Rural round-up

October 26, 2019

The deal’s done – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers now control their emissions destiny but industry leaders warn the hard work starts here.

The Government has adopted He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, which Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said is a good outcome for farmers.

“I hope farmers understand the importance of today,” he said.

“This is a piece of work that empowers us as a sector to put the tools in place to measure the mitigations, the sequestrations against our liabilities. 

“That’s our goal and that will drive the right behaviours.”

But now the office work is done the farm work will start. . .

Water policy stymies green work :

Hill-Country farmers will be deterred from doing environmental protection and enhancement because of limits put on land use by the proposed Essential Freshwater policies, Tararua farmers Simon and Trudy Hales say.

They believe restrictions on farmers’ ability to realise the productive potential of their land will stymie investment in environmental protection.

The couple, this year’s Supreme Award winners in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards, estimate over the past four years they have spent about $120,000 on environmental protection on their 970ha, 819ha effective, hill country farm. . .

Taranaki farming couple reap benefit after lifetime of responsible land management – Mike Watson:

When Norton and Coral Moller decided to plant trees on a bare coastal dairy farm south of New Plymouth, the response from neighbours was disbelief.

Nearly 50 years later the retired Oakura couple are reaping the benefits.

Last month they were among 17 Taranaki Environment Award winners, for environmental leadership in dairying. . .

New Zealand’s anti-science GMO laws need to change to tackle climate change – Mia Sutherland:

If this coalition government is serious about tackling climate change and ensuring future generations are left with a prosperous planet, GMO law reform must be considered.

A poignant aspect of making a difference to New Zealand’s carbon emissions is discontinuing ‘business as usual’, meaning that the lifestyles we have founded and the way our society operates now needs to change. It’s not sustainable, and doesn’t promise the 170,000 people who took to the streets on September 27 or their children an inhabitable future.

We need to be exploring new methods, changing the way we think, and reevaluating ideas we have while taking into consideration the increasingly fast development of science. We need to reform the law about genetically modified organisms. . .

Kiwifruit pushes onto dairy land – Alan WIlliams:

Two properties destined for conversion to kiwifruit are among the few dairy farms being sold.

The farms are in the Pukehina area, east of the main kiwifruit zone at Te Puke in Bay of Plenty.

It is fringe kiwifruit land away from the main post-harvest infrastructure and indications are the buyers are already in the industry with the knowledge to make the bare-land investment, Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.  . .

More Trades Academy places good news for primary sector:

The announcement of up to 4000 more trades training places in schools will help meet demand from students to learn about farming and horticulture, Primary ITO chief executive Nigel Philpott says.

The Government will fund 2000 more Trades Academy places, where secondary students combine full-time study with experience in the workplace, as well as up to 2000 Gateway places, where students have job placements along with classroom learning. The Trades Academies are across a number of sectors.

Primary ITO currently has New Zealand’s biggest Trades Academy, with approximately 830 students, and Mr Philpott says schools have asked for nearly 1100 Trades Academy places for next year. . .

Genetic engineering, CRISPR and food: What the ‘revolution’ will bring in the near future – Steven Cerier:

Humankind is on the verge of a genetic revolution that holds great promise and potential. It will change the ways food is grown, medicine is produced, animals are altered and will give rise to new ways of producing plastics, biofuels and chemicals.

Many object to the genetic revolution, insisting we should not be ‘playing God’ by tinkering with the building blocks of life; we should leave the genie in the bottle. This is the view held by many opponents of GMO foods But few transformative scientific advances are widely embraced at first. Once a discovery has been made and its impact widely felt it is impossible to stop despite the pleas of doubters and critics concerned about potential unintended consequences. Otherwise, science would not have experienced great leaps throughout history­­—and we would still be living a primitive existence


Rural round-up

September 8, 2019

Who needs the Greens when Labour hates farmers this much? – Mike Hosking:

Here’s the irony of David Parker. Parker was once the Minister of Economic Development and is currently the Minister of Trade and Export Growth – and yet he has done more than anyone these past two weeks to achieve exactly the opposite.

It was Parker who stopped the hydro dam on the West Coast despite every council, three of them, iwi, the Department of Conservation and 90 per cent of Coasters all being for it.

And now he’s put out water regulations that may as well come with the headline ‘we hate farmers’.

Tim Mackle’s piece in the Herald on this subject is excellent. It basically starts with him wistfully remembering a time when farmers were liked. Well I have a message to rural New Zealand: you still are, at least by people like me, realists who understand the energy, effort, and risk required to do what you do. . . 

The waters are rising on farming – Kerry Worsnop:

The release of the Essential Freshwater Report, ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ will undoubtable add further turbulence to an already stormy torrent of proposed Central Government policy effecting Regional Councils and land based industries.

The report’s stated intention is to ‘stop the further degradation of New Zealand’s Freshwater resources and start making immediate improvements so that water quality is materially improving within 5 years’.  The reference to immediacy is no idle threat, with Regional Councils being expected to comply with many of the proposals by June 2020.

No one can argue with the intent of the report, and few would negate the importance of prioritising our greatest natural resource, however the scope and likely implications of the report will be a topic of much discussion in the coming weeks and months. . .

Forgotten aspects of water – Mike Chapman . .

The Government released its consultation on freshwater this week (click here).  We are now busy analysing it in detail and it is really too early to reach a view about the ultimate impact, especially before the consultation. 

Two of the background documents also released make interesting reading and provide insight into the thinking behind these proposals.  Te Kāhui Wai’s recommendations are strident.  They go to the core of the water issues facing New Zealand including: iwi/hapu water rights, a moratorium on additional discharges for the next 10 years, establishing a Te Mana o te Wai Commission, and developing a new water allocation system that conforms with iwi/hapu rights and obligations. 

The Freshwater Leaders Group’s recommendations include: bringing our water resources to a healthy state within a generation, taking immediate steps to stop our water becoming worse, and achieving an efficient and fair allocation system.  They also recommend an immediate stop to poor agricultural and forestry practices, and a complete halt to the loss of wetlands.  In summary, the reports are very similar in the outcomes they are seeking – immediate action to stop further degradation.

In all I’ve read, missing is how much water New Zealand gets each year and how much use we make of that water.  NIWA figures show that 80% of our water flows out to sea, 18% evaporates and only 2% is used.  My point is that there is more than enough water for everyone.  The problem is we are not being smart in our use of water and we are not planning for the impact of climate change – long dry summers.  . . .

Time for change – Neal Wallace:

A one-size-fits-all approach to freshwater management will penalise farmers shrinking their environment footprint, Beef + Lamb chairman Andrew Morrison says.

Farmers, like everyone, want clean, fresh water but the blanket regulatory approach in the Government’s Action for Health Waterways discussion document lumps those who have cut their footprint with those who haven’t.

Federated Farmers’ reaction was scathing.

Water spokesman Chris Allan said proposed nitrogen reduction targets of 80% mean farming will cease in large parts of rural New Zealand. . .

Fonterra’s clean-out is overdue – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmer-shareholder with the largest number of shares believes the co-operative’s house cleaning and write-downs are absolutely necessary and overdue.

Former director Colin Armer, who with his wife Dale has 10 million supply shares, says over-valued assets mean farmers sharing-up in the past four years paid too much.

He has made a formal complaint to the Financial Markets Authority over inconsistent valuations and executive performance payments. . .

Irrigating farmers record better enviro audit grades – Nigel Malthus:

Irrigating farmers in the Amuri district in North Canterbury are continuing to record improved environmental performance.

The latest round of Farm Environment Plan audits by the Amuri Irrigation Environmental Collective have given 97% of the farmers collective A or B grades, the remaining 3% a C grade and none a D.

That contrasts with 20% rated as C and 6% as D in the first round of collective audits four years ago. . .


We all want clean water but

September 6, 2019

There’s no argument on the goal of clean freshwater but there’s significant angst in rural New Zealand over the way the government plans to get it.

We all want clean water, but not in a way that drastically increases the cost of farming and therefore food, destroys livelihoods and communities, and sabotages the economy.

Federated Farmers says the government’s proposals for cleaner freshwater throw farmers under the tractor:

Federated Farmers estimates large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released today.

The Essential Freshwater announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80%. 

“It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this,” Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.   

“The long term targets for nitrogen reduction, are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas.”

Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to ‘GMP’ – good management practice policy.

“But with today’s proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand.”

Feds has one simple message for the government, freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers are already doing the work.

“Lumping regional councils, with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone’s rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results,”  Chris says.

“Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts,” Chris says.

“Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway.”

Feds is particularly concerned about the proposed “interim controls” which will have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there will be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.

“The discussion documents say an ‘interim control’ is not a ban.  But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it’s a ban, pure and simple,” Chris says.

This ban will have a significantly negative knock-on effect for all rural and urban communities where the activity of the primary sector is the lifeblood earner for the cafes, sports clubs, banks, insurance companies, car dealerships, restaurants, shopping malls and all the other people downstream of New Zealand’s largest earner.

“All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence.”

Federated Farmers encourages all farmers to do their best to input into this process despite the short consultation period of six weeks and it being at the busiest time of the year for farmers.

Beef + Lamb NZ says the proposals would make sheep and beef farmers sacrificial lambs:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says plans to lock down current land uses will have a disproportionate effect on the majority of sheep and beef farms that are low input, extensive systems with a light touch on the environment.

“The sheep and beef sector’s vision is for New Zealanders to continue to be able to swim in and collect food from the freshwater surrounding sheep and beef farms,” says B+LNZ’s Chairman Andrew Morrison. 

‘Sheep and beef farmers are committed to protecting the health of our waterways and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far, however, we know there is still more work to be done.  

“The Essential Freshwater proposals are comprehensive and will take time to assess, however, we are deeply concerned by some of the analysis we have seen – including modelling that suggests 68 percent of drystock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations, while more intensive land uses largely remain the same.

Forestry isn’t necessarily good for water quality with sediment and slash washing into waterways after harvesting.

“These proposals will undermine the viability of a low-intensity sector which supports over 80,000 jobs and generates exports of $9.1 billion a year.  It risks decimating rural communities, especially when coupled with other proposed policies such as the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Ultimately, we are concerned the sheep and beef sector will bear a disproportionate impact of the proposed policies, far outweighing the environmental impact of our farming systems.”

Issues around nitrogen leaching are driven primarily by cattle stocking rates and high loadings of nitrogen fertiliser, leading to greater concentrations of nitrate leaching into waterways. 

“Most sheep and beef farming systems operate within the natural capacity of the land due to our low stocking rates and efficient, low input farming model,” says Mr Morrison.

“Our nitrogen leaching rates are low and in catchments where sheep and beef farms are the predominant farming system, nitrogen levels are not an issue. 

“The sheep and beef sector’s main water health issues are sediment, phosphorus and intensive winter grazing on crops.  We are committed to addressing our contribution to these issues and understand the need for increased oversight for activities which pose a higher environmental risk.

“However, the devil is in the detail and we will be looking to ensure any new requirements are matched to the environmental effects we are looking to manage.

“The Essential Freshwater proposals that will likely have the greatest impact on sheep and beef farmers are a range of “grandparenting” provisions that restrict land use change, and flexibility within a farming system to diversify.

“In doing this, the greatest flexibility is provided for those that currently undertake high intensity, high discharging land uses.

“New Zealand’s most sustainable and low intensity farming systems, those with the lightest environmental footprint, will have no flexibility moving forward to adapt to these and or other environmental pressures.  The success of our farming system has been the ability to adapt and diversify.”

The approach proposed also fails to take into account the other benefits that extensive farming systems provide such as biodiversity and supporting healthy and vibrant rural communities, says Mr Morrison. 

“The government’s objective of “holding the line” is understandable, but the way it would be implemented will lead to a perverse outcome where blanket limits are placed on everyone, even though individual farmers’ contribution to the problem differs wildly.

“While the government says these are interim controls until councils have new plans in place, there are no timeframes and based on our previous experience, councils’ processes will take many years. During that time, the damage will be done.”   

Sheep and beef farmers have been working to address a wide range of environmental issues, he says.  

“We are committed to addressing freshwater quality issues such as erosion, E.coli and phosphorous by working towards all farmers having land and environment plans by 2021.  Our sector has already lifted this from 36 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2019, and many farmers are getting involved in catchment communities.

“While there is still more to do, in-stream sediment concentrations have been improving as farmers have been planting native and poplar trees in erosion prone areas and retiring some land from production.   

“It appears from the proposal that many sheep and beef farmers will be punished for doing the right thing.  Over the last 30 years we’ve doubled export revenue from the industry while reducing our land use foot print, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. 

“At the same time our sheep and beef farms are a reservoir for almost three million hectares of native vegetation, making up nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s remaining native vegetation and including 1.4 million hectares of native forest, which co-exists alongside productive agriculture.” 

B+LNZ has extensive resources to support farmers in adopting best management practice for intensive winter grazing on crops and has over the last year led a pan-sector process to develop common policy solutions and build on industry initiatives to manage these activities. 

DairyNZ makes a plea: let’s all improve our waterways without destroying rural communities:

Today’s Essential Freshwater Package shows healthy and swimmable waterways are important to all New Zealanders, including dairy farmers, who share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the dairy sector and our farmers share the same vision communities, Maori and Government have to protect and improve our freshwater resources.

“The Essential Freshwater Package announced today provides a real opportunity for everyone to have their say in this important conversation. We know we can’t farm without healthy water and land, and we reflect this in our Dairy Tomorrow sector strategy, and we need to acknowledge the work that’s already taken place,” said Dr Mackle.

“Our dairy sector is already on the journey to improve and protect water quality and our farmers have been working towards this for more than a decade.”

Dr Mackle said at the same time it is acknowledged that, in some catchments, community expectations for water quality has not yet been met. Here, further action is required by all land users, including dairy, to halt a decline and longer-term solutions put in place to restore the health of these waterways.

“This policy package focuses not only on dairy but all land use activities, including sheep and beef, horticulture and urban activities, reflecting that we all have a part to play in improving our waterways,” said Dr Mackle.

But it doesn’t focus on bird life. The major contributor to the poor quality of some waterways is birds, for example the seagulls which nest on rocks beside the Kakanui River.

“We agree with a focus on ecosystem health and alongside this, options to better track the impact of improvements farmers are making to work towards this. However, we have serious concerns that the proposed approach of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus may not achieve improved ecosystem health and could have a significant impact on the viability of farm businesses and rural communities. We need to understand this better and what it means for our water quality, farmers and for the country.

“We know from experience that regulation is one tool, but hearts and minds are vital to create enduring change. We also want this to be grounded in facts and science, as well as economic and social analysis.

“Many things impact on ecosystem health, nutrients are often not the key driver. It will be important to recognise a catchment-by-catchment targeted approach as opposed to blanket one-size-fits all rules.

Solutions to problems in one catchment, or even part of a catchment, may not be applicable to all.

“We believe further uptake of Good Farming Practices and Farm Environment Plans across all farms, catchments and land users nationally is an effective way to accelerate further improvements,” said Dr Mackle. “Over 3000 farms already have a comprehensive Farm Environment Plan and we support that every farm has have one by 2025.

“Overall we support the intent of the Essential Freshwater Package but we haven’t been involved in its development, so we need to understand the proposed policies in more detail.

“It is important the policies contribute to meaningful improvements in water quality for the community and there are realistic expectations for all landowners.

“We believe on-farm initiatives are already contributing to maintaining or improving water quality across many catchments and the most recent LAWA report supports this, with almost all water quality measures showing more sites improving, than not.”

Dr Mackle said there is an opportunity to extend on the good work already done by promoting good farming principles across all catchments, farms and land owners. “This should build on successful sector initiatives, including the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, and we don’t want to see our good work undone.

“Our farmers are adaptable and have made significant changes to how we farm over the last 30 years. We will continue to learn and make changes into the future,” said Dr Mackle.

“We recognise that over time, future land use may look different than it does today. It is important that farmers have the certainty, tools and adequate transition time to continue on the journey and make the changes that may be needed over the next generation.

“Looking forward, we are encouraged by the prospect of a vibrant primary sector and rural communities, benefiting from healthy and resilient waterways.”

These proposals are typical of so many of the governments that don’t follow the science and take a balanced approach to sustainability taking into account economic, environmental and social impacts.

Water quality degraded over many years and reversing that will take time.

You can download a copy of Action for Healthy Waterways here.


Primary sector climate change commitment

July 17, 2019

New Zealand farming leaders have agreed to a sector-wide Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment: He Waka Eke:

The primary sector will work in good faith with government and iwi/Maori to design a practical and cost-effective system for reducing emissions at farm level by 2025. The sector will work with government to design a pricing mechanism where any price is part of a broader framework to support on-farm practice change, set at the margin and only to the extent necessary to incentivise the uptake of economically viable opportunities that contribute to lower global emissions. The primary 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. . .

Neal Wallace summarises the plan:

Farmers could be about to receive some intensive education on managing greenhouse gas emissions from their farms and orchards.

A proposed five-year programme of action beginning next year has been developed by 11 primary sector groups as diverse as Apiculture NZ, Horticulture NZ, the Federation of Maori Authorities, Federated Farmers and bodies representing the livestock industry.

The Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment demonstrates efforts the sector is prepared to take to reduce emissions as new technology becomes available.

This means that reducing emissions won’t be at the cost of lower production.

That is important not just for producers’ incomes but New Zealand exports and the income they generate, and global emissions which would increase if less food produced here led to more produced less efficiently in other countries.

It also counters the Interim Climate Change Committee recommendation to introduce a tax on livestock emissions to be collected by processors up to 2025 when the tax will be based on individual farm assessments.

A joint statement by the group says a central tenet of the Government’s discussion document is pricing agricultural emissions.

“The primary sector is seeking to work with Government to design a pricing mechanism where any price is part of a broader framework to support on-farm change, contributes to lower global emissions and supports farmers and growers to make practical changes on the ground.

“This will be critically important to enable a smooth transition for the agricultural sector.”

The body’s plan will establish graduated, targeted milestones for goals such as farm environment plans and farm-level measurement of greenhouse gases.

A lot of farms already have farm environment plans.

North Otago Irrigation Company (NOIC) pioneered requiring independently audited FEPs as a condition of supply. Other companies have followed this example and many farmers have chosen to have FEPs as a commitment to best practice.

However, many of those plans won’t yet be measuring greenhouse gases.

For example, by 2022 the aim is for every farmer to know the level of emissions generated from their farms and by 2025 to have an accounting and reporting system for those emissions.

By the same year all farms will have a farm environment plan and 70% of all farmers will be managing their greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with their plan.

The commitment said substantial work has been done to develop methodology and tools to calculate farm-level emissions and extension programmes to educate farmers as well as continued research into methane inhibitors, vaccines and animal genetics. . . 

Continued research is essential to provide the tools farmers will need to reduce emissions without reducing production.

. . . The group wants sequestration to be credited to each farm and farmers should not be required to enter the Emission Trading Scheme to get financial credit for that sequestration.

Pricing should incentivise all forms of sequestration from native bush, riparian planting, shelter belts, orchards and vines.

The document says the primary sector invests $25 million a year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change.

It notes the greenhouse gas footprint for New Zealand dairy production is 30% below Europe’s and less than half the world average while for lamb it is 25% that of the rest of the world.

This point is lost on those, including politicians, who erroneously think reducing livestock numbers here will reduce global emissions.

Just like the oil and gas ban, it would have the perverse outcome of increasing emissions as our less efficient competitors increased production to compensate for less food produced here.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair Andrew Morrison says the sheep and beef sector here has already reduced absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent since 1990 through improved farming practices and things like better lambing percentages and higher carcase weights.

. . .“Today’s Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment is an evolution of one of the Interim Climate Change Committee’s recommendations, and seeks to achieve the same outcomes faster than would otherwise be the case,” says Mr Morrison.

“Both the primary sector and ICCC agree that a farm-based pricing mechanism is the best way to get action on biological greenhouse gas emissions. Where we differ is that we think we can make faster progress by working with farmers from the get-go to help reduce on-farm emissions and prepare for farm-based pricing from 2025, rather than having an interim processor levy.”

Mr Morrison says that the ability of the primary sector to fund work on developing a farm-based pricing system through existing resources will provide a win-win situation for farmers and the climate.

“A new and blanket levy at the processor level wouldn’t incentivise any on-farm changes and would be seen as farmers as a new tax, which would undermine farmer’s efforts to make positive changes, especially as individual farmers wouldn’t reap the benefits of any improvements they may make.” . .

Imposing a tax rather than finding the tools to enable farmers to reduce emissions would add costs without necessarily changing behaviour.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the Commitment doesn’t just identify a problem – it provides a clear pathway forward and a way for the primary sector to work with the government rather than just impose regulation.

. . .We and the ICCC both agree that a farm-based mechanism is the best way to address biological emissions, however, our views diverge when it comes to how we get there.

“Bringing agriculture into the ETS at the processor level amounts to little more than a broad-based tax on farmers before we have the knowledge, support and tools to drive the practice change that will reduce emissions.

“The stakes are high. New Zealand’s primary sector contributes one fifth of our GDP, generates 1 in 10 jobs and produce 75% of our merchandise exports.  We want to avoid shocks like the 80s and make any changes in a stable and considered way. 

Anything which imposes costs and reduces production would re-create the ag-sag of the 1980s with all the economic and social pain with little or not economic gain.

“As an alternative we have put forward a proposed five-year work programme to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework and work with farmers and the wider rural sector to provide real options to reduce their footprint. 

“While appropriate pricing mechanisms for incentivising emissions reductions at farm level can have an important role to play in incentivising change, creating an environment that enables and supports farmers and growers to make changes on-the-ground is equally important to prepare for farm-based pricing from 2025. . . 

Education and research to provide tools to enable change will have a positive and lasting impact that taxes won’t.


Rural round-up

July 6, 2019

BLNZ looking into impact of land conversion – Sally Rae:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has expressed concerns about the potential impacts on communities of ”wholesale conversions” of regions into forestry.

There have been growing concerns in the past few months about the increase in sales of sheep and beef farms into forestry.

In an update to farmers, BLNZ chairman Andrew Morrison said the organisation was working to get a better understanding of exactly what was happening, why it might be happening, quantifying the potential impacts on regional communities, and what the solutions might be. . .

Farmers’ returns should reflect value – Alliance – Brent Melville:

Alliance group chairman Murray Taggart is a firm believer in premium returns for premium products.

The North Canterbury sheep, cattle and cropping farmer wants red meat producers to get out what they put in, meaning Alliance needs to be in a position to objectively measure product value.

It has been an important part of the company’s strategic focus over much of his six years as chairman. He and the Alliance board have worked with CEO David Surveyor over the past four years to improve the company’s operational ”fitness”, transform production capacity and reinvent the company’s global marketing focus. . .

Report dodgy fliers :

Dairy farmers are being urged to tell authorities about “concerning activity” by helicopters and drones.

But farmers should also be aware that drones, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have legitimate business in rural areas, like checking power lines and spreading fertiliser.

DairyNZ head of South Island Tony Finch says it has had reports of helicopters and drones flying low over Southland farms where they disturb stock. . . 

Triple the success:

The Dawkins family are Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farmers who are striving to maximise triplet lamb survival by developing an indoor lambing system. Now in their third year of the programme, the family are refining a system that has unexpectedly benefited the whole farm system while significantly reducing lamb losses.

In part one of this two-part series, we look at how the indoor system works.

A recipe for maximising triplet lamb survival is like the holy grail of sheep farming but the Dawkins family from Blenheim are getting closer to finding it.

Chris and Julia Dawkins and their son Richard, who farm The Pyramid, a 645ha down and hill country sheep and beef farm, are in the third year of a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm programme looking to maximise triplet lamb performance through an indoor lambing system. . .

Farming the Chathams: the tyranny of distance – Adam Fricker:

Like a small scale model of the challenges New Zealand agriculture faces being so far from its main markets, farmers on the Chatham Islands are far enough from the mainland to make shipping inputs in and livestock out a marginal exercise. Adam Fricker reports.

An Australian coined the phrase ‘the tyranny of distance’ but it certainly applies here. Rural News took the 2.5 hour flight on Air Chathams’ Convair 580, a graceful 1960s turbo prop.

We came courtesy of Holden who were celebrating their 65th anniversary with an SUV adventure on Chatham Island, the main island in the scattered group of 25 islands. It’s not a cheap flight, so most of the non-human freight, including livestock, goes by ship. . . 

A carnivore diet is more vegan than a vegan diet :

Whether you are ready to hear this or not, a Carnivore Diet, a diet comprised entirely of animal products, and more specifically, a diet comprised entirely or almost entirely of large herbivores such as cows and sheep, is more vegan than the vegan diet,  and we’ll prove this to you with incontrovertible facts.

If you thought veganism was just a diet that excludes animals, well, not quite. According to the Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” So, according to them, whatever diet accomplishes this best would be a ‘vegan’ diet, or more correctly THE vegan diet.  . . 


Asking too much of ag

May 9, 2019

The announcement that methane will be treated differently from other gases under the Zero Carbon Bill ought to be good news for farmers, but it isn’t:

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is deeply concerned over the proposed treatment of methane and targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and is calling for critical changes to the bill.

The proposed methane reduction targets of between 24-47 percent by 2050 significantly exceed both New Zealand and global scientific advice and the government is asking more of agriculture than fossil fuel emitters elsewhere in the economy.

The government wants to turn productive farm land into forests and it’s also asking too much of farmers in its methane target.

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is committed to playing its part in addressing climate change and acknowledges that in some areas the government has followed scientific advice, such as the split gas approach and proposed ambitious net zero target for nitrous oxide.

“Sheep and beef emissions have already reduced by 30 percent since 1990, helping meet New Zealand’s climate change challenge and we accept we still have work to do,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Chairman and Southland sheep and beef farmer Andrew Morrison.

“New Zealand needs a robust science-based and fair approach when setting targets for an issue which will affect future generations.

“It’s unreasonable to ask farmers to be cooling the climate, as the government’s proposed targets would do, without expecting the rest of the economy to also do the same.

It’s also unfair to expect farmers to follow the science on the need to reduce emissions while ruling out genetic modification which could be an affordable and effective tool for doing so.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is calling for a fair approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. An equitable approach requires carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to go to net zero, and methane to be reduced and stabilised by between 10-22 percent. This is consistent with the advice from the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who identified this range as meaning methane would be contributing no additional warming. Any target above a 10-22 percent reduction is therefore asking methane to cool the planet.

“In addition to our 30 percent reduction in emissions, sheep and beef farmers have also conserved 1.4 million hectares of native forest, an area the size of Hawke’s Bay, which is capturing significant quantities of carbon and cooling the planet, which when combined with our free range, naturally-raised farming systems enables our farmers to produce beef and lamb at a lower carbon footprint than many other countries.

“Not allowing trees to offset biological methane, as is allowed for fossil fuel emitters, exacerbates the unequal playing field, and is completely counter to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

It’s even more galling when a lot of those trees are planted on farmland.

As a sector which set a goal of being net carbon neutral by 2050, the ability for farmers to offset biological methane on farm through tree planting is a key tool that farmers should be allowed to access.”

The sheep and beef sector is also urgently calling on the government to be transparent and release all the advice on which they based its decision.

“The government’s decision appears to fly in the face of international scientific evidence, which supports reducing and stabilising methane by 10-22 percent as equivalent to net carbon zero.

“As the Zero Carbon Bill currently stands, it will have a dramatic impact on New Zealand’s regional communities and the entire economy, and the knock-on effect will be felt by every Kiwi.”

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is worth approximately $10.4 billion, is the country’s largest manufacturing sector, the second largest export earner, and supports 80,000 jobs across the country, both directly and indirectly.

New Zealand’s emissions are around 0.17% of the global total.

If anything we do was going to make a significant difference the economic sacrifice might – just might – be justified. But when anything we do is insignificant on a global scale there is no justification for economic sabotage.

These jobs form the heart of hundreds of regional communities. The social and economic impacts of these potential changes will reverberate beyond the farm gate and hollow out the many regional communities who rely heavily on our sector,” says Mr Morrison.

“Beef + Lamb New Zealand will continue supporting research into greenhouse gas mitigations, as well as its ongoing work with farmers to help them further reduce the methane emissions from their livestock.”

DairyNZ has similar concerns about the methane target:

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has reconfirmed the dairy sector’s commitment to play its part to reduce its biological emissions, and supports the intent of the direction of the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Our farmers are committed to sustainable farming practices, and need long-term certainty to make business decisions based on reduction targets. We are pleased the Government has listened to the science regarding the short-lived nature of methane, recognising it has a different impact on the environment,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ supports a science-based approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. We have not yet seen the Government’s analysis behind the 2050 target range. The 2050 target, of reducing methane by 24 to 47 per cent, is based on global scenarios that are not grounded in the New Zealand context. This range for methane, combined with reducing nitrous oxide to net zero, goes beyond expert scientific advice for what is necessary for New Zealand agriculture to limit global warming to no more than at 1.5° C.

“It is very important to get the range right. If we get this wrong it will have significant impacts on not just the dairy sector, but the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand. 

“While we can support much of what is in the Zero Carbon legislation, we will be pushing for the range to be reviewed and aligned with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, of 10-22 per cent reduction in methane. When combined with our commitment on nitrous oxide to net zero, this is an equitable, yet ambitious and challenging target, that is grounded in robust science.

“We know our farmers will be concerned by the 47 per cent and what that might mean for their livelihoods. It is not set in stone, and the Bill includes a number of criteria for review including availability of mitigation options, what other countries are doing, and reduction efforts by other sectors. 

“New Zealand is already one of the lowest emissions producers of dairy nutrition in the world per kilogram of milksolids and we want to build on that advantage. Climate change is a global issue and it is good for the world if dairy production stays in New Zealand where we have low emissions for the amount we produce. We believe our premium, grass-based, high nutrition dairy will continue to be in demand well into the future, alongside a range of other options consumers may have.

Sabotaging dairying here will increase global emissions as production from less efficient producers elsewhere is increased to make up the shortfall.

“The 2030 reduction target is the first step, which we know will be very challenging. But there is action that farmers can take, and are already taking, to reduce on-farm emissions. The first step is to understand their emissions and where they come from. As part of our pan-sector Dairy Tomorrow strategy, over the next 5 years each farm will have a farm-specific plan to manage and reduce these emissions.

“DairyNZ remains focused on researching and developing tools to help farmers make choices for how to reduce emissions – through farm systems changes and new technologies. It will take time for some of these tools to develop. We will continue working closely with government to ensure all efforts on farm are recognised, and expert advice and training is made available. This support is a vital part of a fair transition.

Federated Farmers says the methane target will change the country not the climate:

Targets released today for farming’s methane emissions are going to send the message to farmers that New Zealand is prepared to give up on pastoral farming.

“This decision is frustratingly cruel, because there is nothing I can do on my farm today that will give me confidence I can ever achieve these targets”, Federated Farmers vice president and Climate Change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

New Zealand farmers are already playing their part in tackling global warming, and are willing to do more.

“But hearing the government setting arbitrary targets based on a random selection of reports and incomplete data will leave some farmers wondering; ‘what is the point’?

“The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030 gives us a deadline for going beyond net zero more than 20 years earlier than for any other sector of New Zealand. It is unheard of anywhere else on the planet,” Andrew says.

The targets are significantly higher than what is necessary to be equivalent to net-zero carbon dioxide.

The announced methane reduction target for 2050 of 24-50%, when coupled with the target of net zero for nitrous oxide, requires the New Zealand agriculture sector to reduce its emissions by 43-60%.

“Let’s be clear, the only way to achieve reductions of that level, is to reduce production.  There are no magic technologies out there waiting for us to implement.

“At this point in time we have no idea how to achieve reductions of this level, without culling significant stock numbers.

“All Kiwis need to ask themselves one simple question: ‘if we cut our agricultural production by up to 50% over the next 30 years, what is the country going to do for jobs, taxes and community investment, in the future?”

There is no practical, sustainable or viable answer to that question.

 In complete contradiction to the most recent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report, New Zealand farmers will also not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees.

“Large fossil carbon dioxide polluters can offset their emissions by continuing to buy up land and putting it into forestry, but farmers will not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

“Basically pastoral farming is being used to buy the rest of New Zealand time to deal with the fundamental driver of climate change – increased carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the greenhouse gas the government obviously finds too politically hot to handle.”

This government keeps talking about fairness then introducing policies that are anything but fair.

Q: Isn’t a split gas target what the agricultural sector wanted?
A: A split gas target for long and short-lived greenhouse gases is required in order to reflect the dramatically different reduction needed in order to have each gas no longer contribute to additional warming of the atmosphere. The reduction targets announced by the Government go above and beyond what is required for methane to reach net zero carbon dioxide equivalent. We welcome a split gas target but the target for methane itself is not viable.

Q: Who said biological methane doesn’t need to reduce to net zero by 2050, like the other greenhouse gases?
A: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission and most recently the Climate Change Commission in the UK.

Most prominently, the internationally recognised climate scientists from Oxford (including Professor Myles Allen) and Victoria University of Wellington (including Prof. Dave Frame) have published research identifying a 0.3% year-on-year reduction in biological methane would ensure that the gas had no additional warming impact. This equates to a 10% reduction by 2050 (not 2020 as proposed by Government). These scientists have been lead authors in chapters of IPCC reports.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, in his 29 March 2019 report ‘Farms, forests and fossil fuels’ (pg. 80) said if New Zealand wished to stabilise the contribution of livestock methane to global warming at its 2016 level, it would need to reduce these emissions by 10-22% by 2050. He said: “Unless large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are achieved, efforts to reduce methane and nitrous oxide will be of limited long-term value.”

Q: If farmers aren’t required to get methane emissions down to net zero by 2050, as with the other greenhouse gases, isn’t that letting agriculture ‘off the hook’?
A: No. Methane emissions need to only slightly reduce to have no additional warming effect (equivalent to zero gross carbon dioxide emissions). This is because methane is a relatively short-lived gas in the atmosphere.

Under the Zero Carbon Bill targets farmers are being required to reduce another biological emission, nitrous oxide, to net zero by 2050.  Farmers (and processors) are also big users of transport and electricity to harvest/process/get their goods to market, so like other New Zealanders and industry sectors they will bear the costs of reducing carbon dioxide to net zero by 2050.

Q: What’s wrong with the tougher methane reduction targets and deadlines?
A: The announced targets disregard the core principal of all gases being reduced equally in order to have the same impact in reducing global warming. The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030, goes beyond what is needed to achieve no further contribution to warming from methane. This target is expecting farmers to reduce methane 3 times greater than required for methane to no longer contribute to additional global warming.

Essentially this means the 10% methane target is required to be achieved two decades before the target for all other gases.

Apart from the obvious significant economic impacts this is also likely to have the counterproductive impact of increasing global warming, as no other agricultural exporting country is setting such tough methane targets.  Less efficient trade competitors will fill the market gap created by the reduced food production in New Zealand. This concept is known as “emissions leakage”.

Q: Where does the figure of ‘27% – 47%’ reduction for methane by 2050 come from?
A: Good question. There are no Government reports outlining the reasoning for the figures. The Government cannot provide any analysis of how they arrive at the 24%- 47% figure. The numbers are from the 2018 IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  Note these are ‘scenarios’, one of which includes a nuclear power option and another allows for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions.

Q: But can’t farmers just plant trees to offset methane?
A:  No, the Government has specifically prevented farmers from offsetting methane emissions. A coal power station will be allowed to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by buying up farms and planting pines trees but a farmer will not be allowed to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

This is contradictory to the recent recommendations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who recommended a landscape approach to forestry offsets. Under the PCE’s landscape approach the use of forestry offsets would be limited to biological methane, and offsetting nitrous oxide would be limited to native vegetation, and fossil carbon dioxide would not be offset at all by planting trees.

The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill announcement makes no distinction between fossil and biological greenhouse gases and operates in a reality where a carbon dioxide molecule is as theoretically stable in a pine tree in Nelson as one in solid coal a kilometre under the ground.

Q: How can farmers reduce their emissions in order to reach the methane target?
A:  Currently the only way farmers can reduce methane emissions is to feed less dry matter to livestock. The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) commissioned work that shows in order to significantly reduce livestock methane emissions in the future without cutting production many currently unavailable and uncertain technologies will need to be developed and commercialized, including genetically modified ryegrass crops.

This is yet another aspirational policy from the government without a plan and without a scientific basis.

It’s also another example of a policy that won’t make a measurable environmental difference but will come at a high social and economic cost.


Rural round-up

August 8, 2018

BLNZ conference offers big choice of topics – Nicole Sharp:

A first for the South Island, farmers will have the future in front of them at Progressive Ag.

The Progressive Ag conference, organised by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ), is being held in Gore next month, on August 9.

Organiser and BLNZ southern South Island extension manager Olivia Ross said the idea came from a similar event in the North Island.

”They have an ag innovation and we ran a mini all together in one place here in Gore last year,” she said. . .

Retractable roof a NZ first for Central orchard – Aexia Johnston:

A New Zealand-first development is taking shape at Clyde Orchards — a shed with a retractable roof will house three hectares of cherries.

Owners Kevin and Raymond Paulin, who could not yet confirm how much the development would cost, will plant thousands of cherry trees in the shed, boosting the company’s overall crop to 30ha.

They have been working on the project over winter, with the aim of getting it ready for planting so produce will be available in three years’ time. . .

Nailing the big issues:

Climate change and water quality are two issues the sheep and beef industry has yet to nail, says Beef + Lamb NZ chairman, Andrew Morrison.

Speaking to Rural News last week at the Red Meat Sector conference in Napier, he said health and safety was a big issue 12-18 months ago but the industry has moved on from this and is working through these other issues.

“We really want to get the water quality and climate change issues sorted,” Morrison says. “We are working out what tools we can set up to help change the behaviour of people on these issues; not regulation so much as how we can structure policy that gets the necessary outcomes.” . . 

Common ground – Forest & Bird and Pāmu announce new collaboration:

The heads of New Zealand’s largest conservation organisation and largest farming group have agreed to work together to promote best environmental practice in New Zealand’s farming sector.

Forest & Bird and Pāmu have agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on researching, implementing, and promoting agricultural practices that protect the natural environment.

“Forest & Bird is New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation, and Pāmu is New Zealand’s largest farmer. It makes sense for these two influential organisations to collaborate on one of the country’s biggest challenges – how to reverse the crisis facing New Zealand’s unique natural environment,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague. . . 

New scholarship in beekeeping launched:

Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) recently launched a new youth scholarship in beekeeping aimed at encouraging young New Zealanders who wish to take up a career in the industry and undertake training that supports best practice beekeeping.

The Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship in Beekeeping is sponsored by Mossop’s Honey based in Tauranga. Ron Mossop was a leading pioneer in the industry, starting out his family beekeeping business in the 1940s and building a values-based family business focused on quality and integrity.

Today, the Mossop family honours those values through the scholarship fund which will be awarded annually. . .

New Zealanders still want meat, just less

Plant-based proteins won’t replace meat as consumers want both, a food scientist says.

Red meat consumption in New Zealand has fallen 57 percent in the last decade and companies like Air New Zealand have started offering meat free burger patties.

But Plant and Food Research scientist Dr Jocelyn Eason told RNZ’s Sunday Morning that did not mean New Zealanders wanted to replace meat with lab-grown meat.

She said consumers were increasingly becoming “flexitarian” – choosing to be vegetarian sometimes and eat meat other times. . . 

New Zealand’s largest alpine resort to be developed between Queenstown & Wanaka:

A new partnership between Cardrona Alpine Resort and Queenstown businessman John Darby will lead to the development of New Zealand’s largest alpine resort, incorporating Cardrona and a new Soho Basin Ski Area.

Soho Basin faces Queenstown and covers all the southern and south-west faces of Mt Cardrona, and includes the two Willow Basins that directly adjoins Cardrona Alpine Resort’s southern boundary. Soho Basin will add an additional 500ha of high altitude skiable terrain, offering up to 500 vertical metres of skiing. . . .

Hat tip: Utopia


%d bloggers like this: