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Culture of hostility coming from the top

The Government needs to stop blaming farmers for the ongoing spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis and get on with the response, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“Mr O’Connor has been in the job for nine months yet, instead of taking ownership of the response and rapid spread of the disease, he’s labelling farmers as greedy and blaming them for spreading it.

“Now he’s taking aim at stock agents and blaming them - next it will be truckies - despite MPI officials telling the select committee that compliance with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system had been very good on recent Cook Strait ferry checks.

“Farmers are looking for certainty as the new dairy season begins in a couple of weeks and thousands of dairy cattle are moved around the country. Many are now wondering whether eradication is feasible.

“The cattle industry is preparing for a show down next week with the Minister where he’ll pressure them to fund well over and above the agreed cost share outlined in the existing Government Industry Agreement (GIA).

“It’s clear the Minister hasn’t yet got Budget funding confirmed because his mates around the Cabinet table are looking to him to heavy the industry for upwards of 40 per cent of the costs.

“This is despite the Ardern-Peters Government’s coffers sloshing around with $34 billion to spend in the next four years.

“What’s becoming apparent is this Cabinet’s hostile attitude towards farmers. They seem to forget that some farmers are at financial and emotional breaking point dealing with this disease, and compensation payments have been occurring at a snail’s pace.

“The clock is ticking and the Minister needs to show farmers whose livelihoods have been trashed by this disease some respect by better communicating his plans for the response and ordering his officials to ensure compensation payments are full, fair and fast,” Mr Guy says.

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