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NZ to follow Aust, Canada into mandatory RFID

James Nason, 09/09/2011

RFID tags will become mandatory for all cattle producers in New Zealand from July next year.Electronic tagging of cattle will become mandatory in New Zealand from July 1 next year, the industry-owned company responsible for developing the country’s national livestock identification system announced this week.

The mandatory tagging date was set after the proposed National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme (NAIT) received cross-party support in Parliament.

The broad political backing now means that legislation required to enshrine the new system in law is likely to be passed regardless of the outcome of the 2011 New Zealand general election in November.

Under the scheme all NZ cattle producers will be required to tag cattle with NAIT-approved RFID tags from July 1, 2012. Deer producers will  join the scheme on March 1, 2013.

The scheme will be implemented and administered by NAIT Ltd, a company owned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, and Deer Industry New Zealand.

NAIT Ltd chief executive Russell Burnard said the scheme would assure overseas markets that a livestock disease can be quickly contained in the event of any biosecurity incidents. 

“NAIT’s cross-party support in Parliament bodes well for the NAIT Bill being passed after the election,” Mr Burnard said in a press release issued yesterday.  

“This, and confirmation of our system provider, gives our industry shareholders confidence the NAIT scheme is well placed for a 1 July mandatory date.”

The NZ Government has provided capital expenditure to build the NAIT system and will fund 35pc of its ongoing operational expenditure.

The remaining 65pc of operational expenditure will be met through a mix of direct funding from NAIT’s shareholders (Beef + Lamb New Zealand 44.5pc, Dairy NZ 53.5pc and Deer 2pc) and levies on NAIT RFID ear tags and carcasses at the point of slaughter.

Canada introduced a mandatory cattle identification system in 2002, and Australia in 2005.   

“The purpose of the NAIT system is to safeguard the New Zealand brand and farmers’ income by protecting market access for New Zealand animal products through enhancing regulatory and consumer confidence in New Zealand’s ability to manage biosecurity incidents,” NAIT Ltd said.

NZ’s Federated Farmers says it has raised many concerns about the scheme during its development process but would now work to ensure the transition will be as smooth as possible after the scheme received broad political backing.

An estimated 9.8 million cattle will have to be electronically tagged and registered online in the three years after July 1, 2012.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the organisation was “still highly dubious of the claimed benefits” and was working to ensure it would have the least impact on the bottom line of producers.

Concerns also revolved around ownership and control of the immense intellectual property that NAIT would accumulate and how the data provided by farmers would be used.

He said that with significant penalty provisions included in the scheme, a massive farmer-education campaign would be required by NAIT to ensure all producers had the information they required to comply by July 1, 2012.

A simple website, mail and advertising campaign as used in recent high profile rural campaigns would not be sufficient, Mr Wills said.

There were particular concerns about what support would be extended to farmers who, through geography, had limited or no internet access.

"For a number of seasons to come, there will be a lot of farms left in the internet wilderness. What happens to farms lacking the internet?

"After it goes live next February, farmers will have only four or so months to get any cattle they plan to move off-farm onto NAIT. We need the assurance NAIT won't fall over due to the weight of enrolments.

"Federated Farmers will maintain very close scrutiny of the system, its effectiveness and cost, because we are still highly dubious of the claimed benefits.”.

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