Word of the day

31/05/2022

Bobbersome – eager, impatient, and a little bit excitable.


Sowell says

31/05/2022


Rural round-up

31/05/2022

Labour’s economic mismanagement hurting farmers :

Grant Robertson’s refusal to rein in spending and take meaningful action to dampen inflation is piling pressure on primary industries, National’s spokesperson for Rural Communities Nicola Grigg says.

“This Labour Government has unleashed unprecedented levels of spending in last week’s Budget, with more than $9.5 billion in new spending forecast this year alone. To put it in context, they are now spending 68 per cent more, or an extra $51 billion per year, since coming into office.

“This out of control spending is putting huge pressure on the economy and is driving inflation to a record 30-year high, with the cost of farm inputs rising by 9.8 per cent since the March quarter last year.

“This week we saw another 50 basis point jumps in the OCR, the first back to back 50 point increase since the OCR was introduced – which has never happened before and will effectively double interest rates compared with last year. . . 

Farmers encouraged to make the most of wetlands :

A new guide has been developed to help farmers get the most out of wetlands on their land – and it features a case study that shows a wetland on one Waikato farm removed about 60 percent of nitrogen from the water it receives.

As more farmers look to reduce their environmental impact, there’s growing interest in re-establishing and constructing new wetlands.

Dairy NZ and NIWA, with guidance from the Fish and Game Council have teamed up to create a guide for farmers, which features a Waikato dairy farm as a case study.

Gray and Marilyn Baldwin developed a wetland on their 713 hectare dairy farm, where over 12,000 native plants were put in. . . 

 

Critical questions – Owen Jennings:

A number of critically important questions have been raised in recent discussions I have had with farmers about their greenhouse gas emissions. They deserve answers. The mainstream media ignore them preferring to bag the farming community saying they are getting off lightly and are not meeting their responsibilities.

Question 1. Why is Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement ignored when it states clearly that countries should not reduce food production in their pursuit of emission goals? Proposals that will reduce production by 15% or more violate the Agreement.

Question 2. Why are we taking unilateral action that will cut production in NZ that has the planet’s lowest carbon footprint when we know that other countries, with a worse record, will make up the shortfall leading to increased emissions overall?

Question 3. Why is 1990 used as a base date for measuring ruminant emissions when methane emissions only last 9 to 10 years in the atmosphere? Isn’t that deceptive? The Climate Change Commission showed clearly ruminant methane emissions are stable or falling slightly since 2005 which means farmers have achieved ‘net zero’ and are actually contributing to cooling the planet. The amount of methane from the farm in the atmosphere is falling. Farmers are heroes not villains. . . 

Pioneering viticulturist receives Wine Marlborough Lifetime Achievement Award :

A stalwart of the Marlborough wine industry, Dominic Pecchenino, has been honoured by the board of Wine Marlborough with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award, which recognises service to the development of the Marlborough Wine industry, was presented to the viticultural consultant during the Winter Pruning Field Day held at Matador Estate today [Wednesday, 25 May].

Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens says Mr Pecchenino has played a significant role in the development of Marlborough’s wine industry as a scientist and viticulturist.

He arrived in Marlborough from the US in 1994, as vineyard manager of Matador Estate – the very place where he was honoured with his award, almost 30 years later. . .

 

Olive oil pressers optimistic despite low olive oil produce :

Olive oil growers in Wairarapa are optimistic about the season’s harvest, despite some very wet weather to start with.

Leafyridge Olives manager and grower Craig Leaf-Wright said the weather had thrown growers a curveball.

“We’ve had a lot of rain in the Wairarapa since December, and then on and off since then, and that kind of skewed things a bit for people,” he said.

“Some people thought that their fruit was ripening earlier, I think it’s probably about on par, and some people believe it should be a bit later. . .

In Sri Lanka organic farming went catastrophically wrong – Ted Nordhaus & Saloni Shah:

Faced with a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis, Sri Lanka called off an ill-conceived national experiment in organic agriculture this winter. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised in his 2019 election campaign to transition the country’s farmers to organic agriculture over a period of 10 years. Last April, Rajapaksa’s government made good on that promise, imposing a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic.

The result was brutal and swift. Against claims that organic methods can produce comparable yields to conventional farming, domestic rice production fell 20 percent in just the first six months. Sri Lanka, long self-sufficient in rice production, has been forced to import $450 million worth of rice even as domestic prices for this staple of the national diet surged by around 50 percent. The ban also devastated the nation’s tea crop, its primary export and source of foreign exchange.

By November 2021, with tea production falling, the government partially lifted its fertilizer ban on key export crops, including tea, rubber, and coconut. Faced with angry protests, soaring inflation, and the collapse of Sri Lanka’s currency, the government finally suspended the policy for several key crops—including tea, rubber, and coconut—last month, although it continues for some others. The government is also offering $200 million to farmers as direct compensation and an additional $149 million in price subsidies to rice farmers who incurred losses. That hardly made up for the damage and suffering the ban produced. Farmers have widely criticized the payments for being massively insufficient and excluding many farmers, most notably tea producers, who offer one of the main sources of employment in rural Sri Lanka. The drop in tea production alone is estimated to result in economic losses of $425 million. . . 


Chesterton quotes

31/05/2022


Councils must oppose Three Waters

31/05/2022

Groundswell is launching a campaign against Three Waters:

Groundswell NZ is launching a campaign to demand councils oppose the Government’s Three Waters project, hold local referenda, and withdraw from Local Government New Zealand, Groundswell NZ Three Waters spokesperson Lee Smith says.

“Groundswell NZ is launching a campaign to hold councils across New Zealand accountable on their Three Waters position and demanding they hold a local referendum before supporting Three Waters.”

“Over 3,700 people have already joined the campaign by telling their councillors to oppose Three Waters at itsyourwater.nz.”

“While the Government is forcing Three Waters through, councils still have a duty to their ratepayers to stand up for their views and interests. Too many councils have been ambivalent towards Three Waters, and some even support it, despite widespread opposition from the locals they represent.”

“Groundswell NZ’s consistent position has been that no ratepayer assets should change hands without a clear local and democratic mandate from residents in binding referenda.”

“Every council must either publicly oppose Three Waters and do all it can to stop it, or else hold a local referendum.”

“We are holding public events across the country, starting in Southland and Otago, and will be delivering signatures from locals to their council, demanding action opposing Three Waters.”

“Groundswell NZ is also calling for every council to withdraw from LGNZ, as Timaru District Council has done.”

“LGNZ’s failure to speak out against Three Waters, due to the agreement it signed with the Government, is such a fundamental failure to live up to its purpose that the $4 million councils collectively fund them with would be better spent on our infrastructure needs at home”, Lee Smith said.

A District Councillor told me that there are very real fears that if the Government’s proposals for Three Waters goes ahead, every dwelling, no matter how remote, would have to be connected to a sewer system instead of using septic tanks.

That would be both impractical and prohibitively expensive.

The opposition to the plan must continue for several very good reasons, not least of which is that, as Barrie Saunders says, it’s a totally unnecessary battle:

The Three Waters proposal driven by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is a totally unnecessary, very divisive battle with local government and the people of New Zealand.  

The focus has been on whether there should be co-governance with iwi leaders, and also, whether it adequately prevents privatisation, which I see as a red herring maybe designed to divert attention from the real issues.  

The critical question is whether the failings of local government are such, that their Three Waters assets should be confiscated by the state, reformulated into four entities, and then handed back into a convoluted governance regime involving iwi and local government nominees.   

Having looked at the papers behind the proposals I do not believe they meet the necessary threshold.  Yes, there are problems, as Local Government NZ has recognised for many years, but they do not in my view justify central government overriding local government in this heavy-handed manner.  

The first real issue is water quality, which the government has dealt to by establishing the water quality agency Taumata Arowai.  It has only just started operating but will have a real role in ensuring New Zealanders have access to quality water across the whole country.   Anyone who says the Three Waters proposal is necessary to ensure quality supplies is either seriously ignorant or just telling lies.  

Central government, through Taumata Arowai should set standards and audit councils to ensure they meet them. That does not need the bureacracy-heavy centralisation that Three Waters would impose.

The Three Waters advertising last year was dishonest in that it implied the nationalisation was required to ensure quality water, when the Taumata Arowai had already been established in law.  That was a shocker for which heads should roll in the public service.    

The second real question is how to finance and manage the three waters systems throughout the country.  Clearly over the next 30 years the capex requirements will be high, maybe $180 billion, but I note many in the sector considered it to be grossly inflated.   Some local authorities may lack the expertise to manage the upgrades required, or have the ability to finance them with their current limits on borrowing.  

Short of local government imposing excessive burdens on their ratepayers or central government underwriting local authority debts, there are a range of options which can be found on the website of the now 31 local authorities opposing the governments’ plans.  Three of these councils are taking legal action.  For more information see: https://www.communities4localdemocracy.co.nz  

If after exhausting all options with local government, which it has not yet done, the Government then decided decisive action was required it would require a careful plan.  The logical course would be to collaboratively work through the issues with local government and come up with an agreed formula.  I suspect instead of just four entities there would be more like 10, with Auckland City left entirely alone.

Some of the boundaries defy the common-sense test.  Gisborne to Nelson including Wellington is Entity C, which is not rational, particularly when it’s remembered that Horizons in Manawatu is actually split with Entity B.  The logic of Entity C is to accommodate Ngai Tahu, which in the 19th century controlled the South Island outside of the Nelson area.     

At that point the Government might well decide to underwrite the new entities to reduce their borrowing costs.  The alternative, which the Government has decided on, provides the proposed entities with such a level of independence from local government, it can borrow freely.  The massive risk to ratepayers is that insulated from local government politicians the entities will be able to gold-plate their systems, and charge the 100pc captive customers.  No wonder Standard and Poors likes it!!

I see the Government may establish a regulatory agency to ensure this doesn’t happen but I remain sceptical it will be effective.   Monopolists always have good explanations for their cost structure.   I remember been told by the head of NZ Railways, when they employed 23,000, they were about as efficient as they could get.   Now KiwiRail employs fewer than 5000.  Mahuta’s claim Three Waters will create, presumably an additional 6000-9000 jobs, reinforces my scepticism.  

The co-governance concept comes from iwi leaders who rejected the Key Governments’ declaration, fresh water belongs to everyone and as representative of the people, it was the Government’s job to regulate usage, in conjunction with local government.  

Fresh water is not the same as dams, pipes and sewage processing, assets built up by local governments since 1840.   The water ownership issue should be dealt with directly by the Government and not conflated with Three Waters.  Mahuta has further deepened suspicion about Three Waters by refusing to declare iwi will not be able to demand water royalties.

The net result is, like Putin’s war on Ukraine, we have a very unnecessary battle within this country to deal with some real but not insurmountable problems.  I hope the National Party commits itself to pressing the reset button, assuming the current Government is too pig headed to do that itself.  

National has been quite clear that it opposes Three Waters and will throw it out should it become government next year.

In the meantime, it would be nice if the missing in action media, could really drill down into the issues, rigorously analyse the problem, weigh the alternatives and provide some real clarity.   That might regain it some credibility presently lacking on Three Waters.  And while doing that remember, just because people oppose co-governance, doesn’t mean they must be racist as asserted by one writer.

We have a high-quality democracy which is in serious danger of being degraded by a radical interpretation of the Treaty partnership concept.   No one should be surprised when its defended.  I would have thought this would be of some interest to the media, or is that too much to expect?

Some councils will face very large costs to get their water up to standard but that’s no excuse for taking their assets off them and giving them to a new and expensive bureaucracy.

The Government has already spent $34 million designing a reform so badly received they plan to bill water users more than a billion dollars to bring stakeholders on board.

Figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs shows that the Government has spent $34 million to date on the four mega-corporation model for Three Waters Reform, with more than $9 million on staffing and $24 million on external contractors.

The more than $1 billion mooted as part of the ‘no worse off’ and ‘better off’ funding package being given to councils will be funded through future water charges from the new entities.

Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori Chair and Manawatu District Mayor Helen Worboys said a cheaper and more effective option would have been to listen to stakeholders rather than spend millions on expensive consultants.

“While any reform of this type isn’t going to be cheap, to spend $34 million to come up with a flawed proposal that no one is happy with beggars belief,” she said.

“Flaws aside, to then mandate a reform that’s overwhelmingly unpopular with communities and requires more than a billion dollars in spending to convince councils to come on board, when councils agree reform of some kind is necessary, is an astounding waste of money. . . 

These are eyewatering sums  – $24 million on contractors and more than $9 million on staff without doing anything at all to improve water quality and more than $1 billion in future water charges.

All candidates seeking election, or re-election, to local bodies this year must be quite clear where they stand on Three Waters so ratepayers and residents know whether or not they will bow to the government’s dictate or are prepared to fight the government’s divisive, expensive and unnecessary proposal.


Word of the day

30/05/2022

Quiddling – a fussy or fastidious person; given to or characterised by quiddling; consisting of or concerned with minute or insignificant detail; wasting time, fiddling around with; paying extra attention to trivial matters as a way of avoiding the important ones.


Sowell says

30/05/2022


Rural round-up

30/05/2022

Fonterra announces record opening milk price payment for its farmers next season as demand remains strong – Point of Order:

New Zealand  has  suffered  several  jolts  in  the  past week, not  least a  higher interest rate regime as the Reserve  Bank counters  surging inflation.  But  at least  one  beacon of  light shines through the gloom:  the country’s leading primary  export  industry’s boom   is  moving  to a  second  season  of high prices.

Dairy  giant Fonterra,  which sets  the  pace  for  other dairy processors,  has announced a record opening milk price payment for farmers next season amid expectations of continued strong demand for dairy products and constrained global supply.

The co-op expects to pay farmers between $8.25 and $9.75kg/MS  for the season starting next month.  The mid-point, on which farmers are paid, is $9 kg/MS.

That breaks the previous record set at this time last year, when Fonterra’s opening price for the current season was $7.25 – $8.75kg/MS, with a mid-point of $8kg/MS. . . 

Rural mental health ignored again this budget :

The Government was made well aware of mental health concerns for rural communities in a meeting in December last year, this Budget has neglected to do anything to address this crisis, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“It is dead clear from the minutes we received under the Official Information Act that everyone around the table could see that things were bad and getting worse” Kuriger says

“The minutes note that clear themes emerged from a discussion of the drivers of poor mental health, including: workforce shortages, public perception of farmers, and the pace of new regulations.

“If they didn’t already know, it is clear that in December the Prime Minister and Minister O’Connor knew what was happening to our rural communities and were asked by rural sector leaders for help, they’ve had all this time to make a plan but have still done nothing in this budget to address it. . . 

Zespri global revenue exceeds $NZ 4 billion for first time despite challenging 2021-22 season:

. . . A record crop, ongoing investment in brand-led demand creation, and the industry’s ability to respond and leverage its scale and structure have helped Zespri deliver a record result for the 2021/22 season, with total global fruit sales revenue exceeding NZ$4 billion for the first time.

In spite of the immense challenges faced by the industry this season, Zespri’s 2021/22 Financial Results show total global revenue generated by fruit sales reached NZ$4.03 billion, up 12 percent on the previous year, with total global operating revenue up by 15 percent to NZ$4.47 billion. Global sales volumes also increased 11 percent on the previous year to 201.5 million trays.

The results saw direct returns to the New Zealand industry increase to a record $2.47 billion including loyalty payments, despite the considerable uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost increases across the supply chain. Earnings were again spread through regional communities including within the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Nelson, Gisborne, and the Waikato. . . 

Grower returns remained strong in a challenging season, with per hectare returns representing our second best on record across all varieties: . . 

Top ploughers head to Ireland to compete in world championship – Kim Moodie:

New Zealand’s best ploughing talent is set to represent the country in Ireland this year at the World Ploughing Championships. 

Ian Woolley and Bob Mehrtens, who took out the top titles at the New Zealand Ploughing Championships in Seddon earlier this month, are now preparing to compete against the world’s best in September.

Woolley, who won the Silver Plough conventional competition, told RNZ he’s excited to compete, and to soak up the atmosphere, as the event draws a huge crowd.

“It’s basically their National Field Days, there’s 100,000-odd people there each day for three days, although the plowing is on the outskirts of where the main show is taking place. . . 

Silver Fern Farms partnership between consumers and farmers key to nature positive food production :

Silver Fern Farms today celebrated the launch of its USDA-approved Net Carbon Zero By Nature 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef at a New York City event attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Held at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi rooftop in Chelsea, the Prime Minister was joined by the visiting New Zealand trade mission, Silver Fern Farms US customers and in-market partners, and New York and U.S. national media. The event was to celebrate the successful introduction of Net Carbon Zero By Nature Angus Beef to the U.S., which is already being sold in supermarkets in the New York Tri-state area, the Midwest, and California.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says closer partnerships between consumers and farmers through products like Net Carbon Zero beef hold the key to addressing our collective climate and environmental challenges.

“As New Zealand’s largest processor and marketer of red meat, we are in a unique position to build closer partnerships between the needs of discerning customers and our farmers in a way that incentivises nature-positive food production,” says Simon Limmer. . . 

MPI announces finalists in 2022 good employer awards :

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT) have announced finalists for the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards.

Now in their third year, the Awards are run by MPI and AGMARDT to celebrate employers who put their people at the heart of their businesses.

“We received a number of impressive entries,” says MPI’s Director Investment, Skills and Performance, Cheyne Gillooly.

“Central to all of the entries was a real passion shown by businesses towards supporting their employees by putting their health, welfare and wellbeing first.” . . 


Winston Churchill’s wisdom

30/05/2022


Sensible change to surrogacy law

30/05/2022

The Law Commission is recommending several changes to surrogacy laws:

Surrogacy law is out of date and requires reform, concludes Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission in its report, Te Kōpū Whāngai: He Arotake | Review of Surrogacy, presented to Parliament today.

The report acknowledges a pressing need to change the law in order to meet the needs and reasonable expectations of New Zealanders.

Nichola Lambie, Principal Adviser at the Law Commission, said:

“Surrogacy has become an established method of family building for people who are unable to carry a child themselves. Their experience with the current framework shows improvements are needed.

“A key problem is that the law does not recognise surrogacy as a process that creates a parent-child relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate-born child. Intended parents must instead rely on adoption law which was developed over 65 years ago and did not contemplate the modern practice of surrogacy.

“The Law Commission is recommending a new framework for determining legal parenthood in surrogacy arrangements. Surrogacy is a legitimate form of family building that requires a specific legal framework to promote and protect the rights and interests of surrogate-born children, surrogates and intended parents.”

The report affirms the existing prohibition on commercial surrogacy in Aotearoa New Zealand and makes recommendations to improve surrogacy law and practice, including amendments to the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2004 and the Status of Children Act 1969.

Key recommendations include:

  • Introducing a simple administrative pathway for recognising intended parents as the legal parents of a surrogate-born child without the need for a court process, where the surrogacy arrangement was approved by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART) and the surrogate gives her consent.
  • Providing a separate court pathway for recognising intended parents as the legal parents of a surrogate-born child in situations when the administrative pathway does not apply.

Current law doesn’t recognise intended parents as parents, they have to adopt the child.

  • Giving effect to children’s rights to identity by establishing a national surrogacy birth register to preserve access to information by surrogate-born people about their genetic and gestational origins and whakapapa.
  • Clarifying the law to allow payments to surrogates for reasonable costs actually incurred in relation to a surrogacy arrangement, including compensation for loss of income.

Paying someone to be a surrogate would still be illegal but this would allow recompense for costs incurred.

I am not sure if it would allow payment for services, for example housework and child care.

At the moment intended parents could give up work and wait on the surrogate hand and foot but could not pay someone else to help with housework or child care.

The new law should allow payment for this sort of help.

  • Changes to the ECART approval process to improve its operation and to enable ECART to approve traditional surrogacy arrangements.
  • Commissioning Māori-led research to provide a better understanding of tikanga Māori and surrogacy and Māori perspectives on surrogacy.
  • Accommodating international surrogacy arrangements (where intended parents live in New Zealand and the surrogate lives overseas) within the court pathway of the new legal framework in order to promote the best interests of the child.

In developing its recommendations, the Commission has been informed by its consultation with the community of those with experience of surrogacy, members of the public, experts and interested organisations. It has examined recent developments in surrogacy law and regulation overseas and incorporates international best practice into its recommendations.

The Government will now consider the Commission’s recommendations and decide whether to reform the law.

These are recommendations for sensible changes that would make the surrogacy process simpler for the surrogate and the intended parents.

The existing law is out of date and needs to be brought in to the 21st century.


Word of the day

29/05/2022

Wamble -a wobble or roll;  an unsteady motion; to move unsteadily or with a weaving or rolling motion; an upset stomach; feeling of nausea; rumbling of the stomach.


Milne muses

29/05/2022


Trees at Night

29/05/2022

TREES AT NIGHT
by Helene Johnson

Slim Sentinels
Stretching lacy arms
About a slumbrous moon;
Black quivering
Silhouettes,
Tremulous,
Stencilled on the petal
Of a bluebell;
Ink sputtered
On a robin’s breast;
The jagged rent
Of mountains
Reflected in a
Stilly sleeping lake;
Fragile pinnacles
Of fairy castles;
Torn webs of shadows;
And
Printed ’gainst the sky —
The trembling beauty
Of an urgent pine.

Hat tip: The Marginalian


Maya muses

29/05/2022


Sunday Soapbox

29/05/2022

Sunday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.

A man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see. But he goes on to another act. As a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season. – Marcus Aurelius


Word of the day

28/05/2022

Futzing – idling or busying oneself aimlessly; wasting time or effort on frivolities, playing around;  dealing with or handling idly, reluctantly, or as a time-consuming task; dealing with tediously and nigglingly.


Sowell says

28/05/2022


Organic farming can’t feed enough

28/05/2022

Ukraine crisis reveals folly of organic farming – Bjorn Lomborg

The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine disabused many politicians of the notion that the world could make a swift transition to green energy powered by solar, wind and wishful thinking. As food prices skyrocket and the conflict threatens a global food crisis, we need to face another unpopular reality: Organic farming is ineffective, land hungry and very expensive, and it would leave billions hungry if it were embraced world-wide.
For years, politicians and the chattering classes have argued that organic farming is the responsible way to feed the world. The European Union pushed last year for members roughly to triple organic farming by 2030. Influential nonprofits have long promoted organic farming to developing nations, causing fragile countries like Sri Lanka to invest in such methods. In the West, many consumers have been won over: About half the population of Germany believes that organic farming can fight global hunger.

The rise in food prices—buoyed by increased fertilizer, energy and transport costs—amid the conflict in Ukraine has exposed inherent flaws in the argument for organic farming. Because organic agriculture shirks many of the scientific advancements that have allowed farmers to increase crop yields, it’s inherently less efficient than conventional farming. Research has conclusively shown that organic farming produces less food per acre than conventional agriculture. Moreover, organic farming rotates fields in and out of use more often than conventional farming, which can rely on synthetic fertilizer and pesticides to maintain fertility and keep away pests. 

Taking this and the lower production in a given field into account, organic farming produces between 29% to 44% less food than conventional methods. It therefore requires as much as 78% more land than conventional agriculture and the food produced costs 50% more—all while generating no measurable increase in human health or animal welfare.

This higher cost is untenable in developing nations, and it was irresponsible for activists in wealthy economies to push inefficient farming methods on them. Nowhere is this tragedy more obvious than Sri Lanka, where the imposition of organics has been calamitous. President Mahinda Rajapaksa ran for election in 2019 promising a transition to organic food production. This policy produced nothing but misery. The eschewing of fertilizer caused rice production to drop by 20% in the first six months after the switch to organic farming was implemented. Last winter, farmers predicted that tea yields could fall by as much as 40%. Food prices rose; the cost of vegetables quintupled. Protests finally forced Sri Lanka mostly to give up its organic foray this past winter, too late to rescue much of this year’s crop.

Sri Lanka’s example underscores the irresponsibility of organics. Organic farming rejects synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, but there is currently far from enough organic nitrogen to feed the world. It turns out that synthetic nitrogen is directly responsible for feeding four billion people, more than half the world’s population.

Wealthy consumers can take the related price increases, but many poor households in the developing world spend more than half their income on food. Every 1% hike in food prices tips another 10 million people into global poverty. Advocating for global organics implicitly means suggesting that billions should forgo food.

It is easier to ignore these inconvenient details when food shortages aren’t in the headlines, but the war in Ukraine has put world hunger on everyone’s mind. Russia and Ukraine normally provide more than a quarter of the world’s exported wheat and significant supplies of corn, vegetable oil and barley. Almost a third of global potash, a potassium-rich product crucial for plant growth, comes from Russia and Belarus and most is likely subject to sanctions. Russia also produces 8% of the world’s nitrogen, the price of which had already more than tripled over the two years before the invasion. Most nitrogen is made from fossil fuels, and many factories have had to stop production as the pandemic and climate policies have raised the price of nonrenewable energy. And it doesn’t help food prices that the costs of transport have more than doubled since the pandemic began.

The result will be devastation. Rising fertilizer prices could decrease rice yields by 10% in the next season, leading to a drop in food production equivalent to what could feed half a billion people.

Policy makers and nonprofits must urgently focus on ways to produce more food for the world’s poorest at less cost. Genetic engineering, better pest management and more irrigation would go a long way toward increasing yields. Ramping up the production of artificial fertilizer, as well as considering removing regulation that makes its fossil-fuel inputs more expensive, will also help. These simple, common-sense approaches can curb price hikes, avoid hunger and even help the environment. Agriculture already uses 40% of the ice-free land on the earth. Increasing its efficiency will allow us to keep more land wild and natural.

It’s time to let go of this self-indulgent obsession with organics and focus on scientific and effective approaches that can feed the planet.

Far too much of the push for organic farming is based on politics and emotion with little if any understanding of farming, economics or science.

Organic farming can produce food for the wealthy who can afford to pay more for less production but it’s a recipe for starvation for the poor, and the humanitarian crisis and social unrest that would accompany it.


Speaking up for free speech

28/05/2022

National MP Simon O’Connor speaks up for free speech:

SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki): Against the spirit of free speech, Mr Speaker, may I suggest that for mine, you can turn your hearing aid off for five minutes and then turn it back on.

To illustrate the very problem that the left and the radical left are putting across tonight, I would just like to say I have found every contribution from the Labour Party and the Greens—$200,000, Chlöe Swarbrick—offensive. It’s hurt me. I’m mentally anguished by what they’ve said. My tribe, my community, and my identity has been deeply offended, and no one on that side could dare to critique that, because that’s my experience.

Don’t you dare question what I’m feeling. My feelings trump anything you think and anything your group thinks. My tribe, my feelings, are right, and I am very upset tonight.

I want everything that the Labour Party and the radical Greens say banned. I don’t want to see them on the universities, because if I walk there tomorrow, I could have a hurt feeling. I could have a hurt feeling.

Do you know what—do you know what? I could go to a university and someone could say “Simon O’Connor, we don’t agree with you.”, and do you know what? That’s just going to cut—according to the Labour Party—so much to my heart. They’re going to say, “Gosh, you’re a Catholic.” Oh, what terrible sin could that be? That’s a terrible thing, you know, and I’d feel really hurt about that. “You’re an academic—you’ve studied. You’re privileged.”—gosh, that’s going to hurt.

I’m doing this as parody, because what doesn’t seem to get the left is that freedom of speech relies on the ability for, actually, an array of ideas. The whole point of freedom of speech is not for the speech we agree with; it’s the speech we don’t, and, unfortunately, our universities have been captured by a bunch of left-wing progressives.

It only needs one quick example: Auckland University of Technology—I’ve written to them recently. Guess what? A bunch of women—that’s probably the wrong pronoun and collective pronoun, but anyway. A bunch of women—I want to be really specific about that gender; a bunch of women—wanted to go on to the university and talk about women, and do you know what happened? They were banned. Women were banned from talking about women’s rights, and not only that; they were abused, they were given hateful speech, they were harassed, and they were bullied from people who called them inclusion officers—from academics. It’s an absolute disgrace.

It’s an absolute disgrace, and let’s be under no illusion here: this is nothing to do with freedom of speech from the other side; it’s all about control. You will only be allowed to think, say, and preach what they believe in. That is autocracy, that is a totalitarian mind-set, and it infects like a virus our universities. It’s an absolute cancer, and like any cancer—and the doctors know this—you rip it out, and the best way you rip it out is some sunlight.

There is an absolute arrogance, an arrogance of the highest degree, from the left and the radical left that they know best. The thing is that you don’t, and I can say that with confidence, because I might be on the other side and I might have a different opinion, but do you know what? I don’t think I know best. I think I have an opinion; I could be wrong.

I’m actually willing to be told I’m wrong without having a bloody cry-baby in the corner—”I need a safe space.” Grow up.

To those academics, those of you who responded to the survey talking of freedom as some appropriated colonial concept: get out. We pay our taxes; you’re an absolute disgrace. To those academics, including those who fought for COVID, who bullied and harassed other academics, those seven who stood up at the Royal Society—an absolute shocker and a shame. To those COVID scientists being paid huge amounts of money by this Government who were harassing their colleagues—an absolute disgrace.

So we need legislation like this. We need more legislation like this, because at the end of the day, our universities are no longer filled with academics. They’re filled with activists, and their mind-sets are weak—and they shake their heads on the other side. We know it’s so weak, because they cannot even sustain the most coherent, simple, basic arguments without crying.

University has flourished throughout the world. It’s been given to New Zealand. By the way, universities are appropriated into New Zealand—I just thought you left-wing academics needed to grow up. They have a lineage of free speech and ideas.

So the final message is really simple. To those on the left, to those academics who do not believe in freedom of speech: grow up. And if you’re not prepared to grow up, go and become a kindergarten teacher.

 

The link to the transcript takes you to the full debate which includes speeches by Labour and Green MPs speaking against free speech.


Saturday soapbox

28/05/2022

Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.

I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded peoples re the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.–  Christopher Hitchens


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