Rural round-up

21/01/2022

NIWA predicts drought for top and bottom of the country – Tom Kitchin:

Parts of Aotearoa may have to prepare for a third consecutive year in drought.

Although spring rain may be keeping some hopeful, it is getting dry rapidly, with many farmers seeing their land dry out before their eyes in recent weeks.

The driest parts of the country are at opposite ends – Northland and Southland.

NIWA’s drought index is rating one part of Southland, dry, another very dry and a small part south east of Invercargill extremely dry. . . 

Low methane livestock a reality :

AgResearch scientists’ work to successfully breed low methane emitting sheep has the potential to help all NZ livestock farmers lower their carbon footprint.

The ground-breaking research took out the 2021 Supreme Award at the Science New Zealand Awards.

Backed by the industry through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) and the Government – via the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) – the AgResearch team spent over a decade working on the science.

They were able to identify genetic differences which influences how much methane an individual sheep produces. Methane is a relatively short-lived but potent greenhouse gas. . . 

Annual food price increase the highest in a decade :

Annual food prices were 4.5 percent higher in December 2021 than they were in December 2020, Stats NZ said today.

This is the biggest annual increase since September 2011, when annual food prices increased 4.7 percent.

The main contributor to this increase was higher prices for tomatoes.

Tomatoes nearly doubled in price between December 2020 and December 2021, increasing 99 percent. . . 

Rabobank appoints new head of food and agri research for New Zealand & Australia :

Rabobank has announced the appointment of Stefan Vogel as General Manager of its food and agribusiness research division in New Zealand and Australia.

Mr Vogel takes on the role after more than seven years with Rabobank in London, where he held two concurrent global positions with the bank – Head of Agri Commodity Markets Research and Global Grains and Oilseeds Sector Strategist.

In his new position, based in Sydney, Mr Vogel leads the New Zealand and Australian arm of the agribusiness bank’s highly-regarded global food and agricultural research division, RaboResearch.

In New Zealand and Australia, RaboResearch comprises a team of 10 specialist agri commodities analysts, who are part of a network of 75 research analysts worldwide focussed on providing comprehensive, leading-edge food and agribusiness research for the bank’s clients. . . 

Landmark Agreement Paves Way For NZ Grown Cannabis Medicines :

New Zealand’s two largest medicinal cannabis companies have signed a supply contract that will provide Kiwis further access to locally made medicines and pave the way for international export success. 

The five year multi-million-dollar deal between Marlborough-based cultivator Puro and Auckland-based Helius Therapeutics is New Zealand’s largest to date.

Under the partnership, Puro will supply over 10 tonnes of organic medicinal cannabis to Helius over the next five years, the equivalent of approximately five shipping containers of dried cannabis flower. . .

Comvita and Microsoft collaboration brings magic of the hive to utilising Hololens technology :

Comvita, global leader in Mānuka honey, has today announced a new collaboration with Microsoft, with the creation of an immersive multi-sensory consumer experience powered by Microsoft’s HoloLens technology.

Set to launch to consumers in January 2022 at Expo 2020 Dubai, the experience represents the next step in Comvita’s mission to transform the consumer retail experience, following the opening of its award winning multi-sensory space, The Wellness Lab, in Auckland earlier this year.

With its application of Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, Comvita has transported the Wellness Lab’s 180-degree theatre experience into the fully mobile headset, enabling it to connect consumers anywhere in the world to the unique benefits of Mānuka honey and the magic of bees and nature. . . 


Rural round-up

20/01/2022

24-hour Shear-a-thon to raise money for hospital – Shawn McAvinue:

The rural sector is uniting again to help those battling cancer in the South.

Shear 4 Blair 24-hour Shear-a-thon will run in the woolshed on Wohelo Station in Moa Flat on February 5 and 6.

The event is to raise money for the Southland Charity Hospital in Invercargill, which was established in 2019.

Winton man Blair Vining died of bowel cancer in 2019, after calling for cancer care to be equitable for all New Zealanders. . . 

Horticulture industry using fund to support growers impacted by Tonga eruption –

New Zealand’s horticulture and wine industries are calling for donations to support Tonga after the volcanic eruption.

The horticulture industry labour collective, made up of NZ Apples & Pears, NZ Kiwifruit Growers, Summerfruit NZ, NZ Wine, NZ Ethical Employers, and HortNZ, said it was saddened by news of the tsunami and its impact.

It aims to help the Tongan economy recover and is using the Growers Relief Fund to collect donations to support small businesses like market gardens to recover.

The fund is a charity that helps to support growers in an adverse event, with wellness or when additional support is needed. The fund also helps people working in the horticulture industry who need assistance, to help nurture the whole horticultural community. . . 

Mature lowland forest lost in Wānaka fire – DOC :

A popular Wānaka lake and track were spared during a devastating fire earlier this month.

The fire took hold on 9 January at Emerald Bay, burning 280 hectares of land and taking four days to contain.

The Department of Conservation said it was too early to know the full extent of the damage to conservation land.

Its Central Otago Pou Matarautaki/operations manager Nikki Holmes, said Diamond Lake and the Rocky Summit Track were untouched. . .

Beekeepers hoping for good flow – Tim Cronshaw:

Beekeepers hope a sluggish start won’t put the brakes on honey flows this year.

They want to avoid a repeat of the 2020-21 season when national honey production was down 24% to 20,500 tonnes, from a much better summer.

The average honey yield fell then to 25kg per hive.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Karin Kos said a late-flowering and cold and windy start has failed to assist beekeepers so far this season. . . 

A secret getaway to Mototapu track – Liz Carlson:

Perhaps the closest backcountry hut near the popular outdoor playground of Wanaka is one that you might not have heard of – Fern Burn Hut. Tucked away on a lush high-country station, it is the first stage in a three-day tramp connecting Wanaka and Arrowtown, which retraces a historic path in Central Otago.

An enjoyable day walk to the modern hut, it’s a great way to experience the beauty of the area, though it’s even better if you stay the night in one of the 12 bunks.

Most people walk the 34-kilometre Motatapu Track over three days, though the day trips and overnight at one of the huts are equally enjoyable. From Wanaka to Fern Burn Hut is only 7km and a couple of hours winding up and down over the beautiful land.

The track begins near Glendhu Bay in Wanaka, making it one of the closest and easily accessed huts from the town, and a great alternative to the busy alpine huts in summer  – you’ll often have the place to yourself. . . 

Going the distance:

Getting fast broadband to rural areas of New Zealand is the last great challenge for the country’s Internet network.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key said last week one of the top achievements of his time in government was Ultra-Fast Broadband. The roll-out of fibre arrived in time to be a vital help for communities during Covid lockdowns and is now an essential service for all kinds of social and economic reasons.

But he said he was concerned about the rural/urban divide with a number of people unable to get access to fibre Internet.

Luckily there is already a solution for many rural properties as New Zealand’s wireless internet providers, or WISPS, are working to link users with quality broadband and which have been building their own networks to do this. . . 


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Ele Ludemann

20/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

And yes, this week’s episode is about me.

RWNZ’s intro says:

Ele Ludemann’s journey has been a challenging one . . .

Ele speaks of the importance of naming and taming feelings as part of the grief cycle, strategies for everyone to help deal with grief, and shares her interesting farming journey with her husband Grant, from the “ag sag” of the eighties through to today.

Ele has experienced great tragedy within her life so far, and has graciously and candidly shared her story with our listeners today

I’ve been educated, entertained and inspired by listening to these podcasts on my daily walks and feel both humble and privileged to be included in the series.

You can catch up on all the podcasts at Rural Women NZ Black Heels and Tractor Wheels. A new interview is posted every Wednesday.


Rural round-up

19/01/2022

Vaccination critical – MPI boss – Peter Burke:

Vaccination against Covid-19 is absolutely critical to the success of the whole primary sector.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director-general Ray Smith told Rural News that he’s encouraging every business in the primary sector to get their people vaccinated and have strong supporting policies around this.

“It underpins our mobility as individuals and for firms to prosper without having sickness,” he says. “My own organisation with 4,000 staff has a 97% vaccination rate and now, unless you have been vaccinated, you can’t come into work here.”

Smith admits one of the big challenges for MPI in 2022 will be bedding in the environmental changes, which he claims are needed to improve NZ’s sustainability and farming practices. He says the country is starting in a good place but it has more to do. . . 

Strong carbon prices blow into new year – Richard Rennie:

A new year surge in the New Zealand carbon values has caught the market by surprise, with traders anticipating values may well impact upon the first carbon auction of the year due to be held in mid-March.

Values for mid-January are now trading at $72.10 a unit, with a bullish sentiment on the market also reflected in future spot prices. The contracted market has April 2023 values trading at $75.20, and April 2026 at $83.40 a unit.

Lizzie Chambers, director of carbon trading company Carbon Match, said trading is now characterised by a myriad of buyers and sellers across the breadth of the market, including investors, farmers and emitters requiring credits to operate.

“Over the new year the market really gapped it from $69.50 to $71.50 a unit very quickly. It appears almost as if there was a decision made by many buyers first off at the start of the year to get in and tick the box on buying,” Chambers said. . . 

Launch of new social enterprise set to boost sustainably sourced wool sales :

The launch of a new tech start-up and social enterprise is set to provide a significant boost for New Zealand’s sustainably sourced wool sales.

Comfi provides a sleep solution for a child in need, including a single bed and base, and a pillow for every five beds sold.

The company is the brainchild of Vicki Eriksen and Susie Harris who developed the concept after struggling to find suitable beds online during the first Covid lockdown.

Other shareholders in the start-up include Neat Meat chief executive Simon Eriksen, Jucy co-founder Tim Alpe, and director/investor Andrew Harris. . . 

Hopes new tech will attract top cherry pickers :

Central Otago cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp has implemented New Zealand-developed orchard management technology this season to attract and reward productive workers.

Orchard and project manager Ross Kirk said the company was the first New Zealand cherry business to implement radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology developed by Auckland software firm Dataphyll.

“At a time when pickers are in short supply, investing in smart technologies is a way to attract and retain quality workers.

“We want to lead the charge as an innovative and progressive operation throughout the supply chain,” he said. . . 

Food and Fibre Careers Day doubles in size as universities come on board:

The Westpac Agri Futures Careers Expo is returning to Palmerston North in March with an expanded line-up of attendees that will offer more exciting pathways into rural employment for young New Zealanders.

Hosted in association with Property Brokers and the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Expo provides youth and those interested in a food and fibre career with the chance to explore possible careers and job opportunities throughout the food and fibre industry.

The event is for secondary and area school students from Paraparaumu through to Napier and across to New Plymouth. It’s run as part of the Ford Ranger New Zealand Rural Games in Te Marae o Hine/The Square in Palmerston North, from March 11-13, 2022.

New Zealand Rural Games Trust Chair Margaret Kouvelis MNZM said the event has grown significantly, attracting attention from tertiary providers from across the country as well as more local businesses. . . 

Young Winemaker national final heads to Central Otago for first time :

The 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year National Final is finally set to go ahead on Thursday 3 February 2022, following postponement last year. For the very first time the National Final will be held in Central Otago with the competition taking place at Amisfield Winery in the Pisa Ranges near Cromwell.

The Awards Dinner will be held the same evening at the stunning venue – The Canyon at Tarras Vineyard in Bendigo. The 2021 national champion will be announced that evening.

This programme supports emerging Young Winemakers helping them upskill, widen their network and giving them a platform to share their ideas for the future.

Having already won their regional competitions, the finalists will be stretched even further and will be tested on all aspects of wine production including laboratory skills, wine market knowledge and wine tasting and judging. . . 


For want of workers . . .

19/01/2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dairy industry is also short of staff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural contractors are similarly frustrated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

18/01/2022

2022 will be tumultuous for New Zealand’s primary industries – Keith Woodford:

This year is not going to be just any year for the food and fibre industries. On the prices front, things should go well for most products. However, on the policy front, it is the second year of the three-year political cycle, and that has implications.

This is the year when key implementation decisions must be made on multiple political issues. It is all about setting up the glide path for the next election.

For the food and fibre industries, and this includes carbon farming, these key decisions have potential to determine the path for the next decade. I reckon there is going to be quite some heat, and I am not referring here to the weather.

First of all, the good news. . . 

‘I’m where I’m meant to be’ farm life works out – Sally Rae:

Central Otago agronomist Jaimee Pemberton traded the city for country life and has not looked back. She talks to business and rural editor Sally Rae.

When Jaimee Pemberton was growing up in Timaru, she pondered three very different career paths — agriculture, marine biology and drama.

Those diverse options could have resulted in very different lifestyles, but the 28-year-old former city girl has no regrets about choosing a career in the rural sector.

“I just think I’m where I’m meant to be,” she said. . .

Stag fetches $135k at annual sale – Sally Rae:

The first stag on offer at Netherdale Red Deer Stud’s annual elite sale at Balfour this week lived up to its sale-opening billing, fetching a whopping $135,000.

The 3-year-old stag, which attracted a “huge” amount of interest before the sale, was sold by David and Lynley Stevens to a South Canterbury syndicate.

Mr Stevens described it as a big, quality animal with a “beautiful” head, and one that he would normally have kept as a stud sire if he had not had something else in the paddock.

It was a record price for the stud which was holding its 35th sale. . . 

Free lunchtime chats to boost farmer resilience :

Three of New Zealand’s foremost motivational speakers on resilience and mental wellbeing will offer tips for farmers and growers in a series of free online lunchtime talks.

Isolation and the sometimes stressful nature of agriculture, with severe weather and volatile trading conditions out of their control, puts pressure on rural families.

“The added restrictions, health risks and supply chain issues of COVID-19 have added another significant layer to that stress burden,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

That’s why Feds, along with the Dairy Women’s Network and DairyNZ, were delighted when a bid for funding from Worksafe’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund was successful. . .

Trev puts data squarely in the hands of the farmer with API :

Trev is excited to announce the release of its API, for the first time putting operational data squarely in the hands of the farmer.

The API development has been designed for farmers to build and control their Trev data, enabling Trev customers to automate data sharing within their own systems or to permission data to be shared with approved industry partners.

Trev customers have always enjoyed the benefit of building their own datasets and extracting insights directly from the Trev platform. This new API means farmers can now automatically transfer data to other platforms and services internally and externally, reducing their data burden.

Data can be taken directly from Trev’s platform and plugged into a farming business’ own internal systems and processes. Or should a customer choose, Trev has the ability to send farmer permissioned data to approved industry partner integrations. . .

Dairy farm gets $150G state grant to better manage cow manure:

Mecox Bay Dairy, a multigeneration family farm established in 1875, was a dairy until the 1950s, then a commodity potato grower before returning to cows in 2003. The farm, a rural expanse surrounded by multimillion dollar Hamptons homes, raises cows for beef and cheese and is one of a handful of Long Island operations offering sought-after raw cow’s milk.

The money will help Mecox Bay manage the excrement from its 23 milk-producing Jersey cows, a small and docile breed known for its high-fat milk, and more easily turn their manure into fertilizer.

A 1,000-pound dairy cow produces about 80 pounds of waste per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unmanaged manure contributes nutrients, disease-causing microorganisms and oxygen-demanding organics into the environment, the agency said. . .


Rural round-up

17/01/2022

Obsolete regulations block using CRISPR to develop safer potatoes, healthier tomatoes and climate resistant crops – Catherine Regnault-Roger:

CRISPR technology is a major technological breakthrough compared to the genome modification technologies that preceded it; developed then published by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna in the international journal Science in 2012.

They received for this discovery, in a record time (only eight years) the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020! This shows the importance of this innovation.

The European legislative framework… considers that GMO regulations must be applied to products obtained by CRISPR. This in fact amounts to preventing de facto its development in the EU because this regulation, which dates from 2001, has become obsolete due to the advances in scientific knowledge that have been made over the past 20 years.

The CRISPR technique has many agronomic applications… which will revolutionize the agriculture of tomorrow in terms of phytosanitary inputs and fertilizers. . . 

‘We know that fruit will go to waste’ – Shannon Thomson:

Staffing shortages continue to bite for Central Otago orchardists.

Ongoing border closures and nationwide low unemployment has caused Horticulture New Zealand to call on growers to “club together” to make the best use of their resources.

Summerfruit New Zealand chief executive Kate Hellstrom said it had been a tough two years for growers and the organisation was working with other horticulture product groups and government departments to attract and retain as many seasonal workers as possible.

“We know that fruit will go to waste, which will affect profitability and morale, as some growers only have about half the staff they’ve had in previous seasons,” she said. . .

The changing face of farming – Ken Geenty:

Onfarm diversification can bring both motivational and economic stimulation to the benefit of your farming operation. By Ken Geenty.

About half the total area of New Zealand is taken up with farming, forestry and housing. The other half is in native land cover and mountains. 

On the farmed area over the past two decades Statistics NZ says the total number of holdings has decreased from 70,000 to 50,000 with a 13% decrease in the area farmed to 13.5 million hectares. About 13% of our population lives on farms. 

It seems a similar trend is happening world-wide. The United Nations predicts internationally an additional 3.3 million hectares of prime agricultural land will be taken up by urbanisation between 2000 and 2030. More corporate ownership, vertically and horizontally integrated to own the whole food system, will see a decline in family farms and rural communities. . . 

Shearing ‘in the blood’ of family at heart of Southland event – Evan Harding:

Patsy Shirley watches on as the shearers power into their work at a southern woolshed on Friday.

The Northern Southland Community Shears event is on, and Shirley is in her element.

She has been a key organiser of the event for more than 20 years, since being instrumental along with her family in moving it from Mossburn to Lumsden when it was about to fold.

More than seven national shearing and woolhandling titles are on the line at the farm venue near Five Rivers. . . 

Taranaki Soft Core – Jackie Harrigan:

Farming on the high-rainfall slopes of Mount Taranaki brings its challenges to a project to boost efficiency and reduce emissions. By Jackie Harrigan. Photos: Ross Nolly.

Donna and Phillip Cram have undergone their own quiet step change project over the last few years, quietly working away at increasing the efficiency of their farming operation.

“More production from fewer cows is our aim for reducing emissions as part of the sustainability of our farm business for the future.”

Wylam Dene Farms at Auroa is home to Donna, an accountant by trade, and Phil, a diesel mechanic from the United Kingdom. They met in the local Oeo pub and she encouraged Phil into the industry. . .

Why is price-fixing a crime for bread, but not for dairy? – Colby Cosh: *

A distinctly Canadian variety of brain damage was on full display over the holidays. Last week, as you may have read in the Toronto Sun, an Ontario judge approved a class action lawsuit against Canadian grocery companies that have already confessed to being involved in a conspiracy to fix retail prices for sandwich bread.

A few other grocers who have never admitted to any wrongdoing have been thrown in as parties. The defendants include the Loblaws grocery chain, which already handed out $25 gift cards to Canadian consumers after confessing its price-fixing to the Competition Bureau.

This story did not make much impact, and it is not so hard to understand why. Does shopping for bread stress you out particularly? Is your budget thunderstruck by the burden? Me, I don’t even buy much old-fashioned packaged sandwich bread anymore. When I was a kid the choices in the grocery stores were basically “white” and “brown,” but in my lifetime I’ve seen most grocery stores acquire pretty terrific bakeries.

This story did not make much impact, and it is not so hard to understand why. Does shopping for bread stress you out particularly? Is your budget thunderstruck by the burden? Me, I don’t even buy much old-fashioned packaged sandwich bread anymore. When I was a kid the choices in the grocery stores were basically “white” and “brown,” but in my lifetime I’ve seen most grocery stores acquire pretty terrific bakeries. . . 

* Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Emily Welch

17/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.


Climate change realism and alarmism

15/01/2022

Is the alarmism about climate change justified?

Bjorn Lomborg and David Wallace-Wells debate the issues:


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Sharon Davie-Martin

15/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

Sharon Davie-Martin is a RWNZ board member, and a community champion who, with her husband Allen, has won several farming excellence awards.

 


Rural round-up

14/01/2022

Incentives working but more people needed for Otago summerfruit harvest :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental compliance still high in Southland – Sudesh Kissun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landing at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge – Sue Wallace,:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Abbe Hoare

14/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

Abbe Hoare is a photographer who worked in rural health before making the journey to farming life.


Rural round-up

13/01/2022

Fruitful days lie ahead, say North Otago growers – Ashley Smyth:

Fruitgrowers in North Otago are looking forward to a bumper crop this season.

Matsinger’s Berry Farm owner Leanne Matsinger said the season had been going very well, and the strawberries were “massive and beautiful”.

The Peebles business, about 15km inland from Oamaru towards the Waitaki Valley, had about 50,000 plants in the ground, and another 20,000 growing hydroponically. There was also 1ha of raspberries.

Far from being a burden, the wet weather had meant the fruit was big and juicy, Mrs Matsinger said. . .

Primary industry leaders call for Gen Z to secure the future of the sector :

New Zealand’s food and fibre sector is working hard to secure the future of the primary industries by trying to attract more young people to choose a career in the sector.

The key to attracting Generation Z, loosely defined as those born between 1995 and 2010, to the sector is raising awareness of opportunities and the range of roles available in the industry, experts say.

Kellogg Rural Leadership scholar Madison Pannett, who now works for the Ministry of Primary Industries as a senior adviser in the Animal Welfare Liaison team, released a report on this subject called Generation Z and the environment – how can we use their passion to attract them into food and fibre sector careers?

She says: “I have found my journey into the sector so personally rewarding, so I was keen to explore how to inspire young people to join. . . 

AACo partners with The Zanda McDonald Award to support future leaders in agriculture:

The new year is off to a great start for The Zanda McDonald Award, with the announcement that Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) have come on board as a partner for the trans-Tasman agricultural badge of honour.

AACo, Australia’s largest integrated cattle and beef producer, owns and operates stations, feedlots and farms comprising around 6.4 million hectares of land in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Managing Director and CEO Hugh Killen says the company can play a role in helping develop the next generation of industry leaders.

“AACo has been helping grow agriculture in Australia for almost 200 years and our association with the Zanda McDonald Award continues this legacy,” Mr Killen said. . . 

Comvita’s 50-year history: hippies, health and harmony :

Almost 50 years ago, 20-something hippie surfer Alan Bougen teamed up with 60-something beekeeper Claude Stratford to set up a health food company, based mostly around bee products. They called it Comvita. In the fourth in a series, Newsroom talks to Bougen about a small business which turned into our largest mānuka honey producer  

It all started with a mutual goal to improve people’s health, while leaving the environment better than they found it – and in that the Comvita founders were ahead of their time as sustainable thinkers. Stratford and Bougen were also leaders in the drive to validate mānuka honey’s unique health-giving properties and then share its magic with the world.

Claude Stratford died in 2013 at the age of 102; his longevity a testament to the founders’ shared Hippocratic belief that food is medicine and medicine is food. Now aged 71, and about to walk the Heaphy Track, Alan Bougen has new insights on old lessons learned over half a century in the business.

Hippie roots

“The natural food and products industry in 1970-1971 was where I dropped into the lifestyle of health and wellness, the ‘health food revolution’ as it was known,” Bougen says. He’s at home in Mt Maunganui, reminiscing about his early days in San Diego in true bohemian style. . . 

Five months on the 2021 Corteva Young Viticulturist Of The Year national final set to go ahead:

It may be five months later than planned, but it’s on! Due to the sudden and extended Delta lockdown the 2021 Corteva Young Viticulturist of the Year Competition, just one week away from taking place in August, is set to finally go ahead on Thursday 27th January 2022.

It will take place at Indevin’s Bankhouse Vineyard in Marlborough and the national winner will be announced at the Awards Dinner the same night.

“We’re excited and relieved that we can finally go ahead with the competition” says Nicky Grandorge, the National Co-Ordinator “The flexibility of everyone involved has been incredible and shows the strength, resilience and passion of the Young Vit community.”

The national finalists have been in limbo for quite some time, although they were able to hand in their research reports and give their presentations online which relieved them of some pressure. The topic for this year’s project was “Assess various pruning options during a labour shortage”, thus addressing one of the real challenges currently facing the wine industry. . . 

Pending irrigation scheme water access set to add balue to livestock grazing blocks on the market for sale:

Two blocks of livestock grazing pastureland – with the potential to have access to a substantial sustainable water supply enabling conversion of the property into highly productive horticultural land – have been placed on the market for sale.

The 33.41-hectare property in two titles at Te Kopuru on the Poutu Peninsula is just south of Dargaville in Northland.

The pair of freehold lots 2 and 18 at Redhill Cemetery Road in Te Kopuru are now being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys Whangarei, with the tender process closing on February 3. Salespeople Vinni Bhula and Todd Skudder said buyers had the opportunity tender for either of the blocks individually, or as a combined offering.

Lot 2 comprises 16.05-hectares, while adjoining lot 18 consists of 17.36-hectares. Both lots are classified as featuring flat to gently rolling topographic contours. . . 


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Kristy McGregor

13/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

Kristy McGregor is founder and editor of Shepherdess magazine and a finalist in the 2021 Women of Influence awards.


Ministers paid to do hard stuff

13/01/2022

East Coast farmers are justifiably angry that 5,000 hectares of good pastoral land could be turned into a foreign-owned carbon farm:

Newshub understands the sale is all but final – it’s pending approval from the Overseas Investment Office. 

Locals are devastated and say it’s the beginning of the end for not only farming in the region but the region itself.  . . 

“Buying good land and planting it in trees, with the idea of just shutting the gate, is ridiculous,” says local farmer Dan Griffin.

Under the Emissions Trading Scheme, set up to help New Zealand meet its carbon-neutral goal by 2050, carbon has become a currency. The trees earn ‘credits’ for the carbon dioxide they soak up and those credits can be sold to a company needing to offset its emissions.

It’s a lucrative business, but Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz is worried it will drive out communities because it won’t offer jobs. 

“Those families living there are the lifeblood of our smaller communities. Those are the families that fill up our schools, are the bus drivers, and if you take that away those smaller communities die,” Stoltz says.

Huiarua employs at least eight people, meaning that’s eight families left without work. There’s also the shearing gangs, wool buyers, the meatworks in Wairoa, and even the local school. . . 

The government’s policy of allowing foreigners to buy farmland for carbon forest but not for farming is economic, environmental and social sabotage.

And what does Forestry Minister Stuart Nash say?

“Taking out a 5000-hectare station for carbon forestry, that is not a good use of land. If it was true, I’d be very disappointed,” he says.

It’s why the Government promised to give councils more power to stop fertile land from being converted to forestry. But more than a year later, nothing has changed.

“It’s not as simple as I initially imagined, and I’m the first to concede that. We’re doing a lot of work in this space to get this right,” Nash says. . . 

It was simple enough to enact legislation that allows land sales to foreigners for carbon forests, how hard can it be to reverse it?

Even if sorting out this mess of the government’s own making isn’t simple, Ministers are paid to do hard stuff and the need to correct this very expensive mistake, in social, environmental and economic terms, is urgent.

 


Rural round-up

12/01/2022

Veganuary: Can veganism save the planet? – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Whether you enjoyed your festive dinner with gusto, defiance, guilt, or smugness in the knowledge that you chose non-animal food, you can make a resolution to embrace a more environmentally friendly diet for the future.

You’ll be able to do this by eating food in moderation to meet the needs of your body and mind.

Extreme diets, over-eating and simply the number of people doing the eating are the main causes of environmental impacts associated with food, not animals per se.

This doesn’t fit with the message from activists to save the planet by becoming vegan, but the science doesn’t fit the message either. . .

Sun helping cherries but staff still scarce :

A year after heavy and persistent rain destroyed millions of dollars of Central Otago cherries, growers are thankful for this month’s sun, but are facing another sort of problem.

Last year, heavy rain began on New Year’s Day and continued for 36 hours, causing the Fraser River to breach its banks and localised flooding, and making cherries split in what were expected to be bumper crops.

3 Kings Cherries manager Tim Paulin said rain early in the season last month had caused some splitting in the Sweetheart cherries, but fine weather since meant the fruit was now in good condition.

The company started operations last month in a large new packhouse on the hill above the Clyde bypass, and staff were busy last week packing fruit for another grower. . .

Shear4Blair – 24 hours of shearing to raise funds for Southland charity hospital – Rachael Kelly:

Preparing for a 24-hour shearing event is not unlike preparing to run a marathon except the race is much longer.

Cole Wells is one of four shearers who will spend 24 hours on the boards in the historic Wohelo Station woolshed, high in the hills of West Otago at Waitangi weekend, for the Shear4Blair event.

He’ll be joined by Eru Weeds, Braydon Clifford and David Gower, who will collectively aim to shear more than 9500 lambs in 24 hours, donating their wages to the Southland Charity Hospital.

They’ll shear 12 two hour runs, starting at 6am on Saturday morning, finishing at 2pm on Sunday afternoon. . .

Honour surprises scientist :

DR PETER FRANCIS FENNESSY

For services to agricultural science and business

“Exceptionally surprised, to be perfectly honest,” is how Dunedin scientist Dr Peter Fennessy describes being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to agricultural science and business.

Dr Fennessy, who said he was honoured by the accolade, has had a broad and distinguished career as a scientist, mentor, consultant, and entrepreneur over 45 years and has held governance and management roles across numerous small-to-medium agri and biotechnology startups and enterprises, including a long-term involvement with Blis Technologies as a director and chairman.

He was general manager of AgResearch Invermay from 1992 to 1997 before entering the private sector and founding highly successful agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio in 2001. . .

How the man from McKinsey ended up running NZ’s biggest farm – Jamie Gray:

How did Steve Carden, whose curriculum vitae includes a stint at the high-powered US consultancy McKinsey and Co, end up running Landcorp?

Carden, who is soon leave to the state-owned farming giant for NZX-listed winemakerDelegat’s, says it was a matter of “falling in love” with agriculture.

Landcorp, which has the brand name Pāmu (to farm) produces dairy, beef, lamb, wool, venison, trees and of all things, sheep and deer milk from a vast estate of 144 farms, covering a million acres (404,000 hectares).

Before joining Pāmu in 2013, Carden was general manager of PGG Wrightson Seeds Australia from 2010 having earlier joined the company as its group manager of business development. . .

 

Lab grown meat is supposed to be inevitable, the science tells a different story – Joe Fassler:

Splashy headlines have long overshadowed inconvenient truths about biology and economics. Now, extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.

Paul Wood didn’t buy it.

For years, the former pharmaceutical industry executive watched from the sidelines as biotech startups raked in venture capital, making bold pronouncements about the future of meat. He was fascinated by their central contention: the idea that one day, soon, humans will no longer need to raise livestock to enjoy animal protein. We’ll be able to grow meat in giant, stainless-steel bioreactors—and enough of it to feed the world. . .


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels best bits of season 1

12/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.


The Lost Country of the Pacific

11/01/2022

It’s Australia, but it could also be New Zealand.


Rural round-up

11/01/2022

A humbling and rewarding career – Annette Scott:

Deer Industry New Zealand producer manager Tony Pearse admits his career was not necessarily planned, but rather one of one of huge discovery. He talked with Annette Scott.

As Tony Pearse looks back on a long and exciting career in the deer industry, he says what evolved is best described as a “huge career of discovery”.

“There’s never been a great amount of planning in my life, but what has come out every step of the way has been thoroughly enjoyable and hugely rewarding,” Pearse said. 

Pearse, who has been around the deer industry for 40-odd years, retired last month – taking with him a reputation he says is “humbling to the core”. . . 

Nutrient claims are crap! – Jacqueline Rowarth:

A debate has emerged in nutrient management and fertiliser advice, brought to a head by the hype about regenerative agriculture.

Proponents of the latter are telling farmers that the soil has thousands of years of nutrients and synthetic fertiliser isn’t required. The theory is that animals, including worms and other organisms, will make the nutrients available in their excreta.

The opposite approach from soil scientists is that to maintain soil quality, what is removed in animal and plant harvest (or lost to the environment) must be replaced. If improvements in soil quality are required (development), more nutrients than removed will be required.

This maintenance or development approach was pioneered in New Zealand by soil scientists in the 1970s and 1980s. They initiated the Computerised Fertiliser Advisory Service with soil tests investigated, chosen for appropriateness for New Zealand soils and then calibrated for New Zealand conditions rather than those of the northern hemisphere. . .

Helping to make science useful – Colin Williscroft:

When Trish Fraser arrived in New Zealand from Scotland to study, she had no idea she would still be here more than 30 years later. During that time, she has made a valuable contribution to the rural community as a soil scientist. Colin Williscroft reports.

Plant & Food Research soil scientist Trish Fraser likes to take a practical approach to communicating science to farmers, believing that’s the most effective way of getting her message across.

Fraser, the 2020 Rural Woman of Influence award winner, has attended plenty of field days over the years and she believes the practical approach is appreciated by farmers.

“Farmers are kinesthetic learners and as such like to be able to see and touch things, so I try to have demonstrations that after you’ve seen it, hopefully you’ll remember it,” Fraser said. . . 

Gaining the Knowledge – Sheryl Haitana :

Open Country’s new farm environmental plan tool has helped increase
Mike van Marrewijk’s knowledge so he can build a more sustainable and profitable business for the next generation. Sheryl Haitana reports.

Dairy farmers don’t want to give their kids a hospital pass in the future, with a farming business that is not set up to survive under environmental regulations.

The number one vision for Mike Van Marrewijk is to have a sustainable farm for the next generation. Whether his children decide to go farming or not, he wants to ensure he’s passing on a viable farm that is operating profitably.

“You don’t want to pass on a shambles.” . . 

Plasback on a growth spurt :

Agricultural recycling business Plasback has come a long way since it collected its first consignment of used silage wrap from South Cantebury farmers John and Noelie Peters in 2007.

In the past 13 years it has collected more than 20,000 tonnes of waste plastic from farms up and down New Zealand.

While 2021 was a rough year for many, Plasback has delivered some good news for the environment. Over the past six months, the rate at which silage wrap and other used plastics directly from farms around the country has nearly doubled.

In the period from 1 July to 31 December, Plasback collected 2,500 tonnes of plastic. This compares to 2,600 tonnes in the entire year prior to that. . .

New handbook shows farmers how to plant for bees :

A handbook offering practical guidance on how to plant strategically to feed bees is now available free to New Zealand farmers.

The document brings together knowledge from 10 years of field and laboratory research by the New Zealand Trees for Bees Research Trust, with significant financial support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and other funders.

“It’s a useful tool to assist farmers support the bees, and incorporate into their on-farm planting for biodiversity and other environmental benefits that customers are now demanding,” says Dr Angus McPherson, Trees for Bees farm planting adviser and trustee, one of the lead researchers for the handbook.

“The beauty of our approach is that farmers don’t need to set aside land specially for this planting. . . 


Black Heels and Tractor Wheels – Sarah Perriam

11/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.

Sarah Perriam is creative director at Perriam Media, media personality and self-proclaimed ‘truthfluencer’.


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