Rural round-up

June 13, 2019

NZ customers admire our values – Mike Petersen:

The international trading system is facing one of its biggest challenges in recent times.

The building trade war between the US and China and the impasse at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are two significant global events that demand the attention of New Zealand in its dependence on trade for continued success.

Alongside these two geopolitical power plays runs a creeping tide of protectionism in the form of nationalist inward-looking policies that challenge the global value chain model which is increasingly becoming the future of food. . .

From the ground up – Penny Clark-Hall:

Rural communities are incredibly powerful and beautiful things. I’ve seen them in action during natural disasters, family tragedies, raising children, supporting each others businesses, families, hopes and dreams. It’s this calibre of people that are now starting to take charge of their own Social Licence to Operate (SLO) – helping and learning from each other. Many forming their own catchment groups and managing, measuring and improving their own environmental impact.

The isolation of rural communities makes them incredibly vulnerable to the calibre of its inhabitants. But thankfully, it is also a breeding ground for creating a rich tapestry of people that build communities out of necessity. Our remoteness creates a much stronger reliance on each other where we all strive to bring something valuable to the community, to make it our own – our home. It’s got a name – resilience. . .

Success in its rawest form

Northland sharemilkers Guy and Jaye Bakewell’s number-eight wire ingenuity is not only helping pay off their dairy cows faster but capitalising on consumers’ growing demand for raw milk. Luke Chivers reports. 

Open any dairy farmer’s fridge and you will likely find it stocked with raw, untreated milk.

Now more and more urban consumers are catching on.

Four days a week in Auckland’s inner-city suburbs many people look twice as a sign-written truck delivers raw milk in glass bottles to residents.

“It’s just like it used to be done back in the day,” 31-year-old Guy Bakewell says. . .

 

Rural mental health lacks detail – Richard Rennie:

Rural health supporters and agencies are not holding their collective breath for a major windfall from the Government’s massive $1.9 billion mental health package in the Budget.

The mental health package is to be spread over five years and includes $455 million to expand access to primary mental health and addiction support, particularly for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues.

But Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand executive director Marie Daly said so far there is only resounding silence from government agencies about where rural mental health sits in regard to the money.

Rural mental health has become a pressing issue with statistics recording 20 farmers taking their own lives in the year to June 2018, a figure relatively unchanged over the past five years. Rural health providers are also reporting significant increases in rural depression and mental health issues. . . 

Dual cropping to increase efficiency in commercial hemp farming:

Developments in hemp cropping could place New Zealand at the forefront of innovation globally, says Craig Carr, group managing director of Carrfields.

New multi-purpose cropping innovations being developed by Hemp NZ, Carrfields and NZ Yarn are paving the way for highly efficient use of the whole plant – resulting in higher potential returns for growers.

Under a partnership established late last year, Hemp NZ, NZ Yarn and Carrfields are making changes to hemp harvesting technology which allows the stalks and seed to be separated at harvest. . .

Finding the best diet for you and the planet – Carolyn Mortland:

Fonterra’s Director of Sustainability Carolyn Mortland looks at finding a diet that’s good for you and good for the planet.

It’s hard enough working out what food is nutritionally good for us. But what about throwing in the question around what we eat and how it might impact the health of the planet?

With the challenges we face around climate change and a rising global population, we’re starting to see more studies and assessment tools that look to draw conclusions on what is a healthy and sustainable diet.

The debate is heating up around what foods have the smallest environmental footprint, and what proportion of our diet should be animal-based vs. plant-based. . . 

 


Bold intentions bad policy

May 22, 2019

Farming leaders are meeting the government today to discuss problems with the Zero Carbon Bill.

National MPs voted for the Bill at yesterday’s first reading but expressed serious concerns over details:

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National): The National Party takes climate change seriously. I want to just reflect on the fact that, as a Minister of the Crown, in my last three years I lead on electrification of our vehicle fleet, of our energy system, and wider than simply electricity, that when it comes to renewables, we saw New Zealand go from 65 percent in electricity to some 85 percent—and, on a good day, 90 percent. By the way, the trend right now is downwards. So, we understand these issues. We take these issues seriously.

I gave—in fact, in one of my first speeches as leader of the National Party, at Field Days, on the issue of climate change last year. I set out our principles and our desire to be bipartisan on this issue, because I agree with James Shaw that it is too important—economically, socially, and, clearly, environmentally—for petty partisanship. Can I acknowledge Todd Muller in relation to that, for having done an outstanding job of thinking through the difficult and the intricate economic, social, environmental issues that go with this area of reform, and for working hard with James Shaw, with the Prime Minister, and with me on this law change.

What I said in that speech at Field Days was, yes, we believed—in fact, before the Government had stated their position, I think—in an independent advisory climate commission, with the requisite expertise economically, socially, environmentally, to do the work and the mahi required. I set out our principles in this area that we would follow and that we think should be followed on climate change. It is science based—that we work heavily on innovation and technology; that there are appropriate economic signals; that we are in step with and work closely with our international partners; and that we think very carefully and understand the economic impact of this. I am glad to say that in the bill that is before this Parliament right now those principles that we outlined are there, as is the split treatment of gases that we made clear in that speech, and our position was the right approach. Those principles, those things, as I say, are in the bill. For those reasons, the National Party will vote for this bill at the first reading, but I want to be very clear with the Government: on this bill, we have real differences with the Government, and I’ve made them clear to the Hon James Shaw, to the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, and indeed to the New Zealand First Party. We need to see change in this law.

The primary area of difference that we have—it may not surprise the Parliament—is in relation to the methane target. There is, in short, no satisfactory basis for setting the targets in 2030 and 2050 as high as the Government has chosen to do in this bill. The 2030 target is negative 10 percent, the 2050 target is negative 24 to 47 percent, and I reflect, when I think about the 2030 target, on what James Shaw has realistically, I think, said himself: that emissions in New Zealand are going to rise into and beyond the mid-2020s. So he is making it quite clear to New Zealand, in terms of methane and agriculture and what needs to be done, that that change is literally in the last three, four, five years before that target is to be met in 2030.

The stark reality is that the science isn’t there yet. I am all for investment in the science. I argued, in the previous Cabinet, that we needed to increase the funding we were making in Palmerston North in science in the Global Research Alliance to make sure— . . 

I say, actually, that biotech is an incredibly important part of this answer. I think it’s a tragedy that the Green Party outright rules it out and the Labour Party isn’t sure of its position. Actually, Sir Peter Gluckman and people like William Rolleston, who know what they’re talking about, have made quite clear that it is an essential part of the answer. The reality is that, without doing that, by 2030 we will be culling significantly our herds. That’s not alarmist; that’s the reality of the situation. When half of our exports around the world are food, Mr Peters, who’s shaking his head on this issue, that’s how we pay our way around the world, and we take that seriously as well.

No one else—none of our partners—are doing this. They may have moved in other areas. There is not a country in this world, no First World nation, that is moving on agriculture, in what is a global problem that requires global leadership. But also, if we act unilaterally, it simply sends that production offshore, and 2050—a target set by the other side, unilaterally cherry picked, I’m sorry to say, for political purposes from parts of the United Nations report, but economically disastrous, wrong on the science. Don’t trust me; ask the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, ask Professor David Frame, ask many of the experts in the science throughout New Zealand who argue for a much lower target of 10 to 22 percent methane reduction, a target too high in this bill for the National Party and for New Zealand. The whole purpose of this bill, it seems to me, in dealing with climate change is based around an independent climate commission that provides reasoned, worked-through, evidence-based advice, and my position certainly is that that is where we should be sending the methane targets for an answer on that issue to be thought through. The Government will say that’s non-binding but certainly, if done well, difficult to ignore, and I’ve made those points to the Prime Minister and others.

I’m also concerned and the National Party, on behalf of New Zealanders, is deeply concerned about the wider economic impact of this law. We take climate change seriously, but we cannot accept—indeed, we believe it’s naive—when James Shaw stands up in this House and says that it’s the single greatest economic opportunity for us in at least a generation. James Shaw—I respect him; he believes we can bend the arc on climate change quite quickly, rip the plaster off and get to some sort of economic innovation nation nirvana. Well, the reality is not that simple. Short of someone inventing the new iPhone or the next great big thing, this will have very real economic consequences on working Kiwis, on working New Zealand families and on their petrol costs and their electricity costs and their incomes and their jobs. Indeed, the RIS on this bill—the regulatory impact statement—makes quite clear that, even with a tailwind, there is $300 billion of cost to 2050 on the New Zealand economy and New Zealand workers and families; a reduction in gross domestic product by 9 percent in GDP, $10 billion to $12 billion a year; and indeed at 2050 a $45 billion smaller economy.

So I say: let’s have an honest discussion with New Zealanders about this—the costs and the trade-offs—but let’s be clear, Hon James Shaw, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, that those costs are real. There’s a phenomenon in our rural communities, which I’m sure others in my party will speak about—but what is happening right now with dairy conversions and other farming conversions and the very real effect of this Government’s policies, the billion trees and so on, for no good, that’s actually resulting in a hollowing out already in some parts of New Zealand. We worry and we’re concerned about that on behalf of New Zealand.

We get climate change, we want bipartisanship, but all New Zealand needs to come on this journey. We want to see this bill changed—it’s essential that it is—so that we take out the politics; we do this on the policy. I urge New Zealanders to be heard on this, from the students to the farmers, right around the country.  . . 

TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak for the first time on the Climate Change Response, (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. Just over a year ago, our leader, Simon Bridges, in the Fieldays, outlined our approach that we would take in the negotiations with the Government over this bill. He touched on some of the principles that he felt, from a National Party perspective, were absolutely critical to inform this commission’s judgment. 

The first was the importance of broad science. The second was the fact that we needed as an economy to have access to innovation and technology to assist us on this journey. The third was that we needed to calibrate our response, aligned with our trading partners in the global response. Fourthly, we saw a key role in the emissions trading scheme as a signal and an incentive for the change over time. Fifthly—and most critically—that we assure ourselves of the economic costs of this transition. At the core of the National Party approach to this issue is that climate change is an issue that we have to confront as a collective country, but we do it best when we are informed in a dispassionate way about what the science is suggesting is available in terms of innovation for us to apply and what the economic costs are for this change. 

We have had a fair discussion with the Government over the last 10 or 12 months. As I noted the last time I spoke—last week—for most of that period, it has been a very forthright and goodwill-based conversation between myself and my opposite number, James Shaw, and we are very pleased to see that in this legislation are the key tenets that underpin our principles and approach to climate change. There is science to inform the conversation and judgment of the commission. Innovation and the availability of that innovation is a critical part of their judgment. So is global response and so is the economic costs that we need to reflect on as a country, as is the importance of this commission being advisory and also the approach with respect to split gases. But, clearly, we have a challenge with respect to the target that has been landed with respect to methane. 

I listened closely to what the Prime Minister said, and her speech today, more than anything else, reinforces the importance of having a commission to reflect on where this methane target should be. She spoke with authority in terms of her own interpretation of what the science says. She talked to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which says that minus 24 percent to minus 47 percent of an interquartile range of four illustrative pathways out of 85, and each one of those pathways is hugely challenging. Most of them actually don’t see the economies reaching the targets, and they say in that report they are not to be used for national guidance. She used one line out of that and said, “That that works, and I’m cloaking science and the credibility of my comments around that.” It is nonsense. That interquartile range is just one line from a series of illustrative pathways that can be considered by countries as they walk this journey. David Frame says methane should stay at minus 10 percent; the Parliamentary Commissioner: minus 10 to 22 percent. 

The point is: why are we having this debate in this House? None of us are qualified, from a scientific perspective, to hold a view, when the economic cost of getting this wrong is eye-watering. This is not something that you can just wash away with lovely words. If we get this wrong, regional New Zealand will not look the same again. If we get this wrong, the standard of living that exists in this country will be materially impacted. The whole purpose of a bipartisan conversation around establishing a commission is for them to look at the competing objectives of science, of available innovation, of what the rest of the world is doing, and of what the economic impacts are.

The emphasis is mine because this is very important – the cost of getting it wrong is high in both economic and social concerns for no significant environmental gains.

The view expressed by the Government that the primary pinnacle perspective that floods all of this legislation is that we must do our bit to keep the global temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Well, the global temperature is already over 1 degree Celsius, it’s pushing to 1.3 degrees Celsius, and this country is 0.17 percent of global emissions. The very idea that our collective effort will somehow impact the global temperature is nonsense. We have to call this for what it is. One point five is an objective in this legislation, it is one of the perspectives that the commission has to bring to bear along with what the science says is possible, what innovation is available to apply across the economy at a cost that works, and what the economic impacts are for New Zealanders.

The regulatory impact statement talks to the modelled cost on this economy between the current gazetted target, that we have supported previously as the National Government, and what is suggested in this bill. The sum of the difference is $300 billion; $45 billion different than what it would be if we stayed with the National Party’s target. Prime Minister, I’m sorry, those modelled assumptions assume that electricity has been integrated across our entire transport sector, assume that electricity is in our industrial heat, and assume that we have found technology to support our opportunity in the agriculture sector—all those innovations are baked into the model and it still costs us $300 billion.

That’s a lot of assumptions.

So for us to sit here and say “This is a new nirvana and we’re just going to walk there together.” is not giving New Zealanders credit. This is hard transitional stuff. It will cost and it will continue to cost, there will be opportunities there as well, but it is going to cost. The Government’s own regulatory statement talks to the scale of the cost. I’d venture to suggest that there would not be a bill that has been in front of this House in the last two decades that has a regulatory impact statement saying that the cost is $300 billion. But on this side of the House, we stand willing to support a conversation around a commission that can guide us; but to frame this up as a headlong run, to commit to 1.5 degrees Celsius even if the rest of the world doesn’t, and that those other conditions are secondary is flawed, from our perspective—seriously flawed.

I am not arguing that we do not progress our own emissions reduction journey over the next 10, 15, or 20 years. I am not suggesting that because it’s $300 billion we do nothing, because the world expects us to play our part. What I am saying is that our communities expect us to be prudent and to be measured and to use evidence as we slowly make this transition, because if we get it wrong, the Taumarunuis, the Te Kūitis, the small communities who have been so strongly underpinned by our agricultural exports and activity, the most efficient and effective emissions efficient food producing sector in the world—I repeat that for people listening at home: our agricultural sector is already the most emissions efficient food producing sector in the world. No one here suggests that New Zealand does not put its shoulder to the wheel, but we must not be so naive that we get crushed under the axle. We need to be seriously measured and prudent as we step through this. That is why, when we go to the select committee, I hope—and I echo my leader’s comments—from students to farmers to academics to those who just have a passing interest in this: please, we want to hear your voices. We want to hear the scientists—you’ve rung me, I want to hear you at that select committee, because, as James Shaw has said himself, this is an opportunity but we have to do this together.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): National is supporting the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill because a climate change commission is a good idea that will help New Zealand make progress on the challenging issue of climate change. This is the National Opposition being both responsible and being constructive about one of the most challenging issues that faces our country and, actually, faces the world.

I brought five climate change – related bills to this Parliament during the last Government. On not one did the Opposition support it. I do say it is a big step for an Opposition party to say, yes, it wants to back this idea because it’s constructive.

I’m the only member of this House that was here when New Zealand signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. You might not believe it, I was even younger than Chlöe Swarbrick, and I was privileged to be part of the New Zealand delegation to Rio de Janeiro when that initial convention was signed. But if there’s an important lesson from the intervening 25 years that this Parliament must recognise it’s that good intentions are not enough to be able to address this issue.

I’ve totalled up that over a hundred countries have made bold commitments on climate change that have failed and come to naught. The reason the Climate Change Commission is such an important part of the solution is that it will enable us to be able to have a more constructive, a more open, and a more honest conversation about how we actually can make progress on this issue. When the world signed up to the UN convention on climate change, global emissions were 24 billion tons. The commitment was to stabilise them. Today they’re 37 billion tons, or 60 percent greater.

I have to say, I’m a bit tired of big, bold commitments that set ambitions way beyond members of this House, or beyond the term of the Prime Minister or the climate change Minister, without the grit as to how you’re going to get there. I remind this Parliament that Prime Minister Helen Clark in coalition with the Alliance Party, including the Greens, came to Government in 1999. They said it was our “nuclear-free moment”. Sound familiar? They said their goal was carbon neutrality. Well, what happened during the nine years of that Clark Government, supported by both the Alliance and then the Greens? Emissions went up by 10 percent. We actually went backwards on renewables from 73 percent of our electricity being renewable to 65 percent being renewable. So my plea to this House is to not be carried away with big bold intentions but to actually look to the policies that will make a material difference to our country and globally making a difference on this issue.

I remember when our party in Government worked hard to secure the Paris Agreement. Members on this side of the House say, “Actually, New Zealand needs to do its fair share, but the solution to this has to be globally.” and I’m proud of the role that we played in securing the Paris Agreement and of New Zealand’s commitment to a 30 percent reduction by 2030. But the part that I do have to challenge parties opposite—and this part, for, me is extraordinary—is that in all the talk we know that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the key of this issue. And I choked on my cornflakes. I literally could not believe it—that when we’re describing climate change as an emergency, when we’re saying it is our nuclear-free moment, to hear the Minister for Climate Change say that he expected emissions to continue to increase until 2025. I’m sorry; this has got an awful sound like KiwiBuild and some of the other big, bold intentions of Government—of not having followed through. Effectively, what James Shaw said on the radio is that this Government would not do as well as the previous Key Government in making progress, and that would be a grave disappointment.

I also want to make a plea for scientific literacy around the issue of climate change. I totally support the provisions of this bill that set up the Climate Change Commission. The reason the Climate Change Commission is a good step forward is that with the expertise, with the setting of budgets—not just big, bold targets but actions—it will enable us to get down emissions and that will help us get there. But scientific literacy is important. This notion of this bill being called “Carbon Zero” is really a misnomer. The first thing is, carbon is not the problem; carbon is at the heart of life. There would not be life on this planet without the existence of carbon. The issue is greenhouse gas emissions. Some of those greenhouse gases do not even have carbon in them: 11 percent of New Zealand’s emissions are nitrous oxide, which we are—I’m sorry; where’s the carbon in nitrous oxide? If this bill was to be scientifically literate—and I continuously have a problem with the Green Party in not being scientifically literate—it should be a bill referring to greenhouse gases, at the very least carbon dioxide and methane that are the core issues.

Now, my colleagues have rightly challenged the notion of these incredibly bold targets around the issue of methane, one of the significant gases for New Zealand. Here’s my problem. I haven’t heard a single Government member or the Minister tell us how a mid-range on a 35 percent reduction in emissions can be achieved. You know how I think they can be achieved? I think our best hope is biotechnology. When I look at the development by Landcare Research of ryegrass that can achieve as much as a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions, I see light, I see hope, I see a solution. For me, what is extraordinary is for the Government to set targets for the agricultural sector that go beyond what the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and scientists have said are realistic, and then take away from our agricultural sector and our farmers the very tools that would enable us to achieve those targets. So my last challenge to the Government is let’s have a conversation about the actions.

I say to Minister Shaw, let’s have an honest conversation about the cost. Ten years ago, I bought an electric car. It cost me $84,000. The petrol equivalent was $26,000. There is a real cost. My community at the moment is looking about getting electric buses. The cost of an electric bus is about $800,000, compared with $180,000 for the diesel equivalent. There is a real cost. If we want to convert over to wind, solar, and those energies, let’s have the honest conversation that there is a real cost.

For those who pretend that those costs can be ignored, I ask them to look at the yellow vest protests in France, to realise that if we are to win these arguments, we need to take New Zealanders with us. Blind open commitments that say there are no cost impacts on New Zealanders, in making progress on climate change, risk repeating the mistakes I’ve seen of the last 25 years, and it is not being upfront and honest about the trade-offs that we need to have.

I’m very proud to have invited Lord Deben to New Zealand, the architect of the climate change commission legislation in the UK, and of being a member of the Environment Committee that triggered our visit there. In my view, the Climate Change Commission is a step in the right direction, but don’t let any member of this House pretend that establishing a Climate Change Commission is going to take away the really gritty, the really tough, the really difficult issues that we have to work through in our energy sector, in our agricultural sector, in our transport sector, and in our industrial sector, if we’re going to have another round of meaningless targets and not get the runs on the board to really make progress on this huge issue.

If the government wants National’s support for progressing the BIll at subsequent readings it will have to start accepting the science.

It will also have to take far more account of economic and social costs.

The bold intentions in the Bill are no compensation for the faults which make it bad policy.


Rural round-up

May 5, 2019

Sensible immigration will allow rural communities to flourish – Nick Hanson:

A big shakeup could be coming for New Zealand’s immigration policy.

Many of the proposed changes are sensible and will lead to a simplification of the immigration system, but there is also concern that while the system might be easier to understand, it will be harder, longer and more costly to employ workers from overseas.

Under the proposals, every employer who wishes to employ a migrant must become an accredited employer. In theory, this is good  migrants deserve to come to New Zealand to an employer who treats them well and complies with New Zealand employment law.  . . 

Fonterra could learn lessons in enterprise and growth from Australia’s Wesfarmers – Point of Order:

NZ  co-ops have been  getting  a  bad  media  rap   lately.  Take  Fonterra, for example.  Andrea Fox, one of the  country’s  best-informed journalists  specialising  in agriculture  issues,  started   a  new series in the  NZ  Herald  with the  headline:  “Fonterra: Disappointment and soured  dairy dreams”.

Noting   the dairy goliath had a silver-spoon  birth   nearly  18 years ago she  wrote:

“Today the  co-operative  is looking a bit like  the family’s overweight, lazy teenager  hogging the remote  on the biggest couch in the room And the  credit card bills are coming in”.

After Fonterra posted a historic first net loss of $196m, Fox  says  calls  are heating up  for  the company to be split up  and a  company, perhaps  listed, spun off it, open to outside capital  investment to  chase  high-value product  markets. One of the country’s investment  gurus, Brian Gaynor, says even major shareholders  are telling him it’s  time for  change. . . 

Uncertainty swirls over Mackenzie dairy plan – David Williams:

The legal battle over a large dairy farm planned for the Mackenzie Basin is heading to the High Court. David Williams reports.

The future of the Mackenzie Basin’s Simons Pass Station – a lightning rod for national environmental opposition – remains as unclear as a swirling effluent pond.

Dunedin businessman Murray Valentine has spent 16 years and millions of dollars gathering approvals, court settlements, and building infrastructure for a $100-million-plus dairy development at Simons Pass, near Lake Pukaki. Valentine told Newsroom last year he plans to irrigate 4500 hectares at the property – some of which is Crown lease land – and stock more than 15,000 animals, including 5500 cows. (The average herd size in New Zealand is 431 cows. The national herd is five million milking cows.)

As of late last year, 840 cows were being milked and Valentine says the development is about a quarter finished. . . 

Regional wrap:

Confident sheep and beef farmers are paying top money and have out-bid foresters for land on the North Island’s East Coast. In the South Island apple harvesting’s almost finished in the Nelson Motueka region.

Kaitaia, in Northland’s north, needs a good dose of rain – the five or six millimetres at the weekend didn’t help much.  Where there are wet spots in paddocks new grass is germinating well.

Around Pukekohe it’s been quiet in market gardens because of the school holidays and the working week being interrupted by statutory holidays. Many staff have taken time off. It’s been warmer this week than last and Monday’s 15mm of rainfall has been enough for most crops. . .

Bumper crop of Young Vegetable Growers:

Seven of New Zealand’s best and brightest will vie for the title of Young Vegetable Grower of the Year in a competition in Pukekohe next Friday, 10 May.

The victor will be crowned Young Vegetable Grower of the Year, and move on to the Young Grower national final, to be held in Tauranga in October. There, they will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and Gisborne regional fruit-grower events, to compete for the national title of Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Contestants will demonstrate their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful horticulture business, including tractor proficiency, sales and marketing, and health and safety. The winner will be decided at an awards dinner on Friday night, where they will speak to an audience from throughout the industry about growing in a climate of change. . . 

Stuart Varney is proud to be a farmer the Fox business star sees a Chinese trade deal coming soon – Betsy Freese:

Stuart Varney has a top-rated market program on television, but he is happiest when he is working on his 1,100-acre tree farm in upstate New York. The host of Varney & Co., weekdays 9 a.m. to noon EDT on FOX Business, is in the midst of his first timber harvest this spring. Born and raised in the U.K., Varney, 70, helped Ted Turner launch CNN in 1980. He became an American citizen in 2015. I caught up with Varney to talk about agriculture, trade deals, and the media.

SF: Tell me about your farm.

SV: It’s lovely rolling hills and forests, a delightful piece of land. It reminds me of my native England. I bought it 18 years ago because I wanted a big piece of land within a reasonable drive of my home in New Jersey. In England, the idea of owning 1,000 acres, or even 100 acres, is out of the question unless you are a billionaire. But in America, you can do it. We found this property for a reasonable price. It was my piece of America. I fell in love with it. The idea of creating a tree farm came later. I didn’t know anything about logging and didn’t buy it for that purpose, but we hired a forester and he created a plan. Our first harvest is this year. We will harvest 1,088 trees. . . 


Rural round-up

May 4, 2019

The prospects for post-Brexit trade with New Zealand – Mike Petersen:

In spite of the uncertainty in the UK with regard to Brexit, the key message from New Zealand is that we will continue to be a constructive and valuable partner for the UK on agriculture and trade issues after Brexit.

Of course, our relationship is not without its challenges, but we are like minded on so many levels. The issues facing farmers the world over are largely the same, and I firmly believe there are compelling reasons for the UK and New Zealand to work together to tackle agricultural trade issues after Brexit.

New Zealand agricultural trade profile

New Zealand is a dynamic, outward looking economy with a highly diversified export market profile. This market diversification can only succeed with improved market access. While governments negotiate to open up and maintain market access in the WTO and through trade agreements, industry itself plays a critical role in identifying and utilising these market access opportunities and navigating constantly changing international commercial challenges and trends. . . 

Mum, teacher, farmer, winner – Annette Scott:

Taranaki dairy farmer Trish Rankin was a self-acclaimed townie having never been on a farm until her husband decided to go dairy farming. Now the passionate environmentalist has been crowned Dairy Woman of the Year. She talked to Annette Scott.

Dairy farmer, passionate environmentalist and part-time teacher Trish Rankin has taken out the prestigious Dairy Woman of the Year 2019 title.

The Taranaki mum headed off the field of four finalists at the Dairy Woman’s Network conference in Christchurch last week.

Rankin balances full-time farming with her husband Glen and their four boys with teaching part time at Opunake Primary School. . . 

Huge pond enhances efficiency – Toni Williams:

Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation’s (BCI) new multi-million dollar water storage facility was made on time and within budget. It will give BCI members access to water at peak times. Reporter Toni Williams found out about BCI and the Akarana Storage Pond construction.

Akarana Pond gets its name from the farm site where it sits, on Barkers Road near Methven.

The pond was designed by NZ company Damwatch Engineering, and built by Canterbury based contractors, Rooney Earthmoving Limited.

Carrfields Irrigation, Electraserve and Rubicon Water Management were also involved. . .

Duck hunters’ delight: is this the world’s best mai-mai?:

A group of duck hunters from Gore have built a mai-mai that is giving “pride of the south” a whole new meaning.

From the outside the hut is inconspicuous, with long grass growing over the roof, but inside it has all the comforts of home.

It’s equipped with a six-burner stove, a bar laden with Speights, two fridges, couches and four beds. The fully functional bathroom even has a hand dryer.

But the most luxurious features must be the Sky TV and a closed-circuit video feed of the pond outside constantly displayed on another screen. . .

Opportunities Party identifies safe and valuable use of genetic technology:

The Forest Owners Association and Federated Farmers congratulate the Opportunities Party for its balanced and sensible gene editing policy, which recognises the significant economic and environmental benefits gene editing technology can provide.

The presidents of the respective organisations, Peter Weir and Katie Milne, say the time for an informed public debate is well overdue as genetic technologies have changed dramatically in recent years and their safety and value has been proven oversees. . . 

Summer Cervena 2019 campaign launched in Europe:

Alliance Group, Duncan NZ and Silver Fern Farms are working together with Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) in the third year of Passion 2 Profit (P2P) Primary Growth Partnership activity raising awareness for Cervena for Northern European summer menus.

This year’s Summer Cervena campaign, running from late-March through to August, has a primary focus on foodservice. The venison exporters are building on the previous activity and now working together with their respective importers/distributors in Benelux and German markets to lift sales to chefs and foodies in the region.

The predominantly foodservice campaign is seeking to attract the attention of high-end and more casual-upmarket establishments, in particular, says DINZ venison marketing manager Nick Taylor. . .

7 mistakes rural marketing managers make and how to fix it – St John Craner:

Over the years I’ve worked with some great rural marketing managers and I’ve also met some poor ones. It’s the same for most of us, a mix of good and bad. So what distinguishes the best rural marketing managers from the worst? The worst commit the crimes below. However they can improve their careers and remuneration prospects if they follow the recommendations below.

Do you want to be a more effective and valuable rural marketing manager who craves more reward and recognition for what you do?

Do you want to secure that raise and promotion this year? Yes? . . 


Rural round-up

March 26, 2019

Last calves go under the hammer – Sally Rae:

It was dubbed The Last Hurrah.

Rural folk from throughout the Catlins and further afield gathered on Thursday for the last-ever Owaka calf sale.

As the stories and nostalgia flowed – many commenting on how long it could take in years gone by to get home from the sale – there was also a touch of sadness.

PGG Wrightson, which owns and operates the saleyards, is moving the sale from next year to a special sale day at the Balclutha saleyards. . .

Pilot ‘trees and carbon’ workshop proves popular – Sally Brooker:

A pilot project helping farmers make the most of the One Billion Trees Fund has generated a lot of interest.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand ran a series of workshops in the central South Island this month called ”Farms, Trees and Carbon”.

Experts from Wairarapa forestry and marginal land use advisory and management company Woodnet presented an overview of global warming and New Zealand’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

Then they discussed possibilities for plantings on attendees’ land. . . 

‘Serious pest’ affecting avocado trees discovered in Auckland

An avocado tree-loving beetle, regarded as a serious pest overseas, has been discovered in Auckland.

The wood-boring granulate ambrosia beetle has been detected in four Auckland areas since late February, according to Biosecurity New Zealand.

The beetle is known to feed on a wide range of broadleaf trees, including horticultural species such as avocado, and can spread fungal diseases. . . 

Primary sector attitudes give lessons for life – Bryan Gibson:

It has been a challenging week or so in New Zealand as we all try to make sense of the events in Christchurch on March 15. We’ve all been doing some soul-searching, wondering about the foundations of our society and how it will recover from this tragedy.

As an island nation at the bottom of the world many of us might have thought we were isolated from the hatred that we see in much of the world at the moment.

But we’d be wrong to think that. Our nation was formed through conflict and to this day we often express our fear of others through anger. It might help for rural communities and primary producers to reflect on our make-up. People of all nationalities work the land, grow the crops, pick the fruit and milk the cows. There’s only four million of us here but we produce enough to feed many more people so we’ve had to form partnerships with other nations to sell our great food internationally. . . 

Dairy dramas – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers face a strange mix of uncertainties when contemplating with satisfaction the likelihood of a fourth consecutive season of $6-plus milk prices.

While extreme volatility in dairy product prices has calmed down and New Zealand farmers now receive as good as others in Europe and the United States, their institutions have developed cracks.

There might be no better time to rebuild the foundation, beginning with the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, part 2019.

Last week Fonterra’s leaders promised for the third or fourth time since the embarrassment of their first financial loss in 2018 a fundamental strategy review. . . 

NZ Champion of Cheese Medals Announced:

NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2019 has awarded 223 medals to locally-made cheese, proving the quality of New Zealand speciality cheese continues to improve.

Organised by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards has been run since 2003. The Bronze, Silver and Gold Medal winners have been announced today, with the Gold Medal winners vying for one of 26 cheese trophies, which will be announced in Hamilton in May. All the New Zealand Champion of Cheese medal winners are on the NZSCA website https://nzsca.org.nz/winners/. . .

Hawke’s Bay dairy farm opportunity on market:

A top-end Patoka dairy farm with consents in place to increase its output by 30 percent for at least the next 10-years has been placed on the market for sale. With Hawke’s Bay’s land values around half of some other districts, the returns from this property would likely be stronger than anywhere else.

Raumati Dairy some 41-kilometres north-west of Napier is a 458-hectare property milking a herd of between 730 – 750 cows, but with consent from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to stock up to 1000 cows through to 2028. It ticks all the environmental boxes too with riparian areas fenced off. A 60 bail rotary, 600 cow feed pad and all the bells and whistles make this a must view. . . 


Rural round-up

March 22, 2019

Staff shortages impacting on rural health – Peter Burke:

The health of rural business people – including farmers, orchardists and health facilities — is being affected because they cannot get sufficient good staff and must work longer hours to compensate.

So says rural health professional Professor Jane Mills, pro vice-chancellor of the College of Health at Massey University. She was raised on a farm in Australia and has extensively researched rural health issues.

She told Rural News that the staff shortage in rural areas is forcing many people to work extra hours beyond what is reasonable and that their work/life balance is out of sync, resulting in physical or mental health issues. . . 

Inhibitor can solve methane issue – Neal Wallace:

News the world’s first methane inhibitor for livestock will be released in New Zealand later this year has been greeted by scientists as evidence technology can solve our greenhouse gas problem.

Dutch company DSM has developed 3-NOP, a feed additive that inhibits a methane producing micro-organism in the rumen, reducing emissions by about 30% while also being safe for animals and consumers.

However, the effet stops within a few hours of feeding so it must be ingested regularly. . . 

Brexit: Should I stay or should I go now? – Stephanie Honey:

Just over a week before the Brexit deadline, the UK faces the prospect of a lengthy delay – but equally, the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit looms larger than ever.  It is hard to predict which of these two extremes we may see next Friday.   In anticipation of no-deal, however, the UK has released a new temporary post-Brexit tariff schedule.  While most imports would be duty-free, sensitive agriculture products, including New Zealand exports of lamb, beef and dairy, would still face barriers.

If anything, the roadmap to Brexit is less clear than it was even at the start of this week.  (See our last blog here.)  The Parliamentary process has descended into chaos after “meaningful vote 3” was disallowed, under which PM May’s Withdrawal Agreement would have come back again to the House to attempt to clear the path for an orderly Brexit.   All eyes are now on Brussels.  The European Council meets on Thursday and will consider an extension – although this would need to have a clear purpose to satisfy EU member states. . . 

School and Trust boost farming – Neal Wallace:

Students at Wairarapa College are to get more farm training and career opportunities following an initiative with a Masterton community trust.

The Masterton Trust Lands Trust has provided 14ha next to the college for agricultural training for 64 years but is taking it a step further by establishing an advisory panel of local industry leaders to provide advice and expertise for the course.

More than 330 years nine to 13 students, a third of the roll, are studying agriculture this year and trust chairman Karl Taucher says the advisory panel will ensure teaching and skills developed on the farm are in line with what the industry needs. . . 

Cows are turning desert back into grassland by acting like bison – Sara Burrows:

The Savory Institute is transforming 40 million acres of desert back into grassland by “rewilding” cows and other domesticated grazing animals

Two thirds of the land on Earth is now desert or in the process of becoming desert, according to world-renowned ecologist and environmentalist Allan Savory.

If you know anything about deserts, you know that’s not good news, as neither humans nor many other species can survive very well in them.

Responsible for the collapse of many civilizations and now threatening us globally, Savory says humanity has never understood the causes of desertification. But the fact that it began around 10,000 years ago and has accelerated dramatically in the last 200 gives us a clue, he says. . . 

Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate Frank M. Mitloehner:

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection. However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences. . . 


Rural round-up

March 4, 2019

EU makes a galling offer – Nigel Stirling:

The European Union is pressing New Zealand to drop the use of some cheese names in free-trade talks but is refusing to open its own dairy markets to increased competition in return.

Negotiators met for the third round of talks in Brussels last week. NZ’s lead negotiator Martin Harvey said the talks had made progress since being launched in July last year and the EU had already tabled an offer on agricultural market access.

“The EU has made us an offer but it is not satisfactory.” . . .

Milk price up but decisions loom – Neal Wallace:

Fonterra decided not to pay an interim dividend because of its debt reduction priorities and steps to improve its operational performance, chairman John Monaghan says.

Fonterra lifted its forecast farmgate milk price range 30c to $6.30-$6.60/kg MS on the back of improved demand from Asia, specifically China, and bad weather slowing production in Australia and Europe.

Countering that, geopolitical pressure in Latin America has made trading conditions difficult in some countries, chief executive Miles Hurrell said. . .

History made as Canterbury woman qualifies for for FMG Young Farmer of the Year final:

A North Canterbury shepherd has made history after qualifying for the prestigious FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

Georgie Lindsay, 23, won the fiercely-contested Tasman regional final in Culverden last night, beating seven other contestants.

She’s the first woman from the sprawling region to make it through to the grand final in the contest’s 51-year history. . .

Chance to lower N leaching – Ken Muir:

Southern Dairy Hub business manager Guy Michaels said the key takeaway from last week’s field day at the Hub near Wallacetown was that there is a range opportunities for farmers to save money and reduce nitrate (N) leaching. ”While it is still early days for our research, our monitoring programme being carried out in association with AgResearch is starting to provide a picture of the differences in nitrate leaching in different situations,” he said. . . 

Enterprising family’s team work bears fruit – Sally Brooker:

Usually, it’s the kids who leave home. In the Watt family, it was the parents.

Julie and Justin Watt own Waitaki Orchards, just east of Kurow. Their eight children have become so involved in the business that they have stayed to run different aspects of it.

“Justin and I and the youngest are in Duntroon,” Mrs Watt said when the Oamaru Mail called in last month. “We were the first to leave home.” . . . 

The high school where learning to farm is a graduation requirement – Mary Ann Lieser:

A group of teens gathers quietly in the predawn darkness. Dressed in warm clothing, they meet before breakfast to help capture and pack broiler chickens to be taken to a slaughterhouse. They fed, watered, and watched the birds grow; now they prepare them for their final trip. Eventually, the birds will return as meat and be cooked for the teens to eat.

High school students at Olney Friends School, located on 350 acres near Barnesville, Ohio, witness the cycle of birth and death time and again during their four years on campus. Founded in 1837 to serve the children of Quaker families, Olney has always had a farm program and students have been involved in its operation to varying degrees. . .

 


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