Bob Edlin

The Ministry for Primary Industries has extended its review of the dairy herd improvement regulatory regime and is further consulting key players in an industry which contributes an estimated $300 million a year value to the country’s dairy industry.

Emma Taylor, the ministry’s director of agriculture, marine and plant policy, would not put a timeframe on the review for Dairy Exporter readers or indicate when changes to the regulations or legislation would take effect.

A complex range of issues was being examined, she said.

“That’s why we are taking time and want to make sure we’ve got as good an understanding as we can (of the issues and differing industry perspectives) before we recommend what we do next.

“We don’t want to make any quick changes that might undermine where we want to go with longer-term needs – breeding needs – for the dairy industry.”

Discussions with some parties have been held already. Others are scheduled.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor is said to be comfortable that further discussions are required to consider issues raised during the six-week consultation from October 1 to November 12 last year.

During that consultation the ministry invited feedback on how the regulatory regime could more effectively support the performance of the dairy industry.

LIC, CRV Ambreed, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and breed societies were among the interested parties which presented 27 formal submissions.

They provided “substantive feedback” on the issues covered in the scope of the review, Taylor said.

But they provided ideas, too, on wider data-sharing arrangements and other issues that were outside the immediate scope of the review.

They also identified opportunities for better co-ordination and linkages across a range of industry data sources to support the performance of the dairy sector.

O’Connor asked the ministry to provide further advice on the wider issues raised before decisions are taken.

The regulatory regime requires the collection of comprehensive, accurate, and continuous data which informs the decisions made on herd management and breeding.

It has not been comprehensively reviewed since it was established under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act – along with the establishment of Fonterra – in 2001.

The discussion paper published as a catalyst for the initial consultations focused on how to ensure the regulated (“core”) dataset remained effectively aligned with the dairy industry’s current and future animal evaluation needs.

Other issues on the initial review agenda include the role and membership of the New Zealand Dairy Core Database Access Panel, monitoring of and reporting on the use of core data, and the processes relating to the certification of herd testers.

The review is separate from the review of DIRA provisions which regulate the activities of Fonterra but both reviews are being carried out together before changes are considered by Cabinet and any legislative amendments are incorporated in a comprehensive DIRA Amendment Bill.

Taylor said her team was now “scoping whether we need to take a wider look at issues around dairy herd improvement”.

This involves more discussions about points raised in the first batch of submissions “and whether we need to look more broadly as we think about the next step of the review”.

The work had started with a comparatively narrow focus on updating the core database as a first step.

But some submitters expressed interest in a broader, more future-focused look being taken, particularly related to genomic data and how it might change the face of animal evaluation.

“At this stage we want to make sure we fully understand the needs of stakeholders and take time to work through that, so we are not proposing any immediate stages,” Taylor said.

She did not rule out another paper for discussion.