Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


Rural round-up

March 13, 2019

Tax recommendations threaten future prosperity:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Government to reject the majority of the raft of new taxes proposed by the Tax Working Group.

“Small business would pay the costs, large business would spend thousands avoiding the costs and tax advisors and valuers would have a field day,” Federated Farmers Vice-President Andrew Hoggard says.

“There is possibly an argument for a Capital Gains Tax aimed at rental properties if there was some sound evidence it would dampen investor speculation, and reduce price pressure and first home buyers being out-bid. But even with that, we haven’t given the tougher ‘bright line’ test rules a chance to really kick in. . .

Despite rising prices farmers are feeling oppressed from all sides and confidence is low. FIckle urban voters are driving a flood of rules and imposing costs that make little sense to the business of farming – Guy Trafford:

The results of the January Federated Farmers farmer survey have recently been published and makes fairly sober reading – especially in the context that prices for most commodities are reasonably sound.

Only 5.1% of respondents expected economic conditions to improve and but nearly 46% expect economic conditions to worsen, this is the worse result since July 2009.

Given the recent rises in milk prices and solid returns coming for sheep and beef farmers this level of pessimism is somewhat surprising and perhaps is a reflection of where farmers heads are at rather than a measure of what the ‘true’ economic conditions are. . . 

Looking to Generation Z for the future of  food – Sarah Perriam:

The rural sector is rapidly changing.

Consumer demand and global trends means New Zealand farmers need to embrace innovation to be able to compete and thrive in this new and exciting environment.

The next generation is vital for success. . . 

Greenpeace billboard ruled misleading  :

Federated Farmers is pleased the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Greenpeace billboard aimed at fertilizer companies and the dairy industry is misleading and takes advocacy a step too far.

“Federated Farmers believes everyone has the right to express strong views but as the ASA Complaints Board ruling underlines, over-simplification of issues and targeting of two farmer-owned companies is misleading and overly provocative,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Zespri. Appoints Bruce Cameron as chairman – Luke Chivers:

While the kiwifruit industry is having its day in the sun it is not short of challenges. Luke Chivers spoke to new Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron about the future.

New Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron is taking over at a time of strong continuity and volume in kiwifruit exports.

He replaces Te Puna grower Peter McBride who has stood down to pursue other primary industry interests, including a Fonterra directorship. . .

Butter prices go into meltdown :

Butter prices fell 10 percent in February 2019 to a 19-month low, Stats NZ said today.

The average price for a 500g block of butter fell to $5.20 in February 2019, down from a record high of $5.79 in January 2019.

“In January we saw milk prices fall to a 19-month low. This price fall now looks to be flowing on to other dairy products,” consumer prices manager Gael Price said. . . 


CGT would hit middle hardest

February 22, 2019

It there’s such a thing as a fair tax, it’s not one based on misplaced envy as the Tax Working Group’s capital gains tax appears to be.

No photo description available.
Fairness is desirable but not at any cost and  it’s best achieved by helping the poor up not pulling the better-off down, especially when those who will be hit hardest are those with modest investments, not the really wealthy, and worse still, they’d be hit by one of the most penal CGTs in the world:

The Tax Working Group’s report released today proposes a broad-based top rate of 33% capital gains tax (CGT).

The New Zealand Initiative argues in a new policy note, The Pitfalls of CGT, that headline rate would immediately push New Zealand to the top of the international CGT rankings among industrialised economies, just behind Denmark and Finland.

“The proposal is conspicuous by a lack of exemptions and concessions around business investment, so a full rate would arguably qualify New Zealand’s CGT regime as one of the harshest in the world,” said Dr Patrick Carvalho, Research Fellow and author of the note.

“Worse, given New Zealand’s recognisably low-income tax thresholds by international standards, a new CGT would disproportionately hit middle-income earners already struggling to invest for retirement.”

“New Zealand should be cautious about siren calls for a top-ranking CGT. Trying to punch above our weight can sometimes place us in the wrong fight category,” concludes Dr Carvalho.

A good tax would foster investment that would help businesses grow, produce more and employ more.

A good tax would encourage and reward thrift and delayed gratification.

A good tax would improve productivity and promote growth.

The CTG as proposed would do the opposite.

New Zealand needs foreign investment because we don’t have enough of our own capital. The CGT would aggravate that by making investing overseas more attractive than investing domestically:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) proposals released this morning would skew New Zealand investors away from local assets, distort the KiwiSaver market and mangle the portfolio investment entity (PIE) regime if introduced, according to the founder of the country’s largest direct-to-consumer managed fund platform.

Anthony Edmonds, InvestNow founder, said while the TWG final report includes some welcome reforms, overall the capital gains tax (CGT) recommendations would add cost, complexity and confusion to New Zealand’s relatively efficient managed funds market.

“For example, the TWG’s plan to increase tax on New Zealand shares by applying CGT while leaving the fair dividend rate (FDR) tax for offshore shares unchanged would naturally drag capital offshore at the expense of local assets – at a time when New Zealand needs to fund major infrastructure projects,” Edmonds said. “In trying to discourage people from investing in residential property, the TWG has created a tax disincentive for Kiwi shares, which can only distort investment allocation decisions.”

Essentially, the TWG recommendation to tax unrealised capital gains on PIE funds marks a return to the ‘bad old days’ when Kiwis paid more tax on managed funds than direct share investments. . .

Concern over the housing shortage is one of the motivating factors for a CGT but It won’t improve home affordability in the long term:

Bindi Norwell, Chief Executive at REINZ says: “In the short-term there may be some initial relief in house price affordability as investors look to sell their property to avoid paying CGT. This may create opportunities for first home buyers.

“However, in the long term it’s likely to push house prices up as people look to invest more money in the family home, as there will be less incentive to invest in rental properties or other forms of investment e.g. equities.

“This will also have a flow on effect for the rental market with fewer rental properties available for tenants, thereby further pushing up weekly rental prices when they are already at an all-time high.

“The report even recognises that any impact on housing affordability could be small, therefore, we question whether all of the administrative burden and cost to implement GCT is worth it? Especially as CGT coming at the end of a raft of legislative changes the housing market has faced recently including the foreign buyer ban, ban on letting fees, insulation, healthy homes and ring fencing. . .

A tax that results in fewer and more costly rentals and more expensive homes is not a good one.

Nor is a tax that is fatally flawed:

Today’s Tax Working Group report recommendation for a new capital gains tax will not address residential housing affordability but it will penalise business owners and create costly complexity in our tax system, meaning it is fatally flawed, according to Business Central.

“New Zealand’s tax system is envied worldwide. The proposed capital gains tax increases compliance costs without boosting productivity,” says Business Central Chief Executive John Milford.

“Business Central agrees with the conclusions of the minority view on the Tax Working Group.

“A capital gains tax is just another cost on business, nothing more. . .

It would hit small and medium businesses hardest:

Key areas of the Tax Working Group Final Report released today were disappointing, says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson. . . 

Ms Watson says the proposed capital gains rules should not be implemented because of the significant impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We support the Government’s review to ensure that our tax system is fit for purpose for a changing business environment. However, there is very real concern that taxing both shares and business assets under a comprehensive capital gains tax regime would create double taxation.

“This could disadvantage New Zealanders owning shares in New Zealand and create inconsistencies around overall taxation on investment.”

Ms Watson says a capital gains tax would be unlikely to achieve the desired outcome for business.

“There is concern around the effect for capital markets in a capital constrained economy with a long-term savings deficit. Adding further tax on the savings and investment of those New Zealanders in the middle-income bracket won’t drive the deepening and broadening of the capital base that we need for business investment, which is higher productivity and wages.

“While the impetus behind the changes are aspirational, there is little to indicate they would significantly reduce overinvestment in housing or increase ‘tax fairness’. In addition, there is concern that additional administration costs and investment distortions could outweigh any benefits and potentially discourage much-needed investment and innovation by locking businesses into current asset holdings.

“It is vitally important that we remain competitive as a country and are not continuing to add further compliance for business and in particular small business, who represent 97% of all businesses in our economy.”

Ms Watson says there needs to be a viable business case for any changes to the current tax system.

“There seems to be a real focus on ‘fairness’ in the system design, as opposed to revenue-building, so we need to be careful that any tax changes are for the right reasons and are backed by a clear, practical and sustainable business case. We currently have a fairly simple and efficient tax system that should be kept and better enforced, with changes to specific rules where needed.” . . 

The costs of a good tax would not outweigh the benefits:

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) says the key issue in the Tax Working Group’s proposal released today is that the cost of its capital gains tax rules will outweigh any benefits.

Chief executive Brett O’Riley says any gains from such a broad-based capital gains tax would be eaten up by administration and other costs, leaving little revenue.

“Fundamentally the proposed capital gains rules don’t address the Tax Working Group’s objectives of reducing over-investment in housing and increasing tax fairness,” he says.

Mr O’Riley is also concerned that capital gains tax on business assets could discourage investment and innovation, locking businesses into their current asset holdings. He says there are other policy settings that could be changed to increase investment in different asset classes, away from property.

“I also fail to see how taxing growth on the value of assets from the proposed commencement date of 1 April 2021 would work, because it would be open to conflicting valuations,” he says. “It could also act as a further disincentive to growth when New Zealand already has issues with business not growing from SME’s into larger scale operations and a CGT may also limit the availability of capital to reinvest in businesses as smaller businesses face an additional tax bill.

“It’s difficult to see any benefits for the business community from implementing the proposed capital gains tax rules, as taxing both shares and business assets appears to be double taxation,” says Mr O’Riley.

It is relevant to note that a number of the Tax Working Group do not favour its recommendations on capital gains tax. The minority view summary is available here

One reason for dissension was compliance costs:

Former IRD Deputy Commissioner Robin Oliver was one of the 11 in the Tax Working Group.

Along with two others from the group, he believes the costs and bureaucratic red tape involved in adopting all the capital gains options outweigh the benefits.  

“We didn’t agree that this was in the best interest of the country to go the full extent, particularly in the business area, taxing share gains which result in double taxation,” he said.

“To get a valuation for all business assets in all parts business and all business will easily cost over a billion dollars in compliance costs. The amount of revenue you’ll get is relatively minor.”

As for taxing shares, Mr Oliver said it would result in New Zealanders who invest in New Zealand companies paying more tax when foreigners investing in New Zealand companies will pay no more tax. Furthermore, New Zealanders investing in foreign companies will pay no more tax.

“The obvious conclusion is New Zealanders will own less New Zealand companies and more foreign companies, and foreigners will own our companies,” he said. . . 

The proposed tax is no panacea for fairness:

Deloitte tax partner Patrick McCalman warns that a CGT is not a panacea for tax fairness.

“At one level, there is an attractiveness in the argument that a ‘buck is a buck’ and everyone should bear the same tax burden on every dollar earned. However, when one delves into the detail of the design, other issues of fairness emerge,” says Mr McCalman.

“For example, is it fair that property could pass on death without an immediate CGT cost, while gifts made during one’s life would be taxed? For family businesses, wouldn’t it be more productive to be able to pass assets from generation to generation before death,” he says.

“Accordingly, we need to be cautious as to how much ‘fairness’ a CGT will introduce. It may simply change where the ‘unfairness’ is perceived to sit within the tax system, creating new tax exemptions that would distort where investments are made.”

Complicating matters further is the political dimension. And MMP only exacerbates the political difficulty and increases the likelihood of whatever ultimately sees the light of day being less coherent from a policy perspective. . . 

The Deloitte paper raises several questions about fairness:

At one level there is an attractiveness in the argument that a “buck is a buck” and everyone should therefore bear the same tax burden on every dollar earned. However, when one delves into the detail, other issues of fairness emerge including new tax exemptions which would distort where investments are made – in effect, in seeking to create fairness, the proposal creates a number of layers of unfairness. For example:

    • With a CGT applying at full rates with no inflation indexation, is it fair that someone who buys an asset is taxed on the full amount of any gain when part of that gain is simply inflation? How will they be able to re-invest in a new asset if the inflation element is taxed?
    • Is it fair that the family home and artwork are excluded but most other property is not? Consider a plumber who has a $500,000 house and a $500,000 commercial building who would be taxed on the disposal of the commercial building. Should they have instead bought a $1,000,000 house, rented a business premise and enjoyed a tax free capital gain?
    • Is it fair that that investors in New Zealand shares would pay tax on capital gains but investors in foreign shares would continue to be subject (as they are presently) to the 5% FDR rate (even if gains are less or more)?
    • Is it fair that small business (turnover less than $5 million) could sell assets and defer the CGT bill if they reinvest the proceeds, while medium and larger size business cannot?
    • Is it fair that property could pass on death without an immediate CGT cost but gifts made to children during one’s life would be taxed?
    • Is it fair that there are proposed tax reductions for KiwiSaver to compensate for CGT but not for other forms of investment?

At one level, true fairness can only exist if all asset classes and forms of remuneration are subject to the same tax rate. But even then, anomalies will always arise. . . 

The proposed tax would be especially bad for farming and farmers:

Federated Farmers has said from the outset that a capital gains tax is a mangy dog, that will add unacceptably high costs and complexity.

“There is nothing in the Tax Working Group’s final report, released today, that persuades us otherwise,” Feds Vice-President and Commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“A CGT would make our well-regarded tax system more complex, it will impose hefty costs, both in compliance for taxpayers and in administration for Inland Revenue, and it will do little or nothing to ease the housing crisis.”

It is notable that even the members of the working group could not agree on the best way forward, with three deciding a tax on capital gains should only apply to the sale of residential rental properties and the other eight recommending it should be broadened to also include land and buildings, assets, intangible property and shares.

“Federated Farmers believes that the majority on the tax working group have badly under-estimated the complexity and compliance costs of what they’re proposing, and over-estimated the returns.”

The recommended ‘valuation day’ approach to establishing the value of assets, even with a five-year window, will be a feeding frenzy for valuers and tax advisors, “and just the start of the compliance headaches for farmers and other operators of small businesses that are the driving force of the New Zealand society and economy. . .

Farm succession is difficult enough as it is.

A CTG would make it harder still and encourage older farmers to hold on to their farms. That would lead to more absentee ownership and leasing with less investment in improvements as happens in other countries.

New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of many wealthy people and while those relatively few would pay more with the CGT as proposed, if their accountants and lawyers didn’t help them find ways to minimise their liability, they’d still be wealthy.

The many small business owners and more modest investors would not. They’d have the reward for their hard work and thrift cut back and lose enough of the value of their investments to hurt – unless they’d invested in art, cars or yachts which would be exempt.

That sends the message that such luxuries are good while investing in businesses and productive assets is not.

Where’s the fairness in that?


Farmer confidence drops

February 9, 2019

Federated Farmers January Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey shows farmers are gloomy about the general economic outlook and concerned about staff recruitment:

“The survey found the lowest level of confidence in the economy since July 2009, when we were just emerging from the Global Financial crisis,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“As with the wider business community, I think we’re seeing concern about the impact of global uncertainty and instability on our key export markets, with the likes of Brexit and US-China trade relations.”

We’re also seeing farmers wary about changes to water management, tax and employment law.

Just 5.1% of the farmer respondents expected general economic conditions would improve over the next 12 months, while 45.9% expected they would worsen. The level of pessimism is a fivefold increase on the July 2017 survey.

Continuing difficulty recruiting staff is another finding that stood out, with a net 40.1% of respondents finding it harder over the past six months to recruit skilled and motivated staff as opposed to easier, up 4.2 points on the July 2018 survey.

“While that might reflect seasonal factors, it’s also driven by the generally tight labour market and immigration restrictions,” Andrew said.

“Dairy and arable farmers have found staff recruitment particularly hard.

“This indicator has steadily worsened over the 10-year life of the survey and is at a record level of difficulty.”

Employment changes made late in the previous government’s term made recruitment and retention of immigrant workers harder and this government has done nothing to remedy that.

It was the 20th time the Federation had commissioned the twice-yearly survey and the 1,462 responses to agricultural market research company Research First was one of the biggest yet.

Just on 56% of respondents said they were currently making a profit, down from 62.3% in July 2018. Meanwhile 9.3% are making a loss, up from 7.8% and 32.4% are just breaking even, up from 27.8%.

The odd loss is expected in farming, but year after year just breaking even or mining equity is unsustainable.

“Meat and wool farmers continue to be the most positive about their current profitability, and their sentiment improved a little since July. But dairy’s worsened – no surprise given the fall in dairy commodity prices and farmgate milk price forecasts in the second half of 2018 – and arable’s also fell slightly,” Andrew said.

Looking out over the year ahead, nearly 30% of respondents expected farm profitability would worsen vs 18% who expected profit improvement – a 21.8% fall on July’s 10.4% net positive score.

“Optimism about future farm production has decreased over the past six months, particularly for dairy and arable farms. Dairy farms have seen the largest net negative change between July and January (-20.2%).

The upwards trend of the GlobalDairyTrade auctions this year gives hope, but it was coming off a low base and few are banking on a payout of more than $6 a kilo.

Other findings:

– Farmers overall expect their spending will increase slightly over the next 12 months, particularly meat and wool farmers.

– Farmers in most regions expected their debt levels to increase over the next year, with the North Island’s East Coast the exception.

– Continuing a finding of the last four surveys, regulation and compliance costs remain the greatest concern for farmers. Concerns about climate change policy and the ETS that became increasingly prevalent over the past three surveys has levelled out, and concern about the political situation has also decreased.

– For this survey drought did not register as a concern – most unusual for a January survey.

Drought might not have registered when the survey was done, but it will be now, especially in the Tasman District where fires are still raging.

Nelson farmers affected by this week’s fire are beginning to count their losses, while others in the region are preparing for the increasing possibility of severe drought.

Farmer Steve German, whose stock had to be put down because of the fire, said it was going to be a hard road replacing them.

Mr German had about 80 breeding ewes up Redwood Valley Road next to a forestry block when the wind changed direction on Tuesday and went down the valley.

He said the SPCA shot some of the sheep on site the next morning and then in the afternoon they went up with the fire and police and mustered everything out of there.

In total Mr German said he lost about 66 ewes.

“Pretty much the whole flock of Suffolk breeding ewes is gone,” Mr German said.

“I’ve been breeding them for 10 years… it was my premium breeding line of Suffolk ewes… [they were] a real nice flock of sheep… real shame to see them gone,” he said.

Most of the homes evacuated due to the blaze were lifestyle blocks with a mixture of animals, including sheep and cattle. . . 

Farmers whose stock survived will be concerned about feeding them if their pastures, crop, hay and silage have been destroyed by fire.


Rural round-up

February 8, 2019

Nelson fire: Water shortage, dry conditions worry farmers

Rural groups are rallying help for farmers, livestock and pets affected by the Nelson fires.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand provincial support person Jan Gillanders said big farms and lots of smaller lifestyle blocks had been affected.

“Farms are not just business units, families live on them,” she said.

“To see everything get ruined and damaged … sometimes you can’t get to your stock, the distress the farmers experience – over wondering where their stock are and what’s happening to the stock – is enormous.” . . 

Drones proving a muster time-saver – Alexia Johnston:

Dogs and their masters are going to new heights in their bid to be the best in the field.

The Lowburn Collie Club added a drone component to its recent dog trials, testing the skills of the musterer while using the airborne device, now commonly used in the high country.

Musterer Tony Buchanan was among those who attended the event, complete with a ute full of loyal dogs and a Phantom 4 Pro.

He said the device had come in handy over the past two years while mustering sheep and cattle.

”But, you still can’t do it without your dogs,” he said. . . 

Nitrogen to be focus at hub field day – Ken Muir:

Nitrogen (N) will be high on the agenda at the Southern Dairy Hub’s field day on February 20.

Hub business manager Guy Michaels said scientists will present a progress report on N leaching loss from the 2018 winter period, as well looking at feed quality with particular emphasis on N, including from the crop in winter 2018.

Other topics will include blood urea N results from winter feeding trial, soil mineral N results and crop N applications and a look at the autumn and winter plan, and how winter grazing would be implemented on farm, taking into account environmental considerations.

‘‘It’s good to be able to present some information and data from our farming systems, but we are still in the early stages of our research,’’ Mr Michaels said. ‘‘Farmers are impatient for results, which is a good thing, but it does put pressure on us.’’ . . 

More money needed for rural connectivity:

The announcement this week of more funding for rural connectivity is positive but it is just a drop in the required connectivity bucket, says Federated Farmers.

The Government’s pledge of an additional $21million towards the creation of “regional digital hubs” in rural areas is good to see, says Feds Telecommunications spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

“But the investment really just highlights to us that rural business and communities deserve as much chance as their urban counterparts to flourish.” 

The regional digital hubs are a good idea, but the focus must remain on getting better connectivity to where people live and work, Andrew says. . . 

New Zealand apple and pear industry targets biosecurity:

New Zealand’s world leading apple and pear industry has gained a significant funding boost to help prepare and manage biosecurity threats, through the Government’s MPI Sustainable Farming Fund.

New Zealand Apples & Pears biosecurity manager Nicola Robertson said the $420,000 grant, announced this week, would make a huge difference for protecting the industry’s future.

“We are living with the risk of biosecurity threats every day, that could have devastating impacts for growers and across New Zealand. . . 

Watch the BOP’s best young fruit growers in action:

Eight of the Bay of Plenty’s best growers will showcase their horticultural expertise at the Te Puke A&P Show this weekend for 2019’s first Young Fruit Grower competition.

This year’s eight entrants for the Bay of Plenty are: . . 

Nominations open for Silver Fern Farms board directors:

Nominations are now open for one farmer-elected Board position on the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Board.

Director Tony O’Boyle retires by rotation at the Company’s 2018 Annual Meeting.

Tony O’Boyle has advised he will seek re-election.

Nominations close on Monday 4 March 2019 at 12 noon. . . 

Neighbours rally around hospitalised WA farmer to harvest his crop for free – Ellie Honeybone:

Peter Carey is brought to tears when he recounts the generosity of his rural neighbours.

While the 70-year-old was being flown to hospital in a Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) plane, his friends were working together to ensure the harvest would still go ahead on his farm.

More than 20 locals put aside their own harvest plans to make sure Mr Carey had one less thing to worry about while he recovered from a serious car accident brought about through illness. . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 27, 2019

Temporary work visas need over-haul – farmers  – Gill Bonnet:

Farmers say they face having to send skilled workers home in 18 months time because of how their jobs are measured by immigration officials.

Immigrants classed as low-skilled since 2017 have been allowed maximum visas of three years and not been able to sponsor spouses and children.

The changes to temporary work visas were introduced weeks before the last election. . .

Guy Trafford takes another look at a growing problem that never seems to get resolved, notes a full effort to protect ‘old world’ markets and assesses changes to farm gate prices  – Guy Traffod:

New Zealand horticulture has made the news recently with the demand for fruit harvesters that is not being meet. With the unemployment rate hovering around 4% (3.9% is latest data) the likelihood of finding enough staff from that sector is reasonably remote.

The same issue has been an ongoing one for agriculture. Dairying has had an ongoing issue with finding and maintaining staff and while sheep and beef and cropping have lower rates of turn over, finding new staff has still been a problem and getting more difficult by the year.

When the age profile of those working in agriculture is examined then more concern should be raised. . . 

Sheep farming, it’s in our nature – Luke Chivers:

Northwest Waikato sheep and beef  farmers Tom and Nicole Whitford never planned on working in the primary sector but today the couple are dedicated to the intergenerational transfer of a farming business.Luke Chivers explains.

It was Gypsy Day 2016. Waikaretu Valley farmers Tom and Nicole Whitford’s succession agreement with Tom’s parents for a well-nurtured and developed, panoramic coastal slice of rural New Zealand kicked in – coincidentally the same day their son Mac was born.

But that wasn’t their initial plan. . .

Small environmental footprint takes district mayor’s Eketahuna farm to finals – Christine McKay:

Mike and Tracey Collis may run a dairy farm with big ambitions, but they have managed to achieve a small environmental footprint.

To boot, they farm in Eketahuna – a renowned challenging farming area. Their tenacity and their talents caught the eyes of this year’s Horizons Ballance Farm Environment award judges who credited the couple’s willingness to adapt their farming system to outside influences.

“We are really pleased about being a finalist,” the Collis’ say of their achievement. . .

Beekeepers urged to vote for a commodity levy

Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) is calling on commercial beekeepers to vote for a commodity levy with voting papers going out this month.

“We are at a crucial juncture in the history of this industry,” says Bruce Wills, chair of Apiculture New Zealand, the body leading the vote. “We need beekeepers to vote and we need a clear statement from the beekeepers through this vote. . . 

Poposed honey levy divides beekeeprers –  Maja Burry:

A vote by beekeepers on a proposed honey levy next month has seen one industry group rallying its members to reject the proposal.

Apiculture New Zealand, a voluntary body of about 900 members, wants to introduce a commodity levy on honey to help manage industry growth.

The proposed levy would see all 1800 beekeepers in New Zealand with 26 hives or more to pay a levy of 10 cents on each kilogram of honey – collecting about two million dollars a year.

But New Zealand Beekeeping president Jane Lorimer said the the levy was unreasonably high.


Rural round-up

January 16, 2019

SIT plans takeover of Telford – Giordano Stolley:

The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) will submit a proposal to Education Minister Chris Hipkins to take over operations of the troubled Telford agricultural training campus in Balclutha.

A statement from the Clutha District Council yesterday afternoon quoted SIT chairman Peter Heenan as saying that he was “encouraged by the support from all parties at the meeting for SIT to pull together a proposal for the minister’s consideration”.

Mr Heenan made the comments at a meeting at the district council offices.

While the statement provided no details of the the proposal, Clutha Southland National Party MP Hamish Walker, said: “They [SIT] are looking to take over operations at Telford.” . . 

Funding call for Telford training farm campus staff:

The Clutha community is trying to raise funds for staff at a financially troubled rural training campus, mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Dozens of staff at Telford agricultural training campus near Balclutha are stuck without pay while their employer’s future is decided.

The Telford training farm in South Otago is part of the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, which was placed in interim liquidation late last year.

More than 30 tutors and support staff at Telford had their wages suspended on Friday. . .

Synlait plant registration renewed – Sally Rae:

Synlait has successfully renewed the registration of its Dunsandel plant, allowing it to continue exporting canned infant formula to China.

The registration was issued by the General Administration of Customers of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC).

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said GACC had strict criteria that overseas manufacturers must meet to maintain registration.

New pasture legume hard to fault – Jill Griffiths:

THE PERENNIAL forage legume tedera is on track for commercial release in 2019. Dr Daniel Real, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said difficult seasonal conditions in Western Australia this year had provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the potential value of tedera.

“Rain at the end of February created a false break,” Daniel said. “All the annuals germinated but then died, and the dry autumn left nothing in the paddocks. The annuals were non-existent but the tedera was looking good.”

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) is native to the Canary Islands and was brought to Australia in 2006 through research conducted under the auspices of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. . . . 

Deliberate food contamination needs harsher penalties:

A recent member’s bill which seeks to introduce harsher penalties and offences is good to see, but any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact, says Federated Farmers.

The bill is from National’s Nathan Guy and it comes in the wake of last year’s Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here and back over the ditch, says Feds Food Safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as needles started showing up in the fruit across stores. The needle scares crushed spirits and trust. . .

How one innovative company is using bees to protect crops from disease – Nicole Rasul:

Billed as an “elegant solution to a complex problem,” Bee Vectoring Technology, or BVT, is a Toronto-based startup that is using commercially reared bees to provide a targeted, natural disease management tool to a range of agricultural crops.

The bumblebee, one of nature’s hardest workers, is the star of the BVT method. Hives that contain trays of powdered Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which the company describes as “an organic strain of a natural occurring endophytic fungus… commonly found in a large diversity of plants and soils all around the world,” are placed near a fledgling field. . .

Cheaper to get your 5+ a day at the end of 2018:

Avocados and lettuces were much cheaper than the previous summer, but egg prices hit a record high in December 2018, Stats NZ said today.

“Overall, getting your five-plus (5+) a day servings of fruit and vegetables was cheaper in 2018,” consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said. Fruit prices were 3.8 percent lower in December 2018 than in December 2017, while vegetable prices were 7.5 percent lower.

“Bad weather in 2017 reduced the supply of many vegetables, pushing up their prices,” Ms Duoba said. “Growing conditions were mostly more favourable during 2018, boosting supply and lowering prices.” . .


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