Rural round-up

February 24, 2017

Isn’t agriculture really just at war with liberals? – Uptown Farms (Kate Lambert):

Last week after a speech, a young college student approached me. Eager to connect, she started with, “Do you ever get completely frustrated with these liberals?”

Her question was intriguing to me. Not because it was unique, the exact opposite. Because it was so common.

Almost without fail, when I get the chance to talk to producers about the desperate need to tell the story of agriculture, someone asks a similar, politically loaded question.

But it’s a fair question, isn’t it? In this politically correct era, surely a blogger can still call a spade a spade?

Because isn’t the reality that our enemies are easily identifiable? Isn’t agriculture really just at war with liberals? . . .

WTO agreement a victory for NZ exporters:

Trade Minister Todd McClay has welcomed the entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) saying it is a big win for New Zealand exporters.

“The TFA will benefit all New Zealand exporters and is particularly good for small and medium sized enterprises. The TFA reduces the cost, administration and time burden associated with getting products across borders and into the marketplace,” Mr McClay says.

“New Zealand’s agricultural exporters will also benefit significantly from a provision to hasten the release of perishable goods within the shortest possible time.”

A rising tide of protectionism could hit NZ dairy sector hard: NZIER –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s economy would be hard hit if there is a retreat to protectionism in the global dairy sector, a report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has found.

“In the current global trading system, the tide of protectionism is rising. Brexit and the initial trade policy proclamations by Donald Trump both point to a challenging environment for further trade liberalisation, at least in the short term,” said NZIER in the report for the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand. Against this backdrop there is an increasing risk that tariffs could be lifted rather than reduced, it added. . . 

Bobby calf death rate halved over a year – but still room for improvement – Gerald Piddock:

Bobby calf deaths more than halved after a big improvement in their transportation welfare last spring.

A new report from the Ministry for Primary Industries showed the mortality rate went from 0.25 per cent in 2015 to 0.12 per cent last year.

Last year 2255 calves were reported dead or condemned during the time they were collected for transport to their slaughter from 1,935,054 calves processed.

Young NZers chase endless shearing season – Alexa Cook:

The declining number of sheep in New Zealand and changes in weather patterns are driving more shearers to chase work around the globe.

The national sheep flock is now about 27 million, a big drop from the 70m or so sheep that the country had in 1982.

Jacob Moore from Marton is part of a group of about 60 young shearers who follow the summer seasons for work.

Mr Moore said for shearers who were at the top of their game and established locally, there was full-time work and contractors tended to hold on to them for many seasons.

Wool market strengthens:

NZ Wool Services CEO John Dawson reports 4600 bales on offer this week saw an 87 percent clearance with mostly positive results, with lambs wool increasing considerably.

The weighted currency indicator is down 0.34 percent having a small but positive impact.

More growers are continuing to hold back wool, further reducing volume which is restricting supply in some categories.

Mr Dawson advises compared to the last South Island selection on 16 February; . . 

A2 CEO, chair sell down holdings following strong first-half earnings – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co’s chief executive and chair have sold down their stakes in the milk marketing firm, less than a week after reporting first-half profit more than tripled as demand for its A2 Platinum infant formula surged in its key Australia, New Zealand and China businesses.

Chair David Hearn sold 1 million shares for about $2.5 million, or $2.48 a share, on Friday, while chief executive Geoffrey Babidge sold 900,000 shares for $2.2 million, or an average price of $2.49, yesterday. Hearn gained the shares by exercising 1 million of his 5 million options, for which he paid $630,000, with the sale to facilitate a property transaction in the UK to move his personal residence, according to documents published to the NZX. . . 

Maize crops ‘worst in 30 years’ – Alexa Cook:

Farmers in drought-hit Northland battling with a shortage of stock feed are also experiencing the worst maize harvest in 30 years. . 

Northland Regional Council is warning farmers to be careful with feed reserves and not get too excited about the recent rain.

The council said the drought meant some farmers had already used up their extra supplementary feed, which was being saved for the autumn and winter months.

Northland dairy farmer Even Sneath said it had been a terrible season for growing crops. . . 

Busy summer for MPI biosecurity staff:

Faced with record numbers of international visitors this summer, Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity staff have intercepted risk goods ranging from the bizarre to the potentially devastating for New Zealand’s economy and environment.

Some of the unusual airport interceptions so far this summer include:

• A chilly bin of live spanner crabs from Thailand presented to officers at Wellington Airport.

• Fruit fly larvae in mangos found at Auckland Airport inside a suitcase from Malaysia jammed full of plant produce and other food. . . 

New Zealanders Offered Sweet Investment:

New Zealanders are being invited to invest money for honey in a revolutionary hive sharing initiative launching today.

Whanganui-based Canaan Honey has launched a PledgeMe crowdsourcing campaign for investors looking to get a sweet return: a lifetime supply of honey.

A launch party last night saw the season’s first harvest of honey with a 3kg bonus honey offered to the first 10 signups.

Hive Share lets backers around New Zealand become beehive owners, without the fuss of having to look after the hive. . . 


90% swimmable

February 24, 2017

The Government has announced a target of 90 per cent of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers meeting swimmable water quality standards by 2040, alongside releasing new policy, regulations, information maps and funding to help achieve the new goal.

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“This ambitious plan to improve the water quality in our lakes and rivers recognises that New Zealanders expect to be able to take a dip in their local river or lake without getting a nasty bug,” Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The plan is backed up by national regulations requiring stock to be fenced out of waterways, new national policy requirements on regional councils to strengthen their plan rules on issues such as sewage discharges and planting riparian margins, a new Freshwater Improvement Fund and new maps that clearly identify where improvements are needed.

“This 90 per cent goal by 2040 is challenging and is estimated to cost the Government, farmers and councils $2 billion over the next 23 years. It will make us a world leader in water quality standards for swimming, and that’s important for New Zealand’s growing tourism industry. It will return our rivers and lakes to a standard not seen in 50 years while recognising that our frequent major rainfalls mean a 100 per cent standard is not realistic.”

The target covers the length of rivers over 0.4m deep and the perimeters of lakes greater than 1.5km, which total 54,000km. The plan is about improving the frequency that we can swim in our lakes and rivers, noting that even our cleanest rivers breach swimming water quality standards during storms.

This is a very important point – nature is sometimes to blame for lower quality.

The swimmable target is based on meeting the water quality standard at least 80 per cent of the time, in line with European and US definitions. Currently 72 per cent by length meet this definition, and the target is to increase that to 90 per cent by 2040. This means an additional 10,000km of swimmable rivers and lakes by 2040, or 400km per year.

“The maps I am releasing today provide the most comprehensive and consistent information on water quality for swimming of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes ever published. These will help focus councils and communities on improving their local water quality, as well as help people make decisions about where they can safely swim. The maps are connected to the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa website that provides real-time information on water quality, which is particularly relevant for the fair and intermittent categories.

“The challenge of improving water quality varies significantly across New Zealand. This plan requires improvements in water quality across all regions and all categories. The target not only requires an improvement in areas that are swimmable, ie into the fair category, but also rivers and lakes being moved from fair to good, and good to excellent. Regional targets to achieve the national goals are to be worked through with regional councils by March 2018. Some regional targets will need to be greater than the 90 per cent and others, where it is more difficult to achieve, will be less.

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management is being strengthened to support the new 90 per cent by 2040 swimmability target, as well as changes to address the issues of ecological health and nutrients by:

  • replacing “wadeable” with “swimmable”
  • adding macroinvertebrate monitoring for ecological health
  • strengthening references to “Te Mana o te Wai”
  • clarifying the consideration of economic opportunities
  • requiring instream limits for nitrogen and phosphorus
  • clarifying inclusion of coastal lakes and lagoons
  • clarifying the policy on exceptions
  • strengthening the requirement for monitoring and improving quality.

“The new regulations on excluding stock from waterways are an important part of this plan to improve water quality. The rules progressively apply to dairy, pig, dairy support, beef and deer farms from this year to 2030 relative to the steepness of the country, at an expected cost of $367 million,” Dr Smith says.

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“We are today opening bids for the new $100m Freshwater Improvement Fund and announcing the eligibility and assessment criteria, which closes on 13 April. This comes on top of the $350m already committed by the government, of which more than $140m has been spent on specific river and lake clean-ups.

“This is the third phase of the Government’s work programme to improve New Zealand freshwater management and builds on the NPS introduced in 2011 and the National Objectives Framework in 2014. I commend and acknowledge the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group and the Land and Water Forum, who have worked tirelessly in assisting with these policy developments.”

The detail of the NPS and Stock Exclusion Regulations are open for consultation until 28 April 2017.

Deterioration in most waterways has taken place over many years and can’t be reversed quickly.

Lower standards of water quality have a number of causes, one of which is intensification of farming and Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says farmers are up for the freshwater challenge the new standards pose:

New freshwater reforms will result in 56,000 km more fences protecting New Zealand waterways from stock – enough to go round the world one and a half times, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The new rules on stock exclusion are part of the Government’s plans announced today setting a target for 90% of rivers and lakes to be swimmable by 2040.

“Farmers have made huge progress in recent years to improve their environmental practices and this will be another important step forward. Dairy farmers have already voluntarily fenced off over 24,000km of waterways,” says Mr Guy.

“We know that stock standing in or regularly crossing waterways can do significant damage. While dairy farmers have voluntarily fenced off around 96% of their waterways, we want to extend this to other types of farms as well.

“The proposed national regulation would ensure that dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs and deer are kept out of waterways.

“We need to ensure the changes are practical for farmers, so the exclusions would be implemented in a staged process starting this year through to 2030, depending on the stock type and land slope.

“There are long term benefits for the primary industries and wider economy from these reforms. Overseas markets and consumers increasingly demand a strong environmental performance over and above regulatory requirements. In this context, protecting New Zealand’s natural advantage has never been more important.

“No single organisation or group is solely responsible for improving our water quality. Meeting the target will take a collective effort, but the primary industries have a key contribution to make.

“In the meantime, the Ministry for Primary Industries continues to work with the primary sectors to invest in good ideas which promote environmental best practice. One example is the Farm Systems Change program, which identifies high preforming farms and uses farmers’ networks to spread their knowledge.

“Another is a major programme under the Primary Growth Partnership, called Transforming the Dairy Value Chain. Under this programme effluent management systems have been improved, and every region now has a riparian planting guideline developed in conjunction with regional councils.

“As a Government we are committed to growing the primary industries at the same time as improving water quality. Water storage schemes like Central Plains Water and the Waimea Community Dam help in this by taking pressure off groundwater sources and maintaining summer river flows, delivering both economic and environmental benefits.

“We also know that science will play a major role in improving our freshwater. The ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge is investing $96.9 million over 10 years into this, hosted by AgResearch and involving six other Crown research institutes.

IrrigationNZ says the outcomes are achievable:

“Achievable outcomes within a reasonable timeframe” is how IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis, described today’s release of the government’s ‘Clean Water’ document. He hoped however that the target of 90% of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040 didn’t let urban waterways ‘off the hook’.

“Farmers have received the lion’s share of blame for New Zealand’s water quality degradation and despite evidence backing up the contribution cities and industries make to poor water quality, they have largely escaped the finger-pointing. I’m hoping the Government will call every New Zealander to account for water quality, recognising we all contribute to the problem, therefore we must all work together to enact the solution” said Curtis.

Poor water quality is not only a rural problem nor is it solely due to bad farming practices.

IrrigationNZ was pleased the Government had recognised the important economic contribution farmers make to our communities, stating that Regional Councils must consider the economic wellbeing of their community when making decisions about water allocation.

“Farmers and growers make significant investments in irrigation infrastructure and on-farm efficiencies, and the return on that investment is spent in towns and cities throughout New Zealand. We all benefit from irrigation and it’s important councils don’t impose restrictions that negatively impact the viability of our primary sector.” . . 

DairyNZ welcomed the new rules:

“The new stock exclusion requirements for dairy cattle is a strong endorsement of the hard work dairy farmers have done on their farms to protect waterways,” says DairyNZ CEO Tim Mackle.

“The on-farm fencing requirements in the new rules have already been met by 97.1 percent of dairy farmers around the country, and the target by May, a month ahead of the new requirements, is to be 100 percent, with all waterways running through dairy farms will be fenced off and all stock crossings bridged,” he says.

“This means that right now very few dairy cattle have any access to waterways, and in just two months’ time no dairy cattle – that’s zero dairy cattle – should have access to waterways on our farms.”

Dr Mackle says fencing – currently 27,109 kms – is always set back a healthy distance from waterways, varying from farm to farm depending on the soil type and contour of the land.

“This ensures the optimum levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment are filtered. Farmers also keep cows off sensitive areas in the vicinity of the fenced waterways, for example, in wet weather.”

“There’s still a way to go in some areas, and dairy farmers are well aware of that. We acknowledge that improving New Zealand waterways is a long journey, as today’s announcement recognises. The good news is dairy farmers around the country are leading the way in protecting freshwater on their farms.

“Our dairy farmers can be immensely proud of the work they are undertaking for the environment on their farms, and many are also doing work to improve their surrounding communities – and all New Zealanders, whether they are living in towns and cities, or in rural communities, can also be proud of the efforts of our dairy farmers,” says Dr Mackle.

As part of their commitment to the environment, dairy farmers are also planting vegetation along waterways, and using native plants such as manuka, cabbage trees and flaxes, as well as native grasses, that have superior ability to filter and slow run-off, he says.

“Added to this, all dairy farms now have dedicated effluent management systems with effluent ponds, just like towns around the country. Areas such as the dairy shed and yards drain directly into these systems where the effluent is stored and later used by farmers to fertilise their land.

“It’s also encouraging to see the rates of dairy effluent related prosecutions and abatement notices continuing to decline dramatically, and an improvement in overall effluent non-compliance, which is the lowest it has been in recent years.”

Over the past three years farmers have invested over $1 billion dollars in environmental protection measures, he says.

“About 70 percent of this expenditure has been on effluent systems that feature the latest technology. Farmers are also well along the way in preparing environmental management plans for their farms, working closely with environmental advisors and their local councils.”

Dr Mackle says while a number of forward-thinking farmers began environmental initiatives a decade and more ago, the actions of the past three years are recorded in the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord.

“The accord is an independently audited report. It can be seen as the commitment of every single one of New Zealand’s 14,000 dairy farmers to play their part in helping to ensure that their fellow Kiwis can enjoy cleaner freshwater.”

Full results of year three of the water accord are currently being audited and will be announced in April.

For year two water accord results see www.dairynz/wateraccord

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman also welcomed  the clean water plans:

“Water is, of course, the lifeblood of horticulture and our commercial growers have been innovating for some time with environmentally sustainable ways of growing healthy, fresh food for all New Zealanders,” Mr Chapman says.

“Growers implement a number of techniques to protect waterways near their properties. These including riparian planting and management adjacent to waterways and silt traps to collect run-off caused by rain and stop anything entering nearby waterways.

“Riparian planting has many benefits, particularly to water quality, but it is also very expensive and growers bear the cost of that.

“It is great to see the Government opening applications for the $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund, and we will certainly be looking at projects that could be part of that to create more and better ways to protect waterways near growing land.

“But it is also important to note that water quality in New Zealand is not solely the domain of people in the primary industries or rural land owners. The bulk of New Zealanders live in cities and they both use a lot of water and create a lot of waste water. So instead of always pointing the finger at those outside the cities, urban dwellers might want to consider what their contribution to clean water in New Zealand might be to help our growers continue to feed them healthy food in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has welcomed the announcement:

“The announcement is generally consistent with some of the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“For the first time, swimmability is the objective in freshwater management.

“We will have transparency regarding which lakes and rivers are in fact swimmable and which are not. This will vary across seasons and places. Regional councils will need to improve degraded systems with a target of achieving 90% swimmability by 2040.

“The standard for what constitutes swimmable rivers and lakes is comparable with the EU Water Framework Directive. Whether the target date is acceptable will become clear during the consultation phase to follow.

“Other recommendations by the Land and Water Forum have been accepted by Government. These include providing greater rigour on nitrate levels and on macroinvertebrates in the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management. However, some of the detail on these issues appears to raise questions that need further exploration.

“One important issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed is turbidity and sediment – water clarity. The Forum is doing more work on this later in the year. . . 

Forest and Bird isn’t impressed:

Forest & Bird has condemned the government’s new water quality standards, warning New Zealanders that they lock in current levels of water pollution and allow for a 5-fold increase in the chance of getting sick from swimming in a river.

“Despite an explicit assurance from Minister Smith that the new water standards would provide for human and ecosystem health, he has failed to deliver on either of these things,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague.

Contrary to the overwhelming public concern for the state of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, the government’s announcement today does not require any improvement to our water quality, except for the very worst rivers.

“If your local river is polluted now, the government does not require that its water quality is improved to a standard that is safe for people and the ecosystem that it should support. Instead, all they propose is that the current situation is maintained,” says Mr Hague. . . 

What would he and his organisation do when nature causes the problems?.

The Otago Regional Council had concerns about only three waterways in January, two alerts were due to high rainfall and the poor water quality in the Kakanui River was caused by birds?

Clean water is one of the measures of sustainability, maintaining clean waterways and improving those with poor quality is a long-term and expensive process but the goal of 90% swimmable is achievable.


Rural round-up

February 9, 2017

Synlait increases forecast milk price to $6.25 kgMS:

Synlait Milk has increased their forecast milk price from $6.00 kgMS to $6.25 kgMS for the 2016 / 2017 season.

“International dairy commodity prices have improved further since our last announcement in November and although prices have eased slightly in early 2017, we believe $6.25 kgMS is now a realistic estimate for the current season,” said Graeme Milne, Chairman.

Mr Milne said global dairy production, with the exception of the United States, has continued to decrease and followed the trend of previous months. . . 

Stu Muir brings life to dying wetlands – Kate Guthrie:

Stu Muir is a Waikato dairy farmer and, in contrast to some of the headline-grabbing stories you may have read about dairy farmers, Stu and his family are putting a huge effort into restoring natural waterways on their block. Such is the magnitude of their effort and the success of their project,that they even featured on the 50th Anniversary episode of ‘Country Calendar’.

Stu’s family have been farming in New Zealand since the 1850s. On a block of land his great great grandparents
bought back in the 1890s, there is a swamp and until recently that swamp was clogged with willows and pampas – so badly blocked that you couldn’t move through the stream. Water couldn’t move either and with no current flowing through the wetland was full of pondweed and dead or dying throughout. . . 

‘You can’t afford to have a short-term view’ – Maja Burry:

A ban on collecting shellfish and seaweed species in Kaikōura has left some pāua divers jobless – but they are still supporting a government proposal to extend the closure further.

The Kaikōura earthquake lifted parts of the seabed by up to four metres, exposing thousands of pāua and other sealife to dehydration and prompting the fisheries closure.

The current ban is due to expire on 20 February, but the Ministry for Primary Industries has been seeking feedback on its plan to extend it another nine months. . . 

Trump vs. global supply chains: US agriculture edition – James Pethokoukis:

Donald Trump wants to rework NAFTA to somehow bring back manufacturing jobs. (Reality check here.) But I guess it isn’t just factories that have complex, enmeshed supply chains. US agriculture has a big stake in possible re-negotiations, too. From the FT:

Corn is the biggest of the US’s $17.7bn in agricultural exports to Mexico, a value that has risen fivefold since the countries signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico’s exports to the US have grown even faster to $21bn, led by fruits and vegetables such as lemons and avocados. … The US president has pledged to revise Nafta, wall off the border and possibly slap Mexican imports with tariffs. Trade in agriculture could end up a casualty. … Mexico is the third biggest destination for exported US farm products. They range from corn and wheat to dairy foods and high-fructose corn syrup. . . 

Manuka honey’s reputation hit by Queen’s grocer’s move – industry:

The reputation of manuka honey has taken a hit after the Queen’s official grocer pulled it from its shelves, says the local industry.

Fortnum-and-Mason removed the New Zealand-made product, after testing showed it had lower-than-expected levels of a key ingredient.

John Rawcliffe, from the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association, said he did not know who supplied the honey to the upmarket grocer. . . 

  First round of Regional Awards finalists announced:

The 2017 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards is in full swing, with judging underway and the first regional finalists announced.

The awards, which oversee the Share Farmer of the Year, Dairy Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee of the Year competitions, received 424 entries.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra Farm Source, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy, and Ravensdown, along with industry partner Primary ITO. . .

Tough contest for dairy industry scholars:

DairyNZ has awarded 55 scholarships to Lincoln, Massey and Waikato university students as part of a wider drive to support motivated young talent into the dairy industry.

The annual scholarships were awarded to students undertaking degrees in agriculture or related fields, with a particular interest in the dairy industry.

Susan Stokes, DairyNZ industry education facilitator, says the quality of applications this year was exceptionally high and bodes well for future talent coming into the dairy industry. . .

Final Results for Karaka 2017:

New Zealand Bloodstock’s 91st National Yearling Sales Series concluded on Sunday after six action-packed days of selling.

The increased international presence at Karaka 2017 was a highlight of the Sale Series, with purchasers from nine countries including Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Great Britain, and Japan securing purchases through the three Sale sessions.

Spend by the Australian buying bench increased by over $5.6 million (+18%) on last year’s edition with receipts totalling $36.9 million for 290 horses purchased (up from 251 in 2016). . . 

Blooming marvellous… New Zealand’s biggest commercial nursery placed on the market for sale:

The land, buildings and business making up New Zealand’s biggest commercial wholesale plant and shrub nursery have been placed on the market for sale.

Growing Spectrum is a 9.635 hectare ‘all-in-one’ seedling, nursery and potting operation at Kihikihi near Te Awamutu in Southern Waikato. The business grows more than half-a-million plants for sale annually – supplying virtually all of New Zealand’s garden centres and selected home improvement mega store outlets.

The family owned and operated business was established 40 years by husband and wife horticultural entrepreneurs Peter and Carol Fraser. It now employs 36 full-time staff, with the company’s sales growing consistently over the past three completed financial years – reaching $4.76 million in the 2015/2016 period. . . 


Rural round-up

February 8, 2017

‘Moment of truth’ for NZ agriculture in 2017 – industry report:

New Zealand agriculture faces a “moment of truth” in 2017, according to a report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

In its recently-released New Zealand Agricultural Outlook 2017 report, Rabobank says as an industry traditionally characterised by a liberal operating environment, and a key beneficiary of several decades of global shift to freer trade, agriculture faces a period of heightened regulatory uncertainty and change on both fronts.

Releasing the report, Rabobank Country Banking general manager Hayley Moynihan said 2017 was ushering in a period of considerable change and uncertainty for New Zealand agriculture with developments throughout the year likely to have a significant impact on the sector’s prospects this year and in the years to come.

‘They’ve signed off on everything we’ve done’

A Canterbury dairy farmer is defending the use of public land 50 metres from the Rakaia River, saying the regional council has let him farm it since 1990.

A report by the Canterbury Regional Council has detailed agricultural encroachment on nearly 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers, between 1990 and 2012.

Forest and Bird said the areas taken over for farming have effectively been stolen, and their environmental values were, in effect, gone for good. . . . 

Council to use ‘rule book’ for river side development:

Canterbury’s regional council says it now has the enforcement tools needed to deal with farmers enchroaching public land and it won’t hesistate to use them.

An Environment Canterbury report has revealed almost 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers was been converted for intensive agriculture between 1990 and 2012.

One-quarter of the land developed for farming was in public reserve. . .

Paddock to plate: chefs taste-test Omega lamb – Sally Rae:

It might still be early days for the Omega Lamb Project but feedback has been “overwhelming”, general manager Mike Tate says.

The project involves bringing healthy fat back on to the menu by producing lambs with naturally higher polyunsaturated fatty acids, intramuscular fat and omega-3.

Promoted as being the world’s tastiest and healthiest lamb, the project is a collaboration between Alliance Group, Headwaters Group and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Last week, a gathering was held in the South, bringing chefs from throughout the country together with farmers in the Omega Lamb pilot group. . .

RSE employers hiring more kiwis:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse welcomes a report showing the vast majority of employers who take on seasonal workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are also employing more New Zealanders.

The eighth annual survey of RSE employers found that 79 per cent of the 92 respondents had employed more permanent New Zealand workers in addition to their RSE workers.

“The fact that more RSE employers are now taking on more Kiwis as well is great news and shows once again the huge benefits of the RSE scheme,” Mr Woodhouse says. . .

Lamb flap prices match record high, on limited supply, strong demand – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Strong demand from China combined with limited supply has seen the price for the humble lamb flap rise to match its previous record high.

The price for lamb flaps advanced to US$5.50 per kilogram in January, from US$5.40/kg in December, matching the previous record set in January 2014, according to AgriHQ’s monthly sheep & beef report.

Poor lamb growth rates through spring and early summer combined with improved grass growth has crimped the number of lambs being sent for slaughter in New Zealand, pushing up the price of all lamb cuts tracked by AgriHQ compared with their year-earlier levels. Lamb export volumes in December fell 25 percent from the year earlier to 20,580 tonnes, the lowest level for the month since 2011, according to the latest data.  . . 


Rural round-up

February 7, 2017

Sellers withdraw from wool auction as prices plummet – Sally Rae:

Unprecedented levels of wool withdrawn or passed from the market resulted in the smallest offering South Island wool brokers have presented.

Of the original 13,900 bales put up for auction last week, 2100 were withdrawn on the day as sellers chose to hold, as prices were now well below long-term sustainable levels for wool growers, New Zealand Wool Services International chief executive John Dawson said.

The balance of the offering of 11,819 bales had 64% sold, and the remainder was passed in, Mr Dawson said.

Even the grower resistance could not halt further price slippage for crossbred wool, with lamb’s wool and poorer style fleece again being the most affected, PGG Wrightson Wool’s South Island sales team. . . 

Farmers say plan to regulate privately owned bush is heavy handed – David Burroughs:

Farmers have accused the New Plymouth District Council of “confiscating their land rights” with a plan to regulate areas of privately owned native bush.

Nearly 200 farmers from North Taranaki and further afield filled the Urenui Community Hall on Thursday night to listen to the council’s proposal on Significant Natural Areas (SNAs), with many of them speaking out against the proposal.

Under the plan, around 361 areas would become legally protected, with farmers needing a resource consent to make changes to them, such as building a track or making a hut. 

But many of the farmers said they already took care of the land without the need for regulation and bringing in the new rules was heavy handed of the council. . . 

Marlborough shearer ‘sorted’ for international competition – Mike Watson:

Crutching 1000 lambs could prove the ideal warm up for Marlborough shearer Sarah Higgins as she heads to the All Nations shearing championships in Invercargill.

Higgins is the sole Marlborough shearer competing at the All Nations event which has drawn 400 entries.

“It’s part of my practise run towards the championships,” she said. . . 

Water restrictions affect irrigators too:

They’re as much a part of the traditional kiwi summer as burnt sausages and backyard cricket and despite their late arrival, water restrictions are now in place in most regions. While most of us can accept that our carefully-tended lawn will soon become a pocket square of brown dirt, we tend to get a little bit upset when just down the road we see irrigators operating.

“It’s natural for people to question it” said IrrigationNZ CEO, Andrew Curtis. “But what they often don’t understand is that irrigators operate under the same regulatory regime that town water supplies do, and that town water supplies actually have a priority – irrigators always get restricted from taking water from a river or aquifer long before towns do.”

However, in urban areas, household restrictions are driven by the infrastructure’s capacity to supply; no town water supply system is built to cope with peak demand,  which is everyone watering their garden at the same time in the height of summer. . . 

Pupils take on farm study:

St Hilda’s Collegiate Schoolpupils have been getting their heads around lamb weights.

The Dunedin school was among 26 nationwide to trial a red meat profit partnership programme last year, aimed at engaging primary and secondary school pupils in farming.

The resources, including assessments within the programme, have received the New Zealand Qualification Authority quality-assured assessment materials trademark, and the programme could be used to gain NCEA credits. It will be rolled out to further schools this year.

St Hilda’s head of maths, John Bradfield, said the school had coincidentally been looking for dairy farming data at the time the RMPP programme “popped across the radar”. . . 

It’s a dog’s life as trial season begins – Sally Rae:

Dog trial season is under way, with a big week ahead in May for the Otago centre.

The South Island championships will be held at Warepa, in South Otago, starting on May 1.

The centre’s first trial for the season was held recently at Lowburn and entries were well up on last year.

It was a particularly good couple of days for members of the Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club, who featured among the prizewinners.

Duncan Campbell, from Earnscleugh Station, won the long head with Zip, while his father, Alistair, was third in the straight hunt with Ra. . .

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Where are the protests?

January 31, 2017

Otago rivers are fine for swimming, except for the Kakanui where the cause of poor water quality, once again, is seagulls.

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows.

Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of December, but readings for those sites at other times and for all other sites have been considered safe for swimming. . .

This summer the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls Bridge is the only site to have its most recent reading in the amber/alert range, recording 510 parts of E. coli per 100ml of water on December 28.

ORC duty director Scott MacLean said there was a large colony of nesting gulls at the site, in rugged terrain, about 5km above the Clifton Falls bridge.

“Unfortunately, these nesting gull colonies are likely to continue to cause high E. coli concentrations in the upper Kakanui River, particularly during the breeding season.”

The gulls are natives and can’t be culled, but why can’t something be done, after the breeding season, to deter them from returning next year?

If farming, and particularly dairying, was responsible, the usual suspects masquerading as environmental warriors would be calling for action but they have been silent on this.

They have also been silent on the appalling state of Auckland waterways which are unsafe for swimming.

Kerre McIvor points out hygiene and sanitation are one of the basic requirements for a community to properly function and yet New Zealand’s biggest city is being let down badly on that count.

Whenever Auckland gets more than 5mm of rain, rainwater flows into the shared stormwater pipes and flushes raw sewage into streams or straight into the harbour.

These overflows happen at least 12 times a year.

Newsflash, Auckland gets a lot of rain – and the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage pour into our waterways every single time.

It’s appalling. And the problem is not new. . .

No business, farming or otherwise, would be able to continue to pollute in this way, why are councils and why aren’t the usual suspects protesting?

Alan Emerson asks that question too:

We are continually told in the most emotive terms about the health problems with dairy and irrigation but I’d venture to suggest those issues would be absolutely minimal when compared with raw sewerage.

I ask again; where are the protesters?

The ongoing problem of raw sewerage continuing unabated for the next 18 years is infinitely worse than anything our farming industry can do.

I went to the Greenpeace website believing I must have missed something but no. There was a headline telling me to stop seismic blasting. Maybe that causes sewerage to go into harbours and on beaches.

There was also a rant about a bank presumably funding forest destruction. I can see the logic there, destroy the forest, build houses and pollute beaches.

Greenpeace also wants the Huntly coal power plant shut down. Maybe it was polluting the Waikato River.

What irritated me most though was a mealy-mouthed release about the shocking vandalising of a North Otago farmer’s irrigation equipment.

Paradoxically, Greenpeace claimed to be a peaceful protester but could understand the vandalism as being “a sign of overwhelming public frustration about polluted rivers”.

Show me the science. . .

We are told ad nauseum about farming’s supposed threat to our clean, green image. There’s an appalling lack of science behind the accusations but the anti-farming rants are extreme.

Correspondingly, we have the country’s largest city with far more people than all the provinces combined pumping raw sewerage into the supposed pristine beaches of Auckland.

Where are the environmental protesters?

The Green Party, always willing to castigate farming and generally show indecent haste in the process, hasn’t said anything about the crap-covered beaches of Auckland.

On its website it accused National of plundering our fisheries, claimed the recent extreme weather was a sign of things to come and pontificated, naively in my view, that a fresh start was needed for European Union trade agreements.

There was nothing I could find about the scandalous pollution of our pristine Auckland beaches and the compromising of our clean, green image.

Again if they can slag off farmers for whatever reason they will do it with alacrity no matter what the facts may be.

When it comes to our largest city they seem cowed by the number of voters there. . . 

Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO, draws a similar conclusion:

A recent meeting between Irrigation New Zealand and Greenpeace failed to resolve differences because the environmental group needs a polarising issue to preserve its Auckland funding base, Irrigation chief executive Andrew Curtis says.

Greenpeace gave scant acknowledgement of the role of irrigation or that farmers were reducing their environmental footprint.

The group’s true agenda was laid bare soon after the meeting in a press release that was understanding of Auckland dumping millions of cubic metres of raw sewage into the harbour each year while again admonishing the dairy industry.

Curtis said it showed Greenpeace was a fundraising body determined to protect its Auckland funding base.

“That point was highlighted by the press release this week about Auckland sewage flowing into the harbour which said it was a concern but not majorly because the Auckland Council recognised it is an issue.

“Contrast that with its view of dairy farming and the irrigation industry, which is that there is no acknowledgement they have an issue and are doing nothing to improve the water quality. . .

Clean water is a fundamental necessity for human health.

It is an issue for both rural and urban New Zealand.

Farmers have collectively spent many millions of dollars cleaning up their acts to safeguard waterways.

Regional councils take their responsibilities to monitor farms very seriously. They have the right to prosecute farmers and have done so not only for polluting waterways but for pollution which could reach a waterway even if it hasn’t.

Yet city councils are given not just years but decades to bring their sewer and waste water systems up to 21st century standards.

If farmers were causing even a fraction of the problems that Auckland faces, protesters would be strident.

Their silence on the city pollution and slower than snails’-pace action on improving it is deafening.

 

 


Rural round-up

January 17, 2017

Developing wealth from water – Keith Woodford:

Current controversies about exporting water, be that in bottles or in bulk tankers, draw attention to New Zealand’s key resource.  Yes, that resource is indeed water. In a world that is chronically short of water, we in New Zealand are greatly blessed.

It is because we are so blessed that until recently we have taken the presence of water for granted. Essentially it has been a free resource.  As a consequence, water law in New Zealand is real messy. And that leads to major impediments to water being used efficiently, and in ways which the different groups in society can agree on as being ‘fair’. 

Water that falls as rain on private land has de facto use rights. But once that water runs off into a stream, or permeates below the level where plants can extract it, then it belongs to the Crown – in effect the people of New Zealand. . . 

Silver Fern Farms Annual Result:

Silver Fern Farms has reported a net operating loss before tax and impairment of $7.5m million for the 12 months ended September 2016 on income of $2.2 billion. This compares to a net operating profit of $30.8m and income of $2.5 billion the prior year.

Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were $32.1m, down from $90.5m the prior year. . . 

Loss ‘disappointing’ for Silver Fern Farms – Sally Rae:

Silver Fern Farms chairman Rob Hewett has described the company’s financial results as “particularly disappointing” after it posted a $30.6million after-tax loss.

The loss, for the year ended September, compared with a $24.9million net profit in the previous financial year.

Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) were $32.1million, down from $90.5million.

A $7.5million net operating loss, before tax and impairment and on income of $2.2billion, compared to a net operating profit of $30.8million and income of $2.5billion the previous year. . . 

$34.5M Dividend for Co-Op Shareholders:

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Limited shareholders will receive a $34.5 million special dividend on 14 February.

The dividend of 30 cents per share on all Ordinary Shares and Rebate Shares follows the completion of Shanghai Maling Aquarius’ $267m investment in Silver Fern Farms Limited and the distribution to the Co-operative of $57million from that process which occurred in December 2016.

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Chair Rob Hewett says the special dividend will be welcome news to shareholders. “This is the first dividend shareholders have received since 2008. Their support and patience as we have developed our Plate to Pasture value added strategy over the past 7 years has been critical to Silver Fern Farms.” . . 

Patron announced for QEII National Trust:

The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust is pleased to announce that Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy has accepted its invitation to become Patron.

National Trust CEO Mike Jebson said the National Trust is honoured to have the Governor-General’s patronage.

‘Her Excellency considers conservation and sustainable practices to be of great importance to New Zealand.

‘Her sponsorship is a wonderful endorsement of the efforts the National Trust and its members do in this field of work for the benefit of all New Zealanders,’ Mr Jebson said. . . 

Last bastion of pioneering family’s links to the past goes on the market for sale:

A character-filled homestead linking a pioneering family with colonial roots dating back some 150 years in New Zealand’s past, has been placed on the market for sale.

The museum-like home linked to the Alison family in the Northland township of Waipu is adjacent to farm land first settled by direct descendants of the founding family in 1866.

With the last two grand-children of pioneering settler Duncan Alison passing away without any children of their own, the four-bedroom home and lifestyle block-sized landholding have been placed on the market for sale. . . 

Karaka 2017 to Showcase the Cream of the Australasian Sire Crop:

All of the biggest names in New Zealand and Australia’s sire ranks will be represented in force at the upcoming 2017 National Yearling Sales Series at Karaka.

Waikato Stud stallion Savabeel had a boomer of a Sale in 2016, amassing an aggregate of $11.545 million in the Premier session alone. Last season’s champion sire in terms of domestic, Australasian and worldwide earnings, and the leading sire again so far in 2016-17, Savabeel will again be represented by an impressive crop of 64 yearlings in the Premier catalogue. . . 


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