Rural round-up

June 9, 2019

A recipe for disaster:

That old saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees could well describe the government’s infatuation with forestry at the expense of farming.

Objections are growing stronger in rural New Zealand to the impact the ‘one billion trees’ programme will have on the regions’ farming landscapes, infrastructure and communities. Concern is such that a new lobby group has formed, wanting to preserve the economy, health and welfare of the NZ provinces.

Named 50 Shades of Green, it aims to convince politicians and decisionmakers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces and ultimately may endanger the national economy. . . 

DIRA review nibbles at the status quo and avoids the big questions – Keith Woodford:

The current review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) does not address the big decisions that face the New Zealand dairy industry. That may well be a wise decision by Government.

Big decisions will indeed be necessary over the coming years. Clearly, they are difficult decisions. However, trying to make those decisions through the DIRA mechanism would be a brave decision and, in all likelihood, with unintended consequences. So, the Government has stepped back.

Instead, Government is using DIRA to nibble around the edges.  Whether those nibbles are the correct nibbles remains a moot point. . . 

Rural real estate feeling the pinch in South Canterbury – Samesh Mohanlall:

Parts of the rural real estate market are struggling in Canterbury and South Canterbury with key industry figures saying they are concerned about the effect of compliance regulations, anti-farming rhetoric and Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) climate emergency declaration.

South Canterbury’s Federated Farmers president Jason Grant and rural estate agents say much of the gloomy projection in the latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) rural report stemmed from environmental constraints and negative sentiments “coming out around farming”.  . .

Carbon farms help soil, water – Annette Scott:

Carbon farming is about managing soil, vegetation, water and animals while turning opportunities on the farm into improved business performance and profitability.

All while ensuring long-term benefits to farm businesses, the local economy and the environment.

That was the buy-in for more than 60 farmers and industry stakeholders who attended a Canterbury Agribusiness carbon farming seminar.

Most attendees when asked why they attended said the same – to understand something that’s all a bit new and learn what opportunities are available to them. . . 

Nelson mums find solution for skin condition in the paddock – Anuja Nadkarni:

It all started with some flowers planted in a paddock.

Dot Kettle and her partner Georgia Richards traded in their fast-paced corporate lives in Wellington for a more relaxed life to raise their three boys in Dove Valley, 45 minutes from Nelson more than 10 years ago.

Kettle, a lawyer, and IT analyst Richards knew next to nothing about farming, but with 42 hectares of land, the couple decided to plant a field of peonies for export as they are the ideal blooms for Nelson’s climate. . . 

Dodgy fert size to get shake-up – Richard Rennie:

Lumpy, uneven and irregular fertiliser, long the bane of farmers and spreaders, will face tighter scrutiny once the Fertiliser Quality Council establishes standards for the product’s physical qualities.

While standards have been set for the mineral and nutrient content of fertiliser, council chairman Anders Crofoot admits it has taken longer than expected to set them for particle shape and size.

“Setting the chemical standard for fertilisers was fine and has worked well for a long time. . .

 


Rural round-up

April 7, 2019

One thing leads to anotherSamantha Tennent:

A Northland farming couple have completed their pathway of progression but still have plenty to do. Samantha Tennent reports.

A farm journey for a Northland couple has been full of ups and downs but one event in particular led them to push themselves to not just move but to forge ahead and buy their own farm.

Don and Kirsten Watson farm on the picturesque Kaipara Harbour milking 260 cows on 112 hectares. They bought the farm in 2017 after spending a month snowbound and without power on their Central Plateau farm at Rangitaiki on the Napier-Taupo highway.

It has been a varied and at times challenging and scary journey but say they wouldn’t change a thing. . . 

Big wetland bush block opens to public after $500,000 crowd funding effort– Mike Watson:

An endangered forest wetland in Taranaki, saved from farmland development by a public fundraising drive, is ready to be opened up to the public.

The 134-hectare Mahood-Lowe reserve, near Kaimiro, 20 kilometres southeast of New Plymouth, included rare kamahi, northern rata, tawa and totara as well as lichens and mosses.

There is also burgeoning populations of kiwi, whio and falcons. . . 

Farmer confidence lifting but concerns over policy remain – Maja Burry:

Farmer confidence has lifted after three consecutive quarters of decline, but it still remains in negative territory.

Rabobank’s first quarterly Rural Confidence Survey for the year – completed last month – has shown the nation’s net farmer confidence has risen to -9 percent, up from -15 percent recorded in the final quarter of 2018.

The bank’s general manager for country banking, Hayley Gourley said greater optimism among dairy farmers was the major driver of the improved overall confidence reading.

“In the last survey of 2018, we saw 34 percent of dairy farmers expecting conditions in the agricultural economy to worsen and only 13 percent expecting an improvement, however, since then we’ve seen a long run of consecutive jumps in the Global Dairy Trade price index,” Ms Gourley said. . . 

Seasonal labour shortage declared for BOP kiwifruit industry:

Declaration is for 15 April until 27 May 2019.

• As of today, overseas visitors can apply to vary the conditions of their visitor visa to allow up to six weeks of seasonal work in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) supports the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty and the extension of the labour shortage in the Hawkes Bay. The BOP declaration announced today is for the period 15 April until 27 May 2019. . .

Beef + Lamb well placed for the future:

Beef + Lamb NZ has the correct strategies in place to help the sector successfully navigate its way through the next couple of years, says chair Andrew Morrison.

“But it is going to require focus and there will be some hard decisions,” he warned.

“As an organisation, we are now trying to constantly look ahead at the challenges coming, do the research about those challenges and come up with strategies to influence the responses and outcomes to them.”  . .

Self-importing fertiliser is risky business, warns the Fertiliser Quality Council:

The Fertiliser Quality Council of New Zealand (FQC) is urging anyone contemplating importing fertiliser themselves to think again. The organisation, which is responsible for Fertmark, the fertiliser auditing programme that verifies products so users can be certain they know what they are spreading on their pasture, says importing fertiliser for individual on-farm use is fraught with risk.

Anders Crofoot, Chairman of the FQC, explains that the temptation to import fertiliser for private farm use is often driven by cost. However, he warns farmers and growers not to be fooled by ‘cheap’ ticket prices displayed online. . . 

Survey results will detail farmers’ changing attitudes to climate change:

Survey results on how farmers’ understanding of climate change and its impacts have changed over the last decade will be released at the New Zealand Agricultural Climate Change Conference 2019 (NZACCC), in Palmerston North on April 8-9.

The results will also reveal how farmers are now viewing greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in agriculture and give their views on the effective communication of climate change science. . . 


Rural round-up

January 7, 2019

The hypocrites at Fish and Game NZ – Alan Emmerson:

I received strong reaction to my blog on Fish and Game’s ‘survey’. Unsurprisingly I stick with everything I said.

I’d now add that the organisation is a rampant hypocrite. I did mention in my last blog that Fish and Game completely ignored the reports of 379 sewerage overflows into our pristine streams and rivers.

Was there any comment from the trade union – in a word no. . .

Pressure is on but dairy farmers’ fundamentals unchanged – Tim Mackle:

On the cusp of the new year, I’ve been thinking about the year gone and what’s head of us.

Having been involved in the dairy sector my whole life, it’s clear that it’s changed significantly since I was a kid. And in the past year, there have been a number of key challenges, whether it’s the talk about nitrogen – both from effluent or the manufactured variety – to help our grass or vegetables grow, our impacts and work to improve water quality or the growing conversation around climate change. And let’s not forget the emergence of new threats, like Mycoplasma bovis.

Here’s the thing about farming. The fundamentals are still the same – looking after cows, grass and people. . . 

Man disgusted at dumping of carcasses in South Canterbury river – Matthew Littlewood:

A South Canterbury man is disgusted to find rotting animal carcasses dumped near a popular swimming spot – and wants those responsible to own up.

Ely Peeti, of Waitohi, inland from Temuka, said he was taking his children to a swimming spot near Albury at Rocky Gully bridge on Friday when he found seven deer heads, a sheep skin and a gutted whole male pig, all lying in the water.

He told Stuff he was so shocked by his find that he posted a video online.

“I couldn’t believe the smell, it was just rotten. . . 

Resurgent collie club to hold SI champs – Sally Rae:

A few years back, the Omakau Collie Club was close to extinction.

It was only due to the tenacity of a couple of club members that it kept functioning and now, it has undergone a remarkable change in fortunes.

The club — now known as the Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club — is preparing to host the South Island sheep dog trial championships in 2021.

It will bring an influx of about 500 dog triallists into the Alexandra area for five and a-half days. . .

Meat meals an iron-clad rule – Tom O’Connor:

 In spite of our resolve most of us eat more than we need to and drink more than is good for us during Christmas and New Year gatherings.

That is probably because there is much more to food and drink than merely refuelling the body. We like to combine good food and beverages with the companionship of friends and family in a tradition that goes back a very long way in our history and folklore. . . 

A review of 6,000 studies over two decades delivers its verdict on GMO corn – Chelsea Gohd:

There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

From monikers like “Frankenfoods” to general skepticism, there has been a variety of biased reactions to these organisms, even though we as a species have been genetically modifying our foods in one way or another for approximately 10,000 years.

Perhaps some of this distrust will be put to rest with the emergence of a 2018 meta-analysis that shows GM corn increases crop yields and provides significant health benefits.

The analysis, which was not limited to studies conducted in the US and Canada, showed that GMO corn varieties have increased crop yields worldwide 5.6 to 24.5 percent when compared to non-GMO varieties. . .

 


Feds award farming leaders

June 28, 2018

Federated Farmers presented its annual awards to farming leaders last night:

The awards recognise the hard work of those in the agriculture sector and the ceremony acts as a stage for the recipients to be celebrated on, says Fed’s national president Katie Milne.
“What we’ve seen this year has just been tremendous. Incredible talent. The work that goes on out there in the community is just non-stop so to have the awards is a great way to say thank you and to encourage initiative.”

The awards winners are as follows:

The Outstanding Advocacy Award recipient is Motueka’s Gavin O’Donnell.

The award recognises the hard work of a member that through their tenacity and drive positively affected national or regional policy for the benefits of our farmers.

Gavin, a former head of Nelson Federated Farmers, was nominated for his skills at influencing and communicating the ‘good news’ stories.

The Innovator of the Year Award recipients are Palmerston North’s James Stewart and Mat Hocken.

Federated Farmers uses this award to highlight those who have invested time, effort and resources into finding smart ways to make New Zealand agriculture more efficient and effective.

They were nominated for their work in boosting connectivity. They are the founders of AgTech Hackathon, an initiative designed to link farmers with smarter on-farm solutions.

The Farming Message Award winner is Five Forks’s Lyndon Strang.

The award is for an individual who through writing, public speaking and other forms of media use has done a fantastic job sharing the importance of agriculture with New Zealand’s wider communities.

The primary reason for Lyndon’s nomination was the way he led by example in his area when it came implementing new farming practices, and when Mycoplasma bovis broke in South Canterbury, Lyndon was an approachable voice for local media and helped break down the technical gobbledygook surrounding the disease for the public.

The Federated Farmers Emerging Advocate Award recipient is Gore’s Bernadette Hunt.

The award celebrates an up-and-coming member who champions the needs of their fellow farmers, and is a positive role model for other young farmers with clear goals for the future of the industry.

Bernadette was nominated because of her outstanding contribution in the lead role for Southland during the M. bovis outbreak. 
She also liaised with the Ministry for Primary Industries over declaring a medium scale adverse event due the extended period of dry conditions.

The Federated Farmers Columnist of the Year Award goes to Marton’s Richard Morrison.

The award is the organisation’s chance to thank someone who has made an ongoing effort to communicate the work of the entire group to the wider population through regular column writing for a national, regional or local publication.

Richard puts together thoughtful and often thought-provoking columns that would resonate with thousands of readers – both urban and rural.

The Federated Farmers Provincial Service Award winner is Timaru’s Bob Douglas.

The award recognises the unsung heroes of the provinces who year after year, decade after decade, have contributed to the smooth running of the province and provided outstanding service.

After almost 20 years working as South Canterbury’s provincial secretary and treasurer Bob Douglas has had his years of service recognized.
Bob is known for schooling countless emerging local Federated Farmers’ leaders in meeting protocol, teaches them debating skills and the rights of the Chair.

The Federated Farmers Outstanding Contribution to Federated Farmers Award went to Masterton’s Anders Crofoot.

The award recognises a member who works to promote our advocacy organisation and the agriculture industry by championing the needs of their fellow farmers.
Anders has shown tremendous skill in initiating successful mediation and dissecting the daunting Resource Management Act. 
He has also contributed to the national advocacy work of Federated Farmers serving six years on the board. He has an ability to talk to people of all backgrounds and make information accessible to everyone.

The Federated Farmers Membership Growth Award went to Wanganui.

The award is to recognise the efforts of provinces who actively work to boost membership for Federated Farmers.

This is an outstanding achievement for a smaller province. But Wanganui was not the only team to perform well over the past year. There was exceptional work happening throughout the nation. A special thank you to the teams in Golden Bay, Tararua and the Waikato.


Feds 1st female president in 118 years

June 23, 2017

Federated Farmers’ new president, Katie Milne, is the first woman to hold the office.

West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne is the new Federated Farmers’ National President- becoming the first woman in the Federation’s 118-year history to hold the presidency.

Ms Milne succeeds Dr William Rolleston who steps aside after his three-year tenure.

A previous Federation Board member and West Coast Provincial President, Katie was Dairy Woman of the Year and a Rural Woman of Influence in 2015.

She contested the position with Anders Crofoot who was vice-president.

Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard was elected National Vice President while South Canterbury farmer Miles Anderson takes over as National Meat and Fibre chair with Rick Powdrell stepping aside.
Waikato farmer Chris Lewis takes over as National Dairy Industry Chair succeeding Andrew Hoggard.

North Canterbury farmer Lynda Murchison has been elected as one of two Board members at large alongside Chris Allen who was reappointed.

Arable chair Guy Wigley remains on the Board pending next week’s arable sector AGM. . .

Federated Farmers like all voluntary organisations faces challenges with membership but still plays a vital role advocating for the farming industry and rural people.

Feds and its president play a very important role, especially now farmers are such a small minority and the rural-urban gap is widening.


Rural round-up

May 1, 2017

$6 a kilo for greasy wool is realistic – Alan Williams:

A wool price of $6 a kilogram greasy is being targeted by a Federated Farmers strategy being developed as necessary for the industry to achieve sustainable returns.

An industry levy was not part of the work being done, federation national meat and fibre group chairman Rick Powdrell said.

Getting detailed information on what happened to New Zealand wool overseas and where it went were key parts of the project. . . 

Fight for Feds top job likely – Annette Scott:

Competition is ramping up as nominations open for the Federated Farmers national board’s changing of the guard.

Speculation pointed to a challenge for the national leadership as president William Rolleston ended his three-year term.

The annual meeting was scheduled for June 22 in Wellington. Both the president and vice-president roles would come up for grabs.

Current vice-president Anders Crofoot, also at the end of his three-year term, confirmed he would stand for president. . . 

Meat co-ops search for winning formula – Tony Benny:

New Zealand’s two big meat co-ops, Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group have both had new CEOs at the helm for the past two years, each charged with improving returns to their farmer-shareholders. Dean Hamilton and David Surveyor talked to Tony Benny.

When Dean Hamilton and David Surveyor each came from Melbourne to take top jobs in the New Zealand meat industry, little did they know they’d almost been next door neighbours before coming here.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Hamilton recalls his first meeting with Surveyor when the subject of where they’d lived in Melbourne came up.

“I said I was in East Melbourne. He said, ‘So was I, what street?’. I said, ‘Central Park Road’. He looked at me and he said, ‘I was in Central Park Road too’, and it ended up we were only ten houses away but I’d never met him.” . . 

ACCC court action against Murray Goulburn applauded – Shan Goodwin:

FEDERAL Court action instigated by the competition watchdog against big dairy co-operative Murray Goulburn has been heralded a significant first step to bringing long overdue fairer trading practices to the milk supply chain.

Milk producers say the move shows the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is serious about addressing breaches of competition law in the dairy industry and lays a good foundation for the results of it’s current inquiry into the competitiveness of milk prices. . . 

Hemp seeds to be legalised as food:

An agreement reached between New Zealand and Australian food safety authorities will see hemp seed legalised as food in New Zealand, Food Safety Minister David Bennett says.

Ministers at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide today approved a standard to allow safe levels of low-THC hemp seed as a food.

“I stated my support at the Forum today and was pleased a change to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code was approved,” Mr Bennett says.

Mr Bennett says hemp has no psychoactive effect and has historically been used as a source of fibre and oil because it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals and fatty-acids. . . 

Rural Kiwis swipe right for country love on new farmer dating app – Jill Galloway:

Lonely Kiwi farmers are hooking into a United States based dating app to find love.

About 500 single New Zealanders are already members of the FarmersMatch dating service which has only been going since March.

Founder Derek Ma said the app could bring together single people with a love of the country. . . 

New Zealand olive oil scoops medals at international competitions:

Winners in two prestigious international Olive Oil competitions have just been announced and New Zealand features in both.
In the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), which is arguably the largest of international Olive Oil Competitions, Robinsons Bay and Old French Road both won GOLD with their Extra Virgin Olive Oil entries.

Both olive groves are from Akaroa and were Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show respectively at the 2016 New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards.
The 2017 NYIOOC attracted more than 800 entries from 26 countries and was judged by an international panel of experts. For more information see https://nyoliveoil.com/ . . .


Rural round-up

April 13, 2017

Stockmanship and work ethic leads family to win Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

East Otago sheep and beef farmers Simon and Kirstin Engelbrecht have won the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The win was announced at a gala dinner at the Glenroy Auditorium in Dunedin on April 7.

The Engelbrechts also won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.

The Engelbrecht’s 7500 stock unit East Otago sheep and beef business is based on their 611ha home farm, Stoneburn, near Palmerston. The couple have four children, Oscar, 19, Sam, 16, Anna, 14 and Charles, 12. . . 

Aim tech at firms not farmers – Richard Rennie:

As the internet of things (IoT) becomes more of a reality for New Zealand farmers its success might lie in promoting it harder to farm service businesses than to farmers themselves.

KotahiNet chief executive Vikream Kumar tipped the usual pitch for farmers to adopt the IoT on its head to delegates at the MobileTech conference in Rotorua.

His company specialised in connecting businesses with sensors and wireless networks that enabled devices to communicate within businesses and beyond, including farms, orchards and processing operations. . . 

Tauranga animal health CEO finalist for Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year:

A Tauranga woman described as “successful yet so down to earth” is in the running to take out the 2017 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year Award.

A qualified veterinarian, Dr Claire Nicholson is the Chief Executive of Sirona Animal Health, a company she set up to develop and promote unique products that address current areas of economic loss in the dairy and sheep and beef industries.

She’s also a director of Paraninihi Ki Waitotara (PKW), past associate director for AgResearch and has worked with Massey University researching the epidemiology and economic cost of Neospora. Her family farms are in Gropers Bush, Southland. . .

Regions win battle to keep GE-free status but confusion remains – Gerard Hutching:

Lobby group Pure Hawke’s Bay is claiming victory in its fight to be free of genetically modified fruit and vegetables, but Federated Farmers describes the new situation as “a mess”.

Pure Hawke’s Bay feared Environment Minister Nick Smith would remove the powers for local and regional councils to declare themselves GE-free when the Government pushed through the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill this week.

However, in last minute changes, Smith amended the Bill so the minister could not refuse councils the right to become GE-free – but only for crops, which he defined as cereals, vegetables or fruit.

Smith’s definition did not include GE grasses, trees or livestock. . . 

New ground broken on rural fibre:

Federated Farmers has successfully negotiated a significant benefit for rural property owners who allow telecommunications fibre to cross their land.

The Telecommunications (Property Access and Other Matters) Amendment Act, which was passed by the Parliament this afternoon, facilitates the installation of fibre optic cable along overhead electricity lines. It includes a unique provision that provides a quid pro quo to landowners whose land the lines network crosses, Federated Farmers communications spokesperson Anders Crofoot says.

In exchange for the right to string high-speed fibre along existing overhead powerlines, the amendment act guarantees fibre connections to farmers whose land is crossed. . . 

New Zealand mānuka honey science definition:

Food Safety Minister David Bennett has welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industries’ release of a proposed scientific definition for mānuka honey produced in New Zealand.

“Overseas regulators and consumers have expressed a desire for an independent, Government-backed definition to safeguard the authenticity of mānuka honey products.

“This Government-backed definition will provide an important starting point for the industry to promote New Zealand mānuka honey in world markets,” Mr Bennett says. . . 

Government science definition of mānuka honey an important step forward:

The industry organisation for the honey and beekeeping industry, Apiculture New Zealand, is pleased the Ministry for Primary Industries has released its proposed science definition of mānuka honey for industry review and consultation.

“The introduction of a regulatory science definition is a major milestone in the history of the mānuka honey industry. It is a relatively young industry growing very rapidly and with huge potential.

“We signalled our willingness to work with MPI to ensure its proposed science definition is robust in meeting shared objectives around consumer confidence and authenticity, and will be making a detailed submission on behalf of industry,” says Karin Kos, Chief Executive of Apiculture NZ. . . 

Foreign Wine Looking for Greater US Market Penetration:

The US wine market continues to represent an attractive opportunity for many foreign wine companies, according to the Rabobank Wine Quarterly Q2 2017. However, increasing competition and ongoing wholesaler consolidation, among other factors, make it increasingly difficult for small wineries to penetrate, with a particular complexity for foreign wineries. An increasing number are seeking alternative structures and strategies to deliver greater penetration in the market. Each strategy has the potential to achieve success, but also carries risks and pitfalls.

While the US market has attributes that make it attractive to many foreign wineries, it is also a crowded, complex, and daunting market. The traditional approach for foreign wineries looking to enter the US market has been to identify an appropriate importer, and to work the market with the importer and/or distributors to sell their product.. . .

More evidence that the key to allergy-free kids is giving them plenty of dirt — and cows – Rachel Feltman:

People who grow up on farms — especially dairy farms — have way fewer allergy and asthma problems than the rest of us. Now one research team thinks they’ve brought science closer to understanding why.

In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers report that they were able to pinpoint one possible mechanism for the allergy protection in mice they studied. Surprisingly, the protein that they fingered as the likely allergy-preventer doesn’t actually affect the immune system — it affects the structural cells that make up the lining of the lung.

The research is related to something called the hygiene hypothesis, where a lack of exposure to microbes as a tyke leads to more allergy and asthma. . . 

 


Would beef tax help NZ?

November 11, 2016

40% beef tax suggested to pay for climate damage :

Global taxes have been suggested for beef and dairy products to pay for climate damage caused during their production.

The University of Oxford study argues emissions pricing on food could avert more pollution than generated by the aviation industry, save half a million lives and one billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year if implemented in 2020.

The analysis, conducted by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, suggests beef would have to be 40 percent more expensive to pay for the climate damage caused by its production.

Milk and other meats would need to increase by up to 20 percent and vegetable oils would also face substantial rises.

The study estimates the suggested price increase would result in a 10 percent reduction in the purchase of these foods and drive lower emissions. . . 

This wouldn’t be all bad for New Zealand farmers.

Almost all our beef and dairy cattle, and sheep are free range livestock.

A Lincoln University study showed that our meat and horticultural produce had lower emissions than the same local produce in British supermarkets, even taking into account the transport from here to there.

If our produce incurred a lower tax than that from other countries whose production methods are far less efficient we’d have a competitive advantage.

Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Anders Crofoot said putting tax at the purchasing end, so the decision was in hands of consumers, had some merit.

“Conceptually there are some attractions, but as with most things with climate change it gets pretty complex quite quickly and I wouldn’t see a tax on food was going to be a particularly effective way of doing it.”

He said farmers could benefit from their product being more of a premium.

“I don’t think that reducing meat consumption is actually necessarily something we should recoil from if it can turn it into a premium product that people are willing to pay more [for].”

If there was going to be a tax on livestock and crops, what about other foods?

Nothing would be gained if people swapped from one type of food to another with no environmental gain.

The production of all food must have an environmental impact and that would have to be taxed too.

Some of the better-off might be happy to pay more for their food, others would resent it but could still afford it.

But what about the less well-off, too many of whom already struggle to buy nutritious food?

Rabobank’s Farm2Fork summit in Sydney last week and it’s F20 (F for food) in 2014 looked at the challenge of feeding the world population of nine billion by 2050.

No-one suggested taxing food.

Researchers would be better putting their time and our money into science that would improve the production of food that is healthy for both people and the environment .

 


Rural round-up

May 28, 2016

Westland ups its payout prediction for the coming season:

New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative Westland Milk Products has released a budget for the 2016-17 dairy season of $4.55 – $4.95 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS).

Payout for the current season will be in the range of $3.80 – $3.90 per kgMS.

Westland will also start its payout advance payments for the 2016-17 season at $3.80 per kgMS, payable 20 September 2016. . . 

Westland tops Fonterra – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers received cold comfort when Fonterra announced a low forecast milk price of $4.25/kg milksolids for the new season from June 1, with an advance rate beginning at $3.01.

Analysts’ expectations had been for an opening price of $4.60 or more, as well as some upside when world product prices steadily improved as expected towards the end of 2016.

They said Fonterra seemed to base its opening forecast on spot market prices and not the generally expected improving trend. . .

Farm profits help rural students get ahead – Kate Taylor:

A hill country farm east of Dannevirke has helped hundreds of young people with their tertiary studies. Kate Taylor visited to find out how.

Sheep and beef farmer Max Buckendahl has called the Weber district home for almost three decades but when his 30th anniversary rolls around next year he’s off to see the country.

Together with partner Lynn Moss and a fifth-wheeler artic truck caravan, he’s going to work (and fish) in the warmer climates of Northland for half the year and travel New Zealand for the other half.

“There’s no particular reason to go now but I wanted to stay here 30 years first,” he says. . . 

Silver Fern Farms:Details of Special Meeting:

• Special Meeting date set for Monday, 11 July 2016

Dunedin 27 May 2016: Silver Fern Farms has today settled the statement from two of the 80 requisitioners, in a form that Silver Fern Farms is willing to include in its Notice of Meeting, and has set a date of Monday 11 July to hold the Special Meeting.

The Board has received a statement from two of the 80 requisitioners and notes that the original 80 requisitioners sought a meeting of shareholders to consider: . . 

Silver Fern shareholders to vote again on Shanghai Maling deal in July – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Shareholders of meat processor Silver Fern Farms will have a second vote on whether to approve its planned tie-up with China’s Shanghai Maling Aquarius in July, though the board intends to go ahead with the deal irrespective of the outcome.

The cooperative today set the meeting for July 11 in Dunedin where shareholders will vote on approving the proposed partnership and restructure, where the Chinese firm takes 50 percent ownership of the meat processor in return for $261 million of cash, a special dividend, and funds to bankroll the cooperative for seven years. Shareholders backed the deal in October, but John Shrimpton and Blair Gallagher, representing a group of 80 shareholders, have since sought a special meeting to effectively reconsider the transaction. . . 

Federated Farmers welcomes Freshwater Improvement Fund:

Federated Farmers is commending the Government on a new $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund to aid communities investment in solutions for water quality in New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies, announced in yesterday’s budget.

Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen says the fund will help communities achieve desired water quality outcomes sooner.

“It’s going to take innovative thinking, time and money to get to the level of water quality our communities aspire too,” he said. . . 

TB continues to be challenge for next decade:

Funding for TB control is less than it has been in the past but Federated Farmers is confident the new programme will continue to make progress with a more efficient spend of the money.

Federated Farmers OSPRI (TB Free NZ) spokesman Anders Crofoot said: “The amended TB Plan is a shift in approach from containing the disease to active eradication in livestock and wildlife. To date we’ve been successful at removing TB from large areas of New Zealand. This means with improved operational efficiencies and targeted work, enabled by advances in modelling we should see new TB Plan targets achieved.

The programme carried out by OSPRI will aim to eradicate bovine TB from cattle and deer by 2026, and from TB-infected wildlife in New Zealand by 2055. . . 

Government Support for Landcare:

Yesterday’s Budget marks a return to stable base-line funding for the work of NZ Landcare Trust.

The Minister for the Environment is responsible for financial appropriations for the 2016/17 financial year which include approximately $27 million for grants to third parties for water initiatives, environmental management and education programmes.

A specific appropriation identified within ‘Vote Environment’ has been established for the promotion of sustainable land management practice through a national network of coordinators. These funds are available due to the reprioritisation of $800,000 from the Community Environment Fund. This transfer reflects joint Ministers’ decision to fund the NZ Landcare Trust activities for 2016/17 and out years. No expiry date for this resourcing commitment has been set and it is identified as an on-going commitment. . . 

DairyNZ’s commitment to supporting dairy farmers:

Industry body DairyNZ is committed to supporting dairy farmers following the announcement by Fonterra of an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price of $4.25 per kgMS for the 2016-17 season.

“The $4.25 per kgMS is not a surprise, although the particularly low opening advance rate of $2.50 per kgMS plus capacity adjustment is tough for farmers who will find the winter particularly difficult,” says DairyNZ chief executive, Tim Mackle. “This is the lowest opening advance rate in at least the last 14 years.

“The break-even milk income required for the average farmer is $5.25 per kgMS, yet under this forecast scenario they’ll only be receiving $4.45 per kgMS all up in terms of farm income, including retro payments from last season and dividends. . .

PwC supports NZ Milk Futures to manage milk price risk:

The NZX today launched a NZ Milk Futures contract that will eventually provide the opportunity for large and small dairy farmers to proactively risk manage milk price movements and volatility.

“The new futures contract essentially replaces, and considerably enhances, the Guaranteed Milk Price (GMP) contract previously offered by Fonterra,” says Roger Kerr, PwC Partner and Treasury Advisor.

“While the new futures contract has been expected, it will need support from the market to ensure its viability. This means that industry players with resources available to make this commitment, should be encouraged to participate,” says Mr Kerr. . .


Rural round-up

May 3, 2016

Rattling Fonterra’s governance is not enough – Keith Woodford:

Late last year, Fonterra’s farmers rattled the cage by voting for a change in governance rules. However, the voting majority was insufficient to change the rules. Fonterra’s Board has now responded with its own proposals for new governance structures.

To me, the new proposals look like a continuing meander towards corporatisation, without recognition of the special features of a huge co-operative conglomerate like Fonterra.

The proposal last year, led by former Fonterra directors Greg Gent and Colin Armer, was to reduce the number of directors. But would a smaller number of directors really make a difference? And what would it do in terms of further disconnecting the Board from the grassroots? . . 

Rabobank Agribusiness Monthly (NZ) – April 2016:

The Agribusiness Monthly provides timely information and analysis on agricultural conditions, commodity price updates and commentary on the latest sectoral trends and developments.

Key Highlights:

• Dairy – Global commodity prices continue to stumble along a market floor largely determined by the level of EU intervention support—and the ceiling for this support has just been approved higher. . . 

Time to plan ahead for droughts – Dan Satherley:

Improving water storage will be key to getting farmers through future droughts, according to one agribusiness expert.

Failing that, it might be time for beef, sheep and dairy to rethink their business model.

North Canterbury is into its second year of drought, with rainfall over the past few months only a third what it normally is. . . 

Kiwi-Owned Organic Rice Company Number One in South America:

Organic Latin America, an organic rice processing and distribution company in South America owned by kiwi company Ceres Organics and international partners, has risen to be the largest organic rice exporter out of South America in just five years.

Organic Latin America was founded five years ago by Ceres Organics and Thai, Danish, and Argentinian companies in order to provide South American organic rice growers with access to international markets.

Organic Latin America worked with growers in the Northern parts of Argentina and in Southern Brazil to help them improve processing systems and supply markets all over the world. . .

Fonterra says season-to-date milk collection down 3% in NZ, down 1% in Australia – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group says milk collection is down in both New Zealand and Australia in the first 10 months of the season, reflecting destocking in its home market in the face of low milk prices and unfavourable weather across the Tasman.

Milk collection across New Zealand fell 3 percent to 1.39 billion kilograms of milk solids in the 10 months ended March 31, with all of the decline coming in the North Island and no change in the south. . . 

New PGP Investment Advisory Panel Chair announced:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed John Parker as the new Chair of the Primary Growth Partnership’s independent Investment Advisory Panel (IAP).

Mr Parker is a primary industry and governance specialist, and assumes his role as IAP Chair from 1 May 2016.  He replaces Joanna Perry whose tenure as Chair finishes on 30 April after nearly seven years on the IAP, including almost three as its Chair.

“IAP members use their expertise and judgement to advise on decisions about the investment of PGP funds, and to help ensure these investments achieve the aims of economic growth and sustainability,” says Mr Guy.

“Mr Parker has extensive experience in both governance and in the primary industries and he understands what is required to grow value in the sector. . . 

Northland Farmer gets top foodies on side:

A local specialist pork and beef producer has won a nationwide competition to have some of the country’s top experts help promote the business.

Amanda Hellier and her husband Wayne farm in Motutangi under the name Farm Gate Produce. They have been named as one of four winners of the Sustainable Business Network’s Good Food Boost competition. The family business produces Free Range pork cuts, sausages, salami and Chorizo and supplies it ‘from gate to plate’. . . 

Considering more days in milk?:

After a tough season many dairy farmers may be considering extending the milking period of their cows to create more cashflow.

For farmers in a position to do so, keeping cows in milk for an extended period can make strong commercial sense. A dry cow by contrast still incurs feed and grazing costs but without a corresponding milk income.

SealesWinslow Consultant Animal Nutrition Specialist, Paul Sharp, says that farmers weighing the costs and benefits of extending the milking period have several things to consider.  . . .

Waikato forum to unlock secrets to $3/kg MS farm systems:

Dairy farmer Gary Rowlands says running his farm at a cost of under $3/kg milksolids (MS) is thanks to a simple system.

Gary and wife Debra’s farm is among the 10-15 percent of New Zealand farmers who operate below $3/kg MS FWE (farm working expenses).

The Rowlands put their $2.21/kg MS FWE system down to simple farming – including an all-grass focus, basic machinery, doing their fertiliser application/silage/topping themselves and looking after their cows well.

“It’s a simple system. We just do the basics well and don’t spend if we don’t have to,” says Gary. “Every aspect comes into it.” . . 

Federated Farmers welcomes New Zealand Fire Services merger:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Government’s announcement today that funding of $303 million will be used over four years to combine rural and urban fire services.

Federated Farmers rural fire spokesperson Anders Crofoot says the creation of the new organisation – Fire and Emergency New Zealand – will mean a more efficient delivery and a better service provided by one organisation. It also recognises the services other than fire which rural fire has often provided for many years, even though it was unfunded and outside their mandate.

“The government is showing a strong commitment to transition and we welcome the additional money to build capabilities in rural fire and supporting our rural volunteers,” he said. . . 

Westpac NZ seeks more agriculture market share despite dairy downturn – By Fiona Rotherham:

 (BusinessDesk) – Westpac New Zealand says it wants to lift its market share of agricultural lending over time to 20 percent from the current 12.6 percent.

The Australian-owned bank today reported a steady performance in its New Zealand unit with cash earnings of $445 million for the six months ending Mar. 31, up 2 percent on a year ago.

Overall lending rose 8 percent with a 9 percent lift in business lending to $26.6 billion. Its agricultural portfolio totals $8.1 billion, up from $7.3 billion a year ago with dairy accounting for more than two-thirds of that. Its market share in agricultural lending rose from 12.3 percent in the previous half to 12.6 percent, which chief financial officer Jason Clifton said went mainly to existing rather than new dairy operations. . . 

Water Accord demonstrates the importance of using qualified advisers:

The release of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord this week highlights the important role of talented people in delivering improvements in the environmental performance of dairy farming.

The report notes that the training and certification of nutrient management advisers hit a major milestone in the 2014/15 year with a total of 100 rural professionals completing the requirements for and achieving certification in the Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme (NMACP). This was accomplished with the ongoing support and commitment of the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and its member companies, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd and Ravensdown Ltd. One of the Accord targets was that 50% of Fertiliser Association member company advisers would be certified by 31 May 2014, which was comfortably achieved. . . 

Contractors must do their bit:

Agricultural contractors around the country must play their part in helping to prevent the spread of the invasive weed velvetleaf, says Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) president Steve Levet.

Mr Levet is reminding contractors about the importance of biosecurity and machinery hygiene practices on, and between farms, in controlling the spread velvetleaf and says rural contractors have an important role to play in this.

“Contractors need to be conscious of the potential of spreading velvetleaf when moving between properties, or between areas of the same property, and to take responsibility in managing these risks,” he says. . . 

Wool Industry Reacts to New Health and Safety Regulations:

The National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests Inc comprises associations and organisations involved in the domestic and international trading of greasy and scoured wool. The Council acts as the New Zealand member of the International Wool Textile Organisation, which represents the interests of the wool textile trade at the global level.

The National Council and its members are committed to providing a safe working environment throughout the wool industry. Increasing concerns relating to bales weighing over 200kg (which are estimated to cover approximately 6% of the national clip) have prompted the Council to address the issue. Bales weighing in excess of 200kg can contribute to workplace accidents and throughout the industry provide a significant problem during dumping and shipping. These bales have been assessed as hazards during transport and handling, with changes deemed necessary to comply with tougher Occupational Health and Safety laws being introduced in New Zealand. . . 


Rural round-up

November 30, 2015

Climate change: Call to recognise farmers’ efforts – Anders Crofoot:

The Paris climate change meeting represents an opportunity for the world to agree the terms for the next global effort to reduce emissions.

Negotiations have continued for a number of years and, with the Kyoto Protocol having effectively lapsed at the end of 2012, farmers are hopeful of an agreement which better recognises the services we provide civil society.

For better or worse, the Kyoto Protocol bundled biological emissions from food production together with fossil fuel emissions from industry, energy and transport. With agricultural emissions representing a relatively minor proportion of national emissions among most countries, the focus naturally remains on other sources. . . 

Season has contrasting impact on Silver Fern Farms and Alliance – Allan Barber:

The two biggest meat processors had contrasting experiences during the 2015 season to judge by their annual results and accompanying comments. There is no doubt Silver Fern Farms found life easier than Alliance, with respect to the year in question. SFF must also have heaved an enormous sigh of relief after its improvement from the previous three years.

The bare facts of the differing results are NPAT of $24.9 million and dramatically reduced debt for SFF and $4.6 million NPAT for Alliance accompanied by a marginal reduction in equity ratio. Alliance’s performance was slightly worse than 2014, disappointing as chairman Murray Taggart agreed, whereas SFF’s result was a massive improvement on the previous year. Neither result represented a satisfactory return on assets, but signs for the future are positive. . . 

Federated Farmers signs Land & Water Forum Report but with conditions attached:

Federated Farmers has today added its name to the signatories of the fourth report of the Land & Water Forum after receiving the conditional support of its National Council.

The National Council, meeting in Wellington over 26 and 27 November, comprises the presidents of Federated Farmers’ 24 provinces, its National Board and representatives of its seven industry groups.

“Federated Farmers has been deeply involved in and committed to the Land & Water Forum since its formation in 2009, playing an active role in the development of this and the previous three forum reports,” says Federated Farmers Water spokesperson Chris Allen. . . 

Farm gate milk price won’t recover until mid-2016 – Westland:

Westland Milk Products believes the farm gate milk price will not recover until the middle of next year because overseas buyers have already reacted to predictions of falling production and drought.

Chief executive Rod Quin said the brief upward spike in prices at the Global Dairy Trade auction six weeks ago was overseas buyers moving to secure supply.

Westland Milk Products, which has about 500 shareholders, held its AGM this week and Mr Quin said the payout forecast remained around $4.90 to the early five dollar mark, which was less than farmers needed to break even.

He said that was unlikely to change because it looked like there would be more pressure on prices in the next couple of months. . . 

Silver Fern Farms paid former CEO Keith Cooper more than $1.8M in 2015 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand’s largest meat processor, paid former chief executive Keith Cooper more than $1.8 million last financial year, reflecting his long service with the company.

Cooper, who joined the cooperative in 1989 and was chief executive for eight years, was paid between $1.84 million and $1.85 million in the company’s 2015 financial year ended Sept. 30, Silver Fern Farms said in its annual report, where it is required to detail the number of employees that it paid $100,000 or more.

“The payments made to him reflect a combination of base salary for a period, a short-term incentive related to the prior year, a retention incentive that related to prior and future years, annual and long-service leave as well as a payment that reflected his significant contribution to the company over the prior 18 years, the most recent eight as chief executive,” the Dunedin-based company said. . . 

 

NZ Farming's photo.

 

 


Rural round-up

August 24, 2015

Increased focus on rural depression:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have today announced increased training for rural health professionals and community leaders to tackle depression in rural communities.

The commitment is the second part of the one-off $500,000 funding boost for mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities announced at Fieldays.

“Raising awareness of mental health issues in rural communities is important, but you also need the professional support with the right skills to help those who are at risk,” says Dr Coleman. . . 

TPP deal to free up world dairy trade would reduce volatility:

DairyNZ chairman John Luxton writes that major TPP players are holding their dairy consumers to ransom

The news that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal has not been agreed because of differences over autos, dairy and intellectual property is no surprise to anyone.

Some of the major players have sought to maintain trade protection rather than to reduce it.

It seems incredible that the US dairy industry has so far convinced the US negotiators that they need to be protected from any increase in New Zealand dairy imports into the US. . . 

Back to basics – Annette Scott:

Dwindling demand from dairy has forced cropping farmers to readjust their businesses in a return to traditional practices and markets.

Dairy industry destocking would result in reduced demand for off-farm feed supplies and that would mean greater demand for store lambs, Federated Farmers arable industry chairman Guy Wigley said.

With tongue in cheek he suggested now could be a good time to buy sheep. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand pleased with health and safety changes:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand says sheep and beef farmers will be pleased to hear that most farms are not going to be classed as high risk work places and won’t have to have a health and safety representative, following changes to the proposed Health and Safety Reform Bill.

Responding to suggestions that farmers are getting getting off lightly, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons said sheep and beef farms average fewer than two full time employees per farm.

“Can you imagine the farm manager and the shepherd standing on a hill and electing the health and safety representative? Not classifying farms as high risk doesn’t exempt farm businesses from any liability under the Health and Safety Reform Bill. But the amendment does recognise some basic practicalities of implementing the legislation on farms.” . . 

A2 Milk eyes infant formula for sales growth after ASX listing costs result in loss – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co sees more upside for infant formula, which underpinned full-year sales growth for the specialty milk marketing company, although costs for a secondary listing on the ASX resulted in an annual loss. The shares dropped 9.1 percent.

The Auckland-based company reported a net loss of $2.09 million in the year ended June 30, compared to a profit of $10,000 a year earlier. That included a $1.68 million charge relating to its ASX listing. Revenue jumped 40 percent to $155 million and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and one-time costs rose 35 percent to $4.18 million, reflecting a record performance in Australia.

The shares sank 7 cents to 70 cents, the lowest level in a month. . .

Rural Infrastructure needs to be a priority:

The government appears to be on the same page as Federated Farmers, with their announcement of their 30 Year Infrastructure Plan today.

Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Infrastructure Spokesperson says “Rural infrastructure will need to be a priority in looking at addressing the inefficiencies in infrastructure investment and planning.”

Federated Farmers supports the intent to better understand where the critical demands are and to make better decisions from that knowledge, but remain wary of what that strategy means for rural communities. . .

Water New Zealand welcomes Government’s 30 year infrastructure plan:

Water New Zealand welcomes the Government’s initiatives for better developing and maintaining New Zealand’s 3 waters infrastructure announced today as part of the 30 Year Infrastructure Plan 2015.

Water New Zealand is a strategic partner of the Treasury’s National Infrastructure Unit which produced the report*.

“New Zealand’s urban centres are rapidly growing and it is very encouraging to see that Central Government is facing the infrastructure challenges head on with an increased focus on developing a better understanding of water related infrastructure assets,” said John Pfahlert, CEO of Water New Zealand. . .

Science turns to sheep for answers on human health –  Sarah Stewart:

If you’ve ever tried to lose a few kilos you probably know all about fat and carbs.

But did you know you can learn a lesson or two from sheep?

A group of Kiwi scientists are finding they have much more to tell us about our health than we might think.

The saying ‘ you are what you eat’ has been around for years.

But there may in fact be a chance your health is actually determined by what your parents or even grandparents ate.

There is also a chance what you eat could affect what illnesses your kids get. . . 

Collaboration Key for Canterbury Dry Land Farmers:

In the last couple of months over 250 farmers and their advisors have attended a range of workshops, field events and presentations across four sub-catchments in the Hurunui Waiau Zone – which fits within the area of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The workshops included initial work around developing, designing and forming a ‘Collective’ for dry land farmers, linked to the Beef+Lamb NZ Farm Environment Plan and broader environmental programmes. Under the Hurunui Waiau River Regional plan, ‘for farmers to continue to farm without a consent from 1 January 2017,’ they will be required to be a member of a Collective or Irrigation Scheme. In addition, the Collective will need to develop an approved Environmental Management Strategy. . . 


More ambitious climate change targets

July 8, 2015

New Zealand will commit to a new, more ambitious climate change target, Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser announced:

“This target is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Groser said. “This is a significant increase on our current target of five per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.”

New Zealand will submit the target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. All countries are expected to table targets as part of work towards a new climate change agreement, due to be concluded in Paris in December.

“While New Zealand’s emissions are small on a global scale, we are keen to make a fair and ambitious contribution to the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the most harmful effects of climate change,” Mr Groser said.

“Almost 80% of our electricity is renewable already, and around half our emissions come from producing food for which there aren’t yet cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions. So there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now.

Those who think New Zealand isn’t doing enough forget that we’re already doing quite a bit.

Some of that is because there aren’t many of us and we don’t have a lot of heavy industry but do have a natural advantage in generating renewable energy

It’s also important t take a global perspective and acknowledge that although farming contributes a high percentage of our emissions, most of what we produce goes to other countries few if any convert grass to protein as efficiently as we do.

“However, I’m optimistic about the future – our investment in agricultural research is beginning to bear fruit and the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continues to fall. I think in 5-10 years we’ll be in a good position to reduce our emissions in both agriculture and transport.

“In setting the new target, the Government needed to ensure it was achievable and to avoid imposing unfair costs on any particular sector or group of people. . .

“New Zealand’s target is equivalent to a reduction of 11 per cent below our 1990 emission levels by 2030. Our target is expressed against 2005 emission levels similar to the approach of other significant players including the United States and Canada,” Mr Groser said.

“The target will remain provisional until we ratify the new international agreement. The detailed rules and guidelines for national reduction targets are likely to be set after the Paris meeting. These will cover matters such as the rules on accounting for the land sector, and ensuring international carbon markets meet high standards of environmental integrity.”

“The Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met. In particular, we will begin a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme this year, which will include scope for further public discussion on what New Zealand will do domestically.” Mr Groser said.

Federated Farmers says the new target is an ambitious one:

Federated Farmers Climate Change Spokesperson Anders Crofoot says in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which says reducing fossil fuel use will need to be the major focus to achieve this target. However agriculture will also play its part in development of technologies which will increase productivity whilst reducing carbon intensity of primary sector products.

“Agriculture takes its responsibilities as New Zealand and global citizens seriously and the primary sector already has an impressive track record in achieving carbon efficiency.”

“We continue to play an on-going role in meeting the world’s demand for nutrient-dense protein and finding solutions which addresses both climate change concerns and the food security dynamic.”

“To date, the amount of carbon released in producing a block of butter here in New Zealand is the lowest in the world. It is important to make sure our approach to reducing New Zealand’s emissions does not undermine our critical export industries.”

“In a resource-constrained world, it is vital to use resources efficiently and wisely. Climate change does not begin or end at New Zealand’s borders and New Zealand plays a vital world leading role as one of the most emission efficient food producers and exporters in the world.”

Beggering agriculture here would cause great harm to our economy and it would also increase emissions as less efficient producers in other countries increased production to fill the gap left by us producing less.

Anders Crofoot says New Zealand’s primary sector has made huge gains in carbon efficiency in the past three decades, through enhanced animal and plant genetics, as well as through a much greater understanding of livestock digestion and metabolism. He says our agricultural emissions intensity has declined more than 20 percent since 1990.

“Reducing emissions from biological systems such as dairy cows is not easy. That’s why since 2003, New Zealand’s agricultural sector has invested $30 million to help find solutions. AgResearch scientists have already identified five different animal-safe compounds that can reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle by 30 to 90 percent. Further trials are needed to confirm that these compounds can reduce emissions in the long term, have no adverse effects on productivity and leave no residues in meat or milk. But all going well, we could possibly see a commercial product for use on-farm within five to ten years.”

“Continued investment will be required to develop science to reduce and treat biological agricultural emissions. This is how we can make a considerable contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by getting larger developing country emitters to adopt our technologies.”

“New Zealand is already sharing its developments and gains through the Ministry for Primary Industries and Federated Farmers Global Research Alliance World Farmers Organisation Farmer Study Tours. The aim is to increase global understanding on agricultural greenhouse gas research and engage farmers on environmental management practices that support sustainable productivity.”

Mr Crofoot concluded “The task before us now is to work on solutions built off an understanding of the strengths we have as an agricultural producer, and how best we can grow those strengths in a manner that improves emissions efficiency and farm productivity.”

Business New Zealand says the target is challenging but achievable :

. . .”Our unique profile, with unusual predominance of agricultural and transport emissions, means we must be deliberate about how we achieve reductions without harming the economy.

“Key to this will be a balanced outcome for all countries taking part in forthcoming negotiations in Paris, facilitating investment, technology development and access to markets in a way that provides New Zealand businesses with the confidence to invest in low-carbon solutions for emission reductions over the long term.”

Balance is indeed the key – balance between all countries and between environmental and economic concerns keeping in mind it is the most vulnerable people who would  pay most dearly if that balance isn’t achieved.


Rural round-up

May 23, 2015

Modern farming has had its day – Annette Scott:

Modern agriculture, at about 70 years old, was the product of post WWII food shortages and while it had been effective in its primary aim of increasing yields it has to change, an industry expert says.

The 2020s would be the new 1960s as agriculture and social change entered a period as significant as the 1950s and 1960s, Dr Charles Merfield of the Biological Husbandry Unit’s Future Farming Centre said.

“Our times are once again changing,” he told farmers at a sustainable agriculture seminar run by the FFC and the Foundation for Arable Research in Ashburton. . .

Agricultural and Agri-Food Producers Call for an Ambitious, Fair, and Comprehensive Agreement through the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations meet this week in Guam to continue negotiations, agri-food producer and processor organisations from Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand remain united in their call for a modern trade agreement that includes meaningful and comprehensive market access opportunities for agriculture and agri-food.

The organisations advocating for an ambitious, fair and comprehensive TPP agreement are the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Australian National Farmers’ Federation, and the Federated Farmers of New Zealand. Together, they represent hundreds of thousands of farmers, producers, processors and exporters who, in turn, employ millions of workers across the TPP region.

“Our agricultural sectors and the jobs they provide depend on a thriving network of export markets,” said Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance. . .

Working to surplus the best news for farmers in the Budget:

Federated Farmers says it’s disappointed there is no Budget surplus this year, but the best news for farmers from the Government is that it is on track for a surplus next year.

Acting President Anders Crofoot says Federated Farmers welcomes a number of measures in the Budget, but the best thing to assist the rural economy is to control government spending enough to create an enduring surplus to enable debt repayment and to keep pressure off inflation, monetary policy and the exchange rate.

“The Government is clearly trying to balance the need to responsibly manage its finances with the pressing and growing demands to do something about housing and child hardship.” . .

Budget biosecurity announcements a good response to changing risks:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has welcomed the 2015 budget announcements in support of better biosecurity outcomes.

“Short of a major volcanic eruption in Auckland there is very little that trumps the impact that a biosecurity incursion could have on the New Zealand economy. A bad biosecurity incursion would shut down exports and derail much of our country’s productive capability.” says DCANZ Chairman Malcolm Bailey.

“Unlike a volcanic eruption, there are things we can do as a country to lessen the risk of a biosecurity incursion. DCANZ thanks the Government for its commitment to responding to the changes which are altering New Zealand’s biosecurity risk profile.” . . .

NZ wool prices jump to multi-year high at auction, amid strong exporter demand – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand wool prices jumped to multi-year highs at auction even as the volume on offer rose 78 percent, amid strong demand from exporters.

The price for clean 35-micron wool, a benchmark for crossbred wool used for carpets and accounting for the majority of New Zealand’s production, rose to $6.20 per kilogram at yesterday’s South Island auction, from $5.80/kg in the North Island auction last week, and reaching its highest level since November 2013, according to AgriHQ. Lamb wool jumped to $6.90/kg, from $6.65/kg, marking its highest level since April 2011. . .

Blenheim the place to be in June for Ag contractors:

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) is encouraging all of its members – and any others interested in the agricultural contracting sector – to attend its annual conference being held in Blenheim later next month.

Chief executive Roger Parton says this year’s RCNZ annual conference is being held at the Marlborough Convention Centre, in Blenheim, from June 22-25.

“The conference is less than a month away and for those who have not registered yet; now is the time to do so,” he explains. “We will be unable to hold any accommodation past the end of this month, so if people want come they need to get their registrations in now.” . . .


Rural round-up

May 11, 2015

$48m contract signed to expand NOIC scheme – David Bruce:

A $48 million contract has been signed to extend the North Otago irrigation scheme to another 10,000ha, with work to start this month and water expected to be flowing in September next year.

It is the major cost of the expansion, which is expected to total about $57 million once company and design costs are added.

The North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) and McConnell Dowell Constructors Ltd signed the infrastructure contract on Thursday after enough farmers had committed to the scheme in December for the expansion to the Kakanui Valley.  .  .

Government invests in Primary Industry Research Centre:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see two of the country’s top research institutes’ second application for Government funding under the CoREs (Centre of Research Excellence) has been successful.

The two institutes, The Riddet Institute (Massey University) and the Bio-Protection Research Centre (Lincoln University) are crucial to New Zealand’s primary industries and have each made significant advances for New Zealand’s economy, society and the environment thanks to previous Government funding.

“I am thrilled that these highly innovative research centres have made it through the selection process and will now be able to continue their crucial work in sustainable pest management solutions and food science and human health,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers President. . .

Carpet wool comes into fashion:

New Zealand strong wool, renowned for its use in carpets, is set to become world famous for a new use – on people’s feet.

Danish footwear firm Glerups has signed a two-year deal with The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and New Zealand’s largest farming company, Landcorp to exclusively supply strong wool for its indoor shoe range.

The indoor shoes, renowned for comfort, warmth and durability, are felted in 100% pure natural wool with soft leather soles. They are sold throughout Denmark and in more than 20 countries, including New Zealand (www.glerups.co.nz). . .

Climate Change Conversation welcomed:

Federated Farmers welcomes the Government’s public consultation on climate change, ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, in December.

“We live in a global world, where as much as we are a part of its problems we are a part of its solutions,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Climate Change Spokesperson.

“It is important that the public are a part of the discussion in setting New Zealand‘s post 2020 climate change target. A critical element to having that discussion is that everyone understands the issues and trade-offs involved in setting our contribution.”

“New Zealand’s economy is driven by exports with 73 percent of our merchandise exports coming from the primary industries, worth $35.2 billion. UN projections have the global population peaking at 11 billion by 2075 and the FAO estimates that agricultural output must increase by 60 percent by 2050 to meet this growth. While New Zealand cannot feed the world we will play our part. It would be irresponsible of us to squander or underutilise our resources.” . . .

Unlocking secrets behind footrot:

New Zealand’s fine wool sector is a step closer to eradicating footrot thanks to ground-breaking research in sheep genetics.

The FeetFirst project, part of a Primary Growth Partnership between the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and the Ministry for Primary Industries, is using genetic testing to identify fine-wool sheep with resistance to footrot.  Researchers are now close to developing a simple test for growers to eliminate footrot using selective breeding. . .

Fund helps township with projects

A Waitaki Valley township is cashing in on its history as tourism grows, particularly because of the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail.

Duntroon is undergoing a transformation to re-create its history, with the help of more than $100,000 so far from the Meridian Energy Waitaki Community Fund.

The Duntroon Development Association is leading the work, based on a community vision conceived about 12 years ago, with several projects, including restoration of Nicol’s Forge and a wetland area.

”It’s fantastic what’s been achieved,” association spokesman Mike Gray said yesterday. . .

Adventure & outdoor conference focusing on the future:

Adventure and outdoor tourism operators will have the opportunity to focus on growing their sector at a one-day conference in July, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) says.

The Great Adventure 2015, the only conference specifically for New Zealand’s adventure and outdoor tourism sector, will take place in Wellington on 2-3 July 2015. Registrations open today at www.tianz.org.nz/main/The_Great_Adventure_2015

Now in its third year, The Great Adventure will focus on growing a strong and unified sector that succeeds and leads at every level from safety to profitability. . .


Rural round-up

January 17, 2015

Fire risk in mowing roadside vegetation:

Federated Farmers is warning farmers and the rural community of the risk in mowing roadside vegetation in the extreme dry conditions.

“The fire environment has reached the point where it has become extremely dangerous and high risk to use a mechanical mower to top paddocks and mow road sides,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Rural Fire Spokesperson.

“In the past 14 days Wairarapa Rural Fire District has attended 6 vegetation fires caused by the mowing of the road side or the topping of paddocks. Consequently Wairarapa Rural Fire and the Federation strongly recommend any mowing activity is postponed until weather conditions allow and the fire risk is lower.” . . .

Kiwifruit bonanza with soaring volumes – Carmen Hall:

Gold kiwifruit volumes are expected to increase by 70 per cent this year – sparking an employment drive across the industry.

The increase in volumes is also expected to pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer said in 2013/14, 18 million trays were produced and that was predicted to rise “to upward of 30 million trays” and could reach 60 million trays by 2017.

“We have got three years of very steep volume growth, potentially up to 50 to 60 million trays. We were at 30 million trays in 2011 which was the pre-Psa impact and dropped back to 11 million trays in 2012/13 so we are now on the recovery.” . . .

NZ tractor sales rise to four decade high in 2014 on buoyant rural economy – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand tractor sales rose to their highest in almost four decades last year, reflecting a buoyant rural economy as farmers benefited from strong prices and good growing conditions.

New tractor registrations surged to 3,038 in calendar 2014, up 4.7 percent on 2013 and at the highest level since 3,129 in 1976, according to New Zealand Transport Agency data. Spending on farm buildings also rose, with the value of consents up 24 percent in the year though November to a six-year high of $322 million, according to Statistics New Zealand data.

Farmers stepped up their spending on big-ticket items like tractors and buildings last year, reflecting low interest rates, record prices and good growing conditions in the 2013/14 farming season. Spending is likely to fall this year as farmers face higher interest rates, lower prices and with drought conditions spreading through the East Coast. . .

 $5.75m debt; orchard sold – Lynda van Kempen:

One of the largest stonefruit operations in the country, Summerfruit Orchards Ltd, which owes $5.75 million, has been sold to a New Zealand buyer.

The company went into receivership in September, owing among its debts just over $4 million to SBS Bank.

The first report by receivers Colin Gower, of Christchurch, and Tim Ward, of Invercargill, has revealed the main creditors after the collapse of the company. . .

 

Workshops turn nitrogen reports into practical actions:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients has joined forces with the Dairy Women’s Network, DairyNZ, Fonterra, Miraka, Synlait and Tatua to help farmers come to grips with their farm nitrogen reports and how to use them to support N-loss improvements.

Ian Tarbotton, of Ballance’s Science Extension Team, says a roadshow in both the North and South Islands through February and March will help farmers turn reports into action.

“We want to take the mystery out of farm nitrogen reports, show what factors influence the numbers in reports, and leave farmers with some really practical ways to change their numbers for the better.” . . .

Awards Continues to Attract New Entrants

The 2015 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards has continued to attract large numbers of first time entrants to the awards programme, which aims to help people progress their career in the dairy industry.

National Convenor Chris Keeping says an analysis of the 532 entries received in the awards competitions – including the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year – shows 338 are entering one of the contests for the first time. . . .

 

 

 


Rural round-up

January 7, 2015

Dry spell affects North Otago most:

North Otago farmers are feeling the pinch from the driest period the region has had in seven years, Federated Farmers North Otago president Richard Strowger says.

Farmers spoken to in other parts of Otago were less concerned about the dry and hot weather, and some parts of the region have benefited from the warm spell.

Mr Strowger said, unlike other areas, North Otago was coming off a very dry spring, which meant farmers were really feeling the bite. . .

Canterbury farmers fear drought as region driest in a decade – Suze Metherell:

 (BusinessDesk) – Canterbury is on the verge of a 20th century-style drought with the southern region the driest it has been in a decade, forcing farmers to sell surplus stock and leading to restrictions on irrigation as the area waits for rain.

Soil moisture in eastern and southern Canterbury is between severely and extremely drier than normal, while the outlook for rain remains light, according to data from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa). The region, which suffered crippling droughts through the 1970s to 1990s, is the driest it has been in a decade, Ivon Hurst, Federated Farmers’ South Canterbury president, told BusinessDesk.

“We are in what you would call a drought – not an emergency, official drought where the government has to come in and give assistance, but there is no moisture in the ground, we have a consistently dry weather pattern,” Hurst said. “If we do get rain at this stage then we’re saved and we’ll have a good season, but I very much doubt that – the weather pattern is too stable. It’s got the same feel as the big droughts we had in the last century.” . . .

Thompson tops at FQC :

The Fertiliser Quality Council (FQC) has named Ann Thompson as its new executive director.

Thompson is currently a policy advisor for Federated Farmers in Wellington.

FQC chairman Anders Crofoot said the Council was extremely fortunate to be able to attract a person with the talent and track record of Thompson to the role. . .

New Zealand’s fish stocks in healthy state heading into 2015

Consumers can look forward to plenty of tasty and nutritious seafood this year with New Zealand fish stocks in good shape.

“The status of our stocks over the 2014 year showed some marked improvements according to the Ministry for Primary Industries figures and point to the conclusion that ‘by far the majority of New Zealand’s fisheries are performing well [1],” says Tim Pankhurst, Chief Executive of Seafood New Zealand.

This included an increase in the number of known fish stocks at or above the target for well-managed fisheries (increasing from 69.2% in 2013 to 72.5% in 2014) and a marked increase in the percentage of stocks where overfishing is not occurring (increasing from 82.1% to 86.8%). . .

Amazing Maze 2015 get lost this Summer:

The Amazing Maze ‘n Maize in Karaka, Auckland is a giant maze carved out of a 4 hectare field of maize (or animal corn) and has just opened for the summer season. Maze goers walk along several kilometers of paths and make decisions at over 100 intersections as to which way to go. Some intersections have “Kernels of Knowledge”, or trivia signs about the amazing pet theme. These not only help people find their way, but they also keep them entertained. Lifeguards are there to assist the truly lost, but taking the provided flag will give visitors peace of mind in the maze.

The Amazing Maze features a viewing bridge within the maize maze where visitors can see the huge expanse of corn that they are walking through. Parts of the design can be made out from the bridge but the real picture can only be seen from a plane or helicopter. This year the maze design includes a girl with a lamb, a boy with a dog, and a horse, all clearly visable from the air. . .

Food Matters Aotearoa conference shows the way forward:

The Food Matters Aotearoa conference will be promoting healthy sustainable food production showcasing speakers from 5 different continents. A range of expertise will also come from New Zealand.

One speaker Dr Vandana Shiva works with thousands of small Indian farmers and has set up over a hundred heritage seed banks. Growing organically now provides extra production of highly nutritious food from difficult growing environments.

“Heritage varieties that perform without chemical fertilisers and pesticides have improved the lives of thousands of subsistence farmers; heritage seeds and organic methods are now being used in community gardens around New Zealand” said Susie Lees from Food Matters Aotearoa team. “A resurgence of communities growing their own food is resulting in healthier lifestyles for New Zealanders.” . . .


Trade barriers economically and morally indefensible.

November 27, 2014

Federated Farmers’ vice president Anders Crofoot  spoke to the Australian Farm Institute’s Agriculture Roundtable Conference on the role free trade has played in sustaining and growing the New Zealand farm system.

In many ways my speaking to you, a New York Yankee from the Wairarapa, underscores a dimension of our farm system and human capital that is underrated.  That being how international it is.  I would argue the primary industries are the most international aspect of New Zealand business.

Our isolation means we have to be, and that has been ingrained since the first waves of organised European migrations in the 19th Century.

At first, the majority of the New Zealand farms were focused on producing wool and meat from sheep, and milk from cattle. Exports were limited to non-refrigerated or salted items.

Technology, in the form of refrigeration, towards the end of the 19th Century, had a disruptive influence and radically transformed farming from a domestic focus, to an export one.  Of course this was within the British Imperial family.

Refrigeration saw meat and dairy products being exported, the firs shipment leaving New Zealand on the 18th of February 1882, from Dunedin. The creation of these new markets changed farming by attracting skilled migrants to New Zealand, which lies in a pastoral “sweet spot.”  The right water, sunshine hours, temperature and soils.

Capital enabled mechanisation and technology to be imported, while inventiveness and the ‘no.8 wire’ mentality here started to create new technology.

Refrigeration and a large guaranteed market in Britain saw a first golden period for farming here, which lasted until 1973, when Britain joined the European Union.

Farming then became less prosperous due to the country’s reliance on one market and a narrow basket on primary exports.  In the 1970’s, on-farm costs rose with oil shocks, returns fell, but land prices remained high.

1984 Reforms

This resulted in a cornucopia of subsidies and tariffs in a vainglorious attempt to hold back the world.  These crumpled in 1984 with the defeat of Rob Muldoon’s National Government, and the election of a radically reforming Labour Government of David Lange and Roger Douglas.

Suddenly and expectantly subsidies and trade protection were removed, and New Zealand trade was gradually liberalised. Remarkably it was cheered on and championed by Federated Farmers, who foresaw the cancerous effect of subsidies and protection. Since 1986, productivity in New Zealand’s agricultural sector has improved by an average of  5.9% per year.

Until then, nearly 40 percent of the average New Zealand sheep and beef farmer’s gross income came from government subsidies.  Farmers were paid to rip out native vegetation, ironic given today’s environmental climate.

They were encouraged to produce without regard to markets; but unfortunately we don’t get rich by selling to ourselves.

By 1985 UK trade was dramatically decreased. However, Muldoon’s parting gift of a free trade agreement with Australia in 1983 (CER) started to blossom.

The effect of reforms on outlook and trade

You may think that this major policy change, of removing farm subsidies, would have destroyed the make-up of our farm systems.

On the contrary, our farmers came through that experience stronger than ever.

For farming, there is life after subsidies, and while the late David Lange predicted that farming was a sunset industry in the 1980’s, and that manufacturing and tourism would take its place, a compatriot of mine, Mark Twain, would answer in reply that the rumours of agriculture’s death have been greatly exaggerated!

A lack of subsidies and tariff barriers forced New Zealand producers to grow up and talk to the markets they were selling into.

The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand has given birth to a vibrant, diversified and growing rural economy. Early predictions were  that 8,000 farms would fail, but in the end, only 800 did.

As of 2013, 73 percent of New Zealand’s merchandise exports were from the primary sector.  That is five percent higher than in 2008.  Of the 2013 figure, about 45 percent is from the traditional pastoral side of meat, wool, dairy, seeds and crops.

The removal of subsidies has proven to be a catalyst for productivity gains. In the twenty years since 1986-87, the value of economic activity in New Zealand’s farm sector had grown by 40% in constant dollar terms and continues to do so. Such improvements in productivity are readily apparent at the level of the individual family farm.

Lambing percentages, lamb export slaughter weight and milk fat processed per cow have massively increased. The diversification of land use prompted by the removal of subsidies has been beneficial for farmers and has increased the size and scope of the New Zealand agricultural sector as new innovative products have been developed.

Farmers are now farming better than ever, contributing $14 billion (6%) to our countries GDP from behind the farm gate.

They are much more conscious that their activities must make good business sense.  No longer are they chasing subsidies, pursuing maximum production at any cost.  Farmers maintain cost structures that reflect the real earning capacity of their farms.  They invest in protecting their environment and the value of their land is based on its earning capacity in the market.

Good management of the environment is an integral part of sustainable agricultural practice by farmers, where farmers are producing more from less.

With the removal of subsidies, agricultural practice is now driven by the demands of the market and by consumers.  The removal of subsidies has also broadened the base of farming to encompass diversified activities, such as rural tourism, and blended forms of agriculture where dairy farms in the Bay of Plenty and Nelson also grow horticultural products.

New Zealand now boasts the lowest level of agricultural support for industrialised countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The level of assistance to agriculture in New Zealand now represents only one percent of farming income.

In 2013, the worst drought in 70-years, covering the South Island’s west coast and the entire North Island saw only 146 Rural Assistance Payments (RAP) granted.  Given these are means and asset tested it underscores just how little support farming receives here in contrast with the EU, where farmers are getting payments due to Russian sanctions!

What support New Zealand farmers do receive is mainly in the form of government funding for agricultural research.

Agricultural labour productivity is consistently the leading sector for labour productivity.

A key difference between New Zealand and other countries is that New Zealand exports the vast majority of its agricultural production.  Upwards of 95 percent is exported. We produce enough food to feed at least 24.4 million people, although some estimates are higher.

This makes New Zealand a significant player in world trade of foodstuffs, being the largest dairy exporter and the largest exporter of lamb, while by no means being the largest producers.  We are also the largest global exporter of a number of herbage seeds.

This also goes to highlight the knife edge the world sits on between food surplus and food deficit; food security.

External perspectives on trade

Thanks to a structural realignment domestically, New Zealand farming turned from a myopic dependence upon “mother Britain” to having to hustle for markets and opportunity.

Before I address that opportunity I wish to highlight something Federated Farmers President, Dr William Rolleston, recently wrote about.

We have become accustomed to looking at trade barriers and threats “symmetrically” – things like quotas, subsidies and tariffs, “Buy Local” campaigns, or British farmers objecting to Tescos promoting New Zealand lamb.

Earlier this year, The Economist magazine noted the United States’ Farm Bill was

“A strange piece of legislation, which costs nearly a trillion dollars. It mixes benefits that mostly go to the poor (food stamps) with agricultural subsidies that mostly go to the rich (crop subsidies for large farms).  Given a blank slate, nobody with an interest in either alleviating poverty or improving farming would construct such a law. Yet here it is again.”

As an American New Zealander I must concur with the Economist’s conclusion.

Yet there are also “Asymmetrical Trade Threats,” highlighted recently by Fonterra Co-operative Group Chief Executive, Theo Spierings.

On TV3’s The Nation, he put the impact of Ebola to New Zealand at $150 million, yet not one New Zealander is infected.

What has been affected is about six percent of Fonterra sales.

Animal disease provides another threat.

A new assessment of Foot & Mouth Disease puts the estimated cost of a large-scale outbreak at $16 billion over six years for New Zealand.  This would also tip us into recession.

Markets live on fear and rumour and last year’s non-Botulism scare gives a hint as to what effect a major animal disease outbreak could result in.

Ebola and potentially Foot and Mouth Disease join another example of an “Asymmetrical Trade Threat;” the Eastern Ukraine.

Even what Russian separatists do in the Ukraine materially impacts the price of our dairy exports and our wealth as a country.  So the knock-on effect Ebola has upon the economies we trade with and the dislocation of up to three billion litres of milk caused by Russian sanctions.

These largely unforeseen and unpredictable, Asymmetric Trade Threats are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars.  The now discredited ‘food miles’ concept could have fallen into this category as could future consumer movements.

I put that out there because we need to be attuned to “a tree falling in the forest.”  No matter how removed, technology disease and political events seemingly unrelated could impact us..

Trade today, trade tomorrow

Now for the good news.

The Helen Clark-led Labour Government and the John Key-led National Government have built on a platform laid down since 1984.

You cannot secure free trade if you do not live the dream, and Exhibit A is China.  Our exports to China have jumped 160% since the FTA came into force in 2008.

In 2004-06 we exported some $2 billion worth of goods to China.

In the year to September 2014, that stood at $11.35 billion and 37 percent up on the same point in 2013.

Last December we signed a free trade agreement with Taiwan that has seen trade break the billion dollar barrier being 19.5 percent up on the same point in 2013. It is now our seventh largest trading partner.

Even Britain remains our sixth largest with exports up over ten percent in the year to September.

Free Trade has enabled and not hindered New Zealand.  We are richer and better off for it.

Our trading partners rely heavily on the Asia Pacific, which underscores why we need the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  But it must be a partnership we can embrace.

When it comes to the TPP, Dr Rolleston recently wrote:

“I find it remarkable you can largely tell a persons position by the acronym they use.  As we call it the TPP we fall into the supporter category, but those who add an ‘A,’ making it the TPPA, generally fall into the opposing camp.  Supporters use partnership, opponents prefer agreement.”

Whatever your view, no one under the age of 40 will realistically recall what New Zealand was like when we had a tariff for every occasion.  Something a comprehensive TPP must aim to put on the path to extinction.

If TPP members play favourites with certain countries over others, we could easily end up being worse off than we were before a TPP.

A TPP that doesn’t address trade barriers at and behind the border is no agreement.

If some countries cannot stand the trade heat then they need to get out of the negotiation kitchen, allowing others who can to cook up an agreement which New Zealand has deserved since the 1984 reforms.

There’s also no reason why countries in the slow lane cannot join later when the scale and ambition of the TPP is known.  The Three Musketeers’ motto, “all for one, and one for all,” defines whether the TPP will stand as a beacon or fall into the trade abyss, like Doha sadly seems to have done.

If we compromise just to get agreement over the line, agriculture will be trapped permanently in a too hard basket.

While there’s much conjecture about TPP benefits, Tim Groser, our Trade Minister, has correctly noted that the China Free Trade Agreement underestimated economic benefits “by between 10 and 17 times.”

The recent agreement with Taiwan has seen bilateral trade surge 19.5 percent in the year to September, bearing in mind it was signed only last December.   It seems we do very well if agriculture and agri-food is enabled and not hindered by such agreements.

This is why the TPP must address trade barriers at and behind the border

If everyone plays ball the members of the TPP will account for a quarter of global trade.  This is a huge prize and winning a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council has to give us some diplomatic clout.

Trade restrictions open up opportunities for corruption.

They interfere in relationships between producers and consumers and promote inefficiency.

They are expensive and the people who are hit hardest by that are the poor.

Trade barriers are economically and morally indefensible.


Rural round-up

September 18, 2014

The most boring bankrupt economic argument–“we export raw logs when we could be adding value and making jobs” : Eye to the Long Run:

The rot set in in the late 1940s on this. Jim Anderton was maybe the first in the modern era to believe we wantonly refused to profit from the blindingly obvious money and jobs to be had from processing timber.

In recent times only Winston Peters has been bright enough to see what the entire business sector has apparently completely missed.

Now, joining him as a value add timber processing expert we have the lawyer from Herne Bay – Mr Cunliffe who has spotted the opportunity.

It is, you understand, not so profitable that any of them would give up their day job… it never is, is it? . . .

Future of red meat promotion under threat – Allan Barber:

Next year’s Commodity Levy Act referendum is one of the factors concentrating meat industry minds on the question of red meat promotional investment. B+LNZ is currently conducting a consultation round with individual meat companies to find out how this critically important, if contentious, topic should be agreed for the benefit of all industry participants.

B+LNZ Chief Executive Scott Champion told me it’s too early to make any predictions about the outcome, at least until after completion of the consultation round at the end of September. With the referendum about 12 months away, the process is geared to providing time to gather enough detail for promotional strategy development before taking this out to farmers to test it in advance of the vote. . . 

New Zealand’s Hake and Ling Join Top 8% of World’s Sustainable Fisheries:

Hake and ling from New Zealand are now among the top 8% of global sustainable fish species after being recognised by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Each of the three New Zealand hake trawl fisheries, five ling trawl fisheries and five ling long line fisheries have been certified as sustainable against the MSC standard – the ‘gold standard’ for sustainable seafood production.

Only 8% of the world’s wild-capture harvest is certified through the global MSC programme which sets high internationally-accepted standards for sustainable fishing and provides consumers with assurance that MSC certified seafood is sustainable, based on sound, independent science. . .

 

Rural New Zealand wants gigabit equality:

Federated Farmers and TUANZ believe it is essential the next Government delivers better connectivity to rural New Zealand, and is keen to work with them to make that happen.

“We are encouraged by the National Party’s further commitment of $150million, if they’re re-elected, and hope to see a similar commitment from our next Government announced this Saturday” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Telecommunications Spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers and TUANZ support a Gigabit Agenda for Rural New Zealand that doesn’t leave our productive sector behind. We need to talk about gigabit speeds, where farmers can eventually get their gigabytes as fast as the townies do. . . .

 The right people trained the right way –  Craig Littin:

Our recently released Manifesto talks about building a sustainable farm system giving us the collective means to go forward as a nation.  We can and we will be more than we are today, but to do that we need the right people trained the right way.

Firstly we need to look at what we are trying to achieve. We need to have the young people of New Zealand believing that farming is the attractive career option that it is. We also need to put our money where our mouth is in terms of investing in education, science, research and innovation.

There are some great stories out there of the highly skilled people in our industry who have worked through the agricultural industry to now run multimillion dollar businesses, on very attractive salaries. These opportunities are available to anyone with the enthusiasm, intellect and discipline required to make it in the dairy industry, but we need sound education systems to get the right people into the industry. To do this we need to align the requirements and standards to fulfil job roles with the qualifications offered within primary industry training/education institutes. . . .

Molkerei Ammerland Completes First Sweet Whey Powder Auction on Globaldairytrade:

Sweet whey powder has been sold for the first time on GlobalDairyTrade (GDT), the world’s leading online dairy auction platform, with Molkerei Ammerland selling the product they offered at their first trading event.

Molkerei Ammerland CEO Ralf Hinrichs said the company was pleased with the results from the first SWP online auction.

“Through GDT we have been able to extend our reach to a larger number of customers, and to transact with them much faster. We’re looking forward to using GDT to grow our export market,” he said. . .

Tasman Tanks Appoints Craig Hemmings as Dairy Effluent Sector Manager:

Leading New Zealand and Australian storage tank company Tasman Tanks, has appointed Craig Hemmings as dairy effluent sector manager.

Mr Hemmings brings to his position more than a decade of management experience with nationally and internationally recognised agricultural companies.

As dairy effluent sector manager for Tasman Tanks, Mr Hemmings will oversee the operational management of the company’s dairy effluent division in New Zealand.

“From small beginnings in 1996, Tasman Tanks has built its reputation on designing, manufacturing and installing fully engineered and certified tanks,” said Mr Hemmings. . .

 Central Otago Wine Industry no longer a “One Trick Pony”:

As we have come to expect, Central Otago wines dominated the medals for pinot noir at the 2014 New Zealand International Wine Show, taking out 10 of the 15 Gold Medals awarded. But what is more interesting about the results of this show is that Central Otago wines won medals in a total of 10 different wine categories – Methode Traditionelle, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Dessert Wine, Rose, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Now in its tenth year, The New Zealand International Wine Show is firmly established as the largest wine competition held in New Zealand each year. The 2014 New Zealand International Wine Show was judged from 8th to 10th September in Auckland and attracted a total of 2130 entries. Trophies will be awarded at the Awards Dinner on 27 September. . .


NY to NZ – our gain

August 24, 2014

Federated Farmers vice president Anders Crofoot  reacts to emotive opposition to foreign investment:

When it comes to the foreign ownership of farmland my family has a unique perspective. 

Before my wife and I moved our family thousands of miles from upstate New York to the Wairarapa, we did research.  A great deal of it.  We’d narrowed our choices to English speaking Canada, Australia and of course, New Zealand.  Adding a new language, when you are moving thousands of kilometres, adds too much complexity.  Since moving downunder, we’ve learned that being a “good b..tard” is a complement. Maybe Winston Churchill was right when he said “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”. 

While Emily was the farmer, I was an investment analyst.  Together, we learned more about the country, its political stability, history, economy, agricultural system, climate and the rural property market.  Of course, being ‘foreign investors’, we checked out whether we’d be welcomed or not. 

We quickly dropped Canada from consideration for being even colder than New York.  We also wanted to break out of the closeted subsidy culture prevalent in North America. While Australia offered space aplenty, dealing with years of drought followed by floods was a challenge too far.  Our preference was for New Zealand’s more benign climate.

To farmers overseas, New Zealand is the mecca of farming.  Nowhere else had an organisation like Federated Farmers worked with a left-wing government to end subsidies.  Farmers there, we learned, were judged on their abilities as farmers and not the size of their subsidy cheque. New Zealand was at the forefront of pastoral research and practice too.  It also had plenty of migrant farmers who had integrated and excelled. New Zealand felt right.

Being in Federated Farmers a few years later, I came across one farmer who made Winston Peters look like a weak-kneed liberal.  Proving the debate is seemingly two-thirds heart and one-third brain, I later learned that he’d bought a farm in Australia but he still opposed foreign investment, albeit, slightly sheepishly. 

Sadly this hypocrisy isn’t unusual.

Deciding on a country is one thing, but it’s quite another to get the ideal farm. We were very fortunate to convince Castlepoint’s Board that New York Yankees were fit custodians for their iconic Wairarapa station.  That was 1998 and we’ve never looked back. 

Kiwis are the most hospitable people with an unerring knack of convincing you to take on more responsibilities. I was one of two non-New Zealand born farmers on the Federated Farmers National Board.  I’m also on the Board of Grow Wellington and to keep my feet firmly on the ground, I’m also Castlepoint’s Fire Chief.  Emily is similarly involved and our children are now working in New Zealand.

The Crofoots have and continue to contribute a lot to their local community, farming and the country.

Their decision to move from new York to New Zealand has been our gain.

Politicians are quick to say that families like us are their ‘ideal’ business migrants.  The message is that ‘people like us’ will continue to be welcomed, whichever party wins on 20 September. 

Unfortunately, that nuance is lost if you’re thousands of miles away reading herald.co.nz or watching news on-demand.  The streaming of talkback radio means Albany, New York can listen to ZB just as easily as someone in Albany, Auckland. 

If we were researching New Zealand, today, would we make the biggest of big moves?  Possibly not. 

The tone around foreign investment has hardened for the worse.  To outsiders, politics and cultish popularity now seem big determinants.  There’s also a nasty undercurrent which reflects poorly on us as Kiwis.  Who this is putting off we’ll never know, but it is off-putting.

That might be what those opposed to foreign investment want but it’s not necessarily in the best interests of New Zealand.

Farming is the most international industry we have.  It’s this mix of people that makes New Zealand agriculture unique and the success it is.  The Green Party opposed Shania Twain’s High Country purchase but look at what British record producer Robert “Mutt” Lange has given back; 53,000 hectares and a whole landscape permanently protected. The restoration and enhancement of Young Nicks Head would never have taken place had a Kiwi farmer purchased it rather than New York financier, John Griffin.  We’re even near neighbours of James Cameron, that’s in a rural sense because we’re over an hour away by car. 

Politics must come out of the ‘foreign investment’ debate because it can so easily spiral into the gutter.  Rules are important and we Kiwis accept that with sport, why not overseas investment? 

We have rules on foreign investment and those rules have been toughened since National has been leading the government.

It hasn’t been easy for foreigners to buy farms here for a long time and it’s harder now.

If the rules still aren’t tough enough it is fair enough to look at the m again.

But that look must be a rational one, mindful of both the costs and benefits of foreign investment, our obligations to trading partners and the benefits New Zealand and New Zealanders get from investing in other countries.

 

I know another couple from the USA who have made a big investment in New Zealand in hospitality and tourism. They are an asset to the community in which they’ve settled, the wider hospitality and tourism industry and the country.

I wonder how many others like that might write New Zealand off their list of countries to visit and possibly invest and settle in because of political opportunism?


%d bloggers like this: