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). . .


Water storage – essential economic infrastructure

December 23, 2013

This year’s economic growth has been good, but it would have been even better had there been more irrigation to off-set the impact on last summer’s drought.

Agricultural production has turned in a stellar performance in the September quarter, which has helped to lift Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the quarter by 1.4 percent. All this on the day China has overtaken Australia as our single largest export market.

“I can safely say ‘were back’ from the drought with agricultural production up 17 percent for the September quarter,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“That said, the lingering after effects of drought still means we’re down 5.6 percent compared to this point last year.

“To me, this reaffirms why water storage is essential economic infrastructure to meet not only surging demand for our primary exports, but whatever a changing climate will throw at us.

“I’ll leave it to the economists to deduce what the opportunity cost of this year’s drought is but small it is not. . .

This time last year most of the North Island was suffering from a drought.

Much of the country has had a wet spring and early summer but in some parts of Central Otago irrigation has been cut because rivers are too low.

Not every area is suitable for water storage but where it is it provides insurance against dry weather as well as providing opportunities for recreation and environmental enhancement.


Now it’s peak water

December 9, 2013

We’ve had peak oil, now there’s peak water.

Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water.
  
We drink on average four liters of water per day, in one form or another, but the food we eat each day requires 2,000 liters of water to produce. Getting enough water to drink is relatively easy, but finding enough to produce the ever-growing quantities of grain the world consumes is another matter.

Grain consumed directly supplies nearly half of our calories. That consumed indirectly as meat, milk, and eggs supplies a large part of the remainder. Today roughly 40 percent of the world grain harvest comes from irrigated land.

During the last half of the twentieth century, the world’s irrigated area expanded from close to 250 million acres in 1950 to roughly 700 million in 2000. But since then the growth in irrigation has come to a near standstill, expanding only 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.

During the last couple of decades, some of these countries have overpumped to the point where aquifers are being depleted and wells are going dry. Several have passed not only peak water, but also the peak in grain production that often follows. Among the countries whose use of water has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. In each of these countries peak grain has followed peak water. . .

Over pumping of aquifers is a problem but there are solutions including more efficient irrigation and water storage.

Some aquifers have been over-pumped in New Zealand but that is being addressed and peak water isn’t likely to be a problem here where we are blessed with so much water.

Our problem isn’t how much, or how little, water we have, it’s where we have it.

Water isn’t always where we need it, when we need it.

One solution to that is water harvesting – storing water when there’s more than enough to use when there’s too little.

That provides not only environmental benefits but social ones too through recreational opportunities and it’s a very good way to beat peak water.


Irrigation makes a difference

November 5, 2013

Yesterday’s discussion on irrigation brought up the topic of wheat.

This is wheat from a North Otago farm, one crop was irrigated, the other wasn’t:

 Peter Mitchell's wheat crop in North Otago. Proving the potential of irrigation.

North Otago has an average annual rainfall of around 20 inches but it can be as low as 13 inches in a drought.

Without irrigation, farms had big losses in bad years, caught up in good ones then got hit by another bad one.

That didn’t just have an impact on the farms, it affected businesses which relied on them and the wider community.

Now we’ve got enough critical mass of irrigation farmers know they can grow grass and crops even in the worst years.

The positive benefits from that include more jobs and higher incomes.

The Waiareka Creek which used to be a series of stagnant ponds now flows all year.

North Otago Irrigation Company’s requirement for all shareholders to have independently audited environmental farm plans ensures that soil and water quality are safe guarded.

Last year’s drought affected not only the areas which didn’t have enough rain it impacted the national economy.

There is potential for more irrigation in North Otago and other areas.

The benefits of realising that potential are not just economic, they’re environmental and social too.

#gigatownoamaru appreciates that.


Making unpredicatble more predicatable

November 4, 2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills puts the case for irrigation:

The challenge with agriculture is that our industry is heavily reliant on factors that are out of our control. The weather, exchange rates and commodity prices are all very important parts of our business, but they are things we have little or no control over. The erratic nature of farming means an unpredictable economy for all New Zealanders. What the industry needs is the ability to harness the things we can control, to make the unpredictable more predictable.

I am talking about harnessing water. When the droughts come, it is tough on our industry; farmer’s battle dust and moisture deficits and the financial scars of serious droughts can be slow to heal. Even in town it is tough.  Weather patterns are changing we are told so we need to look at ways we can minimise the impacts of what may become increasingly regular dry spells.

After returning from World Water Week in Stockholm, where 2700 attendees came from across the globe, I quickly realised how lucky we are in New Zealand. As much rain falls here in a year as on the whole of Australia and we receive 2.5 times the rainfall of the United Kingdom, yet we let 95 percent  of this flow out to sea unused by man or animal. This astounded conference attendees who were envious of the quantity and overall quality of our water.

So why is it that harnessing and storing one of the very things that can save our bacon, when times are dry, is seen as a threat by some New Zealanders? Having a reliable source of water just makes sense and equally so, storing water in times of plenty and using in times of shortage is surely good business practice. In fact councils all over New Zealand do this to ensure reliable water for their urban residents. We have seen how it has turned provinces around, where water has created jobs and grown communities. Certainty and reliability makes for good business.  It concerns me to watch rural communities struggle during droughts as well as the lost opportunity of all this water running out to sea.

This year’s drought saw a trade deficit for the August quarter, a near one and a half-billion dollar fall in exports compared to the previous year. With farming earning well over half of New Zealand’s total export receipts all New Zealanders suffer when farming suffers. There is a trade off in everything we do and if trade declines we are all the poorer for it. As a trading nation we are dependent upon a hungry world to buy our food.

What keeps me awake at night is the uncertainty around whether we are able to keep up our food production with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion in the year 2050. Water is a key part of New Zealand meeting this growing demand for food.

It is critical that we maintain our reputation as reliable food producers and having reliable water sources is a key part of New Zealand harnessing a sustainable future.

North Otago used to suffer from the boom and bust cycle dependent on the weather.

Now we’ve got a critical mass of irrigation it’s not just farmers who are benefiting. It’s created more jobs on farm and in businesses which supply and service them and in the wider district and of course in Oamaru*.

Soils which used to blow away in nor westers are more stable too.

The wider economy has gained from increased export earnings.

It’s also enabling us to provide more food for a hungry world.

*That’s –  #gigatownoamaru which is seeking to be the fastest town in the Southern Hemisphere.

 


Drought’s over, must prepare for next

October 1, 2013

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy declared this year’s drought officially over yesterday.

“Earlier this year I extended the official drought declaration covering the entire North Island and West Coast of the South Island until the end of September. This was in recognition that the drought was the worst in 70 years and the need for support would continue through the winter.

“Fortunately we have had an excellent winter with warm temperatures and decent rainfall. This has meant very good growing conditions for most farmers across the country.

“This shows the resilience of rural communities who have come through earthquakes, snow storms, and drought over the last few years. With every challenge farmers have rebounded and come back even stronger.”

A total of 146 applications for Rural Assistance Payments have been granted this year with $814,277.32 in assistance paid. These are paid at an equivalent rate to the unemployment benefit and were available to those in extreme hardship.

“This shows that farmers are not interested in handouts unless absolutely necessary. What’s more important to them is knowing the Government has acknowledged their situation and is providing back-up support.

$320,000 in funding has also been made available to Rural Support Trusts who have worked closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.

“I want to thank everyone who banded together to help rural communities in their time of need, including the Ministry for Primary Industries, Work and Income, Rural Support Trusts, IRD, Federated Farmers, Rural Women, the NZ Veterinary Association, Beef + Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ and many banks who offered special packages.

This year’s drought was extensive and, as is always the case, it impacted not just on farmers and those who supply and service them but on the wider economy.

The country had a mild winter and good spring growth is widespread.

But sooner or later there will be another drought and we must prepare for it.

“The drought has also shown the importance of irrigation and water storage. We don’t have a shortage of rainfall in this country, we just don’t have enough capacity to store and use that water in dry times.

“We currently store less than two percent of the water that lands on New Zealand. This is why the Government is investing $80 million this year into Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. In total, the Government has signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional-scale schemes.

“Done properly, regional projects can allocate water to benefit both the economy and environment, and help us through future dry spells,” says Mr Guy.

Federated farmers climate change spokesman Dr William Rolleston says the logic for water storage is irrefutable with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting New Zealand could face a future climate of heavier extreme rainfall, stronger and more extreme winter winds as well as longer periods of drought.

“There are three basics to growing pasture and crops and they are soils, sunlight and water. While many countries have the first two, it is water, or the lack of it, which limits food production in a world where the supply and demand for food sits on a knife edge.

“Aside from being a net food exporter in a world of increasing food shortage, New Zealanders can be very proud that our farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world. This extends to our country’s role in the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases and the Palmerston North based Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

“This efficiency saw the Daily Mail last year write, “Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet.” In May, the UK’s Observer on Sunday ran a feature entitled, “Why worrying about food miles is missing the point.” In it, our carbon efficiency was lauded.

“Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr James Renwick, who is an IPCC lead chapter author, said on One News, “We’ll see more high temperature extremes, so higher frequency of hot days and less cold days”.

“Newspapers are reporting that New Zealand can expect a climate on average 0.9 Celsius warmer by 2040 and 2.1 Celsius warmer by 2090.

“We have two options for adaption. First is researching new crops and pasture varietals in the knowledge that farms will face greater environmental stress. This demands an on-going and bipartisan ramp up in both our agricultural research and development spend and science capability.

“The second of course is the huge opportunity we have to store rain water.

“South Canterbury’s Opuha dam, the most recent dedicated water storage facility which started operating in the late 1990’s, has proven itself by insulating South Canterbury from drought.

“It is schemes like Opuha, such as Ruataniwha now being proposed in the Hawke’s Bay, which New Zealand needs to build resilience into our economy and society.

“The constant for water remains irrespective of what current land uses are or what they could be in the future. As we saw on the West Coast when it suffered a rare drought, sections of rivers do dry up. The IPCC report indicates that as temperatures increase and weather patterns change, such outcomes may become a more regular occurrence.

“Stored rain water provides the means to maintain minimum flows. Water storage is as much environmental infrastructure as it is economic. Every region should be looking at storing rain water and many currently are. This report should hasten that work.

“While I do not know a lot about trout fishing what I do know is this; trout live in water and not in dry river beds.

“If water storage is being opposed for purely political grounds, then those same people who talk about the need to respond to a changing climate need to recheck their logic,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

We began harvesting water nearly 30 years ago, pumping water from underground into a pond over winter and using it in summer.

We still do it although most of our water now comes from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme which, with others in the area, has made a significant improvement to the District in economic, social and environmental terms.

Farms are more profitable; they employ more people directly and contribute to more jobs in businesses which service and supply agriculture.  The average age on farms has plummeted, rural communities have been revived, soils don’t blow away and water flow is maintained in creeks through droughts.

Even those on dry land benefit because they have choices including selling their stock to or buying feed or grazing from those with irrigated properties.

There is potential for more irrigation – with and without storage – in many areas where it could make a positive difference locally and nationally.


A dam good idea

June 1, 2013

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills says Ruatianwha is a dam good idea:

To export primary produce, from trees to cheese, we need water and that is the simple truth underpinning the Ruataniwha Dam project in the Hawke’s Bay along with others like it.  Some have raised concerns Ruataniwha will not be financially viable, environmentally sustainable and that it will suffer from lack of demand.  To answer these criticisms, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has consistently put publicly accessible information onto its website.

The large-scale storage of water isn’t a new concept because towns and cities do that with ‘town water’.  Given we have plentiful, if sometimes uneven rainfall, Federated Farmers strongly supports water storage for farming.  We also support Ruataniwha in principle but our final backing awaits the final business case; then and only then will we know if it is financially viable.  To his credit, that is the same position held by Labour’s Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Damien O’Connor.

The last big water storage scheme to open for farming was South Canterbury’s Opuha Dam. 

Opuha opened in 1998 but work towards it started back in the 1980’s.  It came about because of the same issues we have here; a lack of reliable water over summer.  Today, Opuha irrigates farmland, supplies town water and generates electricity.  It also provides permanent flow to the formerly ‘summer-dry’ Oipihi River offering recreational, tourism and environmental opportunities.  In drought proofing South Canterbury, Opuha has vindicated every promise made about itYet Opuha only came about due to the perseverance of a small band of believers spanning two decades. 

If everything stacks up with Ruataniwha, financially and environmentally, having Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s involvement advances its timeline.  From a pure bottom line perspective, the latest report I read says farm revenues could rise by $160 million each year including $25 million for householdsYou see Ruataniwha could generate 630 brand new jobs and 500 of those will be on vineyards and orchards.  Many more downstream jobs will also be created in processing, logistics and services; 530 much-needed jobs in fact. 

Ruataniwha potentially frees central Hawke’s Bay from the annual rainfall lottery and enables new types of land use and yes, environmental innovation too.  All things the Opuha Dam has proven.  Ruataniwha will have the capacity irrigate 25,000 hectares while generating 6.5 megawatts of electricity.  Enough to supply over 3,000 households with clean renewable energy.  Where exactly are the downsides? 

Much of the criticism revolves around low take-up due to the cost and that dairying will be the only land use able to afford it.  A council report from November 2010 put the on-farm investment at $7,394 – $9,428 per hectare.  In the latest September 2012 report, the on-farm water distribution cost is between 20c and 30c per cubic metre.  But can farmers like me not afford to irrigate?  Current water takes are prone to summer irrigation bans highlighting the absolute need for reliable water when those bans affect 200 consent holders. 

Macfarlane Rural Business predicts irrigation will be taken up by dairy (37 percent), arable farming (32 percent) and sheep and beef (13 percent).  Other land uses, like horticulture, will likely fill the balance.  Reliable water may see distinct ‘farm types’ blur along with better farming practices to optimise income per hectare.  Doing this boosts the community’s payback in terms of jobs, incomes and the environment.  Irrigation keeps pastures green and green pasture means that soils and valuable nutrients stay on-farm and out of water.

Budget 2013 estimates this year’s drought will shave 0.7 percent off the nation’s economy; upwards of $2 billion.  Having run a calculation on my sheep and beef farm, using the costs above, it seemingly stacks up. Farmers like me would likely irrigate a portion of a farm creating a ‘pasture factory’ if you like.  This means we can keep stock on-farm rather than destocking in dry summers.  This means I can send stock at the optimum time rather than being forced into it by a lack of feed or water. 

Drought is a fact of life in the Hawke’s Bay; it has happened before and it will happen again.  Ruataniwha potentially means we can farm through it and doing that benefits all.

We built a dam on our farm to store underground water about 20 years ago. We pump into it over winter or when it was wet enough not to need irrigation and irrigate from it when it’s dry.

The small dam worked so well we built a bigger one a few years later. That enables us to produce more grass, convert to dairying, employ more staff, use more goods and services, pay more tax, host duck shooters,  and – when the stars are aligned – make more money.

A few other farmers in the district followed suit but it took the North Otago Irrigation Company’s scheme to allow a critical mass of irrigation which has made a huge difference to farming, the environment and the economic and social fabric of the district.

The NOIC scheme doesn’t involve large-scale storage but ones which do provide recreational opportunities too.

Wills is right – water storage is a dam good idea.


Labour u-turn on HB water storage

May 16, 2013

A big increase in irrigated land is supporting increased agricultural production

The irrigated land area has increased in the past five years by an area the size of lakes Taupo and Te Anau combined, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The total irrigated land in New Zealand increased by 102,000 hectares between June 2007 and 2012, new information from the 2012 Agricultural Production Census shows. “Canterbury had the biggest increase in irrigated area, with an extra 60,000 hectares since 2007 – this alone covers an area the size of Lake Taupo,” agriculture statistics manager Hamish Hill said. Other regions to gain more irrigated area were Southland and Manawatu-Wanganui. This increase in irrigated land has helped support increases in agricultural production.

Total dairy numbers also significantly increased, from 5.3 million in 2007 to 6.4 million in 2012. “The additional dairy cows will produce around four times the total amount of milk that New Zealanders consume each year,” Mr Hill said. Exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese increased by 27 percent in the last five years.

Regions that had significant shifts in dairy numbers between 2007 and 2012 included Canterbury, with an increase of 445,000 dairy cattle, Southland, with an increase of 238,000, and Otago, with an increase of 118,000. . .

That increase in production means a lot more jobs, more resilient and secure communities and more export income.

The experience in North Otago shows that the economic and social gains don’t have to come at the cost of the environment.

You’d think a party which says it supports economic growth and wants more employment opportunities would understand the benefits and support more development, but Labour doesn’t.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says he is shocked at the Labour Party’s u-turn on supporting the Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay, despite previously indicating their support.

“The proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme has the potential to irrigate an extra 25,000 hectares in Hawke’s Bay. This would be a major boost to exports, jobs and growth in the region.

“In October last year Labour MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor visited the site and said it made a “very good case” and that “It is an obscure part of the country that [will cope] with such a large structure.”[i]

“Now they have been over-ruled by Stuart Nash, a rejected ex-MP who says “…Labour will not be funding water storage schemes if elected in 2014…”

“This is a slap in the face for farmers and Hawke’s Bay. I would have thought the severe drought this summer has made the need for this type of project even more obvious.

“The drought has highlighted that we don’t have a water shortage in New Zealand, but a shortage of storage options. We only capture two per cent of the rainfall that falls on New Zealand with the rest running out to sea.

“Water storage can have real environmental benefits. Increased river flows means more water for recreational users in summer, and improved habitats for fish and birdlife.

“This is why former Fish & Game regional manager and senior freshwater ecologist at the Cawthron Institute, Iain Maxwell, has come out publicly in support of the scheme.

“Labour are anti-progress and don’t care about jobs and investment in provincial areas. They are opposed to any new mining, energy and irrigation projects, and want to bring in a capital gains tax and an enlarged emissions trading scheme which would hammer rural communities,” says Mr Guy.

The Government is investing $80 million this year into a new Crown company to act as a bridging investor for irrigation projects. In total, up to $400 million will be invested in regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment.

The Government is also funding $35 million towards the Irrigation Acceleration Fund to help suitable projects reach the prospectus-ready stage. Last year the IAF and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council jointly funded a $3.3m feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

The drought has had a huge economic, social and environmental impact on the regions affected.

Canterbury and North Otago were insulated from the worst effects of the long hot, dry summer because of extensive irrigation.

The need for irrigation in Hawkes Bay should be obvious and it isn’t difficult to put a case for the government to help schemes get underway with for example a loan to cover the costs until the water is fully allocated.

This is just another example of labour saying it wants more growth and jobs but not supporting initiatives that will provide them/

 


Why waste water?

April 16, 2013

A woman once told me that water should be left to flow from the mountains to the sea as God intended it.

I wasn’t quick enough to ask her if God also intended oil to be left in the ground and if so was she going to stop driving a car.

Not everyone uses God as a reason to oppose irrigation but the objections by some of a dark green persuasion have a religious fervour which I don’t understand.

Irrigation has positive economic, environmental and social impacts and the absence of it where it’s needed inflicts a very high cost.

New Zealand has “heaps” of water, but the country is not good at using it efficiently, says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills, as the country suffers one of the worst droughts in 70 years.

“We let most of it run out to sea in the winter, and the economy gets whacked, (by drought)” Wills said. . .

Government officials now believe the drought could carve as much as $2 billion out of the economy.

After selling off lots of stock because of the lack of grass and feed, farms were now like supermarkets with only half their shelves full.

“It is very hard to make money on that basis,” Wills said and when they restocked it would be at higher prices than when they bailed out and sent stock off to the works.

“It will be a tough few years to go, the impact will go on for some time,” Wills said.

There would be a “good number” of farmers making losses this year, but he hoped only a small number would be pushed to the wall and forced to sell up.

Fertiliser spending had already halted so trucks and planes were not moving and that meant a tough impact on provincial towns.

“Belts will be tightened and chequebooks put away,” Wills said. . .

But for all drought-hit farmers: “If winter comes early it will be tough,” Wills said. “A lot of farmers are still on a knife-edge and a lot will depend on what happens next month, if we get some more rain and more warmth.

“Drought is far from over when the rain comes; that’s just the start of the recovery.”

Farmers had to get through the latest drought, but plan better to get through similar future events, Wills said.

“We have massive potential in this country to sensibly and carefully irrigate vast areas of land,” Wills said.

There were big-scale proposals to help make more parts of the country less prone to drought. . .

These include the $230 million Ruataniwha water storage scheme in Hawke’s Bay.

It is proposed a public-private scheme will build a dam west of Waipukurau that would hold 90 million cubic metres, capable of eventually irrigating 30,000 hectares. At present, just 6000 hectares of land in Hawkes Bay is irrigated.

“That’s on a big scale to be more efficient, so there’s lots we can do,” Wills said, to lessen the impact of drought, including water storage, pasture management and different feed regimes and breeds that cope with drought.

The Ruataniwha scheme would build “sensible” resilience into the economy.

In South Canterbury, the Opuha dam irrigation schemes made the area “substantially” drought proof.

The Wairarapa Water Use Project plans to irrigate more than 60,000 hectares and fuel a boom in farming in the region. But the nine proposed reservoirs would also destroy 35 homes, sever roads and flood land, with local home owners concerned about the secretive process.

But Wills said water storage and irrigation had wider benefits.

“It is not just for farmers. It is for the entire economy,” he said, with the 2008 drought costing the country $2.8 billion. Those costs could be mitigated far more than they are today.

Government studies of Opuha suggest that every 1000ha irrigated created 27 jobs and injects $7.7 million into the local economy. With 30 potential projects covering around 1 million ha up the eastern seaboard that’s about $7.5 billion extra revenue for the country each year and 27,000 new jobs. . .

A few decades ago farmers often waited for government help before making decisions. Now there are no subsidies they know they have to make decisions early, and to be prepared for drought.

Wills says most farmers are good at responding to the signals of drought.

He changed the way he farmed dramatically after the last bad drought in 2007.

“This has been tough, but we have got through this drought much better than 2007, because we have done dramatic things,” he said.

In 2007, his farm had 85 per cent sheep and the balance in cattle. This year he had 60 per cent cattle and just 40 per cent sheep. “We massively changed,” he said.

Wills farms in hill country in Northern Hawke’s Bay, but after the 2007 drought he built 60 new dams for stock water, which was a cheap way to store water.

“We learnt last time, when you run out of water, you run out of options,” he said. “We get plenty of rain in the winter, just not enough in the summer”. . .

That’s where storage, for stock water and irrigation comes in.

Why waste water when there’s too much when it’s possible to store it?

If you accept that some use of water is alright, taking it from rivers at high flow and storing it until it’s needed has the least impact on rivers and a big impact on soil health, pasture growth and farming profitability.


The case for irrigation

March 15, 2013

Drought Officially declared throughout North Island:

A state of drought has been officially declared throughout the entire North Island by the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy today.

“Local groups have asked for regional declarations of drought in the past week, and it has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions.

“Extra Government funding will now be available to Rural Support Trusts who work closely with farmers, providing support and guidance.

“There will also be Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) available from Work and Income, through the Ministry of Social Development. These are equivalent to the unemployment benefit and are available to those in extreme hardship.

“Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important for them to know that support is available. This is a difficult time for rural families and they need to know that the Government and all New Zealanders are behind them.

“Some rain is forecast this weekend which is welcome news. However we will need more than this to help prepare for the winter and set up for next spring.

“Parts of the South Island are also very dry, in particular the Grey and Buller districts. We are keeping a close watch on all further regions.

“I’m very pleased with how communities have pulled together to help each other out. Federated Farmers have been operating a ‘Feedline’ to match farmers with feed supplies, which is receiving good interest.

“Beef + Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries and others have also been providing practical support.

“Farmers should contact their accountants or the IRD if they need help or flexibility with making tax payments, and standard hardship assistance is available from Work and Income,” says Mr Guy.

Previously drought has been declared in Northland and North Auckland (February 27) and in the South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay regions (March 6).

Regularly updated drought information is available at:
http://www.mpi.govt.nz/environment-natural-resources/funding-programmes/primary-sector-recovery/droughts/dry-conditions-2012-13-faqs

This is a very strong argument for irrigation.

Nothing beats water from the sky. But when nature doesn’t co-operate irrigation helps to protect soil, keeps pastures and crops growing, stock in good condition and money flowing from farms through the rest of the economy.

It gives farmers options, makes farms more resilient and reduces the physical, psychological and financial stress of droughts.

Farmers have various tools in the drought-proofing box but none of them is as good as irrigation.


Farmers must adapt

March 12, 2013

Acting Prime Minister Bill English says farmers will have to adapt to the increasing risk of drought.

Mr English said while the Government was currently providing hardship assistance to families, farmers would have to adapt to the increasing risk of drought.

“We’ve got research in place for instance to find more drought resistant grasses and farmers have for years been adapting their management practices.”

He’s right on both the need to adapt and that farmers have being doing so for years.

North Otago has always been drought prone.

We were the first region in the country to get a rural water scheme because recurring drought made farming so difficult.

A lot of work has gone into drought-proofing including research into pasture species which withstand dry weather and practices which maximise moisture retention. But the best drought-proofing we’ve got is irrigation.

Investigations into irrigation started early last century and plans to improve and expand existing schemes are still going on.

We now have a critical mass of irrigated land to mitigate the worst effects of drought for not just farms with irrigation but the wider district.

Farmers on dry land now have options to buy feed or grazing from, or sell stock to, those with irrigation and money still flows into town.

Nothing beats water from the skies but irrigation is a good second best which areas which have previously been able to rely on rain will have to consider if the risk of drought is increasing.


Rural round-up

February 11, 2013

Primary industry experts on National Science Challenges panel on National Science Challenges Panel:

Federated Farmers is excited three experts from the primary industries are part of the eleven person panel charged with identifying New Zealand’s science challenges.

“We are excited to see the primary industries are part of tomorrow’s world,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers spokesperson on food production sciences.

“We have three experts representing the primary industries and this underscores that primary food production and value-added processing is not just about the now, but the future too.

“Plant and Food Research’s Chief Scientist, Dr Ian Ferguson and Waikato University’s Professor Jacqueline Rowarth are highly regarded scientists.

“Both have received Royal Honours for their contribution with Professor Rowarth being a former Federated Farmers Agri-Personality of the Year. . .

Range of investors expected in regional irrigation schemes:

The superannuation fund, ACC and other private equity funds are expected to be among key investors in regional irrigation schemes, partnering with the state and regional councils.

The Government will set up a company to spend an initial $80 million on irrigation projects.

Paul Callow, a Deloitte’s partner who specialises in infrastructure and energy, says the Crown-owned company will operate like Crown Fibre Holdings, which was set up for the rollout of ultra-fast broadband.

He says the problem with projects like irrigation is that a very large capital investment is needed when there is an uncertain uptake and the private sector is not usually very enthusiastic about that risk profile. . .

Primary ITO welcomes changes to apprenticeship schemes:

The Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO) welcomes the new apprenticeship initiatives announced by government following the 18-month industry training review. Primary ITO is one of the largest ITO’s in New Zealand, facilitating training in the agriculture, horticulture, equine, water and sports turf sectors.

As the primary industry is one of New Zealand’s most important sectors, investing in the skills and knowledge of our people ensures the primary sector continues to thrive. Agricultural and horticultural products account for 40% of New Zealand’s exports. Education is vital to ensuring the productivity and profitability of the primary industries.

The recently announced changes mean that Modern Apprenticeships and other apprenticeship-type training will come under an expanded and improved scheme called New Zealand Apprenticeships. . .

First Steps to Better Farm Business Governance –  Pasture to Profit:

Good Farm Governance…”A process of Getting Advice to provide a Better Perspective”

Good Governance, Management and Operational efficiency are critical to all dairy farm businesses.

First Step to Better Farm Business Governance is to separate the Farm roles.

On every dairy farm there are Operational tasks where most dairy farmers spend most of their time (day to day routine jobs). The Management role which is making tactical decisions (organising & controlling land, resources & people).  Management is about making decisions. These tactical decisions often relate to this week or over the next one or two months.

Governance is the big picture strategy “what business are we really in? What personal & family values are really important to our business? . .

2013 AgriKidsNZ Competition set to sizzle:

The AgriKidsNZ Competition is about to launch into the Regional Finals stage around New Zealand and over 600 Primary School children are in agreement that the Regionals are the place to be!

New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) organise the competitions which take place alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest Regional Finals and TeenAg Competitions from February 9th to March 31st. The first AgriKidsNZ Regional Final takes place this weekend on Saturday 9th February in Whangarei at the Barge Park Showgrounds.

Teams of three will be tested on their knowledge of all things farming and all things New Zealand and after a whopping 600 children competed last year, organisers are looking forward to more of the same great action this year. . .

Loving the man and the land – Art 4 Agriculture:

Today’s guest blog by journalist turned farmer Bessie Blore comes to us with these words of wisdon

… there is room for fresh blood in our farming future, and there are new, inspiring, exciting stories to be started from today…

Bessie story is a fascinating and very entertaining tale.indeed. I don’t know about you but when I read this I thought to myself this must be one handsome man and one special girl.

Now we’re the only two human inhabitants of “Burragan,” 70,000 acres of grazing land, more than 100 kilometres from the closest town of Wilcannia. And over the past 24 months I have developed a passion for life on the land, and wool growing in particular, that borders on crazed and psychotic at times, I’m sure most of my city friends think I’m far too enthusiastic about dirt, sheep, and isolation.

Seriously 100 km from the closest town!!!!. You would want to pay close attention to detail writing the grocery list. . .

And:
Photo


Rural round-up

February 3, 2013

Basting a chop won’t make a steak – Chalkie:

Poor old Red Meat. There she is, best frock on, hair done, smiling with her eyes and showing a bit of leg, only to find that tarty dairy cow getting all the attention.

Dairy co-op Fonterra teased investors for years before finally letting them on to third base late last year, with explosive results. Units in its Shareholders Fund quickly shot up to well over $7 after being issued at $5.50 a mere two months ago.

Meat co-op Silver Fern Farms, on the other hand, is still working the street corner.

After a reform of its capital structure in 2009, ordinary shares in Silver Fern became tradeable by any Tom, Dick and Harry on the unlisted market, but they have not been pursued with any passion. . .

NZ meats on Singapore menu -

New Zealand beef, lamb and, most likely venison, are on the menu at the Lone Star’s first overseas restaurant in a top waterfront precinct in Singapore.

The meat, branded Pure South, is being supplied by meat processor and exporter Alliance Group to the Fern & Kiwi restaurant, an offshoot of the Lone Star bar and restaurant chain.

A New Zealand-themed menu was worked out by consultant chef Mathew Metcalfe, who has cooked for the late Steve Jobs and leading Hollywood figures.

The meat range will come from farms across the country and processed at Alliance’s Group’s eight plants. . .

Carter laments stubborn attitudes – Jon Morgan:

Outgoing Minister for Primary Industries David Carter reels off a long list of what he calls “a good number” of achievements during his four years in office, but at the end of it he has to admit to a few lows as well.

The intransigent wool and meat industries have both defeated him, as they have ministers before him.

It obviously frustrates him. He puts it down to warring personalities in leading roles and the farmers’ apathy that lets this continue. . .

NZ wool floors show crowds - Tim Cronshaw:

The reaction of customers to Wools of New Zealand’s (WNZ) carpet wool at the world’s largest flooring show has reinforced to its leaders they are on the right track with capital raising a minimum of $5 million.

A share offer to commercialise WNZ into a sales and marketing company was extended to February 25 after the capital raising reached more than $4.1m last year from 500-plus strong wool farmers committing 12 million kilograms of annual wool production.

WNZ chairman Mark Shadbolt said growing interest by spinners and manufacturers in WNZ carpet ranges at the world’s largest flooring trade show, Domotex, this month had been encouraging. The trade show was attended by 40,000-plus visitors. . .

Safety shake-up call – Gerald Piddock:

Farmers are going to have to make health and safety a normal part of running their business if the number of on-farm accidents is to be cut.

Some farmers struggle to give health and safety the same amount of attention as they do to stock health or pasture management, industry-good Farmsafe national manager Grant Hadfield says.

“It’s considered a bit of an ogre. It shouldn’t be because it’s pretty easy to put systems in place.” . . .

Plaudits for irrigation policy - Gerald Piddock:

The Government’s decision to become a minority investor in irrigation schemes will ensure those projects get off the ground, say farmers with close ties to irrigation schemes in South Canterbury.

The Government announced last week that it would establish a company to act as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure development.

The yet-to-be-named company would take minority stakes in water projects with a long-term goal of getting out and leaving the projects to the private sector. . .

Submitters discuss Tarras irrigation scheme – Jessica Maddock:

There was passionate opposition to an Otago Regional Council proposal to invest in a $39 million Tarras irrigation scheme at a hearing yesterday, with submitters saying it would be using ratepayer money to benefit only a few.

The council is considering buying $3.5m of redeemable preference shares. It would also pay up to $500,000 annually for five years, toward the fixed costs.

Tarras Water is planning the scheme to benefit 40 families, by taking up to 73.6 million cubic metres a year from the Clutha River to irrigate about 6000 hectares.

Nearly 70 people lodged a submission on the investment proposal, with the majority in opposition.

Eleven submitters spoke at a hearing in Cromwell yesterday, before four council members. Eight opposed the proposal and three supported it. The first day of the two-day hearing was in Dunedin on Thursday. . .


Summer like it used to be

February 2, 2013

Were summers really hotter in the 1960s and 70s?

Memory isn’t always reliable but when I look back I recall day after day of sunny weather.

Almost every weekend from Labour weekend to Easter my family would pack a picnic and head to water. Sometimes it was All Day Bay, but more often we went to the river – Gemmell’s Crossing or Clifton Falls.

Sometimes we’d have a mid-week bonus trip too, taking a picnic dinner to the river when Dad got home from work.

The last couple of weeks have been just like that.

met service jan 13

It’s great harvest weather but, as always one farmer’s dream is another’s nightmare, and many are facing drought.

while nothing beats water from the sky, irrigation ensures the grass grows when the weather doesn’t co-operate.

That is a major change from when I was growing up.

Then dry weather left the countryside parched and farmers with few options but to de-stock.

Now, thanks to extensive irrigation a good deal of North Otago is still green and growing.


$80m investment bridge for irrigation

January 24, 2013

The Speaker-elect has made a significant announcement for irrigation in his final days as a Minister:

The Government is establishing a company to act as a bridging investor for regional water infrastructure development, Primary Industries Minister David Carter announced today.

In 2011 the Government signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional-scale schemes to encourage third-party capital investment. Cabinet has now directed that $80 million for the initial stages of the company’s operation be set aside in Budget 2013.

“The development of well-designed storage and irrigation infrastructure has the potential to deliver significant economic growth for our primary industries and support new jobs, which will have a flow-on effect for all New Zealanders,” says Mr Carter.

“New Zealand naturally has plenty of water – this is about managing the resource better for the economy and the environment.”

Two examples of how much spare water we have is the large amounts being spilled at the Clyde and Roxburgh Dams:

clyde

roxburgh 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Carter says that because the opportunity to take a stake in developing regional-scale water infrastructure is new for private investors, it is appropriate for the Government to take a bridging investment role to ensure the right projects can get underway.

“The Crown-owned company will be a minority investor in any development project, and it will also plan to be a relatively short-term investor.

“A number of groups are developing proposals for these larger, regional-level schemes, and the Government expects to consider at least one proposal in the next 12 months.

“Reliable irrigation represents a major step in unlocking economic potential for New Zealand, having our tradable sectors growing strongly and delivering on the Government’s economic growth goals.

“It will also be better for the environment, as these schemes will lead to more efficient water use, and can provide for the replenishment of aquifers and the restoration of stream and river flows,” Mr Carter says.

The company will provide short-term bridging loans to irrigation schemes to enable regional projects to get underway.

The necessity for large amounts up front for schemes which will have multi-decade pay-backs has been a very high hurdle which has held back irrigation development.

The company will provide short-term bridging loans to irrigation schemes to enable regional projects to get underway.

Federated Farmers is grateful for the kick-start:

“What the Government is doing here should be applauded by environmentalists as much as it will be by farmers,” says Bruce Wills, President of Federated Farmers, speaking from his farm in the Hawke’s Bay.

“It was over 30 degrees outside and the pasture I was looking at is brown. The last significant rainfall we had here was before Christmas but I am not complaining, this is farming on the East Coast.

“In saying that it highlights the big two opportunities we have with water storage, the economic and the environmental.

“The best way to keep nutrients and soil on our farms and out of water is green living grass. It is really that simple.

“Farms like mine have dams but they can only last so long. In winter, when you see our rivers over capacity, you ask why this cannot be stored for use when we hit a dry spell like now.

 “Take the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project as one example. If it comes off, it will not only be big for the Hawke’s Bay but big for New Zealand.

“The resulting reservoir will cover an area of some 372 hectares; only slightly smaller than Sydney’s central business district but around double the size of Wellington’s.

“Farmers will have to pay a water distribution price so this is not a hand out, but a hand up. The government will exit to bring in further private sector investment. We only need look to the performance of Fonterra’s units on the NZX to see what could be possible.

“It also speaks volumes that the poster project for water storage remains Canterbury’s Opuha Dam. This exercise in perseverance took years highlighting why short-term government involvement is needed to deliver economic infrastructure.

“What we know from Opuha is that since it opened there has been numerous environmental and recreational spin-offs, in addition to benefiting farmers of course.

“The Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project in my area will lift the area of land influenced by irrigation from 6,000 hectares to some 42,000 hectares.

“Economic analysis indicates farm output in the Hawke’s Bay will rise by $160 million each year with farm value add increasing by $70 million. That last amount includes additional household income worth $24 million each year.

“An additional 632 full-time equivalent jobs will be created and we are just talking about one project. These are real green jobs because that is the colour of the grass it will grow.

“This will greatly aid the development of not only pastoral agriculture and horticulture, but value-added manufacturing too. In early 2012, Heinz announced closure of their Australian plants in favour of the Hawke’s Bay.

“Politicians from the left and the right agree Canterbury’s Opuha Dam works, so why not speed similar projects along? This is what the Government is doing here and it will be as good for jobs as it will the environment,” Mr Wills concluded.

David Carter has been a strong advocate for irrigation in general and water storage in particular.

This initiative is a wonderful legacy from his time as Minister.

There’s an irrigation funding fact sheet here and irrigation funding Q&A here.


Rural round-up

November 13, 2012

Fonterra shares in hot demand despite unknowns – Terry Hall:

Dairy farmers should be very, very happy. It seems heaps of Asians, Australians and Kiwis want to invest in their now highly desirable, fashionable industry, even if many haven’t a clue precisely what they are putting their money into.

Even well-tested professional investors are finding the prospectus and the concept behind the $525 million Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund tough to get their heads around. It is essentially an untried investment, the first of its type ever unleashed anywhere. Essentially, owners of the co-operative company will retain full control while opening an investment opportunity to outsiders. This is to provide additional finance to further expand a crucial part of their business, which the farmers seem reluctant to do themselves. . .

Fonterra is a price taker - Milking on the Moove:

Following on from my post about how New Zealand agriculture can learn from Apple, I thought I’d look at some New Zealand companies that are doing well overseas.

Geoff Ross is a former advertising executive who rose to prominence when he founded 42 Below, the Vodka company. He and his partners have gone on to invest and run other companies which they take public. The companies Geoff and co have invested in are Ecoya which makes candles and Moa Beer.
I think he is an interesting business person to study because he hasn’t invented anything new or created a unique product. He has simply taken products which are already common place, but he creates brands that enable him to sell these products at a premium price. . .

Scientists looking at smarter irrigation technology:

Lincoln University researchers are investigating the use of microwave technology to improve efficiency and reduce water wastage from farm irrigation.

The university’s research subsidiary, Lincoln Ventures, has won government funding of almost $850,000 over two years to put its smarter irrigation concept to the test. . .

Fernbaby marketing infant formula – Sally Rae:

When it comes to travelling, Tianxi Shao could be considered a frequent flyer.

The Chinese businessman and sporting enthusiast has visited 60 countries, yet fell in love with New Zealand, captivated by the “clean, green image”.

Mr Shao is now principal of Fernbaby, a company formed to provide a locally-made high-quality alternative to the Australian and Singaporean-made infant formulas, which it says dominate the New Zealand market. . .

Wool-Rich Innovations Take Centre Stage at Shear Brilliance:

Fill your living environments with wool and do it in style – that’s the message from the Campaign for Wool.

The Campaign is hosting HRH The Prince of Wales today at Shear Brilliance – a wool showcase at The Cloud, Queens Wharf, Auckland (1pm today).

“From a carpet couch to a wool peg necklace, from grass grown on wool dags to Tiki artwork on Merino, from Zambesi’s carpet bag to the loftiness of wool knops, Shear Brilliance will surprise and delight anyone who might have thought wool was passe,” says Stephen Fookes, Chair, Campaign for Wool New Zealand. . .

Shearing Showcase At The Cloud For Prince Charles

New Zealand’s shearers and wool handlers have welcomed the opportunity to join Prince Charles in Auckland today at Shear Brilliance, a showcase celebrating the Campaign for Wool.

As patron of the campaign Prince Charles supports the industry’s efforts to raise awareness of wool’s virtues and while In New Zealand for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations visits the Cloud in Auckland to inspect a wool showcase staged by the industry.

President of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors’ Association Barry Pullin says Royal patronage at Shear Brilliance is an opportunity for the industry to state it’s fundamental principle that more successful farmers will sustain a more successful wool industry.  . .

Farmers urged to take early action to prevent crop damage

Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game is urging farmers to make plans now for reducing the damage that can be caused by large flocks of Paradise shelduck, and other game birds.

Game Bird Manager David Klee says that with summer approaching, farmers will start to see large groups of birds moving into their newly-planted crops.

“We urge farmers to plan ahead to reduce the damage done by these flocks,” he says. “We encourage farmers to place bird-scaring equipment out before the new grass or crops start emerging and providing birds with an easy source of food.” . . .


Rural round-up

October 21, 2012
Landcorp pursues dairy growth:
 
Landcorp Farming expects substantial further growth in last year’s record dairy production, through the joint venture with Shanghai Pengxin of China and enlargement of established dairy complexes including Wairakei Estate in the central North Island.

Subject to the outcome of legal proceedings in the Supreme Court, Landcorp and Shanghai Pengxin intend forming a joint venture company, Milk New Zealand Farm Management Ltd, to operate the farms and explore other opportunities for growth in dairy production in this country. . .

BNZ Appointment Reflects Growing Importance of Irrigation Projects:
 

Guy Ensor is on a mission to support some of the most critical infrastructure developments New Zealand will see this decade. He has been appointed BNZ’s first national manager, water and irrigation. The position has been established in recognition of the growing significance of the national freshwater resource.“Our long-standing relationship with the agricultural sector has made us acutely aware that the sustainable management of New Zealand’s freshwater resource is absolutely critical to New Zealand’s future,” says head of agribusiness, Richard Bowman.

“All New Zealanders have a common interest in ensuring the country’s freshwater lakes, rivers, aquifers and wetlands are managed wisely. Guy’s specific combination of experience will ensure BNZ contributes to that,” he says. . .

 
Research unit going 50 years: Annette Scott:
The Lincoln University-based Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU) was established in 1962. Its key objective was to better integrate research in respect to the place of agriculture in New Zealand. The core mission of the AERU is to exercise leadership in research for sustainable well-being with researchers working together to produce and deliver new knowledge.AERU operates as a semi-autonomous research centre at Lincoln University providing research expertise to a wide range of organisations in the public and private sectors.

Research is focused on economic, resource, environmental and social issues with the unit also co-ordinating some of the external research undertaken by academic staff from other Lincoln University faculties. . .

 
A country a day for Peterson:
 
BLNZ CHAIRMAN Mike Petersen is in Europe this week on a whistle-stop visit to farming leaders in seven countries in just eight days.

It’s an annual event, meeting officials from the European Commission in Brussels, and farming leaders in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Germany.

“Europe is such an important market for sheepmeat and increasingly for beef. I will meet EU officials to talk about our expectations of the sheepmeat quota. It’s no secret we’ll be well under with quota – about the 80% mark – well below where were three years ago when we were 98%,” he says.

 
Woman survives ramming by 650kg steer: Caroline King:
 
A woman repeatedly rammed by a 650-kilogram steer walked away from the attack with no broken bones after the heroic actions of her boss.Tania Kiely was tagging steers at a farm at Decanter Bay, Banks Peninsula, about 12.30pm on Monday when the steer attacked.

Kiely, 40, was only a couple of metres away from the animal when it charged.

“I was pushing them up into the race at the time.

“I remember it looking at me,” she said.

“It put its head down and ran at me. . .

 

The social impacts on snow on farmers – Terri Russell:

Making new friends is one way Southland farmers can cope with the stress of snowstorms, new research says.

Farmers were hit hard during the September 2010 snowstorm when about one million lambs died in the south and milk production was disrupted.

A research team from the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University have looked at ways that Southland farmers can better prepare for a similar event.

Lead researcher Zachary Whitman said findings so far showed a significant social impact on farmers. . .


Here are the jobs #2

July 13, 2012

The Wairarapa water use project group working on a large-scale irrigation project says it has narrowed the number of potential water storage sites in the region down to 30.

Large-scale irrigation is music to the ears of farmers and others who realise the environmental. economic and social costs of droughts.

It is also a red rag to the green bulls who think water should flow from its source to the sea untouched by human hand or enterprise.

However, the people who oppose irrigation, like many who oppose mining, often the same people who keep asking the government where are the jobs?

In North Otago we are benefitting from the jobs which have come with irrigation.

Two of our neighbours are in the process of completing dairy sheds and two houses. We built a new dairy shed and house last year and are about to start building another house.

That’s jobs for everyone involved in the building and for the people who will be living in the houses.

These are just on our farm and two neighbouring properties, other farms in the district have or are building too. There are also more jobs in supplying and servicing farms and the people who work on them.

None of that work would have been available if it had not been for irrigation.

The economic and social gains are obvious and thanks to strict conditions on water takes by the irrigation company  which strictly monitors the impact on soil and water, they haven’t come at the cost of environmental degradation.


Rural round-up

June 17, 2012

Rates gouge farm incomes – Tim Fulton:

Thank goodness export prices are strong because a Beef + Lamb New Zealand report says local authority rates have risen cumulatively by just over 30% over the past five years.

“At an average increase of 6.1% each year it defines the expression ‘inflation busting’,” Federated Farmers local government spokesperson David Rose said when The New Zealand Farmers Weekly showed him B+LNZ’s figures.

The rates insight is part of the Economic Service’s regular survey of on-farm costs, combining data from Statistics New Zealand with its own assessments. . . 

Looking beyond the dollars at Winter Dairy Days:

Helping dairy farmers look ‘beyond the dollars’ at their whole farm system management is the goal of a series of winter dairy workshops being held by the Dairy Women’s Network around New Zealand in June and July.

The five workshops are being held in Winton, Rotorua, Cambridge, Hokitika and Nelson at the end of June and beginning of July and are a great follow on from the Essential Farm Finance days run by the Network earlier in the year.

Ngatea dairy farmer and farm consultant, Julie Pirie, will lead four of the workshops, with Te Anau dairy farmer Anna Kempthorne speaking at the Winton event. . . .

NZ Farming Systems cuts FY guidance as dry weather reduces milk production – Hannah Lynch,

NZ Farming Systems Uruguay, the South American dairy farmer controlled by Singapore’s Olam International, will miss its target to break even on a pretax basis this year after dry weather stunted pasture growth and milk output.

Farming Systems is now forecasting a loss of US$3 million to US$5 million on an earnings before interest and tax basis. The company will break even once it accounts for a fair value adjustment in the value of livestock, it said in a statement.

“Milk production continues to increase significantly year on year, although the very dry summer and autumn weather in Uruguay along with the later-than-expected completion of the new dairies, has resulted in milk production to date being below forecast,” it said. . .

Arable farmers cut back grain in favour of seed crops:

Arable farmers are cutting back on wheat and barley for next season and planting more seed crops in response to falling grain prices.

Growers cut back on seed production last year in response to higher grain prices but increased wheat and barley production and record yields created high stock levels and reduced prices.

Federated Farmers grain and seed chair Ian Mackenzie says the one contract price offered for milling wheat so far has dropped from about $460 to $420 a tonne.

Feed grain contract prices have dropped from about $410 to $360 a tonne.

Water storage scheme ‘vital’ for Hawke’s Bay farmers:

A central Hawke’s Bay farm consultant says farmers regard a proposed $220 million water storage scheme as being a vital step in the economic growth of the region.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has this week been hearing submissions on the Ruataniwha scheme, which could provide irrigation to 22,500 hectares of farm land.

Consultant Roy Fraser has visited northern Tasmania where he says farmers have been using water storage for more than 70 years. . . 

Dairy breeding a family tradition – Hugh Stringleman:

Stuart Bay retired on May 31 as chairman of the dairy co-operative LIC, the fourth generation of his family to serve on livestock improvement co-operative boards.

After 37 years of dairy herd improvement governance, perhaps Bay has seen and done it all?

No way. Bay would like his 22 years on the LIC board over again, for a ring-side seat for what he believes are the most exciting years to come in dairy genetics.

LIC is beginning to deliver genomics science, which promises dairy farmers routine gene fingerprinting of their calves, to quickly identify the most productive milkers and their predisposition to faults and diseases.

Trees on farms workshop : maximizing marginal land use:

A Trees on Farms workshop particularly designed for Maori landowners and farmers taking an inter-generational view of their land management options is being held in Ohope on Wednesday 20 June.

This workshop will focus on in the opportunities and benefits trees can provide in developing management for the marginal or less productive parts of the farm, and those attending will be able to discuss tree planting options with Maori land owners, experienced farm foresters and regional council staff.

The workshop and field trip will feature the Ohope property of Ngāti Awa Group Holdings, looking at trees as an intergenerational land management tool providing sustainable agribusiness solutions and enhancing long term land use. . . 


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