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.

 

 


Subsidies shape silly responses

January 25, 2017

The ag-sag of the 80s was tough, but let’s not forget the silly subsidies that led to it.

Sheep numbers peaked at  70 million in 1982 which was around 22 sheep for every person.

We’re down to only six sheep each now, but farmers have replaced quantity with quality.

The total number of sheep was down by just over 5 percent between June 2015 and June 2016, Statistics New Zealand said today. Provisional figures show that the number of sheep in New Zealand fell by 1.5 million, down to 27.6 million at 30 June 2016.

“Between 2006 and 2016 the number of sheep reduced from just over 40 million, a drop of around 30 percent,” agricultural production statistics manager Stuart Pitts said. . . 

Improvements in breeding and feeding are producing better stock and the amount of meat we’re selling is stable in spite of the fall in sheep numbers.

Returns from sheep meat continue to disappoint but the answer isn’t subsidies.

As the video shows, expensive subsidies shaped silly responses. Farmers went for quantity rather than quality and produced meat for which there was no market.

The video is one of a series of  short videos, Trailblazers: The New Zealand Story from Free to Choose Media.

The others are:

Main preview

Public Sector Reforms

Empowering Ordinary People

Fishing Reforms and Sustainability

Hat tip: Utopia

 

 

 

 


Commodity prices then & now

January 23, 2016

Baker & Associates’ excellent weekly AgLetter compares commodity prices 18 months ago with current ones:

Oil price down 70%:     June 2014 ‐ US$103/barrel January 2016 ‐ $US30/barrel

Wheat price down 57%     June 2014 – US$287/tonne   January 2016 ‐ $US164/tonne  

US Beef down 16%       June 2014 – US$2.00/lb   January 2016 ‐ $US1.67/lb

US Lamb down 30%     June 2014 – US$1.37/lb   January 2016 ‐ $US0.95/lb

Whole Milk Powder     June 2014 ‐ $US3459/tonne January 2016 $‐ US2188/tonne

DAP Price down 20%     June 2014 ‐ $US499/tonne January 2016 ‐ $US399/tonne

NZ/US Exchange Rate down 25%    June 2014 – $0.8670    January 2016 ‐ $0.6540

NZ Floating Interest Rate down 1%    June 2014 – 6.07%    January 2016 ‐ 5.1%

NZ Inflation Rate down    June 2014 – 1.6%    January 2016 – 0.1%

It appears that the global economy is facing challenges on a similar scale to those of the GFC five years ago.

In 2008, the problems arose from over‐priced assets in the US and EU markets, and with incompetent finance sectors in those markets.

The current problems appear to arise from a slowdown in the economies of emerging markets (China and India), upon which western markets have become increasingly dependent over the last 10 years.

The implication for NZ agriculture will depend on how the combination of “plusses” and “minuses” balances out . . .

NZ Agriculture Hangs in the Balance

On one hand we have depressed in‐market prices for red meat, grain and dairy produce.

On the other hand we have record‐low interest rates, record‐low inflation, a weaker exchange rate, low fuel prices, low freight prices, low electricity prices and lower fertiliser prices.

We have the TPP about to be signed. We have a low‐cost grass‐fed production base.

There’s got to be something to work with here.

Possibly the biggest challenge is to accept the reality that commodity prices are going to remain highly variable, and that driving Efficiency of Production is the main tool that farmers have to secure profitability in the coming years.

During the ag-sag of the 80s we faced plummeting prices for what we were selling and high prices for a lot of what we had to buy, wide spread trade restrictions and tariffs, inflation nearing 20% and interest rates even higher.

Produce prices are low and not likely to go very high very fast.

But on the plus side we’ve also got lower costs of fuel and other inputs, better trade access, and low inflation and interest rates.

Those of us who survived the ag-sag also know that there’s no point wasting energy worrying about what we can’t control and opportunities from concentrating on what we can control.

P.S. The AgLetter is a weekly publication from Baker & Associates. You can find how to subscribe and back copies here.

It’s always a good read.


Stealing from the future

March 23, 2011

My parents generation came through the Depression with the very firm belief that saving for a rainy day was better than borrowing to enjoy the sun today.

My generation got a reminder of the good sense of that when the ag-sag of the 1980s hit.

We didn’t like it at the time but the tough prescription of Roger Douglas’s Budgets were a very necessary correction of the policies of successive governments from the early 1970s. They spent more than they earned, taking the country into debt which was in effect stealing from future generations.

Reducing the burden of the state and freeing the economy to allow better growth were worthy aims which were subverted by Labour from 1999. Michael Cullen reduced public debt and achieved Budget surpluses but he also increased government spending, gave welfare to people in want rather than need and increased taxes.

The worst damage was done by the extravagant promises which Helen Clark used to win the 2008 election. The productive sector was in recession but it was disguised by high government spending and consumer spending and escalating property prices fuelled by borrowing.

We were already in recession when the global financial crisis hit. Recovery has been patchy at best and the economic impact of the Christchurch earthquake has been the last straw.

The government has recognised the seriousness of the situation and is making it clear there will be no pre-election lolly scramble. There won’t be any increased spending at all – if there is more in one area it will have to come from less in another.

The left either can’t or won’t see the sense in this which gives voters a very real choice in the election.

Labour and its potential allies  want to steal more from the future. National knows the lesson the Depression taught my parents still hold true.


Simple is better

October 1, 2010

It’s 14 24 years today since a Goods and Services Tax was first introduced in New Zealand.

It was right in the middle of the ag-sag when every cent mattered so I was among the many who bought things in September to avoid the 10% consumption tax.

I don’t remember rushing to buy anything before GST was increased to 12.5% in 1989 and I haven’t done any extra shopping to beat today’s increase to 15%.

Although I did a pre-GST shop in 1986 I don’t remember noticing sharp price increases from October 1 and do recall some goods reduced in price because the plethora of sales taxes on a variety of goods was replaced by a single, simple GST.

Simplicity was and still is one of our GST’s good points.

That Phil Goff and Labour are prepared to tinker with it and end more than a decade of cross-party support for keeping it that way is a sign of desperation.

It could also be a sign they’ve given up trying to win the next election. That’s easier to believe than the idea that they’re really serious about the suggestion zero rating GST on fruit and vegetables would achieve anything worthwhile.


Memories of the 80s

September 3, 2010

Rural people remember the mid to late 80s for the difficulties of the ag-sag.

The removal of subsidies -which I now agree was a good move – coincided with high interest rates (we were paying around 25% for seasonal finance at one stage), raging inflation and a very high dollar.

In North Otago and much of the rest of the east coast we also had to contend with recurring droughts.

Until the share-crash of 1987 the country endured the pain while the cities partied.

The freer economy which made it so difficult in the country as farming was dragged into the real world, provided plenty of opportunities for money making in cities.

This video clip from a Close-Up programme shows a little of how it was done and features a longer-haired and greatly bespectacled John Key.

Hat Tip: Kiwiblog


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