Rural round-up

May 27, 2019

Lobby group 50 Shades of Green calls for pause on blanket forestry – Heather Chalmers:

The Government needs to hit the pause button on policies which have led to thousands of hectares of hill country farmland being converted to blanket forestry in the last year, a newly-formed lobby group says. 

50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick said significant land use change was happening and its speed and scale had caught everyone by surprise.  

“It has snowballed so quickly that we need to hit the pause button and ask whether this is what we intended to happen.  . . 

Too much regulation can bring unintended consequences – Simon Davies:

Although you may not think some regulations apply to your farming business you’d be wrong, writes Federated Farmers Otago provincial president Simon Davies.

Regulation is part of life.

But the thing is I really did not appreciate how much of my life, and more importantly my farming business, was captured by legislation and regulations.

This can’t be highlighted better than since the last election. . .

Farmers own’t forget Jones’ outburst – Steve Wyn-Harris:

So now Shane Jones has decided to put the boot into farmers.

I thought he was touting and self-styling himself as the champion of the regions.

There’s his party doing everything it can over the last few years to portray itself as a reinvented country party and even getting grudging respect from the rural rump as the handbrake on the potential excesses of a centre-left government.

Then. in one manic outburst, he ensured not many farmers or rural folk will consider voting for him or his party next year. . . 

Tough times ahead :

Dairy farmers will be under pressure from the low start to Fonterra’s new season advance rates, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

“Cash is king for farmers because of seasonal conditions, demands for debt repayment from the banks and the rising tide of on-farm costs,” he said.

The forecast of the fourth $6-plus season in a row is welcome but farm working expenses have gone up 50c a kilogram of milksolids over the past couple of years and margins are tight. . . 

From potatoes to coffee, plant breeders are changing crops to adapt to an uncertain climate future – Sam Bloch:

We tend to view the effects of climate change through the lens of the worst and most dramatic disasters, from hurricanes and floods to forest fires. But farmers have a more mundane fear: that as weather becomes more extreme and varied, their land will no longer support the crops they grow. We’ve grown accustomed to living in a world where salad greens thrive in California, and Iowa is the land of corn. But even in the absence of a single, catastrophic event, conventional wisdom about what grows best where may no longer apply.

“People who depend on the weather and hawk its signs every day know it’s getting wetter, warmer, and weirder, and have recognized it for some time,” Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Storm Lake Times, a twice-weekly Iowa newspaper, wrote for us in December. “The climate assessment predicts more of it and worse. Ag productivity will be set back to 1980s levels unless there is some unforeseen breakthrough in seed and chemical technology.” . . 

Industry urged to seize opportunities to communicate with public:

People working in every part of the Scottish red meat industry were today (Friday 24th May) urged by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to support forth-coming campaigns and seize every opportunity to communicate the industry’s positive messages.

Speaking at a briefing to announce QMS’s ambitious activity plans for the year ahead, Kate Rowell, QMS Chair, emphasised a key focus of the organisation’s activity for the 2019/20 year will be to upweight the important work it does to protect, as well as promote, the industry.

“The work we do to protect and enhance the reputation of the industry has never been more important,” said Mrs Rowell. . . 

 


Business matters

May 27, 2019

Farmers ought to be reasonably happy.

Prices for almost every product except strong wool, are at least reasonable and some are much better.

But farmer confidence is in the doldrums fuelled by anti-farmer sentiment and policies from the government.

The wider business community isn’t very happy either and that mood wasn’t improved by the Prime Minister’s pre-budget speech to Business NZ.

Liam Dann said she played heart strings not purse strings:

. . . But while the event was crowded there was still space for an elephant in the room.

Ardern made a point of acknowledging the “elephant in the room” in her first post-election speech to a business crowd.

That elephant was the business confidence surveys, she said in February 2018. . . 

And so today the gloomy pachyderm sat quietly in the corner, as the PM addressed undeniably important issues such as homelessness and family violence. . .

No-one argues about the importance of these issues but the government doesn’t appear to understand that the money to deal with them comes from businesses.

Where the economy, and the current slow down in GDP growth was addressed, the blame was pointed squarely off-shore.

“The tariff war between the US and China has flared up again,” she said. “The US economy is also showing signs of slowing. And uncertainty in Europe due in large part to Brexit is ongoing adding further to the global economic headwinds we face.”

These things are true but, if the strong export returns and record stock market levels are to be believed, they are yet to have had a significant impact on the local economy.

The slowdown this winter is domestically led and business confidence seems to be a big driver. . . 

As a warm up for the well being Budget next week the PM hinted at a broad and bold vision for a fairer and more inclusive country.

It may resonate well with the wider public and certainly will with Labour’s base.

But while this was a speech for Business NZ it wasn’t really a speech for business.

Rebecca Stevenson said expectations were low and lack of detail disappointed:

“Nothing for business” and “disappointing” were common refrains around the room as the PM wrapped-up her holistic vision for next week’s first wellbeing budget.

While sure, it was nice she came (along with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi), some of the attendees were still left underwhelmed, even though expectations were low. . . 

Warren Green, chief executive officer of Active Roofing, summed up the sentiment.

“It was a bit disappointing,” he said.

“It was more like a Labour Party ideological fairytale. But she’s a great orator.”

Active Roofing has about 40 employees. It used to have a strong apprentice scheme. It doesn’t anymore, Green said. The Government’s choice to do away with the 90-day trial law put paid to that, he said. 

That can’t be laid at the door of ill winds from abroad. It’s government policy which makes it much more risky to take on a new employee.

The company had only let one person go under the law, but without it, and with the changes coming down the line to industry training, it’s just too big of a risk now. So they’re not doing it anymore.

“We’re hugely disappointed with the new training model,” Green said, “the existing model works.”

He was pretty typical of employers in his view on his workers. It’s not an adversarial relationship. The company recently helped one of its staff get dental work. “We’re like a bank for some people,” he mused. . . 

Government policy appears aimed at saving workers from really bad employers and in doing so is making business much harder for good employers.

There is goodwill for this Government, despite a feeling they are disjointed and not always clear on what they are trying to do, and how the changes they make will play out (see the new break law and issues with bus drivers), but with some sectors it is wearing thin. 

There is real concern about a lack of progress on infrastructure projects, concern about the training changes coming, and concern that the Government doesn’t really understand business.

Ardern can hit the key talking points a business audience wants to hear with aplomb; economic headwinds, trade war, more trade agreements, helping more Kiwis into work. There is no question she is polished, astute and an excellent Labour politician.

But when you can barely bring yourself to mention the b word, that goodwill will only go so far.

Businesses need certainty and confidence to take the risks to grow.

The government doesn’t understand that, even though it’s being reflected in a slowing economy.

Warm words don’t change the cold fact that business matters. If business isn’t happy the economy stutters and economic wellbeing is the foundation on which social wellbeing is built.


Rural round-up

May 26, 2019

New technologies will ‘not be enough’ to hit emission targets – Gerald Piddock:

As thousands of schoolchildren held nationwide strikes to demand action on climate change, 200 dairy farmers gathered in Rotorua to hear the latest science around ways the industry can lower its emissions.

What they heard at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum was there are no silver bullets to help the industry lower its emissions enough to hit the 47 per cent target by 2050 outlined in the Zero Carbon Bill currently going through Parliament.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said he supported the principle of what the students were striking on. . . 

Quake farmers back to normal – Annette Scott:

Clarence Valley farmers say there are lessons to be learned following the Kaikoura earthquake that geologists claim is the biggest land uplift ever recorded in the world.

November 14, 2016, is well remembered in the Clarence Valley farming community as the day a 7.8 earthquake transformed their land.

The worst hit, Rick and Julia King of Middle Hill Station, lost everything except their will to keep farming. . . 

Farming his way back to nature – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmers Greg and Rachel Hart are committed to producing top-quality food by using nature as a guide while re-establishing a connection between people and the land that sustains them. Colin Williscroft visited to see what they are doing.

Optimising life – whether that’s soil life, plant life, animal health or the people who make it happen – is a guiding principle for Central Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer Greg Hart.

Greg, who farms Mangarara Station near Elsthorpe with his wife Rachel and children George, Bill and Emma, operates a farming system focused not only on being productive in the short term. It has a longer-term focus, aiming to regenerate the land while helping build stronger connections between the landscape and people.

A key is balancing relationships between nature and production agriculture as part of ecosystem restoration, including a focus on soil health, carbon sequestration and planting native and food-producing trees. . . 

Mechanised future for fruit orchards – Yvonne O’Hara:

The orchard of the future will be highly digitised and more productive, with fruit being grown in a protected environment and tended by robots, says Plant and Food Research (PFR) scientist Dr Jill Stanley.

She said human workers would still be in demand as labour requirements would be the same but there would be less pressure at peak times.

Dr Stanley was the guest speaker at the Alexandra, Clyde and Districts Business Group’s monthly breakfast meeting last Friday and talked about what the horticulture sector would look like by 2050. . . 

Farmers need to embrace technology – Diane Bishop:

The day before his 50th birthday Conor English left a secure high-profile job to start his own company, Agribusiness New Zealand.

It was a big risk, but one that has paid off for the former Southlander.

English was the keynote speaker at the Southern Primary Sector Update conference, hosted by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on Friday. . .

Best days ahead at Telford

As you pull up to the gates of Telford, the sight before you may not be what you expected to see in the middle of the South Otago countryside.

An impressive historic stone building surrounded by established rolling gardens is your first glimpse into the state-of-the-art offering Telford gives for anyone who chooses to study at the institution. As the heart of the Telford campus, many young minds have walked in through those doors and work-ready agricultural specialists have come back out.

A staple of New Zealand farming history and agricultural education since 1964, Telford’s Balclutha campus extends over 921 hectares of with halls of residence and facilities, technical workshops (machinery, carpentry and welding), classrooms and livestock units. . . 


Get back to me

May 26, 2019

This video was shown to 600 people at a Queensland Country Life dinner:

 

. . . The video’s creator Ashley Walmsley, who produced the video for the newspaper’s popular ‘Best of the Bush’ gala ball during the Royal Queensland Show last week, said he was gobsmacked by the result.

“It’s been amazing. I thought it might strike a note here in Queensland but never dreamed it would go as far as it has,” he said.

Bundaberg-based Mr Walmsley, QCL journalist and Fairfax Agricultural Media horticulture writer (editor of Good Fruit & Vegetables magazine), employed the vocal talents of retired Beaudesert cattleman Terry O’Hanlon to provide the stirring voiceover, which seems to have struck a deep chord with rural landholders.

“Terry’s voice really makes it. It’s a voice of experience, mixed with a fair amount of bulldust, and various other substances I would imagine, that give it that authoritative gravel,” Mr Walmsley said. . . 

Calling out the disconnect between protesters and producers one video at a time.


Rural round-up

May 25, 2019

Plant patties may not be any healthier than beef burgers, expert says – Esther Taunton:

They’re touted as better for both people and the planet, but highly-processed plant-based “meats” may not be healthier than red meat, an expert says.

BurgerFuel this month became New Zealand’s first nationwide burger chain to add plant-based patties made by California-based company Beyond Meat to its menu.

Based on pea protein, the patties are free from gluten, soy, dairy and genetically modified organisms. . .

Science to fore in reducing stress – Toni Williams:

Our brain is working 10 times faster than ever predicted possible. We’ve lost control,” says resilience speaker and crisis negotiator Lance Burdett.

It has led to overthinking with increased negative thoughts, sleep problems and much worse.

And people needed to learn how to turn their brains off, he said.

Mr Burdett, the founder of WARN International, was in Ashburton May 9 to speak at an event hosted by the Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury. It was part of a national tour. Around 130 people attended . . 

BrightSIDE offers career advice for farm workers

It’s not ”rocket science”, South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) committee member Amy Johnston says.

She and other committee members have put together BrightSIDE, an afternoon session during the dairy conference on June 25, which is specifically for farm workers, and focuses on career progression.

Mrs Johnston, who, along with husband Graeme, is a 50/50 sharemilker on two farms with 900 cows, wants to encourage dairy farm owners and employers to pay the $100 fee for their staff to attend. . . 

Farm replacing beef with koura :

A Maori farming partnership near Lake Taupo, which began to diversify 10 years to lower nitrogen impact, is experiencing wide-ranging benefits and opportunities.

Tuatahi Farming Partnership, which farms 6000 hectares of high country land in the catchment above Lake Taupo, was one of the first and largest landowners to strike a deal with the newly established Lake Taupo Protection Trust to protect the long-term future of the lake.

Tuatahi sold 28 tonnes of its nitrogen footprint to the trust for $10 million and sold carbon credits from tree planting to Mercury Energy. . .

Harvesting the benefits of diversity – Jenny Ling

A Northland couple run a diverse operation consisting of three business units. Jenny Ling reports.

Northland farmers Shane and Dot Dromgool already run a successful dairy and beef operation but recently branched out into the world of viticulture in a bold bid to diversify their business.

The couple run a robust operation, Longview Shorthorns, farming pedigree beef Shorthorn cattle on the outskirts of Kerikeri. It consists of a 300ha beef unit and a 200ha dairy operation. . .

Big Data has arrived for commercial sheep production. Can the effort required to harness it pay dividends? – Jamie Brown:

Big data is coming to a small production enterprise near you. Is it worth the time and money to embrace it?

Speakers at Saturday’s Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association conference in Armidale gave numerous examples of how computer assisted problem solving will directly benefit producers, and smooth speed bumps along the supply chain – with potential to bring premium prices. . .


Rural round-up

May 24, 2019

RWNZ leader encourages rural women – Sally Brooker:

Rural women are underpaid and undervalued despite their multiple contributions to their farm, family, home and community, Fiona Gower says.

The national Rural Women New Zealand president spoke in Oamaru this month at a workshop called ”A Leading Voice”. Organised by local Rural Women members, it aimed to help women gain confidence, express themselves, and network with like-minded people.

Ms Gower said women’s input to the farm and household should be recognised by their peers and family.

And women should take the words ”just” and ”only” out of their vocabulary when describing themselves. . .

Feed grain not among good options – Annette Scott:

Good returns for store lambs and strong signals from the milling industry mean arable farmers are opting out of autumn feed grain plantings.

Growers are hunting out their best options and after a good year last year with lambs they are at the top of the priority list for many arable farmers again this year, Federated Farmers grains vice-chairman Brian Leadley said.

The market signals coming from the mills are also encouraging for New Zealand’s drive towards self-sufficiency. . .

Dairy’s top woman backs recycling – Pam Tipa:

Dairy Woman of the Year Trish Rankin has a message for all farmers: recycling systems work and it is worth doing your bit.

“There is a misconception that recycling just gets stockpiled somewhere,” Rankin told Rural News.

“Actually, it doesn’t. Everything that is sent to AgRecovery gets recycled. I think if people knew that they may take the time to triple rinse their containers and take them to their local AgRecovery depot to drop them off to recycle.” . . 

Edible bale wrap developed to reduce farm waste :

Three PhD students have invented an edible bale wrap to reduce farm waste.

The patent-pending BioNet biopolymer was developed specifically for farms to wrap hay and silage.

It is the brainchild of three Imperial College London PhD students: Nick Aristidou, Will Joyce and Stelios Chatzimichail.

The trio came up with the idea after Mr Joyce, who grew up on a farm in Rutland, noticed his parent’s beef herd was creating a lot of wrapping waste. . . 

2018/19 season results: Zespri operating revenue exceeds $3 billion:

Zespri’s returns to growers and the industry reached new levels on the back of strong growth in both volume and value and across all fruit categories last season, with operating revenue from global kiwifruit sales and licence release revenue exceeding $3 billion for the first time.

The results reflect continued strong international demand, with Zespri selling a total of 167.2 million trays of kiwifruit in 2018/19, a 21 percent increase on the 138.6 million trays sold in the previous season. Revenue generated by global kiwifruit sales and SunGold licence release increased by 26 percent to $3.14 billion. . .

A recollection – Adolf Fiinkensein:

When Adolf graduated from Lincoln as a valuer and farm consultant he went off to Australia and, by accident, fell into commerce where he remained for forty or so years.  Many of my colleagues had come over and introduced Canterbury farming techniques.  Some did very well, others not so well

I well remember a crusty old West Australian wheat cocky remarking that ‘those bastards charged us a fee for telling us when we would go broke. . . 

 

 


How do I Love Ewe?

May 24, 2019

A reprise for National Lamb Day:

How Do I Love Ewe? (With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I love ewe? Let me count the ways

That lamb tempts the taste buds and any hunger stays.

Of course I love ewe roasted, but still a little rare.

And I love ewe butterflied, from all the bones carved bare.

I love ewe chopped or diced and threaded onto sticks,

With capsicum and onion to get my vege fix.

I love ewe minced with salad in a burger bun

And chewing on the chop bones is always lots of fun.

I love ewe tender barbequed, the smokey taste sublime,

And shanks cooked long and slow for flavour that’s divine.

I love ewe marinated, with mint or coriander,

And many other ways my appetite ewe pander.

Though, proud Kiwi that I am, would be hard to find one keener,

My favourite way to cook ewe is how it’s done in Argentina:

 


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