Word of the day

May 7, 2014

Grimalkin – a cat, specifically an old, bad tempered or evil-looking female one; old woman, specifically an ill-tempered or spiteful one.


Rural round-up

May 7, 2014

Farmers ‘need to meet minimum standards’:

Farm employment issues will be high on the agenda at Dairy New Zealand’s farmers forum in Waikato on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dairy NZ is responding to farmers’ requests to provide some practical guidance following a recent survey by labour inspectors found most of the farms checked were breaking employment rules. Most of the breaches related to record-keeping.

The organisation, along with Federated Farmers, is seeking changes to the minimum wage order so farmers can average out their employee’s pay over a fortnight rather than a week. . .

Rural lending growth may slow after dairy-fuelled expansion – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s rural lending, which more than doubled to an all-time high of $50.6 billion in the past decade on dairy farm expansion, may slow as farmers use record milk payouts to reduce debt, spurred on by rising interest rates.

In the past 10 years to June 30, 2013, agricultural debt has risen mostly due to the dairy sector where lending has almost tripled to $32.4 billion. The surge in lending to the dairy industry far exceeds the $1.4 billion debt owed by sheep farmers and $1.2 billion accrued by beef cattle farmers, according to Reserve Bank figures.

Dairy sector lending has soared as farmers have invested in converting land to dairy farming to take advantage of high milk prices and the associated strong growth in farm land prices, the central bank said in its last Financial Stability report in November. Indebted dairy farmers will be weighing up using high dairy payouts to pay down debt or increase farm investment in anticipation of a positive outlook, it said. Since then, the bank has begun to raise interest rates, hiking the benchmark twice in as many months, and milk prices have weakened in response to increased production. . .

Passionate about the Perendale – Sally Rae:

Ask Duncan Smith why he has stuck with the Perendale breed and the answer is succinct.

”They are just so tough and they just don’t die,” Mr Smith, who farms Islay Downs, on the Pigroot, said.

Mr Smith and his wife Claire are among the four entrants in the Sir Geoffrey Peren Cup competition, judged on farm last month and held in conjunction with Perendale New Zealand’s national conference in Otago this week.

The winner will be announced during the conference. It was Mr Smith’s late father, Ross, who took up the Perendale breed in the late 1970s. He was a ”very staunch Perendale man”. . .

Breed event in Otago – Sally Rae:

More than 60 registrations from throughout New Zealand have been received for Perendale New Zealand’s national conference in Otago this week.

Planning for the annual event, which alternates between the North and South islands, began nearly a year ago. The conference begins on Thursday with registrations and a dinner.

On Friday, there is a bus tour to South Otago, visiting the Mitchell family’s Hillcrest stud at Clinton, and the Gardner family’s stud near Balclutha. There will also be a visit to AgResearch’s Invermay research centre, and to the Elders woolstore to view a wool competition. . . .

 

NAIT helping graziers keep up to date:

Farmers grazing stock this season can keep track of their animals by ensuring their NAIT records are up to date.

“It’s important to record all off-farm movements of stock to grazing blocks and confirm with NAIT when the animals arrive back on your property,” said Dr Stu Hutchings, OSPRI New Zealand Group Manager, Programme Design and Farm Operations.

“NAIT tags provide a unique identification number for each animal, which can help farmers verify that the same animals they sent for grazing are the ones they are getting back.” . .  .

Small-scale pest control still helps:

A study of rat poisoning in small forest blocks has shown that pest control on a small-scale can still provide a huge boost to native bird populations.

The six year study was carried out by Massey University researchers who analysed the effects of rat control in 19 blocks near Bennydale in the King Country.

It showed that small-scale control increased the number of North Island robins by 50 percent on average each year and also helped other species favoured by rats . . .

Federated Farmers initiative makes employing easy:

Federated Farmers has developed a New Employers Pack to help first time employers meet their employment obligations and develop better working relationships on farm.

“We want all employers to be able to put their best foot forward and this pack allows them to do that,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Employment Spokesperson.

“The New Employers Pack is in response to an overwhelming demand for it from our members. In a member survey 97 percent wanted an employment pack produced. So Federated Farmers has created one, which helps farmers get it right from the very start, and that ticks all the boxes.

“As a farmer myself, I know farmers would prefer to know they are doing it right and understand what is required of them. This pack is designed for all farm types so I know all farmers will jump at this innovative employment pack. . . .

Rural Equities lifts stake in Tandou to 21% after rights issue:

Rural Equities, the farming group controlled by the Cushing family, has lifted its stake in Tandou after taking up its entitlement in the ASX-listed agribusiness’s three-for-eight rights offer.

Entities associated with Rural Equities now hold 21 percent, up from the 17.7 percent owned in August. Tandou’s offer at 47 Australian cents a share closed on April 28. Shareholders subscribed for about A$13.5 million of the A$25.2 million sought. Underwriter Petra Capital made up the shortfall of about A$11.7 million, placing the stock with institutions and professional investors.

Tandou shares last traded at 46.5 Australian cents on the ASX and have gained about 12 percent in the past year. They are rated a ‘strong buy’ based on two analysts polled by Reuters. . . .

Zabeel Mares Highlight NZB Broodmare Sale:

A prime opportunity for new players to enter the breeding game and for existing breeders to expand their portfolio is presented by New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Broodmare Sale, next week (13 May) at Karaka.

There are 209 broodmares catalogued for sale by leading damsires from New Zealand, Australia and further afield, in foal to proven and exciting young sires.

One of the highlights of the Sale will be the 12 broodmare entries by legendary sire Zabeel. The recently retired Cambridge Stud stallion is the damsire of 24 individual Group 1 winners including Dundeel (High Chaparral), Atlantic Jewel (Fastnet Rock),Silent Achiever (O’Reilly), Go Indy Go(Bernardini) and O’Marilyn (O’Reilly) this season. . . .


Unions want exemptions from higher retirement age

May 7, 2014

Unions aren’t enthusiastic about Labour’s plans to increase the age of eligibility for superannuation to 67 and want exemptions for manual workers.

. . . Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe said provisions would be needed exempting those in physically demanding jobs, who would struggle to keep working past 65. . .

People in physically demanding jobs are often stronger, fitter and healthier than those in sedentary ones.

Two of our staff are in their 80s.

One of those spends most of his time dagging sheep, something many people far younger would struggle to do.

He does take Wednesday afternoons off to play bridge though providing a great role model for physical and mental fitness.


Licence fees ammo for farmers’ critic

May 7, 2014

Farmers who hunt are helping Fish and Game NZ take pot shots at them, Federated Farmers’ Waikato provincial president James Houghton says.

Fish and Game will be laughing their way to the bank after Duck Shooting season kicked off on Saturday. With a compulsory subscription system, opening weekend for Duck Shooting season sees hundreds of licenses being brought from the organisation.

What irks me is that it is guaranteed revenue for Fish and Game with no need to service those who fund them. I am not against people paying for licenses but it is the way Fish and Game then uses the money that I find so unpalatable.

Most of Fish and Game’s subscribers are the very farmers that they spend the majority of their time submitting against and taking to court, trying to protect their hunting business. You can see the irony in an organisation that is focused on killing as a sport publicly banging their chests about the environment, then using the revenue they‘ve collected off farmers to frame an expensive argument, which protects their legislative gravy train rather than environment. . .

I am all for licenses to own and use a gun (gun license) as well as responsible hunting laws, but this system is not for the hunter this is all about revenue for Fish and Game, personally I would rather pay a Government organisation double what I pay Fish and Game than continue to fund their attack on farmers .

There is a bit of confusion here with the public perception that Fish and Game are an environmental organisation. Don’t be fooled – the wetlands they create are merely so they can breed more pests for us to pay them to shoot. I would say they are a self serving business rather than environmental stewards. There really is no difference between that and a hunting park – the animals are protected so they can build up a population large enough to be hunted at certain times of the year.  The ridiculous thing is that this doesn’t need to be legislated, farmers do this already, and with a clear enthusiasm for the sport it wouldn’t be hard to rustle up sponsorship to do exactly what Fish and Game do without the farce of pretending to care about the environment. If there was nothing to hunt there would still be an environment, but no Fish and Game.

In the Waikato, to help increase duck numbers, Fish and Game are shortening the duck shooting season. This to me shows their true colours – that they are not environmental stewards they are purely a hunting business. From my perspective the lack of ducks is a good thing for water quality going forward – do we really need more ducks?

Tests on water above and below farms with ponds often show it’s ducks and other water fowl which foul the water, not animals or farming practices.

With no accountability to those who pay their salaries, it is with a sour taste in my mouth that I will be duck shooting this season. Solution – I encourage the Government to either, create a voluntary subscription system ensuring our money is spent wisely, and that Fish and Game has a true mandate that represents its members, or alternatively remove them completely, stick to the hunting laws that already exist.

Fish and Game has damaged relationships with farmers over its actions subverting property rights on issues such as public access to private land and  tenure review.

It’s a sore point that farmers and their friends who buy licences to shoot pests subsidise court action and other campaigns against them.

They’re paying for the ammo their critics fire at them.


Push up food prices, put down farmers

May 7, 2014

Justified fears farmers have about the dangers of a LabourGreen government were confirmed by David Parker’s announcement of Labour’s environment policy:

Labour would axe the $400 million Crown Irrigation Fund to kick-start private irrigation schemes . . .

While honouring any contracts already in place, Labour would replace the Crown Irrigation Fund, established from the proceeds of state asset sales, with a freshwater pricing regime to encourage economically marginal irrigation schemes.

“With a new irrigation proposal where the economics are just breakeven, as they often are, then maybe the price of water for the first 30 years is next to nothing,” said Parker. . .

Irrigation NZ said the policy would push up food prices and cripple farmers.

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) is not convinced that Labour has fully considered the implications of a tax, or resource rent, for irrigation. Particularly how such a mechanism would be practically implemented. 

Many water takes involve combinations of irrigation, hydropower and domestic supply such as the Opuha dam or the Rangitata Diversion Race – how will these complex takes be split apart to allow for irrigation related resource rents?

More importantly it is not equitable to do so given that private energy companies, Trustpower for example, and commercial business connected to domestic water supply systems also prosper from the use of water. A resource rent will mean increased cost for domestic water supply and electricity alongside food price increases – such a tax would therefore impact upon low income earners the most.

Yet another way in which a LabourGreen government would increase costs for households and producers.

Additionally, this increased cost to the farmer will impact production and importantly prevent farmer investment in improved environmental management to meet the water quality limits now in place in a number of regions. Ultimately it will see the demise of the traditional NZ family farm.

Despite Mr Parker’s statement that irrigation is funded by subsidies, this is not the case. The Crown Irrigation Investment Fund is an investment company receiving market returns – for example the recent $6.5million loan to Central Plains Water. New Zealand does however need to consider the benefits of subsidising modern irrigation scheme development, it would allow increased farmer investment in improved environmental management enabling them meet new standards more quickly.

Mr Parker’s comments that irrigation is a wealth transfer that only benefits rich land owners is disingenuous. Irrigation is well proven to benefit everyone – multiple independent socio-economic studies both in New Zealand and overseas demonstrate this. Because of the consensus view In New Zealand that our waterways are important and integral, all proposed irrigation schemes in New Zealand incorporate sustainability and environmental improvements.

Irrigation schemes provide infrastructure that allows opportunity for communities to grow. The reality is irrigation underpins thousands of jobs and entire communities in New Zealand, whilst also ensuring we have affordable food available on our tables. Blenheim, Ashburton, Timaru and Oamaru are all prime examples of this.

Parker spent a term as MP for Otago, which included Oamaru, and he ought to understand the benefits irrigation has brought to the whole district.

Sustainable solutions and environmental safeguards – many driven and agreed on by the 62-member Land and Water Forum – have begun in earnest: with compulsory water metering, stock exclusion from waterways and water quality limit setting. As a result in excess of $2billion ($5,000 per hectare) has and continues to be spent on converting flood and older spray irrigation systems to modern centre pivot irrigators.

These measures already in place will help ‘clean up’ dirty rivers and lakes over a generation; increases in intensity of land are already being controlled through nutrient allocation limits imposed on irrigators; and improvements to farm practice are already underway to offset environmental burdens caused by intensive farming.

INZ agrees with Mr Parker that New Zealanders can have their ‘cake and eat it’ – good water quality and a vibrant farming economy is achievable with a better defined environmental management framework for irrigators to operate within. Reducing uncertainty is key as it allows for investment. The future is about developing policy that enables irrigators to invest in the latest technology to improve water use efficiency and decrease their impacts on water quality.

Fairly funded and properly regulated irrigation is needed to achieve the next level of prosperity and sustainability in New Zealand.

Labour’s policy reinforces its ignorance of rural New Zealand, its needs and its issues.

It would impose extra costs and put more hurdles in the way of rural communities which are trying to drought-proof themselves.

We need more irrigation not less for the economic, environmental and social benefits it brings.

 


GDT drops 1.1%

May 7, 2014

Fonterra’s GlobalDairyTrade Index dropped 1.1% in this morning’s auction.

This is the sixth fall in a row and takes prices back to where they were this time last year.

That wasn’t seen as a bad price and is still well above the long term average.

gdt 7.5.14

 


$3k sweetener for Chch job seekers

May 7, 2014

The government has announced a $3,000 sweetener for job seekers who move to Christchurch for work.

The Government is providing further support for the Canterbury rebuild with $3.5 million of new operating funding for 2014/15 in Budget 2014 to assist beneficiaries to take up work in Christchurch.

“We’re offering up to 1,000 beneficiaries a one-off payment of $3,000 each if they have a full-time job offer in Canterbury and are ready and willing to move there,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

“The rebuild is creating thousands of jobs in Christchurch, and there are people around New Zealand ready to take them up, but who don’t currently have the means to get there.

“With an unemployment rate in Canterbury of 3.4 per cent – lower than the 6 per cent rate nationally – there are plenty of opportunities. There is demand not only in construction, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries too.

“Work and Income will be working closely with employers to connect them with beneficiaries who’d be suited to work for them, and I’m confident this incentive will provide a boost for the rebuild, and for the employment prospects of beneficiaries,” Mrs Bennett says.

The $3,000 payment will help beneficiaries with the move to Canterbury, sorting accommodation, clothing, tools and any other purchases they might need to make when getting settled.

This offer will be open to beneficiaries of all ages, but a particular focus will be placed on young people aged 18-24 years, as the rebuild provides the opportunity for them to gain employment skills that will set them up for life.

To qualify, the job offered must be for over 30 hours a week, and for longer than 91 days. The payment will be non-taxable, and exempt from an income and asset test.

If the recipient goes back on benefit within three months of the payment without a sufficient reason, then the payment must be repaid.

This initiative will cover jobs within the geographical areas of Ashburton, Hurunui, Selwyn, and Waimakariri District Councils, and the Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch needs more workers.

People in other places need work but might not be able to afford the costs of shifting.

This initiative will help solve both problems.

Another way to move off welfare, and into work. It helps Christchurch with its rebuild and gives a hand up to someone in need of a job that wants to work.


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