Science not unsubstantiated aspiration

09/08/2019

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says better land management can contribute to tackling climate change but is not the only solution.

. . . Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase. This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems. . .

Greenpeace must have missed the bit about food security and locally appropriate solutions because it immediately called for New Zealand’s dairy heard to be halved which, Politik points out, would cost the country approximately $8.3 billion in lost exports.

On top of that, there would be job losses on farm and in the downstream businesses, irreversible depopulation of rural communities and global emissions would increase as less efficient farmers in other countries ramped up production to meet the demand for food we’d no longer be producing.

Greenpeace would be more aptly named Redpeace to reflect its politics. Their call ignores the fact that what is being called for is largely what New Zealand farmers are already doing, and are striving to do better.

It comes on the eve of Federated Farmers submission to the select committee on the Zero Carbon Bill where they called for honesty on what farmers are being asked to do:

Adopt a methane target that science tells us will ensure no additional impact on global warming, not an unsubstantiated aspiration that will cause lasting damage to rural communities and the standard of living of all New Zealanders.

That was the message from Federated Farmers to the Select Committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill this morning.

“Federated Farmers agrees with the current text in the Bill on the need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the NZ agricultural industry by 2050,” Feds climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“This ambitious support is in spite of the industry being heavily reliant on reliable energy supply and internal combustion powered vehicles for transport, both of which produce carbon dioxide, and despite the task of agriculture reducing nitrous oxide to net zero being incredibly challenging.”

Farmers “embrace this challenge” because those two gases are long-lived and build up in the atmosphere, so New Zealand – and the world – needs to get those gases to net zero as quickly as possible, Hoggard said. But methane, which is belched by livestock, is a short-lived gas that produces almost no additional warming and flows in and out of the atmosphere if emitted at a constant rate.

The science says NZ agriculture needs to reduce methane by about 0.3% a year, or about 10% by 2050, to have no additional warming effect – or in other words a zero carbon equivalent. Yet a 10% target has been set for 2030 – much earlier than for any other sector of society – and up to 47% methane reductions by 2050.

Hoggard told the Select Committee that appears to be “because it seems easier to tell people to consume less animal-based protein than it is to cut back on trips to Bali.

“If that is the case then let’s be open and honest and admit the agriculture sector is being asked to do more than its share.”

Farmers are in a minority, it’s far easier to pick on them than to ask people to make real and meaningful sacrifices.

The Minister has challenged those disagreeing with the proposed targets to explain why he shouldn’t follow the advice of the IPCC. Federated Farmers provided three main reasons:

– a key piece of advice in the relevant IPCC’s 2018 report was not to use the numbers from that report as precise national targets,

– the report also recommended a much lower target for nitrous oxide but Federated Farmers is ignoring that as it is a long-lived gas.

– finally, the report modelled numerous pathways that all achieved the 1.5 degree warming target. In some of those pathways biogenic methane actually increased. Economists pondered those pathways to work out the least cost to the globe of achieving the target, not the least cost to New Zealand.

“This report was clearly not designed to be copy and pasted into our domestic legislation. Modelling on what is the least cost to the economy for New Zealand to do its part hasn’t been done,” Hoggard said.

Answering Select Committee member questions, Hoggard suggested there was a strong case for rewarding or incentivising farmers to go beyond 10% by 2050 methane cuts. Methane reductions beyond 10% would actually have a cooling effect on the planet and in effect was the same as planting trees to sequester carbon, a practice rewarded through the ETS.

But planting trees with a 30-year life before harvest is only a temporary solution, and blanketing productive farmland with pines kills off jobs, spending and inhabitants that rural communities depend on.

The science, peer reviewed and provided by Environment Commissioner Simon Upton, says forestry should not be used to offset fossil fuel emissions but could be used for shorter-lived gases like methane.

However, if farmers achieved the 10% methane reductions that ensure no additional warming, and are rewarded for striving for additional reductions, there is incentive to invest in additional emissions reduction technology.

“That keeps the rural community going, and reduces global warming – a win/win situation.”

The proposed policy is lose-lose.

The only way for farmers to meet unrealistic targets would be to reduce stock.

That would have devastating economic and social consequences and no environmental gain.

If the government expect us to accept the science on climate change, it must accept the science too, all the science including that on methane, and not just the bits it finds convenient.

It must also accept the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.


No electric sheep

19/07/2019

The government reckons it is on the same page as farmers when it comes to countering climate change.

Farmers beg to differ:

The ‘Action on Agricultural Emissions’ discussion paper is a positive first step as farmers and the government hammer out a practical path to reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions, Federated Farmers says.

“We are agreed that a priority is to find a workable and affordable way that farmers can measure emissions and sinks at the farm level, and to adopt practices and any new technologies that will help drive down methane and nitrous oxide emissions,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard says.

But there’s a but:

“Where we differ is that the Government keeps emphasising pricing as the predominant tool.  Federated Farmers does not agree with universal pricing of methane.  The ETS has failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport – in fact, transport emissions have near doubled since 1990.  Universal pricing of methane will be similarly unsuccessful.”

If it was successful it would reduce production at a significant economic and social cost with no global environmental gain.

If New Zealand was the only country to tax animal emissions and production here decreased as a result it would increase in other countries where production is far less efficient.

What Federated Farmers has committed to is working with the government to design a pricing mechanism where any price is part of a broader framework to support on-farm practice change.  Such pricing would be set at the margin – that is, only applying to methane emissions over the 0.3% per annum reductions that science tells us is enough to ensure methane no longer adds to global warming.

The government can’t tell us to accept the science on climate change then not accept the science on ways to counter it.

New Zealand farmers are proud to be among the most efficient producers in world and, unlike many of their overseas competitors essentially stand on their own two feet, as their animals stand on their own four feet. Farmers here are largely unsubsidised by consumers (by way of inflated prices) or taxpayers, and that has been so for over 30 years, Hoggard says.

If New Zealand’s milk and meat export volumes reduce as a result of lower on-farm production, the gap will be filled by less efficient producers. This is known as “emissions leakage” and will ultimately increase global emissions and food costs.

“So any pricing should only be a tool to incentivise farmers into taking up economically viable opportunities to cut methane, just as the Government might use incentives or a nudge to encourage people to switch to an electric vehicle.

“Unlike for a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, there is no ‘electric sheep’ equivalent for farmers.  But there is the potential for methane inhibitors or a vaccine, albeit some years away from proof and coming to market,” Hoggard says.

Breeding low-emission animals and selecting low-emission feeds are options being explored meantime.

The agriculture sector has committed to work with the government and iwi/Maori to design a practical and cost-effective system for reducing emissions at farm level – including a pricing mechanism as part of the broad framework – by 2025.

Meanwhile, the sector’s proposed 5-year programme of action is aimed at ensuring farmers and growers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver emissions reductions while maintaining profitability.

Education and tools will do far more good and a lot less harm than the government’s plan which is not just another tax but a tax which is  counter to the science.


Are electric vehicles as green as they’re painted?

10/07/2019

Stuff asks which are the cleanest and dirtiest car brands in New Zealand?

. . .Actually, the car brand currently on sale in NZ with the lowest emissions of all is Tesla, which boasts an unbeatable CO2 output (or non-output?) of 0.0. Obviously that’s because they are fully electric, which means the only connection with CO2 these cars might have, would be from what emerges from any gas or coal-fired power stations that generate the electricity in the first place.

But, as so often in the climate change argument, this doesn’t give the whole picture. It counts only the emissions from running the car, what about the emissions in making it, in particular the battery?

A friend has recently returned from Africa where he saw a continual procession of fuel tankers making the journey from the coast to supply mines in the Congo so that cobalt and lithium can be exported to allow people in rich countries to buy electric cars to save the world.

If you take into account the emissions from the many thousands of kilometres those tankers travel and everything else involved in their manufacture and disposal when judging the CO2 output of electric and hybrid cars, would they still be as green as they’re painted?

I don’t know the answer to that question and it raises another: how can we know what is green and what is greenwash if only the emissions from running vehicles are quantified and not those from their manufacture to their eventual end?

The answer to those two questions is even more important now the government is proposing a ‘feebate’ scheme on the sale of new vehicles.

The Government’s proposal for a sweeping fuel-efficient vehicle policy is being criticised because it doesn’t apply to the majority of cars being sold.

It would only apply to newly-imported used and brand new light vehicles from 2021 onwards, and would only hit those vehicles when they are sold for the first time – taking in about only a quarter of vehicle sales.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ criticised the proposal and said all vehicle sales should be affected by fuel efficiency standards.

The “feebate” scheme wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything, instead using money gained by putting a fee on imported high-emissions cars in order to make imported hybrids, electric cars, and other efficient vehicles cheaper with a subsidy. . .

It wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything but who would it help and who would it hurt?

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Let’s be very clear: this is a tax on Otara vehicles to subsidise Teslas in Remuera.”

“Only a few, largely high-income, motorists will benefit from this subsidy, while many more low income motorists will have to choose between a nasty penalty or delaying the purchase of a new car. And as this tax leads driver to hold on to their existing vehicles for longer, we’ll miss out on improvements to safety and environmental standards.”

Older cars are less efficient and also not as safe as newer vehicles, but what’s the environmental impact from holding on to them longer?

Would spreading the emissions from making them over a longer period compensate for the emissions from driving them?

What about utes and trucks that are used for business and transporting goods and for which there are no hybrid or electric alternatives.?

“Successive Governments have already whacked motorists hard with hikes to petrol tax. Now Julie-Anne Genter is mixing it up with scheme to ‘take from the poor, give to the rich’.”

“Just because something is shrouded in environmental branding doesn’t make it any less nasty to the poor.”

Electric and hybrid cars cost less to run than petrol or diesel ones and newer vehicles are more efficient than older ones so  people who can’t afford newer, more expensive vehicles will be paying a bigger proportion of the fuel tax.

London has emission charges and diesel vehicles, including taxis, have to use AdBlue  to their fuel. When we were there recently we noticed the air was much cleaner than it had been several years earlier.

Clean air is to be encouraged but until the total lifetime emissions, not just from driving vehicles, but from their conception to their ultimate end, are quantified, we won’t know if the policy will make a positive difference or not to global CO2 emissions or not.

The emissions picture is a very complex one to which the ‘feebate’ policy, like so many other climate change ones, provides a simple answer but we don’t have enough information to know if it’s the right one.

The push towards electric vehicles raises two other questions: does our electricity generation and transmission have the capacity for a significant increase in electric vehicles?; and what will replace fuel taxes when the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles reduces them to the point a replacement is required?


Farming vs filmmaking

21/06/2019

James Cameron makes movies.

I haven’t, as far as I know, watched any, but the numbers of people who have and the money he has made from making them, suggest he’s very good at it.

He and his wife Suzy have chosen to buy farmland in New Zealand and convert it from pasture to organic vegetables, hemp, linseed and rye corn.

It’s their land they’re free to do what they want with it providing they don’t contravene district or regional plans in doing it.

They’re also free to tell us what they’re doing and why as they did on Sunday but I’d take them a lot more seriously when they criticise our farming and its contribution to climate change  if it wasn’t for the hypocrisy.

How does the benefit from pastoral farming compare with the benefits from the films he makes, what’s the real value of food production in contrast to entertainment and what are the carbon emissions from both filmmaking and the frequent flying the Camerons do between their homes in New Zealand and the United States?

In an open letter to Cameron, ASB rural economist Nathan Penny explains:

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

• In addition, pasture-based New Zealand beef production is top dog in the global carbon efficiency stakes.

• You might have already heard that our agriculture produces around half of the country’s carbon emissions, and while that sounds like a lot, the New Zealand agriculture sector produces enough food for around 50 million people or 10 times our population. The question then becomes how carbon efficient New Zealand agriculture is – and that takes us back to points 1 and 2.

• We also know to take the sustainability claims of alternative food manufacturers such as Impossible Foods (meat) and Perfect Day (dairy) with a large grain of salt. For example, New Zealand dairy has a much lower carbon footprint than Perfect Day milk on a like for like nutrition basis.

• As you rightly pointed out on Sunday, farming is in our DNA and you also noted that New Zealand farmers have that good old number 8 wire mentality. But there’s another secret that you may not know about Kiwi farmers. That is, they’ve had to farm effectively subsidy-free since the 1980s. In this context, our farmers have had to get smart and quickly, finding efficiencies that other (subsidised) farmers globally don’t even know exist.

For these reasons, local Kiwi farmers think there is a place in the future for pasture-based New Zealand meat and dairy. And with global food demand set to surge around 70 per cent by 2050, we think the world needs all the food it can get!

Measuring carbon emissions in isolation is a very blunt instrument.

As Rabobank managing board member, Berry Marttin, told Farm2Fork, we need to take into account nutrient density.

If we compare the nutrient density and overall value to the world of New Zealand pastoral farming with filmmaking and flying there’s simply no contest.

Something else to consider:


Rural round-up

18/06/2019

Concerns in Whanganui that billion trees protagonists can’t see the wood for the trees – Iain Hyndman:

Blanket planting of tree has put mainstream farming and rural communities at risk.

The relentless march to plant a billion trees brings with it dire consequences for mainstream New Zealand agriculture.

The very real fear is that those leading the charge simply can’t see the wood for the trees.

A growing groundswell of opinion suggests the negatives of blanket planting trees far outweigh the positives and these voices are coming from farmers and even rural real estate agents themselves. . .

Mavis Mullins’ journey from shearing shed to boardroom:

New Zealand Business Hall of Famer Mavis Mullins’ life has been a fascinating journey from a shearing shed on the outskirts of Dannevirke to multiple governance role and collecting an MBA along the way. Her CV is extensive, there’s the family business Paewai Mullins Shearing and wool industry offshoot Wool Systems, but also her governance roles include Landcorp, Health boards, Massey University Council, the Maori business development trust Poutama and the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. . . 

Making small herd farming a team effort – Louise Hanlon:

Keith and Tracey Crawford began their dairy careers with big dreams of farm ownership, then still a highly achievable goal for a determined young couple.

“Keith went dairy farming when he left school” says Tracey Crawford. “I left school and worked as a microbiologist at the dairy company.

“When we got married in 1986 we decided to go on the path of 29%, 39%, 50:50. We were pretty fortunate that we got to do all those stepping stones to set us up 50:50.”

A&P Society sets up Northland farm cadet scheme :

In a modern twist on the old farm cadet scheme, Whangārei A&P Society is developing a new live-in, on-farm training initiative to help grow future farmers.

The A&P Society has committed a seeding fund to establish a programme which will focus on providing job-ready Northland interns with the right skills and attitudes.

The society’s president, Murray Jagger, said the Farm Intern Programme is a reinvention of former on-farm learning models.

The aim is for graduates of the two-year training scheme to come out with Levels 2, 3 and 4 New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture, and with practical experience and life skills that make them employable in the industry while also being ”good” citizens. . . 

Farm debt mediation a useful tool – Feds:

Federated Farmers supports the Government’s decision to proceed with a Farm Debt Mediation Bill.

The proposed legislation will require creditors to offer mediation to farmers who default on payments before they take enforcement action and it will allow farmers to initiate mediation.

“Federated Farmers is in favour of this,” Feds Vice-President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . .

Fieldays enables real conversations – Dr Paul Le Mière:

Fieldays is an opportunity for Federated Farmers to get some valuable face-to-face time with its members, writes North Island Regional Policy Manager Dr Paul Le Mière.

Getting to the heart of the matter is what we at Federated Farmers are about.

Federated Farmers is at the National Agricultural Fieldays this week.

It’s New Zealand’s biggest agricultural show and for me it is always a great chance to have a good chat to farmers from around the country, and sometimes beyond, about what is happening in their patch.

It is also a good opportunity for all farmers to find out a bit more about what is going on in their industry and what issues and opportunities are coming their way. . .

Rancher refutes Impossible Burger criticisms of regenerative grazing, invites CEO to leave his lab and visit a real farm

Will Harris, a fourth-generation farmer-rancher in Bluffton, Georgia, called out Impossible Burger for claims the company made today that regenerative grazing is “not sustainable at scale,” and that grassfed beef “generates more GHGs than feedlot beef.”

Harris responded to Impossible Burger’s claims with this statement:

“As an independent professional rancher, who has practiced regenerative land management on our family farm for more than 20 years, I can state unequivocally that Impossible Burger’s claims about regenerative grazing are incorrect. . . 


Rural round-up

08/06/2019

New machine to help export traceability:

AgResearch is developing a method of giving New Zealand exports a “unique fingerprint” that scientifically proves their provenance and could be used to deter supply-chain fraud.

The technology is so accurate that it can differentiate New Zealand, English and Welsh lamb using a measurement that only takes a few seconds. It can also detect what feed – such as grain, grass or chicory – a carcass was reared on, an increasingly important trait driving consumer spending. . . 

Click here for more: https://vimeo.com/340251207/7367c5e18b

Dr Alastair Ross said the new rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometer (REIMS) machine being used at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus detects the “molecular phenotype” of a sample, a unique “fingerprint” made up of molecules resulting from the interaction of genes and the environment. This measurement, which previously took over an hour of lab work, can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine. . . 

Farmer submissions encouraged on ZCB:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle is encouraging dairy farmers to speak up and make a submission on the Government’s proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

“DairyNZ welcomes the opportunity to engage constructively and share our perspective on this Bill and are encouraging dairy farmers right across New Zealand to do the same” says Dr Mackle.

“The potential implications of this legislation, in particular the targets for methane reduction, are huge for our sector. That’s why farmer engagement is so important. . .

New Zealand women’s meat industry group launched – Angie Skerrett:

A group for women working in the meat industry in New Zealand has been launched, in an effort to attract more women into the sector.

The New Zealand launch of Meat Business Women (MBW) is the latest in a rapid expansion of the organisation which was started in the UK.

The group held its inaugural meeting in Napier, to outline their vision for a positive future for the sector. . .

Farmer satisfaction with banks continues to slide:

Farmers’ overall satisfaction with their banks remains strong but it is declining steadily, the Federated Farmers 11th biennial banking survey shows.

Satisfaction rates are at their lowest since the survey began in August 2015.

“More than 1300 of our farmer members responded to the survey we commissioned from Research First and overall satisfaction with banks has dropped over the last six months from 74% to 71%,” Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

Proceed with caution on speed limit changes:

Safety of people on our roads is a top priority but any move to reduce speed limits should not be an excuse to skimp on road maintenance and upgrading, Federated Farmers says.

“There are some rural roads which are too windy, narrow and bumpy to drive on safely at 100 km/hr,” Feds transport spokesperson Karen Williams says. “It may indeed be wise to post a lower speed limit on such routes, though the overriding rule ‘drive to the conditions’ springs to mind.”

However, the blanket and widespread speed limit reductions being suggested in the wake of data from a new NZTA mapping tool could cause far more harm than good. . .

Comvita CEO to step down, Hewlett to lead strategic review Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita’s chief executive for the past four years, Scott Coulter, is stepping down in September and, while it searches for a replacement, former CEO Brett Hewlett is taking on a temporary executive role to review the company’s underperforming assets.

Coulter will retain a governance role in the manuka honey products company’s business in China business.

“Scott’s commitment to Comvita since joining the company in 2003 has been outstanding,” says chair Neil Craig. . .


Rural round-up

07/06/2019

New tech boosts packhouse output – Richard Rennie:

While much has been made of the prospects for robots harvesting kiwifruit and other orchards, one packing company has invested heavily this season in robotic technology in the pack house. Apata Group chief executive Stuart Weston outlined to Richard Rennie some of the smarts behind the country’s most robotised pack house, and what it heralds for the industry.

This year’s kiwifruit harvest is enduring another season with dire predictions of labour shortages coming at least partly true. 

Most processing companies report an ongoing need for more staff, both pickers and in pack houses.  . . 

NZ Producers cheesed off with EU – Pam Tipa:

Trade expert Stephen Jacobi says he thinks New Zealand cheesemakers are rightly concerned about a European Union plan to protect the names of common cheeses.

It is a concern in the context of the EU-NZ free trade agreement negotiations, he says.

“The Europeans say they are not looking to penalise in any way the generic names,” Jacobi told Rural News. “They are saying they are only interested in the ones that have geographical connections.” . . 

Southland maternity like ‘Russian roulette’, midwife says – Tess Brunton:

Supplies mishaps are plaguing the Lumsden and Te Anau maternity hubs that were meant to be up and running seven weeks ago, adding to concerns over giving birth in the region.

RNZ has been told pure oxygen – which poses a danger to babies when administered over long periods – was delivered to the Lumsden Maternal and Child Hub, while the Te Anau hub is still waiting for more equipment.

The news is adding to continued concerns over the emergency hubs, which are only meant to be used when expecting mothers are unable to reach a primary birthing centre in time. . .

Rural mums need urgent action:

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has again written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she promised to ‘take another look’ into the Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade.

“I have written to the Prime Minister and asked for her findings as well as informing her of the second birth in the Lumsden area in just 11 days,” Mr Walker says.

“This could be a matter of life or death. All we have to do is look across the ditch to rural Queensland where since the downgrading of maternity services the death of babies in every 1000 is now at 23.3, compared with 6.1 in rural areas with obstetrics. . .

Farmers ticked off over NAIT ‘fluster cuck’ – Nigel Malthus:

Farmers are bristling over any suggestion they had been slack about re-registering their farm locations in National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) in time for moving day on June 1.

Every person in charge of animals must re-register their NAIT location following a recent upgrade to the system.

Yet only one week out from moving day, the Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor released figures showing that about half of all dairy farms – 8000 out of 15,000 – had yet to re-register. . . 

It’s the little things – Penny Clark-Hall:

What is it that we can do to earn and improve our Social Licence? So many people in the primary sector have asked me this lately and this was precisely what I was wanting to be able to give them from my Kellogg research.

The answer, while no one quick fix, isn’t big either. It’s lots of little things. They require bravery, honesty and accountability, but it’s not going to cost you the world, just time. A resource that I know is probably just as precious, if not more, to farmers than money.

So here is what my key recommendations are. . . 

Dairy a pig of a job – Stephen Bell:

Hold onto your hats folks it could be a wild ride in the dairy industry but without all the fun of the fair.

There are so many things going on here and abroad that will influence not just farmgate milk prices but also input and compliance costs and thus, most importantly profits.

On the face of it things are looking up for the new season with rural economists predicting a starting price somewhere north of $7/kg MS.

But Fonterra, on the back of narrowing its 2018-19 forecast to the bottom end of its range at $6.30 to $6.40/kg MS has given a wide range for this season of $6.25-$7.25. Though the economists are optimistic Fonterra has set the advance rate at only $3.80/kg MS.

And we still don’t know any detail for Fonterra’s new strategy but we can take it from chief executive Miles Hurrell’s comments accompanying the third quarter results that it won’t be plain sailing for a couple of years yet. . . 

Pigeon Valley fire aftermath: ‘Biggest recovery effort ever made‘- Katie Todd:

One of New Zealand’s largest recorded ‘tree salvages’ has been hailed a success in the aftermath of the Pigeon Valley fire.

About 10,000 tonnes of burnt pine trees are being plucked from the ground for use in Canterbury construction projects, Nelson housing developments and to prevent future fires in Tasman.

It comes despite an initial race against time for Tasman Pine Forests, that own about 60 percent or or 14 sqkm of the fire-affected land.

After the fire was out, crews were faced with the task of extracting trees of varying ages and heights, some slightly charred at the base and others scorched to the tips, before beetles and bugs could begin to break them down. . . 

National Lamb Day held where it all began – Sally Brooker:

National Lamb Day was celebrated on May 24 at the place where New Zealand’s frozen meat industry began 137 years ago – Totara Estate.

The historic farm just south of Oamaru prepared a shipment of lamb that arrived in Britain in pristine condition on May 24, 1882.

As Britain looked to its colonies to provide food for its surging population, wool prices here had collapsed by the end of the 1870s.

New Zealand’s huge sheep flocks were increasingly worthless, and the mutton was in such oversupply that it, too, was not valued. Britain represented a massive potential market, but getting the meat there before it went off was no small problem. . . 


Rural round-up

04/06/2019

Climate change – it’s fossil fuels not farming that’s the problem – Andrew Hoggard:

Climate change is more about burning fossil fuels than the farming of animals, writes Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard.

To borrow the words of climate champion Al Gore, the “inconvenient truth” about climate change is that it’s more about the burning of fossil fuels than the farming of animals.

It is inarguable that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the world’s No 1 global warming culprit, and that’s no less so in New Zealand, never mind our significant pastoral farming profile. . . 

Accolade caps off career of note – Sally Rae:

Growing up in Upper Hutt, a young Geoff Asher could see wild deer and pigs from his bedroom window.

That sparked his interest in deer which has led to a career focusing on the deer industry that has spanned nearly 40 years.

At the recent deer industry conference in Wellington, Dr Asher (63) received the deer industry award – the industry’s highest honour.

Back in his office at AgResearch’s Invermay campus, Dr Asher said he was “blown away” by the recognition, which caught him “completely off-guard”. . . 

Jersey breed casts off ‘poor cousin’ tag – Sally Rae:

Seeing Jersey milk in the spotlight has been “a long time coming”, Jersey New Zealand president Alison Gibb says.

Last week, boutique dairy company Lewis Road Creamery launched a range of milk sourced solely from Jersey cows. It was the first single-breed standard milk to go on sale in supermarkets nationwide.

Lewis Road founder Peter Cullinane, who spoke about the initiative at Jersey NZ’s conference in Dunedin last week, said the Jersey cow was “rightly famous” for her milk. . .

Young Aucklander to tackle global food security:

Kiwi ideas and solutions for tackling global food security are set to be canvassed on the world stage thanks to the drive and passion of Dairy Flat cattle breeder Courtney Davies, 23.

The environmental educator, who teaches students about sustainability and the environment through virtual reality, will represent New Zealand at the Bayer Youth Ag Summit, taking place in Brasília, Brazil, November 4 – 6 2019.

Courtney will be one of 100 young participants from 45 countries attending the Summit, which is part of Bayer’s Agricultural Education Program. . .

How an ag company most people have never heard of could prove itself more disruptive than Netflix or Airbnb – Charlie Mitchell:

The number-one spot on CNBC’s Top 50 Disruptors List went to a brand that’s not yet a household name: Indigo Agriculture. Why?

This month, CNBC published its Top 50 Disruptors List, a guide to the new generation of not-yet-public companies vying to change the way the world does business. Among them are some of the world’s most recognizable and talked-about startups: Airbnb, the wildly popular room-for-rent platform; The We Company, parent to the burgeoning network of WeWork coworking spaces; and Impossible Foods, the buzzy alternative protein company likely headed towards an eagerly awaited I.P.O. later this year.

But the number-one spot went to a brand that’s not yet a household name: Indigo Agriculture. It’s not immediately obvious why. The company sports some impressive fundamentals including $650 million in funding, a reported value of over $3.5 billion, and 750 employees across the world—but, as described by CNBC, its business model sounds uninspired and fuzzy. . .

 

The challenge of making UK ruminant production sustainable – Matthew Jordon:

Ruminant agriculture has received increasing attention in recent years as a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions1 and other negative environmental externalities such as reduced water quality2 and water flow regulation3. Some in academia and the media portray reducing consumption of animal products – particularly red meat and dairy products – as a priority in climate change mitigation4, whilst environmentalists endeavour to tempt the British public with alternative uses for the British countryside that, they argue, would be preferable to ruminant production5,6. It is increasingly easy to accept the simple narrative of ‘the less meat we eat, the better’.

However, I believe that UK ruminant livestock farmers have the unique potential to manage the British countryside to deliver a number of public goods, alongside profitably producing environmentally-sustainable premium-quality meat. The potential ‘prize’ is a carbon-neutral UK ruminant livestock sector, as part of a rural landscape that delivers a number of publicly-desired ecosystem services. . . .


Rural round-up

18/05/2019

‘A recipe for disaster’: Rural lobby group launched to oppose billion trees policy – Angie Skerrett:

A lobby group has been formed as concern grows about the impact of the Government’s billion trees policy on rural communities.

The group, named 50 Shades of Green, aims to convince politicians and decision makers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces, and ultimately the New Zealand economy.

Spokesperson Andy Scott said converting whole farms to trees, often by foreign companies was a recipe for disaster.

“In the Wairarapa there have been seven farms moved from production, in Pongaroa there has been between 6000 and 8000 hectares planted in trees,” he said . .

Group targets tree policy – Colin Williscroft:

The Government’s goal of planting a billion trees will destroy the provincial heartland and the New Zealand economy, a new lobby group says.

The group, 50 Shades of Green, has grown out of concerns held by Wairarapa farmers and businesspeople but spokesman Mike Butterick is confident people from around the country will jump on board.

Productive farmland is at risk from the tree-planting policy, Butterick says.

“It’s essential that as a country we stop and think about the long-term impact that will have.” . .

Ag sacrifice – Annette Scott:

The Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic and unfair and there’s little sense in sacrificing New Zealand’s economic backbone in the Zero Carbon Bill, Deer Industry NZ chairman Ian Walker says.

The deer industry is disappointed by the Government’s agricultural emissions reduction targets that will result in significant reductions in stock numbers. 

Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in future the level of reduction will effectively mean the agriculture sector is being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming but also offset the contribution of other sectors. . .

Forestry ‘gold rush’ underway in Wairoa :

Warnings a modern day gold rush is underway as productive farm land is sold to make room for lucrative forestry. Farmers and community leaders in Wairoa have become the latest group to raise concerns, estimating around ten-thousand hectares of the region’s most productive land has recently been sold to out-of-town investors wanting to plant trees for harvest and carbon credits. They’re worried thousands of jobs could be lost from the area, and communities seriously affected, if it continues. The government’s one billion trees programme continues – this week, Shane Jones, the Minister in charge of the programme announced a further $ 58 million for forestry to help Forestry NZ increase its regional presence.  . .

Living under the Zero Carbon Act – Andrew Hoggard:

I have been a farmer for the majority of my working life. Like any farmer, I always look at what I can do to make the farm better, to improve production, or just make life easier. I don’t know whether my girls will want to go farming or do something else, but at the back of my mind when I think about what we do on farm there is always that long term view, of making it better for the next generation.

With the Zero Carbon Act announcement some are saying that it’s far away, what are you worried about? But it is not far away, it’s just the next generation away. For me I don’t look at those targets and think about what the right PR spin thing to say now is, to improve the corporate brand, and who cares if the farmers can’t achieve it? . .

Sheep farming is not to blame for climate change – Gordon Davidson:

SHEEP INDUSTRY leaders have hit back at the ‘fashionable’ argument that UK consumers can help reduce climate change by eating less red meat, and argued instead that UK sheepmeat should be the ‘environmentally conscious person’s meat of choice’.

Responding to the Committee for Climate Change and the UN’s nature report, National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said that some of the recommendations being made to consumers were ‘unbalanced, based on inadequate science, and understood little about the UK sheep industry’.

“It is really frustrating to yet again see our extensive livestock sectors caught up within criticisms of agriculture and their impact on climate change and biodiversity, and little mention of other damaging activities, that may be less popular to criticise,” said Mr Stocker. “It is seemingly OK to offset emissions from flying around the world through carbon sequestering actions such as tree planting and peatland management, but not OK for a farm to do its own internal offsetting. . .

 


Rural round-up

06/05/2019

Gas compromise won’t be enough – Neal Wallace:

It appears the Government has compromised in the treatment of biological and long-lived greenhouse gases but a farming leader warns it is too early to break out the champagne.

Pressure from coalition partners is said to have forced Climate Change Minister James Shaw to agree to separate greenhouse gas reduction targets but Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard says the new levels appear to ignore the views of scientists and studies.

Those studies claim that because methane is short lived in the atmosphere, cutting emissions rather than eliminating it will reduce global warming.

Hoggard declined to release the targets he has heard saying they are not official but says it appears the Government has fallen well short of the advice. . . 

Robots take charge – Sonita Chandar:

It is 2am and though it is pitch-black a small mob of cows is strolling toward the cowshed – it is their third visit in one day.

They are the cows that somehow just know a new is paddock available and the only way to get there is through the shed. 

They are what Auckland farmer Brian Yates refers to as hoons.

“Some girls hoon around the three-way grazing system like three-year-olds on red fizzy, arriving at each new break as it becomes available and getting up to three milkings per day. . . 

Joint opportunity – Sheryl Brown:

Cam and Jess Lea have earned the respect of their neighbours to the point that four farming couples have backed them financially into their first sharemilking position after their second year in the industry. Sheryl Brown reports. 

Four Opotiki neighbouring couples have backed Cam and Jess Lea into their first sharemilking business, holding 16% equity share apiece. Andrew and Kelly Clarke, Dave and Nat Wilson, Rob and Moira Anstis, and Colin and Maria Eggleton are all born and bred in Opotiki and knew a good investment when they saw one.

Cam, 28, and Jess, 27, sold their house, their nice vehicle and their boat to put $75,000 into the equity partnership and borrowed the rest to buy the Jersey herd that was already on the farm. . . 

Collins family’s long history of dairying – Julia Evans:

The Collins family celebrated 150 years of farming in Springston on Saturday. Julia Evans speaks to Murray Collins about his family who have lived and worked the land and their roots in the newspaper industry.

There’s Murray and Judy, their daughter Jenny and grandchildren Elsie, Henry and Leila.

Those are the three generations of the Collins family currently living on Springston’s Pendah Farm, which has celebrated 150 years of operation.

But before them there was William, Walter, Leslie and Jack Collins.

William was a typographer who sailed to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 1850, after working for the London Morning Post.

Though he did not settle in Canterbury. . . 

Government should fund fire research:

The National Party is calling on the Government to fund potentially lifesaving research into preventing rural fires, National’s Research, Science and Innovation spokesperson Parmjeet Parmar says.

“Crown Research Institute Scion, which specialises in forestry science, is involved in creating a new fire spread model and investigating new extreme fire prevention methods.

This includes developing new response technologies to prevent and suppress extreme fires,” Dr Parmar says.

“I’m calling on the Government to give Scion the security it needs of $3 million a year so it can continue research and come up with new models to suppress wildfires. This research has previously come from contestable funds but there is no security with that funding. . . 

Cows and climate change: A closer look – Andre Mayer:

The extent to which meat production contributes to climate change is hotly contested. We highlighted some of the concernsin our last issue, but heard from some readers who felt it didn’t convey the full picture.

Earlier this year, when U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first started promoting the Green New Deal — the Democratic proposal to mobilize government to address climate change and income inequality — she made comments about the significant impact of “cow farts” on carbon emissions.

That concerned Frank Mitloehner, an esteemed animal science professor at the University of California, Davis, who tweeted at AOC, telling the rookie lawmaker that “meat/milk” was only responsible for four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. . . 


Rural round-up

01/05/2019

Gas tax won’t cut farming emissions – Neal Wallace:

A capital gains tax is off the agenda but farming leaders are warning the imposition a suite of new taxes and regulations is pending.

In addition to farmers paying a greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year the Government is expected to impose tougher regulations on freshwater quality, aerial cropping, winter grazing and feedlots.

“When you look at everything else coming down the pipeline, if I was asked to pick one we were prepared to lose it would be this one, the one we have won,” Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said of the capital gains tax.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out water and fertiliser taxes as suggested by the Tax Working Group. . .

Top dairy title revealed tonight – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmer Emma Hammond, of East Limehills, felt honoured when she was nominated for this year’s prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

The only South Island-based finalist, she and the other three women will hear if they are winners during a dinner this evening at the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference in Christchurch.

”For us to be recognised for what we do and get that acknowledgement is humbling,” Mrs Hammond said. . .

Farm management whizz ‘well on track‘ – Sally Rae:

At 19, James Matheson set a goal of having $1 million equity by the time he was 30.

Now 26, the Gore farm manager is ”well on track” to achieve that, sitting at between $700,000 and $800,000.

It has been a meteoric rise for a young man who had never previously considered a career in the dairy industry.

Now he and farm owner Chris Lawlor were endeavouring to help other young people follow a similar path through an innovative initiative. . . 

Highlife on top of the world – Andrew Stewart:

Setting up a tourism venture on a farm not only provides a second income but also acts as a public relations exercise to help bridge the rural-urban divide. And when it includes luxury glamping and breathtaking views the visitors cannot fail to be impressed. Andrew Stewart took a look.

In terms of spectacular views, Angus and Sarah Gilbertson’s farm is up there with the best. 

Rising to 600 metres above sea level at the highest point, the panorama on a clear day encompasses all the mountain peaks of the central plateau, Mount Taranaki to the west and the clear blue waters of the Tasman Sea far to the south. 

Between these stunning landmarks are great swathes of some of the most productive farming country in New Zealand that connect the landscape in various shades of green. It’s the sort of view you can’t help but stop and enjoy and this is part of the reason the Gilbertsons created their glamping business five years ago. . . 

The 10 biggest stories in farming over the past 25 years – Jamie Mackay:

My final chat on Newstalk ZB with the laconic Larry Williams was a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.

Larry was stepping down after 27 years at the drive helm on ZB, while I was blowing out the candles on an accidental radio career spanning a quarter century in rural broadcasting.

For our penultimate ZB cross the week earlier I’d turned the tables on Larry and, without warning, asked him some unscripted questions. Much like his metronomic golf swing, he’s sometimes hard to get off script, but on this occasion he took up the challenge with good humour. . . 

Hunt on for ‘M.bovis’ study project manager – Sally Rae:

The search for an assistant research fellow to project manage a study on the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities has attracted a high level of interest.

In January, it was announced the University of Otago would undertake a study on the emotional, social and psychological impacts of the bacterial cattle disease on southern farmers and farming communities.

The two-year study, due to start this month, will look at the impact of the eradication programme on farmers specifically and the wider community more generally. . . 

Medicinal cannabis firm Pure Cann New Zealand gets $6 million investment– Rebecca Howard:

Pure Cann New Zealand, which counts former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe as its executive chair, has secured $6 million from Australia’s Cann Group for a 20 per cent stake in the local medicinal cannabis company.

The investment will be made over stages with the initial 10 per cent to be completed on or before August 30 and a further 10 per cent when New Zealand regulations come into force and Pure Cann’s board approves the construction of its commercial cultivation facility.

The New Zealand government anticipates introducing new regulations, licensing requirements and quality standards governing medicinal cannabis usage by the end of this calendar year. . . 

 


Science when it suits

08/04/2019

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

13/03/2019

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

22/02/2019

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.

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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

09/02/2019

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

08/02/2019

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

27/01/2019

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

16/01/2019

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.” . .


Quotes of the year

31/12/2018

That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them. –  Inspector John Kelly on the New Year revellers who built a large sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary in an attempt to avoid the liquor ban.

Among western leftists, morality had become culture-specific. If imperialism’s victims asked for support, then they would be given it, unquestioningly. If not, then they would tend to their own political gardens exclusively.

The problem for western feminists is that, in spite of these cultural and political self-denying ordinances, the only garden currently showing unequivocal signs of flourishing, is their own. Across vast regions of the planet, not only are women’s rights not flourishing, they are being diminished. – Chris Trotter

Any family, in any part of the country, dealing with any one of those challenges, would find it difficult. But when you have all of those at once, it is incredibly difficult to see how a family could navigate their way through all of that on their own.

And you sure as heck, can’t have an official sitting in Wellington waving a magic wand, and fixing it for them. – Louise Upston

If I look at my colleagues, they get up and go to work every day because they care so much. . .Why would we do that if we didn’t care? Why would we do that if we didn’t care about individuals and actually want something better for their lives? Louise Upston

Men who have been inculcated into a culture of toxic masculinity need to regularly top up their King Dick Metre, which can only be fuelled by the disempowerment of someone else. And that someone else is very often a woman.

Their feelings of strength only come when someone else is in a position of weakness. They can only feel valid when they are able to invalidate someone else. They only feel like they have won when someone else has lost. – Kasey Edwards

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers?

Could you imagine the next time Fonterra was in the news, it was for a collaboration with Lynx in producing a deodorant that smelled of silage and cowshit, that dairy farmers could put on if they used too much soap in the shower?

Maybe we can hope that our on-farm processes continue to develop, along with scientific developments, adoption of best practices and consumer preferences, as opposed to at the whim of vote-hungry politicians, misinformed urban housewives and the combined armies of anaemic vegans, animal rights activists, goblins and orcs.

Maybe we could hope that we can reverse the trend that has seen rural folk and farmers become an ethnic minority in this country – a minority that is now seen by many New Zealanders as dirty, destructive and somehow freeloading on resources, with less credibility then prostitution. . .  –  Pete Fitzherbert

We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments. – Dr Oliver Hartwich

Good intentions are not enough. They’re not even a start, because there’s been a lot of money wasted and lives wrecked on the basis of good intentions expressed through public services. Bill English

 . . . the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there. – Fran O’Sullivan

Peters’ inability to contain his bitterness suggests the coalition negotiations were a charade. His resentment towards National is deep-rooted, and since the election, the feeling is reciprocated. It is unlikely that National’s change of leader will diminish Peters’ toxicity.  – The Listener

It strikes me as rather unfair that while we’ve been up in arms over where the country’s burgeoning cow population does its business, our burgeoning human population has been fouling up the waterways with what comes out of our own backsides. We can’t berate dairy farmers for dirtying the rivers if we’re content for our biggest city to keep using its waterways as one giant long drop. – Nadine Higgins

Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues.Jennifer Lawrence

The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer. – Martin van Beynen

Getting policy right matters. In the end, lots of money and good intentions is never enough. You’ve got to get the policy right. – Nicola Willis

So consumed are they with the grassy vistas opening up in front of them that they are oblivious to their drawing ever closer to journey’s end, namely the holding yards of the local freezing works. – John Armstrong

Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it. Hamish Rutherford

Feminism is about choice, the right to have one, the right to be equal. It is not about trampling men to death in the process. It is not about spending so much time telling girls that “they can do anything” that they become curious and confused as to why you keep telling them something they already knew.

Guess what? The girls we’re raising haven’t had it occur to them they can’t do anything. – Kate Hawkesby

I’m not sure what affordable means but I am sure I’m not alone in that. It’s bound to be a complicated formula with one of the variables being the price of avocados. I just hope it doesn’t add up to borrowing from KiwiBank to buy from KiwiBuild during the KiwiBubble resulting in KiwiBust.James Elliott

 If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.    – Emma Espiner

A tagged tax has to be a tagged tax, otherwise it’s a rort. – Mike Hosking

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn’t mind getting on with business. And that means we need water. – Mike Hosking

Certainly a rational person, and especially one convinced of the threat of global warming and the possibility of more droughts, would increase, not stop investment in irrigation?

That is not to argue that water quality and nitrate leaching are not problems – they are. But to stop irrigation as a solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The rational approach is to find ways of reducing nitrate leaching even under high-producing irrigated pastures. This requires more science, more evidence, more rational thinking. – Dr Doug Edmeades

Businesses — it doesn’t matter what they are — require reliable steady staff; not rocket scientists but reliable steady staff. Unless we have those types of people available our whole economy has an issue. – Andre de Bruin

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. – Michael Bruce Curry

The well-being of all communities can be enhanced by enabling greater levels of social solidarity, empowering people in their personal and community lives, enhancing social infrastructure and establishing opportunities for dignified work and alternative livelihoods. – Tracey McIntosh

Tough on crime is popular with the insular and ignorant when it comes to justice policy, while restorative approaches with enduring outcomes that help people stay away from jail because they offend less are not popular, not sexy and seen as “soft on crime”. Chester Borrows

Everyone can do something amazing once. You’ve got to back it up and do it again – Rowland Smith

The money spent on eliminating risk in one area means less available to fix problems in other areas. In other words, the consequence of lowering risk in one sphere can hinder minimising risk in another one. Chew carefully on that one. – Martin van Beynen

That’s what the call for diversity means. An endless slicing and dicing of society into every thinner minority groups with everyone scrambling for quotas and box ticking.

It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s also a complete denial of individuality. You are not important. All that matters is what boxes you tick. It’s the boxes that define you, not what you do, what you think or what you produce. – Rodney Hide

We went to do a story about an American billionaire buying up wineries in Wairarapa. Local wine makers were going broke and in stepped the American billionaire. I went down with a TV crew expecting locals to be up in arms about the ‘foreigner’ buying up the land. But I couldn’t find one voice raised against him.

There is one thing worse than a foreign buyer, they told me, and that’s not having a buyer at all. – Guyon Espiner

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

We grow up thinking the world is fair, but it’s not, so you’re not always going to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is to pick yourself up again when you have those days.Joe Schmidt

I believe rugby is similar to society, where it is about interdependence and us trying to help each other. Imagine if everyone in life became the best version of themselves and made life easier for those either side of them. – Joe Schmidt

The very premise of our system is we learn from our mistakes and wrongs and are given freedom to make amends.Mike Hosking

Grown-ups know that being short $60 a week is not what ails and troubles our most vulnerable children. Proper parenting can’t be bought for $60 a week. – Rodney Hide.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. – Jessica Stillman

Feminism has descended into a cauldron of cattiness; of nasty factionalism. It doesn’t empower. It  scrutinises and judges groups within groups. Like extreme left or right politics, the creed is hardest on those most like it – those who should know better but fail. – Lindsay Mitchell

Regional development is about more than funding a few projects; it’s about allowing people to make a living. – Paul Goldsmith

This image of Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t grounded in the up-to-date distinct cultural traditions or practices of the United Kingdom. It is a cover of a misremembered song, played by a drunk who forgot the words mid-song and so started humming. – Haimona Gray

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other. Tim Watkin

The day that this country’s dictated to by the social media trolls is the day that democracy dies. If we are to be spooked into compliance by what an anonymous moron threatens by the swipe of a cellphone screen then we’re little better than they are. – Barry Soper

It is unfortunate, but the world seems to have lost the ability to disagree well. Civility in our discussions and debates over contentious issues seems to have been lost. We are increasingly polarised in our views with recourse to extreme positions in order to ‘prove’ or force our point. However, the answer is not to avoid difficult and, at times, confronting conversations. Rather, community leaders, and universities in particular, play a vital role in leading our communities in those discussions, as difficult as they may be, applying the principles of informed discussion, compromise, enlightenment of the points of view of others, and if all else fails, respectful disagreement. – Chris Gallavin

But where is that line that we need to find as a Parliament between being culturally sensitive to people that may not see things in the way in which New Zealand’s own cultures have developed, and, on the other hand, being firm enough that, actually, no, these things, regardless of culture, are not right. Nick Smith

We have an education system that does not reward excellence and does not punish failure. Decades of bureaucratic hand-wringing has delivered a broken system that relies on the personal integrity and good intentions of those who choose teaching as a profession. – Damien Grant

After all, as long as we can discern the truth clearly, love it passionately, and defend it vigorously, we have nothing to fear from open debate; and if we can’t do those things, then why are we claiming to be a university at all? – Dr Jonathan Tracy

The answer to suffering, physical or mental, is affection and good care. This should come first and as far as possible from family and community, supported by institutions.

“Finishing people off” may suit our current individualistic, utilitarian, impatient culture, but it will degrade us all in the end. – Carolyn Moynihan

In a liberal, democratic society, there will always be speech in the public domain that some people find offensive, distasteful or unsavoury. Unless that speech is manifestly doing harm to others, there is no case to ban it, only a case for arguing strongly against it or ridiculing it. Recourse to suppression is redolent of authoritarianism, not democracy. – Chris Bishop

The irony is that although the elimination of subsidies started out as a kind of political punishment, it wound up becoming a long-term blessing for farmers. We went through a difficult period of adjustment but emerged from it stronger than ever. . .

 We became ruthlessly efficient, which is another way of saying that we became really good at what we do.

We also improved our ability to resist regulations that hurt agriculture. Subsidies empower politicians, who can threaten to cut off aid if farmers refuse to accept new forms of control. Without subsidies, we have more freedom to solve problems through creativity and innovation rather than the command-and-control impulses of government. – Craige Mackenzie

But as someone who’s spent a bit of time writing and talking about the important, and not so important, issues in life, there is one thing I know which will never change.

Truth always wins. If you report the facts you can never go wrong. – Peter Williams

We can’t prosper by taking in our own washing so, strutting it on the global stage has to be our modus operandi.And I mean strutting, not just selling low value stuff that rises or falls on the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. Strutting starts with the daring of the ambition and is sustained by the ability to execute.  Ruth Richardson

The frightening retreat from sane economics. Free trade is the path to growth, protectionism is the path to decline. Ruth  Richardson

This is an accidental government formed on the fly and governing on the fly.–  Ruth Richardson

Death of great science on the alter of doctrinal and PC positions doesn’t strike me as the smartest choice.  – Ruth Richardson

I’m satisfied within myself. I’ve got more to do with my life than look at that. Barbara Brinsley

Each of us has made different life choices and, actually, that gives women everywhere role models.

It’s legitimate to choose. We don’t have to be the same, we don’t have to judge each other, we make our own choices. – Dame Jenny Shipley

Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, highly likely to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction – drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking. Virginia Crawford

I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne. I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin. I am a victim. I did not choose to be a victim. – Maanki 

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand. – Maanki

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. – Maanki


The Senate, collectively, could not find their own arses with a sextant and a well-thumbed copy of Gray’s Anatomy
Jack the Insider

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s table is a smorgasbord of theological truths with some in conflict with others and some more important that others.    People are free to pick and choose from that smorgasbord and do so based on what is important to them. – The Veteran

But I can’t remember not having books. I’d go to the library every week, search every shelf with children’s books, then go home with a stack. . .   Every choice was my choice. Then I could control what went into my head by plugging into new worlds, learning new things and just imagining a different life. . .

When we only look to reinforce our taste and beliefs we lose the opportunity to browse and the opportunity for serendipity, and that’s unfortunate. – Maud Cahill

It was sort of total irritability associated with feeling hungry that would manifest as grumpiness. This void in my stomach would create a void in my sense of humour and my ability to tolerate things. – Simon Morton

This is a partnership designed by a drover’s dog and a clinical psychologist who have absolutely nothing in common except they both have experience dealing with rogue steers who don’t believe in being team players. – Clive Bibby  

I live down in the South Island, and there’s been a lot of farmers trying to curtsey. Most of the time they’re in gumboots. – Dame Lynda Topp

In the west food is produced by a few to feed the many and when people are relieved of the duties of working on farms and subsistence farming the job is handed to a few and people move to the cities and that is when they become disconnected. – Anna Jones

Class is a commodity that doesn’t seem to be in conspicuous supply in politics at the moment. – Chris Finlayson

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government’s and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. Andrew Ketels

I certainly don’t celebrate diversity for its own sake. You have to distinguish pluralism from relativism. Relativism tends towards ‘anything goes’ and that can’t be right

Pluralism is the view that although some ways of living really are wrong, the list of possible good ways to live a flourishing human life and have a good society contains more than one item. – Julian Baggini

We didn’t need a tax on stones, there wasn’t a concern about ‘peak stone’ and we didn’t need to stage protests in front of the chieftains’ caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge. – Andrew Hoggard

I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together. – Kurt Fearnley

It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow. – Queen Elizabeth II

When I noticed that I was spending far more time scrolling through my email and Twitter than I was playing on the floor with my son, I realized that the problem wasn’t with screens warping his fragile mind. It was that I’d already allowed my phone to warp mine. So these days, my husband and I try not to use our phones at all in front of our son. Not because I think the devil lives in my iPhone, but because I think, to some extent, a small part of the devil lives in me. – EJ Dickson

The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.Karl du Fresne

I’m bloody angry at New Zealand for fighting over Santa and I want us to stop. This is not what Santa’s about. Santa is not about angst and Santa is not about Santa hate.

Santa is about hope, Santa is about dreams. Santa can come down the chimney even when you don’t have a chimney. Santa can come in the ranch slider, Santa can drink craft beer. Santa can drink strawberry-flavoured Lindauer for all I care. – Patrick Gower

The expectation that we rustics just need to lean on the gate chewing a straw and making obscure pronouncements about the weather in impenetrable accents for picturesque effect is entertaining until it dawns on you that your role apparently really is just to provide background local colour and not disturb the peace too much.  Rural places are workplaces — stuff happens down on the farm and that stuff can be noisy.  And not just on the farm — gravel quarries, jet-boat companies and the construction sites of all those new houses that didn’t used to be there. – Kate Scott

Rose-tinted nostalgia strikes us all from time to time, but when it comes with a side of imported urban world view where non-working weekends and the notion of property values is accorded more worth than building community resilience, I begin to feel resentful of the twittering worries of suburbia intruding on my bucolic peace with its soothing soundtrack of barking huntaways, topdressing planes and chainsaws –Kate Scott

I had a gentleman come to my office three years ago. He was a Labour candidate. He ran for the Labour Party. He was coming to see me because he’d been to see his own team—they wouldn’t help him with an issue, so he came to me. Did I say, “Oh, sorry, you’ve been a Labour candidate. I’m not going to assist you. I’m not going to help you.”? No, I didn’t. I actually helped him with his issue, because that’s my job as a member of Parliament. I don’t care whether you support New Zealand First, I don’t care whether you’re a supporter or member of the Labour Party, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, or the National Party—if you come and ask for help and support, you will get it. That’s my job.-  Mark Mitchell

The only positive outcome from the UN’s 2009 Copenhagen fiasco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Research Alliance (GRA) to reduce methane and nitrous-oxide emissions, which account for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG total. More than 50 countries are now involved. If the GRA develops science to cut agricultural emissions by two-thirds it would be the equivalent of the US becoming a zero emitter. If it eliminated them, it would be like China going carbon zero. This would benefit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand becoming net-zero domestically. – Matthew Hooton

No one bets on a horse with a dud jockey.  Simon Bridges

Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has seen. That doesn’t mean picking and choosing to be open and transparent when it benefits her. – Tova O’Brien

Shaw and his comrades have a vision of a different economic model, one that sane people have tunnelled under barbed wire fences to escape. Alas, the sacrifice required to achieve this gender-fluid post-colonial paradise requires a reversal of most of the economic gains of the last 50 years.Damien Grant

The less you trust people, the more distrustful they become and so the more law you need in order to trust them. A good society would not have too much law, because people would do the right thing he says. But in New Zealand we have a lot of law. – Professor Mark Henaghan


Rural round-up

17/12/2018

Climate change debate is heating up – Andrew Hoggard:

Science and practicality should underpin the climate change discussion but sometimes that’s de-railed by politics writes Federated Farmers dairy chairperson, Andrew Hoggard.

Debate about how New Zealand will honour the commitments we gave under the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming and climate change is – if you’ll excuse the pun – heating up.

In the last few months a series of weighty reports on options and forecasts have been published, notably from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission (a whopper, at 620 pages), and earlier this month from BERG (the Biological Emissions Reference Group). . . 

Tararua dairy farmers out to curb nitrate leaching and negative whispers – Sam Kilmister:

Tararua dairy farmers are turning over a new leaf to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Plantain, a common weed, is being injected into pastures to help reduce nitrogen leaching into the district’s waterways. 

The fibrous plant holds less nitrogen, meaning less passes through a cow’s system after they eat it. It also causes them to pass urine more frequently, resulting in less concentrated urine patches in a paddock.  . . 

 

More stories from on-farm :

For the last edition of Farmers Weekly we went back to some of the farmers featured in On Farm Story this year and asked them to look back on the year that’s been, and ahead to what’s in store for New Zealand agriculture.

Morrison Farming

Will Morrison is looking forward to having time to enjoy the farm scenery and healthy livestock.

What has 2018 been like for your farming business?

Seasonality for Morrison Farming feels like an increasing challenge. The consistent, well spread 1000-1200mm annual rainfall and summer-safe tag for western Rangitikei no longer feel so consistent or safe. However, prices were fantastic and financially 2018 has been one of Morrison Farming’s strongest. . . 

Richard Thompson steps down from Landcare Trust

The long-time chairman of NZ Landcare Trust and Whanganui man, Richard Thompson, has retired after 22 years on the board.

And in his place the trust has chosen its first woman chair in Fiona Gower, who is also Rural Women New Zealand national president.

Landcare Trust is an independent NGO that attempts to bring together various stakeholders to work on sustainable water and land quality. . . 

From dust bowl to productive farmland: Farmers visit Nebraska – Pat Deavoll:

A party of 25 farmers and irrigation experts has returned from Nebraska, United States, with some fresh ideas about how to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

“Nebraska was one of the states which were devastated by the dust bowl storms during the depression and farming families had to leave the land,” outgoing IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said, who was part of the group.

“By 1932, 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of farmland had been abandoned in Nebraska due to soil erosion and dust storms. . . 

 

There’s Hope for wool in art show :

Dunedin artist Hope Duncan says a wolf-shaped rug made from crossbred wool is the perfect analogy for the state of the carpet fibre industry.

The Dunedin School of Art graduate loves wool but despairs about the state of the crossbred wool sector so for her end-of-year exhibition she chose a two-piece item with a wool carpet in the shape of a wolf as an eye-catching element in a none too subtle dig at how synthetic carpet manufacturers have laid claim to wool’s natural attributes.

Duncan hopes it will provoke conversation about the attributes of wool and issues with synthetic fibres. . . 

 


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