Irrigation greener option

May 25, 2016

Greenpeace is highly critical of the decision to provide funding for irrigation in Canterbury.

. . . Genevieve Toop, Greenpeace’s agriculture campaigner, said:

“The government is throwing away millions of dollars on this controversial industrial irrigation scheme which will pollute our precious rivers.

“Millions of tonnes of pollution ends up in our rivers already. And this will only get worse if government departments like MPI throw taxpayers’ money at irrigation schemes like Central Plains Water that expand the industrial dairy sector.

“Ecological farming is much better for our rivers, our land and our international reputation. It’s this that the government should be backing, not some failed industrial agriculture model which is polluting our rivers.” . . 

IrrigationNZ counters her arguments:

IrrigationNZ welcomes government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects that will help lift the water quality of Lake Ellesmere and groundwater in the Hinds area.

The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m to help get its next stages through to construction, and $312,000 has been puttowards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed stream flows and alongside address groundwater nitrate issues.

IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis said the Hinds recharge project was particularly exciting because it was the first time techniques commonly used overseas would be used to improve water quality.

“The trial – a first in New Zealand – will use clean Rangitata River water to soak into the aquifer in an area of high nitrate concentrations, diluting the nitrate, whilst also providing better reliability for groundwater takes, and stream flows”, said Curtis “

This alongside the move to Good Management Practice through Audited Farm Environment Plans will allow natural ecosystems to regenerate,” said Curtis. 

Pollution from intensive farming happened over time and it will take time to improve water quality but that’s not an argument to oppose irrigation when better management and independently audited farm environment plans will protect and enhance waterways.

The water will come from the Ashburton District Council’s unused stock water allocation via the Rangitata Diversion Race and Valetta Irrigation Scheme. Groundwater, surface water and climate monitoring will be built into computer models to distinguish the trial effects from other water influences.

“Managed aquifer recharge is used a lot in the United States to replenish aquifers, but is new to New Zealand. This trial is about replenishing aquifers and diluting nitrates. It could be a great tool going forward with excellent environmental outcomes. The success of the trial could lead to it being used in other catchments in New Zealand.”

The project is expected to bring many benefits to the Ashburton community including economic, environment and recreation, said Curtis.

IrrigationNZ also welcomed the announcement by Minister Guy that responsibility for the Government’s irrigation programmes will change in July when Crown Irrigation Investments Limited takes over grants for the development of regional irrigation schemes. This role was previously carried out by the MPI’s Irrigation Acceleration Fund that continues to be involved in supporting early stage strategic water studies and smaller irrigation scheme developments.

Curtis agrees it makes sense to link the Government’s irrigation investment agency more closely to developing schemes, they have much expertise and their help and advice is welcome in setting up the commercial side of community water storage projects as this is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome. “In the past we have often commented that the two government organisations involved in irrigation should be joined at the hip so this makes much sense,” said Curtis.

Bigger irrigation schemes, particularly those with water storage, are better for the environment than individual farmers pumping underground water.

The bigger schemes use less power and replenish aquifers rather than taking from them.

Of course Greepeace would prefer no irrigation at all and is blind to the economic environmental and social benefits it brings.


Rural round-up

May 11, 2016

Dairy cattle number falls for first time since 2005:

The number of dairy cattle in New Zealand fell to 6.5 million in 2015, Statistics New Zealand said today. This is the first decline after nine years of consecutive increases.

”The dairy cattle number is now similar to the level back in 2013,” business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said. “This reduction was caused by an increase in the number of cows slaughtered and was against a backdrop of declining milk solid payouts.”

The 2015 Agricultural Production Survey final result shows that, for the year ending June 2015, there were 213,000 fewer dairy cattle. This follows a record high of 6.7 million dairy cattle in 2014. In the Waikato region, a traditional dairy farming area, there were 153,000 fewer dairy cattle than in 2014. . . 

Australian dairy farmers call for independent govt review after Fonterra slashed farmgate prices – Fiona Rotherham:

A group of Australian dairy farmers is planning a rally this week and more to follow in a push for the federal government to urgently establish an independent review of the country’s dairy industry after farmgate milk prices were slashed by Fonterra Cooperative Group and other processors.

The group, Dairy Power, said the “unacceptable retrospective reduction in milk price”, which affects 75 percent of farms in Victoria, threatens to push farmers off the land or further cull their herds.

“Dairy farmers are not going to survive if they’re losing money,” said group president Chris Gleeson. “The average farmer is forecast to lose A$15,000 this season and more next season. Without immediate action, the industry will continue its downward spiral.” . . 

The money’s in the honey:

The money’s in the honey

A dawning realisation that unused blocks of manuka covered land could be an untapped source of sustainable income is attracting a steadily increasing number of students of all ages in Northland to train in apiculture.

Manuka honey, or liquid gold as it’s fast becoming known, is a growing industry, with enrolments in the Kaitaia based Lincoln University Certificate in Apiculture up from eight students in 2015 to 22 in 2016. The course has support from local iwi, and is run in partnership with Te Runanga o Te Rarawa School of Honey Gatherers. . . 

Speech to the B3 biosecurity conference:

As you know, I’ve always said that biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister.

That’s because it underpins all of our other goals. We want to double the value of our primary sector exports by 2025, but we can’t do that unless we protect ourselves from pests and diseases.

Today I want to give a bit of context on what we’ve achieved over the last few years, the challenges ahead of us, and the importance of all sectors working together.

What we’ve done in recent years

In Budget 2015 I was proud to announce $27 million in new funding for biosecurity. As a result of that, MPI has employed 90 new front line biosecurity staff and introduced 24 new biosecurity detector dog teams. . .

Ministers announces Green Ribbon finalists:

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry today announced the 2016 Green Ribbon Awards finalists to celebrate exceptional environmental achievements by New Zealanders.

“We are delighted to recognise these community groups, scientists, schools, councils and businesses for their innovation and achievements in the 26th annual Green Ribbon Awards,” Dr Smith says.

“This year we received a very commendable 106 nominations across the ten categories, with some projects making a positive difference over many years.

“Environmental initiatives include protecting our precious biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, minimising waste, reducing water pollution, educating and inspiring leadership and implementing more sustainable business practice.” . . 

Gift to help grow seed industry:

A former Lincoln University student who went on to carve out an illustrious career in the seed industry has provided a significant boost to seed science education in New Zealand.

Selwyn and Mary Manning signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Lincoln University Foundation last Friday to mark the creation of the Manning Seed Awards, which are dedicated to furthering education in seed science and seed technology for the benefit of New Zealand. 
“The seed industry is sometimes overlooked for funding, as a lot of people don’t realise how significant it is,” Mr Manning said at the MOU signing event.
 
“These awards are our way of giving back to a vital sector of New Zealand’s agricultural industry, which has given our family so much for so many years.” . . 

Zooming in on heat for herring bones:

Farmers who milk in herringbones now have an easy to use and high tech solution to accurately identify which of their cows are on heat.

The innovative system has been developed in New Zealand by farmer owned co-operative LIC, and is now commercially available in this country and overseas. It uses exclusive camera technology to automatically identify heat events, saving farmers time and money.

The technology was developed to meet farmer demand for a herringbone heat detection solution, LIC Automation Chief Executive Paul Whiston said. Protrack EZ Heat for rotaries had been available for four years and a large number of farmers had asked for a herringbone solution. . . 

Shearer, farmer and former soldier wins premier book award – Beattie’s Book Blog:

Stephen Daisley has won New Zealand’s richest writing prize, the inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award, for his novel Coming Rain, announced this evening at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards..

Daisley (60), who was born and raised in the Raetihi Hotel, which his parents owned, is a former soldier in the NZ Army. He was 56 years old when his first book, Traitor, was published to wide literary acclaim in Australia, winning a Prime Minister’s Award for Literature. Daisley now lives in Western Australia, where he is a farmer and shearer. . . 

Staying fit on the farm!  5 keys to finding time to workout – Uptown Farms:

Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of speaking to women from all aspects of our industry. One question keeps coming up.

Other farm moms always ask, “How do you have time to stay in shape?”

Every time it’s asked, I have a lousy answer. I just smile and shrug, or reply “I don’t know!”

For moms on the farm, life is so different. Our mornings already start earlier than most with morning chores. For moms
who farm full time, there isn’t a break between sun up and sun down. Many of us leave the farm for a career during the day, only to return to more chores in the evening. We often eat meals on the go, in the tractor or in the barn. . . 

 

 

 


Labour & Greens opposed $1.2m windfall for DoC

May 7, 2016

The Department of Conservation has made more than $1 million by harvesting native timber blown over by a cyclone on the West Coast.

Up to 400,000 hectares of public conservation land in the West Coast was damaged by Cyclone Ita in April 2014.

The government passed urgent legislation to allow the Department of Conservation (DoC) to open parts of the coast to operators to harvest the timber.

So far more than 5000 cubic metres of timber has been harvested, 90 percent of which was rimu.

DoC spokesman Tim Shaw said $1.2 million had been made from processing the timber. . . 

That windfall money will  be spent on conservation yet Labour and the Greens opposed the legislation that made it possible.


Greenpeace gets it wrong again

May 5, 2016

Greenpeace had another misguided protest yesterday:

Federated Farmers is surprised at the misguided protest by Greenpeace outside Wellington ACC offices this morning.

“It’s disappointing to see Greenpeace opposing a scheme that has gone through a lengthily process and has stringent environmental conditions attached to it,”says Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen.

“Greenpeace are demonstrating their anti-irrigation views and seem to oppose anything that gives New Zealand farmers climate resilience.”

Mr Allen says stored water gives communities the opportunity to develop good economic and environmental outcomes and that Greenpeace action is a misguided publicity stunt.

“Greenpeace are barking up the wrong tree with dairy effluent – as those using the stored water will be doing so within strict resource consents conditions that have been through a very rigorous process.”

Mr Allen says that ACC have not been confirmed as an investor for the scheme and that out of 196 farms signed up so far, only one is a new dairy conversion.

Hawkes Bay has good soils and a moderate climate. Add reliable water to the mix and landowners will have lots of options only one of which is dairying.

However, it’s not what farmers do with the water but the impact it will have which matters. Stringent conditions in the irrigation scheme’s resource consent will protect the water and soil whatever is grown with it.

“The rural community will either remain as they are and use the irrigation as a form of resilience against dry periods or introduce some new higher value opportunities of cropping or vegetable products in their systems,” he says.

“The entire Hawkes Bay region will benefit by way of improved access to drinking and stock water to  recreational opportunities. The Tukituki Plan Change six was developed independently of Hawkes Bay Regional Council by a Board of Inquiry and put through various tests of the High Court.”

Federated Farmers would rather see Greenpeace support by advocating to Government the forward thinking opportunities to the TukiTuki region – that reliable water will bring if climate change effects the catchments rainfall.

Greenpeace has got it wrong again. Irrigation used carefully enhances the environment and also bring social and economic benefits.


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.


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