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Local lesson . . . The Mycoplasma bovis outbreak identified this winter on properties including this dairy farm near Waimate has underlined the importance of biosecurity. Farmers should make their views known by December 6, sector groups say. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Farmers are being urged to have their say on biosecurity.

DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and Deer Industry New Zealand have sent yellow “Protect Our Future” packs to mailboxes throughout the country in recent weeks, with information about the Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity Readiness and Response Deed.

The industry-good organisations funded by farmer levies wanted to sign the agreement on behalf of farmers. However, they needed to receive farmer feedback by December 6 before they could do so.

The agreement aimed to protect the future of farming in this country by having the right biosecurity in place, DairyNZ said.

“As the recent incursion of Mycoplasma bovis has shown, diseases and pests have a toll on the bottom line of business, and carry an emotional toll too,” policy general manager Carol Barnao said.

“We believe signing the GIA is an important next step in making sure dairy has a voice at the decision table at government, both on preparedness and response outcomes, and funding – and we want our farmers to let us know what they think.

“We are confident that DairyNZ becoming a signatory is the best way to provide our farmers with more influence and certainty.”

BLNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said the agreement was about working together to protect farmers from exotic pests and diseases.

“Farmers consistently tell us that biosecurity risks are among the biggest risks we face as an industry.

“Currently, when hard decisions are being made about how New Zealand prepares to respond to an exotic pest or disease incursion and, more importantly, what to do during an actual response, we are ‘in the room’ and consulted. But it is the government that makes all the final decisions,” Mr McIvor said.

“Signing the GIA would give sheep and beef farmers, through BLNZ, a seat at the biosecurity decision-making table. Alongside other GIA signatories, we would have more direct influence on biosecurity preparedness and response decision-making.”

There were costs associated with signing the agreement, because it entailed agreeing to contribute to readiness and response costs. The level of those contributions depended on the significance of the pest or disease to the sheep and beef sector, Mr McIvor said.

“Importantly, our sector could also choose to set a funding limit as part of a GIA Operational Agreement.

“We think that the benefits of signing the GIA, with increased certainty and control over our own biosecurity destiny, justifies potential costs. We would be better-prepared, have a pre-agreed set of minimum readiness and response commitments between industry and government, and agreed limits on our industry’s potential cost-share for readiness and response activities.

“If we don’t sign the GIA, we will have much less influence over the decisions that affect our sector.”

The government could use powers under the Biosecurity Act 1993 to recover costs from industries that benefited from a response even if they had not signed the agreement, he said.

“That would be a poor outcome for our sector and we would lose the opportunity to work together with government and other industries under the GIA to manage fundamental risks to all livestock farmers.

“It is vital farmers have their say on this important matter.”

BLNZ will host a teleconference for its farmers on Tuesday at 7.30pm. More details will be available via its e-diaries.

Dairy farmers can respond online at www.dairynz.co.nz/gia. There is also information on that website about conference calls where farmers can ask questions of specialists and other farmers.