For want of workers . . .

19/01/2022

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The problem in New Zealand is not a shortage of horse shoe nails but a dire shortage of workers:

A critical lack of workers in New Zealand is pushing the meat industry to plead with the Government to urgently allow in more overseas staff.

Major meat processor and exporter Silver Fern Farms says it’s one of the most challenging years to date for accessing skilled labour. It says that the company’s plants are not fully manned and warns that livestock may not be able to be killed – especially if it gets dry – risking hard-fought international markets and valuable export revenue for the country.

“We are presently about 550 people short across our processing network. We have a number of initiatives underway to help address this, including raising our minimum productive rate by 10%,” SFF chief executive Simon Limmer told Rural News.

“However, we are constrained by the historic low unemployment rate here and the reality is that bringing in overseas workers is going to need to be part of the solution. In particular, we’ve been asking the Government to allow us to bring in AIP workers from the Pacific Islands. We’ve had this successful arrangement for 12 years, and it has increased production levels here as well as providing these workers and their family excellent earnings.” . . .

Staff shortages are delaying lamb processing. Feed covers have been good, lessening pressure to get stock away form farms, but recent dry weather could change that.

“The kill profile is late this season and any significant dry period from this point on, coupled with labour-related capacity reductions, will create livestock pressure on farm.”

Alliance Group’s general manager of manufacturing Willie Wiese told Rural News that NZ’s meat processing and exporting sector has a chronic labour shortage and this has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Without sufficient labour, we cannot run our plants at the desired capacity,” he says. “The border closure, as well as the limited managed isolation spots, have prevented us from employing seasonal workers from overseas to help make up the shortfall in numbers we can recruit locally.”

Wiese says Alliance Group is currently between 200-300 workers short during what is an extremely busy processing period, in particular for the Easter chilled programme for the UK and Europe.

“Importantly, we require additional halal butchers. Over 90% of animals are processed in the halal manner because that provides f greater flexibility to send different parts of the same carcass to various markets. That means fewer opportunities for hardworking Kiwis and fewer value-add products going to our markets.” . . 

Prices for red meat are reasonably good this season but that could easily change.

“Building valuable relationships with customers takes time and is underlined by consistently delivering on a commitment to supply product to customer specifications. These relationships are hard won but easily lost when customers have many global choices for supply, and when we don’t have the labour capacity to enable us to deliver to customers’ needs and return greater value to farmers.” . . 

The dairy industry is also short of staff:

Dairy farmers say they urgently need 1,500 overseas workers within the next six months.

While farmers are happy with changes announced last month to the existing class border exception for 200 dairy workers, they desperately need more skilled workers from overseas.

Farmers were happy with the announcement but like so many form this government, the announcement wasn’t followed by action.

Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says the dairy sector cannot afford another calving season without skilled staff.

“We urgently need reinforcements,” he told Rural News. “We have managed two calving seadons by cutting corners. Staff are burnt out, stress levels are very high and another calving season like the past two years will result in some sad statistics.”

Securing MIQ spots remains the biggest hurdle to get workers into the country. Of the 200 border exceptions for dairy workers issued last year, only a handful arrived in the country. . . 

Border exceptions were welcomed but that’s only the first step in getting workers into the country.

However, Lewis says border exceptions are useless unless the overseas workers can secure MIQ spots.

“I suspect the electric driverless tractor would make a appearance quicker than a MIQ outcome. Border exception is just the first part of the process of getting the overseas workers in,” says Lewis.

Employers and their workers are still faced with a complex and lengthy process to get employees into New Zealand and working on farms.

“Employers and their workers will need to work closely with their respective industry groups to sort MIQ, flights and all the associated paperwork.

“This is not an easy or cheap task for either party, but with unemployment at such low levels this is really the only option for much of the primary industries at the moment.” . . 

Rural contractors are similarly frustrated:

Despite rural contractors being told in mid-December they could bring in 200 skilled machinery operators into the country, not one has been given any MIQ space.

Rural Contractors NZ chief executive Andrew Olsen describes getting MIQ space as like peeling an onion.

“It’s layer after layer and it brings tears of frustration for our members who are already working impossibly long hours and as yet have not even been able to lodge Expressions of Interest for staff positions, which Ministers had approved to come in.”

Olsen says despite the best efforts of MPI staff to help find MIQ beds for the approved operators, the indications now are that few, if any, will be available until March at the earliest for rural contractors.

“This will mean many of them will pass on the option to bring workers in. It’s just too late, too hard and too stressful for contractors who are working their guts out trying to help farmers get in crops and ensure animals can be fed.” 

Olsen says RCNZ and Federated Farmers, supported by MPI, have done everything they could to help contractors meet a crushing labour shortage.

“We understand and respect that the resurgence of another Covid variant and border entry changes have put the squeeze on MIQ,” he adds. “That said, those risks would have been part of the assessment when we had Ministerial approval just on a month ago to bring in the desperately needed 200 machinery operators.”

Olsen says rural contractors whose work is essential to food production and our export economy, find themselves towards the back of the MIQ queue.

Olsen is now calling on the Ministers of Immigration and Agriculture and the Prime Minister’s Office to act.

“We received approval December 12 and now more than a month on we’re looking at another two months before the first arrivals,” he adds. . . 

Harvesting is well under way. Workers are needed now and the shortage will put pressure on existing staff which will increase the risk of accidents and crop wastage.

Primary industries have been one of few bright spots in the export sector.

When the other big export earner – tourism – is in the doldrums with little hope of a turn around in the short to medium term, the need for farming and horticulture to be operating at their peaks is even greater than normal.

The government has been warned about the worker shortage and the consequences of it and last month’s announcement of more MIQ spots gave employers hope.

But like so many other of its announcements it has failed to deliver and so for want of workers primary production and processing are under unsustainable stress.


Rural round-up

14/01/2022

Incentives working but more people needed for Otago summerfruit harvest :

Summerfruit growers in Otago are experiencing severe staff shortages, due to the ongoing impact of border closures and low unemployment in New Zealand.

‘We know it is tough for growers at the moment. Last season, they had the weather. This season, it is the severe labour shortage,’ says Summerfruit New Zealand Chief Executive, Kate Hellstrom.

‘Summerfruit New Zealand is working with other horticulture product groups and government departments to attract and retain as many seasonal workers as possible. However, due to Covid and its impact on New Zealand’s borders, it’s tough.

‘We ask that where possible, growers club together to make best use of available labour. But in saying that, we know that fruit will go to waste, which will affect profitability and morale, as some growers only have about half the staff they’ve had in previous seasons.’ . . 

More dairy industry workers needed ‘for farmers’ mental health’ – Gerhard Uys:

The dairy industry is calling for another 1500 international dairy workers to be let into New Zealand for the 2022 dairy season, with concerns that staff shortages are affecting farmer well-being.

Dairy NZ said recent labour surveys indicated that the dairy sector was short of 2000 to 4000 workers, the statement said.

New Zealand has its lowest unemployment rate since 2007, at 3.4 per cent. A low unemployment rate and closed borders meant massive labour shortage on farms, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader for farm performance Nick Robinson said.

Matt Zanderop, a dairy farmer in Waikato, said he had recently advertised for a local part-time position on his farm but that no one applied because there were no locals workers available to fill such posts. . . 

Environmental compliance still high in Southland – Sudesh Kissun:

Southland farmers are being praised for maintaining high environmental compliance during the 2020-21 monitoring year.

The 2020-21 compliance monitoring report, presented this month to Environment Southland summarised compliance monitoring, enforcement and technical teams’ activities.

Environment Southland general manager integrated catchment management Paul Hulse said that once again Covid restrictions led to significant disruption of the inspection programme, and therefore, inspection numbers.

“It has been another challenging year, however, the compliance team has managed the programme extremely well.” . .

Just how viable is the Tarras airport plan? – Jill Herron:

Jill Herron looks at the road ahead for the mysterious and seemingly unwanted airport in Tarras

Lifestyle blocks are continuing to sell around the site of a proposed international airport at Tarras, with newcomers arriving into a community impatient for clarity on the project.

Construction of this considerable chunk of infrastructure could begin in six years’ time, according to its proposers, Christchurch International Airport Ltd.

A three-year consenting process is due to start in 2024 for the jet-capable facility with a 2.2km runway, coinciding with sustainability and community consultation policies tightening across all levels of government. . . 

Landing at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge – Sue Wallace,:

You can escape the real world at Minaret Station, writes Sue Wallace

It’s simply breathtaking skimming over snow-dusted mountains, emerald green valleys and spotting tumbling waterfalls and meandering streams on the way to the South Island’s luxury Minaret Station Alpine Lodge.

The lodge fits snugly on the western side of Lake Wānaka between Minaret Burn in the south and the Albert Burn in the north.

Head swivelling is in full force on the 30-minute helicopter hop from Queenstown Airport to the remote highland retreat among some of the world’s best scenery. You just don’t want to miss anything. . . 

Propaganda films disguised as documentaries continue to take aim at agriculture – Jonathan Lawler:

At every turn, there is a new food/farm documentary coming out with sensationalist titles like GMO OMG and Cowspiracy. Thanks to the popularity of streaming sites like Netflix and the deep pockets of some interest groups, it has become easier than ever to get such a movie made. And that would be fine if there was any value and truth to what they show. These “documentaries” are too often light on substance and tap into very little — if any — reality about modern agriculture. And, as a farmer who is doing my best to build a sustainable and thriving operation, it’s crushing to see these kinds of depictions get so much buzz in popular culture.

Not long ago, I spoke to a teacher who had recently shown Food, Inc. to her class, and she asked me my opinion of Cowspiracy. I told her it was equivalent to what I shovel out of the cattle pens. I reminded her the purpose of a documentary is to document real-world experience, and even though most will be somewhat biased through the eyes of the filmmaker, these food and ag docs are most often marketed as the definitive answer on a particular subject matter (such as biotech, nutrition, or soil).

Consider a National Geographic documentary on crocodiles, for example. You don’t walk away saying, “Those crocodiles are evil and greedy; why do they kill so many buffalo and why do they trick them by pretending to be logs?” Of course you don’t, because the documentary director is just … well … documenting. . . .

 


Another economic blunder

11/01/2022

The government’s plan to introduce an unemployment insurance scheme is, Dennis Wesselbaum says, another of its blunders:

We do not have details about its precise design, but what we hear is that the new scheme will pay up to 80 per cent of income for up to half a year, if an employee loses their job. In any case, the reform will be a historic turning-point.

This policy, however, will reduce welfare (wellbeing would be more politically correct), increase unemployment, increase the duration of unemployment, reduce income, increase inequality, and lead to higher inflation. This outcome is robust and well-known in the field of macro-labour economics.

Recent experiences in Spain and Germany have shown that increasing the duration of unemployment insurance increases level and duration of unemployment. The probability of being unemployed for 12 months, for example, increases from 15 per cent to 40 per cent, if you move from a no unemployment insurance scheme to a one-year unemployment insurance scheme.

Hence, this leads to more (long-term) unemployment. . . 

The longer people are unemployed, the harder it is for them to re-enter the workforce.

Anything which encourages longer term unemployment is economic and social sabotage.

In Opposition Labour was highly critical of increasing inequality but this policy will make it worse.

Those workers who are employed enjoy a higher wage, but there will be fewer of them. This will increase income inequality in the economy. Importantly, overall welfare in the economy decreases.

Firms face higher labour costs which increases prices and creates inflation.

With less consumption, production falls, and overall income in the economy drops. . . 

More unemployment requires more to be spent on benefits and fewer people working leads to less tax being paid.

This will reduce fiscal space to deal with future recessions and restricts spending for important long-run factors such as infrastructure, education, or health.

Even worse, be prepared to have lower incomes, because all of this will be financed via an income tax increase. Taxes will increase by about 3-4 per cent. This tax hike will damage economic growth, by reducing incentives to invest and work. This will additionally shrink the supply side, which further fuels inflation.

In conclusion, you will be paying higher income taxes, have lower income, and pay higher prices such that the Government can implement a policy which will be harmful for the economy in many ways and reduces welfare – which this Government claims to be its raison d’être.

This reform is against every lesson economists have learned.

In my opinion, this shows the Labour Government does not care about designing useful economic reforms that would lead to better outcomes, but rather does whatever is required to transform Aotearoa into a socialist welfare state with a central government controlling all aspects of life.

Few, if any, people would never have an accident which is a good argument for ACC.

Few, if any, would never need hospital treatment which is an argument for a health insurance scheme, perhaps similar to Singapore’s.

But very few people are made redundant which makes the unemployment insurance scheme just a tax by another name that will do far more harm than good.

The blundering doesn’t stop there.

The proposal to impose UnFair Pay Agreements on employers and their staff  will compound the economic and social damage the government is inflicting on the country.


Not actively working

10/01/2022

MIQ failures are creating mayhem and distress for families:

The Government has cruelly chosen not to fix known problems in the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) online booking system that are keeping families from reuniting says National’s Spokesperson for Immigration, Erica Stanford.

“Resident 2021 visa holders and families of essential workers like our nurses and teachers who hold valid visas have been unable to book MIQ spots because the system can’t verify them.

“Resident visa holders were told they would be free to travel in and out of New Zealand like all other residents, subject to booking MIQ. However, a glitch in the system has locked them out of booking MIQ spaces and many who left temporarily are unable to even try to return home.

“The Government are actively are choosing not to fix this problem, telling those trapped offshore ‘although we are aware of the problem we are not actively working on fixing it’.

Only government employees, secure in their jobs, would treat people like this.

“Similarly, another MIQ glitch that has taken too long to fix saw essential workers seeking to bring their families to join them unable from being able to apply for spots in this weeks’ MIQ room release.

“Our essential workers have done everything the Government has asked. They’ve patiently waited for months to reunite with their families. Now the Government is telling them to continue supporting our COVID-19 response while telling them they’ll have to wait even longer to see their families.

Who was it criticised Australia for its treatment of illegal immigrants? Ah yes, it was our Prime Minister whose government is subjecting essential workers, here legally, to inhumane separation from their families.

“The Government’s failure to fix these issues with urgency is cruel and appalling – and is sending a message to migrants that they don’t care about them.

“This is a classic case of ‘computer says no’. New Zealand residents are being told they are not able to enter the country at all until the borders open – just because of a computer glitch the Government refuses to fix.

“I’m calling on Chris Hipkins to act with urgency to fix these issues and ensure New Zealand residents can return home and essential workers can be reunited with their families. We simply cannot afford to have more essential workers leave New Zealand because their families can’t get here.”

We are desperately short of essential workers in every sector.

The government, and its employees, should be doing absolutely everything possible to keep those already in the country here and enable the ones offshore to get in.

The MIQueue failures are causing mayhem and distress for citizens, residents and their families, keeping out people who want to come in and preventing those here from leaving for fear they won’t be able to return.

The increasingly dire warnings about the imminent arrival of the Omicron variant are a very strong signal nothing will be done to alleviate the problems soon even if there was a much better response than although we are aware of the problem we are not actively working on fixing it.

Not actively working – that could apply to the whole government.


Rural round-up

17/12/2021

Primary producers overcome big challenges (including govt regulations) to lift export revenue in latest forecasts – Point of Order:

New Zealand’s  primary  producers  deserve   a  Christmas bouquet – or a big hamper stuffed with goodies – as food  and  fibre  export revenue is projected  to top $50 billion for the  first  time   next  year.  They are achieving this despite  the challenges of regulatory compliance, increasing costs for inputs such as feed and fertiliser, Covid impacts on freight movements and constraints around labour availability.

Total export value is expected to rise 6% to $50.8bn in the year to June 30 2022, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report released today.

Ministers were quick to hop on the bandwagon, despite framing many of the  new regulatory constraints.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the healthy growth forecast across the majority of the primary industries showed the future of the food and fibre sector is bright. . . 

Science New Zealand 2021 Awards :

This year’s annual awards celebrated 24 awardees across three award categories – Early Career Researcher, Individual / Lifetime Achievement and Team. A Supreme Award winner was chosen from the 24 awardees. 

Supreme Award Winner

The AgResearch Breeding Low Methane-Emitting Sheep Team

AgResearch’s Breeding Low Methane-Emitting Sheep leads the world in breeding sheep that produce less methane. This innovation gives farmers practical tools to lower methane emissions on their farms. As methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas, this could contribute significantly in helping to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions.

Gains made by using this technology in sheep flocks are permanent and cumulative. The team’s work is gaining momentum with other livestock industries, particularly cattle and deer. . . 

Student Jo Search helps fill vacancies in agriculture, fishing and forestry – Niva Chittock:

Student Job Search is coming to the rescue of farmers and growers crying out for skilled workers.

There’s been a 76 percent increase in the number of jobs it’s offering in agriculture, fishing and forestry.

At the same time, student earnings from these jobs have more than doubled, totalling just under $7 million in the last financial year.

Student Job Search places around 27,000 students into work every year. . . 

Rockit sees strongest year yet with 45% growth:

Innovative New Zealand apple company, Rockit Global Limited is celebrating its strongest season yet, with forecast turnover up 45 percent year on year in a tough economic environment.

Global demand for its snack sized apples is continuing to grow exponentially, with the high-performing business this year recording 33 percent growth in bin volume, resulting in over 75 million apples being packed and shipped to consumers around the world. Rockit is also forecasting orchard gate returns of around NZD $230,000 per hectare on mature orchards.

Rockit Global CEO Mark O’Donnell puts these impressive results down to a combination of the company ‘doing things differently’ on the global stage through innovation, backed by its disruptive new brand and great product.

“To see such a robust result among this year’s economic challenges is extremely exciting,” says Mark. “As global consumer demand increases – and more Rockit trees are planted to meet this – we’ve implemented leading edge automation and artificial intelligence to meet our strong growth trajectory and reduce reliance on manual labour across all parts of the supply chain– which is also creating higher value, and more innovative roles for our people.” . .

Hawke’s Bay pumpkin milk wins big in New York :

A Hawke’s Bay company making a pumpkin milk has been recognised at the World Plant-Based Awards in New York.

The product, known as Kabocha Milk, is produced by one of New Zealand’s largest buttercup squash growers.

The company said squash is staple part of the Japanese and East Asian diet and the milk allows them to make use of crops which aren’t export grade due to cosmetic blemishes.

It’s milk is stocked in two high-end Japanese retail store chains which plans to extend to 5,000 stores across Japan, Korea and China in the next couple of years. . . 

Australian manuka industry hails UK trademark decision as a victory for common sense:

The Australian Manuka Honey Association is delighted that the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has rejected an application by a group of New Zealand producers to trademark the words “Manuka honey”, recognising that it is a purely descriptive term for a type of honey. The decision will have widespread ramifications in jurisdictions beyond the United Kingdom.

In reaching its decision, the IPO accepted there was significant evidence that the general public understands manuka honey is not produced exclusively in New Zealand, but rather originates from a number of places including Australia.

Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) Chairman Paul Callander said: “This decision is the right decision and a fair decision. The term manuka has been used in Australia since the 1800s and the Australian industry has invested significantly for decades in manuka honey science, research and marketing. It would be deeply unfair – and financially devastating – to deny that reality.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

14/12/2021

200 rural contracting drivers will be granted special entry visas, but farmers fear MIQ delays could cost lives – Alexa Cook:

Two hundred rural contracting drivers will be granted special visas as part of a border exemption for the industry.

The farming sector is grateful, but worries drivers will be delayed by the MIQ lottery system.

Farmers fear someone will die as shortage of experienced overseas workers leads to rise in accidents.
Sectors desperate for staff are still struggling despite promise to let in critical migrant workers.

This farm machinery is more transformer than tractor and takes highly-skilled drivers to operate.

Usually 400 come here from overseas – but only 125 have been allowed in. . .

International dairy workers needed to ease farmer stress :

DairyNZ is relieved the Government has listened to its call to allow more dairy farm assistants into New Zealand in January 2022.

However, the industry-good organisation says more workers are needed and is continuing to push for another 1500 dairy international workers to be let into the country for the 2022 dairy season. The workers will help alleviate crippling staff shortages that are having a serious impact on farmer wellbeing.

Earlier this year the Government said 200 international dairy workers would be allowed into New Zealand on a dairy class border exception – with 50 places available for farm assistants and 150 positions available for herd manager and assistant manager roles.

Today, the Government confirmed it will remove the restrictions on how many farm assistants, herd managers and assistant managers can make up the quota of 200 workers, and allow applications for all roles. . .

Border exceptions the first step in the process Feds says :

Federated Farmers is pleased to see the Government has approved border class exceptions for a number of international agricultural workers for early 2022.

The border exceptions will allow approved workers to assist with the shearing and arable sectors over their peak busy period. The Government has also made some changes to the current dairy worker border exception, allowing more dairy farm assistants to meet the high demand for entry level staff around the country.

“For seasonal work such as shearing and the arable harvest it is essential that we bolster our local workforce with talent from overseas,” Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“We are also pleased to see the settings are being changed for the dairy border exception. Farmers across the country are asking for boots on the ground to help milk and feed livestock and the dairy assistant is the right role for doing this.” . . 

O’Connor is confident the DIRA can be tweaked to give effect to farmer vote in favour of Fonterra’s capital restructuring – Point of Order:

Farmers    have  voted overwhelmingly  in  favour  of  a  capital  restructure  for Fonterra—- and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor,   who   previously  raised   concerns about the  plan,  now  says  he  is  confident the  government can  work   with the  board   to  get  the change   across the  line.

Fonterra chair Peter McBride last  week  told  Fonterra’s  meeting:

“Either we’re a corporate or we’re a co-operative. The current model, where we’re trying to have a foot in each camp, is not sustainable”.

Farmer-shareholders  made  it  plain  they  wanted  the  “pure”  co-op rather  than the corporate model. . .

Large spring deliveries of tractors and equipment meeting local demand :

Recent large deliveries of tractors and equipment reflect strong demand throughout the country on the back of strengthening commodity prices, according to Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA).

President Kyle Baxter said the second half of 2021 continued the exceptionally strong sales growth of the first half compared to 2020. Overall tractor deliveries to the end of November reflect an average increase in demand by 27%.

“There has been significant growth across the traditional lifestyle 0-60hp segment, which increased by more than 35%, while the 60-100hp horticulture, orchard, viticulture segment up 20% and the 100-120hp dairy sector up 9%.”

The biggest increase was in the 120-250hp mainly arable and dry stock farming sector, which increased 42% compared to 2020. The big agriculture outlays of 250hp+ increased by almost 36%. . . 

Outlook for wool mixed going into 2022 – Elders Wool:

The Australian wool market ticked along quite nicely last week in the penultimate sale before the Christmas auction recess.

There was enough business done in the few days prior to keep the trade active, and a volatile local currency added enough fuel to the fire to make it nice and warm – but not too hot.

In local currency terms, the market lifted by 14 cents a kilogram overall. This was US6c/kg and 8c/kg in Euro.

So, buyers overseas were not affected greatly, and could continue picking up their requirements. . . 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

24/11/2021

Sometimes we forget where our watches come from – Peter Cresswell:

The weekend’s #Groundswell protests, and the #Groundswell movement itself, were intended to highlight the plight of the New Zealand farmer under an unsympathetic regime. Instead, however, the organisers have allowed it to become easily gaslighted as something it’s not. As racist, or anti-vax. 

And the important message has been lost: that it’s NZ farmers who allow us to live in first-world comfort — that it’s their exported produce that allows us to buy, at not unreasonable prices, all the technology of the world. As Ludwig Von Mises explained back before electronics took over:

The inhabitants of [Switzerland] prefer to manufacture watches instead of growing wheat. Watchmaking is for them the cheapest way to acquire wheat. On the other hand the growing of wheat is the cheapest way for the Canadian farmer to acquire watches.

The lesson remains the same. To paraphrase now, for us: . . .

‘It’s getting harder and harder to farm’ – Farmers rally for second protest :

Farmers and their townie mates are determined to keep pressuring the government to back off what they see as unnecessary expensive changes after Sunday’s nationwide Groundswell protests.

Driving tractors and utes, they clogged streets in all of the main centres on Sunday to have their say on the government’s Three Waters reforms.

It was the second time the Groundswell group had organised such action, calling the rally the “Mother Of All Protests”.

It was hard to get a handle on the exact numbers taking part, with everybody mostly remaining in their cars and socially distanced, but one thing was for sure: the protesters were rowdy. . . 

New coalition demands a halt to further large-scale exotic carbon farming :

The Native Forest Coalition representing the Environmental Defence Society, Pure Advantage, Rod Donald Trust, the Tindall foundation, Project Crimson, Dame Anne Salmond and Dr Adam Forbes, has released a policy statement and recommendations on native forests, highlighting the urgent need to halt the rapid proliferation of pine plantations driven by high carbon prices and short-term policy settings.

The Coalition strongly favours prioritising native forestry over exotics and argues that before seeking offshore carbon forest credits, government should invest in native forests, for their myriad of benefits, at home. The Coalition’s concerns are summarised in the policy statement below: 

“In tackling the climate change crisis, there’s an urgent need to move away from short-term thinking and siloed government policy. We need a shift towards joined-up strategies that also address the biodiversity crisis, the degradation of waterways and risks to rural communities.  . .

Online job expo hopes to entice seasonal workers for picking season :

A job expo which helps link job seekers with jobs in the horticulture sector is moving online this year.

Last year, Employment and Careers South held a series of expos around Southland and Otago to help those who found themselves unemployed due to the pandemic get jobs in the horticulture sector which was short staffed due to the border closure.

With summer just around the corner and the border still shut – some growers are still facing a worker shortage going into the vital picking season.

With Covid event restrictions the job expo called Super Summer Jobs has gone online this year. . . 

Hill Country Futures programme:

Innovative tools to support farmers and farm consultants in pasture planning are expected to become available next year as part of the Hill Country Futures Programme.

Lincoln University’s Professor Derrick Moot, who is leading several of the research areas that make up the programme, said findings from a number of projects are now being written up.

These include a simple model to help farmers forecast potential yields of lucerne for their properties, a national database of pasture growth data, and legume production data to help farmers assess the difference in productivity they could achieve by replacing resident pasture with improved pasture.

Hill Country Futures is a long-term $8.1m partnership programme, co-funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Seed Force New Zealand and PGG Wrightson Seeds. . .

Manawa Honey wins four awards at the London Honey Awards 2021:

A small honey producer from Ruatāhuna, in the remote Te Urewera wilderness, crowned Best Tasting Honey in the World earlier this year, has now won four awards at the London International Honey Awards 2021.

Manawa Honey’s Manuka Honey and Tawari Honey won Gold, and their Rewarewa Honey and Pua-a-Tane Wild Forest Honey won Silver. The London Honey Awards attract hundreds of entries from over 30 countries across the world each year. Entries are judged on a range of criteria including the general sense of enjoyment, taste and appearance.

These achievements and awards are now snowballing for this honey producer that has its community rather than commerce alone at heart. Ruatāhuna is situated deep in Te Urewera forest, home to the Tūhoe tribe. It has a population of only about 350 people residents and is a one-hour drive from the nearest town, Murupara and two-hour’s drive from Rotorua. . . 


Rural round-up

23/11/2021

Farmers struggling as MIQ system causes shortage of experienced workers :

A Waikato agricultural contractor is warning there could be an accident if the serious shortage of skilled machinery operators is not sorted.

It has been a long-standing concern within the sector as overseas operators struggle to access Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

Brook Nettleton from Bluegrass Contracting in Matamata said it was getting way past a joke, with efforts to get in more overseas workers failing.

He said there could be serious consequences if things did not change. . . 

The problem with promises at COP26 – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The problem with COP26 is not the promises that were made amongst the 30,000 people attending, but the reality of how the promises can be achieved, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes.

Greta Thunberg and other sceptics may well have been right when they predicted that COP26 would be just another expensive (in dollars and greenhouse gases) talkfest.

The problem is not the promises that were made amongst the 30,000 people attending, but the reality of how the promises can be achieved.

Politics and diplomacy were to the fore and the people making the promises did their best to be equitable and reasonable. . . 

Forest Owners says lessons for New Zealand in UN wood-based products report :

The Forest Owners Association says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has laid down a blueprint for the New Zealand forest and wood industry, with the release of ‘Forest Products in the Global Economy’, as part of the COP26 meeting and events in Glasgow.

The New Zealand Forest Owners Association Chief Executive, and former Chair of the UN Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest Industries, David Rhodes, says while trees are best known here for their ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, the future of forest products, as a replacement for petrochemical sourced materials, is equally important.

“This just released FAO Report details what can be done with both timber itself, and what can be achieved as well using wood materials.”

“Much of it is already well proven technology. What has been lacking is the realisation of the dreadful consequences on the environment if we continue to use vast volumes of fossil fuels, steel, concrete and plastics.” . . 

Farmers get down to bare basics to aid mental health charity – Katie Doyle:

A group of North Island farmers are stripping down to their birthday suits – all in the name of rural wellbeing.

The Ngarua Young Farmers club has produced a 2022 calendar featuring farmers in the nude, with the profits to be donated to an organisation called Will to Live.

Will to Live works to raise awareness about mental health in rural communities, and it offers three free private counselling sessions for farmers.

Brooke Matthews from Ngarua Young Farmers said her group offers a strong support system for its members, but some farmers are not as lucky. . . 

National welcomes use of genetic technology research in conservation :

The National Party supports research into genetic technologies with the possibility of it playing a key role in New Zealand reaching its Predator Free 2050 goal, says National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean.

“When National introduced the Predator Free initiative back in 2016, we did so with great ambition to have every part of New Zealand completely free of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

“It was a move we made to protect New Zealand’s native birds and other species, along with the rest of our environment.

“Introduced pests threaten our economy and primary sector, with a total economic cost of around $3.3 billion a year.  . . 

Taking Stock: A good stock agent is not just about the quick quips – Samantha Townsend:

Ask anyone about the Collie Hotel’s social media video on stock and station agents and they will tell you it’s on the money.

The hotel’s owner Tom Hancock is captured on the phone leaning against the wall, leaning on the table and leaning on the fence while striking a deal.

But it poses the serious question what makes a good stock and station agent, who are certainly a breed of their own.

They are always on call and like the video their phone is glued to their cheek. They have their finger on the pulse and have to be quick thinking when markets pivot and rain falls. And they are often the first phone call before the accountant when it comes to big investments. . . 


Rural round-up

21/11/2021

Ludicrous that Fonterra is still bound by legislation that tilts playing field towards its competitors – Craig Hickman:

With the prospect of this season’s farm-gate milk price looking closer to $9 than $8 and a significantly better than expected free-trade deal with the UK, economically things are looking rosy for Fonterra farmers. I’m a strong supporter of the co-op and was intrigued when it announced it was looking to change its capital structure to make it easier for farmers to join.

The new proposed capital structure put forward by Fonterra’s board would make joining the co-operative easier by reducing the high capital investment required to supply it and allow farmers greater financial flexibility when they decide to leave.

Fonterra last changed its capital structure when it adopted Trading Among Farmers (TAF) in 2012. TAF was a response to the issue of farmers exiting Fonterra and redeeming their shares, meaning large sums of money were washing in and out of the co-op, mainly out.

It addressed one issue, the threat to Fonterra’s balance sheet, but ignored systemic problems like the high cost of becoming a Fonterra supplier and the fact suppliers were still leaving the co-op in favour of independent processors who don’t require farmer investment. . .

Unvaccinated social media users want harvest work, but lockdown mandate looms in WA – Emily JB Smith:

An Esperance farmer has warned unvaccinated people requesting harvest jobs that agriculture is not the “industry of last resort”.

As vaccine mandates edge closer for many West Australian workers, a number of people have posted on Esperance social media pages declaring their vaccine-free status and asking for work.

Although farm workers are not required to be vaccinated, the WA government has included them in the list of workers who will not be able to work during a lockdown.

Grower Mic Fels said employers could face penalties of up to $100,000 if unvaccinated staff were found breaking those rules. . .

Minister missing when agriculture needs him most :

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor must stand up for the industry that has carried New Zealand though the Covid crisis, says National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger.

“Every day, every facet of the industry is calling on the Minister to do more to support growers and producers, and every day there is radio silence from him.

“One of the most pressing issues is the shortage of skilled staff and the inability to bring skilled migrants into the country.

“Farmers, vets, contractors and processors are among many groups that need skilled people to keep our essential industries at full potential.  People are needed now. . . 

MPI backs project to establish internationally competitive hemp seed processing plant :

A new project backed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) aims to establish a hemp seed processing plant in New Zealand that could be a gamechanger for the local hemp industry.

MPI is contributing more than $245,000 to Hemp Connect’s two-year pilot project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

The project ultimately aims to enable locally grown hemp food products to compete with imported varieties. Since 2020, the Levin-based company has been working on creative solutions for processing New Zealand grown hemp more efficiently and reducing production costs.

“One of the keys to reducing costs has been researching how to use the entire seed, as well as the associated waste streams,” says Mathew Johnson, Managing Director, Hemp Connect. . .

Craigmore Sustainables and ASB team up on $79m sustainable transition loan  :

Craigmore Sustainables, one of the largest diversified farm management companies in Aotearoa, has secured nearly $80 million in funding from ASB in an innovative sustainability-focused deal.

The sustainable transition loan provides a pathway to develop and embed Craigmore’s sustainability strategy and targets. The company’s portfolio includes a mix of dairy, grazing, forestry and horticultural properties covering almost 20,000 hectares throughout New Zealand.

Under the loan terms, Craigmore has committed to providing a robust sustainability strategy with targets and an action plan, within 12 months of drawdown.

Craigmore Chief Executive Che Charteris says partnering with ASB will help to achieve its bold aspiration to be a leader in land-based reduction of greenhouse gases. . .

Large Northland dairy operation offers flexibility :

An expansive dairy operation offering scale and flexibility across all dairy system types presents an opportune investment in Northland to either owner operators or farm investors.

The 357ha property on Frith Road, Mamaranui combines the best of the district’s soil types into a productive, accessible dairy unit that also enjoys the security of having 80ha of irrigation from the neighbouring Kaihu River.

The farm’s well-developed flats are based on productive silt soils while the rolling country consists of free draining Te Kopuru sandy loam, providing a good balance across the entire farm. . . 


Stats don’t tell full story

10/11/2021

The statistics on unemployment last week were good news but they don’t tell the full story:

There is a lot of falseness about the economy. 

The jobless rate was excellent. But it looks better because we are merely soaking up the people who wanted jobs based on the fact the choice has vanished. The labour market has shrunk, the population is no longer growing, we are paddling in a smaller pool, and the pool we are paddling in is filled with $50 billion worth of printed money.  . .

Lindsay Mitchell shows a fuller story:

Graphs are great tools for getting the big picture. Here I have plotted the unemployment rate against ‘unemployment’ benefits:

The heavy blue line is a combination of unemployment and sickness benefits. In 2013 the two benefits were combined into the single Jobseeker benefit (heavy brown line) but still with two categories – JS Work Ready and JS Health Condition and Disability.

The broken line is the official unemployment rate BUT expressed as a percentage of 18-64 year-olds, not 15+. Thats why in Sept 2021 it’s 4.4% – a point higher than the rate announced yesterday of 3.4%

The vertical lines mark the changes of government. . . 

The number of people unemployed is going down, but the number of people on benefits is increasing.

3/ Covid is largely responsible for the late steep upward trajectory of the heavy brown line BUT is was trending up before March 2020. My last post explained why the line has crossed the unemployment rate line and there is now a large gap between the two.

4/ The covid upturn is very similar to the GFC onset in magnitude. Lockdowns (policy within control of government) caused as much job loss as the global financial crisis (outside of government control).

5/ Another observation some would make is the gap between the unemployment rate and unemployment benefit lines during National’s term is now being corrected by Labour. Labour is more generous with benefits. The gap right now is a reversal of the period 2011-17.

There’s another line.

It’s the very fine line between being generous with benefits and entrenching dependency and all the misery that entails.

The post to which Lindsay refers gives some more statistics:

. . . Back to the Maori stats highlighted in the chart, in Northland, a region with a high Maori population the unemployment rate is 3.9% yet the Jobseeker rate is 10.5 percent.

In the general population the figures are:

Unemployment rate     3.4% 

Jobseeker rate     6.1%

 All benefit-dependent rate   11.3% . . .

The trouble is that life on a benefit isn’t necessarily miserable for everyone.

Friends in a small business employed someone for 20 hours a week. They offered her more work but she turned it down.

She has six children and is getting around $1,000 on a benefit and said she didn’t want or need to work longer hours.


Rural round-up

02/11/2021

Farmers want clarity over vaccine mandates – Gerhard Uys:

Farmers and farm advocacy groups say they are not receiving clear guidelines from the Government on how to navigate vaccine mandates and subsequent staff management for farm businesses.

Chris Lewis, national board member and Covid-19 spokesman for Federated Farmers, said Covid guidelines seemed to be a moving target.

“We have had no indication from [Government] what exact guidelines farm employers should follow. Farm businesses are no different to other businesses operating during uncertain times and need clarity. Are we allowed to mix vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, what is safe and not safe, we don’t know,” Lewis said.

Lewis believed that businesses would begin to take the lead in determining requirements, with the Government playing catch up. Corporations like Fonterra have already begun setting some guidelines for milk suppliers to follow. . .

Farmer protest group keen to meet Jacinda Ardern for answers on new rules –  Rachael Kelly:

The leaders behind one of the biggest farmer protest group in New Zealand are seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and say they are sick of being ignored.

Groundswell NZ galvanised thousands of farmers in July and protests were held in 50 towns nationwide, but since then the Prime Minister has never directly responded to their concerns about some Government freshwater rules not being practical to implement.

Groundswell NZ founder Bryce McKenzie will be in Wellington next week, and it’ll be the second time the group has tried to get a meeting with Ardern.

“We’re hoping she’ll meet with us this time, because the people of New Zealand that turned out for our last protest have essentially been ignored,’’ McKenzie said. . .

 

A rule of thirds – Neal Wallace:

It was not their original intent, but Central Otago’s Lake Hawea Station is at the sharp end of what some termed contentious innovation. Neal Wallace meets manager David O’Sullivan.

DAVID O’Sullivan admits he needed an open mind as he oversaw the transformation of the Otago high country fine wool property, Lake Hawea Station.

The station manager says a combination of the skills of the staff, input from consultants and the branding and business backgrounds of owners Geoff and Justine Ross, founders of vodka company 42 Below, created a powerful team that is not wedded to a particular farming system.

That diverse thinking reflects the station’s shift to regenerative farming but also a different approach to managing carbon emissions and sequestration.. . 

Sustainability sells: strong wools’ half billion dollar export opportunity:

New Zealand’s strong wool sector is sitting on at least a half a billion dollar opportunity thanks to a wave of eco-consumerism, coupled with innovative Kiwi businesses pushing the limits of wool.

Since the 1980s the export price of strong wool has tanked from a high of around $10 a kilogram, to now just over two dollars. But as eco-consumerism rises and plastic products lose their popularity, a group of New Zealand businesses are ready to drive strong wool’s resurgence.

Strong Wool Action Group executive officer Andy Caughey says for the first time in forty years the market conditions are optimistic for strong wool, a courser fibre than the likes of fine merino, which is exceptionally resilient and versatile in its use for homewares. . .

Ravensdown renews sponsorship of NZDIA :

Entries to the 2022 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) continue to be accepted online until December 1st as national sponsors continue to commit to the programme.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon is rapt to confirm that Ravensdown have renewed their sponsorship for the next two years.

“Ravensdown bring a particular style to their sponsorship. They care deeply about farmers and this is obvious through the Relief Milking Fund and that they want to be involved with education and development of farmers’ businesses and careers,” says Robin. . .

DJAARA’s new land acquisition protects country and culture – Annabelle Cleeland:

Culturally significant Buckrabanyule, in North Central Victoria, has been purchased by Traditional Owners and conservationists, in a bid to be protected from further land degradation and development.

Located between Boort and Wedderburn, the land covers 452 hectares, and was recently purchased by conservation group, Bush Heritage, to be jointly managed with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DJAARA).

The land is infested with the invasive wheel cactus, a thorny pest plant that classified as a weed of national significance. Djarrak rangers have spent recent months working at the site to control the weed, using mechanical chemical and bio-control methods. . . 

 


Will beneficiaries be required to be vaccinated?

27/10/2021

The government is changing the law to enable employers in businesses where vaccine passports are mandatory to require staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

That will give them the ability to sack those who won’t – as opposed to can’t – be vaccinated.

This begs the question – will beneficiaries be required to be vaccinated too?

People on job seeker benefits are required to be work-ready.

People working in jobs which requires them to work in close contact with other people will need to be vaccinated.

The logical extension of that is that being vaccinated will be a prerequisite for many job seekers.

Yesterday’s announcement applies to work places where customers are required to be vaccinated but they aren’t the only places where people have to work in close contact with others.

One sector not mentioned in yesterday’s announcement is farming. It wouldn’t be hard for the unvaccinated to keep their distance from others outside, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, in milking and shearing sheds.

There is a shortage of workers in dairying and shearing, even in areas where there are a lot of unemployed people who could do the work.

If beneficiaries aren’t going to have to be vaccinated it will give some an excuse for not accepting  lots of jobs, including on dairy farms and in shearing gangs, when it’s available.

I understand why the government isn’t suggesting people who lose their jobs because they won’t be vaccinated can’t get a benefit, or that people already on a benefit won’t be required to get vaccinated so they are eligible for more jobs.

But it has already made it much easier for people to stay on benefits longer, in spite of the economic and social harm that comes from that, and this will make it even easier.


Just another holiday?

25/10/2021

Will anyone who doesn’t have to work today, remember why?

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day. . . 

Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events. . .

What the Liberals did do was make Labour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first celebrated in 1900. The holiday was ‘Mondayised’ in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October. . .

Although unionists and their supporters continued to hold popular gatherings and sports events, by the 1920s Labour Day had begun to decline as a public spectacle. For most New Zealanders, it was now just another holiday.

Statutory holiday or not, many people will be working – health professionals, police, supermarket and other shop staff, journalists and others in the media, people in hospitality and on farms. . .

Then there’s all the unpaid work done by people caring for their families and friends and in the community.

And this year for many it’s not just another holiday, it’s just another day of lockdown.

For far too many of those this will be a day when they would be working if they could and, in spite of last week’s announcement of more support from the government, will be wondering if their businesses will survive until they can work again.


Rural round-up

04/10/2021

Shearer aiming to take jeans product to world stage – Sally Rae:

Could Woolies Jeans be the next Allbirds? Jovian Cummins certainly hopes so.

The young New Zealand entrepreneur, at present shearing in Western Australia, is launching an equity crowdfunding campaign on the platform PledgeMe on Monday.

He hopes to raise up to $500,000 to help him patent the designs for the merino-lined jeans for workwear and help build a supply chain.

The genesis for the business came in a woolshed in 2018 when the then 22-year-old decided he was “fed up” with the hot and sweaty jeans he was wearing, he said. . .

The future of farming: What will NZ’s agri sector look like in 20 years? – Catherine Harris:

One thing you can be certain about in the agricultural sector iis that it’s always changing. Adaption is a constant for farmers, as sure as the weather.

But the challenges farming is currently facing are some of the greatest the sector’s ever had: climate change, environmental constraints, labour shortages and shipping issues.

Which raises a question: will these be the same challenges farming is facing in 10 or 20 years?

The Government has already been contemplating this question. Last June, the Ministry for Primary Industries put out “Fit for a better world,” a game plan to accelerate farming’s potential. . . 

Biosecurity finalists protecting every corner of New Zealand:

The 2021 Biosecurity Awards finalists named today show the huge effort under way to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The 24 finalists named out of a record number of 90 entries include an iwi partnering with local and central government to eradicate wilding pines from their local taonga, Ruawāhia/Mount Tarawera, and a school on Stewart Island/Rakiura whose efforts are keeping Ulva Island pest free.

Biosecurity efforts have even expanded into space, with Xerra Earth Observation Institute’s leading-edge software which is helping protect Aotearoa from pests via international shipping.

Judging panel chairman Dr Ed Massey says the finalists represent a diverse range of individuals, teams, businesses, government agencies, research organisations, iwi, schools and community groups. . . 

Migrant groups are urgently call ing on the government to include Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers:

The government announced a one-off pathway to residency for several temporary work visas however are excluding a large group of migrants. Migrant groups are urgently calling on the Government to include Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers in the new immigration policy, before it is released. RSEs contribute significantly to Aotearoa’s economy and wellbeing through the work that they have been employed to do.

Most of the RSE workers have been in Aotearoa for at least five consecutive years since the scheme began in 2007. They have boosted the economic growth and productivity levels in the horticulture and viticulture industries. In 2007, New Zealand’s annual export earnings prior to the scheme were $2.6 billion dollars. In 2020, the earnings from the horticulture and viticulture industry were $9.2 billion dollars. The RSE workers were significant contributors to this growth.

The RSE scheme contributes an estimated $34-40 million NZD into the Pacific through remittances and in the period of the pandemic, this is critical to the livelihoods of households across the Pacific region. Aotearoa’s commitment to the Pacific relationship needs to be shown through its support of the RSE workers. . . 

The history of DWN:

Did you know that Dairy Women’s Network began as an email group?

Our story starts when Hilary Webber became a director of the New Zealand Dairy Group and saw women working at the ‘coalface’ of dairy. They were the ones carrying buckets, rearing calves, doing the accounts, raising their families, and supporting their rural communities. But in the boardrooms of dairy companies, the women were almost invisible.

Hilary wasn’t the only one to feel this way and do something about it. Joined by Christina Baldwin, Robyn Clements and dairy farmer Willy Geck, they got funding from Wrightson’s to send Hillary to Washington, where she attended the 1998 International Women in Agriculture Conference along with Willy and the wife of the NZ diplomat to the US. It was at the conference that they heard women described as the ‘silent heroes of agriculture’, which reinforced the need for DWN.

The conference revealed four key things: . . 

Silver Fern Farms to halve  coal use :

Silver Fern Farms welcomes $1 million co-funding from the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund for a $2.6 million coal-out project at its Pareora processing site, south of Timaru, as a significant boost to achieve the company’s commitment to end all coal use by 2030.

The Pareora heat-pump conversion project is the company’s third successful project under the GIDI fund and represents another important step in Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to playing a leadership role in driving sustainability in the red meat sector.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive, Simon Limmer, said Silver Fern Farms was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the company’s value chain.

“The work we are doing to reduce the environmental impact of our processing operations is just one of the ways we’re making sure we do the right thing by our customers, who increasingly want to know that their red meat is sustainably produced. . . 


Rural round-up

01/10/2021

Ball dropped! – Rural News:

For more than a year now the primary sector has been crying out for changed around immigration settings to help ease numerous critical worker shortages right across the country’s key export earning industries.

The Government and immigration officials have badly dropped the ball on this issue – with the entire country is paying for their incompetence.

There is no doubt that things have been complicated by Covid-19 and the ongoing restrictions this has placed on allowing people into the country. However, governments are elected – and officials employed and well paid – to come up with solutions to such problems. Yet the piecemeal, ad-hoc, minimal changes made by both in this area are a national disgrace.

For starters, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has been completely MIA – that’s ‘missing in action’, not the Meat Industry Association, which is probably keen to chat to him on immigration issues, as is the rest of the primary sector. He is clearly either out of his depth or not interested and the Prime Minister should have relieved him of the portfolio months ago. One suspects that because her caucus has all the depth of the bird bath, and any capable minister is already overloaded, there is no one with the talent to manage or oversee this highly challenging role. . .

Catchment groups need to be farmer-led – Jessica Marshall:

Catchment projects need to be farmerled, according to Louise Totman, who coordinates the Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective.
Totman says the decision to join the collective needs to be a farmer-led initiative on behalf of the sub-catchment group.

The Rangitikei collective is an umbrella for 17 sub-catchment groups, covering 700,000ha across the Rangitikei, Turakina, and Whangaehu river catchments. Recently it received $910,000 in Government funding.

“We don’t do a big push to get these groups up and running,” she told Dairy News. . . 

Old dogs finding a new home – Shawn McAvinue:

A North Otago teacher is giving retired working dogs a second chance at life.

Waitaki Boys’ High School agriculture teacher Elizabeth Prentice adopted her dog Meg after seeing her listed on the website of Retired Working Dogs.

Before retiring, the pig dog worked in pest control around the world, including Bali and Canada.

Her former owner lives in Ashhurst, near Palmerston North, and loved Meg, she said. . . 

Radical dog biscuits the cherry on top – Ashley Smyth:

There is a saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but after turning to pet food production after 50 years of farming, John Newlands may beg to differ. He talks to Ashley Smyth about how Radical Dog started, how it is going and where it is heading.

When it comes to food for dogs, Radical Dog could be the pick of the crop.

The dog biscuits are made using Montmorency tart cherries and are the brainchild of John and Maureen Newlands, of Incholme, near Maheno.

In the late 1980s, the couple were considering options to integrate something different into their farming business which used their irrigation more efficiently, and they wanted grow something high yielding and profitable, within a small land area.

 

Auckland BioSciences buys Australia’s CellSera, creating $40m firm – Chris Keall:

In a pandemic year that has seen so many New Zealand tech firms bought by offshore rivals, Auckland BioSciences (ABS) has bucked the trend by acquiring Australia’s CellSera.

ABS manufactures and exports New Zealand-made serum and plasma, derived from the blood of cows, pigs and sheep, sourced from meat processing plants around NZ.

Animal serum is a key ingredient for cell culture in bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing and is used in medical research and in the manufacture of human and veterinary products such as vaccines and other biological preparations, ABS says.

The global cell culture market is expected to reach US$36 billion by 2027, according to one market researcher. . . 

Allbirds 2.0? Woolies seeks crowdfund to take ‘NZ Made’ merino jeans worldwide :

Auckland-based jeans company Woolies Jeans will launch an equity crowdfunding campaign on 4 October to fund their international launch

Started in 2018 by Jovian Garcia Cummins, Woolies Jeans was created in a woolshed, where a then 22 year old Jovian, became fed up with the workwear he was wearing – and thus enlisted his mother to help create his first pair of jeans made with comfortable merino lining and protective denim exterior.

“I’m excited to share my invention with the world because I’ve been making these jeans for mates in exchange for some beers, but want to hire some smart hardworking kiwis to help really get this thing going and start shipping worldwide,” says the enthusiastic entrepreneur. . . 


Rural round-up

17/09/2021

Migrant exodus felt in Mid Canterbury – Adam Burns:

The departure of migrant workers thwarted by visa frustrations offshore is adding sting to mid Canterbury’s depleted rural sector.

Growing uncertainty amid stalled immigration settings for migrant workers was forcing New Zealand resident hopefuls to keep their options open with Australia’s agricultural sector dangling the carrot.

Ashburton immigration advisor Maria Jimenez said several Filipino workers had joined the worker exodus to Australia and many more had signalled an interest.

“There’s no pathway to residency,” she said. . .

Pacific corridor brings some relief to Otago orchards – Anuja Nadkarni:

But closed borders to travellers has still cut off supply to a third of the industry’s workforce.

Central Otago cherry farms have been some of the hardest-hit by the labour shortages. 

The region, like many in horticulture and agriculture, has relied on a workforce heavily dominated by foreign workers.

While last week’s announcement that one-way quarantine-free travel corridor for vaccinated workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme would commence from October brought some relief, growers in the region were continuing to face challenges with filling up roles. . . 

ORC pleased with grazing compliance – Hamish MacLean:

The bird’s-eye views that winter grazing monitoring flights give Otago Regional Council staff have revealed no major breaches on Otago farms this year.

The farm monitoring flights, over three months this year, resulted in 140 follow-ups scheduled by compliance staff, council compliance manager Tami Sargeant said.

But the majority of the potential breaches identified were not related to current rules, but to new winter grazing standards, which had not yet taken effect, she said.

“In those cases, our aim is to help educate landowners about the upcoming rules and ensure they will be compliant when the rules come into force,” she said.

Ms Sargeant said staff were pleased with the level of compliance. . . 

We managed to toilet train cows (and they learned faster than a toddler). It could help combat climate change -Douglas Elliffe & Lindsay Matthews:

Can we toilet train cattle? Would we want to?

The answer to both of these questions is yes — and doing so could help us address issues of water contamination and climate change. Cattle urine is high in nitrogen, and this contributes to a range of environmental problems.

When cows are kept mainly outdoors, as they are in New Zealand and Australia, the nitrogen from their urine breaks down in the soil. This produces two problematic substances: nitrate and nitrous oxide.

Nitrate from urine patches leaches into lakes, rivers and aquifers (underground pools of water contained by rock) where it pollutes the water and contributes to the excessive growth of weeds and algae. . . 

Wool farmers see potential salvation in new products for builders, architects – Bonnie Flaws:

The strong wool sector is setting its hopes on the development of new products that could be used in building and manufacturing to increase income for farmers.

While the merino wool market continued to perform, the strong wool sector was in crisis due to competition from synthetic fibres, said The Campaign for Wool New Zealand chairman Tom O’Sullivan​.

The price of strong wool was about $2.50 a kilogram. The cost of shearing sheep was now higher than the value of the wool, O’Sullivan​ said.

But his hope was that the price of strong wool could eventually be on par with merino, which sold for between $15 and $20 a kilogram. At the very least farmers needed to break even, he said. . . 

Kiwifruit companies to amalgamate :

Northland kiwifruit growers will be delivered a stronger service following the proposed amalgamation of Kerikeri-based Orangewood Limited with a wholly owned subsidiary of Seeka Limited.

In a conditional agreement announced 14 September 2021, Orangewood shareholders are being offered 0.6630 new Seeka shares and $1.35 in cash for every Orangewood share.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks says the deal will further expand Seeka’s operations in the key Northland growth region and deliver a great service to growers. . . 


Rural round-up

16/09/2021

‘I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of’ dairy farmers under siege – Joanne Wane:

Dairying has been so demonised for damaging the planet that the children of some Kiwi farmers have been beaten up at school, writes Joanna Wane. Two families who’ve been on the land for five generations talk back.

Northland dairy farmer Hal Harding describes his daughter, Anna, as “a bit of an eco warrior”. The pair work alongside each other on land south of Dargaville that his early-settler ancestors bought back in 1877. But when Anna moved back home just before Covid struck, after a few years in Europe, she was having serious doubts about whether the life she’d been born into was on the right side of history.

“In the UK, there were plant-based cafes popping up left, right and centre,” she says. “I started to think, ‘Is that what we should be doing? Is dairying bad? Is this stuff all these people are telling me true?’ There were facts for one side, and facts for the other that were just as convincing. But it felt too easy to say, ‘Just eat plants and the planet will be saved.’ When I heard about this whole regenerative farming thing, I was like ‘Thank God’. My gut feeling landed; it felt right.”

The Hardings have hand-planted thousands of native trees to reforest parts of the property and adapted their farming practices to nurture soil health by minimising the use of pesticides and commercial fertilisers. They’re also planning to move away from the traditional grazing regime. For Anna, who’s now 30, it’s about believing that a different model of farming can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, at a time when the agricultural sector is increasingly under siege. . . 

Unskilled pruning of labour force is rotten policy :

The Government’s confirmation of the availability of Recognised Seasonal Employer workers from selected countries is not enough to fix its rotten approach to labour supply, says National’s Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett.

“Prior to the Delta Covid outbreak the Government announced the availability of RSE workers from certain countries.

“While the Government’s decision to approve some RSE workers may provide some token assistance, it won’t change the fundamental flaws in a labour supply policy that’s rotten to the core.

“For example, we see 15 per cent increases in labour costs in the kiwifruit industry, and an apple industry that still has a gap in the loss of the backpacker labour supply. . . 

Low venison prices leave farmers frustrated – Maja Burry:

A deer industry leader is worried farmers will start exiting the sector if venison prices don’t improve.

Covid-19’s impact on the restaurant trade worldwide has come as a major blow, with deer farmers now facing depressed prices for the second year in a row.

The latest figures from AgriHQ show in July 2021 venison average export values fell short of the five-year average of $13.75/kg by $3.67/kg, and was $1.28/kg below July last year.

Deer Farmers Association chairperson John Somerville said the organisation recently shared the concerns of many farmers in a letter to all of New Zealand’s venison marketing company chief executives. . . 

Meat pushes food prices to fifth successive rise:

Food prices rose 0.3 percent in August 2021 compared with July 2021, mainly influenced by higher prices for meat, poultry, and fish, and restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food, Stats NZ said today.

Though modest, August’s movement is the fifth consecutive monthly rise. After adjusting for seasonality, prices rose 0.2 in August 2021.

Meat, poultry, and fish prices were up 1.3 percent in August, mainly influenced by higher prices for roasting pork (up 11 percent), sausages (up 3.5 percent), lamb chops (up 5.4 percent), and porterhouse and sirloin steak (up 2.3 percent). This was partly offset by lower prices for chicken pieces (down 3.3 percent).

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.4 percent, influenced by higher prices for some takeaway food. . .

Why would you want to own a forest? – The Detail:

The forestry industry is beset by supply chain issues, port disruptions, oversupply in China, sky-high shipping rates, the Delta disaster …. and that’s before you even look at the difficulties of cutting down the trees.

On top of that the industry gets a bad rap from the rural sector for being a ‘spray and walk away’ business that’s eating up valuable grazing land, for damage done to the landscape, and for contributing to a lack of employment.

So why would anyone invest in a forest?

Forestry is not for the faint-hearted – but for the persistent, there are good rewards. . . 

Netherlands proposes radical plans to cut livestock numbers by almost a third – Senay Boztas:

Dutch farmers could be forced to sell land and reduce the amount of animals they keep to help lower ammonia pollution.

Dutch politicians are considering plans to force hundreds of farmers to sell up and cut livestock numbers, to reduce damaging ammonia pollution.

After the highest Dutch administrative court found in 2019 that the government was breaking EU law by not doing enough to reduce excess nitrogen in vulnerable natural areas, the country has been battling what it is calling a “nitrogen crisis”.

Daytime speed limits have been reduced to 100kmph (62mph) on motorways to limit nitrogen oxide emissions, gas-guzzling construction projects were halted and a new law pledges that by 2030 half of protected nature areas must have healthy nitrogen levels. . . 

 


Rural round-up

06/09/2021

New Zealand workers find greener pastures on Canadian farms – Kate MacNamara:

Grant Coombes doesn’t usually have trouble keeping staff. He pays well, provides decent accommodation, and his North Waikato dairy farm is within easy reach of Hamilton. But there wasn’t much he could do when his herd manager left for Canada in June.

Originally from the Philippines, the manager, Syrell, was in New Zealand on an essential skills visa, which was set to expire. Coombes says renewing the visa wasn’t the problem – he’d renewed one for another employee just months before. The difficulty was that Syrell, who earned $70,000 a year working 45 hours per week, didn’t just want a job. He wanted a future.

“It’s about a pathway to residency for these guys and there’s just no clear pathway at the moment,” Coombes says.

Which is a shame because the man’s skills are in huge demand in New Zealand. . .

Wairarapa water scheme project canned – Piers Fuller:

After 20 years in the pipeline and more than $12 million spent, a major Wairarapa dam project has been abandoned.

Wairarapa Water Ltd announced on Friday that development of the Wakamoekau Community Water Storage Scheme would stop immediately.

The scheme northwest of Masterton was designed to harvest high winter flows of the Waingawa River into a 20 million cubic metre dam for use in summer.

Wairarapa Water chairman Tim Lusk said the scheme was no longer viable to continue. . . 

 

Hawke’s Bay dry predicted to deepen as 10 days of sun loom – Doug Laing:

The spectre of another drought on the east coast of the North Island is on the horizon, rather than the rain farmers badly need.

The latest monthly rainfall figures released by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council show why there are concerns.

Almost no rain is forecast for any part of Hawke’s Bay in the next week. That may not be good news for farmers, but will be for the rest of the population wanting a little local exercise under alert level 3 restrictions.

The council’s release of the figures comes also as climate agency Niwa reveals that nationwide it’s been the driest winter on its records – beating a previous record set just last year. . . 

Wetlands could combat nitrates :

The Waimakariri Water Zone Committee in Canterbury is considering a pilot wetlands project which would aim to reduce nitrate, phosphorus, sedimentation and E. coli levels in local waterways, while improving biodiversity in the district.

This follows a recent presentation on the benefits of integrated constructed wetlands by wetland scientist Dr Michelle McKweown of science and engineering consultancy Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA).

An integrated constructed wetland is an engineered water treatment system that uses vegetation and micrbes in the soil to treat water from farms and other sources, while also integrating the wetland structure into the surrounding landscape fabric.

These wetlands, which have been used in Ireland, the USA, and the UK since around 2007, act as a biofilter to remove suspended solids, pathogens, and nutrients from waterways. . . 

Nurseries struggling to keep up with ‘extreme’ demand for native plants – Will Harvie:

The demand for native plants is “just insanity”, according to a prominent grower. Where are these all these plants and trees coming from? WILL HARVIE reports.

Eco-Action Nursery Trust​ started out a few years ago as a plan to landscape Christchurch’s new Shirley Boys’ High School​ with native vegetation.

Students would learn about biology and horticulture – seeds to seedlings – and then plant them around the school’s new grounds – a nice touch in community building. Meanwhile, the school would get almost-free plants.

​“This is a good idea,” Shirley Boys’ teacher and Eco-Action co-founder Dave Newton thought at the time. There were even some plants left over, which were donated for planting in Ōruapaeroa-Travis Wetland.​ . . 

What crop growers say about vegan food labels – Shan Goodwin:

CROPPING industry representatives have responded in mixed fashion to the debate over vegan food labels using words like beef and meat.

Submissions to the senate inquiry investigating labelling of plant-based protein have now closed and public hearings kick off next week.

GrainGrowers believes the current food labelling provisions are not adequate and do lead to confusion and unfair outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

It’s submission said food labelled with an animal product descriptor must be derived from an animal. . .


Rural round-up

29/08/2021

RTF frustrated by Govt’s ‘she’ll be right’ attitude – Annette Scott:

Road transport operators are frustrated over decision-makers holding up their business of moving essential freight and livestock.

Road Transport Forum (RTF) chief executive Nick Leggett says the “she’ll be right” message from the Government is not good enough.

He says the decision-makers appear to be gripped by timidity and that is not helping to move essential freight around the country.

A key concern is the insurance liability of trucks . . .

Chinese export clampdown threatens Kiwi businesses – Sam Sachdeva :

Exporters already dealing with strained supply lines and the downsides of lockdown face another threat – the suspension of export licences with China if the current Covid-19 outbreak makes its way into their workplace

Kiwi food exporters battling through lockdown have been warned a single positive Covid-19 case within their workforce could lead to Chinese authorities immediately suspending their export rights and forcing a recall of their products.

Sector figures say the advice from government officials has added to the stresses businesses face as they deal with strained supply lines and the public health requirements of operating at Level 4.

In a guidance note to export businesses this week, the Ministry of Primary Industries said it was aware of new import measures being applied by China, covering “all cold chain food products that are normally stored and transported under refrigeration, including vegetables and fruit”. . . 

US foodies drive TPN’s popularity up – Annette Scott:

Taste Pure Nature (TPN) is growing in the United States, as conscious foodies strive to understand where their meat comes from.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand global manager brand and red meat story Michael Wan says brand tracking in the US market shows there is increased awareness of the TPN NZ red meat brand and story.

TPN is a global brand platform designed to enhance the position of NZ grass-fed beef and lamb globally.

Awareness of NZ grass-fed beef and lamb and what makes it unique and special has increased by 17%, as more consumers understand the story behind the brand. . . 

A2 Milk facing 80 percent drop in net profit in year battered by Covid-19 disruption :

Specialty dairy company A2 Milk has had a major slump in full year profit caused by pandemic related disruptions to key markets.

A2 Milk’s net profit dropped by 79 percent as excess stock and a slide in sales of infant formula in the key Chinese market battered its earnings.

The company issued numerous earnings downgrades over the past 12 months as Covid-19 closed borders and put an end to the previously lucrative “backdoor” daegou sales channels, while a falling birth rate in China also reduced demand.

Key results for the year ended June vs year ago: . .

 

Forestry waste trial offers lifeline to Huntly power plant – Jonathan Milne:

Until this week, Genesis Energy had steadfastly refused to discuss any future beyond 2030 for the coal and gas-fired plant. That’s just changed.

To most New Zealanders, the twin stacks of the Huntly power station are a Kiwiana icon. But to the people of that community, the electricity generator is a family, and a future.

Yvonne Anscombe runs the town’s community patrol. Her neighbour works at the power station. Her friend’s husband worked there. And when the local Lions Club was fundraising to buy a new car for the community patrol this year, Genesis came to the party with a $10,000 donation.

“Genesis are part of our community,” Anscombe says. “It’s been a big employer over the years. We’re not stupid, we understand the climate issues. But we would be supportive of anything that kept the jobs in Huntly.” . . . 

End  quarantine bickering say ag leaders – Andrew Miller:

Stop the bickering over quarantine.

That’s the message to federal and state governments from farm sector leaders, desperate to get workers into the country.

They say quarantine is the main sticking point to the introduction of the new Australian Agriculture visa, which responds to workforce shortages in the agriculture sector.

“The elephant in the room is this continual bickering, or lack of co-ordination, between state premiers themselves and the federal government,” GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking said. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

13/08/2021

Nats’ proposal on migrants welcomed – Richard Rennie:

National’s proposal for a clean out of New Zealand’s daunting migrant visa application backlog has been given a thumbs up from dairy farmers still grappling with labour shortages.

National party leader Judith Collins has proposed Immigration NZ be required to clear the backlog of skilled migrant workers already here and seeking residency status. 

These are estimated to be over 30,000 and include vets and dairy farm herd managers. 

National has also proposed a “de-coupling” of skilled migrant staff from specific employers, instead making them tied to a sector or a region. . .  

Concern over ‘rushed reforms’, lack of detail – Neal Wallace:

The hectic pace of Government-initiated reform will result in poorly drafted legislation that will create a windfall for lawyers, warns National Party Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.

Replacement draft legislation, such as for the Resource Management Act (RMA), lacks detail or an understanding of unintended consequences, he says, which will be determined by litigation.

“Either way the legislative changes coming at us like a steam train do not have that detail,” Simpson said.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) acknowledges it has a heavy workload developing policy to reform the RMA, climate change, indigenous biodiversity and water. . .

Water sampling technology on trial – Shawn McAvinue:

It is a data stream with a difference.

AgResearch Invermay senior scientist Richard Muirhead is developing new technology to help farmers wanting to improve water quality to make better decisions.

For the past two years, Dr Muirhead has been working on a project to get sensors to measure the levels of nitrogen, sediment, E.coli and phosphorus in waterways.

Sensor technology had been imported to measure the first three contaminants but the search continues for technology to measure phosphorus. . .

Tekapo -the Dark Sky Project is the place to stargaze – Jane Jeffries:

In the heart of the Mackenzie country is the small, quaint town of Tekapo, famous for the Good Shepherd church and the stunning vista through its window behind the altar. However, when the lake and mountain views disappear after dusk and the skies darken our twinkly solar system is exposed. It’s paradise for star gazers and a wonderful sight for young and old.

Whether you are a star gazer or just want to find out more about our solar system the Dark Sky Project in Takapo (Tekapo), is the place to start.

But before I talk about Tekapo’s terrific night sky, the town’s name needs an explanation. Tekapo was originally called Takapo. Takapō is the name the Ngāi Tahu tribe ancestors recorded. At Dark Sky Project they are extremely proud of their region and use the name Takapō, so that’s what we will call it.

Firstly, Takapo is one of the best places in the world to observe the night sky and it’s easily accessible. Minimal light pollution means the night sky views stretch as far as the eye can see. . . 

Farmland director elections nominations open :

Nominations are being sought for this year’s Farmlands Director Elections.

Two seats – one North Island and one South Island – are being contested. Farmlands Directors Dawn Sangster and Gray Baldwin are retiring by rotation in 2021 and both have indicated they are standing for re-election.

Farmlands Chairman Rob Hewett says having a say in governance is crucial to the ongoing success of the co-operative.

“Having high calibre shareholder representatives is critical not only to Farmlands but all rural co-operatives,” Mr Hewett says. “We have made tremendous strides in growing the talent pool of rural governance, alongside Silver Fern Farms, through the To the Core programme. . . 

Grazing cattle can improve agriculture’s carbon footprint – Adam Russell:

Ruminant animals like cattle contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and grasslands, and proper grazing management can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and overall footprint, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.

Richard Teague, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and senior scientist of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon, said his research, “The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America,” published in the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Journal of Soil and Water Conservation presents sustainable solutions for grazing agriculture.

The published article, authored by Teague with co-authors who include Urs Kreuter, Ph.D., AgriLife Research socio-economist in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life SciencesDepartment of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Bryan-College Station, was recognized at the society’s recent conference as a Soil and Water Conservation Society Research Paper for Impact and Quality.

Teague’s research showed appropriate grazing management practices in cattle production are among the solutions for concerns related to agriculture’s impact on the environment. His article serves as a call to action for the implementation of agricultural practices that can improve the resource base, environment, productivity and economic returns. . .


%d bloggers like this: