Word of the day

April 15, 2014

Jollux – a fat person.


Rural round-up

April 15, 2014

GM in NZ on farming leader’s agenda - Tony Benny:

A visit to Argentina has left Federated Farmers vice-president Dr William Rolleston even more convinced New Zealand should not close the door on GM agriculture.

“I stood in a field of genetically modified soya beans, amongst hundreds of thousands of acres of genetically modified crops which they are using to have some beneficial effect on their environment but also to ramp up their production,” Rolleston said.

While his support for GM is already well known, Rolleston said he made a point of mentioning the issue in a speech at the North Canterbury branch of Federated Farm-ers’ AGM so that he couldn’t be accused of keeping his views secret should he later became Feds president.

“We need to have a sensible debate,” he said. . .

 

Dairy price ‘worm has turned’ downward – ASB  – Niko Kloetin:

Milk prices are tipped to fall again at tonight’s global dairy auction.

ASB says prices could drop another 10 per cent.

In more bad news for dairy farmers, the bank said the New Zealand dollar could remain high against the United States dollar if the American economy did not improve.

In its Farmshed Economics newsletter, ASB said “the worm has turned” on dairy prices, which are down almost 20 per cent in the past two months.

Driving prices down has been a lift in milk production, which ASB forecasts will increase by 11 per cent this season compared with last season. . .

Secrets to sharemilking success - Gerald Piddock:

James and Melissa Barbour’s strong relationship with their farm owner and staff has propelled the sharemilking couple to the top in their field.

The Waikato Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year winners credit these relationships for their success and place a lot of emphasis on maintaining them.

They 50:50 sharemilk 355 cows for Joan De Renzynts at Matamata. Both are 28 years old, and are in their seventh season and third position 50:50 sharemilking.

They take on board what De Renzy says and work as a team along with assistant Hayden Thompson. . .

Brainstorming conference expected – Yvonne O’Hara:

The possible reintroduction of an industry levy and ”the way forward” for profitability and sustainability for the goat industry will be the focus of the inaugural New Zealand Goats (NZGoats) conference in Queenstown next month.

Mohair New Zealand Inc, Meat Goat New Zealand (MGNZ), the New Zealand Boer Goat Breeders Association and NZGoats will all be holding their annual meetings during the same weekend, May 23 to 25.

NZ Goats chairwoman Dawn Sangster, of Patearoa, said those interested in feral or dairy goats or in the industry in general were also invited. . .

Last few weeks of hard prep for dairy trainee  – Yvonne O’Hara:

It is only a little more than four weeks to go before Josh Lavender, of Lochiel, is up against the nations’ other ”best of the best” dairy trainees, so he is spending as much time as he can preparing.

Mr Lavender (26) won the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards’ Southland Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year a month ago and since then has combined work as 2IC on a 752-cow property near Lochiel with catching up with study for his Production Management Level 5 through Primary ITO, preparing a DVD and speech for the nationals, and learning as much as he can about the industry. . .

Cloudy Bay’s new vintage redefines Chardonnay:

The winemaking philosophy of Cloudy Bay chardonnay revolves around a very stripped back approach. Juice in the barrel is settled for a very short time without the use of enzyme to retain a high level of solids. Following this is a long indigenous fermentation, taking place in barrel.

“These techniques work together to build complexity of flavour, but more importantly they contribute texture and architecture to the palate,” explains Tim Heath. “It takes our wine beyond simple fruit flavour. It is a wine to watch and speaks of its origin.” . . .


Do we believe him?

April 15, 2014

Kim Dotcom said he was talking with a sitting MP who was keen to join the Internet Party.

Now he’s saying the talks are over:

Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party says discussions with a sitting electorate MP who was poised to join the party have ended due to the prospect of a tie up with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. . . .

Today the party said: “Following the recent decision of delegates at the Mana AGM to continue negotiations with the Internet Party regarding a possible alliance, the current MP and the Internet Party have mutually agreed to end further discussions.”

Every MP who was asked denied any intention to jump ship.

Either the MP in questions was lying, the one who was going to jump ship wasn’t asked, or there never was a potential jumper.

Who do we believe?


Facebook fears, food fads and a furious pear

April 15, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Here’s what Facebook’s doing to your brain: it’s kind of shocking

* The Most Challenging Dinner Guest Ever: And 5 Delicious Meals To Feed Them (and yes I do understand that allergies aren’t fads, but let’s not the facts get in the way of an alliterative headline) from The Kitchen.Com

And

* The Furious Pear Pie

 

 


Welfare reform that works

April 15, 2014

Robert Doar writes on welfare reform that works and he does it from the inside:

. . . From early 2007 until the end of 2013, I was the commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the agency with the 1960s-era name that occupies 180 Water Street. And before 2007, going back to early 1996, I worked at, and for a time led, the state agency that was responsible for overseeing many of the government-assistance programs administered by the city. But while my perspective is that of an insider, the facts speak for themselves: From 1995 until the end of 2013, New York City’s cash-welfare caseload shrunk from almost 1.1 million recipients to less than 347,000 — a drop of more than 700,000 men, women, and children.

The achievements of welfare reform in New York City were about more than reducing the number of people on cash welfare. There were also big increases in work rates for single mothers (up from 43 percent in 1994 to 63 percent in 2009) and large reductions in child poverty (down from 42 percent in 1994 to 28.3 percent in 2008). Even in the wake of the 2008 recession, child poverty in New York City in 2011 was almost ten percentage points lower than it had been the year before welfare reforms started.

Welfare-caseload declines, work-rate increases, and child-poverty declines all happened largely because, for eight years under Mayor Giuliani and twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City required welfare applicants and recipients to work, or look for work, in return for benefits. We aggressively detected and prevented fraud and waste (although we didn’t stop all of them); and we enforced these requirements with a vigilance that every day led to hundreds of case closings and welfare-grant reductions as we made clear that welfare came with responsibilities. . .

He gives 10 tips on welfare reform which includes:

Always promote personal responsibility. The minute an applicant believes that government will solve all of her problems, she loses. Accepting responsibility for one’s own future is the vital first step to moving up. . .

Employment is far better than training and education. In the years leading up to the passage of the federal welfare-reform legislation, study after study showed that programs that encouraged training and education over rapid employment proved less successful at getting people into jobs that lasted.  . .

The priority should be work first, then education or on-the-job training as a supplement.

Making work pay is welfare reform too. Being off of cash welfare does not mean a person is off of all assistance. Not only are a lot of former cash-welfare recipients still dependent on some form of assistance, but the increasing use of these programs means that total spending has not been reduced as a result of federal welfare reform. It has actually increased.

Food-stamp benefits, child-care vouchers, and public health insurance all were part of this arsenal of non-cash “work supports” that we promoted in New York. And so long as these forms of government assistance went to working people, the public was supportive. . .

Be honest about the importance of married two-parent families. Very few families with married and involved parents, both working, ever need any form of welfare. This is why I came to believe that it was dishonest for us not to talk about the importance of parents’ marriage in reducing the poverty of children. Children need stable, two-parent families. No government or public program can replace a missing parent. It was the recognition of government’s inadequate response to the problem — and my desire to be honest about it — that led us to put together the city’s public-messaging campaign about the consequences of teen pregnancy.. . . 

Caseworkers don’t cost much; benefits do. I understand the temptation to rail against bureaucrats and bureaucracy, but in welfare the money is spent mostly on benefits to clients, not the administrative costs of the agency. Welfare-administration costs are typically less than 5 percent of a program’s total costs. . .

Welfare recipients (and workers too) will try to “get over.” “To get over” is a very New York expression meaning to steal – usually from government and usually to obtain benefits that one isn’t entitled to. There’s no better opportunity for it than welfare programs. Turning a blind eye to the potential for fraud and abuse is naïve.. .

The vast majority of expenditures in welfare programs are consistent with program rules and not fraudulent. But the overall size of the spending is so great that even a 5 percent error rate is significant. And, more important, taxpayers have a right to expect that spending on programs be managed properly. . . .

When it comes to the disabled, trust but verify. Obviously a work-based welfare program can’t be successful if someone is too sick or disabled to work. But accepting disability claims at face value isn’t the right answer either. That’s why we set up a whole separate (and, yes, bureaucratic) process for welfare applicants who claimed they could not work because of some physical or mental condition. . .

Over the years, we found thousands of people who said they could not work but in fact could. We helped an equal number improve their underlying conditions so that they could go to work. And we helped those who really did qualify for the federal program gather the documentation necessary to apply.Always cheer for the economy. I spent seven years running New York City’s welfare programs for Michael Bloomberg, and as proud as I was of what our social-service programs provided to poor New Yorkers, I never forgot that perhaps the most important key to helping struggling families was a vibrant economy that offered an abundance of entry-level jobs. That’s why I was always first in line to support and encourage every kind of thoughtful economic-development idea that promised job creation.   . .

To make welfare programs succeed, always cheer for the economy, and those who nurture it. . .

All of these factors apply just as much in New Zealand as New York.

Welfare reforms that work are better for the people who move from welfare to work, or who get the right help because they can’t work.

The benefits aren’t just economic they’re social too with improvements in positive statistics like health and decreases in negative ones like crime.

Welfare reforms that work pay-off for us all.

Hat Tip AEIdeas


Successful succession

April 15, 2014

A recent Baker and Associates’ weekly AgLetter* included Rob McCreary’s thoughts on succession planning, given at the Wairarapa Farm Business of the Year Field Day.

1. Rob’s farther was an academic. The greatest thing his father passed on to Rob was no expectation of succession!

2. You have to define what you mean by succession vs inheritance. In Rob’s view, succession is about investing in the energy, youth and enthusiasm of the next generation. It’s also about handing on your experience and being a mentor to the next generation. Inheritance is simply getting what’s left at the end.

3. It’s important to pass on some debt, as well as assets.

4. Make sure the kids have a business or a part of a business that they can stamp their mark on.

5. Because children work in their family businesses, there is an automatic expectation of succession. In older businesses, this expectation is probably a lot stronger, and therefore needs a lot more management.

6. If it’s important to treat all children equally, their net equity will only be equal for one day. After that day, their own business skills and external forces will change what that equity becomes. This is a fact of life. There should be no come‐back.

7. For a successful succession plan, your business needs to grow. Concentrate on improving the things that increase income. Don’t over‐capitalise. Buy more land. Spread your business.

8. Carry out your succession plan as early as you can. This gives your kids more opportunity to do something with their own equity.

9. All the young people I’ve come to know who have been given this type of help have driven their business further and better than the last generation.

 Succession is a generally complex which will be different for every business.

One measure of successful succession is that all parties are still talking to each other when it’s done.

If one or more offspring wish to farm and others don’t, it’s easier if there’s some off-farm investments for the latter. Not all farms generate enough income to enable this and many prefer to put any profit back into the farm.

Some people think it has to be equal to be fair, others are sure that fair isn’t always equal and equal isn’t always fair.

Regardless of which side you take on this, point 6 is right. Even if all are treated equally their net equity will only be equal ont he day they get it. After that it’s up to them.

* You can see more about the AgLetter and how to subscribe here.

The AgLetter is a weekly publication, which provides timely management and marketing information to sheep, beef and deer farmers throughout the country. Established in 1986, the AgLetter has become a valuable source of information and humour for a large number of subscribers stretching from south Auckland to Southland.

Each week, the AgLetter provides an overview of:

  • Topical management advice
  • Industry Issues
  • Store market prices
  • Export schedule price
  • Market analysis

Detailed prices on export schedules and store sales are provided.

In addition, special topics are covered each week that may range from stock trading profitability analysis, fertiliser price and product reviews, industry developments such as carbon trading, new financial instruments or drench resistance. . .

It’s well written, easy to read and informative.


Are we in denial?

April 15, 2014

Are we an nation in denial?

This is the question Sir David Skegg, president of the Royal Society of New Zealand asks:

. . . Every New Zealander knows that one of the worst threats to our natural environment is the degradation of rivers and lakes.

Some fresh waterways that were previously clean and inviting have become choked with weeds, slime and algal blooms – with adverse effects on insects, fish, and birds as well.

Two other facts are widely known. First, a major reason for the pollution of waterways is the expansion of the dairy industry.

Second, dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest source of export dollars.

Every one of us benefits from the success of the dairy industry. Without its recent expansion, our economic situation might be gloomy today.

Driving through the South Island, I have seen small towns that were dying rejuvenated by local dairy conversions. And I am conscious the sectors in which I work – health, education and research – are crucially dependent on a vibrant economy.

In November, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issued a report in which she concludes that New Zealand faces ”a classic economy versus environment dilemma”. Jan Wright’s advice is worded diplomatically, but her message is blunt.

Unless New Zealand takes urgent steps to slow the expansion of dairying, many more rivers and lakes will be degraded. None of the steps being taken to lessen environmental impacts can reverse this trend in the near future.

This sobering conclusion emerges ineluctably from analyses linking two models – one predicting changes in land use between now and 2020, and the other predicting the amounts of unwanted nutrients (especially nitrogen) running off farms into streams and rivers.

Dairy farming has become more intensive, leading to a remarkable 60% increase in productivity per hectare over the past 20 years. This has been achieved by applying more water, more supplementary feed and more nitrogen fertiliser to the land.

While good news in terms of revenue, such intensification leads to increased run-off of pollutants into rivers. But the modelling in Dr Wright’s report shows that although intensification is an important factor in the degradation of rivers, the conversion of more and more land to dairy farms is having the greater impact nationwide.

Despite rhetoric from critics about ”dirty dairying”, many farmers have made sterling efforts to reduce the run-off of nutrients from their land. Measures taken include fencing streams and planting ”riparian strips” along river banks.

Unfortunately, such precautions have a limited effect on the seepage of nitrogen (mainly from animal urine patches) into waterways. Other measures – such as employing nitrogen fertiliser more efficiently or breeding animals that excrete less nitrogen – may eventually yield benefits.

Yet a group of experts convened by the commissioner concluded that even taking an optimistic view, plausible improvements by 2020 could at best balance the effects of likely further intensification.

They could not counteract the much greater threat from expanding the number of hectares used for dairying.

Forecasts based on modelling can never be exact, and sometimes they can be wrong. In the four months since Dr Wright’s report was released, however, I have seen no expert rebuttal of her main conclusion.

I have tried to read all the statements issued by agencies involved. That has been a depressing task, because so many have ducked the key point. Consider a couple of examples.

DairyNZ assured citizens that it is ”working with farmers, regional councils and other stakeholders to contribute to desired water outcomes”. IrrigationNZ rubbished the report and thought ”a far more useful question to be tackled is how we grow farming whilst at the same time improve water quality”.

Two of the most cautious and realistic responses were from Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

The Minister for the Environment was less troubled. While acknowledging the need for more work, she was ”confident that with the combined will of our council, communities, iwi, and water users – and with the support of our science community – we will see significant water quality gains within a generation”.

Scientific research certainly has a role to play, but unfortunately investment in this area has been ramped up only recently and is still modest in comparison with the size of the industry.

There is an urgent need to build scientific capability, and I hope the proposed National Science Challenge (”Our Land and Water”) will help to achieve this. We need to be realistic about what can be delivered in a short period: Dr Wright’s experts did not envisage any breakthroughs that could improve things materially by 2020.

The Government has targets that appear mutually contradictory. One target is to double the value of agricultural exports by 2025. As part of this effort, irrigation schemes are being funded to expand the areas suitable for dairying.

On the other hand, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management requires that the overall quality of fresh water within each region must be maintained or improved. In the light of Dr Wright’s report, can anyone explain how these aims could be reconciled?

We face urgent and difficult choices. If we want to restrict the expansion of dairying in vulnerable river catchments, are we prepared to contemplate a less buoyant economy – at least in the short term?

If we do not limit the expansion, what will be the impact on our second major export earner (tourism) as well as on our quality of life?

How could restrictions be implemented in a way that is equitable for farmers and regions? But before it’s too late, let’s stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Sir David has very clearly outlined the issues, acknowledging both the need for clean water and economic growth.

There are already restrictions on dairying in some places.

There is also far more effort going into cleaning up waterways that have been degraded and in maintaining and improving on those with higher quality.

And there is a pressing need for more science capability and for new technology such as the system designed to eliminate waste water on farms:

A new Kiwi designed water filtration system which can eliminate waste water could save New Zealand wineries thousands of dollars annually, has significant export potential for international wine producers and is already being championed by the local dairy industry.

The new waste management process created by Scott Biotechnologies and Allan Scott winemaker Matt Elrick, is designed to rapidly filter the winery’s waste fluids allowing the clean, odourless by product to be reused as irrigation for the vines.

Elrick says the new prototype was created to deal with the Allan Scott winery’s wastewater after growing frustration with traditional wastewater disposal methods, which were expensive, created ponding and associated issues.

He says wineries throughout New Zealand have already tried and failed to come up with a better system for dealing with waste-water at peak times, but many simply revert back to the simple septic tank system.

“With a traditional tank system wastewater settles in a tank, overflows into the next tank, settles there then overflows into the next tank. This means at harvest there often isn’t enough settling time so solids and nutrients tend to jump through the systems faster than the system needs to allow it to be treated, that means you end up with a pretty bad smell,” he says.

The new system which Elrick helped design, means wastewater will now be pumped through a spin separator which uses a cannon to create a centrifugal force and allow clean water to be ejected out of the top and sludge to be forced out of the bottom.

“The clear water goes direct to a discharge tank where it is further filtered and discharged via drip irrigation line onto the vineyard. The remaining sludge waste solids goes through a series of chambers where it can be easily scattered around the vineyard to release its nutrients,” he says.

Elrick believes the technology has significant potential for both wineries and other industries which produce wastewater – including the growing dairy industry.

It is capable of rapidly processing the waste product from winery’s entire harvest without any delay or loss of production efficiency.

“Excess waste production is a huge issues for New Zealand’s horticultural and agricultural industries. In addition to making us more environmentally friendly, this cost reduction technology will also make us more competitive internationally.” says Elrick.

“Essentially we are using our winery wash-downs to create a reusable resource, which is reducing the amount of water drawn from the bore to irrigate our vineyard,” he says. . .

I don’t think we are in denial.

There should be no debate about the importance of clean water.

It’s what we drink, wash with and swim in.

But nor should there be any debate about the importance of economic growth for the social and environmental benefits it can provide.

We can’t have our cake and eat it too. But with good science and improved technology we should be able to have high environmental standards and economic growth.

 

 


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