Rural round-up

January 30, 2020

The journey’s only just begun – Mark Butterick:

Member of lobby group 50 Shades of Green, Mike Butterick on what the group is standing for in 2020.

What an extraordinary nine months since the first meeting in the Wairarapa of people concerned with the rapid change of land use from sheep and beef production into blanket planting pine trees.

It’s been quite the journey; our conclusion is a lack of strategic thinking and a reluctance to get out from behind Wellington desks has driven some bizarre decision making delivering perverse outcomes for NZ Inc. NZ farming won’t be digging itself out of these impacts with production gains.

We are opposed to the sale of good productive agricultural land to subsidised forestry in the way of carbon credits. In our view, it’s undermining all kiwis’ short- and long-term wealth and wellbeing.  . . 

Meat tax ‘unnecessary’ when primary sector already making emission cuts, farming industry says :

Beef and Lamb New Zealand says a potential meat tax in the United Kingdom would be “unnecessary” when the primary sector is already doing their bit to cut emissions. 

A report by the UK’s Climate Change Committee is proposing a tax could help reduce consumption of meat and dairy products by 20 per cent.

The Committee said the ‘meat tax’ could also prevent seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by the industry. 

However, Beef and Lamb NZ spokesperson Jeremy Baker told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the “blunt” proposal by the Climate Change Committee would not be needed, when the industry has already cut their emissions by 30 per cent since 1990.  . . 

Farming leaders must set record straight – Steven Cranston:

Now the Government has handed the responsibility of how agriculture will manage and reduce its emissions back to the industry itself, we have been landed an incredible opportunity to turn our emissions profile into the positive story it deserves to be.

The message we need to start sending is that agriculture has one of the smallest global warming impacts of any major industry in New Zealand. The only way to demonstrate that is by completing a full emissions budget.

The routine criticism that farmers receive is largely a result of our industries own failure to tell the whole story. Agriculture has taken a defensive approach for too long. Simply saying we are efficient compared to other global producers is selling ourselves short. Agriculture in general is nowhere near as harmful to the climate as is often described and NZ, with our large swaths of native bush probably contributes less to global warming than any other international producer. We only have ourselves to blame for the situation we now find ourselves in. . .

 

Helping hand with heavy metal – Mark Daniel:

Tractor and machinery distributors have stepped in to offer assistance to fire-affected Aussie farmers.

While rain has brought some relief to the fire-ravaged areas of Australia; it will take many months to clean up, re-fence, re-stock, replant crops, grow forage for animals and restore a sense of normality.

Several tractor and machinery distributors have recognised the plight of their customers and are taking positive steps to help with the recovery. New Zealand-owned PFG Australia, part of the Power Farming Group based in Morrinsville, has launched its Fire Relief Programme 2020. This will see the company working with key suppliers to initiate clean up and recovery operations throughout Australia. The initiative will run for the whole year, utilising a fleet of tractors and machinery valued at around AU$2million.  . . 

Sisters taking equestrian world by storm – Sally Brooker:

Sisters growing up on a North Otago dairy farm have leapt into national prominence.

Emma (13) and Samantha (14) Gillies finished first and second respectively in the open pony championship at the national showjumping championships in Christchurch this month.

Less than three seconds and only five points separated them after five rounds of competition.

The girls live at Waitaki Bridge, just south of the Waitaki River, on a farm running 1100 cows. . . 

Records all round for dairy and meat exports:

The first four months of the 2019/20 dairy export season has set records, boosted by higher prices and volumes, Stats NZ said today.

Lamb and beef export prices also reached record levels at the end of 2019. Dairy products and meat, New Zealand’s top goods exports, together account for almost 40 percent of the value of annual goods exports.

In the ongoing 2019/20 dairy export season, the value of dairy exports rose 17 percent from August to December 2019 compared with the same period last year, with quantity up 6.7 percent. . . 

Brit meat eaters say they feel ‘shamed’ but James Haskell slams ‘dangerous nonsense’ – Rob Knight &Joseph Wilkes:

As a study of 2,000 adults found a quarter of meat eaters feel shamed in this pro vegan/vegetarian era, I’m A Celeb star James Haskell slams ‘nonsense written about meat which I think is really dangerous’

Beefcake athlete James Haskell advised true meat eaters not to be ‘shamed’ into shunning bacon, beef and banger meal favourites – as long as their diet is balanced.

Man-mountain rugby star James revealed millions of carnivores fear criticism over their choice of food in this pro vegan/vegetarian era.

A study of 2,000 adults found a quarter of meat eaters feel shamed for their culinary choice, with one half admitting they went on to cut down their meat-based protein intake. .  .


Rural round-up

January 4, 2020

Nature policies an eco disaster – Jamie McFadden:

When government policy goes wrong it can deliver disastrous consequences. Such is the case with the Government’s climate change policies.

North Canterbury is a stronghold of agriforestry and there are many benefits to having exotic forestry integrated on farms. 

However, like the rural lobby group 50 Shades of Green, we have major concerns about the Government’s climate change policies. If the policy direction continues we will see changes to our landscapes and rural communities of a scale not seen since the land clearance subsidy days pre-1980. . .

Agritech worker raising awareness of diverse careers – Jacob McSweeny:

Working in farming doesn’t always mean driving the tractor, herding the sheep or milking the cows, says Next Farm’s Sammi Stewart. She talks to business reporter Jacob McSweeny about her hopes to inspire younger generations to realise the types of futures available in the agritech sector.

Sammi Stewart wants to get kids back into farming but she does not mean chucking on the gumboots and getting up early to milk the cows.

‘‘I grew up on a farm in Southland so my parents had a sheep and beef farm and when you live in rural Southland you either milk cows or shear sheep,’’ said the brand manager of Dunedin start-up Next Farm. . . .

Top seven must dos for employment contracts – Chris Lewis:

Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers employment spokesman, lists his top seven “must-do’s” for farmers when it comes to employment contracts.

Recent legal decisions on employment agreements have highlighted the need for farmers to get the fine print right. Here are my top seven considerations from a farmers’ perspective.

1. Get an agreement in place

The first priority is to get a written employment agreement in place to begin with for every employee, even for casual and part time workers. This should outline the terms and conditions of employment fully, be provided to the employee before they start work, and be agreed upon and signed by both parties. . .

Taranaki rural woman Margaret Vickers is a Member of Excellence – Ilona Hanne:

Margaret Vickers is excellent.

That’s official now, as she was formally enrolled as a Member of Excellence of Rural Women New Zealand last year.

Margaret’s years of service to the organisation were recognised when she was enrolled as a Member of Honour and presented with the Olive Craig Tray in recognition of her dedication and commitment.

Only two women received this honour in 2019, and Margaret says it is still only just sinking in as to quite how special the honour is. . . 

Oamaru Meats to resume operations next week – Jacob McSweeny:

Oamaru Meats Ltd (OML) is set to open again a week into the new year, after a suspension in the China market forced its closure in September.

The factory will open its doors again on Monday.

The suspension came after some beef fat packaging was not up to standard.

The closure put 160 seasonal workers out of work and OML director, Richard Thorp, said it was likely most of them would return.

‘‘I think for this start-up period it won’t be a lot different. There’ll be about 140 to 150 people employed on the site come the sixth. . .

 

The EU’s absurd risk aversion stifles new ideas – Matt Ridley:

With tariffs announced against Brazil and Argentina, and a threat against France, Donald Trump is dragging the world deeper into a damaging trade war. Largely unnoticed, the European Union is also in trouble at the World Trade Organisation for its continuing and worsening record as a protectionist bloc.

Last month, at the WTO meeting in Geneva, India joined a list of countries including Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Malaysia that have lodged formal complaints against the EU over barriers to agricultural imports. Not only does the EU raise hefty tariffs against crops such as rice and oranges to protect subsidised European farmers; it also uses health and safety rules to block imports. The irony is that these are often dressed up as precautionary measures against health and environmental threats, when in fact they are sometimes preventing Europeans from gaining health and environmental benefits.

The WTO complaints accuse the EU of “unnecessarily and inappropriately” restricting trade through regulatory barriers on pesticide residues that violate international scientific standards and the “principle of evidence”. Worse, they say, “it appears that the EU is unilaterally attempting to impose its own domestic regulatory approach on to its trading partners”, disproportionately harming farmers in the developing nations whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. . . 


Stuff won’t publish this

December 13, 2019

50 Shades of Green:

Today we sent a piece to stuff in response to an opinion piece written by Green Peace. Thanks but no thanks to our views, so what better place to post it, than to our facebook group.

We’d like to respond to the opinion piece published in Stuff 7th December 2019 written by the Greenpeace agricultural campaigner, or as it reads anti agricultural campaigner, trying to further demonise the ag industry (https://www.stuff.co.nz/…/agricultures-role-in-getting-to-z…)

Gen Toop writes as if she thinks New Zealand farmers are sitting on their hands in the race to mitigate global warming waiting for a mythical solution, she is offbeat in that view. While it’s true the industry continues to look to technology to innovate and improve, she has highlighted something that needs to be understood about the way we grow animal proteins for the world.

Agriculture in general is nowhere near as harmful to the climate as is often described and New Zealand, with our large swaths of native bush possibly contributing less to global warming than any other international producer. We wouldn’t know because not everything behind the farm gate is measured or measured accurately.

First some inconvenient truths, emissions do not necessarily result in global warming. As we now know from multiple government reports our methane emissions only need to be reduced by a minuscule 0.3 percent per year to avoid further warming. This is because once stock numbers have stabilised for around 10 years, methane decays in the atmosphere at around the same rate as it is being emitted.

The outdated GWP100 metric, which our ETS is based on, assigns methane a warming value of 28 x CO2. This is how much warming a single pulse of methane will cause over the next 100 years. Farm’s however emit a steady flow of methane over time so it is the inflow versus outflow we must measure if we want to understand our impact on warming.

According to Ministry for the Environment data, farmers have reduced their methane by 2.8 percent since 2014 putting them well on track to achieve the 10 percent by 2050 needed to remain climate neutral. Notably, Agriculture is the only sector being asked to reduce emissions below the point of zero warming and this is a direct result of the failure to properly articulate how methane effects climate

It is an absurd situation that agricultural methane accounts for 35 percent of our country’s entire emissions, yet how it is accounted for does not consider the rate it is decaying in the atmosphere. Because NZ’s methane emissions are stable the decay is equal to what is being released. It is similar to a factory planting trees to offset their Co2 emissions. Any emissions cause warming in isolation but not necessarily when measured on a net basis. Perhaps Ms Toop would like to explain why she promotes a net zero release of emissions for CO2 emitters but still finds this unacceptable for Methane?

A more accurate accounting method called GWP-we has been developed for the specific purpose of measuring the warming effect of flow methane over time. Inexplicably this option has so far been ignored, the folly of which is even more surprising given the entire objective of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures

How are farmers to measure success against this stated goal if they are not measuring the methane’s warming effect?

Add to this, the major oversight of not collecting more data on farm trees. 1.4 million ha of trees already are growing on drystock properties not presently being assessed for their annual carbon sequestration rates.

An agricultural emissions scheme should count ALL measurable offsets. Simply put, make it fair, make sure the accounting system is the correct one, make sure farmers can claim for trees annual carbon sequestration rates, and any other measurable offset so New Zealand continues to grow the most carbon efficient animal proteins in the world.

Until this is done, the likes of Greenpeace and other anti-farming campaigners will continue to use incomplete information and half-truths to criticise the industry.

Instead, let’s celebrate our industry, the day in day out work in all weathers all year round by our 46,000+ farms and celebrate the extraordinary fact that in one amazing minute every day in NZ, our country exports five and half tonnes of pastoral agricultural product generating more than $100,000 for NZ. That is almost twice the average annual income of a New Zealand household. In less than a minute the pastoral sector that works so hard for this country generates income that helps pay for a school teacher, a policeman, a nurse. Maybe that minute also makes it possible for a non farming household to take their family on a holiday, or provide their children a better education

More broadly, we all need to do some serious navel glazing rather than opining on ideology and travelling the same old road of finding someone else to blame for everybody’s problem. Let’s face it, it’s not so much the ruminants, it’s people. Here is agriculture already reducing its impacts, yet on the other hand a recently released report tells us Wellington’s vehicle emissions, have risen 12% between 2013 and 2018, and not to pick on Wellington, it’s airport also proposes to DOUBLE numbers flying into the city by 2040.

Is the keen focus on agriculture because dealing with the growth in emissions from other sectors is too close to home, and will impact individuals requiring a change their own behaviours?

Stuff has decreed that it will publish nothing that could be construed as climate change denial.

This piece from 50 Shades of Green isn’t denying climate change, it’s responding, rationally, to an opinion piece Stuff published and that in the interests of balance it ought to have published.


What do we value?

December 3, 2019

50 Shades of Green:

A conversation that NZ needs to have.

Recent comments by Peter Weir of the Forest Owners Association highlight a number of incredibly important points which Fifty Shades of Green would like to reinforce and highlight.

Peter is entirely correct when saying that the Forest Industry in New Zealand would barely exist if it were not for foreign owners. Of the industry total, over 70 percent of forests are owned by foreign companies and these typically operate on a massive scale.

Family businesses and SME’s in the Forest sector are largely restricted to Forest Management, forest services such as managing planting and pruning gangs and harvest management or logging truck drivers. None of these entities have much of a chance to buy a stake in the land they work, many of them operate on tight margins and work huge hours in jobs that require immense and admirable fortitude.

The reason forests are not typically owned by families (unless part of farm forestry) historically is because very few people can afford to wait 25 years between pay cheques. This will no doubt change with the carbon price now creating a type of climate welfare where those polluting can now essentially buy a get out of jail free card from foresters who have credits to sell. Foresters quite rightly see dollar signs in every tonne of CO2 being belched by industry.

So Peter is also right about the country having no chance of being Net Emissions neutral if we don’t plant a third of it in trees. This is because there are currently barely any plans at all to reduce our actual emissions. We are kicking that can down the road for the generation of 2050 to deal with. Let’s hope the log price is especially high then, for their sake.

So that’s essentially what it comes down to. The heart of the matter is that if you want to keep the NZ we have, you need to either screw up the Net Zero Carbon Bill and trade it for a Bill which has ACTUAL emissions reductions (not ‘net’ ones which allow us to not change anything). Or we except that tourists will be visiting the equivalent of Kaingaroa forest and battling logging trucks for the sake of forest which will likely still be exporting raw logs and carbon credits for the benefit of their foreign owners.

Not that foreign ownership matters most in the greater scheme of things, that is an aside to the real issue, the replacing of farms with forests, regardless of who owns them.

It is worth noting the difference here, because it cuts to the heart of what will really change the most in this country outside of our main cities.

A farm requires someone to live there, it needs constant attention and care or it’s ability to remain productive and a farm is lost and animals suffer. Farming families share remoteness that brings them together to create communities around their schools, halls and sports clubs. Contrary to inaccurate reports about the takeover of corporate farming, in this country the vast majority of farms are owned by owner operators and occupied by their families and those who work with them.

They also have a connection to the land which comes with being its custodian. Every paddock has a name, every fence has the history of who built it and the writing on woolshed walls tell who shore the sheep there. This explains why farmers are prepared to ignore the benefits of forestry incentives (the value of their farms goes up) in order to defend their communities.

Few forest owners (and even fewer who live beyond our shores) look at their estates and feel a sense of wanting to live there. The forests are a resource, not a piece of your identity you want to leave for your children.

The points above are not a criticism of foresters, they obviously have places they call their own, they have communities as well and landmarks they relate to, but they all go home at the end of the day and then the forests go quiet. No one swims in the rivers after school, no one starts the bbq up and has the locals over. The gate is closed and often locked.

This is a conversation that New Zealand needs to have. What do we value? And what we want our provinces to look like 30 years from now.

Urban NZ, it’s in your hands.

 Rural New Zealand is bearing the brunt of misguided policies that appease the call to do ‘something’ about climate change even though that ‘something’ is not based on science, will come at a very high economic and social cost.

That the costly ‘something’ will at best produce little environmental gain at best, and may result in higher global emissions, rubs salt into the rural wounds.

Many people from urban New Zealand might get no closer to farms than glancing over fences as they speed down state highways, but they have been vocal about selling land to foreigners.

Their voices have led to a law change that makes it almost impossible for anyone from another country to buy even a run down farm.

We need those urban voices now to join rural New Zealand in condemning the rules that allow foreigners to buy productive farmland for forestry.

We also need those voices to join the rural ones in decrying subsidies that make forestry a more attractive option than food production.

If the right trees are planted in the right places, they don’t need a subsidy.

There is a place for forestry and it’s not on land suited to raising cattle, deer and sheep.

Rural New Zealand knows this and if urban New Zealand doesn’t want the farmland they want kept in New Zealand hands to convert to foreign owned forests they need to join us in the fight for what we all value.

 


Rural round-up

November 26, 2019

Security for Otago farmers unclear amid water plans – Jono Edwards:

Some Otago farmers could be left with “unbankable” irrigation schemes as the Government recommends an overhaul of the Otago Regional Council’s planning processes.

Environment Minister David Parker yesterday released a raft of recommendations for the council after an investigation into its management of freshwater.

It said the council was not equipped to transfer hundreds of century-old water rights into resource consents by 2021, and regardless it should not do so because they would be processed under its current “inadequate” water plan.

On top of the rewriting of council plans already in progress, it recommended an interim plan change to transfer the permits into consents in the meantime.

They would be for a maximum of five years, which some farmers say is too short to ensure future security. . . 

Food bowl or toilet bowl? – John Jackson:

New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. 

By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 5New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. OPINION: By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 50 Shades of Green banner. I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. banner.

I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. . .

 

No slacking for M Bovis effort – Annette Scott:

There’s no time to slacken off over the next year if the , programme is to limit the disease, M bovis governance group chairman Kelvan Smith says.

The M bovis governance group, made up of Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Ray Smith, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle,  Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor and independently chaired by Smith, meets monthly to discuss and review the eradication programme.

Smith said the group is focused on strategic planning to ensure the programme builds on progress made to date and continues towards eradication.

“To date the programme has found 207 infected properties, stopping further spread of the disease and clearing the infection from these properties,” he said.  . . 

Beef + Lamb puts money where its mouth is- Nigel Malthus:

A ‘model’ sheep and beef farm in North Canterbury is away and running, its founders say.

The North Canterbury Future Farm, set up by Beef + Lamb NZ in partnership with local famers, has had an “OK” first full year of operation, said the organisers of its 2019 Open Day.

BLNZ’s partner is Lanercost Farming Ltd, formed by the landowner, Julia Whelan, with locals Simon Lee and Carl Forrester. . .

A natural blend of grains firms – Tim Fulton:

Two New Zealand-based, foreign-owned seed companies marked a milestone merger in October.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie has seen a good number of mergers and acquisitions over 45 years in the grain and seed trade.

Some deals went well and good and others were distinctly disappointing. The lastest was a natural blend, he said.

The sale of PGG Wrightson’s former grain and seed division has put McKenzie in charge of an Oceania business unit in a global business, DLF Seeds. . .

Pet day a national school tradition :

Dogs of every shape and size, miniature ponies, cats, lambs and guinea pigs put aside their differences and got together for Fairton School’s annual pet day last week.

Fairton School principal Mike Hill said, ”We are a little country school and pet days are a national tradition, and a lot of fun.”

The majority of the pupils had pets at home, so it was good to recognise the way they cared for their animals, he said.

It was also a great chance for parents, and visiting preschoolers from Stepping Stones @ Braebrook, to come to the school and be involved. . . 


5.5 tonnes a minute

November 18, 2019

Sully Alsop gave some interesting numbers in a speech at the 50 Shades of Green march on parliament last week:

It took me about a minute to get up here to speak to you today. And something amazing happened in that one minute. Something truly remarkable that happens every minute of every hour of every day in NZ. Something that you are all a part of. In that one obscure minute NZ exported another 5 and a half tonnes of pastoral agriculutural product generating more than $100,000 for NZ.

That’s a lot of product and it earns a lot of money.

The average income in NZ is $52,000 so in less than a minute the pastoral sector generated the annual household income for one family.

The rural sector that you all work so hard in just paid for a school teacher, a policeman, a nurse, or maybe about a quarter of a politicians salary. Maybe that minute made it possible for one of those non farming households to take their family on a holiday, or get their children a better education.

And that is the message we all bring to parliament today. This isn’t just about rural communities or urban centres this is about all of NZ and protecting the way of life that we all enjoy, the way of life that the pastoral sector contributes to so significantly for all – every minute.

The export income primary produce generates starts on the farms but the benefits flow through rural communities and the regions into cities.

And that pastoral sector, that is so much the fabric of much of our country’s identity, is confronted with unprecedented change and challenges.

We are not here to push back against change, we are not laggards and do not have our heads buried in the sand. Quite the opposite, much of the change that is being proposed is not actually change at all, but a continuation of the good work carried out by our sector over the past decades well before water quality and climate change became daily talking points.

We should all be proud of the more than 100,000km of waterway fencing already undertaken. We should be proud that more than a quarter of the nation’s native bush is on our land that we protect and enhance.

Our rural communities are proactive problem solvers. I am personally very proud of what has been achieved in my neck of the woods – the Wairarapa. A cyclone in the 70’s caused huge damage on the delicate hill country. Soon after poplar and willow planting trials were undertaken and since then millions of trees have been planted for erosion control. This was not legislated, it was not compulsory, it was just motivation of farmers and some education from Regional Land Managers.

That’s right Shane Jones, if you’re still trying to work out how to plant half a billion trees, you don’t need to be up all night researching on your laptop in a hotel room, you just need to pop over the hill and ask the farmers and land managers in the Wairarapa.

We are not here to push back against change, we are here to make sure that change is done right. And what you have proposed in the Healthy Waterways legislation is not right. To be blunt, it is a lazy, unimaginative, piece of legislation that at best will be clunky, inefficient, ineffective, and demotivating. New Zealanders, all New Zealanders deserved better. We are not here to push back against intended outcomes of this legislation, but we are here to push back strongly against how you have proposed to achieve those outcomes.

Few have any argument about the goal, it’s about how to reach it, how quickly and at what cost that is debated.

The Healthy Waterways legislation gives a broad brush, one size fits all attempt at dictating terms on a national level. Landowners in this country were never consulted as to the relevance and practicalities of this plan. This is either arrogant or lazy and NZ deserves better.

How can one document cover all the different soil types, topography, and climates in this diverse country. The issues on Canterburys stony plains will be different to the high country, which will be different to the peaty soils of Waikato, to the beaches of Auckland, to the dry hills of the east coast.

If this government really wanted to show leadership in this area they would have taken the time to clearly define the issues, and work with all stakeholders to come up with a practical solution, that would work on the ground, rather than cave to public perception.

This lack of consultation showed in the 17,500 submissions highlighting the weaknesses of the legislation. Why the pastoral sector were not consulted is beyond me. What you are proposing will have massive impacts on our businesses, our families, our communities, and in turn the rest of NZ, the teachers, the nurses, the policemen that agriculture supports, every minute. It would be nice to think we were at the table and not simply on the menu.

The lack of research was evident by ideas such as grandparenting land use change and audited farm plans being included. These have been proven to be unfair and ineffective tools in regional plans throughout the country. The fact they showed up again in the Healthy Waterways legislation shows the lack of imagination and research.

It was lazy and NZers, all NZers deserved better.

It was worse than lazy, it was impractical and expensive in both economic and social terms without the scientific backing to ensure real environmental gains.

So I challenge our leaders, instead of clunky, one size fits all, legislation give us the space and flexibility to come up with our own solutions taylor made to our individual land and water quality issues.

Instead of audits and box tickers that we will pay for either directly or indirectly, pour money into science. Our universities, Massey and Lincoln were so vital to the production gains made over the last 40 years can again be vital in this next stage of NZ pastoral agriculture that is less about production and more about maximising the value of that product. Give us less box tickers and more research and development.

Instead of box tickers give us support and expert advice. We will come up with great solutions that even the universities cannot if you give us support, confidence, and education where we need it.

Instead of audits give us flexibility to come up with our own solutions.

Instead of being stick wavers, be our partners. All NZers, the nurses and policemen and teachers rely on it.

The government is promoting policies that will harm not just farms, farming and farmers, but the economic and social fabric of the whole country without a single policy to mitigate the harm and replace the income.

I’m not scared of this change because it is not really change but a continuation of the good work we already do.

I’m not scared of this change because it our sector has been challenged before and we rose to that challenge and adapted.

But we cannot do it without pastoral land. We have to stop the sale of productive land into foreign ownership. We cannot meet the challenges ahead and continue to provide all NZers, the teachers, nurses, and policemen with the NZ we currently enjoy without pastoral land.

We have to stop prostituting NZ out as the dumping ground for the worlds carbon addiction.

What makes this policy worse is that the science says forests are only a short-term band-aid for offsetting fossil fuel emissions.

Our rural communities matter.

Our schools matter.

And not just for our rural communities but for all those non rural households whose incomes our exports support every minute.

These international owners don’t care about NZ’s future, they don’t care about our communities. They are simply here to dump their carbon rubbish and move on leaving our grandchildren to wonder what happened. What happened to the NZ we, their grandparents talked about, what happened to all those nurses, teachers, policemen that are no longer supported.

I know this was never the intention of this legislation. But by signing off on the first 30 year band-aid of an idea that springs to mind is short sighted, lazy, and NZ deserves better. Show true leadership. Look for long term solutions, don’t just settle for the best idea in a bad bunch. NZ relies on you doing so.

To you all thank you, and feel proud about what you do in every unremarkable minute of the day and the impact it has on this country.

It’s hard to feel proud when government policies would sabotage not just individual businesses but communities and eventually the economic and social wellbeing of the country.


Farms before forests

November 14, 2019

Farmers, others from rural communities and people from the businesses which service and support them will be marching on parliament today.

This open letter to the Prime Minister from a 15 year-old explains the motivation:

Dear Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

I would very much appreciate it if you could please find the time to read this formal piece of writing.

The Devastating Impacts of The Government’s One Billion Trees Program

The Labour Government’s one billion trees program is a disaster waiting to happen. According to Te Uru Rakau, the New Zealand government’s tree planting initiative will deliver, improved social, environmental and economic outcomes for New Zealand. A closer inspection of that scheme reveals the many loopholes and lack of logic in this new initiative. New Zealand Forestry is not the clean, green industry it is depicted to be. In fact, it is one of the causes of our growing number of polluted waterways. This initiative is going to ruin rural communities and the agricultural sector. The Labour party is making a monumental mistake, encouraging and supporting people to irreversibly plant pine trees on productive land. The government needs to wake up. Planting pine trees to offset our carbon emissions is just a short-term solution to climate change.

Pine trees and the systems used to harvest them are polluting the environment. Pine is a soft wood, and when harvested, it rots very quickly unless treated with toxic anti-fungal or insecticide solution immediately. Large areas contaminated by arsenic are thought to be caused by these timber treatment processes. The forestry industry is fossil fuel dependent and uses petrol and diesel to run all its machinery, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In New Zealand a harvesting system of clear-cutting is used. This means that entire forests are removed and restocked at the same time. This creates a large window of vulnerability, where cleared forest land is susceptible to erosion, filling rivers, lakes and inshore fishing grounds with toxic debris and sediment. Recently, cyclone Gita hit New Zealand hard. Northland locals reported “tsunamis of forestry debris rushing past rivers near their homes.” Houses were written off, animals killed, roads damaged, and grazing paddocks ruined. Gisborne mayor Meng Foon says the clean-up is expected to cost ten million dollars and rate payers will foot most of the bill. The continuation of clear-cutting pine plantations is leaving the community to pay the price of environmental impacts, while the forestry industry ignorantly puts money in the bank. Forestry is not the environmentally friendly industry the New Zealand government has portrayed it to be. Its practices are polluting the environment and are far from sustainable.

New Zealand is made up of many rural villages and communities where local families make a living farming the land like they have for generations. Agriculture is one of New Zealand’s leading export earners and many kiwis rely on this industry. The government, however, is encouraging the planting of pine trees on these farms, which is going to ruin rural communities. For every thousand hectares of trees planted on pastoral land, seven people lose their jobs-forever. In comparison, production forests create one job per thousand hectares. It is uncommon to see a New Zealander fulfilling this role, so the government is recruiting people from the Pacific Islands to plant and harvest the pine trees. Even if New Zealander’s did these jobs, them and their families do not tend to live in the local communities as they already have their life set up in the city. Rural depopulation can have a devastating effect on those few that remain, through under supported schools, services and loss of community strength and spirit. Planting one billon trees over 2.8 million hectares will mean that many New Zealander’s will lose their jobs and be forced to move to one of the nation’s already overpopulated cities. The Labour Government needs to think about whether afforestation fits with this country’s values, aspirations and the resources New Zealander’s leave behind for future generations. By planting all these pine trees, the government is cramming people into the cities and sucking the life out of the rural communities.

Forestry is an irreversible change in land use, and that change will lead to the downfall of New Zealand’s economy. Once forestry plantations are planted on productive land there is no going back. The land is no longer suited to any other kind of agriculture. Only 52 percent of New Zealand is used for agriculture, which is 24 percent less than in 1991, yet it is still one of New Zealand’s biggest export earners. Beef and lamb exports alone earn the country over 6.5 billion dollars each year. New Zealand is known for its clean, green image and red meat protein source. This country needs a large area of pastoral land, that can produce high-quality protein from grass-fed animals, with minimal inputs and a sustainable carbon footprint. Taking out whole agricultural properties and putting them into pine trees, just because the current timber and carbon price favours forestry is foolish. Planting pine trees is not a more sustainable option, than the current land use, farming. If people stop polluting the world in the first place, the pine tree scheme wouldn’t be needed. Many people make assumptions that they will never be hungry, but the world’s population is growing, and with that productive land for farming is decreasing. People can not eat wood, and who wants to live off insects and artificial meat from a factory? By setting up initiatives to help people irreversibly plant pine trees on productive land, the Labour Government is making an immense mistake, that will lead to the downfall of New Zealand’s economy.

The New Zealand Labour Government has set a goal to plant one billion trees by 2028. According to their official website the program will deliver, improved social, environmental and economic outcomes for New Zealand. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The New Zealand Government’s poorly researched pine tree planting policy, favouring the forestry sector, will be the undoing of rural communities and the New Zealand economy. Our government needs to be clearer and more intelligent as the sustainability of New Zealand relies on the ability as a country to match land type to correct land use. If trees are going to be planted on unproductive land, then the forests of the future need to be environmentally and rural community friendly. Crucially, we need forests that people want to be surrounded by, that can be nurtured and protected so future generations can continue to enjoy rural New Zealand like I have.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have been enlightened.

Yours sincerely
Wairarapa College year 11 student

The March has been initiated by 50 Shades of Green :

OUR PURPOSE: To demonstrate and communicate that we will not be ridden over roughshod by a political agenda which shows no regard for genuine community wellbeing or genuine democratic consultation. The rural sector is being excluded from critical policy making decisions at the same time that anti farming lobbyists are being ushered in. We are calling the Government out. We deserve a level playing field and a fair go.

A FAIR GO. That’s all NZ Farming communities are asking for.

We are the men and women who grow your food. We work in the rain, sun, snow and wind to take care of this land, our animals and families.

We ask for a fair go on Emissions (Net ZCB) – We own land, which is  home to hundreds of thousands, even millions of trees and yet our emissions reductions targets are unnecessarily high and ‘gross’ while other emitters have ‘net’ targets which will be met by planting what remains of our farms and communities in trees.

We ask for a fair go on Water Regulations.  We are custodians of vast waterways, a role we have embraced over the last 20 years and into which huge investments have been  made.   We were not properly consulted on the Freshwater Reforms.  None of our elected representatives were permitted at the table to provide a voice on our behalf.  Meanwhile environmental lobby groups were ushered in to share in the spoils of an unfettered political agenda. We need local solutions to local problems, and we need to be heard.

We ask for a fair go on Land Use Changes (ETS):  The Government never originally intended to return carbon credits to foresters for carbon sequestration, the forestry industry lobbied for over 6 years to achieve this outcome.  This artificial market for sequestered units will drive escalating afforestation by international and domestic investors at an unprecedented scale should the ‘free market’ be given its head and allowed to bolt onto our hills.  Our Communities are not carbon sinks, our people matter more than that.

We ask a fair go for Mental Health.  The Farmers of New Zealand and their families are being painted as environmental vandals by their own Government. The persistent focus on farming being a ‘problem’ is perpetuating the groundswell of disgusting behaviour targeting farmers and even their children by extremist activists intent on furthering their own agendas. This campaign against rural businesses and their families can not be ignored or worse, given credibility by the Government, or rural families will ultimately pay the price.

They’re not against forestry per se.

They’re for the right tree in the right place. That’s not on productive land and encouraged by policy that allows foreigners to buy farms for forestry but not farming.

 

“/   

 

 

>

>


>

Country’s going to town

October 11, 2019

50 Shades of Green says rural New Zealand has had a gutsful and is calling for the country to go to Wellington:

Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green is organising a provincial get-together in Wellington.

Chair, Andy Scott said the conservation group’s message needed to be told to a larger audience.

“The blanket planting of good farmland has reached crisis proportions. Add to that the water proposals, land use changes and the consistent campaign against rural businesses, we have a problem,” Andy Scott said.

“We’ll be telling our story to a city audience by coming to Wellington. The politicians aren’t listening to us so hopefully the general voters will.

“The meeting will be at 11am on Thursday 14th of November before marching to Parliament arriving at 1pm.

It isn’t just farmers coming to town but representatives of all of provincial NZ from farmers to bankers, stock agents to rural advocacy groups and suppliers though to real estate representatives.

“We’re expecting a good turnout of people from the provinces,” Andy Scott said.

All  50 Shades is asking for is a fair go :

OUR PURPOSE: To demonstrate and communicate that we will not be ridden over roughshod by a political agenda which shows no regard for genuine community wellbeing or genuine democratic consultation. The rural sector is being excluded from critical policy making decisions at the same time that anti farming lobbyists are being ushered in. We are calling the Government out. We deserve a level playing field and a fair go.

A FAIR GO. That’s all NZ Farming communities are asking for.

We are the men and women who grow your food. We work in the rain, sun, snow and wind to take care of this land, our animals and families.

We ask for a fair go on Emissions (Net ZCB) – We own land, which is  home to hundreds of thousands, even millions of trees and yet our emissions reductions targets are unnecessarily high and ‘gross’ while other emitters have ‘net’ targets which will be met by planting what remains of our farms and communities in trees. 

We ask for a fair go on Water Regulations.  We are custodians of vast waterways, a role we have embraced over the last 20 years and into which huge investments have been  made.   We were not properly consulted on the Freshwater Reforms.  None of our elected representatives were permitted at the table to provide a voice on our behalf.  Meanwhile environmental lobby groups were ushered in to share in the spoils of an unfettered political agenda. We need local solutions to local problems, and we need to be heard.

We ask for a fair go on Land Use Changes (ETS):  The Government never originally intended to return carbon credits to foresters for carbon sequestration, the forestry industry lobbied for over 6 years to achieve this outcome.  This artificial market for sequestered units will drive escalating afforestation by international and domestic investors at an unprecedented scale should the ‘free market’ be given its head and allowed to bolt onto our hills.  Our Communities are not carbon sinks, our people matter more than that.

We ask a fair go for Mental Health.  The Farmers of New Zealand and their families are being painted as environmental vandals by their own Government. The persistent focus on farming being a ‘problem’ is perpetuating the groundswell of disgusting behaviour targeting farmers and even their children by extremist activists intent on furthering their own agendas. This campaign against rural businesses and their families can not be ignored or worse, given credibility by the Government, or rural families will ultimately pay the price.

A lot of protests alienate people through disruption. 50 Shades is aiming for a more intelligent approach:

PROTEST GENERAL RULES: We are there to elevate our voices and present our concerns.  Please remember we are representing more than ourselves, we request respectful behaviour at all times.

They also have guidelines for signs:

Be creative with your signs, here’s some tips for effective sign creation:

    1. Have a clear message
    2. Use humour and wit
    3. Keep it simple
    4. Remember that presentation matters
    5. Be passionate
    6. No personal attacks 

And they’ve provided some good examples:

Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 1 Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 2
 Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 3  Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 4
 Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 5 Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 6
Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 7  >Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 8
  Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 9  Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 10  
Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 11  Save Our Farms (Protest Walk) 12
The gathering will start in Civic Square at 11am on Thursday November 14th.

The expression going to town means doing something enthusiastically or intensely.

The depth of feeling in rural New Zealand at the moment should ensure both feelings are well illustrated.


Rural round-up

September 26, 2019

Trees don’t pay tax. Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways discussion document a massive subsidy for tree planting:

Environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green says the government’s policy document on waterways will provide a massive subsidy for forestry.

Spokesman, Andy Scott said the problem was it would make sheep and beef farming less economic thereby encouraging farmers to walk away and sell their land for trees.

“Modelling suggesting 68% of dry stock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted to forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations will send a chill through the entire sheep and beef industry,” Andy Scott said. . .

Time for a ‘cup of tea’ over trees policy:

Minister Jones Needs Assurance That His ‘Trees Fund Branching Out’ Doesn’t End up as a Knot According to 50 Shades of Green.

Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green supports Minister Jones in his efforts to put the right tree in the right place.

It also supports Iwi initiatives to regenerate native bush.

What it doesn’t support is easy access for foreign investors and carbon speculators to plant good farmland in trees for no other reason than to claim carbon credits. . .

Millions poured to ensure mānuka honey is a NZ only product  – Yvette McCullough:

The government is allocating nearly $6 million to a campaign to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their products as “mānuka” honey.

The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society is being granted $5.7 million through the Provincial Growth Fund, including a $1.7 million loan, to help in its bid to secure international property rights.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones accused Australian honey producers of trying to steal what was indigenous to New Zealand. . .

Major dairy producer unveils $30m expansion:

When a group of dairy families opened Idaho Milk Products a decade ago, the company faced a murky future at best.

The $80 million facility began churning out cream and protein during a recession, at a time of painfully low milk prices.

“These dairy families risked everything,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. “They rolled the dice, put everything on the line that their families had built for generations.”

Ten years and a $30 million plant expansion later, it looks like the gamble is paying off. . .

Welsh dairy farmers plan to blockade lorries of ‘cheap’ Irish beef :

Farmers in Wales are planning to disrupt Irish trucks carrying beef from entering Wales via the Port of Holyhead.

The blockade is planned for Friday 27 September.

According to North Wales Live, the protest is a result of farmer complaints that “prices are down £150-£200 (€170-€ 226) on this time last year, blaming the slump on imports” coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit.

Farmers are urged to make a stand against “rock-bottom beef prices and ‘subsidised’ Irish beef imports.”. . .

 


Rural round-up

September 19, 2019

New environmental laws will encourage stampede into forestry:

The governments’ new environmental proposals will further accentuate the move of good, productive farmland into forestry according to environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

50 Shades of Green Chair, Andy Scott said the figures provided by the government were, at best, dishonest.

“The government is claiming the cost of fencing waterways will cost hill country sheep and beef farmers a few thousand dollars,” Andy Scott said. “This is plain wrong.

“One farmer on easy hill country tells me his cost will be nearer to $one million. He can’t afford it and is selling his farm for forestry. . . 

50 ways dairy farmers show their love for the land:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, DairyNZ brings you 50 ways dairy farmers are showing their love for their waterways, land and environment.

It’s fair to say that almost all dairy farmers care deeply for the natural world that surrounds them every day of their lives – and they are passionate about protecting and nurturing it for the generations to come.

For dairy farmers, the focus in the past few years has been on improving waterways, enhancing biodiversity, and controlling predators, both weed plants and animal pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.  They know some of their actions are also already helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are further mitigations under development they will be implementing in the future.

The farmers around the country who are part of the Dairy Environment Leaders programme, set up six years ago to develop responsible dairying, are true kaitiaki. They not only roll up their sleeves on their land, but they are also inspiring other farmers. They are active in their communities, on boards and local committees and catchment groups, leading the way in achieving good outcomes for the environment and farming.  . .

Palmerston North TeenAg student lands coveted cadetship :

A determined Palmerston North student has achieved a long-held goal of landing a cadetship in the food and fibre sector.

Alex Argyle, 16, is one of only three people accepted for next year’s cadet intake at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

Almost 50 people applied for the coveted two-year cadetships.

“I’m over the moon. I’m quite young for my year at school, so initially it came as a bit of a shock when I found out,” said Argyle. . . 

First four candidates for Fonterra elections :

Sitting Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been announced as two of the four independently assessed candidates for the 2019 Fonterra board elections.

The other two candidates are Philipp Haas and Cathy Quinn. As re-standing directors, Smit and Macfarlane automatically go through to the ballot: Haas and Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

There are two different ways that shareholders can stand for the board – as Independently assessed candidates or as non-assessed candidates. . . 

New directors to help push for smarter farming:

Agri-environment expert Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, farmer Nicola Hyslop and governance and e-commerce leader David Biland have joined Ravensdown’s board of directors it was announced at the co-operative’s 2019 annual meeting in Lincoln.

Shareholders of the co-operative hailing from Southern Waikato to Northland elected Jacqueline who is from Tirau.  Nicola, a Timaru sheep, beef and arable farmer, was elected director for the Canterbury area. Jacqueline replaces incumbent director Kate Alexander and Nicola replaces Tony Howey, who has retired from the board.

Auckland-based David Biland, who is currently director of management consultancy Hughland Limited, joins as an appointed director replacing Glen Inger who has been on the Board for 12 years.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson said the new directors were exceptional additions to the Board and would help drive further success for the co-operative and its shareholders. . . 

What we can learn from the Visible Farmer project – Dr Jo Newton:

With over 104K views and 700 shares of their Season 1 Trailer, Visible Farmer – a short film series showcasing the largely untold stories of the role women play in food and fibre production – has made its presence felt on social media.

While any initiative seeking to empower, inspire and encourage women should be celebrated, there’s more to Visible Farmer.

Visible Farmer has already achieved what few projects have achieved in agriculture – a community united around and helping share a vision.

Gisela Kaufmann is the co-creator of Visible Farmer and says she has been utterly humbled and thankful for all the support. . . 


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. . .

 


%d bloggers like this: