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.

 


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 . . .


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