Roy to retire

January 14, 2014

Invercargill MP and Deputy Speaker Eric Roy has announced he’ll be retiring at this year’s election.

Eric won the seat of Awarua in 1993, one of only two new national MPs elected that year and he became a Junior Whip.

The seat was absorbed into the new Clutha Southland electorate in 1996. Eric stood for Invercargill, was unsuccessful, but gained a list seat.

He lost that in 2002, spent three years working hard to build support in Invercargill and won the seat in 2005.

He has held it since, was appointed Assistant Speaker in 2008 and promoted to Deputy in 2011.

He survived cancer and now does a lot of work with cancer support.

Eric is at the conservative end of the national party spectrum. He has been described as a fishin’ huntin’,  Christian, reflecting his love of the outdoors and outdoor sport and his faith.

He’s a good man, a very good MP and leaves big shoes to fill – literally and figuratively.

However, he won the seat with a 17,275 votes and a majority of 6,263 at the last election and National gained 16,140 party votes, around 50%.

Eric has turned a red seat blue and because of that the selection for his replacement will attract a lot of interest.

It will be decided by National Party members in the electorate.


Word of the day

January 14, 2014

Snirtle – to laugh in a series of snorts; snicker mockingly.


Rural round-up

January 14, 2014

 Three vie for award’s top spot:

A Northland woman among three finalists for the 2014 Dairy Woman of the Year Award is helping train other women to take on leadership roles in agricultural organisations.

Whangarei farm accountant and 2013 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award winner Charmaine O’Shea is vying for the Dairy Woman of the Year Award with Waikato veterinarian Joyce Voogt and Hauraki Plains farmer Julie Pirie. They were individually interviewed by a judging panel consisting of Dairy Women’s Network Trust Board chairwoman Michelle Wilson, Global Women managing director Faye Langdon, Fonterra leadership and talent director Janette Rosanowski, DairyNZ strategy and investment portfolio manager Jenny Jago and 2012 Dairy Woman of the Year award winner Barbara Kuriger. This year’s winner will be announced at the Dairy Women’s Network annual conference in Hamilton on March 19. . . .

Irrigation nominations sought:

Entries close at the end of this month for IrrigationNZ’s ‘Innovation in Irrigation Award’ in association with Aqualinc. The prestigious award, which comes with a $2500 prize, celebrates, encourages and promotes innovation within New Zealand’s irrigation industry.

Previous recipients include the North Otago Irrigation Company in 2012 for its ground-breaking Environmental Farm Plans which guide shareholders in good management practice for irrigation, riparian, soil, fertiliser and effluent use.

Fielding-based Precision Irrigation won the award in 2010 for its variable rate irrigation systems which more effectively target water application through the use of GPS. . .

The impact the dairying ‘revolution’ is having on New Zealand, the consequences, and the prospects – Rodney Dickens:

There is nothing new about the current high dairy export prices in that the current levels are similar to earlier peak levels in 2007/08 and 2010/11.

The left chart below shows the ANZ dairy commodity price indices measured in NZD terms and world price terms.

The much higher world prices than NZD prices in recent years reflect the negative impact of the high NZD.

In world price terms current prices are well above the levels that existed prior to 2007, with this related to a large extent to increased Chinese demand that was revealed in a Raving that looked at the massive impact China is having on a wide range of NZ commodity exports and tourism. Based on the 7 January Fonterra auction results, dairy product prices in USD terms remained high (right chart). . . .

Why should farmers and ranchers invest time in advocacy? – Agriculture Proud:

Last week, I posted an article from Forbes that is very accusatory of modern global agriculture. It’s like a laundry list of activist claims used demonize modern agriculture practices. We could spend time angrily responding to articles like this, but defensively reacting to accusations like this aren’t getting us very far. Hence my emphasis on the importance of being PROactive in reaching out, answering questions, and sharing our story with audiences willing to listen.

Part of that proactive response includes farmers, ranchers and members of the agriculture community investing time in reaching out and engaging. Often when I propose this investment to various ranchers groups across the country, I get either a blank stare or a response similar to this: . . .

Top ram’s DNA revived 30 years on – Sally Rae:

Offspring of a Romney ram, owned by Otago stud breeder David Robertson, will go through the sale ring in Gore tomorrow.

Aurora 105-84 might be long gone, but his genetics live on three decades later, thanks to what was initially a practice exercise in artificial insemination for Mr Robertson’s veterinary surgeon son.

Mr Robertson, who farms at Palmerston and is a third-generation stud-breeder, admitted it was an unusual situation. . . .

International year of family farming kicks off in Australia:

The National Farmers’ Federation and its members have hailed the start of the new year, encouraging all Australians to join with them in celebrating the International Year of Family Farming during 2014.

NFF President Brent Finlay, a family farmer from south east Queensland, said family farms remain the heart and soul of agriculture in Australia.

“Ninety nine percent of Australian farms are family owned and operated – and this year, the United Nations-declared International Year of Family Farming, gives us the opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution these farmers make,” Mr Finlay said. . .


Rice market reforms big step towards free trade

January 14, 2014

Agriculture has been a large stumbling block in free trade deals with Japan but that is about to change:

NOT even the most ardent reformers around Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, believed that he would dare to scrap the policy, known as gentan, under which the government has paid farmers to reduce rice crops since 1971. But on November 26th the agriculture ministry said the system would be phased out by 2018. Rice growers, said Mr Abe, will be able to produce crops “based on their own management decisions”.

Allowing a free market for rice, the country’s sacred staple food, will not by itself transform Japan’s inefficient agricultural sector, which has declined precipitously in recent years. But it is an unavoidable and welcome first step. The gentan system was originally designed to shield the country’s cosseted farmers from short-term fluctuations in prices. By 2010 the policy kept roughly a third of Japan’s paddy fields out of rice production, costing vast sums each year in compensation to farmers for lost income. . .

Subsidies almost always start with good intentions but they have unexpected consequences, distorting markets at great cost to consumers, producers and tax payers.

The country’s millions of small rice-growers have thrived on the handout for decades, along with Japan Agriculture (JA), a giant network of local farm co-operatives. Many landowners pocket the government’s money while growing nothing at all. About two-fifths of the land taken out of rice production is left entirely idle. Unused land prompts regular public hand-wringing about the abandonment of the life-giving soil to weeds and rubbish.

Japanese agriculture’s biggest problem is that all but 2% of farms are smaller than five hectares and many comprise just a few fields, a fragmentation preserved by the gentan system and by other regulations. Tiny, often part-time farmers, with few economies of scale, antiquated methods and old equipment hobble the industry. The sticky rice favoured by Japanese consumers ends up costing twice or more what rice does in other countries.

To protect its wildly uncompetitive farmers, Japan has erected one of the world’s highest tariffs: the duty on imported polished rice is 777.7%. Mr Abe’s surprise decision in March to bring Japan into talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade grouping, has brought these duties under pressure. Even though a final deal on TPP is far from certain, the talks are still a powerful force for change. . .

This is a significant move and an important step towards free trade.

It will involve some short term pain but Japanese producers and consumers, and exporters in other countries, including New Zealand, which want to trade there will have a lot to gain in the medium to longer term.

We’re not going to be trying to sell the Japanese rice, but will benefit from the reduction in tariffs on other products we do sell there.


Painting a black Brown white

January 14, 2014

Auckland mayor Len Brown has been keeping a very low profile for weeks:

Mr Brown did not return calls yesterday and his team of spin doctors were giving little away about the movements of their boss, who has been on leave since December 21 – the day after councillors expressed their “profound disappointment and disapproval” of the mayor’s inappropriate behaviour and undeclared conflicts of interest.

Yesterday, Mr Brown’s chief press secretary, Glyn Jones, said the mayor was “still officially on leave but spending some time in the office while enjoying quality time with his family before returning to mayoral duties within the next couple of weeks”.

He’s been on  leave but his team of spin doctors – possibly all six of them – has been at work trying to work out how to paint the black actions of Brown white:

The mayoral office is working on ways to rebuild Len Brown’s shattered reputation after his sex scandal. The strategy involves setting out an action plan and contacting communities.

One option is a state of the nation-type speech. Another is resuming Mr Brown’s “mayor in the chair” chats, but that carries the risk of angry citizens lambasting him in public. . .

They and he can do and say what they like but they can’t undo what he did, make people feel comfortable with it nor consider him an appropriate person for bread and butter civic duties where he might be seen as a role model in the community.

Councillor Sharon Stewart has said people in her community – schools, sports clubs and churches – were uncomfortable about having Mr Brown at events. . .

Mayors usually get invited to the opening a a cake tin but there’s a lot of groups who don’t want his fingers on their tins any more, either because of the affair or the associated behaviour.

. . . Meanwhile, the right-wing local body ticket Affordable Auckland is organising a “Stand Down Len Brown” march up Queen St at noon on February 22.

Leader Stephen Berry and spokesman Will Ryan said the march was not so much about Mr Brown’s private life as his undeclared activities and poor financial management.

Whether or not many people turn up, this, like Graham McReady’s planned litigation, will keep the mayors misbehaviour in the news, colouring people’s minds and making it much harder for the spin doctors to white-out the black marks Brown’s made.


Who are we talking about?

January 14, 2014

From a few days before Christmas until at least the second week in January, most politicians and the people who report their words and deeds take a break.

There might be the odd media release from a duty minister or even odder – in whatever sense you like of that word -one from an opposition MP desperately hoping to be noticed, but they are lucky to make even very small headlines.

John Key’s golf-game with Barrack Obama got attention here and abroad, but there hasn’t much else newsworthy to prompt discussion around the barbecues.

But this week, look who’s popped up – Colin Craig telling the world he smacks his children and that repealing the anti-smacking legislation will be a bottom line for his Conservative Party in coalition negotiations.

This will do nothing for the minority who supported the legislation and the much bigger number of people who didn’t but don’t think it’s a major issue.

But it doesn’t need to.

All it needs to do is keep Craig in the headlines and keep people talking about him because he doesn’t need majority support.

All he needs is 5% of voters, or an electorate seat, and he and his party will be in parliament at the next election.

He’s getting noticed and it doesn’t matter that most would consider that’s for the wrong reasons. He’s not aiming at most of us.

He’s aiming at the disaffected and discontented and those who feel they’re not being represented at the moment.

They don’t need to feel strongly about the  particular issues he picks, or even agree with his stance on all of them.

They just need to believe he’s someone who’s different from the rest and who could represent them.

The fact he’s managed to do what no minor party leader out of parliament has managed, when he’s not in parliament – keep being noticed and have people talking about him while the political world is on holiday – will help.


Fonterra has learned

January 14, 2014

Fonterra has issued a voluntary recall of Anchor and Pams fresh cream bottles, after tests revealed the possibility of contamination by  E. Coli.

Fonterra Brands NZ is today conducting a voluntary recall of 300ml and 500ml bottles of Anchor and Pams fresh cream with a best before date of 21 January 2014, distributed in the North Island from Northland to Turangi, including Gisborne.

The recall involves 8,700 bottles of fresh cream that have been distributed to retail and foodservice outlets.

Fonterra Brands NZ Managing Director Peter McClure said the voluntary recall is being done because quality tests have shown there may be the presence of E.Coli in some Anchor and Pams bottles of cream with the 21 January 2014 best before date.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience and concern this recall might cause but food safety and quality are our top priorities,” said Mr McClure.  

Consumers are advised not to consume this product and to return it to the place of purchase for a refund. If they require further information, they should contact Fonterra Brands’ customer service centre on 0800 256 257.

This recall does not affect any other Anchor or Pams products.

The affected batch numbers are:

Product Batch Number Best Before Date
Pams Cream 500ml 1400684206 21/01/2014
Anchor Cream 500ml 1400684207 21/01/2014
Anchor Cream 300ml 1400684208 21/01/2014
Pams Cream 300ml 1400684209 21/01/2014

The way this has been handled shows Fonterra has learned from the many mistakes it made in precautionary recall of products in the botulism scare.

This time the company has the news on its website giving all the details consumers need.

No business wants to do a recall but doing it properly, as Fonterra is this time, rather than damaging a reputation can improve consumers’ trust in a company and its products.


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