Rural round-up

July 30, 2019

Leading the world and saving it, too – but let’s brace for a drop in our standard of living (and wellbeing) – Point of Order:

So  how  “transformational”  will  the   zero  carbon  legislation  prove to be?

Many  New Zealanders  have come to believe  global  warming  poses  a  real danger  to  their lives – but will the new legislation remove, or even lessen, the danger?

Under the legislation, agriculture   for the first time is brought into the emissions trading  scheme.  That’s won  support from Green lobbyists, but many  say it’s too little, too late –  “a  weak-ass  carbon  reform”.

On  the  other side,  the  criticism is  just as pointed.  There are  no tools to  measure  on-farm emissions and what  the  government proposes   could   shrivel  NZ’s growth rate  by  up to  $50bn   a year. . . .

Planting a billion trees by 2028:

What’s not to love about a billion trees?

Plenty, if you farm in rural New Zealand. For a start, trees require land.

And it’s the fear that farmland will be turned into pine forest that has some worried about the government’s ambitious target of getting a billion trees in the ground by 2028. . . .

Warning of green desert of trees – Tim Fulton:

Incentives for tree-planting credit schemes could create a great, green desert of radiata pine and trample native bush, officials have heard.

The Government proposes taxing farm livestock emissions and fertiliser emissions from 2025.

A Primary Industries Ministry public consultation meeting in Christchurch debated the policy linked to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), a closed, government-managed carbon credit market that’s changing agricultural land use. . . 

Small gains mount up – Colin Williscroft:

Taking small but simple steps on farms can help cut greenhouse gas emissions without biting too deeply into the bottom line, Tirau farmer Adrian Ball says.

With Parliament’s Environment Select Committee hearing views on the viability and fairness of agricultural greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and debate building on how best to move towards on-farm emission charging, what’s been missed is the work already done by farmers.

However, Ball and others are making incremental changes to reduce their emissions while keeping their eye on the bottom line. . .

Reduction of Johne’s disease possible – Sally Rae:

A case study involving Otago-based DRL Ltd has demonstrated that effective reduction in the prevalence of Johne’s disease is possible for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The study has been completed, in collaboration with Temuka veterinarian Andrew Bates, and a paper accepted for publication in the journal BMC Veterinary Research.

It described the control of Johne’s disease – a chronic wasting disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis – on a large South Canterbury dairy farm with an ongoing Johne’s problem. The farmer was culling between 80 and 100 cows a year on the 1200-cow farm. . . .

Outlook remains for sheepmeat producers -Sally Rae:

Sheepmeat prices are expected to stay at elevated levels over the remainder of this season and into the next, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

Pricing levels out to the end of the season in October were expected to be at least as high as the mid $8 mark per kg seen last year and there could even be some “upside potential” on top of that.

Sheep meat supply from both New Zealand and Australia – the key exporters of sheepmeat to international markets – was expected to remain tight over the coming year.

New Zealand had limited capacity to lift domestic production, given where ewe numbers were at. . .

Women of the Irish food industry- Susanna Crampton, farmer and educator  – Katia Valadeau:

I first met Suzanna Crampton, at her farm, in leafy Kilkenny, a couple of years ago.  She was one of the first small food producers I visited when I started branching out from recipes. She welcomed me at her home and I was lucky enough to meet Bodacious, the wonderful Cat Shepherd and Ovenmitt, the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met. I wrote all about my visit to the zwartbles farm at the time. The hour at Suzanna’s kitchen table is an hour I often think about when I try to explain why I’m so passionate about small food producers in Ireland. 

I am still just learning about the many aspects of life of a farm, the sacrifices, the hard work, the rewards and the glorious food. The conversations I had that day with Julie of Highbank Orchardsand with Suzanna Crampton have stayed with me and I think of them as the true start of my education in all things Irish food. Before, food writing was a hobby. It has since become a full blown passion and has gone into all sorts of directions.  . .

 


Rural round-up

July 19, 2019

Warnings China won’t need logs forever :

There are warnings China won’t need New Zealand’s logs forever.

The profitability of the government’s billion trees programme is being called into question as the price of “A” grade logs falls from about 140 US dollars a tonne to 110.

CEO of forestry investor Red Stag Group Marty Verry told Heather du Plessis Allan if we’re only selling to China, eventually it won’t be worth it to chop down the trees.

“We are not the only country with a billion trees policy, and they are all targeting China. Its unrealistic to expect the demand will be there in 25 to 30 years time.” . . 

Burnout on road to success – Anne Lee:

Southland sharemilker Michael Prankerd had days when he was paralysed by fear and found himself suffering from burnout. He shared his story at SIDE and Anne Lee talked to him about how endurance running and widening the number of metrics he measures success by has helped turn that around. Photos: Megan Graham

On the outside sharemilker Michael Prankerd has always been a high achieving gogetter, ticking off progression milestones in a successful business.

But on the inside it was a different story – three years ago there was a whole different
monologue going on in his head. Michael was slowly sliding into a state where he couldn’t see joy in life and was becoming paralysed by fear and anxiety.

He was burning out. . .

Working smarter not harder :

When Jana Hocken first moved to a New Zealand dairy farm, she couldn’t believe the inefficiencies she saw.

Jana’s a business consultant who has spent her career stream-lining processes in manufacturing, defence, healthcare, rail, IT, mining and finance.

She worked for Toyota which developed what is known internationally as ‘lean manufacturing’ – systems to cut waste, cut costs and improve efficiency. . . 

MPI gives calf days go ahead – Riley Kennedy:

School calf days can go ahead this year, but with strict guidelines, the Primary Industries Ministry has decided.

“Calf club is part and parcel of rural life and I know people are looking forward to parading their pet animals from the farm,” Mycoplasma bovis eradication director Geoff Gwyn said in a letter to teachers and students.

“But because M bovis is now in New Zealand we’re asking everyone to be extra careful when our calves get close to other calves.” . .

No new coal boilers for Fonterra:

Fonterra is shaving eleven years off its coal target, as it announces a new commitment to reduce its reliance on coal.

This commitment is the latest in a series of targets the Co-operative has set as it looks to embed sustainability at the heart of everything it does.

These targets include: . .

How no deal Brexitwill devastate farming in UK – NFU president Minette Batter

HAVING spent the last two days at the Great Yorkshire Show and speaking to farmers from across the county, it’s impossible not to be impressed by their passion for their work – in an area renowned for its rolling countryside, superb food and plain speaking.

We’ve talked about everything from climate change to food waste, but of course Brexit has been a constant theme and it is abundantly clear that Britain’s rural areas are at a crossroads.

  • We know the farming industry will be most affected by Brexit, and we now face an array of possible outcomes that could result in either a thriving food and farming sector post-Brexit, or the decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself. .

Would you like a hat with your tea?

English-born Jo Watson was so homesick for a a tea room she opened one in the middle of her home in rural Taranaki. There you’ll find crocheted blankets for knees, knitting needles to pick up, eight types of scones and crazy hats to wear.

Before Jo Watson opened her tearoom in the small Taranaki village of Urenui, she did plenty of market research – devouring as many cream teas as she could on a trip home to the UK.

Urenui is a half-hour drive north of New Plymouth and has a mix of baches and permanent homes and a strong farming base. . .


Forests won’t offset fossil fuel emissions

July 18, 2019

Environment Commisioner Simon Upton says forests won’t offset carbon emissions:

The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill could see millions of hectares of land converted to forestry, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton says.

That is in spite of the Paris Accord stating climate change mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production.

Upton told a meeting of the Middle Districts branch of the Farm Forestry Association in Feilding carbon dioxide emitters will pursue forest offsets on a potentially huge scale, which could see millions of hectares of land go into forestry by the second half of the century.

The Bill allows carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels to be offset by planting trees, an approach that worries him.

“For forests to be a legitimate offset for fossil carbon dioxide emissions there needs to be a broad alignment between the warming caused by emissions and the climate mitigation benefits of the sinks that are meant to be offsetting them. The problem is that there is no such alignment.”

Fossil carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere has a warming effect that lasts for centuries to millennia. 

“By contrast, most forests store carbon on timescales that last decades to centuries. 

Forests will replace productive farmland and reduce food production but won’t fulfil the aim of mitigating carbon emissions.

“Furthermore, forests are vulnerable to many threats, including fire, pests and diseases, which will be further exacerbated by climate change itself.”

Allowing fossil fuel emitters to use the landscape as a place to store emissions will put farmers in direct competition with fossil fuel emitters for land, he said

That’s already happening and being encouraged by government policy that takes a far more lenient approach to foreign buyers who plan to plant farmland in trees than those who plan to farm.

An Upton report, Farms, Forests and Fossil Fuels, advocates a progressive shift to zero carbon dioxide emissions without relying on forest sinks.

“My report made it clear that to safeguard against dangerous climate change we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as our top priority. 

“The Earth’s average temperature will not stabilise at any level until carbon dioxide emissions reach zero. 

“Progress on nitrous oxide and biological methane can help to reduce peak warming but only if fossil carbon dioxide emissions are on a trajectory towards zero.

“By contrast, I concluded that the use of forest sinks as one means of mitigating biological emissions was more justifiable because the durations of the warming effects of biological emissions are better aligned with the duration of the climate mitigation benefits of trees and because it makes practical sense to manage land – whether for forestry or for farming – in an integrated way. 

“There is no question that we need to reduce our gross emissions of biological gases. 

“But to the extent that we can’t, forest offsetting is a much less risky business than it is with respect to carbon dioxide.

This is the opposite of what the government’s Zero Carbon Bill prescribes.

It won’t allow farmers to plant trees to offset emissions from their stock but will allow fossil fuel emitters to offset their emissions with forests.

Upton said allowing only biological emissions to be offset by trees has the advantage of letting farmers balance sources and sinks across the landscape and address other environmental and socio-economic concerns in parallel. 

“Land-use change would be driven largely by landowners seeking to rebalance the natural capital on which they depend rather than a largely external grab for sink space by the fossil economy. That re-balancing would ideally be done across property boundaries to get the right trees in the right place and the right animals on the right land, taking into account the multiple environmental problems we’re trying to fix.

The right trees in the right place and right animals on the right land makes sense environmentally, economically and socially.

It’s what he calls the landscape approach, which aims to integrate climate mitigation with efforts to address soil erosion, biodiversity loss and water quality. 

This approach is backed by science and it is the one that ought to be taken.


Rural round-up

July 9, 2019

Uncertainty plus unique ownership structure drive Fonterra share volatility – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s shares have been on a steady downward slide for the last 18 months. In January 2018 they were selling at $6.60 dropping to $3.86 at closing on 30 June 2019.

Then this last week things suddenly turned volatile, dropping at one point on 4 July a further 10 percent to $3.45, before rising by six percent to $3.69 at close of trade on 5 July.

The causes of the long-term drop are well understood. Very simply, Fonterra made a loss of $196 million in financial year 2018 largely because of write-down on assets. Fonterra is also now in asset-selling mode to strengthen its balance sheet. Non-farmer investors are coming to understand that, with family silver having to be sold as well as some rubbish disposal, any turnaround is likely to be long-term rather than short-term. . .

One billion tree flawed says climate scientist :

The Forestry Minister Shane Jones’ one billion trees won’t reduce carbon emissions, as too few natives are being planted, climate scientist Jim Salinger says.

The government has allocated $120 million in grants to landowners to plant trees on their properties, and wants two-thirds of those planted to be natives.

Forestry New Zealand figures show in the first year, of the 91m trees planted, only 12 percent were native. . .

Falling log prices may make some woodlots unprofitable – ANZ -Rebecca Howard

(BusinessDesk) – In-market prices for logs in China – New Zealand’s largest export market – have fallen in recent weeks and ANZ Bank warns the drop will make the harvest of some woodlots unprofitable.

While some price softening is not unusual at this time of year as construction activity slows in the hot months, “the scale of the correction was unexpected,” said ANZ agriculture economist Susan Kilsby.

The price of an A-grade log landed in China has fallen from US$130/JAS cubic-metre in early June to approximately US$105/JAS cubic-metre.. .

Vet behind Mycoplasma Bovis detection hopeful for eradication:

The Ōamaru vet, whose efforts led to the identification of cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis in New Zealand, says she is optimistic the disease can be eradicated.

Earlier this week, Dr Merlyn Hay was given the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award, for her work to identify M Bovis in July 2017.

Dr Hay told Saturday Morning that the disease was very hard to diagnose, and in many other countries it was only detected after it had already been spreading for several decades . .

Group aims to help farmers improve M. Boris response – Daniel Birchfield:

Lines of communication between the Ministry for Primary Industries and farmers impacted by cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis have been muddied for too long, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.

Alongside Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley, he chaired the first meeting of the recently formed Waimate/Waitaki Mycoplasma Bovis Advisory Group held at the Waimate District Council on Wednesday.

The group, modelled on a similar Ashburton arrangement, was formed to support the ministry’s M. bovis eradication programme and assist with regional decision-making to benefit farmers. . .

Lamb contract rewards loyalty – Colin Williscroft:

A $9/kg fixed-price lamb contract for August is a reward for customer loyalty, Affco national livestock manager Tom Young says.

So, farmers generally should not raise their hopes it signals prices higher that they might usually expect as the season unfolds.

The contract has been the subject of much discussion at sale yards but Young said it is not an offer being made to every farmer.

It is only available to loyal clients, farmers who have shown Affco consistent support. . .

Dismantling free markets won’t solve biodiversity threat – Matt Ridley:

Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives.

Much of the human destruction of biodiversity happened a long time ago . . .


Rural round-up

July 4, 2019

FARMSTRONG: Sticking to the game plan:

The link between mental skills and performance is well-established in sport. Now those ideas are gaining traction in farming. Recent finalists in the Young Farmer of the Year competition have received sports psychology training to cope with pressure. Farmstrong caught up with three to see how it helped.

The Young Farmer of Year competition is one of the flagship events on the rural calendar.

By grand final week more than 300 contestants have been whittled down to just a handful. Over several days they compete over a range of practical and technical tasks, an HR challenge, a speech and a fast-paced quiz of agricultural and general knowledge questions. . . .

Farmers honour vet who found Mycoplasma Bovis in NZ :

A vet whose determination led to the identification of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis in New Zealand has been recognised for her contribution to the farming sector.

More than 300 people attended the Primary Industries Summit gala dinner in Wellington last night, where Ōamaru vet Merlyn Hay received the Outstanding Contribution to the Primary Industries Award.

The audience heard Dr Hay was not satisfied she had found the root cause of the unusual and distressing symptoms she had observed in cows and calves on a South Canterbury property and left no stone unturned until the cause was diagnosed. . .

Forestry hurts rural communities – Tracey Collis:

He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata. Our communities are going through change and it seems like it is happening so fast we may not feel the full impact until it has already happened.

Change is good but only if there are clear outcomes sought for all involved.

The rapid expansion of forestry throughout the Tararua is causing much angst and stress for our communities and it concerns me to watch our people genuinely hurting in so many ways.

This is hurt at a local level, far removed from Government politicians and policymakers, and there are few levers to pull as we see our local democracy eroded by central government aspirations. . . .

Demand drives need for finishers – Colin WIlliscroft:

A 30% increase in demand for First Light Wagyu beef has led the Hawke’s Bay company to look for more farmers to finish its cattle.

It will have 25,000 Wagyu-cross weaners available for farmers to buy this spring, an increase of 5000, so it’s looking for 20 to 30 extra farmers.

General manager Wagyu Matt Crowther said those farmers will benefit from a short, transparent supply chain and income stability. . .

 

Representing NZ beef on the world stage – Brent Melville:

Jess Cairns is fizzing about where New Zealand beef is going.

Having just spent six days in Brazil at the International Beef Alliance (IBA) the 24-year-old Southlander is back working as a stock manager at Coalbrook Farm, a 500ha sheep and beef operation just outside Gore.

And while she loves her job, she reckons the trip to Brazil will be a tough one to beat, describing it as ”hands down the best thing I’ve ever done in my professional life.”

That’s saying a lot. Ms Cairns started with Coalbrook as a shepherd a little over a year ago, on the strength of a bachelor of agricultural science with first class honours. . . .

Apocalypse Cow – Michael Reddell:

That was the title of Wellington economist Peter Fraser’s talk at Victoria University last Friday lunchtime on why Fonterra has failed (it is apparently also a term in use in various bits of popular culture, all of which had passed me by until a few moments ago –  and a Google search).    Peter is a former public servant –  we did some work together, the last time Fonterra risks were in focus, a decade ago –  who now operates as a consultant to various participants in the dairy industry (not Fonterra).   He has a great stock of one-liners, and listening to him reminds me of listening to Gareth Morgan when, whatever value one got from purchasing his firm’s economic forecasts, the bonus was the entertainment value of his presentation.       The style perhaps won’t appeal to everyone, but the substance of his talk poses some very serious questions and challenges.

The bulk of Peter’s diagnosis has already appeared in the mainstream media, in a substantial Herald  op-ed a few weeks ago and then in a Stuff article yesterday.  And Peter was kind enough to send me a copy of his presentation, with permission to quote from it. . .

Birds at risk of local extinction – Elena McPhee:

Native birds in beech forests in Otago could face local extinction in some valleys without aerial control, the Department of Conservation says.

Mast years occur every two to four years, when trees produce high amounts of seed that drop to the ground.

This is the biggest beech mast in four decades, and populations of rats, mice and stoats are expected to increase due to the abundance of food.

Doc operations lead Colin Bishop said there was variability across Otago sites, but Doc was still projecting rodent numbers to reach levels requiring aerial predator control. . .

Aust producers gain insight into Argentina’s feedlot challenge – Mark Phelps:

AUSTRALIAN beef producers gained an invaluable insight into the South American feedlot sector during a visit to the Conecar Feedlot in Argentina’s famed Panpas region.

The 10,000 head showcase feedlot is located at Carcara in the Santa Fe Province, about 350km north west of Buenos Aires. The yard was visited during the recent Alltech Lienert beef tour to Argentina.

Conecar is predominantly a custom feed yard servicing 12 customers who supply beef into both domestic and export markets. Any spare capacity in the facility is usually taken up by the owners of the yard, who also operate a premix and stockfeed plant supplying other feedlot operators. . . 

Farmland management changes can boost carbon sequestration rates – J. Merritt Melancon:

Well-maintained pastures prevent erosion, protect water and, as it turns out, can restore the soil’s organic matter much more quickly than previously thought, according to a team of researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida.

Soil contains the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon. Tilling fields every year to plant crops releases carbon into the atmosphere. It’s been known for a long time that transitioning cropland to pastureland where livestock grazes replenishes the soil’s carbon, but their study showed that the process can be much more rapid than scientists previously thought.

“What is really striking is just how fast these farms gain soil organic matter,” said Aaron Thompson, associate professor of environmental soil chemistry and senior author on the study. . .


H word and F word

July 3, 2019

In opposition the three parties now in government were opposed to foreign ownership of farmland.

In government they have made it so much harder for foreigners to buy farms to farm it’s almost impossible for them to do so. But the hoops the overseas buyers have to go through to buy farms to convert to forestry are much lower.

That means would-be foreign buyers are very, very unlikely to get Overseas Investment Office approval to buy distressed dairy or sheep and beef farms, even with plans, and both the ability and funds, to  improve them.

But the same buyers would be Almost certain to get OIO approval to buy those same farms if they intended to turn them into forests.

Overseas interests already own 70% of New Zealand forestry.

Making it much easier to buy farms to plant trees than to raise stock, for arable farming or horticulture,  will mean even more forestry is foreign owned.

Forestry is becoming an F word among farmers and rural communities concerned about the environmental, economic and social impacts of the rapid afforestation of productive farmland.

They can rightly apply the  H word – hypocrisy – to Labour, New Zealand First and Green Parties for their policy of making it easier for overseas purchasers to do this.

But wait there’s more.

These overseas entities will be able to offset their carbon emissions in their homelands, or from investments in other countries, with the trees they plant here.

It’s very tempting to use another F word to express my feelings about this.


Petty politicking in lieu of policy

June 19, 2019

Minister of Shane Jones has no good policy answer for 50 Shades of Green’s concerns about favoring forestry over farming so has resorted to getting petty politicking:

Minister Jones is both wrong in fact and totally out of court with his accusations against the conservation lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

To claim, as he did, that we’re part of the National Party is a little like suggesting James Shaw is about to join Act 50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick said.

“I find this type of political loquaciousness offensive and cheap,” Mike Butterick said. “If Minister Jones has any hard proof maybe he’d like to share it.

“50 Shades of Green is a non-political organisation committed to maintaining prosperous provinces.

“Minister Jones obviously wants to achieve the opposite.

“Anyone is welcome to join our organisation regardless of colour, class, creed or political persuasion,” Mike Butterick said.

“All they need is a strong belief in provincial New Zealand and be prepared to work to maintain its prosperity.

50 Shades of Green was born of concern about the threat subsidies for forestry pose to the future of rural communities and food production.

It’s a political issue but it’s not a partisan one.

That the Minister is resorting to political attacks shows he’s not really listening to the concerns being expressed by farmers, local body politicians, real estate agents, stock agents and others who understand how serious the rapid afforestation of productive farmland is.

If nothing is changed rural communities with be even harder hit than they were by the ag-sag of the 1980s.

Serious concerns deserve a far more considered response than petty politicking from the Minister.

You can read more about the issues at 50 Shades of Green

You can sign the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected


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