COMMENT:

I've been following the plight of the farmers affected by the Mycoplasma bovis saga with interest.

The time it's taken the Ministry for Primary Industries to get to their farms, the way farmers have been treated, the time it's taken to pay out compensation, and the inconvenience of MPI's methodology.

The other day two senior rural support workers who were contracted to MPI threw in the towel. They quit their roles because they said they were unhappy with MPI's response to farmer welfare.

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They called it "totally inadequate". Their job entailed helping farmers who'd had their farms locked down and animals sent to slaughter to cope.

But they said "poor communication from MPI... continues to cause anguish and uncertainty among many farmers."

The plan implemented by MPI, by way of a response to the Bovis nightmare, was designed to put farmer welfare at the forefront.

But these support workers said that was just not happening.
"Many families are hurting", one support worker said, and in desperate need of help - but just not getting it.

Which is strange when you think about how vested in mental health this Government is. The stress on these farmers is not just impacting them, but also their families.

Children who no longer want to go into farming. Farmers who want to sell up and quit.
Farmers who've lost their farms and have no idea what else they can do.

Hundreds have been mentally affected, according to one rural support worker who called MPI's welfare response "tokenism" and "box ticking".

And that's the part that worries me. How much virtue signalling of 'oh yes we care deeply, and we'll respond to all your needs' is actually happening? Versus just virtuous rhetoric?

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MPI's response to the criticism is that it's making changes. It'll pay contractors to take over farms and give stressed farmers a break and offer grants for professional advice on how to restart their business after a shut down.

But is it enough? And is it the right kind of response? And is the timing of it good enough?
What about the many farmers who've already hit the wall both financially and emotionally.

It didn't take a genius to forecast how traumatic this Mycoplasma bovis outbreak could potentially be for many farmers, yet MPI seems to have been caught napping.

The rural support workers who quit say what's actually needed is a change in culture at MPI.

So I hope we see them put farmer welfare back where they said it should be right from the outset - at the forefront.