Sunday, December 3, 2023

New laws tidy up farm issues

Neal Wallace
Parliament has passed a raft of new laws affecting farmers that require creditors to offer mediation to financially stressed farmers and tidies up flaws in the Nait scheme.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says money raised from pricing agricultural emissions will be invested back into research and development.
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And a private member’s bill introduced by Rangitikei National Party MP Ian McKelvie will speed up the court process for dog control offences and divert low-level cases to justices of the peace and community magistrates.

The Farm Debt Mediation Bill was introduced by NZ First. Its agriculture spokesman Mark Patterson said it recognises farms are more than just a business.

“Oftentimes, it’s a family home and the pride of generations of farmers.

“This bill will ensure all options are explored to turn around a failing farm business, introducing a mediation step to help resolve debt issues before enforcement action is taken,” Patterson said.

When the party initiated the bill in 1999 farm debt was $11.7 billion. Today it is $62.8b.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the scheme, which starts on July 1, obligates the parties to meet in an equitable manner to constructively look at all options to turn the business around. If that is impossible a timely and dignified exit must be provided.

The Mycoplasma bovis outbreak highlighted shortcomings in the Nait scheme, now addressed by changes he has introduced, O’Connor said.

“We’ve done our best to make compliance easier for farmers, including transition periods where possible to help farmers adjust.

“Combined, these steps will see real changes for the industry and improvements to our biosecurity system.”

Changes include tightening the rules for handling untagged animals, improving the use of data, aligning penalties with related laws to reflect the seriousness of non-compliance, updating the performance framework for the organisation running Nait and allowing cost recovery for accreditation and audit.

Some of the specific changes mean only tags issued for a specific location can be used, the impractical-to-tag exemption has been renamed unsafe-to-tag and the notification required of those animals being moved has been changed from 48 hours to before being moved.

Also, privacy issues inhibiting sharing of an animal’s location history with a buyer have been addressed while Nait will now hold information on stock theft, wandering stock and dead animals.

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