Rural round-up

June 27, 2015

Lincoln University’s VIce-Chancellor Resigns:

Dr Andrew West today resigned as Vice-Chancellor of Lincoln University.

“I am proud of what the University has achieved under my leadership. It has been a fabulous three years and Lincoln is on track to become one of the world’s truly great land-based universities”, said Dr West.

 “However my commitment of time, energy and focus has been so great that it is now appropriate that I refocus on my family that live in the Waikato and on my very elderly parents that live in England”, Dr West added.

Farm Environment Award goes to Rotorua couple – Gerard Hutching:

ROTORUA couple John and Catherine Ford have won New Zealand’s pre-eminent farming prize, the Ballance Farm Environment Award for 2015.

It is the first time in the five years since the award was established that a North Island farming business has won.

The Fords were presented with the Gordon Stephenson trophy by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy at a Parliamentary function.

The judges said the sheep and beef property had the “wow” factor and had been chosen from out of 10 regional supreme winners. It stood out in terms of environmental sustainability and impressive production and performance figures, they said. . .

Taupō farmer warned over nitrogen cap breaches:

A sheep & beef farmer has been formally warned for breaching the Resource Management Act by exceeding a nitrogen discharge cap on properties in the Lake Taupō catchment over a two year period.

It is the first warning issued by Waikato Regional Council under the new Variation 5 consenting regime designed to protect the lake’s health from nitrogen, which can leach into waterways and cause nuisance algae.

The warning came after it was discovered more than a tonne of excess nitrogen could eventually leach into the lake as a result of the farmer’s operations over the two years. By themselves the breaches are not expected to have a major detrimental effect on the lake’s future health. . .

Look at it as a challenge – Bryan Gibson:

The line painted on Rob Craig’s haybarn, marked 2004, is a reminder of the devastating floods of a decade ago. 

But heavy rain is often enough to jog Craig’s memory, as it did last weekend.

“I didn’t sleep well on Friday night, to be honest. It was bucketing down with rain. Ever since ’04 it’s always in the back of your mind when it’s raining heavily. It just kept raining and raining and I got a pretty bad feeling then that it was going to be bad.” . . .

Lake Opuha reaps the winter harvest – Tim Cronshaw:

A rich snow harvest in the Fairlie basin is providing an unexpected windfall for lowland farmers needing Lake Opuha to fully recharge for the next irrigation season.

After being closed to irrigating in February the lake reached “zero storage” for the first time in 17 years and had been slow to return to its normal levels over autumn.

The lake will be boosted by the initial snow melt in the lower basin with lake levels expected to continue rising as deeper snow in the Two Thumb Range thaws in spring, but more water is needed for it to totally refill. . .

 NZ finishes 2014/15 wool season with smallest volume sold at auction in at least 7 years: – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s 2014/15 wool season ended this week with what is expected to be the smallest percentage of the clip sold through auctions in at least seven years, as more farmers were attracted to the premium prices and protection from commodity price volatility offered in private sales.

The auction system’s share of wool is expected to continue to shrink. An estimated 464,000 bales are expected to come up for auction in the 2015/16 year, down from 480,000 bales in 2014/15 and 493,000 bales in 2013/14, according to Wool Services International executive Malcolm Ching, who is on the roster committee which estimates wool bale supply for the auctions. Ching said the committee has been forced to revise down its estimates in recent years to reflect declining sheep numbers and an increased amount of wool circumventing the auction system. . .


Ag outlook brighter than other sectors

March 28, 2009

The outlook for agriculture is brighter, or at least less gloomy, than for most other sectors according to the EU Prospects for Agricultural Markets  which covers the period from 2008 to 2015.

 The global financial crisis will have an impact in the short term but the medium outlook is more positive with a gradual recovery in commodity prices and:

  • the growth in global food demand,
  • the development of the biofuel sector and the
  • long-term decline in food crop productivity growth.

 The report points to lower production of milk and meat in the EU which means less competition for New Zealand produce. 

While yesterday’s announcement that our gross domestic product declined .9%  in the December quarter is sobering, agriculture outperformed other sectors:

SNZ said primary industry activity increased 1.6 percent in the December quarter, while activity in goods producing industries fell 3.6 percent.

A rise in agriculture production was mainly driven by increased dairy production. For the December year activity in primary industries increased 0.9 percent, compared to an increase of 3.6 percent for the year to December 2007.

 The role meat and milk will play in our economic recovery was noted by AgResearch chief executive Andy West when he stressed the importance of research and development.

He cautions that R&D spend should not be curtailed as credit facilities dry up around the world.

While he doesn’t see any evidence of a decline in pastoral R&D spend in New Zealand, he agrees that it has come under pressure during the economic crisis.

. . . It is the single most important sector that will help us get out of the economic crisis,’ he told Rural News. ‘We have to export our way out and the dairy and meat sectors need all the assistance they can get.’

If the South Island field days are anything to go by, agriculture is not just the most important, it’s also one of the most positive sectors.

The Press reports that opening day numbers were up and while farmers were showing caution, they weren’t mentioning the r word.

And TV3 said that  recession was a dirty word among the farmers they spoke to.

It’s possible they only interviewed the optimists. No-one is saying that farming is booming, but the mood in the paddocks does seem to be more cautious than depressed and the EU forecast suggests a brighter outlook in the medium term.

Hat Tip: Phil Clarke’s Business Blog


Research centre funded but research misses out

July 15, 2008

The mullit-million dollar animal reproduction facility at Invermay isn’t even open yet and already there are questions over it’s long-term future because its application for $18m of public science funding failed.

AgResearch chief executive Dr Andy West said the Government was sending mixed messages. On the one hand, it had approved $17 million for the new animal reproduction and genetics building at the North Taieri Invermay campus, but the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) yesterday declined to fund the science.

The centre would open in December and its future was secure for the next three years.

But unless AgResearch was able to find more than $3.5 million a year after that, Dr West said he would have to look overseas for animal reproduction contracts”Overall, it’s not particularly good news for Invermay,” he said.

It does seem more than a little wasteful to build a research centre then not fund the research.

The FRST manager of investment strategy, Richard Templer, said in a statement AgResearch’s position was affected by “wider issues in the meat and wool sector”.

Of the 96 contested contracts awarded, AgResearch secured 14, worth a total of $67 million, including $7.5 million over three years for animal reproduction.

“While this might not have been all the funding AgResearch sought for it, it is the nature of a contestable process that not all proposals will get all the funding sought.”

When funds are limited there has to be an application process and not all applicactions will succeed. But Scientists often complain they spend more time and energy applying for funding than actually doing research.

Invermay’s new $17 million complex will house 49 people in a joint AgResearch-University of Otago genetics and animal reproduction team.

Nine of those relocated south from the Wallaceville campus, near Wellington.

Dr West said AgResearch had 45% of its contracts up for renewal in FRST’s latest round, but had funding cut by $18 million, a decision he accepted as “part of life”.

But, he said, there were mixed messages from the Government, which strengthened his view science funding was flawed.

“There is something seriously wrong with science funding when you can get sign-off from the Government for $17 million in funding to construct a new building, then the Government questions whether reproduction research is a priority.”

AgResearch has also had a cut to its textiles research, affecting a $21 million investment in a Lincoln textiles company, Canesis.

The loss of $1 million a year meant AgResearch would now look overseas for wool research contracts in a bid to retain staff, effectively helping competing wool producers.

“There is only one future for textiles and that is we have to look for work from overseas industry or overseas governments. Either that or we make everyone redundant and close it down.”

Canesis was about to launch eight new woollen fabrics at New Zealand Fashion Week, including a lightweight, stab-resistant material, another that was heat resistant, and an environmentally friendly outdoor jacket fabric.

They sound like exactly the sort of thing we should be getting in to.

Dr West said the loss of funding raised serious concerns for the sheep industry, which relied on viable lamb and wool industries to compete with dairying.

“Without wool, we can’t make the numbers work for sheep to compete with dairying on our flat land.”

Farmers have been blaming low returns on the price they’re paid for meat, but prices for wool and pelts have also been depressed which makes dairying more attractive by comparison.

Dr West hoped to secure transitional funding so scientists could switch research projects. But he warned it could be hard to retain scientists, especially with AgResearch’s Irish equivalent actively recruiting 60 pastoral scientists.

Science, Research and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson said FRST was independent of the Government and he had no influence on its funding decisions.

FRST had 17% more money to allocate this year, including a large increase in the primary sector, and it was still to announce contested and transitional funding.

Has everyone forgotten the knowledge economy or isn’t agriculture part of it?


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