Rural round-up

January 23, 2020

Farmers, wildlife and residents alike face water shortages as regions dry up fast – Tracy Neal:

Water cuts are looming in pockets of the country drying up fast. 

Councils in affected areas are assembling dry-weather crews, farmers are now giving extra feed to stock, and Northland kiwi birds are now struggling to feed on hard-baked soil, where the dry weather has lingered longer than usual.

Dairy farmer and kiwi conservationist Jane Hutchings said in her 30 years in the area, summer is either saturated by cyclones, or parched dry.

Right now it is the latter, and the kiwi population is struggling. . . 

Farmers’ green tinge growing – Tim Fulton:

Farmers are on a green binge recycling more waste and unwanted products through the Agrecovery scheme than ever before.

Now the Government and agri manufacturers are working on a plan to make industry hitchhikers pay their way.

Agrecovery’s waste collection rates rose 40% in the past couple of years, the animal health and agrichem lobby group Agcarm says.

Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross said the voluntary returns amount to about 437 tonnes of products, including 11 tonnes of chemicals. The total collected was about half the product in the New Zealand market at any time. . . 

Chinese palate has diverse tastes – Richard Rennie:

Shrink wrapped quail eggs, lifestyle choices and social media are all playing their parts in what and how Chinese will eat heading into the new decade.

Chinese media platform company Radii has analysed latest market trends in the country’s enormous food market as the middle class continues to grow and become a more sophisticated, discerning customer for food imports from the likes of New Zealand.

In its report food journalist Mayura Jain identifies takeout food delivery showing no signs of growth experienced in the past five years slowing down.  . . 

Project aims to give vineyard managers more information in a hail storm – Maja Burry:

Researchers are working to fill the information gap for winegrowers hit by extreme weather events.

The Blenhiem-based Bragato Research Institute has started a two-year project to work out how vineyard managers can best deal with hail storm damage to their vines.

The research follows severe hail in Hawke’s Bay in October last year, which damaged about 600 hectares of vines.

Hail in Central Otago and North Canterbury damaged vines during November. . . 

New market for sunflowers leads to big burst of colour near Timaru– Esther Ashby-Coventry:

It’s hard to miss the stunning burst of yellow in paddocks full of millions of sunflowers just south of Timaru.

They sunflowers may become a five yearly feature on owner Warren Darling’s 70 hectares of land as he takes advantage of a new market.

Usually he grows rape seed, which also produces a radiant yellow display when in flower, as well as wheat and barley, but is now considering sunflowers as part of his crop rotations. . .

Tickets on Sale for Women in Forestry conference:

Tickets are on sale for the Women in Forestry Conference, being held from 30 April – 2 May 2020 in Whangamata.

The Women in Forestry conference will bring together women in the NZ Forestry industry, to connect, learn and share experiences.

The third event of its kind, the conference is organised by the Women in Forestry Network, a grass-roots movement founded to support women in the industry.

Women in Forestry co-founder and General Manager Sarah Davidson says there is a need for more female support in the industry. . .


We don’t need another pest

January 13, 2020

A petition calling for  calling for koala bears to be introduced to New Zealand eucalyptus plantations has gathered more than 4000 signatures.

. . .The Koala Relocation Society started the petition a week ago saying “koalas are functionally extinct in Australia, and could thrive in New Zealand, as many other Australasian species do”.

It’s estimated hundreds of thousands, even millions of animals have perished in the fires ravaging parts of Australia.

“New Zealand has 28,575 hectares planted in eucalypts, most is located in the Central North Island, and are similar to much older forests from Australia, as they grow fast here,” the petition read. . . 

Which other species that functionally thrive in New Zealand would the petitioners be talking about?

The  possums that carry TB and threaten trees and birds? The wallabies that eat native trees and farm pasture?

The toll the bushfires have taken on Australian wildlife is devastating but there are much better ways for New Zealand to help than trying to establish populations of koalas here.

We don’t need another pest.


Rural round-up

December 13, 2019

Pressure on system affecting work visas- Brent Melville:

The measles epidemic in Samoa is affecting New Zealand’s primary sector in the wake of stricter screening regulations for seasonal workers.

Seasonal Solutions co-operative chief executive Helen Axby said pressure on the health systems in Samoa and across the Pacific Islands had contributed to ‘‘major delays’’ in getting workers through the system.

Ms Axby said it was not just the health systems in Samoa that were overloaded. . . 

Taking action rather than talking provided way forward – Alice Scott:

It seems somewhat contradictory to talk about mental health and how one can get through one’s demons without talking about it. Alice Scott talked to Laura Douglas about her mental health journey.

‘‘I didn’t talk about it, but I did something about it’’, is what Laura Douglas says got her through when she found herself deeply unhappy a few years ago while working in a high-paying corporate job in Auckland.

‘‘I was in such a dark place. I was away from all of the things that I loved: farming, hunting, fishing, animals … While I had a lot of belief in my abilities, I lacked self-confidence and self-love. I let men control my decision-making and I surrounded myself with people that enabled my unhealthy habits of self-destruction.’’ she said.

Talking about her issues with close friends and family was the last thing she wanted to do. . . 

Shearing the load: four women, 2000 lambs, one day – Suzanne McFadden:

A gang of four young Kiwi women are sharpening their combs and cutters to set a nine-hour world shearing record, as the call for a women’s shearing world title grows louder.

Counting sheep – it’s supposedly an age-old remedy for fighting insomnia and lulling yourself to sleep.

But the challenge facing Sarah Higgins – of counting off 500 sheep over nine hours – threatens to keep her awake at night for the next month.   . . 

Pig virus on the march – Sudesh Kissun:

A new report warns that a virus decimating parts of the global pork industry could spread to more countries next year.

Rabobank’s Global Animal Protein Outlook 2020 says frequent shipments of feed and live animals and the movement of people and equipment across borders will spread African swine fever (ASF).

However, Rabobank’s animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate doesn’t expect additional countries to experience the same level of impact as China and Vietnam. . . 

Forests must be in land rules – Glenys Christian:

Forestry should be more closely integrated into land use policy to dispel some of the negativity surrounding increased planting on pastoral land, former hill country farmer and forestry consultant Garth Cumberland says.

“More and more of the farming community are realising the good sense and profitability of forestry.

“Its improved prospects on marginal land could potentially compete with the returns from dairying.” . . 

The dark side of plant-based food – it’s more about money than you may thinkMartin Cohen and Frédéric Leroy:

If you were to believe newspapers and dietary advice leaflets, you’d probably think that doctors and nutritionists are the people guiding us through the thicket of what to believe when it comes to food. But food trends are far more political – and economically motivated – than it seems.

From ancient Rome, where Cura Annonae – the provision of bread to the citizens – was the central measure of good government, to 18th-century Britain, where the economist Adam Smith identified a link between wages and the price of corn, food has been at the centre of the economy. Politicians have long had their eye on food policy as a way to shape society.

That’s why tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain were enforced in Britain between 1815 and 1846. These “corn laws” enhanced the profits and political power of the landowners, at the cost of raising food prices and hampering growth in other economic sectors. . . 


What do we value?

December 3, 2019

50 Shades of Green:

A conversation that NZ needs to have.

Recent comments by Peter Weir of the Forest Owners Association highlight a number of incredibly important points which Fifty Shades of Green would like to reinforce and highlight.

Peter is entirely correct when saying that the Forest Industry in New Zealand would barely exist if it were not for foreign owners. Of the industry total, over 70 percent of forests are owned by foreign companies and these typically operate on a massive scale.

Family businesses and SME’s in the Forest sector are largely restricted to Forest Management, forest services such as managing planting and pruning gangs and harvest management or logging truck drivers. None of these entities have much of a chance to buy a stake in the land they work, many of them operate on tight margins and work huge hours in jobs that require immense and admirable fortitude.

The reason forests are not typically owned by families (unless part of farm forestry) historically is because very few people can afford to wait 25 years between pay cheques. This will no doubt change with the carbon price now creating a type of climate welfare where those polluting can now essentially buy a get out of jail free card from foresters who have credits to sell. Foresters quite rightly see dollar signs in every tonne of CO2 being belched by industry.

So Peter is also right about the country having no chance of being Net Emissions neutral if we don’t plant a third of it in trees. This is because there are currently barely any plans at all to reduce our actual emissions. We are kicking that can down the road for the generation of 2050 to deal with. Let’s hope the log price is especially high then, for their sake.

So that’s essentially what it comes down to. The heart of the matter is that if you want to keep the NZ we have, you need to either screw up the Net Zero Carbon Bill and trade it for a Bill which has ACTUAL emissions reductions (not ‘net’ ones which allow us to not change anything). Or we except that tourists will be visiting the equivalent of Kaingaroa forest and battling logging trucks for the sake of forest which will likely still be exporting raw logs and carbon credits for the benefit of their foreign owners.

Not that foreign ownership matters most in the greater scheme of things, that is an aside to the real issue, the replacing of farms with forests, regardless of who owns them.

It is worth noting the difference here, because it cuts to the heart of what will really change the most in this country outside of our main cities.

A farm requires someone to live there, it needs constant attention and care or it’s ability to remain productive and a farm is lost and animals suffer. Farming families share remoteness that brings them together to create communities around their schools, halls and sports clubs. Contrary to inaccurate reports about the takeover of corporate farming, in this country the vast majority of farms are owned by owner operators and occupied by their families and those who work with them.

They also have a connection to the land which comes with being its custodian. Every paddock has a name, every fence has the history of who built it and the writing on woolshed walls tell who shore the sheep there. This explains why farmers are prepared to ignore the benefits of forestry incentives (the value of their farms goes up) in order to defend their communities.

Few forest owners (and even fewer who live beyond our shores) look at their estates and feel a sense of wanting to live there. The forests are a resource, not a piece of your identity you want to leave for your children.

The points above are not a criticism of foresters, they obviously have places they call their own, they have communities as well and landmarks they relate to, but they all go home at the end of the day and then the forests go quiet. No one swims in the rivers after school, no one starts the bbq up and has the locals over. The gate is closed and often locked.

This is a conversation that New Zealand needs to have. What do we value? And what we want our provinces to look like 30 years from now.

Urban NZ, it’s in your hands.

 Rural New Zealand is bearing the brunt of misguided policies that appease the call to do ‘something’ about climate change even though that ‘something’ is not based on science, will come at a very high economic and social cost.

That the costly ‘something’ will at best produce little environmental gain at best, and may result in higher global emissions, rubs salt into the rural wounds.

Many people from urban New Zealand might get no closer to farms than glancing over fences as they speed down state highways, but they have been vocal about selling land to foreigners.

Their voices have led to a law change that makes it almost impossible for anyone from another country to buy even a run down farm.

We need those urban voices now to join rural New Zealand in condemning the rules that allow foreigners to buy productive farmland for forestry.

We also need those voices to join the rural ones in decrying subsidies that make forestry a more attractive option than food production.

If the right trees are planted in the right places, they don’t need a subsidy.

There is a place for forestry and it’s not on land suited to raising cattle, deer and sheep.

Rural New Zealand knows this and if urban New Zealand doesn’t want the farmland they want kept in New Zealand hands to convert to foreign owned forests they need to join us in the fight for what we all value.

 


Carbon Zero still sabotaging farming

October 22, 2019

The Zero Carbon Bill has returned from the Select Committee without science-based changes:

Controversial biological methane targets in the Government’s much-touted Zero Carbon Bill remain unchanged, despite strong lobbying from both environmentalists and farmers.

After months of scrutiny from MPs from both sides of the political aisle, the environmental select committee today released its much-anticipated report on the Zero Carbon Bill.

It shows the legislation’s original commitment to reducing biological methane – greenhouse emission from cows and sheep – by between 24-47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050, remains in place.

This is despite intense lobbying for the targets to be fixed, not at a range, at either 24 or 47 per cent. . .

National is not happy. Its environmental spokesman Scott Simpson said not nearly enough of the bill had changed. . . .

Simpson said the 24-47 range not changing created uncertainty for industry players.

“It is too high given the current level of technology available to farmers to make meaningful reductions to biological methane.”

He said currently, the only way farmers can reduce this type of biological methane is by reducing their stock count. . .

Reducing stock numbers would come a high financial and social cost for at best no environmental gain and at worse a loss as our less efficient competitors increase production to fill the gap.

It also goes against the Paris Accord which stipulates climate change mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production.

The Government unveiled the Zero Carbon Bill in May this year with much fanfare; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a “landmark” piece of legislation.

“New Zealanders have demanded it – and today we delivered it.”

Do those who have demanded it understand the consequences and the cost of undermining food security in this way?

Do they understand they are demanding significant cuts in export income with all the hardship that will follow that?

Do they understand they are demanding steep increases in the price of food?

All the government is delivering is a flawed Bill that will take us on a pathway to misery.

 


Rural round-up

October 10, 2019

Green Rush: will pines really save the planet? – Kate Newton and Guyon Espiner:

Vast new pine forests are being hailed as a solution to New Zealand’s carbon emissions deficit – and promise a lucrative pay-day for investors. But farmers say they’re gutting rural communities, not all environmentalists see them as a silver bullet, and the profits are largely being reaped by foreign owners. 

Want to plant a pine tree? It’ll cost you a dollar. 38 cents for the seedling, a spiky, spindly finger; 55 cents for the labour to plant it; 8 cents for the cost of managing the labour.

John Rogan’s crew have planted about 350,000 of them so far. “Tree here, tree there – it’s like tossing little dollar coins on the ground,” he says. Concentrate on the variations in the grass and, like a magic-eye illustration, the seedlings flip into focus one after the other, every three metres, all the way to the grey horizon at the crest of the hill.

Rogan’s mostly teenage workers, skin burnished by wind and sun, tramp up and down hillsides, lugging 200 seedlings at a time in canvas buckets slung into harnesses. After 10 weeks of planting, their movements with spade, seedling and boot are sparse and sure: stab open a wedge of earth, jab a tree into the ground, stomp the hole closed. Stab, jab, stomp. The crew’s mascot Johnny, a beady-eyed little dog who looks like he was assembled from wispy oddments of wool, scampers behind on short legs. . .

Woman shares partner’s farm death story as lesson – Luke Kirkeby:

Harriet Bremner still struggles to talk about the death of her long-term partner.

But two and a half years on, the Canterbury primary school teacher and children’s author, whose partner James Hayman was killed in a baler in the Hakataramea Valley in 2017, is finding strength in using her grief to prevent other farm workers from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Bremner is working alongside WorkSafe New Zealand, travelling throughout New Zealand to share her story.

She recently stopped in at Putaruru College in the South Waikato where she spoke with a group of horticultural and agricultural students. Since 2013 there have been approximately 16 on-farm deaths in the Waikato alone. . . 

Doug Avery seeks to inspire Yorkshire farmers to adopt power of the positive – Ben Barnett:

Farmers have an “amazing opportunity” despite the challenges that lie ahead, as long as they forge a truly resilient mindset to embrace change, according to the author of a best-selling book about positive mental health.

New Zealand farmer Doug Avery, whose book The Resilient Farmer documents his own journey from debt-heaped depression to one of his country’s biggest agricultural success stories, wants to use his current UK tour to help smash the taboo that stops both farmers, and the wider public, from talking about poor mental health.

A farmer who is empowered by positive mental health can see through their worries and capitalise on opportunities, the 64-year-old told Country Week ahead of a public speaking appearance in Harrogate in 12 days’ time. . .

‘Gran’ shows us how it’s done – Jill Galloway:

It was hard for Suzanne Giesen when her husband John died.

She was just 32, had five children aged from 1 to 11 and had a farm to run. More than 50 years later she is still living and working on the farm.

“When John died, my father-in-law said I should go into town. I have never lived in town and I wanted to stay on the farm,” Suzanne Giesen told Rural News.

The Giesens had leased the farm for 10 years, with the right to buy. When John was around, they set about improving the property. “There was gorse in almost every paddock. I don’t think there was a stock proof fence on the place. The gorse was so thick you couldn’t walk through some paddocks.” . . 

Seeds are earning us big money  – Annette Scott:

Small seeds have yielded big gains for New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar agri-food sector.

The quiet achieving seed sector pumped almost $800 million into the NZ economy last year with pasture and vegetable seeds putting food on the table in more ways than one.

A new economic impact report shows NZ’s world class seed production is one of the country’s smallest primary industries but with a modest footprint it contributes much more to NZ’s bottom line than many realise, NZ Grain and Seed Trade Association general manager Thomas Chin said.

Business and Economic Research (BERL) reports the total output value of seeds grown in 2018 was $798m, adding $329m to NZ’s GDP. . . 

 

Biotech policy a step in the right direction, says Agcarm:

The peak association that represents New Zealand’s animal medicine and crop protection industries welcomes the National party’s new biotech policy.

Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross says that updating New Zealand’s biotechnology regulations to embrace the latest science will “allow life-saving medicines, benefit the environment, eradicate pests and boost food production”.

“New Zealand is being stalled from adopting the latest science due to archaic laws that halt innovation. . . 


Threats & hypocrisy

October 2, 2019

Fresh from a gentle slap on the wrist from the Prime Minister for his vote-for-us-or-else comments, Shane Jones was threatening utu:

Shane Jones has a stern word of warning for foreign-owned forestry companies looking to undermine him: “Political utu is a dish best served cold”.

He said the people who tried to undermine him would learn this lesson closer to the next election. 

Is he not expecting to be a minister closer to the election that he thinks thinks he can say something then his role prevents him from saying now?

Jones made the remarks after he was publicly rebuked by the Prime Minister for trying to solicit votes for NZ First at the Northland Forestry Awards. . . 

But now Jones is firing back. He wants the attendees to know he’s aware of who they are, and their relationship to the National Party. 

“They were playing a dangerous game,” Jones said.

“I know them. A handful work for international forestry companies,” he said. 

“It is wrong for overseas-owned forestry companies to have their staff briefing the media and using the same language as the National Party against me.” . . .

This is appalling for any MP, let alone a Minister, and what makes it worse is the hypocrisy.

His one billion trees policy is encouraging forestry and, while making it all but impossible for foreigners to buy land for farming, the government he’s part of is making it easier for them to buy farms to plant in trees for forestry.

 


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