Quote of the day

May 12, 2015

New Zealand National Party's photo.

Most people are amazingly determined to do well under their own steam.

All they want the Government to do is created the environment for that . . .

We create the environment which enables jobs to be created. – John Key


$ value of stay at home mother

May 10, 2015

Hat tip: Utopia  from Salary.Com


Rural round-up

April 30, 2015

Dairy industry ‘paper’ flawed

Federated Farmers is disappointed to see Massey University supporting attempts to use academia to tarnish the dairy industry by pretending a student’s academic hypothesis is established fact.

“The paper is being discredited by the authors’ academic peers as being sloppy,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy Chair.

“Unfortunately Joy, Death and Foote’s conclusions are drawn off assumptions, which are out in the world now and we have to rely on the intellect of its readers to see through its many untruths.”

“We support the authors’ desire to have ‘accurate reporting of real costs’ but the student’s thesis only looks at the negative externalities under very poor and inaccurate assumptions of the dairy industry while ignoring the positives. Therefore it could not possibly arrive at an accurate conclusion.” . .

 Downward revision for Westland Milk Products’ pay-out to shareholders:

The decline in international prices for milk has resulted in Westland Milk Products, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative, revising its predicted pay-out for the 2014-15 season.

Westland’s board has advised shareholders that the predicted pay-out is now $4.90 – $5.10 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS) before retentions. This is down from the previously announced range of $5 to $5.40 per kgMS.

Chief Executive Rod Quin says prices were such that a $5.20 pay-out seemed possible before the recent auctions, as buyers looked to New Zealand to secure supply ahead of the dry conditions during January and February. . .

 

Rates a balancing act of who’s going to foot the bill – Chris Lewis:

Rates are being set across the country as local government prepare their Long Term Plans (LTP) for the next three years.

These plans set out the council’s long term focus, describe the activities it intends on providing and specifies which community outcomes are to be achieved. More importantly, from the rate payer’s perspective, who is going to foot the bill for these activities?

Across the country Federated Farmers staff and elected members are busy squirrelling away on council’s plans. One of the things members don’t fully understand is where our membership money is spent. It has taken me a while to get my head around all the different activities the Federation covers and the effort that geos in to keeping 85 councils around New Zealand honest and fair for rural communities. . .

Ministers welcome scientific progress in cutting agricultural greenhouse gases:

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have welcomed news of a breakthrough by New Zealand researchers which offers the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and cattle by 30 to 90 percent without cutting production.

This breakthrough in methane inhibitors was made by researchers working through the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

“Livestock methane is New Zealand’s single largest greenhouse gas emissions source, making up 35 percent of our total emissions in 2013,” says Mr Groser. . .

Tight times force farmers to adopt new tactics – Tony Field:

Dairy New Zealand is warning farmers to prepare for tough times next season as well as this one.

It says the average farmer needs $5.40 in income per kilogram of milk solids just to cover farm working expenses and interest and rent this season. Fonterra is forecasting a payout of $4.70 per kilogram of milk solids this season.

Industry body DairyNZ says “bank balances for most dairy farmers will be heading south this winter and spring, producing some short-term but significant cashflow management challenges for farmers”. . .

Secret recipe through the seasons:

There’s a lot to be said for a fertiliser which does double duty, giving an instant boost of nitrogen to promote autumn growth, followed by the slower release of sulphur.

That’s the verdict of King Country sheep and beef farmers, George and Sue Morris who followed advice from their Ballance Agri-Nutrients representative to give PhaSedN a try.

The product is a granulated combination of SustaiN, elemental sulphur and lime. While the nitrogen offers an immediate boost to pasture, the elemental sulphur delivers a long-term supply of sulphur. It is an ideal combination where there is a high sulphur need such as sandy, peat and pumice soils or if there is high rainfall or a high risk of sulphur leaching. . .

 

 

Snapshots of US agriculture – Conversable Economist:

An extraordinary shift happened in the US agricultural sector during the last century or so. Robert A. Hoppe lays out the facts in his report “Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report,
2014 Edition,” written as Economic Information Bulletin Number 132, December 2014, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Indeed, when I hear arguments about how difficult (impossible?) it will be for the US workforce to adjust to the coming waves of technology, my thought quickly jump to the shift in agriculture.

For example, back around 1910, about one-third of all US workers were in agriculture (blue line, measured on the right-hand scale).  It’s now about 2%. The absolute number of jobs in agriculture declined, too, but the big change was that more than 100% of the job growth in the U.S. was in the non-agricultural sector. I haven’t researched the point, but my guess is that many people around 1910 would have viewed these changes as somewhere between  impossible and inconceivable.  . .  Hat tip: Utopia


Rural round-up

April 21, 2015

Sturgess.”I’ll help” – Neal Wallace:

Tom Sturgess, one of New Zealand’s richest men and largest farmers, is willing to be involved in making the red meat industry more profitable.

A career that includes running several diverse multi-billion-dollar companies including United States meat packing houses has given Sturgess some clear thoughts and ideas on how to revitalise the meat industry, even though some of those solutions could be considered unconventional.

Sturgess volunteered his help in an FWplus interview, saying he would happily be involved to find ways to improve sector profitability if he was wanted. . .

Shear warmth: former hairdresser’s dream become reality :From being a city hairdresser in New Plymouth making small talk with clients to living in the remote central North Island where the closest neighbour is eight kilometres down a winding, gravel road, Monique Neeson has been through a few changes.

You can also add to that the launch of a company selling woollen blankets that are, as she describes them, born, grown, woven and handmade in New Zealand.

Neeson laughs at her transformation.

“I can remember the first time I came to this farm, winding down the road for absolutely ages, and I told Tim, [now her husband], I’d never negotiate the road again.” . .

Don’t fight system farmers told – Alan Williams:

Farming within water quality limits is now a reality that all farmers will need to adapt to, Canterbury farmers have been told.

The process of setting quality limits and the farming changes required to meet them would be challenging and take time for everyone to get there, Environment Canterbury (ECAN) commissioner David Bedford told the Future of the Heartland farm forum at Conway Flats in North Canterbury today.

Some nutrient management tools had limitations and were still being developed and ECAN compliance activities would take that into account, he said in a speech on behalf of head commissioner Dame Margaret Bazley. . .

Farmers’ bank balances under severe pressure:

Industry body DairyNZ says bank balances for most dairy farmers will be heading south this winter and spring, producing some short-term but significant cashflow management challenges for farmers.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says 2015-16 will still probably end up being a breakeven year for most farmers but cashflow will be a major issue that could result in some increased term debt in the sector and less spending in the regions.

“Farmers are used to having seasonal cashflow that drops into the red but then pops back into the black at some stage during the summer period. However, our current forecasts indicate that many farmers won’t be in credit for the entire 12 months of next season unless costs are reduced, income is higher than predicted or some of their overdraft is put into their term debt.” . . .

24 ways to to survive next drought – Nadene Hall:

Ask a group of farmers with over 500 years’ experience between them how to manage a property before, during and after a drought, and you get a lot of practical tips and wisdom. AgResearch asked 20 South Canterbury farmers about their strategies for successfully managing their properties after a drought.

All the farmers had experienced severe droughts over the previous 20-30 years of farming. What worked best on an individual property depended on things like its climate and soil type, and what was being farmed, but the scientists concluded these are the key areas to look at: . .

Search on for cotton workers – Andrew Marshall:

AUSTRALIA’S rural skills shortage is not just a problem troubling individual farms or regional machinery businesses – the cotton industry fears the profitability of the entire cropping sector is eroding.

The combined impact of new farm technology growth and a shortage of rural recruits with skills ranging from information technology and accounting, to engineering and agronomy, is stressing broadacre agriculture’s efficiency and productivity.

Corporate farms and big agribusinesses are frequently resorting to ‘cherry picking’ the talent they need from other players or other sectors of the industry, even if it means taking agronomists and turning them into bankers.  . .


Rural round-up

April 18, 2015

Criteria “too tough” on migrant workers – Federated Farmers – Tess McClure:

Farmers facing labour shortages say immigration criteria is “too tough” for migrant workers plugging the gap.

High numbers of farmers had approached Federated Farmers Southland with concerns about visas for their migrant worker employees, regional president Russell Macpherson said.

He said many workers were having trouble getting residency visas, despite calls from farmers to help keep their employees in-country.
 
“For some reason the people at immigration don’t think these jobs are important enough to grant them residency,” he said. “They’re doing work that New Zealanders clearly don’t want to do, so why are we making it so hard?”
 
While many migrant workers coming to New Zealand on work visas have high hopes of staying in the country and bringing their families over, less than a third are granted the chance of residency. . .

Shearing community mourns woolhandler:

The shearing community is mourning the loss of New Zealand woolhandling legend, Joanne Kumeroa, who has died after a three year battle with cancer.

The 45-year old had been living in Australia but returned home to Whanganui just before Christmas, and died yesterday.

Ms Kumeroa was regarded in shearing circles as a New Zealand icon, winning more World, Golden Shears and national wool-handling titles than any other competitor in her 24 year career.

Friends said she used her battle with cancer to raise women’s awareness of the disease. . .

Project to future-proof our biosecurity system:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new project which will further strengthen and future-proof New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

The project, Biosecurity 2025, will update and replace the founding document of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, the 2003 Biosecurity Strategy, with broad input from stakeholders, iwi and the New Zealand public.

“Government and industry have set a goal of doubling the value of our exports by 2025, and an effective biosecurity system is fundamental to achieving this,” says Mr Guy. . .

 

Peta’s mutilated lamb campaign sparks backlash (graphic content) – Rosanna Price:

The picture above has been captioned by PETA with: THIS is what most sheep used for wool look like after “shearing”.

But many people, including animal-activists and sheep shearers, disagree.

The image of an Australian musician holding the explicity graphic and mutilated body of a lamb was animal rights group PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’) way of advertising their latest expose on sheep shearing. . .

Outstanding in her field:

Dairy Woman of the Year 2015 Katie Milne hopes to use her new profile for the wider good of New Zealand farming. 

Katie Milne hopes winning the Dairy Woman of the Year title will be a good platform to push messages about farming as “the rest of New Zealand do not understand us well”.

 “They need to understand us better so we can be allowed to grow our industry, and to do that New Zealand has got to back us,” Milne told Rural News. . .

Questions for Fonterra – Andrew Hoggard:

A lot of shareholders were disappointed with the interim results Fonterra announced last week.  Many feel they are not seeing a return on their investment.

I think we might be asking the wrong question.  It shouldn’t be about where’s the return on our investment, but rather where do we see the value of being part of a co-op.

At the moment the milk price we are paid is based on the Global Dairy Trade result.  It is averaged across the season – less manufacturing costs – in a very crude simplistic sense.  The reality is that all the other companies should be achieving this anyway with their products. . .

Field day for Waipā catchment:

An event organised by DairyNZ aims to advise famers and landowners on how best to manage their property in an environmentally sustainable way.

People in the Waipā River catchment are being encouraged attend the Kaniwhaniwha Stream field day, which will offer information on funding sources for environmental initiatives along with other resources.

Hosts Denis and Felicity Ahlers have worked with industry body DairyNZ to develop an environment-focused sustainable milk plan. They have also identified work that can qualify for council and Waikato River Authority funding. . .


Dairy audit results unacceptable – Feds

April 2, 2015

The high level of non-compliance with employment law found by labour inspectors is unacceptable:

Enforcement action is being taken against 19 employers in the dairy industry for breaching employment law following a three month operation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The Ministry’s Labour Inspectorate visited 29 dairy farms in nine regions to check their compliance with employment laws. More than half were targeted due to information about likely non-compliance.

“The level of non-compliance identified during this operation was extremely high and it was disappointing to find that a significant number of farmers still do not have systems in place to keep accurate time and wage records that are compliant with employment legislation,” says Natalie Gardiner, Labour Inspectorate Central Regional Manager.

Mrs Gardiner says MBIE issued 15 Improvement Notices and four Enforceable Undertakings for a total of 71 minimum employment standard breaches. The majority of breaches related to poor record keeping but several farms had significant minimum wage breaches and there is estimated arrears owed – of more than 120,000. Nine of the more serious cases are being considered for filing with the Employment Relations Authority.

Poor record keeping is a breech which doesn’t necessarily impact on employees but paying poorly is exploitation which does.

“The Ministry takes the exploitation of workers very seriously and is working proactively to crackdown on it through compliance operations targeting sectors and at risk workers across New Zealand.

“We are also working with the industry to help equip farmers with the skills and knowledge to be better employers by ensuring they get the basics right.

“We will not hesitate to take action for breaches of employment law. Breaches will be subject to compliance action and potential penalties of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for companies,” says Mrs Gardiner.

The Ministry encourages anyone in this situation, or who knows of anyone in this situation, to call its contact centre on 0800 20 90 20 where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment.

Federated Farmers, rightly, says the breeches aren’t acceptable:

Federated Farmers is disappointed in the findings released today by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment in their compliance operation.

Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy Chair, says “It is not a great look for our industry to have this number of dairy farmers not meeting the minimum employment requirements. This is why Federated Farmers has and will continue to focus on this area.”

“MBIE inspectors targeted some of the farmers who were known to have existing employment compliance concerns, while others were random, so ratios of compliance cannot be generalised to dairy farmers at large.  But this does not take away the stern reminder of where the industry is at or our motivation to achieve the task we have set ourselves to get the whole industry to achieve above minimum standards.”

“We have a significant hurdle ahead of us in terms of attracting the next generation into the industry. To me it is not just about meeting the minimum compliance under the law, but changing perceptions of the dairy industry as a career. This means we need to change the reality on some farms in a number of situations.”

Hoggard says lifting employment standards is a high priority for the Federation which has developed industry standard employment contracts and tools, such as the time and wage records, all at heavily discounted rates for members.

“The support for farmers is out there, Federated Farmers has its 0800 number along with top notch, low cost contracts for members, and DairyNZ has fantastic resources available free to levy payers.”

Federated Farmers has been taking its support on the road holding Employment Compliance Workshops’ that cover what MBIE’s minimum standards are.

“The high farmer turnouts have been encouraging, so we are looking to set up more.”

“Federated Farmers wants to take the industry well above just being compliant. That’s why we’ve been developing a Workplace Accord with DairyNZ and other industry stakeholders.”

“The Accord is about setting goals for the industry to achieve quality work environments through helping farmers implement good people management practices.”

“While there have been some aspects of employment practices that were once considered standard, things have changed and we need to change with them. However the expectation that all staff should have an employment agreement has been around for well over 20 years now so there is no excuse for not having one.”

“Failure here will not only put your business into employment law quicksand, but will cost you in productivity. It was interesting to note that those farmers who were using the IMS, MYOB and I Payroll systems were all fully compliant. So the message also goes out to those firms that provide accountancy solutions to farmers to ensure their products are as modern and easy to use as they can be.“

“Federated Farmers has industry standard contracts and agreements that include comprehensive notes on the minimum wage, holidays act, seasonal averaging, accommodation and the like.  It is also written in plain-English for farmers too. So there are systems that will help farmers stay on the right side of the law.”

“I have seen a lot of progress made, but we have a long way to go yet. Dairy farmers need to take this as a reminder about what is expected of them.

The number found in breech of the law is a small percentage of the total number of dairy farms but no exploitation of workers is acceptable.

There is no  justification for paying below the legal minimum and most work on dairy farms should be worth more than that.

Consumers are looking for sustainably produced food which encompasses responsible environmental, economic and social considerations. Being a good employer is an important part of any social standards.

 

 


Could WINZ have done more?

March 3, 2015

WorkSafe NZ is prosecuting the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) over the shooting of two WINZ staff in its Ashburton office.

The mother of a woman killed in Ashburton’s Work and Income shooting is disappointed her daughter’s employer has been charged over the incident, saying “nobody could foresee what was going to happen that day”.

WorkSafe NZ today laid a charge against the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) after the shooting on September 1 last year.

Russell John Tully, 48, was charged with the murders of Peg Noble and Susan Leigh Cleveland, and seriously wounding Lindy Curtis, at their Cass St office.

Another staff member, Kim Adams, was shot at as she ran out the back door.

WorkSafe NZ alleges the MSD failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work.

The charge, under section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, was laid in the Wellington District Court.

Cleveland’s mother, Kath Cleveland, said she was disappointed WorkSafe felt a charge was warranted as the shooting could not have been predicted. . .

“The only thing I can say is these WorkSafe people might see something in it that us everyday people don’t see. I don’t know if it is going to help or not,” she said.

Cleveland said her daughter never complained about feeling unsafe at work. . .

The court case will have to make the reason for the prosecution clear.

However, without any knowledge of what has motivated WorkSafe’s decision to prosecute and on the facts made public so far I am unpleasantly surprised by this decision which  will be concerning to all employers.

I have vague memories of a freezing company being prosecuted when an employee was injured as a result of a fight in its car park.

I can’t recall the details but do remember at the time wondering how it could have been the employers’ fault and that was my immediate reaction to the news of this prosecution.

Could WINZ have done more to protect its staff? That is now up to the court to determine.


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