PEAK wool grower body WoolProducers Australia has withdrawn its support for the mandatory national roll-out of electronic identification for sheep citing a lack of equitable funding and disharmony around proposed business rules.
WoolProducers said yesterday after 19 months of advocating for Australian wool growers after the government-imposed decision to roll out mandatory electronic identification (EID) for sheep, it is withdrawing its support for the process.
On 20 July 2022 an Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting committed to a national industry-led EID system roll-out for sheep and goats and about two months later on September 9 agreed on an implementation date of 1 January 2025.
The Albanese Government committed $46.7 million for strengthening livestock traceability in the October 2022 budget, including $26.6 million for livestock traceability database upgrading and $20.1 million for special purpose payments for co-investment with states and territories to support industry traceability improvements.
However, after almost two years of jockeying between federal and state governments, and industry on funding and implementation timetables, WoolProducers do not believe that adequate government funding from federal and state governments has been committed to the roll-out.
Producers in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have been promised state government-funded tag or EID equipment subsidy schemes, but not in Queensland and New South Wales.
Efforts to agree on harmonised business rules have also foundered around disagreement on tagging requirements for sheep. All states except Victoria have supported draft National Livestock Identification System standards and business rules, including a requirement for movement documentation for livestock going to agricultural shows.
WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said while understanding the importance of traceability in the broader context of biosecurity, the body decided to withdraw its support for mandatory EIDs for sheep given ongoing concerns with how the process is unfolding.
“WoolProducers support for this initiative was based on a number of contingencies to ensure that the system and shared responsibilities were fair and equitable for wool growers and that the required biosecurity outcomes were met, this is currently not the case,” she said.
In March 2020, SAFEMEAT presented five livestock EID reform recommendations to the National Biosecurity Committee. These included:
the establishment of a regulatory or statutory entity responsible for managing Australian livestock traceability,
investment into a database capable of handling all FMD susceptible livestock species,
mandating individual digital/electronic identification of livestock,
creating an equitable funding arrangement for both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the system and,
that a consultation Regulatory Impact Statement be conducted to fully assess the impact of these recommendations to provide a fully costed decision paper to AGMIN.
The WoolProducers board have resolved that two caveats of its support for mandatory roll-out are not being met, resulting in no net gain in biosecurity outcomes ta a national level. These are:
- The establishment of a nationally harmonised traceability system that operates according to nationally consistent business rules,
- The creation of an equitable funding arrangement for both the establishment and ongoing maintenance of an enhanced system.
The other WoolProducers caveat of investment into a database capable of handling all farmed FMD susceptible livestock species is regarded as being met to some extent by the Federal Government’s
WoolProducers said yesterday if it is satisfied that these caveats are addressed, it will recommit to supporting the national roll-out.
Ms Hall said the costings for the roll-out of the mandatory EID system has been independently estimated to be $830 million over ten years.
“While the funding commitment that has been received to date from state and federal governments is welcomed, it is still a long way short of the required financial assistance,” she said.
According to a cost model and guide ‘Livestock Traceability Co-Design’ prepared for the Federal Government the total costs of EID implementation over 10 years was estimated at $810 million for an incremental approach, $831m for a risk-based approach and $815m for a full incentive approach. It is stipulated that the cost model does not produce a single definitive national figure for implementation costs.
Referring to efforts to achieve agreement on revised NLIS standards and business rules, WoolProducers is concerned about the lack of commitment from some stakeholders in achieving a national system through harmonisation.
“The content of the document is not the die in the ditch issue, as we are capable of compromise.
“But when the combination of the proposed standards, endorsement process and commitment of stakeholders is lacking we aren’t able to support.”
Ms Hall said Australia trades as a nation, and as such has a nationally consistent traceability system that delivers harmonised biosecurity outcomes across all states and territories.
“There is no point placing an increased financial burden on wool growers if there is not enhanced biosecurity outcomes by continuing to have a piecemeal approach to sheep traceability,” she said.