Rural round-up

April 26, 2017

 Farmers feel dairying presented unjustly in TV programme – Joyce Wyllie:

None of us chose where we were born or which family we were delivered into. I’m very blessed with wonderful parents and reared on a farm up a valley north of Gisborne. My happy, stimulating childhood was varied and colourful except for learning about right and wrong, that was back and white. Our home had no TV, but plenty of books, routines, chores, homework, good habits and a healthy sense of fairness.

Mum and Dad were both people of high integrity who valued honesty and justice and taught us to treat our neighbours as we would like to be treated. Those solid standards were set for us to live up to and I hope to pass them on to the next generation for our children’s benefit. Consequently I am conscious of fairness and won’t be the only one who has noticed with increasing alarm the put downs, insults and the unjust tactics we witness on TV screens every day.

It’s meant to pass as entertainment, or debate, or news, and occasionally as documentary. Recently the programme, The Price of Milk, was heavily promoted proudly touting to be giving the farmers’ side of the story. . .

Thirst for high-end ‘craft milk’ drives Nelson dairy farmer upmarket – Julie Iles:

A Nelson dairy farmer is jump-starting a craft milk industry.

Seventh-generation dairy farmer Julian Raine’s family has been dairy farming for more than 80 years.

The family is now on a mission to bring back “how milk used to be” to the mainstream market.

“We are not highly industrialised, we are kind of the equivalent of craft beer in the dairy industry.” . . 

Beef and lamb help correct iron deficiency – Rod Slater:

Calling on all farmers, it’s your time to wave your flag proudly in a bid to support raising iron levels across our country.

As we know, beef and lamb is one of the most iron rich foods in our diet and next month marks World Iron Awareness Week running from May 1 – 7. Like everything we do in our offices, World Iron Awareness Week is something we are very passionate about – it’s hard not to be when you hear some of the facts around iron deficiency in New Zealand.

– low iron levels are evident in one in 14 adult women over the age of 15 years.

– 8 out of 10 toddlers don’t meet the recommended daily intake of dietary iron.

– 14 per cent of children under the age of 2 are iron deficient.

– 40 per cent of New Zealand women don’t get enough iron in their diet, and many go on to experience iron deficiency. . .

Zespri forecasts record profit from Gold3 licence revenue – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri International, the country’s kiwifruit export marketing body, expects to post a record profit this year due to increased revenue from the allocation of licences to grow the Gold3 variety.

The Mount Maunganui-based company forecast net profit of between $98 million and $103 million in the year ending March 31, 2018, it said in a letter to growers and shareholders. That’s ahead of its expectation for the 12 months ended March 31 this year of between $71 million and $74 million, and up from a profit of $35.8 million in 2016. . . 

Federated Farmers: Gypsum can reduce agricultural emissions:

Agricultural systems are leaky and losses of phosphorus, nitrogen, organic matter and suspended solids can impact on water quality.

While direct contamination of surface water can be prevented by avoiding livestock access and effluent discharge, it is less straightforward to prevent losses over and through soil that can eventually reach waterways.

These less direct losses are affected by complex hydrological and chemical factors.
Gypsum has long been used as a soil conditioner and fertiliser but it is only recently that gypsum’s potential for reducing agricultural emissions to waterways has been researched.
. .

Hogan warns of UK-US ‘bloodbath’ in future agri-trade talks – Philip Clarke:

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan is predicting a “bloodbath” over the terms of any future UK-US free-trade agreement after Brexit.

Addressing an event organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in County Kildare, Mr Hogan said the UK had made it clear it intends to pursue its own international trade agenda once it leaves the European Union.

See also: Countryside Alliance demands ‘pragmatic’ trade deals

However, he said “fault lines” were already emerging with respect to any UK-US trade agreement. . .


Price of Milk fails fairness test

April 11, 2017

Sunday asked is our love affair with dairy farming over? and promoted this week’s programme as giving the farmers’ side of the story.

It was supposed to provide some balance to the anti-farming stories which have dominated media and it failed.

Jamie Mackay devoted most of yesterday’s edition of The Country to the reaction.

He interviewed Federated Farmers Dairy chair Andrew Hoggard and Waikato-based farm management consultant John Dawson:

Hoggard found the show “frustrating” as he was expecting to see farmers’ “heartfelt” reactions to criticism levelled at them in the media. Instead Andrew says he saw two farms being unfairly compared to each other which he believes would have created an unbalanced view for those not accustomed to farming.

John Dawson has a lot of clients on the Hauraki Plains where Gavin “Flinty” Flint’s farm was filmed in the documentary. He says Flint’s farm is not typical and there was a lack of “penetrating” questions for the farm that Flint’s was compared to.

Central Hawkes Bay sheep and beef farmer Steve Wyn-Harris and Northland dairy farmer Grant McCallum were equally incensed.

Wyn-Harris was looking forward to a balanced show where farmers would finally be able to tell New Zealand their side of the story. Within minutes of watching he says his “heart sank” as soon as he saw shots of Gavin “Flinty” Flint’s farm.

Wyn-Harris is so incensed he has laid a complaint with TVNZ and is fully committed to taking it the Broadcasting Standards Authority if need be. . . 

Sunday’s Facebook page  has hundreds of comments, almost all of which are critical of the show.

It also includes a post from the show’s front man Cameron Bennett saying:

We went to the Hauraki Plains with no agenda. We happened upon (as explained) Gavin Flint and he kindly showed us around. 

Happened upon? That might well be the case, but why didn’t the show use more examples.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle writes:

. . .Last year when we heard about this documentary, we approached the production company to provide information and we offered them farmers and industry spokespeople to interview. Several were interviewed, but none of their footage or commentary was included in the final cut.

In my job, I’m fortunate enough to see the good work you are doing on your farms, and the amazing connections you have into your communities.

Good dairying must be made more visible, especially to those that are commentating, those in regulation setting positions, and to our neighbours in the cities and towns.

At DairyNZ we are upping the ante in our efforts to engage with the media, the public and special interest groups to tell the real story of dairying.

As farmers living and working on the land, I urge you to continue to keep up the good work. We all have a role to play in the economy of our country, in staff development, in animal welfare and in care for the environment and our waterways.

To inform and change perceptions it is crucial to reach outside your circle of farming and rural friends. Tell it how it really is to people who may not know much about farming life, but enjoy their milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, etc., which arrives on their tables in a container conveniently purchased from the supermarket. Tell them you produce high quality food, and you’re proud of it. . . .

The Price of Milk  showed two atypical farms, took a far tougher approach to one than it did to the other and failed the fairness test.


Quote of the day

February 14, 2017

The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism. – Carl Bernstein who celebrates his 73rd birthday today.

He also said:

For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norms, even our cultural ideal.

And:

The greatest felony in the news business today is to be behind, or to miss a big story. So speed and quantity substitute for thoroughness and quality, for accuracy and context.

And:

The pressure to compete, the fear somebody else will make the splash first, creates a frenzied environment in which a blizzard of information is presented and serious questions may not be raised.


News for feeling not thinking

September 2, 2016

John Clarke at the ABC on modern media:

. . . JOHN CLARKE: Well we need to change our business, Bryan, we need to provide our readers with a different kind of experience.

BRYAN DAWE: And how you gonna do that?

JOHN CLARKE: Well instead of analysing the news, Bryan, and encouraging people to think very deeply about what’s going on in their world, we are gonna try and put people in touch more with the way they feel about what might perhaps be happening in the world.

BRYAN DAWE: You’re gonna create feelings within the community?

JOHN CLARKE: We’re gonna put people in touch with their feelings in a way that helps create a community.

BRYAN DAWE: So you’re gonna frighten people?

JOHN CLARKE: No, we’re not gonna frighten people. Bryan. It could be a very warm feeling. Could be a Royal wedding, for example – lovely, lovely warm, warm feeling. A kid could get a cat out of a tree.

BRYAN DAWE: And you’d report that?

JOHN CLARKE: We would report that.

BRYAN DAWE: How do you do that?

JOHN CLARKE: In a way, Bryan, that puts people in touch with the way they feel.

BRYAN DAWE: With their responses?

JOHN CLARKE: Yes.

BRYAN DAWE: And how do you know what their responses are?

JOHN CLARKE: Well we tell them what their responses are, Bryan.

BRYAN DAWE: So you frighten people about stuff?

JOHN CLARKE: No, we’re not always frightening them. But, look, I mean, we could get a famous TV chef to go out and cook in a refuge for the homeless. It could be – it’s not frightening, people, Bryan. It could be a warm feeling. . . .

BRYAN DAWE: So why are these things happening?

JOHN CLARKE: Well why do you think they’re happening?

BRYAN DAWE: Me?

JOHN CLARKE: Yeah. Call now, Bryan. Have your say. We wanna hear from you.

BRYAN DAWE: Well I don’t know why they’re happening.

JOHN CLARKE: You don’t know why they’re happening. They’re angry.

BRYAN DAWE: I’m confused.

JOHN CLARKE: You’re confused. Well how confused are you? A little bit, very or don’t get me started? I mean, ring now, Bryan. Vote. Call us.

BRYAN DAWE: I don’t wanna vote about my confusion. I want some information.

JOHN CLARKE: We’ll give you information. We’ve got plenty of information.

BRYAN DAWE: Oh, come on, your newspapers don’t offer information.

JOHN CLARKE: If you go to the bottom of our page, Bryan, and put your email address in, we’ll send you some information.

BRYAN DAWE: They’re advertisements.

JOHN CLARKE: It’s not advertisements, Bryan, it’s top-quality information. . . .

Modern news is not always, but too often, aimed at eliciting an emotional response rather than provoking thought or even just informing.

The media is a business and that’s what pays the bills.


RNZ turning off comments

July 12, 2016

RadioNZ is turning off comments on its website RNZ.co.nz:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.” . . 

Sad but true.

Even on a blog like this with a handful of commenters, a contribution occasionally crosses the line of acceptability and it takes me a while to catch up with it.

News websites with many thousands more readers  and hundreds of comments require full-time monitoring, the cost of which must far outweigh the value of providing the forum.

 


Meanwhile in other news

May 12, 2016

While the Panama papers and examining the entrails of The Bachelor are getting headlines the government books are in a healthier state than forecast:

The $167 million operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) surplus for the nine months to 31 March was $334 million better than forecast, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Core Crown revenue was $206 million higher than forecast, largely due to core Crown tax revenue being $702 million higher than forecast by the Treasury in December.

These aren’t big numbers in relation to the government’s total finances. But given the global financial position and the impact of low dairy prices, this is an achievement.

This was partially offset by core Crown interest and dividend revenue being $456 million lower than forecast.

Mr English says because of sustained, moderate growth in the economy, the Crown accounts are in good order ahead of the delivery of Budget 2016 later this month.

“We’ve been successful in turning an $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 to a surplus last year. In Budget 2016 our focus is shifting more to repaying debt.

“Budget 2016 will reflect this Government’s continued commitment to responsible fiscal management. At the same time it will build on the good progress we’ve made over the previous seven Budgets, with further investment in a growing economy and public services.

“We measure success by results, rather than the level of spending.”

It’s not what they’re spending but the impact that spending that matters.

One area that always takes a lot of spending is welfare.

The government is taking the investment approach which means spending more in the short term for longer term social and financial gain.

A report from Deloitte and NZIER says that the investment approach needs to become a mainstream way of working across more of the social sector.

State of the State New Zealand 2016: Social investment for our future advocates broadening the use of the social investment approach to manage New Zealand’s future fiscal challenges and support better outcomes for Kiwis.

NZIER Deputy Chief Executive John Ballingall says the State of the State takes a close look at government finances and the burdens New Zealanders could face in the future.

“A combination of our ageing population, low productivity and revenue growth, and the need to reduce government debt will impose huge fiscal pressures in coming decades – particularly in social spending. More importantly, too many people in New Zealand are experiencing poor life outcomes and too many of their children are at risk of following them,” says Mr Ballingall.

Deloitte partner and public sector leader Dave Farrelly says it’s the sum of these factors which drove us to focus the report on social investment, an approach to funding social services focusing on root causes to prevent the need for these services in the future.

“For example, with social investment the task is not to deliver the next 100 prison beds for the same cost as the previous 50. It’s to remove the need for those new prison beds altogether,” says Mr Farrelly.

“Today social investment is like a start-up – a small number of people are working incredibly hard to bring a big bold vision to life. Tomorrow, social investment needs to become a mainstream way of working,” he says.

In the six months of research for the report, Deloitte and NZIER spoke to some of the most senior and influential leaders in the public, non-government and private sectors – all of whom provided a unique perspective on social investment.

State of the State proposes a package of bold reforms to realise the aspiration for social investment in New Zealand. The recommendations are:

1. Release, every four years, a government-wide statement to define the outcomes and targets for at-risk New Zealanders
2. Establish a new agency to commission specialist social services for people at risk of poor life outcomes
3. Embed the social investment approach to funding quality and sustainability in the new agency’s operating model
4. Enable better access to government-held data and detailed evaluation reports

“We suggest a structural reconfiguration that some will find challenging, while acknowledging we don’t yet have all the answers,” says Mr Farrelly.

“But we must be bold in tackling these challenges today to maintain our way of life in the future,” he concludes.

Social investment is working and the reforms Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is promoting will do more.

Trans Tasman notes:

. . . The reform being pushed through by Tolley is perhaps the most far-reaching undertaken by the Govt and could stand as its greatest legacy if it achieves its goals. Already it has made some headway in improving the lives of Maori children who are more than twice as likely as Pakeha children to grow up in households experiencing hardship, and fare worse in most indicators. A report by the University of Otago-based Child and Youth Epidemiology Service shows increasing numbers of Maori pre schoolers are getting early childhood education. There’s also been a halving of school suspensions for Maori students, an increase in immunisation rates, fewer young Maori smoking,and falling hospitalisation rates for Maori children for injuries from assault, neglect or maltreatment. Tolley is understood to have secured an additional funding, probably of the order of $500m in this year’s budget for the reform. . . 

Turning around benefit dependency and all the financial and social costs that go with it will not be neither easy nor cheap but the investment approach is working and it’s a much better story than many of the others which are getting attention at the moment.

 


Age of umbrage

May 10, 2016

Example  1:

A businessman posted a photo on Facebook with a comment. Twenty minutes later he realised it was a stupid thing to do and took down the post.

He also contacted the people to whom it referred, admitted he’d made an error of judgement, accepted responsibility for it, apologised, and made amends by refunding the money the people had paid him. They accepted his apology and the refund.

It should have ended there but someone had a screenshot of the offending post and it went viral on Facebook then became a news not-news story in the mainstream media.

Example 2:

A business sent an email with “your mother sent us her wish-list” in the subject line. A couple of hours later it sent a second email apologising after some customers, including one whose mother had died 16 years earlier,  had contacted them saying they’d been upset by it.

I got the email in a week when Mothers’ Day was going to be particularly poignant owing to the death of a dearly loved friend who was a second mother. I treated it like the marketing exercise it was and deleted it.

I haven’t named either business deliberately because they’ve had more than enough publicity over matters that should have had none.

Jim Mora referred to this being the age of umbrage on The Panel on Friday,

He was right. Too many people are taking umbrage at things which aren’t, in the grand scheme of things, important and because of social media they get far more attention than they deserve.

These two examples are relatively petty but there’s a third more serious one:

One Seven Sharp, host Mike Hosking added his opinion to a clip on the abuse New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd received for proposing a Maori ward for local government councils.

“Sad to say I’d never personally attack him obviously but he’s completely out of touch with middle New Zealand,” Hosking said. 

He went on to say: “There’s nothing wrong with Maori representation on councils cause any Maori that wants to stand for a council is more than welcome to do so and you can sell your message and if you’re good enough you’ll get voted on.”

You can agree or not with his view but several took umbrage at it:

In a statement Radio New Zealand received from TVNZ, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said a formal complaint had been laid against Hosking and a committee would review the complaint in the coming days.  . . 

One complaint on Seven Sharp Facebook page came from a medical student called Kera May. 

“Deeply offended by the racism exhibited by Mike Hosking on your show tonight. If anyone is “out of touch with Middle New Zealand” (which includes many Maori like myself thank you very much!) it’s you Mike.” . . .

Offended by a comment that disagreed with the mayor’s proposed policy without in anyway criticising Maori?

Hosking’s comments have been condemned by his own colleagues Miriama Kamo and Scotty Morrison on TVNZ show Marae.

Kamo said the comments had upset her and told of her own struggles with a previous employer firing her when she corrected him on the pronunciation of her name. 

Sacking for that would be grounds for unjustified dismissal but the example as explained here is not in itself racist.

Lots of people find lots of names difficult to pronounce but that’s nothing to do with racism.

I’m called Ele because it’s preferable to dealing with mispronunciations of Elspeth which have ranged from, and I kid you not, albatross to Elizabeth.

Racism is abhorrent and anyone is justified at taking umbrage at it.

But attempting to stifle debate by taking umbrage at someone’s opinion, correct or not,  and calling it racist is ridiculous.

I think Maori seats in parliament have generally served Maori poorly and I would oppose any attempt by a local body servicing an area where I was a ratepayer, to give seats with voting rights to anyone who hadn’t been elected democratically.

That is an opinion with which some may agree or not, but it is not a racist statement.

Taking umbrage rather than countering an argument is yet another example of emotion replacing reason.

 


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