Rural round-up

August 21, 2018

Anti-glyphosate zealots want ag to use more fuel, chemicals and cut food output – Tim Burrow:

Sensationalist headlines about glyphosate have been plastered across media worldwide for the past week.

This followed the decision of a Brazilian court ruled to suspend the registration of glyphosate until national health regulatory agency completes a toxicological re-evaluation – which could take a couple of years.

Within days of the that ruling, the Californian Superior Court ruled that Monsanto was liable in a lawsuit filed by a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based products caused his cancer. . . 

Dedication to fruit industry recognised – Yvonne O’Hara:

Earnscy Weaver has been a familiar figure in the Central Otago horticultural scene all his life.

His contribution as a consultant, research liaison officer, industry body board member and leader was recognised when he was made a life member of Horticulture New Zealand at its conference last month.

However, he was in the United States talking to orchardists about recent developments with cherries, and will receive the award later.

He was delighted with the honour and was pleased as it also acknowledged the support of his wife Irene and family. . . 

Cookie Time founder Michael Mayell bets on a future of hemp – Aimee Shaw:

After 35 years in the biscuit business, Cookie Time founder Michael Mayell is heading in a new food direction: hemp seeds.

The snack food maker turned social entrepreneur is now advocating a future of hemp smoothies and other edibles.

Christchurch-based Mayell founded Cookie Time in 1983, aged 21, and has been on a “food journey” ever since.

His foray into hemp followed three months of researching the future of food. He’s now hooked. . . 

 

Why is Fonterra so bad at international ventures? – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s recently appointed Chair John Monaghan, in announcing the appointment of interim CEO Miles Hurrell, said that Fonterra wants to pause and reassess the way ahead.  This could be a breath of fresh air.  It needs to be a wind of change.

A starting question has to be why has Fonterra been doing so badly with its international ventures. This includes both international processing of milk and marketing of consumer-branded products. In the case of China, it also includes farming.

The so-called Fonterra Communications Division, but in reality the Fonterra Propaganda Division, has done a stalwart job over many years of painting over the cracks. But even those skilled operators have been unable to cover up some of the recent messes, particularly in China, but also elsewhere. . . 

OneFortyOne purchase of Nelson Forests confirmed by Overseas Investment Office:

OneFortyOne (OFO) has received confirmation that the Overseas Investment Office has approved its purchase of Nelson Forests. The completion date for the purchase will be Tuesday the 4th of September 2018.

Nelson Forests, currently owned by investment funds advised by Global Forest Partners LP, is a vertically-integrated plantation and sawmill business in the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions of New Zealand.

“We are very pleased that approval has been granted by OIO. The decision is important, providing certainty for the Nelson Forests’ team, customers, the region and the broader NZ forest industry. We look forward to being a strong contributor to the region,” said OFO’s Chief Executive Officer, Linda Sewell. . . 

Manawatu agtech start-up raises $900k seed investment:

A Palmerston North-based start-up company, Koru Diagnostics, has had impressive success with its first funding round.

Koru, which is developing cost-effective laboratory and rapid farmside tests, was substantially oversubscribed when it closed its seed funding round recently with close to a million dollars.

CEO, Rhys McKinlay, is very happy with the outcome. “We raised over $900k, mostly from angel investors, which will give us a commercialisation runway through until late 2019. These funds will be directed towards product development and commercial scale-up, protecting our IP and securing new commercial partnerships,” he says. . .

Horticulture signs up to prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy:

Horticulture today signed up to be part of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy Te Puni Kōkiri Excellence in Māori Farming Award, which recognise excellence in Māori farming.

Today, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman and Kingi Smiler, Chairman of the Ahuwhenua Management Committee, signed an agreement that will see a horticulture Ahuwhenua Trophy in 2020. Each year the awards recognise a farming sector and horticulture will be on a third year rotation, after dairy (2018) and sheep and beef (2019). . . 

New Queenstown wine tour company will capitalise on booming industry:

With local family and tourism connections dating back three generations, a Kiwi couple are looking to make their mark on the booming Queenstown wine tourism industry.

Husband-and-wife to be Emma Chisholm and Lee Saunders have launched Alpine Wine Tours, a new wine experience offering unique, personalised and ‘adult-only’ experiences for every wine-lover.

Central Otago’s wine tourism industry is heading into a boom period, following research by Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand winegrowers showing that around 25% of international tourists seek out a wine experience, (increasing to 42% for those who visit to cycle or play golf). . . 


Rural round-up

August 20, 2018

Big US beef index job for AbacusBio – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio is rebuilding the selection indexes for the American Angus Association, the world’s largest beef cattle society.

AbacusBio partner Jason Archer, who has specialised in beef cattle throughout his career, was thrilled the company was chosen for the work.

The association has more than 25,000 members across the United States and Canada and the scale of the industry was “unbelievable”,  Dr Archer said.

In fact, the work that was being done by AbacusBio meant it affected billions of dollars’ worth of production.

Often, breed societies had selection indexes balancing all the traits that were being measured, and those indexes were both a selection tool and also became “a bit of a benchmark” when evaluating bulls, he said. . . 

Walk On history ‘pretty amazing Kiwi story’ – Sally Rae:

The establishment of Walk On is a “pretty amazing Kiwi story”, new chief executive Mark Davey says.

The  company, founded by young entrepreneur Lucas Smith, produces blister protection products using soft merino wool.

It has appointed Dr Davey as its first chief executive as part of an initiative to carry the momentum of Walk On’s initial domestic success into international markets.

Walk On had secured a national distribution deal with outdoor and adventure sports multi-channel retailer Torpedo 7 and was also available in 10 retail stores nationally, Dr Davey said. . . 

Milking it: NZ’s milk price: Who’s getting rich? Susan Edmunds:

New Zealand milk prices are “astoundingly high” – and we might have supermarkets to blame, one marketing expert says.

Bodo Lang, head of department at the University of Auckland Business School, said the price paid by New Zealanders stood out internationally.

“Particularly when considering that New Zealand is home to one of the world’s largest dairy companies, Fonterra. The problem, however, is not restricted to milk. Other dairy products too have, in comparison with other industrialised nations, exceptionally high prices.”

He said a litre of fresh milk in Germany was selling for the equivalent of $1.51, compared to $2.37 in New Zealand. . . 

Milking it: ‘Micro differences’ between brands. Why are some customers happy to pay a premium? – John Anthony:

Craig Prichard remembers when milk tasted very different from region to region.

“Milk in Taranaki where I grew up was different to the milk in Napier,” Prichard said.

The Massey associate professor, and sheep milk specialist, said things like climate, pasture and production methods used to greatly change the taste profile and characteristics of milk.

“That’s largely disappeared.” . . 

Rural land value a shrinking influence for a bank loan – Andrea Fox:

Banks’ rural credit decisions will increasingly depend on sustainable farming practices, not land value, says the country’s biggest rural lender ANZ Bank.

Commercial and agriculture managing director Mark Hiddleston said ANZ’s credit decisions have for some time been based more on farm performance than the traditional 65 per cent land-to-value ratio and that model looks likely to increase in use.

Also due for change he believes is the banking sector’s use of “a lot of averages”. . . 

Horizons proposes plan change that will get farms compliant – Laurel Stowell:

In an effort to get intensive farms legally consented, Horizons Regional Council is proposing to change numbers on the maximum nitrogen they can leach in its controversial One Plan table.

The matter was discussed at a strategy and policy committee meeting on August 14, and councillors agreed to a three-staged approach.

Last year the Environment Court told the council it must refuse consent to farmers unable to restrict nitrogen leaching to totals in the One Plan’s Table 14.2. The totals were taken from a version of Overseer, a computer system for estimating the amount of nitrogen leaching through soil. . . 

 

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Jury or science?

August 20, 2018

Monsanto has been ordered to pay $US 289m to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, has dismissed the claims.

A Californian jury said Monsanto should have warned users about the dangers of its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers.

Bayer completed its $66bn takeover of Monsanto in June.

A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC the two companies operate independently. In a statement the company said: “Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label.” . .

The jury ruled against the company but courts, and juries,  aren’t equipped to determine scientific facts:

I could write many lengthy posts about why that ruling is wrong. I could talk about the numerous scientific studies that failed to find evidence that glyphosate causes cancer (e.g., this large, long-term cohort study with over 50,000 participants that wasn’t funded by Monsanto and failed to find an association between glyphosate use and cancer among farmers [Andreotti et al. 2017]). I could talk about the well-established fact that the toxicity of glyphosate is quite low. I could talk about the fact that multiple well-respected scientific bodies have examined the evidence and concluded that it does not suggest that glyphosate causes cancer. I could also talk about how the one dissenting scientific report (i.e., WHO’s IARC report) cherry-picked their evidence and reached a conclusion that has been widely criticized by the scientific community. Plenty of other pages have, however, already done all of those things, so I won’t spend more time on them here. Rather, I want to discuss why trials like this one are inherently problematic. Citing court rulings is an extremely common tactic among science deniers (anti-vaccers do it all the time), but it is not a logically valid tactic because courts don’t determine what is and is not a scientific fact.

Courts and juries might be well equipped to deal with legal matters but whether or not glysophate causes cancer isn’t a matter of law, it’s a matter for science.

The first major problem is simply that juries don’t consist of experts in the relevant scientific field. As I’ve talked about before, science is complicated. It takes years of carefully training, study, and hands-on experience to learn everything that you need to know to be able to properly evaluate scientific evidence. The notion that an untrained jury is going to master that over the course of a trail is absurd. . . 

A court pits two opposing sides against each other. It is an adversarial system which aims to find the plaintiff guilty or not, it is not designed to determine what is scientifically valid and what is not.

. . . Which conclusion seems more reliable to you? The one that was arrived at by experts spending months carefully and systematically examining all of the available evidence, or the one that was arrived at by non-experts basing a decision on a comparison of two extremely biased representations of the evidence? I think that the answer to that is pretty obvious.

To be clear here, I’m not saying that scientists are infallible or that the conclusions of scientific organizations are definitive statements of reality. That would be an appeal to authority fallacy. Rather, my point is that the courtroom system is fundamentally flawed and unreliable for determining scientific facts. The fact that a jury decided that X causes Y is completely and 100% irrelevant in any scientific debate. It has no bearing on reality, and you would be crazy to trust it instead of relying on numerous high-quality studies and reviews and meta-analyses of those studies that were systematically assembled by teams of experts. Whether or not something is a scientific fact has to be determined by actual research, and a jury’s opinion about that research is irrelevant.

Scientists aren’t saying there is no risk at all form using glysophate but study after study has concluded that if used as directed it is safe.

Monsanto will appeal. In the meantime farmers and their advisors are concerned about the implications if more  glysophate bans are imposed.

THE LEADER of one of Australia’s peak grain grower bodies has said if Australia were to follow the Brazilian lead and suspend the use of the herbicide glyphosate it would ‘send the industry back to the 1980s’.

Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia chairman, said a glyphosate ban could send total Australian grain production back to around 25 million tonnes.

Over the past 10 years, according to official Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) data the total Australian winter crop has averaged around 41 million tonnes.

“A ban on glyphosate would be a disaster agronomically,” Mr Weidemann said.

“Our conditions suit the use of glyphosate perfectly, it allows us to conserve moisture in our long hot summers without the need for cultivation.

“We know that cultivation degrades our soils but without glyphosate we’ll have to go back to it as a form of weed control.”

LaTrobe University farming systems researcher James Hunt said the environmental costs of a glyphosate ban would be huge. . . 

Low and no-tillage systems conserve soils and soil moisture. They are a much greener option than conventional cultivation but they won’t work without efficient weed killers like Roundup.

As is too-often the case, emotion has trumped science on glysophate and its environmental benefits lose out to unsubstantiated greenwash.

The cost of that will be paid for by soil degradation, lower crop yields and more expensive food.

Although, the company could try this:


Coonamble Rain Dance

August 19, 2018

As the drought in New South Wales bites deeper the Coonamble community is bringing people together with a rain dance:

TIMES are tough, drought is all anyone sees on the horizon and across the media, these conditions are affecting not only farmers, but entire communities. 

However a small community in Central West NSW is focusing on the positive and recognising sometimes the best thing you can do when you are down, is come together and celebrate. 

Launched through a viral video of locals dancing up a storm, which can be seen below, the Coonamble Rain Dance is seeking donations and sponsorship to hold a ball and give locals a night off from the drought.  . .

Droughts are like a disease that slowly eats away at health and hope.

Even on smaller farms with neighbours close, it’s too easy for farmers to isolate themselves and for worry to turn into depression then despair.

The Rain Dance won’t affect the weather, but it will bring people together and lift spirits.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

August 19, 2018

Supreme Court issues victory for private land conservation:

The Supreme Court has delivered a historic decision to protect covenanted land against a land developer who bought the property with the intention of carving it up, developing on the beautiful and protected bush and then selling the land for profit.

QEII National Trust Acting CEO, Paul Kirby says “this is a victory for conservation on private land in New Zealand and a blow for those who think that they can overturn QEII legal protection of the land. The Supreme Court has reinforced that QEII covenants protect natural spaces against the people who buy a property to divide and develop the land. We are proud to have lead the fight to protect the land against this kind of development. . .

Foresters fear carbon auction’s implications – Richard Rennie:

Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir is troubled by Government proposals to use an auction system to allocate extra carbon units under a revised Emissions Trading Scheme.

The proposal is for a sealed-bid, single-round auction where bidders submit their bids simultaneously. 

Each bidder can submit multiple bids, ultimately creating a demand curve ranking all bids from highest to lowest. A clearing price is then determined, where supply and demand meet.

But Weir is concerned the proposal is going to cause more problems than it solves.

Fonterra pauses to take stock – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra dropped another bombshell with the appointment of an interim chief executive, Miles Hurrell, to take over immediately from departing Dutch dairy industry veteran Theo Spierings.

The internal promotion of Hurrell came as Fonterra’s directors reconsider the company’s direction of travel and its needs in a chief executive.

An external recruitment process, started in November last year, is suspended in the meantime, chairman John Monaghan said.

Hurrell has the right mix of talents and experience needed at this time and he will not be paid what former chairman John Wilson called the eye-watering salary and bonuses that Spierings received. . .

 

Sheep wool can help cats’ diet:

Proteins from wool can be added to the diets of animals to improve their health, AgResearch scientists have shown.

Researchers say the positive findings in the diets of domestic cats open up exciting possibilities for new uses of sheep wool to improve digestive health for a broader range of animals, and potentially human beings.

The findings have just been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Food & Function journal, and are available here . . 

NZ blister protection company, Walk On, names first CEO:

Walk On, the blister protection company known for its luxuriously soft Hyperfine merino wool product, has appointed Dr. Mark Davey as its first CEO.

Walk On Founder and Chairman Lucas Smith made the announcement as part of a 2018 initiative to carry the momentum of Walk On’s initial domestic success into international markets. Walk On recently secured a national distribution deal with outdoor and adventure sports multi-channel retailer Torpedo 7, and is also available in 10 retail stores nationally.

“Mark Davey’s experience as a New Zealand apparel innovator will be pivotal to the company as we embark on the next steps of the Walk On journey during our capital raise and international market development efforts,” remarked Lucas Smith. “Mark has experience with both, and we are excited to have him on board.”. . .

End of a family dynasty on Gunningbar Creek – Peter Austin:

A useful grazing block in the tightly-held Gunningbar Creek area north of Nyngan will go to auction later this month, ending nearly a century of ownership by the local Green family.

The 2668 hectare (6594ac) “Belarbone” has been listed for sale by Phil Wallace of Landmark Nyngan on behalf of Gavin and Jenny Green, who are selling in their lead-up to retirement.

Gavin took on the management of “Belarbone” in the early 1980s, at which stage it was an undeveloped block with no electricity connection, no buildings and no infrastructure. . .

 


Rural round-up

August 18, 2018

A New Zealand farmer looks at subsidies through a different lens – Craige Mackenzie:

A $12-billion “assistance package” to American farmers sounds like a great deal, at least for the recipients: a one-time payment that is intended to soften suffering caused by trade wars and low commodity prices, from a White House that sincerely wants to help.

I have a different perspective. As a farmer in New Zealand who once received government subsidies and then lost them, I speak from experience when I say that agriculture is much better off when governments stay out of our business and let us grow our food without interference.

The federal assistance package is in fact a devil’s bargain: It would deliver short-term benefits but also create long-term problems for American farmers. . .

Law to get tough – Neal Wallace:

Primary Industries Ministry officers now have greater search and surveillance powers than police, lawyers say.

The new law passed under urgency by Parliament strengthens the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act and allows officials to enter farms unannounced without a warrant to search for and seize items.

Penalties under the changes vary from infringement fees of $400 up to fines of $200,000 and five years in jail. 

Ashburton law firm Tavendale and Partners partner Kirsten Maclean said the powers contradict claims MPI wants to work with farmers over the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. . .

YFC champ adds dairying venture – Hugh Stringleman:

The Kidd family has expanded its farming interests in the Auckland province with the purchase of a medium-sized dairy farm and some adjacent leased land for grazing at Shelly Beach on the south Kaipara Head. Hugh Stringleman went to hear about the new venture.

The Kidds have gone to Philadelphia, in the United States, for the wedding of son Hamish, a New York-based investment banker, to an American woman.

Conversations on the long flights and while away among parents Richard and Dianne, of Whenuanui Farm, Helensville, their three sons and their respective partners will feature the latest expansion of the family farming enterprise. . . 

Drought proofing a dry continent – Viv Forbes:

Earth is a blue watery planet.

70% of its surface is covered by oceans of salt water, some of which are extremely deep. These oceans contain about 97% of Earth’s water. Another 2% is locked up in snow, ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% of Earth’s surface water in inland seas, lakes, rivers and dams. We have plenty of water, but not much to drink.

In addition to these vast surface water supplies, water vapour is the fourth most abundant gas in the atmosphere, after nitrogen (76%), oxygen (21%) and Argon (1%). Moisture in the atmosphere varies from almost zero over deserts and ice caps up to 4% over the wet tropics. (Carbon dioxide is a miniscule 0.04%). . .

Wrightson posts record earnings, lowers dividend and eyes reinvestment options – Tina Morrison:

 (BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, which is selling its dominant seed and grain business, posted record full-year earnings but lowered its final dividend payment to shareholders, saying it was eyeing reinvestment opportunities.

Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose to a record $70.2 million in the year ended June 30, in line with its forecast for earnings at the top end of its guidance range of $65 million to $70 million, and ahead of $64.5 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said. One-time items pulled net profit after tax down to $18.9 million from $46.3 million. . .

Zespri launches industry realignment process:

World leading horticultural company, Zespri Group Limited lodged several key documents to support its strategically important industry realignment initiative today, with MinterEllisonRuddWatts advising on the targeted share issue and buy-back.

Zespri’s Product Disclosure Statement, Disclose Register Entry and the Buy-Back Disclosure Document were today submitted to the Registrar of Financial Service Providers for review by the New Zealand Financial Markets Authority, as well as lodged on the USX Share trading platform. . .

Frankie Goes to Wellywood – and Deer Milk stars in the show:

Frankie Goes to Wellywood – and Deer Milk stars in the show

Deer Milk was up in lights last night at the first of three special evenings that chef Frank Camorra from Melbourne restaurant MoVida is presenting in conjunction with Wellington restaurant Logan Brown and Visa Wellington on a Plate.

In his first trip to the capital, Camorra’s menu features the ingredient that is lighting up fine dining in New Zealand. . .


When locals won’t work . . .

August 18, 2018

The Meatworkers’ Union isn’t happy that Alliance Group is bringing in  100 overseas workers for its Southland plants.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union said there were plenty of local workers vying for jobs that could now be going to overseas workers.

However, the company is standing firm. It said it was recruiting abroad to cover a worker shortage. . . 

The union’s Otago-Southland secretary Gary Davis said the decision would hit some Southland families hard.

The seasonal work often meant workers would finish at one plant and go to the other for additional work, Mr Davis said.

“If these people are brought in from overseas they’ll get a job there so they’ll fill in those positions.”

About 30 people could miss out on the additional work, he said. . .

Good local workers were applying to work at the plants, but they were being rejected, he said.

There was not enough education, training or support to assist more Southland workers to enter the industry, he said. . . 

The company has a different story.

Alliance Group refused to be interviewed today but in a statement, manufacturing general manager Willie Wiese said employing and upskilling New Zealanders was always their preference.

Sourcing seasonal workers remained one of its biggest challenges, despite running extensive recruitment campaigns.

Unemployment is now down to a level where most of those out of work don’t want to, or can’t, work.

Challenges in the meat industry include getting enough workers who are drug and alcohol free and who want to work the whole season.

Meat company workers earn big money for a few months and some of them decide they have earned enough part way through the season and no longer want to work full time, if at all.

The company might prefer to employ and train locals but it they won’t work it has to look for overseas workers who will.


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