FRUSTRATION and confusion still reigns almost two months after Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) new biosecurity and animal welfare requirements came online.
Having been told that it is not compulsory to sign up to the LPA’s new requirements, livestock producers are finding that they are unable to access National Vendor Declaration (NVD) forms without LPA accreditation.
The frustration and anger at the way the program was rolled out has been expressed by farmers across WA who felt that they are being forced into additional compliance – even though there was no call for it from customers.
“It’s like the tail wagging the dog,” said Gairdner producer and former industry representative Ian Peacock.
“Sheep Producers Australia (formerly the Sheep Meat Council of Australia) might like the idea but the new requirements, we are told, were brought in on the pretext that there might be some money in the higher end market in Europe – maybe.
“The thing is there will be no extra money in it for us, even if they manage to sell sheep into the European market.
“It’s a flimsy excuse for making us go through all this compliance.
“Any extra money will be soaked up by compliance costs on both sides of the farmgate.”
The Peacocks have been thinking about getting out of the livestock industry and going full-time cropping – and this issue might just seal the deal for them.
They run 7000 sheep and about 160 cattle, as well as their cropping program.
“We are trying to sell the last of our cross bred lambs – but we have run out of NVD forms,’’ Mr Peacock said.
“As far as we know, we can’t get them online until we sign up to the LPA program – and we don’t want to sign up.
“MLA should say that we could carry on life as normal.
“If you sign up that’s fine and if you opt out that’s fine.
“This is forcing me to sign up to have the right to trade.
“Is that not a restriction of trade?
“I haven’t got the time to find out.
“It begs belief that we can be put into this position and not be able to have a say.
“Consultation has been abysmal.”
Mr Peacock said he had arrived home from his biannual holiday in late September to find that he had to have a biosecurity plan in place by October 1, “which gave me about a week”.
“Most people found out about it the same as I did,” Mr Peacock said.
“To say they consulted widely is a load of garbage.”
He said the practical nature of meeting the biosecurity requirements were beyond his ability.
“There’s three of us running a large operation and we don’t have time to monitor who is coming or going from the property,” Mr Peacock said.
“The whole thing is a worry – it’s impossible for us to police it.
“Then we have to justify it to somebody – as well as all the endless paperwork that we have to do.”
Mr Peacock said his family has more than 180 years’ history producing livestock and growing grains, in New South Wales and WA and he kept reasonable records of on-farm practices and livestock information.
He said after more than 50 years of working on farm it was “insulting” that “someone on the other side of the country” would feel that they knew better than him how to raise livestock.
“It’s an insult,” Mr Peacock said.
“I object to being told that I don’t know how to run or look after my livestock.
“We are being cast as incompetent, or as liars.
“There’s no cowboys in large scale broadacre cropping or agriculture these days.
“If you don’t get it right you will go broke.
“You need a four, five to six tonne crop (per hectare) otherwise you don’t survive.
“All the people I know do it properly.
“We are being labelled as untrustworthy in looking after livestock.
“If we allow them to get away with this what is the next thing?
“Maybe we should just stop selling.
“Let’s see what happens to the industry when no stock are going through the markets.”
Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA immediate past president Steven Bolt said everywhere he had gone to raise the concerns of producers most have agreed with him, but have chosen to walk away from the issue.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Mr Bolt said.
He said concerned farmers should contact Sheep Producers Australia’s new skills-based board of directors’ WA representative Bindi Murray to let her know their position.