'Sensible regulation' needed in stock and station industry

Buyers inspect lambs at the Maniototo last muster lamb sale held last week. Photo: Supplied
Buyers inspect lambs at the Maniototo last muster lamb sale. Photo: Supplied
Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Council is calling for compulsory regulation in the stock and station industry.

Yesterday, chairman Miles Anderson said discussions about the topic had "run hot and cold for years" and some finality was needed.

"No-one likes more rules and regulations but, to protect all parties in the sale of livestock, we believe it is the best way forward," Mr Anderson said.

Calls were made last year for more regulation in the industry, after it was revealed by Farmers Weekly that five civil claims had been made against South Island firm Rural Livestock and a Serious Fraud Office investigation was under way into a former employee.

At that time, Mr Anderson said the council had undertaken to look at some way of bringing in a code of conduct, or regulation "or something".

Yesterday, Mr Anderson said while some would try to tie the council's advocacy for regulation to complaints made in relation to the Rural Livestock matter and the former employee, it was "well past time some sensible regulations were brought in to cover stock agencies".

"The vast bulk of stock and station agents operate in an exemplary manner. We need regulation to be fair, to give them protection as well, not just the farmers," he said.

The NZ Stock and Station Agents Association had created a code of conduct and set up an independent body that could adjudicate on complaints about the actions of stock agents.

Membership and therefore adherence to that code was voluntary and the council understood it covered only about 65% of all stock transactions, Mr Anderson said.

"Less reputable agents - a minority in the industry - are unlikely to become voluntary members and even if they do, when trouble arises they can simply resign and continue to trade," he said.

A fully enforceable and regulated industry would be able to stop agents trading, and potentially be able to impose redress.

As well as potential losses from fraudulent transactions, Federated Farmers members had also raised concerns about biosecurity risks, where there is misrepresentation and the limited ability to seek redress in a voluntary system.

Another potential regulation that deserved debate was one that would require any stock agent who traded livestock on their own behalf to do so through an auction system or another agent.

"A lot of ill-feeling is caused when a stock agent buys from a farmer when it's not clear he is acting on his own behalf, keeps the animals on his property for a day or two, then on-sells at a substantial profit," he said.

The council did not envisage an increased cost to farmers from regulation.


 

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