Government policy settings are presently farmers’ biggest worry, says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.
Federated Farmers is encouraged by the cross-party support for tougher deterrents against livestock theft, as shown by members of Parliament’s primary production select committee.
I recently spoke to the committee on the Sentencing (Livestock Rustling) Amendment Bill and was heartened to see they were not politicking on the issue, just determining to work out the best ways of combating this problem.
The current wording of the bill would make rustling an ‘aggravating factor’ at sentencing, giving judges more leeway to order stiffer penalties.
Federated Farmers wants the new legislation to go further in allowing powers of seizure of vehicles and other equipment used in committing the offence, as happens with poachers under the Fisheries and Wild Animal Control Acts.
If stock thieves knew they could forfeit vehicles, trailers, firearms, trained working dogs, two-way radios, night vision and thermal viewing imagers, freezers, etc, it would give them considerable pause if they’re thinking of raiding a farm.
Moreover, if convicted rustlers lose such equipment, they can’t go back to such thieving any time soon, and that forfeited gear can be sold to yield money to reimburse the victims of the theft.
The federation submitted that rustling is robbing farmers of tens of millions of dollars every year. It is also an animal welfare, biosecurity and food safety issue: livestock are often killed and butchered at night in a paddock, and there are no controls over subsequent storage and blackmarket sale of meat from animals perhaps just treated with veterinary medicines.
Rustling also adds huge stress to a farmer and his family when he must leave his home to investigate suspicious activity to protect property and livestock while other family members are left wondering what is going on in the dark.
Farmers who have suffered trespass and livestock theft report feelings of suspicion and paranoia, loss of sleep and a reluctance to leave the property.
It is heartening to see there’s good momentum to put in place effective measures to tackle this serious and growing scourge.
• Miles Anderson is Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman.