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. . . 


Labour pains? National delivers

October 10, 2019

When you serve a large rural electorate you have to be prepared to lend a hand:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker’s duties took a turn for the unusual when he drove past a bleeding ewe in a paddock, pulled over, and helped deliver a lamb. . . 

“What’s great about small communities is it only takes one phone call to find the local information you need. The lady I phoned knew who the paddock belonged to. She phoned the farmer, who arrived 45 minutes later.”

A gloveless Walker then assisted the farmer in birthing the lamb, which required him to reach in and pull out the lamb by hand, a process Walker described as “normal”. . . 

That’s taking the adage that Labour pains, National delivers literally.


Rural round-up

October 9, 2019

Extinction Rebellion should unglue their hands and reach out for the potential of gene editing technologies – Point of Order:

History was being made (we  were  told  by  mainstream media)  when  170,000  New Zealanders  took to  the streets to  demand  decisive  action  against  climate  change.  It capped a  week in which the  16-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg dressed down a  summit in New York of world leaders:

“We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”.

That  apocalyptic   vision  was  clearly  shared  by  many young  New Zealanders: one Wellington student called on the government immediately to  cull the   country’s entire  dairy herd.

So   what   has   happened in the  fortnight  since? . .

Water rules’ outcome predetermined – Alan Emerson:

I joined more than 400 local farmers at the Ministry for the Environment consultation meeting in Carterton. 

In addition it was streamed to Federated Farmers members. It was an interesting experience.

The meeting started with MfE staff telling Wairarapa rivers are in good shape. 

They then went on to outline all the expenses to be foisted on us even though our rivers are, in their words, in good shape.

We were then told we need to manage our emotions and to be respectful of other attendees.

I’d suggest it’s not easy to manage your emotions when you are getting considerable costs foisted on you for no good reason. . . 

Kiwi clarity inspires import – Samantha Tennent:

Being a foreigner in a strange land is no barrier to progression in the dairy industry for one young woman from England. Samantha Tennent reports.

Nicola Blowey is the manager on 575-cow farm at Fairlie.

She was also the 2019 national winner of the Dairy Trainee of the Year at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

She has found consistency and clarity across the NZ dairy sector compared to the diversity in Britain where farmers use grass in some way across their systems.

“Back home discussions don’t have the same clarity,” Blowey says. . .

Meat company still in limbo – Brent Melville:

About 160 seasonal workers at Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) are entering their fourth week off the job after the meat processor shut down the majority of its processing on September 13.

The unplanned closure followed the suspension of its access to China beef markets.

The North Otago company, owned by Chinese company BX Foods, said it had been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Chinese authorities to get more information.

OML director Richard Thorp, who had described the shut-down as a “temporary break in production”, said the plant had continued and about 20 staff had been retained for “non-China” processing. . .. 

Pioneer of Central Otago winemaking still in the business – Yvonne O’Hara:

Reverend Samuel Marsden did not know it, but when he planted the first grapevines in Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, on September 25, 1819, he was indirectly introducing an industry that is now earning Central Otago millions of export dollars.

Frenchman Jean Desire Feraud introduced wine grapes into Central Otago in 1864 at Clyde, as did Alexandra businessman Thomas Oliver in the same decade.

They were also indirectly responsible for the modern vibrant wine industry in Central Otago.

There are now 135 wineries and 32 grape growers, producing wines that attract global accolades.

There is 1884ha planted in vineyards, of which 1502ha is planted in pinot noir, and last season the region produced 11,868 tonnes of wine grapes, New Zealand Wine Growers says. . . 

Minnesota farmers diversify into hemp production to stay viable – Lucy Kinbacher:

An American farming family are among a host of Minnesota growers taking up new hemp crops as prices for corn and soybeans tumble.

The Peterson family of Sever and Sharon, along with their son Aaron and his wife Nicola, operate about 445 hectares growing everything from corn, soybeans, pumpkins and apple trees, and are no strangers to business restructure.

Traditionally a truck garden vegetable farm in the early 20th century, they went on to dabble in wholesale production throughout the US and central Canada, roadside retail stores and even established Sever’s Corn Maze for added income. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 8, 2019

Green Rush: Foreign forestry companies NZ’s biggest landowners – Kate Newton & Guyon Espiner:

The four largest private landowners in New Zealand are all foreign-owned forestry companies, an RNZ investigation has found.

Despite a clampdown on some overseas investment, including a ban on residential sales to offshore buyers, the Labour-led government has actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined ‘special forestry test’.

Since the government was formed, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related land sales – about 31,000 hectares of it previously in New Zealand hands.

Of that, about half has been sold via a streamlined ‘special forestry test’ introduced by the government last October. . . 

Have your say on water – David Burger:

DairyNZ is working flat tack on assessing the Government’s proposed Essential Freshwater Package.

It is of huge significance to farmers and some of the specific proposals are causing concern, particularly at a time when there is so much to do on-farm. 

The time frames for consultation are extremely short, especially given the amount of change being proposed, the complexity of the issues and the sheer volume of material to understand.

Since it was released DairyNZ’s water quality scientists, policy experts and economists have been working through the details to understand their implications on the environment, dairy farming families and our communities.  . .

Farmers’ riparian planting pays for West Otago pool’s new roof – Jo McCarroll:

A few years ago Lloyd McCall, then chair of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, was thinking about the riparian planting needed along the region’s farms’ roughly 4000km of waterway.

“So I worked out how many plants we’d need and it was lots,” he says.

At the same time, McCall was on the committee fundraising to put a new roof on the West Otago Swimming Pool. . .

Successful wintering starts with planning in spring :

Careful planning in spring is an important part of successful wintering and it starts with choosing the right paddocks to grow winter crops in, DairyNZ South Island head Tony Finch says.

”Choosing your paddocks is a crucial part of planning for winter,” Mr Finch said.

”Critical source areas, waterways, shelter, water troughs and being prepared for prolonged weather events all need to be taken into account when selecting a paddock.”

Critical source areas are low-lying parts of a farm, such as gullies and swales, where water flows after rain events. . .

Geraldine High School student named Aorangi TeenAg Member of the Year:

A stroke of luck seven years ago has put a Geraldine student on a path to becoming an arable agronomist.

Ben Chambers, 17, is about to embark on his final set of exams at Geraldine High School.

The Year 13 student has been secretary of the school’s thriving TeenAg club for the past two years. . .

How feeding cattle contributes to national security – Shan Goodwin:

FORGET endless data sets and science-back evidence, the path to communicating with anti-meat campaigners is in changing our own mindset and being able to communicate our ‘why’ in an engaging manner.

So says Colonel Sam Barringer, a veterinarian by trade who spent 30 years in the US Air Force and US Army, during which time he was deployed to 25 different countries and earnt numerous medals and awards for exemplary performance in combat.

Col Barringer today provides technical assistance to Diamond V ruminant teams and plays a key role in the company’s food safety initiatives. He also has extensive knowledge in human behavioural science. . .

 


Less food higher prices

October 8, 2019

Vegetable growers have joined other primary producers in criticising the government’s freshwater proposals:

Vegetable prices could increase by as much as 58% by 2043, risking New Zealanders’ health, if central and local government policies that will stop new vegetable growing in New Zealand are accepted.

That’s the finding of a Deloitte report prepared for Horticulture New Zealand to balance debate around land use and freshwater quality. 

Deloitte found that if vegetable growers are prevented from expanding to keep up with demand, by 2043, New Zealanders could be paying as much as $5.54 in today’s money for a Pukekohe-grown lettuce, instead of about $3.50.

Sheep, beef and dairy farmers are worried about not being able to expand and fear having to contract which will reduce production and the supply of food.

‘Big increases in fresh vegetable prices will have a negative impact on the health of New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

Increases in prices for dairy products, eggs, meat and milk will have a similar impact.

‘Already one in five children do not have enough healthy food to eat[1] while malnutrition rates in children and older New Zealanders are also increasing.[2]’ 

Mike says vegetable growing across the country is under a lot of pressure: competition for highly productive land, access to freshwater, climate change mitigation, the need to further protect the environment, and increasing government and council regulation. 

‘If all these pressures are not well-managed in a coordinated, long-term way, New Zealand-grown fresh vegetables will become a luxury that few can afford.  This will have a negative impact on most New Zealanders’ health, putting even more pressure on our health system.’ 

Mike says New Zealand needs to increase not decrease the growing of fresh vegetables.    

‘We must increase vegetable growing so we can feed New Zealanders now and in the future, and have a healthy population.

‘Access to new irrigation to expand vegetable, fruit, berry and nut growing needs to be maintained, as it is a win-win situation.’ 

Mike says that what New Zealand really needs is a food security policy. 

‘A move towards increased food self-sufficiency and increased domestic production will improve New Zealand’s ability to feed itself, making us less dependent on imports.  This move would also ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables are more affordable, which would have a positive impact on the health of all New Zealanders, especially those who are less well off.’

In June, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomed a Ministry of Health report on food insecurity:

. . .The report, which is based on 2015-16 data, found that “children in food insecure households had poorer parent-rated health status, poorer nutrition, higher rates of overweight or obesity, asthma and behavioural or developmental difficulties” while “parents of children in food insecure households reported higher rates of psychological and parenting stress, as well as poorer self-rated health status.”

“The stress and strain of being able to provide adequately for a family, while surviving on a very low-income places enormous pressure on parents, and often a well-balanced diet is sacrificed,” says Professor Ashton. . . 

One of the group’s recommendations was to increase benefit levels. That will do nothing to help food security and the purchase power of the poor if concerns about proposals which reduce food production are realised.

It’s basic economics of supply and demand. If it becomes more difficult for horticulturalists and farmers to grow fruit, vegetables and other crops, and raise cattle, deer, pigs, poultry and sheep, they will produce less food and that will lead to higher prices.


Rural round-up

October 7, 2019

Regenerative agriculture – context is everything – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Jacqueline Rowarth discusses the pros and cons of regenerative agriculture and finds that, in this case, one size does not fit all.

Regenerative agriculture is being promoted as the saviour for New Zealand.

The suggestion that it can produce the food that is needed without creating environmental impacts is perfect.

Add an income, and it is the goal for most farmers, whatever the label of their production system. . .

Who’s the last rural knight standing? – Craig Wiggins:

With the loss of our two elder statesman, Sir Brian Lochore and Sir Colin Meads, who had a direct connection to the land and were seen as legends by rural and urban people have left a big hole as far as rural ambassadors, leaders, mentors and boys’ own heroes.

This leads me to ask who is left as rural sirs and dames.

The only one who springs to mind who has made the world take notice in his sporting and professional life is Sir David Fagan. 

He is recognised for his achievements in shearing and his support of many things rural. A true knight or sir. However, is Sir David to be our last knight standing?

Rural New Zealand is in desperate need of mentors and outstanding people recognised for their abilities and human spirit to be showcased in our schools and inspire our youth, someone to rub shoulders with in life be it in a pub or walking down a street, in media commenting and carrying the mana earned across all facets of NZ culture. . . 

Fonterra factory built to make ‘secret recipe’ mozzarella sitting all but idle – Maria Slade:

As disappointed farmers deal with Fonterra’s poor performance it emerges a new multi-million dollar cheese plant is hardly being used. Business editor Maria Slade reports.

Fonterra once called it “the single largest foodservice investment in New Zealand’s dairy industry”.

Now its $240 million mozzarella cheese plant at Clandeboye near Temuka is sitting close to idle thanks to lack of demand.

The Clandeboye dairy factory’s third line making Fonterra’s “secret recipe” mozzarella was opened to much fanfare a year ago, with the co-operative claiming it was able to produce enough of the cheese to top half a billion pizzas a year. . .

18-year-old Austin Singh Purewal wins 2019 Young Vegetable Grower of the Year:

The youngest finalist of this year’s Young Grower of the Year competition, Austin Singh Purewal, beat the field to win this year’s Young Vegetable Grower of the Year.

At only 18, Austin has managed to achieve a lot in his horticulture career already. After winning the Pukekohe regional competition, Austin was looking forward to taking part in the finals.

“It’s almost like another job, to be honest,” says Austin. “It takes up a lot of your time if you are really dedicated to it.

“If you put a lot of effort in, you get lots out of it. From meeting new people to opening up my mind to opportunities within the industry, that’s what I wanted to get out of the competition. I didn’t necessarily want to win. I wanted to come out of it with more opportunities.” . .

LIC ascending into cloud for technology – Pam Tipa:

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is undergoing a digital transformation in the cloud, says chief executive Wayne McNee.

It is developing products and services for customers on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.

The tailored cloud strategy will markedly shorten the time it takes to analyse the range of data from different sources across a farm. It will provide real time insights via its Minda application to help guide farmers’ decision making.  . .

 

Kenya set to rescind GMO ban -John Njiraini:

Genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and products soon will be allowed in Kenya, where a ban on the technology has been in place since 2012.

In a development that has ignited optimism among companies and organizations that front for the adoption of GM crops, Kenya has revealed intentions to lift the ban to allow the country to accrue the benefits of the technology. 

While Kenya has made significant progress on GMOs in terms of enacting watertight regulations and controlled research on crops such as Bt maize, Bt cotton, cassava, sorghum, and sweet potato, the ban has meant the country cannot progress to the commercialization stage. . . 


Rural round-up

October 6, 2019

Know what’s true about farms? – Sam McIvor:

There’s a consistent theme running through my conversations with farmers – they’re experiencing some of the best returns in living memory but there is a sense of pessimism in the face of what feels like an endless tirade of accusations about environmental vandalism.

I can understand how sheep, beef and dairy farmers feel.

For three years as chief executive at New Zealand Pork dealing with animal welfare issues I had daily accusations that questioned my breeding, my heritage, my integrity and my morals. 

I was threatened and to this day my home phone number isn’t listed.

So what is my response and my advice to farmers right now? 

It is to remember what is true. . . 

Look to today’s young talented people for tomorrow’s solutions – Mark Townshend:

Farmer and former Fonterra board member Mark Townshend explains ten things that may help transition farmers through to the next generation of successful dairying and food production. 1. Find the right people aged 30-45 to lead the dairy industry for the next 20 years.

  1. In my early farming years, the key names were Graham, Spring, McKenzie, Young, Storey, Calvert, Frampton, Fraser and Gibson — all capably leading NZ dairy. The founding of Fonterra brought a complete changing of the guard. The old man of the team was John Roadley (age mid 50s) and the team of van der Heyden, Bayliss, Rattray, Gent and van der Poel were all early-mid 40s. Do not look to yesterday’s people to solve tomorrow’s issues.

2. Work hard to attract the best human talent we can to the industry. We can have the best milk, produced more efficiently than anywhere in the world and produced in a more environmentally and animal friendly manner. But all of our challenges will be solved not by cows, weather or milk, but by smart people. Dairying in NZ needs to attract top quality people to the industry to meet the inevitable challenges. Encourage good people into farming and direct poor people out of farming. . . 

Forestry and silt in candidates’ sights at Havelock election meeting – Chloe Ranford:

Marlborough’s mayoral and Sounds ward candidates put their greenest foot forward at a pre-election debate as environmental issues dominated.

The candidate meeting at the Havelock Town Hall on Wednesday, hosted by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the Marlborough Express, drew an audience of about 50.

Current ward councillor David Oddie said the forestry industry needed to take a “serious look at itself” after an audience member questioned why the Marlborough District Council hadn’t taken action against the practice of planting trees on roadside strips in the Sounds.

“It just gets back to the endless encouragement from central government to plant forestry. That has got to change … but it’s been a slow road,” he said. . . 

NZ’s big pest bust: how do we kill the last survivors? – Jamie Morton:

Scientists have begun investigating how to wipe out the last surviving pests in New Zealand’s bold bid to rid itself of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

A new $7.5 million programme, led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientists, aims to overcome what’s long been a headache for predator-busting efforts – how to eliminate that final 5 per cent which manage to hang on.

The Government’s ambitious Predator Free 2050 initiative required scientific breakthroughs that could lift the kill rate to 100 per cent – a much more expensive prospect than just knocking out most of a population. . . 

US craft brewers chase unique Kiwi hop flavours – Rebecca Black:

New Zealand hops are in demand in the United States as craft beer brewers compete to achieve a point of difference.

The Tasman District produces distinct flavours that can not be replicated, according to Jason Judkins, chief executive of Nelson’s Hop Revolution, and US brewers are keen to use New Zealand hops to stand out among competitors.

Judkins visited 50 breweries on a recent trip the the US. . . 

 

Ag secretary: No guarantee small dairy farms will survive – Todd Richmond:

President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary said Tuesday during a stop in Wisconsin that he doesn’t know if the family dairy farm can survive as the industry moves toward a factory farm model.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it’s getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Mr. Perdue said. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” . . 


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