Late start and only a start

16/06/2021

Who’s surprised that the government prioritised border exemptions for film crews over farm workers?:

New documents show tensions arose between government departments over who should get border exemptions and how the dairy industry lost out in favour of space and film projects.

DairyNZ had its border request rejected in the run-up to calving last year, having asked for farm or herd managers already employed in New Zealand, who were overseas on holidays when the pandemic struck.

It said it was concerned the decision may have been pre-determined, and said the the logic didn’t stack up, including why fishing was favoured over dairy.

One email summary on agriculture stated: “Make sure the clear distinction between fishing ‘yes’, and dairy, ‘no’.”

Its chief executive, Tim Mackle, described the assertion in the documents that the industry could source New Zealanders for the jobs as a “pipedream”, as herd and farm managers were specialist staff with many years of experience.

“We’ve got a sector here that’s New Zealand’s largest, a $20 billion export sector, which is going to be critical to New Zealand’s recovery and we couldn’t get 40 or 50 people through that system,” he said. “That was very frustrating and farmers felt that keenly.” . . 

Last week the government announced 250 farm workers, vets and their families will be allowed in.

That’s a start, but it’s a late start and only a start.

It’s late because workers were needed months ago and not just on dairy farms. Horticulturists and viticulturist have also been desperately seeking exemptions so they could harvest fruit and vegetables.

It’s a start because a lot more workers are needed not just on farms, orchards, and vineyards but in meat works, on ski fields and in hospitality.

These staff shortages are bad for business, add to costs, reduce income and put added pressure on staff.

At least as bad as this, is the way the government is keeping the families of workers out:

The government has quietly broken yet another election promise, resulting in thousands of critical workers being unable to enter New Zealand and migrant families separated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Labour campaigned at the election on establishing a 10 percent quota for critical workers in MIQ, saying that “the allocation system will ensure a majority of MIQ places are always available for returning New Zealanders, with 10 per cent of capacity set aside for critical workers and other entrants.

“However the Government has never implemented this policy. Instead, they have been measuring the number of critical workers in MIQ as a proportion of occupied MIQ rooms, rather than total MIQ capacity.

“At the moment there are on average over 1500 rooms vacant every day in MIQ, and over 9000 MIQ room vouchers have been unused since the beginning of the year.

“If Labour was actually carrying out its promise, thousands more critical workers would be allowed into New Zealand, helping spur our recovery from Covid-19 and filling skill shortage gaps.

“The government could also easily reunite the split migrant families, some of whom have now gone over 500 days without seeing their family, thanks to Government policy that is frankly cruel.”

What’s happened to kindness? The emotional and financial burden this imposes on these families is anything but kind.

“Information on the MBIE website gives the impression that for each month this year, the Government has been meeting the 10 percent minimum. But when the spare un-used capacity is taken into account, the Government is nowhere near its original capacity commitment.

“The Government’s broken promise makes no sense in the light of excess capacity in MIQ. It is novel, I know, for this Government, but perhaps they should start implementing what they campaigned on.”

Failure to allow family members in is also forcing workers out.

Maheno dairy farm manager Mark Purugganan has “lost hope” of being able to be reunited with his family in New Zealand, and is returning to the Philippines.

Mr Purugganan has lived and worked in New Zealand since 2012. He was joined by wife Roxanne a year later, and their two sons, Keired (5) and Abram (2), were born here.

He has helped manage Quambatook, a 900-cow dairy farm at Maheno, with James and Bridget McNally, for three and a-half years.

His children suffer from severe eczema and so their mother took them back to the Philippines to let their skin recover, as it seemed to be better in the warmer and more humid climate.

“The original plan was for me to go home every six months to visit them, until they outgrow their eczema problem, and then we can all come back here together.

“And then the lockdown came.”

Mr Purugganan last saw his family in person in December 2019, when Abram was a 7-month-old baby. He has missed three of Keired’s five birthdays. . . 

It’s not just dairy workers, but nurses and other essential workers the country needs and whose skills are valued but who are separated from their families.

This policy might have been excused when the lockdown started and there was so much pressure on MIQ for citizens and permanent residents.

But that excuse can’t be used now and failure to allow these families to reunite and to allow more essential workers in is a major government failure.

 

 


Rural round-up

06/03/2018

US vet downplays Mycoplasma bovis risk – Sally Rae:

A veterinarian who works for a large dairy co-operative in the United States says Mycoplasma bovis need not cripple dairy profitability.

Dr Paul Dettloff has worked for Organic Valley Dairies, the largest organic dairy co-operative in the world, for the last 25 years. It has 2300 farms.

He will speak at a workshop organised by the Southern Organics Group in Gore on Thursday, followed by a practical session on assessing livestock at local farmer Rob Hall’s property.

Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease first detected in New Zealand in July last year, is widespread in other dairying countries, including the US. . . 

Environment awards finalists named :

Five finalists have been named for this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

They are sheep and beef farmers John, Shona and Robert Chapman (Port Chalmers), dairy farmers James and Bridget McNally (North Otago), sheep and beef farmers Logan, Ross and Alexa Wallace (Waipahi), dairy farmers Cody and Nicola Hartvigsen (Owaka Valley), and the AgResearch Invermay research farm managed by Kevin Knowler. . .

Speed climbing trees and the rungs of power – Jamie Mackay:

Mackay, you’ve got the tree climbing.”

And with those words from Steve Hollander, founder of the Rural Games, my heart sank, along with my dreams of being a speed shearing commentator.

Did Hollander not realise my shearing pedigree as a farmer/dagger/crutcher/hacker who could shear 200 lambs in a day, albeit with tail wind? And what made him think Craig ‘Wiggy’ Wiggins (a broken-down rodeo and jet boat sprinting commentator, who makes an occasional cameo appearance on this website) could do a better job? What were his credentials? . . 

Silver Fern Farms Co-Operative Board election:

Four candidates have put themselves forward for the two available positions on the Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Limited’s Board of Directors.

Fiona Hancox and Rob Hewett retire by rotation at the Company’s 2017 Annual Meeting which is to be held in Dunedin on 18 April 2018. Fiona Hancox and Rob Hewett have advised that they will stand for re-election.
Nominations have also been received for Chris Allen and Conor English. . . 

2018 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards winners announced:

The 2018 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners say the appeal of being part of a progressive industry was the key to leaving their roles as a contractor and a veterinarian technician.

Richard and Wendy Ridd say that entering the dairy industry awards has given them a better understanding of their business. “We both love working outside on the land and with the animals, and the lifestyle farming enables us to create, for our family,” say the couple.

The couple were named the 2018 Manawatu Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North last night, and won $8,875 in prizes. The other major winners were the 2018 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year Angela Strawbridge, and the 2018 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year, Samuel White. . . 

Christchurch to host FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final:

West Coast dairy farmer Andrew Wiffen will be looking to defend his title at the Tasman Regional Final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year next month.

The 50:50 sharemilker from the Grey Valley took out the competitive event last year, securing a spot in the grand final in Feilding where he placed third. . . .

How a grain and legume farmer harvests nutrition from the soil – Clarissa Wei:

Larry Kandarian grows legumes alongside ancient grains on his California farm, producing a polyculture that benefits both the health of the land and his own.

“I’m 72, but I consider myself middle-aged,” said Larry Kandarian of Kandarian Organic Farms as he smiled and took a sip of his stew. Sitting in his trailer with a sun-weathered tan, Kandarian looks like any other farmer in the state.

And for a while, he was.

In the 1970s, Kandarian started off as a conventional farmer specializing in flowers and California native plants on his farm in Los Osos, about 100 miles northwest of Santa Barbara on California’s central coast. He decided to pivot full-time to growing organic, ancient grains eight years ago after the recession shrank the market for his goods.

“I figured that people still have to eat grains,” he said of the shift. . . 


Rural round-up

10/12/2017

Liam Hehir DESTROYS a neoliberal farmer – Liam Hehir:

When I went out to see my parents the other night, Dad looked pretty worried. Every now and then I would catch him looking out the window at the sea of yellowing grass on our little dairy farm. “It’s going to be one of the worst droughts in decades,” he said absentmindedly.

My patience wore thin. “You usually vote for National, right?” I asked. Dad said nothing in silent confirmation.

I adopted my most scolding voice.

“You farmers have a lot of nerve being upset about this. You lot are always voting National. But National is the party that allowed water bottling companies to dig up our water and ship it overseas. Surprise, surprise, we’ve run out – it’s all in other countries! Now you have the temerity to wince and try to guilt us over the great summer we’re enjoying?” . . 

James and Bridget’s farm:

From the farmers:

Hi, we’re James and Bridget and we run Quambatook farm near Oamaru. The Aboriginal name of Quambatook means ‘place of rest’. We are fifth generation farmers in partnership with James’ parents Ray and Kathrin McNally.

We converted to dairy ten years ago and currently milk 800 cows increasing to 900 in the 18/19 season. We have three children, Charlotte (5), Jimmy (3) and Olivia (1). They all love getting out and about on the farm and helping.

Our main purpose is to be environmental stewards for the next generation and dairy farming is providing us with a pathway to succession.  We would love to have people come and visit our farm to inform and educate them about how a sustainable dairy business works and show them how much we care about our environment. . . 

Open Gates day a chance for farmers to show they care about the environment – Gerald Piddock:

Wynn Brown hopes opening the gates of his dairy farm will put a human face on an industry that increasingly is offside with the public.

The Matamata dairy farmer is one of eight farmers around Waikato and 40 around the country taking part in Fonterra’s Open Gates day on Sunday, December 10.

The industry “had taken a fair bit of a beating” over the last six months and he hoped the day would go some way to changing that.

“My hope is that it bridges the gap between urban and rural and that urban people can see that we are trying hard to do the right thing.” . . 

Meat company choice clearer than it’s every been – Allan Barber:

November used to be the month when we could get a comprehensive idea of the financial state of the meat industry because annual results were published in quick succession by three of the major processors: Alliance, Silver Fern Farms and AFFCO. When AFFCO was absorbed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Talley’s, there were still the two cooperatives to provide a comparison, but now SFF’s balance date is 31st December. So we must now wait until March to find out about ANZCO and SFF. This means Alliance’s result is the only one which can give a factual record of the traditional meat year, while it is still reasonably fresh in the mind.

Therefore the headline numbers – turnover up 13%, $20.2 million operating profit (2016 $10.1 m), $11.4 million pool distributions ($9.8 m) and 71% equity (70.6%) – make encouraging, if not exactly overwhelming, reading and suggest Alliance has turned a corner after last year’s near breakeven performance, while also indicating a better trading environment for the industry as a whole. This has also occurred against the backdrop of improved returns for sheep and beef farmers. That said, last season was easier for sheep meat dominant processors than for those with larger beef businesses because of the respective climate effects on livestock flows. . . 

Mouldy fed threatens animal health – Pam Tipa:

Mycotoxins threaten animal health and producer profits, so identifying and addressing these hidden challenges is important for farmers.

The Alltech 37+ test now identifies five extra mycotoxins that can threaten animal health and producer profitability.

The testing is available to New Zealand farmers, but it is done in Ireland, an Alltech NZ representative says. At least 140 samples have been sent from NZ with interesting results. . .

‘Choose Black’ wins gold:

A campaign to market mastitis treatments to dairy farmers has been recognised at the Westpac Waikato Business Awards.

The Choose Black marketing campaign was developed to showcase Virbac New Zealand’s locally made mastitis treatments.

At the start of the 2016-17 season Virbac targeted the lactating cow intramammary market where rival products had been used for many years. . .


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