Rural round-up

August 17, 2017

Labour’s knee-jerk ‘clean our rivers’ call needs details so it doesn’t look like a rural-to-urban wealth transfer in the sheep’s clothing of a freshwater policy; On the principles of royalties; And why aren’t we talking nitrates? – Alex Tarrant:

Labour’s water policy announcement had some of the desired effect. “Labour promises to make commercial water bottlers pay,” one major news outlet headlined.

Some coverage even got excited that Labour would get unemployed youth to plant trees and build fences around waterways to ‘help’ the farmers out.

I’ll get that out of the way first, because as Jordan Luck once said, it’s been bugging me: If you can get someone to the skill level required to build stock fences on rural terrain then you’re more than halfway to training up a fully-fledged farmer. That’s no bad thing, given an ageing farming workforce and shortage of labour. . . 

Alarming lack of detail in Labour’s water charge – Andrew Curtis:

Labour’s announcement of a tax water will hit not just the dairy industry but is bad news for all New Zealanders. Labour won’t be drawn on how much the tax would cost. Apparently it may vary by region based on the scarcity and quality of water. And no assessment has been made of how it would affect the average Kiwi.

However, if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it is that like all taxes, it is not actually a tax on the supplier of goods, because like all taxes it will be passed on to the consumer. In the same way that businesses factor in the costs of paying company tax and GST on goods they use, we will all end up paying.

There is an alarming lack of detail around what has been announced. It can hardly be called a policy, or a plan, because all we have to go on is a one page press release. Calls to the Labour Party headquarters asking for more details were fruitless. . .

‘Let’s answer this’ – questions mounting as New Zealanders demand answers on water tax:

‘Let’s Answer This’, a campaign to get key questions on Labour’s proposed water tax answered is gathering momentum – while the fundamentals remain unclear.

The questions were sent to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern on Friday 11th August by non profit membership organisation Irrigation New Zealand asking for a confirmed response in writing.

The organisation was prompted to act after a one page statement issued by Jacinda Ardern announcing the water tax provided very little detail on what the tax would involve. Key questions that have not been addressed include the impact of the tax on ordinary New Zealanders, what it will cost, who it will apply to and how it might be implemented. . .

Five-star treatment for NZ venison – Lynda Gray:

Venison processor Mountain River is slowly but surely growing Chinese appetites for Kiwi venison through five-star Western hotels restaurants.

At face value the strategy seems illogical but it made perfect sense given most of the diners were Chinese.

“If you’re a high-end Western restaurant and not targeting Chinese diners you won’t survive,” Hunter McGregor, a Shanghai-based importer and exporter said. . .

Dairy processors compete for milk – Sally Rae:

More cautious investment over the next five years is likely as New Zealand dairy processors struggle to fill existing and planned capacity, Rabobank dairy analyst Emma Higgins says.

While capital expenditure in new processing assets stepped up between 2013 and 2015, capacity construction had run ahead of recent milk supply growth and appeared to factor in stronger growth than Rabobank expected.

In a new industry report, Ms Higgins said milk supply had stumbled over the past couple of production seasons and, while the 2017-18 season was likely to bring a spike in production of 2%-3%, the bank expected growth to slow to or below 2% for the following four years. . . 

NZ innovation makes mastitis treatment easier:

· Penethaject formulation a world first

· Locally developed in New Zealand

· Effective treatment of mastitis in dairy cows

A new ready to use antibiotic formulation for treating mastitis that took seven years to develop, register and launch is now available for New Zealand dairy farmers.

Penethaject™ RTU (ready to use) has a unique formulation that requires no pre-mixing. It’s the first time such a formulation has been developed anywhere in the world.

Bayer dairy veterinarian Dr Ray Castle says Penethaject RTU will make it easier for farmers to effectively treat clinical mastitis, a condition affecting 10% – 20% of New Zealand’s 5 million dairy cows every year. . . 

To fit into Silicon Valley wear these shoes – Nellie Bowles:

 Silicon Valley goes through its own unique shoe crazes. There were Vibrams. There were Crocs.

Now comes the Allbird, a knit wool loafer. In uncomfortable times, Silicon Valley has turned to a comfortable shoe. If there’s a venture capitalist nearby, there’s probably a pair of Allbirds, too.

The Google co-founder Larry Page wears Allbirds, according to the shoemaker, as do the former Twitter chief Dick Costolo and the venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker.

Founded by a New Zealand soccer star and a clean-technology entrepreneur, Allbirds makes the sneakerlike shoes from wool and castor bean oil. . .

 


Rural round-up

August 14, 2017

“Parallel Parker” Needs to Do A Better Job of Lining Up Labour’s Water Policy:

Federated Farmers wants Labour to honour the commitment it made to only look at charging overseas-owned water bottlers and to permanently park its discriminatory tax on water that will divide communities and undermine regional economies.

On 21 June this year, then Labour leader Andrew Little told the Federated Farmers national conference, in front of the media, that they were not going to tax water across the board – just look at water bottling. When news reports on this started to come out, Labour changed its tune.

At the beginning of this week Mr Parker was telling us it would apply to “large commercial users”, but now, and the end of the week, we hear it won’t apply to the very large companies putting water in bottled products right now in central Auckland. . . 

Labour could have knocked the water debate out of the park; But the economics of its royalties policy just don’t work; Let’s hope they get some nationalistic headlines out of it before questions are asked – Alex Tarrant:

Labour this election had the opportunity to knock the water pricing debate out of the park. Jacinda Ardern’s announcement Wednesday was instead a nod to politics over policy.

On the face it, the headline announcement that all commercial water users would be charged based on usage was a welcome addition to the water allocation and pricing debate in New Zealand this year.

But going beneath the surface throws up more questions than answers. These mainly stem from the policy’s central theme of different royalty rates applying to different water users, and depending on the quality of water used.

I made my views clear on this issue back in March. Let’s have a proper water pricing debate that encompasses all water use. We also need clarification on who owns water before we go about charging for it. . . 

Govt sets out path to better freshwater:

The Government’s new National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater Management will deliver cleaner lakes and rivers with ambitious new targets for improving their recreational and ecological health, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The new policy confirms the Government’s national target of 90 per cent of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040. The policy has been strengthened following consultation by requiring regional councils to set regional targets and regularly reporting on achieving these. This ambitious plan will require 1000km of waterways be improved to a higher grading each year. It is being supported by new national environmental regulations governing activities like fencing stock out of waterways and forestry. . . 

Farmers welcome support to improve environment:

The Government’s announcement of $44 million to support freshwater improvement projects is welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor says that over the past two years, in particular, the organisation has responded to farmer demand for support in the environment space. “Through this work, we’ve identified that – while farmers want to take action – knowing where to start and what to prioritise can be a barrier.

“This government funding is timely and will help us better support farmers to deliver on their water quality ambitions.” . . 

California crops rot as immigration crackdown creates farm worker shortage – Chris Morris:

Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.

Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News.

The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage. The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here. . .

Collaboration essential for sustainable dairy farming:

If a future in sustainable farming is to be achieved in the coming years, companies in both the private and public sector need to be working both faster and more collaboratively, says dairy farm investment company Fortuna Group.

Southland-based Fortuna Group, along with Dairy Green, are the innovators at the forefront of New Zealand’s methane recovery system.

While there are other methane recovery plants in New Zealand, the partnership’s plant at Glenarlea Farms in Otautau is the only one that is consistently and reliably generating electricity from methane.  . . 

Lower fruit prices bittersweet due to high vegetable prices:

Fruit prices fell 5.2 percent in July 2017, contributing to a 0.2 percent fall in food prices, Stats NZ said today.

Cheaper avocados and strawberries led the fall in fruit prices in July. Avocado prices fell 29 percent in July, coming off a near-record high in June, and strawberry prices fell 23 percent. The average price for a 250g punnet of strawberries was $5.92 in July 2017, compared with $7.71 in June.

“Strawberries are unseasonably cheap for this time of year,” consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh said. “They typically reach their lowest price in December, but are currently dropping in price due to more imports from Australia.” . . 

NZ wool sale volumes rise at double auction across North, South islands  – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – A higher volume of wool was sold at auction in New Zealand this week after organisers skipped a week and held a double auction across both islands.

Some 80 percent of the 15,054 wool bales offered at auctions in Napier in the North Island and Christchurch in the South Island were sold yesterday, AgriHQ said. That’s ahead of the 72 percent clearance rate for the 2016/17 season which ended June 30, and the average 77 percent rate for the first six weeks of the current season. . . .

Sanity prevails over proposed animal manure imports says Feds:

Sanity based on sound science has prevailed says Federated Farmers after the Government confirmed it would no longer be permitting imports of products containing animal manure.

The decision follows a Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) investigation which discovered imported compost from the Netherlands, intended for mushroom growing, contained animal manure.

“This is the right decision and we are glad the Government has taken this step. Federated Farmers made a strong submission earlier in the year against these imports,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson. . . 

Synlait Invests in Category Management to Target Growth:

Synlait Milk is investing in category management capability to support increased business development in existing and new categories.

“Building discipline in category management is a crucial step in our pursuit of profitable, and sustainable, growth opportunities,” says John Penno, Synlait’s Managing Director and CEO.

“We’re here to make the most from milk. Category management will allow us to continue planning our growth into the most profitable categories, products and customers, and to monitor our progress against those plans.” . . 

Fonterra hailed as top NZ co-op:

Fonterra has been judged New Zealand’s top co-operative business of the year, and praised for a “stunning financial turnaround, generous social responsibility programmes and a high profile campaign proudly proclaiming its Kiwi farmer-owned, co-operative status”. 

The sector’s peak body Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ) made the award at a function in Auckland last night.

Shareholders’ Council Chair Duncan Coull, who collected the award, says our farmers should take real pride in this special recognition for their co-op.

“Our farmer shareholders set themselves high standards, and it’s their daily hard work and commitment that drives the success of the co-op. I also want to recognise the energy and contribution of our staff in helping build a co-op that returns such value to shareholders, local communities and the New Zealand economy.”  . . 


Rural round-up

April 21, 2012

Crafar decision imposes defacto tax on foreigners says lawyer – Rob Hosking:

There is still a higher hurdle for foreigners buying New Zealand land after today’s decision, says Wellington lawyer Mark Ford.

The decision by ministers to approve the deal for Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin to buy the 7892 hectare, 16 Crafar Farms properties is accompanied by a series of conditions . . .

Good riddance baby boomers; Why the sale of the Crafar Farms to the Chinese serves you right, from generation Y – Alex Tarrant:

I’ve been asked to pen my thoughts as a Gen-Yer over the sale of the Crafar Farms to a Chinese company

Well, I have to say, I’m actually loving watching and hearing our Baby Boomer politicians, media commentators, and talkback hosts getting all up in arms over it.

What a travesty, they all argue, the way we sell to the highest foreign bidder. These farms shouldn’t be allowed to be sold overseas. Kiwis can’t compete with the vast hordes of cash foreigners have.

First of all, I don’t buy that. If a Kiwi investor, or a group of Kiwis, believed it was economical enough to pay what Pengxin’s offering for those 16 run-down farms, I’m sure they would have found the money.

We supposedly know about farming here. We supposedly know the economics behind it. We supposedly know the business models.

The fact no Kiwi bidder put up over NZ$210 million for the farms should be a sign that Pengxin is paying way too much for them. So good luck trying to turn it into an economic business. Let them pick up the pieces for a failed piece of lending by Westpac and Rabobank. . .

From socialite to sheep farmer:

It is an extraordinary landscape – one of this country’s iconic high country  stations and it is up for sale.

For the last eight years Canterbury’s Castle Hill has been owned by Christine  Fernyhough – the one time darling of the Auckland social scene and now a  successful sheep farmer. . .

Video here.

Legendary farming education centre for sale:

A pioneering rural education institution that taught thousands of young New Zealanders the rudimentary skills of farming has been placed on the marked for sale.

Flock House near Bulls in the Manawatu was founded in 1924 and was initially used to accommodate and train the sons of British Naval personnel who died during World War One.

In 1947 the school was opened to young New Zealand boy aged between 14 – 18 years of age wishing to gain an education in farming. The introduction of a ‘full fee’ structure in the 1980s led to a dramatic fall in student numbers, and in 1988 the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries which administered Flock House, closed the centre. . .

Little impact on farmers from latest strike:

Affco says the latest strike action from the Meat Workers Union will have little impact on farmers sending stock for processing.

The latest strike began at 5:00am this morning. The week-long strike is the 16th by the union since negotiations over a collective agreement started in December.

Affco Operations Director, Rowan Ogg said all of Affco’s plants are fully operational with the majority of Affco’s staff not impacted by the dispute and many union members had chosen not to strike. “Good conditions through summer and autumn also mean there is no shortage of feed giving farmers more flexibility in when they send stock away.” . .

Last call for applications for 2012 farm managers’ programme:

Applications are to close at the end of this month for young farmers to join this year’s Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a course specifically designed to strengthen the operational and strategic management skills of emerging farm leaders.

The program, now in its seventh year, is open to all progressive young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia from a range of agricultural commodities. .


Act in haste . . .

March 13, 2012

Labour leader David Shearer had to make his mark in his Q&A interview on Sunday but he’s done it for the wrong reasons.

His proposed changes to the law on foreign ownership were a rushed response to the xenophobic reaction to the sale of the Crafar farms, so rushed it has some glaring errors.

Alex Tarrant pointed out yesterday that the media release gave the proposed Bill two different names and also:

In the rush to get this Bill written before Shearer appeared on Q&A on Sunday, you managed to indicate that you would repeal all environmental, heritage, conservation and walking access requirements on foreign landowners for Ministers when making their decisions.

Now I know you didn’t mean to do this – you told me so this morning – but if you’re going to go on national television and announce you’re presenting a member’s Bill to change one of this country’s laws, then I for one would be hoping you’ve given it serious consideration, had a few people look over it, and had another look at the actual legislation to figure out what you’ll be repealing.

Today Derek Cheng says:

The present law lists a number of factors ministers can consider in determining whether the bid would bring “substantial and identifiable” benefit to New Zealand. Among the factors are protection for native flora and fauna, heritage and cultural sites, and wildlife and walking access.

But Mr Shearer’s bill would wipe these factors completely, effectively meaning an application that ticked the box for more exports but destroyed the environment could get the green light.

He said yesterday there was never any intention to remove environmental protections. “And there may in fact be other issues raised at select committee that we would end up including in the bill too.

Of course there wasn’t any intention to remove these protections but mistakes like this look sloppy. They take attention from the proposal to yet another example of Labour looking like a poorly performing opposition rather than a government in waiting.

When you act in haste you get time to repent at leisure.


Stats Dept is squeaky clean UPDATED

November 9, 2011

Labour’s building and construction spokesperson Phil Twyford didn’t like the message so he attacked the messenger:

If any government department must be squeaky clean in terms of political neutrality at all times, it should be Statistics New Zealand, says Labour’s Building and Construction spokesperson Phil Twyford. . .

“There was a large slump in consents in September this year compared to September last year —- seasonally adjusted figures fell 17 per cent, including apartments, and fell 14 per cent when apartments are excluded — but the headline on the Statistics NZ press release read: Trends for new home approvals continue to rise.

Talk about spin!” Phil Twyford said. “Stats NZ’s enthusiasm could perhaps be excused in less partisan times, but during an election period when National is patting itself on the back for doing as good a job as anyone could in terms of keeping the economy ticking over, it is impossible not to see a lack of neutrality in the department’s media release. . .

Statistics New Zealand’s chief executive, Geoff Bascand, understandably took exception to this slur on the department’s neutrality:

As Government Statistician, I am fiercely protective of my statutory independence in the production and release of statistics.

Statistics New Zealand takes its responsibility seriously to explain and present statistics in a meaningful and accurate way.

Phil Twyford MP has questioned our choice to highlight the trend series of statistics in our 31 October release of Building Consents Issued: September 2011.

In this case, volatility over the past months meant that in our judgement, the trend series provided the most useful indicator of movements in building activity.

We also reported the seasonally adjusted series within the first paragraph of our media statement and our more detailed information release included the actual monthly number of building consents.

Statistics New Zealand has an obligation to release objective statistics. We will continue to do this at all times.

Phil needs to take a chill pill if a headline in a media release is sufficient to raise his ire.

If he was more interested in the truth than creating his own headlines he would have contacted Mr Bascand before making the serious accusation that the department was breaching public service neutrality.

The department is squeaky clean, its accuser is just squeaking.

UPDATE:

He’s not just wrong on the neutrality, he’s wrong on the stats.

Matt at The Visible Hand In Economics and Alex Tarrant at Interest.co.nz both point out Twford has misunderstood the data.


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