Rural round-up

September 30, 2015

Deer, sheep and cattle spread the risk in uncertain times – Kate Taylor:

Diversification is one of the keys to success for Central Hawke’s Bay sheep, beef and deer farmer Matt von Dadelszen on Mangapurakau Station.

Combining breeding deer, velvet stags, bull beef, breeding ewes and finishing lambs gives the von Dadelszens a mix of stock classes on the property at any time of the year… and a buffer when prices drop in one sector.

“The way we’re set up it’s easier to react,” he says. “Changes can be made quickly for different markets. Every year is a good solid year thanks to the diversity of the farm. We’re not at the mercy of one market.”

Matt and Paula von Dadelszen farm in partnership with Matt’s parents Ponty and Jane on the 1000-hectare property in the Flemington farming district, south of Waipukurau. They are on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s southern boundary with Horizons Regional Council with two-thirds of the farm in Hawke’s Bay. It is a summer-safe farm with an altitude of 370 metres above sea level up to 620m and an annual rainfall of about 1250mm. . . .

Cold winds bring death to East Coast farms – Kate Taylor:

Hawke’s Bay farmers still in the middle of lambing are counting the costs of this week’s rain deluge.

More than 400mm of cold rain fell at Trelinnoe, the Te Pohue property farmed by former Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills and his brother Scott. They started lambing the day before the rain began.

“There is hardly a lamb surviving,” Bruce Wills said. “It’s not good … finding it hard to find a live lamb anywhere. It’s frustrating and annoying to do all the work all year and then, flipping heck, Mother Nature comes and does her thing.

“A week ago we were talking drought. On our country once we get 350mm, even with all of our 15,000 trees and all our good work, Mother Nature takes over.” . . 

Farmers ‘would really struggle’ without Filipinos:

A North Canterbury dairy farmer who helps support migrants when they move to the area says she’s not surprised to hear Filipino workers falsified documents to secure visas.

Hundreds of Filipino workers on dairy farms are under scrutiny after authorities in the Philippines revealed dozens have arrived on visas based on false documents.

They are also looking into claims some of the men paid as much as $1,500 to a recruiter who falsified work experience and qualifications in a bid to get them a better job.

Sharron Davie-Martin is based at Culverden, North Canterbury and said there’s about 70 Filipinos working on local dairy farms and without them, farmers would really struggle. . . 

Concerns about water quality computer-modelling:

Waikato Federated Farmers is warning that there would be a massive impact on the local economy if computer-modelling to improve water quality in the region was followed through.

The modelling has been produced to look at the impacts of implementing changes, such as land-use and in particular moving away from dairying.

It is estimated it would cost anywhere between $1 and nearly $8 billion over a 25-year period to clean up the Waikato and Waipa rivers and their tributaries.

It is based on scenarios ranging from making the rivers suitable for swimming, fishing and healthy biodiversity, to no further water quality decline, but with some improvements, or just holding-the-line with no further degradation. . . 

$10k Rates Club Raising the Bar

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the formation of Federated Farmers $10k Rates Club – an informal grouping of members who share the unwelcome bond of payment more than $10,000 a year in general rates.

“The club has been a way for us to capture stories, gauge the trends in general rates and add another string to our lobbying bow,” says Senior Policy Advisor Nigel Billings, who helped found the club back in 2005.

The club remains strong but times have changed – and, as Nigel admits, it might be time for a rebrand.

“Unfortunately, $10,000 rates notices are not as rare as they used to be for those in our rural communities. We’re thinking we might need to change the name to the $15k Rates Club. It may even need to be $20k.” . . .

Rural theft is gut wrenching – Chris Irons:

Rural crime is getting out of hand and something has to happen or we may need armed defender callouts to rural communities. The recent spate of thefts in the Waikato has been sickening especially for sharemilkers who are doing it tough trying to stay afloat with the downturn in dairy prices.

Huntly farmer Philip Thomas had his four- wheeler stolen in broad daylight and then suffered the indignation of watching the thieves ride off brazenly out his farm.

As most farmers know quad bikes are key part of the daily running of our business, it’s not a toy, more a necessity. The Huntly farmer had all his aids and ropes stored on his bike which he needed for calving. . . 

NZ Dairy Awards Develops Future Leaders:

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards is proving to be a breeding ground for future industry leaders.

Six of the 10 candidates currently seeking election to the Board of Directors of DairyNZ cite their participation in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards on their curriculum vitae.

Two candidates, Ben Allomes, a Director seeking re-election, and Elaine Cook are former New Zealand Sharemilkers of the Year while another candidate Greg Maughan is a former longstanding chair of the Awards executive organising committee and former regional winner in the Sharemilker of the Year competition.

Another former regional Sharemilker of the Year winner is seeking election, Murray Jamieson, while Steve Hines is a past entrant and judge. Grant Wills has judged entrants in the awards. . . .

Treble Cone’s busiest ever snow season:

Treble Cone Ski Area (Wanaka, New Zealand) celebrated the Closing Day of a successful snow season that achieved a number of key milestones last Sunday.

This winter Treble Cone received it’s highest ever visitation since forming as a company in 1968 and installing the first rope tow in 1969, with a record number of skier visits in 2015.

The momentum and vibe at Treble Cone has been building over recent years, with stability in pricing coupled with tweaks and improvements across the guest experience.

Anticipation prior to this season was fantastic, with record online interaction and engagement, and increases in early bird season pass and pre-season lift pass sales.

Leading into winter 2015 Treble Cone introduced additional groomed intermediate trails in the Saddle Basin through summer earthworks and snow fencing which proved very popular. . . 

Rural round-up

May 2, 2015

Trelinnoe treads lightly on the environment – Kate Taylor:

From crutching sheep at home on the farm to meeting the world’s top farming politicians, the passion Bruce Wills has for all facets of farming is evident from the moment you meet him.

His brother Scott is the other side of the coin, a man of few words, until you ask him about the farm’s stock policies, then the same passion is evident.

They both love Trelinnoe – an 1134ha hill country farm carved out of the scrub by their parents and an uncle through the 1950s and 60s. . .

Ruataniwha irrigation scheme gets 15 years to sort water quality – Pattrick Smellie:

 (BusinessDesk) – A revised decision from the board of inquiry considering the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme relaxes water quality conditions that were previously regarded as unworkable. It gives irrigators 15 years to find ways to manage nitrogen levels in the Tukituki River to very low levels.

The board’s original decision, released last June, set a maximum level for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) downstream from the scheme of 0.8 milligrams per litre, a level consistent with the highest quality freshwater bodies under the government’s recently updated National Policy Statement on freshwater management, and at odds with DIN levels in the river today.

To get around that, the decision created an exemption for some 615 farms to discharge higher levels of nitrogen, leading to successful appeals from a range of environmental groups who argued the board had created a “factual fiction” by setting a high standard that would not then be expected to be met. . .


IrrigationNZ says Board of Inquiry decision on Tukituki ‘reasonable’ but far from practical for farmers:

“The Board of Inquiry for the Tukituki Catchment has reached a reasonable decision in what has been a long process,” says Andrew Curtis, CEO of IrrigationNZ. “But it is a far from practical outcome for farmers and the regional economy. We believe nutrient limits set for the Tukituki system remain unrealistic for what is a productive working agricultural landscape.”*

IrrigationNZ does however recognise the positive step taken in the decision to exclude some hill country farms, forestry, orchards and lifestyle blocks from having to gain consents, but points out that the reality is the majority of commercial enterprises will still require one. . .


Alliance Group Targets 3,300 Tonne Carbon Reduction:

One of the world’s largest processors of sheepmeat, Alliance Group Limited, aims to reduce carbon emissions by 3,300 tonnes over the next three years, as part of a new energy management agreement with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The agreement, announced in Southland today by Alliance Group Chief Executive David Surveyor and EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill, includes a thermal and electricity energy use reduction of approximately 10 Gigawatt hours per annum by 2017. This is the equivalent annual energy use of about 960 households.

David Surveyor says reducing the company’s energy use makes good business and environmental sense and that the new partnership with EECA is the next phase of Alliance Group’s energy management journey. . .

Synlait Milk ingredient will help to significantly enhance sleep:

Synlait Milk has commercialised a dairy-based milk powder ingredient that is clinically proven to enhance sleep.

Results from an independent clinical trial of iNdream3 have proved its efficacy as a sleep promoting ingredient.

iNdream3 is made from melatonin-rich milk collected in the hours of darkness, when cows naturally produce increased concentrations of melatonin in their milk

“We’ve been developing this product for several years and this clinical trial is a major milestone in proving the ability of iNdream3 to improve sleep,” said Dr Simon Causer, Synlait’s Research and Development Manager.. . .

Maori farm vitally important for community:

A Northland sheep and beef farm in the running for the top Maori farming award has impressed the judges with its strong ties to a small local community.

Paua Station is one of three finalists for the Ahuwhenua Trophy and as part of the awards is hosting an open day today.

The almost 3,000 hectare station lies just south of Cape Reinga, about 80 kilometres north of Kaitaia, and surrounds the small community of Te Kao.

It is owned by Parengarenga Incorporation, whose general manager, John Ellis, said the running of the farm was very much centred around the community. . .

Dairy Awards Finalists in Auckland for Annual Awards:

The 33 finalists in the 2015 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are in Auckland, where the winners of the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year will be announced on Saturday night.

“The national awards is a big deal for these finalists – they’ll meet some key industry people, develop lifelong friendships and important networks, and be exposed to opportunities that’ll propel their career forward,” National Convenor Chris Keeping says.

Judging has been taking place during the past two weeks, as judges have visited the sharemilker/equity farmer and farm manager finalists on their farms. However, the final judging component will take place tomorrow when all finalists will participate in an interview. . .

Country’s Top Steaks Make The Cut:

Following today’s semi-final taste test, the 20 most succulent steaks in New Zealand have been named as finalists in the 2015 Beef and Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin Competition.

A panel of 12 well-known foodwriters and chefs, including Kerry Tyack and Julie Biuso, tasted a total of 69 sirloin steaks, judging each one on taste, tenderness and aroma, to find the top four for each class.

Semi-final judge, Kerry Tyack says as a returning judge, he was reminded of the outstanding quality of New Zealand beef.

“Although the steaks vary in taste, texture and appearance, they’re all of a consistently high standard,” says Tyack. . .

Hawke’s Bay Harvest Bodes Well for a Stellar 2015 Vintage:

The Hawke’s Bay wine region looks set to enjoy its third consecutive year of great vintages.

With picking nearly complete, Hawke’s Bay grape growers and wine makers are optimistic that this will be another good year, following exemplary vintages in 2013 and 2014. Hawke’s Bay is the first region to forecast the quality of this year’s vintage following harvest.

“Most would be considering this to be a very good, solid vintage,” Michael Henley, Chair of the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association (HBWG) and CEO of Trinity Hill Wines, says. . .

Quotes of the year

December 31, 2014

Offering to trade fines for sexual favours is not simply sleazy as the judge seemed to view it. It’s about a principle which is absolute, regardless of its nature or monetary dimension. It behoves the Police Commissioner to appeal against this ridiculous sentence so wiser heads can send a vitally important message, namely that corruption is corrosive, strikes at the heart of civil society and will absolutely not be tolerated. Sir Bob Jones

“I love to observe how they process the high school situation. Over the last couple of months I’ve just started to realise that, wow, people in the real world don’t care if your legs aren’t perfect.” Lorde

”I find the chances of it being stolen are pretty minimal, but the chances are even more minimal of it disappearing by itself through two paddocks surrounded by deer fencing,” Bill Keeler

It’s been said that the New Zealand economy is likely to be the “rock star” of 2014 but we all know what happens to rock stars who spend all their money on having a good time. I’ve said it before – the only way we’re going to become a top-tier First World country is by growing the pie.

Sadly, we’ve always been much better at eating them. – Colin Espiner

To judge the dead may give some comfort to the living, but no matter how fervently the misdeeds of previous generations are condemned, they cannot be undone. Therefore, whatever justice we seek to do here and now, let it be to right the wrongs of the present – not the past.

We fair-skinned Polynesians are not – and can never be – “Europeans”. Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before colonisation. Both of us are the victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt.

And both of us have nowhere else to go.Chris Trotter


Just 380,000 individuals pay half of all income tax.

If you earn more than $80,000 you are in that group. Most tax is paid by businesses through corporate tax or receipted GST payments. Possibly 80 per cent of the country is taking more from the state than they are contributing.If you are a net contributor most of your money will go to paying for the welfare of others.Most of those who seek to reduce their tax obligations are net contributors to our society. The only complaints against them are they do not pay enough.Beneficiary cheats, by contrast, are providing nothing to start with and seek to enrich themselves further by deception and dishonesty.Judges understand this, which is why beneficiary cheats go to jail for longer, as they should. – Damien Grant

Democracy, certainly at candidate selection level, isn’t generally a process of exquisite delicacy, scrupulous manners and sensitivity to hurt feelings. Oftentimes it’s just a few steps removed from full-on internecine civil warfare, albeit conducted largely out of sight. – Southland Times commenting on Labour’s selection process for the Invercargill electorate.

“The other analogy I have learned quite a lot is this idea that life’s like the drafting race because you learn quickly, farming, all the things that begin with D like drenching and drafting, docking and dagging, getting into debt and dealing with DOC. If you go up the drafting race, even for a ewe you have to look good: You mustn’t limp, head up, eyes forward don’t show your teeth if they aren’t terribly good, clean bum, good digestion, good tits – the whole way – because you want to go to the right, to the mixed age ewe mob, because [then] you get kind dogs and good food. Straight ahead is not much fun because you will end up a chop on the table. – Christine Fernyhough

“Nah, no tear in the eye. I’m from south Dunedin,” he grinned. Brendon McCullum

‘‘A government is a periodic monopoly that needs the threat of other entrants to get it going.’’ – Bill English

We must avoid complacency that might flow from believing today’s good times are permanent.

We don’t want to make a habit of doing the hard work under pressure, then putting our feet up just when the serious long-term gains are within our reach.Bill English

If there are going to be on the ground and social media campaigns, they needs to be led by Australians.  We need to get Australians saying that they want the best products at the best price.  We need Australians to demand choice instead of supermarkets telling them what they’re allowed to buy.  We also need Australians to see how deeply cynical the supermarkets are by reinforcing the values we share, namely, freedom of choice.  This needs to turn Coles and Woolworths market research on its head and hit them where it’ll hurt the most; market share.  That’s the only language they understand.  It is also by reinforcing that Kiwis are kin, something the centennials of the Great War will strongly affirm. – Bruce Wills

Personally, I’ve never heard of an economy taxing its way to greatness but I have sure heard of economies taxed into oblivion.Willy Leferink

And perhaps that’s the every day wisdom of parents at the fore – it’s the minestrone soup solution of life – if you’re short of meal options, throw all the vegetables into a pot, with a sprinkle of flexibility and the seasoning of life, and see what you come up with. – Tariana Turia

The notion that environmental protection and economic development are potentially conflicting goals is not, in my view, a recipe for success. It removes any expectation that businesses should take responsibility for protecting the environment; or that environmentalists need to consider social or economic costs of environmental outcomes.

In my world, economic and environmental considerations are two sides of the same coin. It is hard to be green if you are in the red; but you cannot have long-term social or economic prosperity if you undermine the natural capital you rely on to create it. – Lynda Murchison

People’s first consideration when buying food was price, despite claims they might buy based on factors like organic growth, she said.

While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said. – Jacqueline Rowarth

. . . Even during booms some businesses will fail, and even during recessions some businesses will soar. That is because what ultimately determines the fate of companies is not whether the economy grows 1% or shrinks 1%, but the quality of management and their ability to anticipate and handle changing conditions be they for their markets, their inputs or their processes. . . Tony Alexander

Members of the Opposition believe monetary fairies can make the exchange rate settle permanently lower by forcing interest rate cuts and printing money while letting inflation therefore go up. Given the non-zero possibility that such economically ignorant policies get introduced it is worth getting inflation protection by investing more in property – not less. Tony Alexander

 The global financial crisis was the worst economic meltdown in living memory.

“The 1987 crash was a a blip on the charts by comparison.”

On top of that, the Christchurch earthquakes dealt a massive hit to the government books. “The mythical observer arriving from Mars who saw the accounts in balance after two thumping great shocks like that – you’d have to say someone had navigated pretty smoothly through that.” Donal Curtin

Two thirds of the [welfare] liability came from people who first got a benefit under the age of 20. “So it confirms what grandma told you. “Don’t let those young people get off the rails because when they do it’s very expensive.” – Bill English

That it can sweetly awaken, and joyously strengthen and that you need to give it to get it. Sarah Peirse answering the question: what do you know about love?

“I don’t think our native species care too much as to whether it is public land or private land. Whether it be iwi, or whether it be Sir Michael Fay, what we’re interested in in these partnerships is maximising conservation gain.” Nick Smith

Federated Farmers is an apolitical organisation – “we don’t care who is in government as long as they agree with us”.Conor English

. . . Taxes are not the price we pay for a civilised society. At best they are the price we pay for a civilised government. But they are also the price of overly bureaucratic procedures, unpredictable outcomes, and the loss of freedom to make our own decisions. – NZ Initiative

I make no apology for being a male. I hope I’m seen as a considerate, compassionate and communicable male; I make no apology for that. If I have faults, and I’m sure I do, well I don’t think  I can blame my gender for my behaviour without it being a cop-out. There ain’t nothing wrong in being a bloke if you behave yourself properly! – Chris Auckinvole

Mr Speaker, my second point I wish to make is the importance of valuing hands on learning within our education system. We must appreciate these very important students who in the future will fix things, build things, be it trucks, motor cars, be it buildings, be it bridges, roads, essential infrastructure and all manner of other things.

To do this the education system must equally value these people as much as we do doctors, nurses, lawyers and accountants and design an education curriculum accordingly. Putting it simply, we want to create many Einstein’s, but to create an Einstein you also need 1000 skilled technicians to make those things. – Colin King

“Talking about ponies and horse races, if you think of the economy as a horse race, you know it would be silly to put the hobbles on one of the leading horses so the rest can catch up,”Alister Body.

“I don’t think a party that’s on the extreme edges one way or another is going to be beneficial for Maori,” . . . “I think we as Maori also need to realise that compromise is a part of political involvement in New Zealand politics,”  . . .  Dr Lance O’Sullivan.

. . . if democracy means anything, it means suppressing the savage within and submitting the issues that divide us as individual citizens to the judgement of the electorate as a whole. Even more importantly, it means accepting that collective judgement – even when it goes against our individual contribution to its formation.Chris Trotter

HONG KONG | How did this small city-state of 7.3 million people go from having a per-capita income of only a few hundred dollars per year to a per capita income that is equal to that of the United States in only 50 years? The simple answer is they had the British common law legal system, strong private property rights, competent, honest judges, a non-corrupt civil service, very low tax rates, free trade and a minimal amount of economic regulation. There was no big brother government looking after the people, so they had to work hard, but they could keep the fruits of their efforts. . . Richard W. Rahn

One of our human limitations is that we look at the problems ahead through the eyes of our current technology and from this perspective they can look overwhelming. This myopia traps us into negativity – we think we must go backwards to achieve our goals – Dr Doug Edmeades

For the health-conscious, the prevailing wisdom is that natural food is the best food. But no matter what studies of GMOs say, one scientific fact is inescapable: basically none of our dietary staples are natural. Some 10,000 years ago, our ancestors picked tiny berries, collected bitter plants and hunted sinewy game, because these are the foods that occurred naturally in the wild. Then came agriculture, and with it the eventual realization that farmers could selectively breed animals and plants to be bigger, hardier and easier to manage. David Newland

. . . Most of all they should embrace the modern age and recognise that social and economic salvation and uplifting the underclass does not simplistically lie in ever increasing taxes on the industrious and thrifty and their transfer to the indolent. There’s nothing positive or progressive about that. . . Sir Bob Jones

We think it’s pretty legal, we think these guys are just having a crack and have a bit of an eye for the main chance because it’s an election campaign. – Steven Joyce

I won’t be wanting to see any hint of arrogance creeping in.” . . .

. . . “One of the big messages I’ll be wanting to give incoming ministers and the caucus is that it is incredibly important that National stays connected with our supporters and connected with the New Zealand public.” John Key

“Make sure you know why you’re in it – politics is not about celebrities. And nurture your self worth.

“You can’t afford to mortgage out how good or bad you feel because of tomorrow’s headlines.” – Julia Gillard

New Zealand is not perfect, but we do now have a multicultural society based on a bicultural heritage.Philip Burdon

Wills signs off saying politics matters

July 5, 2014

Federated Farmers retiring president Bruce Wills used his final speech in the role to say politics matters: (The bold is mine)

I want to start this, my final address as National President of Federated Farmers, with a thank you.

Thank you for the privilege of being your President, thank you for your support, and thank you for all the work you continue to do for Federated Farmers and farming.

Three years has flown by.

I have enjoyed doing ‘my bit’ to help farming remain profitable and sustainable, and like our own aspirations with our farms, I feel I have left this organisation in better heart than I found it. I will return to the hills of Hawke’s Bay later today knowing there is a very capable and competent team to take it from here.

Before signing off I want to reflect on the two things that have absorbed much of my time in this role, the economy and the environment.

The economy
Farming confidence is high and some sectors are close to being as strong now as they have ever been.

Our dairy farmers have just received their highest pay-out in history and there is a quiet optimism in the dry-stock sector with the ‘China affect’ now benefitting red meat and wool.

Food and fibre represents an extraordinary 70 percent of this country’s merchandise exports and if done well is entirely renewable. We are well on the way to doubling the value of our agricultural exports to $64 billion by 2025, on the back of an exploding world population and rising standards of living.


I cannot stress enough the importance of free and open trade. In six short years, China has become our biggest export partner as well as our biggest import market.

When I joined the Board of Federated Farmers, in 2008, our two way trade with China was $8 billion. Last month we broke through $20 billion and we are on track to exceed $30 billion within the next six years.

Our 2013 trade deal with Taiwan is ramping up quickly and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains a prize we must pursue with all the vigour we can.

No question, we have some challenges.
In recent days the New Zealand Dollar has approached all time highs against both the US Dollar as well as the Trade Weighted Index. This will be a significant headwind and may well prompt a slowing in further interest rate rises.

I have continually cautioned about our very high debt levels.

I note a large monthly increase of $842 million to the end of May reaching a total of just under $53 billion now loaned to our farms alone. In light of global uncertainty across many areas I am not sure how sustainable this sort of debt level is.

A few years ago Australian farmers had $70 billion of rural debt and things looked okay. Then came a serious weather event and now $10 billion of this is ‘non performing’ with a good portion of it unlikely to ever be repaid. We run the same risk here.

I have learnt in this role that ‘politics matters.’

For the past six years we have had a Government that has been largely supportive of agriculture. Should we have a change of Government on September 20, this is unlikely to continue to be the case.

Putting these challenges aside, what I have also learnt from my three years with the World Farmers Organisation is that New Zealand farmers are the envy of the world. Everywhere I travel people are stunned how a small island nation, a long way away, can be such a powerhouse when it comes to producing food and selling it competitively to the rest of the world.

I have learnt that we are a grass fed economy and what happens on our farms absolutely matters on Lambton Quay and Queen Street and all the towns in-between.

We are some of the best farmers on the planet and Agricultural exports will continue to pay the lion’s share of this country’s bills for a long time to come.

The environment
This is the flip side of the economy’s coin, the natural resources, which allow us to keep our food and fibre businesses forever renewable.

Three years ago I called for a more open and honest discussion about farming’s impact on the environment.

We have come a long way. The Land & Water Forum got us talking with all the interested parties and we listened to the concerns of others and have pursued a more collaborative approach to resolving our differences.

Getting agreement is not easy but having the science and being well informed on the issues is the key to making sensible progress. We have engaged a lot with parties right across the economy/environment spectrum and this organisation has gained significant credibility from its more reasoned and reasonable approach.

Some believe it is about winners and losers, I don’t. Farmers understand the ‘black and green’ bit well, it is difficult to invest in environmental innovation without running profitable businesses, and we certainly can’t keep farming without resilient long lasting farming practices.

The big issue of my time in this role has been water. How do we maintain and improve its quality in the face of a growing population, and an expanding and changing farm business environment?

The main focus has been the nutrients we lose from our farms finding their way into our streams, rivers and lakes. We can sort phosphorus, which is largely about good management. It is the diffuse nitrogen leaching that remains our biggest challenge.

All farmers, that I know, strive hard to be profitable and most do a wonderful job looking after their land and their water. Being sustainable is good business, and wasting expensive nutrients just doesn’t make sense.

We have seen a rapid land use change to dairying in the last twenty years. This has pushed onto lighter soils and in some areas we are seeing too many nutrients being lost. The science is telling us this and farmers have been responding for some time by fencing water ways, riparian planting, preparing strict nutrient plans and adopting more efficient irrigation.

In some sensitive areas more needs to be done, and again farmers are responding by building feed pads, herd homes or other means of controlling effluent runoff. Less inputs and reducing cow numbers are further options, and more science is needed for some. I am very encouraged at how quickly farmers are responding to this challenge.

I had the privilege last week to be in Christchurch to judge NZ’s top 10 supreme environmental winners from all around the country. They are outstanding operators leading by example, running profitable businesses, but well and truly meeting their social and environmental responsibilities as well. I think it is telling that the national winner was a large scale intensive dairy farm, on some of Canterbury’s lighter soils. This is exactly the sort of farm at the sharp end of this economy/environment conundrum that we are trying to solve.

Mark & Devon Slee milk 2,580 cows producing 1,830 kgMS/ha, or 475kgMS/cow, but with precision farming, smart science and exceptional management, are leaching the same nitrogen they were leaching in the mid ‘90’s with 70% more cows. Their immediate focus is on reducing their nutrient losses even more.

This is a clear example that we can and must do both. Whilst running efficient profitable businesses, we must do this within sustainable environmental boundaries. All the other nine finalists had very similar stories to tell.

I need to congratulate the CEO of Fish & Game, who took up my challenge of coming to this awards evening to see for himself the great results that our leading farmers are achieving and to follow this up with a Fish & Game media release that quoted the following:

“Dairying has never won the top national award before,” says Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson. “In winning the coveted Gordon Stevenson Trophy, Mark and Devon are demonstrating that environmentally sustainable and profitable dairy farming is not only possible, but up there alongside the other farming categories that have previously won the top national award.”

To ensure all New Zealanders prosper we must continue to grow our largest industry but we must also look after our environment.

This is our challenge; and as I pack my bags and hand over the reins I am more convinced than ever that this is entirely achievable and our farmers are well on the road to making this a reality.

Thank you.

Wills has left Feds, and New Zealand, better for his service.

Guard changes at Feds

July 5, 2014

Federated Farmers has a new president and CEO.

Dr William Rolleston, former vice-president was elected unopposed to lead the organisation and Graham Smith takes over as CEO.

As Vice-President since 2011, I am honoured to be entrusted with a leadership role following in the footsteps of some farming greats,” says Dr Rolleston, Federated Farmers new President.

“Federated Farmers is New Zealand’s foremost rural advocate with a proud past and strong future. 

“Our National Council knows that the President must represent the views of all members and Federated Farmers is a broad church. I endorse this principle.

“I believe we can learn from all form of farming systems, including  organic practices, so long as these are underpinned by robust science.

“Given the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change, science and innovation are key to the future of farming. Science and innovation are also key to the water quality sphere.

“I am fortunate that our Grain & Seed Industry Group chairperson, Ian Mackenzie, is staying on the Board for another year.  His work in the Land & Water Forum was publicly acknowledged yesterday by our Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Nathan Guy. 

“Ian is widely respected even among the environmental lobby.  His expertise and wise counsel will be welcome.

“As will be the support of my Vice-President, Wairarapa’s Anders Crofoot.  As our buildings spokesperson, I must acknowledge the success Federated Farmers has had in convincing Government to remove farm structures from its earthquake prone buildings Bill.

“A $170 million saving for farmers is an auspicious start for my tenure and a tangible example of the value Federated Farmers delivers for its members and farming in general.

“I will draw on the myriad of skills that the West Coast’s Katie Milne offers, especially on the high profile areas of rural security, employment and adverse events. 

“As a Board Member at large, she is joined in that capacity by Mid-Canterbury’s Chris Allen, who is fast developing expertise in water policy.

“I look forward to working with my newly elected Industry Group chairs, Rick Powdrell from Bay of Plenty for Meat and Fibre and Andrew Hoggard from Manawatu-Rangtikei for Dairy.

“Both are exceptionally talented farmers with an outstanding grasp of industry issues.

“Speaking of extremely talented people, Bruce Wills has been an inspiration to me.  His focus on environment collaboration and communication has done much to represent the modern face of farming.  These are themes I wish to continue with the new Board.

“As a Board it speaks volumes about Federated Farmers that someone of Graham Smith’s calibre came to us to be our new Chief Executive. 

“As Graham has started the handover process with Conor English I wish to thank Conor for his guidance over the period I was Vice-President and before that as a provincial president.

“I am excited by the future,” Dr Rolleston concluded.

Wills and English have overseen a change for the better in Federated Farmers for which all involved in farming and the wider rural community should be grateful.

They have provided a strong foundation on which the new leadership can build and carry on the much-needed work representing and advocating for farmers, farming and rural New Zealand.

Polson, Bilodeau Agri-people of Year

July 4, 2014

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive, Larry Bilodeau, was last night named 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson of the Year while the late Alistair Polson was named 2014 Agri Personality for 2014.

“With Te Radar as the perfect Master of Ceremonies, Federated Farmers was honoured to not only recognise all major agricultural award winners, but the two people who have emerged first among equals,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President whose term comes to an end at the conclusion of the Federation’s 2014 conference.

“It was bittersweet that we honoured the memory and outstanding contribution made by the late great Alistair Polson in making him 2014 Agri Personality of the Year.

“What made the night poignant was that his wife Bo accepted the Award on his behalf. Alistair was not only a great President of the Federation but defined selfless public service.

“Our 2014 Vodafone/Federated Farmers Agri Businessperson is Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chief Executive Larry Bilodeau.

“While the judging is done separate of us, I wish to pay tribute to the outstanding calibre New Zealand has in our rich agribusiness and agriservices environment. They were Dr. Paul Livingstone QSO of TB Free/OspriNZ, Lindy Nelson of the Agri Woman Development Trust and Farmlands Co-operative Society Ltd Chief Executive, Brent Esler.

“All are outstanding leaders.

“Larry, as Chief Executive of New Zealand’s largest fertiliser supplier, has led the co-operative’s evolution from one focused on fertiliser to one meeting the complete farm nutrient needs of our primary industries.

“We have truly outstanding talent in farming and these awards recognise and celebrate them. Something Te Radar noted as the primary industries need to recognise success more,” Mr Wills concluded.

Giving the award to Alistair Polson posthumously is a reminder of the importance of honouring and showing our appreciation of  people when they’re alive.

I hope it gives some comfort to his family to know how much his contribution to agriculture, his community and New Zealand, are valued.

Larry Bilodeau might not be well known outside farming circles but his leadership in Ballance has been outstanding.


Rural round-up

June 24, 2014

Optimistic over farming sector’s future – Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills stands down next month after three years in the role. He talks to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about his tenure and his optimism for the agricultural industry’s future.

His desk might have been cleared in Wellington but New Zealand’s farming community can be assured they have not seen the last of Bruce Wills.

After three years at the governance helm of Federated Farmers and a prior three-year tenure as meat and fibre chairman, his involvement, following the organisation’s annual meeting on July 4, will only be as a ”very loyal” member. . .

Why a carbon tax is udderly useless to us – William Rolleston:

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change.

Yet the Green Party’s proposal to tax biological emissions is bad policy for climate change and the economy.

Along with every other New Zealander, farmers already pay for their carbon-dioxide emissions in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. The issue, the Greens argue, boils down to biological emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide.

Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas generated by bacteria in the stomach of farm animals. It lasts around seven years before being converted back to carbon dioxide which is taken up by plants. The methane cycle is complete when animals eat those plants in turn. Methane is measured as kilograms of carbon dioxide based on a 100-year time frame.

This time frame has been chosen by international agreement but any period could have been chosen. . .

Harriet takes on shepherds challenge – Sally Rae:

Harriet Gardner admits she might not be the ”fastest in the world” at it – but she can shear a sheep.

That skill will be crucial when Miss Gardner (20) takes part in the preliminary round of competition at the World Young Shepherds Challenge at Lincoln from July 3-5.

The competition will be held alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand final events. It will consist of shearing, condition scoring, a quad bike obstacle course, identifying sheep breeds, feet trimming, drenching, counting sheep and demonstrating knowledge ofthe sheep industry. . .

$75m for NZ-Singapore ‘Foods for Health’ projects:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government will invest NZ$1.75 million to fund New Zealand-Singapore collaborative research projects on the development of food products with validated health benefits. 

New Zealand’s investment will be matched by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), bringing the total investment amount to approximately NZ$3.5 million over two years.

“One of the goals of the Business Growth Agenda is to grow exports from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Continuing to develop our innovation in the food science and technology industry will be a key contributor to achieving this,” Mr Joyce says. . . .

A champion for farming :

Fiona Hancox’s father was Colin Richardson, a man who started life as a townie, before eventually owning 12 West Otago farms as well as being extensively involved in farming politics.

Although the son of a tailor, he decided at an early age he wanted to be a farmer.

His first agricultural job was on a property at Crookston, before moving to Gimmerburn to work for the Paterson family and to be a fencing contractor.

Jim Paterson helped him into his first farm – Avalon – at Heriot, when he was 24. . .

Former chair appointed to deer board:

Clive Jermy OMNZ, a well-known red deer stud breeder, has been appointed to the board of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) for a three-year term. He is one of four producer board members, replacing Tim Aitken, Hawkes Bay.

Mr Jermy is a former board chair, standing down in 2007. Before that he was chair of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association.

NZDFA selection and appointments panel chair David Stevens said the panel had interviewed three skilled and talented candidates and the decision process was extremely challenging. The unsuccessful candidates were Tim Aitken, who stood for re-election and Otago-based businessman and deer farmer Grant Cochrane. . .



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