Rural round-up

September 20, 2019

Call for an end to scaremongering – David Hill:

Incessant scaremongering over the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food has to end, the chief executive of the Foundation for Arable Research says.

Dr Alison Stewart says while the attention on plant-based proteins could be seen as a win for the arable sector, the debate should not be seen as an ”either/or” scenario.

”New Zealand has to stop endlessly talking about what its future could look like and just go out and make things happen, and it has to stop the incessant scaremongering around the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food.

”It should not be an either/or situation but a win-win where New Zealand is seen as a leader in both animal and plant production systems.” . . 

Enjoy NZ meat and dairy without guilt – Katie Milne:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne explains why consumers can tuck into the milk and meat that New Zealand produces without qualms about global warming and health impacts.

You are what you eat.

To each his own.

Two time-worn sayings that have much to recommend them, and that are relevant in today’s discussions about vegetarianism, red meat, nutrition and the environment.

They’re certainly worthwhile topics to talk about and in recent years voices saying meat eaters are doing a disservice to their health and the planet have become more insistent and strident. . . 

Freshwater changes not set yet – Yvonne O’Hara:

The Government’s   Action Plan for Healthy Waterways  proposal includes tighter restrictions for farmers, including restrictions on land intensification, improvements to “risky” farm practices, and more controls on changing land use to dairy. Consultation meetings in Southland attracted hundreds of vocal farmers. Yvonne O’Hara reports.

Farmers need to “make some noise”, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s general manager policy-advocacy Dave Harrison.

All farmers, rural business owners and employers are urged to make submissions to the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) about the Government’s Essential Freshwater: Action for healthier waterways package.

The Government has released a discussion document that outlines proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Environmental Standards, to clean up and prevent further water quality degradation. . . 

 

5 Fast Takes after Freshwater Consultation Meeting – Siobhan O’Malley:

Summary of my thoughts after attending the Freshwater Consultation Meeting in Nelson for the Ministry for the Environment last night…

Number 1 – gratitude. I am so grateful for industry organisations like Beef+Lamb, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers who look at all the details of this legislation through the lense of their industries and who have teams of people who understand policy fineprint. There are so many details and implications to be understood. The farmer is already working 90 hours a week right now in calving and lambing, and it isn’t their zone of genius to analyse policy. So I felt mega grateful we have those organisations to do the heavy lifting. I plan to check out the summaries they have emailed me, because I realised last night I need help understanding this far reaching and massively complex legislation.

Number 2 – wow this is going to cost a lot. This is something not being well communicated in the current media reporting, who seem to be describing mainly what farmers will have to do. I began to appreciate the scale of spending required by local councils all over the country to upgrade their infrastructure for sewage, wastewater and stormwater, and that about blew my mind. And that was before I thought about how much individual farmers will be spending on farm environment plan consultants, fencing, riparian planting and infrastructure, as well as loss of income from retired land.  . . 

Vote for those who understand farming – Rhea Dasent:

Local elections are coming up and Federated Farmers reminds members how important it is to vote.

The quality of local government in rural communities can mean the difference between dodgy roads and safer ones, thousands of dollars in rates, and the kind of regulation you face on-farm.

Councillors have an important role in influencing the development and implementation of regional and district plans.

Councillors who know and understand farming, or who recognised the practical need to engage with farmers on plan development and implementation, are critical to good resource management. . . 

Female farmers gather to celebrate women in ag at Longerenong – Gregor Heard:

THE INSPIRING story of a former Vietnamese refugee now part of a broadacre farming business in South Australia’s Barossa Valley was a highlight at this week’s Emmetts Celebrating Women in Agriculture Ladies Day event at the Longerenong field days site in Victoria’s Wimmera region.

A large crowd of females in agriculture gathered at Longerenong for the day, organised by Emmetts, one of south-eastern Australia’s largest John Deere dealerships.

The group heard the story of Yung Nietschke, who along with participating in her family farm business with her husband, also works as an educational consultant developing mentoring programs for women and youth. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 19, 2019

New environmental laws will encourage stampede into forestry:

The governments’ new environmental proposals will further accentuate the move of good, productive farmland into forestry according to environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

50 Shades of Green Chair, Andy Scott said the figures provided by the government were, at best, dishonest.

“The government is claiming the cost of fencing waterways will cost hill country sheep and beef farmers a few thousand dollars,” Andy Scott said. “This is plain wrong.

“One farmer on easy hill country tells me his cost will be nearer to $one million. He can’t afford it and is selling his farm for forestry. . . 

50 ways dairy farmers show their love for the land:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, DairyNZ brings you 50 ways dairy farmers are showing their love for their waterways, land and environment.

It’s fair to say that almost all dairy farmers care deeply for the natural world that surrounds them every day of their lives – and they are passionate about protecting and nurturing it for the generations to come.

For dairy farmers, the focus in the past few years has been on improving waterways, enhancing biodiversity, and controlling predators, both weed plants and animal pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.  They know some of their actions are also already helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are further mitigations under development they will be implementing in the future.

The farmers around the country who are part of the Dairy Environment Leaders programme, set up six years ago to develop responsible dairying, are true kaitiaki. They not only roll up their sleeves on their land, but they are also inspiring other farmers. They are active in their communities, on boards and local committees and catchment groups, leading the way in achieving good outcomes for the environment and farming.  . .

Palmerston North TeenAg student lands coveted cadetship :

A determined Palmerston North student has achieved a long-held goal of landing a cadetship in the food and fibre sector.

Alex Argyle, 16, is one of only three people accepted for next year’s cadet intake at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

Almost 50 people applied for the coveted two-year cadetships.

“I’m over the moon. I’m quite young for my year at school, so initially it came as a bit of a shock when I found out,” said Argyle. . . 

First four candidates for Fonterra elections :

Sitting Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been announced as two of the four independently assessed candidates for the 2019 Fonterra board elections.

The other two candidates are Philipp Haas and Cathy Quinn. As re-standing directors, Smit and Macfarlane automatically go through to the ballot: Haas and Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

There are two different ways that shareholders can stand for the board – as Independently assessed candidates or as non-assessed candidates. . . 

New directors to help push for smarter farming:

Agri-environment expert Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, farmer Nicola Hyslop and governance and e-commerce leader David Biland have joined Ravensdown’s board of directors it was announced at the co-operative’s 2019 annual meeting in Lincoln.

Shareholders of the co-operative hailing from Southern Waikato to Northland elected Jacqueline who is from Tirau.  Nicola, a Timaru sheep, beef and arable farmer, was elected director for the Canterbury area. Jacqueline replaces incumbent director Kate Alexander and Nicola replaces Tony Howey, who has retired from the board.

Auckland-based David Biland, who is currently director of management consultancy Hughland Limited, joins as an appointed director replacing Glen Inger who has been on the Board for 12 years.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson said the new directors were exceptional additions to the Board and would help drive further success for the co-operative and its shareholders. . . 

What we can learn from the Visible Farmer project – Dr Jo Newton:

With over 104K views and 700 shares of their Season 1 Trailer, Visible Farmer – a short film series showcasing the largely untold stories of the role women play in food and fibre production – has made its presence felt on social media.

While any initiative seeking to empower, inspire and encourage women should be celebrated, there’s more to Visible Farmer.

Visible Farmer has already achieved what few projects have achieved in agriculture – a community united around and helping share a vision.

Gisela Kaufmann is the co-creator of Visible Farmer and says she has been utterly humbled and thankful for all the support. . . 


Visible Farmer

September 19, 2019


Water woes not just rural

September 19, 2019

It’s not just farmers who are facing huge costs from the government’s proposed freshwater strategy.

. . .Rural residents are showing up in their hundreds to public meetings about the scheme, despite it being the busiest time of year for them. But on the whole townies don’t seem to be so aware of the proposals, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

“This package affects urban – our city cousins, as much as it does farmers. This is going to be huge, this is not just a farming package.

“The fact that it affects councils [means] everyone needs to understand that it’s a big undertaking and it’s going to cost a lot of money, so expect rates to go up.”

The package announced on 5 September includes plans to improve the health of waterways, such as national standards for managing stormwater and wastewater, and tighter controls on urban development. . . 

What will this do to the government’s purported aim of solving the housing shortage? Tighter controls on urban development will add costs to building and reduce the supply of new houses.

Engineer and clean water advocate Greg Carlyon has previously told RNZ the changes were likely to cost “many many billions”.

These costs include those from what has to be done to meet new standards and loss of production; the army of advisors who will be needed as well as more compliance officers and council staff.

Anti-farming activists have highlighted the impact animals and chemicals can have on rural waterways. There’s been very little attention paid to urban run-off . The more concrete and tar seal, the more people and pets, and the more vehicles there are, the more run-off there will be and the more detrimental the impact on water quality.

A lot of towns and cities also have inferior sewer and stormwater systems the upgrading of which to meet the proposed standards will be very, very expensive.

We all want clean water but the answers to the questions of how clean and at what cost won’t just impact farmers. They will add constraints and costs to urban activities and increase council rates for us all.

If any candidates for council elections are promising no rates increases, ask them have they taken into account the cost of meeting the requirements of the freshwater policy and if so what services will they be cutting to ensure rates don’t rise.


Rural round-up

September 18, 2019

If we undermine farming we undermine our entire economic fabric – Barbara Kuriger:

Like my family before me, and following after me, I’ve always taken great pride in being a dairy farmer, and in the reputation of the New Zealand dairy industry internationally.

My husband and I grew up in a generation where we had the opportunity to buy a farm and build our livelihoods on the land as our family had before us. It has been a privilege to forge an incredible career as a dairy farmer. My husband, Louis, and I are both award-winning dairy farmers and we’re proud of the mark we’ve made on the industry. 

Sadly, the outlook for New Zealand’s primary sector is the worst that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t make this strong statement lightly, nor to scaremonger – but rather to reflect the policy settings under a virtue-signalling government which is setting the dairy industry up for failure. As a rural MP, but more importantly as a farmer, I won’t sit back and allow the ladder to be pulled up behind future generations of New Zealanders wanting to pave their way in the farming sector.   . . 

Dannevirke shearing legend Koro Mullins passes away:

Tributes are flowing in from around the world in memory of Dannevirke shearing identity Koropiko Tumatahi (Koro) Mullins, who died suddenly on Monday at the age of 65.

Mr Mullins was known across all aspects for the shearing industry and sports, from shearer and shearing contractor to a frontman commentating role shearing great Sir David Fagan says set the standard on a global scale.

Born and raised in the Rotorua area, and of Te Arawa stock, he met the-then Mavis Paewai when he was a woolpressing teenager working for her brothers and father in Southern Hawke’s Bay.

It sparked what Fagan says was a unique family involvement and commitment to the shearing and wool industry, becoming the basis of Maori Television series Shear Bro which first aired in July last year. . . 

“Don’t lose hope’ – Pam Tipa:

Farming families and communities keen to do the right thing on water should not lose hope and confidence in the consultation process, says a Canterbury dairy farmer and industry leader.

The Government’s proposed nitrogen target for mid Canterbury isn’t attainable, says Colin Glass.

But that is no reason to give up on the consultation process, he says. “It looks as though there is nothing we could do today that would even come close to achieving that target. It simply means that if that target is not amended, farming as we know it today is not possible. Any form of farming.

“The key thing is that farmers are doing the right thing. Everyone is moving in the right direction. Now is not the time for people to lose faith or confidence in the process. . . 

Radiata pine plantations a band aid to nowhere – Di Lucas:

Climate change policies, the Billion Tree initiative and recent news promote the establishment of extensive pine plantations to benefit Aotearoa New Zealand’s climate change response by sinking carbon. Others have questioned the benefit of short-rotation plantation pines compared to natural regeneration of native forests. Whilst afforestation has an important role in New Zealand’s climate change response, we need to be clear about future implications.

There are both native and introduced tree species that grow fast and others that grow more slowly. Consider along with the speed of sequestration, the total carbon stocks that can be accumulated, and how long sequestration rates can be sustained. These rates depend on whether the forest is permanent and allowed to grow to maturity (i.e. not harvested) or harvested.  

Fast-growing trees such as pines or eucalypts in harvested plantations reach their maximum carbon storage capacity in about 20 years. Landowners then lose most of those carbon stocks when the forest is harvested; NZ loses most of the embedded carbon when logs are exported; furthermore, the globe loses most of those stocks back into the atmosphere as the products decay, as well as through associated emissions from forest management, transport and processing. Thus to store more carbon actually requires another forest to be planted on new land that is not already forested, while also continuing to replant and maintain the previous area in forest to recover the lost carbon stocks. That is, plantation areas will need to be doubled in size with every crop. . . 

Here are three farmers who are taking action on climate change – Rebecca Black:

Waikato dairy farmer Christopher Falconer is parked up on his farm looking out over the wetlands as he talks about mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I don’t make climate change-based decisions for what we do on-farm. I don’t. But as it happens, there’s a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate, and what is good for all sorts of other things.”

Take riparian planting, the practice of growing plants alongside waterways. The goal is to mitigate nutrient loss and subsidence and stream bank erosion, but it’s also an effective carbon capture.

With nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under scrutiny and some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. But by making climate change action part of their everyday work, three farmers says the rewards speak for themselves. . . 

Fonterra’s capital structure is no longer fit for purpose – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s delay in announcing its results, driven by Fonterra’s need for discussions with its auditors about appropriate asset values, provides an opportunity to reflect on Fonterra’s capital structure and whether it is still fit for purpose. The simple answer is that it is not.

The value destruction that has occurred and which is now coming to light means that inherent conflicts between the interests of farmer shareholders and investor unitholders have become too great to be papered over. Co-operatives do not survive long-term unless everyone’s interests align.

Two former directors of Fonterra, Colin Armer and Nicola Shadbolt, have both come out recently and said that reworking Fonterra’s capital structure is not the immediate priority. I agree with them. The immediate and urgent priority is to sell assets and create a new slimmed-down and financially-efficient organisational structure, with many fewer high-paid executives. . . 

Physicist Sam Hitchman wins top meat science talent award:

Attracting the best and brightest minds is and remains one of the international meat industry’s top priorities and for Sam Hitchman – a physicist in an industry dominated by biological researchers – the quest to attract new talent has paid off.

The AgResearch scientist recently won the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Prize for Young Talent in Meat Science and Technology at the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) near Berlin, Germany.

.

Sam Hitchman, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in AgResearch’s Meat Quality team, says he was thrilled with the recognition, while adding he didn’t feel “young” – as his award would suggest – upon his return to New Zealand. . . 

Why going meat-free could damage your health – Luke Mintz:

It was just a few months ago that experts were declaring the end of meat. Earlier this year, consultancy firm AT Kearney predicted that by 2040, animal products will have become so socially and environmentally unacceptable that most “meat” eaten across the globe will come in the form of plant-based or lab-grown substitutes.

But a major study released this week just might put the brakes on the rapidly accelerating plant-based trend. According to Oxford University research, published in the British Medical Journal, vegetarians and vegans have a 20 per cent higher risk of stroke than those who regularly tuck into a plate of bacon and sausages.

The authors of the study, which tracked almost 50,000 Britons for 18 years, said this might be because veggies did not have enough cholesterol in their blood. The finding flies in the face of much conventional wisdom, which says that vegetarianism is a healthy alternative to a carnivorous lifestyle.

But nutritionists say the increased risk of stroke is just one of the many health risks that any would-be vegetarian should be made aware of before they take the plunge. . . 


More immigration isn’t what they campaigned on

September 18, 2019

The government has announced changes to immigration policy with a streamlined temporary work visa.

It’s been greeted positively by Federated Farmers:

“Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has  been taken on board – we congratulate the government,” Feds employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted.”

By ditching the ANZSCO skill level classifications, there is much greater scope for a migrant worker to achieve career progression on our farms.

“The changes incentivise farmers to invest in training and supporting migrant employees because there’s a greater chance of keeping them than currently exists.

It’s such a waste of time and effort to train people only to have them forced to leave the country when their visas run out.

“We also acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach in reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders.  The migrant worker’s children can be educated here, and their partner can get an open work visa,” Lewis said.

“It’s a positive for rural communities to have settled and content families, not just single men who may well be sending all their money home to their family.”

It’s far better to have families together here, participating in the community, than to separate them with the worker isolated and sending money home.

The government has indicated the dairy industry is a likely early target group for one of the new sector agreements, containing specific terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers.

“Federated Farmers looks forward to working with other Team Ag  partners and the government to help get this sector agreement right,” Lewis said.

DairyNZ and the tourism industry are among others who are pleased with the changes and I agree with them.

Unemployment levels are low throughout New Zealand and out of the main centres are down to the unemployable. It is at least difficult, and often impossible, to get locals who are capable of working on farms, orchards, hospitality and tourism in the regions.

But what do all the people who voted for the governing parties, Labour NZ First and the Green Party think?

All three parties criticised immigration levels when they were in opposition and campaigned on cutting it back.

We can be grateful that now the anti-immigration rhetoric has met the reality of worker shortages it’s the voters who believed the talk who are disappointed but businesses will find it easier to get the staff they need.


Playing for the payer

September 18, 2019

What’s the value of dairying to the economy? It depends who you ask:

The recent NZIER report trivialises the significant role the dairy sector plays in New Zealand’s economy – and fails to look at the specifics of the Government’s freshwater package, according to DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the report, commissioned by Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace, is less an economic report and more a high-level commentary on the dairy sector’s role in the economy – and paints an inaccurate picture.

“This is yet another case of environmental lobbyists targeting dairy farmers – who are people trying to do the right thing by the environment and who are actively working to make changes on-farm to protect it,” said Dr Mackle. “By singling out dairy farmers, they are ignoring other contributors to water quality and, therefore, are limiting our ability to actually fix the problems where they exist.

“The NZIER report trivialised dairy’s role in the economy – 3 percent of GDP equates to 28 percent of merchandise exports and one-fifth of goods and services exports coming from the dairy sector.

“The NZIER report does not analyse the economic benefits of dairy to regional communities – which is a critical aspect of dairy farming’s contribution to NZ Inc. Dairying is the engine of the regions, in terms of income and jobs. For example, it is the top income earner in Waikato, West Coast and Southland.

“Yesterday we saw the latest MPI Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which showed dairy makes up $18.1b of $46.4b exports to June 2019. Dairy exports were up $1.47b last year – this has flow-on effects to our communities, where we employ 46,000 people on and off-farm.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) recently completed an advisory report on the Essential Freshwater Package that showed that national limits for nitrogen and phosphorus would potentially impose very large costs on agriculture.

“In that report, it referred to a Waikato modelling study which found that land-use change was required to achieve the nitrogen and phosphorus limits proposed – with changes resulting in a dairy revenue loss of $140m per year,” said Dr Mackle

The LGNZ report showed that these goals require an enormous amount of land use change to take place, with many farms becoming uneconomic and communities being impacted negatively due to rural depopulation and a loss of annual income.

“Modelling for Southland showed that achieving a 9 percent reduction in nitrogen loss would reduce dairy profits by $17m a year,” said Dr Mackle.

“In terms of innovation, dairy farmers are an extremely innovative sector but the reality is that all land users play a role in water quality and more than innovation is required – it also needs broadscale adoption by all land users.

“As a sector, we are solutions-focused – and have been for years, and our farmers have been voluntarily working to look after their land and waterways. Our Water Accord shows a range of great progress, including fencing 98% of significant dairy waterways and stock crossing points or culverts for almost all waterways nationwide.

“We all acknowledge there is more work to be done – but we need to work together and recognise when good work is happening and allow time for change to occur.”

NZIER produced a report that played the tune the payers – Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace – wanted.

In doing so it seriously undervalued the economic importance of dairying in and to New Zealand and seriously underestimated the devastating impact the freshwater proposals would have on rural communities and the country.


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