Rural round-up

June 28, 2019

More good farmland lost forever:

News that two large New Zealand farms have been sold off-shore, largely for forestry is depressing according to 50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick. The same owner has purchased both properties.

One farm is 734,700 hectares at Eketahuna that sold for $3.35 million. The other is 1037,000 hectares in Wairoa sold for $6 million.

“It’s bad enough having the land sold to foreigners but having good productive farmland sold for forestry and subdivision is criminal,” Mike Butterick said. . .

Decision time at Westland for Yili bid – Keith Woodford:

The time has come when Westland’s dairy farmers must make their decision. Do they want to take the money and go with Chinese mega-company Yili, or do they wish to struggle on as a co-operative?  We will know the answer after the July 4 vote.

If farmers vote to take the money, it will then be up to the Government to agree or refuse to accept Yili as the new owner. I will be surprised if they disallow the sale under the relevant OIO provisions. The ramifications of that would be severe.

Also important is whether or not the approval from Government is quick or drawn out. It is in no-one’s interest that it be drawn out, but OIO approvals can be remarkably slow.  Yili could step away if approval is not forthcoming by 31 October. . . 

NZ First is not alone in worrying at the implications of a Westland Milk sale to Yili – Point of Order:

Is   Westland  Milk   one of  NZ’s  “key  strategic assets”?

NZ  First  is adamant  it is and believes the government  should be a  applying a  “national interest test”   to the proposed  sale of the company  to the Chinese  dairy giant Yili.

Those  who  see  heavily indebted  companies  like Westland Milk struggling to  make a profit and  not  even  matching  Fonterra’s payout  to its suppliers might take a  cooler view  to  the proposed  sale. . . 

Minister heaps more costs on farmers:

The Minister of Agriculture has confirmed he hasn’t bothered asking his officials the costs farmers will face as a result of the high methane target the Government is imposing, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“When questioned in Primary Production Select Committee Damien O’Connor scrambled to confirm he’d seen no specific advice for costs per farm, nor has he even asked for any.

“Cabinet have blindly cooked up a methane reduction target of 24-47 per cent, despite scientific evidence suggesting this is too high and without knowing the costs per average farm and the impact it will have on rural communities. . .

Downsizing opens gate to A2/A2 farm:

He’s a dairy farmer with a passion for breeding, striving to be “at the front of the game.” She’s a converted city-girl who fell in love with the dairy farmer, despite her aversion to typical milk.

It doesn’t agree too well with my system,” Stacey White says.

“I used to have soy and almond milk and I’ve tried both them and rice milk; nothing’s really appealed in terms of taste, and baking with those substitutes doesn’t really work either.” 

So when Stacey became aware of A2/A2 milk 18 months ago, she tried it out and found it tasty, creamy, and, crucially, easily digestible.*  . . 

LIC migrates to NZX’s Main Board:

Herd improvement and agritech co-operative LIC will move to the Main Board of the NZX (NZSX) next month, transferring from the Alternative Board.

This comes as NZX announced it will move to a single equities board from July 1 and close the NZAX and NXT.

Of the companies migrating, LIC is the largest by market capitalisation, at approximately $109 million.

There are around 14 agritech companies featured on the NZX Main Board and only one other farmer-owned co-operative (Fonterra). . . 

How NZ farming is like a Steinway piano – Glen Herud:

I wonder if we rely too much on our pasture-based farming or our beautiful scenery or our clean image.

What if the things we think are our strengths are actually weaknesses?

Steinway and Sons had been the leading maker of grand pianos since 1853 when their business was crippled by Yamaha.

Professor Howard Yu explains how Steinway held on to their main strength for far too long and it eventually became a weakness. . .

 


Petty politicking in lieu of policy

June 19, 2019

Minister of Shane Jones has no good policy answer for 50 Shades of Green’s concerns about favoring forestry over farming so has resorted to getting petty politicking:

Minister Jones is both wrong in fact and totally out of court with his accusations against the conservation lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

To claim, as he did, that we’re part of the National Party is a little like suggesting James Shaw is about to join Act 50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick said.

“I find this type of political loquaciousness offensive and cheap,” Mike Butterick said. “If Minister Jones has any hard proof maybe he’d like to share it.

“50 Shades of Green is a non-political organisation committed to maintaining prosperous provinces.

“Minister Jones obviously wants to achieve the opposite.

“Anyone is welcome to join our organisation regardless of colour, class, creed or political persuasion,” Mike Butterick said.

“All they need is a strong belief in provincial New Zealand and be prepared to work to maintain its prosperity.

50 Shades of Green was born of concern about the threat subsidies for forestry pose to the future of rural communities and food production.

It’s a political issue but it’s not a partisan one.

That the Minister is resorting to political attacks shows he’s not really listening to the concerns being expressed by farmers, local body politicians, real estate agents, stock agents and others who understand how serious the rapid afforestation of productive farmland is.

If nothing is changed rural communities with be even harder hit than they were by the ag-sag of the 1980s.

Serious concerns deserve a far more considered response than petty politicking from the Minister.

You can read more about the issues at 50 Shades of Green

You can sign the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected


Reject blanket afforestation of farmland

June 10, 2019

Government policy which subsidises forestry is a bigger threat to food production, rural communities and the New Zealand economy than the ag-sag of the 1980s.

North Otago was particularly hard-hit by the stripping of subsidies that coincided with high interest rates and soaring inflation.

Many farms were too small to be economic and the district was plagued by recurring droughts.

Predictions that farmers would be driven off the land in great numbers proved to be an exaggeration. But many jobs on farm and in businesses that serviced and supplied them were lost and very few of the farmers’ adult children who left the district for education or work returned.

Farmers gradually adjusted to life without subsidies and are stronger for it. Inflation and interest rates returned to manageable levels, irrigation provided protection from droughts and created jobs on and off farm.

There will be no recovery and resurgence of rural communities when productive farmland is replaced by forests.

Subsidising forestry and making it easier for foreign buyers to buy land for forestry than farming is already killing on-farm jobs.

50 Shades of Green paints the local picture:

  • 100,000 stock units sold to forestry in the Wairarapa these last twelve months
  • Economic impact on Wairarapa community? Direct spend at $125/stock unit: $12.5m. Plus four times multiplier effect.
  • — 1,000 hectares sheep/beef farm creates seven jobs.
  • 1,000 hectares plantation forestry creates one job.
  • Tree planting by temporary immigrants… most of the wages are sent home.
  • — Rural communities will be decimated.
  • — Farm land prices have been pushed up by these taxpayer
    subsidies
    .

It’s not just in the Wairarapa and it’s not just farming jobs that are lost. Fewer people on farms means fewer children in schools, fewer people buying locally and fewer work opportunities servicing and supplying farms and farmers.

It  means less food produced for the local market and export and less export income.

It is also counter to the Paris Climate Accord which states that climate mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

This is the motivation for the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected:

. . .There has never been such an imminent threat to food production in New Zealand as that which looms over us in the form of current government policies which align across multiple government portfolios designed to meet specific policy agendas.  These agendas combined, create a massive assault on the viability of rural businesses, on sustainable land use, on infrastructure and ultimately on the lives of those living the experience of this assault.

We need your support as we fight to provide a voice for the industries and communities rendered defenceless in the face of ill-conceived afforestation incentives which are already leading to unemployment, displacement and declining standards of living for those left behind.

The tension between competing land uses has long existed between forestry and pastoral farming; however never before has a government provided the mechanisms for one to obliterate the other to the extent that this potential now exists.

It is this case that we ask your support in defending.

Not that forestry should be maligned, but that the Government of today and Governments going forward must be made to see that crippling small towns through distorted market incentives is morally wrong, economically foolish and will impact vulnerable individuals and communities for generations to come.

It’s not just morally wrong and economically foolish, it’s socially destructive, it’s not backed up by science and will do more harm than good to the environment.

The government ignored advice from Environment Commissioner Simon Upton who said the science shows trees could off-set methane emissions but would not offset fossil fuel emissions.

If New Zealand produces less food, it will be replaced by meat and milk from other countries whose farmers are far less efficient than ours.

We have already picked up the torch of environmental restoration and we willingly carry it as the legacy we leave for those who come after us; in this we are already united, but a crippled community can restore nothing, and an empty community will not care.

We ask you to join your name to our petition and stand alongside us as we defend our common right to live and work on the land, growing food for our country sustainably, ethically and for the benefit of all New Zealand. 

Some areas should never have been cleared and should be replanted in trees.

But there is no economic, environmental or scientific justification for turning productive farmland into forests.

 

 


Rural round-up

June 9, 2019

A recipe for disaster:

That old saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees could well describe the government’s infatuation with forestry at the expense of farming.

Objections are growing stronger in rural New Zealand to the impact the ‘one billion trees’ programme will have on the regions’ farming landscapes, infrastructure and communities. Concern is such that a new lobby group has formed, wanting to preserve the economy, health and welfare of the NZ provinces.

Named 50 Shades of Green, it aims to convince politicians and decisionmakers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces and ultimately may endanger the national economy. . . 

DIRA review nibbles at the status quo and avoids the big questions – Keith Woodford:

The current review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) does not address the big decisions that face the New Zealand dairy industry. That may well be a wise decision by Government.

Big decisions will indeed be necessary over the coming years. Clearly, they are difficult decisions. However, trying to make those decisions through the DIRA mechanism would be a brave decision and, in all likelihood, with unintended consequences. So, the Government has stepped back.

Instead, Government is using DIRA to nibble around the edges.  Whether those nibbles are the correct nibbles remains a moot point. . . 

Rural real estate feeling the pinch in South Canterbury – Samesh Mohanlall:

Parts of the rural real estate market are struggling in Canterbury and South Canterbury with key industry figures saying they are concerned about the effect of compliance regulations, anti-farming rhetoric and Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) climate emergency declaration.

South Canterbury’s Federated Farmers president Jason Grant and rural estate agents say much of the gloomy projection in the latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) rural report stemmed from environmental constraints and negative sentiments “coming out around farming”.  . .

Carbon farms help soil, water – Annette Scott:

Carbon farming is about managing soil, vegetation, water and animals while turning opportunities on the farm into improved business performance and profitability.

All while ensuring long-term benefits to farm businesses, the local economy and the environment.

That was the buy-in for more than 60 farmers and industry stakeholders who attended a Canterbury Agribusiness carbon farming seminar.

Most attendees when asked why they attended said the same – to understand something that’s all a bit new and learn what opportunities are available to them. . . 

Nelson mums find solution for skin condition in the paddock – Anuja Nadkarni:

It all started with some flowers planted in a paddock.

Dot Kettle and her partner Georgia Richards traded in their fast-paced corporate lives in Wellington for a more relaxed life to raise their three boys in Dove Valley, 45 minutes from Nelson more than 10 years ago.

Kettle, a lawyer, and IT analyst Richards knew next to nothing about farming, but with 42 hectares of land, the couple decided to plant a field of peonies for export as they are the ideal blooms for Nelson’s climate. . . 

Dodgy fert size to get shake-up – Richard Rennie:

Lumpy, uneven and irregular fertiliser, long the bane of farmers and spreaders, will face tighter scrutiny once the Fertiliser Quality Council establishes standards for the product’s physical qualities.

While standards have been set for the mineral and nutrient content of fertiliser, council chairman Anders Crofoot admits it has taken longer than expected to set them for particle shape and size.

“Setting the chemical standard for fertilisers was fine and has worked well for a long time. . .

 


OIO favours forestry over farming

May 23, 2019

A newsletter from 50 Shades of Green points out that Overseas Investment Office rules favour forestry over farming:

The unfair advantage.
Did you know, the threshold for farm sales approval is different for farms selling to farmers than it is for farms selling to forestry investors?Forestry doesn’t have to meet the jobs criteria.  Double whammy again, taking out valuable land and jobs at the same time, impacting local communities and displacing jobs.  Sheep + Beef estimate 7  jobs are displaced for 1 forestry job.
We  don’t think the general public is aware of the indications of 5 million hectares of pine trees, what that looks like in 40, 50 years time, and much of  it, with sink initiatives,  not likely to be harvested

 

It is ironic that Shane Jones the self-proclaimed savior of the regions who has the $3 billion provincial slush fund to throw around to create jobs, is also the Minister promoting the billion trees policy which will kill them.

The Paris Accord states that climate change policy should not conflict with food production but Alan Emerson writes that trees are being planted at the expense of food:

Every now and then we hear some idiot describing agriculture as being a sunset industry despite the fact we contribute 79.3% of the country’s wealth.

What we should be discussing is New Zealand becoming a sunset economy because it will be if the Government’s ad hoc response to climate change continues along the line it’s going.

For the record, I accept the climate is changing, human activity has done it and we need to do something to fix it.

What I don’t accept is all the Wellington centric crazy fixes that are, in the main, anti-farmer and without the benefit of solid science and economic calculations grounded in reality.

NZ won’t survive without agriculture.

It is still agriculture which earns most of our export income.

Its carbon footprint per kilogram of product is one of the lowest in the world and we’re producing a lot more with less input than we’ve ever done.

If you take nutrient density into account New Zealand farm produce stacks up even better.

In addition, as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said, pines are fine for mitigating methane emissions but not for carbon dioxide.

The people who criticize anyone who won’t accept the science on climate change won’t accept this science, nor will they accept the science on gene-editing that could help us reduce methane emissions.

So, why are we planting a billion trees?

Another question is where are we planting them? In Wairarapa we’ve recently lost seven good farms to forestry and that is a major issue.

At Pongaroa they’ve lost between 6000 and 8000 hectares to forestry.

It was interesting to read in last week’s Farmers Weekly Rabobank believes farm forestry will become more appealing. Sustainability analyst Blake Holgate said Government incentives make forestry a more appealing land use option at the cost of food production.

He also said forestry provides opportunity to generate income from area that has been unproductive.

I agree with both statements but was somewhat amazed by comments from Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir who claimed millions of hectares of land for forestry isn’t available. He suggested very little land is being bought for forestry, which I disagree with.

Simply put, my position is there is a lot of marginal land that could go into trees and provide extra income for farmers. That’s good.

Good, productive land and entire farms going into forestry at the expense of food production is bad.

The discussion takes me back to the Muldoon government in the 1970s with its Land Development Encouragement Loans.

Money was available to farmers to clear native bush with the aim of improving NZ Inc’s performance.

So 940,000 hectares were cleared and a massive amount of biodiversity was lost but much of it has since reverted and some has been planted in pines.

Some areas should never have been cleared in the first place and it makes both environmental and financial sense to replant them in trees.

But planting trees on land best suited to producing food will come at a high economic and social cost for no real environmental gain.

Simply, the subsidy didn’t work.

Now we have a subsidy to plant trees, millions of them.

Subsidies are an evil from the past and distort the market. They have no future in a modern economy.

While I applaud Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ aim of revitalising the regions I believe his forestry initiative will achieve exactly the opposite.

He needs to change advisers.

Let’s look at the facts.

According to the NZ Forestry Bulletin Jones’ billion trees mean 50,000 hectares a year is taken out of production.

To achieve the Productivity Commission’s goals, however, would require 100,000 hectares to be taken out of production each and every year for three decades – a total of three million hectares.

That’s almost a third of our total farmland and it won’t be marginal but productive, food-producing country.

Wairarapa farmer and ram breeder Derek Daniell has done his sums.

For a start every thousand hectares of sheep and beef farms employs seven people each and every year. The same amount of forestry supports one.

That is six jobs lost for every farm that is converted to forestry.

What will that do to provincial NZ?

One retired meat company director told me the removal of stock for trees on the North Island’s east coast would mean the closure of one meat processing works.

What will that do to the provinces?

An economist suggested the value to the country of a hectare of sheep and beef is about $55,000.

At Pongaroa, taking the lowest figure of land out of production, that would mean a loss to their economy of $330m.

What will that loss achieve for the provinces?

Then we have trees harvested every 25-30 years. That’s a long time to wait for a pay cheque.

The money in the interim will be from carbon farming but according Upton that isn’t sustainable.

Further, what is to stop some political party changing the ETS, as has happened.

Relying on political whim for your pay cheque doesn’t spin my wheels.

When it comes to pollution and carbon footprints Daniell points to the cities and not the provinces

The problem is that even with the best of intentions from Jones that instead of forestry boosting the provincial economy it will destroy it.

The madness needs to stop.

You can read more from 50 Shades of Green and subscribe to their newsletter here.


50 Shades of Green

May 20, 2019

A group of concerned New Zealanders worried about the future of New Zealand and New Zealand’s food and natural fibre security has launched 50 Shades of Green.

We want a common sense solution for the long-term balance of the New Zealand landscape and economy and to protect what we value for future generations 

Our purpose: to protect New Zealand’s rural communities, our beautiful landscape, our economy, and unnecessary cost to you, the taxpayer. 

The group’s Facebook page reinforces that:

We are not against dealing with climate change, just the way we get there.

“We are against blanket planting of pine trees. . .”

Current and proposed policies will severely reduce food production, export income and jobs by turning productive farmland into forests even though, as a post on the group’s Facebook page points out:

A snippet from the Paris accord that doesn’t get much of a mention . Article 2 states that we should increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development IN A MANNER THAT DOES NOT THREATEN FOOD PRODUCTION. Feels like our politicians have overlooked this important bit

It shouldn’t be a choice between feeding the world or saving the planet.

Sound science-based policies should enable us to do both.


Rural round-up

May 18, 2019

‘A recipe for disaster’: Rural lobby group launched to oppose billion trees policy – Angie Skerrett:

A lobby group has been formed as concern grows about the impact of the Government’s billion trees policy on rural communities.

The group, named 50 Shades of Green, aims to convince politicians and decision makers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces, and ultimately the New Zealand economy.

Spokesperson Andy Scott said converting whole farms to trees, often by foreign companies was a recipe for disaster.

“In the Wairarapa there have been seven farms moved from production, in Pongaroa there has been between 6000 and 8000 hectares planted in trees,” he said . .

Group targets tree policy – Colin Williscroft:

The Government’s goal of planting a billion trees will destroy the provincial heartland and the New Zealand economy, a new lobby group says.

The group, 50 Shades of Green, has grown out of concerns held by Wairarapa farmers and businesspeople but spokesman Mike Butterick is confident people from around the country will jump on board.

Productive farmland is at risk from the tree-planting policy, Butterick says.

“It’s essential that as a country we stop and think about the long-term impact that will have.” . .

Ag sacrifice – Annette Scott:

The Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic and unfair and there’s little sense in sacrificing New Zealand’s economic backbone in the Zero Carbon Bill, Deer Industry NZ chairman Ian Walker says.

The deer industry is disappointed by the Government’s agricultural emissions reduction targets that will result in significant reductions in stock numbers. 

Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in future the level of reduction will effectively mean the agriculture sector is being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming but also offset the contribution of other sectors. . .

Forestry ‘gold rush’ underway in Wairoa :

Warnings a modern day gold rush is underway as productive farm land is sold to make room for lucrative forestry. Farmers and community leaders in Wairoa have become the latest group to raise concerns, estimating around ten-thousand hectares of the region’s most productive land has recently been sold to out-of-town investors wanting to plant trees for harvest and carbon credits. They’re worried thousands of jobs could be lost from the area, and communities seriously affected, if it continues. The government’s one billion trees programme continues – this week, Shane Jones, the Minister in charge of the programme announced a further $ 58 million for forestry to help Forestry NZ increase its regional presence.  . .

Living under the Zero Carbon Act – Andrew Hoggard:

I have been a farmer for the majority of my working life. Like any farmer, I always look at what I can do to make the farm better, to improve production, or just make life easier. I don’t know whether my girls will want to go farming or do something else, but at the back of my mind when I think about what we do on farm there is always that long term view, of making it better for the next generation.

With the Zero Carbon Act announcement some are saying that it’s far away, what are you worried about? But it is not far away, it’s just the next generation away. For me I don’t look at those targets and think about what the right PR spin thing to say now is, to improve the corporate brand, and who cares if the farmers can’t achieve it? . .

Sheep farming is not to blame for climate change – Gordon Davidson:

SHEEP INDUSTRY leaders have hit back at the ‘fashionable’ argument that UK consumers can help reduce climate change by eating less red meat, and argued instead that UK sheepmeat should be the ‘environmentally conscious person’s meat of choice’.

Responding to the Committee for Climate Change and the UN’s nature report, National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said that some of the recommendations being made to consumers were ‘unbalanced, based on inadequate science, and understood little about the UK sheep industry’.

“It is really frustrating to yet again see our extensive livestock sectors caught up within criticisms of agriculture and their impact on climate change and biodiversity, and little mention of other damaging activities, that may be less popular to criticise,” said Mr Stocker. “It is seemingly OK to offset emissions from flying around the world through carbon sequestering actions such as tree planting and peatland management, but not OK for a farm to do its own internal offsetting. . .

 


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