19 Jul 2010

MAF to investigate complaints of intimidation of farmers

6:08 am on 19 July 2010

The Ministry of Agriculture expects to begin an investigation this week into complaints that its staff have been intimidating dairy farmers in Southland.

More than 20 farmers from the region complained to Minister of Agriculture David Carter in June, of inappropriate behaviour by MAF officials during random animal welfare farm checks.

Federated Farmers says the farmers felt bullied by MAF during the visits.

MAF's acting director general, Warwick Foran, says the investigation into the complaints was held up while they waited for more information from the farmers involved.

Mr Foran says he understands that information will be available early this week and the investigation can then get underway.

He says it's uncertain how long the investigation will take because MAF does not yet know how many complaints it will receive or what the nature of the complaints will be.

The head of Federated Farmers' dairy section, Lachlan McKenzie, says they have not been able to provide MAF with that information till now because farmers were frightened.

He says farmers were worried about confidentiality and to concerns about information being used against them in the future.

Mr McKenzie says some farmers were traumatised by the visits and they worried about the behaviour of people who had visited them.

He says farmers' legal concerns have now been addressed and their written complaints will be handed in this week.