By Seamus Boyer
Slow but steady progress is being made on a plan to help Wairarapa farmers dealing with the pea weevil threat.
Last month the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) announced a two-year, region-wide ban on pea crops after populations of pea weevil were found on eight different Wairarapa properties and three seed storage facilities in the region.
There are understood to be about 1400ha of pea crops and about 100 growers in Wairarapa.
Since then MPI has been working with farmers and seed growers to come up with a plan to eradicate the pest, as well as a potential compensation package for affected farmers.
Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon said they believed they had identified all of the pea straw in the region, with the material a threat as it potentially harboured the weevil.
Last week MPI announced it would buy all Wairarapa pea straw for an “agreed price”.
Mr Falloon said he was also continuing to meet with all concerned parties, and was hopeful a clearer picture would soon emerge of the next steps.
“We hope that by the end of the week we’ll have a pretty good plan in place as to what it means for farmers.
“Then it will be all hands to the pump to get it into place.
“But the farmers are being pretty patient.
“And with the rain they’re a bit more positive, the fact that they’re getting a bit of moisture, even if it’s bloody cold.”
Last Monday about 60 people turned up for a meeting organised by the Foundation for Arable Farming (FAR).
The presentation covered a range of cropping options for affected farmers, but many were not an option for this spring.
Mr Falloon said the timing of the news had thrown up some “challenges with rotational issues”.
But most farmers would stick with what they knew, in planting substitutes for imported feed, such as barley, wheat or maize.
Kieran McAnulty, economic development manager at Masterton District Council, said the council was keen to help with getting the message across, but said it was “very much early days”.
“We’re looking at how we can best assist MPI to get the word out about the non-commercial growers, to get that message out there.
“Not over the fact that you can’t do it, but why you can’t do it.”
MPI is yet to release a detailed plan for home growers and any penalties.
By Seamus Boyer