Rural round-up

30/06/2022

Forestry Amendment Bill fails to achieve fairness :

New rules fall short of delivering a level playing field when overseas investors buy our farmland for forestry, Federated Farmers says.

It’s a “step in the right direction” to scrap the much-criticised special forestry test, Feds Gisborne-Wairoa President Toby Williams said. Instead, overseas investors purchasing farmed land for conversion to forestry would be required to meet the Overseas Investment Office ‘general benefit to New Zealand test’.

“But it will continue to be an uneven land-use playing field because investors buying farmland to continue to raise crops and livestock run up against the much more stringent Farm Land Benefit test.”

Speaking to the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee on the Overseas Investment (Forestry) Amendment Bill this morning, Toby said the general benefit test that would apply to farmland to forestry conversions “provides a slightly higher hurdle but it is nothing like as onerous as the farmland test. . . 

Farmers can reduce emissions and reach the 2030 targets – Kelly Forster:

Those who criticise He Waka Eke Noa for relying on ‘unproven technofixes’ ignore New Zealand’s very strong history of agricultural innovation, argues Kelly Forster

Opinion: On a stud sheep farm in Southland, Leon and Wendy Black are breeding low-methane-emitting rams, which Leon says gives farmers a viable option for reducing their methane emissions.

As Leon says, we now have the tools to measure methane production, and through tweaking the genetics the right way, we can reduce emissions in small incremental steps, improving every generation.

Over three breeding generations this could reduce a farm’s methane emissions between 5 percent and 10 percent. . . 

Otago property native carbon groundbreaker – Sally Rae:

An Otago station is one of the first properties to receive Native CarbonCrop Units through Nelson-founded climate tech startup CarbonCrop.

CarbonCrop, which was established in 2020, yesterday launched Native CarbonCrop Units (CCUs) to enable landowners with native reforestation to access revenue, outside the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The company worked with 15 landowners throughout the country in a pre-launch pilot and more than 5000 CCUs were certified for 631ha of native regeneration, worth about $260,000 at current prices, a statement from the company said.

More than $140,000 of those credits have been sold via the Carbonz platform to companies including Christchurch Airport, Heilala Vanilla and Les Mills. . . 

Counting our farming emissions – Sharon Brettkelly:

There are plenty of farmers out there doing everything they can to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The Detail takes a trip to a dairy farm in south Waikato to find out how one farming couple is doing it.

“It’s a beast,” says Tokoroa dairy farmer George Moss.  

He’s not talking about one of his cows – he’s talking about the job of understanding, counting and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the farm he runs with his wife, Sharon. 

New Zealand will be the first country in the world to price emissions at the farmgate, if the agriculture sector’s plan – He Waka Eke Noa – is agreed to by the government.  . . 

2022 kiwifruit harvest complete :

The 2022 harvest of New Zealand’s largest horticultural produce, kiwifruit, is now largely complete with almost all 2,800 growers’ orchards from Kerikeri in the north to Motueka in the south picked for consumers. The 2022 season was expected to have a record-breaking crop of at least 190 million trays of kiwifruit, overtaking last year’s record of over 177 million trays. On average, each tray has around 30 pieces of kiwifruit. However, revisions in the forecast indicate that this year’s volume will be below 2021. Current thought to the reduction is due to labour supply, crop loading and weather. Investigation is this space is ongoing.

2022 also marks the first year that Zespri’s new RubyRed kiwifruit was picked as a commercial variety, which was then followed by the gold and green varieties. The sweet, berry-tinged tasting red kiwifruit was picked for supermarket shelves in New Zealand and overseas markets.

Despite the uncertainty of seasonal labour supply at the beginning of the year, all growers had the opportunity to have their kiwifruit picked and packed. The success of the 2022 kiwifruit harvest hinged on the ability for industry’s supply chain to operate effectively with a restricted labour supply under the changing COVID-19 settings. The 24,000 seasonal workers required to pick and pack the crop were restricted due to COVID-19 infection rates as well as closed borders which limited the 6,500 backpackers traditionally utilised for harvest operations.

CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI), Colin Bond says that experience of COVID-19 from the two previous seasons gave the kiwifruit industry the foresight to streamline processes across the supply chain to mitigate foreseeable risks. . . 

New AgWorkNZ initiative aims to fill NZ’s extreme agri-worker shortages :

New worker placement initiative Ag Work NZ aims to fill New Zealand’s huge farm worker and tractor driver shortages for our thriving primary industry. Ag Work NZ is affiliated with rural driver training provider Ag Drive, and will bring experienced staff over from the UK, Ireland and Europe on holiday working visas, following the reopening of NZ’s borders.

Director Andre Syben says the launch of Ag Work NZ is perfectly timed to fill the extreme farm worker shortages in New Zealand, while capitalising on the re-opening of NZ borders after the Covid-19 pandemic closures.

“What we’re hearing from New Zealand farmers and agricultural contractors is that they’re desperate for staff,” says Syben.

Northern hemisphere workers will be recruited by Ag Works’ own UK-based team, who will interview and screen workers. Then, in conjunction with Ag Works NZ-based recruitment team, potential workers will be matched with NZ farm and agricultural employers for an online interview. . . 

 


Nurses and midwives need fast track residency

23/06/2022

The government has the wrong priorities for immigration:

As New Zealand’s health system crumbles due to critical staffing shortages, National has launched a campaign to ensure that migrant nurses and midwives are offered a fast-tracked pathway to residency, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Labour has offered immediate residency to food technologists and ‘multimedia specialists’, yet not to these critical health workers.

Does the country have a dire need for food technologists and ‘mulitmedia specialists’ ?

It might, but the need for those people can’t be any higher than the need for nurses and midwives.

“Every day brings new headlines about our health system’s abysmal staffing shortcomings. Yet, the Government still hasn’t fixed its two-tiered immigration system that does nothing to attract nurses and midwives to New Zealand.

“Nurses and midwives are both on Australia’s priority skills list. If Australia offers the certainty of immediate residency, why would they choose New Zealand if they need to wait two years before they are even eligible to apply?

“We are short of around 4,000 nurses in this country. Continued unaddressed, we will surely hear worsening stories of 24-hour waits at Emergency Departments and patients even forgoing critically important treatment altogether.

“National has been calling on the Government to offer an immediate pathway to residency for nurses and midwives for months.

“However, the Immigration Minister can only provide an unfounded response that they shouldn’t be offered immediate residency because they might choose to leave their profession.

“That’s simply not good enough because we need these workers and the skills they would bring right now.

“National has launched a petition imploring the Government to immediately add nurses and midwives to the fast-track, start the fast-track process immediately and ensure the process of gaining residence is complete within three months of application.

“Until the Government takes action, it is Kiwis who will continue to pay the price.” 

The health system is sick and the prescription for treating it should have been given to frontline services and the people who provide them, not to restructuring the system.

Doctors and vets are on the green track for residency, as they should be, but so too should nurses and midwives. And the fast track should start immediately, not in September when the worst of winter illnesses will be over.

Hospitals are in crisis.

Staff are overworked, patients are facing long waits in emergency departments, surgery is being postponed, pregnant women are struggling to find a midwife, and resthomes have empty beds because they can’t find enough nurses :

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says the Aged Care sector is in dire straits without mandated minimum safe staffing levels.

In 2020, between 200 and 300 Section 31 notices were submitted to the Ministry of Health notifying of the health and safety risks to patients caused by understaffing.

841 were submitted in 2021. Now 841 have been submitted between January and April of 2022 alone.

Chair of the NZNO College of Gerontology Natalie Seymour says the Aged Care sector is in crisis.

“Nurses are doing 12-16 hour shifts without a proper stand down period. I recently worked a 93 ½ hour week and this is getting more and more common.

“We have a huge shortfall of qualified registered and enrolled nurses, which is having a massively negative impact. I manage a facility with four nurses on the floor for 75 patients who require specialist care.

“The voluntary standards for our aged care facilities say each patient needs only need half an hour of one nurse’s care. But our ageing population are sicker, older, and more acute. The patients we have need much more care than half an hour a day.”

Ms Seymour says Aged Care facilities are responding to understaffing by refusing to fill beds.

“790 beds were closed this past year. When this happens it backs up hospitals, which are already over capacity, or leads to people being discharged when they shouldn’t be, burdening their whānau and communities.

“In order to make up the wages we have to increase room charges, and these are already $1500-2500 per week. We have people selling the family home to pay for care.”

Ms Seymour told the Health Select Committee this morning that a standardised acuity tool is needed that would help set staff/patient ratios that ensure clinically and culturally safe care for our patients.

“But we must also address the disparity between DHB and Aged Care worker pay, which can be up to $20,000, and this makes it incredibly difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“We do our best to pick up the pieces and support families through their grieving, to give them the care, support, and touch they deserve in their dying days. But the reality is no longer possible for our burned out Aged Care nurses and health workers.” 

Making employment in New Zealand for nurses and midwives by putting them on the fast-track, doing it immediately and ensuring their residency process is completed within three months would help to solve those problems.

You can sign the petition here.


Labour on ILO’s naughty list

02/06/2022

Is this a first – a Labour government on the International Labour Organisation’s naughty list?

New Zealand is now on a short list of 22 countries accused of breaches of international law.

The International Labour Organisation has determined that New Zealand has a case to answer, and has invited the New Zealand Government to supply information to the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards at the ILO’s 110th formal session in Geneva next week on New Zealand’s proposed Fair Pay Agreements policy.

Along with 21 other countries accused of labour breaches including discrimination, forced labour and child labour, New Zealand is deemed to have a case to answer regarding its intention to breach a fundamental labour convention which protects freedom of association.

This follows 449 alleged breaches globally that were referred to the ILO by member nations in 2022 for consideration by a tripartite panel of business, union and Government representatives.

BusinessNZ says New Zealand’s Fair Pay Agreements policy contravenes ILO Convention 98 by constituting an ‘act of interference’ in the affairs of workers and employers.

Businesses believe the compulsory nature of the Fair Pay Agreements policy constitutes interference and are also concerned at other sections of the policy which would limit the freedoms of workers and employers, BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope says.

“This case has been raised with the ILO because of concerns that the Fair Pay Agreements policy would remove rights and freedoms from workplaces in New Zealand,” Mr Hope said.

Join BusinessNZ’s campaign against FPAs – Your Work, Your Way, and sign the open letter at www.yourworkyourway.co.nz

The open letter says:

Dear Minister Wood,

Your Government is trying to pass a law that we think will damage industrial relations and take New Zealand employees and employers back generations. You call these “Fair Pay Agreements” –  they’re not fair and they won’t achieve what you say.

In our view, at the stroke of a pen, FPAs take away control from employees and employers to negotiate pay and working conditions, and hand it over to Wellington negotiators who have no idea who we are or our individual needs and they’ll negotiate without our consent.

As employers and employees, we know, and have suggested to Government, that there’s a smarter way to make sure employers are looking after vulnerable workers. A compulsory FPA system that is forced on us all isn’t it.

As we see it, at their heart FPAs are about compulsion, meaning working New Zealanders and their employers lose control over the way they work and the right to negotiate their own employment conditions. That’s definitely not fair.

It’s not okay for Kiwis to have their right to negotiate their working conditions with their employer stripped away from them because a tiny percentage of workers in their industry think it’s the right thing to do.

This is another example of Labour’s sledge hammer approach to nut cracking.

They see a problem in one area and instead of learning form the good performers and targeting action for improvement on the poor ones, they impose central control on them all. They did it with polytechnics, they’re doing it with health and they are trying to do it with industrial relations through FPAs.

We agree that the current system needs to improve.  

But, higher wages come from improved productivity and a more skilled workforce. We do not believe that FPAs will achieve either of those things. They are a step backward, a solution looking for a problem.

A far better option is to identify sectors that are facing wage challenges and develop a targeted solution to fix the problems in those few sectors. We don’t need a one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic, sledgehammer solution across all sectors.

Our request to the Government is simple: listen to employers and employees, scrap compulsory FPA legislation and do what your own officials have recommended – improve and strengthen the current system.  

We urge all Kiwis to join our campaign rejecting FPAs and calling for a smarter way of working – your work, your way.

It’s signed by Kirk Hope, CEO of Business New Zealand and CEOS of the BusinessNZ Network.

FPAs would allow 10% of workers, or 1,000, whichever is fewer, in an identified group to compel the other 90% to join a union. That’s imposing control by a few on many. What’s fair about that?

They’d impose blanket coverage, locking all employers and employees in a whole industry or occupation into the same conditions, whether or not that was beneficial to either or both parties.

They’d remove flexibility, imposing a one-size fits all approach that would not take into account individual or local needs or wishes.

FPAs would take us back to the bad old days when a dispute in one workplace would cause problems for all workplaces in the same industry.

FPAs aren’t fair to the majority of employers and employees.

The only ones FPAs would benefit are the Labour Party and its union mates.


Rural round-up

18/05/2022

Dairy event will be all about change – Sally Rae:

Dynamic.

That is the theme of the South Island’s largest dairy event, SIDE 2022, which is being held in Oamaru on June 8-9.

It was the first time the event had been held in the town and it was expected to attract more than 350 farmers, rural professionals and sponsors.

Event committee member Rebecca Finlay, who came up with the theme, said dairy farmers needed to be dynamic — they could not be stuck in their ways.

There was constant change as they dealt with the likes of new compliance and regulations and they had to be agile and responsive to that change. . .

Exile on Main Street – Neal Wallace:

This week, Farmers Weekly journalists Richard Rennie and Neal Wallace investigate how two different districts, Opotiki and Gore, are trying to encourage new workers and address an ageing workforce while facing a static or falling population.

New Zealand’s rural-led economic recovery is being hamstrung by a shortage of working-age staff, an inability to retain people and intergenerational social issues.

Some rural districts already struggling for staff face even greater labour challenges in the coming years if demographic predictions proved accurate.

Work by retired University of Waikato demography professor Dr Natalie Jackson, is forecasting that in the next decade 75% of the country’s regional authorities will experience a decline in their working age population as young people either leave for bigger urban centres or are not being born. . . .

The ag-sector’s Budget 2022 wish list is for science – Business Desk:

If increasing productivity is the name of the government’s game, then the agriculture sector’s wish list for budget 2022 is all about science. 

The farming sector helped bankroll the economy through covid-19, generating 30% of the country’s export income at a time when sectors like tourism were at a standstill.

Rather than being rewarded, however, the sector is under immense pressure from rising costs, scarce labour and, increasingly, regulation and compliance.  

You’d be hard-pressed to find a farmer who doesn’t want to increase productivity and farm for better environmental outcomes but – across the board – they want more research and development to help them get there. . .

A sick joke – Rural News:

When the Covid pandemic broke out over two years ago, Jacinda Ardern waxed lyrical about the importance of the rural-based primary sector and how it would pull the NZ economy through the tough times ahead.

It has delivered on that with interest.

The sector has come together like never before, from workers on farms, in orchards and processing plants – not to mention the marketers and managers who have got our product to market on time and at good prices.

However, it’s come at a price: people in rural NZ are fatigued and are having to cope with the additional burden of a bundle of stressful compliance. . . 

All hands on deck – Peter Burke:

Growers are mucking in and helping staff to pick this year’s kiwifruit crop. At this point, the Ruby Red variety has all been picked and about a third of the gold crop has also been harvested, with workers now starting to pick the green crop.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers (NZKGI) chief executive Colin Bond told Hort News that everyone in the industry is working together to ensure the crop gets picked this season.

He says many growers themselves have been out in the orchards with the picking crew and also helping out in pack houses.

Bond says there have been instances of staff who normally just pick the fruit, doing shifts in the pack houses on wet days when it’s not possible to pick fruit. . . .

2022 New Zealand Dairy Industry Award winner taking all opportunities:

For the first time in the Awards 33-year history Canterbury/Otago has achieved a clean sweep of all three major categories and the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award, with national finalists from that region taking home the silverware.

The 2022 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year is driven, inspirational and a great example of a farmer who is taking every opportunity the New Zealand dairy industry offers.

Will Green was named the 2022 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, the region’s Jaspal Singh became the 2022 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Peter O’Connor, also from Canterbury/North Otago, was announced the 2022 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes from a pool worth over $200,000.

The winners were announced at a Gala Dinner held at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre on Saturday, in front of more than 540 people, making it the largest dinner to be held at the new venue since opening. . . 

Fonterra responsible dairying award winner lead change through innovation :

Craigmore Farming Services, Canterbury/North Otago were named the 2022 Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award winners during the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards on Saturday night and received the John Wilson Memorial Trophy.

 The prestigious award was introduced by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards and Fonterra to recognise dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainability and who are respected by their fellow farmers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying.

“It was a privilege to engage with all three finalists and the quality of the presentations was exceptional,” says head judge Conall Buchanan.

Fellow judge Charlotte Rutherford from Fonterra, agrees. “The future of the industry feels in such good hands when you are able to spend time with people like our finalists.” . . 


A better way than uFPAs

13/05/2022

BusinessNZ had full page advertisement in the ODT yesterday seeking support for its alternative to the governments (Un)Fair Pay Agreements (UFPA).

Theirs is a much better way to address employment problems, where they exist,  than the (Un)Fair Pay Agreements proposed by the government:

As the Government continues to push forward with FPAs, BusinessNZ is recommending three policy changes the Government should make instead.

Having passed its first reading, the Government’s FPA Bill will now go to select committee, with public submissions accepted until 19 May 2022.

Last week, BusinessNZ launched a nationwide campaign ‘ Your Work, Your Way’, calling on Kiwis to reject FPAs, a policy they describe as a sledgehammer which punishes all sectors in an attempt to improve a few. CEO Kirk Hope says there is a smarter way, “FPAs are not fair and do not achieve what the Government says they will. That’s why we are advocating for a smarter way of working.

“Unlike the Government’s bill which strips away Kiwis’ rights to negotiate their working conditions with their employers, we are proposing to actively target the sectors needing reform,” says Hope.

The government is following its usual pattern of radical change for everyone instead of addressing problems in the relatively few areas needing attention.

“Our roadmap represents international best practice and is in fact what the Government’s own officials told them to do rather than proceeding with FPAs.”

The three recommended areas of policy reform focus on protecting flexibility, targeting sectors needing reform and cracking down on poor employers:

    • Protect flexible working – make FPAs voluntary.

BusinessNZ is calling for FPAs to be voluntary, not compulsory. Individual employers and employees should have the opportunity to opt-out of them. Voluntary FPAs would at least be more consistent with New Zealand’s obligations under international law.

    • Target problem industries – limited sector based minimum standards to protect vulnerable workers .

As recommended by officials, BusinessNZ supports the development of a limited set of legally binding sector-based minimum standards for industries where a clear and significant labour market problem has been established.

As a major employer in some of the sectors where issues have been identified, the Government can take a leadership role immediately by committing to best practice employment standards in these sectors.

Could it be the government is judging all businesses by its own failings instead of addressing areas where it falls short itself?

    • Crack down on poor employers – beef up enforcement to prosecute those who break the law.
    • BusinessNZ recommends the number of workplace inspectors be increased to protect vulnerable workers. Their powers to access workplaces and work records should also be brought to a level that allows inspectors to better detect inappropriate activity and enforce minimum labour standards.

“FPAs are fast becoming an embarrassment for the Government. It’s time they listen to their own officials, employers, and employees and scrap this flawed policy and instead take action that will make a real difference where it is needed most.

“Our roadmap sets out a common sense way forward to improve workplace relations and crack down on bad employers without taking away people’s rights and breaking international labour laws. We urge the Government to adopt it and we will continue to advocate strongly for all the rights of Kiwi workers and employers throughout the Select Committee process,” says Mr Hope.

Find out more about BusinessNZ’s Smarter Way and sign the open letter rejecting FPAs at www.yourworkyourway.co.nz.

This government has a dreadful habit of imposing whole of sector reform instead of targetting change where it’s needed.

They did it with polytechs, they’re doing it with health and three waters, and they’re trying to do it with (U)FPAs.

Contrary to the name, these are unfair, not least because whole sectors would have to accept FPAs at the behest of just 10 percent of the workforce even if the other 90 percent didn’t want to agree to them.

BusinessNZ’s suggestions are better and fairer to employers and employees.

 


Intellectual snobbery in immigration policy

12/05/2022

Credit where it’s due, some of the government’s changes to immigration policy are an improvement, including this:

The Government has agreed to temporarily exempt tourism and hospitality businesses from paying the median wage to recruit migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa into most roles.

“Instead, a lower wage threshold of $25 per hour will be required until April 2023. This follows the recent $27 per hour border exception that was granted around certain snow season roles to help the sector prepare for winter tourists.”

New sector agreements for the care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors will provide for a short-term or ongoing need for access to lower-paid migrants. . . 

That’s better than what’s been required in the past, but still not as good as it could, and should, be.

Requiring migrants to be paid more than locals is a type of unFair Pay Agreement (FPA) by stealth.

It’s supposed to make employing locals more attractive but with unemployment down to the unemployable, those who can’t, or won’t work, it’s simply adding unnecessary costs to businesses.

At least some of those costs will be passed on to customers and fuel inflation.

Requiring businesses everywhere to pay staff the same wages takes no account of cost of living differences in different places.

For example, workers in Oamaru or Duntroon face lower rents than those in Queenstown or Wanaka so don’t need to be paid as much to have a similar quality of life.

Then there’s the intellectual snobbery in the emphasis on skilled workers when there is a huge shortage of workers in so-called low or unskilled jobs.

These include carers in rest homes. Nurses need to be qualified and experienced. Carers do not, but they do need to have high EQ and interpersonal skills which don’t count in the immigration policy.

There are also a lot of jobs, on dairy farms for example, where qualifications and experience aren’t necessary. The skills needed are willingness to learn, the ability to start work on time, do what they have to do within a reasonable time and to the required standard, and do it every day they’re rostered to do it.

People able to do all that might not look like highly skilled to the government, they won’t have qualifications but they will have a good attitude and if the government listened to employers, they’d know that it’s very hard to find local people with that and willing and able to do ‘low-skilled jobs’, and not just on farms.

A restaurant owner in a small town knew there were nearly 200 people registered as unemployed in the area.

He approached WINZ saying he was happy to employ people with no experience as long as they were willing to learn. He was told that he wouldn’t get anyone if he drug tested them.

He said he wouldn’t drug test them and was told that even if they weren’t drug tested no-one on their books would want his jobs.

This example isn’t a one-off.

Employers in a range of businesses the length and breadth of the country are facing the same problems and still the government doesn’t understand the need for migrants who aren’t highly skilled in terms of qualifications and experience,  but are in attitude and other personal strengths and who are desperately needed and would be valuable workers.


Rural round-up

11/04/2022

Feed shortage a concern for dry south – Neal Wallace:

Dry conditions continue to grip farms in Southland and Otago, worsening already stretched feed supplies compounded by delays in getting stock processed.

Between 8mm and 30mm of rain fell over Southland and southern Otago this week, but temperatures have also fallen.

Weather forecasters are offering little prospect of significant regular rainfall for the remainder of April, although there another southerly next week could deliver a further 20-40mm.

“It’s still below average but much better than we have had in the last few months,” WeatherWatch chief forecaster Philip Duncan said. . . 

Global dairy prices weaken as China reduces its demand – Point of Order:

The ANZ world commodity price index hit a new record in March, lifting  3.9%.  Prices are very strong across most commodities, although none of the sub-indices are currently at record levels.

In local currency terms, the index gained just 0.5%, as local returns were eroded by a 3.1% gain in the trade weighted index (TWI).

While farmers were  digesting this  news, the latest global dairy auction  recorded a dip in prices as  demand weakened from Chinese  buyers.  The GDT  price index slid 1% to 1564 at the  auction following a 0.9% fall at the previous bimonthly auction.

Dairy prices have risen steeply at auction this year, pushing the index to record levels, as tight supply underpins demand. . .

Kiwifruit picker reveals secret to earning $60 per hour – Annemarie Quill:

Is it really possible to earn $60 an hour picking fruit? “Absolutely,” says Maketū’s Trish Townsend, who has been a kiwifruit picker in the Bay of Plenty for four years.

“I did $60 per hour yesterday, and I am looking forward to $90 an hour at Easter when we’ll be on time-and-a-half. As long as the weather stays fine, I will be going hard.”

Last month Stuff revealed that high pay rates of up to $60 per hour, and incentives such as cash bonuses, prizes and free transport, accommodation and food, are being offered to lure pickers to the kiwifruit industry, which is experiencing its “toughest-ever season” due to the impact of Covid-19.

The industry usually requires 24,000 people to pick and pack over a typical harvest, but is drastically short this season due to a lack of international workers, such as backpackers or seasonal workers from overseas. . . 

Cannabis farm gets 32m grant new generation coming into agriculture – Tessa Guest:

The government has given a cash injection to the country’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, saying it could become as successful as the wine industry.

Puro, a specialist cannabis grower near Kēkerengū, between Blenheim and Kaikōura, was given a $32 million grant today.

The $13m is coming from taxpayer money, and the remaining $19m is from private investors.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the “weird and wacky” grant would kickstart the organic medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand. . .

Mountain bike trails put new spin on Whanganui farm – Country Life:

Sheep bleating and shearing machines whirring are sounds of the past at the Oskams’ old woolshed.

Nowadays you are more likely to hear the buzz of bike chains, the hiss of tyre pumps and the whooping of mountain bikers stopping for a break after whizzing around the trails above.

Bikes hang in the sheep pens, the sheep dip has been turned into hot showers and the wool sorting table is used for preparing feasts when there’s a big crowd.

Tom Oskam spent his boyhood here on the land which is snuggled into a bend in the Whanganui River. It used to be part of a much bigger farm used for sheep, beef and forestry.   . . 

New Ravensdown chair to focus on pathways to progress :

Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer Bruce Wills has been elected the new Chair of Ravensdown as current Chair John Henderson concludes his term on 31 May 2022.

The former Federated Farmers national president is excited about the recently evolved strategy of the co-operative which is sharpening its focus on improving farmers’ and growers’ environmental and productive performance.

Bruce was voted in as a Ravensdown director in 2015, working closely with John Henderson who has been a director since 2004 and Chair since 2014.

“It’s been an eventful seven years on a Ravensdown board that, alongside the staff and management, have worked tirelessly towards a vision of smarter farming for a better New Zealand,” said Bruce. “I am passionate about Ravensdown’s role as the nutrient leaders in the areas of science, supply and solutions for an agsector striving for more sustainable ways forward.” . .

 


Rural round-up

07/04/2022

Govt tightening screw on rural communities :

In allowing spiralling costs and rampant inflation to hit New Zealand’s most productive sector, the Labour Government is biting the hand that literally feeds it, National’s Rural Communities spokesperson Nicola Grigg says.

“New Zealand’s agricultural sector is seeing a dramatic rise in input costs as farmers and growers grapple with the same cost of living crisis that is impacting us all.

“The increase in costs is being felt particularly badly by our farmers. In the last year, the cost of fuel has risen more than 44 per cent, fertiliser more than 28 per cent, stock feed and grazing more than six per cent, seeds six percent and power 21 per cent.

“If you want to go out and buy a new Toyota Hilux you’ll now be paying an extra $5175 in ‘ute tax’ when registering it – and Labour will soon be introducing legislation requiring employers pay a 1.4 per cent levy on employees’ salaries into a new ‘income insurance scheme’. . . 

Predictable delays for meat processing :

Meat works around the country are struggling to meet demand due to the Government’s failure to keep pace with a vital cog in the supply chain, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“Farmers are being forced to hold onto livestock longer as meat works across the country have wait times stretching up to six weeks. This adds even more pressure to our farmers, with some having to dip into their winter baleage supply early or buy in costly feed supplement alternatives.

“The Agriculture Minister and the Government made assurances that they would take steps to limit any disruption for our essential farming industry, but as predicted, they have failed to do this.

“Labour failed to deliver to bring in the necessary workers due to stringent immigration rules, and they failed to supply the meat works industry with rapid antigen test in a timely manner, causing disruptions to staff. . . 

Nursery aims to make native trees more accessible – Colin Williscroft:

For Adam Thompson, establishing native flora on farmland goes beyond the obvious environmental and biodiversity benefits.

It gives farmers a sense of pride in seeing a piece of marginal, unproductive land transformed into something that complements and enhances their farming operation.

“A lot of farmers are proud of growing food. “We’re helping them do it in a more sustainable way,” Thompson said.

The 35-year-old Cambridge farmer and owner of Restore Native tree nursery wants all farmers to feel that pride by making it as easy and inexpensive as possible to plant and grow native trees on farmland not suited for livestock. . . 

Synlait is confident it is back on the path to pre-2021 profitability levels – Point of Order:

ANZ  reports widespread autumn rain has devastated many arable and fruit crops, but has been welcomed by pastoral farmers.

Food commodities are in short supply globally.  New Zealand will  export less produce than normal this season as production of most  export commodities is impacted for varying reasons including delays with the processing of livestock and the impacts of labour shortages.

So it  was  something of  a  surprise,  but  a  welcome  one,  when Synlait Milk reported  its net profit (excluding the sale of an Auckland property) had risen 128% to $14.5m in the first half.

The  dairy  processing company said it was also on the way to reporting previous levels of profitability in the 2023 financial year after posting a $28.5m loss in 2021. . . 

NZ woolgrowers among sectors hit by China’s Covid-19 restrictions :

A resurgence of Covid-19 within China is causing headaches for some primary sector exporters, with lockdown measures disrupting economic activity and slowing down distribution networks.

China’s ongoing “zero-Covid” strategy uses swift lockdowns and aggressive restrictions to contain any outbreak. As part of this, late last month Shanghai was placed into the biggest city-wide lockdown since the Covid outbreak began more than two years ago.

PGG Wrightson’s South Island wool manager Dave Burridge said demand for wool had dropped off because China’s manufacturing regions had been affected by the Covid-19 restrictions.

“It’s having a direct impact on bottom-line returns to woolgrowers, certainly there is quite a dramatic effect on [prices for] the types [of wool] the Chinese normally buy.” . . 

Almonds a new high-value nut to crack :

Another ‘nutty’ idea could lead to a brand-new almond industry in New Zealand.

Plant & Food Research is embarking on a feasibility study to see if almonds can be grown sustainably in Hawke’s Bay. The project has backing from central and local government, alongside Picot Productions Limited – Kiwi producers of the Pic’s brand nut spreads.

“We’re already supporting peanut growing trials in Northland – now it’s almonds’ turn,” says Steve Penno, Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) director of investment programmes.

“The first step is to see whether we can successfully produce almonds with a low carbon footprint at scale and for a competitive price in New Zealand.” . . 


FPAs really UPAs

30/03/2022

They’re called Fair Pay Agreements but for whom are they fair?

They’re not fair for the 90% of workers who will be forced to accept them if 10% of people in their occupation want them.

They’re not fair for the workers who will lose flexible pay and conditions that suit them and be forced to accept inflexible pay and conditions that don’t.

They’re not fair to employers in different parts of the country with different cost structures who will be forced to accept the pay and conditions imposed on them regardless of whether they can afford them.

They’re not fair to the businesses that will collapse under the weight of unaffordable wage bills and the workers who will lose their jobs to business failures and increased automation.

They’re not fair to the everyone already struggling with inflation who will face higher costs as a result of them.

It’s not fair that they will harm the economy:

Labour’s misnamed ‘Fair’ Pay Agreements Bill will reduce flexibility and harm New Zealand’s economy, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“This bill is an ideological overreach, deliberately going to war with employers at a time when we’re facing huge economic challenges.

“The modern workplace is changing rapidly and people value flexibility. Labour’s bill would take us in the opposite direction, towards rigid national awards.

“It’s another example of this Government’s belief that central government knows best – better than employees and employers trying to arrange things for themselves in a way that works for them.

“Flexible labour markets are one of the foundations of our relative economic success in the past few decades. This bill undermines that foundation and will harm our economy and our national competitiveness.

“National stridently opposes this bill.”

They are so unfair that Business New Zealand is saying no to the payment being offered to them:

BusinessNZ has confirmed that it will not accept payments included in the Fair Pay Agreements Bill introduced to Parliament today.

Under the terms of the Bill, BusinessNZ would be offered $250,000 a year for supporting compulsory bargaining in major sectors of the economy.

But Chief Executive Kirk Hope says the FPA scheme is unacceptable and BusinessNZ will not take part.

“The Bill shows the Government is not listening, and we think the legislation should simply be canned.

“The scheme would make it compulsory for businesses to take part in collective bargaining, and compulsory for them to accept union demands or imposed arbitration.

“The FPA scheme would be deleterious to the economy, to people’s prosperity, and to the human rights of those involved, and despite the mention of BusinessNZ in the Bill presented to Parliament today, I can confirm that BusinessNZ will definitely not be taking taxpayer money to support compulsory national pay schemes.”

The Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association says FPAs are a step back in time:

The Government’s step backwards to National Compulsory Awards, also known as Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs), is a retrograde move for employees and employers that removes the flexibility we’ve come to expect and need in the modern workplace, says the EMA.

Head of Advocacy and Strategy, Alan McDonald, says this is a step back to a centralised, antagonistic wage bargaining system that failed workers and their employers in the 1970s and 80s and was done away with in the 1990s.

“It puts a Wellington bureaucracy between employees and their employers and enforces the same pay and conditions for all employees regardless of their circumstances and those of their employer.”

Mr McDonald says inflexible, unwanted, slow moving, centralised bargaining was the last thing needed in the modern workplace.

This is what we had decades ago when a worker who sprained an eyelash at one workplace could trigger strikes the length and breadth of the country.

“FPAs are not consistent with the goal of the New Zealand economy being made of flexible, innovative, competitive and agile businesses.

“If nothing else, how would we have coped with the demands for flexibility and adaptability in the workplace imposed by Covid if we were working with these ponderous, unwanted awards?”

“The fact they must be compulsorily brought to an outcome is illegal under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles signed up to by previous Labour governments and currently illegal under our domestic bargaining frameworks where employers can choose to opt out.

As only 10 percent of a workforce or 1,000 workers in any sector can demand one of these agreements, they are demonstrably undemocratic.”

Mr McDonald says the EMA and other members of the BusinessNZ network had opposed these agreements from the moment they were proposed and would continue to oppose them.

He said it was hard to see what the issue was that they were meant to solve, especially with such widespread access to such agreements.

“MBIE, the government’s own advisors, said there may be a few areas where there could be an issue with pay and conditions and the best solution was to apply a market test and review conditions in those sectors and make changes where required.

“We’d support that, but instead this legislation takes a scattergun approach that will result in inflexible, rigid conditions across multiple industries with some employers having to deal with multiple awards in one workplace.

“It’s a logistical nightmare if nothing else. How do you reach every employee and employer from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga?

Inflexible, rigid and a logistical nightmare – what’s fair about that?

“I see the Government’s release ignores the fact that Business NZ and its network and the Chambers of Commerce have already ruled out being the bargaining agent for employers. The fact the CTU is the Government’s bargaining agent of choice also shuts out all the other non-affiliated unions from the bargaining process and ignores the fact around 80 per cent of the workforce is not associated with unions,” says Mr McDonald.

It’s not even fair to many unions.

How fair is it to democracy when the CTU supports the Labour Party financially and with people power for campaigning.

If corruption is too strong a word for it – and I”m not sure it is – then unfair certainly isn’t.

These aren’t FPAs they’re UPAs – unfair pay agreements – and another reason to ensure this government doesn’t get a third term.


Rural round-up

25/03/2022

RUC reduction brings no relief for farm machinery users – Gerald Piddock:

The Government’s decision to cut road user charges (RUC) by 36% for three months is cold comfort for contractors and farmers using off-road vehicles that will not qualify for the exemption, Federated Farmers says.

The cut, which will take place from late April to late July, is in response to the spike in global fuel prices. Transport Minister Michael Wood said the change was to support the road transport industry.

For the arable industry, the reduction in charges is too late for this season, with much of the harvest already completed apart from harvesting maize grain, Federated Farmers transport spokesperson Karen Williams said.

On Williams’ own farm, fuel costs for the three months during peak harvest had almost doubled from $4000-$7000 a month in 2020 to $8000-$9500 a month this year. . . 

Omicron: ‘major impact’ on staff shortages as apple picking peaks  – Tom Kitchin:

Some orchardists say Covid-19 is running rampant through their harvest fields.

It is peak apple harvest time across the country – and Omicron is not showing any signs of slowing down in the two busiest apple harvest regions – Hawke’s Bay and Nelson-Tasman.

Hawke’s Bay grows over 4700 hectares of apples and Nelson-Tasman is second with about 2400.

Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrower’s Association chair Brydon Nisbett also runs his own 16-hectare two-orchard apple operation. . . 

Bacteria corralled for quality food outcomes – Richard Rennie:

AgResearch principal scientist Dr Eric Altermann admits he has a dream to see a charcuterie of uniquely New Zealand meats and salamis, along with fermented dairy and plant products on the market someday soon. Richard Rennie spoke to him on how his and his team’s work on fermented foods will make that a reality.

Over the past four and a half years AgResearch’s Fermented Foods research team has managed to slice through tens of thousands of evolved bacterial strains to find those with traits most suited to enhancing the flavour and texture of meat, dairy, and plant fermented food types.

The tool that has enabled them to accelerate the natural process of genetic change, which would otherwise have been an almost impossibly time-consuming and frustrating process, has been a high-throughput robotics handling and assaying (screening) platform, developed by AgResearch principal scientist Dr Eric Altermann and his team. 

“The platform’s technology allows us to take bacteria, subject them to rapid genetic evolution using sources such as UV light and then identify those evolved variants which exhibit a positive change towards the desired traits,” Altermann said.  . . 

Awakiki Ridges owners clearing out for retirement – Shawn McAvinue:

A couple of teenage sweethearts are looking forward to retirement on their sheep and beef farm in South Otago.

Howie and Marion Gardner (both 66) will hold a clearing sale on their farm Awakiki Ridges in Puerua Valley tomorrow.

Awakiki Ridges has come a long way since his parents, Clyde (now 93) and his late mother, Beth, bought the land and started developing it in the mid-1960s.

The property was once considered “the worst bit of dirt in South Otago,” Mr Gardner said. . . 

Sharing enthusiasm for red meat sector – Shawn McAvinue:

Maniototo man Dean Sinnamon’s new job allows him to pursue his passion for the red meat sector.

Mr Sinnamon, of Oturehua, started in a new role at Beef + Lamb New Zealand in January this year.

His job title is Central South Island South extension manager.

“It’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?” . . 

China tariffs causes Victorian harvest to tank Annabelle Cleeland:

The 2.1-billion litres of unsold Australian wine sitting in storage is wreaking havoc on Victoria’s grape harvest this season, as a storage shortage forces growers to leave grapes on vines.

Last year the nation’s wine exports plummeted $860 million, or 30 per cent, due to China’s crippling tariffs on bottled Australian wine.

China’s anti-dumping duty introduced the last march of up to 218pc for containers of two litres or less, and is set to remain in place for five years.

It has been a blow for the industry with Australia’s wine exports the lowest in nearly two decades, as the volume of wine sent overseas dropped 17pc to 619-million litres in 2021. . . 


Rural round-up

18/03/2022

World dairy prices ease from record peak but the industry is the big driver of export receipts as trade deficit widens – Point of Order:

Dairy prices levelled  off  in  Fonterra’s  latest  Global Dairy Trade auction  but  remain  close  to the  peak reached  at  the  previous  auction  a  fortnight  previously.

The GDT price  index  eased 0.9%  to 1579, the second-highest level on record, down from 1593.

Dairy farmers   who  had  seen prices  surge  in  the  past  five  auctions  may  have  been disappointed.  But  as Westpac senior agri economist Nathan Penny pointed  out, uncertainties around global dairy demand arising from surging Covid-19 case numbers in China, the world’s largest dairy market, is likely to have weighed on prices.

Fonterra  has  steadily  raised  its  forecast payout  to  the  $9.30-$9.90kg/MS range – the  highest it has  ever been – as  the  GDT index  has  climbed  18%  this  season. . .

Kiwifruit harvest needs ‘all the help it can get’ – growers :

With travellers wanting to take a working holiday now able come to Aotearoa for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the kiwifruit industry is highlighting there are plenty of jobs on offer.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Colin Bond said pre-Covid New Zealand welcomed about 50,000 working holidaymakers into the country each year.

His industry required 24,000 seasonal workers for picking and packing roles and backpackers had traditionally make up about one quarter of the workforce.

“This year a record crop of over 190 million trays are forecast to be picked. Each tray has about 30 pieces of kiwifruit, meaning the industry needs all the help it can get.” . . 

Instead of being the best in’ the world be the  best ‘for’ the world – Sarah’s Country:

   In an environment where farmers & growers may be thinking it’s all coming at them, Becks Smith can see the light at the end of the tunnel when we condense the overwhelm and see the challenges through a more holistic approach.  

New Zealand farmers naturally have an inter-generational view of stewardship of their land, but sometimes need support to bring the right expertise together when they are on the next level of their sustainability journey.

Becks Smith discusses with Sarah Perriam, host of Sarah’s Country, how her career journey as a vet in Central Otago, alongside farming with her husband’s family, is evolving into the social enterprise The Whole Story.

She shares her insights into how to take small steps towards change and how important to pull an advisory board around our farmers that are all on the same page. . . 

UK and NZ animal health associations welcome regularity co-operation :

The animal health associations in the UK (NOAH) and New Zealand (Agcarm) have welcomed the publication by the countries’ regulatory agencies of guidance that will enable simultaneous review of animal medicine marketing authorisation applications in the two countries.

Arising from discussions between the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the guidance document ‘United Kingdom-New Zealand Regulatory Cooperation: Guidance on Veterinary Medicines Simultaneous Reviews’ will serve as the foundation to enable these simultaneous reviews to happen.

This comes as a far-reaching trade deal has also been announced between the two countries, which includes an animal welfare chapter with a clear statement that animals are recognised as sentient beings. Provisions include a commitment to increased bilateral cooperation, as well as working together in international fora to enhance animal welfare standards. . .

Biosecurity New Zealand’s annual report supports Aotearoa’s beekeepers :

Biosecurity New Zealand’s annual Winter Colony Loss survey results are out now and show that the country’s beekeepers are serious about working together to support a strong bee industry.

Biosecurity New Zealand senior scientist Richard Hall says more beekeepers than ever took part in this survey, the seventh so far.

“This level of involvement and our beekeeper’s transparency in self-reporting shows how seriously they take biosecurity, and how valuable Biosecurity New Zealand’s support is in strengthening the bee industry.

“Strong biosecurity systems and management of pests and diseases are essential to production and the data gathered this year will help beekeepers identify where they need to focus their management efforts,” says Dr Hall. . . 

The Nevis – New Zealand’s highest public road – Jane Jeffries:

Having spent a large part of the summer in the Queenstown region we decided to explore The Nevis – New Zealand’s highest public road.

I was a little nervous, as I hate scary roads, but secretly wanted to do it. The thought of driving up the Remarkable ski field road makes me anxious, with sheer drops and no barriers. So a rugged road, with tight corners, possible oncoming traffic reeked of danger to me.

This classic piece of New Zealand road is only open in the summer for 4wd vehicles as it’s snow-bound in winter. The valley can be accessed from Bannockburn, just outside of Cromwell or Garston, near Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

Which ever way you start The Nevis, make sure you allow time for a meal at the legendary Bannockburn pub, the food is fabulous.  . .


Rural round-up

16/03/2022

Concern over freshwater rules implementation – Neal Wallace:

The NZ dairy herd increased 82% between 1990 and 2019, with some of the largest increases in Canterbury and Southland. Neal Wallace investigates the future of dairying in those regions and talks to some innovators who are confident that with the use of technology and management changes, dairying has a future.

The impact of the Government’s new freshwater regulations could invariably end dairying in Southland or result in a 20% decline over 20 years, depending on who you talk to.

Similarly, there are forecasts the number of dairy cows in Canterbury could decline by up to 20% over that period, depending on how regional councils implement National Policy Statement on Freshwater (NPS-FW) limits on the use of synthetic nitrogen and controls on leaching.

New regulations limiting nitrogen use will require changes, worrying farmers, especially in Canterbury and Southland, where dairy expansion has made nutrient loss to waterways an issue. . . .

Telling our carbon footprint story :

AgResearch’s world-class Life Cycle Assessment team provides an evidence base to help maintain NZ’s export market edge.

As New Zealand seeks to maintain its position as a leading food producer to the world, measuring and reporting the environmental impact of its products has never been more critical.

This is where AgResearch’s world-class Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) team plays a pivotal role: by delivering research to prove the efficiency and sustainability of food production in New Zealand, and how it stacks up against the rest of the world.

“I use the analogy of writing a story,” explains AgResearch scientist and LCA team member, Dr Andre Mazzetto. . .

Let the good times roll! – Rural News:

Last week New Zealand dairy farmers woke up to fantastic news on two consecutive days.

The first was the early morning signing of a free trade deal between New Zealand and the United Kingdom in London.

The second was the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) price index rising for the fifth straight time; more importantly whole milk powder and skim milk powder, used by processors to set the milk price, posted solid gains.

The two doses of good news come as farmers grapple with issues including rising costs, a pandemic and a looming levy/tax on greenhouse gas emissions. . . 

Chasing a perfect shearing day – Gerald Piddock:

An award-winning shearing couple, who spent their careers chasing the perfect shearing day, say there’s no greater feeling than finding your rhythm and getting into the ‘zone’, because that’s when the tallies start to happen. They spoke to Gerald Piddock.

Being a top shearer means chasing perfection.

It’s about having a perfect day in the shearing shed where the wool flows off the sheep from the shearer’s blade.

Chasing that perfection has elevated Emily and Sam Welch to be regarded among the best in the industry. For Emily, it has seen her become a world record holder and industry role model for female shearers. . . .

New Zealand’s borders open for kiwifruit workers :

Ever fancied being paid to work outdoors amongst New Zealand’s beautiful landscape with the nation’s iconic fruit?

New Zealand’s borders have just opened to backpackers again and the country’s kiwifruit industry is crying out for help to pick and pack it’s small, fuzzy fruit.

If you’ve ever wanted to visit New Zealand, Working Holiday Visas are available from today and the kiwifruit industry has lots of jobs up for grabs.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) are leading the call for people to visit their beautiful country. “I strongly encourage everyone to roll up their sleeves and join the team”, says NZKGI CEO Colin Bond. “Picking is a great opportunity for those who like to be in the outdoors, while the packhouse is suited to those who like to have fun in larger teams indoors”. . . 

Farm housing in short supply – Shan Goodwin:

DONGAS and relocatable homes in strong demand on farms are now in very short supply on the back of the same shortages of building materials and labour that has wreaked havoc in the construction business.

Waits on new relocatable homes have pushed out to 18 months, prices of second-hand dongas have tripled and some manufacturers have even shut up shop until supplies come back on line.

Ironically, the supply challenges have coincided with ramped up demand for both farmhouse replacements and additional dwellings on agriculture properties on the back of strong commodity prices.

David Rowe, from Victoria’s Bond Homes, which has been building relocatable homes at Ballarat for more than three decades and has strong custom in replacing old farmhouses and installing new dwellings for farm workers, says pandemic material supply issues are now being amplified by the Ukraine war. . .


Farmer confidence at low ebb

10/03/2022

Farmer confidence in Federated Farmers’ January survey was the at the lowest ebb since the biannual surveys began in 2009:

. . . Of responses from nearly 1000 farmers from around the country, a net 7.8 percent considered current economic conditions to be good, a 10.1 point decline from the July 2021 Federated Farmers Farm Confidence Survey, when 17.9 percent considered conditions to be good.

Looking forward, a net 64 percent of farmers believed general economic conditions would worsen over the next 12 months, a 25-point deterioration from the 39 percent in the July survey. Sentiment about general economic conditions is at the lowest level since the Feds surveys began in July 2009, surpassing the previous low in July 2020

“The results are even more disturbing when you consider farmers were answering the survey before the surge of Omicron cases in New Zealand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both of which will weigh on economic growth,” Feds President and economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said. 

The Russian invasion will hit food production and that will boost prices but it will also hit the supply of fuel and fertiliser, the prices of which have already had steep price rises in the last few months.

While a net 61.1% of farmers reported making a profit, a 5.5-point increase on July 2021, a net 11.2% expected their profitability would decline in the year ahead, 16 points down on six months earlier when a net 4.4% expected profitability would improve.

“We’re getting strong returns on meat and dairy right now thanks to high global demand and food security concerns but clearly farmers are seeing a lot of that revenue going right back out again with higher fuel and fertilizer prices, rising labour costs, and the hot inflation that is affecting every other New Zealander,” Andrew said.

The survey showed a net 52.7 percent of respondents expected their spending to increase over the next 12 months (up from 32.6% six months ago) “but this will be due to higher expected input costs rather than farmers feeling confident to spend and invest”.

That is spending for business as usual, not for anything that will improve production, nor for environmental improvement and enhancement.

A net 1.8% of respondents expected their production to increase over the year ahead, a 13.4-point drop from July 2021 when a net 15.3% expected it to increase.

“This finding is another substantial drop and it was before February’s heavy and unseasonable rain, which caused a lot of damage and loss for many arable farmers,” Andrew said.

Some traditionally summer dry areas have already had close to their annual average rainfall.

Last year’s survey pinpointed the sector’s struggle to fill workforce gaps as a huge issue, with nearly half of respondents stating it was harder to recruit skilled and motivated staff. January’s result shows negligible improvement, with just a 0.2-point decrease on that finding.

Unemployment is down to the unemployable, even though the number of people on JobSeeker benefits has been increasing.

Farmers struggle to employ locals and closed borders have kept out experienced farm workers, shearers and back packers who usually fill jobs on farms and orchards.

“We should all be pleased unemployment levels are so low in New Zealand given assaults on our economy from all sides, but this dire farm recruitment situation underlines why Federated Farmers continues to advocate to government for additional workers – especially in dairy – to cross our borders.”

Asked to list their greatest concerns, those farmers who completed the January survey chose climate change policy and ETS (18.7% of respondents), followed by regulation and compliance costs (13.1%), and freshwater policy (9.5%). This result is unchanged from the July 2021 survey.

There is a very real fear that the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production will be ignored.

Farmers are also concerned that the anti-farmer, and anti-dairy in particular, lobby will lead to policies that are political and bureaucratic rather than scientific.

“I suspect the global economy will be right up there if the survey were done right now,” Andrew said.

The three highest priorities respondent farmers wanted the Government to address were the economy and business environment (15.0%), fiscal policy (12.1%) and regulation and compliance costs (11.7%). This compares to the July 2021 survey when the top three priorities were regulation and compliance costs (14.0%), economy and business environment (13.1%), and supporting agriculture and exporters (10.4%).

When prices for most primary produce are at least good, and for milk, the highest ever, the outlook for farming ought to be bright.

But global supply chain uncertainties, inflation, and the threat of climate change policies are compounded by Covid-19 in undermining confidence.


Rural round-up

07/03/2022

Growers wary of Russia-Ukraine conflict – Annette Scott:

Cropping farmers are wrapping up one of the worst harvests they’ve seen.

Coupled with the threat of the long-term implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, things can’t get much worse, United Wheatgrowers chair and Mid Canterbury cropping farmer Brian Leadley said.  

“It’s got beyond urgent for many crops, the damage is done now, particularly for cereals and cut grasses,” Leadley said.

“The weather hasn’t played its part right back from flowering time in December, covid has created logistics issues and now we have the added confusion of the Russia-Ukraine war – both that are large and strong grain growing nations. . . 

Nervous final push ahead for Marlborough wine vintage – Morgane Solignac:

This year’s Marlborough wine vintage is shaping up to be a good one, but pressure is high as the industry navigates Covid, a labour crunch and Mother Nature.

Marlborough contractor Alapa Vineyard Services owner Alan Wilkinson usually employs 250 seasonal workers, but he is 60 per cent down this year with only 100 staff.

“We were supposed to get 22 Samoan workers last November, but they only just arrived last week,” he said.

“Last year we had 70 Thai workers but 20 of them have returned home over the last four months for various reasons. . . 

Diversity for sustainability – Hugh Stringleman:

Concern for the soil structure after summer maize cropping with conventional tillage has led Northland dairy farmers Adam and Laura Cullen to introduce multi-species cover crops over the prior winter and use direct drilling where possible. They are only beginning to see the benefits of this regenerative approach, they told Hugh Stringleman.

Adam Cullen, of Ararua in the Kaipara District, has rediscovered his enthusiasm for agriculture and applies his curiosity to finding new ways of dairying better, says his wife Laura.

The change of mindset prioritises improving the environment and the farm resources rather than constantly driving for production.

But the Cullens are not following a formula or prescription, rather being adaptive to their circumstances and farming conditions. . . 

 

Art for farming’s sake – Peter Burke:

A warning from his wife not to hang around the house and get under her feet when he retires has prompted a Feilding-based farmer to launch himself into a new and successful career – as an artist, painting rural scenes.

Seventy-three year-old Graham Christensen was brought up on a farm and as a youngster helped with shearing and the like before eventually doing a degree at Lincoln University.

His first job was with the old MAF where he managed the sheep breeding programme on Mana Island, near Wellington. . .

2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards open for entries :

The search has begun to find Aotearoa New Zealand’s most exceptional primary sector employers.

Entries have opened for the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards, which are run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT).

“The Awards provide the opportunity to recognise and celebrate outstanding employers across the primary sector that may otherwise fly under the radar,” said MPI’s director of investment, skills and performance Cheyne Gillooly.

“The sector has been resilient throughout the pandemic and the hard mahi of farmers, growers and processors is leading our export-led recovery from COVID-19. . . 

Death by red meat is unsubstantiated – Frank Frank Mitloehner:

One might expect that a major breakthrough delivered by a well-respected organization – especially when the breakthrough seriously overrides a conclusion drawn merely two years earlier – to be backed by cold, hard facts. And yet, they are woefully absent from a Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) that calls unprocessed red meat an unconditional health risk.

The 2019 report points to a 36-fold higher estimate of deaths attributable to unprocessed red meat consumption than what is outlined in GBD’s 2017 study. In other words, any amount of red meat intake can lead to serious health complications, particularly cancer. The claim is made all the more shocking by the fact that GBD’s previous report assigns relatively low death risk to animal-sourced foods.

Prof. Alice V. Stanton, a world-renowned physician who specializes in the study of pharmacy and biomedical sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, is cautioning us not to buy in. After a period of intense work with a team of researchers, that included Stanton, Frédéric Leroy, Christopher Elliott, Neil Mann, Patrick Wall and Stefaan De Smet, their take on GBD’s no-red-meat-ever cry was published in the well-regarded Lancet Feb. 25. The GBD study fails to clarify how it came to its conclusions, Stanton says. 

The GBD report isn’t the only time meat has been castigated. A 2015 study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tried its best to link meat with certain types of cancer, namely colorectal cancer. The organization eventually released the full scientific basis of its finding, confirming just how weak the evidence linking meat and colorectal cancer is. Amidst confusion, the World Health Organization (WHO) – the parent organization of IARC – came forward to deflate IARC’s claim and reassure the public that meat should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet. . . 


Rural round-up

04/03/2022

Farmers short changed by Labour yet again :

Labour needs to explain why it is severely restricting the number of dairy farm workers allowed into the country for no apparent reason, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford and Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger say.

“Last year the dairy sector requested border exceptions for 1500 international dairy workers that were urgently needed for this year’s calving season,” Ms Stanford says.

“But the Government only granted 300, meaning this crucial sector will be short staffed and overworked for yet another season.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, but farmers have had enough of the constant roadblocks from this Labour Government – this time in the refusal to grant border exceptions for urgently-needed workers.” . .

NZ-UK FTA ‘significant boost’ for farmers – Sally Rae:

The signing of a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the United Kingdom represents a “significant boost” for New Zealand farmers and exporters, the Meat Industry Association says.

Lamb and beef would eventually be allowed quota- and tariff-free access for the first time in decades, it said.

Under the FTA, New Zealand’s beef and sheepmeat exports to the UK would be fully liberalised over time, with no duties from the 16th year after the deal came into force following ratification by both countries.

During this time, beef and sheepmeat would be subject to duty-free transitional quotas, the quota for New Zealand beef rising in annual instalments from a starting point of 12,000 tonnes until it reaches 60,000 metric tonnes in year 15, after which it would be duty- and tariff-free. . . 

Businesses concerned over Gisborne’s kiwifruit ‘rates grab’ – Nikki Mandow:

The district councils attempt to treat kiwifruit licences as rateable land improvements will have wide-reaching affects on other businesses.

Kiwifruit grower Tim Tietjen didn’t know the Gisborne District Council would be doubling the rates bill for his property until he read about it in the local paper.

In a radical shift from previous rating policy, the council had decided licences for the SunGold or G3 variety of gold kiwifruit – licences Tietjen and his fellow growers buy from kiwifruit marketer Zespri – would now be counted as land improvements and billed accordingly.

Instead of his property having a rated value of $2.8 million, it was now calculated at $4.1 million. . . 

Build a resilient farm business with bloody good tips from DWN and DairyNZ :

Dairy Women’s Network are helping current and future farm owners and teams to future-proof their businesses with a webinar series on How to Build a Bloody Good Business, funded by DairyNZ.

Run between the 7th and the 10th of March, the online webinar series will look at the qualities of a resilient business and strategies that can be implemented to protect your current or future business from the unknown; how to increase the resilience of your team when considering the current talent shortage; and the role that different systems and technology can play in building a healthy and successful business.

Speakers from ASB, Xero, Figured and McIntyre Dick and Partners (part of NZ CA Group Limited) will discuss and answer questions on how great financial business systems will help your business thrive, led by people and strategy specialist Lee Astridge from No8HR. . .

NZ wine industry welcomes UK free trade agreement :

New Zealand Winegrowers is pleased with today’s announcement that New Zealand has signed a historic free trade deal with the United Kingdom.

“The agreement is very positive for the New Zealand wine industry. This will help remove technical barriers to trade, and minimise burdens from certification and labelling requirements. It will also support future growth in the market, and encourage exporters to focus on the UK,” says Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 

Carbon neutral sheep and beef farm on the market for sale for the first time in 100 years:

A substantial highly developed sheep and beef breeding and finishing farm which has been continuously owned by members of the founder’s family for the past 100-years has been placed on the market for sale.

The 1,038-hectare property known as Te Maire at Flemington just south of Waipukurau in Southern Hawke’s Bay was established in 1920 by S.A. Robinson Senior who purchased 203-hectares following the splitting up of Tourere Station.

Over the ensuing decades, Robinson’s sons, and their sons, added to the property – buying neighbouring blocks with their associated infrastructure, and expanding Te Maire to its current size which is subdivided into some 222 paddocks.

Generations of the Robinson family have taken an environmental approach to Te Maire’s expansion – always conscious of balancing ecological aspects with improving productivity. . . 


Rural round-up

03/03/2022

IPCC report condemns forestry use planned by NZ – Dame Anne Salmond:

If ever there was doubt NZ had gone up a blind climate alley by moving towards large plantings of pine trees, the latest international scientists’ report has firmly laid that to rest, writes Dame Anne Salmond.

It is now beyond doubt that New Zealand’s primary strategy for tackling climate change – offsetting through the Emissions Trading Scheme, with the financial incentives it gives to the large-scale planting of monocultures of exotic pine trees – runs in the opposite direction to international scientific advice.

In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR6) report, for instance, released yesterday, the practice of “planting large scale non-native monocultures, which would lead to loss of biodiversity and poor climate change resilience” was placed among the ‘Worst Practices and Negative Adaptation Trade-offs’ for temperate forests.

By way of contrast, to  “maintain or restore natural species and structural diversity, leading to more diverse and resilient systems” was placed among the ‘Best Practices and Adaptation Benefits’, with very high impacts. . . 

NZ’s economic outlook is given a lift as dairy prices rise again – Point of Order:

Dairy prices have  hit  a  new  peak at  Fonterra’s Global Dairy Trade  auction.  The GDT index shot up 5.1% to an average price of US$5,065 (NZ$7,509). Whole milk powder rose 5.7% to US$4,757 a tonne while cheddar rocketed up 10.9% to $6,394.

Butter prices gained 5.9% to an average US$7086/tonne, anhydrous milk fat 2.1% to US$7048/tonne and butter milk powder firmed 5.8% to US$4217/tonne. Skim milk  powder was  up 4.7% to US$4481/ tonne.

“This train isn’t slowing down,” said NZX dairy insights manager Stuart Davison.

Other  business-sector commentators  see  the  boom in the dairy  sector   injecting  new  strength into  the  economy at a  time  when it is badly  needed, with  other sectors  like international tourism  and  hospitality hard hit  by the Covid pandemic.

Bidding at  the  auction was  fierce, driven by the  tight supply   position,  as well  as  Russia’s war  on Ukraine. . . 

Good news to wake up to for farmers and growers :

The early morning signing of a free trade deal between the United Kingdom and New Zealand means farmers and growers can wake up with a smile this morning.

Federated Farmers national president and trade spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says with the world the way it is right now, this trade deal gives us reason to be reassured good things do still happen.

“With everything going on in Europe, in the hospitals and health centres, and even on the steps of our own Parliament, it’s reassuring to see this deal signed and sealed,” he says.

The free trade deal will result in the full liberalisation of all trade between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. . .

More international dairy farm workers available soon :

Federated Farmers is pleased to see more international dairy farm workers will be able to cross the border for the 2022 dairy season.

“Farms are short thousands of staff and with continued low domestic unemployment, workers from overseas are the only option to plug the gaps in many parts of New Zealand,” Federated Farmers National Board member and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Many dairy farms are desperate to get teams back up to strength prior to calving and today’s announcement will provide a measure of relief.”

The industry, farmers and the government have done all they can to attract and retain Kiwi workers in the industry, but the need for international labour remains. . . 

Cauliflower selling for nearly $15  :

Bad weather affecting crops has led to a shortage of cauliflower causing a spike in prices.

Some consumers have taken to social media expressing outrage at seeing cauliflower for nearly $15.

United Fresh president Jerry Prendergas said heavy rain in November saturated crops and affected new plantings. . . 

Clever Canterbury sheep smashing stereotypes by smashing smarts :

A sheep in suburban Christchurch is doing its bit to show just how smart a sheep can be.

Lucky, who is six years old, and originally from a farm in Burke’s Pass in South Canterbury, knows a few tricks.

In fact, he knows so many tricks that his owner Caroline Thomson needs a list to keep track of them all.

“He does sit, bow, turn, back, shake, stay, jump, pose, pose is his favourite, through, so that’s when he’ll go under something, wait, go to bed. Now go-to-bed he learnt by getting feijoas, feijoa is his most favourite food. If you give him a feijoa it’s instant,” Thomson said. . . 

Brazil’s beef industry starts to tackle methane emissions – Michael Pooler and Carolina Ingizza:

New farming practices could help the country achieve one of its COP26 promises.

On his ranch in the state of Mato Grosso, deep in Brazil’s agricultural belt, Raul Almeida Moraes Neto has spent the past six years breaking new ground in cattle farming. In the name of sustainable husbandry, the trained agronomist has been undertaking a series of measures to lessen his environmental impact. A small portion of his property near the municipality of Torixoréu has been dedicated to “intensification”, with 15 animals per hectare, instead of fewer than one. Slaughter takes place at 18 months, rather than at 30. Breeding happens at a younger age, too. “It takes less time to produce the same amount of meat, but it emits less methane,” explains the 52-year-old, who has been in the business since 2000.

In the name of sustainable husbandry, the trained agronomist has been undertaking a series of measures to lessen his environmental impact. . .


Govt needs better customer service

11/02/2022

How frustrating is this?

A group of New Zealand-trained nurses – some working with Covid-19 patients – are considering leaving the country because they can’t get a visa to live here.

That’s despite a nursing shortage so big it’s at crisis levels.

The government offered one-off residency visas to registered nurses from overseas but migrant nurses who were newly-trained in the New Zealand system did not qualify.

One nurse, who sometimes cared for Covid-19 patients, said it was frustrating.

“We are critical health workers – we are dealing with Covid patients every day,” she said.

She finished her Bachelor of Nursing last year and was seeing the nursing shortages first hand in her work.

“Last night was full crazy … running over my own feet. Every day we are very short of nurses. They do need nurses everywhere,” she said.

She was granted a three-year working visa, which meant she had no certainty about her future here, could not buy a home and did not have full access to state health care.

Tauranga nurse Parminder was in the same boat

She was orginally from India had worked in aged care in New Zealand for nine years, finishing her studies last year to become a fully registered nurse.

She loved working with elderly patients who had become like family – and she wanted to stay.

But it was difficult without certainty, she said. . . 

These are two of many critical workers in areas short of staff who can’t get residency.

A private business facing this problem would do everything in its power to retain its workers. Why isn’t the government?

If they were overseas these nurses could apply for residency. It is only bureaucratic and political intransigence and ignorance that is preventing a minor change in policy to allow qualified, experienced and much-needed workers doing essential work to apply when they’re already here.

Waka Kotahi is another government agency that needs to think like a private business:

Northland has become New Zealand’s first region-wide location for potentially cutting highway speed limits to 80km/h because of its roading management challenges.

That is according to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Road to Zero portfolio manager Tara MacMillan. . . 

She said the rural nature of its state highways, long skinny shape and needing to address a number of pending issues contributed to the decision to make it New Zealand’s first region-wide approach to reducing speed limits to 80km/h.

The outcome of this regional approach would potentially inform using the same option in other parts of the country, MacMillan said. . . 

This has already happened on parts of the Lewis Pass, the whole stretch of the road from Nelson to south of Blenheim and is planned for the Napier-Taupo road.

A private business that needed to address pending issues would address those issues, it wouldn’t institute major policy changes that would frustrate users of its products or services.

Nor would it even think about doing something that would add time and costs to the people it’s supposed to be serving.

Blanket 80kp/h limits will make travel slower and almost certainly increase the number of people getting ticketed for speeding. They could also add to the number of trucks on the roads because deliveries will be slower.

They won’t necessarily make the roads safer if, as is inevitable, it increases driver frustration which in turn leads to more risky driving.

The price of fuel is going up, increasing the amount of tax the government gets from that.

If the government directed more of that tax to improving roads instead of wasting it on boondoggles like the bike bridge to nowhere, travel would be safer without the need for the blanket imposition of lower speed limits.

The government and its agencies need to take lessons in customer service from businesses that understand, and care about, their customers.


Rural round-up

09/02/2022

Staffing shortages cause processing delays – Neal Wallace:

Farmers already facing up to six weeks delay getting stock killed are being warned to prepare for a longer than usual season as the meat industry continues to struggle with staffing shortages.

Silver Fern Farms has warned suppliers that for the season to date the ovine kill is 8% behind the same stage last year and bovine by 3%.

“Early indications show that for most stock classes it will not be until July before we will catch up with current backlogs,” chief executive Simon Limmer told suppliers in the newsletter.

Just how late will depend on any impact of Omicron. . . 

Robots offer a tireless staffing option – Richard Rennie:

The prospect of autonomous robotic tractors has long been a lure for growers and farmers, often pushed beyond the bounds of reality by cost and existing technology. But a Blenheim company has been quietly building a fleet of automated machines that are proving their worth with one of the region’s largest winegrowers. Richard Rennie reports.

For any innovative agritech company, New Zealand’s small market size demands founders have an eye out from the start on their tech’s applicability in larger global markets. For the founders of the Oxin automated viticulture tractor, Marlborough has proven an appealing place to start, prior to making that international leap.

“We have been fortunate to have an excellent industry partner right from the start in Pernod, one of the largest grape growers in the region, but also one that has very strong international connections,” Smart Machine director Andrew Kersley said.

Blenheim’s unique concentration of 35,000ha of vineyards, grown primarily by only a few large industry players, makes the company’s ability to showcase the technology, and get it dispersed, a simpler task.  . . 

Stud owners ready for a new chapter – Sally Rae:

For more than a century, the Punchbowl name has been synonymous with stud sheep breeding in North Otago.

But a new chapter is looming for its current owners, Doug and Jeannie Brown, who are holding ewe dispersal sales in Oamaru this month.

It was Mr Brown’s grandfather Henry (HJ) Andrew — a legendary figure in the stud sheep industry — who came to Punchbowl, near Maheno, in 1915 after graduating from Lincoln College.

Originally from the Leeston area, he shifted south with his parents and began breeding Southdowns. Over time, his Southdown stud became very prominent at a time when Southdowns were the main terminal sire breed in New Zealand. He exported sheep to many parts of the world and also imported sires. . . 

Seeds of traceability in digital move – Tim Cronshaw:

Arable growers will enter the digital world for their seed certification this month.

All the paperwork will be replaced by online entries in a $2million industry and government investment, which industry chiefs have called a watershed moment.

About $400million of certified seed crops — including brassicas, herbage grasses and legumes — will be checked throughout their growing cycle for quality control and consistency by about 800 growers, seed merchants and Assure Quality inspectors.

New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association manager Thomas Chin said the app-based system would provide traceability so quality assurances could be given to overseas markets that export seed shipments leaving the country were ‘‘true-to-label’’. . . 

Potato milk hits UK supermarket shelves :

Described as “deliciously creamy” and the “perfect foam” for your cuppa, potato milk is the latest contender to the plant milk market.

Milk developer at Lund University professor Eva Tornberg said she was working with a potato starch company in Sweden when she came up with the idea.

The amino acid composition of potato protein is much like milk and egg, she said.

“I thought perhaps it would be good to use potato protein to make a milk.” . . 

Farmer who flipped car cleared of criminal damage because ‘Englishman’s home is his castle’ – Martin Evans:

A farmer who wrecked a car parked on his land with a tractor has been cleared of criminal damage after he successfully used the 400-year-old legal principle that “an Englishman’s home is his castle”.

Robert Hooper, 57, became an internet sensation in June last year, when a video of him using the spikes on his telehandler to flip a £16,000 Vauxhall Corsa went viral on social media.

The hill farmer from Upper Teesdale said he had been forced to take action after he came under attack from a “strutting and agitated” shirtless youth, who had refused to move the car from his land.

Mr Hooper said he did not call police because he had been burgled eight times and found they were often slow to respond. . . 


Rural round-up

28/01/2022

Farmers want to be critical workers as part of Omicron response

Farmers are warning of huge pressures on food supply if they’re not considered part of the critical workforce.

The government has laid out its three-phase plan to tackle Omicron, which would allow critical workers who are close contacts of a case to return to work after a negative rapid antigen test.

But they haven’t defined exactly which workers it covers yet.

Federated Farmers National President Andrew Hoggard told Checkpoint that farmers and other workers in the industry definitely met the criteria of being critical due to looking after animals and producing food. . . 

Farmers prepare as closed borders disrupt harvest amid Omicron outbreak – Samantha Gee:

With harvest season set to kick off for the horticulture sector in the top of the South Island, orchardists, growers and hop farmers are faced with staff shortages due to closed borders.

It is estimated the region needs 1500 more staff across a number of industries: hops, apples, pears, kiwifruit and pipfruit to name a few.

Valima Orchard business manager Matthew Hoddy, who grows apples near Nelson, said more than half of his 220 employees during harvest were made up of Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers and those on working holiday visas.

But February 2020 was the last time that car loads of travellers showed up at the orchard, looking for seasonal work picking apples. . . 

‘Razor’ shares rugby secrets with farmers :

Make sure you have someone to talk to when life gets tough.

That was the key message from Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and some rural mental health advocates at a packed gathering of the Ellesmere farming community recently.

Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc (ESAI), with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries, invited its members and community to listen to four speakers sharing their experiences around leadership, stress, anxiety and depression and the strategies to cope with the pressures life creates in rural communities.

A capacity crowd of nearly 100 farmers, their families and their neighbours were captivated by Robertson sharing some of the secrets of the culture that created the Crusaders dynasty, including their methods to handle setbacks and stress, which according to Robertson apply to both the rugby field as well as the farm. . . 

Quinedale Farm & Stud – a family affair

Taupiri dairy farmer Balraj Singh jokes that when he married his wife Hardeep, he ‘converted’ her.

He’s not talking about sports teams or coffee brands, but cattle breeds.

“I’ve been milking cows since I was 14-years-old, and I was brought up with Holstein Friesians,” he says.

“Before we got married, Hardeep had a small herd of 75 pedigree Jersey cows, but I convinced her to start milking Holstein Friesians. . . 

New lending rules could benefit sector – Nigel Stirling:

New lending rules wreaking havoc on residential borrowers have not had any noticeable impact on farm lending and could even spur the banks to look favourably again at the sector after a lean couple of years.

Since the start of December, banks have been applying extra scrutiny to loan applications in response to legislation designed to protect borrowers from saddling themselves with unaffordable levels of debt.

While the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act had seemingly been motivated by a desire to crack down on loan sharks, it has ended up capturing a far larger share of the market than ever intended.

Bankers are being extra cautious under pains of fines of up to $200,000 if they are found to have failed to follow the letter of the new law when assessing loan applications. . . 

Upland farmers face ‘income crisis’ in transition to new  schemes :

Upland farmers have warned they face an income crisis if significant changes are not made to the UK’s post-Brexit agricultural support system.

In a meeting with Defra, the NFU uplands forum said the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) failed to offer a meaningful return for the costs of managing upland landscapes.

The SFI – the first of the UK’s new environmental land management schemes replacing the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy – will be rolled out this year.

The reform is the most significant change to UK farming and land management in over five decades. . .


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.


%d bloggers like this: