Rural round-up

01/10/2020

Time for a change?

This year has been a difficult and challenging time not just for farmers, but for all New Zealanders.

For the farming industry, changing regulations, uncertainties about staffing and a difficult financial outlook top the list. Add to that changing weather patterns and high levels of debt: all these factors impact their mental health and wellbeing.

Last week, the country marked Mental Health Awareness Week. Dairy industry stakeholders called on politicians to make rural mental health a priority.

DairyNZ’s report, The view from the Cowshed, released last month paints a sad picture. . . 

IrrigationNZ launches innovative way to learn about water quality:

IrrigationNZ believes it is important Kiwis get up-to-date information about freshwater in their local catchments and have created a new way to do it.

‘Know Your Catchment’ is an online platform which showcases water monitoring data and different ways freshwater supports wellbeing.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says the platform is a step in the right direction to better inform the public about freshwater and help track the effects of farming practice change on water quality over time.

“This platform will engage and educate both rural and urban communities about the commitment farmers and growers have made to maintaining and improving water quality with information about water quality, irrigation, recreation, wetlands and more.” . . 

Candidates debate rural health priorities – Riley Kennedy:

Candidates from across the political spectrum went head-to-head in a debate to talk about their rural health priorities on Tuesday night.

The debate was organised in partnership with Mobile health and New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (NZRGPN).

In an election manifesto released by NZRGPN ahead of the debate, it noted three areas of concern, such as, long wait times for appointments to see health professionals, struggle to afford the costs of time and travel to manage their health and little to no access to specialist mental health and addiction services.

Its chief executive, Dr Grant Davidson, started off the debate by saying that rural health was in a crisis and it needs to be addressed. . . 

Decarbonisation is one option for Fonterra bosses to consider as they strive to make the co-op a national champion – Point of Order:

Rabobank’s  latest   survey    of farmer   confidence found dairy farmers more upbeat about the fortunes of the agricultural economy  than meat and wool  producers.  Dairy farmer net confidence rose to -29% (-33% previously).

Improving demand is the key reason for optimism among  dairy farmers. That’s  largely  because global demand for dairy has held up well during the course of Covid-19 with many consumers opting for simple, familiar, stable food products such as dairy during the pandemic.  And   since the last survey,  Fonterra has  lifted  the lower bound of its farmgate milk price pay-out range for the 20/21 season.

Then there is  Fonterra’s  performance  under   the  stewardship of  Fonterra chief executive Miles  Hurrell,    who  has succeeded  in  turning  the  co-op’s fortunes  around   after  two   grim  years. . . 

Ospri and LIC join forces :

OSPRI and the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) are urging farmers to play their part in improving animal traceability at a critical time on farm.

As the management agency for the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system, OSPRI has been working closely with LIC to ensure livestock data recorded in its livestock management system MINDA LIVE, is more easily transferable and can be captured real-time in NAIT.

“The recent upgrades mean a seamless transfer of livestock movements between both systems within two hours instead of just once daily,” says OSPRI chief executive Steve Stuart.  . . 

Tasmanian shearers left in limbo due to border restrictions – Caitlin Jarvis:

Tasmanian shearers are facing financial limbo as the state’s border control measures force them to stay in the state or face lengthy and expensive quarantine.

Not classed as essential workers, shearers are not able to gain exemptions to enter Tasmania, and the state was left without its injection of New Zealand and interstate shearers it relies on for a speedy season.

As the Tasmanian season begins to wind up, Tasmanian shearers and interstate shearers who were in the state before the pandemic face financial uncertainty and the inability to find future work once the season finishes up in the state. . .

 


Rural round-up

18/09/2019

If we undermine farming we undermine our entire economic fabric – Barbara Kuriger:

Like my family before me, and following after me, I’ve always taken great pride in being a dairy farmer, and in the reputation of the New Zealand dairy industry internationally.

My husband and I grew up in a generation where we had the opportunity to buy a farm and build our livelihoods on the land as our family had before us. It has been a privilege to forge an incredible career as a dairy farmer. My husband, Louis, and I are both award-winning dairy farmers and we’re proud of the mark we’ve made on the industry. 

Sadly, the outlook for New Zealand’s primary sector is the worst that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t make this strong statement lightly, nor to scaremonger – but rather to reflect the policy settings under a virtue-signalling government which is setting the dairy industry up for failure. As a rural MP, but more importantly as a farmer, I won’t sit back and allow the ladder to be pulled up behind future generations of New Zealanders wanting to pave their way in the farming sector.   . . 

Dannevirke shearing legend Koro Mullins passes away:

Tributes are flowing in from around the world in memory of Dannevirke shearing identity Koropiko Tumatahi (Koro) Mullins, who died suddenly on Monday at the age of 65.

Mr Mullins was known across all aspects for the shearing industry and sports, from shearer and shearing contractor to a frontman commentating role shearing great Sir David Fagan says set the standard on a global scale.

Born and raised in the Rotorua area, and of Te Arawa stock, he met the-then Mavis Paewai when he was a woolpressing teenager working for her brothers and father in Southern Hawke’s Bay.

It sparked what Fagan says was a unique family involvement and commitment to the shearing and wool industry, becoming the basis of Maori Television series Shear Bro which first aired in July last year. . . 

“Don’t lose hope’ – Pam Tipa:

Farming families and communities keen to do the right thing on water should not lose hope and confidence in the consultation process, says a Canterbury dairy farmer and industry leader.

The Government’s proposed nitrogen target for mid Canterbury isn’t attainable, says Colin Glass.

But that is no reason to give up on the consultation process, he says. “It looks as though there is nothing we could do today that would even come close to achieving that target. It simply means that if that target is not amended, farming as we know it today is not possible. Any form of farming.

“The key thing is that farmers are doing the right thing. Everyone is moving in the right direction. Now is not the time for people to lose faith or confidence in the process. . . 

Radiata pine plantations a band aid to nowhere – Di Lucas:

Climate change policies, the Billion Tree initiative and recent news promote the establishment of extensive pine plantations to benefit Aotearoa New Zealand’s climate change response by sinking carbon. Others have questioned the benefit of short-rotation plantation pines compared to natural regeneration of native forests. Whilst afforestation has an important role in New Zealand’s climate change response, we need to be clear about future implications.

There are both native and introduced tree species that grow fast and others that grow more slowly. Consider along with the speed of sequestration, the total carbon stocks that can be accumulated, and how long sequestration rates can be sustained. These rates depend on whether the forest is permanent and allowed to grow to maturity (i.e. not harvested) or harvested.  

Fast-growing trees such as pines or eucalypts in harvested plantations reach their maximum carbon storage capacity in about 20 years. Landowners then lose most of those carbon stocks when the forest is harvested; NZ loses most of the embedded carbon when logs are exported; furthermore, the globe loses most of those stocks back into the atmosphere as the products decay, as well as through associated emissions from forest management, transport and processing. Thus to store more carbon actually requires another forest to be planted on new land that is not already forested, while also continuing to replant and maintain the previous area in forest to recover the lost carbon stocks. That is, plantation areas will need to be doubled in size with every crop. . . 

Here are three farmers who are taking action on climate change – Rebecca Black:

Waikato dairy farmer Christopher Falconer is parked up on his farm looking out over the wetlands as he talks about mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I don’t make climate change-based decisions for what we do on-farm. I don’t. But as it happens, there’s a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate, and what is good for all sorts of other things.”

Take riparian planting, the practice of growing plants alongside waterways. The goal is to mitigate nutrient loss and subsidence and stream bank erosion, but it’s also an effective carbon capture.

With nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under scrutiny and some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. But by making climate change action part of their everyday work, three farmers says the rewards speak for themselves. . . 

Fonterra’s capital structure is no longer fit for purpose – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s delay in announcing its results, driven by Fonterra’s need for discussions with its auditors about appropriate asset values, provides an opportunity to reflect on Fonterra’s capital structure and whether it is still fit for purpose. The simple answer is that it is not.

The value destruction that has occurred and which is now coming to light means that inherent conflicts between the interests of farmer shareholders and investor unitholders have become too great to be papered over. Co-operatives do not survive long-term unless everyone’s interests align.

Two former directors of Fonterra, Colin Armer and Nicola Shadbolt, have both come out recently and said that reworking Fonterra’s capital structure is not the immediate priority. I agree with them. The immediate and urgent priority is to sell assets and create a new slimmed-down and financially-efficient organisational structure, with many fewer high-paid executives. . . 

Physicist Sam Hitchman wins top meat science talent award:

Attracting the best and brightest minds is and remains one of the international meat industry’s top priorities and for Sam Hitchman – a physicist in an industry dominated by biological researchers – the quest to attract new talent has paid off.

The AgResearch scientist recently won the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Prize for Young Talent in Meat Science and Technology at the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) near Berlin, Germany.

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Sam Hitchman, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in AgResearch’s Meat Quality team, says he was thrilled with the recognition, while adding he didn’t feel “young” – as his award would suggest – upon his return to New Zealand. . . 

Why going meat-free could damage your health – Luke Mintz:

It was just a few months ago that experts were declaring the end of meat. Earlier this year, consultancy firm AT Kearney predicted that by 2040, animal products will have become so socially and environmentally unacceptable that most “meat” eaten across the globe will come in the form of plant-based or lab-grown substitutes.

But a major study released this week just might put the brakes on the rapidly accelerating plant-based trend. According to Oxford University research, published in the British Medical Journal, vegetarians and vegans have a 20 per cent higher risk of stroke than those who regularly tuck into a plate of bacon and sausages.

The authors of the study, which tracked almost 50,000 Britons for 18 years, said this might be because veggies did not have enough cholesterol in their blood. The finding flies in the face of much conventional wisdom, which says that vegetarianism is a healthy alternative to a carnivorous lifestyle.

But nutritionists say the increased risk of stroke is just one of the many health risks that any would-be vegetarian should be made aware of before they take the plunge. . . 


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