Wills signs off saying politics matters

July 5, 2014

Federated Farmers retiring president Bruce Wills used his final speech in the role to say politics matters: (The bold is mine)

I want to start this, my final address as National President of Federated Farmers, with a thank you.

Thank you for the privilege of being your President, thank you for your support, and thank you for all the work you continue to do for Federated Farmers and farming.

Three years has flown by.

I have enjoyed doing ‘my bit’ to help farming remain profitable and sustainable, and like our own aspirations with our farms, I feel I have left this organisation in better heart than I found it. I will return to the hills of Hawke’s Bay later today knowing there is a very capable and competent team to take it from here.

Before signing off I want to reflect on the two things that have absorbed much of my time in this role, the economy and the environment.

The economy
Farming confidence is high and some sectors are close to being as strong now as they have ever been.

Our dairy farmers have just received their highest pay-out in history and there is a quiet optimism in the dry-stock sector with the ‘China affect’ now benefitting red meat and wool.

Food and fibre represents an extraordinary 70 percent of this country’s merchandise exports and if done well is entirely renewable. We are well on the way to doubling the value of our agricultural exports to $64 billion by 2025, on the back of an exploding world population and rising standards of living.

 

I cannot stress enough the importance of free and open trade. In six short years, China has become our biggest export partner as well as our biggest import market.

When I joined the Board of Federated Farmers, in 2008, our two way trade with China was $8 billion. Last month we broke through $20 billion and we are on track to exceed $30 billion within the next six years.

Our 2013 trade deal with Taiwan is ramping up quickly and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains a prize we must pursue with all the vigour we can.

No question, we have some challenges.
In recent days the New Zealand Dollar has approached all time highs against both the US Dollar as well as the Trade Weighted Index. This will be a significant headwind and may well prompt a slowing in further interest rate rises.

I have continually cautioned about our very high debt levels.

I note a large monthly increase of $842 million to the end of May reaching a total of just under $53 billion now loaned to our farms alone. In light of global uncertainty across many areas I am not sure how sustainable this sort of debt level is.

A few years ago Australian farmers had $70 billion of rural debt and things looked okay. Then came a serious weather event and now $10 billion of this is ‘non performing’ with a good portion of it unlikely to ever be repaid. We run the same risk here.

I have learnt in this role that ‘politics matters.’

For the past six years we have had a Government that has been largely supportive of agriculture. Should we have a change of Government on September 20, this is unlikely to continue to be the case.

Putting these challenges aside, what I have also learnt from my three years with the World Farmers Organisation is that New Zealand farmers are the envy of the world. Everywhere I travel people are stunned how a small island nation, a long way away, can be such a powerhouse when it comes to producing food and selling it competitively to the rest of the world.

I have learnt that we are a grass fed economy and what happens on our farms absolutely matters on Lambton Quay and Queen Street and all the towns in-between.

We are some of the best farmers on the planet and Agricultural exports will continue to pay the lion’s share of this country’s bills for a long time to come.

The environment
This is the flip side of the economy’s coin, the natural resources, which allow us to keep our food and fibre businesses forever renewable.

Three years ago I called for a more open and honest discussion about farming’s impact on the environment.

We have come a long way. The Land & Water Forum got us talking with all the interested parties and we listened to the concerns of others and have pursued a more collaborative approach to resolving our differences.

Getting agreement is not easy but having the science and being well informed on the issues is the key to making sensible progress. We have engaged a lot with parties right across the economy/environment spectrum and this organisation has gained significant credibility from its more reasoned and reasonable approach.

Some believe it is about winners and losers, I don’t. Farmers understand the ‘black and green’ bit well, it is difficult to invest in environmental innovation without running profitable businesses, and we certainly can’t keep farming without resilient long lasting farming practices.

The big issue of my time in this role has been water. How do we maintain and improve its quality in the face of a growing population, and an expanding and changing farm business environment?

The main focus has been the nutrients we lose from our farms finding their way into our streams, rivers and lakes. We can sort phosphorus, which is largely about good management. It is the diffuse nitrogen leaching that remains our biggest challenge.

All farmers, that I know, strive hard to be profitable and most do a wonderful job looking after their land and their water. Being sustainable is good business, and wasting expensive nutrients just doesn’t make sense.

We have seen a rapid land use change to dairying in the last twenty years. This has pushed onto lighter soils and in some areas we are seeing too many nutrients being lost. The science is telling us this and farmers have been responding for some time by fencing water ways, riparian planting, preparing strict nutrient plans and adopting more efficient irrigation.

In some sensitive areas more needs to be done, and again farmers are responding by building feed pads, herd homes or other means of controlling effluent runoff. Less inputs and reducing cow numbers are further options, and more science is needed for some. I am very encouraged at how quickly farmers are responding to this challenge.

I had the privilege last week to be in Christchurch to judge NZ’s top 10 supreme environmental winners from all around the country. They are outstanding operators leading by example, running profitable businesses, but well and truly meeting their social and environmental responsibilities as well. I think it is telling that the national winner was a large scale intensive dairy farm, on some of Canterbury’s lighter soils. This is exactly the sort of farm at the sharp end of this economy/environment conundrum that we are trying to solve.

Mark & Devon Slee milk 2,580 cows producing 1,830 kgMS/ha, or 475kgMS/cow, but with precision farming, smart science and exceptional management, are leaching the same nitrogen they were leaching in the mid ‘90’s with 70% more cows. Their immediate focus is on reducing their nutrient losses even more.

This is a clear example that we can and must do both. Whilst running efficient profitable businesses, we must do this within sustainable environmental boundaries. All the other nine finalists had very similar stories to tell.

I need to congratulate the CEO of Fish & Game, who took up my challenge of coming to this awards evening to see for himself the great results that our leading farmers are achieving and to follow this up with a Fish & Game media release that quoted the following:

“Dairying has never won the top national award before,” says Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson. “In winning the coveted Gordon Stevenson Trophy, Mark and Devon are demonstrating that environmentally sustainable and profitable dairy farming is not only possible, but up there alongside the other farming categories that have previously won the top national award.”

To ensure all New Zealanders prosper we must continue to grow our largest industry but we must also look after our environment.

This is our challenge; and as I pack my bags and hand over the reins I am more convinced than ever that this is entirely achievable and our farmers are well on the road to making this a reality.

Thank you.

Wills has left Feds, and New Zealand, better for his service.


Guard changes at Feds

July 5, 2014

Federated Farmers has a new president and CEO.

Dr William Rolleston, former vice-president was elected unopposed to lead the organisation and Graham Smith takes over as CEO.

As Vice-President since 2011, I am honoured to be entrusted with a leadership role following in the footsteps of some farming greats,” says Dr Rolleston, Federated Farmers new President.

“Federated Farmers is New Zealand’s foremost rural advocate with a proud past and strong future. 

“Our National Council knows that the President must represent the views of all members and Federated Farmers is a broad church. I endorse this principle.

“I believe we can learn from all form of farming systems, including  organic practices, so long as these are underpinned by robust science.

“Given the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change, science and innovation are key to the future of farming. Science and innovation are also key to the water quality sphere.

“I am fortunate that our Grain & Seed Industry Group chairperson, Ian Mackenzie, is staying on the Board for another year.  His work in the Land & Water Forum was publicly acknowledged yesterday by our Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Nathan Guy. 

“Ian is widely respected even among the environmental lobby.  His expertise and wise counsel will be welcome.

“As will be the support of my Vice-President, Wairarapa’s Anders Crofoot.  As our buildings spokesperson, I must acknowledge the success Federated Farmers has had in convincing Government to remove farm structures from its earthquake prone buildings Bill.

“A $170 million saving for farmers is an auspicious start for my tenure and a tangible example of the value Federated Farmers delivers for its members and farming in general.

“I will draw on the myriad of skills that the West Coast’s Katie Milne offers, especially on the high profile areas of rural security, employment and adverse events. 

“As a Board Member at large, she is joined in that capacity by Mid-Canterbury’s Chris Allen, who is fast developing expertise in water policy.

“I look forward to working with my newly elected Industry Group chairs, Rick Powdrell from Bay of Plenty for Meat and Fibre and Andrew Hoggard from Manawatu-Rangtikei for Dairy.

“Both are exceptionally talented farmers with an outstanding grasp of industry issues.

“Speaking of extremely talented people, Bruce Wills has been an inspiration to me.  His focus on environment collaboration and communication has done much to represent the modern face of farming.  These are themes I wish to continue with the new Board.

“As a Board it speaks volumes about Federated Farmers that someone of Graham Smith’s calibre came to us to be our new Chief Executive. 

“As Graham has started the handover process with Conor English I wish to thank Conor for his guidance over the period I was Vice-President and before that as a provincial president.

“I am excited by the future,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

Wills and English have overseen a change for the better in Federated Farmers for which all involved in farming and the wider rural community should be grateful.

They have provided a strong foundation on which the new leadership can build and carry on the much-needed work representing and advocating for farmers, farming and rural New Zealand.


Polson, Bilodeau Agri-people of Year

July 4, 2014

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive, Larry Bilodeau, was last night named 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson of the Year while the late Alistair Polson was named 2014 Agri Personality for 2014.

“With Te Radar as the perfect Master of Ceremonies, Federated Farmers was honoured to not only recognise all major agricultural award winners, but the two people who have emerged first among equals,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President whose term comes to an end at the conclusion of the Federation’s 2014 conference.

“It was bittersweet that we honoured the memory and outstanding contribution made by the late great Alistair Polson in making him 2014 Agri Personality of the Year.

“What made the night poignant was that his wife Bo accepted the Award on his behalf. Alistair was not only a great President of the Federation but defined selfless public service.

“Our 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson is Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau.

“While the judging is done separate of us, I wish to pay tribute to the outstanding calibre New Zealand has in our rich agribusiness and agriservices environment. They were Dr. Paul Livingstone QSO of TB Free/OspriNZ, Lindy Nelson of the Agri Woman Development Trust and Farmlands Co-operative Society Ltd Chief Executive, Brent Esler.

“All are outstanding leaders.

“Larry, as Chief Executive of New Zealand’s largest fertiliser supplier, has led the co-operative’s evolution from one focused on fertiliser to one meeting the complete farm nutrient needs of our primary industries.

“We have truly outstanding talent in farming and these awards recognise and celebrate them. Something Te Radar noted as the primary industries need to recognise success more,” Mr Wills concluded.

Giving the award to Alistair Polson posthumously is a reminder of the importance of honouring and showing our appreciation of  people when they’re alive.

I hope it gives some comfort to his family to know how much his contribution to agriculture, his community and New Zealand, are valued.

Larry Bilodeau might not be well known outside farming circles but his leadership in Ballance has been outstanding.

 


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. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 23, 2014

Leave TPP slowcoaches behind, New Zealand farmers urge

With Prime Minister John Key and President Barack Obama showing strong support for a comprehensive Trans Pacific Partnership, New Zealand farmers will support leaving countries behind that are not prepared to eliminate agricultural tariffs.

“The Trans Pacific Partnership was established to eliminate all tariffs and bring a new level of discipline to the use of non-tariff barriers,” says Bruce Wills, the National President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

“If we have a country that is not prepared to accept this reality, then they should not be allowed to slow down progress for all. . .

US milk exports affecting NZ farms – Tim Cronshaw:

Fonterra’s milk suppliers are wary of the ability of United States feedlot farmers to step up or slow down milk production faster than they can.

When grain is cheap and commodity prices are high, as was the case in the soon-to-finish 2013-14 season, this can be to the advantage of operators keeping cows in confined feedlots. As they ramp up milking, this has a bearing on world supplies and the prices Kiwi farmers receive.

Logic would say they will ease off as global commodity prices falter, but narrowing down their next move is complicated. . . .

The noblest of farmersBruce Wills:

The word nobility, to me at least, describes people who give of themselves without thought of personal advancement or enrichment.

As this will be one of my final columns as the President of Federated Farmers, I am in awe of the people who work incredibly hard for this organisation and farmers in general. To be fair, having a good team makes leadership easy and in our provinces and branches we are blessed with great people.  People who meet councillors and officers on plan changes one day, maybe Worksafe NZ the next and then may help to resolve a dispute among neighbours.  Being available 24/7, they work with the Rural Support Trusts when either we don’t have the right kind of weather or too much of it. 

Throughout it all, they still have their farm to run and their family to care for.

Our people do this because they are not just passionate about farming but they care for its future. They believe, as I do, that farmers and farming are a force for good in our country. While farming defines part of our national identity we are not immune from the odd ratbag.  In saying that, farmers are overwhelmingly honest, decent and generous folk who genuinely care. . . .

Techno Expo gets off to a flyer:

AN INAUGURAL Technology Expo run as part of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Central Otago ‘Farming For Profit’ programme has been hailed a success by organisers.

The event, in Alexandra earlier this month, featured parallel presentations from a string of companies and organisations with products, services, and – in the case of Otago Regional Council – regulations, which are set to change the way we farm.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” BLNZ central South Island extension manager Aaron Meikle told Rural News. “Both seminars have been busy all day. I’d suggest there’s been well over a 100 people come through during the day.” . . .

Couple getting in the olive groove – Gerard Hutching:

There are several ways to harvest olives: laboriously beating the trees with sticks, using a hand rake, or using a mechanical rake.

But Helen Meehan, owner of olive grove Olivo in Martinborough, in the Wairarapa, prefers the relatively new method of mechanically shaking the tree until the olives drop into nets.

It’s all about saving time, she explains, even though about 20 per cent of the crop stays on the tree. . . .


Rural round-up

June 14, 2014

Integrated agri-food value chains - Keith Woodford:

Many New Zealand agri-food companies are still struggling to understand the global shift to integrated agri-food value chains. This move has been playing out most spectacularly in the infant formula industry, where the small companies have been badly caught out, but the trend is much broader than that.

A key driver is the need to have food safety systems in place that span from consumers back to producers. It is not simply a case of the food having to be safe, it is also a case of there being a transparent evidential trail. Food testing is just a small part of this system.
A major focus has to be on overall business systems that react to first stage mistakes before they compound into major events. It was just such a failure to react to the warning signals that led Fonterra down a shambolic path with the botulism scare in 2013.

There is also a key idea relating to provenance. Consumers not only want to know that something is safe; they also want to know that they are buying is what they think they are buying, and that the brand is genuine. . .

Milk spill stopper wins innovation award – Jamie Small:

The dragons have chosen, and another farm invention is one step closer to commercial success.

For the second year running, Fieldays had its own Dragons Den-style competition for agricultural innovations.

The joint initiative, run by Fieldays and Hamilton business incubator Soda Inc, selected nine innovators from a pool of 20 to present their gadgets to a panel of experienced investors and business leaders.

The top prize, Most Viable Business, went to Pahiatua couple Graeme and Alison Franklin with the DTexH2o. . . .

Primary Industry’s outlook good:

Federated Farmers believes the ‘2014 Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries’, released by the Ministry for Primary Industries, shows a promising future for the New Zealand economy thanks to kiwi farmers.

“This report shows an increase of 16.3 percent in primary sector exports, to $37.7b on the previous year, which translates to increased farmgate incomes of 22 percent and an increase in off farm spending of 11 percent,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“These statistics remind us of the importance of exports to New Zealand, in particular the impact on farmgate incomes and spending on farm inputs, which has a direct influence on rural and provincial economies. . . .

Applauding the night away: superb exporters win top recognition:

Spectacular export growth of hundreds of chicken and turkey products has won Tegel Foods the Supreme Award in the 2014 Air New Zealand Cargo Export NZ Auckland export awards.

Prime Minister John Key presented the award last night at the Langham hotel in Auckland also attended by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and ‘Minister for Business’, Steven Joyce.

The judges said Tegel has been an iconic brand in New Zealand for more than 50 years and began developing export markets 11 years ago. . . .

Fonterra slapped with $150,000 fine over NZX disclosure – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – The New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal has fined Fonterra Cooperative Group $150,000 for breaching continuous disclosure requirements to the NZX during the dairy manufacturer and exporter’s botulism false alarm last August.

Auckland-based Fonterra undertook a world wide recall after it quarantined several batches of whey protein concentrate last August on concern it was contaminated with a potentially dangerous strain of clostridium bacteria, capable of causing botulism. The strain was ultimately shown to be harmless. . . .

Boys from the farm turn on the charm - Libby Wilson:

Fieldays’ rural bachelor contestants have done the hard yards in the leadup to their event.

The eight eligible blokes chased sheep, shot clay targets, and went zorbing on their journey from Auckland to Mystery Creek.

And the action continued yesterday, with fencing, speed-dating and cooking.

Yesterday morning they faced questions from Waikato women.

It seems ladies into a romantic but rural first anniversary picnic would be a good match with Wanganui’s Fraser Laird, 26. “I’ve got some back paddocks at the back of the farm. It’s got a bloody good view. Serious,” he said. . . .

Farmers encouraged to embrace technology - Susie Nordqvis:

Accounting firm Xero is laying down a challenge to farmers this week’s Fieldays: start embracing technology and innovation to maximise profits and grow the economy.

The innovation hub at Fieldays is not quite Dragon’s Den, but it is a sure fire way of fast-tracking participants onto the national stage.

“We have developed an ice maker that makes a slurry and you can reduce milk from 32degC down to 5degC in three seconds,” says innovation den participant Richard Upperton.

Xero says if more people followed Mr Upperton’s lead then the economy would be in better shape. . .

New Zealanders and shearing - Ali Ikram:

Sheep outnumber New Zealanders seven to one. 

They’re crucial to our economy and they get a bad wrap when it comes to their intelligence.

But there was one question we desperately wanted answered – as New Zealanders, can we all shear a sheep?

Is it innate in us – a birth-right?

Or are there some born and bred in cities who simply can’t shear, no matter what? . . .


Wills Ag Communciator of the Year

June 14, 2014

Federated Farmers’ president Bruce Wills is the 2014 Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year.

 . . .In the three years he has led Federated Farmers, Bruce has been an outstanding communicator, successfully representing the interests of farmers with his open, friendly and enthusiastic manner, helped by his willingness to listen to people.

Ahead of several other very worthy recipients, Bruce was selected by an independent panel of judges to receive this prestigious award, announced at an awards dinner in Hamilton last night.

Bruce farms with his brother at Te Pohue, on a sheep and beef operation carrying 7500 stock units. The farm is 1134 hectares, of which 800 hectares are farmed and the balance is in trees and 110 hectares which are protected through the QEII National Trust. He left a career in rural banking after 20 years to return to the family farm and has invested heavily in the long-term sustainability of the farm.

In its 28th year, the Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year Award is administered by the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators, and recognises excellence in communicating agricultural issues, events or information.

 Regarded as the premier award for agricultural communicators, it is also the most valuable prize on offer. Landcorp provides a prize of $2500, which is part of a funding package of $7500 in sponsorship for the Guild. The additional funding assists with administration costs, including the Awards dinner.

Bruce was also presented with a greenstone and timber trophy, which features a roll call of previous winners engraved on the back.

Guild President Graeme Peters said Bruce is a very worthy recipient of this year’s award.

“He is widely respected for his role in bridging the gap between rural and urban people, and has spent countless hours talking not only farmers to but also urban people, selling the importance of agriculture to New Zealand’s economy.

“His communication skills at all levels and covering all aspects of rural life are recognised by this award.”

Federated Farmers has had a much improved public profile under Wills’ leadership thanks in no part to his willingness and ability to communicate clearly and honestly.

He’s given praise when and where it’s due but has also been willing to accept criticism without being defensive.

He has been a strong advocate for farmers, farming and wider rural issues and has earned this recognition.

 

 

 


Penalising efficiency

June 8, 2014

Federate Farmers President Bruce Wills:

. . .  The Green’s Gareth Hughes was using a verbal concealer since their plan to ditch the world’s most stringent Emissions Trading Scheme for a carbon tax wasn’t mentioned.

Not mentioning the tax to a farming audience. Was he too scared to do that or did he know he couldn’t answer the questions that would follow?

With Labour scratching the immigration sore ahead of the general election, the Greens are seemingly hitting their farming button. This may reflect the pressure they’re facing from the Mana-Internet hookup. Stranger bedfellows I have never seen but it is hellishly clever branding. Just as the word Green provides a cuddly cloak, covering up less than cuddly policies, the Mana-Internet Party is even more left wing but in the smart dress down clothes of a programmer.

All will be fine until Internet Party’s leader and spin doctor are publicly put on the spot with a highly technical question, like the relative merits of Dual stack, 6rd, DS light, 4RD, MAP-T, MAP-E. That’s when the cynical branding will be revealed for what it is.

And what is it? Not so much a marriage of convenience as a temporary odd coupling for electoral advantage in the hope the funder, Kim Dotcom will be able to escape extradition.

Meanwhile, the Greens’ rhetoric around agriculture maintains the illusion that agriculture is not in the ETS when we most definitely are.

From fuel to electricity to the famous number eight wire, all farming inputs are covered by the current ETS. While surrender obligations for farm biological emissions have been deferred, what Victoria University’s Professor Martin Manning told the Science Media Centre should be noted: “Agricultural emissions increased over 2009 – 2012 due to more export of dairy products. However, the longer term trend shows our CO2 emissions are increasing by more than those of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture . . . substantial reductions in CO2 emissions are more important than changes in the other greenhouse gases.”

While biological emissions account for half of our emissions, that “more export” means we send offshore some 90 per cent of the food we produce.

There’s no free lunch because any carbon tax price would likely find its way into the retail price of milk among other staples. The targeting of farming also denies the reality that New Zealand agriculture has been cutting emissions in each unit of agricultural output by 1.3 per cent each year.

We’re also world leaders in agricultural greenhouse gas research. This makes a strange combination of the Greens’ view of farming as both fall-guy and cash cow.

Penalising our farmers for being the world’s most carbon efficient will not only reduce production and jobs but push production offshore to more carbon heavy farmers. Now where’s the global or local benefit in that?

While the Greens say sheep and beef biological emissions will be initially excluded, that’s an all-too obvious sweetener. In a carbon tax, sheep and beef farmers would still pay what they are paying now under the ETS and making them pay later for biological emissions is as simple as turning the regulatory knob.

Yet the reference to the cost of this economy of drought will stick in the craw of farmers who have been stung by Green Party opposition to rainwater storage. That includes the sheep and beef sector who are looking to water storage to reduce climate risk and improve business and farming models.

The differential tax treatment for biological emissions they propose may reflect that the Greens are starting to understand our farming system is world-leading in low carbon protein production. It is a pity they’re not yet ready to admit it.

 

The policy appears to be predicated on the stupid premise we must do our bit even though we are doing what we can through research and efficient production.

Our emissions are a tiny portion of the world’s. Adding costs and/or reducing production here will encourage our far less efficient competitors to increase it.

That would result in both environmental and economic losses.

 

 

 


Alistair Polson dies aged 58

June 6, 2014

Agriculture envoy and former Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson has died.

“Alistair was a great farmer and a truly great New Zealander who has been taken from us way too soon,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bo and their family. 

“Bo and Alistair formed the most amazing and loving partnership and while Alistair was called overseas as Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, she kept the farm and family running.

“Where do you start with someone who gave so unstintingly of himself?  It is telling that despite Bo and Alistair’s home being inundated by the 2004 floods they put community before self.

“Alistair has been an office holder at most levels of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, serving as Wanganui provincial president and later National President between 1999 and 2002.

“Alistair has also served as a director of both the Waitotara Meat Company, PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation. He has also served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

“With a strong environmental ethos Alistair chaired the NZ Landcare Trust for seven years and in 2012, he became chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. 

“Chairing the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust was something I know Alistair was deeply proud of.  It assured him the next generation of farmers cared for the land every bit as much as he did.

“Alistair himself won the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Wanganui hill country.  He was a past Nuffield Scholar and would later chair the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust too.

“In 2004 he was appointed New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy by the Hon Phil Goff and continued in that role to 2013 under the Hon Tim Groser.

“In Argentina, for the World Farmers Organisation earlier this year, South American delegates mentioned Alistair’s name with reverence.  He was a noble man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.

“Alistair was a giant and his loss touches us all greatly,” Mr Wills concluded.

The Farm Environment Trust also pays tribute:

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has lost a truly inspirational leader.

Alistair Polson died on Thursday, June 5, following a short illness.

The well-known Wanganui farmer was a highly respected member of the farming community. He had extensive experience in business management and farming politics, serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002. In 2004 he was appointed Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand, and in 2012 he was elected chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders says Mr Polson will be greatly missed by the Trust and by the wider farming community and he extends his sincere sympathy to Bo Polson and their children, Nick, Guy and Sarah.

“They have shared Alistair with so many and the loss of such a wonderful husband and father will be devastating, their family plans and dreams for the future have been so sadly taken from them.”

“Alistair made a massive contribution to New Zealand agriculture and he was a passionate and inspirational advocate for New Zealand farming. The Trust and New Zealand agriculture in general have lost a valued leader and a great friend.”

Mr Polson took over the chairmanship of NZFE in October 2012.

Prior to joining the Trust he was a member of the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He was a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.

“Alistair jumped straight into the role of chairman and he led the organisation with considerable professionalism and a huge amount of enthusiasm,” Mr Saunders says.

“He quickly grasped what the Trust was all about and his proven leadership ability was a great asset for the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr Saunders says Mr Polson had a huge amount of passion for agriculture and a warm and approachable personality.

“Alistair loved nothing more than to be able to discuss and promote all the great attributes of our agricultural industry”

Mr Polson’s achievements in agriculture were extensive. He was a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust.

An agricultural science graduate from Massey University and a Nuffield Scholar, he also held company directorships with two major meat companies.

Mr Polson farmed in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui.

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.” – Alistair Polson.

Farming and New Zealand are the richer from his contributions and the poorer for his too-early death.


Rural round-up

June 6, 2014

Milk production hits record levels - Gerard Hutching:

Chasing higher prices, dairy farmers have produced a record 1.8 billion kilograms of milksolids in 2013-14, a 160 million kg hike over the year before, the latest economic update from the ASB reports.

“Of the 10 per cent increase, 7.5 per cent comes from Fonterra’s farmers, with other companies lifting it to the 10 per cent,” economist Nathan Penny said.

He said that the increase was not just a response to higher prices, but farmers had also bounced back from the drought of 2012-13.

“But you don’t get a rebound from the drought two years in a row, it’s harder to get a big jump again,” Penny said. . .

Industry champion rendered speechless – Annette Scott:

Being named the winner of this year’s Deer Industry Award came as a bit of a shock for Paddy Boyd, who admits he was lost for words. He talked to Annette Scott.

When Mackenzie farmer and Haldon Station manager Paddy Boyd was named winner of this year’s Deer Industry Award he was lost for words.

The announcement at the industry conference in Methven came as a surprise for Boyd, who said he was usually able to string a few words together as a voice for deer producers. . .

Flock House farm to be jointly run:

A Rangitikei based iwi, a Maori incorporation and local Pakeha farmers will be working together to run the historic Flock House farm near Bulls.

AgResearch has completed the sale of its Flock House farm to Nga Waiariki-Ngati Apa for an undisclosed sum.

The farm was brought by Te Runanga o Ngati Apa, in partnership with Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation and Waitatapia Station Limited, and farming will be carried out by Te Hou Farms Limited Partnership. . .

$7m to assess irrigation viability in South Canterbury:

A new funding agreement will investigate the viability of the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme for up to 40,000 ha in South Canterbury, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

‘The Government’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund will provide $7.044 million over two years to co-fund technical investigations and design work to determine if an irrigation scheme is viable, both from a technical and economic perspective,’ says Mr Guy.

‘This will be matched by funds from shareholder equity and the scheme’s partner, Meridian Energy. . .

Green Ribbon Award finalists announced:

To mark World Environment Day, Environment Minister Amy Adams has today announced the finalists for the 2014 Green Ribbon Awards, which honour outstanding contributions to protecting New Zealand’s environment.

“Over the 24 years of the Green Ribbon Awards, more than 150 environmental champions have been recognised for their initiative, commitment and dedication to tackling environmental issues,” Ms Adams says.

“For this year’s awards, 113 nominations were received across 12 categories. The finalists come from a range of backgrounds and the work they do is challenging, time-consuming and sometimes unrewarded. . . .

Federated Farmers @ Fieldays 2014:

Federated Farmers has not only uprated its 2014 Fieldays presence with a site in the feature pavilion but will hold the final meeting of its current Board in Hamilton ahead of Fieldays.

“Federated Farmers will make Hamilton, or should I say, Megatron, as its base for Fieldays week,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President, who retires from the role in July.

“As this is my final Fieldays as National President, I am pleased to say we are making our largest ever investment into our Fieldays site.  . . .

Drinking water from poo nearly ready for market:

A technology for extracting drinkable water from manure is on its way to commercial application this year, a US university said today. The technology is particularly useful for animal operations in dry regions where water is at a premium, according to Michigan State University.

The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System is an add-on to an anaerobic digester, which extracts energy and chemicals from manure. The system adds ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system to produce water that’s clean enough for cattle to drink. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 5, 2014

 Flock House sold to local iwi:

Flock House farm near Bulls has been sold by AgResearch to Rangitikei iwi Nga Wairiki-Ngati Apa for an undisclosed sum.

The 1100 hectare property has a 332ha dairy unit and a 768ha sheep-and-beef unit. . . .

Synlait profit forecast dips again - Alan Williams:

Synlait Milk’s latest profit downgrade raises the possibility it might not meet last year’s prospectus forecast leading up to its NZX listing, after at one stage expecting a result up to 70% higher.

The dairy product manufacturer and exporter’s latest after-tax profit range is from $17.5 million-$22.5m, compared with its forecast of $19.8m for the year ended July 31. . .

Spotlight on farm safety - Sue O’Dowd:

Health and safety will be the focus of more than 100 rural contractors when they assemble for their annual conference in New Plymouth later this month.

The conference, Stay Alert on the Dirt, is being held in New Plymouth from June 23 to June 26.

Representatives of WorkSafe New Zealand, the Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency will address the conference and answer questions around new legislation affecting the contracting industry. . .

Flour Producer Gets Grant to Develop Nutrition Focussed Products:

Farmers Mill is the first independent grower-owned and operated flour producer in the country to receive funding from the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT), for the specific development of nutrition focussed flour and baking products.

Farmers Mill, which has partnered with Lincoln University and the Food Innovation Network, will receive support from Agmardt aimed at exploring market opportunities and encouraging innovative ideas within the agribusiness sector. . . .

New Online Fertiliser Store Launched To Cut Costs for Kiwi Farmers

 The cost of buying fertiliser in New Zealand is about to fall substantially thanks to a new online store which will save farmers as much as $85 per tonne on standard products.

FertDirect launched its new website over Queen’s Birthday weekend (www.fertdirect.co.nz) and supplies both New Zealand-based and import-to-order products.

It’s the first online service of its kind to be offered nationwide and FertDirect Business Manager Rob Williams says it’s designed to save farmers money without compromising on quality. . .

New president for Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei:

Federated Farmers would like to welcome our new Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president, James Stewart, who is replacing Andrew Hoggard, following their Annual General Meeting.

“James joined the Federation three years ago as Manawatu-Rangitikei’s dairy Chair, and we are thrilled to have him on as provincial president,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“We are in a year of change within the Federation, with leadership changes throughout the organisation both nationally and provincially, James is an incredibly passionate advocate for the farming community and I know he will do a fantastic job,” said Mr Wills. . .


Graham Smith Feds new CEO

June 5, 2014

Federated Farmers, has named Graham Smith as its Chief Executive Officer designate to succeed Conor English.

“Federated Farmers is thrilled to announce Graham Smith’s appointment to lead the Federation in its next phase of growth,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Graham is a highly accomplished Chief Executive who joins the Federation from Soda Inc, an organisation facilitating new technologies, including agri-tech and company start-ups. Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of the Crown Research Institute ESR (Institute of Environmental Science & Research) for almost three years. 

“Graham understands the strategic context Federated Farmers operates in and is no stranger to the primary industries, having been a former General Manager at AgResearch.

“The Board is especially impressed by Graham’s commercial and people leadership skills as well as his background in science and innovation. He has managed an international technology commercialisation organisation and worked for several overseas food companies.

“Graham has relationships across the political and primary industry sectors, which extends across the Tasman, as Graham is Australian by birth but has lived in New Zealand since 2001. 

“Graham holds an MBA from the University of South Australia and a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Adelaide.  

“Federated Farmers is a strong and respected voice, both in Wellington and within New Zealand’s vibrant provincial hinterland.  We are passionate about the positive role farming plays in New Zealand and we know Graham shares this outlook.

“With a focus on evidence based policy, Graham will be instrumental in achieving policy outcomes, which strike the right balance between our economy and our environment.

“Graham Smith will formally take over the role of Chief Executive Officer in July.

“We wish to thank Conor English for a highly successful six years.  Federated Farmers and the agriculture sector owe him a huge debt of gratitude and we wish him all the best for the future.

“Graham is a worthy successor and he will work closely with the new Federated Farmers Board to continue the invaluable work we do for New Zealand’s farmers and the wider economy,” Mr Wills concluded.

As farmers, and rural people in general, decline as a proportion of the general population the need for strong advocacy from Feds becomes even more important.

Wills and English have been a very effective team and have left a solid foundation on which the new leadership can build.

 

 


Dairying cuts needed on light soils?

June 4, 2014

Dairy cow numbers might have to be cut on light soils, Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says.

“We’re losing too much nitrogen. The massive shift to dairy has caught us, and the science hasn’t kept up.”

The “easy yards” of fencing waterways, modern effluent systems and fertiliser application advice had been done, but nitrogen was still leaching into streams, he said.

“It’s a hard conversation, but we have to have it.

“The guys leaching 70, 80, 90kg of nitrogen per hectare per year on the lighter soils will have to get that down to 30-40kg.

“If science won’t deliver the goods, we’re going to have to get these people to change their farming system.

“That’s not easy when a lot of them have borrowed many millions of dollars to get a system going and they’ve got a bit caught with interest payments.”

Regional councils are already imposing lower limits on sensitive soils, particularly those near waterways.

Many farmers had changed already, Wills said. “They’ve read the signals, backed off from four cows per hectare to 3-3.5 cows, and put in less inputs.”

This did not necessarily mean reduced profits, he said. “What we’re finding is that as well as a more relaxed, comfortable farming system, they’re actually making a higher net profit.”

While farmers were prepared to act more responsibly to protect the environment, their businesses had to remain economic, he said. “My worry is the pendulum is going to swing too far in favour of the environment.”

Farming, and dairying in particular is being blamed for problems which have multiple causes and have been building up over many years.

The remedy isn’t always as simples as reducing stock numbers.

Science-based solutions are helping but reversing damage which happened over a long period takes time.

It’s easy to sell the message that economic development shouldn’t come at the cost of the environment.

That shouldn’t be taken to the extreme where standards based on emotion rather than science lead to environmental concerns getting out of balance from the economic and social ones.

He said Labour finance spokesman David Parker was calling for the scrapping of the irrigation investment fund and for charges on water.

“If we had a change of government, we can kiss goodbye to any hope of meeting the ag double of increasing the export value.

 

Labour has made it quite clear it doesn’t understand farming and its importance to the economic and social fabric of the country.

That they’d be in coalition with the Green Party whose carbon tax, water charges and other anti-farming policies makes the prospect of them in government even more dangerous.

The silver lining to this red-green cloud is that persuading farmers to support National gets easier with every utterance from the opposition.


More tax, higher costs, fewer jobs

June 2, 2014

The Green Party plans to impose a carbon tax on us:

. . . Co-leader Russel Norman wants to scrap the current carbon pricing system – the Emissions Trading Scheme.

In its place would be a tax of $25 per tonne of carbon on industry polluters. . .

Critics of the tax claim the tax is a burden on households, who pay higher electricity and fuel costs.

However, the Greens say their levy would be offset by a ”climate tax cut” on the first $2000 of income. 

”We can reduce our emissions without hurting household budgets,” he said. ”Households will be on average $319 better off every year under the Green party policy.” . .

Imposing a tax with one hand and giving a tax with another won’t make anyone better off because the tax will lead to other cost increases on fuel, power and food which will passed on, in part or full, to consumers.

Agriculture – which is currently exempt from the ETS – would pay a reduced rate of $12.50 per tonne. This works out as an 12.5 per cent hit on farmers’ income. This includes 2 per cent on the working expenses of the average farm. A Berl Economics report, released with the policy, said dairying will be ”adversely affected.”

Dairying won’t just be adversely affected by the carbon tax, it will be hit by other Green policies too.

But it adds: ”However, at the currently projected pay-out for milk solids, even dairy farms in the lowest decile would remain well above break even in the face of an emissions levy.”

What happens when the payout drops to its long-term average which is well below the $7 forecast for the coming season?

What about the environmental impact of less efficient farmers in other countries increasing production because our produce is more expensive which makes it easier to compete with us?

And what about the poor people who will face higher prices for dairy products, power and fuel?

Other gas-emitting industries – such as electricity and road fuels – are less likely to be affected because they would be able to ”pass-on any production cost increases to households.” . . .

That will be the households whose earners will be getting a tax cut, the benefit of which will be less than the cost increases from the extra tax.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said the levy may threaten jobs. 

“Our approach should be unlocking business solutions rather taxing business more,” he said. 

As a “small open trading economy” New Zealand should participate in international emissions trading schemes.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the tax will make dairy farmers “less competitive” in international markets. . .

Less competitive means lower returns which means less export income which means less economic growth which means we’ll be less able to fund the first world education, health and other services we need.

However green they want to paint it, this is a red policy which will add costs, put downwards pressure on wages and threaten jobs.

Bernard Hickey told last week’s  Alliance Group Pure South conference that the election will be close.

He then went on to list the policies that farmers could expect to adversely affect them under a Labour/Green coalition with whichever other left-wing parties they’d need to govern.

They included: capital gains tax, compulsory KiwiSaver and water restrictions and charges.

Those are three very good reasons to vote National and the Green carbon tax is another.

And Steven Joyce points out some inconvenient truths:

 

 

 


Rural round-up

May 30, 2014

AgResearch makes changes to Invermay plans –  Vaughan Elder:

AgResearch has made some changes to its plan to slash jobs at Invermay, but the majority of staff will still be moving north to Lincoln.

Invermay staff, along with those affected by planned restructuring at AgResearch’s other campuses, learnt their fate today, with the organisation making a final announcement – as signalled in today’s Otago Daily Times.

There were some changes made to its plans for the Invermay campus, with three deer researchers no longer relocating to Lincoln and the creation of two new science roles. . .

Give AgResearch a chance:

Federated Farmers understands that with any major decision there will be concern, however, it is asking people to look at the best strategic outcome for New Zealand agricultural science.  Above all, to give AgResearch the chance to reform itself as a 21st Century Crown Research Institute.

“I think farmers should welcome the way AgResearch has listened to reason because Invermay’s future has been enhanced over the original proposals,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Production Sciences spokesperson.

“There have been some regional gains for those in the south and north, with the Invermay and Ballantrae hill country farms being kept for sheep, beef and deer research.  Invermay will clearly become the centre for deer research.

“We must remember that this restructure is not this year, next year or even the year after.  We are talking 2017 and while one out of every four scientific or technician roles will be asked to relocate, that means 75 percent will not. . . .

DINZ welcomes finalisation of AgResearch’s Future Footprint:

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) has welcomed announcements, made today by AgResearch, finalising the shape of its ‘Future Footprint’ restructuring.

DINZ Deputy Chair, Jerry Bell, said that it is important that the plan is now finalised, giving certainty to the staff who will be affected, and DINZ was satisfied that the final changes to ‘Future Footprint’ were significant and a good outcome for both Invermay and the deer industry.

“While we accepted the strategic rationale for Future Footprint, we have been concerned throughout that such strategic change can be very disruptive and can contribute to a loss of important people. In that context, it’s great to draw a line under the process.” . .

Consultation on the sale of raw milk to consumers:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is asking for public feedback on options for the sale of raw milk to consumers.

MPI’s deputy director general Deborah Roche says any changes would need to balance people’s desire to buy and drink raw milk with the requirement that food safety risks are properly dealt with.

“It’s clear that there is still a demand for raw milk and that more and different options for its sale need to be considered. It’s important people have the opportunity to comment on this matter so that MPI can consider all viewpoints before making any recommendations for change. I would encourage anyone that has an interest in raw milk sales to consumers to have their say,” Ms Roche says. . .

New president for Federated Farmers Marlborough:

Federated Farmers would like to welcome our new Marlborough provincial president, Greg Harris, who is replacing Gary Barnett, following their Annual General Meeting.

“Greg has been a part of Federated Farmers for 20 years and is well versed on the issues surrounding the Marlborough region, having stepped up from the provinces’ Meat & Fibre Chairperson role,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“I would like to thank outgoing provincial president, Gary Barnett for his service to the province and Federated Farmers; he has been an integral part of the Federation.

“We are in a year of change within the Federation, with leadership changes throughout the organisation both nationally and provincially, Greg is an incredibly passionate advocate for the farming community and I know he will do a fantastic job,” said Mr Wills. . .

Rabobank recruits new animal proteins analyst:

Rabobank welcomes new-comer Angus Gidley-Baird, appointed as a senior animal proteins analyst to cover the sheep and beef sectors, joining the bank’s Australia & New Zealand Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory division.

General manager of Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Luke
Chandler said Angus’ appointment brought to the team a great depth of agricultural knowledge, as well as mainstream political and economic policy awareness.

“Angus’ entire career has been spent in agribusiness and throughout this time, he has gained a very strong foundation in the sorts of issues impacting farmers and industry stakeholders all the way through the supply chain,” Mr Chandler said. . .

Orange roughy ecolabel to assist exports:

Sealord has welcomed the next step in the journey to have New Zealand orange roughy globally recognised as a sustainable seafood choice.

Three of the main orange roughy fisheries have been submitted for assessment by the Marine Stewardship Council to verify if they can carry the world’s best known marine ecolabel.

New Zealand’s quota management system has allowed industry and government to work together to achieve this and Sealord Fishing General Manager, Doug Paulin, says that MSC certification will provide an additional assurance to customers.
“Globally, New Zealand seafood has a great reputation and Sealord customers will be supportive of this new measure to show retailers and customers alike orange roughy is a sustainable choice,” said Paulin. . .

Boutique Wine Festival Brings the Best of New Zealand to Auckland:

After a successful launch in 2013, the second annual New Zealand Boutique Wine Festival is set to return to Auckland’s Imperial Building on Sunday 15 June 2014.

This year’s festival will see 21 boutique vineyards from around New Zealand showcasing more than 200 wines across a huge range of varietals, creating a one-of-a-kind cellar door experience.

Throughout the day, event attendees will be able to explore wines from different regions, enjoy fantastic food and wine pairings, great live music, and participate in blind tasting seminars throughout the day. . .


Rural round-up

May 24, 2014

NZ’s rural businesses struggle to attract equity capital to develop – Graham Turley:

Agri-business is New Zealand’s most productive and successful business sector yet it struggles to attract investor capital.

It seem counter-intuitive, particularly with all the talk of food bowls for Asia, that a sector which represents more than 25 per cent of New Zealand’s economy is widely perceived as difficult and inaccessible for investment – whether those investors are retail, large fund managers or overseas looking to invest in New Zealand’s agricultural success story.

Few successful agriculture-based businesses are listed on the NZX, especially when you consider how significant a contributor agriculture is to the economy. . .

Mackenzie Country farmer wins top deer award:

Paddy Boyd, manager of Haldon Station in the Mackenzie Country, is the winner of the 2014 Deer Industry Award.

The announcement of the award at the annual Deer Conference in Methven on Wednesday was followed by a sustained standing innovation for a farmer who has been a behind-the-scenes industry leader from the 1970s to the present day.

The award citation listed Paddy’s involvement in numerous industry groups including quality assurance, the Cervena strategy, velveting standards, Tb eradication, genetic improvement and environmental standards. . .

Kiwi team and supporters in charge in Ireland:

Six New Zealand shearers, including World Championships representatives Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick, have made it to the semi-finals of the Irish All-Nations Open championships semi-final in Gorey, Ireland.

Smith headed the 18 qualifiers after 70 shearers took part in the open-entry heats on the first day of the 16th Golden Shears World Championships, while Kirkpatrick qualified in third place.

They were separated by Scottish World championships contender Hamish Mitchell, whose teammate and defending World champion Gavin Mutch was a surprise elimination. The All-Nations has no bearing on the World Championship, for which the first round will be held tonight (Friday NZT).

The other New Zealanders still in All-Nations contention are five-times World champion David Fagan and son Jack, and Smith’s brothers, Matt and Doug. . . .

Passenger to be investigated for carrying plants:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating an air passenger it nabbed carrying two concealed plants in her shirt.

Watchman, one of MPI’s most experienced detector dogs, sniffed out the plants on the passenger arriving from China at Auckland airport yesterday afternoon.

The woman had rooted cuttings in a plastic bag hidden in her shirt sleeve and under a coat.

“It appears the cuttings were to be planted and that this was a deliberate attempt to smuggle risk items into New Zealand,” says Craig Hughes, MPI’s Manager, North, Passenger and Mail. . .

Delegat’s says 2014 harvest supports sales growth projections – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Delegat’s Group, the winemaker which last year bought Australia’s Barossa Valley Estate, said its just completed 2014 harvest will allow it to achieve its forecast future sales growth.

The Auckland-based winemaker expects to increase wine sale volumes by 2 percent to 1.985 million cases in the year ending June 30, accelerating to an 8.8 percent pace in 2015 and 8.9 percent in 2016, according to projections detailed in its 2013 annual report. The 2014 harvest amounted to 35,127 tonnes, as its New Zealand vintage increased 18 percent to 34,123 tonnes. Its Australian harvest, the first vintage since acquisition of Barossa in June last year, amounted to 1,004 tonnes, the company said today.

“The 2014 vintage has delivered excellent quality in all regions,” managing director Graeme Lord said. “The group has appropriate inventories to achieve future sales growth in line with guidance provided in the 2013 annual report.” . . .

Researchers start a wine revolution:

The global wine industry may be on the cusp of a revolution, thanks to pioneering genetic research conducted by scientists at Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research that not only has ramifications for controlling disease and increasing productivity, but will quite likely mean completely new varieties of grapes and styles of wine.

The research project initially commenced to fill a knowledge gap in the identification and function of the genes that underpin the key characteristics of grapevines. The goal was to bed down a research framework, such as those used by researchers with other plant species, to establish a knowledge base for the study of gene behaviour and the critical processes of grape production.

As the research developed, however, new opportunities became apparent, and a greater emphasis was placed on investigating the potential for manufacturing and encouraging the expression of genetic elements within grapevines which may, in turn, come with commercial benefits. . .

Premium Amisfield Wines to Be Showcased At International Event in Venice, Italy:

Celebrated New Zealand wine producer Amisfield will showcase a premium selection of its wines to a select international audience at the prestigious 14th Venice Architecture Biennale.

The specialist producer of multi-award-winning Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines will be the exclusive wine sponsor and supplier to the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) exhibition at the Biennale from June 5 to November 23.

Amisfield wines, sourced from fruit grown on its estate vineyard beneath the Pisa Mountain range in the renowned Central Otago region, will be served during the official opening events and associated events for the duration of the Biennale at the New Zealand exhibition, to be staged in the Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina. . .

Comvita annual profit rises 3.3% as honey price squeezes margin, sees more growth in 2015 - Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita, which produces health products from manuka honey and olive leaves, lifted annual profit 3.3 percent as the rising cost of honey squeezed margins, and said revenue and earnings would grow in 2015.

Net profit rose to $7.6 million, or 24.37 cents per share, in the 12 months ended March 31 from $7.4 million, or 24.52 cents a year earlier, the Te Puke-based company said in a statement. That’s slightly ahead of the $7.5 million profit Comvita signalled earlier this month. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 11 percent to $16.4 million and revenue gained by the same amount to $115.3 million.

“Margins were impacted by the very strong New Zealand dollar and from further sharp rises in the cost of Manuka honey,” the company said. “Because of contractual commitments on pricing in the fast growing China market these costs couldn’t be recovered within the annual time frame.” . . .

New president for Federated Farmers Waikato:

Federated Farmers is thrilled to welcome our new Waikato provincial president, Chris Lewis, who is replacing James Houghton following their provincial AGM.

“Chris has been a part of Federated Farmers for nine years and is well versed on the issues surrounding the Waikato region as well as the dairy industry at a national level,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers National President.

“I would like to thank outgoing provincial president, James Houghton for his service to the province and Federated Farmers and congratulate him on his role on the Waikato Waipa Stakeholders Group, in continuing the collective conversation around water quality in Waikato.

“We are in a year of change within the Federation with leadership changes throughout the organisation, both nationally and provincially, Chris is an incredibly passionate advocate for the farming community and I know he will do a fantastic job,” said Mr Wills. . .

Shocking Sharemilker compliance revealed:

With just over a week until it closes, Federated Farmers is blowing the whistle on the four-fifths of Sharemilkers who are yet to vote in the 2014 DairyNZ Levy referendum.

“The last time I checked only 20 percent of sharemilkers had voted and that’s a shocker turn out,” says Neil Filer, Federated Farmers Sharemilkers section chairperson.

“It’s like seeing only 100 people physically in Eden Park for the upcoming England test.

“I need to send a rocket to our guys to pull finger and vote. We’re the ones that get the most from the levy as it sets up the best possible industry for us. . . .


Anti-irrigation, anti farming, anti-provinces

May 20, 2014

Thursday’s Budget included $40m of new funding for irrigation and the environment:

The Budget’s $40 million of new funding for irrigation projects will deliver economic and environmental benefits for New Zealand, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

“This will help unlock the potential that water storage and irrigation can deliver, giving a real boost to jobs and exports in regional economies,” he says.

“This new capital funding of $40 million comes from the Future Investment Fund and will be used to purchase shares in Crown Irrigation, enabling it to make further investments. It is in addition to $80 million allocated in last year’s Budget.

“If current proposals are advanced there could be a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available for a variety of uses over time. Research from NZIER suggests that exports could be boosted by around $4 billion a year by 2026.

“Irrigation often has real environmental benefits, with more consistent river flows in summer and reduced pressure on ground water sources.

“Only 2 per cent of rainfall in New Zealand is captured and used for irrigation. Clearly we need to do a better job of using this precious resource.

“After the extreme drought most of the country suffered last year, and the one earlier this year in Northland and Waikato, the need for better water storage is obvious,” Mr Guy says.

Crown Irrigation makes targeted bridging investments in irrigation schemes that would not be established with private finance alone. All decisions are made by an independent board.

Last month, Crown Irrigation announced its first investment, with $6.5 million going towards the Central Plains Water Scheme in Canterbury.

Bridging investment enables schemes to get off the ground and must be paid back.

The extra money shows the government recognises the importance of irrigation for both economic and environmental reasons.

That has always escaped the Green Party and now Labour too is turning its back on irrigation.

This has, not surprisingly, upset Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills:

. . .  A recent jaundiced attack upon irrigation has me questioning if the Party gets it.  This speech reads as an electoral game plan designed to demonise a minority of the population while amplifying prejudices and preconceptions about what we do.  Labour’s political calculus is cynical because ‘farming equals bad water’ is dog whistle politics.  Something, I honestly thought we’d moved beyond when Labour Leader David Cunliffe said, in more agricultural parlance, that farmers are good guys.

Labour’s anti-irrigation stance is a flip-flop from when Jim Anderton was Agriculture Minister.

Anderton talked a lot about irrigation but never delivered.

He used to come to North Otago, promise the earth, get positive media coverage for that but failed to do anything at all to support irrigation in the area.

It also contradicts Labour’s desire to enact the world’s most repressive Emissions Trading Scheme.   Winding up the Crown Irrigation Company not only flies in the face of regional economic development but regional climate adaption.  Are memories so short, we have forgotten adaption was a key criticism of the International Panel on Climate Change? 

According to the IPCC, the Hawke’s Bay can expect to double or even triple the time spent in drought by 2040.  Adaption means new pastures and technologies, but fundamentally, it means storing rainwater.  Residents in towns and cities do not wait for rain before taking a shower.

While water is vital to farming, without stored water, it means some of our rivers will increasingly run lower and warmer.  This is a consequence of less rainfall in a changing climate.  It will also impact farming and the environment equally.  The most distressing thing about dog whistle politics is that it denies that farmers live where we farm. It denies that we drink water and denies that our families swim and fish too.  It is a naked attempt to make farmers a breed apart.  It is unreconstructed class warfare.

One thing we agree with Mr Parker on is his speech title, because “you can have both.”  Farming and the environment are flipsides of the same coin so are we perfect?  Far from it.  Does intensive agriculture have an impact on the environment? Of course it does.  Do our growing cities impact the environment? Of course they do. 

Look, farming does need to do better and we are putting huge resource and effort into reducing the footprint of our most important export industry.  This takes money but it also takes time and yet we can point to marked improvements from Lake Rotorua to Otago’s Shag River.  Last year, the Ministry for the Environment’s river condition indicator, said that 90 percent of the sites tested were either stable or improving. You need a clean and healthy environment to farm successfully, so making innovations like water storage more difficult, simply isn’t going to help. 

A denial of water in concert with an ETS seems just the start.  If I can surmise Labour’s economic strategy from this speech, it seems to tax agriculture into the sunset hoping that something, anything, will take its place.   That’s an unprecedented gamble.

According to David Parker, we can also look forward to Resource Rentals targeting farms and a Capital Gains Tax too, which pretty much puts the Sword of Damocles over our head and the 138,000 jobs we support.  I have recently seen policies and politics akin to what’s being proposed.

Argentina may not have capital gains tax, but it does have taxes on property sales with stamp duty on rented accommodation.  It may not have resource rentals but it does have GST on utility leases like water of 27 percent.  It may not have a punitive emissions trading scheme, but it does have export taxes on primary exports of up to 35 percent.  Argentina has a tax for almost every occasion and it also has 30 percent inflation.

As some Argentinean farmers face 86 percent taxation, the only way to survive is to farm in wide but ever decreasing circles.  Its big export is soy where over 20 million hectares is in cultivation and that’s a lot more acreage in one crop than the entire South Island.  It is also overwhelmingly genetically modified and that I was told came at the behest of the Argentinean government.  All needed to fund a tax and spend Catch-22.

What is at stake here is a very large chunk of New Zealand’s $50 billion merchandise exports which pays for everyone’s daily bread. 

A calculated demonisation of farming is an attempt to drive a wedge between a farming minority and the urban majority. It plays on every cliché and every negative perception about farming and it was telling there was no mention of the Land and Water Forum’s success.  It is a worry when many positives seen in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, the Dairy Industry Awards, QEII National Trust and the NZ Landcare Trust are blithely ignored.

While Labour certainly took one small step forward with its Monetary Policy, this tone represents one giant leap backwards, which is why Federated Farmers has the backs of farmers.

Labour’s not just anti-irrigation, its for more taxes and Feds’ Dairy chair Willy Leferink says Labour is gunning for farmers:

Let me put my cards on the table I am a swing voter so Labour’s recent economic policy release from Finance spokesperson, David Parker, pricked my interest.  If a week is a time in politics a few days must be like years, because another speech from him had me shaking my head in disbelief.

According to Parker, National is allowing “public rivers and estuaries to be spoiled by nutrient and faecal contaminants from agriculture.”  Funny I didn’t think we had private ones.  We also got this, “In the absence of effective environmental standards, this will also mean more dairy effluent and nutrient run-off into our rivers and lakes, and into our estuaries and inshore fisheries.”  It reads like something from Fish and Game’s head office.

Labour’s big idea is to tax farming.  I wonder what that will do to supermarket prices let alone our international competiveness.  Labour also keen to impose the world’s most extreme Emissions Trading Scheme incorporating all biological emissions.  That will see our costs explode and consumers will ultimately foot the bill.  That’s not all.  Instead of giving more money to DoC to save Kiwi, they’re going to save lawyers by toughening up the RMA and DoC’s advocacy role.

But wait there’s more.  In a bizarre contradiction, given the UN’s climate boffins say New Zealand isn’t doing enough to adapt to climate change, Labour is going to scrap all public support of irrigation. 

This gets even surreal since Labour will introduce a Resource Rental Tax on water but only that used by agriculture.  I can only surmise Mr Parker believes there is zero pollution whenever he enters the littlest room.  There’s got to be a Tui billboard in that.

When you put this together with a Capital Gains Tax (yep, targeting farms) you’ve the impression Labour doesn’t like us and wants to tax us into the sunset. 

The sting in the tale means the price of food will skyrocket but I bet Labour has a KiwiFarm policy up its sleeve.  It will have collectivised state farms producing cheap bountiful food for the masses to be sold in nationalised KiwiSupermarkets.  I think the Soviets once tried that.

Yet we shouldn’t worry because clean energy is apparently the new dairy.  Despite the fact you cannot export electricity, Parker says we have great opportunities in clean energy like hydro and geothermal yadda yadda yadda.  He talks about LanzaTech but misses the point they left New Zealand because of stultifying regulations and that’s under National!  Hydro must also be an in-joke given the last aborted attempt to build one failed and under Labour, the RMA will be tightened.  Meanwhile, any industry capable of using this bountiful energy won’t be able to emit a puff of greenhouse gas without being walloped by the ETS.

The most distressing thing to me is Labour’s clichéd view of farming.

It was a real shame the only MP at the recent New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards in Auckland was Nathan Guy.  The lack of an opposition MP surprised and disappointed me in equal measure.  One person volunteered, ‘because the tickets weren’t free’ and perhaps that is sadly true.  As a farming leader and as farmers, we get a few raspberries chucked at us but this makes you look in the mirror. 

While my farm gate is open to Mr Parker, can I suggest visiting the inspirational entrants of the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.  Being close to this competition, which Federated Farmers started 25 years ago, I know the winners are really first among equals.

Charlie and Jody McCaig have gone from being Taranaki farm management winners in 2011 to become 2014 New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity farmer of the Year.  How about Ruth Hone, who was named Dairy Trainee of the Year and the first ever women to lift that title.  She is smart, capable and adaptable and those words sum up the dairy industry in 2014.  Then you’ve got a 27 year old Nick Bertram, who came into dairy with a background in accounting thanks to his teacher dad, but no farming experience.  He was named Farm Manager of the Year for 2014. 

These awards showcased others who’d joined dairying from fields as diverse as professional rugby, hospitality, engineering and the police.  As one in the eye for Kim DotCom’s party, it included an IT professional too.

Then again I suppose it shows why politicians are far less trusted than us farmers.  While they may subscribe to ‘don’t let the facts get in the way’ we don’t.

Labour has given up any pretence it’s supportive of farming and in doing so shows it has also given up on the provinces which depend so much on farming success.

The Waitaki District’s population has been going backwards for decades.

Last year’s census showed that it is beginning to grow again. The biggest influence on that must be irrigation.

There were four houses on our farm and the two nearest neighbours before irrigation, now there are 14.

We’re building a 15th and another neighbour is building two more.

That is happening everywhere that’s been irrigated bringing economic and social benefits to the district and it’s being done with due regard for the environment.

All shareholders in the North Otago Irrigation Company must have independently audited environmental farm plans which ensure that soil and water quality aren’t compromised.

Farmers used to have some faint hopes that Labour would counter the anti-irrigation, anti-farming policies of the Green Party.

Those hopes have been dashed and should they get into power, the provinces will be the first to pay the price.

 


Rural round-up

May 19, 2014

Lake Tekapo not feasible as source of irrigation:

More than $90,000 has been spent on a study showing that taking water from Lake Tekapo for irrigation would be too expensive to be viable.

The 150-page report, released by Environment Canterbury yesterday, examined the economics of transferring water for irrigation from Lake Tekapo, via Burkes Pass to farmland nearer the coast.

The report examined two concepts: a two-cumec (cubic metre per second) year-round transfer to support 11,550 hectares of irrigated land and a 10-cumec seasonal transfer for 25,000ha of irrigated land.

Both proved to be financially unviable, with the second proposal potentially costing between $478 million and $691m to build, with a negative cost-benefit of $1857 per hectare on the scheme.

ECan deputy commissioner David Caygill said the report only examined economic factors. . .

Federated Farmers welcomes return to surplus:

Federated Farmers welcomes the confirmation in today’s Budget of a return to surplus.

“The projected surplus for 2014/15 might be small but if achieved it will be a great milestone resulting from a lot of hard work,” said Federated Farmers’ President Bruce Willis.

“The achievement of a surplus should not be underestimated given the impact firstly of the Global Financial Crisis and then the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes.

“Most importantly for our economy, is to have a surplus combined with continued spending restraint to take the pressure off monetary policy and therefore interest rates and the New Zealand Dollar.

“A surplus also gives us some real choices for the first time in several years, choices which our friends across the Tasman would love to have in the wake of their own Budget.  . . .

Fonterra cleans up at Dairy Industry Association of Australia Awards:

Fonterra Australia has taken home 61 awards from the 2014 Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA) Australian Dairy Product Awards.

Adding to its award collection, Fonterra Australia picked up 12 gold awards for products including Riverina Fresh milk, made in Wagga Wagga; its Tamar Valley no added sugar yoghurt and mild cheddar, made in Stanhope.

Fonterra Operations Manager Chris Diaz said the awards confirm the high-quality of Fonterra products made across our 10 manufacturing facilities. . .

Using beef semen in dairy herds – everyone wins:

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) funded Dairy Beef Integration programme is looking at the impact of using quality beef genetics in a dairy-beef supply chain. The work is supported by LIC and Ezicalve Hereford – which, as the name suggests, is a brand name for Herefords that have been selected for ease of calving.

Led by Dr Vicki Burggraaf, the five-year project is now in its third year. “Seventy percent of New Zealand’s beef kill comes from the dairy industry, yet there is limited use of proven beef genetics on dairy farms – despite the fact these genetics have the potential to increase calving ease and produce better animals for beef production.”

Dairy farmers have traditionally shied away from using beef semen, with many believing it would result in more calving problems, compared to using dairy semen. “This project is investigating how accurate this belief is,” Dr Burggraaf says.

“It aims to demonstrate to both dairy farmers and beef farmers that using beef semen with high estimated breeding values for calving ease and growth rates will benefit everyone.” . . .

Australia wool week:

Where better to celebrate wool than in the country synonymous with the world’s finest wool for apparel – Australia. And it wasn’t only fashion retailers which united in the name of this naturally inspiring fibre, interior textile brands also banded together to promote the natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, all singing to the tune ‘Live naturally, Choose wool’.

Previous years have seen Australia celebrate Wool Week against the backdrop of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House. This year, celebrations shifted south to Melbourne – another one of Australia’s great cities which is surrounded by prominent woolgrowing properties and an area with strong links to Australia’s wool industry. . .

How to manufacture consent in the Bay of Plenty – Jamie Ball:

Many of the repeated claims by a kiwifruit industry leader about the post-deregulation apple industry “disaster” are wrong and may be giving the kiwifruit industry false hope.

The more recent allegations, made by NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) president Neil Trebilco last month and this month to support his case (opposition to deregulation of the kiwifruit industry), used figures on the apple industry that have now been rejected by Pipfruit NZ, Horticultural NZ, Plant & Food Research and Statistics NZ as either nonexistent or wrong.

Although NZKGI is the mandated grower body claiming to represent 2700 kiwifruit growers and is the self-declared “Zespri watchdog,” its primary objective is to protect the single point of entry (Zespri). . .


Rural round-up

May 17, 2014

Common sense and willingness to compromise would help meat industry - Allan Barber:

All the predictions of imminent doom for the red meat sector suggest it is a basket case with little hope of redemption. Dairy gets all the favourable headlines and this is fully deserved in the light of its performance since the early years of this century. But it ignores the meat industry’s $8 billion contribution to exports and the substantial farm profitability improvement over the same period, especially taking Beef + Lamb’s improved prediction for this season.

It is not entirely a perception problem, caused by the industry’s competitive nature in contrast to dairy’s co-operative model, because the facts indicate quite a bit of truth in the relative success of this country’s two largest productive sectors. But constant talk of procurement wars, weak selling, declining livestock volumes and over capacity paints a far worse picture than is justified. . . .

Worksafe NZ fine for helmet use:

Federated Farmers believes that penalties of $15,000, imposed on a herd manager under the Health and Safety in Employment 1992 Act, indicates Worksafe NZ is prepared to use its regulatory stick, but the size of the fine is unprecedented.

“Worksafe NZ is sending a clear message to all quad bike users that it has the regulatory muscle and is now prepared to deploy it,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Whatever you may think about a helmet the law is the law. If you flout it you risk significant penalties as this case shows.

“Yet the size of the penalty has come as a shock, given the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $150 and drivers are responsible for those under 15 years of age. It is why Worksafe NZ needs to fully explain why the penalty in this case is 100 times greater than that for seatbelts. . .

Eggs prices rise as cage farmers embark on $200m upgrade to meet welfare code – Suze Metherell:

The cost of battery farmed eggs in New Zealand is on the rise as farmers begin converting to new welfare code compliant cages, a change estimated to cost the industry as much as $200 million.

Egg prices have risen 5.5 percent in the past year, according to Statistics New Zealand, an increase that the Egg Producers Federation (EPF) says is in part driven by changes made under the 2012 Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Act, which requires hens to be housed in larger, ‘colony’ cages. The government has estimated the changes will drive up egg prices by 10 percent to 14 percent and the EPF says it will cost its members $150 million to $200 million.

“It’s a sizeable sum of money across a relatively limited number of players and our understanding is the majority of current cage farmers will move to colony,” Michael Brooks, executive director of EPF told BusinessDesk. . .

Halal row puts NZ in spotlight:

Debate about the welfare of animals slaughtered using halal methods is taking place in England and some of the focus has been on New Zealand lamb – most of which is slaughtered using halal methods – which are required by the Muslim faith.

British politicians rejected a proposal that would have meant supermarkets and other food outlets would have to clearly label halal or kosher slaughtered meat.

Some groups said consumers had a right to know how the meat they’re eating was killed.

New Zealand’s Meat Industry Association was quick to point out that halal-slaughtered animals here, unlike in the United Kingdom, were stunned before their throats are slit. . . .

Farmers no longer face charges – Bill Redekop:

Pam Cavers was waiting for her day in court.

“I was not about to say I was guilty of anything,” said Cavers, interviewed on the livestock farm she owns with husband Clint near Pilot Mound, 175 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

RCMP and provincial food inspectors raided the Cavers’ meat-curing shop at Harborside Farms last August. They seized $8,000 worth of cured meat, called charcuterie. Provincial inspectors charged the Cavers with selling meat “unfit for human consumption,” and fined them $600 each.

The case sent shock waves across rural Canada. The Cavers are trailblazers in on-farm food production and have mentored other farmers, speaking at agricultural seminars and workshops. Plus, they had just won the Great Manitoba Food Fight and $10,000 for their prosciutto, a cured meat aged and dried for up to a year,.

So when the province raided their farm, it was like Ben Johnson being caught with steroids. The Cavers’ livelihood depends on their reputation as ethical food producers. Their business concept is small, transparent food production, versus factory farms and multinational corporations. The $600 fines hardly mattered — their reputation did. . . .

Hat Tip – Offsetting Behaviour who has the background to the story.

 


Rural round-up

May 6, 2014

Growing US dairy industry shouldn’t be ignored:

Dairy farmers are being urged not to ignore the growing United States dairy industry as it starts to muscle in on this country’s traditional export markets.

The US is now New Zealand’s second biggest dairy competitor.

David McCall from DairyNZ says large-scale farms with feedlots of up to 30,000 cows makes for a much cheaper operation.

He says that, until recently, most American dairy products were consumed domestically, but that’s now changing.

“They’ve made some changes to set up their dairies and some of their processing factories directly to produce export product, is one thing that they’re doing. And they’re producing the sort of products now that Chinese and other markets are demanding. . .

Forest owners seek safety solutions:

Forest owners and contractors say they aren’t sitting on their hands while an independent review panel carries out its investigation into the high death and injury toll from forestry accidents.

They have responded to strong Council of Trade Union criticism of safety standards by urging the umbrella group to take any evidence backing its concerns to the review panel.

Forest Owners Association president Paul Nicholls says the panel will need input from everyone in the forestry sector to come up with practical solutions to improve work safety.

He says steps to reduce the accident rate had started years before the review was launched in March and those are continuing while the review panel and the Coroners Court carry out their investigations. . .

 NZ to join foot & mouth exercise in Nepal:

A New Zealand team of vets and industry representatives will go to Nepal later this year to get first hand experience of dealing with foot and mouth disease.

It’s part of a new agreement between New Zealand and Australia to work together more closely on measures to combat this livestock disease.

Primary industries minister, Nathan Guy said a team of about 10 New Zealanders will be join an Australian foot and mouth training programme in Nepal, which is one of the countries battling the disease.

“It makes sense for us to be working closely with Australia because they know as a pastoral based economy that it would cause a huge amount of damage to the Australian economy if they ever got FMD and the same here in New Zealand. . .

Horticulture now 8% of New Zealand’s exports:

.Horticultural products now account for 8% of New Zealand’s total merchandise exports, according to the latest edition of the industry publication Fresh Facts.

In the year to 30 June 2013, the horticulture industry generated more than $3.6 billion in export revenue, with the major products being wine ($1.2 billion) and kiwifruit ($934 million). The biggest gains were seen in onion exports, which increased by 47% over 2012 values to a total $90 million, and apple exports, which increased by 40% to $475 million.

Total produce from the horticultural industry was valued at $6.7 billion, including $770 million of domestic spend on New Zealand grown fruit and $1.09 billion on vegetables.

“The success of New Zealand’s horticultural exports has been founded on a keen understanding of market needs and a passion for delivering high quality product that commands a healthy premium,” says Plant & Food Research CEO Peter Landon-Lane. . .

China temporarily bans British cheese imports:

China has temporarily banned imports of British cheese after the country’s food inspectors complained about hygiene standards at an unnamed UK dairy.

The Chinese officials were reportedly dissatisfied with its maintenance and storage, raw milk transport temperatures and air sanitisation.

However, the dairy they visited does not export its produce to China.

UK farming minister George Eustice has called for restrictions to be lifted “as soon as possible”.

“British cheese is the best in the world and produced to the highest safety and quality standards, so it is disappointing that China have put a temporary block on cheese imports,” he said. . .

Farm Environment Trust Assembles Top Panel for National Winner Judging:

The New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust has welcomed two new judges to the panel responsible for choosing the National Winner of the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Comprising six people with a broad range of skills and experience, the National Winner judging panel will select the next holder of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy from the ten regional Supreme winners of the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). The winner will be announced at a National Sustainability Showcase in Christchurch on June 26.

The 2014 National Winner judging panel is chaired by Simon Saunders, deputy chair of the NZFE Trust, and includes Jamie Strang, BFEA National Judging Coordinator, Warwick Catto, Head of Research and Environment, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and Paul Lamont, Regional Manager, Rabobank. Newcomers Charmaine O’Shea and Bruce Wills have joined the panel this year. . .

Snow Sports NZ and Cardrona Alpine Resort Sign Partnership Agreement:

Snow Sports New Zealand and Cardrona Alpine Resort Limited have signed a Partnership Agreement which will see Cardrona become the official resort partner of Snow Sports NZ, the naming rights sponsor of the New Zealand Park and Pipe Team and the naming rights sponsor of the NZ Freeski & Snowboard Junior National Championships.

Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Sports NZ have a positive long-standing partnership and the national freeski and snowboard team do all of their halfpipe and slopestyle training at the resort throughout the southern hemisphere winter. Cardrona also hosts key events such as the NZ Freeski Open, NZ Winter Games and an international spring training camp after the resort closes to the public.

The purpose of the formal agreement is to recognise the growing importance of the partnership and cement the relationship. A four year term has been agreed, subject to satisfactory annual review, during which time Cardrona will be recognised as the official resort partner of the NZ Park and Pipe Team and the team will be called the Cardrona NZ Park and Pipe Team. . .

Sanford agrees to buy assets of Greenshell NZ, Greenshell Investments from receivers:

(BusinessDesk) – Sanford, the listed fishing company, agreed to buy the assets of Greenshell NZ Limited and Greenshell Investments from the receivers of the mussel farming and processing group.

No price was disclosed in a statement from Sanford. Chief executive Volker Kuntzsch said the assets “were a strategic fit for Sanford’s aquaculture business as they allow for improved supplies from a wider geography.”

Receivers Brendon Gibson and Grant Graham of KordaMentha were appointed last November by Rabobank after depressed prices for the shellfish over a number of years culminated in a “significant” operating loss in 2012. . .

 


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