Rural round-up

22/09/2021

UK identifies case of ‘mad cow disease’ :

British officials have identified a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said this week that the dead animal had been removed from a farm in Somerset, southwest England, adding there was “no risk to “.

“The UK’s overall risk status for BSE remains at ‘controlled’ and there is no risk to food safety or ,” said Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss.

APHA will launch a “thorough investigation of the herd, the premises, potential sources of infection and will produce a full report on the incident in due course”. . . 

Life split between town and country – Sally Rae:

From singing and shepherding to photography and physiotherapy, Hawea woman Anna Munro has a diverse lifestyle. She talks to rural editor Sally Rae about her career and her desire to help tell the farming story.

Anna Munro used to think she would love to end up owning a farm.

Now she’s not so sure. After all, the Hawea woman has the best of both worlds, dividing her time between working on Ardgour Station, near Tarras, and as a physiotherapist in Wanaka.

It might seem an unusual combination but, for outdoors-loving Mrs Munro, it suits her down to the proverbial tee. . . 

Mother of all protests on November 21 – Sally Rae:

They are calling it The Mother of All Protests.

Groundswell New Zealand has announced its next protest will be held on Sunday, November 21.

In July, convoys of thousands of tractors and utes took part in the rural group’s national Howl of a Protest event, protesting against what the rural sector says are unworkable government regulations.

Its Enough is Enough message, outlining the group’s concerns, was delivered at the protests, giving the Government a month to address the issues, or it said it would take further action. . . 

Carbon farming biggest change in land use – Nine to Noon:

Concerns the boom in carbon farming will dictate the future of New Zealand’s sheep, beef and production forestry, and questions over who has oversight over what one academic is calling “the biggest change in land use in New Zealand’s modern history”.  Kathryn speaks with Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University Keith Woodford, who says the implications are massive.  Also Forest Owners Association chief executive Phil Taylor, also managing director of the American owned forestry management company Port Blakely. . .

The story of our sunflowers :

The Topflite sunflowers have become something of an icon in Oamaru. Lots of visitors arrive in town asking where to find them and we’ve played host to many a photographer and film crew over the years — even moving one group on after they’d set up their tripods in the centre of the road…

Seeing as we’re gearing up to sow the next crop pretty soon, here’s some background on our little yellow heroes.

We originally grew sunflowers for oil in the 1960s but then moved to growing them for the bird clubs in 1974. People told us we were too far south for sunflowers to grow well but clearly we’ve proved them wrong! Our farms are in a dry area of North Otago and we get reasonably long and hot summers. It turns out that sunflowers grow well here.

October is when we sow the seeds. It’s pretty slow growing until December when the weather heats up. We usually get the first flower by New Year’s Day and by late January the flowers are at their most intense yellow. That’s the time of year to schedule your sunflower selfie! . . 

Agricultural robots market 2021 2021 booming across the globe by share key segments product distribution channel region:

MarketResearch.biz delivers in-depth insights on the global agricultural robots market in its upcoming report titled, “Global Agricultural Robots Market Trends, Applications, Analysis, Growth, and Forecast: 2018 to 2027”.

This report is based on synthesis, analysis, and interpretation of information gathered regarding the target market from various sources. Our analysts have analyzed the information and data and gained insights using a mix of primary and secondary research efforts with the primary objective to provide a holistic view of the market. In addition, an in-house study has been made of the global economic conditions and other economic indicators and factors to assess their respective impact on the market historically, as well as the current impact in order to make informed forecasts about the scenarios in future.

An agricultural robot is an equipment used in farming to improve productivity and reduce reliance on manual labor. These robots help automate tasks carried out by the farmers such as harvesting, weed control, seeding, sorting, and packing, thus allowing farmers to focus more on enhancing overall production yield. . . 

Winter closes quietly – stronger spring anticipated :

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were -51 less farm sales (-14.3%) for the three months ended August 2021 than for the three months ended August 2020. Overall, there were 306 farm sales in the three months ended August 2021, compared to 364 farm sales for the three months ended July 2021 (-15.9%), and 357 farm sales for the three months ended August 2020.

1,680 farms were sold in the year to August 2021, 37.3% more than were sold in the year to August 2020, with 153.8% more Dairy farms, 1% more Dairy Support, 24.4% more Grazing farms, 50.8% more Finishing farms and 46.4% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to August 2021 was $27,250 compared to $25,460 recorded for three months ended August 2020 (+7%). The median price per hectare increased0.3% compared to July 2021. . .


Rural round-up

27/07/2021

Opportunity obscured by rules – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers across the country descended on towns and cities on Friday to protest against the raft of reforms they say unfairly target their livelihoods.

When asked about the protests last week, the Prime Minister agreed that reform was coming thick and fast and that it was a challenging time for those working in the primary industries.

But she maintained that transforming our economy to limit climate change and environmental degradation would only get harder the longer it was left.

That may be true, but what is also true is that if a sector of society feels that its only way forward is to take to the streets, then there’s been a failure of communication and leadership. . .

Buller farmers in recovery mode – Peter Burke:

With calving just a few weeks away, farmers in the Buller district are now busy repairing damage to their properties.

The recent floods caused stock losses, ruined pasture and damaged sheds and tracks on about a dozen farms in the district.

This latest flood is being described as the worst anyone in  Westport has seen in their lifetime but most of the damage is in the town rather than in the rural areas. . .

Labour’s immigration policy could do lasting damage to the Pacific – John Roughan:

Next Sunday Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to make another of those nauseating apologies for the past, this time for the “dawn raids” against suspected overstayers from the Pacific Islands that happened a few years before she was born.

It’s not just the assumed moral superiority of the present that always gets up my nose, it’s also the injustice to people now dead and unable to speak for themselves. It makes me wonder what apologies the future might make for things governments are doing now.

One potentially regrettable project is particularly ironic. The Prime Minister who will apologise for the dawn raids next weekend is presiding over an immigration “reset” that could do far more lasting damage to the Pacific Islands than the clumsy policing their New Zealand expats suffered in the 1970s.

It surprises me that a Labour Government takes a dim view of seasonal work that enables Pacific Islanders to come here and earn some good money picking fruit for a few months. In a recent TVNZ item on our travel bubble with the Cook Islands we heard people there lamenting the loss of their younger people migrating permanently to New Zealand. . .

Spring Seep wins at Dairy Innovation Award – Gerald Piddock:

Spring Sheep Milk has beaten global giants Nestle and China Feihe to win the best infant nutrition category product at the World Dairy Innovation Awards.

The company won the category with its Gentle Sheep infant milk drink, beating Wyeth Nutrition, which is owned by Nestle, Chinese infant formula giant China Feihe and Blueriver Nutrition Co.

Spring Sheep’s general manager of milk supply Thomas Macdonald says they are proud of the achievement.

“They are some pretty big names playing in the infant space globally and a sheep milking company from New Zealand managed to beat them. It also validates the consumer story,” Macdonald said. . .

Direct drilling no-till system good – Shawn McAvinue:

Southern growers featured at the Federated Farmers Arable Industry Awards in Christchurch earlier this month. Shawn McAvinue talks to them about their mixed cropping operations.

The Horrell family has been cropping for five generations in Northern Southland and the future is looking bright.

Grain Grower of the Year winner Morgan Horrell said his great-great-grandfather started the farm in the 1860s.

The chances of his children — Zara (23), Jake (21), Sam (14) and Dan (12) — continuing on for a sixth generation was looking good.

“Sam’s driving tractors already.” . .

New grain legume varieties a step closer to commercial use:

Plant Research (NZ) Ltd is a New Zealand based R&D company specialising in the development of new grain legume varieties.

This summer, the company enters the final stages of development and multiplication of chickpea and soy varieties developed specifically for New Zealand’s maritime environment.

Managing Director and Principal Plant Breeder Adrian Russell says his team have worked through a large number of potential genetics from both programmes to identify varieties that are adapted to our unique environment and have functional traits for product development in the plant protein space. . .

The Golden Goose: Farmer’s poem for Jacinda Ardern – Graeme Williams:

Inspired by the Howl of a Protest last week and concerned with government regulations on the rural sector, East Coast farmer and bush poet Graeme Williams has put pen to paper in a plea to Jacinda Ardern to look out for farmers. He shared his poem, The Golden Goose, with The Country today.

The Golden Goose, by Graeme Williams

Dear Aunty Jacinda,
A moment if I may,
A response I think is needed,
To the protest the other day.

Farmers are generally too busy,
To rally and cause a stink,
But their overwhelming response,
Must have made you stop and think. . .


Rural round-up

02/02/2021

We need to science our way out of this:

It’s time for the New Zealand public to get ready for a discussion about how science can lead us out of our climate change crisis, Federated Farmers says.

Yesterday’s report released by the Climate Change Commission was a massive piece of work which dives into every corner of New Zealand’s approach to achieving its climate change goals.

The report challenges Kiwis to rethink just about every part of their lives, Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.

And farmers are no different to anyone else, except that they’ve been talking about science-based analysis, data gathering and solutions for much longer. . . 

Fewer cows recommendation absolute nonsense :

‘The Climate Commission’s recommendation to reduce livestock numbers by 15% by 2030 is not sensible, practical or justified,’ Robin Grieve, chairman of FARM (Facts About Ruminant Methane) said today.

Reducing livestock numbers will invariably cost New Zealand export income and mean that less food is grown. With an increasing global population that needs feeding this policy is not only anti human and selfish, it will also cause more global emissions as other countries with less efficient farming systems will have to produce the food New Zealand does not. Such a recommendation by the Commission is as silly as New Zealand reducing emissions by cutting Air New Zealand flights and letting Qantas take up the slack.

Reducing livestock might reduce carbon emissions but the bulk of these carbon emissions are sourced from methane and are not causing the warming the system attributes to them. . . 

The case of the catastrophic virus and government’s liability – Nikki Mandow:

This month, kiwifruit growers go to the Supreme Court seeking compensation over officials’ inadvertent release of the virulent vine disease PSA. And the case has far wider implications.

In June 2009, MAF (the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, now part of MPI) granted an import licence for some Chinese kiwifruit pollen, which turned out to be contaminated with the kiwifruit vine killing bacteria pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, or PSA. 

The impact was devastating. Pollen infected a farm in Te Puke, then more farms, and as the disease took hold across the North Island, entire orchards had to be destroyed and several hundred farmers lost hundreds of millions of dollars.   . .

Summer sunflower crop sows seeds of interest – Ruby Heyward:

Popular sunflowers near Weston are in full bloom, and are attracting more than just birds.

Owners Peter and Sandra Mitchell said the flowers generated a lot of interest and it was not uncommon for people to stop and take pictures.

Although the couple did not mind visitors enjoying the flowers, it became an issue when people entered the field, and took or knocked over flowers.

People would sometimes get a shock when hopping over the electric fence placed around the crop to deter the farm’s cattle, Mr Mitchell said. . . 

Couple’s business inspired by lockdown mushrooming – Ashley Smyth:

Anna Randall and Daniel Eisenhut believe there’s something magical about mushrooms, and something equally magical about Oamaru. They speak to Ashley Smyth about their recent move and watching their fledgling business, Waitaki Mushrooms, take off.

For some, last year’s Level 4 lockdown offered time to reflect on priorities and seize opportunities.

Former Aucklanders Anna Randall and Daniel Eisenhut are two of those people.

The couple had previously considered moving south, but were nervous about leaving the bright lights and busyness of city life. . . 

 

The 20 most influential people in Australian agriculture – Natalie Kotsios , Peter Hemphill, James Wagstaff , Alexandra Laskie and Ed Gannon,

THEY are the people who make ag tick — the movers and shakers of Australian agriculture.

From the absolute peak of world trade power, down to those who keep our farms going day-to-day.

This inaugural list of Australian ag’s top 20 power players reveals an industry that has a strong backbone, yet is at the mercy of global politics and a fragile labour system, laid bare by the Covid crisis.

The power players were chosen by The Weekly Times for their influence on agriculture, for how their actions affect the entire industry, and for their ability to make big decisions. . . 


Rural round-up

02/08/2020

Country’s backbone performs:

New Zealand’s primary sector has added steel to the country’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

Economic and research firm NZIER latest Insight report – released last week – says the livestock, forestry and horticulture sector have performed well over the lockdown period and as the Covid-19 crisis has continued overseas.

“Our land-based industries have proven themselves to be exceptionally resilient, particularly when it comes to trade” says Chris Nixon, NZIER principal economist and lead author of the report.

Farmstrong: fill the fountain not the drain – Trish Rankin:

Juggling farm work and family responsibilities is a challenge many rural women face.

Taranaki sharemilker and 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year winner Trish Rankin and her husband Glen run a 460-cow sharemilking operation near Manaia. 

Life’s plenty busy for the couple, they’re also raising four kids aged 15, 13, 9 and 7.

“I generally work about four days a week on-farm over the season just to give people days off but obviously in calving and higher-intensity times I’m full-time on-farm.  . . 

From cockpit to farm :

When COVID-19 ground his eight-year career as a pilot for Air New Zealand to a sudden halt, Henry Lambert decided to turn it into an opportunity for a complete change – to farming.

His story has been featured as a positive example of COVID career pivots on the six o’clock news, but the father-of-two is no stranger to dairy. He grew up around his grandfather’s and uncles’ dairy farms and while he was flying planes, a career on the land had always been in the back of his mind. So, when the pandemic started to hit the aviation industry, it seemed like the perfect time to change gears.

The dairy industry’s crying out for skilled workers, so Henry hoped by creating a CV and posting it on the Farm Source website, he’d get to give farming a crack.

“I always thought I’d like to have a go one day, so when I was presented with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a good fit.”. . .

Time for sector to find united voice – Allan Barber:

Several organisations with an interest in the future of our agricultural sector have come out with strategies or visions for what needs to be done to find New Zealand’s place in the sun. One such report produced by the Primary Sector Council has been sponsored, one could say hijacked, by the government, and converted by MPI into a set of financial and environmental targets. Another is the result of independent research and consultation. Ideally either the government will engage with the primary sector to agree the best policy settings the industry believes necessary to meet these ambitious targets, rather than insisting on following the plan it commissioned to meet its own priorities.

The coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming Election have to some extent provided a distraction from the pace of environmental change, but nobody should be under any illusion – this will undoubtedly accelerate when a new government is in power which at the moment looks like a Labour/Greens coalition without the NZ First handbrake being needed to govern. There is a small window for the primary sector to argue for its preferred future direction. . . 

Nappies in plan to revive wool – Colin Williscroft:

Using New Zealand strong wool to produce biodegradable disposal nappies for a multi-billion dollar global market is gaining traction as a new avenue for farmers desperate to find new places to sell their product, with multinational companies showing interest in NZ technology.

As part of the recent launch of the strong wool sector’s plan for the future Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said Wellington-based company Woolchemy will get $80,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Woolchemy co-founder and chief executive Derelee Potroz-Smith says the money will pay for a commercial trial of technology that enables wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in consumer hygiene products, adding significant value to the raw material produced by NZ strong wool farmers. . . 

New crops offer opportunities :

Six ‘star’ crops – soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa – could represent new opportunities for New Zealand farmers.

According to the Specialty Grains & Pulses Report produced by an Our Land and Water National Science Challenge research programme, Next Generation Systems, locally grown grains and pulses like soy, chickpeas and quinoa are being explored by local researchers and growers. In the report, researchers looked at the opportunities presented by new and different plant crops in the grain and pulses families. From a long list of 22 possible grains and pulses, the research team narrowed their focus down to six ‘star’ crops they think have the most potential for New Zealand farmers. These are soy, hemp, chickpeas, oats, buckwheat and quinoa. 


Teaching wrong subjects

22/02/2012

A shortage of people with agricultural skills is good for graduates seeking work.

But it’s not good for the country when the shortage of agriculture skills is reaching crisis point:

Incoming Waikato University agribusiness professor Jacqueline Rowarth is calling on the Government to help solve the problem, saying Prime Minister John Key and other political leaders should use public speaking opportunities to promote agriculture and science as a smart career choice.

“The minute John Key starts saying agriculture is our most important industry, we will see a shift back to students training in these vital subjects. All political leaders should be saying it. It should be apolitical,” she says.

A shortage of young people training in agriculture at university level is reaching crisis levels, with not enough graduates available to fill jobs, Rowarth says. With more farmers reaching retirement age, the situation will only get worse if New Zealand does not focus on this important area, given that agriculture is the backbone of our economy.

It’s not only politicians, teachers should be encouraging pupils into the subjects which prepare them for careers in agriculture.

Rowarth says the trend away from agricultural studies started with Prime Minister Helen Clark’s high-profile promotion of the creative and performing arts as a career choice in the 1990s.

“We had scholarships, the Peter Jackson effect and the knowledge wave, so we had a whole lot of young people going into the creative and performing arts.

“The problem is that only 100 tertiary students graduated in agriculture last year, compared with more than 2000 creative and performing arts students.”

How many of those 2000 creative and performing arts students got jobs in the field they were trained for and how many got any job at all?

Not having enough agriculture graduates to fill available jobs has seen the Government add agricultural science to the skilled migrant list, while graduates from other degrees struggle to find employment related to their studies.

Competition for our relatively few graduates won’t just come from employers here, Australia is also facing a skills shortage.

The Australians are going bananas, saying their agriculture skills shortage needs to be treated seriously. They need 4000 people for jobs in agriculture but are producing only 300 graduates, so guess where they’re going to get them from?

“The New Zealand Government needs to drop the fees for agriculture study and introduce scholarships, like Helen Clark did for the performing arts,” Rowarth says.

“If you have 50 to 100 of our best and brightest getting government agriculture scholarships, we will get the cohort effect – if the head boy gets the starry scholarship, his mates will follow him.”

I’m not sure about dropping fees but would support a bonding system similar to that National introduced for health professionals and vets under which a proportion of student loans is written off each year a new graduate works here.

Rowarth said agriculture must be promoted as a career choice to young children.

“The importance of the science of food production should be right throughout the school curriculum, not called `agriculture’ but using agricultural examples so it becomes second nature thinking for our young people.

“In studying history, we could consider the green revolution; in science we could consider grains and the action of chlorophyll; in economics we could discuss the economics of the potato famine.

“We have bred a whole generation of people who want to save the world, but right now it’s easier to teach pollution than production. We could rename the study of agriculture `natural resource management’ or `sustainable food production’.

“We should also be teaching our young people to consider where the jobs are. One of the greatest problems facing the world in the future is feeding the world. If you want to save the world and make a difference to your country, you should be studying agriculture.” That’s the way our politicians should be talking, Rowarth says.

It’s not just agriculture which doesn’t get the promotion it should as a career choice. Most science-based careers and trades are also facing a lack of new entrants while school pupils are diverted to other more popular but less useful subjects.

Andrei makes this point in what are we educating our children to be?

Hat tip: Quote Unquote


More food less carbon

08/10/2009

One of the criticisms of carbon emissions’ policy is the impact on agriculture and the need to increase food production.

Trade and Associate Climate Change Minister Tim Groser discusses this in an article published in the Wall Street Journal.

Reducing agricultural emissions cannot be at the expense of food production, however. To feed the world, food production will need to double by 2050. This is the same time frame in which the science tells us global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be halved if we are to limit global warming to two degrees centigrade. Already the food system is struggling to feed the world’s population, and food security will always take priority over climate-change considerations.

Groser says there are commercial reasons for reducing emissions and that the Global Alliance which New Zealand is promoting could find the answer to growing food without growing emissions.

If it doesn’t any attempts to reduce emissions will have to exclude agriculture because the need for food today will always win against the good of the environment tomorrow.


NZ aims for global alliance on ag emissions

23/09/2009

Remember when non-smoking regulations first came in?

Half a room would be reserved for smokers and the other half for non-smokers.

It was a nonsense because even if smokers stuck to their side of the room their smoke didn’t.

Trying to tackle carbon emissions in some countries but not others is similarly stupid. If there’s a problem with emissions it’s a global one and reduction policies and remedies must take a global approach.

John Key recognises this and is using his time in New York to promote a Global Alliance on agricultural emissions.

“To feed the world’s growing population, we must find ways to produce more food without growing emissions,” says Mr Key.

“It will be agriculture that will have to meet the expected dramatic increase in global food demand over the coming decades, but this presents the world with the twin challenge of ensuring food security while reducing emissions.

“To meet this challenge, there is an urgent need for more international research and investment into new technologies and practices to help reduce agriculture-related emissions, and for greater co-ordination of existing efforts.

“New Zealand considers a Global Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research could meet this need and welcomes partners in this initiative.

Former Environment Minister Simon Upton has been appointed as a special envoy to work with other countries on this concept.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says New Zealand is well placed to make a significant contribution to the alliance.

“Our unique profile for a developed country, with almost half of all emissions coming from agriculture, has given us a firm foothold in understanding pastoral livestock emissions.

“Through a Global Alliance, we can find solutions faster, make better use of the money that is being spent around the world and encourage other countries and companies to do more,” says Mr Carter.

Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser said that food security is paramount and must not be compromised.


Penno & Rowath Feds Agribusiness winners

04/07/2009

Dr John Penno, chief executive of Synlait is the winner of Federated Farmers’ inaugural Agribusiness Person of the Year Award.

The inaugural Agribusiness Personality of the Year title went to Professor Jacqueline Rowath of Massey University.

Feederated Farmers president Don Nicolson said:

“Dr Penno has been described as a ‘milk maverick’ but is Federated Farmers kind of maverick.  Synlait’s business model is revolutionary as it controls supply from the grass right through to finished product.

“Just as impressive is Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, Federated Farmers first Agricultural Personality of the Year. If you could bottle intellect, passion, dedication and charm, Massey University’s Professor Rowarth has it all and much more beside.

“As Director of Agriculture, Professor Rowarth is an inspiration to students and to farmers.  Quite simply put, she ought to be on television with her upbeat and positive conviction that agriculture is an overwhelming force for good,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

The Agribusiness Person of the Year was sponsored by gen-I and the Personality title was sponsored by Ravensdown.

Recognising agribusiness achievement and personality in this way is a great idea from Feds.

This is Penno’s second award in a week. He was one of seven people awarded Sir Peter Blake leadership awards. The Bull Pen has more on that here.


Dairy subsidies to cost NZ $122m

27/06/2009

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson got a lot of attention for his piece in the Wall Street Journal on milking trade subsidies.

Perhaps he should follow that up with an invoice because the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has calculated that the subsidies on dairy products introduced by the EU and USA will cost the New Zealand economy $122 million.

New Zealand’s dairy output may fall by around 5% and the value of milk, butter and cheese exports could decline some 8% as American and European subsidies create an oversupply of product, according to the NZIER’s latest Insight newsletter. The think-tank predicts the global economy will be worse off by around US$41 million, although countries such as Japan and Korean would benefit from lower world prices.

The prospect of lower dairy prices “will cause kiwi farmers’ incomes to fall below where they would otherwise have been, through no fault of their own,” said the institute’s deputy chief executive John Ballingall. “The risk of ongoing retaliation between the U.S. and EU, and potentially others, could lead to larger increases in subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers over time.”

The immediate impact of the subsidies was partially responsible for the decrease in Fonterra’s forecast payout for the new season.

The threat of ongoing retaliation, bigger subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers is even more concerning. It will hinder the recovery and hamper progress towards freer trade.

The NZIER Dairy Insight newsletter is here.


Feds to recognise Cream of the Crop

20/06/2009

Federated Farmers plans to recognise the best of New Zealand Agriculture with the Cream of the Crop awards at its annual conference.

The Agribusiness Person of the Year and Agribusiness Personality of the Year will be judged by farmer and former All Black Sir Colin Meads, business woman Anna Stretton, Auckland Mayor John Banks and David Walker from Geni.

President Don Nicolson said other agribusiness award winners would also be honoured, including: the winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards; The National Bank Young Farmer of the Year; The Ahuwhenua Trophy – BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming Award; Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year; Rural Women New Zealand Enterprising Rural Woman Award winners; New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Sharemilkers of the Year; New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Farm Manager of the Year  and New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The awards ceremony will take place in Auckland on July 1.


Who wants to be a subsidy millionaire?

03/06/2009

A website dedicated to shining daylight on subsidies, farmsubsidy.org,  has published a list of the agrimillionaires from 2008,  the 710 businesses or individuals who received more than 1 million euros from the European common agriculture policy.

An Italian sugar company received the most – nearly 140, million euro. The smallest subsidy millionaire was an Austrian cheese company which received a relatively modest million euro.

These are large sums of money. However, Phil’s Business Blog  reckons that demonising companies and individuals receiving large payments is misdirected.

For a start, it’s little surprise that sugar processors currently top the CAP payments league table, since they are involved in a major restructuring scheme designed to cut EU production and comply with WTO rules.

And at farm level, there has never been any logic to subsidy caps. Since decoupling, direct payments to farmers are supposed to be about the delivery of public goods, and it is often large farmers that are doing the most.

It is also the case that large farmers tend to employ more people, both directly and indirectly. Furthermore, restricting subsidy according to farm size can only act as a disincentive to efficiency.

That may be right but it still doesn’t justify taking money from taxpayers, giving it to producers and manufacturers who then compete unfairly with other more efficient producers elsewhere and increase costs for consumers, most of whom are taxpayers who funded the subsidies.

It’s just a giant money-go-round supporting a giant bureaucracy and handicapping free trade initiatives.

New Zealand farmers were forced into the real world when subsidies were taken away more than 20 years ago. It wasn’t much fun at the time, but it’s made us much better at what we do and much more attuned to the market than we ever were when farm incomes went up and down by government whim.

Free trade is better for consumers and, while the transition from subsidies to standing on your own feet isn’t easy, it’s also better for producers.


Word no longer bond

01/06/2009

A friend who’s a cropping farmer had signed up deals selling grain for winter feed to dairy farmers which they are now cancelling.

Earlier in the year the Farmers Weekly reports that dairy farmers were walking away from maize deals, leaving contractors with as much as a third of their crop unsold.

The milk payout has fallen and next season’s forecast is lower than this season’s. The price of grain has also fallen, but would these farmers have paid more had the price gone up after they’d signed the deal?

In our area we like to think we can still do business on a handshake, but thses examples show there is a growing number of people for whom their word is no longer their bond.


Budget viewed from the paddock

29/05/2009

Agriculture Minister David Carter explains the Primary Growth Partnership.

The scope of the Primary Growth Partnership initiative includes pastoral and arable production; horticulture; seafood; forestry and wood products; and food processing.

Federated Farmers said the Budget will assist farm productivity and competitiveness.

“The Government has walked a tightrope in looking to boost productivity and competitiveness without flaming debt.

“That said, business is facing a very difficult environment and many New Zealanders are being insulated at the expense of business.  Its okay to ‘preserve entitlements’ for workers but without business owners, there would be no jobs. 

“Despite this, Federated Farmers is pleased to see the projected debt track trending downwards.  This means we will be returning to surplus a lot earlier than previously forecasted. 

“Any credit downgrade would have seriously impacted the interest rates farmers pay when farm incomes are highly constrained.  Every one percent on interest rates takes around $450 million out of farm incomes.

Feds approved of the funding for research,  is happy with the Infrastructure Board, was delighted to hear Bill English use the word water in his speech, is luke warm about funding for broadband, would like to see wool used for insulation and welcomes the commitment to reforming the RMA, Building Act and electricity markets.

“Federated Farmers understands the tightrope walked by Government in its first Budget.  Fonterra’s revised forecast, announced yesterday, tempered any expectations we had. 

“That said, there are positive indications for the future in respect of infrastructure, regulatory reform, water and research and development.  What Federated Farmers will be looking for is for acceleration in the areas that will drive the economy forward,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

NZBio  supports the investment in innovation. CEO Bronwyn Dilley said:

“Support for New Zealand’s future in the form of $1.1 billion operating and $747.3 million capital investment in transforming the New Zealand economy, including $205 million new funding for Vote RS&T, is a critical step in ensuring this country remains internationally competitive and a desirable place to work. . .

“This is a budget with foresight and strong commitment to New Zealand’s long term success. It signals a step change towards a high value, high skill, knowledge based economy for New Zealand, and the biotechnology industry will be an essential element in achieving that outcome.”

Meat and Wool NZ  welcomed the commitment to primary sector research.

Meat & Wool New Zealand Chairman, Mike Petersen said that the level of investment made available highlighted the Government’s recognition of the sector’s considerable earning potential.

“The budget has signalled that New Zealand is in for a challenging few years with the financial crisis that has dominated the world economies. However New Zealand is well placed for an earlier recovery than other countries with the sheep and beef sector leading the way.

“It’s pleasing to see the Government growing its support to the primary sector which makes up 64 per cent of exports and generates $24.5 billion for the New Zealand economy.”

Science NZ  welcomed the benchtop RS&T increase.

“The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes ($1m pa) and the appointment of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser also signal that the public are being appealed to in a new, high profile, way.

“This will help build a broad, national constituency for RS&T investment and careers. The business sector is engaging as never before, with a 20 per cent rise in its RS&T investment over the last two years. That is the thinking that will create higher wage jobs in New Zealand and build export businesses.

“The Budget recognises that RS&T is critical to improving New Zealand’s productivity and thus our national wealth and living standards.

The previous Prime Minister established PM’s awards for the arts.

I’m not averse to that, but by establishing prizes for scientists this Prime Minister is sending a message about the importance of science and signalling a change of focus towards innovation and productivity.


Better standing on our own feet

27/05/2009

New Zealand farmers’ anger at the USA’s decision to subsidise its dairy exports is well founded.

Federated Farmers dairy section vice-chair John Bluett says:

“It’s a serious concern. The US is going to subsidise 92,000 tonnes of export product. In perspective, New Zealand only produces 105,000 tonnes, so it’s the equivalent of almost subsidising all New Zealand’s production.”

In the Waikato alone it could cost farmers $180 million and it is likely to mean a lower payout next season.

There may be a small benefit to consumers if the subsidies result in lower international commodity prices because that could flow through to lower retail prices here. But any gain will be more than cancelled out by the pain imposed on the wider economy.

However, angry as farmers are, none are calling for a return to subsidies. Hard as it is in the real world at the mercy of markets, it beats the days which Rob describes when farmers’ incomes went up and down at the whim of the government.

There’s another reminder of how bad that is at Phil Clarkes’ Business Blog:

In France, for example, some 81 dairies have been blockaded and dairy farmers have threatened a national “milk strike” if an ongoing “mediation process” fails to deliver a meaningful lift in prices.

In Germany, meanwhile, six women have gone on hunger strike, while around 6000 dairy farmers took to the streets of Berlin to demand a national milk summit.

And this week the protest headed to Brussels, with a claimed 2000 farmers from 10 member states clashing with riot police outside the EU Council building, while farm ministers discussed the market situation.

Taking what the market offers isn’t always easy, but standing on our own feet beats going cap in hands to governments as they do in Europe to find out not only what they’ll earn but also how much they can produce.

Hat Tip: QuoteUnquote


Tell your president to play by the rules too

25/05/2009

This could have been a New Zealander talking:

One of the best ways we can grow market access . . . is by enforcement. In this challenging economic climate, trading partners must play by the rules if we are going to revive our economy as a global community.

But it wasn’t. It was former Dallas Mayor, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk .

He was talking about US meat exports and is very keen on free trade if his first major policy speech, delivered last month, is anything to go by:

“Now is the time to revive global trade and to lay the groundwork for an even more robust, more open trading system in future decades,”

. . .  While some may doubt the virtue of free trade, Kirk said that more rigorous U.S. trade enforcement will ensure that other nations honor their commitments. “We will use all the tools in USTR’s toolbox to go after those trade barriers,” he said. “Stepping up trade enforcement is about opening up markets, not closing them down.”

He needs to talk to President Obama because free trade is a two way street.

It’s no use having the Trade Representative talking about how important it is for other countries to play by the free trade rules for its meat when the USA has just broken those rules by subsidising its dairy exports.


We’re the rock stars Johnny Rotten

19/05/2009

Federated Farmers reckon New Zealand farmers are economic rock stars and  want to invite Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten)  to visit so they can show him just how good dairy produce is when it comes from free range cows.

This invitation has been mooted because the former member of the Sex Pistols has been fronting advertisements In Britain urging people to buy British butter because  – he says – it’s better.

“Never mind the butter, it’s the quality of the milk what counts,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy vice-chairperson.

“While all milk may contain the same basic properties, kiwi cows are in a league of their own.

“Grazing outdoors on GM free grass and natural winter feed makes for happy cows and fantastic quality milk.  This milk is crafted into quality butter and other dairy products and the only thing holding us back in the UK, is the European Union’s ridiculous tariff barriers.  

“One of our senior staff members, David Broome, lived in the UK for seven years.  He tried Country Life Butter, once, and described it to me in colourful terms that Johnny Rotten would understand.

“David said only hand crafted but expensive British butter matched New Zealand butter for quality. The difference being that New Zealand butter can readily be found by British consumers in their local supermarket and convenience stores.

“New Zealand butter and dairy products, like our wine, is a taste revelation.

“New Zealand’s climate and quality pasture means we are in an agricultural sweet spot.  British consumers literally taste freedom when they eat New Zealand butter.

“While I’d like to think of dairy farmers as being the rock stars of the New Zealand economy, I’d be pleased to host that old punk rocker, John Lyndon, on my farm.

While he’s not casting aspersions on our butter, jokes aside, all primary producers need to be very careful about what we say about produce from other countries.

We may compete in the market but we should be allies in the battle against unscientific claims on production methods and quality. There’s more than enough unfounded claims based on emotion making life difficult for farmers and manufacturers of primary produce without people in the industry adding to it.

Attempts to woo consumers by putting them off competitors’ products might backfire and put them off those products regardless of where they come from.

There is one good thing about the ad, though. It might show anyone who still thinks a Buy Kiwi-Made campaign is a good the idea that it’s not, because we can’t say it’s better for us to buy local while exhorting people elsewhere to buy our exports.


Pigs in Muckraking – Updated & Updated again

18/05/2009

When a television show gives only one side of a story, I wonder what the other side would say.

I don’t know enough to comment on the issues of pig farming which were raised in last night’s Sunday programme but Farmgirl is better informed and brings some balance to the story.

Good journalism requires balance. Sunday should have given the farmers an opportunity to give their side of the story and it would have helped to have a vet’s point of view too.

There are no excuses for mistreating animals and saying it happens elsewhere is no excuse for cruelty. But nothing is gained for animal welfare if the pork industry here is killed and replaced by meat from overseas where pig farming practices are no better and possibly even worse.

UPDATE:

Minister of Agriculture David Carter has asked animal campaigners to reveal the location of the pig farm shown on Sunday.

“If SAFE has the welfare of these animals at heart, it needs to provide details of the property today so the authorities can the take appropriate action.  I have asked MAF to undertake an inspection as soon as we know the farm’s location,” Mr Carter said.

That is a very sensible response because MAF can’t do anything until they know where the property is.

It raises the question of why SAFE hasn’t already gone to the authorities and any further delay in doing so would suggest they care more about publicity for their campaign than the welfare of the pigs.

UPDATE 2: The Bull Pen has more with King hit on pig farming.

UPDATE 2: Keeping Stock posts on SAFE pork , highlighting a story from the NZ Herald which says SAFE is refusing to identify the farm.

When asked by nzherald.co.nz if that was due to publicity, Mr Kriek said yes.

I’m not going to give you all the details of our strategy, which is a very sound one,” Mr Kriek said.

The organisation which is supposed to save animals from exploitation is exploiting animals by putting publicity before the pigs.


Carter questions court action – Updated

15/05/2009

Agriculture Minister David Carter is questioning Fish & Game’s leadership  after its failed attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease land.

“I seriously question the use of hunting and fishing licensing fees in taking this action, and I will be discussing this further with the Minister of Conservation.

“I am concerned this divisive action was taken when there was no foundation for Fish and Game’s claim for greater public access to high country stations.

“A pastoral lease gives the runholder the right to say who has access to their leasehold land. This is no different from private property owners,” says Mr Carter.

“The fundamental duty of Fish and Game is to advocate for hunters and fishers, and to help enhance their relationship with rural landowners. . . “

How refreshing to have a Minister who stands up for farmers and rightly questions whether Fish and Game should be using licence fees for its political and litigious campaigns.

Anecdotal evidence from hunters and fishers suggest the Minister is more in touch with their concerns than the body their licence fees funds.

This misguided court action was expensive for licence holders, tax payers and farmers and it’s not just money but goodwill that was wasted.

UPDATE:

Federated Farmers said the court action was a disaster:

The challenge was a failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access and it is a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee money. . .

“This decision brings relief for affected High Country farming families, as they now know Fish & Game members won’t be entitled to walk all over them,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers High Country chairman.

Both Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord played an instrumental role in the formation and development of the Walking Access Commission.

“We have contributed positively to the development of rules for public access that give pastoral leaseholders and their families security and certainty. Meanwhile, Fish & Game’s Executive has sadly played nothing but a negative and destructive role. . .

“High Country pastoral leases impose strict conditions on us as farmers. The judgment acknowledges that leaseholders are responsible for much more than just grass.

“It’s only right that farmers have the ability to control and manage access to such land. This decision enables pastoral leaseholders to operate a business and maintain authority over their property rights contained in their leases. 

“The High Court’s judgement also recognises that pastoral leaseholders perform a stewardship role. In other words, we farm with the High Country and not against it. . .

“Fish & Game chief executive, Bryce Johnston, now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his Council’s decision to waste a vast amount of license fee money on this challenge.

“Federated Farmers consider it also time for the Government to look at the legislative privilege that enables Fish & Game to fund such frivolous litigation. This inappropriate use of license fee money should not go unchecked by Government,” Mr Aubrey concluded.

High Country Accord chair Jonathon Wallis issued a media release in which he asked if the action was a misuse of funds.

“Not just the huge amount of money farmers have been forced to direct into these proceedings away from rejuvenating our economy through expanding and maintaining agricultural production, but both the vast amount of tax payer funds that went into jointly defending it and the allocation of precious funds more commonly used for the protection and establishment of habitat for our fish and game.”

“The latter are funds generated by the sale of Fish and Game licenses sold to hunters and anglers who for almost a century have respected the goodwill and relationships established between farmers and recreationalists regardless of it being a matter of privilege as opposed to right.”

“The question also has to be asked whether this was not just a personal crusade by an executive distorted from the opinion of the general membership of Fish and Game itself.”

Wallis said he allowed licensed duck shooters on to his property on opening morning because he wasn’t blaming them for the actions of the national council.

Alf Grumble and The Bull Pen also post on the issue.


High Court backs property rights for pastoral lesees

14/05/2009

The High Court has ruled in favour of pastoral lessees’ right to exclusive use of  their land.

In his judgement, Justice France said pastoral leases were consistent with a land leasing arrangement. The land leasing arrangement conferred exclusive possession to the farmer.

“The obligations the lessee undertakes would make it surprising if he or she were obtaining only a licence to occupy.”

. . . The Crown maintained control over the land to preserve it environmentally, and any proposed use other than pasturage required Crown consent.

But a clear indication of the relationship between lessor and lessee was that a recreation permit granted by the Crown to a third party required the consent of the lessee of the land.

“The need to obtain a lessee’s consent is, in my view, a very clear indication of the nature of the lessees’ possession.”

This ruling establishes the property rights of lessees and confirms their right to undisturbed occupation .

Fish & Game took the case to the court, contending that because the Crown owned the land it could give other people access to it.  

Farmers were furious about the case and the grapevine suggests that the new Minister of Land Information New Zealand was not impressed either. His department administers pastoral leases and was a defendant in the case, which in effect meant  it was a statutory body taking a government department to court.

Fish & Game used to be well thought of by farmers  for its work augmenting fisheries but that relationship has been strained in recent years as F&G has fought landowners on access issues and shown an unfortunate tendency to challenge property rights.

The expense to farmers of defending the case, which the ODT puts at more than $200,00, will have done nothing to improve matters. If F&G wants to rebuild postive relationships with farmers they should stay out of the courts and put their energies back into improving fisheries.


Dry becomes drought for four more areas

13/05/2009

Drought is bad enough, back to back drought is even worse and that’s the problem for parts of North Canterbury, Central Plateau, Taihape and Wairarapa.

Agriculture Minister David Carter has extended drought relief to these areas because like Haweks Bay and Gisborne/Wairoa which had already been declared drought regions, they’re facing their third year of low rainfall.

Farmers in all these areas are heading for a tough winter. As soil temperatures plummet, rain has come too late for many. Rain, sunshine and high soil temperatures are needed for grass to grow,” says Mr Carter.

“What is making it worse is these farmers have suffered back-to-back drought for three years.

“The situation is forcing some farmers to sell off capital stock, and stock numbers were already down because of previous droughts.”

Temperatures have plummeted in North Otago in the last week and we’ve noticed the lawn is barely growing which means pasture growth will have all but stopped too.

At this time of year we have to be careful what we wish for because the rain which makes the grass grow when it’s warm produces mud when it’s cold.

At risk of proving that farmers always have too much weather while rain to boost soil moisture levels for spring growth would be welcome, rain that resulted in mud would not.


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