SHEEP Producers Australia has given up on running a national electronic identification tag tender and refused to release a widely awaited report into tag procurement options, claiming it was not of high interest to producers.
The report was expected to examine the potential for a national tag tender to minimise producer tag costs as part of the national sheep and goat EID rollout, and especially for states where tag subsidy schemes had not been announced.
However, last Friday SPA chair Andrew Spencer published a statement on the peak body’s website that said “feedback from stakeholders indicated a high level of risk for Sheep Producers Australia or an industry body attempting to establish a national system in a densely populated and mature National Livestock Identification System tag market, particularly if participation was voluntary.”
“The board reviewed the report and, taking into account the key findings and feedback from consultation, concluded that the organisation will not continue to pursue any further investigations into this project.
“We remain committed to the implementation of national harmonised traceability for sheep and will continue to advocate for additional transitional support for producers,” Mr Spencer said.
When asked why the statement was not circulated widely as a media release, Mr Spencer said SPA tries “to make media releases around issues of a bit more general interest.”
“We didn’t see this as being of a high level of interest to the average sheep producer, but thought that a statement on our website would suffice for those with a special interest.”
Mr Spencer said this reasoning also applied to the decision to not publicly release the full tag procurement report “at this stage.”
“Not releasing the report is done for the same reasons as not making a media release.
“This is not high priority or high interest to sheep producers,” he said.
“It’s not our practice to send out high volumes of information that our constituents are not necessarily interested in.”
He said SPA’s members have received a copy of the report’s recommendations and have been advised of SPA’s position.
When asked if the report meant SPA had given up on conducting a national EID tag tender, Mr Spencer said: “SPA has made a decision on its own involvement in a future SPA sponsored tag tender or procurement initiative. Others will make their own decisions.”
The SPA statement said the body commissioned an extensive, national consultation process involving stakeholders from across government, manufacturing, retail and producer representative groups. Consultation considered complexities and stakeholder views on existing and potential National Livestock Identification System tag tender and procurement systems.
“The board agreed it was critical to carry out this consultation to look at existing systems rather than spending time and money developing a potential model before fully grasping the risks and complexities involved.
“It was important for the consultation to be thorough and done properly, and thorough consultation takes time,” Mr Spencer said.
What now on tag funding?
Producers in South Australia and Western Australia have been promised government-funded tag subsidy schemes, but not in Queensland and New South Wales.
NSW Farmers has asked the NSW Government to deliver a tag tender that reduced the costs of EID devices for sheep and goat producers to an economically affordable level; no more than $1. The NSW Farmers $1 tag price goal is supported by farmer bodies in Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. However, in February this year NSW Government officials ruled out an electronic tag subsidy for sheep and goats, backing a national tag tender to minimize costs in a mandatory EID rollout.
The WA Government already has a short-term tag discount (75 cents) scheme that limits producers’ costs to about $1-$1.50 a tag, depending on the supplier. The SA Government has committed funding to support a 50pc discount up to a cap of 95 cents per eligible EID tag in 2023-24 and 2024-25 for lambs and kids. However, no subsidy scheme for EID tags has been announced in Tasmania or NSW.
NSW Farmers Sheepmeat Committee chairman Chris Kemp said the tag procurement investigations had delayed EID progress for the state’s producers.
Mr Kemp said NSW Farmers had asked SPA to release the full tag procurement project report and will be asking the NSW Government to have a renewed look at tag subsidy funding.
“It should be released to the public because it is sheep producers’ money that produced the report.
“NSW Farmers have made it well known to SPA that the NSW Government has been awaiting this report to consider how they might support reduced cost tags being available to NSW producers,” he said.
“At the same time, NSW Farmers has continued to request the NSW and Australian governments progress administering a tag tender.
“It is clear the report has not delivered any options for industry and governments to consider, and has delayed progress for NSW producers while market prices fall and paddocks turn brown,” Mr Kemp said.
“There’s now only 12 months before EID commences implementation in NSW and we’ve been waiting for this report since early 2023; we’ve lost a year,” he said.
“Sadly, SPA’s board has decided the organisation will not continue to pursue this project further.”
Mr Kemp said a national tag tender or additional government subsidies are needed to drive tag costs down.
“Livestock prices have crashed in the sheep industry, are you seeing any of the tag manufacturers or the drench companies helping us out and dropping their prices anywhere?
“Given EID for sheep and goats has been mandated by governments, governments should be financially assisting producers with the transition and this includes through reduced tag costs,” he said.
“Victoria did it when they introduced tags and is continuing to do so, so reducing tag costs can and should be done – the Western Australia and South Australia governments are also doing it.”
Mr Kemp said it is unlikely that the EID system implementation will be delayed because of a lack of a national tag tender, but the system had to work and be affordable.
“All that’s been delayed is progress in getting the costs of tags down for producers.
“We have already seen Western Australia and South Australia provide reduced cost tags to assist producers, and Victoria continues to do so,” he said.
“But we haven’t seen anything from the NSW Government or the Federal Government (for tags).
“This shows there is inequity in support for producers to transition to EID.”
Tag project delay has hindered QLD subsidy progress
AgForce Sheep and Wool Board chairman Stephen Tully said at current sheep and lamb prices, with no EID tag subsidy in Queensland and without a tag tender process, he believed people will try to “get around every single rule that is there.”
“And I can’t blame them.
“At the moment is it costing $17 to send sheep from Longreach down to Dubbo (saleyards) and you are not going to get that for them,” he said.
“And you can whack $2 on top of that to put an EID tag in its ear.”
Mr Tully said SPA had staked their reputation on the tag procurement project.
“This has been their number one project for two years.
“And it has come to nought and they won’t even own up to it.”
Mr Tully said it looks like the responsibility to subsidise tags costs has been thrown back to State Governments because of inadequate Federal Government funding.
“This (SPA tag procurement) project has hindered our ability to get funding from the Queensland government as they on several times said you will get cheap tags from bulk buying.”
Mr Tully said Queensland has been allocated $800,000 from the Federal Government to help implement sheep and goat EID.
“The QLD State Government is putting in $4 million, but I don’t know how much they are paying themselves,” he said.
“We (producers) have only been offered up to $1100 once-off 50pc funding.
“I am ready to walk away from any cooperation from QLD government and SPA membership,” Mr Tully said.
“Sate farming organisations have only supported EID with conditions and none of those conditions have been met.”