Texas Fertiliser plant explosion

April 18, 2013

An explosion at a fertilser works in the town of West, Texas, has killed at least two people and injured more than 100.

“There are a lot of people that got hurt,” West Mayor Tommy Muska forewarned Wednesday night. “There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow.”

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant on the edge of the town killed at least two people, wounded more than 150, leveled dozens of homes and prompted authorities to evacuate half their community of 2,800.

“It was a like a nuclear bomb went off,” Muska said. “Big old mushroom cloud.”

The Wednesday night blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey.

“Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city. . .

The Boston Marathon bombing was no accident it is probable that the fertilser plant accident was.

Fertiliser can contain ammonium nitrate which is also used in explosives.


Word of the day

April 18, 2013

Cunctator – one who delays, hesitates or postpones; procrastinator; someone who postpones work, especially out of laziness or habitual carelessness.

Rural round-up

April 18, 2013

Rationalisation of water services supported:

Rationalising water services and placing them at arms-length from local political control, as recommended in a new report is supported by industry body Water New Zealand.

However, the real concern Water New Zealand has is whether the reforms proposed by the expert group looking at local government infrastructure will be implemented (expert’s report released today).

“The need for reform has been known for a long time, but to date little progress has been made,” Water New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Murray Gibb said.

“Ratepayers and taxpayers will get improved services and better value for their money if the reforms are implemented. The proposals accord with industry best practice and should be supported,” he said.

Two other recommendations supported by Water New Zealand, are;
1. that a minister with responsibilities for management of all water related issues is appointed, and,
2. where economically justified, metering and volumetric charging for water are implemented. . .

Praise for NZ’s Tb programme:

A senior UK minister has praised New Zealand for its work in controlling bovine tuberculosis (Tb) during a fact-finding visit over the weekend.

Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he had enormous admiration for what had been achieved by the TBfree New Zealand programme.

“You are still a society that is much more closely tied to the land and you have had this spectacular success freeing up your agricultural industry,” Paterson said.

“People understand the importance of agricultural production and food production and there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from what you have done.” . .

NZX to target agricultural firms – Christopher Adams:

Boosting the number of listed agricultural firms is one of the NZX’s main priorities and there are about 20 firms in the Waikato alone that could potentially float on the local bourse, says exchange chief executive Tim Bennett.

While agriculture is New Zealand’s largest sector, earning about half the country’s export income, it is under-represented on the sharemarket compared with other industries such as retail and manufacturing.

Bennett said he saw the lack of listed agricultural companies as a problem and an opportunity.

“As a country that’s got a significant export presence in agriculture, we clearly need to provide capital to that sector and at the moment there’s a relatively small number of companies involved in the agricultural sector on the NZX,” Bennett said. . .

Miraka – it’s Maori for milk:

Given the attention that focuses on Fonterra’s every move, it can seem that the huge co-op and the dairy industry are one and the same thing. But despite its dominance, a band of smaller players is surviving – and sometimes thriving – in the giant’s shadow.

One of the newest is a tiny, Maori-controlled dairy company which kicked off late in 2011, quickly turned a profit and already has a waiting list of potential suppliers after just two seasons.

The company, Miraka, runs a wholemilk factory at Mokai, 30km northwest of Taupo, that is already “full” – meaning it can’t take on any more suppliers. The fact that there is a waiting list is hardly surprising, given that it pays 10c per kg over the going rate at Fonterra.

And, unlike the co-operative model, Miraka does not require its suppliers to hold shares. . .

NZ Processing for China win-win – Tim Fulton:

Favourable signals from China’s elite could be just what New Zealand needs to expand its forestry portfolio, a member of the latest trade delegation to that country says. Tim Fulton reports.

Peter Clark, from PF Olsen, has come home from a week-long trip to China convinced New Zealand is moving closer to a stronger domestic milling industry.

NZ has proven its ability to use “rain, soil, sunshine and nitrogen” to turn seeds into logs for export, but the Rotorua-based chief executive wonders whether the timing is right to do more advanced processing at home. . .

Preparing new staff for the season ahead:

DairyNZ is reminding dairy farmers to prepare for new employees as the new season nears.

DairyNZ people team leader, Jane Muir, says people management practices have improved greatly on-farm in recent years, but there are always opportunities to do things better.

“The recent Federated Farmers/Rabobank Farm Employee Remuneration Survey showed 91 percent of dairy farmers provided permanent employees with written contracts – a sharp increase on previous years,” says Jane.

“This is great news because one of the areas where big wins can be achieved is around the staff recruitment and orientation process – the contract is just one part of that. . .

Rural Bachelor is back and this year there’s an international flavour:

The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays is on the look out for hard working rural blokes to represent the farming community  and are calling for entries across the country to the Trans Tasman. This year the competition will consist of eight finalists (six Kiwis and two Australians) who will be flown to a mystery location on Monday 10th June prior to Fieldays, each of the finalists will then make their way to Fieldays, stopping in specific towns along the way to complete various tasks.

The finalists will be judged on a range of aspects from technical skills, innovation, effort to enthusiasm and crowd involvement. They will also participate in heats throughout Fieldays and be judged on their interaction with Fieldays staff and volunteers, their team spirit, helpfulness, conduct and attitude in relation to Fieldays values. . .

Calculation conundrum

April 18, 2013

If candidates have to be ranked and there are more nominees than positions available, does it make a difference if you just vote for the number needed or if you rank them all?

I was a scrutineer at a meeting recently where this happened.

The meeting opted for asking those voting to rank all candidates but the other scrutineer said it would have been easier if they’d voted only for the number needed.

It would have made counting easier but would we have got the same result?

My gut feeling is that voting for only the number available could get a different result from ranking everybody but I’ve not had the patience to work it out.

Thursday’s quiz

April 18, 2013

The question for this week’s quiz are in your hands.

Anyone who stumps everyone will win an electronic chocolate cake.

Unifiers not unified

April 18, 2013

The Meat industry Excellence Group’s first public meeting in Gore attracted around 1000 people.

A couple of days ago organisers were hoping for a good turnout at a meeting in Christchurch:

Chairman Richard Young . . .  is seeking support to form a united farmer group with open communication lines to meat companies and other industry people.

The Christchurch turnout would give farmers a clearer picture of support for an opportunity that could not slip by, he said.

“We are hoping for a good turnout and the indications from our Christchurch people are for a strong attendance so here’s hoping. The models we have got are not working and I think there are plenty of reasons why so it’s certainly time for a change.” . . .

But yesterday’s meeting didn’t get a big crowd.

Before a disappointing attendance of between 250-300 farmers the Meat Excellence Group held its second national meeting in Christchurch.

Their aim was to get a mandate to negotiate significant meat industry change toward sustainability for all the red meat sector.

While all the main meat companies were invited, it was disappointing that AFFCO refused, and ANZCO was also a no-show but with an apology. However representatives from the co-operatives Silver Fern Farms and Alliance were in attendance and contributed constructively. . . .

Since the first meeting Gerry Eckhoff, who chaired it, has resigned from the group because he didn’t agree with the way it was going but he will be chairing a meeting in Fielding.

Ohakune farmer John McCarthy who’s organising the meeting says he’s not a member of the MIEG.

“I am not a member of their group,” McCarthy said. “Our aims are broadly the same. But I’d be more hard-line than them.

“I think we shouldn’t be chatting amicably to the meat companies…this system has let us down.”

When the would-be unifiers aren’t unified and meeting turnout is disappointing, the chances of getting enough farmers and meat companies united on future direction aren’t looking good.



Could dairy prices counter impact of drought?

April 18, 2013

Westpac economists say steep rises in dairy prices could more or less offset the net impact of the drought on the economy.

Westpac said in a commentary that the drought would hit agricultural production in the June and September quarters. “But incredibly, the net cost to the economy of the drought could be close to zero,” it said. “World dairy price increases could offset the costs of lost production due to drought.”

Individual dairy farm incomes for this season will vary widely from the nationwide average – particularly depending on access to irrigation.

The impact of the drought on the meat sector to date is negative and closer to the historical experience.

Higher dairy incomes would go a long way to offsetting lower production in both the dairy and meat sectors, particularly from the second half of 2013, the bank said.

“However, because this particular drought has had such unequal impacts on different parts of New Zealand’s farm sector, there’s also still some uncertainty around the flow-on effects on confidence and spending – those whose incomes get a boost may not raise their spending by as much as those whose incomes have taken a hit curtail theirs.”

As the timing of higher payments to dairy farmers may lag behind the hit to production and as confidence takes time to return, dairy incomes may boost GDP later rather than sooner. Overall, the bank expects that the drought will have an impact of up to 0.6 per cent of real GDP over 2013. . .

Prices have risen steeply but on much smaller volumes because many farmers in the regions affected by drought have gone to once a day milking or dried their cows off completely.

That economists think the dairy price rise could offset the economic impact of the drought shows the decline in the relative importance of the sheep and beef industries.

However, the worst impact from that sector won’t show until next season when the decrease in breeding stock shows up in decreased lamb and calf numbers.

The drought hasn’t broken in all regions, and even if it had, the impact continues long after the rain comes.

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