Stakeholders meet to tackle Mycoplasma Bovis

Damien O’Connor

Wellington, May 22, 2018

Farming leaders and the Government have come together again today to discuss ways to combat Mycoplasma Bovis, Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

“We all understand that farmers need certainty about a future plan and we are committed to make a decision about the next steps in the biosecurity response next week,” he said.

Two Options

Mr O’Connor said that there were two options: either completely get rid of the disease from New Zealand over time (phased eradication) or long term management (how we can all manage the disease, protect farms and slow any spread of it).

“This decision will be taken jointly by the Government and farming industry representatives.

Today’s meeting was constructive with all participants, including the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, updated on the known extent of the disease, the effects it’s having and the costs, both social and economic, of dealing with it,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Farmer, rural community and animal welfare are is at the heart of the difficult decision.

Clearly, we want to make the best decision for farmers and the country,” he added.

Challenging times

DairyNZ Chairman Jim van der Poel said that the past 10 months have been challenging for farmers living with a great deal of uncertainty.

“We expect to be able to relieve some of that concern once this difficult decision has been made. Today’s meeting was very helpful with a lot of useful information sharing and constructive discussion,” he said.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand Chairman Andrew Morrison said that farmers can be assured that the Government and sector groups are working extremely hard on this issue.

Cooperation imperative

“We all see farmer welfare as a key issue and are committed to helping farmers on the ground, no matter what future management option is pursued,” he said.

Federated Farmers President Katie Milne said that while Mycoplasma Bovis is challenging, the degree of cooperation was positive.

“This disease is challenging for all involved, but if there is one positive it is how farmers, farmer representatives and Government are working together. Whatever option is taken, we need to keep doing that,” he said.

Organisations represented at the meeting were DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New

Zealand and the Meat Industry Association.

Mr O’Connor said that the Government is committed to a resilient primary sector.

“The Prime Minister and I had very informative meetings with farmers in the Waikato and Ashburton yesterday. We can see just how much farmers are hurting in the midst of this unprecedented biosecurity event.

“To date, we have undertaken constructive actions including: investment of $100 million to the response; funding compensation for affected farmers; a national bulk milk testing programme to help determine the geographic spread; and upgrade the NAIT animal tracking system which is so vital to managing a disease response like this,” he said.

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File Photo of Agricultural and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor speaking to the press by Richard Tindiller for RNZ (Reproduced by Special Arrangement)

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