Rural round-up

September 29, 2020

Southland Federated Farmers plan ‘town and country’ hui over freshwater rules  – Rachael Kelly:

Southland’s farmers are being encouraged to drive their (road registered) tractors or utes to a ‘town and country hui’ being organised to inform people about the new freshwater regulations – and townies are invited too.

Southland Federated Farmers and the Southland Chamber of Commerce are hosting the hui at Queen’s Park in Invercargill on October 9, to ‘’bring town and country together over something that affects us all,’’ Southland Federated Farmers president Geoff Young said.

“This isn’t just about farmers. We all live off the land, so this will bring town and country together to highlight some of the concerns farmers have about the new freshwater rules are, and what the ramifications are for us all.” . . 

How agritech can provide the green shoots for NZ’s post-Covid economic recovery – Wayne McNee:

In the wake of Covid-19, New Zealand should be focusing on industries that can help drive our economic recovery and growth over time.

While some of our key sectors have been hit hard, the dairy industry, and wider food sector, is well-positioned to continue to deliver for Kiwis through Covid-19 and help our economy get back on its feet.

But like all sectors, particularly at the moment, the dairy industry needs to keep evolving to meet new challenges head-on and maximise new opportunities.

With Kiwis relying on the primary sector to help lead them out of this crisis, agritech has a vital role to play. . . 

 

$50m commitment not enough for farmers — National:

Labour’s $50 million commitment to support integrated farm planning will do little for farmers, claims National’s ag spokesperson David Bennett.

He says Labour doesn’t back farmers and today’s announcement will do little to ease burden of meeting regulations.

“Today’s promises around farm environment plans will do little to alleviate the individual farm cost and won’t necessarily mean that there will be a streamlined process for all farmers,” says Bennett.

“Labour can’t be trusted to deliver reasonable and rational rules when farmers know the true intentions of their party.“. . .

Cow-shy hairdresser now cutting it – Yvonne O’Hara:

Before she met her dairy farmer partner, hairdresser Ashleigh Sinclair did not own a pair of gumboots and was scared of cows.

Now she co-owns 20.

She spends most weekends with Clint Cummings on his family’s 106ha, 230-cow Wyndham dairy farm.

“I started off being petrified of cows, and going out on the farm was a challenge for me, but now I’ve seen how friendly they are and I love spending time with them. . . 

Scholarship opportunity firms up career – Yvonne O’Hara:

Ella Zwagerman intends to follow a food science career in the meat industry, and after a recent trip to Wellington as part of the Meat Industry Association’s scholarship programme is even more convinced it is the best path for her.A trip to Wellington as part of the Meat Industry Association scholarship programme helped convince Ella Zwagerman she was on the right career path.

Ms Zwagerman’s parents are dairy farmers at Isla Bank, near Invercargill, and she is studying for a bachelor of science (human nutrition) at Otago University.

She and 10 other scholars were hosted by the MIA in Wellington earlier this month and spent the day listening to speakers from several meat industry organisations, the Ministry for Primary Industries and AgResearch, and people who had various careers within the sector such as trade, food safety, nutrition, science and engineering. . .

Kiwi farmers identify pros and cons of conservation :

New Zealand farmers identified a wide range of advantages connected with on-farm biodiversity in a recent scientific survey.

The study, which surveyed 500 sheep and beef farmers from around Aotearoa, received nearly 700 responses that described advantages to managing and protecting biodiversity on their land.

While most participants were male Pākehā/NZ European over the age of 45, responses to the questions showed a huge variety of viewpoints when it came to native biodiversity on farms.

“This study highlighted that many farmers associate a range of values and benefits with biodiversity on-farm, spanning social, environmental and economic themes,” lead author Dr Fleur Maseyk from The Catalyst Group said . . 

Countryside improvements fund could be raided – Roger Harrabin:

A budget designed to fund improvements to Britain’s countryside is set to be raided, the BBC has learned.

Cash will be diverted away from ambitious conservation projects and towards protecting farm businesses.

The government previously promised that the £3bn currently paid to farms under EU agriculture policy would be wholly used to support the environment.

Ministers had said that, after Brexit, farmers would have to earn their subsidies. . .


Too much weather

September 29, 2020

 

It’s more than a wee bit breezy in North Otago and was so cold this morning water from the k-line irrigators turned to frost.

Further south:


Business confidence tanks

September 29, 2020

Business confidence has plummeted:

The New Zealand Herald’s  2020 Election Survey has been released with top business leaders saying New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery is in peril – and they want a decisive role with Government in the country’s future.

The annual boardroom barometer of 165 CEOs and high-profile directors has business confidence at the lowest it’s ever been in the survey’s 19-year history.

When asked to rate their level of optimism in the New Zealand economy the CEOs surveyed collectively scored it a 1.36 out of 5.

These are bigger businesses and predominantly urban.

I doubt if farmers are any more confident given the fear and uncertainty around added costs and complexities that are being imposed on primary production.

Westpac CEO David McLean says the future has never been so uncertain, but that means that the need for crisp and clear policies and plans has never been greater.

“We need to see pathways mapped, not just for how to escape from the current Covid-19 crisis, but to take us toward a better future by addressing some of the big challenges we face beyond Covid-19, such as increasing our productivity and tackling climate change,” said McLean.

Many, like Mainfreight’s Don Braid, question Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heavy reliance on Government bureaucrats for advice and execution and her apparent unwillingness to listen to the private sector for ideas.

“There are many willing to devote time, energy and ideas in areas that allow New Zealand to find the right environment to operate in a post-lockdown economy,” said Braid.

The New Zealand Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom 2020 Election Year survey, taken in association with BusinessNZ, provides an in-depth assessment of CEO opinion at what is the most concerning time in the survey’s long history.

“It’s heartening that a record number of CEOs took part in the 2020 survey against a background of the Covid-19 pandemic. Optimism may be at the lowest levels seen in the survey’s history, but the CEOs’ responses demonstrated their own commitment to turning the economy around,” said says Mood of the Boardroom executive editor and NZ Herald’s Head of Business Content, Fran O’Sullivan.

With the General Election just weeks away business leaders are looking for more from both Labour and National.

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos points to tax policy being a key issue.

“Though Labour’s proposal to increase the highest personal tax rate doesn’t impact on the majority, National has upped the ante by helicoptering in temporary tax relief across the board to stimulate economic growth. Tax therefore promises to be a very complicated and emotive topic, that will either be centre stage this election or not far from it,’’ says Pippos.

BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said Labour’s economic policy response to Covid has underpinned the economy in a challenging time.

“However, the long-term plans are less well understood. They will need to do a hard sell. National’s plans are slightly more pro-business. But both parties need to talk about how quantitative easing enables them to maximise a reduction in borrowing costs to help grow the economy.” . . 

You can read more about the Mood From the Boardroom at the NZ Herald here.

Confidence isn’t helped by the fact that Labour hasn’t released its fiscal plan:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to immediately release their fiscal plan, so it can be subjected to the same scrutiny as the National Party’s fiscal plan.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The National plan was found to have a few holes after analysis by Labour and independent economists. The Nats admitted to one $4 billion mistake but denied another. It is healthy that major spending plans are put under intense investigation before an election.”

“That is why the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately release Labour’s own fiscal plan. She has told the nation that her numbers ‘stack up’. That clearly means their plan is finished, fact checked, and ready to go. There is no need to wait for a September Treasury data release to unveil the plan – the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) was reported a little over a week ago. All the fiscal data is there.”

“Let people like Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Cameron Bagrie, and your humble Taxpayers’ Union check that Labour’s numbers really do stack up. Then, taxpayers can make an informed choice about who should manage our economy in a post-COVID recession.”

It’s not just a fiscal plan that hasn’t been released, Labour keeps telling us it has a plan for recovery but has given scant details.

Uncertainty is one of the bigger drags on business confidence.

That matters because businesses that lack confidence at best don’t invest and don’t hire more staff, at worst they retrench and make staff redundant.

That so much about Covid-19 and how it will impact the country and the world is uncertain, and to a large degree uncontrollable, makes it even more important that politicians are upfront about their plans and what they can control.


Rural round-up

September 28, 2020

Farmers on board with environmental fairness but want time and fairness – Liz McDonald and Henry Cooke:

Canterbury farmers want politicians to stop painting them as climate change villains, listen to their needs and allow them more time to boost environmental standards.

The Labour, National, Act and Green parties have all released agriculture policies in the past few days as they vie for the government benches in October.

National’s agriculture policy, released on Thursday, promises to “review or repeal” the Labour Government’s nine freshwater regulations introduced this year, and remove the possibility of agriculture entering the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2022.

It also promised to allow skilled and seasonal workers to enter New Zealand with a fast-tracked primary sector visa. . .

Primary sector wary of health and safety if cannabis legalised:

Legalising of recreational cannabis could increase health and safety risks for the primary sector, say wary employers.

The sector already has one of the highest workplace accident and death rates in the country, and leaders say it could be another risk if the referendum gets support on 17 October.

Chris Lewis from Federated Farmers said while the organisation doesn’t have a stance on the referendum it does have concerns about the health and safety implications if the bill is passed into law.

He said farming already has a high accident rate around livestock and machinery, and workers need to be aware of what is around them without being impaired. . .

 

LIC begins insemination of millions of cows – recruits asked to put hands up:

Artificial breeding technicians (AB techs) across the country have begun rolling up their sleeves in order to get millions of dairy cows pregnant over the next six months. Their role is critical in producing the next generation of animals and ensuring New Zealand’s hugely valuable milk supply continues.

Last year LIC, which employs around 900 AB techs between September and March, oversaw the insemination of over four million cows. While undertaking this work, the cooperative is also seeking new recruits to train ahead of next season.

Once trained many return year-after-year including the McCarthy family. Paul McCarthy first trained with LIC in 1978 as a 20-year-old. After nearly 40 years he has inseminated thousands of cows while running a 134ha dairy farm in Galatea in the eastern Bay of Plenty with his wife Johanna. . . 

Bees are flourishing in New Zealand:

Bees are an essential component of a strong agricultural sector. They support New Zealand’s $6 billion horticultural industry by pollinating food crops as well as producing a multitude of honey-based products.

Despite recent reports of declining bee numbers due to pesticide use, figures released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) show that beehive numbers have increased three-fold since 2005. According to its apiculture monitoring programme, hive numbers reached over 918,000 in 2019, up from below 300,000 fourteen years ago. The numbers have consistently been on an upward trend since then, with the latest figures showing a four percent increase on the previous year.

Independent scientific research included in the report concluded that the destructive varroa mite is the main cause of bee losses. . . 

Chop to it – Southland lamb goes nation-wide:

Southland meat processor Blue Sky Pastures is looking to new pastures by expanding its business, launching its namesake Blue Sky Butchery.

Bringing southern lamb to the digital fingertips of all New Zealanders, Blue Sky Butchery is a completely online store where users will be able to purchase the finest and freshest cuts of Southland lamb, delivered overnight nation-wide.

Many cuts of this New Zealand-favourite will be available, including Frenched racks, striploin, leg, shoulder, loin chops and mince. . .

Crops will be ploughed under if workers can’t be found – Andrew Miller:

A Bacchus Marsh vegetable grower says her farm will have to plough crops back into the ground, if sufficient workers can’t be found as harvest ramps up.

Rae McFarlane, Boratto Farms, Bacchus Marsh said the business produced fancy lettuce, rocket, parsley and baby spinach.

She said the coronavirus lockdown had hit the restaurant trade hard. . . 


Labour policies could add $2.8 billion costs to business

September 28, 2020

Labour policies will add up to $2.8 billion in costs to businesses:

“Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and explain to New Zealanders how much Labour’s policies will hurt the New Zealand, economy National’s Economic Development spokesperson,” Todd McClay says.

“Labour have not shown New Zealand any costing of the economic impact from their recent policy announcements.

“The cost of their policies might not show up in the government’s books, but they will be paid by all New Zealanders – through fewer jobs, lower wage increases and a decline in economic growth.

“So far, Labour has committed to lifting the minimum wage; increasing sick leave requirements; creating another public holiday; and less flexible working agreements.

This won’t only add costs to businesses it will reduce productivity which is already too low.

“The total cost of Labour’s policies could be as much as $2.8 billion per year for New Zealand businesses. What does Labour say the costs are?

“Business NZ said an employee’s absence is currently estimated to cost about $1000 per employee, or $1.8 billion across the economy, will Labour’s policy on sick leave double this?

“Based on previous MBIE estimates of minimum wage increases, raising the minimum wage to $20 will likely cost the economy around $280 million per year.

“An additional public holiday could cost as much as $700 million in extra costs for businesses, based on average wages and the size of the New Zealand workforce.

“The solutions businesses need to grow New Zealand out of our current recession is help with paying the bills, not even higher bills due to Labour’s costly policies.

“New Zealand needs to know what the impact of these policies will be on our weak economy. These policies have consequences.

“Time for some answers.”

These added costs imposed on businesses show Labour is building a barrier to economic recovery:

With businesses failing and unemployment rapidly increasing, Labour’s plans are like throwing petrol on a bonfire, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Nearly 100,000 small businesses have had to borrow $1.6 billion from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) just to cover their cashflow under Labour.

“Grant Robertson thinks he can continue to pile costs on businesses while ignoring the real and disastrous impact. Repaying this debt will be even more difficult with Labour’s agenda to raise the cost of doing business.

“Labour’s announcements of a higher minimum wage, a new public holiday and an increased sick leave could cost the economy $2.8 billion per annum.

“These are not small costs that can be easily absorbed. They amount to over $1000 per employee.

“Despite prompting from National on Friday, Labour has been unable to make a case as to why these policies will be good for our weakened economy.

“Labour’s plans will also lead to higher power prices for businesses of over 30 per cent for industrial users.

“Labour’s idea that $5 billion to $10 billion could be spent on a pumped hydro scheme in Central Otago without raising power prices has been described by electricity company executives as ‘dreamland’.

“Labour need to front up with their assessment of the impact these policies are having on the economy.

“These higher costs will affect Kiwis through fewer jobs, lower pay rises and a smaller economy.

“National will create an environment where businesses can grow and prosper. We’re supporting businesses with $10,000 to hire new staff and provide modern, flexible working practices.

“We will work with businesses, not against them, to create more jobs and higher incomes for Kiwis and their families.”

Some commentators say there is little difference between National and Labour.

In some matters they are right, but not when it comes to the economy.

Labour plans to add costs and complexity which will make it more expensive and difficult to employ people and add other costs to business.

In stark contrast National plans to cut red tape and taxes. This will make it easier to employ people and for businesses to invest in themselves and grow.

National is focusing on what matters, Labour has lesser priorities:


Rural round-up

September 27, 2020

Southland Federated Farmers ‘farmer morale at an all-time low’ – Logan Savory:

A Southland farming leader says the morale of farmers is at an all-time low as they navigate their way through “impractical” freshwater policy rules.

The new rules aim to improve freshwater quality within a generation, but they’ve proven controversial with farmers, many of whom will have to apply for resource consent to winter graze stock.

Speaking to a gathering of rural professionals in Invercargill on Monday, Southland Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt said there was a massive divide between the understanding of farming from officials in Wellington to the reality of farming.

She said Federated Farmers had a difficult dilemma where they wanted to publicly raise concerns attached to the freshwater policy rules, but were wary of what it was doing to farmers’ mental health. . .

New Feds man keen to build – Peter Burke:

New Feds board member, William Beetham wants the organisation recognised for its significant contributions to NZ farming and society as a whole.

The sixth-generation farmer runs a major farming business, Beetham Pastural.

He says Federated Farmers has a long and proud legacy and has been involved in setting up a number of organisations – such as the insurance company FMG and the Golden Shears competition.

“We need to remember that we are not just an advocacy organisation and we need to tell the complete story about the inspiring contribution our farmers have and are making. We need to talk about the positive legacy of NZ farming and NZ Feds,” Beetham told Rural News.  . . 

Candidates for Fonterra election announced:

There are six candidates standing for two places on the Fonterra Board in 2020.

Brent Goldsack, Cathy Quinn, Mike O’Connor and Nathan Guy were announced on 14 September as the Independently Assessed candidates.

Incumbent Director Brent Goldsack is seeking re-election and chose to participate in the Independent Assessment Process. As a re-standing Director Brent automatically goes through to the ballot.

Nathan Guy, Mike O’Connor and Cathy Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process. . .

Building up potential of bumble bees:

Plant and Food Research scientist Dr David Pattemore would love to see orchards buzzing with bumblebees.

He’s part of a team that has developed a way to successfully breed bumblebees and now he’d love to see commercial beekeepers pick up the technology and run with it.

Dr Pattemore says bumblebees complement honey bees. He says they work at different times of the day and can work in higher winds and in the rain.  

And he says it makes sense to diversify pollination options. . . 

Raising meat rabbits proves food for thought for aspiring author :

Dana Thompson and her family are living off the land in South Otago and helping others who want to do the same.

Their property is perched on a barren hilltop behind Taieri Mouth, about 40 minutes south of Dunedin.

The family moved there to be self-sufficient four years ago. When they bought the land it was attractively priced for a reason.

“It’s pretty steep, we’ve got a big gully that runs down it and it’s covered in gorse,” Dana says. . . 

Fence – Uptown Farm:

“There’s always fence to be fixed.”

People say this all the time about life on a farm.

I don’t know if I heard it before I married a farmer or not. But if I did, I didn’t get it. Much like a lot of the people who say it, I wouldn’t have understood just how true it is. I didn’t know it wasn’t an over exaggeration in the least. If I had understood that, I might have thought twice before I said , “I do.”

But true it is. Fence isn’t a one and done kind of thing. You put it up. You fix it. You adjust it. Weeds and trees grow into it. You tear it down and build it new. Just when you do that a crazy cow comes along and rips it all down. . . 


Why daylight saving so early?

September 27, 2020

Evidence for the affirmative in the argument that daylight saving starts too early:

Read more at WeatherWatch


Rural round-up

September 26, 2020

Farmers natural guardians of biodiversity new study says – Tracy Neal:

A study of sheep and beef farmers’ attitudes to managing biodiversity on their farms showed more than 90 percent supported its merits.

The survey by AgResearch, AUT University, University of Canterbury, and the Catalyst Group, highlighted that many farmers associated a range of values and benefits with biodiversity on the farm, spanning social, environmental and economic themes.

As part of a study funded by the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, 500 farmers around the country took part in the survey that was published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology.

Auckland University School of Biological Sciences associate professor Bruce Burns said that while the results showed most wanted land protected for future generations, there were barriers to conservation efforts, such as the cost and time needed to do this. . . 

IrrigationNZ pleased National will promote water storage keen to see more detail:

IrrigationNZ is encouraged to see that the National Party has been bold enough to promote water storage as part of its agriculture and horticulture policy, announced today in Gisborne.

“All New Zealanders are reliant on accessing water when it is needed, but we have become increasingly vulnerable to dry weather patterns which restrict this right.”

“Despite being an obvious solution to this increasing vulnerability – water storage has unfortunately become the elephant in the room,” says IrrigationNZ Chair, Keri Johnston. . . 

New project to increase tomato yield in winter – Maja Burry:

A new tomato venture in Northland could go some way in easing the spike in tomato prices seen during the winter period.

Rohe Produce Limited plans to build a $70 million, 8.9-hectare, high-tech glasshouse at Marsden Point to grow organic speciality tomatoes.

The glasshouse will be the first of its kind in New Zealand with the use of 100 percent LED lights, which Rohe Produce said would increase yields by 50 percent per square metre. . . 

Strong Wool Action Group appoints executive offices, meets with industry:

The Strong Wool Action Group has made rapid progress with the appointment of an experienced Executive Officer and a first meeting with the wider wool sector to lay out its vision for strong wool.

International wool industry marketer Andy Caughey has been appointed as the Executive Officer for the Strong Wool Action Group.

Mr Caughey has been involved in the wool sector in New Zealand and internationally since 1988. In 2011 he founded Armadillo Merino, a global company specializing in advanced next-to-skin clothing for tactical operators and professionals operating in high risk environments. . . .

Hawke’s Bay rugby team to pay tribute to region’s farmers :

Hawke’s Bay’s rugby team, the Magpies, will take to the field this weekend wearing special jerseys as a tribute to the region’s farmers.

A farmer-style swandri with a checked-shirt pattern will replace the black and white hoops the team usually wears as a reflection of the bird which is its mascot.

The jerseys will be worn against Canterbury at McLean Park on Saturday.

Afterwards, they will be auctioned off to raise money for farmers who sweltered during drought last summer and autumn. . . 

Yes cows fart – Uptown Farms:

The rumors are true.
Cows fart.
I thought we had gotten over this conversation the last go round, but I’ve got two boys so I understand the stay ability of a good fart story.
Cows burp too, which actually releases way more methane than their farting but isn’t nearly as fun to talk about (apparently).

You know what else is true? . . 


Rural round-up

September 25, 2020

Lower sheep and beef farmers sentiment chief contributor to rural confidence fall – Rabobank – Maja Burry:

Waning sentiment among sheep and beef farmers has pushed rural confidence deeper into negative territory in Rabobank’s latest rural confidence survey.

The survey, completed earlier this month, found net farmer confidence has slipped to -32 percent, down from -26 percent previously. In the last quarterly survey there had been a strong recovery from historic lows recorded early in the year.

Rabobank said the chief contributor to the lower net reading was markedly-lower sheep and beef farmer sentiment. That negated higher confidence levels reported among dairy farmers and horticulturalists, who were bouyed by improving demand for products.

Rabobank New Zealand chief executive, Todd Charteris, said sheep and beef farmers reported lingering concerns over government policy and the on-going impacts of Covid-19. . . 

2021 Zanda McDonald Award to crown two winners:

In an Award first, the Zanda McDonald Award, Australasia’s agricultural badge of honour, have announced today that they will crown not one, but two winners – one from each side of the Tasman – for the 2021 Award.

Eight passionate and talented young individuals in the primary sector have been named in the shortlist for the prestigious trans-Tasman award – four from Australia, and four from New Zealand.

The award, now in its seventh year, recognises talented and passionate young professionals working in agriculture, and provides an impressive prize package. The shortlist have been selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills, and the contributions they’re making in the primary sector.

The change for 2021 comes as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, which prevents the award judges from being able to interview the usual shortlist of six together in one place, to determine the overall winner for Australasia. . . 

The case for trout farming – Clive Barker:

Anglers have long resisted the idea of commercial trout farming but a select committee recently recommended the Government give the idea “serious consideration”. Clive Barker makes the case for trout farming.

The species of fish used for aquaculture were at one time very limited. Carp were the fish used in pond culture originally in China. The method was transferred and developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. This was to help inland populations to follow the centuries-old law of meat abstinence on Fridays. In addition, there was the period of Lent during which eating meat was also prohibited. The 15th and 16th centuries were called the ”Golden Age” of Carp pond farming.

By the 1700s, river trout stock depletion had become a problem and in 1741 Stephen Ludwig Jacobi established the first trout hatchery in Germany. From this time, anglers have started to depend on cultured supplies of trout to increase or substitute the natural wild trout production. . . 

Feds suitably impressed with week of agriculture and horticulture announcements:

This has been a promising week for farmers.

Federated Farmers says it started with an excellent agriculture policy from ACT announced on Monday, followed by Labour’s positive farm plan policy announced by the Prime Minister and Agricultural Minister yesterday and finishing today with a well-researched and well thought out National Party Agriculture and Horticulture policies today.

National’s policy outlines a situation where the border is effectively closed, and New Zealand has lost almost a quarter of foreign earnings in the form of tourism and international education, leaving primary industries keeping the economy afloat.

Federated Farmers National President Andrew Hoggard says all these policies are the shot in the arm that our primary industries require. . . 

Shrek 2 found in Gisborne

First there was the South Island Shrek who came to our attention in 2004 – now a rival has been found in Gisborne.

She’s finally been caught at Wairakaia Station and has been given a name – Gizzy Shrek.

Farmer Rob Faulkner has been on her tail for years, he says.

“She’s been eluding me for about four or five years now and she finally came in through the back paddock”, Ron told Jesse Mulligan.

Empty meat counters – Uptown Farms:

Have you ever had your washer breakdown? It’s a real pain, and can cause a real issue around the house.
Finding someone to fix it is tough – skilled labor is hard to come by.

While you’re waiting, the laundry doesn’t stop coming. Everyone in the house keeps sending more your way. But without the washer – you’re stuck. There’s literally no where for the clothes to go.

Meanwhile, with huge piles of clothes stacking up on one side, clean clothes are becoming pretty scarce. Everyone in the house is wearing their jeans multiple times and getting nervous as they watch their underwear drawer slowly empty out…

This is what’s happening in our meat industry right now. Instead of washers and laundry it’s packing plants and livestock.
Many packing plants have been forced to shut down or run at lowered capacity because of Covid outbreaks and sick employees. Enough that it has created a massive backup on one side. . . 


It’s the vibe

September 25, 2020

National’s agriculture policy aims to restore farmers’ confidence and pride:

A National Government will reduce regulatory burden and give farmers confidence for the future.

Leader of the National Party Judith Collins and Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett announced National’s Agriculture policy in Gisborne today.

You can read our Agriculture & Horticulture Policy here.

“Agriculture is responsible for 60 per cent of New Zealand’s goods exports and is the backbone of our economy,” Ms Collins says.

Farmers have enough on their plate with weather, interest rates, and international markets, they shouldn’t have to contend with a Government who doesn’t understand their sector and restricts their growth.

“New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of quality and sustainable agricultural products is well known around the world. When we form the next Government, our pledge is to ensure that our agricultural policy focuses on allowing farmers the opportunity to farm their way to better outcomes, rather than being regulated into oblivion.”

National will:

  • Repeal the Resource Management Act (RMA) and replace it with an Environmental Standards Act and Planning and Development Act.
  • Allow skilled workers and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers to enter New Zealand.
  • Create a fast-tracked Primary Sector Visa.
  • Repeal or review the nine new water regulations Labour introduced in August.
  • Promote water storage options.
  • Review the treatment of forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme.
  • Remove the exemption that streamlines the process for forestry applications in the Overseas Investment Office test.
  • Remove the review process around introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2022.
  • Pass seven changes to the Zero Carbon Bill, including a review of the methane target.
  • Pursue an active free trade agenda to open up new markets for New Zealand’s food and fibre products.
  • Enforce stronger penalties for biosecurity offences.
  • Build the infrastructure to ensure better connectivity for rural communities

Labour took farmers for granted. Now as we face an economic crisis we are seeing just how foolish Labour’s treatment of farmers was,” Mr Bennett says.

“National’s approach to agriculture is simple – allow the sector to thrive by investing in and encouraging innovation, not constraining the sector with excessive regulations.

“There will be a demand for more sustainability in our farming practices. Farmers are up for this challenge and this desire for improvement is clear in farmers’ efforts over recent years.

“We’ll address the issues around workforce shortages and ensure that primary sector businesses have every opportunity continue growing and supporting New Zealand’s economy.

“National is proud of New Zealand’s history as the world’s best producer of food and fibre, and we are committed to it being New Zealand’s future as well.”

This has been seized on by Nationals’ opponents as anti-environment.

It isn’t. It has the goals of environmental sustainability but unlike Labour and the Greens, National aims to do it by working with farmers in a way that is economically and socially sustainable.

The details are good and more than that, as Dennis Denuto said in The Castle, it’s the vibe

The policy shows National values farmers and understands the importance of primary production and, unlike the parties on the left, will not attempt to kill off one of the few bright spots in the pandemic’s economic gloom.


Rural round-up

September 24, 2020

What’s going on in Southland? – Peter Burke:

It is hard to fathom exactly what’s going to happen in Southland in light of the impact of the Government’s new freshwater regulations.

There is clearly great mistrust on the part of Federated Farmers of Environment Minister David Parker, with Feds provincial vice president Bernadette Hunt saying they can’t get through to him on the issue of winter grazing.

It is no secret that Labour has an equal mistrust of Feds, frequently referring to them as the National Party in gumboots.

Feds see some aspects of the new freshwater regulations as unworkable and in this they are right. Furthermore, they question why such a law was passed with basic errors of fact.

Time to put mental health preparedness into action – Elle Perriam:

Being aware of mental health issues is admirable but sometimes it’s not enough, the founder of Will to Live charity, Elle Perriam says.

“I sort of don’t like to say mental health awareness as much because I think there is a lot of awareness out there – but awareness really means nothing to us unless we put it in to action” Perriam told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Perriam was no stranger to mental health battles herself, founding Will to Live after she lost her partner to suicide in 2017.

She suggested checking in on farmer friends this week and instead of asking them how they’re going – ask them if they’re happy. . . 

Lincoln PhD student receives prestigious Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award :

A Lincoln University PhD student has received this year’s Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award for her work in protecting crops from drought.

Laura Keenan, 28, received the prestigious award at a ceremony at the Kate Sheppard Memorial Wall on Worcester St in Christchurch on Saturday.

Keenan completed an honours degree in Agricultural Science at Lincoln University graduating in 2014. She worked within the area firstly with Soil Matters in Canterbury and then Agricom in Palmerston North before starting her PhD study at Lincoln University in June 2020.

Her PhD is focused on creating a tool that will help with predicting yield and the quality of several plants and herbs included in pasture mixes across New Zealand with the goal of improving drought resilience and feed supply for farmers. . . 

New tech to cut rural energy costs – Annette Scott:

An innovative new player in rural electricity supply has commissioned its first investor-owned solar system on a North Canterbury dairy farm. Solagri Energy Ltd founders share their business journey with Annette Scott.

NEW Zealand dairy farms can now get solar electricity and large-scale battery storage on-farm with zero capital outlay.

Solagri Energy Ltd, a new and innovative player in rural electricity supply, has commissioned its first investor-owned solar array and large-scale lithium ion battery system on a North Canterbury dairy farm.

Co-founders Peter Saunders and Hamish Hutton just happen to be cousins with their business idea stemming around a family campfire. . . 

Challenge to keep pastures resilient – Richard Rennie:

Commercial plant breeders are united in efforts to help deliver New Zealand farmers better options when it comes to selecting for more resilient pastures in years to come.

Head of Barenbrug’s plant breeding team Courtney Inch says the challenge in NZ, being a relatively small market on a global scale, is having enough capital to invest in developing commercially viable pastures for our market.

This is complicated by NZ being a relatively complex pastoral system, with climatic conditions in Southland for example quite dissimilar to those in Waikato, often requiring different feed types for a relatively small pastoral zone.

“But it is to the industry’s credit we are seeing some really good collaborative work being done now in this area of developing more resilient pastures,” he said. . . 

Superfines leading the charge in wool price spikes – Bruce McLeish:

The wool market surprised many participants last week, with a much stronger performance than expected.

While there had been some business done the previous week, and a positive tone was anticipated, it just got better and better as the week progressed.

A total offering across Australia of just under 30,000 bales – which these days is considered ‘on the large side’ – was keenly sought after, particularly at the finer end.

The Kiwi’s added to the total – with 3000 bales offered in Melbourne – and South Africa put up 6500 bales, almost all of which were consumed by a suddenly hungry wool trade. . . 


Govt pressure not in ‘world that has passed”

September 24, 2020

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern raised a lot of ire on social media for a comment she made when she interrupted National leader Judith Collins:

That is how a lot of people picked up the comment, though when you see the whole comment it is probably not what she meant.

“If I may, that feels like the view of the world that has passed. When I meet with our dairy sector, and I have to say our primary producers as a sector I’ve probably met with more than any other because of this important work, they absolutely see the need for us to be competitive in this environment.

“We’ve got Australian farmers now talking about climate change. There’s an inevitability here we have to face. But they are the ones talking about sustainability. They are the ones talking about regenerative farming.”

She might not have meant farming was in a world that had passed, but in interrupting Judith she missed the point she was making – that farmers were highly regarded when she was growing up on a dairy farm and now they are feeling anything but and that is due in part to government policies.

Southland dairy farmer Hadleigh Germann said the comment had been taken slightly out of context.

He didn’t believe Ardern was saying that farming was a sunset industry, but he said it was still insensitive to claim that farmers were over the sentiment Collins had highlighted.

“Farmers do feel a lot of weight and uncertainty are on them at the moment. I do believe she’s out of touch and to say that on the whole we’re quite positive about the current state affairs I don’t think is quite right.

It is quite wrong.

“These latest land and water plans have ignored the whole effort farmers having been putting in around our environmental footprint. It’s sort of ‘nice try but still not good enough so we’re re-setting the goalposts and shortening up the time you’ve got to achieve them’,” he said.

Many farmers were throwing up their hands and asking: “Now what?”

Taranaki sharemilkers Simon and Natasha Wilkes said that, while the comment might have been taken out of context, the rural community still felt “raw” about its treatment from Government.

“We feel we have continually been overwhelmed with comments, policies and forever changing goal posts. Farmers have been working so hard to implement environmental requirements, but it still feels like it will never be enough.

“At the end of the day, we work hard for our animals and land which provides for communities and our country and we want to work together to do the best we can,” they said. . . 

The water policies are typical of big-government thinking.

They have been imposed from the government down and are telling farmers what they can and can’t do and how they can do it,  rather than working with farmers to get effects-based rules then leaving them to work out how best to achieve the desired results.


Rural round-up

September 23, 2020

Smart shift on border exceptions but shearers still missing:

The government’s decision today to slightly loosen border entry restrictions to allow in certain specialised staff crucial to the agriculture and fishing industries is excellent news, Federated Farmers says.

“Feds has been strongly advocating for exceptions for skilled operators of sophisticated agricultural machinery key to harvesting and other seasonal tasks for several months.  The pandemic response disrupted long-established workforce arrangements,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“We’re very pleased that Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has now recognised it’s impractical to try and train enough New Zealanders in time to meet the immediate need, though that is the sector’s longer-term goal.” . . 

Establishment key to successful hemp crop – Gerald Piddock:

Blair Drysdale is into his third season of growing hemp on his Southland farm and is still fine-tuning how it fits into his crop rotations.

He grows 10ha of hemp on his 320-hectare farm, harvesting the seeds which are then pressed into oil and sold online.

“It’s a fully integrated system which was the plan from the outset. We spent 15 years looking to do something from paddock to consumer and it was about finding the right plant that fitted in with our infrastructure,” he said.

It also had to be healthy and beneficial to people and hemp ticked those boxes. . .

A cheering result for Fonterra but there are challenges ahead – Point of Order:

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says 2019/20 was a good year for the co-op, with profit up, debt down and a strong milk price.  The  result,  a profit   of  $659m, may have  brought a  cheer   from the  co-op’s  farmer-suppliers and  Hurrell  deserves  a cheer, too, for   succeeding  in  turning around  the  fortunes of the  co-op,  after two  years  of  losses.

“We increased our profit after tax by more than $1bn, reduced our debt by more than $1 billion and this has put us in a position to start paying dividends again,” he says.

“I’m proud of how farmers and employees have come together to deliver these strong results in a challenging environment. They have had to juggle the extra demands and stress of COVID-19 and have gone above and beyond. I would like to thank them for their hard work and support.”

Fonterra  settled  on a  milk price for the  season  just  past  of  of  $7.14kg/MS—-one of the  highest on record—and  is  maintaining the current forecast  for the  current  season  within  the  range of  $5.90-$6.90. . .

Many farmers still stuck on connectivity slow lane Feds survey finds:

The vast majority of urban New Zealanders can get on the information superhighway at speed but the latest connectivity survey by Federated Farmers shows too many rural families and businesses are still stuck in second gear on a potholed back-road.

“We had nearly 900 responses from our members from every farm type and geographical spread but a bitter irony was that several more couldn’t complete the on-line questions because they didn’t have internet access or connectivity was too patchy or slow,” Federated Farmers President and telecommunications spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

Around 68% of respondents have download speeds of 20Mbps or less, and nearly 24% are enduring download speeds of just 0-5Mbps. . . 

Agri survey finds issues with rural connectivity:

A survey of rural landowners conducted by Whanganui & Partners has found issues with connectivity are impacting the sector.

The survey was undertaken in partnership with the Rural Community Board and was sent to landowners with 10ha or more. This week, Colleen Sheldon from Whanganui & Partners is reporting to the Rural Community Board on the survey’s findings around internet and mobile coverage.

Sheldon says the survey provides strong evidence to back up what farmers have told her, which is that poor rural connectivity is a challenge to their businesses. The survey found that while the majority of landowners have some form of internet access, rural landowners face obstacles conducting the same online tasks as urban residents. . .

NZ wool’s cost $10m market position – Annette Scott:

The beleaguered state of strong wool is not holding back all in the industry.

With several fleece to floor initiatives on the go, NZ Yarn, alongside Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool), has contracted $10 million of wool from New Zealand growers in the past three years with new hemp and wool hybrid products set to realise new opportunities.

CP Wool, representing 3500 sheep farmers around NZ, is the exclusive supplier of wool to NZ Yarn that spins yarn for use in the soft flooring industry globally. 

Group chief executive of NZ Yarn and CP Wool Colin McKenzie says NZ Yarn contracts are for the direct supply of good-coloured shears and have generally been at a significant premium over the spot market, especially lots with little or no vegetable matter contamination. . . 

Higher stocking density and increased output boosts Shetland farm:

A higher stocking density and increased output has improved a Shetland farmer’s profits and boosted livestock performance.

Farming in the Shetlands brings many challenges including a shorter grazing season, strong west and south-west winds and salt spray from the sea damaging soils

But 2019 Scotch Beef Farmer of the Year finalist Jamie Leslie has maximised livestock performance and improved profit by focusing on four key objectives – cow and calf weaning ratio, kilograms of output produced per hectare, cow fertility and wintering costs. . .


Rural round-up

September 22, 2020

Water and labeling high on hort sector’s election wish-list – David Anderson:

New Zealand’s horticulture industry has set out its wishes for the upcoming election campaign, covering water, climate change, country of origin labelling and labour issues.

Industry body Hort NZ is asking that any future government ensures the horticulture sector can develop “within a supportive framework that enables sustainable growth”.

It says the sector currently contributes more than $6 billion to NZ’s economy, is the country’s third largest export industry and employs approximately 60,000 people.

“What horticulture needs in order to continue its success in producing fresh and healthy food for New Zealand and export markets is quite simple.” . . 

Rural environment grows ideas just fine – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Two years ago when he was playing for the Southland Sharks, Clinton man Lydon Aoake struggled to stay motivated.

The now 30-year-old was in the team that took out the 2018 New Zealand Basketball League. That year he juggled training, a full-time job at Danone Nutricia, and fatherhood.

“When I was working out trying to get fit for the Sharks, I wanted to get a personal trainer, but Clinton was pretty rural,” Mr Aoake said.

“So I had a little bit of a fitness background, I knew what I needed to do — it was just the PT motivation that I wanted.” . . 

Fonterra’s dividend – my five cents – Elbow Deep:

It has been quite the year for Fonterra, the co-operative not only won unanimous parliamentary support for the changes they sought to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, they also returned to profit after last year’s first ever financial loss. That profit, a stunning $1.3 billion turnaround from the previous season, saw Fonterra pay suppliers their fourth highest payout in the Co-op’s history; $7.14 per kg of milksolids and a 5c dividend on shares.

As dairy farmers we have been pretty well insulated from the worst financial effects of the pandemic, it has been business as usual thanks largely to Fonterra’s ability to navigate the strict requirements of operating under various levels of lockdown and to quickly react to changes in demand caused by Covid-19.

It struck me as curiously ungrateful, then, that the first response I saw on social media to Fonterra’s excellent result was a complaint the dividend was too low. This, it turns out, was not an isolated expression of that sentiment. . . 

Fonterra stabilises finances with back to basics model, selling assets and retaining profits – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra has stabilised its finances with more asset sales forthcoming. It now operates a conservative model supported by its farmer members. But the model will not create the ‘national champion’ that the Labour Government has always hoped for

Fonterra’s annual results announced in 18 September for the year ending 31 July 2020 indicate that Fonterra has made good progress in stabilising its financial position. A key outcome is a reduction in interest-bearing debt by $1.1 billion, now down to $ 4.7 billion. This has been brought about through asset sales and retained profits.

Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers told a media conference immediately after release of the results that further debt reductions were desired.  The key measure that Fonterra is now using for debt is the multiple of debt to EBITDA, which now stands at 3.4. The desired level in the newly conservative Fonterra is between 2.5 and 3. . . 

Self-shedding sheep study:

Massey University is examining the economic impact and the production consequences of crossbreeding with Wiltshire sheep to a fully shedding flock.

Coarse wool sheep farmers are struggling with the cost of shearing in relation to the value of the wool clip. Many are considering if changing to a self-shedding flock, such as a Wiltshire, is a better way forward.

However, the cost of purchasing purebred Wiltshires – and the limited numbers available – means this is not a viable option for many. However, there are examples of farmers successfully grading up to Wiltshires by continual crossing.

But there is a general lack of accurate recorded information on the costs, benefit and pitfalls from doing so. . . 

Plug pulled on 2021 Marlborough Wine and Food Festival – Tracy Neal:

Organisers of next February’s Marlborough Wine & Food Festival have pulled the plug early.

It is the first time in the event’s 36-year history it has been cancelled, but the potential lingering challenges over Covid-19 posed too much risk.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove said it had been a really tough decision that would impact businesses in our community.

“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest. . . 


If they couldn’t deliver BC . . .

September 22, 2020

David Farrar posts on Labour’s term of failure:

 . . . Isn’t this telling in terms of the Government’s incompetence. We are not talking about narrowly missing a few targets. On almost every major area they have either missed it by a mile, or actually gone backwards.

Auckland is still at level 2.5 and will move only to level 2 tomorrow.

The wage subsidy masked unemployment but now that’s ended unemployment and business failures will accelerate; and we’re facing decades of deficits.

If a Labour-led government  couldn’t deliver BC –  before Covid-19 – we can’t trust them to deliver now.

 


Rural round-up

September 21, 2020

Minus 12.2.% – Mike Chapman:

Our GDP has hit rock bottom at minus 12.2% in the June quarter, and on top of that, the Government has already spent the $50 billion recovery package.  The financial cupboard is literally bare.  Everyone is talking about the rebound and they seem very confident about it.  If there is one thing that Covid has taught us, it is that predicting what is going to happen is not easy.  In fact, I would say it is near to impossible.  The result is we have all had to be very flexible- what we planned to happen has more often than not had to be changed.  I can’t see any reason why the current uncertainty and the ever-present unpredictable future will suddenly become certain and predictable.

The problem with spending the $50 billion is that it has not by in large been spent on enabling New Zealand’s economic recovery.  It has been spent propping up the status quo with wage subsidies and the like.  With that money spent, how are these workers going to get paid?  Where are they going to work?  Accommodation and food services took a 47.4% hit in the June quarter with hits also in mining, clothing and footwear, furniture manufacturing and transport.  Just walk down any main street and see empty shops.  Agriculture went down 2.2%, but that drop was saved from going further down with fruit exports up 10% and wine up 15%.

New Zealand is in recession.  Tourism, international education and hospitality will not be the drivers for economic recovery in the immediate future.  The main driver for economic recovery will be the primary sector and within the primary sector horticulture and wine. . .

Helping grow farming’s future – David Anderson:

John Jackson’s ability for future and critical thinking saw him deeply involved in the development of an agribusiness programme that has now been rolled out in secondary schools throughout NZ.

The North Waikato sheep and beef farmer has had an interesting and eclectic journey on the way to his eventual farming career and farm ownership. With a long history of community service, Jackson was invited to join the Waikato Anglican Trust Board in 2012 that governs the running of St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, where his children went to school.

“John Oliver – a notable King Country farmer and philanthropist – encouraged the school to consider teaching agriculture and develop a curriculum accordingly,” he explains. . . 

NZ’s largest ever medical marijuana crop gets the go-ahead :

A Marlborough medicinal cannabis company has secured a licence to grow New Zealand’s largest ever crop.

Puro received the license allowing it to commercially cultivate 90,000 plants for medical use from the Ministry of Health on Thursday.

The crop will be germinated in tunnel houses before being transplanted into the company’s site at Kekerengu.

But it will hold no recreational appeal with it being used for CBD and cannabinoids to be exported overseas. . . 

Move over, mānuka honey, bee pollen is creating a buzz – Esther Taunton:

Move over mānuka honey, there’s a new bee product creating a global buzz.

Demand for New Zealand bee pollen has skyrocketed since the outbreak of coronavirus, with one company saying sales have soared and there are no signs of a slow-down.

NatureBee says sales of its potentiated bee pollen capsules have increased five-fold over the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic drives a shift in consumer behaviour. . . 

Cows big change from animals in Laos – Mary-Jo Tohill:

She has swapped monkeys and tigers for dairy cows and is loving the change of animal.

Sonya Prosser was one of 13 students who took part in the first SIT-Telford GoDairy course at the South Otago campus near Balclutha, which began on August 24.

Before the pandemic, she had been working in Laos for three years, where her partner, Maddie, had got a job with the world’s largest sun bear sanctuary, Free the Bears, in Laos and where Ms Prosser was doing freelance wildlife work.

This included Project Anoulak, in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area in central-eastern Laos, which is home to nine species of primates. . . 

Where would we be without bees? – John Harvey:

It’s fair to say that most of us have some understanding that bees play an important role.

But do we understand why?

Because bees are more than important, in fact they’re critical to our food security.

Through the process of pollination we depend on bees for one in every three mouthfuls of the food we eat. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 20, 2020

Imminent crisis threatens Central Otago fruit exports:

Central Otago fruit growers support their industry’s call for urgent action from Government to address the looming shortage of horticultural workers, says Ettrick Fruit Growers Association Chairman, Peter Vernon. Last week, New Zealand Apples and Pears raised concerns that the $870 million dollar apple industry will be at risk if a seasonal workforce is not assembled.

The New Zealand horticulture sector usually hosts more than 14,000 workers from the Pacific Islands for up to seven months to strengthen the workforce on local orchards and vineyards. The New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme was established in 2007 by Helen Clark’s Labour government. The RSE scheme is viewed internationally as a best practise model in social responsibility for labour mobility. The Central Otago region employs up to 5,000 temporary staff at the peak of the season for apple, apricot and cherry work, comprising New Zealand and RSE workers, plus working holiday visa holders. Labour planning shows that even with the numbers of recently unemployed New Zealanders now available, there will simply not be enough suitable people to fill all the seasonal roles needed . . 

Rural road-users heading for potholes – Feds:

Rural road users are in for a continued bumpy ride with no extra money for local road improvements in the final Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2021.

“The final GPS released this week has investment in local road improvements unchanged from the draft at an upper level of $300 million down to as low as $100 million in 2021/22, and steadily declining each year for the decade after,” Federated Farmers transport spokesperson Karen Williams said.

“However, it is pleasing to see increases in local road maintenance and renewal, with a forecast range of $650m-$760m next financial year, and slow but steady increases thereafter.”

Central and local government share the costs of upgrading local roads, which includes most rural roads. With councils under heavy financial pressure, there has been considerable under-investment, Karen said. . . 

Family shares the shearing – Yvonne O’Hara:

When Colin “Mouse” O’Neill first considered setting up as a shearing contractor five years ago, he knew it was a big risk, and he had his family’s future at stake.

Mr O’Neill, of Alexandra, has worked in shearing sheds since he was 12 and has been shearing professionally and competitively for 27 years.

His parents, Marie and Terry, worked in the woolsheds and his grandparents were orchardists in Alexandra, where O’Neill Cres is now. . .

On the farm – a wrap of farming conditions around New Zealand:

Our contact in Northland says it’s unusually dry. Feed is short usually at the end of winter, but it’s come six weeks earlier than normal. It’s affecting the market for cattle as farmers are careful about what they’re buying. Dairy farmers are at the tail end of calving while beef farmers are 50 to 60 percent of the way through.

Around Pukekohe it’s been dry and breezy. The wind  made it tricky to spread lime and fertiliser and spray crops. Work activity and crop growth could best be described as “steady”.  It’s probably been busier in kiwifruit orchards with their shelter belts receiving an annual trim.

It cooled down a little bit in Waikato this week and grass growth rates have tapered off in response, but farmers have either supplements on hand or a bank of feed still to rely on. With calving ending, they’re catching up on jobs before the start of mating next month. . . 

Heading back to the land – Mary-Jo Tohill:

A job loss has brought Mosgiel man Steve Morris back to his agricultural roots, and the 55-year-old is glad of it.

He grew up on a farm on the Otago Peninsula, near Larnach Castle.

“It was a small farm, and you don’t always want to work with your father,” Mr Morris said.

He left school and became a glazier, holding down his first job for 16 years and the second for 18, before making a complete change and driving trucks for three years. . .

Britain needs to grow more trees – are sheep farms the answer? – Connie O’Neill:

Britain’s green fields and “wild” uplands may have become important parts of the national heritage, but they are landscapes wholly created by people. There’s no reason to think of these areas as precious natural resources to be preserved at all costs.

If humans hadn’t chopped down the trees, most of what are now Britain’s sheep farms would still be part of the large forests that once covered the islands. So why can’t some of these areas be turned back into woodland?

Doing so would help fight climate change, as trees absorb carbon from the air and keep it out of the atmosphere. As we found in our new research, there’s even a solid economic case for sheep farmers to instead grow forests and become carbon offsetters.

Tree growing is a political hot topic in the UK, since vast areas of new forest will be needed if the country is to achieve net zero emissions. . . 


Rural round-up

September 19, 2020

Fonterra back in the black :

Fonterra has posted a $659 million profit and will pay farmers $7.19/kg milksolids for the 2019-20 season.

It has held the forecast for the 2020-21 season at $5.90-6.90/kg MS.

The dividend for the 2019-20 season is 5c a share.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says 2019-20 was a good year for the co-op, with profit up, debt down and a strong milk price.

“We increased our profit after tax by more than $1 billion, reduced our debt by more than $1 billion and this has put us in a position to start paying dividends again,” he says. . . 

Farmers and growers call for help with labour shortages – Katie Todd:

Farmers and growers say if agriculture is going to drag the country’s economy back into shape, they will need help to fix labour shortages.

While urban centres went into a strict lockdown in April and May – contributing to a 12.2 percent tumble in gross domestic product – agriculture, forestry and fishing saw only a marginal drop of 2.2 percent.

The pandemic has done little to disrupt business on Damien Roper’s south Taranaki farm, home to 420 dairy cows.

He said even in the throes of the level four lockdown, his classification as an essential worker made it almost business as usual. . . 

Urgent government intervention required for horticulture industry Finance Minister told :

Industry representatives met with Finance Minister, Grant Robertson in Hawke’s Bay earlier this week to discuss challenges facing the regional fruit and wine industry. The main item of discussion was around labour pressure for the coming grape, summerfruit and apple harvests – pressure that will see more than 10,000 seasonal workers needed.

Industry welcomed the Minister’s positive message that the government understood the issue facing these industries.

“With backpackers and Pacific seasonal workers down by 50,000, the industry is facing an incredibly difficult task across New Zealand this season,” says New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI) chief executive Alan Pollard. . . 

‘Languishing’ Jobs for Nature process leave tourism operator fearful – Tess Brunton:

A South Island tourism operator says he could have prevented redundancies if wasn’t for delays to a nature-based job creation scheme.

More than $1 billion was earmarked for the Jobs for Nature programme in May as part of the government’s cross-agency Covid-19 recovery package to run over four years.

Today, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced an extra $19.7 million for kiwi conservation aimed at reversing the decline of the species.

While the funding has been welcomed, some applicants have been waiting months in limbo unsure if they will get a green light. . . 

Agricultural policy must incentivise innovation:

Agcarm calls on the government to introduce managed risk to legislation. Its chief executive Mark Ross says that the rural sector faces many, and often conflicting, demands. “Our farmers and growers are faced with the challenges of growing more food and fibre in reducing hectares of available space. They are also being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keep up with international best practice, minimise residues and manage resistance.

“To support our farmers and growers to meet these challenges, we must allow them to have access to the latest technology and the most effective and sustainable animal medicines and pesticides to protect animals and crops from devasting losses,” he says.

In its election manifesto, Agcarm asks the new government to modernise the regulatory environment for new product approvals and base scientific decision-making on facts and evidence, not political popularity. . . 

Rural market poised for spring:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 121 more farm sales (+45.7%) for the three months ended August 2020 than for the three months ended August 2019. Overall, there were 386 farm sales in the three months ended August 2020, compared to 341 farm sales for the three months ended July 2020 (+13.2%), and 265 farm sales for the three months ended August 2019. 1,252 farms were sold in the year to August 2020, 7.2% fewer than were sold in the year to August 2019, with 22.9% less Dairy farms, 14.1% less Grazing farms, 15.3% less Finishing farms and 6.1% more Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to August 2020 was $25,657 compared to $25,346 recorded for three months ended August 2019 (+1.2%). The median price per hectare increased 10.8% compared to July 2020. . . 


Leaving us with more

September 18, 2020

National is promising tax cuts to help us through the Covid crisis:

National’s massive tax stimulus package will put more than $3000 extra into the pockets of hard-working Kiwis on middle incomes, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

Ms Collins has announced the next National Government will let Kiwis keep more of what they earn by lifting the bottom tax threshold from $14,000 to $20,000, the middle threshold from $48,000 to $64,000 and the top threshold from $70,000 to $90,000.

These changes will be in place from December 1, 2020 until March 31, 2022. The total cost of this over the 16-month period is estimated to be $4.7 billion.

“Today we are facing the biggest economic downturn the world has seen since in living memory. But with the right leadership and economic plan we can grow our economy and keep Kiwis in jobs,” Ms Collins says.

“To keep our economy ticking, New Zealanders need money to spend. National will deliver temporary tax relief that puts more than $3000 – or nearly $50 a week – into the back pockets of average earners over the next 16 months.

“This will give Kiwis the confidence to go out and spend, which will be crucial for our retail, tourism and hospitality businesses to survive this economic crisis.

“New Zealand is facing a much longer and more painful economic shock than earlier forecast. We need a serious plan for economic growth to get us back on track.”

National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith pointed to higher taxes as Labour’s only plan to get New Zealand out of this economic hole.

“No country has ever taxed its way out of a recession – and this is a big one we’re in now.”

As well as tax relief for households, National will double the depreciation rate for businesses that invest in new Plant, Equipment and Machinery over the next twelve months. This will bring forward the amount a business can claim in depreciation for new investments, which will stimulate investment by increasing the return on capital.

Doubling the depreciation rate is expected to cost $430 million a year for five years, while increasing tax revenues in out years.

“Our stimulus package has been fully-funded and costed, and is included in our independently reviewed Economic and Fiscal Plan released today,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“National’s plan carefully balances the need to drive economic stimulus, increase investment in core public services and restore government debt back to prudent levels.

“Labour, on the other hand, has announced it will increase taxes during a recession. The contrasting approaches to the economy at this election could not be clearer.

“Judith Collins and her strong National team will bring the leadership, experience and vision needed to get our country back on track.”

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

You can view a copy of National’s Personal Tax Relief Policy here.

You can view a copy of National’s Double Depreciation Rate Policy here.

David Farrar has worked out what the tax cuts mean for different income levels and conclude:

This provides New Zealanders with a real choice – a Government that will help people through the tough times by temporarily reducing taxes, or a Government that will increase taxes.

If you’re not sure which would be better, ask yourself who would make better use of the money you earn – you or the government?

If you’re still not sure, think about what’s more efficient, letting us keep a bit more of what we earn and giving us the choice about how, and how much we spend, or having the government take more and absorbing some of that in the bureaucracy before the rest can be spent and only then dribble through the economy?


Rural round-up

September 18, 2020

Dr Doug Edmeades responds to Green Party agriculture policy:

The Green Party’s plan to help Kiwi farmers transition from traditional agriculture to regenerative and organic practices is a bit redundant, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

Most farmers are already using many regenerative agriculture practices, such as rotational grazing, and zero tillage, the soil scientist told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that if we follow RA, we will improve soil health, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality – that’s nonsense.”

Edmeades listened with interest to yesterday’s interview with Green Party co-leader James Shaw, where the Minister said regenerative agriculture would result in better profits for farmers. . . 

‘This just cannot happen’: $9.5 billion at risk as horticulture sector struggles to fill $25-an-hour jobs – Bonnie Flaws:

The shortage of horticultural workers due to Covid-19 border restrictions is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk, says New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard.

About 10,000 seasonal workers would be needed starting from next month to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay alone, he said.

The shortage had the potential to cripple the region’s economic recovery.

“This just cannot happen.” . . 

Fonterra set to return to profit, but will it pay a dividend? – Jamie Gray:

Fonterra’s annual result this week is expected to show that the dairy giant is back in the black, but will it pay a final dividend?

The co-op last year posted a net loss of $605 million, driven mostly by writedowns of its overseas businesses, dwarfing the previous year’s shortfall of $196m, and sparking a major change in direction.

Fonterra did not pay a dividend in its previous financial year but in its latest earnings update, it said it would reassess a payout at the end of the latest year to July 31. . . 

The future of food – Greg Bruce:

Most of New Zealand’s lowland areas are now devoted to food production. How we produce food for consumption, sale and export continues to shape our landscape and lives, but the 90 per cent of New Zealanders who live in cities have little contact with those processes and the social and environmental considerations they create.

Can farmers improve yields and use resources more efficiently? Can consumers reconnect with the land and farm practices to make more informed choices and reduce waste? What is the future of our food?

THE LATE MAY EVENING my wife and I went to Coco’s Cantina for dinner, it was appallingly cold, probably the coldest night of the year. I wore a long black double-breasted wool coat, which I call ‘The Aucklander’ because it so obviously marks me as a stereotypical city person, which I am—lacking DIY skills, any sort of self-sufficiency, and any idea of what it takes to survive without a supermarket within easy driving distance. . .

Ewe’ll be seeing spots with quintuplets – Daisy Hudson:

You could be forgiven for thinking you were going dotty.

Sue Rissman certainly did when one of her ewes delivered five spotted black and white lambs on Sunday.

The quintuplets, four girls and a boy, seemed perfectly unaware of the interest in them yesterday as they trotted around after their mum on the 21ha lifestyle block Mrs Rissman and her husband, Grant, own inland from Palmerston.

The pair have 47 ewes, which have overwhelmingly delivered twins and triplets. . .

Two farming families form state of the art dairy business :

Two farming families from the Conwy Valley in Wales have gone into a partnership to run as a single state-of-the art dairy business.

The families decided to join together for a better work-life balance, more stock, less pressure and the prospect of new opportunities.

Young farmer Emyr Owen, 30, from Bodrach, near Pandy Tudur, farms in partnership with his parents on a 185-acre former beef and sheep farm.

He joined up with his next door neighbour Gwydion Jones, 38, whose family formerly farmed a herd of 150 dairy cattle at the neighbouring 95-acre Ty’n Ffynnon farm.. . 


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