Rural round-up

July 7, 2016

Need for young blood – Peter Burke:

The aging population in agriculture is working against New Zealand, says Lincoln University’s Jon Hickford.

Speaking to Rural News at the Careers in Agriculture hub at Fieldays, Hickford says this is a huge problem, compounded by NZ’s rapid urbanisation and disconnection from the agri sector.

The problem now is to find enough good young people to work in agriculture.

“The problem across the western world is that young people are entirely urbanised and don’t realise the job opportunities out there on the land. In the case of NZ, agri defines our existence as a country. . . 

Cheap food has high price:

A Lincoln University expert is warning of the cost of focusing on producing food cheaply.  

A report into European farming policy ‘Does the CAP still fit’, co-authored by Lincoln University Professor of Farm Management Alison Bailey, says there is overwhelming evidence at local, national and global levels that food systems need to change.  

The paper was for the Food Research Collaboration on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which provides support to Europe’s farmers. . . 

Feds support stance on GMOs by 107 world-leading scientists:

As more than 100 world-leading and award-winning scientists voice their support of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Federated Farmers continues to endorse farmers’ rights to decide what technologies are used on their farms.

Federated Farmers’ spokesperson Katie Milne said it’s clear that the long-term stance opponents have against all GMO is well and truly outdated and lacks scientific scrutiny.

“Federated Farmers recognises GMOs can provide many positive benefits to farmers and it’s up to individual farmers to decide whether to use GMOs or not. We have a neutral stance on this.

“Through GMOs farmers could have cows without horns or have the ability to not breed calves, there are many positive animal welfare outcomes for the industry,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Feds unveil guide to local government excellence:

See full Federated Farmers Local Government Manifesto here.

A best-practice, practical and common-sense approach to governance has been unveiled by Federated Farmers at its national conference in Wellington today.

Federated Farmers’ Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne said this tri-annual guide promotes the latest thinking on how councils should be engaging with and providing services to farmers and other ratepayers.

“Farmers are some of the largest funders of local government and the sector most likely to be impacted by regulation developed and implemented by councils. “Farmers need level-headed councillors who prioritise real needs over the ‘nice to haves’. They also need to respect the considerable contributions from ratepayers,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Livestock and sustainability – challenges and opportunities for New Zealand:

Livestock may provide one-third of the value of global agricultural production, but it comes at a big cost for the planet. Livestock uses 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, putting pressure on water resources and biodiversity and emitting 14.5 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gases.

The benefits, risk, trade-offs and consequences are complex and policy makers are always looking for guidance. Now, new guidelines have been developed by the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). The Committee’s report Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock? was launched last week at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. . . 

UK referendum opens can of worms and some opportunities  – Allan Barber:

The referendum on EU membership produced a result nobody really expected and nearly half the voters didn’t want, but now everyone has to plan for an uncertain future. There have even been suggestions the exit might not happen, unless the Westminster Parliament passes the required motion to activate the start of the exit process. It’s not worth thinking about the implications for British democracy, if that were to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of the 23 June referendum there are only two certainties in a sea of uncertainty – the pound is worth a lot less than it was which will affect export receipts, but red meat access to the EU including the UK will not change for two years from the time the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets the exit process officially in motion. . . 

Agriculture set for slow-down – OECD:

The latest 10-year outlook from the OECD warns the recent period of high agricultural commodity prices is most likely over.

The report, produced with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said overall market growth was projected to slow and agricultural trade was expected to grow at less than half the rate of the previous decade.

The report – ‘OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025’ – said global agricultural trade was expected to grow by 1.8 percent per annum in volume during the next 10 years. . . 

Do possums howl at the moon?

Knowing if nocturnal pest mammals are more affected by the phases of the moon or by illumination could bring New Zealand one step closer to being pest free and save control agencies significant sums of money.

Lincoln UniversityEcology Master’s student Shannon Gilmore’s research into the effect lunar phases and illumination have on activity levels in possums, stoats, rats and mice is aimed at finding more effective and efficient means of targeting and managing these pests.

“It costs millions every year to control their populations,” says Shannon. “We’re waging a kind of war on pests. We need to discover their weaknesses. What trait do all four have in common that we can take advantage of? They are all nocturnal, and many nocturnal animals dramatically reduce their activity with the full moon, while others can become more active. . .

 


Aucklanders seeing the light

July 6, 2016

Auckland is no longer so attractive:

Highly skilled workers don’t want to move to Auckland, and the city’s workers are fleeing to the regions in search of a better life, a survey has found.

Employers say decreased productivity, increased sickness and difficulties finding staff are the results of Auckland’s housing crisis, according to a survey by recruitment agency Frog Recruitment. . . 

Spokeswoman Jane Kennelly said the majority of managers surveyed had serious concerns about the impact Auckland’s high cost of living had on their ability to retain staff, and on employees’ performance. . . 

“Employers reported that housing affordability, renting and the impact of those issues on performance was a very common conversation held around the water cooler,” said Ms Kennelly.

Managers also had trouble attracting new skilled workers from outside Auckland.

“Many won’t or can’t come to Auckland as they know they won’t be able to afford to live here, which impacts on skill levels within companies,” she said,

“Conversely, we are losing highly skilled Aucklanders to other regions in the country to pursue a better work-life balance.”

The survey revealed workplace morale was being sorely tested as frustrated employees arrived at work stressed from traffic delays, and increased dependence on public transport often made workers late to work.

About two-thirds of employers surveyed had introduced measures to mitigate the problem such as flexible start times outside traffic rush hours, remote work arrangements or commuting allowances.

Aucklanders moving out and people from other places not wanting to move in are inevitable reactions to the city’s problems which include ridiculously high property costs and traffic congestion.

Individuals are making the sensible choice to live and work where fewer people, lower costs and less time commuting lead to a better quality of life and allow wages and salaries to go further.

Some Auckland businesses are seeing the light too. Scotts Brewing moved from Auckland to Oamaru three years ago and is thriving.

People finding Auckland less attractive might not be good for companies struggling to recruit and retain staff there. But it will be playing a part, albeit small,  in reducing the demand for housing and  most other parts of the country where the city refugees choose to live will welcome a population boost.

 

 


Rural round-up

April 12, 2016

Water brings back ‘marvellous’ times – Sally Rae:

“Lower Waitaki – The Community That Water Saved” was the theme of a recent media tour organised by the Waitaki Irrigators Collective and IrrigationNZ and coinciding with IrrigationNZ’s 2016 conference in Oamaru. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae hopped on the bus to discover just what irrigation has done for the area and its inhabitants.  

When Jim Dennison’s father bought Drumena in 1919, the Hilderthorpe farm was in a “desolate state”.

Local women pitied his new bride moving to such a property to try to make a living. . .

Harnessing the sunshine for record-breaking crop yields – Pat Deavoll:

Farmers talk about growing feed, but North Otago crop and dairy farmer Chris Dennison says he is “harvesting sunshine.”

His world record-breaking crops of barley and oil seed rape were the combination of heavy soils, a coastal environment, reliable water and sustained sunshine, he said.

“Here at Hilderthorpe (just south of the Waitaki River) we get a cool easterly wind which gives a lull in the growing season for cereal and oil seed rape, so the crops can utilise more sunshine.”

Dennison took over the farm from his father Jim in the early 1980s. Traditionally it was a mixed sheep and beef property but when Dennison arrived home he brought with him an interest in cropping. . . 

Waitaki water key to reliable farming – Sally Rae:

Reuben Allan’s dairy shed has one heck of a view.

It overlooks the vast Waitaki River which provides not only recreational opportunities for his family, but also has allowed them to transition from a “feast or famine” dryland operation to one with reliable irrigation.

Mr Allan grew up on Fairway Farm, which used to be a dryland sheep property, near Ikawai.

Irrigation began on the hills in the mid-1990s and the move was made into intensive beef finishing. . . 

Irrigation provides reliability – Sally Rae:

Matt Ross first arrived in North Otago “more by accident”.

But his decision to return, once he completed his university studies, was deliberate as he had identified the potential opportunities in the district.

Mr Ross and his wife Julie operate Kokoamo Farms, which comprise two dairy farms near Duntroon, milking 1730 cows at peak, and lease a run-off property.

Their farming operation is a showcase: lush green grass, extensive plantings, including a wetland development that is home to more than 100,000 plants, and impressive infrastructure. . . 

Still turning them (tractors) on at 85:

North Otago’s Don Fraser is a man who loves his tractors. His love affair has been so intense he is still driving them at the ripe old age of 85.

Part of the hard-working team at EGL Pastoral for 26 years, and a farmer most of his life, Mr Fraser remembers the old style tractors (crawlers) when he first started out and recalls they were so noisy you needed hearing aids. “There was no silencers then and we didn’t have air con back in the day, but then we didn’t need it when a keen souwester was blowing through.” . . .

Sheep Industry Awards celebrate success:

This country’s sheep industry will celebrate its best and brightest at Beef +Lamb New Zealand’s fifth annual New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards in the Wairarapa in July.

Entries are open for the Awards which recognises this country’s top sheep farmers, breeders, scientists and industry innovators.

People can put their name forward, or be nominated for the Award categories; Science Trainer of the Year, Innovation, Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry and the Emerging Talent Award. . . 

Focus on forages is key to sustainable farm profits:

Pastoral farming is a huge earner for New Zealand worth over $23 billion in export revenues last year. Forages – the grasses and other plants grazed by farm animals – are a critical part of pastoral farming systems. Industry participants consider there is significant scope to lift the contribution forages make to the underlying productivity and profitability of the pastoral sectors and to achieve these outcomes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This is why an initiative to improve the sustainability and profitability of New Zealand’s forage grazing systems has the buy-in of everyone representing the pastoral sector. . . 

Bostock New Zealand experiencing highest quality apples for several years:

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower is harvesting some of the best quality fruit it’s experienced for years – thanks to near perfect growing and harvesting conditions.

Bostock New Zealand Director, David Brasell says the weather has been outstanding for the harvest and the fruit has sized well.

“The quality of our apples this season is very, very good. The colour is great, the fruit is clean and the size is excellent. . . .

Time to guard against costly nutritional deficits:

A small investment in autumn feed testing can be good insurance against mineral deficiencies in dairy and beef cows that can lead to low growth rates and poor milk yields.

Winter feeds like fodder beet, low pasture phosphorus levels in some regions, and lower seasonal availability for copper can lead to deficiencies of both of these key minerals during late pregnancy, early lactation and calf growth.

Consultant nutritionist to SealesWinslow, Paul Sharp, says for around $100 a comprehensive pasture mineral test will provide the right information to farmers. . . 

Yealands Launches NZ’s First Vineyard Tour Guide App:

The first kiwi wine app that allows the user to take a self-guided vineyard tour – and take in Yealands’ famous White Road hot-spots.

One of the only vineyards to actually let visitors drive through its vineyard, wine innovators, Yealands Wine Group have released a mobile application that allows visitors to its Seaview Vineyard in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough the unique opportunity of taking their own self-guided vineyard tour. . .


The story but not the whole story

April 1, 2016

RNZ asks is the minimum wage increase helpful or hopeless?

. . .  a cleaner who does night shifts at Auckland Council said the rise was still not enough to make it easier to support her family.

Before today, Lupe Funua’s wage was $15.10. That rate would be pushed up 15 cents to match the new minimum wage.

With a three-year-old son at home, a baby due in a few months, and a husband who was also a cleaner on minimum wage, she said every week she worried she was not earning enough. . . 

That’s the story but not the whole story which should include the family’s entitlement to Working for Families and they might also be eligible for housing assistance.

. . . Once the bills were paid, she said she had nothing to send home to her parents in Tonga, which devastated her. . . 

Wanting to help her parents is commendable but an employer can’t take that, or any other wishes however noble they might be, into consideration when determining what wage rates are affordable for the business.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government first considered a 25-cent rise, but decided to be more generous.

He said lifting the rate any higher would mean some people losing their jobs.

That is a very important part of the story. Increasing the minimum wage can cost jobs and drives the move to more mechanisation. It also has a flow-on affect for people who are paid more the legal minimum.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard said any rise would affect the struggling dairy industry.

“I think the concern for farm employers might be around farmers employed in the roles above those on the minimum wage – farm assistants – who would also get a boost,” he said.

“That’s going to be the discussion that farm employers will have with the employees and for many it’s not going to be an option.” . . 

I don’t know anyone who pays farm workers the minimum wage and most farm staff have non-cash rewards like a rent-free house which takes their annual effective pay well above the minimum.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

March 1, 2016

Fonterra Plant Openings Celebrate Strength in Southern Dairying:

Fonterra has further highlighted its commitment to New Zealand’s dairying communities this week as the Co-operative officially opened four new plants across the South Island.

Ribbon cuttings have been held to celebrate successful opening seasons for the new mozzarella plant at Fonterra’s Clandeboye site near Timaru, along with three new plants at its southernmost site at Edendale.

Fonterra Managing Director Global Operations Robert Spurway said these expansions generate cash not only for the Co-operative’s 10,500 farmers but also help to bolster rural and regional economies. . . 

Another link added in Transforming the Dairy Value Chain:

Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew today congratulated Fonterra on the opening of their new mozzarella plant at Fonterra’s Clandeboye site. The new plant will result in 25 new jobs and a doubling of Fonterra’s total mozzarella production to 50,000 metric tonnes per annum, over two plants.

The Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme “Transforming the Dairy Value Chain” helped Fonterra to commercialise their patented, breakthrough technology for producing frozen mozzarella cheese in a fraction of the usual time – without sacrificing functionality for their customers or sensory qualities for the end consumers. This technology will help to grow Fonterra’s Foodservice business in the $35 billion global pizza market.

“The Government has a goal of doubling the value of exports by 2025. Around half our exports are food, so our food safety systems are closely linked to this goal”, said Mrs Goodhew. . . 

“Put your hand up and ask for help”:

Stay away from negativity and don’t be afraid to ask for help are 2 tips that farmer Hannah Topless has for her counterparts around New Zealand.

Great swathes of Hannah’s 150ha Taranaki dairy and sheep farm in Strathmore, eastern Taranaki, were flooded or cut off in the storms of June 2015.

“We had 340ml of rain in one weekend,” said Hannah. “Rivers overflowed, taking out fences and gouging out races; and landslides took out culverts and fences, and cut off access to some of the farm.”

Hannah says that they were fortunate to have strong community links, particularly with her local church, as well as their Rural Support Trust, FMG and Federated Farmers. . . 

Returning Pacific workers an asset to NZ industry:

Pacific Island workers returning to New Zealand for seasonal employment have become an increasing asset for the horticulture and viticulture industries.

In New Zealand’s region of Hawke’s Bay, there’s an increased demand for Pacific workers contracted through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

The General Manager of Focus Contracting Ltd, Linley King, said the industries would not have grown as much as they had in the past decade without the involvement of Pacific islands workers. . . 

Avocado sector joins GIA Biosecurity partnership:

The avocado industry has become the seventh industry partner to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership today, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced.

“It’s very pleasing to have the avocado industry on-board, working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and other industry partners to manage and respond to the most important biosecurity risks,” says Mr Guy.

Avocados are New Zealand’s third largest fresh fruit export. In the 2014-2015 season the industry produced 7.1 million trays of avocados worth around $135 million. . . 

MPI seeks submissions on proposed amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is seeking feedback on proposals to amend the Kiwifruit Export Regulations 1999. The proposals are outlined in a discussion document released today.

“This is the first comprehensive review of the Regulations since they were enacted,” says Jarred Mair, MPI’s Acting Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade.

“The current regulations have enabled New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry to compete effectively on the international stage. In 2015, New Zealand exported kiwifruit to 50 countries, valued at $1.003 billion. . . 

Next Steps for Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project (KISP):

 

The government’s consultation document supporting the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project has been released.

Public consultation is a standard regulatory process, giving stakeholders an opportunity to consider alternatives to the recommendations proposed by the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project Team.

NZKGI Chairman, Doug Brown, says the government consultation process is another step towards the implementation of the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project that the majority of kiwifruit growers overwhelmingly supported.

“We are very pleased the government has included all of the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project’s recommended options in their consultation document. I encourage all kiwifruit growers to read through the document and submit their feedback through the consultation process. . . .

Kiwifruit NZ welcomes regulations review:

The regulator of the kiwifruit industry, Kiwifruit New Zealand (KNZ), has welcomed the review of the Kiwifruit Export Regulations 1999 and the release of a discussion document by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) today.

KNZ believes the regulations have served the industry well for 16 years but the New Zealand industry and the international fruit market are very different today than they were in 1999. . . 

Allied Farmers 1H profit falls as it focuses on livestock services growth – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Allied Farmers reported a 32 percent drop in first-half profit as income from its shrinking asset management services segment plunged, while its livestock services segment increased sales.

Net profit fell to $615,000 in the six months ended Dec. 31, from $907,000 a year earlier, the Hawera-based company said in a statement. Revenue rose 0.7 percent to $10.3 million.

“This is a strong operating result, benefiting from the livestock division’s trading performance, and does not have the benefit of the corporate and asset management one-off gains that bolstered the group result for the corresponding six months period ended Dec. 31, 2014,” said chairman Garry Bluett. “The directors now consider that the group is well placed to shift its primary focus to growth.” . . 


Labour doesn’t understand business

March 1, 2016

Labour said it’s worried about jobs which will disappear but is complaining the increase in the minimum wage isn’t high enough.

The minimum wage is just that, the minimum. It’s a floor not a ceiling.

Any business which can afford to pay its workers more than that can and many will.

But not all work is worth more than that and imposing higher costs on businesses without lowering other costs or increasing returns will put other jobs and whole businesses at risk.

It will also increase the move to replacing people with machines which is supposedly one of Labour’s big worries.

In another example of Labour’s lamentable lack of understanding of business principles, the party wants to force forests to sell logs to local mills.

Forest owners responded:

Forest owners say they are keen to sell their logs to local mills, so long as the terms of sale match those from export markets.

Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says there have been cases where local mills have been unwilling to do this.

“It’s not just about price. It’s also about the payment risk, the length of the contract and the quality of the logs on offer. Many modern mills have tight specifications for log supply. Logs that don’t meet those specifications are usually exported. This will always be the case,” he says.

Responding to a call from Labour Party MP Stuart Nash that “foreign forest owners” should be forced to sell logs to local mills, Mr Rhodes says owners of forests – foreign, corporate, private companies, iwi, partnerships or individuals — look for terms and conditions that give them the best overall returns.

“In many cases they get only one chance to do this, having spent 27 years growing their trees. This is crucial – forestry is not a one-way bet. Just ask those forest owners, particularly in Northland, who are not replanting after harvest, because log prices are not high enough to justify re-investment.”

Mr Rhodes says it is unfair to single out overseas owners of large plantations as the reason for mill failures.

“It may appeal to the emotions, but does not advance public understanding one iota. Overseas owned forestry companies are among the leaders of the industry. They make significant investments in jobs, worker safety and the environment.”

 

He says forest owners understand the importance of New Zealand having a viable wood processing industry and are partners in the Wood Council which is committed to having more value added to logs in NZ.

“We are talk regularly with politicians from the various political parties about policies that will assist the forest and wood processing industries remain vibrant, viable industries providing employment in the regions. Mr Nash’s proposed policy is not one of them.”

Forestry is a risky business with a long time between planting and payment.

Forest owners aren’t charities. They’re businesses and need good returns to if they’re going to continue in business and employing their own staff.


All jobs not equal

November 9, 2015

Labour’s proposal to use the government’s $40 billion in buying power to create jobs and back local businesses by requiring suppliers to make job creation in New Zealand a determining factor for contracts might be good politics but it’s bad policy.

The government, like any other entity, should be guided by price and quality when buying goods and services.

Unless businesses can adding job creation while competing on both of those factors, the requirement is a subsidy by another name.

If a future Labour-led government pays more, or accepts lower quality, to purchase from a business which creates more jobs it will not be not using public money wisely.

It will  be spending more than it needs to and to do that it has to take more tax, some of which will come from businesses with which those subsidised might be competing.

It could also lead the businesses which get the subsidies into difficulty when the government funding runs out and they find themselves with more staff than they can afford.

All jobs aren’t equal. Those created by government requirement are more expensive and less sustainable than ones created by businesses through their own efforts.

As Bill English said:

“We wouldn’t be chasing around the unemployment number [every] three months to three months – what we want to do is reinforce and encourage the industries that are doing well to invest, employ more people and grow.”

English said it was “not that easy” for the Government to create jobs, and any intervention would be unlikely to get value for money. . .”

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce is taking legal action against the City Council over its decision to require contractors to pay their staff the so-called living wage.

Labour’s policy is in the same feel-good- theory, bad-policy-in-practice territory.

The best thing a government can do for employment is keep a tight rein on its spending and enact policies which enable businesses to prosper which will give them the confidence to employ more people without a subsidy.


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