Beefed up M. bovis programme and ETS tweaks

Budget 2020 includes almost $500 million for the primary sector, the largest chunk of which is dedicated to eliminating Mycoplasma bovis, Marc Daalder reports

The primary sector will receive nearly half a billion dollars in Budget 2020, spread across an array of initiatives.

“New Zealand’s primary industries play a critical role in growing our economy,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

“As we move further into the post-Covid-19 economic recovery, our primary sector is more important than ever. The core package invests nearly $500 million in initiatives that will ensure our primary industries are supported and sustainable now, and into the future.

“Funding in the package will support our primary industries with their existing operations and preventing or mitigating the impacts of biosecurity threats and enabling implementation of climate change and ETS reforms.”

The highlight of the package is $193.5 million for finishing off the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis within New Zealand. The bacterial disease is found in cattle all around the world and first arrived in New Zealand in July 2017. In 2018, the Government committed to completely eradicating the disease, which doesn’t pose a food safety risk but travels through animal-to-animal contact and can severely sicken cattle. The arrival of the disease led to mass culling of infected herds.

As of May 6, there are still 22 properties with active M. bovis infections. Nearly half are in Canterbury, with another seven in Northland and scattered eruptions in the Bay of Plenty, the West Coast and Southland.

“This initiative provides funding to support operational activities, including surveillance, tracking, movement controls and culling infected animals and also contributes to compensation costs for farmers, primarily associated with the loss of stock and milk production,” the Budget says.

Another $126.1 million will go to the Ministry for Primary Industries, to support its existing activities which have been put under price pressures due to the economic downturn.

Biosecurity efforts are also getting beefed up, with $17.4 million for response programmes beyond the border and a $6.25 million capital investment in greenhouse units “providing secure containment for new imported plant varieties and breeding material that require testing for high-impact pests. This will enable the introduction of imported plant material for the horticulture sector to develop new and innovative high-value crops and cultivars.”

Efforts to reduce emissions from the privacy sector have also received some funding.

Over the next four years, $34 million will be put towards supporting New Zealand’s membership of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), which investigates how to lower agricultural emissions.

The forestry sector will receive $43.4 million in operating expenditure boosts and a $36.2 million capital investment, which will enable “the implementation of new business processes and supporting infrastructure to address current issues with Forestry Emissions Trading Scheme administration and to cost-effectively implement the reforms set out in the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Bill.”

The Environmental Protection Authority will also be funded to the tune of $1.9 million to redevelop the Emissions Trading Register in line with new requirements.

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