The passing of the Farm Debt Mediation and NAIT laws this week shows the Government's commitment to working alongside and helping farmers, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor.

"By passing these pieces of legislation the Coalition Government has helped ensure the future sustainability of the sector".

The Farm Debt Mediation Act supports the mental, emotional and financial wellbeing of farmers and farming families who find themselves in financial strife. Total farm debt in New Zealand is $62.8 billion – up 270 per cent on 20 years ago.

The failure of a farm business can lead to the farmer and their family losing both their business and their home said O'Connor.

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"For many rural communities the failure of one farm can have a ripple effect through those communities and the regional economy".

Farmers who operate a family business often don't have the resources to negotiate their own protections when dealing with lenders and the scheme would help provide certainty for those facing the hard challenge of paying back debt said O'Connor.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied
Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied

"It'll provide a way to help them get through, so they can get on with running their businesses and supporting their families".

O'Connor said the ongoing efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis highlighted flaws in the NAIT scheme.

"We've done our best to make compliance easier for farmers, including transition periods where possible to help farmers adjust. Combined, these steps will see real changes for the industry and improvements to our biosecurity system".

O'Connor said there had been great cooperation from industry to help improve the Act "quickly and efficiently".

"We have a NAIT system that's fit for the future".

DairyNZ said the passing of the NAIT Bill sent a strong message to farmers about the importance of tracking all animal movements, which was vital in protecting New Zealand's livelihood and the farming community.

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"Unregistered movements put not just individual farms but also the whole farming community at serious risk. Mycoplasma bovis has shown us first- hand just how critical traceability is. Slow traceability means faster disease spread and bigger impact for the farm" said DairyNZ's biosecurity manager Dr Liz Shackleton.

"Ultimately, responsibility for ensuring animals are registered, before they move, lies with the farmer and this hasn't changed. Although many farmers are doing a good job at tracking their animal movements, every farm needs do their bit" said Shackleton.

Federated Farmers also praised the NAIT Bill saying it was "good news" for the agriculture sector.

"Like the Government, Feds wants much better NAIT compliance and we welcome the acknowledgement that the latest rule changes are but first steps as we continue the drive for progress on operational and ease-of-use improvements to ensure we have a system that is fit for purpose and able to deal with foreseeable future risks" said Feds Vice-President Andrew Hoggard.

Hoggard also welcomed the Farm Debt Mediation Act, saying it was a great advertisement for New Zealand's select committee process and an example of how Parliament can work together.

"Away from the limelight in select committees our MPs are more willing to put aside politicking and strive for practicable solutions.

"We certainly saw this with the Farm Debt Mediation and NAIT bills. MPs from all sides of the House listened closely to submissions from Federated Farmers and other industry representatives, and asked probing questions. The result, in both cases, is legislation that is significantly improved from first drafts".

Find out more about biosecurity tips on farm, and the Bill, at www.dairynz.co.nz/biosecurity.