Rural round-up

July 22, 2014

Lepto danger with flood waters:

RURAL WOMEN New Zealand  reminds Far North farming families to be mindful about health issues in dealing with flood waters, including the elevated risk of leptospirosis.

Families should be careful about drinking water, pull on their gumboots, wash hands and faces thoroughly, and cover cuts and grazes before they come into contact with flood water to reduce the chance of getting infections, in particular leptospirosis, Rural Women says.

The leptospirosis bacteria is shed in the urine from infected animals including stock, rodents, dogs, possums, and hedgehogs and is more easily spread about where there is excess surface water as the Far North is currently experiencing. . .

Free lunch for Northland farmers:

WHO SAYS there’s no such thing as a free lunch – or dinner, asks the Northland Rural Support Trust.

It is holding free lunch or dinners for flood-hit Northland starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 23).

“We can’t stop it raining, but here’s a chance to have a dinner you don’t have to cook and an opportunity to talk to other storm affected folk plus pick the brains of some support people,” the Support Trust says to farmers.

Free food and drink is supplied at each event thanks to the trust and local merchants. . .

Stark difference between NZ and Australian dairying but why? – Pasture to Profit:

The visual & financial differences between the New Zealand & Australian dairy industries at the current time are stark and startling!

Why is the NZ dairy industry booming and Australian dairy farmers under so much pressure & having to dig deep to remain profitable. Both dairy industries supply into the same international market and Australia has a much bigger domestic population and local market. A strong local market is often argued as being a strength and likely to lift dairy farmers farm gate price. The economy in both countries is relatively strong & to a large extent was not greatly affected by the world financial crisis. Yet one dairy industry is hanging in by their fingernails while the other is buoyed (perhaps unrealistically!) by higher milk prices. . . .

AbacusBio finalist in sheep awards – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based AbacusBio and its managing director Neville Jopson both feature among the finalists in this year’s Beef and Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards.

After being held in the South for the past two years, the awards have been shifted to Napier and will be held on August 6.

Dr Jopson is a finalist in one of two new categories – the sheep industry science award, which recognises a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming. . .

Decision on effluent area reserved:

An Environment Southland hearing committee has reserved its decision on whether Southland meat processor South Pacific Meats (SPM) can spread effluent on to a larger area of farmland in northern Southland.

SPM, jointly owned by Affco New Zealand and Talleys Fisheries Ltd, opened a plant at Awarua, south of Invercargill, in 2005.

Last year, it gained consent from Environment Southland to spread sludge from the bottom of its wastewater treatment pond on to 55.5ha of a 1033ha sheep farm near Garston. . . .

Farms: the abuse of children –  A Farm Girl’s Fight:

Recently, I was reading some blogs and websites of organizations and individuals that oppose farmers. These websites have “facts” that are outrageous. Luckily, these facts have “sources” attached….that link back to their own website. Anyway, it’s humorous to me, and gives me ideas for my blogs. And let me tell you what. I am fired up.

There was a sentence on one of the websites (which no I will not link to their website) that stated:

“Farmers are awful people that often take advantage of underage children, often their own, forcing them into a life of work and learning of inhumane ways.”
Let me tell you something. With the exception of the “inhumane ways” addition, that statement is damn true and I am darn proud of it. . . .

 


Quota bad for health

July 21, 2014

Tim Worstall shows that public health campaigners  don’t understand economics:

. . . The European Union is taking the next step in reforming the entirely absurd sugar regime, making it marginally less awful. The public health wallahs are shouting that this might make sugar cheaper, to the point where everyone will explode from eating too much of it.

No, really:

Controversial agricultural reforms by the European Union could cause sugar levels in food and drink to rise, experts have warned.

Campaigners said it was “perverse” that the EU was planning to lift sugar production quotas at a time when health authorities are advising people to reduce their consumption of the ingredient. . . .

The move is expected to make sugar cheaper for food and drink manufacturers, prompting fears it will encourage them to use rising levels of the ingredient. Dr Aseem Malhotra, science director of Action on Sugar, a campaign group, said it would be “disastrous” for public health.

Oh dear.

They’ve really not understood what’s going on here at all.

In the nightmare world of EU agricultural policies the abolition of quota does not mean that prices are going to fall. For what actually happens is that if you grow sugar beet then there’s two prices which you can sell that deformed mangelwurzel to the processor at. One, a guaranteed one, much higher than a free market price, is only available if you have quota to go with your sugar beet. The other price is very much lower than a free market price and almost no one ever tries to grow beet without quota as a result.

The important point about the abolition of quota is not that it abolishes quota. It is that if there is no quota then beet with or without quota cannot gain that guaranteed price. Thus the price on offer to Europe’s sugar beet growers is going to fall: all other things being equal we’ll thus have less beet being grown. And thus less sugar being taken into storage and then subsidised by the EU when it is later dumped on the food manufacturers.

The abolition of quota will lead to less sugar being produced. And the public health campaigners are arguing against the abolition of quota to stop less sugar being produced. . .

Removing quota will not just have economic benefits, contrary to what the campaigners say, it could have health ones too.


Rural round-up

July 20, 2014

Back agriculture back our Roads:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Government’s announcement to increase investment in our deteriorating rural roads, but has concerns at whether it will be enough.

“A proposed increase of 4.3 percent per annum for local road improvements, and a 2.4 percent increase for local road maintenance, is long overdue but it remains to be seen whether it is enough.” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government Spokesperson.

“To date, the investment in our rural roads has not kept up with inflation and it is evident in each pot hole and/or goat track that farmers, families, school buses and contractors navigate everyday.

“We are pleased this is now being addressed but is it a sufficient recognition of the importance of roading to an economy reliant on primary production, and in turn it’s long rural roads? . . .

More places earmarked for rural medical students:

Health Minister Tony Ryall has today announced there will be an additional 34 medical places for students next year at our two medical schools, including more positions earmarked for rural students.

Mr Ryall made the announcement at Taumarunui Hospital, a busy rural health facility in the King Country with around 100 staff. 

“Research shows that students who grew up in rural areas, such as Taumarunui, are more likely to go back and work in those areas. These extra places will help encourage more doctors to work in our rural communities,” says Mr Ryall.

“Since 2009 this government has now funded 170 extra medical school places. . . .

New Zealand Seafood Industry Assures Australian Consumers that its Seafood is Sustainable:

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) list of imported fish that it’s telling consumers to stay away from, sounds like an ‘underarm delivery’ to the New Zealand industry.

Seafood New Zealand’s Chairman George Clement says it seems that the AMCS is has just gone through a list of imported seafood to arbitrarily warn people against most of it.

“Species by species, as we go through them, we can see how misinformed the AMCS report is. They’ve provided no transparent criteria nor openness in their assessments. There’s no indication that they have actually challenged themselves to examine the facts when they’ve drawn up their list.” . . .

Seafood New Zealand welcomes community funding for seabird conservation work:

Seafood New Zealand today welcomed Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith’s announcement that the Government will provide $300,000 of funding to two community groups to support their work in protecting some of New Zealand’s special seabirds.

The seafood industry is one of the founding partners in the Southern Seabird Solutions Trust which has received $100,000 towards a seabird smart recreational fishing initiative that aims to reduce the number of birds accidentally caught by recreational fishers in the upper North Island. . . .

From the last will and testament of a farmer c1986 – Gravedodger:

To my Wife,  my bank overdraft. Maybe she has an explanation for it.

To my Banker, I bequeath my soul, he has the mortgage on it anyway.

To my nearest and dearest neighbor, my clown suit, he claims he is going to carry on farming.

To The Rural Bank, my grain silo and my Fertilizer Bin, he has them as chattel security anyway.

To the local scrap metal dealer, every item of crap machinery I have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep from his possession. . . .

Otago woman named NZ’s top young amenity horticulturist:

New Zealand’s top young amenity horticulturist has been found after an intense day of competition at the Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year event in Hamilton yesterday.

The annual competition is run by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) and serves as the qualifier for the prestigious Horticulturist of the Year competition, which will be hosted in Auckland in November.

Otago woman Sarah Fenwick emerged as the judge’s choice after planning, planting and potting her way to victory. The 30-year-old former vet nurse narrowly beat second place getter Josh van der Hulst, from Kamo, to take out the prize. . . .

Tax officials to work with bloodstock breeding industry:

Racing Minister Nathan Guy and Revenue Minister Todd McClay have confirmed that Inland Revenue officials will work with the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association on a number of tax issues raised by the industry.

The issues cover questions the NZTBA has over the application of tax rules for the industry and are expected to be dealt with as part of the normal consultative process between the private sector and tax officials.

“We are confident that the majority of the issues can be worked through, providing a positive result and greater certainty for what is an important industry to New Zealand,” Mr McClay says. . . .

Entries open for New Zealand’s largest A&P Show:

Show organisers for the 2014 Canterbury A&P Show are calling upon showing enthusiasts from throughout New Zealand to send in their entries and compete in the country’s largest Agricultural and Pastoral Show. For over 150 years, The Show has been attracting and showcasing New Zealand’s best animals and talented competitors. In addition to showing success, exhibitors will be competing for over $100,000 in prize money.

More than 3000 animals and close to 1000 competitors are expected to compete in 1700 classes including sections for horse and pony, beef and dairy cattle, sheep, alpaca, llama, wool, goat, dog trials, poultry, shearing and woolhandling, woodchopping and vintage machinery. Entries are also open for two of the feature competitions of The Show – the Mint Lamb Competition where New Zealand’s top lambs are put to a taste test, and the Young Auctioneers Competition where up-and-coming stock agents get to show off their skills. . . .


Rural round-up

July 1, 2014

A specialist land-based institution is essential for New Zealand :

Lincoln is New Zealand’s specialist land-based university. Its research and qualifications cover agriculture, yet also life sciences, conservation and ecology, environmental management, tourism, agribusiness, property management, and landscape architecture. This is a tried and true, and successful, model internationally.

Lincoln suffered in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes.  It is now recovering. Unlike most other New Zealand universities, international student numbers at Lincoln are growing strongly, and domestic student numbers have been maintained over the last few years. This is most likely a reflection of the extremely high employment rate of Lincoln’s graduates, and the increasing demand for them as reflected in a recent Ministry of Primary Industries’ report.

The one or two recent opinion pieces regarding the university’s reorganisation are unfortunate, but perhaps not surprising. The University is strengthening its focus on its core purposes – to help Feed the world, Protect the future and help people Live well – and this has necessitated changes in the organisational structure and staffing of the institution, as well as its portfolio of qualifications. . . .

Landcorp considers business case for milking sheep – Pam Graham:

(BusinessDesk) – Landcorp, New Zealand’s largest corporate farmer, is having a serious look at milking sheep and will decide in a few months whether there is a business case for it.

Chief executive Steven Carden, who is about one year in the job, says the board gave him a broad mandate to look expansively at opportunities and milking sheep is one he has come up with.

Landcorp has a flock of about 850,000 ewes, none of which it milks, but it leases about 1,500 to Invercargill-based Blue River Dairy, an existing processor of sheep milk.

“Landcorp has been a very successful sheep farmer for many years,” Carden said. At present the state-owned company produces wool and meat but sees an opportunity in the sheep milk industry where there is no real international player. Sheep milk consumer products are established in many countries but they are largely produced domestically. . .

FE research to save farmers millions -

A partnership of CRV Ambreed and AgResearch is helping reduce the impact of facial eczema (FE) in dairy cattle by developing genetics that make cows more tolerant to the disease which costs the dairy industry $160 million a year.

The artificial breeding company and AgResearch were working together under the auspices of the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP).

CRV Ambreed genetic development strategist Phil Beatson said dairy farmers knew facial eczema was a cruel disease that could be incredibly stressful for cattle and an economic risk to their businesses through lowered milk production, weight loss, and stock deaths. . .

Cotton onBernard Lilburn:

Brothers Jono and Jack Lilburn from Manawatu were in a gang of six Kiwi blokes taking on the cotton harvest at Cubbie Station last summer. The numbers are huge, just like the machinery. Bernard Lilburn visited his sons to check out their day job.

The numbers around growing cotton in Australia are truly mind boggling. Contractor Steve O’Brien, based in Gunnedah in northern New South Wales, is a true blue Aussie and one that has some serious commitment to the cotton industry in his region. 

His “region” covers an area about the size of the North Island of New Zealand and he has four 7760 John Deere cotton pickers or round module balers (RMBs) with a replacement value of US$880,000 each! He usually replaces two every year. He also needs at least two 300 horse power tractors to pick up the bales as they come out of the pickers. . .

New pasture tool in the pipeline:

A NOVEL pasture meter jointly developed by English and Irish entrepreneurs was unveiled on the Enterprise Ireland stand at Fieldays.

The Grassometer uses four optical sensors to gauge pasture covers as the operator walks the farm. Its developers believe it is more accurate and convenient than the Platemeter or C-Dax now sold.

“The data is instantly transferred to your computer or smartphone as you walk the paddock and there’s no converting centimetres of pasture into kilogrammes of drymatter: it’s all done for you,” Sam Hoste, commercial manager of Monford Ag Systems, told Rural News. . . .

The Caveman Couch Potato: Lincoln researchers analyse the evolution of sedentary behaviour:

They are credited for the latest diet fads and lauded as exemplars of physical fitness, but were the cavemen and women of our distant past really the best examples of a healthy lifestyle?

The modern epidemic of obesity and disease is often blamed on the rise of a sedentary society, in which we alternate between sitting at the office and on the couch, with only a car ride in between. However, in a paper on ‘Sedentary behaviour and chronic disease’ published in Perspectives in Public Health, two Lincoln University researchers, Associate Professor  Mike Hamlin and Senior Lecturer Adrian Paterson have highlighted that modern society isn’t necessarily more sedentary than that of early hunter-gatherers. They also argue that sedentary behaviour has an important role in society that was as useful to our ancestors as it is today. . .


Rural round-up

June 24, 2014

Optimistic over farming sector’s future - Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills stands down next month after three years in the role. He talks to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about his tenure and his optimism for the agricultural industry’s future.

His desk might have been cleared in Wellington but New Zealand’s farming community can be assured they have not seen the last of Bruce Wills.

After three years at the governance helm of Federated Farmers and a prior three-year tenure as meat and fibre chairman, his involvement, following the organisation’s annual meeting on July 4, will only be as a ”very loyal” member. . .

Why a carbon tax is udderly useless to us – William Rolleston:

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change.

Yet the Green Party’s proposal to tax biological emissions is bad policy for climate change and the economy.

Along with every other New Zealander, farmers already pay for their carbon-dioxide emissions in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. The issue, the Greens argue, boils down to biological emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide.

Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas generated by bacteria in the stomach of farm animals. It lasts around seven years before being converted back to carbon dioxide which is taken up by plants. The methane cycle is complete when animals eat those plants in turn. Methane is measured as kilograms of carbon dioxide based on a 100-year time frame.

This time frame has been chosen by international agreement but any period could have been chosen. . .

Harriet takes on shepherds challenge - Sally Rae:

Harriet Gardner admits she might not be the ”fastest in the world” at it – but she can shear a sheep.

That skill will be crucial when Miss Gardner (20) takes part in the preliminary round of competition at the World Young Shepherds Challenge at Lincoln from July 3-5.

The competition will be held alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand final events. It will consist of shearing, condition scoring, a quad bike obstacle course, identifying sheep breeds, feet trimming, drenching, counting sheep and demonstrating knowledge ofthe sheep industry. . .

$75m for NZ-Singapore ‘Foods for Health’ projects:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government will invest NZ$1.75 million to fund New Zealand-Singapore collaborative research projects on the development of food products with validated health benefits. 

New Zealand’s investment will be matched by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), bringing the total investment amount to approximately NZ$3.5 million over two years.

“One of the goals of the Business Growth Agenda is to grow exports from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Continuing to develop our innovation in the food science and technology industry will be a key contributor to achieving this,” Mr Joyce says. . . .

A champion for farming :

Fiona Hancox’s father was Colin Richardson, a man who started life as a townie, before eventually owning 12 West Otago farms as well as being extensively involved in farming politics.

Although the son of a tailor, he decided at an early age he wanted to be a farmer.

His first agricultural job was on a property at Crookston, before moving to Gimmerburn to work for the Paterson family and to be a fencing contractor.

Jim Paterson helped him into his first farm – Avalon – at Heriot, when he was 24. . .

Former chair appointed to deer board:

Clive Jermy OMNZ, a well-known red deer stud breeder, has been appointed to the board of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) for a three-year term. He is one of four producer board members, replacing Tim Aitken, Hawkes Bay.

Mr Jermy is a former board chair, standing down in 2007. Before that he was chair of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association.

NZDFA selection and appointments panel chair David Stevens said the panel had interviewed three skilled and talented candidates and the decision process was extremely challenging. The unsuccessful candidates were Tim Aitken, who stood for re-election and Otago-based businessman and deer farmer Grant Cochrane. . .

 


Even better without boxing

June 23, 2014

When Sally-Ann Donelly of Fat Sally’s and Portside decides to raise money for a good cause, she doesn’t muck about.

On Saturday night she did it superbly with the Portside Punch Charity Boxing event.

As always with a successful event there was a team  who worked hard, but she led it and it is thanks to her it went so well.

An empty wool store at the harbour was transformed into a warm and welcoming dinner venue with a full-size boxing ring in the middle.

Tables of 10 were sold for $2,5000 and there was a full house.

Ten locals had been training since January to provide the entertainment.

Among them was mayor Gary Kircher  who posted this photo on Facebook:

Photo: It's started! First fight - Mel Tavendale very.  Chontelle Watson!

It was the first boxing match I’d attended and my preconceived notions about it were confirmed.

I can understand how you can injure someone by accident in sport but can’t understand how hurting your opponent can be the object of the exercise.

A friend shared my view that the whole night would have been even better without the boxing and said next time she’d prefer to watch jelly or mud wrestling where no-one would be deliberately hurt.

That said, I have a new respect for the agility and fitness of boxers.

The competitors had taken their training seriously but even so were absolutely stonkered by the end of three three-minute rounds.

And there was no doubt the evening was a success.

The entry fee and half-time auction would have raised around $100,000 which is a very good foundation for the Otago Hospice Trust’s campaign to build a hospice in Oamaru.

That is a very large sum of money to be raised in a relatively small community with a single event and there’s no doubt the hospice was the winner on the night thanks to Sally-Ann’s leadership and hard work.


Going without alcohol

June 22, 2014

Tonight’s Sunday feature Mrs D is Going Without was a powerful and moving story.

Lotta Dann told how alcohol came to dominate her life and how she gave it up.

One of the things which helped her was her blog – Mrs D Is Going Without .

There will be very few people who don’t have someone with alcohol problems in their circle of family and friends.

Not all those with problems will be alcoholics.

Many who are will be high functioning and manage to go about normal life in spite of their addiction.

Going public as Lotta did tonight took a lot of courage, I know of one family who has already found it has provided help.

 

 

 


The People’s Report

June 17, 2014

The People’s Report – the result of the inquiry into violence funded by Owen Glenn – which was released yesterday claims a “dysfunctional” court system, “broken” social services and a binge-drinking culture form major barriers to protecting children and stopping family violence.

Its’ recommendations include:

  • Fragmented services brought to a single point of access;
  • A code of rights and an independent forum where victims and survivors can be heard and air their grievances;
  • Recognition child abuse and domestic violence happens in all parts of society and is often considered normal;
  • Address poverty and social differences and require agencies to collaborate;
  • Recognise professionals, frontline workers and legal professionals need better training.
There might be merit in the first two and the third is true – contrary to popular belief domestic violence and child abuse aren’t restricted to the poor and uneducated.
That spoils the imperative for the fourth point – addressing poverty and social differences.
There are very good reasons for addressing the causes of poverty but if domestic violence happens in all parts of society relieving poverty won’t solve the problem.
Another recommendation is to remove the presumption of innocence so the burden of proof falls on the alleged perpetrator.
That is a perversion of one of the tenets on which our justice system is built – that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
Another contributing factor mentioned is binge drinking.
There are lots of good reasons for tackling that too – but does alcohol fuel violence or do violent people drink more?
I’ve seen lots of drunks who aren’t violent people sober and none have become violent when drunk.
Domestic violence and child abuse are dark stains on our society.
The causes are complex and solutions must be based on more than anecdotes.

The full report is here.


Long term change

June 11, 2014

Thought for the day:

A terrific blog by Ragen Chastain entitled 'Seriously, weight loss doesn't work'. As many of you will know, I have been beating this drum for many years. There is now seemingly growing awareness of this every day. The tide is definitely turning!!</p><br />
<p>For the article see: <a href=http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/seriously-weight-loss-doesnt-work/</p&gt;
<p>And the ifnotdieting empowerment card is:<br />
‘If we want to make long-term change, we can only continue to work on what we can change in a long-term way.'” width=”465″ height=”394″ />

It comes from Dr Rick Kausman, author of If not dieting, then what? but has a far more universal application.


Budget works for women

May 23, 2014

A few decades ago James K. Baxter wrote about National Mum and Labour Dad.

Things went downhill after that and until recently national has found it harder to win women’s support.

The good news is that has been changing and the Budget has helped to woo women:

The Key Govt, which is fighting to keep its support base around the 46% mark, got an unexpected bonus from the budget last week, with what could be a decisive shift in support from women voters. Trans-Tasman understands private polling showed women reacted positively to the measures announced in the budget for free GP visits and free prescriptions for children under 13, improvements to paid parental leave, a lift in the parental tax credit from $150 a week to $220 a week, and the move to make early childhood centres more accessible and affordable. In reporting their feedback from the budget National backbenchers also noted the intense response from women to measures which were seen to be directing some of the fruits of economic success to where support is most needed. Traditionally National’s support base has been weakest among women voters, especially in the 20-to-40 age group, and in this election it may be more vital than previously to ensure it maximises its vote in this segment.

It was a family-friendly Budget.
Maggie Barry MP's photo.

But it wasn’t just family-friendly, it was also business-friendly.

There has also been a positive reaction from the business sector whose priority is for the Govt to deliver on the basics and ensure the economy is moving in the right direction. This is particularly important where business is moving through the phase of investing in new plant and machinery. The interesting new feature in budgetary responses is coming from iwi leaders who seek dialogue with the Govt, as they plan developments in the wake of major Treaty settlements.

That last point is a welcome sign of what happens when iwi move from grievance to growth.


Petition gives wrong impression

May 21, 2014

When I saw a Facebook post asking people to sing Labour’s petition to save the Poison Helpline I thought it was being axed.

That is no doubt the impression Labour wants to give, but it’s not the right one.

The Ministry of Health, which funds the service isn’t planning to axe it, it is proposing merging it with a range of other triage, advice, counselling and referral services.

This integrated service will provide consistent, high quality advice across the country sign posting callers to appropriate services and care.

The service will provide a multi-channel approach including telephone triage and phone advice; text; email; phone applications; social media and web-based services. The enhanced telehealth service is expected to:

  • reduce the pressure on after hours primary care (ie ambulance services, doctors and emergency departments making good use of local health and injury services across the country)
  • be integrated to improve effectiveness in the development, monitoring and advertising of these services.

Services are currently delivered by a mix of commercial, university, and non-government organisations that together handle around 2 million calls by the public per year. The included services are: Healthline, Quitline, Poisonline, Immunisation advice for the public, Alcohol and drug helpline, Depression helplines and Gambling Helpline. . . .

Having one number to call would make it easier for people to the right help sooner, rather than ringing one, finding it’s not the right one and having to call another.

For example people might call  Healthline now instead of the Poisonline and even a very few minutes delay in getting the right advice could have very serious consequences.

A single number might make it easier for people who feel embarrassed about calling a drug or alcohol helpline too.

If the triaging under the new system works well, people will get the right help and get it sooner.

Instead of no service which the petition suggests, the merger should provide better service.


Rain From Nowhere

May 20, 2014

Farmers are reputed to be hardy and they have to be.

Even with modern equipment, methods and technology, farming is a physically and intellectually demanding occupation.

But that hardy exterior can and does hide deep, and too often dark, feelings:

Depression is an increasing issue for rural communities. The latest data released by the Ministry of Health shows there is a significantly higher rate of suicide in rural areas than in urban areas.

The most recent suicide rate for people living in rural areas is 16 per 100,000 people compared to 11.2 for every 100,000 people living in urban areas.

With mounting compliance costs, increasing local and central government demands, weather events, coupled with the reduced forecasted lamb and milk pay-outs, along with the normal stresses and strains of life, things are only going to get harder for rural communities. . . .

Stories about depression by Federated Farmers can be found here.

Depression among farmers isn’t peculiar to New Zealand.

Australian entertainer Murray Hartin, was concerned about it in his country and that prompted him to write this poem:

RAIN FROM NOWHERE

His cattle didn’t get a bid, they were fairly bloody poor,
What was he going to do? He couldn’t feed them anymore,
The dams were all but dry, hay was thirteen bucks a bale,
Last month’s talk of rain was just a fairytale,
His credit had run out, no chance to pay what’s owed,
Bad thoughts ran through his head as he drove down Gully Road.

“Geez, great grandad bought the place back in 1898,
“Now I’m such a useless bastard, I’ll have to shut the gate.
“Can’t support my wife and kids, not like dad and those before,
“Crikey, Grandma kept it going while Pop fought in the war.”
With depression now his master, he abandoned what was right,
There’s no place in life for failures, he’d end it all tonight. . .

You can read the rest of the poem here.


Surplus albeit small

May 15, 2014

It might be small, but Finance Minister Bill English has delivered on his promise to return the government accounts to surplus:

. . . It’s a privilege to deliver the National-led Government’s sixth Budget.

It’s a particular privilege because this is the first Budget in six years to focus on managing a growing economy rather than recovering from a domestic recession and then the global financial crisis.

A growing economy supports employment and higher wages. It provides opportunities for families. And it pays for public services that New Zealanders rely on.

Budget 2014 looks ahead to build on the hard work done by every New Zealand household and business over the past five years.

New Zealand is in a good position.

We’ve made significant progress in recent years to deliver more jobs and higher incomes.

New Zealand is one of the first developed countries to return to normal economic conditions, with a recovery led by the private sector.

Businesses are investing, wages are rising faster than inflation and our export sector is posting record results despite the headwinds of disruption in international markets and a high exchange rate.

Public agencies are working better for New Zealanders and getting better results.

On most indicators that matter, we’re moving forward as a country.

If we lock in the hard-won gains we’ve made, there’ll be many opportunities over the next decade to improve our economic fortunes and secure a brighter future for New Zealand families.

Each year, millions more consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are becoming affluent enough to want, and afford, the goods and services New Zealand produces.

Mr Speaker,

Our challenge is to muster the capital, the people and the skills to take advantage of this historic change in our prospects and lift the aspirations and prospects of every New Zealander.

That requires sticking to our course, with careful stewardship of public money, with sound, proven economic policies and with a determined focus on results from public services.

Budget 2014 shows a return to fiscal surpluses.

There will be a small surplus next year, and increasing surpluses are forecast over time. The Budget also shows the economy continuing to build momentum, with employment continuing to grow and wages continuing to rise.

But these are just forecasts and there is a lot of work to do to make them a reality.

What matters to people and families across New Zealand are the opportunities created by a sustainable economic recovery.

So an important part of this Budget is lifting New Zealand’s capacity to sustain higher levels of economic growth for longer, grow incomes and support jobs.

And what also matters to people and families is that the Government will support them when they need assistance. . . .

Other Budget highlights include:

Photo: Investing almost $500 million more in the well-being of New Zealand's children and families is at the heart of new spending in the Budget. http://ntnl.org.nz/1sPTNUX
Details of that are here and more Budget details are here


Rural round-up

May 14, 2014

Fonterra says price gap between milk powder vs casein and cheese is easing:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group, which posted a 53 percent drop in first-half profit as gains in prices of milk powder ran ahead of products such as casein and cheese, says the gap is becoming less pronounced – a sign that pressure on margins may ease.

Prices of reference commodity prices used to calculate the farmgate milk price– whole and skim milk powder, butter milk powder, butter and anhydrous milk fat – rose 44 percent to $5,981 a tonne in the third quarter while non-reference product prices, cheese and casein, rose 22 percent to $7,499 a tonne.

That’s a smaller gap than in the first quarter, when prices gained 62 percent and 22 percent respectively, the Auckland-based company said in its latest global dairy update.

Last November, Fonterra took a $157 million provision against inventory of specialised ingredients and branded consumer products produced by its NZ Milk Products division because rising input costs squeezed margins. In March this year, it posted a slump in first-half earnings as gross margin shrank to 12.5 percent from 18.6 percent. . . .

Zespri’s regular claim has scientific backing – Richard Rennie:

Zespri can stand by the claim its green kiwifruit variety helps keep humans regular, at least on the inside.

The kiwifruit marketer has added a health angle to its marketing, saying its green kiwifruit contribute to regular bowel function.

While health claims can be made at different levels, Zespri’s is backed by 10 years of clinical trial data and literature reviews by independent scientists.

Zespri is seeking recognition from Food Standards Australia-New Zealand on the benefits of green kiwifruit for healthy bowel function.

Zespri global marketing manager Veronique Parmentier said the claim was the first lodged in the world for fresh fruit. . .

New security check list for rural communities:

The Police have released a checklist to help rural New Zealanders consider the security of their farm or property.

The checklist poses questions about a range of security measures and environmental factors concerning properties, and provides the respondent with a security score at the end.

Inspector Glyn Rowland, of the NZ Police National Prevention Centre, said although there is less recorded crime in rural areas, crime does happen. . .

The check list is here.

AgInnovation events in full swing at Feilding:

It’s all go at Manfeild Park in Feilding, where Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s annual AgInnovation event is in full swing.

The four day programme pulls together what used to be a range of separate activities, culminating in the bull beef sales on Wednesday.

Beef genetics and breeding were the initial focus of the AgInnovation conference which opened on Sunday.

But more than 40 speakers will be covering sheep as well as beef issues over the two days. . .

Certification of nutrient management advisers – the icing on the cake:

 The Nutrient Management Adviser Certification process has now been available for six months and has achieved an impressive level of uptake. To date there are more than 40 certified advisers in the field, with another 60 currently in application phase.

Jason Griffin, Ballance Agri-Nutrients key and corporate accounts manager for the lower North Island, described the certification programme as “the icing on the cake” which brings together years of training and experience in nutrient management. He is grateful that the certification programme is available to formalise the level of knowledge and skills involved in effective nutrient management, and to ensure farmers are receiving advice from qualified people.

Likewise, Sue Quilter, Ravensdown key account manager for the East Coast of the North Island said “after 16 years in the field I found the certification process a valuable experience”. . . .

Jacobs Highlights Irrigation Lessons Learned at 2014 Irrigation New Zealand Conference and Expo

Representatives from Jacobs* attended the 2014 Irrigation New Zealand Conference and Expo recently held in Hawkes Bay, presenting a paper focused on lessons learned from irrigation modernisation projects undertaken in the Australian state of Victoria.

The presentation described work Jacobs is doing on the Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project (GMWCP) in northern Victoria. The objective of the A$2 billion project is to improve the irrigation delivery efficiency and achieve water savings by rationalising and modernising out-dated irrigation systems.

The GMWCP to date has focused upon:
• automation and upgrading of regulating structures in channels
• remodelling and lining of the delivery channels
• construction of pipelines to replace small spur channels or facilitate rationalisation of spur channel systems, and
• automation and accuracy upgrades for metered outlets to farms . .


Take care on grades

May 13, 2014

It’s an old message but the message is still important.

It applies to quad bikes these days too.


No testing highs on animals

May 5, 2014

The government will not allow animal testing on so-called legal highs.

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out any animal testing on legal high products.

Parliament will pass legislation this week to pull all legal high products from shop shelves until they can be proved to be safe. . . .

John Banks was the only MP to vote against the original legislation because it allowed animal testing. and he was right to do so.

(I posted supporting him here)

I accept the case for using animals to test drugs which could potentially help people but I can’t see any ethical justification for using them to test recreational drugs.

This will have the same effect as banning the drugs altogether.

That isn’t without problems is preferable to allowing tests to be carried out on animals.

 


Growing for good

May 5, 2014

The message from the opposition’s policies and their attacks on the government is that at best economic growth isn’t important and at worst there’s something wrong with it.

New Zealand National Party's photo.

They don’t seem to be able to join the dots between economic growth and the provision of services which depend on it.

Economic growth is growing for good health like this, for example:

The Government has today announced free drop-in sore-throat clinics will be expanded to target a further 90,000 children and young people who are at risk of getting rheumatic fever.

“Budget 2014 will invest an extra $20 million over the next four years to combat New Zealand’s high rate of rheumatic fever – bringing the Government’s total investment to more than $65.3 million over six years,” Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

“Excellent work is already going on across the country. Expanding a number of these initiatives will help reach more families whose children are at risk of developing this serious illness.

“The free drop-in sore-throat clinics will be rolled out in the Northland, Waikato, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay and Hutt Valley District Health Boards (DHBs).

“When the free clinics open later this year, over 200,000 children and young people in high-risk areas will have access to prompt care and treatment for sore throats.”

Mrs Turia says the Government will also expand healthy homes initiatives in the Northland, Waikato, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs. 

“These initiatives help families to address housing conditions, particularly for those families living in crowded homes, a contributing factor for rheumatic fever,” she says.

“And an extra $5 million is being invested to raise awareness of the disease, including TV and radio campaigns and information resources. The increasing profile of rheumatic fever is raising awareness with families and health professionals, and as a result more cases of rheumatic fever are being identified and treated.

“As part of the Better Public Services focus, the Government has a target to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by June 2017. This additional funding will help us achieve this goal,” Mrs Turia says.

Addressing rheumatic fever is a recommendation from the Ministerial Committee on Poverty which was negotiated in the relationship accord between the Maori Party and the Government.

Budget 2014: National's commitment to combating rheumatic fever will give another 90,000 kids access to free sore-throat clinics - http://bit.ly/1rI1oCt


Sugar isn’t the same as tobacco

May 5, 2014

Prime Minister John Key regularly tells young people not to start smoking because of the health and financial costs.

He warns them that the tax on tobacco will increase every year he’s PM, how much that would cost and tells them how much more money they’ll have if they stay smoke-free.

I fully support National’s policies to help smokers give up and deter non-smokers from taking it up.

One of the best ways to do that is tax increases which always result in an increase in people kicking the habit.

But what works for one substance won’t necessarily work for another.

Health advocates have seen increased taxes reduce the incidence of smoking and they want to apply the same measure to sugary drinks.

. . .Dr Gerhard Sundborn was so worried he set up the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel – a group of public health experts that will this month deliver a bold new proposal, obtained by The Nation, to Parliament. On its wish list is a 20 percent tax on sugar, sugar controls back in schools and more education and marketing about health risks. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union says their campaign appears to be motivated more by politics than based on science.

. . . Sugar and similar fat taxes around the world have failed to curb obesity and have turned into revenue gathering tools.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:
“Denmark’s tax on saturated fat introduced in 2011 was an economic disaster. The Danish tax was abandoned 15 months later and did little, if anything, to reduce harmful consumption. Worse, it was estimated to have cost 1,300 jobs. Why would New Zealand want to repeat this mistake?”

“Taxing the Kiwi tradition of a warm pie and can of cola won’t reduce obesity. The overseas experience tells us that it just leads to compensatory purchasing and brand switching.” . . .

“There is no doubt that we have an obesity problem in New Zealand. The evidence is that taxing an inelastic product won’t affect the consumption of those consuming too much. Tap water is free, but people still choose to pay for bottled water. A tax on Coke and Pepsi won’t stop people from over indulging.”

Sweet drinks don’t quench thirst, they make it worse. But taxing them will do little if anything to solve the obesity problem.

Sugar isn’t tobacco and fizzy drinks aren’t the only source of sugar.

If they become too expensive there are plenty of other ways people will be able to get their sugar-fix.

Some hospitals have banned sugary drinks to send a message about improving health and diet.

That’s a good idea, providing they offer healthier alternatives, including free water, but that is only a small step in a long journey.

The causes of obesity are simple – too much energy in and not enough out over time.

But solving the problem is complex and taxing sugary drinks won’t have the same impact on over consumption and lack of exercise that tax hikes have on smoking.


Rural round-up

May 3, 2014

 Govt reallocates $24 million for Rotorua water clean-up:

The Government will reallocate $24 million to a new project that encourages land owners in the Lake Rotorua catchment to switch to low nitrogen land uses or find other ways to reduce the amount of nitrogen polluting the lake water, Environment Minister Amy Adams has announced.

“The Rotorua community has asked us to shift existing funding commitments to a land use management and change project, as part of the Rotorua Te Arawa lakes water quality improvements programme,” Ms Adams says.

“The original plan was to use the money for diverting nutrient-rich streams flowing into the lake and capping sediments to stop nutrients flowing up from the lake bed. Cabinet agreed with the lake stakeholder advisory group that these short term initiatives really just shifted the problem somewhere else. . .

Rotorua farmers pleased with Government contribution to nitrogen reduction:

Farmers in the Lake Rotorua catchment were relieved to hear confirmation on Monday that the Government will fund half of a $48 million scheme to reduce nitrogen losses from pastoral land around the lake.

This money had been budgeted for “in-lake” actions so there is no additional cost to taxpayers and ratepayers who share the cost equally. The scheme is part of a wider effort to improve water quality in Lake Rotorua by reducing nutrient inputs – both nitrogen and phosphorus – from urban, rural and natural sources.

Rotorua farmers are working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and other stakeholders to develop draft rural land use rules around nitrogen. Those rules will target a 140 tonne nitrogen reduction by 2032, in addition to an incentive scheme target of 100 tonnes.  . .

Australia and New Zealand partner to fight animal disease threat:

Australia and New Zealand have agreed to work together to prepare for the unlikely event of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in either country.

Australian Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and New Zealand Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, met today in Melbourne and welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to stress the importance of collaboration in combating the disease and its devastating impacts.

“Our number one plan and focus of much of our biosecurity efforts is to keep FMD out of Australia and New Zealand—but you can’t stick your head in the sand about something this significant —you have to plan for the worst,” Minister Joyce said. . .

Vets work on drug resistance:

Vets and doctors have an obligation to work together to face the threat of resistance to anti-microbial drugs, New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) president Dr Steve Merchant says.

“The threat of anti-microbial resistance is recognised as one of the greatest risks to human and animal health and is a high priority for the veterinary profession,” he said.

“After more than 70 years since the first use of penicillin in human medicine there are a number of bacteria in circulation across the world that are resistant to one or more anti-microbials. . .

 

 Abuzz about chainsaw safety – Rebecca Malcolm:

She’s come straight from big-city beauty salons to farming, so it’s fair to say Jodie Vaughan has had a few things to learn.

The former Aucklander has been on an Atiamuri farm for only a matter of weeks after she and partner Rhys Williams moved down to take over farm management roles on the family property.

On Thursday Miss Vaughan was one of more than a dozen women who took part in a chainsaw safety workshop run by Stihl New Zealand as part of Chainsaw Safety Awareness Week, which finishes tomorrow. . .

Farmers urged to attend Ruataniwha public meetings:

With Federated Farmers’ Hawke’s Bay annual general meeting taking place next Wednesday, the Federation is urging its members to find out all they can from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

“It is true members are now putting Ruataniwha under a microscope, especially following the recent Board of Inquiry draft decision,” says Will Foley, Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay provincial president.

“I genuinely imagine Ruataniwha will be a talking point at our provincial annual general meeting, next Wednesday at Vidal’s Restaurant in Hastings. . .

 


$10.4m for sexual violence services

May 1, 2014

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew have announced $10.4 million in new operating funding to support sexual violence services over the next two years.

“This funding boost in Budget 2014 will provide immediate stability for the specialist services providing vital support for New Zealanders and their families impacted by sexual violence,” Mrs Bennett says.

“It is a basic right that people should feel safe and secure and free of fear, which is too often taken away from people through sexual violence.”

“The sector requires extra resourcing, especially around the availability of 24/7 crisis call-out and emergency counselling services.”

The extra funding will include support for:

  • Frontline crisis-response services.
  • Community-based treatment services.
  • Services for male survivors.
  • People accessing medical and forensic services.

“We’re committed to providing the right support for those working with both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence, so that when someone comes to them for help they can provide it,” Mrs Goodhew says.

“This funding, appropriated to Vote Health, provides a shot in the arm to address current funding issues.”

“This is alongside work the Government is doing with the sector on a cross-agency, long-term strategy to make sure sexual violence services are high quality, well-run and sustainable,” Mrs Bennett says.

This includes the development of a nation-wide prevention package, and a committed focus on improving sector development, funding and governance.

“It’s important the sector has financial certainty now, in order to have the security and time to best consider what the long-term approach will contain.”

While crime rates are dropping, the rate of sexual crimes is not.

That could reflect more reporting rather than more actual crimes.

Whichever it is giving victims the help they need and prevention measures are both high priorities.
We’re committed to supporting victims of sexual violence – http://bit.ly/1hRhfcg


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