Rural round-up

April 11, 2019

Dairy loses gloss – Neal Wallace:

Political and banking uncertainty appears to be taking some of the gloss off the dairy industry with just seven farms in Southland and Canterbury selling in the last six months.

From October to the middle of March just two dairy farms in Canterbury and five in Southland were sold but a broader lack of buyer confidence has eased national dairy land prices by up to 15%.

Real Estate Institute spokesman Brian Peacocke says a perfect storm has taken the wind out of the sector’s sails but he notes activity has started to pick up.

Rules governing the sale of land to foreign buyers have been tightened, banks are viewing lending to dairying less favourably, tax changes are possible, the introduction of environmental taxes and regulations are expected and borrowing costs . . .

Dire worker shortage in orchards – Richard Rennie:

Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty orchardists are grappling again with a seasonal labour shortage, with a shortfall of thousands of workers expected as kiwifruit and apple harvests reach their peak.

The shortage has horticultural heads exasperated at the need for greater understanding from the Government of how dire the situation has become.

The Social Development Ministry declared a seasonal labour shortage for kiwifruit early this month and extended the already declared labour shortage hitting Hawke’s Bay. 

Shortfalls in staff numbers have increased over last year’s with Bay of Plenty’s deficit of 1400 likely to push 3800 at the mid-April harvest peak. Last year the region was short by 1200 staff at this stage of harvest.  . . 

Fruit rotting, workers suffering amid Hawke’s Bay labour shortage

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them. . . 

Guy Trafford looks at two current on-farm issues, pointing to some recent relevant history for controlling feral goats, and to the battle of the science over glyphosate – GUy Trafford:

Some farmers are feeling let down by government after the recommendations from the select committee on military-styled weapons have been announced.

The particular piece that they are at odds with is that only .22 calibre rifles (or less) are allowed to be semi-automatic and with a magazine capable of holding 10 shells or less. Any larger calibre rifles are only to be used by licensed contractors.

To be fair to the government, from my recollection, at no point did they indicate that higher calibre semi-automatic rifles would be allowed, and it would have been incredibly naive to think otherwise. The only animals needing these weapons are likely to be goats with possums and rabbits quite able to be culled by .22 or shot guns . . 

Comvita to take full control of China JV – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – Honey company Comvita has entered a conditional agreement to acquire the remaining 49 percent of its China joint venture, Comvita Food and Comvita China, for about $20 million.

Comvita will acquire the JV by issuing 4.05 million new Comvita ordinary shares at $4.35 per share and an additional cash payment of $3.19 million. The acquisition will be earnings accretive immediately on a per share basis, it said.

“This completes the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ with respect to our China Strategy, which we have been working on for a number of years,” chief executive Scott Coulter said. . . 

Students inspired by agricultural science at UWA Future Farm:

Breaking the city-country divide, Year 12 Geography students from Penrhos College recently had their third annual field day at The University of Western Australia’s Ridgefield Farm in Pingelly.

The UWA Ridgefield Farm is home to the Future Farm 2050 project, which facilitates multidisciplinary research and development of sustainable and economically viable farms at local, national and international levels.

Professor Phil Vercoe from The UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture introduced the students to the Enrich project, which was part of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) investigating the benefits of planting native perennial shrubs as livestock feed. . .


Fonterra recognising high performing farms

April 6, 2019

Fonterra has announced details of its new approach to sustainability on farm:

. . .The Co-operative Difference will make it easier for farmers to know what is expected today and in the future, as well as recognise those farmers who are taking steps to produce high quality milk in a more sustainable way.

The farmer-owned Co-operative has signalled its new strategy will put sustainability at the heart of everything it does, empower the Co-op to maximise its New Zealand heritage and uniqueness, and help it to remain a globally competitive New Zealand co-operative.

Co-operative Affairs Managing Director Mike Cronin says, “Sustainability for our Co-op is about more than the environment. It’s about looking after our people, caring for animals, adapting to changing customer and consumer expectations, and respecting the communities and land where we live and work.

“We are proud of the global reputation Fonterra farmers have for producing high quality milk. Farmers have made tremendous progress on farm to date and The Co-operative Difference will help us take that good work to the next level so we can continue to create goodness for generations to come.”

The Co-operative Difference will support the Co-op’s emerging strategy direction by:

• recognising farmers who go beyond the minimum requirements to supply high-quality milk, care for their animals, protect the environment, support their people and community, and engage in their Co-operative;

• helping other farmers follow suit by making existing on-farm requirements easier to understand and by providing tailored, industry-leading support services to those who want to improve;

• providing more information and advance notice to farmers about our future aspirations so they can plan and progress towards our shared ambitions;

• streamlining reporting and auditing to save farmers’ time and energy, and help the Co-op protect its market position, strengthen its sustainability claims, and drive demand for products that customers and consumers value most; and,

• supporting farms wanting to improve, while taking a firmer line with those that persistently fail to meet minimum standards, and exercising our rights to suspend collection.

“Consumers and customers increasingly want to know that their food choices support a sustainable future. How we farm and make our products needs to reflect these aspirations so we can remain a globally competitive New Zealand co-operative.

“Our Co-operative’s strong dairy heritage and pasture-based system separates us from the pack but we must continue to earn our customers’ and consumers’ trust and loyalty. The Co-operative Difference will help us share the good work happening on farm through our Trusted Goodness™ commitment,” says Mr Cronin.

The Co-operative Difference was developed in consultation with farmers who wanted their Co-op to simplify and reduce complexity of requirements, provide direction on priority on-farm improvements, and increase pride in the Co-op by recognising high performing farms in a way that aligns with the Co-op’s values.

Recognising those doing well, helping those who want to do better and a firmer line with those who persistently fail to measure up – which will include suspending milk collection – is a good combination of carrot and stick.

This is a good initiative for the company, its suppliers, their staff, the environment and ultimately consumers.

 


Rural round-up

March 22, 2019

Staff shortages impacting on rural health – Peter Burke:

The health of rural business people – including farmers, orchardists and health facilities — is being affected because they cannot get sufficient good staff and must work longer hours to compensate.

So says rural health professional Professor Jane Mills, pro vice-chancellor of the College of Health at Massey University. She was raised on a farm in Australia and has extensively researched rural health issues.

She told Rural News that the staff shortage in rural areas is forcing many people to work extra hours beyond what is reasonable and that their work/life balance is out of sync, resulting in physical or mental health issues. . . 

Inhibitor can solve methane issue – Neal Wallace:

News the world’s first methane inhibitor for livestock will be released in New Zealand later this year has been greeted by scientists as evidence technology can solve our greenhouse gas problem.

Dutch company DSM has developed 3-NOP, a feed additive that inhibits a methane producing micro-organism in the rumen, reducing emissions by about 30% while also being safe for animals and consumers.

However, the effet stops within a few hours of feeding so it must be ingested regularly. . . 

Brexit: Should I stay or should I go now? – Stephanie Honey:

Just over a week before the Brexit deadline, the UK faces the prospect of a lengthy delay – but equally, the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit looms larger than ever.  It is hard to predict which of these two extremes we may see next Friday.   In anticipation of no-deal, however, the UK has released a new temporary post-Brexit tariff schedule.  While most imports would be duty-free, sensitive agriculture products, including New Zealand exports of lamb, beef and dairy, would still face barriers.

If anything, the roadmap to Brexit is less clear than it was even at the start of this week.  (See our last blog here.)  The Parliamentary process has descended into chaos after “meaningful vote 3” was disallowed, under which PM May’s Withdrawal Agreement would have come back again to the House to attempt to clear the path for an orderly Brexit.   All eyes are now on Brussels.  The European Council meets on Thursday and will consider an extension – although this would need to have a clear purpose to satisfy EU member states. . . 

School and Trust boost farming – Neal Wallace:

Students at Wairarapa College are to get more farm training and career opportunities following an initiative with a Masterton community trust.

The Masterton Trust Lands Trust has provided 14ha next to the college for agricultural training for 64 years but is taking it a step further by establishing an advisory panel of local industry leaders to provide advice and expertise for the course.

More than 330 years nine to 13 students, a third of the roll, are studying agriculture this year and trust chairman Karl Taucher says the advisory panel will ensure teaching and skills developed on the farm are in line with what the industry needs. . . 

Cows are turning desert back into grassland by acting like bison – Sara Burrows:

The Savory Institute is transforming 40 million acres of desert back into grassland by “rewilding” cows and other domesticated grazing animals

Two thirds of the land on Earth is now desert or in the process of becoming desert, according to world-renowned ecologist and environmentalist Allan Savory.

If you know anything about deserts, you know that’s not good news, as neither humans nor many other species can survive very well in them.

Responsible for the collapse of many civilizations and now threatening us globally, Savory says humanity has never understood the causes of desertification. But the fact that it began around 10,000 years ago and has accelerated dramatically in the last 200 gives us a clue, he says. . . 

Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate Frank M. Mitloehner:

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection. However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences. . . 


Did you hear the union roar?

March 15, 2019

There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.

That is business as usual for him.

But threatening Hamish Rutherford, the journalist who broke the story, is a new and disturbing low:

There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.

But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners.  . .

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . . 

That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.

This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.

But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.

Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.

If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.

If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.

Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.


Sowell says

February 5, 2019


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


Tyranny by minority

January 25, 2019

The Government’s ‘fair pay’ agenda is anything but fair:

The recommendations of Iain Lees-Galloway’s Fair Pay Agreement Working Group show the Government’s industrial relations agenda amounts to compulsory unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“Businesses and workers should be frightened. The recommendations from the working group are as radical as we originally feared – backward, one-size-fits-all and rigid.

“Just 10 per cent of an industry would be able to trigger mandatory nationwide employment negotiations. Business owners would lose control over an important part of running their enterprise. Workers would be forced into line with the union movement.

That is tyranny by a very small majority.

One of the most worrying aspects is the lack of opt-out provisions for businesses. That means both small and large businesses across New Zealand will be coerced into more restrictive, costly employment agreements. That is a step towards compulsory unionism.

“The Government needs to quickly dismiss these radical recommendations and give certainty to businesses and workers that they will not be coerced into these restored national awards. They hurt our economy in the 1970s and they will hurt it now. . .

These measures would take New Zealand back to the bad old days where unions ruled and both business and productivity suffered.

These are regressive and dangerous policies which reward the union donors to the Labour Party at the cost of everyone else.

But there’s no corruption in New Zealand, is there?

 


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