Northland farmers caught up in the Mycoplasma bovis saga can now access government assistance from a local office.
On the latest figures, 124,050 cattle have been culled and the 125,000 milestone seems certain to be surpassed very soon.
When the eradication programme was formally adopted in May 2018, 26,000 had already been earmarked for slaughter and it was estimated that another 126,000 would need to be culled.
The total number of farms confirmed as infected passed 200 in October and now stands at 211 -- 49 in the South Island and 162 in the North. 54 were dairy farms, 113 beef and 44 other. Of those, 22 are still active and 189 cleared.
In positive signs, however, the number of farms under active surveillance -- which dropped sharply when testing protocols were changed to streamline the process in September -- has continued to trend downwards since then and now stands at 269. The number of farms under a Notice of Direction (NoD) is also down from an October high and now stands at 260.
The Minister for Rural Communities and Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, recently announced extra funding for the Rural Support Trust.
“I know that rural families are worried about some of the challenges facing them, including the ongoing uncertainty created by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.
“Those concerns sit alongside ongoing worries about bank debt and how best to meet the challenges of improving our waterways and meet New Zealand’s climate change commitments.
“To that end, I’ve spoken to the Rural Support Trust and, alongside our Mycoplasma bovis programme partners, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ, we’ve set aside an extra $250,000 to help with their work talking to farmers on the ground.
“The trust will develop a plan for using the money, in addition to the other farmer support mechanisms provided by the M.bovis programme, and the DairyNZ and B+LNZ compensation assistance teams (DBCAT).
“The trust does a fantastic job and is well placed to deliver additional help. They’re experienced and practical people who can coach farmers through difficult times.’’
O’Connor said the new funding is on top of previous increases by the Government.
“The Government has already boosted funding for the Rural Support Trust from $386,500 a year to $626,000 for their daily work. Outside of that, the trust is budgeted to receive more than $1m in the next year for M.bovis related work.”
Meanwhile, the rural support trusts have published a list of services offered to help farmers affected by Mycoplasma bovis, saying they are “more than just an ear to listen”.
“As well as someone to talk to about your concerns, we can also help you navigate through the process, as we have training in and experience with the M. bovis programme and know how it works.
“Depending on the individual farming operation, it can be a lengthy process, involving a number of M. bovis programme teams, and RST offers support throughout the process and the ability to help shift things along if they get stuck.
“We are rural people helping rural people. We are farming people who understand the challenges of rural life.”
All Rural Support Trust branches may be contacted on 0800 787 254.