Rural round-up

March 7, 2020

Farm confidence – already bruised by the effects of drought – becomes a victim of Covid-19 – Point of Order:

As the country’s  front-line export  sector,  NZ agriculture  is  bearing  the brunt of the global  trade slowdown.  ANZ Bank’s chief  economist  Sharon Zollner says  the  human and  economic damage from the  Covid-19 outbreak is taking a  heavy toll on sentiment in the agriculture  sector.

“Our  best  hope is that the  disruption proves  short-lived but there is not   question the export-oriented  sector is  reeling”.

Authorities   such  as  Keith Woodford  believe NZ, as well as most of the world,  will head into recession.  Woodford contends the key issue becomes rapid support for those who lose their employment.

He  sees  a  “considerable  risk” that the government and Reserve Bank will use the wrong macro tools. . .

The problem with vegans and climate change – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Veganism is a distraction from the major climate change issues of increase in population and lifestyle, including travel, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

Farmers cannot grow whatever food they like.

This is contrary to ongoing statements in the media, from, for instance the Vegan Society.

Quite apart from the legal restraints to do with type of crop and chemicals that can be used, there are temperature, rainfall, soil and topographical constraints. . .

Court to rule on M Bovis compo – Annette Scott:

The Mycoplasma bovis compensation battle has ramped up following a High Court ruling it is allowed to decide what farmers can be repaid for.

In October last year lawyer Grant Cameron sought a judicial review, on behalf of the van Leeuwen farming group, of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ compensation system.

The van Leeuwens, the first to have the cattle disease confirmed in New Zealand, claim they have been left $3million out of pocket. . . 

Future fails to make present – Neal Wallace:

The present has caught up with AgResearch’s Future Footprint plans which are now a thing of the past. It is now going it alone at Lincoln but collaborating with Massey University in Palmerston North and will keep its centres at Ruakura and Invermay. Neal Wallace reports.

AGRESEARCH has abandoned elements of its Future Footprint proposal begun eight years ago and will keep its four national campuses but expand two.

The original plan was to severely downsize its Invermay campus near Dunedin and Ruakura in Hamilton with the focus on centres at Lincoln and Palmerston North.

Acting chief executive Tony Hickmott says the plan now is to retain all four sites and construct new buildings at Palmerston North, which is under way, and Lincoln. . . 

Magic tonic needed to open wallets – Pam Tipa:

Rain is the magic tonic in the farming community, says Northland based AgFirst consultant Tafi Manjala.

But without it the sentiment going into the Northland Field Days from the farming community will likely to be “cautious”, he says.

“When it is raining and things are going well people are more buoyant and positive about the future,” Manjala told Rural News.

“They feel more confident about things, they can justify to themselves why they can have some discretionary expenditure at the field days. . . 

Agrifeeds invests in increased precision blending and storage:

Agrifeeds have started the new decade in a strong position, having invested significantly in new blending and storage facilities to help increase their nutritional offer to customers.

Following the opening late last year of two new storage facilities in New Plymouth and Marsden Point in Northland, two new blending operations have also been built in each location. . .


Rural round-up

January 1, 2020

South Waikato dairy farmer recognised in New Year honours – Gerald Piddock:

Championing the rights of sharemilkers has seen Tony Wilding recognised in the New Years honours list.

The dairy farmer, who farms at Okoroire in South Waikato, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work in the dairy industry and the community.

He said his initial reaction when he found out was disbelief. Once it sunk in, he began to realise how special it was.

“I”m pretty delighted and particularly my family who have seen me doing such a lot of stuff that was unpaid for in a lot of areas.” . .

Prices strong, farmers low – report – David Anderson:

Despite generally strong commodity prices, farmer confidence remains at near record lows, according to the latest Agri Focus report from ANZ Bank.

“Confidence at the farm level remains subdued despite returns being near record levels,” the bank’s December 2019 report says.

“Farmers remain concerned as to how future environmental legislation will impact the profitability of their business.”

It adds that dairy land values are also under pressure for the same reason.  . .

LAND CHAMPION: Wool fashions farming’s future– Hugh Stringleman:

New Zealand Merino chief executive John Brakenridge has seen the future of the primary sector and pioneered many of its elements well in advance of most farmers, their processors and exporters.

Few people in NZ can claim the transformation of a primary industry through their life’s work and fewer still have taken the principles uncovered beyond their home industry for the betterment of the sector.

All that has been done by Brakenridge’s ideas, enthusiasm, business relationships and persistence.

The forging of long-term supply contracts between wool growers and apparel brands like . . 

Going green makes money – Jenny Ling:

A Northland farming family is adding value and creating extra income by supplying milk in glass bottles direct to customers. Jenny Ling reports.

Far North sharemilkers Gav Hogarth and Jody Hansen knew they needed a plan B when Fonterra announced a forecast milk payout with a three in front of it.

The couple had been milking their herd of pedigree Jerseys on a conventional, twice-daily milking system for five years at their Kawakawa farm when the dairy co-operative dropped the milk payout from $4.15 a kilogram of milksolids to $3.90 in early 2016. 

“At $3 you’re not making any money and farming is not sustainable at that level,” Gav says.

“The options were either I went back to work or we would have to borrow money to feed the cows,” Jody says. . . 

Contract milking offers opportunities – Pam Tipa:

Contract milking is a good introduction to self-employment, says Northland AgFirst consultant Kim Robinson.

Her advice to young people wanting to go 50/50 sharemilking is, to do one year of contracting milking first.

“Contract milking teaches people how to become self-employed, to run their own businesses . .

Global wardrobe study:

Our wardrobes are growing, which comes as no surprise given fibre production for clothing and the amount of clothes produced, is on the rise. But, like most things in life, we have options. Consumers have the power to choose what they wear and this choice can ultimately have a huge impact on what designers, brands and retailers produce.

For many, it may come as a surprise that our love for clothing is putting a strain on the environment. And with phrases such as “climate crisis” becoming the new normal, it’s time for individuals to pay attention to everyday habits. One small action, as insignificant as it may seem, can cumulatively have enormous impact. From wearing our clothes for longer, doing laundry less frequently, or paying attention to what our clothes are actually made of, consumers have the power to make a difference and influence brands’ business decisions.

This report examines consumer wardrobe and laundry behaviours, offering solutions to help reduce our impact on the environment every day. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 12, 2019

Flawed policies will bite future growth, Federated Farmers warns:

Before giving thought to splurging funds from the surplus, Finance Minister Grant Robertson should check on the effects some of his colleagues’ policies are having on the economy, Federated Farmers says.

“The warning signs are there as growth in provincial economies slows – predominantly because of a significant drop in farmer confidence, not any fall in product prices.  As any economist knows, a drop in provincial growth will flow through to hit national growth,” Feds commerce and trade spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been media reports that the sharp fall in log prices is hitting employment in regions such as Northland and the East Coast and sentiment in key dairy regions such as the Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatu and Southland is fragile due to concerns about government policy. . . 

Farmers welcome trade envoy appointment:

Farmers are welcoming the appointment of Tararua farmer Mel Poulton to the position of Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says Poulton will be “a great representative of New Zealand farming”.

“She has a very good appreciation of the importance of trade to New Zealand and to the primary sector.

“Mel can also handle a dog around a hillside better than any man I’ve ever watched, which should be an indication of the patience and skill she will bring to wrangling with international free trade agreements and getting good deals for New Zealand.” . . 

Banking on gumboot move :

It’s a change of scenery, customer and supply chain for Skellerup’s incoming agri division head, Hayley Gourley.

The high profile former chief of Rabobank’s New Zealand operations has been with Skellerup, the owner of the iconic Red Band gumboot, for just under a month.

The Christchurch company was an instant switch for Gourley (nee Moynihan), whose presence at Rabobank gave the Dutch owned, global bank a Kiwi identity and voice in the agri industry.

At Skellerup she is managing a range of products and people, enjoying the initial feel of working for a national “household name,” she says. . . 

Scholarships address need for farming apprentices:

Scholarships address need for farming and horticulture apprentices

Primary ITO is responding to the urgent need for skilled workers in agriculture and horticulture by launching a scholarship programme for apprentice fees.

Applications for the scholarships are open for October and November and will cover fees for the whole duration of the apprenticeship programmes, which generally take 2-3 years. . . 

Carrot prices down to seven year low:

Carrots are the cheapest they have been in seven years, while prices for capsicums, tomatoes, and cucumbers are falling sharply as spring arrives, Stats NZ said today.

This has been partly offset by a spike in courgette and broccoli prices, leaving overall fruit and vegetable prices down just 1.9 percent in September.

“Fruit and vegetable prices typically fall in September as the warmer weather arrives and more stock begins to hit the shelves,” consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson said. . .

French farmers blockade roads in protest against ‘agri bashing’:

Angry French farmers blockaded major roads in the country yesterday over fears that ‘agri bashing’ is increasingly becoming the norm.

Protests occurred on Tuesday (8 October) as farmers become more and more concerned with the media’s representation of the industry.

Unions FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers), which organised the blockades, called on members to use tractors to bring traffic to a standstill. . . 

 


Hug a farmer

August 20, 2019

Jill Thorp says farmers have had enough of being told they are to blame for climate change:

If you leave your car running in the garage overnight and sleep next to it, you’ll be dead in the morning. If you put five cows, five sheep and five pigs in the garage overnight and sleep next to them, you will warm and alive. We need to get real about the effects of these gases.

We also need to take the nutrient value into account. Running cars produce no nutrients, raising animals provides nutritious food. Most of New Zealand’s is exported and feeds about 40 million people, nearly 10 times the country’s population.

Not my words, but those of a New Zealand farmer, tired of being continuously blamed for global warming. I also learnt recently that depending on the time of day and year, there are 8,000 to 20,000 planes mid flight at any given moment. Yet the accusatory finger of blame for rising temperatures, extreme weather and flooding seems to be pointed firmly in the direction of farmers.

Producing food is necessary, how many of those flights could be called necessary?

I’m tired of being told we as farmers are responsible for so much damage, that it is us that must cease our environmentally destructive ways. What short memories the general public seem to have. Have we not fed a nation for generations, even during times of crisis?

Without the labours of farmers, the country would have been starved into submission during the First World War, but still the criticism rains down on us.

As hill farmers we are told to re-wet the uplands, block up the drains and gullies to prevent flooding. But when that bucket becomes full, that sponge saturated, where will the water go then? . . 

This is the view of an English farmer and her anger is shared by farmers all over the world, not least in New Zealand. We’re the only country where the government is proposing to tax emissions from farm animals and Politik warns of more to come:

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is warning that dairy farmers may find themselves struggling when they have to meet new Government environmental requirements likely to be unveiled within the next few weeks. . . 

{David} Parker is proposing a National Environmental Standard on freshwater which is essentially a regulation which local Councils must enforce, usually through their planning process.

Speaking in Northland a week ago he said the Government would shortly set clearer and stronger national direction for councils on freshwater standards.

The standard is expected to set nitrate discharge limits for farms.

It is expected these will be expressed in such a way as to make it all but impossible to convert non-dairy land to dairying from now on. . . 

Will these standards apply only to farming? What about the many councils with inferior storm water and sewerage systems that allow regular pollution of waterways?

Federated Farmers asks why are we only talking about farming?

New data from Statistics New Zealand makes it clear every sector of our society, including families, need to lift their game on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s just as we’ve been saying for years on the topic of water quality, we’re all in this together and we’ll solve it by everyone doing their bit,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

Stats NZ’s “Environmental-economic accounts” shows that emissions from households, mainly from their transport use decisions, jumped 19.3% in the decade to 2017, outstripping both growth in the population and emissions by industry.

Farmers produce food, most of which is exported which brings many benefits to New Zealand. I doubt much of the household transport had more than a personal benefit.

The nation’s total emissions decreased by 0.9% between 2007 and 2017, with greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture dropping at a rate of 0.1% each year.  These small reductions came during a decade when agriculture’s contribution to GDP grew at a rate of 1.8%, indicating increased production efficiency.

Growth in dairy emissions was offset by reductions by sheep, beef and grain farming.

“New Zealand has an unusual emissions profile worldwide because we rely so much on our primary industries to earn our living in the world.  However, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, not methane from animals, is the real climate change culprit and instead of expecting farmers to do all the heavy lifting, it’s time for every New Zealander to look at their lifestyles and choices, particularly in terms of transport,” Hoggard says.

“Planting out thousands of hectares of productive farmland with pine trees isn’t a long-term and sustainable answer to the problem.”

The right tree in the right place for the right reason is a good policy.

Subsidising forestry to incentivise planting pines on productive farmland is bad policy with a high economic, environmental and social cost.

Climate alarmists and other critics of farming are quick to criticise. They conveniently overlook the positive contribution farmers make to the environment, for example nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s native vegetation is on sheep and beef farms:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation cover (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land.

The report also estimates that 1.4 million hectares of New Zealand’s native forest is on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) CEO Sam McIvor says, “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we now have evidence to back up their passionate voices”.

The report, commissioned by B+LNZ, was undertaken by Professor David Norton from the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. Supported by Auckland University of Technology staff, the report used satellite imagery to assess the amount of native vegetation, focusing on native forest, occurring on sheep and beef farms in New Zealand.

“The 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation on sheep and beef farms are critical for biodiversity conservation on farms and for landscape-level biodiversity outcomes,” says Professor Norton.

This finding is particularly important in places where there is little native cover remaining, like those in lower altitudes, on more gentle slopes, and in drier regions,” says Professor Norton.

B+LNZ’s Sam McIvor says, “The environment is a cornerstone for our sector and underpins everything that we do at Beef + Lamb New Zealand. This report helps highlight not only the role sheep and beef farms currently play in contributing to New Zealand’s biodiversity, but will also help us identify opportunities to build on this as a sector”.

The report is also relevant to the proposed zero carbon legislation. While further research is needed, the 1.4 million hectares of native forest will be sequestering carbon and most of this is unlikely to be counted in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. Further research is now being undertaken to measure the potential of this native forest to sequester carbon, and this work will help inform B+LNZ’s and farmers’ input into the Zero Carbon Bill.

Along with surveying the extent of native vegetation, the report highlights that New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is potentially unique globally in terms of the amount of native forest on its land.

The release of this report is one of the first steps for B+LNZ in implementing its environment strategy, which aims for clean freshwater around farms, for the sector to be carbon neutral by 2050, for sheep and beef farms to provide habitats that support thriving biodiversity, and to support healthy productive soils.

New Zealand farmers are recognised around the world as the most efficient producers of food but like prophets are too often not appreciated at home.

National’s Primary Industry spokesman Todd Muller is leading the charge to move from condemning farmers to celebrating them.

It is time to call out the deliberate narrative, being fuelled by this Government that our agriculture sector, and the farming families that underpin it, are climate and environmental villains.

It started over a decade ago with the dirty dairying campaign and has now widened to include all our animal food producing sectors.

These voices are no longer at the extreme of our community debate but rather at the centre of our government.

At the core of their belief is that our future world cannot sustain animal food production and we should start weaning ourselves off the animal protein diet in order to improve our health and environment. . . 

We need to move the conversation from condemnation to celebration.

The fact is that New Zealand’s farming systems are extremely efficient, and we lead the way in producing high quality products within a low emissions profile.

And we do it without subsidies.

Our environmental footprint is improving as technology is matched by our farmers’ ever willingness to adapt, change and innovate.

Our primary sector understands our reputation as a safe producer of food must be underpinned by sustainable farming practices.

They accept change is a constant, in fact global leadership in food production demands it, but surely it is reasonable to ask that the society in which we produce it to quietly applaud our efforts, rather than rushing to find an example of failure in one of our 23,000 farms and dressing it up as typical.

Tarring all farmers with the dirty brush a very few deserve is unfair and unjustified.

Of course, too much meat can be detrimental, and clearly plant-based foods are essential for a balanced diet. But the health benefits of including meat and dairy in your diet are well documented and a balanced diet must be encouraged.

A recent briefing from MPI’s Chief Science Advisor into the EAT-Lancet Commission report showed that many of the reports condemning meat and dairy production are using generalisations regarding the environmental footprint of farming, and are not taking New Zealand’s superior farming systems into consideration.

Globally, the concerns around red meat production stems from the intensive feedlot industry that can house tens of thousands of animals at each site, and require excessive amounts of water and grain to maintain their systems.

New Zealand farms are overwhelmingly pasture based. Our farming systems are not comparable in the least to a feedlot system.

It’s neither fair, nor accurate,to paint us with the brush that tars far less efficient producers in other countries.

It’s telling that we can produce enough food to feed 40 million people globally and are still the most carbon efficient producer in the world based on output of food compared to emissions produced.

A glass of New Zealand milk can be shipped to the next most efficient country (Ireland) to be consumed there, and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

This shows how ahead of the curve we really are. The UK Guardian responded to the recent climate change report by declaring – ‘Eat more NZ Lamb’. This seems to be lost in the ninth floor of the Beehive. . . 

New Zealand is at the forefront of efficient food production, and therefore if we’re to lower our global emissions we should be leading the way, not constraining ourselves and diminishing our output.

The world needs more food produced efficiently as we do it, not less.

One final reality check – 56 per cent of New Zealand’s exports are food.

New Zealand is a little country at the bottom of the world that needs to produce stuff to survive.

Every time we buy pharmaceuticals, cars or computers from the rest of the world we need to pay for it by selling them something. As a country with a small population but a large natural resource base, this tends to be food and materials, minerals or tourism.

This is a very important point that those who pull farming down miss. Farming isn’t something farmers do for their own sakes. They do it to produce the food the world wants and pays for which in turn pays for the imports we don’t, and often can’t, produce ourselves.

This Government has already shown a recklessness when it comes to our oil, gas and mining sectors.

Let’s not allow them to take the same approach to our farmers. Our standard of living depends on it.

A Labour government led us into the ag-sag of the 1980s. Some might argue about the way forcing us to face the real world without subsidies was done, but no good farmer wants them back because farming, and New Zealand are better without them.

That can’t be said about the current poor policies.  Farmers are deeply afraid that the anti-farming policies of this Labour-led government will create another ag-sag, the effects of which will be harsher and far longer-lasting than last century’s.

Anyone who thinks that’s okay should remember that most farmers managed to hang onto their farms during the ag-sag, it was the businesses which serviced and supplied them where jobs were lost and which often failed. The impact of that moved from the country to towns and then cities.

Farming is a handy scapegoat for people taking a political and bureaucratic response to environmental challenges rather than a scientific one but it’s still a major contributor to New Zealand’s economic and social fabric.

That’s why Proud To Be A Farmer was set up a few years ago:

[It]is a campaign aimed at raising the positive profile of agriculture, raising the morale of Farmers and reminding the rural community and the agriculture sector, and indeed New Zealand as a whole, that we have much to be proud of in the Farming industry. We tell the good stories of New Zealand Agriculture, providing much needed balance, and inspiring people to take Pride in their Farms and Farmers.

More recently, Ag Proud NZ was set up on Facebook to focus on good farming practices and the mental health of farmers.

Yesterday Jesse Mulligan interviewed the managing director of AGFIRST, James Allen, on the rising costs of farming .

In response to a question on what people could do to help, he said hug a farmer.

The vast majority of New Zealanders probably don’t know any farmers well enough to hug them, but all should look behind the emotion and false claims that are damning the industry and as Muller says, move from condemnation to celebration.

 

 


Rural round-up

July 24, 2019

No way yet to measure emissions – Neal Wallace:

It is impossible to measure greenhouse gas emissions on individual farms and it appears modelling will be used to calculate tax bills when farm-level obligations are imposed from 2025.

Scientists are still working to develop technology and systems but earlier this year AgFirst economist Phil Journeaux and AgResearch scientist Cecile de Klein delivered a paper to New Zealand Agricultural Climate Change Conference saying it is impossible to measure farm level emissions.

The Interim Climate Change Committee and the Government both say farmers should pay for emissions from 2025 but the development of simple, cheap and credible technology to calculate those obligations still seems far off. . . 

Climate change – how can five per cent be a pass rate for farmers emissions deal? – Mike Hosking:

If talk was hot air then this Government would need to be part of the Emissions Trading Scheme and being paying large penalties for destroying the planet.

The deal has been struck, sort of, whereby agriculture gets dragged into our Emissions Trading Scheme. That’s the good news, if you think making business more expensive by piling on more costs is good news.

The rest of the news is that farmers will escape paying 95 per cent of the charges, which means they will pay, for example, 0.01 cents per kilo of milk solids. In other words having them in isn’t a lot different to not having them in, if in fact what you want to do is achieve something as opposed to making a lot of noise about it. . . 

Collective impact: how working together benefits the environment– Agrigate:

‘What are you doing!?’ Trish exclaimed to friends who failed to put bottles in the recycling bin at a dinner party she was hosting. This was the lightbulb moment which kickstarted her passion for change – to educate farmers on the importance of working together, to create a better environment.

South Taranaki farmer, Trish Rankin, was recently named the 2019 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year. This award is significant, as it recognises the work she is doing beyond her own farm gate to make an impact in the wider industry.

Trish is not afraid to take on a challenge. She’s completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme, focusing on how a circular economy model can be extended to New Zealand dairy farms – all while juggling her roles as mother, farm assistant and CEO, teacher and Chair of the Taranaki Dairy Enviro Leader Group. . .

Mycoplasma bovis Biosecurity Response Levy set for dairy farmers:

This week, dairy farmers nationwide will receive information from DairyNZ about the Biosecurity Response Levy being set at 2.9 cents per kilogram of milksolids for the 2019-20 year. The levy will be collected by dairy supply companies from 1 September 2019.

“We consulted with our farmers earlier this year about increasing the biosecurity response levy cap to 3.9c/kg milksolids in order to pay our share of the M. bovis response,” says DairyNZ Chief Executive, Dr Tim Mackle.  We listened to the feedback our farmers gave us and made sure there was a strong farmer voice around the table.

“The 2.9c/kg milksolids is obviously less that than the 3.9c/kg milksolids cap we put in place. This reflects our conversations with farmers, plus the work we’ve been doing with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to develop the terms of payback in the operational agreement we have negotiated. . . 

Survey reveals our appetite for eating insects:

When it comes to eating insects, New Zealanders like them crunchy and if given a choice would opt to eat a black field cricket before other creepy-crawlies, according to a new AgResearch report that explores the nation’s appetite for insects.

The Crown Research Institute surveyed 1300 New Zealanders to assess which native insects respondents would be most likely to consume to test the market potential for each insect as a product. The survey found participants are more likely to eat – given the choice – black field cricket nymphs and locust nymphs, followed by mānuka beetle and then huhu beetle grubs.

For the record, participants said they would least like to consume porina caterpillars and wax moth larvae, which suggests we are more open to eating “crunchier” insects, as opposed to the softer “squishier” insects, reinforcing that texture is an important factor influencing decisions to consume insects. . . 

Grasslands more reliable carbon sinks than trees – Kat Kerlin:

Forests have long served as a critical carbon sink, consuming about a quarter of the carbon dioxide pollution produced by humans worldwide. But decades of fire suppression, warming temperatures and drought have increased wildfire risks — turning California’s forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources.

A study from the University of California, Davis, found that grasslands and rangelands are more resilient carbon sinks than forests in 21st century California. As such, the study indicates they should be given opportunities in the state’s cap-and-and trade market, which is designed to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. . .


Rural round-up

June 10, 2019

Tell your story don’t dump data – Annette Scott:

Farm environment plans, while not yet mandatory, offer a unique opportunity for the high country, AgFirst environmental consultant Erica van Reenen says.

Talking to the high country farmers’ conference in Blenheim van Reenen acknowledged they are challenged with climate and market vulnerability.

They are also challenged to get up with the game and communicate in the same space as their urban counterparts.

That means telling their farming stories where urban people tell their stories – in social media circles.   . . 

Adrian and Pauline Ball of Dennley Farms from Waikato Announced as new National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing:

Adrian and Pauline Ball, owners and operators of Dennley Farms Ltd, are the new National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing and the recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

The announcement was made at tonight’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards National Sustainability Showcase at Claudelands in Hamilton. The Ballance Farm Environment Awards celebrate and promote sustainable farming and growing practices.

Dennley Farms’ strong environmental, social and economic sustainability was a stand-out for the National Judging Panel. The business’ tagline is ‘creating value inside the farm gate,’ and the farm team is active in the creation of meaningful industry change and driven to improve consumer perception of the sector. . .

Grass-fed message won’t sell NZ products but health benefits could – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s “clean, green, grass-fed” message isn’t unique and exporters should instead focus on the nutritional benefits of their food products, Andy Elliot says.

Elliot spent much of last year studying the business models of New Zealand producers and exporters as part of the Nuffield agricultural scholarship programme.

He says that in order to get more value from existing production, the country needs to find a way to stand out in the increasingly competitive global market. . . 

Wool bonanza – Annette Scott:

Increased international demand for fine wool is putting Kiwi wool within reach of becoming a $2 billion industry.

New Zealand Merino Company chief executive John Brakenridge said if half NZ’s crossbred wool clip shifts into higher-value fine wool contracts the economic upside will be as high as $2b.

Increased international demand for fine wool could spell profit for sheep farmers with wool giving kiwifruit and wine a real run for their money in terms of exports, he said.

There is a future in wool for farmers and for NZ, he said.

“Which is great news for fine wool producers and farmers considering transitioning into it.” . . 

NZ grower the first to use compostable stickers on its apples :

A Hawke’s Bay apple grower says it is the first in the Southern Hemisphere to use compostable stickers on its apples.

The organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, planned to roll out more compostable stickers next year after a successful trial.

The new sticker meets regulations for direct food contact and breaks down when put in an industrial compost, according to the company’s organic supply manager Heidi Stiefel.

Ms Stiefel said they supplied apples labelled with those stickers to a European customer and some New Zealand supermarkets this year. . . 

Carbon neutral livestock production — consumers want it and farmers say it is achievable – Angus Verley, Aneeta Bhole, Tyne Logan and Lydia Burton:

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) believes a zero carbon footprint nationally — considered by some the holy grail for the red meat industry — is possible by 2030.

It is a target that has the backing of some of the industry’s leading farmers, and the demand for projects is on the rise.

Climate Friendly, a carbon farming project developer, said the policy was a “hotbed of action”. . . 


Rural round-up

January 9, 2019

Chucks empire lays golden egg – Bryan Gibson:

For many in business 1987 was a bad year but for Max Bryant it was the beginning of something special.

Under pressure from the bank over a kiwifruit development that hadn’t panned out Bryant decided to build a chicken shed at home in Halcombe, the small Manawatu settlement where he lived.

Thirty years later he has sold the company, Proten, for $400 million.

Bryant estimates about $60m of that will stay with shareholders in the district, who were ground-floor investors.

He admits Proten has come a long way since that first shed was built out the back. . . 

A new wave of stress relief – Luke Chivers:

The Gisborne farming community is testing the waters this summer and seeing how surfing can be used as a way to let off steam.

Staff at AgFirst have created a programme dubbed Surfing for Farmers to help rural communities reduce stress and it works, AgFirst consultant and programme founder Stephen Thomson said.

“When you get off the farm and into the water it’s like taking a plunge into another world.

“For an hour or two you forget about everything else.” . . 

It’s time to look at soil health – Dr Han Eerens:

Spare a thought for soil — arguably our most underappreciated natural resource.

Globally, 95% of the food we consume comes from the earth. Soil serves as the earth’s largest natural water filter helping supply the world with fresh, clean water. Additionally, one-quarter of the world’s biodiversity — including millions of microbes which are key to the success of today’s antibiotics — are found in soil. Yet despite all this our soil is being destroyed at a rapid rate. . . 

Mycoplasma bovis eradication is far from done and dusted – Keith Woodford:

There is a widespread belief in both the rural and urban communities that Mycoplasma bovis is well on the way to being eradicated from New Zealand. My response here is that there is a still a long way to travel before any declarations of success are appropriate.

In December, Prime Minister Ardern, no doubt choosing her words carefully and based on official advice, talked of ‘substantial progress’.  However, the broader tone of both MPI and DairyNZ messaging has led to parts of the media and then the general public taking a further step and concluding that the battle is almost over. . . .

A career in dairy might be more different than you think

Fonterra Chief Operating Officer of Farm Source and Global Operations, Robert Spurway, says a career in dairy doesn’t necessarily mean milking cows.

According to Primary ITO chief executive Dr. Linda Sissons, one in five applicants for their new dairy apprenticeship programme are from Auckland. The programme, in partnership with Federated Farmers, is responding to the need for an estimated 17, 000 new workers by 2025. It will encourage more smart, innovative and ambitious people – including those from urban centres – to consider a career on a dairy farm.

This is great news because with increasing animal welfare, environment, and compliance requirements, number 8 wire will only go so far. Today, our farmers need to be everything from agronomists, environmental scientists, veterinarians to high-tech experts. . . .

New Wanaka A&P Show campaign explores what it means to be “local”:

The Wanaka A&P Show today launches a timely campaign about the sense of community and what it means to be a local in Wanaka.

The ‘Call Me Local’ campaign is a tongue-in-cheek inquiry into the tricky question of ‘how long does a person have to live in Wanaka before they’re considered a local?’

Correspondingly, Wanaka is experiencing significant growth, development and change – leading residents to prioritise the sense of ‘community’ even more. The Wanaka A&P Show campaign acknowledges this to remind people about the importance of being part of a community. . . .


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