way I can.”

The minister’s statements are the closest he has come to offering State Government support for the state’s farmers to make the transition from a visual tag mob-based sheep and goat identification system to an electronic system. Victoria is the only state that has mandated electronic sheep and goat identification after a transition subsidised by the State Government and tag prices discounted with the support of a supply tender and funding from the state’s Sheep and Goat Compensation Fund.

After the sheep EID motion was carried, Mr Saunders told Sheep Central that sheep electronic ID will only be successful with industry and producers ‘front and centre’ of the conversation.

“The debate at the NSW Farmers conference today was extremely robust and I will be taking feedback and concerns with me to the Ag Ministers’ meeting this afternoon.”

The final motion considered by members did not have a 70-cent tag price cap clause included in an earlier version put to members, but still included conditional clauses relating to calls for infrastructure harmonisation between states, the need for a national tag tender, financial assistance and retention of tag-free pathways for direct to abattoir stock.

The NSW Farmers urgency motion 08 carried today read:

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:

  1. Have jurisdictional harmonisation;
  2. Reduce tag costs to an economically affordable level (i.e. national tag tender);
  3. Financially assist farmers and the supply chain to invest in technology;
  4. Be underpinned by an equitable funding arrangement across the supply chain;
  5. Ensure NLIS database has proven capability;
  6. Retain the option of tag free pathways;
  7. A staged roll out over a five-year period;
  8. Be developed in consultation with producers; and
  9. NLIS is the only system that is available for stock movements.

 

After the vote, NSW Farmers Biosecurity Committee chair Ian McColl said while electronic tagging could be helpful, it would not be a silver bullet for the threat posed by FMD.

“Our members voted to provide in principle support for the development of a national individual traceability system for sheep.

“However, this national system must have jurisdictional harmonisation, be affordable, and be developed in consultation with producers,” Mr McColl said.

“Traceability reforms must ensure that the costs are effectively shared throughout the supply chain and with government.”

Mr McColl said recent outbreaks of both Lumpy Skin Disease and Foot and Mouth Disease in Indonesia had created an increased risk of a severe biosecurity incursion in Australia. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) modelling projected a widespread FMD outbreak in Australia would have an estimated direct economic impact of around $80 billion.

“In the event of a biosecurity disaster such as an FMD outbreak, effective tracking would enable authorities to enact preventive measures promptly and minimise an outbreak,” Mr McColl said.

“But we must remember this is not something that will replace strong biosecurity controls at our borders, and our members remain oncerned about returning travellers and requirements at our airports.

“We are encouraged that governments are listening to industry and moving controls in the right direction, but we must do everything possible to keep FMD out of Australia,” he said.

On Tuesday, the NSW State Government announced it would support a national electronic tagging system for sheep and goats in response to the threat posed by Foot and Mouth Disease.

 

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