Saturday, December 2, 2023

Farmer takes a stand over M bovis

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Graeme Kenny has been farming sheep and beef on his 320 hectare property at Geraldine for 30 years but the past 18 months have been with no income.
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As a former livestock agent of more than 40 years buying and selling stock right across the South Island he knows the importance of keeping impeccable animal movement records.

That has been fortunate given he and his wife Denise are now grappling with the trauma of Mycoplasma bovis.

Worse still, Kenny says dealing with the incompetence, lack of transparency, communication and understanding from the Ministry for Primary Industries has created an absolute nightmare.

He says it’s one thing to lose the control of their business but it’s another to have people who have no idea of farming business making an absolute hash of the job and all they can do is watch their livelihood going down the gurgler.

Dramas over compensation have left the farming couple in dire straits.

Kenny decided it’s time to take a stand, not just for himself but also for the many other farmers battling the same crisis with MPI.

“I’m speaking out not just for myself but for other farmers who fear repercussions if they speak out.

“There are many more people the same as me.

“There are farmers going away and hiding in fear of MPI bullying.

“They have been scared off by MPI.

“This whole (eradication) programme is full of threats and people who are not directly impacted just can’t understand the real plight,” Kenny said.

“I’m in for the kill now.

“I’ve been driven to it by MPI and I don’t care what happens from their threats if I can help other farmers, too, that’s more important.”

Kenny’s nightmare began when he took a call from MPI in March 2018 requesting he put cattle up for testing.

“These were three cattle I purchased at Temuka sale yards in October 2017 and on checking my records and tracing their (NAIT) tags, had been dispatched from the sale yards to slaughter the next day.

“I produced the kill sheet, photocopy of my ASD, vendor’s ASD and transport note.

“The cattle never came on to my property.”

But MPI served him with a Notice of Direction anyway.

“Naturally, I would not sign the NOD. I said no and I was threatened with all manner of things they could do to me.”

That was just the beginning of many ongoing battles Kenny has encountered over the past 18 months, eventually being served a NOD on tracings of further animals.

“I was told to suck it up because a NOD was going to happen and sure enough under duress I had to sign the legal document NOD 300.”

Now under a second NOD served three months ago Kenny has had the same cattle blood-tested six times. Five times the results have been negative and five weeks after the sixth test he’s still waiting for the result.

Meantime, he can’t make money off the farm and that’s been the case for 18 months with no compensation for loss of income.

“I have asked MPI why my lodged claims have not been paid and they can’t answer.

“Our business is in dire straits. Well, I am not able to run a business or pay the bills.”

Kenny’s trading accounts in 2017 came in at $380,000. MPI calculated compensation of $26,000.

“No way. I would not accept that $26k.”

The stress is taking its toll.

The couple are not sleeping, they start each day wondering where their next dollar will come from.

“We have used up our reserves and family are helping out but it shouldn’t be,” Kenny said.

“I did not cause this nonsense and as the innocent victim we must suffer the result.

“This has not been a great experience having to suffer the stigma, grief, anxiety, embarrassment and trauma.

“Our rightful claim to compensation crisis started as a bad dream and at present is an absolute nightmare.

“Innocent farmers are operating under threat. 

“I am not a negative person but I do question the integrity of the principles and MPI’s management. 

“I do favour the eradication but I do not accept the idea that innocent victims should personally shoulder the recovery.

“It’s time for the facts of where this bovis is at with some honest reporting.

“Surely, there is someone in MPI to give us some honest assurance.”

Kenny has praise for the Rural Support Trust.

“The support from the good (RST) ladies has been most welcome. While I can handle adversity and what goes with that it has been more difficult for my wife to be associated with it.

“But the (MPI) executives won’t give a toss about those matters.

“Surely, it is time to come out of the dark and address the compensation problem – we need action.”

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