Rural round-up

September 16, 2019

Farmers despair :

Rising stress levels among farmers struggling to digest a deluge of regulatory changes while weathering constant attacks by critics, have community leaders worried.

BakerAg director Chris Garland says morale is as low as he has ever known it and he is seeing experienced, stoic farmers burst into tears, worn down by constant public attacks on the industry while trying to comprehend the impact of new rules.

He is worried about the mental wellbeing of farmers, a view shared by the heads of several rural support trusts.

Rural Support’s national chairman Neil Bateup says demand for help in his region of Waikato has increased. . . 

The increasingly uncompromising Todd Muller – Alex Braae:

National’s new agriculture spokesperson finds himself in one of the party’s most important portfolios, at a time of dramatically increasing tensions in the sector. Will Todd Muller, a man regularly mentioned as a future leader contender, find common ground?

Todd Muller’s obsession with politics began with an American encyclopaedia, which his parents bought from a door to door salesman in 1979. 

The long biographies of US presidents jumped out at him. He copied their signatures, and drew pictures of them. In time, Muller even came to write a book about his future political dreams. 

“The short synopsis is that I go to America when I’m about 21, I become the vice-president of the United States when I’m 28, and then of course some tragedy befalls the president, and I become the president. And I serve as the United States president for 13 consecutive terms.”  . . 

Data and science do the work – Neal Wallace:

The topography of The Ranch in south Otago is steep to rolling hill country but it is managed and performs like an intensive breeding and finishing farm. Farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson tell Neal Wallace much of the performance comes down to decisions based on science and data.

The impact of data on agriculture has been reckoned to be comparable to that of fertiliser.

The challenge is to decipher that volume of data about farm performance and parameters into a workable form and that is where south Otago farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson have an ace up their sleeve.

The farm is owned by Canterbury-born Lincoln University-trained lecturer and plant physiologist Dr David Ivory who has spent about 30 years working for the United Nations on sustainable agricultural programmes around the world and his wife Wichanee. . . 

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. . . 

Sheep water ban stuns farmers – Colin Williscroft:

Farmers have been broadsided by a rule in a proposed regional council plan that will cost some of them $1 million each.

Greater Wellington Regional Council’s proposed Natural Resources Plan includes sheep among stock to be excluded from waterways throughout the region, including hill country, a rule neither farmers nor the council saw coming.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham said the rule was not raised during the plan’s hearings process.

But the proposal is unworkable. . . 

Launch of the New Zealand Agritech Story:

New Zealand has a new story to tell, one that highlights the nation’s ingenuity, development of cutting-edge technology, and care for its people and place.

The New Zealand Agritech Story provides a compelling way of promoting New Zealand’s agricultural technology internationally, to build awareness and preference for New Zealand solutions and ultimately help more New Zealand agritech businesses succeed on the world stage.

The NZ Agritech Story, launched today, includes a comprehensive suite of free promotional materials that highlight New Zealand’s leading edge in the sector.

Peter Wren-Hilton, the executive director of Agritech New Zealand, said the story would make a key difference for export companies. . . 

Brazil’s fires and biofuels – Jim Steele:

From leaf cutting ants that cultivate fungus gardens to flowers that fool potential pollinating insects into having sex, the magic of rainforest ecology always inspired my love for nature’s creativity. So, it’s no surprise that any and every report of burning rainforests would rally deep concerns across the globe. Nonetheless I am disturbed by dishonest gloom and doom regards recent Amazon fires. NASA reports since 2003 the square kilometers of forest burned each year has dropped by roughly 25 percent. But such good news doesn’t get headlines.

Although the NY Times wrote the fires have no climate connection, meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who writes numerous catastrophic climate articles for Slate and the New York Times, suggested the fires show, “We are in a climate emergency”. As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years, but Holthaus dishonestly tweeted, “The current fires are without precedent in the past 20,000 years.”

To heighten global hysteria, French president Macron and actor Leonardo deCaprio, tweeted photographs of forest infernos. But those photos were taken 20 years ago. Likewise, Madonna tweeted wildfire photos taken 30 years ago, and others tweeted flaming photos from regions far from the Amazon.

Activist vegetarians denounced meat-eaters for deforestation, arguing forests are burnt to create pastures for cattle. But they failed to mention pastures previously created for grazing without deforestation, are now being usurped by biofuel cultivation. Indirectly, it’s the biofuel fad that has driven cattle grazers to carve out new pastures in the rain forests. . . 


Rural Round-up

June 17, 2019

ANZ’s rural manager questions capital call – Richard Rennie:

It is a case of when rather than if banks will have to increase their capital reserves against loans and rural customers will end up paying, ANZ commercial and agricultural manager Mark Hiddleston says.

Late last year the Reserve Bank said it wants banks to increase the amount of capital held as security against loans, with weighted capital increases likely to be greater for riskier parts of banks’ lending. 

That prompted fears the dairy and construction sectors in particular could wear the brunt of the higher capital requirements through higher interest rates. . .

Community a priority for environmental winners – Nigel Malthus:

Staying in touch with their community is a priority for the 2019 Canterbury regional Ballance Farm Environmental Award winners, Duncan and Tina Mackintosh.

The Mackintoshes own and run White Rock Mains farm, a 1056ha sheep and dairy support property nestled against the hills at North Loburn, near Rangiora.

Their recent winner’s field day featured presentations from the local North Loburn Primary School, which has partnered with the Mackintoshes on Garden to Table and Predator-Free programmes.

Cattle culls don’t rely on tests – Annette Scott:

Herds with cattle bought from properties confirmed as being infected with Mycoplasma bovis will be culled, regardless of test results, Primary Industries Ministry chief science adviser John Roche says.

More efficient testing is in the pipelines but it’s several years away.

In the meantime any herds containing cattle from properties confirmed as infected will be considered extremely high risk and will also be culled, Roche said.

Tests being used are adequate to determine the need to cull infected and extremely high risk animals.  . .

Climate change and the rural way of life – Alex Braae:

The government’s environmental policy is creating major tensions in farming communities. Alex Braae went to a meeting in Taumarunui to see it play out. 

“We’ve got to get the government’s attention somehow. Okay, we’re not all going to jump on our tractors and drive to Wellington. But we could jump on our tractors and block all the roads for a day and a half, just to get them to listen.”

The comment came from the floor, at a public meeting on carbon farming being held at the Taumarunui Golf Club. It was a rainy day, which meant farmers had some free time. The room was packed and fearful. In question was the future of their town, their district and their way of life.

A while ago, some farmers started talking about the ‘triple bottom line’ – economic, environmental and social. They started assessing themselves on not only how much money could be brought in, but how the farm contributed to the wider community and ecosystem. It’s a concept borrowed from the world of corporate sustainability, and has parallels in the long term view of what farming should be about. Obviously, the performance of the farming world has been mixed on all three, particularly the environmental bottom line, but the mindset is changing.. . 

One billion trees snag? Bay of Plenty, Taupō face ‘drastic’ shortage of planters – Samantha Olley:

The Government wants one billion trees planted across the country by 2028. It has allocated $120 million for grants for landowners to plant new areas and $58m to set up Te Uru Rākau forestry service premises in Rotorua. Across the country, 80m trees are expected to be planted this season. However, Bay of Plenty and Taupō contractors are facing an uphill battle to get trees in the ground. Reporter Sam Olley investigates.

CNI Forest Management has 100 planters working in the wider Bay of Plenty and Taupō this season but it’s not enough and the company is struggling to find workers now more than ever before.

Director Stewart Hyde told the Rotorua Daily Post the company started recruiting six weeks before the start of May when planting began, but “we just can’t get enough people”.

“It’s having a drastic effect.” . . 

How to restore depleted soils with cattle – Heather Smith Thomas:

Michael Thiele’s mission today is to acquaint more farmers and ranchers with a holistic view of agriculture.

Thiele grew up on a farm west of Dauphin, Man., just north of Riding Mountain National Park. His father had a small grain farm and a few cows.

“We were busy trying to farm and make a living and like all the other farmers around us, we were creating a monoculture of grain crops — mostly wheat, canola, oats and barley,” says Thiele.

“When I went to university, I thought soil was simply dirt,” he says. People didn’t realize how alive soil is, teeming with life and activity, and how much we depend on a healthy soil system. Now Thiele is trying to help producers understand that the way we farmed created unhealthy soil. . . 

 


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