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


Rural round-up

June 20, 2018

Farmers taking massive blow from disease cull to protect others – Andrew Morrison:

This time last year few of us had even heard of Mycoplasma bovis and now this disease is proving devastating to a group of cattle farmers.

We have seen the heart-wrenching scenes of farmers loading otherwise healthy cows onto trucks headed for slaughter and have listened to the descriptions from farmers who have to wake up every morning to the silence of farms devoid of livestock.

Last month, the Government with industry support made the decision to pursue a phased eradication of this production-limiting disease.

Knowing the pain it was going to cause some farmers meant that it was not a decision made lightly.  These farmers are taking a massive blow to protect the 99 per cent of farmers who don’t have Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) on their properties. We, as an industry, need to do everything we can to support these people both financially and emotionally. . . 

North Otago calves confirmed to have had M bovis -Conan Young:

A North Otago farmer who lost her farm after having to deal with a mystery illness has had it confirmed her calves that year had Mycoplasma bovis.

Susan McEwan’s story featured on RNZ’s Checkpoint and Insight programmes.

At that stage she suspected the reason she lost 600 of the 3000 animals she was raising to arthritis and pneumonia, was due to Mycoplasma bovis, but had no way to prove it. . . 

Farm exports growing – Sally Rae:

A strong export performance and farm profitability results, despite a  variety of challenges, is testament to the resilience of farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report says.

That resilience provided confidence  farmers would be able to adapt to future disruptions such as climate change, adverse events or potential trade issues.

It was also reflected in MPI’s medium-term outlook for annual export growth to range between 1.2% to 2.6% between 2019 and 2022.

Primary sector exports are forecast to exceed $46 billion by the end of the outlook period.

Production and export volumes were forecast to be relatively stable, particularly in dairy and meat and wool.  . . 

Keeping tradition alive after 50 years of Feildays – Horiana Henderson:

Kerepehi stalwart, Alex Quinn is committed to Fieldays and has the golden “50 years commemorating support” award, and a cap, to prove it.

In typical fashion, he was to be found amongst the agricultural equipment ready with a big smile and friendly conversation. He is the owner of Quinn Engineering and attended the first Fieldays with his father Eddie Quinn.

In the 1960s, Eddie created a tractor attachment for handling hay called the Baleboy and brought it to market at Fieldays in 1970. .  .

NZ missing a trick when it comes to selling our food overseas – Heather Chalmers:

The Government needs to invest in a national food brand in the same way it spends $100 million each year to promote New Zealand as a tourist destination, says an agrifood marketing expert.

Synlait’s infant formula sold in the United States was “unashamedly branded” as coming from New Zealand grass-fed dairy cows, but most New Zealand products were unbranded, said Lincoln University agribusiness management senior lecturer Nic Lees.

This was despite research that showed most western consumers view New Zealand food as the next best thing to their own products.

“This research was done by the University of Florida. This is an example of how little market research we do as a country into understanding perceptions of our food in different countries.” . . 

Stay ahead of the game deer farmers urged – Alexia Johnston:

Deer farmers are being urged to ”stay ahead of the game”.

Those words of advice were the key theme at this year’s Deer Industry New Zealand (Dinz) annual conference, recently hosted in Timaru.

Dinz CEO Dan Coup said the three-day event, which included a field trip to Mesopotamia Station, was a success, helped by the positive attitude by those in attendance. . .

Getting calves off to a great start – Peter Burke:

Dairy farmers and calf rearers will in a few months be flat-out dealing with new life on farms. AgResearch scientist Dr Sue McCoard and colleagues are working on adding valuable science and data to this important task.

Sue McCoard says she and her fellow researchers, in partnership with the industry, are researching different feeds and feeding management options and their impact on whole-of-life performance. .  .

 


Rural round-up

April 3, 2018

People first is the goal – Sally Rae:

Loshni Manikam’s passion for the dairy industry is palpable.

Enigmatic and engaging, the lawyer-turned-dairy farmer-turned-professional coach was recently named Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year — and it is easy to understand why.

The Southland-based mother-of-three has a big vision; for the dairy industry in New Zealand to have a happy, productive, sustainable culture that puts people “at front and centre” of everything it does.

And, if that could be achieved, it would be “amazing on every level” — not just for the industry but also for families, farming businesses and communities — and it is that vision that excites her.

Ms Manikam has a fascinating back story. Brought up in South Africa, she completed a law degree before heading off on her OE. . . 

Oh brother! Linda in running – Sally Rae:

It could go down in history.

If Linda Taggart wins the Otago-Southland regional final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest, she will join her brother, Roscoe, as part ofthe first brother-and-sister combination to compete in the event’s grand final.

Roscoe Taggart (26) has clinched a spot in the Tasman regional final in Christchurch on April 7 while Miss Taggart (25) will compete in the Otago-Southland final on April 21 in Winton. . . 

Rural communities a focus for new Beef + Lamb NZ chairman:

As Southland farmer Andrew Morrison steps into the role of Chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand his focus will be on the strength of rural communities.

These communities reflect the health and prosperity of the farming sectors that surround them so for Andrew, red meat sector growth is helping rural communities thrive – and this is increasingly recognised as a success story within this country and around the world.

Andrew, who was formally elected by the Board on 23 March, will be leading B+LNZ as the levy-funded organisation implements a revised strategy. . . 

Power of the partnership – Anne Lee:

A pioneering Canterbury dairy equity partnership has gone from strength to strength. Anne Lee reports.

Twenty years after its conversion Canlac Holdings is still a model for what can be achieved on an irrigated Canterbury dairy farm in terms of profit, business growth and progression.

It’s one of the country’s longest-running and most-successful equity partnerships with enduring relationships and innovative business structures creating platforms for individuals and the enterprise as a whole to grow and achieve lifelong goals. . .

Kevin Folta’s crusade for science – Jessie Scott:

On Sunday, September 6, 2015, scientist Kevin Folta made the front page of the New York Times. The prominent article wasn’t recognition for his work in understanding which genes control flavor in strawberries or how light can slow down mold in blueberries. Instead, it was an article questioning his ties to Monsanto and whether or not those connections influenced his favorable views toward biotechnology.

Kevin Folta, the chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, has been an agvocator talking about biotechnology since 2000. Or, as he prefers to say, he is a science communicator.

“I don’t feel that this is agvocacy,” he says. “I don’t represent one technology or idea; I represent what the science says. It says biotechnology in agriculture is a good thing.” . . 

A lunch at Ostler Wines vineyard – The Paintbox Garden:

One of the logistical tasks for a tour guide in a country where the attractions are far-flung is to find a place to feed the tour members lunch. In New Zealand, our guide Richard Lyon accomplished this necessary detail with great panache. We had eaten lunch in some of the most beautiful gardens in the country, so we were excited as we drove from Oamaru through the Waitaki River Valley, past the power plant at Waitaki Lake……

to arrive moments later at the beautiful vineyard of Ostler Wine…


Rural round-up

March 28, 2018

WRC Fencing Proposal Breeds Resentment in the Hills:

Drystock farmers have the most water on their land of any farming sector and are therefore key, in any final policy to improve water quality across Waikato. Under the proposed fencing rules contained in the Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1, many hill country farmers will eventually be forced off their land by the costs of installing fencing and water reticulation. Worse than that, the installation such a vast amount of fencing will leave many of our smallest and cleanest streams – clogged and filthy with sediment.

Due to the nature of the ground, some hill country farmers may lose up to forty percent of their total grazing area, if the proposed fencing requirements are implemented without changes. “The absurd idea being espoused by some WRC staff, that farmers can somehow graze sheep on the sides of hills and cattle on the tops of hills is totally impractical and just shows how far out of touch the WRC is, with hill country farming realities” says Mr Andy Loader, Chairman of PLUG.  . . 

Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey Quarter 1:

New Zealand’s farmers have started the year with increasing optimism, with rural confidence edging higher after two consecutive sharp declines recorded in the second half of 2017.

The first quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey for the year – completed earlier this month – has shown the nation’s net farmer confidence index inched up to +15 per cent, from +13 per cent recorded in the December 2017 survey, primarily driven by an optimistic outlook among horticulturalists.

While the latest survey found the number of New Zealand farmers expecting the agricultural economy to improve in the year ahead had declined slightly to 27 per cent of those surveyed (compared with 29 per cent in the previous quarter) – those expecting agricultural economic conditions to worsen had fallen to 12 per cent (from 16 per cent previously). . . 

Why has Fonterra gone a2? – Keith Woodford:

It is now more than a month since Fonterra and The a2 Milk Company (A2M) announced that they are going to work together. After the initial shock, and with Malcolm Bell, National Market Manager from New Zealand-dominant dairy-semen provider LIC describing it as “the biggest announcement to come out of Fonterra since its formation”, there is a need for some analysis as to what it is going to mean.

From the perspective of A2M, there is a simple answer. It will provide a supply base of milk free of A1 beta-casein that A2M desperately needs for the coming years of growth.

For Fonterra, the issues are far more complex.  Why have they made a U-turn after 17 years of condescending denigration of the A2 concept?  And why is Fonterra doing it as a joint venture rather than striking out on its own? . . .

NZ log exports top 1M cubic metres in January, second-highest level ever for the month – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand exported more than one million cubic metres of softwood logs in January, only the second time in the country’s history that such a high volume has been shipped in the month.

The country exported 1.1 million cubic metres of softwood logs overseas in January this year, up 32 percent on January 2017, according to data from Global Trade Information Services published in AgriHQ’s monthly forestry market report. That’s the highest level for the month since 2014 and only the second time volumes have exceeded 1 million for a January month. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand elects new chairman:

Southland sheep and beef farmer Andrew Morrison is the new Chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) following a Board election on 23 March.

Morrison takes the Chair after four years on the Board representing the Southern South Island region.

Along with his wife Lisa, Morrison farms a total of 1030ha of breeding and finishing units spread between Southland and Otago.  . . 

Feds and all farmers will be relieved by M.Bovis decision:

The government’s decision to cull all the livestock on properties so far identified as having been contaminated by the Mycoplasma Bovis disease will be a huge relief for all drystock and dairy farmers.

Federated Farmers applauds the Ministry for Primary Industries decision announced today to continue the cull on all the 28 farms so far infected by the nasty disease.

“Basically what this says to us is that the government and MPI are still committed to trying to eradicate this disease. Their determination to do the best we can to get rid of it should be acknowledged by all farmers,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says. . . 

Beef + Lamb NZ welcomes certainty for infected Mp.bovis properties:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has announced that all cattle on properties infected with the Mycoplasma bovis (Mp.bovis) cattle disease will be culled and the farmers’ losses compensated.

“The MPI decision that cattle on all infected properties will be culled provides clarity to farmers that have been living with this uncertainty,” said Dave Harrison, General Manager Policy and Advocacy at B+LNZ.

“This has been a very trying few months for affected farmers who have been restricted from trading, borne extra costs, and suffered worry and anxiety about the future. . . 

Details of FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Invercargill revealed:

In less than four months Invercargill will be buzzing with FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final fever.

The iconic agricultural competition marks its 50th anniversary this year, a milestone worthy of celebration.

The last of the seven grand finalists will be decided at the Otago/Southland Regional Final in Winton on April 21st.

A sell-out crowd is expected at ILT Stadium Southland for the main quiz and awards night in July. . . 

NZ Ag: B+LNZ  future meat report – great on detail, what’s the solution? – St John Craner:

I was eager to read this report. As eager as I am to read their much anticipated Red Meat Story (which by my best guess will be about the provenance of real meat, and rightly so because it’s their only point of difference). Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) should be applauded for commissioning such a thorough analysis on the challenge and opportunities from alternative protein. Its Future Meat Report is a solid piece of work that will be doing the stakeholder rounds and roadshows up and down the country as we speak. However having read it what are the next actions? And does it go far enough?

Its Executive Summary suggests, in regards to our story, “we just need to tell it better”. It’s too simplistic to say this. To be fair and credit the agency Antedote, they recognise this too as they go deeper explaining each of the different strategic scenarios and responses which offers the greatest value to readers.

Being ready for the threat of alternative proteins and their cashed-up Silicon Valley investors will take far more than having a good story.  . . 


Rural round-up

March 2, 2018

Paving the way for better wool returns – Peter McDonald:

Is another “wool boom” on its way?

Well that’s a bold question to ask considering the prices we are receiving at this present time for our crossbred wool. If we can park the present and try to look to the future we may find some green shoots of optimism regarding wool.

I’m not going to list off wool’s attributes as most reading this column fully understand them and to a large degree here lies the problem. We know these attributes well but an entire generation of consumers has lost the connection with wool as a fibre. These characteristics I believe should be more relevant in the near future to connected modern consumers who are highly choice savvy.

Why am I optimistic? A growing global movement is expanding rapidly around fixing plastic pollution in our oceans. David Attenborough’s appeal through emotive images has placed the plastic catastrophe in our oceans directly into millions of living rooms. . . 

Record export lamb prices nudge terms of trade to new high:

Record export lamb and butter prices helped boost New Zealand’s terms of trade by 0.8 percent in the December 2017 quarter, to another new high, Stats NZ said today.

Export meat prices rose 7.5 percent in the December 2017 quarter, mainly reflecting high lamb prices (up 12 percent).

Total export prices rose 4.9 percent, with dairy and forestry prices also contributing to the rise. . . 

South Canterbury arable farmers lose $30m from stubble-burn ban – Pat Deavoll:

A fire ban and wet autumn and winter may have cost Mid and South Canterbury’s arable farmers more than $30 million, with several of them showing losses of more than $500,000. 

“I think the $30m loss is true, I’ve done the same calculations. It’s cost me a considerable amount of money,” said Federated Farmers arable industry group Guy Wigley, who farms at Waimate.

Wigley said every week of autumn planting which had been delayed had cost him about a quarter of a tonne of yield . . 

Call for farmers to report high-risk animal purchases:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) urges dairy or beef farmers who believe they may have animals that could be at high risk for Mycoplasma bovis infection to make contact immediately.

The Ministry’s Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn, says MPI is accelerating its tracing and surveillance programme so that a decision whether to proceed with eradication can be made as soon as possible.

“Right now, we need to hear from any farmers who have bought cows and calves or milk for calf feed from farms that have been publicly identified as infected. . . 

Farmers must voice concerns – Neal Wallace:

The chairman-elect of Beef + Lamb New Zealand is a Southlander who believes farming should not shy away from challenges or debate. He brought Neal Wallace up to date on what to expect when he takes over from James Parsons.

Andrew Morrison never intended having an involvement in farmer politics until he was drawn to make submissions on regional and district council plans.

Fearing councils could take control of riparian margins and strips and restrict cultivation on flood plains, Morrison lobbied to preserve landowners’ property rights and soon found himself involved with Federated Farmers.

It was an apprenticeship that taught him plenty and ultimately led to him being chairman-elect of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. . . 

High venison prices no big deal – Annette Scott:

European importers are starting to baulk at high New Zealand venison prices but it’s not a major concern – yet, Deer Industry NZ marketing manager Nick Taylor says.

“They are coming over here to negotiate export contracts saying it is very expensive but can we have some more.

“They still want it and they are still buying,” Taylor said.

But some importers are going home empty-handed, reluctant to pay the price some others, both from the United States and the European Union, are paying. . .

 

Richie McCaw’s flying milk run:

Fonterra provided nearly 20 million packs of milk free to 145,000 primary school students last year as part of its Milk for Schools scheme, now in its fifth year.

At the 2012 launch, 119 schools joined and last year 1431 schools took part.

To mark the fifth year, former All Black captain Richie McCaw will fly special helicopter milk runs to schools.

He will visit four schools selected from online entries saying why he should visit. Where possible, he will fly in to deliver milk. Local farmers will also be part of the visit. . .

Fonterra set to make further gains in global market with new Bangladesh partnership:

Fonterra is breaking new ground in South Asia’s rapidly growing dairy market, with the signing of a new distribution agreement that will make Anchor available to millions more consumers in Bangladesh. The deal is part of the Co-operative’s ongoing efforts to win in key overseas markets, by spreading the goodness of dairy nutrition.

The population of Bangladesh has grown by more than 10 per cent in the last 10 years reaching over 160 million people and it now makes up over two per cent of the world’s total population.  Matched by strong economic growth, consumers in Bangladesh are looking for affordable healthy nutrition options, such as high-quality dairy. 

Fonterra’s Managing Director of Sri Lanka and Indian Subcontinent, Sunil Sethi said Anchor is well placed to drive growth, while improving the wellbeing of Bangladeshis. . .

Joint venture company commences operations in Rolleston:

Pure Nutrition Ltd (PNL) the joint venture company formed by Ausnutria and Westland Milk Products, has commenced operation in the Izone business hub near Rolleston.

PNL is a stand-alone blending and canning company. It will can milk powders and other nutritional products sourced from Westland for Ausnutria and other customers. The company was established through an initial investment by Ausnutria of NZ$4.5million cash, and the transfer to Pure Nutrition of land owned by Westland at its Rolleston site, which had a value of NZ$3million. Ownership is 60% Ausnutria and 40% Westland Milk Products. . . 


Rural round-up

July 12, 2017

Young farmer win ‘still sinking in’ – Vaughan Elder:

Winning the title of Young Farmer of the Year was a dream come true for a Milton man who has fond memories of watching the competition as a child.

Sheep and beef farmer Nigel Woodhead was named Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday night after three days of intense competition spread across Palmerston North and Feilding.

Winning the event was ”unbelievable” given the high standard of the six other finalists he was facing, Mr Woodhead said.

He won a prize worth almost $100,000, including a 25hp tractor, a quad bike and $15,000. . .

Inspirational farmers awarded – Andrew Morrison:

We all have people in our lives who inspire us.

They are often the unsung heroes who, through their words and actions, enrich our lives and make us want to be – and do – better.

They may be friends, family, work colleagues or teachers – or the neighbour who isn’t afraid to give things a go. They strive for excellence and lead by example.

Over the past year Southland has been fortunate to host many of agriculture’s most inspirational people. We saw the skills of the world’s-best shearers and wool handlers on display at the World Shearing Championships in January and in May we hosted the Ballance Farm Environment Awards’ National Showcase. . .

Dairy hub set to open – Sally Rae:

The Southern Dairy Hub at Makarewa, near Invercargill, will be officially opened on Friday.
The hub, which includes a working dairy farm and centre for science and research, will allow farmer-led and local issues to be researched on southern soils, in southern conditions.

DairyNZ and AgResearch are the principal shareholders, investing $5 million each, while local farmers and businesses contributed a further $1.25 million through the Southern Dairy Development Trust. . . 

Southland farmers concerned proposed Water and Land Plan will cut land use – Brittany Pickett:

Ian and Heather Smith are worried they could lose the use of up to a quarter of their farm if the Proposed Southland Water and Land Plan remains unchanged.

The couple run Erme Hill, at Waimahaka, in Southland, a 413 hectare rolling country dairy and sheep farm and are in the Bedrock/Hill Country physiographic zone.

They have 480 dairy cows, 700 ewes and 650 hoggets and winter almost all of their stock on the farm. . .

Southern entries vie for top steak award:

Several Southern entries are among the finalists in this year’s Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition.

Judging will be held this week at Auckland’s University of Technology with the winners announced at an awards dinner in Auckland on July 20.

Ceri Lewis (Otautau) and Dougal Stringer (Gore) are both finalists in best of British breed (Angus), Laurie Paterson (Gore) is a finalist in best of British breed (Hereford), and Anita Erskine (Tuatapere) is a finalist in best of British breed (other) with a Shorthorn entry.

Bowmont Meats, in Invercargill, is in the final of best of brand-retail with a Hereford Prime entry. . .

British adults shun dairy farm labour – sector could be threatened if EU labour cut

Questions have been raised over the future of the dairy industry after only 4 per cent of UK adults said they considered all key aspects of work on dairy farms ‘personally acceptable’.

Industry chiefs sounded warning bells over the industry’s ‘image problem’, but said the domestic workforce could not be relied on to plug labour shortages.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) highlighted that of the 2,000 people questioned, many were put off by a role when linked to the dairy industry – such as working with animals or jobs situated in rural locations – with only 9 per cent of skilled or qualified UK adults confident they would consider a job in dairy. . . 


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