Livestock agents are adding insult to injury with their new $1.50 RFID administration charge on all cattle which go through saleyards, according to a Northland farming leader.
Hugh Rose, Kaipara branch chairman of Farmers of New Zealand, has tacked photo-copied notices to northern yards calling on farmers not to pay the charges added to their agency accounts - 75c/head for both the buyer and seller.
A technician before he became a farmer 10 years ago, Rose said RFID technology has been used widely and cost-effectively in warehousing and retailing for decades.
"The agencies' claim that this charge is necessary to cover their outlay on equipment is just rubbish, as readers are available for as little as $150 and the agents should be using them much more effectively than farmers."
He drew attention to the two auctioneers and one tag reader (with equipment around his neck) per agency as less than 200 bobby calves were sold on a slow sale day at Dargaville last week.
But that technology had not replaced the agency clerks and runners with pieces of paper.
Rose claimed that every farmer in attendance would have a story to tell of NAIT issues and costs and that none were happy with the imposition of additional charges.
For their part, agencies and saleyard companies claim costs of $50,000 and more to outfit yards in order to process NAIT requirements.
But they have been warned that this new charge cannot be called a "NAIT charge".
NAIT chief executive Russell Burnard said agencies were entitled to make the new charges, but they were not NAIT-imposed fees.
Agency leaders claim that NAIT has added considerably to the workload demands on their staff members and that more people have been hired.
NZ Stock and Station Agents Association chairman Terry Cairns said the association produced a recommendation to its members that $1.50/head be charged on cattle which go through saleyards, billed half and half to the buyer and seller.
"The extra workload for agents and their support staff has been huge, which most people don't realise," Cairns said.
Agencies and saleyard owners, which are not always the same organisations, have employed more staff on sale days and installed tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
Cairns has not heard of any yards where the new charges do not apply, but his own firm South Stock, like some others, has not imposed any charges for the time and effort spent on NAIT compliance for private or paddock cattle sales.
"For instance, if a farmer without a RFID reader wants to sell cattle, we go out and electronically read the tags. We then arrange the sale, to one or more purchasers, and the transport, and this all takes some days.
"We then have to make a second trip to the vendor's farm to ensure the same cattle with the same RFID tags are loaded out.
"That second trip is dead time and cost to us, but we are not charging for it presently, to see how things shake down."
He responded to comments from Federated Farmers vice-president Anders Crofoot, saying farmers objected strongly before NAIT came into force, but have now switched to criticising agencies for attempting to recoup some of the time and cost of compliance.
Cairns would not say that the $1.50 saleyard charges will persist beyond the time taken to recoup the RFID capital costs, but he doubted the charge would disappear completely.
Another South Island agency principal, Peter Walsh, said claims of over-charging were wrong, because of the need to have qualified staff members, often required to give advice to farmers free of charge.
The RFID administration charge only applied in the yards because the NAIT requirements fall on vendor and buyer for private or paddock sales, he said.
"I still believe most people remain willing to make NAIT work and are prepared to acknowledge where our costs lie," Walsh said.
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