Rural round-up

November 13, 2019

Banking pressures and Fonterra position prompt low dairy farm sales – Sam Kilmister:

Dairy farm sales are plummeting towards record lows as the sector faces uncertainty and a financial squeeze.

Banking pressures and the financial position of dairy giant Fonterra have been cited as the main factors for another drop in farm sales, which are down 6.7 per cent over the past 12 months. 

Despite an 8 per cent increase in the three months to September, the number of farms sold continues to drop as farmers come to grips with compliance laws, freshwater proposals and frugal banks. . . 

Meet the huntaway – the dog New Zealand calls its own – Jendy Harper:

Hamish Scannell doesn’t have a favourite dog. The Mt White Station shepherd says it “depends on the day”.

He’s certain about one thing, he couldn’t do his job without them. Like most New Zealand shepherds, Scannell and his dogs are a package deal. He owns a mix of heading and huntaway dogs.

Heading dogs are typically border collies, a breed of Scottish origin. The huntaway though, is uniquely New Zealand, acknowledged by the national Kennel Club as being the country’s only indigenous dog breed. . . 

Tree protest this week:

The protest group ‘50 Shades of Green’ is organising a march on Parliament this week to try and stop good farmland being covered in pine trees.

Asked why we they are marching, organisers say the answer is simple.

“Farmers love the land. Many farms have been nurtured for generations to feed not only New Zealand but 40 million people internationally as well.

“We’re now seeing that land gone forever, often to overseas based aristocrats and carbon investors.” . . 

Native planting tailored for better survival – Sally Rae:

Fonterra has announced a partnership between Farm Source and ecological consultancy Wildlands to reduce the cost of on-farm native planting.

Speaking at the dairy co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill last week, chairman John Monaghan said Fonterra understood the significant uncertainty and frustration farmers felt when it came to the likes of climate change and freshwater.

The co-operative was putting more energy and resources into developing on-farm tools, research and solutions to help farmers continue to run healthy and sustainable businesses. . . 

Bringing bacon home in south – Sally Rae:

American-born veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann has made his home in the South while continuing to work around the globe. He speaks to rural editor Sally Rae.

He’s an international expert in pigs who has ended up living in Otago.

Dr Eric Neumann has an impressive list of credentials, having been involved in livestock production, aid and development projects, infectious disease management and research, controlled experimental trials, international project management and collaboration, government-sector biosecurity policy development, and one-health training around the world.

He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Massey University, and also holds positions as adjunct research associate professor at the University of Otago, Centre for International Public Health, and as affiliate Associate Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Iowa State University. . . 

Cowboy’s last frontier: Rancher is a rare breed in O.C. raising cattle in the traditional way – Brooke E. Seipel:

From head to toe, Frank Fitzpatrick looks the part.

With a large, black cowboy hat tilted over his forehead, the 68-year-old cattle rancher casually propped a cowboy boot – fitted with spurs – on a post of a corral with about 20 bulls inside.

“I decided on my 8th birthday I wanted to be a cowboy, and I haven’t changed my mind since,” he said, looking at the herd of red Barzona cattle.

Fitzpatrick tends almost 600 head of cattle between ranches in Indio and Trabuco Canyon – the latter just miles from his home in Silverado, the same home he moved into on his 4th birthday. He attended Orange High School, where he joined the Future Farmers of America. By his senior year he had about 20 bulls. . . 


Govt playing fast and loose with referendum process

November 13, 2019

The government is taking power from parliament with its approach to next year referendum process:

The Government’s Referendum Bill which was reported back to Parliament last night from the Justice Select Committee is unfair and undemocratic, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The Government is playing fast and loose with referendum at next year’s election. It is manipulating the rules to satisfy NZ First and the Greens and to get the referendum result it wants.

Why bother with the expense of a referendum if the government’s ensuring the result before we vote?

“It is wrong that this Referendum Bill transfers the decision on the topics and wording of referendum at next year’s election from Parliament to Cabinet. Every previous referendum since 1853 held at a general election has been determined by Parliament.

The Government’s justification for this change that ‘Parliament cannot be trusted’ is deeply concerning.

Many might agree that parliament isn’t to be trusted but that lack of trust will extend as much, possibly more,  to Cabinet.

At least if parliament determines the process, it does so in public and not behind closed doors as Cabinet will.

“The Government’s own officials said the Bill is contrary to ‘free and fair elections’. While former MP Peter Dunne has described the bill as ‘Putin-esque’ and ‘reminiscent of the plebiscite approach adopted in countries where democracy in any form is but the thinnest of veneers.’

“It is inconsistent for the Government to be supporting a referendum on euthanasia but not on abortion, when both are sensitive life and death issues at the beginning and end of life. It is also inconsistent that Parliament is having a say on the topic and wording on the euthanasia referendum, but being excluded from any input on the referendum for recreational cannabis.

The hypocrisy of the Referendum Bill is that it only applies to the 2020 Election. This is the Government writing the election’s rules to suit itself but not wanting any future Government to have these new powers.

If the government can’t trust future government’s with these powers, we can’t trust this one with them.

“It is also inappropriate for the Government to be setting up a new unit in the Ministry of Justice to manage and monitor the public debate on these referendum. The Government has a clear preference of outcome on these referendum and any controls on free speech need to be completely independent such as the Electoral Commission.

National wants a consistent and principled approach. We need to respect our democratic traditions. The topics and wording of questions for referendum at General Elections needs to be subject to a proper public and parliamentary process.”

The government’s inconsistent and unprincipled approach to the process is an affront to democracy and undermines the integrity of referendums.

It’s bad enough that the government wouldn’t leave the decision on these issues to MPs who ought to have been fully informed on all sides of the debate.

That it is now undermining the process and potentially biasing the question and therefore pre-determining  makes it even worse.


Word of the day

November 12, 2019

Vicambulist – one who walks about in the streets.


Sowell says

November 12, 2019


Rural round-up

November 12, 2019

‘Huge gaps” in environmental data – Colin Williscroft:

Shortcomings in New Zealand’s environmental reporting system undermine rules designed to protect the environment, a new report says.

A review of the reporting system Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton identifies huge gaps in data and knowledge and calls for concerted action to improve the system.

He says the data gaps, along with inconsistent data collection and analysis, make it hard to construct a clear national picture of the state of the environment – and whether it is getting better or worse. . . 

Fonterra confident of making progress – Sally Rae:

While there are more big strategic decisions ahead for Fonterra this year, chairman John Monaghan is “very confident” in the progress the co-operative is making.

Addressing yesterday’s annual meeting, Mr Monaghan said the 2019 financial year was a year of significant challenges and change within the co-operative, as it continued to fundamentally change its culture and strategy.

It was another tough year of significant change for farmers which included the Government’s policy announcements on climate change and freshwater, the effect the Reserve Bank’s proposal to tighten capital reserve rules had on banks’ willingness to lend, and the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

Fonterra’s decision not to pay a dividend and significantly impair a number of assets was a surprise to many farmer shareholders. . . 

Underpass creates safer stock route – Alice Scott:

In 1930, Jim MacDonald’s father was one of many stock drovers on what is now State Highway 87 to take sheep through from Waipori to the Waipiata saleyards; he would pick up different station mobs on horseback with a couple of heading dogs.

These days the MacDonald family require three staff, high-visibility vests for people and dogs and flashing hazard lights on the top of their utes, and that is just to get the stock across the road.

This year Mr MacDonald said the time had come to install a stock underpass as it was no longer safe to cross stock over State Highway 87.

“We’ve had a few dogs go under the wheel of a vehicle and the logistics have just become very difficult. The road just seems to get busier and busier. . . 

Seized fruit tree cutting imports stoush: Nursery owners meet with MPI – Eric Frykberg:

Nursery owners are meeting officials of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in Wellington to try to resolve a continuing stand off over seized cuttings of new varieties of fruit trees.

They have said the Ministry overstated the case when it said progress was being made to resolve the matter, and many claims were still outstanding.

The problem began 16 months ago with the dramatic seizure of 48,000 fruit tree cuttings by officials from MPI. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements are critical to the ongoing success of export industries like horticulture. 

‘Last year, New Zealand exported more than $3.6 billion to 128 different export markets,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘This year, that figure is expected to grow by a further 3.8 percent.  Such high levels of growth can only be achieved if export trading conditions are supportive, and barriers to entry are reduced constantly.’  . . 

Successful conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations welcomed by Onions New Zealand:

Onions New Zealand welcomes the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements like these underpin the success of the New Zealand onion sector.

‘The RCEP covers trade among New Zealand and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, except India.  That is, half the world’s population,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘Without reduced tariffs and clear trading arrangements, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like Asia and Australia. 

‘Agreements like these mean more onions can be exported with the higher returns going directly back into regional New Zealand communities. . . 


Well fed or fed-up?

November 12, 2019

Food and Farming: well-fed or fed up? – AnimalhealthEurope debate:

Ensuring sustainable food production is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and current conversations indicate a breach of confidence in our food systems and confusion over healthy diets. A highly urbanised population and an array of opinions on social media are helping to drive a disconnect between food choices and knowledge of production practices and nutritious values, which some warn may have a detrimental effect on health.

Such were the meaty topics up for discussion at AnimalhealthEurope’s annual event, which gathered the livestock food chain along with consumer, animal welfare and environmental interest groups, and policy-makers. The debates invited a lively exchange of views on food, nutrition and farming, as well as on divided public perception, consumer demands and how to identify the facts when it comes to livestock production in Europe.

A strong social media commentator on the role of livestock in healthy diets, Professor Frédéric Leroy from the Brussels Free University (VUB) addressed current conversations on diets: “While the incidence of cardiometabolic illnesses is on the rise, attempts at dietary guidance towards healthier diets are becoming more controversial and autocratic, thus contributing to further polarization.” . . 

 


Sustainable NZ good in theory but

November 12, 2019

Ever since MMP was introduced, New Zealand has been in want of a party that stands for something and sits in the centre, able to coalesce with National to its right or Labour to its left.

The Maori Party could have been that party, but in spite of being the last cab off the rank when Helen Clark led Labour, and in government at National’s invitation its natural home was towards the left.

The many iterations of United Future rarely stood for anything more than keeping its leader, Peter Dunne, in parliament and government.

New Zealand First, similarly stands for keeping Winston Peters in power and his strong antipathy towards National now makes it a natural ally for Labour rather than a true centre party.

The Green Party could have been that centre party if it wasn’t so red. But its hardline social and economic agenda put it to the left of Labour.

Now a new player the Sustainable New Zealand Party has enterer centre stage:

. . .Sustainable New Zealand is neither left nor right wing but is focused on sustainability.  We are able to work with parties of the left or right to get the best deal for the environment. Sustainable New Zealand’s approach is to work with business to innovate and to correctly price ‘externalities’. We will be led by the science when finding solutions and developing policy. Our future will only be sustainable with technological and scientific innovation.

Sustainable New Zealand’s focus is on being ‘practical environmentalists.’ We will work with rather than against our farmers. We favour a regulatory light-touch where possible but with a willingness to act decisively on core issues. We will foster innovation to transition our economy from one that relies on chopping down, digging up, burning or milking something for economic growth to one that is environmentally-benign and makes us all richer. We know that nothing is free. We need to be prosperous to ensure that we can afford to look after our people and our environment. . . 

There’s a lot to like in that and an environmental party that sits in the middle is a good idea in theory, but will it be strong enough to get at least some MPs in to parliament?

One avenue would be to reach an agreement with either Labour or National to allow it to win a seat, the way Act does in Epsom.

But doing that would compromise its ability to work with left or right.

Besides Labour is very unlikely to sour its relationship with the Greens by throwing a seat to a rival and it would be a big risk for National.

Peter Dunne already held the seat when National voters were asked to back him. They did and had to endure three long terms of him supporting Labour governments before National got back into power. He stayed in cabinet and thwarted National’s agenda several times, most notably its attempts to improve the RMA.

Rodney Hide won Epsom by his own efforts, taking it from a sitting National MP who was trying to hold it. Voters have continued to back an Act candidate in the seat but a majority of them give their party vote to National.

Asking a sitting National MP to throw the seat for a Sustainable NZ candidate, or expecting a new National candidate to campaign only for the party vote is a very different and much riskier strategy.

So could Sustainable NZ make it to 5%?

History would say no.

The Progressive Green Party broke away from the red Greens and fielded 15 candidates in the 1996 election but could muster only .26% of the vote.

No new party has made it into parliament without a sitting MP.

However, small parties generally get punished for their performance in government and the Greens will have lost support from both those who think it’s been too left and those who think it hasn’t been left enough.

If enough of the former were joined by those disenchanted by Labour and NZ First and perhaps some of the blue-greens who’ve supported National it might, but the chances of it doing so are slight.

Sustainable NZ has had reasonable publicity since its weekend launch but that will be hard to sustain and it will need a lot of people power and the money they bring to have any hope of turning a good theory into practical electoral success.


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