Science when it suits

September 1, 2020

Federated Farmers is pleased the Green Party has called for us all to embrace science:

Federated Farmers couldn’t agree more with the call from the Green Party today that science should guide the policies and decisions of MPs.  

“They issued the challenge in relation to the recent positive COVID-19 cases in Auckland but as a party that should be interested in consistency and logic, we look forward to the Greens also applying this ‘listen to the science’ principle to issues such as genetic engineering technologies and methane emissions,” Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says.  

In a press statement headlined ‘Greens call for continued commitment to science from political leaders’, co-leader James Shaw said in the wake of the new cases of COVID-19 from community transmission “… now is the time to band together as a country, be directed by the science, and back good decision making”.    

Policy should be backed by science and that should support good decision making all the time, not just in relation to Covid-19.

This is spot on,” Andrew said.  “Science also tells us that unlike the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, biological methane from New Zealand’s farmed livestock does not need to be reduced to net zero to have no additional effect on global warming. 

“A reduction of 10-22% by 2050 is sufficient, yet the  climate change legislation put in place by the government has a much harsher, non-science based target which will only add extra significant economic costs and undermine the competitiveness of our meat and dairy in the international market.”  

Environment Commission Simon Upton told the government that forestry could be used to offset biological methane but not emissions from fossil fuels and Shaw ignored him.

The Greens have been similarly science obtuse in relation to GE.  

“Gene editing technologies have huge potential in our fight to be predator-free, to deal with pest plants such as wilding pines, and to develop new types of grasses that will lead to ruminant animals emitting less methane. But the Greens appear to have had a closed mind on GE, despite scientists such as Sir Peter Gluckman endorsing the need to debate and embrace these technologies,” Andrew said. 

The opportunity cost of New Zealand’s stubborn policy toward GE will only increase as the exciting technology continues to mature, leaving New Zealand worse off and offering an increasing competitive advantage to other countries. 

Opposition to GE is usually based on emotion not science.

All we are asking is that consumers and producers are empowered to make their own decisions on the technology, rather than being hamstrung by restrictive regulations that ignore the best available science. 

 “The Greens’ new professed enthusiasm to be guided by science is most welcome,” Andrew said. 

If only the Greens acted on Shaw’s call. Unfortunately the party only supports science when it suits it.


Chemistry

July 25, 2020

“Organic” is good, chemicals, pesticides in particular, are bad?

Chemistry is not that simple.

 


Living under cancer sword

February 13, 2020

When you’re pregnant you have  hopes and dreams for your babies and their futures, dreams you probably aren’t fully aware of unless you lose them.

Some of our dreams were dashed when our sons were diagnosed with degenerative brain disorders and died young, Tom aged 20 weeks, and Dan 10 days after his fifth birthday.

Life with the boys who had multiple disabilities and passed none of the developmental milestones wasn’t easy, nor was coming to terms with their deaths.

Many people who learn about Tom and Dan say they couldn’t cope if that happened to their children. I’d probably have thought the same until I had to. Then, the only alternative to coping was not coping and through necessity, I coped.

That doesn’t mean I always did it well. There were some very long nights and some very dark days; nights when I fell into bed exhausted by grief but couldn’t sleep, days when it felt like I was stuffed full of dark clouds and was ready to burst. But even at the very worst of times I had the love and support of my husband, wider family and friends, shining light against the darkness of despair.

And our sons, who could do so little, taught us so much: how blessed we are to have that support; that people are people regardless of what they can or cannot do and that ability isn’t a right it’s a privilege

Our response has also been governed by the knowledge that it would only compound the tragedy of our son’s difficult lives and early deaths if being bitter and twisted and focusing on what we’d lost stopped us appreciating and enjoying all we still had and could have.

And we still had their older sister who gave us the joys and challenges children provide.

None of those challenges were major until nearly three years ago when she was diagnosed with low grade serous carcinoma (LGSC), a type of ovarian cancer that is frequently incurable.  Jane, at just 32 years old, was told with current treatments her life expectancy was likely to be only five to 15 years.

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cause of female cancer death in New Zealand. Yet we  knew almost nothing about the symptoms. For two years Jane was told by doctors her symptoms were not serious, right up until she required emergency surgery from cancer complications. You can read more about the symptoms here:

Not letting what we’ve lost with the lives and deaths of our sons, blind us to what we still have is, of course, easier in theory than practice and it has been harder still to focus positively in the wake of Jane’s diagnosis.

There’s been a lot of tears, a lot of prayers and a lot of swears. There are nights of restless sleep when I wake to find the nightmare is real, and days when I cry easily and often. But again we’ve got wonderful support from family and friends, and just as she gave me a reason to not just survive but live a full life when her brothers died all those years ago, Jane’s example is providing an inspiration for me now.

18 months after diagnosis and 8 weeks after breaking her leg skiing.

If it’s hard for me as a mother, how much harder must it be for her,  a young woman living under the cancer sword, facing what it’s already cut from her life, the pain of that and the knowledge that it could take so much more?

She could have sunk into depression and stayed there. She could have chosen to focus only on herself. Instead she is doing much, much more.

She is fighting not just for herself but for all the other women around the world who share her cancer, many of whom are young like her.

What will determine whether women like our daughter live or die is research. Rare cancers like Jane’s, account for almost half of all cancer deaths yet receive just 13.5% of research funding.  The limiting factor isn’t science, it’s the money for the scientists to study it that’s lacking.

When Jane was diagnosed there wasn’t any way to donate directly to her cancer anywhere in the world. She knew that had to change if she and other women were to survive. She liaised with doctors,  researchers and charities around the world and founded Cure Our Ovarian Cancer – a registered charitable trust, that facilitates donations for low-grade serous cancer research both in New Zealand, and internationally.

Jane spends most of her days connecting with women and researchers around the world, fundraising for research into her cancer. Through Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and it’s partner charities, she’s helped raise more than $200 000 in less than two years. And aside from a small payment fee, 100% of every dollar raised goes to research.

She’s humbled by the public’s generosity, but also overwhelmed by how far is left to go. Tens of millions are needed if change is to happen in time for her. But as Jane says, “How can I do nothing? Knowing that in 10, 20, 30 years time, women will continue to die in droves without research. You just have to try.”

We’re in awe of everything Jane is doing while living with this awful cancer. It’s heartbreaking but her example pushes us to do better every day.

As a family we are committed to helping in every way we can. We’ve funded three research projects in the US and NZ and continue to do what we can. But this problem is too big for one family to solve without help.

This is why we’re going public. Because our daughter,  and all the other women with this dreadful disease,  need your support.

Our message to you is simple. Please donate, please fundraise and please tell everyone you know about our incredible girl and this horrible cancer. Women’s lives are on the line.

Learn more: cureourovariancancer.org

Follow Cure Our Ovarian Cancer on Facebook and  Twitte and Instagram.

Jane’s personal blog is janehascancer.com


Need right response

January 16, 2020

Climate change agitation started on the left.

Some of it was driven by genuine concern for the environment. Some had, and still has, a wider anti-capitalist political agenda.

Climate change is now an issue that spans the political spectrum but most response is still shaped by the left with its usual recipe of less of this here and more tax on that there.

Ironically, given climate change activists’ demands to accept the science, a lot of the response does not follow the science.

Much of the response is also simplistic and does not take into account all the costs and consequences of prescribed actions nor does it follow the prescription for sustainability which requires a balance of economic, environmental and social concerns.

The teaching resource on climate change issued by the Ministry of Education exemplifies this, mixing misinformation and preaching with the science and teaching.

There is a huge opportunity here for the right to promote a much more positive response that will counter the eco-pessimism and provide real solutions with technology and innovation.

That is what has provided answers to problems that have beset the world in the past and that is what is needed if we’re to safeguard the health of the planet for the future.


Rural round-up

October 14, 2019

Get on with it – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Politicians might be slow acting on climate change but retailers and consumers who buy New Zealand produce aren’t and they expect Kiwi farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says.

He urges food producers to stop arguing about details and start reducing carbon emissions to preserve demand in lucrative markets.

“It is very real in-market,” he said.

Peterson said “If people think this is being dreamed up by NZ politicians to get at NZ farmers then you need to think again.”

It is being driven by those who buy our food.

“Companies and consumers are driving climate change. . . 

Number of natives under one billions trees anyone’s guess -Eloise Gibson:

How many of the one billion trees planted in the next decade will be native species? Government tree planting agency Te Uru Rakau has clarified that it can’t hazard an estimate. 

The Government’s tree planting agency, Te Uru Rakau, says it can’t estimate what proportion of the one billion trees programme will be native species, saying a previous figure it gave to Newsroom was meant to be purely “illustrative”.

The illustrative figure was used to calculate the estimated climate benefit from the tree scheme, which Te Uru Rakau has put at 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the trees’ lifetimes. . . 

Bunds offer phosphorus solution – Richard Rennie:

Capturing phosphate in water spilling off farm catchments has been made easier thanks to work done by a Rotorua farmer group and a doctoral student who have developed detainment bunds on trial properties.

A field day later this month gives farmers the chance to look at work that has largely been under the radar but offers a practical, farmer-focused solution to improving water quality. Richard Rennie spoke to the group’s project manager John Paterson.

While nitrogen mitigation has played on the minds of most regional councils and many farmers, phosphorus losses are also required, under the Government’s latest water quality rules, to be measured and curtailed.  . . 

Exotic breeds offer genetic diversity – Yvonne O”Hara:

Anieka and Nick Templer like a bit of variety in their dairy herd, adding panda-eyed, triple-cross Montbeliarde, Normande, Fleckvieh and Aussie Reds to their mix.

They are are 50/50 sharemilkers on 230ha near Balfour, with 630 cows, and they are targeting 500kgMS/cow and 330,000kgMS production this season. Their herd includes 35 pedigree Ayrshires.

The 2015 Southland/Otago Farm Manager of the Year winners have daughter Maycie (5) and employ two Filipino staff: Emman Orendain and David Lupante.

Mrs Templer grew up on a dairy farm and has always been interested in the more unusual cattle breeds. . . 

‘If we lose these communities we won’t get them back‘ :

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin says “if we lose these communities, we won’t get them back”, as “unprecedented” drought conditions continue to affect Australian farmers.

Hundreds of drought-stricken farmers have reportedly stopped receiving payments in the past two years, through a government assistance program, after having reached the four-year limit.

Under the allowance, more than 1,300 households are given $489 a fortnight.

“This federal government is working with us, trying to work with communities that are in incredible trouble” Mr Guerin told Sky News host Paul Murray. . . 

The latest flip-flop on red meat uses best science in place of best guesses – Nina Teicholz:

Eggs are bad; eggs are good. Fat is bad; fat is good. Meat is bad; meat is… OK?

That last food flip-flop made big headlines last week. It was a “remarkable turnabout,” “jarring,” “stunning.” How, it was asked, could seemingly bedrock nutrition advice turn on a dime?

The answer is that many of the nation’s official nutrition recommendations — including the idea that red meat is a killer — have been based on a type of weak science that experts have unfortunately become accustomed to relying upon. Now that iffy science is being questioned. At stake are deeply entrenched ideas about healthy eating and trustworthy nutrition guidelines, and with many scientists invested professionally, and even financially, in the status quo, the fight over the science won’t be pretty.

Red meat is a particularly contentious topic because people have such strong objections to eating meat for a variety of reasons: the environment, animal rights and even religion (Seventh-day Adventists advise against it). . . .


Bad science scapegoats meat

September 7, 2019

Bad science is to blame for scapegoating meat:

Meat has been getting a bad rap in some parts of society, being blamed for everything from increased cancer to greenhouse gas emissions by environmental and commercial influencers. This has led to Professor Frédéric Leroy, Professor of Food Science and biotechnology at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, to concluded that meat has effectively become a scapegoat for commercial and environmental advocates, much of which was based on bad science. Speaking at a lecture at the University of Auckland, Professor Leroy discussed how this scapegoating came about and whether it is justified. . . 

The anti-farming rhetoric is not based on the good practices followed in New Zealand where cattle, deer and sheep are raised on extensive farms, ranging free.

The anti-meat rhetoric overlooks the important part moderate amounts of beef, lamb and venison play in a healthy diet.


A win for science

August 19, 2019

The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to provide accurate risk information to consumers and to stop false labeling on products:

EPA is issuing guidance to registrants of glyphosate to ensure clarity on labeling of the chemical on their products. EPA will no longer approve product labels claiming glyphosate is known to cause cancer – a false claim that does not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The State of California’s much criticized Proposition 65 has led to misleading labeling requirements for products, like glyphosate, because it misinforms the public about the risks they are facing. This action will ensure consumers have correct information, and is based on EPA’s comprehensive evaluation of glyphosate.

“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.” 

In April, EPA took the next step in the review process for glyphosate. EPA found – as it has before – that glyphosate is not a carcinogen, and there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label. These scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by many other countries and other federal agencies. . .

This is a win for science and the environment and a reminder that users must be responsible for their own actions in following instructions on the label.

Glysophate is an important tool in minimum tillage which reduces fuel usage and protects soil from erosion.


Science when it suits again

August 16, 2019

The government is ignoring its own scientific advice over setting methane reduction targets:

Advice to the Government from MPI’s officials shows that the Government’s proposed methane reduction targets go well beyond the science of what is needed for New Zealand to meet its 1.5⁰C Paris Agreement commitments and was purely a political decision made in Cabinet.

“Official’s advice validates the arguments we have been making that methane does not need to reduce by the amount proposed by the Government in the Zero Carbon Bill in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5⁰C,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s CEO Sam McIvor.

Mr McIvor’s comments are also echoed by DairyNZ’s CEO Dr Tim Mackle.

“The agricultural sector has consistently said that the Government is asking farmers to do more than what’s required, and more than what’s being asked by other sectors of the economy, and this has been confirmed by the Government’s own advice”, says Dr Mackle.

“We are willing to play our part to address climate change and want to have a transparent and science based discussion about what that should be.”

The government can’t ask us to accept the science on climate change then ignore it in responding.

While the Government referenced the IPCC report, in applying the target for a global reduction in methane emissions to New Zealand, they have conveniently omitted the IPCC’s caveat that makes clear these global targets shouldn’t simply be slapped on individual countries.

It is also ignoring the Paris Accord which stipulates that cliamte change mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

“The combined effect of the excessive methane targets and net zero target for nitrous oxide, which even go beyond the IPCC’s advice for this gas, means that New Zealand is effectively aiming to go below 1.5 degrees and by doing so, letting other countries off the hook,” says Mr McIvor.

The Government is even being inconsistent in its own statements in saying it has relied on IPCC advice, with parliamentary written questions showing it did not seek any specific advice from the IPCC in doing this.  Instead the Government has cherry picked the numbers it wanted and gone with the highest ranges it could find for methane, as well as going beyond what the IPCC recommended for nitrous oxide.

Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard says that the advice from MPI vindicates the sector’s position that the Government has opted for a political target on methane rather than a scientific one.

“When the IPCC explicitly states their global methane reduction targets shouldn’t be used as national targets, and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to set targets in a manner that doesn’t threaten food production and to take into account different national circumstances, it’s disappointing that the Government has opted to pursue a political target agreed at Cabinet to make it feel good on the world stage regardless of its lack of scientific backing or the disastrous consequences it could have on New Zealand’s food producers,” says Mr Hoggard.

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, and Federated Farmers, while all having made individual submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, are united in their view that the proposed 24-47 percent target is too high and are encouraging the Government to take a science-based approach that reflects the fact that methane only needs to reduce by a small amount each year in order to contribute no additional warming.

The government is proposing unrealistic targets. Even trying to meet them will come at a high cost, in both economic and social terms, with no environmental gain.

In doing so it is using only the science that suits it again.

There is a better way – setting realistic targets and working with agricultural groups to drive real behaviour change on farm:

Sector organisations have put forward an alternative Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment – He Waka Eke Noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework to help the rural sector reduce its footprint.

“We want to play our part and take action. That’s why we have put forward a credible five-year work plan with clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes” Dr Mackle says.  

“Our proposed plan is a collective initiative across multiple agricultural sectors, and includes rolling out Farm Environment Plans for all farms by 2025 to ensure every farmer knows their emissions footprint, where on farm those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them”.

Having reliable data is important so that a farmer can make decisions and trade-offs factoring in resilience, profitability, and all the business decisions that need to be weighed up.

“We are asking the Government to partner with the agricultural sector to develop and deliver targeted programmes of action and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. We strongly believe that working in partnership is the best approach to deliver real change” Dr Mackle added.

“DairyNZ does not support a levy on farmers in the ETS at processor level because it won’t drive the behaviour change to reduce emissions.

“It will take money out of farmers pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.

“Safeguarding the environment and maintaining a sustainable and competitive dairy sector is very important to our farmers, customers, and consumers. 

“Farmers care about the environment and are continuously refining their farm systems to improve environmental outcomes.“The dairy sector is committed to playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions alongside the rest of the New Zealand, but policy responses need to be fair and they need to drive the right behaviours” Dr Mackle concluded.

DairyNZ’s submission on Action on agricultural emissions can be found here.

The government has a choice – it can set realistic targets for methane reduction and work with the primary sector to achieve sustainable on-farm changes; or it can ignore the science and impose unrealistic targets providing neither the tools nor incentives farmers need to make a positive difference to their practices and the environment.


Science not unsubstantiated aspiration

August 9, 2019

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says better land management can contribute to tackling climate change but is not the only solution.

. . . Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems. . .

Greenpeace must have missed the bit about food security and locally appropriate solutions because it immediately called for New Zealand’s dairy heard to be halved which, Politik points out, would cost the country approximately $8.3 billion in lost exports.

On top of that, there would be job losses on farm and in the downstream businesses, irreversible depopulation of rural communities and global emissions would increase as less efficient farmers in other countries ramped up production to meet the demand for food we’d no longer be producing.

Greenpeace would be more aptly named Redpeace to reflect its politics. Their call ignores the fact that what is being called for is largely what New Zealand farmers are already doing, and are striving to do better.

It comes on the eve of Federated Farmers submission to the select committee on the Zero Carbon Bill where they called for honesty on what farmers are being asked to do:

Adopt a methane target that science tells us will ensure no additional impact on global warming, not an unsubstantiated aspiration that will cause lasting damage to rural communities and the standard of living of all New Zealanders.

That was the message from Federated Farmers to the Select Committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill this morning.

“Federated Farmers agrees with the current text in the Bill on the need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the NZ agricultural industry by 2050,” Feds climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“This ambitious support is in spite of the industry being heavily reliant on reliable energy supply and internal combustion powered vehicles for transport, both of which produce carbon dioxide, and despite the task of agriculture reducing nitrous oxide to net zero being incredibly challenging.”

Farmers “embrace this challenge” because those two gases are long-lived and build up in the atmosphere, so New Zealand – and the world – needs to get those gases to net zero as quickly as possible, Hoggard said. But methane, which is belched by livestock, is a short-lived gas that produces almost no additional warming and flows in and out of the atmosphere if emitted at a constant rate.

The science says NZ agriculture needs to reduce methane by about 0.3% a year, or about 10% by 2050, to have no additional warming effect – or in other words a zero carbon equivalent. Yet a 10% target has been set for 2030 – much earlier than for any other sector of society – and up to 47% methane reductions by 2050.

Hoggard told the Select Committee that appears to be “because it seems easier to tell people to consume less animal-based protein than it is to cut back on trips to Bali.

“If that is the case then let’s be open and honest and admit the agriculture sector is being asked to do more than its share.”

Farmers are in a minority, it’s far easier to pick on them than to ask people to make real and meaningful sacrifices.

The Minister has challenged those disagreeing with the proposed targets to explain why he shouldn’t follow the advice of the IPCC. Federated Farmers provided three main reasons:

– a key piece of advice in the relevant IPCC’s 2018 report was not to use the numbers from that report as precise national targets,

– the report also recommended a much lower target for nitrous oxide but Federated Farmers is ignoring that as it is a long-lived gas.

– finally, the report modelled numerous pathways that all achieved the 1.5 degree warming target. In some of those pathways biogenic methane actually increased. Economists pondered those pathways to work out the least cost to the globe of achieving the target, not the least cost to New Zealand.

“This report was clearly not designed to be copy and pasted into our domestic legislation. Modelling on what is the least cost to the economy for New Zealand to do its part hasn’t been done,” Hoggard said.

Answering Select Committee member questions, Hoggard suggested there was a strong case for rewarding or incentivising farmers to go beyond 10% by 2050 methane cuts. Methane reductions beyond 10% would actually have a cooling effect on the planet and in effect was the same as planting trees to sequester carbon, a practice rewarded through the ETS.

But planting trees with a 30-year life before harvest is only a temporary solution, and blanketing productive farmland with pines kills off jobs, spending and inhabitants that rural communities depend on.

The science, peer reviewed and provided by Environment Commissioner Simon Upton, says forestry should not be used to offset fossil fuel emissions but could be used for shorter-lived gases like methane.

However, if farmers achieved the 10% methane reductions that ensure no additional warming, and are rewarded for striving for additional reductions, there is incentive to invest in additional emissions reduction technology.

“That keeps the rural community going, and reduces global warming – a win/win situation.”

The proposed policy is lose-lose.

The only way for farmers to meet unrealistic targets would be to reduce stock.

That would have devastating economic and social consequences and no environmental gain.

If the government expect us to accept the science on climate change, it must accept the science too, all the science including that on methane, and not just the bits it finds convenient.

It must also accept the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.


Ag part of the tech boom

July 5, 2019

Politik discusses Knowledge Wave Mark Two which seeks to boost the tech sector and quotes Helen Clark from the original Knowledge Wave conference:

Our export profile resembles that of developing countries, not that of a developed one.

Our export profile is unique among developed countries for the volume and value of primary produce and the large part that plays in our economy.

But the quote, and some policies from this government, send the message that there’s something wrong with that.

They ignore the fact that primary production does so well in New Zealand not just because of our natural advantages – the climate and soils – but because of the investment in, and application of, research and technology.

There is some comfort in David Parker’s statement:

“The agritech sector has been chosen as a key focus because it brings together two of New Zealand’s key competitive advantages – our expertise in agriculture and horticulture with our well-educated workforce,” he said.

This focus is already being undermined by government policy which incentivises forestry over food production.

Economic growth,  a broader based export economy and technological innovation are all worthy goals but none should be achieved by dragging down or devaluing primary production.

Our export profile does resemble that of a third world country, but primary production in New Zealand is very much a first-world business and already part of the tech boom.

When climate change could threaten food security, our ability to produce highly nutritious food in a very efficient manner is of even more importance.

 

 


Rural round-up

June 29, 2019

Success from the ground up – Luke Chivers:

Future Post is leading change in on-farm sustainability with its new environmentally friendly fence post that won the top Agricultural Innovation award at this year’s Fieldays.

“It came as a huge surprise,” Future Post founder Jerome Wenzlick said.

“We weren’t expecting to win, that’s for sure.” . .

Here’s my beef with the entitled and pampered fat cats – Phil Quin:

Whereas I’m not exactly persuaded by James Cameron and Sir Peter Jackson that New Zealand can or should go meat-free, I’m pretty sure we could manage without three more Avatar films.

“What we need,” Cameron told us last week, “is a nice transition to a meatless or relatively meatless world in 20 or 30 years.”

Even for a filmmaker better known for special effects than human-seeming dialogue, this is a clunker. 

To be fair, though, when you’ve made a couple of billion dollars from blue aliens on a fictitious planet, and when you have come to regard New Zealand as your personal movie set, what’s so hard about replacing dairy and meat with plant-based alternatives?   . . .

Grain sector sees bold future – Annette Scott:

New Zealand is behind other countries in developing and investing in plant-based food ingredients and it’s time to bite the bullet, Plant Research managing director Adrian Russell says.

Agriculture and the world food supply are in the biggest revolution in history, Russell told the Grain and Seed Industry Forum at Lincoln.

“There’s incredibly exciting times to get into as an industry, things are changing and we need to change with it.

“The rise of the flexitarian consuming less meat is predicted to quadruple global pea protein demand by 2025.  . .

Rural boards changing – Brent Melville:

Rural New Zealand boardrooms, once the exclusive enclave of the old boys’ club, are becoming more diversified.

It is not happening quickly. But it is happening.

Women account for only about one in four board members of the large primary sector co-operatives. Two are on the 11-strong Fonterra board and they comprise two of seven on the Silver Fern Farms board, two of nine on the Board of Alliance Farmers Produce and three of 10 on the Farmlands board. . . 

New job helps with title aspirations – Sally Brooker:

Alan Harvey’s new job is proving great preparation for his tilt at the Young Farmer of the Year title.

The Aorangi region representative in the grand final has moved from being an agricultural consultant for Agri Planz to operations manager for North Otago dairy farming company Borst Holdings Ltd.

After winning the Aorangi competition in February, Mr Harvey said he would have to work on his knowledge of the dairy sector before the national final in Hawke’s Bay on July 4 to 6. So he is filling the gaps in his knowledge while enjoying the variety his job brings. . . 

Egg Industry introduces first industry-led trace programme:

A locally developed, industry-led source assurance programme will set the bar for consumers by enabling them to trace their eggs back to the farm they came from to verify that the eggs they want to buy are the eggs in the carton, says New Zealand’s Egg Producers Federation (EPF).

“True source assurance comes from authenticity across multiple platforms, and for that reason, we see this as the most ambitious primary industry-led programme available,” says EPF Executive Director, Michael Brooks. . . 

The slow welcome death of GMO panic – Abe Greenwald:

In the United States, the public panic about the dangers of genetically modified foods is fading fast. This is an amazing—and rare—triumph of reason and science over public hysteria and political posturing.

On Monday, for example, the New York Times published an article by Knuvul Sheikh detailing recent advances in genetically modified crops without offering a single word about potential health dangers or environmental concerns. In fact, it seems there’s a rebranding effort on the left to hype GMO foods as a vital response to climate change.


Bag ban virtue signalling

June 5, 2019

Wondering if the plastic bag is worth it for the sake of the environment? 

. . . In this article ‘Things you’re doing to save the planet that are actually terrible’, Vice reveals that reusable cotton tote you feel so smug about is actually polluting the air and waterways more than a plastic bags. Quoting this 2018 Danish study, reusable cotton bags are only a solution to the problem if we reuse them consistently for 11.5 years, or around 7100 times.

Anything less than that won’t offset the fact that manufacturing these types of bags creates 606 times as much water pollution as making a plastic bag, the study reports.

Todd Myers, who is the environmental director of think tank Washington Policy Centre, told Vice people should not “ignore the far more damaging, but less obvious impacts of cotton bags”.

In comparison, according to the study, a paper bag needs to be reused 43 times to offset the environmental impact – but if you’re using a paper bag 43 times you’re taking better care of it than me. Still, reusing and recycling them afterwards is a much better option than its cotton counterpart.

Or even, dare I say it: Continue to reuse plastic bags which we all know are not single use at all.

And what about the plastic-lined reusable jute bags I got from the Farmers Market?

I suspect they’re no better for the environment either.

Sigh, it’s yet another case of green virtue signalling where feeling trumps the science.


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Rural round-up

August 9, 2018

Long-serving dairy scientist Harjinder Singh gains international recognition – George Heagney:

After 30 years of research in the dairy industry, a distinguished service award was well deserved for Harjinder​ Singh.

The Massey University distinguished professor has won a lot of awards for his work, but last month became the first New Zealander to win the American Dairy Science Association distinguished service award at Knoxville in the United States.

The gong, which Singh joked was a lifetime achievement award, was for outstanding contribution to dairy science and work improving the industry. 

Singh, 60, is a food scientist and major figure in the development of dairy science research, having started working at Massey in 1989. . .

TDC hopes Provincial Growth Fund will plug $18m hole in Waimea dam plan – Cherie Sivignon:

Tasman District Council has applied to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to plug an $18 million hole in funding for the proposed Waimea dam, undaunted by an apparent exclusion for water and irrigation projects.

A guide to the fund called Powering Up Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Regions is available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

On page 5 of that guide under the headline “Fund exclusions”, it says: The following are not eligible for PGF [the Provincial Growth Fund] as they are funded by other means:
* Housing (unless it is a core part of a broader project and would not otherwise be required)
* Water and large-scale irrigation
* Social infrastructure (such as hospitals and schools) . .

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success. . .

Tradition lives on – Sonita Chandar:

The threat of Mycoplasma bovis might ruin an annual tradition that is a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar.

Calf club days around the country are being put on hold or cancelled because of fears of spreading the disease, which has seen cattle banned from some A&P Shows.

However, a group of Waikato farmers has come up with a failsafe idea that carries zero risks and allows children to enter calf clubs and compete against others without having to leave the farm.

On a Facebook page farmers suggested running an online club. . .

Sniffing out a new industry – Nigel Malthus:

At up to $250 retail for a well-shaped 80-90g black perigord truffle, growing the gourmet delicacy has its obvious rewards.

But it is also a high-risk business, says Amuri Truffiere’s Gavin Hulley. The truffiere is based on a 2ha hillside plot overlooking the North Canterbury township of Waikari.

Run as a joint venture with the landowner and another investor, it was planted out in 1997 as one of the first truffle farms in New Zealand. . .

A2 Milk shares rated both ‘outperform’ and ‘sell’ as views on outlook diverge – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Views on the outlook for The a2 Milk Company, the best performing stock on the S&P/NZX 50 Index last year, are widely divergent with one broking house this week reinstating an ‘outperform’ rating based on its potential for future global growth, while another downgraded it to ‘sell’ saying excess product is starting to build in Australia.

A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, has had a meteoric rise in recent times, cracking a major milestone in February when it became the largest listed company in New Zealand by value, as its infant formula in China and liquid milk in Australia surged in popularity. At today’s price it is valued as the fourth-largest New Zealand listed company although opinions on its future are mixed. . . 

Fonterra and Future Consumer Limited JV to provide high value dairy nutrition in India:

Fonterra has announced a joint venture partnership with one of India’s largest consumer companies, Future Consumer Ltd, to produce a range of consumer and foodservice dairy products that will help meet the growing demand for high-quality dairy nutrition in India.

Lukas Paravicini, Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer Global Consumer and Foodservice, said the partnership, under the name Fonterra Future Dairy Partners, will enable Fonterra to establish a presence in India. . . 

New Zealand’s newest farmer-owned foor company challenges  Virgin Australia to bet on an underdog:

Farmer-owned food company, Hinterland Foods, has launched an online appeal for support to have its meat products served on Virgin Australia flights.

It follows an invitation by the airline to the country’s meat companies, in response to rival Air New Zealand’s plant-based Impossible Burger, which has caused a stir in local rural communities.

To help rally support, Hinterland’s Taihape-based team produced a short video to better acquaint ‘the Aussies’ with rural New Zealand life and make a case for why the company’s products should be chosen.  . .

DryNZ, a boutique freshly dried food ingredients business clinches major international export order:

DryNZ, a start-up wholesale freshly dried fruit and vegetable business has won a major international export order, supplying dried fruit for an international company based in Europe.

DryNZ Managing Director Anne Gibson says the deal is a major coup for the Waiuku based business, situated adjacent to the Pukekohe food-bowl supplying apple, peach, blackcurrant, kiwifruit and lemon dried food pieces. . . 

Farmer Tim says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to farmer suicides #ILiveBecauseYouFarm – The Bullvine:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I need your help. Five times in the last week I’ve received messages about farmers taking their lives. It is getting way too close to home for me now. Last week agriculture lost an amazing soldier. Her passion and compassion for all things farming was contagious. Anyone who had the privilege to meet her instantly became inspired to be a better person. I do not want to needlessly lose another friend, farmer, neighbour or agvocate. We need to do something.

So many people suffer silently and I know that we can’t help them all but sometime even a small gesture can have a huge impact on someone’s life. . .


Rural round-up

July 21, 2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Science when it suits

June 18, 2018

The government has been quick to act on the advice of its chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman over meth testing in state houses. 

Wouldn’t it be good if a similar respect for science was shown for other policy?

Had they done so we wouldn’t be facing a ban on off-shore exploration for oil and gas.

If they did so, we could be confident they’d agree with National’s principles for a bipartisan approach to climate change:

  • taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
  • utilising innovation and technology,
  • getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
  • acting as part of a global response, and
  • considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes

If they did so, we could have confidence that they making policy changes for the good of the country and the people and not blindly following political ideology.

It would be good but it’s very unlikely when we’ve got a government that accepts science only when it suits.


Nutrient loss isn’t simple

May 10, 2018

Targeting cows is easy but nutrient loss isn’t simple and converting from dairy to horticulture could make water quality worse.


Rural round-up

May 9, 2018

Natural Fibre Exchange aimed at providing greater efficiency :

In a significant step forward for the wool sector, industry participants have come together to develop and launch an independent online trading platform.

Modelled on the Global Dairy Trade Events (GDT) platform, the Natural Fibre Exchange (NFX) is scheduled to go live with its first trading event on 22 May 2018.

NFX Ltd shareholders Wools of New Zealand Ltd (WNZ) and Alliance Group have teamed with CRA International (CRA), an acknowledged leader in online trading platforms. CRA, which also designed and manages the GDT platform, has developed and will manage the NFX platform. . . 

Short and long-lived gases need separate regulatory baskets – Keith Woodford:

A key issue for New Zealand is how to meet the Paris commitments for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Fundamental to any analysis is the different attributes of long-lived and short-lived gases.  In particular, how should methane be accounted for, and how should it be brought into any emission trading scheme?

Back in 2016, current Commissioner of the Environment Simon Upton raised the importance of placing short-lived gases in a different regulatory ‘basket’ from long-lived gases. Remarkably, our rural leaders appear to have failed to pick up on the importance of this issue.  

More than any other country in the world, NZ’s gross emissions are influenced by methane-producing ruminant animals. No other developed country has a comparable emission profile, with the arguable exception of Uruguay. . . 

Cheaper lab meat to put pressure on farmers by vying with mince and other red meat cuts – Jill Galloway:

New Zealand farmers are in danger of becoming redundant as synthetic meat took consumers away from red meat, says a strategic science expert.

Dr Anna Campbell, managing director of agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio, said synthetic meats would get cheaper and global consumers would choose them because of their light environmental impact and zero animal treatment.

Campbell was a key speaker talking to about 180 farmers and agribusiness people at the AgInnovation conference in Palmerston North on Wednesday.

“At the moment, synthetic meat-makers take some cells, some blood and other things, spin it around, and get mince.  It’s mince for hamburger patties that is spat out. It is expensive at the moment, but the companies will scale it up and make it cheap.”  . . 

Age not wearing this farmer – Peter Burke:

Moyra Bramley was born in 1933, the year Sir Apirana Ngata and Lord Bledisloe inaugurated the Ahuwhenua Trophy to recognise excellence in Maori farming — now Ms Bramley has at least a 50/50 chance of winning that trophy.

Bramley is in the running for her role as chairwoman of the Onuku Maori Lands Trust, one of two finalists in the competition. 

Onuku’s entry in the competition is its 72ha Boundary Road dairy unit is near Lake Rotomahana, 30km south of Rotorua. It is one of four farms run by the trust.  . . 

Looking into using drones differently – Mark Price:

Wanaka beekeeper Daniel Schweizer is investigating a use for drones that is yet to catch on in New Zealand.

He can see potential for “spray drones” that target weeds in difficult-to-get-to places in the high country.

The weeds would include gorse, broom and wilding pines.

“The only options at the moment are a helicopter and a man with a knapsack, and one is $20 an hour and one is $2000 an hour,” he said. . . 

Drought will bring more crop disease scientists warn:

New Zealand’s land-based primary industries need to get ready for more, and more serious, crop disease as climate change causes more and longer droughts, according to new research.

In the journal Australasian Plant Pathology, the authors say that climate change is expected to bring more droughts in many parts of New Zealand, and more droughts are “likely to increase the severity of a wide range of diseases affecting the plant-based productive sectors”.

Scientists from the Bio-Protection Research Centre, Scion, Lincoln University, AUT University, Landcare Research, and the University of Auckland analysed the potential impact of climate-change-induced drought on several commercial plants and their diseases. . . 


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


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