Rural round-up

January 8, 2020

When aspirations trip up the export/import balance – Simon Davies:

As a country if we don’t want to lose half our shirt we need to ensure we are earning at least what we are spending, writes Otago Federated Farmers President Simon Davies.

I’ve heard several people of late, including a current labour MP, question the need for our farmers to produce more food than New Zealand needs for its own consumption.

It got me thinking …

When I was at high school, which was more than a couple of decades ago, one of my elective courses was economics. . . 

Declining dairy farm values are likely to continue – Keith Woodford:

Dairy farm values have been declining now for well over a year and there is no sign they will stabilise. The key issue is a lack of buyers with the necessary finance. The implications are starting to get serious.

There are multiple reasons why there is a lack of buyers. The biggest one is a change in bank lending policies. Those policies are set in Melbourne and Sydney where the big banks are headquartered. 

None of the Big Four banks are interested in new dairy lending unless the investor has high equity.  The related policy is that all banks now want repayments of principal whereas interest-only loans were the norm for many years. At least two of the Big Four banks are actively trying to reduce their exposure to New Zealand dairying. . .

Taranaki in 2050: Technology and diverse land use twin futures of farming – Deena Coster:

When Hamish and Kate Dunlop first floated the idea of using their land to grow quinoa, they raised more than a few eyebrows within the farming fraternity.

The Taranaki couple, who have four children, wanted to diversify the way they were using their 400 hectare Ararata Rd farm, and initially looked at growing hemp.

However, after some more research, they decided to go with the South American edible seed instead. . . 

From Taranaki hives to US shelves: Journey of Bees and Trees mānuka honey – Alyssa Smith:

When someone from the US puts honey on their toast in the morning, there is a good chance that honey has come from Taranaki.

To get it from Taranaki to the US, American businessman Mike Everly commutes between his home town of Atlanta, Georgia to Taranaki three to four times a year.

It’s a route he knows well. He has been doing it for 10 years now, and he says he doesn’t plan to stop.

Mike is the founder of Bees and Trees honey, a company which sells authentic Taranaki honey in the United States. . .

Is NZ on the cusp of a hemp revolution? – Amy Ridout:

In the 20 years since Pam Coleman has been on her 80-hectare rural property near Ngatimoti, north-west of Nelson, she has let the land take over.

The golden hay meadows buzz with life, and kanuka and manuka have overtaken the gorse. The couple raise rare-breed sheep, grow olives and make cheese. 

When the law changed a year ago to add hemp seeds to the list of allowable food products in New Zealand, Coleman began reading up.

“I thought, that’s it, that’s the way to go,” she said. . . 

Marijuana licensing rules to create route – Brent Melville:

It will cost about $12,500 a year to possess, manufacture and supply medicinal cannabis products.

New licensing rules for the legal manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis will create a route to market for dozens of companies that have, to date, been limited to research.

Announcing the new quality and licensing regime last week, Minister of Health David Clark said the regulations would help ease the pain of thousands of people. . . 

Red meat plays vital role in diets, claims expert in fightback against veganism – James Tapper:

Advocates of red meat will begin a fightback against the growth of veganism this week at the UK’s biggest farming conference, with claims that eating lamb and beef is vital because some plants and fish are being drained of their nutrition.

In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, Alice Stanton will tell ministers, farmers and environmentalists that key nutrients in some fruits, vegetables and grains have dropped by up to 50% over 50 years.

Stanton, professor of cardiovascular pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said nutrition levels had dropped because farmers were trying to meet a demand for cheap food. “For plant-based foods, there’s been drops in vitamins and key electrolytes by up to 50% over the past 50 years because of the genetic selection for large volume and uniformity of shape and appearance, so the things look good on the shelves. There hasn’t been selection for nutrient content,” she told the Observer. . . 


Rural round-up

December 31, 2019

Land Champion: helping girls gain confidence – Neal Wallace:

Laura Douglas has successfully slayed her demons and is now using everyday farming skills to help teenage girls confront theirs.

Depression four years ago thrust the 32-year-old Southlander into some dark places, places unimaginable today given her boundless energy, endless positivity and zest for life and people.

Douglas addressed her depression by taking small steps, getting out and doing things such as volunteering at a horse refuge and celebrating small achievements. . .

Alliance aiming for ‘greater value’ as part of evolution – Brent Melville:

Southland-based  farmer co-operative Alliance Group wants to capture “greater value” from its products as part of its evolution to a food and solutions business, chairman Murray Taggart says.

Last month, Alliance Group announced a profit of $20.7million before distributions and tax, on revenue of $1.7billion.

It has now paid $9million to its supplying shareholders.

Mr Taggart said it was the best trading result since 2010.

“While this year’s result enabled us to reward shareholders with a profit distribution, we recognise the need to lift the profitability further. . . 

Land Champion: Many string in Jones’ bow – Annette Scott:

From humble beginnings 19 years ago Matt and Tracey Jones now do business worldwide to help Canterbury farmers staff their farms and have launched a world class learning environment in rural Mid Canterbury to provide elite education to strengthen New Zealand primary industries. Annette Scott caught up with the agribusiness entrepreneurs.

Mid Canterbury couple Matt and Tracey Jones’ agricultural staffing businesses is going world-wide recruiting and training people to work across all sectors of New Zealand’s primary industries.

Starting out as Mid Canterbury Casual Employment Services in 2001 their recruitment and training business has evolved and expanded to meet agriculture’s increasing needs. . .

$42.55m in I billion trees project funding:

Figures released by Te Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand) this week show 228 grant applications were received for funding under the Government’s One Billion Trees Programme this year, a total of $42.55million being allocated across 42 projects.

Te Uru Rakau acting deputy director-general Sam Keenan said $22.2million of that had been approved across 10,758.4 hectares of new planting.

“To date approximately 17,056,165 trees comprised of 9,785,067 native and 7,271,098 exotic trees have been funded.” . . 

Ngāi Tahu hopes to raise funds for undaria management by selling the seaweed – Louisa Steyl:

It’s a frigid morning off the coast of Dunedin when a wetsuit-clad diver rises to the surface clutching a slimy prize.

The trophy is a seaweed known as undaria pinnatifida – a pest native to Japan and Korea – and physically cutting it out is the only way to control it. 

On board the Polaris 2, a research vessel stationed just a few metres away, members of Ngāi Tahu is processing and packing the seaweed for research.

Its trying to determine the possible uses of undaria in the hopes that harvesting it could pay for control efforts.  . . 

 

Planning to feed? Try the calculator app to help come with complex decisions :

Livestock producers are now planning for difficult conditions through summer and autumn, going into winter.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services have advised producers to use available tools and tactics to develop feasible solutions for worst case to best case scenarios.

DPI sheep development officer, Geoff Casburn, said the free Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app is available from the Apple App Store and Google Play to help calculate feed requirements, costs and budgets and develop cost effective feeding strategies. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 19, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly – 2019 in review:

As we approach another year’s end we again highlight our annual review of 2019 in the primary sector as seen by Rural News’ editorial team.

THE GOOD

Good messaging award: Dairy Women’s Network’s new chief executive Jules Benton for her clear, confident and articulate communication of the network’s aims and aspirations, but in a real and down-to-earth manner.

Celebrating success: A lot of excellent events and conferences this year with a focus on celebrating the success of old and young people. The Massey Ag students’ dinner is a great example of this where some very smart future leaders come to the fore. The same for the Ahuwhenua Awards where Maori agri success is also celebrated in style. Feds, HortNZ and the dairy industry and others all did their bit to show NZ that the ag sector is well placed for the future.  . .

Phosphate vital, industry says – Brent Melville:

With the recent spotlight on importation of phosphate sourced in the Western Sahara into New Zealand, Brent Melville takes a closer look at the phosphate issue and why we rely on it for our food production.

Blocking  the importation of phosphate into New Zealand could have a $10 billion knock-on effect into the country’s food production and export sector, the fertiliser industry says.

The industry, dominated by the farmer co-operative duopoly of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, said without access to phosphate rock, rural production would fall by “at least” 50%.

Phosphate rock is the key ingredient in the country’s production of superphosphate, used primarily as a nutrient by sheep and beef and dairy farmers to boost phosphorus and sulphur levels in the soil. . . 

Land champion: it’s hard to find time to retire – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers high country champion Bob Douglas has contributed to the smooth running of South Island high country farming businesses for 25 years but next year his visits to the back of beyond will be as a tourist. He talked to Annette Scott about his high country office.

Endless dedication to Federated Farmers high country business will come to an end for Bob Douglas in the next few weeks.

By the end of January the South Canterbury Feds stalwart will be waking each morning to a new life.

“And it will be one that will now mean when I go to the high country it will be as a tourist,” Bob said. . . 

Migrant workers worth the effort :

Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.

Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here.

Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run.

Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 . . 

Routine border checks detect unwanted fruit disease:

Biosecurity New Zealand has suspended fresh melon imports from Queensland following a border detection of an unwanted fruit disease.

Biosecurity New Zealand detected cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) following routine border testing on Friday of a consignment of watermelons from Queensland Australia, says Peter Thomson, Biosecurity New Zealand’s plants and pathways director.

CGMMV does not pose a risk to human health. It affects cucurbit fruit, including watermelon, cucumber, honeydew melon, rock melon, scallopini, zucchini, and pumpkin. . . 

EPA’s Annual Report on aerial use of 1080 released:

The 2018 report on the aerial use of 1080 for pest control provides greater detail than previous years, giving more information on operations and research.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report on the aerial use of 1080 during 2018 shows a near halving of activity compared with the previous year, in terms of both the number of operations and total area treated.

There were 29 operations covering 441,000 hectares of land, compared with 50 operations across 877,000 hectares in 2017. This was due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) using less 1080, as there were no mast events in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive rat populations up, threatening native species. . . 


Rural round-up

November 28, 2019

Government is losing the forestry debate with rural New Zealand – Keith Woodford:

The response of Government Ministers to rural concerns about forestry policy is polarising the debate. Describing rural perspectives as ‘fiction’, and upset rural protesters as ‘rednecks’, is counter-productive.

The combination of the Zero Carbon Act and forthcoming Emission Trading Scheme legislation will transform the New Zealand landscape. The Government has done a poor job of educating New Zealanders as to what it will mean. The Government is now on the defensive.

In this article, the focus is on multi-rotation production forestry. The associated story of permanent forests must wait for another article.

The starting point is that New Zealand has a policy goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. That means, among other things, that either New Zealand has to find new energy sources to replace fossil fuels, or else it has to offset those emission in other ways. The offsetting has to start right now. . . 

Government waterways proposal to move fences could cost millions – farmers – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers who have paid millions of dollars to put fences alongside waterways fear having to pay millions more to move them.

This worry has arisen from the government’s proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, which was released in September.

This plan called for fences to be set back at least five metres from a creek that runs through a farm, to stop nutrients leaking into the water.

Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said many creeks had already been fenced off, and those fences might have to be shifted under the proposed new rules.

“If we have put up fences to exclude stock, the last thing we want, now the goalposts have moved, is to do the whole job all over again,” Mr Allen said. . . 

Debate rages over report findings about meat, health – Brent Melville:

Whether you prefer burgers or beans, it is clear that international lobbying against red meat continues to gain momentum.

The latest volley comes from a recent joint survey by researchers at Oxford University and University of Minnesota.

Their report, “Multiple health and environmental impacts of food”, went further than just the health benefits or otherwise of different foods, linking ingredients associated with improved adult health to lower environmental impacts. And vice-versa.

The researchers picked 15 foods, measuring their impact if they were added to what an average Western adult would eat on a daily basis. . . 

Milk could be carbon-neutral now, says new study – Eloise Gibson:

By boosting how much maize cows eat, modestly reducing stock numbers, shrinking fertiliser use and buying carbon offsets, New Zealand milk could be carbon neutral today, according to a new study modelling changes to a typical Waikato dairy farm.

Researchers at AgResearch have calculated that a typical Waikato dairy farm could go carbon neutral now and still make a profit.

As a bonus, a farm that adopted the changes could also reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 42 percent, improving water quality.

Crucially, the farms profit could also increase, by 15 percent, after factoring in a premium paid by climate-conscious consumers. . . 

More farmers feeling bank pressure, Feds survey finds:

In the last six months farmers’ satisfaction with their banks has continued to erode and the number who feel under pressure from banks has risen from 16% to 23%, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

“While most farmers remain ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their banks, the number giving those ratings have slipped from 71% in May this year to 68% in our November survey,” Feds economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. That’s the lowest since we began the twice-a-year surveys in August 2015.

“This is disappointing but not at all surprising given what we have been hearing over the past several months of banks getting tougher and changing conditions as they seek to contain or even reduce their exposure to agriculture, and also as they respond – prematurely – to the Reserve Bank’s proposals on bank capital,” Andrew says. . . 

 

Dairy, beef, and lamb exports rise in October:

Exports of dairy products, beef, and lamb, particularly to China, increased in value in October 2019, Stats NZ said today.

However, the rises were partly offset by falls in logs and kiwifruit.

In October 2019, the value of total goods exports rose $206 million (4.3 percent) from October 2018 to reach $5.0 billion.

The rise in exports was led by milk powder, up $194 million (32 percent) from October 2018. The rise was quantity-led, but unit values were also up. . .


Rural round-up

October 24, 2019

Former Manawatū rugby player directs Kiwi movie about farmers’ mental health – Sam Kilmister:

A former Manawatū rugby player has taken the plight of farmers’ mental health to the big screen. 

Hamish Bennett played a handful of games for the province in the late 1990s and he returns to Palmerston North on Sunday for a special screening of his first feature film, Bellbird.

Bennett lived in Manawatū while studying a bachelor of arts and a post-graduate diploma in teaching. During that time, he played rugby for Feilding Old Boys and donned the green and white four times across two seasons at halfback.  . . .

Stricter winter grazing rules hinted at in government’s first report – Rachael Kelly:

Farmers could expect stricter enforcement of winter grazing practices next winter, and they should be planning ahead for it now.

But the Winter Grazing Taskforce says there is no there is no united view and guidance on best practice for winter grazing in the industry and farmers are not all receiving the same information.

The taskforce was set up by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in response to environmentalists campaign against winter grazing practicesin Southland this winter. . .

National kudos for Kurow venture – Sally Brooker:

A family orchard near Kurow has earned a major national food award.

Waitaki Orchards, which featured in Central Rural Life in March, won the Inspire+ Artisan Awards’ ”frozen” category with its apricot, peach, golden plum and red plum sorbets.

Ellen Watt, one of owners Justin and Julie Watt’s eight children, is responsible for the sorbets. She spends Friday mornings in a commercial kitchen at the orchard, having attended a Timaru baking school for a year and spending nearly a year completing her food compliance qualification. . .

Cheese is the word bank report says – Brent Melville:

The time is ripe for the global cheese industry, agribusiness specialist Rabobank says.

And as with many New Zealand exports, all roads lead to Asia.

In its report, Global Cheese Trade Dynamics, the bank says strong demand prospects for cheese in emerging markets will drive much of the export market expansion.

The report says market opportunities will be underpinned by increasing cheese demand in emerging markets and deficits in those markets, as their domestic production remains limited . . .

 

Don’t blame meat for climate crisis say European farmers -t TOm Levitt:

Meat and farmed animals are wrongly blamed for the climate crisis without considering their benefits for society, argues a new campaign launched by the livestock industry in Europe.

Billboards appeared this week in Brussels metro stations together with a social media campaign #meatthefacts. The adverts are being funded by European Livestock Voice, which is backed by organisations representing EU farmers, foie gras producers and the fur and leather industry.

We believe this campaign is necessary in order to address misinformation,” said a spokesperson for Livestock Voice. The group said they want people “to think about the whole picture and all the consequences that simplistic speeches calling … for a ‘drastic reduction of livestock’ could have on Europe’s rural areas and on society in general.” . .

Vanilla Boom Is Making People Crazy Rich — And Jittery — In Madagascar – Wendell Steavenson :

About 80% of the world’s vanilla is grown by small holding farmers in the hilly forests of Madagascar. For a generation the price languished below $50 a kilo (about 2.2 pounds). But in 2015 it began to rise at an extraordinary rate and for the past four years has hovered at 10 times that amount, between $400 and $600 a kilo.

The rise is partly because of increased global demand and partly because of decreased supply, as storms have destroyed many vines, and a lot to do with speculation. Local middlemen have rushed into the market, leveraging deals between village growers and the international flavor companies that distill the cured beans into extract and sell it to the big multinationals like Mars, Archer Daniels Midland and Unilever. . . .


Rural round-up

October 1, 2019

The climate change blame-game:

In spite of the abuse heaped on farmers by urbanites, the causes of climate change are a town and country problem.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern undersold New Zealand when she told the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York that we were “determined to show that we can be the most sustainable food producers in the world”.

By most key measures, and even counting food miles for our exports, we already are. But that message needs amplifying.

Never mind the world stage – farmers need defending at home against the current fashion for demonising them as the prime culprits for greenhouse-gas emissions and water pollution. . . 

Farmers’ inner-city BBQs aim to boost urban connections, mental health – Maja Burry:

A farming group is hosting barbecues in cities around the country to try to strengthen the relationship between rural and city people.

Ag Proud, a group formed by Southland farmers, aims to promote positive farm practices and raise awareness around mental health in the farming-sector.

Dairy farmer and Ag Proud co-founder, Jon Pemberton, said a recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress that had created among farmers sparked the group’s formation. . . 

Celebrity chef Al Brown pledges support for NZ farmers, takes swipe at ‘urban keyboard warriors’ – Angie Skerrett:

Celebrity chef Al Brown has taken a swipe at “urban keyboard warriors” he claims criticise farmers unnecessarily.

Brown posted a message on his Facebook page pledging his support for New Zealand farmers and calling on city-dwellers to stop bagging them.

“I just want to say thank you to our farmers of New Zealand,” the Depot owner wrote.  . .

‘M. bovis’ costs $203m to date – Brent Melville:

The costs of Mycoplasma bovis to the agricultural sector continue to stack up.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the eradication programme has cost more than $203million to date – excluding compensation to farmers.

In that respect MPI has received a total of 1450 claims with a value of $109.9million and has so far completed 1100 of those, cutting cheques to farmers valued at about $96.5million.

According to the latest figures from MPI more than 116,526 cattle and cows have been culled in just over two years since the M. bovis eradication programme was launched.

That’s getting close to initial estimates that around 126,000 animals would be culled during the course of a multi-year surveillance and eradication strategy, or around 1% of New Zealand’s cattle population. . . 

New dehorning rules are here :

New rules will require pain relief when dehorning and disbudding cattle.

From tomorrow, new rules require people working with cattle to use local anaesthetic when dehorning and disbudding.

Veterinarian and director animal health and welfare Dr Chris Rodwell says removing horns or horn buds is necessary on the farm to keep animals safe from each other, as well as for human safety.

“These regulations highlight that removal is painful and those carrying it out need to reduce the pain experienced. . . 

Wool price rebounds after dip :

After an extremely turbulent few weeks, fine-mid wool growers are breathing a sigh of relief that prices are on the mend.

The US-China trade war has been affecting demand, with factories in China feeling reluctant to buy wool to make garments they might struggle to sell.

PGG Wrightson South Island sales manager for wool Dave Burridge said at its peak three weeks ago mid-fine wool prices in New Zealand were down 50 percent compared to the same time last year, but they had now made a notable recovery, sitting about 25 percent back on 2018 levels. . .

 


Rural round-up

September 13, 2019

Hey government let’s K.I.S.S. – Rowena Duncum:

The Essential Freshwater Package has Rowena Duncum wishing the Government would stick to the Keep It Simple Stupid method.

Look, I usually steer clear of voicing political opinions, but to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of sleep this past week.

Here we are one week on from the big water policy announcement and I don’t see that abating anytime soon.

In the last seven days, we’ve heard a range of opinions. Some good, balanced and considered. Some in the extreme for opposing sides of the spectrum. . .

Big processors pursuing staged transition – Brent Melville:

Weaning New Zealand’s primary sector off fossil fuels could cost the industry and the agri-sector hundreds of millions of dollars.

Alliance Group, the country’s second-largest meat exporter and largest lamb processor, confirmed it would be ending the use of coal at all of its seven plants within 10 years and was at present examining other fuel options across its network.

It had budgeted capital expenditure of $60 million-$70 million for the transition, it told a select committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill in Dunedin yesterday.

David Surveyor, chief executive of Alliance Group, said energy requirements were sourced across a range of fuels. “Levin and Dannevirke operate on natural gas, Nelson utilises diesel, while Smithfield in Timaru, Pukeuri in Oamaru and Mataura and Lorneville in Southland use coal.” . . .

They’re fishing for the future – Neal Wallace:

The desire to remove the ticket-clipping middlemen is not confined to dairy and meat farmers wanting to get closer to their markets and earn higher prices. It is a path being followed by Bluff fisherman Nate Smith but, he tells Neal Wallace, he has another motive for supplying fish direct to customers.

Did I want to go fishing, Nate Smith asked from the wheelhouse of his boat Gravity. 

He was catching only enough blue cod to fill a small order and the at-times turbulent Foveaux Strait was flat, he added reassuringly.

That brief exchange revealed plenty about Smith and his business, Gravity Fishing. . . 

New life-members for North Otago A&P – Sally Brooker:

The North Otago A&P Association has two new life members.

At its recent annual meeting, the association acknowledged the years of service given by John Dodd and Murray Isbister.

Mr Dodd, who farms at Tapui, has been involved with the organisation since the late 1980s. He was its president in 2000 and nowadays is convener of the sheep section.

He said there were still people who were willing to go along to judge the sheep at each A&P show. They seemed to enjoy the camaraderie that went with the role, often meeting up with sheep farming colleagues from across the country who also did the rounds of the shows. . .

 

New Zealand Wood Industry – Zero Carbon – And We Can Prove It:

If New Zealand’s ambition is to be a zero carbon economy by 2050 then it must nurture its wood industry. Many industries claim to be driving towards lower emissions but none have the low carbon profile of the wood sector. The WPMA Chair, Brian Stanley, says; “no other major industry in New Zealand can deliver carbon sequestration, carbon storage and emissions reduction like the wood industry”. Mr Stanley adds, “….and the industry now has independent, third-party certification extending right from the forest to the marketplace to prove that our wood-based packaging and construction products do the right thing by the environment. Our customers in New Zealand and overseas expect no less”.

Last night in Rotorua, WPMA highlighted that both major international certification programmes for forestry: Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification and Forest Stewardship Council guarantee that wood products from New Zealand come from sustainably-managed forests. In addition to this, WPMA has just launched its Environmental Product Declarations for wood products.  . . 

New fungicide approved for use on cereal crops

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved an application to import a new fungicide, Vimoy Iblon, into New Zealand, for use on cereal crops.

The applicant, Bayer, intends to market the fungicide to farmers as a means of controlling a range of diseases including scald and net blotch in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and wheat-rye hybrid triticale, speckled leaf blotch in wheat and stem rust in ryegrass crops.

New Zealand is the first country to approve the use of a new active ingredient contained in Vimoy Iblon – isoflucypram. . . 


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