Farmers back Ruataniwha

April 28, 2016

The success of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS), always depended on farmers backing – and they have:

Irrigation New Zealand is delighted to see the Ruataniwha project is now in a position to proceed.

HBRIC today (Wednesday 27 April 2016) announced it has 196 Signed Water User Agreements, the numbers needed for the project to proceed. CEO of Irrigation New Zealand Andrew Curtis said: “This is good news for Central Hawke’s Bay as it will re-invigorate the shrinking communities of Waipukurau and Waipawa.

“This result shows farmer backing is strong for the project. This is not surprising given the Ruataniwha Plain’s current and future susceptibility to drought.

Mr Curtis said: “The mix of land-use is, as Irrigation New Zealand predicted, dominated by traditional mixed cropping, and sheep and beef finishing systems. This is what Central Hawke’s Bay has and will always do well. There is also some permanent horticulture in the mix, and given the boom in the orchard and wine industries currently it is very likely this area of opportunity will be expanded further in future.

“The land-use mix should alleviate any environmental concerns for the Tukituki River. This, when combined with the dam’s ability to release water to guarantee summer flows alongside mimicking natural flood events that cleanse it, means the Tukituki River is in a great position to maintain and improve upon it’s predominantly good water quality.

“Irrigation New Zealand is now looking forward to both the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Crown committing investments to this community dam project and the ‘land swap’ court issue being resolved in a timely manner.

Mr Curtis concluded: “No one disputes the Hawke’s Bay needs water storage. The local community has now demonstrated its support for the Ruataniwha project. It’s time for regional and national communities to do the same.”

Sadly some people do dispute Hawke’s Bay’s need for water storage including the Green Party which wants the dam dumped.

But at last farmers have confirmed their willingness to invest in the scheme that will drought-proof between 20,000 and 30,000 hectares of land with good potential for increased agriculture, horticulture and viticulture.

The climate and soils in the area will give farmers more  choice over what they grow with the water than those with irrigation in many other areas.

The scheme will bring environmental, economic and social benefits to the region and the country.


Rural round-up

April 27, 2016

What makes a good farmer? – Bryan Gibson:

It seems that everyone has an opinion on the qualities that make up the perfect food producer, especially at the moment when times are tough.

Judging by the number of emails I’m getting detailing roadshows and information days, it appears the average farmer isn’t short of advice.

Whether they are bankers, consultants or other support company staffers or even other farmers, the range of opinion can be overwhelming.

Now, New Zealand farmers are already good at what they do.

But this dairy downturn means almost every farmer will be looking at his or her balance sheet and strategy and looking to make positive changes. . .

Environmental showcase ‘good farm practice’ – Pam Tipa:

Environmental initiatives began as just good farming practice for the first-ever supreme winners of the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

Richard and Dianne Kidd, of Whenuanui Farm, Helensville, began fencing and planting about 35 years ago for stock health and farm management. But enthusiasm also grew for the environmental side as they started to see the benefits.

The BFEA judges described the Kidd family’s 376ha sheep, beef and forestry unit, as “a showpiece farm on the edge of Auckland city”. . . 

Farmers fear rights being eroded – Glenys Christian:

Changes to the Resource Management Act and freshwater management proposals might force farmers to increase consultation, Auckland Federated Farmers fears.  

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, now at select committee stage, will make it mandatory for councils to involve iwi authorities in the appointment of hearing commissioners as well as in the critical stages of preparing council plans, Auckland Federated Farmers president Wendy Clark said.  

While she agreed consultation with iwi before plan notifications was appropriate, she argued there should be consultation with anyone directly affected by the plans. . . 

Base labeling on science not superstition:

The left can be quite smug about its allegiance to science. And quite selective, too. That’s particularly true of the environmental movement’s relentless and often hysterical attacks on genetically modified food.

The nation’s food industry is locked in a battle with Vermont over a state law set to go into effect July 1 that will require the labeling of all food products to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Agricultural and grocery associations have a pending federal lawsuit claiming state-by-state labeling requirements will make mass distribution of food nearly impossible. They’re also concerned, rightly, that the unwarranted fear campaign pressed by opponents of GMOs will drive consumers away from the products. . . 

Extra payment as Miraka grows :

Milk processing company Miraka will set its own price for the 2016/17 season starting on June 1.

The company, which is owned by Maori and overseas interests, already pays its suppliers in the central North Island 10 cents more than Fonterra for every kilogram of milk solids.

Chair Kingi Smiler says there will be an additional premium paid for suppliers who meet Te Ara Miraka farming excellence standards. . . 

Do you eat? Then you should care about agriculture policy – Adam Diamond, Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, Danielle Neirenberg:

Even though only 2 percent of Americans live on farms in 2016, agricultural policy remains extremely important. Why? Everyone has to eat.

It is unsettling to observe that, while Iowa’s caucuses in February forced presidential candidates to pay lip service to agricultural policy, the subject quickly receded from their radar. Food and farm issues may be hard to package in 30-second sound bites, and they certainly do not lend themselves to cutting debate repartee, but that does not mean they should dwell in the shadows of this 2016 election season. Far from it.

Today, Americans are more concerned than ever before about what they’re eating, how it was grown, where it was grown and by whom. And just as those vying to lead our executive branch need to have a basic grasp of foreign affairs, they also need to understand the basics of the farm and nutrition policies that touch us all, every day of the year, in the most visceral way. . .

Farmers United - We love our animals's photo.


Rural round-up

April 26, 2016

Safety change generational – Sally Rae:

Lynn Carty reckons Health and Safety is a little bit like the old seatbelt campaigns.

Nobody wanted to adhere at the start, then it became a generational change; advertisements targeted children, who quickly began to “click” and encouraged their parents to do the same.

“I think this is similar. It’ll be a generational change as well,” the WorkSafe Otago health and safety inspector said. . . 

App saves H&S paperwork:

Onside has launched an online health and safety app for farmers to make compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 easier.

It enabled farmers to develop their own health and safety plan by working through a pre-populated list of risks overlaid on a satellite map of their farm, chief executive Ryan Higgs said.

Contractors and visitors who entered the farm would be prompted to sign in on a smartphone as they crossed a virtual “geo-fence”. . . 

Industry calls for Kiwi farmers to be allowed to grow cannabis – Charlie Mitchell:

It’s green, environmentally-friendly and growing in popularity around the world but some say a roaring cannabis market is about to pass New Zealand by.

Growers and farmers are taking a keen interest in cannabis, as countries around the world legalise its cultivation for medicinal purposes.

Some are looking at the plant’s potential in light of falling dairy prices and restrictions around importing seeds, most recently due to an outbreak of the invasive weed velvetleaf. . . 

Deer farmers focus on meat in the box – Kate Taylor:

Tim Aitken breaks into a smile when asked why he’s a deer farmer.

“A lot of people think deer are hard to farm but they’re not. You just have to get the basics right. We love every minute of it.”

Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe have been farming deer since the late 1980s. The continual improvement is one of the aspects they love about their business… alongside a simple love of farming deer. . . 

This one’s for you Dad‘ – Kate Taylor:

Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year Grant Charteris saluted his father Bruce, who died on the Tikokino farm three years ago, as he and wife Sally celebrated their win.

The couple have a mix of deer, cattle and sheep on their 320ha farm with an economic farm surplus (EFS) of $941/ha and a 9.6 per cent return on capital. They will host a winner’s field day on May 12.

“It was awesome to be able to pull it off and we’re pretty blown away, to be fair,” Grant said.

After thanking people such as vets, bankers, contractors and staff who had helped make their business successful, he also thanked Sally, who had been “the glue that makes our family stick” while looking after a “two-year-old boy who is very active and a seven-month-old girl who’s nocturnal.” . . 

Successful trip to China concludes:

Primary Industries Nathan Guy has concluded a successful trip to China as part of a delegation led by Prime Minister John Key with Trade Minister Todd McClay and New Zealand businesses.

“This visit has reinforced the strong and growing agricultural ties between our countries. Not only is China our biggest export market, there is now a depth of two-way investment and cooperation between our primary industry sectors,” says Mr Guy.

“We have made great progress on an updated meat protocol that includes chilled meat access which will be significant for exporters and farmers. This will help put premium chilled meat cuts on the tables of high end restaurants.

“A new Halal Arrangement will recognise New Zealand’s halal standards and will provide our producers with a first mover advantage in this culturally diverse market that takes 33 percent of our total halal certified exports. . . 

Pacific farmers using web tools for market updates:

Young farmers in the Pacific are being taught web and social media skills to help them earn more, and to share information with other farmers in the region.

The workshop, by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community, or POETCom, began in Niue last week, and will move to the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands.

POETCom’s coordinator, Karen Mapusua, says farming is often just seen as manual labour by young people, but social media and internet skills can be useful in the agriculture sector. . . 

Peterson Farm Bros's photo.


Taking drops from the ocean

April 19, 2016

A new report by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) says oceans could rise by a metre this century if we don’t stop emitting huge amounts of carbon and methane.

Around 95% of New Zealand’s rivers flow into the sea.

If we had a considerable increase in water storage and irrigation would that make a difference or would that be so insignificant that it would just be taking drops from the ocean?

While we’re on the topic of climate change, (via Kiwiblog),  fracking is good for the environment:

. . . As a nation, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent from last year. Over the past 14 years, our carbon emissions are down more than 10 percent. On a per-unit-of-GDP basis, U.S. carbon emissions are down by closer to 20 percent.

Even more stunning: We’ve reduced our carbon emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world, including most of Europe.

How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a national cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, as so many of the sanctimonious Europeans have done.

The answer isn’t that the EPA has regulated CO2 out of the economy. With strict emission standards, the EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries, such as coal, and our electric utilities. But that’s not the big story here.

The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. . .

Yet those of a dark green persuasion are strongly opposed to fracking.

Fracking technology for shale oil and gas drilling is supposed to be evil. Some states have outlawed it. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against it in recent weeks. Schoolchildren have been bombarded with green propaganda about all the catastrophic consequences of fracking.

They are mostly lies. Fracking is simply a new way to get at America’s vast storehouse of tens of trillions of dollars worth of shale oil and gas that lies beneath us, coast to coast — from California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and, as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the past decade from above $8 per million BTUs to closer to $2 this year — a 75 percent reduction — due to the spike in domestic supplies.

This free fall in prices means that America is using far more natural gas for heating and electricity and much less coal.

Here is how the International Energy Agency put it: “In the United States, (carbon) emissions declined by 2 percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.” . . .

Science and technology have achieved far more than politics and emotion.


Grass is ‘green’ but . . .

April 13, 2016

New Zealand’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are small on a global scale and, unusually for a developed country, a high proportion come from animals.

Millions of dollars is going into research which is showing promise but there is a road block to circumvent:

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

This reminds me of the question – what would an enviromentalists do if they saw an endangered bird eating an endangered plant? – but this isn’t a joke.

Research has produced grass which could reduce emissions and boost production but many of the people who are demanding urgent action on climate change are also likely to be opposed to this because it’s genetically modified.

AgResearch Grasslands principal plant biotechnology scientist Greg Bryan said HME could transform NZ farming by reducing its environmental footprint and improving animal productivity.

“The potential value to GDP based on modelling we have done is in the range of $2 billion to $5b a year in additional revenue depending on the adoption rate by farmers.”

But New Zealand’s regulations mean HME field trials would have to be done overseas then repeated here.

Earlier last week scientists and science leaders attending a NZ BIO symposium at Massey University warned NZ’s GM laws had not kept pace with technology such as gene editing.

Much of the developed world was embracing GM and while NZ scientists were leaders in this science, regulations might prevent its use.

New Zealand leads the world in many areas of agriculture but the blind opposition to GM is handicapping our scientists.

Approval for field trials was technically possible but realistically difficult, with restrictions that no reproductive material left the site, thus preventing plant breeding studies. 

In an interview after the symposium, Bryan said international science companies were not interested in a small, temperate, pastoral farming system, making HME a NZ solution to a NZ farming system problem.

The 15-year HME project cost AgResearch $24 million with another $24m expected to be spent before it was ready for commercialisation. . . 

Seed multiplication in containment glasshouses was under way ahead of field trials planned for 2018-19 and animal nutrition trials in 2020. Depending on those results approval would be sought for NZ trials.

Bryan said GM organisms had been used for over 20 years in agriculture and the growing number of products on the market had not caused health issues for humans or animals eating them. . . 

On the contrary, developments like golden rice have proven health benefits.

This grass is “green” but what’s the bet the people who consider themselves greenest will oppose further trials the most.

Caution with new technology is sensible, blind opposition is not.

 


Is that really true?

April 4, 2016

A Labour poster circulating on social media quotes Andrew Little saying: When I was a kid I used to be able to swim in any river and drink from it.

Is that really true?

When I was a kid the freezing works at Pukeuri had to build a huge tank to chlorinate water because the water from the Waitaki River, which supplied Oamaru, several smaller towns and many farms, was not of a high enough standard to wash export meat.

That was well before wide spread irrigation and intensive farming.

Many rivers should be cleaner than they are now and improving water standards where possible should be a priority.

But not all water degradation is the fault of people and farming.

Birds pollute waterways and some species are protected.

Some rivers never were clean enough to safely drink from and swim in and it would be impossible to get all of them to that standard.

I question Little’s claim of how clean every river was when he was a kid and I know that the goal of having every river swimmable and drinkable will never be attained.


What if this was a dairy farm?

March 17, 2016

Wastewater overflow is polluting an Auckland beach:

Sanitary items have been washing out of wastewater pipes into one of Auckland’s popular inner-city beaches and upsetting local residents, but Watercare says overflows are a regular occurrence. . .

Watercare says a nearby wastewater pipe had become blocked with fat and rags, causing the volume of wastewater to build up in the network and escape into the bay.

A team cleared the blockage with a sucker truck, and over the past two days carried out tests, which found the overflow caused no contamination.

However, Watercare says overflow caused by fat, rags or wet wipes is a common occurrence and a growing problem.

“We are working to educate our customers on what steps they can take to minimise blockages and keep our beaches and environment clean,” says communications manager Rachel Hughes. . .

Watercare can’t be blamed for people putting things they shouldn’t down loos, sinks or drains, but there’s a double standard here.

Farmers are fined for ponding of effluent that could reach a waterway even if it doesn’t, yet this gross urban pollution is a regular occurrence.


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