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


Rural round-up

June 11, 2019

An open letter to the Minister of Regional Development Shane Jones – Richard Alspach:

Dear Mr Jones;

Your plan to plant billions of trees has certainly raised a lot of interest, and not a little concern. I read today of a new lobby group, calling itself 50 shades of Green, which has as its motivation a growing concern about the continued viability of rural communities.

Here in Kaipara we’ve seen it all before. Back in the early eighties the then Government (Prime Minister at the time Rob Muldoon) of the day gave consent for a joint venture to be formed between Shell Oil, an overseas company, and New Zealand Forest Products, at that time New Zealand Owned. The joint venture was called Mangakahia Forests, and its stated intention was to establish a forest of 25,000 hectares, largely in the North of the old Hobson County, since 1989 a part of Kaipara District.

They managed to secure 22,000 hectares. In doing so they displaced a quarter of a million stock units, and brought up 83 separate farms. In a very short time it caused a transformation of the District and its economy. There used to be three top dressing aircraft based in Dargaville, almost overnight it dropped to one. There used to be regular ewe fairs, within two years there were none, the number of shearers dropped off; some country schools closed and others were seriously down sized. The loss of that number of Stock units so quickly was a causal factor in the downsizing of the Moerewa Freezing works. The rate take from that 22,000 hectares dropped significantly, once the land became rateable as exotic forestry. . . 

Austrian aristocrat buys second farm to convert to forest – Gerard Hutching:

Austrian aristocrat Countess Veronika Leeb-Goess-Saurau has snapped up a sheep and beef farm in Wairarapa, to add to the northern Hawke’s Bay property she bought two years ago.

The latest buy is the 1727 hectare Hadleigh farm near Masterton owned by Nelson-based American businessman Tom Sturgess, for which she has paid $13.4 million.

The sale comes amid concerns that a rash of farms is being sold and converted for forestry in areas like the East Coast and Wairarapa, with a resulting loss of jobs and services. . . . 

A sustainable food production silver bullet under our noses – Dr John Baker:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sees New Zealand becoming a sustainable food producing nation in a big way. It’s part of the Government’s wellbeing policy.

I applaud that. Yet she’s ignoring the way to achieve it.

One of the silver bullets to sustainable food production is under our noses and will achieve wellbeing, not just in New Zealand, but the world.

The Government continues to overlook a technology, developed here, that addresses climate change by returning carbon to the soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. That’s fundamental. . .  . . 

Room to move on mohair – Carl King:

Weaving quality mohair is keeping the door open for angora farmers to get even higher returns, writes Federated Farmers – Mohair New Zealand chairman Carl King.

New Zealand mohair is experiencing a lift in fleece prices.

The main two drivers behind the boost are that overseas demand outstrips supply and Australia and South African angora goats are facing severe drought conditions.

Top quality angora fleeces are on average being sold at $40 a kilo plus. . . 

Wool bonanza – Annette Scott:

Increased international demand for fine wool is putting Kiwi wool within reach of becoming a $2 billion industry.

New Zealand Merino Company chief executive John Brakenridge said if half NZ’s crossbred wool clip shifts into higher-value fine wool contracts the economic upside will be as high as $2b.

Increased international demand for fine wool could spell profit for sheep farmers with wool giving kiwifruit and wine a real run for their money in terms of exports, he said. . .

Adding value to the farm business through health and safety:

FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist James Robertson gained first-hand experience of the impact an injury can have on a farm business when his father suffered an accident.

“He was kicked by a cow and broke his thumb,” says James, who grew up on his family’s dairy farm near Mystery Creek.

“I think I’d been a bit oblivious to health and safety as a young person but I really saw the implications an injury has on the business. He wasn’t able to work in the cattle shed for a few weeks. Having a key person not able to do that put a lot of pressure on everyone else.” . . 


Reject blanket afforestation of farmland

June 10, 2019

Government policy which subsidises forestry is a bigger threat to food production, rural communities and the New Zealand economy than the ag-sag of the 1980s.

North Otago was particularly hard-hit by the stripping of subsidies that coincided with high interest rates and soaring inflation.

Many farms were too small to be economic and the district was plagued by recurring droughts.

Predictions that farmers would be driven off the land in great numbers proved to be an exaggeration. But many jobs on farm and in businesses that serviced and supplied them were lost and very few of the farmers’ adult children who left the district for education or work returned.

Farmers gradually adjusted to life without subsidies and are stronger for it. Inflation and interest rates returned to manageable levels, irrigation provided protection from droughts and created jobs on and off farm.

There will be no recovery and resurgence of rural communities when productive farmland is replaced by forests.

Subsidising forestry and making it easier for foreign buyers to buy land for forestry than farming is already killing on-farm jobs.

50 Shades of Green paints the local picture:

  • 100,000 stock units sold to forestry in the Wairarapa these last twelve months
  • Economic impact on Wairarapa community? Direct spend at $125/stock unit: $12.5m. Plus four times multiplier effect.
  • — 1,000 hectares sheep/beef farm creates seven jobs.
  • 1,000 hectares plantation forestry creates one job.
  • Tree planting by temporary immigrants… most of the wages are sent home.
  • — Rural communities will be decimated.
  • — Farm land prices have been pushed up by these taxpayer
    subsidies
    .

It’s not just in the Wairarapa and it’s not just farming jobs that are lost. Fewer people on farms means fewer children in schools, fewer people buying locally and fewer work opportunities servicing and supplying farms and farmers.

It  means less food produced for the local market and export and less export income.

It is also counter to the Paris Climate Accord which states that climate mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

This is the motivation for the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected:

. . .There has never been such an imminent threat to food production in New Zealand as that which looms over us in the form of current government policies which align across multiple government portfolios designed to meet specific policy agendas.  These agendas combined, create a massive assault on the viability of rural businesses, on sustainable land use, on infrastructure and ultimately on the lives of those living the experience of this assault.

We need your support as we fight to provide a voice for the industries and communities rendered defenceless in the face of ill-conceived afforestation incentives which are already leading to unemployment, displacement and declining standards of living for those left behind.

The tension between competing land uses has long existed between forestry and pastoral farming; however never before has a government provided the mechanisms for one to obliterate the other to the extent that this potential now exists.

It is this case that we ask your support in defending.

Not that forestry should be maligned, but that the Government of today and Governments going forward must be made to see that crippling small towns through distorted market incentives is morally wrong, economically foolish and will impact vulnerable individuals and communities for generations to come.

It’s not just morally wrong and economically foolish, it’s socially destructive, it’s not backed up by science and will do more harm than good to the environment.

The government ignored advice from Environment Commissioner Simon Upton who said the science shows trees could off-set methane emissions but would not offset fossil fuel emissions.

If New Zealand produces less food, it will be replaced by meat and milk from other countries whose farmers are far less efficient than ours.

We have already picked up the torch of environmental restoration and we willingly carry it as the legacy we leave for those who come after us; in this we are already united, but a crippled community can restore nothing, and an empty community will not care.

We ask you to join your name to our petition and stand alongside us as we defend our common right to live and work on the land, growing food for our country sustainably, ethically and for the benefit of all New Zealand. 

Some areas should never have been cleared and should be replanted in trees.

But there is no economic, environmental or scientific justification for turning productive farmland into forests.

 

 


OIO favours forestry over farming

May 23, 2019

A newsletter from 50 Shades of Green points out that Overseas Investment Office rules favour forestry over farming:

The unfair advantage.
Did you know, the threshold for farm sales approval is different for farms selling to farmers than it is for farms selling to forestry investors?Forestry doesn’t have to meet the jobs criteria.  Double whammy again, taking out valuable land and jobs at the same time, impacting local communities and displacing jobs.  Sheep + Beef estimate 7  jobs are displaced for 1 forestry job.
We  don’t think the general public is aware of the indications of 5 million hectares of pine trees, what that looks like in 40, 50 years time, and much of  it, with sink initiatives,  not likely to be harvested

 

It is ironic that Shane Jones the self-proclaimed savior of the regions who has the $3 billion provincial slush fund to throw around to create jobs, is also the Minister promoting the billion trees policy which will kill them.

The Paris Accord states that climate change policy should not conflict with food production but Alan Emerson writes that trees are being planted at the expense of food:

Every now and then we hear some idiot describing agriculture as being a sunset industry despite the fact we contribute 79.3% of the country’s wealth.

What we should be discussing is New Zealand becoming a sunset economy because it will be if the Government’s ad hoc response to climate change continues along the line it’s going.

For the record, I accept the climate is changing, human activity has done it and we need to do something to fix it.

What I don’t accept is all the Wellington centric crazy fixes that are, in the main, anti-farmer and without the benefit of solid science and economic calculations grounded in reality.

NZ won’t survive without agriculture.

It is still agriculture which earns most of our export income.

Its carbon footprint per kilogram of product is one of the lowest in the world and we’re producing a lot more with less input than we’ve ever done.

If you take nutrient density into account New Zealand farm produce stacks up even better.

In addition, as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said, pines are fine for mitigating methane emissions but not for carbon dioxide.

The people who criticize anyone who won’t accept the science on climate change won’t accept this science, nor will they accept the science on gene-editing that could help us reduce methane emissions.

So, why are we planting a billion trees?

Another question is where are we planting them? In Wairarapa we’ve recently lost seven good farms to forestry and that is a major issue.

At Pongaroa they’ve lost between 6000 and 8000 hectares to forestry.

It was interesting to read in last week’s Farmers Weekly Rabobank believes farm forestry will become more appealing. Sustainability analyst Blake Holgate said Government incentives make forestry a more appealing land use option at the cost of food production.

He also said forestry provides opportunity to generate income from area that has been unproductive.

I agree with both statements but was somewhat amazed by comments from Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir who claimed millions of hectares of land for forestry isn’t available. He suggested very little land is being bought for forestry, which I disagree with.

Simply put, my position is there is a lot of marginal land that could go into trees and provide extra income for farmers. That’s good.

Good, productive land and entire farms going into forestry at the expense of food production is bad.

The discussion takes me back to the Muldoon government in the 1970s with its Land Development Encouragement Loans.

Money was available to farmers to clear native bush with the aim of improving NZ Inc’s performance.

So 940,000 hectares were cleared and a massive amount of biodiversity was lost but much of it has since reverted and some has been planted in pines.

Some areas should never have been cleared in the first place and it makes both environmental and financial sense to replant them in trees.

But planting trees on land best suited to producing food will come at a high economic and social cost for no real environmental gain.

Simply, the subsidy didn’t work.

Now we have a subsidy to plant trees, millions of them.

Subsidies are an evil from the past and distort the market. They have no future in a modern economy.

While I applaud Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ aim of revitalising the regions I believe his forestry initiative will achieve exactly the opposite.

He needs to change advisers.

Let’s look at the facts.

According to the NZ Forestry Bulletin Jones’ billion trees mean 50,000 hectares a year is taken out of production.

To achieve the Productivity Commission’s goals, however, would require 100,000 hectares to be taken out of production each and every year for three decades – a total of three million hectares.

That’s almost a third of our total farmland and it won’t be marginal but productive, food-producing country.

Wairarapa farmer and ram breeder Derek Daniell has done his sums.

For a start every thousand hectares of sheep and beef farms employs seven people each and every year. The same amount of forestry supports one.

That is six jobs lost for every farm that is converted to forestry.

What will that do to provincial NZ?

One retired meat company director told me the removal of stock for trees on the North Island’s east coast would mean the closure of one meat processing works.

What will that do to the provinces?

An economist suggested the value to the country of a hectare of sheep and beef is about $55,000.

At Pongaroa, taking the lowest figure of land out of production, that would mean a loss to their economy of $330m.

What will that loss achieve for the provinces?

Then we have trees harvested every 25-30 years. That’s a long time to wait for a pay cheque.

The money in the interim will be from carbon farming but according Upton that isn’t sustainable.

Further, what is to stop some political party changing the ETS, as has happened.

Relying on political whim for your pay cheque doesn’t spin my wheels.

When it comes to pollution and carbon footprints Daniell points to the cities and not the provinces

The problem is that even with the best of intentions from Jones that instead of forestry boosting the provincial economy it will destroy it.

The madness needs to stop.

You can read more from 50 Shades of Green and subscribe to their newsletter here.


Rural round-up

May 9, 2019

Farmer beats depression by finding joy in everyday moments – Heather Chalmers:

Wayne Langford appeared to have his life sorted.  

He was in his early-30s married to wife Tyler and the father of three boys, with a successful farming business and leadership roles

However, something wasn’t right.

To use a farming metaphor his brain had “cooked itself” like a tractor engine.

The big get bigger in American agriculture – Keith Woodford:

Every five years the USDA undertakes a census of American agriculture. The latest survey has just come out in recent weeks. The big message is that the big are getting bigger.

Aligned to this message is that family farms continue to decline. This is particularly the case in dairy. However, it is also the case in cropping, where the new generation of prospective family farmers prefers the urban life, but does not necessarily want to sell the land. So leasing of land is huge, particularly in the cropping heartland of the Midwest.

In total there are over two million American farmers. Seventy-five percent of the production comes from five percent of the farmers. More than half of American farms are cash-flow negative. The average age of American farmers is now 57.5 years, up 1.3 years in the last five years. . . 

Strengths and challenges facing Heartland communities:

AgResearch social scientist, Dr Margaret Brown and Dr Bill Kaye-Blake, director at PricewaterhouseCoopers discuss  the findings from a decade of research into the resilience of rural communities and the role it has in helping settlements to prosper. Around 20 percent of New Zealanders live rurally, but the decisions made about them are predominantly decided by from urban people – so there is a lot of room for a disconnect between the countryside and the policy makers. The results have been published in the book, Heartland Strong – How rural New Zealand can change and thrive. . .

A2 milk keeps flowing and growing:

A2 Milk Company’s sales show no sign of slowing as nine-month revenues reached $938 million, a 42% lift on the corresponding period last year.

Sales growth has continued in nutritional products and liquid milk, building on record market share in the first half of the June 2019 year, the company said in a presentation to a Macquarie Australia investment conference in Singapore.

The nine months runs to March 31. . . 

Young viticulturist shortlisted for international wine award:

Nick Paulin from Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates (AONZ) has been shortlisted for the new international ‘Future 50’ awards.

Launched this year by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) & the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) their goal is to “unearth the industry’s up and coming talent” and recognize fifty top young professionals.

They have teamed up to create “a unique, global platform to champion the young people shaping the future of our industry”. .  .

Forestry investors log in to substantial pine plantation:

A large maturing pine forest on Auckland City’s metropolitan boundary which is ready for harvesting in the near future has been placed on the market for sale.

The 135-hectare block is located at the lower foothills of the Hunua Ranges some 50 kilometres south-east of Auckland City. Owned by the current proprietor for past 50 years, the forest was planted between 1993 and 2000 in a mix of lusitanica and radiata pine varieties.

The freehold land and forest at Stevens Road are now being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys Counties, with tenders closing at 2pm on June 6. The forestry plantation encompasses six individual land titles which are all zoned rural under Auckland Council’s land usage plan. . . 


Rural round-up

April 9, 2019

Intensive forestry creates ‘too many environmental risks’ – lawyer – Kate Gudsell:

The rules governing forestry are too light and need to be reviewed, environmental groups say.

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry came into force in May last year but are about to be reviewed by the government.

The Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird decided to conduct joint analysis because of increasing public concern about the impacts of commercial forestry in light of events like Tologa Bay last year.

An estimated one million tonnes of logs and debris was left strewn on properties and roads on the East Coast during two bouts of heavy rainfall in June last year.

Farmers put the cost of the damage in the millions of dollars. . . 

Overseas Investment Office approves Craigmore $52m apple orchard investment – Gerard Hutching:

Foreign investors headed by New Zealand management have been given the green light by the Overseas Investment Office to buy two horticultural properties after being rebuffed last year over a bid to buy a kiwifruit and avocado orchard.

Craigmore Sustainables has received permission to buy 479 hectares of sensitive land inland of Waipukurau in Hawke’s Bay and 59 ha near Gisborne. They will invest $52 million to develop apple orchards on the properties. . . 

Mustering tradition continues – Sally Rae:

The likes of helicopters and, latterly, even drones, have replaced horses for mustering on many properties in New Zealand’s back country. But in remote South Westland, traditions remain alive and well, as agribusiness reporter Sally Rae reports. 

Mustering in the remote and beautiful Cascade Valley in South Westland can come with its challenges.

But for Haast-based farmers Maurice and Kathleen Nolan, those challenges were amplified as they prepared for today’s Haast calf sale.

The sale is a major calendar event for the Nolans, a name synonymous with South Westland since the family arrived at Jackson Bay, south of Haast, in 1876. . . 

DairyNZ Schools website launched:

DairyNZ has launched a new website for teachers, giving them free, curriculum-based learning resources to help children learn about dairy farming.

The new website, called DairyNZ Schools, is part of DairyNZ’s in-school education programme. The programme is designed to ensure New Zealand school children get the opportunity to learn about dairying.

Learning resources

The website has learning resources for teachers of children from Year 2 to Year 11. The resources are free to download and teachers can filter resources by year level or subject area. . .

Course closures make farming a tough industry to crack – Esther Taunton:

Young people looking for farm jobs are being hampered by dwindling training options but farmers can help fill the void, Federated Farmers says.

Taranaki teenager Braydon Langton said on Friday he had been turned down by dozens of potential farm employers because of inexperience.

He said it was frustrating to hear farmers repeatedly complaining about a worker shortage but being unwilling to invest time in eager young people.

Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers’ spokesman for tertiary and workplace skills and training, said he sympathised with Langton and other young people in his situation. . . 

Sales of Southland dairy farms down on past years

While there is still a good selection of dairy farms available in Southland, there have only been a limited number of sales in the province compared to previous years, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Despite this, the REINZ said in its March monthly sales data release that two sales in Southland of larger dairy units were significant in terms of total price involved and there was a good level of activity on finishing properties

In Otago, there was restrained activity in the drystock sector where prices eased 10% to 15%, with reports of capital constraints from banks making finance difficult to obtain and therefore harder to get transactions together. . . 


Rural round-up

April 3, 2019

Westland Co-operative Dairy demise is self-inflicted – Keith Woodford:

The approaching demise of Westland Co-operative Dairy (trading as Westland Milk Products) has come as a surprise to many people.  It should not have done so.  At the very least, either a partial sale or major joint venture has been inevitable for some years. Survival as a co-operative is now impossible.

Most of the people I talk to think the sale to Chinese company Yili is a very bad idea. West Coasters do not like it. Even Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is of that opinion. And if a sale really is necessary, then the common perspective seems to be that it should be a local company.

In response, I say ‘dream on’. . . 

Taratahi owes creditors $31 million – Neal Wallace:

Employees will get what they are owed but nearly 1200 unsecured creditors will have to wait to see if they will be paid any of the $15.8 million they are owed following December’s collapse of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

An interim report by liquidators Grant Thornton says the sale of livestock will cover preferential creditors, employees, who are owed $2m, and Inland Revenue, owed $655,000, but there is no indication on the fate of other creditors.

Taratahi’s 518ha Mangarata farm is being readied for sale, over which Westpac has a secured mortgage, along stock, plant and shares. . . 

Crop work went like clockwork – Alan Williams:

Cropping demonstrations across cultivation, drilling, harvesting, balage and silage proceeded without a hitch at the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in Canterbury.

Twelve or so hectares can sound like a lot of land area but with several different crops being grown on adjacent strips and some machinery being 10 metres wide there’s not a lot of margin for error.

It helps that each crop and activity is worked at separate times but there’s still a lot of planning and a lot of people to organise. . . 

Forestry sales at record high – reports – Eric Frykberg:

New evidence is emerging of a booming forestry sector.

It follows last month’s report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showing 2018 forestry sales at a record high.

Since then, the Seattle based think tank Wood Resource Quarterly has highlighted New Zealand’s role in growing imports of logs by China.

Wood Resource Quarterly said the Chinese took a total of 40 million cubic metres of lumber through their ports last year.

That was over a third more than just three years earlier. . .

Cushing family’s H&G to buy 2.2% Wrightson stake from Agria – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Cushing family’s H&G vehicle has agreed to buy a 2.2 percent stake in rural services firm PGG Wrightson from Agria Corp. for $8.3 million.

H&G has agreed to pay 49 cents a share for 17 million Wrightson shares, matching Friday’s closing price. Agria owns 351.6 million shares, or 46.6 percent of the rural services firm, having divested a 7.2 percent holding in December when Ngāi Tahu Capital withdrew from a seven-year pooling arrangement with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. . . 

Record number of beekeepers have their say in latest check:

Almost a half of the country’s registered beekeepers have taken part in an annual survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

More than 3,600 beekeepers completed the 2018 Colony Loss Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 per cent of New Zealand’s registered beekeepers and 42 per cent of registered colonies,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor. . . 

Miscanthus – a carbon negative crop:

Most annually harvested crops require a lot of activity to get them established, grown and harvested. They need cultivation of the soil, weed control, planting, fertiliser, harvesting, sometimes waste disposal, packing and loading on a truck. Most of them need all that every year. In many cases, there is further cultivation, planting and cutting of a cover crop during the off season as well. Again, every year!

Miscanthus on the other hand needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards. There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases.  . . 


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