Rural round-up

May 16, 2014

One in the eye for dairying’s critics - Jon Morgan:

Dairying is the popular whipping boy of the age. Dissembling politicians, rabid environmentalists, lazy news media, ignorant online commenters – they all have a go.

They peddle the usual half-truths and blatant lies: Dairying is responsible for all water pollution, dairy farmers are saddled with too much debt, they are running too many cows, using too much nitrogen fertiliser and poisoning the soils and plants, they mistreat their workers, they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, they’re responsible for global warming, the moral decay of today’s youth, war in Ukraine, the Pope turning Communist and, don’t forget, they also shot JFK.

However, one or two of their assumptions will have to be revised after the release of the latest DairyNZ economic survey.

It was a surprise even for those who support dairying to learn from the survey – which has been running for 50 years – that the costs of dairy farming have stayed the same for the past 25 years and that farms are as affordable as 40 years ago. . .

Angus cleans up at Steak of Origin Grand Final:

Colin Brown from Cambridge has been named Grand Champion in the 2014 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition with his Angus processed at AgResearch Ruakura.

After being a finalist in previous years and his Lake Farm Beef brand winning Supreme Brand in 2009, Colin has taken out the competition, sponsored by Zoetis, to find the country’s most tender and tasty sirloin steak in the Grand Final at AgInnovation in Feilding this evening.

Colin is humbled with the announcement.  “I am absolutely thrilled with the result after being named as a finalist four times in the last six years, and finally taking the title”, he says. . . .

Victory for man with big stake in beef:

It’s taken a few years, but an artisan beef producer has finally cracked the big one.

Colin Brown of Lake Farm on the shore of lake Karapiro in Waikato won the grand champion title in the Steak of Origin competition this week with a pure Angus sirloin steak.

He’s been a finalist for four of the past six years and in 2009 he won the supreme brand award with his Lake Farm Beef brand.

He’s a small scale operator, producing his beef from 100 cattle, and selling directly to customers through the internet. . .

Rockstar awards showcase our rockstar dairy industry:

The only shame about last Friday’s 2014 New Zealand Dairy Awards, at Auckland’s SkyCity, was the absence of the dairying’s most ardent critics.  Instead it was the perfect showcase for the capability and dynamism of New Zealand’s leading export industry. 

“I can forgive the print media as the Canon Awards were on the same night and the media at our industry’s event got to see dairying in its dynamic reality.  Special thanks must go to the brilliant MC Mike McRoberts but especially the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“I honestly thought there would have been more than one Member of Parliament present but as MP’s go, the Minister for Primary Industries is a very big fish indeed.

“After the awards I saw one political party leader in a debate label-dairy low value.  There is no way you could hold those views if he’d attended these awards.  That’s the problem we have.  There are some who won’t risk shaking their beliefs by opening their eyes. . .

Firenze sires 40,000 cows, retires:

With more than 40,000 daughters in New Zealand alone there’s no denying Firenze has been one very busy bull.

The herd improvement company CRV Ambreed retired the 12-year-old holstein-friesian bull this week at a ceremony in Hamilton.

Firenze has generated about $8 million in revenue and produced about 650,000 doses of semen that have been sold around the world.

Now he’s heading back to the farm where he came from near Dunedin.

His original owner, Philip Wilson, says he’s going to ensure Firenze sees out his days in style.

“Well, we’re just bringing him home because we are proud of him and we reckon he deserves a bloody good retirement. . . .

UN look to Marlborough grape vine pruning crews – Chloe Winter:

Marlborough’s autumn colours are slowly disappearing as vine-pruning contractors move in to prepare the vineyards for next season’s growth.

Alapa Viticultural Services owner Alan Wilkinson has a team of 230 workers for the pruning season.

The workers were from Thailand, Japan, Samoa, China, Malaysia and the Czech Republic and would stay until the end of the season in September.

By that time, more than four million plants would have been pruned, stripped and wrapped, Wilkinson said. . .

 Bee’s conference breaking ground for the industry:

This year, for the first time, Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group will be joining with the National Beekeepers Association to host a New Zealand Apiculture Industry Conference in Wanganui.

“The theme of this conference is “Working Together” with a critical focus on advancing our fast growing and vital industry that is pivotal to New Zealand’s economy, with an estimated annual contribution of $5 billion a year,” says John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Bee Chairperson. . . .


Rural round-up

December 28, 2013

Huge solar power system to milk cows - Gerald Piddock:

Hugh and Sue Chisholm are turning to solar power to help run a more sustainable dairy business.

The Putaruru farmers are installing one of the country’s largest solar powered systems ever to be used on a dairy farm on their dairy shed near Putaruru.

The 28kW photovoltaic (PV) system has 112 solar panels on the roof of the Chisholm’s 64-bale rotary shed as well as two Fronius IG 150 V3 inverters.

Chisholm said the capital cost of the system was a smart investment, and part of an improvement plan for their farm. . .

Sharemilkers not bad people, just bad bosses - Jon Morgan:

Immigration adviser Lyn Sparks is blaming a rise in corporate-owned dairy farms for an increase in workers’ complaints about poor working conditions.

The Christchurch-based adviser says the biggest offenders are some corporate-owned farms run by sharemilkers.

However, he believes there are more good employers than bad in dairying.

“The bad ones are not bad people,” he says. “They just don’t know how to manage.”

But a contract milker says there are just as many bad employees in dairying as bad employers. . .

Sorry tale of swaps no one understood - Fiona Rotherham:

It has been a victory – of sorts – for farmers with the Commerce Commission last week saying it intended filing court action next March against the ANZ, ASB and Westpac banks for “misrepresenting” the sale of interest rate swap loans to rural customers.

I say a victory of sorts because there’s a lot of water under the bridge yet to get compensation for farmers, some of whom ended up more heavily indebted and losing their land.

Sold between 2005 and 2008, interest rate swaps were marketed to farmers as a way to beat rising interest rates. When the global financial crisis hit in 2008 farmers with swaps saw the interest they were paying rise when rates were falling rapidly elsewhere. The banks charged huge break fees for those wanting to exit the swaps. . . .

Bank claims farmer swaps compo call ‘too late’ - Rob Stock:

ANZ says the three-year limitation period has passed under the Fair Trading Act for the Commerce Commission to obtain compensation for farmers who were mis-sold interest rate swaps.

That, the bank warned, meant the commission “will now have to attempt a novel and uncharted method to obtain compensation if it takes the court route.”

The bank’s written statement comes in the wake of the news last week that the commission would launch legal action next March under the Act against ANZ, Westpac and ASB for the sale of the swaps between 2005 and 2008. It is also investigating another bank, not yet named, that also sold swaps and may be joined to the action. . .

Postie’s long run of deliveries nears an end - Lauren Hayes:

After 53 years, millions of kilometres, thousands of early mornings and an unthinkable amount of petrol, a Winton postie is calling it a day.

At 21, Ray Cosgrove used his savings to buy into a Central Southland rural delivery run, and began loading letters into a Hansa station wagon. The Hansa might be long gone and the delivery route altered but, more than half a century later, Mr Cosgrove and his wife, Debbie, are still delivering mail to rural Southlanders.

Mr Cosgrove bought the rural run in September 1960 and stepping into the role was not as easy as many people, including the urban posties, often thought, he said. . .

Year in review – March – Rebecca Harper:

The drought was really hurting rural communities and the bill started to mount for the primary sector with drought declarations coming thick and fast. The entire North Island was eventually declared as being in drought along with the West Coast of the South Island. Dairy production took a hit and the first talk about a merger between the two largest meat co-operatives, Alliance and Silver Fern Farms, started, as farmers looked for the causes of low lamb prices.

This was quickly followed by a call from the newly-formed Meat Industry Excellence Group, a group of lower South Island farmers, for meat-sector consolidation. A meeting in Gore to gauge support and discuss possible reform of the red meat industry attracted 1000 farmers and Alliance chairman Owen Poole put the cost of consolidation at $600 million. . .


Rural round-up

October 3, 2013

Taranaki study backs landfarming science – Isobel Ewing:

An independent report on landfarming in Taranaki has vindicated the science behind the process, Taranaki Regional Council boss of environmental quality Gary Bedford says.

In a report commissioned by the council, soil scientist Doug Edmeades, of AgKnowledge Ltd in Hamilton, set out to see if landfarms in Taranaki were fit for pastoral farming, in particular dairy farming.

Dr Edmeades investigated soil fertility, heavy metal and barium concentrates and petrochemical residues in the soil at three landfarming sites in the region.

The report found that landfarming made sandy, coastal farmland ten times better for dairying.

“The process of landfarming these otherwise very poor soils, together with appropriate management has increased the agronomic value of the land from about $3000-5000/ha to $30,000-40,000/ha.” . .

Hardwood project promises billions – Jon Morgan:

When arsenic was found in the aquifer beneath Marlborough’s vineyards in 2003 it sent a shiver of fear through the region. The worry was that the deadly poison would find its way into the wine and sink the then-$400 million industry.

Research found the water source was naturally occurring arsenic and not a danger to health. But it also found arsenic in the soil – from thousands of tanalised pine posts.

A search began for an alternative post. It has taken 10 years, but the group formed to undertake the research and grow the wood – the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative – has reached a crucial stage.

Seven eucalypt species have been identified as having the ideal qualities. Seed has been collected, trials planted on farms throughout both islands and the best trees are starting to show.

At the same time, new markets far beyond the 450,000 posts a year needed for Marlborough vineyards alone have been discovered. . .

Forum Will Rebuild New Zealand’s Food Safety Image:

A Dunedin woman has accepted the challenge to help rebuild New Zealand’s food safety image.

Dr Helen Darling, a founder of a company which pioneers global food verification systems, is bringing up to 200 delegates to Otago to address the perception that New Zealand must improve its food safety standards.

The Global Food Safety Forum traditionally meets in Beijing but Dr Darling has persuaded the US based, not-for-profit organisation, to hold it in New Zealand from November 13-15.

A strong emphasis will be to consider and seek solutions to the next crisis before it occurs.

“With food safety, prevention is better than cure. We will look at emerging threats and ways to address them before they become a problem to our producers and for trade.” . .

Drought over but affects will linger:

While the drought of 2013 is now officially over, some farms, especially meat and fibre will see its aftermath linger for years to come.

“While the thankfully benign winter and spring has seen a most remarkable come back in terms of pasture, North Island sheep farmers in particular lost capital stock and quality genetics,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson.

“Not to mention their wool crop too. The shame being that it came at a time when wool seemed to be finding its feet

“After speaking to my colleague Jeannette MaxwellI, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chairperson, it means we are looking at fewer lambs this year with speculation it could be upwards of three million. . .

Ready and relevant for 21st century: Lincoln University launches new land-based degree portfolio:

This week Lincoln University has marked a number of significant events. 

On Tuesday 1st October, the University launched its new portfolio of bachelor’s degrees – all of which are now focused on knowledge and expertise that creates careers in the land-based industries, globally.

The new portfolio retains flagships such as the Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture), and introduces new degrees such as the Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing and the Bachelor of Environment and SocietyAll the new majors have a very clear focus on the land-based sector. 

“These changes reinforce what this University exists to do, which is to help feed the world, protect the future and live well.  Our reform has seen us reduce the number of majors within our degrees from 42 to 24 (43 percent).  We have narrowed our focus and deepened our capacity to be world class where it really counts, in the land-based industries,” says Professor Sheelagh Matear , Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Academic Programmes and Student Experience. . .

Westland trumps its big brother:

New Zealand’s second largest dairy cooperative, Westland Milk Products, has managed to beat Fonterra Cooperative Group with a $6.34 per kilogram of milk solids (kg/MS) payout before retentions.

“That 2012/13 season must rank as one of the weirdest we’ve had here on the Coast,” says Richard Reynolds, Federated Farmers West Coast Dairy chairperson.

“After a promising start, we had a summer flood which washed out bridges before a drought so severe some sections of our rivers like the Taramakau actually dried up.

“Despite all of this, Westland deserves credit for managing to make a surplus of $6.34 kg/MS. That compares to Fonterra’s $6.30 kg/MS before retentions.

“The difference in the final payout is due to Fonterra retaining 14 cents kg/MS while Westland retained 30 cents kg/MS. We are comfortable with what Westland is retaining despite it leaving us with slightly less cash in the hand at $6.04 kg/MS. . .

And the latest parody from Peterson Farm Bros:


Rural round-up

September 21, 2013

Champions drive clean streams – Jon Morgan:

Ossie Latham introduces himself as a tree hugger. But he’s more than that. He’s a tree hugger who aims to get everyone in Manawatu’s Mangaone West catchment hugging trees with him.

He’s a farmer who headed to Auckland to make his fortune in business before retiring back home to a small farm.

And he’s also one of Alastair Cole’s community champions. Cole, Landcare Trust’s regional co-ordinator, looks for enthusiastic volunteers to drive environmental protection.

Three big projects are underway in the region, all with the aim of making the Manawatu River cleaner. . .

Global Beef Priorities Advanced at Five Nations Conference – says Beef + Lamb New Zealand:

International trade was front and centre of discussions at the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA) conference in Cairns Australia last week.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chair-Elect, James Parsons led New Zealand’s participation in the annual conference of beef cattle producer organisations from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Chief Executive, Scott Champion and General Manager Market Access, Ben O’Brien also attended alongside three “young ranchers” Richard Morrison (of Marton), Pete Fitz-Herbert (of Hunterville) and Lauren McWilliam (of Masterton).

The key action item was the signing of a position statement on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. . .

Farmers face two-year wait for new green scheme – Johann Tasker:

Environmental schemes that reward farmers who look after the English countryside will be closed to most new applicants for two years as the government implements CAP reform, it has emerged.

In a move described by some critics as a “massive threat” to wildlife and the countryside, DEFRA has no plans to let farmers sign new agri-environment agreements during the whole of 2015 as the department develops a successor to its existing environmental stewardship scheme. . .

Minister attending Inter-American agricultural conference:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy will depart for Argentina tomorrow to attend the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) conference.

“This will be a valuable opportunity to meet with my counterparts from Latin America, the US, Canada and the Caribbean, to discuss some of the issues and opportunities facing the agricultural sector across the world.

“Some of the issues covered will include the work of the Global Research Alliance of which New Zealand is a major supporter, and the importance of water storage and management.”

Mr Guy will also visit Uruguay and Paraguay to meet with officials and his Ministerial counterparts. . .

Bumblebee talents being recognised - Richard Rennie:

The humble bumblebee is about to get a boost for its pollination skills from scientists and farm retailers this spring.

For the first time Farmlands is selling commercial box hives of bumblebees to kiwifruit and avocado growers, while scientists celebrate funding for more research into the bee.

Farmlands’ Te Puna branch in western Bay of Plenty is the first to start marketing the bees. . .

Horses sell at a brisk trot - Murray Robertson:

THE annual horse fair at Matawhero yesterday attracted about 140 head, with a top price of $3500 paid for a nine-year-old gelding — and an almost total clearance.

Thirty “broken” horses were sold and about 100 “unbroken” changed hands.

Only about six animals remained unsold at the end of the three-hour sale. . .


Rural round-up

August 24, 2013

Farming Crises “hide ministry’s good work’ – Jon Morgan:

Ministry for Primary Industries officials are back in minister Nathan Guy’s good books.

Three months ago Guy upbraided the ministry for paperwork mistakes that left hundreds of tonnes of frozen meat stranded at China’s borders.

“I’m very disappointed in my officials,” he said. “Issuing export certification is really their core business and I’m disappointed in how this issue has come to bear.”

A ministry review pinpointed an unnotified change in templates for certifying exports as the cause of the holdup, which has now been cleared, and that this was compounded by a failure to inform senior managers and ministers quickly. . .

Fonterra achieves record GDT sales in August:

Fonterra today confirmed that it has achieved record sales and revenues from its two August GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) auctions.

Fonterra achieved its highest-ever monthly revenue through GDT in August, selling 109,664 metric tonnes, worth NZD 685 million.

Fonterra Chief Executive, Theo Spierings, said, “The past two GDT events show continued confidence in our products and strong demand from many of our key markets. . .

Opportunity for cross-agricultural collaboration:

Joint teaching and research in animal science and agronomy brought together Lincoln University and China’s Henan Agricultural University on Monday 19 August to discuss further opportunities to promote academic collaboration and exchange.

Located in Zhengzhou, China, Henan Agricultural University (HAU) is a world leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university that maintains its original guiding principles of serving the needs of the agricultural sector, rural areas and farmers. 

“Lincoln University has regularly received postgraduate students from Henan Agricultural University and the similarities of both institutions provide an excellent opportunity for further engagement,” says Lincoln University Director, International, Strategy and Marketing, Julia Innocente-Jones. . .

Red Meat Profit Partnership appoints Chairman:

The Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), a consortium of red meat sector participants completing a Primary Growth Partnership agreement with the Crown, has appointed Malcolm Bailey as its Independent Chairman.

Bailey, well known in New Zealand agribusiness, is a former National President of Federated Farmers, a former Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for the Crown and a current Director of Fonterra. He is also a Westpac NZ Ltd Director, Chairman of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and a member of the Food & Agriculture International Trade Policy Council (IPC), based in Washington DC. . .

Bootcamp brings together economic powerhouses:

The Primary Sector CEO Bootcamp conference over the last two days has been a major success, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

“Over the last two days in Wellington this conference has brought together 35 top agribusiness leaders and five Government agency Chief Executives into one room, representing 80% of all our primary sector exports,” says Mr Guy.

“The Bootcamp initiative started in 2012 and has involved CEOs working together to grow our export earnings and take advantage of major opportunities around the world.

“There is renewed determination to double our primary sector exports to $64 billion by 2025 and establish New Zealand as a premium producer of food and fibre. This is an ambitious but very achievable goal, with the right policies and leadership from both Government and industry. . .

MPI completes large compliance operation:

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Compliance Officers have just completed a far-reaching operation in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel regions.

Codenamed “Operation Nevada” officers spent two days last week undertaking a wide range of inspections targeting black market meat, black-market fish and maintaining a watch across the animal welfare sector. More than 50 MPI Compliance staff were involved in the operation which was carried out over the 14th and 15th of August.

MPI officers visited multiple sale yards across Waikato to liaise with farmers and other stakeholders and ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) requirements. A number of visits to farms were carried out for the animal welfare part of the operation reinforcing codes of welfare. . .

Ballance announces new Chief Financial Officer:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients has announced Richard Hopkins as its new Chief Financial Officer, succeeding David O’Reilly who has recently retired.

Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau says Mr O’Reilly made a significant contribution to the business throughout his 24 years of service, and he has left Ballance in good hands with Mr Hopkins.

Under Mr O’Reilly’s guidance as Chief Financial Officer Ballance has evolved and grown to become one of New Zealand’s ‘Top 40’ companies.

“When David started we were a relatively small business with revenue less than $100 million, and almost two decades later he has helped our revenue grow much closer to $1 billion. I thank him for his immense contribution and dedication to the co-operative,” said Mr Bilodeau. . .


More wool woes

July 21, 2013

Canterbury Woolspinners’ proposal for 50 redundancies in Dannevirke is sad news for the staff and the town.

It is also concerning for wool producers.

Carpet isn’t the floor covering of choice in many countries and even where it is there are synthetic alternatives which are often cheaper.

There’s an opportunity to tap into the green market  going begging.

If only the strong wool industry could follow merino’s example and sell itself as the natural, renewable, flame retardant material it is.

Jon Morgan reminds those of us who grow it that we should be setting a good example by using it in our homes and clothing.

. . . I’m not throwing off my winter woollies just yet.

And they are wool. The blankets on my bed, the rugs on my floor, the clothes on my back (and front). I couldn’t look sheep farmers in the eye if they weren’t.

But a surprising number of sheep farmers are not wearing wool. Quite often their outer clothing is made from a synthetic fibre.

Which makes me wonder about their carpets . . .

If we don’t use the wonderful fibre we grow we have only ourselves to blame if other people don’t either.


Rural round-up

May 26, 2013

Award success a family affair – Gerald Piddock:

Farming, community, family, innovation and the desire to never stop learning has seen two North Otago farming families forge a successful business partnership.

The Mitchell and Webster families operate an intensive cropping operation and wholesale business producing bird and small animal feed.

Its home base is the Mitchell family’s Rosedale farm at Weston.

Their exceptional crop management and focus on long term sustainability helped them win the supreme award at this year’s Otago Farm Environment Awards.

The families entered the awards to help them learn more about their business, Mitchell Webster Group partner Jock Webster said. . .

Variable conditions a challenge – Gerald Piddock:

Variable growing conditions caused by fickle weather was the biggest challenge this season for the Lincoln University dairy farm.

It caused the dry matter produced on the 186ha farm to swing around violently throughout the season.

“It’s been more variable than most years and I would say that’s a result of those really variable growing conditions. We have seen hot and cold temperatures that have driven more variation in pasture,” DairyNZ’s Steve Lee said. . .

About face on dung beetle assessment – Richard Rennie:

One of the country’s most senior health officials has given the thumbs up to a review on the public health risk of dung beetle release.

Auckland medical officer of health Dr Denise Barnfather expressed her concerns earlier this year over the lack of risk assessment before beetle importation.

Approval for field trials on the beetle has been granted by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and these are under way in Northland. The next step is field release.

But Barnfather said this week the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) applauded the Ministry of Health (MoH) decision to assess the potential public health risk the beetles posed before release occurred. . .

Ten-year plan to beef up venison returns  – Jon Morgan:

A plan to lift venison returns by feeding deer better, improving their health and breeding, and by finding high-paying markets for the tastiest cuts, has been put to deer farmers.

The aim is to add $2 a kilogram to the value of a processed deer over the next 10 years, the deer industry conference in Wellington heard. At current prices, that would take the value of a 60kg stag from $540 to $660 at the season’s peak.

Deer Industry NZ chairman Andy Macfarlane said deer profitability was well ahead of lamb and beef on the same land.

“But are we satisfied with that? The answer is: no.”

The industry was launching “Passion to Profit” – its plan to increase returns – “to put deer farming back into the imagination of farmers”. That would be led by a renewed push in the core German market and a campaign to sell high-quality cuts under the Cervena brand to top-end European restaurants. . .

Butcher wins RWNZ award – Rosie Manins:

Almost four decades of hard slog is paying off for Lawrence butcher Jan Harper.

She is one of four category winners in this year’s Enterprising Rural Women Awards, announced at the Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) national conference in Christchurch on Thursday night.

Ms Harper (57) has worked in the meat industry since leaving school and opened Bluespur Butchery and Deli in Lawrence’s main street in 2009. . .

Sharemilkers second in national competition -

Papakaio sharemilkers Morgan and Hayley Easton have placed second in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Sharemilker-Equity Farmer of the Year competition.

The award, announced at an event in Wellington last night, was won by Southland representatives Don and Jess Moore.

The 2013 New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year title went to Richard Pearse, of Ashburton, and James Warren, of Winton, was named New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. . .

Dairy farm profit down but still high - Andrea Fox:

Higher operating expenses per hectare in an otherwise-spectacular 2011-2012 dairy season resulted in farmer owner-operator profit sliding by $186 a hectare, a new DairyNZ report says.

But the 2011-2012 DairyNZ Economic Survey said operating profit which declined by 6.6 per cent to $2624 per hectare was a “still a high level”.

DairyNZ said the season was characterised by an excellent summer and autumn resulting in record milk production for all regions.

But offsetting the 9.2 per cent increase in milksolids per hectare was a matching decline in milk prices, leaving gross farm revenue per hectare almost unchanged. . . .


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