Thatcher thinks

October 16, 2019


NZ Agritech Story – Powered By Place

September 17, 2019

The New Zealand Agritech Story was launched yesterday.

 

You can learn more at Agritech New Zealand.


Rural round-up

September 7, 2019

Farmer’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern: Part 2 –  Andrew Stewart:

 Last month Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewart wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about his concerns over climate change and farming. In his follow up letter, he calculates his farm’s emissions profile and finds some worrying statistics.

Nearly a month ago I wrote an emotive open letter to Jacinda Ardern and the farming leaders of New Zealand.

My motivation was to try and articulate what I was feeling as a sheep and beef farmer in regards to climate change obligations.

Now I want to share the facts about my own farm and my emissions profile that inspired me to write the open letter. . . 

Time to recognise real progress made by dairy farmers – Tim Mackle:

I can remember a time not so long ago when more than 70 per cent of the country loved our dairy farmers, but it feels like things have changed in recent times. Farmers are doing their best to stay “relentlessly positive” in the face of relentless criticism, but it’s not easy.

Some commentators are quick to stand back and fire shots at farmers from a distance, but what does that actually achieve? It’s easy to criticise our dairy sector in the New York Times.

It’s much harder to voluntarily put in fencing at your own cost that almost runs the equivalent of New Zealand to New York and back – but that’s exactly what our dairy farmers have done.

New Zealand dairy farmers have fenced off 24,744km of waterways. That means that 97.5 per cent of the significant waterways on New Zealand dairy farms are now excluded from dairy cattle. We have also constructed bridges and culverts for more than 99.7 per cent of 44,386 regular stock crossing points on dairy farms. . . 

Water plan cautiously welcomed, but deadline tight, say dairy, beef, lamb sectors :

The Government’s water proposals will not work as a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to dairy and sheep and beef farmers, says Sam McIvor. The Beef+Lamb chief executive spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, along with DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle about the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways which was announced yesterday.

While both Mackle and McIvor said they welcomed the idea behind the freshwater plan, they still have concerns for their industries.

Government figures showed the average annual cost on the proposals would be $9350 for a lowland dairy farm, but a hill country sheep and beef farmer could be looking at $14,850. . . 

Social licence to operate just as important as methane reduction – Allan Barber:

Amid all the debate about agriculture’s responsibility to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, and the appropriate levels for those targets, it may seem counterintuitive to claim an equally pressing problem is to earn a licence to operate. Just as great a threat to agriculture’s future is not whether it faces a potentially unachievable government imposed target, but a business environment in which consumers make their decisions based on their perception of the acceptability of the food they eat.

All primary production sectors – red meat, dairy, horticulture, fisheries, forestry and the rest – must recognise they are in competition for the attention of consumers who increasingly have the luxury and the right to decide between products they consume on the basis of multiple dimensions, way beyond the traditional choice based on taste, price and availability. While we are continually told the world’s population will provide ready markets for more than New Zealand can produce, we are also being made increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and working with instead of exploiting the environment. . .

Oamaru’s Berry family are breaking the mound with special blue cheese – Lucy Corry:

Simon Berry eats blue cheese on toast for breakfast. Not every day, of course, but he has to do his bit to support the family business. “I love all our cheeses, but the blue’s the best,” he says. “It depends on the season, because there’s so much scope. I mean, I do love the halloumi. But yeah, I’m definitely a blue cheese guy.”

It’s not as if he doesn’t have a wide variety to choose from. Whitestone Cheese, the company started by his father Bob and mother Sue back in 1987, now produces 25 different cheeses from its Oamaru factory. One of those cheeses — the Vintage Windsor Blue that Simon is so fond of having on his toast of a morning — is now exported to France. It also won a gold medal in the 2019 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, along with Whitestone’s Ferry Road Halloumi (the highest scoring cheese in the awards) and its Vintage Five Forks.

Wool footwear:

Thanks to our more active lifestyles and casual approach to dressing, runners are undoubtedly one of the most popular items in today’s global market. The success of wool in footwear lies not only in the fibre’s natural properties, but also in its ability to be constructed in a way that aids performance.

Using the latest fully-fashioned knitting technology, wool footwear can be knitted to its final shape, reducing the amount of wastage associated with regular cut-and-sew techniques.

Wool fibres can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour and then allow it to evaporate, helping keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. . .


Rural round-up

September 6, 2019

Farmers face $1b bill to meet new freshwater requirements :

Government proposals to radically improve the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater resources look likely to cost farmers at least $1 billion over 10 years.

Environment and Agriculture ministers David Parker and Damien O’Connor released a swag of documents from the government’s Essential Freshwater policy review at Parliament this morning.

The discussion document on a new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management details proposals that would:  . . 

New rules to manage water – Neal Wallace:

The Government wants to take a tougher stance on and have a greater say in freshwater management, a discussion document released today reveals.

Action for Healthy Waterways will require every farmer to have a farm plan to manage risks to fresh water by 2025, extends rules on the exclusion of stock from waterways and sets new standards for intensive winter grazing.

Regional councils will have until 2025 to implement a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater and till then the Government proposes tighter controls on land-use intensification and the introduction of interim measures to reduce nitrogen loss within five years in identified catchments with high nitrate or nitrogen levels. . .

Rural innovations secure support – Luke Chivers:

A 14-year-old entrepreneur with an ingenious scheme to provide broadband access to isolated, rural communities is one of four ventures to receive support from the Rural Innovation Lab.

The backing was announced at the Beehive by Lab chairman Mat Hocken.

The initiatives came after a wide call for people to submit ideas to help solve rural issues. . .

Commodity export prices provide some cheer, even for those downcast Fonterra farmer-suppliers – Point of Order:

NZ lamb export prices have hit their highest level since 1982. That mightn’t be good news if you are contemplating a roast leg of lamb for the barbecue this weekend.

But for NZ meat producers that, and the high prices being earned in markets like Japan for beef, suggest it’ll be a good season for NZ’s meat producers.

This is despite the global uncertainty stemming from trade wars particularly between China and the US, two of NZ’s main markets. The outbreak of swine fever in China is likely to sustain demand for other meat such as beef. . . 

Breeding for parasite resistance important:

WormFEC Gold a collective of farmers breeding for parasite resistant genetics are leading the pack as drench resistance becomes more prevalent and drench failure is reported across the country.

Ten breeders across New Zealand have joined forces creating WormFEC Gold bringing together more than 200 years combined experience breeding highly productive, parasite resistant rams. The aim of their breeding programme – verified by Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL) – is to strengthen flocks and save farmers time and money by reducing the number of times flocks need to be drenched. As a group they work collaboratively to improve parasite resistant stock genetics and educate farmers about the value of including parasite résistance in stock selection decisions. . . 

Benefits of entering Dairy Industry Awards numerous:

Entries for the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards open on Tuesday 1st October and are an opportunity for entrants to secure their future while learning and connecting with others and growing their career. The 2019 Share Farmers of the Year say the benefits to their career and business from entering are worth the effort and time.

Colin and Isabella Beazley won the 2019 Northland Share Farmers of the Year and went on to win the National title as well. “We entered to benchmark ourselves against the best and also for the networking opportunities,” they say. “The networking and contact with industry leaders is unparalleled and we have used these relationships to grow our business.” . .

Farmers could lose tens of thousands as vegan activists plan fortnight-long blockade of UK’s largest meat market – Greg Wilford:

It is the largest wholesale meat market in Britain, and celebrated for selling some of the nation’s finest cuts of beef, lamb and pork for more than 800 years.

But, if vegan activists have their way, London’s Smithfield Market could be transformed into a parade of fruit and vegetable stalls without any animal produce in sight. . .


Business blues deepen

August 30, 2019

Business confidence has fallen to the lowest point since the global financial crisis a decade ago:

The further collapse in businesses’ confidence and in expectations of their own activity is an indictment on the Ardern Government’s economic management, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The most recent ANZ Business Outlook survey shows a net negative 52 per cent of businesses are pessimistic about the economy under the bad economic management of the current Government.

“To make it worse, businesses’ expectations of their own activity have fallen to a net negative for the first time since 2009 when the New Zealand economy was in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. . . 

“When businesses lack confidence in the economy, as they do under the current Government, they are less likely to expand, invest in new staff or lift wages.

Reluctance to expand, invest or lift wages is even more likely when businesses’ expectations of their own activity are so gloomy.

“There has been a sharp decline in the New Zealand economy under this Government. Economic growth has decreased from around 4 per cent down to 2.5 per cent, per-person growth is amongst the worst in the OECD and business investment has fallen from 5 per cent a year under National to just 0.6 per cent under Labour.

“New Zealand should be doing well. The prices for goods we export are near historical highs meaning any effects from global uncertainty and trade tensions haven’t affected our exporters as of yet.

In spite of that farmers are in a similar frame of mind to that during the ag-sag of the 1980s. Uncertainty and  lack of trust in the government are compounded by fear of what it is going through inflict on the farming sector.

The ANZ survey shows the business blues have deepened in towns and cities too.

“Sadly the current Government’s bad economic management have hurt our economy.

“The Government have added costs to businesses and families with higher taxes and more regulations, they’ve created massive uncertainty and they’ve demonstrated incompetence, most famously with KiwiBuild and their woeful infrastructure policies.

“National will restore business confidence and revive our economy so that we can lift our aspirations, both in what we can earn and in what social challenges we can overcome.”

A thriving economy isn’t just about businesses doing well, it’s about job security, export income and the ability to invest in solutions for social problems.

The government has gone quiet on wellbeing with good reason. Businesses without the confidence to expand, invest and lift wages are a symptom of economic illness and that makes a very shaky foundation for wellbeing.


Thatcher thinks

August 16, 2019


Farmers gloomier with good reason

August 13, 2019

Federated Farmers’ latest Farm Confidence Survey shows why farmers are gloomier:

Climate change policy and the ETS has topped the list of farmers’ biggest concerns for the first time since 2010, according to Federated Farmers’ latest Farm Confidence Survey.

Nearly a quarter of the 1,432 farmers who responded to the July survey said it was their No 1 worry. The second greatest concern was regulation and compliance costs (19%), followed by debt, interest and banks (10%).

“That result is hardly surprising, given analysis coming through that significant numbers of dairy and sheep and beef farms will be uneconomic if the government continues to pursue methane reduction targets that are far more stringent than are necessary to ensure there is no additional global warming,” Federated Farmers economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“That’s coupled with concern that the targets, and government incentives for forestry, is driving blanket planting of pines on productive farmland, with huge long-term detriment to rural communities.”

Pertinent to the concerns about production losses to meet climate change targets, and costs if agriculture is put in the ETS, is that only 55% of farmers said their businesses were currently making a profit (similar to the January survey, 56%). The proportion of farms making a loss increased slightly by 2 points to 11.3%. And looking ahead, slightly more farmers expect their profitability to worsen than improve.

The July survey, conducted by Research First, found that the proportion of farmers who consider current general economic conditions to be good (24.9%) has decreased slightly over the last six months. The proportion who consider conditions to be bad remains lower, but not by much (21.3%).

Looking forward, the survey found the lowest level of confidence in the economy since July 2009, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.

“On that front, we’re no different to the gloom being expressed by the wider business community,” Hoggard says. “For us there is particular concern about the global uncertainty and instability arising from fallout from Brexit and US-China tensions and how that will impact on our key markets and export returns.”

All regions expect farm production to increase over the coming 12 months but they are mostly less optimistic than six months ago, with large falls in expectations for Auckland-Northland and Taranaki-Manawatu. Slightly more farmers expect to increase their spending rather than reduce it over the coming 12 months but this is also down on January’s survey.

And farmers continue to find it hard, if not harder than ever, to find skilled and motivated staff.

Climate change policy in the Zero Carbon Bill is based on emotion and politics rather than science; ignores the Paris Accord’s stipulation that mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production; and will come at a high economic, social and environmental cost.

Regulation and compliance costs are rising.

Interest rates are low but banks are putting a lot of pressure on farmers to reduce debt.

Dairy and arable farms, orchards and market gardens have been struggling for good staff for years, sheep and beef farms are also having problems now.

Add to that the concerns shared by the wider business community and farmers have good reason to be gloomier.

The full survey report is here.


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