Rural round-up

March 2, 2020

Global study to benchmark farms – Annette Scott:

A global study of regenerative agriculture is under way to identify chances to extract more value from sheep and beef exports.

Beef + Lamb is doing the study to understand the similarities and difference of regenerative agriculture to NZ farming practices.

The study will look at the opportunities for farmers and include a global consumer perspective to understand what potential there is for red meat exports.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said with increasing interest in regenerative agriculture here and abroad, sheep and beef farmers want to lead in that space.  . . 

The wool industry is still facing challenges – Pam Tipa:

The wool industry continues to face challenges with depressed wool prices for a third year in a row, says Primary Wool Cooperative chair Janette Osborne. 

“Combined with increased shearing and associated costs this now means a net loss on wool for many farmers,” she says in the co-op’s annual report

“We are also seeing an overall gradual decline in total wool volumes with both lambs and ewes going to the works woolly and lower grade oddments including dags being used on farm for environmental work.” . . 

Meat Businesswomen to address World Meat Conference:

Global networking group, Meat Business Women are stepping onto the world stage as they accept an invitation to speak at the World Meat Congress (WMC) in Cancun, Mexico on June 12. 

Touted as the most influential and informative event on the global meat industry calendar, the WMC brings together approximately 1,000 international delegates to discuss issues and trends affecting meat and livestock organisation which are fundamental for sector outlook. 

Meat Business Women Chair, Laura Ryan says she’s delighted with the opportunity to speak directly about the group’s goals to an audience that can instigate change.  . . 

History has a habit of repeating itself – St John Craner:

NZ Ag yet again faces a number of fronts. Plant-based food, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, coronavirus, commodity cycles and climate. Yet we have options. We can diversify our markets.

China’s coronavirus is highlighting the need for us to ensure we’re not over-reliant on one market. Maybe China is the easy option? Either way they say: “when you choose easy life can be hard, when you choose hard life can be easy”.

There are many other countries in South East Asia (49 to be precise) who want our world-class produce like India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar. These countries’ economies are predicted to grow faster than China due to their own growing middle class who are earning higher incomes.  . . 

Farm societies have common issues – Ben Hancock:

This is the fifth and final in a series of articles written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Beef + Lamb insight and strategy analyst Ben Hancock looks at the possibility of farmers generating energy while combating climate change and being easier on the environment.

Farming the world over, as much as the context, production and scale vary, shows, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After nearly six months on the road of my Nuffield journey I was struck by the similarities across continents and farming systems. 

So many of the issues we face in New Zealand can be translated to our counterparts around the world.  . . 

Elderly UK farmers should be paid to retire, says Minister :

UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice has an unusual solution to improving the environment: paying farmers to retire.

Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union’s 2020 Conference this week, Eustice said that some veteran farmers are ‘standing in the way of change’, reports The Telegraph.

He said that paying veteran farmers a lump sum would enable them to ‘retire with dignity’. . .


Rural round-up

December 19, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly – 2019 in review:

As we approach another year’s end we again highlight our annual review of 2019 in the primary sector as seen by Rural News’ editorial team.

THE GOOD

Good messaging award: Dairy Women’s Network’s new chief executive Jules Benton for her clear, confident and articulate communication of the network’s aims and aspirations, but in a real and down-to-earth manner.

Celebrating success: A lot of excellent events and conferences this year with a focus on celebrating the success of old and young people. The Massey Ag students’ dinner is a great example of this where some very smart future leaders come to the fore. The same for the Ahuwhenua Awards where Maori agri success is also celebrated in style. Feds, HortNZ and the dairy industry and others all did their bit to show NZ that the ag sector is well placed for the future.  . .

Phosphate vital, industry says – Brent Melville:

With the recent spotlight on importation of phosphate sourced in the Western Sahara into New Zealand, Brent Melville takes a closer look at the phosphate issue and why we rely on it for our food production.

Blocking  the importation of phosphate into New Zealand could have a $10 billion knock-on effect into the country’s food production and export sector, the fertiliser industry says.

The industry, dominated by the farmer co-operative duopoly of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said without access to phosphate rock, rural production would fall by “at least” 50%.

Phosphate rock is the key ingredient in the country’s production of superphosphate, used primarily as a nutrient by sheep and beef and dairy farmers to boost phosphorus and sulphur levels in the soil. . . 

Land champion: it’s hard to find time to retire – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers high country champion Bob Douglas has contributed to the smooth running of South Island high country farming businesses for 25 years but next year his visits to the back of beyond will be as a tourist. He talked to Annette Scott about his high country office.

Endless dedication to Federated Farmers high country business will come to an end for Bob Douglas in the next few weeks.

By the end of January the South Canterbury Feds stalwart will be waking each morning to a new life.

“And it will be one that will now mean when I go to the high country it will be as a tourist,” Bob said. . . 

Migrant workers worth the effort :

Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.

Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here.

Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run.

Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 . . 

Routine border checks detect unwanted fruit disease:

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland following a border detection of an unwanted fruit disease.

Biosecurity New Zealand detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on Friday of a consignment of watermelons from Queensland Australia, says Peter Thomson, Biosecurity New Zealand’s plants and pathways director.

CGMMV does not pose a risk to human health. It affects cucurbit fruit, including watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin. . . 

EPA’s Annual Report on aerial use of 1080 released:

The 2018 report on the aerial use of 1080 for pest control provides greater detail than previous years, giving more information on operations and research.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report on the aerial use of 1080 during 2018 shows a near halving of activity compared with the previous year, in terms of both the number of operations and total area treated.

There were 29 operations covering 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 50 operations across 877,000 hectares in 2017. This was due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) using less 1080, as there were no mast events in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive rat populations up, threatening native species. . . 


Rural round-up

December 11, 2019

Carbon neutrality requires permanent forests not production forests – Keith Woodford:

In recent months I have been writing about land-use transformation that will be driven increasingly by carbon trading. If New Zealand is to approach net-zero carbon, then it can only be achieved by a combination of modified lifestyles plus new technologies that either don’t yet exist or are yet to be commercialised. Even with all of these things, it will still require lots of forest plantings to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere in the economy.

A key point underlying the recent articles I have written is that the implications for rural-landscape change have been under-estimated and poorly communicated. A key thrust of this current article is that it is only by permanent forests rather than multiple-rotations of production forests that the march of the pine trees across the landscape can be managed. . .

Fonterra finds an ally – Elbow Deep:

I recently found myself in a pub with a group of people I’d only just met, and for reasons that still remain unclear found myself waxing lyrical about the myriad shortcomings of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). I was as eloquent and convincing as only a man on his fifth pint can be, and when I finally paused for breath to consider whether I’d missed any crucial points, the woman next to me fixed me with a cool stare and asked “Is that your opinion or Fonterra’s?”

Less than a week later I was online watching DIRA submissions to the Primary Production Select Committee and saw National MP Amy Adams ask Federated Farmer’s Dairy Chair Chris Lewis almost exactly the same question. Why, Adams wanted to know, should the Select Committee take any notice of a Federated Farmers submission. “I’m just trying to understand,” Adams said, “how you ensure that it isn’t effectively the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council by another name.”
Was Lewis voicing Fed’s opinion or that of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council’s?

Therein lies the problem for the Committee of MPs, how do they cut through the obviously self-serving nature of every submission and arrive at the decision of what’s best? . . 

Merino brand plan global from the start – Sally Rae:

The International Wool Textile Organisation held its Wool Round Table in Queenstown recently, 19 years since its last event in New Zealand. Since 1930, IWTO has represented the collective interests of the global wool trade. Business and rural editor Sally Rae attended one of the days.

Hamish Acland has always seen things a little differently.

That came about from the environment he grew up in — an entrepreneurial Canterbury farming family — and has been a trait that he has followed. That was particularly evident with the founding of merino clothing brand Mons Royale.

Ten years on, and Mons Royale now has 700 retail stockists globally, offices in Innsbruck, Vancouver and Wanaka and 50 staff. It has recently opened its first pop-up retail store in Rees St, Queenstown. . . 

Dairy Environment Leaders are embracing change:

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders have concluded their 7th Annual farmer-led forum in Wellington and are returning to their individual communities optimistic about the future of dairy farming and energized to drive positive change, says DEL Chairwoman Tracy Brown.

“This year’s theme was about embracing change and supporting communities’ which we strongly believe are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other” Mrs Brown said.

“Farmers are demonstrating a real willingness to embrace change, and New Zealanders need to see that willingness and support our rural communities and famers on their journey to a more sustainable future. We are all in this together and we all want the same thing at the end of the day. . . 

Big bucks to perk up farmers – Neal Wallace:

An injection of up to $9 million in 23 Southland catchment groups should also help improve the wellbeing of farmers.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the funding at a Thriving Southland function at Five Rivers in northern Southland in what is the first region-wide extension project funded by the $229m Sustainable Land Use package.

Thriving Southland chairman Ewen Mathieson says the project will help farmers reduce their environmental footprint by paying for experts to provide them with advice and guidance.

Enhancing or extending the catchment group model will also provide a social outlet for farmers that should enhance their wellness in an era when they are becoming increasingly isolated. . .

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. 

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, could inform similar carbon offset efforts around the globe, particularly those in semi-arid environments, which cover about 40 percent of the planet .. . 


Rural round-up

November 24, 2019

Canterbury farmers fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss from hailstorm – Kaysha Brownlie:

Canterbury farmers are scrambling to salvage what was spared from hail the size of eggs which pummelled Canterbury this week.

Some of them are fearing as much as an 80 percent crop loss after two severe storms battered the region.

Insurers said they’ve received hundreds of claims after the egg-sized hail and driving rain caused extensive damage. . . .

Fowl under fire for pollution – Neal Wallace:

Southland dairy farmers have become more compliant with their resource consent conditions with the rate of significant non-compliance last year falling from 1.9% to 1.8%.

In the 2018-19 year council staff inspected 783 dairy effluent discharge consents either on-site or by air and found 634 fully compliant, 139 graded as low risk or moderately non-compliant and 10, or 1.8%, as significantly non-compliant.

The previous year 922 sites were inspected, some more than twice, and 17, or 1.9%, were found to be significantly non-compliant.

The council’s regulatory committee chairman Neville Cook said the improvement shows farmers are aware of their responsibilities and are doing something about it. . . .

Landcorp subsidiary sued for hundreds of thousands by Australian sheep farmers – Gerard Hutching:

An Australian farming couple is suing Landcorp subsidiary Focus Genetics for hundreds of thousands of dollars because they cannot access their sheep genetics data.

The Wellington High Court recently conducted an urgent hearing over whether Damien and Kirsten Croser, fourth generation farmers from South Australia, could access some of the data for this season’s mating.

The urgent hearing is separate to an application to sue Focus Genetics. Originally the Crosers said they would sue for $1.9 million, but their claim has been reduced to an undisclosed sum. . .

Profitable year leaves Alliance in strong position – Brent Melville:

Alliance group has doubled profits to $20.7 million and will pay its farmer shareholders a $9 million fillip for the year to September.

The country’s largest processor and exporter of sheep and lamb products, yesterday reported turnover of $1.7 billion, largely on the back of record demand and prices from China.

Alliance chairman Murray Taggart, said the increase in profit was pleasing and reflected the co-operative’s drive to maximise operational efficiency and focus on capturing greater market value. .

 

 

Wool stains could stop processing  – Alan WIlliams:

Dye-stained wool unsuitable for scouring could be problem for years because of the high volume being stored, New Zealand Woolscouring chief executive Nigel Hales says.

“We’d only be guessing how much wool there is out there but feedback from field reps is that every motorbike they see has a can of spray on it.”

The dye stains in wool cannot be scoured out and a lot of wool is now not being scoured at all though Hales said the amount is not material given the overall volumes. . .

How Dean Foods’ bankruptcy is a ‘warning sign’ to the milk industry – Lillianna Byington:

Wrestling with debt and struggling to adjust to consumer demands, ​America’s largest dairy producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

Analysts told Food Dive this news didn’t come as a shock. A number of factors led to Dean Foods’ decline, including dropping fluid milk consumption, rising competition from private label and milk alternatives, and a complex company history with M&A gone wrong and financial missteps from which it never quite recovered. 

These factors culminated in a decline in revenues that led to the company’s bankruptcy filing​ after several CEOs failed to achieve the task of turning around the troubled business. Experts and analysts say what happened to Dean can serve as a cautionary tale to other businesses in the space.

 


Rural round-up

October 5, 2019

Reform plans created in silos – Colin Williscroft:

Environmental changes farmers are being forced to deal with were developed separately rather than in conjunction, Beef + Lamb environmental policy leader Corina Jordan says.

At the B+LNZ environment issues roadshow stop in Feilding Jordan said a lot of the work the proposed changes are based on was done in silos, with little or no thought about how they might affect each other or of the cumulative affect of everything happening at once.

“The full impact of the suite has not been considered,” she said.

“That’s not just at a farm level but also a community level.”

Proposals already announced as part of the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill and essential freshwater package will soon be added to by a new biodiversity strategy.

Jordan said it looks like, when coming up with some of the proposals, the experiences of other countries trying to deal with the same problems have not been taken into account either. . . 

Farmers fear the unknown over freshwater water plans – Gerard Hutching:

Farmers are worried about proposed water policy changes, but their concerns are largely based on a fear of the unknown, says Northland dairy farmer Andrew Booth.

In recent weeks social media has been rife with comments from on-edge farmers, and small town halls packed to the rafters as officials have been quizzed over the proposals.

Environment Minister David Parker released them last month, saying the health and wellbeing of water would be put first when making decisions, “providing for essential human needs, such as drinking water, will be second, and all other uses will follow”. . . 

Farmers see authentic strategy – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmers have decried the bad results of 2019 while approving the transparency and logic of the strategy reset, co-operative affairs managing director Mike Cronin says.

Speaking after three of the shareholder roadshow meetings in the South Island he said farmers welcomed the new strategy as authentic and self-explanatory and, therefore, convincing.

“Some want more detail on how we got here but the overall impression is that the strategy is back to basics, co-operative, New Zealand milk and all those good things.” . . 

International wool award for Kiwi:

One of New Zealand’s longest-serving champions for New Zealand wool, John Dawson, has been awarded the prestigious International Wool Trade Co-operation Award.

The award was presented at the 31st Nanjing Wool Market Convention at Qufu in Shandong Province, China.

John Dawson is chief executive of New Zealand Wool Services International and chairman of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests.

He was one of just six global wool industry leaders to receive the award and the only New Zealander. . . 

Texel stud happy with Scottish influence – Yvonne O’Hara:

The second crop of lambs on the ground from Scottish genetics are looking good, Texel stud breeder and farmer Brent Busby says.

”They came out with a kilt,” he said.

He and wife Heather own the Cromarty Texel Stud and run 110 pedigree registered Texel ewes on 20ha at Myross Bush, Invercargill, with a further 15ha leased.

”We have finished lambing early and have 170% tailed, (including a set of quads)” he said.

Mrs Busby said they imported semen from Scottish studs in 2018 and inseminated 18 ewes. . .

Sheep farmers ‘astonished’ over live export ban proposal :

Sheep farmers have highlighted their ‘astonishment’ over the government’s proposal to put in a place a live export ban once the UK leaves the EU.

Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers is proposing a ban on live exports of farm animals, stating that livestock should only be slaughtered at their most local abattoir.

A consultation will be created to gather opinion on the controversial proposal.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has already criticised the plan, saying that it ‘exposes a serious lack of knowledge’ of how the industry works.

The group adds that there is an ‘absence of awareness’ of transport related welfare research. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 13, 2019

AFB spread prompts burning of hives – Laura Smith:

Watching bees burn would have to be one of the most difficult things a beekeeper could do – it is also an experience more Southland apiarists will have to face.

It is the consequence of the spread of destructive bee-killing disease American foulbrood (AFB).

Southland commercial beekeeper Geoff Scott said ignorance was a major contributor to the disease spreading.

”And we’re doing it – it’s us beekeepers doing it.” . .

Hinewai revival worth every cent – Tim Fulton:

Hinewai Reserve was once dismissed as a fantasy of fools and dreamers. 

Now, as the 1250ha native sanctuary on Banks Peninsula flourishes it has about $1m of carbon credits plus income from a walking track and public donations.

But Hugh Wilson’s neighbours let rip when his plans for Hinewai Reserve became clear. . .

Possum is scourge of farm and forest: – Nick Hancox:

Managing disease in farmed cattle and deer is one stream of the TBfree programme’s work. It underpins the value and reputation of the meat and milk New Zealand exports.

The other essential work the programme manages is possum control — taking and keeping numbers down at a level where disease can’t keep cycling in wildlife.

That possum control work has two big benefits for New Zealand: eradicating bovine TB to protect the primary sector while supporting the goals of the predator-free movement.
The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aligns with programmes designed to protect and defend New Zealand’s biodiversity and environmental health, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for Our Birds and Predator Free 2050. . .

Ploughman straight on to Minnesota – Chris Tobin:

”You don’t go to the Olympic Games and wear someone else’s track shoes and you don’t go to a Formula race in someone else’s car.”

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens is explaining his approach to the upcoming world ploughing championships at Baudette, Minnesota.

After placing eighth in Germany last year and second in Kenya in the reversible section of the world championships, he is aiming for gold this time round in the United States. . .

Avocado prices plunge as new season starts – Esther Taunton:

Avocado fans, rejoice – you can now buy two for less than the cost of a flat white.

Supplies of the popular toast topping have surged and those who have struggled through the avo off-season can again feast on the fruit.

On Thursday avocados were were selling for $2.70 each or two for $5 at Countdown supermarkets around the country. . .

Boarding school allowances – rural families deserve better – Ann Thompson:

The cost of sending children to boarding school is placing a big burden on rural employees, and it’s well past time a change was made to make the boarding allowance system fairer, writes Federated Farmers policy adviser Ann Thompson.

Over the past few years Federated Farmers has made requests to both the National and Labour-led governments to increase the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance.

This allowance is provided for pupils who live so far away from school that boarding school is the only realistic option.

As at June 2019, the Access Barrier Boarding Allowance was $3200 per annum while the Multiple Barriers Boarding Allowance was $7500 (plus $500 for pastoral care). . .


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