VICTORIA has been forced to go it alone on its new tenders for electronic sheep tags, after all other states declined Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford’s invitation to participate.
A spokesman for Ms Pulford’s Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) said all states and territories were invited to participate in the tenders.
“No state has accepted the invitation,” the spokesperson said.
The tenders closed on September 3 and DEDJTR is currently evaluating submissions. Tender documents stipulated notification of the successful tender by October 15. However, DEDJTR has not disclosed when details of the successful tenderer(s) or a new electronic tag price would be released.
“Announcements around successful tenderers and the new retail prices for electronic NLIS (Sheep) will only be made once we are satisfied we have identified the best value for money for Victorian producers.”
VFF will try today to determine government’s intent
Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group president Ian Feldtmann meets with Ms Pulford today to get clarification on “where the Minister is going and whether she is standing by her government’s pre-election commitment.”
Mr Feldtmann has said the existence of a DEDJTR electronic traceability plan indicated the Victorian Government was already going back on the Labor Party’s pre-election promise on EID tagging of sheep. Prior to the 2014 state election the party’s agriculture spokesman Jacinta Allan said Labor would not introduce mandatory electronic tagging of sheep until there is a nationally consistent approach that is affordable for farmers and well-supported by industry.
Last month Ms Pulford said mandatory electronic tagging of sheep and goats in Victoria was “probably an inevitable move”. Mandatory electronic tagging of sheep and goats in the state was not “a question of if, but when” — the state had led on EID in cattle and was not afraid to lead again, she said.
Ms Pulford has said the Victorian Government issued tender documents for the supply of 400, 000 and 10 million tags to continue to drive the price of electronic tags down “and to test what the price might be if the tagging was mandatory”.
The traceability of sheep and goats in Victoria would be undermined if other states weren’t also heading in the direction of electronic tags, she said. However, DEDJTR has confirmed sheep and goats sourced from interstate can be processed in Victorian abattoirs and sold in the state’s saleyards if identified according to the requirements of their state of origin.
“That is, visual tags will suffice if this remains the requirement of the state of origin,” the DEDJTR spokesperson said.
Victoria’s Auditor-General John Doyle last month said DEDJTR should finalise its plans to implement a new electronic traceability system for sheep and goats. A spokeswoman for Ms Pulford has said the minister is considering the recent Auditor General’s report, along with advice from Victoria’s Sheep and Goat Industry Advisory Committee, from the broader industry and from DEDJTR.
“A decision will be made in due course as to which approach to sheep and goat identification will best suit Victoria’s needs.”
No legal impediment to the mandating of electronic sheep tags
The spokeswoman said to introduce mandatory use of electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags and associated tag scanning and movement recording, Regulations and Orders would need to be introduced under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.
“There are no legal impediments to the introduction of legal instruments that would mandate electronic tagging of sheep and goats,” she said.
“The Victorian Auditor-General’s report has highlighted threats that the minister is well aware of, with both foot and mouth disease and anthrax alerts earlier this year.
“That’s why, consistent with the position that Labor took to the election, the minister is working closely with our interstate colleagues, seeking advice on affordability options and consulting closely with industry,” she said.
Federal Agriculture minister commended Victorian initiative
A spokesman for federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, said Ms Pulford wrote to Mr Joyce concerning the tenders on July 13 2015.
“Minister Joyce commended the initiative for providing cheaper tags to farmers and welcomed invitations to other jurisdictions for a future tender.
“Minister Joyce has made it clear previously that he supports the least cost option for producers, and that any proposal that imposes significant costs on industry should have the broad support of industry,” the spokesperson said.
Australia’s Agriculture Ministers Forum (AGMIN) last year agreed on a course of improvements to NLIS for sheep and goats, including traceability performance targets and a review within four years of the costs and benefits of transitioning to an electronic identification system. But no federal funding was planned to facilitate mandatory tag introduction nationally.
“The Australian Government is not planning to provide funding for tags.”