Word of the day

September 18, 2019

Tirrit – an instance of panic, temper or upset.


Rural round-up

September 18, 2019

If we undermine farming we undermine our entire economic fabric – Barbara Kuriger:

Like my family before me, and following after me, I’ve always taken great pride in being a dairy farmer, and in the reputation of the New Zealand dairy industry internationally.

My husband and I grew up in a generation where we had the opportunity to buy a farm and build our livelihoods on the land as our family had before us. It has been a privilege to forge an incredible career as a dairy farmer. My husband, Louis, and I are both award-winning dairy farmers and we’re proud of the mark we’ve made on the industry. 

Sadly, the outlook for New Zealand’s primary sector is the worst that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t make this strong statement lightly, nor to scaremonger – but rather to reflect the policy settings under a virtue-signalling government which is setting the dairy industry up for failure. As a rural MP, but more importantly as a farmer, I won’t sit back and allow the ladder to be pulled up behind future generations of New Zealanders wanting to pave their way in the farming sector.   . . 

Dannevirke shearing legend Koro Mullins passes away:

Tributes are flowing in from around the world in memory of Dannevirke shearing identity Koropiko Tumatahi (Koro) Mullins, who died suddenly on Monday at the age of 65.

Mr Mullins was known across all aspects for the shearing industry and sports, from shearer and shearing contractor to a frontman commentating role shearing great Sir David Fagan says set the standard on a global scale.

Born and raised in the Rotorua area, and of Te Arawa stock, he met the-then Mavis Paewai when he was a woolpressing teenager working for her brothers and father in Southern Hawke’s Bay.

It sparked what Fagan says was a unique family involvement and commitment to the shearing and wool industry, becoming the basis of Maori Television series Shear Bro which first aired in July last year. . . 

“Don’t lose hope’ – Pam Tipa:

Farming families and communities keen to do the right thing on water should not lose hope and confidence in the consultation process, says a Canterbury dairy farmer and industry leader.

The Government’s proposed nitrogen target for mid Canterbury isn’t attainable, says Colin Glass.

But that is no reason to give up on the consultation process, he says. “It looks as though there is nothing we could do today that would even come close to achieving that target. It simply means that if that target is not amended, farming as we know it today is not possible. Any form of farming.

“The key thing is that farmers are doing the right thing. Everyone is moving in the right direction. Now is not the time for people to lose faith or confidence in the process. . . 

Radiata pine plantations a band aid to nowhere – Di Lucas:

Climate change policies, the Billion Tree initiative and recent news promote the establishment of extensive pine plantations to benefit Aotearoa New Zealand’s climate change response by sinking carbon. Others have questioned the benefit of short-rotation plantation pines compared to natural regeneration of native forests. Whilst afforestation has an important role in New Zealand’s climate change response, we need to be clear about future implications.

There are both native and introduced tree species that grow fast and others that grow more slowly. Consider along with the speed of sequestration, the total carbon stocks that can be accumulated, and how long sequestration rates can be sustained. These rates depend on whether the forest is permanent and allowed to grow to maturity (i.e. not harvested) or harvested.  

Fast-growing trees such as pines or eucalypts in harvested plantations reach their maximum carbon storage capacity in about 20 years. Landowners then lose most of those carbon stocks when the forest is harvested; NZ loses most of the embedded carbon when logs are exported; furthermore, the globe loses most of those stocks back into the atmosphere as the products decay, as well as through associated emissions from forest management, transport and processing. Thus to store more carbon actually requires another forest to be planted on new land that is not already forested, while also continuing to replant and maintain the previous area in forest to recover the lost carbon stocks. That is, plantation areas will need to be doubled in size with every crop. . . 

Here are three farmers who are taking action on climate change – Rebecca Black:

Waikato dairy farmer Christopher Falconer is parked up on his farm looking out over the wetlands as he talks about mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I don’t make climate change-based decisions for what we do on-farm. I don’t. But as it happens, there’s a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate, and what is good for all sorts of other things.”

Take riparian planting, the practice of growing plants alongside waterways. The goal is to mitigate nutrient loss and subsidence and stream bank erosion, but it’s also an effective carbon capture.

With nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under scrutiny and some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. But by making climate change action part of their everyday work, three farmers says the rewards speak for themselves. . . 

Fonterra’s capital structure is no longer fit for purpose – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s delay in announcing its results, driven by Fonterra’s need for discussions with its auditors about appropriate asset values, provides an opportunity to reflect on Fonterra’s capital structure and whether it is still fit for purpose. The simple answer is that it is not.

The value destruction that has occurred and which is now coming to light means that inherent conflicts between the interests of farmer shareholders and investor unitholders have become too great to be papered over. Co-operatives do not survive long-term unless everyone’s interests align.

Two former directors of Fonterra, Colin Armer and Nicola Shadbolt, have both come out recently and said that reworking Fonterra’s capital structure is not the immediate priority. I agree with them. The immediate and urgent priority is to sell assets and create a new slimmed-down and financially-efficient organisational structure, with many fewer high-paid executives. . . 

Physicist Sam Hitchman wins top meat science talent award:

Attracting the best and brightest minds is and remains one of the international meat industry’s top priorities and for Sam Hitchman – a physicist in an industry dominated by biological researchers – the quest to attract new talent has paid off.

The AgResearch scientist recently won the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Prize for Young Talent in Meat Science and Technology at the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) near Berlin, Germany.

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Sam Hitchman, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in AgResearch’s Meat Quality team, says he was thrilled with the recognition, while adding he didn’t feel “young” – as his award would suggest – upon his return to New Zealand. . . 

Why going meat-free could damage your health – Luke Mintz:

It was just a few months ago that experts were declaring the end of meat. Earlier this year, consultancy firm AT Kearney predicted that by 2040, animal products will have become so socially and environmentally unacceptable that most “meat” eaten across the globe will come in the form of plant-based or lab-grown substitutes.

But a major study released this week just might put the brakes on the rapidly accelerating plant-based trend. According to Oxford University research, published in the British Medical Journal, vegetarians and vegans have a 20 per cent higher risk of stroke than those who regularly tuck into a plate of bacon and sausages.

The authors of the study, which tracked almost 50,000 Britons for 18 years, said this might be because veggies did not have enough cholesterol in their blood. The finding flies in the face of much conventional wisdom, which says that vegetarianism is a healthy alternative to a carnivorous lifestyle.

But nutritionists say the increased risk of stroke is just one of the many health risks that any would-be vegetarian should be made aware of before they take the plunge. . . 


More immigration isn’t what they campaigned on

September 18, 2019

The government has announced changes to immigration policy with a streamlined temporary work visa.

It’s been greeted positively by Federated Farmers:

“Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has  been taken on board – we congratulate the government,” Feds employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted.”

By ditching the ANZSCO skill level classifications, there is much greater scope for a migrant worker to achieve career progression on our farms.

“The changes incentivise farmers to invest in training and supporting migrant employees because there’s a greater chance of keeping them than currently exists.

It’s such a waste of time and effort to train people only to have them forced to leave the country when their visas run out.

“We also acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach in reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders.  The migrant worker’s children can be educated here, and their partner can get an open work visa,” Lewis said.

“It’s a positive for rural communities to have settled and content families, not just single men who may well be sending all their money home to their family.”

It’s far better to have families together here, participating in the community, than to separate them with the worker isolated and sending money home.

The government has indicated the dairy industry is a likely early target group for one of the new sector agreements, containing specific terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers.

“Federated Farmers looks forward to working with other Team Ag  partners and the government to help get this sector agreement right,” Lewis said.

DairyNZ and the tourism industry are among others who are pleased with the changes and I agree with them.

Unemployment levels are low throughout New Zealand and out of the main centres are down to the unemployable. It is at least difficult, and often impossible, to get locals who are capable of working on farms, orchards, hospitality and tourism in the regions.

But what do all the people who voted for the governing parties, Labour NZ First and the Green Party think?

All three parties criticised immigration levels when they were in opposition and campaigned on cutting it back.

We can be grateful that now the anti-immigration rhetoric has met the reality of worker shortages it’s the voters who believed the talk who are disappointed but businesses will find it easier to get the staff they need.


Playing for the payer

September 18, 2019

What’s the value of dairying to the economy? It depends who you ask:

The recent NZIER report trivialises the significant role the dairy sector plays in New Zealand’s economy – and fails to look at the specifics of the Government’s freshwater package, according to DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the report, commissioned by Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace, is less an economic report and more a high-level commentary on the dairy sector’s role in the economy – and paints an inaccurate picture.

“This is yet another case of environmental lobbyists targeting dairy farmers – who are people trying to do the right thing by the environment and who are actively working to make changes on-farm to protect it,” said Dr Mackle. “By singling out dairy farmers, they are ignoring other contributors to water quality and, therefore, are limiting our ability to actually fix the problems where they exist.

“The NZIER report trivialised dairy’s role in the economy – 3 percent of GDP equates to 28 percent of merchandise exports and one-fifth of goods and services exports coming from the dairy sector.

“The NZIER report does not analyse the economic benefits of dairy to regional communities – which is a critical aspect of dairy farming’s contribution to NZ Inc. Dairying is the engine of the regions, in terms of income and jobs. For example, it is the top income earner in Waikato, West Coast and Southland.

“Yesterday we saw the latest MPI Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which showed dairy makes up $18.1b of $46.4b exports to June 2019. Dairy exports were up $1.47b last year – this has flow-on effects to our communities, where we employ 46,000 people on and off-farm.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) recently completed an advisory report on the Essential Freshwater Package that showed that national limits for nitrogen and phosphorus would potentially impose very large costs on agriculture.

“In that report, it referred to a Waikato modelling study which found that land-use change was required to achieve the nitrogen and phosphorus limits proposed – with changes resulting in a dairy revenue loss of $140m per year,” said Dr Mackle

The LGNZ report showed that these goals require an enormous amount of land use change to take place, with many farms becoming uneconomic and communities being impacted negatively due to rural depopulation and a loss of annual income.

“Modelling for Southland showed that achieving a 9 percent reduction in nitrogen loss would reduce dairy profits by $17m a year,” said Dr Mackle.

“In terms of innovation, dairy farmers are an extremely innovative sector but the reality is that all land users play a role in water quality and more than innovation is required – it also needs broadscale adoption by all land users.

“As a sector, we are solutions-focused – and have been for years, and our farmers have been voluntarily working to look after their land and waterways. Our Water Accord shows a range of great progress, including fencing 98% of significant dairy waterways and stock crossing points or culverts for almost all waterways nationwide.

“We all acknowledge there is more work to be done – but we need to work together and recognise when good work is happening and allow time for change to occur.”

NZIER produced a report that played the tune the payers – Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace – wanted.

In doing so it seriously undervalued the economic importance of dairying in and to New Zealand and seriously underestimated the devastating impact the freshwater proposals would have on rural communities and the country.


No more history posts

September 18, 2019

Each day’s blog has started with a history post for more than 10 years.

It doesn’t take long to do each one but  not very much time every day adds up and it is time I need/want to spend on other things.

If you miss it you can enter the date on the sources I used: Wikipedia and NZ History


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