Rural round-up

October 8, 2015

Key sectors welcome TPP – Colin Bettles:

SUGAR may have been served a bitter-sweet outcome in the final Trans-Pacific Partnership but other key Australian commodities like beef, grains, dairy and cotton have tasted some success.

The Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) said the TPP deal – signed overnight by Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb – would provide significant increased market opportunities for Australian grassfed beef producers, when it comes into force.

Game changer for beef

CCA president Howard Smith said the agreement signifies a game changing opportunity for the Australian beef industry which sees a positive future fort itself, in export markets. . . 

Rolleston wants GM use debate – Richard Rennie:

Councils’ efforts to ban genetically modified crops have Federated Farmers banging up against public opinion in some rural districts.

But federation president Dr William Rolleston argues the move to ban GM crops threatens farmers’ ability to innovate and is a choice they might lose through misinformation and misunderstandings about what the science is really about.

The federation’s case against council bans on GM use got a severe bruising when they lost on appeal to the Environment Court earlier this year. . . 

Milk price expected to hit $3000/t this year – Jemma Brackebush:

Banks and analysts are predicting international dairy prices will continue to rise, and a lift in Fonterra’s forecast payout looks likely.

Prices in the global dairy trade auction rose for the fourth consecutive time on Tuesday night.

The price for the key commodity, whole milk powder, which underpins the price Fonterra pays its farmers, increased by 12.9 percent to $US2,824 a tonne. . . 

Record jail sentence for animal abuser Michael Whitelock:

A dairy worker has been handed what is believed to be New Zealand’s longest-ever prison sentence for animal cruelty, after cows were beaten, had their tails broken and were shot in the kneecaps on a farm he managed.

Michael James Whitelock was sentenced in the Greymouth District Court on Wednesday to four and a half years jail and banned from owning animals for 10 years.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including ill treatment of animals, unlawful possession of firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice. . . 

Farmer suicides up – Jemma Brackebush:

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 27 men in farming communities committed suicide in the past year ended June.

The chief coroner Deborah Marshall released annual provisional suicide statistics on Tuesday, which showed 564 people died by suicide in the past year, up 35 on the previous year and the highest number since records began eight years ago.

Male suicides rose from 385 last year to 428, and female suicides dropped from 144 to 136. . . 

Banks fork out a total $25.5M over rural interest rate swaps – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – The Commerce Commission has completed the distribution of $25.5 million to complainants and rural charities after reaching settlements with banks who had marketed interest rate swap products to farmers.

The commission says nearly $20 million in cash has been paid to eligible customers while $1.9 million was offset by the banks against debts some complainants owed to them. A further $2.5 million went to 14 regional Rural Support Trusts and the Dairy Women’s Network and the commission received $1 million to cover a portion of its investigation costs, including legal expenses. The bulk of the money came from the ANZ Bank New Zealand, which paid out $19.3 million in total, $3.2 million from ASB Bank and $3 million from Westpac Banking Corp. . . .

All Geared Up For The Glammies:

Entries are now open for the 2016 Golden Lamb Awards, aka the Glammies, which seeks out the tastiest and tender lamb in New Zealand.

The competition gives farmers the opportunity to enter their lamb into one of the most highly regarded competitions the industry has to offer.

The entries are then assessed by Carne Technologies in Cambridge for tenderness, yield, succulence and colour.

The scientific testing determines which top four entries from five categories will make it through to the final stage of the competition, a taste test, held at the Upper Clutha A&P show in Wanaka on 11 March 2016. . . 

New Zealand Bloodstock to Sponsor New Race in China:

New Zealand Bloodstock and the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry Co. Ltd have partnered together to introduce the New Zealand Bloodstock Cup to be held in Inner Mongolia, China next year.

2015 RTR
The race is open to horses purchased by any Chinese buyer at this year’s New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale in November. To be held in July 2016 at Korchin, Inner Mongolia, the New Zealand Bloodstock Cup is worth RMB500,000 and will be run over 1800m.

NZB’s Co-Managing Director Andrew Seabrook is excited about the formal partnership reached between NZB and Rider Horse Group. . . 

Serious savings from whole-farm soil testing:

Whole-farm soil testing saves Taranaki farmer Hayden Lawrence about $15,000 on fertiliser each year.

Hayden, who farms in equity partnership with his wife Alecia and parents in Taranaki, began whole-farm soil testing seven years ago. To date, he has reaped about $90,000 in savings and has increased pasture production from 14.5 tonnes per hectare to 18.6T/ha on the 97ha property.

The Lawrences milk a maximum of 240 cows on an 85ha milking platform, using their hill country block to graze heifers. They also follow an 18-month cropping rotation, that sees paddocks planted into silage, oats, chicory and then into pasture. . . .

RHĀNZ welcomes Government’s new rural connectivity target:

The Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes the new rural connectivity target announced by the Government today.

The target means nearly all rural New Zealanders will be able to access broadband speeds of at least 50Mbps by 2025.

RHĀNZ Chairperson, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, says securing reliable and affordable telecommunications services is critical to the health and wellbeing of rural communities and is a top priority for all 40 RHĀNZ members.

“As part of our RBI phase 2 submission to Government earlier this year, we called for more ambitious targets for rural broadband speeds, so it is really pleasing to hear Minister Adams’s announcement today,” he says. . . 

Anglers urged to vote ‘in best interests of our fishing and hunting resources’:

The country’s anglers and game bird hunters are being reminded to make sure they vote in the Fish and Game Council elections.

Fish & Game Communications Manager Don Rood says that because voting closes at 5pm on Friday (9 October), those who are eligible and haven’t voted are advised to do so online, rather put voting papers in the post.

“We urge licenceholders to take the time to vote – to exercise their right to choose the people who can best advance their local region’s hunting and fishing interests. . . 

Free entry for 2016 Games:

The second annual Hilux New Zealand Rural Games takes place in Queenstown next Waitangi weekend (Sat 6th – Sun 7th Feb) and entry won’t cost you a cent.

Two days of ‘sports that built the nation’ and live entertainment on the Recreation Ground plus the Running of the Wools – more than 400 merino sheep herding through downtown Queenstown – will be completely free to watch.

We’ve been able to waive ticket prices thanks to the generous support of our patrons and event partners including major sponsors Toyota, Fonterra, Line 7, Ngai Tahu Farming, Jetstar and Husqvarna which has increased its support from the inaugural Games.

The Running of the Wools is once again supported by our friends at clothing and gift retailer, Global Culture. . . 


Trade works

July 1, 2015

Trade Minister Tim Groser’s speech on the future of global trade highlights the benefits of trade:

·         First, consider the evidence for developed countries. Of the 14 main OECD multi-country econometric studies undertaken since 2000, all 14 have concluded that trade plays an independent and positive role in raising incomes.

·         Second, the evidence for developing countries leads to exactly the same conclusion. Case studies reviewing the experience of the 12 most rapidly growing emerging economies over the past 60 years concluded that harnessing the power of the global economy was a central feature common to all and that there was what they called ‘overwhelming’ evidence that trade played an essential role in raising incomes. Sorry guys, the North Koreans got it wrong. The South Koreans got it right.

The final concluding comment of these international experts is dripping with irony. Normally, international officials don’t do irony; it takes extreme frustration to drive experts to use ironic humour. Listen to their words:

“Despite all the debate about whether openness [on trade] contributes to growth, if the issue were truly one warranting nothing but agnosticism, we should expect at least some of the estimates to be negative…The uniformly positive estimates suggest that the relevant terms of the debate by now should be about the size of the positive influence of openness on growth….rather than about whether increased levels of trade relative to GDP have a positive effect on productivity and growth”. . .

I can of course understand vested interests who oppose trade agreements. If, say, your family owns an inefficient sugar processing plant in the wrong part of the United States and which survives only because of sugar subsidies and high protection, I get it. What you need is a long time to adjust to competition, sweetened by a good dose of adjustment assistance. You may even surprise yourself by what you can do to improve your competitive position over a long period of time – I could take you to dozens of examples in this country of industries and companies which vigorously contest our first liberalisation moves in the1980s, staring with the NZ wine industry which used to be deeply protectionist and for understandable reasons. But I am zeroing-in here on the anti-trade, anti-globalisation ideologues who are present around the globe. Even in Germany, a post-war bastion of the open trading system, they have become quite recently a growing element of the political debate on trade. This will complicate the TTIP negotiation.

Here in New Zealand we have anti-trade activists who are relentlessly consistent: they have never supported a single Trade Agreement and they never will. They are politically irrelevant to my political party. However, they get an enormous amount of airplay and are not politically irrelevant to other important elements in our democracy. For reasons I explained earlier, I believe broad bipartisan support for open trade strategies is vital to avoid your country being marginalised.

There is no point in asking them to explain how on earth New Zealand could have survived, let alone prospered, without CER, without the Uruguay Round, the China FTA, the network of FTAs that New Zealand has with ASEAN countries – they opposed even the Singapore/NZ FTA, the first building block of the DNA of TPP. To paraphrase a well-known quote of our Prime Minister, are we meant to earn our living just be selling to ourselves?

There is no point in asking them to explain this, because this is not an evidence-based fight. This is about ideology and the role of markets. On a purely personal note, and going back to my political past in the late 1960s and on which I will not elaborate, I understand exactly how and why these people think like this. I recall wistfully an old political doctrinal statement ‘The final battle will be between the socialists and the ex-socialists’.

If it were just these anti-trade activists, they could be safely ignored by everyone. But their modus operandi is to give currency to concerns about policies that middle New Zealand, which is anything but ideological, cares about – and then to exaggerate those concerns out of the park.

Happily, those concerns of middle New Zealand are widely shared starting with me, my colleagues in Cabinet and Caucus and the Kiwi voters who elected us. And as I survey the likely landing zone for these issues, I am extremely confident that our negotiators, who are world class, have done an excellent job. We shall be able to defend our position.

He counters some of the scaremongering from opponents of the TPP:

So, to put it bluntly, we are not going to sign up to poorly constructed ISDS provisions that ‘transfer control of the country’s sovereignty’ to foreign corporations. We are not going to sign up to agreements that undermine a central pillar of our Public Health system – the pharmaceutical purchasing agency called Pharmac, which is used to keep the cost of medicines very affordable for middle New Zealand. We are not going to sign up to agreements that stop this or future Governments putting well-designed environmental protections in place. We are not going to sign up to provisions on ISPs that make every mother in Lower Hutt worry that the TPP electronic police are going to fly in from Houston to cart their 16 year old son off to jail for file-sharing with his girlfriend.

If and when we get TPP in place, extreme claims that the sky is going to fall in will be made, irrespective of a balanced and sober reading of the final agreed TPP texts. It will be ground hog day for Chicken Licken. I recall, for example, at the end of the Uruguay Round where I was our chief negotiator, absurd claims that the Uruguay Round TRIPs agreement would ‘destroy the Maori economy’, in spite of the fact that the vast bulk of Maori assets, today valued at $40 billion, are in the export sector with much to gain from the Uruguay Round.

That exciting new dairy export company near Taupo called Miraka, the Maori name for milk, that combines significant Maori business assets, locally available renewable geothermal energy and overseas capital invested in it, simply would not exist without the Uruguay Round export subsidy disciplines that allowed our dairy industry to grow against grossly unfair competition, along with the more recent FTAs that created markets and created the interest of Asian investors in investing in New Zealand’s future alongside our own people. . .

He is aiming to get the political deal done by the end of this month:

The deal is ripe for the picking politically, which does not mean it will be easy to reach up and pick nice ripe fruit without damage. I have been deeply involved in the endgame of some pretty significant international negotiations over the last few decades and sometimes it isn’t very pretty. If I told true stories of what I have seen – right up to and including fist fights and negotiators sobbing over the phone, I really don’t think people would believe me.

So please remember this: nothing is ‘too big to fail’. Nor can I be 100% sure that all twelve countries will arrive on the right page at the same time. The one thing I can say with near certainty is that in the course of the endgame, something will come out of left field that we knew about but which no-one had seen before as a deal-breaker.  . .

But I think we will get there – metaphorically, I have called it in some interviews a 7/10 probability. It is not going to be a perfect deal – there never will be a perfect deal because compromises are now required. From a New Zealand point of view, the assessment my team of negotiators, led by Dr David Walker, and I have made and conveyed to other Ministers including the Prime Minister is that there is potentially a landing zone for a good deal that will indeed shape the future of trade and investment integration in the Asia Pacific region and quite decisively.

I would be much more positive in public than this, but for the current lack of clarity on a possible landing zone for our most important export – dairy. It is not that there is nothing on the table on dairy. Nor, let me assure the deep pessimists, do I believe there is any possibility of dairy simply being ‘excluded’ simply because it is too sensitive. That of course would take New Zealand right out of TPP. The issue for us is the quality of the deal on dairy and it is nowhere near there yet.

That will change because it has to change. People have not been putting their real cards on the table until they knew they had to. And until we heard from the US Congress, they were never going to do that. It is going to be an interesting few weeks.

Ladies and gentlemen, if the negotiators representing the 12 countries involved in TPP – almost 40% of global GDP – can pull this together, it will indeed be a big deal. Andrew Robb, my Australian counterpart, calls this ‘the biggest trade deal since the Uruguay Round’. I think he is right. And if we can do it, the TPP bus will not stop finally at the Tokyo station – Japan being among the last TPP entrants. TPP will indeed shape the future integration of the region and possibly strategic thinking elsewhere.

The future for New Zealand is not to shut up shop, to be fearful of foreigners, foreign investment, even targeted migration and suspicious of all Trade Agreements – my word, it must be so depressing to be part of the anti-trade movement. We need to engage with the world. We should back ourselves. We have every reason to be optimistic about our place in the world in the first quarter of the 21st Century. Concluding a high quality TPP Agreement is part of that future.

I am old enough to remember the past when New Zealand businesses were highly subsidised, when the power and money was in the hands of the few who had import licences, when we all paid dearly through higher prices and higher taxes for inferior local goods than higher quality and lower priced alternatives from overseas.

Those who oppose free trade would have us go back to that.

Free trade is fair trade which benefits the buyer and the seller.

As a very small country needing to sell what we produce to people in other countries in order to afford what we can’t produce ourselves, we need free trade and the TPP is an important part of freer trade.

 


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