Rural round-up

22/02/2021

EU carbon tax: threat or opportunity? – Nigel Stirling:

New Zealand farmers have been quick to claim world champion status for carbon efficiency. So why are they so nervous about a planned European tax on the carbon emissions of imports? Nigel Stirling reports.

It has been described by the European Union’s top bureaucrat as the continent’s “man on the moon moment”.

An ambitious plan to decarbonise the European economy known as the “Green Deal”.

“The goal is to reconcile our economy with our planet,” European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen boldly declared when first revealing the plan in December 2019. . . 

M. Boris review gets underway – Annette Scott:

An independent review of the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme is aimed at identifying lessons that can be learned from New Zealand’s largest biosecurity response.

Driven by the programme partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), the review is deemed best practice given the scale of the eradication programme.

It will also fulfil a commitment made to farmers at the start of the programme, DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says.

“Eradicating Mycoplasma bovis is hard work, but with the whole sector working together we have made really good progress,” Van der Poel said. . . .

A winning formula for good cows :

A Waikato dairy farming couple have proven they’re at the top their game, taking out two prestigious titles at New Zealand’s largest cattle showing event.

Tom and Francesca Bennett, Te Hau Holsteins, had both the best Holstein Friesian cow at New Zealand Dairy Event and Tom also took out the World Wide Sires, All Breeds Junior Judging Competition. The family was also named Premier Holstein Friesian Exhibitor.

“It was awesome, I did the Pitcairns Trophy judging competition at the Waikato Show and came second, but Dairy Event was my first really big judging competition to win,” says Tom. . . .

Dairy conversion Otaki style – Peter Burke:

From the outside it still looks like a dairy shed except it is painted white with black cow-like symbols. From the outside it still looks like a dairy shed except it is painted white with black cow-like symbols. Near the Horowhenua town of Otaki, dairy conversion has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not a case of converting sheep and beef farms to dairy farms, rather it’s a case of just converting old dairy sheds to country style tourist accommodation. Reporter Peter Burke visited two such conversions by two pretty special and creative women.

The two conversions are complementary – one offers an experience on a commercial dairy farm while the other has a focus on horses.

Stacy Faith and her husband Andrew milk 360 cows once a day to supply Fonterra. They separately milk 20 more to supply A2 milk for the vending machine they have installed at their farm gate. It’s a farm that has long been in the Faith family. . . 

From working at the dairy farm to owning it – Ruby Heyward:

Raspberry Cottage owner Sarala Tamang is farming with a twist, but not without some help.

Originally from Nepal, Mrs Tamang moved to Waimate in 2010. She bought the Raspberry Cottage business and the attached farm from couple Barry and Margaret Little in 2019.

For the six years prior, Mrs Tamang had worked for Mr and Mrs Little, caring for the berries as though they were hers – and now they are.

Using her experience, and with the help of the previous owners’ continued guidance, Mrs Tamang wanted to grow what the supermarket did not offer. . . 

 

Mental health: young farmer recalls decision to quit farming >

A 23-year-old who had dreamed of being a farmer since he was a child had to quit the industry after his mental health started to slip.

Dan Goodwin from Suffolk has shared his story during the annual Mind Your Head, a week-long campaign raising awareness of farmers’ mental health issues and the support available to them.

When Dan turned 18, he moved from Bury St Edmunds and attended a land-based college in Norfolk.

Throughout his studies, he enjoyed learning and the structure that his apprenticeship with a small family-run farm gave him. . .

 


Rural round-up

27/10/2020

Call for full story on carbon – Hamish MacLean:

A Dunedin city councillor is warning against demonising agriculture as a producer of greenhouse gases.

As the region awaits an Otago-wide inventory of emissions, Cr Mike Lord said if Otago’s emissions profile included what the region exported without considering what the region imported, it could suggest an unfair, unbalanced climate change mitigation strategy was required.

“I just think we need to be careful because the data doesn’t always tell you the full story,” Cr Lord said.

“And I don’t think we want to demonise agriculture — that’s my bottom line.” . . 

Farmer Fears for livelihood amid tenure review – Mark Price:

Charles Innes looks too rugged to be a man who cannot sleep at night for worry.

However, he admits he does, and says he sometimes resorts to a little home brew to solve the problem.

With no tourists using his backpacker accommodation, a predicted 26% drop in average farm profits before tax on sheep and beef farms this season and children to educate at boarding school, Mr Innes has plenty of material for worrying.

He expected completing the tenure review process could help financially, although it might not save the farm. . . 

Deferred grazing a tool to raise farm system resilience :

Deferred grazing is a tool that can be used to combat drought, rejuvenate pastures, improve stock health, mitigate against sediment loss, reduce cost and take the stress out of farming.

A three-year research project to quantify the impact of deferred grazing on the pasture, the soil and the farm system has highlighted the benefits of a practice once regarded as lazy farming.

Deferred grazing is the practice of resting pastures from grazing from mid- to late spring until late summer / early autumn.

The trial, which was carried out by AgResearch (led by Katherine Tozer) and Plant and Food Research, was run on trial sites on three commercial farms in the Bay of Plenty and Northern Waikato. Scientists sought to understand more about the effects of deferred grazing, how to successfully apply it and why it works. . . 

Farmers find niche in wool carding :

A small sign on State Highway 8 near Raes Junction on the West Otago/Central Otago border says Wool Carding 1km.

The track leads to a sheep farm where Barb and Stuart Peel run their carding business from a large shed.

Carding is a mechanical process that opens fibres, disentangling them so they can be used for spinning and felting.

The business was started by Stuart’s father, Don, who farmed sheep on the 160 hectare property. . . 

 

 

National real estate agency and Southland rural property company merge to expand their operations:

Leading national real estate agency Bayleys has expanded the scope of its southernmost operations – acquiring a shareholding in a boutique Southland property company specialising in farm sales.

Bayleys Southland and Country & Co Realty Limited will now be rebranded under the name Country & Co in partnership with Bayleys.

Bayleys Southland is part of Bayleys Real Estate – New Zealand’s largest full-service real estate agency with a network of some 90 offices nationwide and more than 2000 employees. . . 

Belching cows and endless feedlots: fixing cattle’s climate issues – Henry Fountain:

Randy Shields looked out at a sea of cattle at the sprawling Wrangler Feedyard — 46,000 animals milling about in the dry Panhandle air as a feed truck swept by on its way to their pens.

Mr. Shields, who manages the yard for Cactus Feeders, knows that at its most basic, the business simply takes something that people can’t eat, and converts it into something they can: beef. That’s possible because cattle have a multichambered stomach where microbes ferment grass and other tough fibrous vegetation, making it digestible.

“The way I look at it, I’ve got 46,000 fermentation vats going out there,” Mr. Shields said. . .


Plane hypocrisy

10/03/2020

Guess which back bench MPs spent the most of flights:

The Parliamentary expense disclosure released today shows that, on average, Green Party list MPs are outspending list MPs in all other parties on air travel. On average, the list MPs from the Greens are spending more than a third more than Labour’s equivalent.

Reacting to the figures, Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams said:
 
“The Greens constantly say that we need to reduce air travel if we are to save the planet. They need to practice what they preach.”
 
Average air travel spending for non-ministerial list MPs by party:
Greens – $9,816
NZ First – $8,059
National – $7,332
Labour – $6,499

These MPs don’t have the excuse of servicing electorates at either end of the country like Sarah Dowie, Hamish Walker or Matt King do.

The Greens are all list MPs.

They argue that because there are fewer of them, each has to travel more.

But that doesn’t wash when are the ones that preach to the rest of us about cutting down on all but essential travel and the necessity of reducing our use of fossil fuels.

As Heather du Plessis-Allan writes:

. . . This is a plane (deliberate) and simple case of the Greens being a bunch of outstanding hypocrites. This is the party asking Parliament to declare a national climate emergency. It’s the party trying to penalise people who buy petrol cars, asking stretched farmers to pay for their emissions, trying (and thankfully failing) to put a halt to the building of new roads and begging ACC to divest from fossil fuel stocks. Essentially, it’s the party trying to force everyone else to sacrifice a little something for the climate, while they carry on working towards another year of Elite Gold Koru Club status. . .

The Greens hope it’s all okay because they offset their flight carbon by paying for someone to plant trees. Again, nice try. Even the UN says that’s no get-out-of-jail-free card. Trees planted today, to quote the UN, can’t grow fast enough to avoid what the UN calls “catastrophic planetary changes”. Offsetting emissions is like setting a house on fire, giving it a good five minutes to get started, then putting it out and painting over all the damage.  . .

Hypocrisy is never a good look, it’s even worse in this case because it is so much a case of do as we say, not as we do.

The Greens are forever preaching about what the rest of us should be doing, but when it comes to practice, they find that in the absence of alternative time and convenience come before climate concerns.


Rural round-up

11/11/2019

Farmers back Fonterra mostly – Neal Wallace:

The prevailing mood might have been optimism among Fonterra shareholders at the annual meeting but a residual bitterness lingered, evidenced by two calls for chairman John Monaghan’s resignation.

About 200 shareholders attended the meeting in Invercargill on Thursday at which shareholders Jan-Maarten Kingma and Peter Moynihan both called for Monaghan’s head, saying there needs to be accountability for the decisions leading to Fonterra’s poor financial performance.

After the meeting Monaghan said he was not surprised by the resignation calls or the contrasting mood of the meeting, which reflected the broad church that is the co-operative. . . 

Learning from experience – Colin Williscroft:

Working the land is a challenging business at the best of times and for Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Ben and Libby Tosswill it’s important to focus on what they can change and try not to loose too much sleep over what they can’t, as Colin Williscroft found.

Ben and Libby Tosswill have been farming at Birch Hill Station for about 10 years, having returned to New Zealand from London where they worked in corporate finance and banking.

Trading the bright lights of the big city for the open landscape of Hawke’s Bay hill country has been a big change but the couple relish the lifestyle it’s provided them and their three boys – Fletcher, 8, Alex, 6, and Jack, 2. . .

Fit bits for cows? Tracking collars aim to reveal bovine personalities – Maja Burry and Simon Rogers:

It’s hoped new research looking at the different grazing personalities of Hereford cows will help high country farmers better use their land.

Lincoln University PHD candidate Cristian Moreno is using GPS tracking collars to monitor the differences in how some cows in the same herd graze and to establish which genetic and environmental factors influence their behaviour.

Mr Moreno said while he was still in the early stages of analysing the five million GPS data points that he had collected, he’d already found some cows would tend to walk about 2km in a day, while others would more than double that. . . 

New chairwoman in charge at trust – Toni Williams:

Jane Riach has taken over the helm on the board of Kanuka Mid Canterbury Regeneration Trust, helping to balance biodiversity, predator control and planting for purpose in the district.

Mrs Riach, who was approached to take on the chairwoman’s role, is equipped with organisational skills to help keep trust members on track and moving in the right direction.

She says the trust team was full of people already passionate about the work they were doing and had an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

She, and husband Hamish, who is chief executive officer at Ashburton District Council, have been in town for just over a year, and Mrs Riach is already an active member in the Ashburton community. . . 

Meet Steve the seaweed man

As a horse-riding musterer on the wild Wairarapa coast, Steve Matthews used to watch deer gathering on the beach to feast on seaweed thrown up by the rough seas.

On retirement, he was inspired to start his own small business foraging and selling the stuff. Demand is huge but he plans to stay small-scale unless new regulations put him out of business.

Steve was brought up in Titahi Bay and has lived on rugged Wairarapa coast most of his life, shepherding and later managing a couple of farms.

“I was always on the beach as a kid… I love the sea.” . . 

Farmers helped to come up with carbon reduction plans – Conan Young:

Moving dairy cows indoors could be part of the answer to bringing down emissions on farms.

Farmers faced having five years to come up with their own tool to price and pay for the carbon and methane coming off their properties or being forced by the government to join the Emissions Trading Scheme.

For the first time since the ETS was introduced over a decade ago, there was a very real prospect of farmers being charged for their climate change inducing emissions. . 


Are electric vehicles as green as they’re painted?

10/07/2019

Stuff asks which are the cleanest and dirtiest car brands in New Zealand?

. . .Actually, the car brand currently on sale in NZ with the lowest emissions of all is Tesla, which boasts an unbeatable CO2 output (or non-output?) of 0.0. Obviously that’s because they are fully electric, which means the only connection with CO2 these cars might have, would be from what emerges from any gas or coal-fired power stations that generate the electricity in the first place.

But, as so often in the climate change argument, this doesn’t give the whole picture. It counts only the emissions from running the car, what about the emissions in making it, in particular the battery?

A friend has recently returned from Africa where he saw a continual procession of fuel tankers making the journey from the coast to supply mines in the Congo so that cobalt and lithium can be exported to allow people in rich countries to buy electric cars to save the world.

If you take into account the emissions from the many thousands of kilometres those tankers travel and everything else involved in their manufacture and disposal when judging the CO2 output of electric and hybrid cars, would they still be as green as they’re painted?

I don’t know the answer to that question and it raises another: how can we know what is green and what is greenwash if only the emissions from running vehicles are quantified and not those from their manufacture to their eventual end?

The answer to those two questions is even more important now the government is proposing a ‘feebate’ scheme on the sale of new vehicles.

The Government’s proposal for a sweeping fuel-efficient vehicle policy is being criticised because it doesn’t apply to the majority of cars being sold.

It would only apply to newly-imported used and brand new light vehicles from 2021 onwards, and would only hit those vehicles when they are sold for the first time – taking in about only a quarter of vehicle sales.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ criticised the proposal and said all vehicle sales should be affected by fuel efficiency standards.

The “feebate” scheme wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything, instead using money gained by putting a fee on imported high-emissions cars in order to make imported hybrids, electric cars, and other efficient vehicles cheaper with a subsidy. . .

It wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything but who would it help and who would it hurt?

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Let’s be very clear: this is a tax on Otara vehicles to subsidise Teslas in Remuera.”

“Only a few, largely high-income, motorists will benefit from this subsidy, while many more low income motorists will have to choose between a nasty penalty or delaying the purchase of a new car. And as this tax leads driver to hold on to their existing vehicles for longer, we’ll miss out on improvements to safety and environmental standards.”

Older cars are less efficient and also not as safe as newer vehicles, but what’s the environmental impact from holding on to them longer?

Would spreading the emissions from making them over a longer period compensate for the emissions from driving them?

What about utes and trucks that are used for business and transporting goods and for which there are no hybrid or electric alternatives.?

“Successive Governments have already whacked motorists hard with hikes to petrol tax. Now Julie-Anne Genter is mixing it up with scheme to ‘take from the poor, give to the rich’.”

“Just because something is shrouded in environmental branding doesn’t make it any less nasty to the poor.”

Electric and hybrid cars cost less to run than petrol or diesel ones and newer vehicles are more efficient than older ones so  people who can’t afford newer, more expensive vehicles will be paying a bigger proportion of the fuel tax.

London has emission charges and diesel vehicles, including taxis, have to use AdBlue  to their fuel. When we were there recently we noticed the air was much cleaner than it had been several years earlier.

Clean air is to be encouraged but until the total lifetime emissions, not just from driving vehicles, but from their conception to their ultimate end, are quantified, we won’t know if the policy will make a positive difference or not to global CO2 emissions or not.

The emissions picture is a very complex one to which the ‘feebate’ policy, like so many other climate change ones, provides a simple answer but we don’t have enough information to know if it’s the right one.

The push towards electric vehicles raises two other questions: does our electricity generation and transmission have the capacity for a significant increase in electric vehicles?; and what will replace fuel taxes when the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles reduces them to the point a replacement is required?


Farming vs filmmaking

21/06/2019

James Cameron makes movies.

I haven’t, as far as I know, watched any, but the numbers of people who have and the money he has made from making them, suggest he’s very good at it.

He and his wife Suzy have chosen to buy farmland in New Zealand and convert it from pasture to organic vegetables, hemp, linseed and rye corn.

It’s their land they’re free to do what they want with it providing they don’t contravene district or regional plans in doing it.

They’re also free to tell us what they’re doing and why as they did on Sunday but I’d take them a lot more seriously when they criticise our farming and its contribution to climate change  if it wasn’t for the hypocrisy.

How does the benefit from pastoral farming compare with the benefits from the films he makes, what’s the real value of food production in contrast to entertainment and what are the carbon emissions from both filmmaking and the frequent flying the Camerons do between their homes in New Zealand and the United States?

In an open letter to Cameron, ASB rural economist Nathan Penny explains:

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

• In addition, pasture-based New Zealand beef production is top dog in the global carbon efficiency stakes.

• You might have already heard that our agriculture produces around half of the country’s carbon emissions, and while that sounds like a lot, the New Zealand agriculture sector produces enough food for around 50 million people or 10 times our population. The question then becomes how carbon efficient New Zealand agriculture is – and that takes us back to points 1 and 2.

• We also know to take the sustainability claims of alternative food manufacturers such as Impossible Foods (meat) and Perfect Day (dairy) with a large grain of salt. For example, New Zealand dairy has a much lower carbon footprint than Perfect Day milk on a like for like nutrition basis.

• As you rightly pointed out on Sunday, farming is in our DNA and you also noted that New Zealand farmers have that good old number 8 wire mentality. But there’s another secret that you may not know about Kiwi farmers. That is, they’ve had to farm effectively subsidy-free since the 1980s. In this context, our farmers have had to get smart and quickly, finding efficiencies that other (subsidised) farmers globally don’t even know exist.

For these reasons, local Kiwi farmers think there is a place in the future for pasture-based New Zealand meat and dairy. And with global food demand set to surge around 70 per cent by 2050, we think the world needs all the food it can get!

Measuring carbon emissions in isolation is a very blunt instrument.

As Rabobank managing board member, Berry Marttin, told Farm2Fork, we need to take into account nutrient density.

If we compare the nutrient density and overall value to the world of New Zealand pastoral farming with filmmaking and flying there’s simply no contest.

Something else to consider:


Nutrient density must be part of carbon equation

10/05/2019

Are non-dairy drinks really better for the environment than milk?

It depends on what you measure:

A lot of people make food choices based on what they think is good for the environment, and therefore also makes them feel good, but often their choices are hurting the environment unnecessarily.

The trouble is, it’s difficult to distinguish between green and greenwash.

This was the underlying message of Rabobank’s Netherlands-based managing board member, Berry Marttin’s talk at last month’s Farm2Fork summit, held at Cockatoo Island. . . 

“Let’s start measuring the right thing,” Mr Marttin said, as he opened his talk. . . “

He said “those people” (i.e. our world leaders) that agreed on the Paris Climate Agreement set the rules and guidelines that we will have to abide by in the coming years.

“Why that is so important and so relevant, is agriculture is the second most polluting process in the world, after energy,” he said. . . 

“In 2010, our industry (agriculture) emitted 12 megatonnes of carbon of a total of 50Mt (globally),” he said.

“The other thing that they (the Paris Climate Agreement folk) have said … (is) if we want to limit the increase of temperature by two degrees, food production can not emit more than four megatonnes.

Today we talked a lot about world population – we have to produce more. But Paris is saying ‘no, no, we can only emit four megatonnes'”.

Do we feed the world or save the planet, and can we do both?

He said the gap that our food producers will have to overcome is to lift from the current 13 trillion calories to “20-something trillion calories”, in 30 years time, which is an increase in the realm of 50-60 per cent.

At the same time, food production will have to go from 12Mt down to 4Mt of carbon output.

“Every calorie produced has to be four to five times more efficient,” Mr Marttin said.

“So we have to understand, what are we going to do? What are we measuring?”

He said a lot of current reports are measuring how much emissions per gram, or kilogram.

“But the issue is that we don’t live by kilos. We survive as humans by calories.”

He said if you look at it from a calorie point of view, it painted a clearer picture of the amount of carbon output along the whole supply chain versus what calorific value you obtained from that food – and also better reflected the amount of processing.

However, humans don’t live on calories alone, we also need nutrients.

All calories aren’t equal.

He used milk as an example (with findings from the report Nutrient density of beverages in relation to climate impact, by Annika Smedman et al), as it was consumed by 6 billion of the world’s 7.7 billion people.

It had lots of “pretenders” competing for its market share, such as plant derived “milks”, many of which sold themselves as healthy alternatives.

Milk production also represents 3-4pc of global carbon emmissions.

“And that brings us to the fact that people think that cows are polluters – it’s a big issue. That’s what people think about it.”

He said the Australia-New Zealand region did have the lowest output of carbon in the world per litre of milk produced.

“If you look at 100 grams of milk, it produces 100g of CO2. But if you look at the most important thing, which is actually the nutrition density of milk, it’s 50 (nutrients that we need daily).

“It’s a very high nutrition density.”

“Let’s look at the emission of soya drink – it has very low emissions (per unit of volume). But then let’s look at the nutrition density of soya drink, the problem is it has only one or two nutrients that we need every day.

“So are we measuring the right thing? Nope. Are we telling the right story? What’s better? Milk, or soya drink?

“Is the industry telling what is better for the environment?”

He said if you correlate the emissions with the nutrient density, you get a clearer picture of nutritional value against emissions output.

Mr Marttin said people must start asking what is the nutritional value per amount of carbon emitted, or else food production from farming will never get to the four megatonnes target.

And, as a society, if we don’t understand that, we will continue to make the wrong decisions and produce foods that are actually not nutritious and be emitting carbon in the process.

He said it takes, on average, about 2.5 tonnes of CO2 to feed one person per year, and he estimated that if carbon was priced, it’s value would be about US$100/t.

Milk has higher per kilo emissions than the ‘pretenders’ but  when you take into account its nutrient density it is far better than manufactured alternatives.

P.S. Beer comes a distant third in the nutrient density equation – but some might say it has other qualities which ought to be taken into account.

 

 


Rural round-up

30/06/2018

Councils’ reliance on rating slammed as ‘abhorrent’ – Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne says councils need new ways to diversify their funding and the reliance on rating is “abhorrent” and needs addressing.

In her report to the rural lobby organisation’s national conference, Ms Milne said that would be particularly helpful for councils with a small rating base.

Central government must also make sure councils were reasonable in how they rated “and not bleed the public for projects which may never get off the ground or pet ideas that only serve the ideologies of the few rather than the many”.

“There is a belief we are all rich farmers but this is just a myth,” she said. . . 

Government negligent over PSA claim:

A landmark decision released by the High Court today has found that the Ministry of Primary Industries (formally MAF) was negligent in allowing the deadly PSA disease into New Zealand in 2009, which devastated the kiwifruit industry.
Kiwifruit Claim Chairman John Cameron said that it was also hugely significant for the kiwifruit industry and other primary industries that the Court also established that MPI owed a duty of care to kiwifruit growers when carrying out its biosecurity functions.
“We completely agree with the Judge when she says that the wrong to the 212 kiwifruit growers should be remedied. . .
Psa Litigation:
MPI has received the High Court’s decision on the long-running Psa litigation and we are now carefully considering its findings and implications for current and future biosecurity activities.
The 500 page document traverses events dating back 12 years, pre-dating the establishment of MPI, and requires a thorough examination. We cannot rush this process.
Once we have completed consideration of the judgment, a decision will be made on whether to appeal. That decision must be made by the Solicitor-General, not MPI.
Until then, we will be making no further comment. . .

Early winners are still leading – Hugh Stringleman:

Hugh Stringleman looks back on the initial decade of the Young Farmer Contest and catches up with some of those who took part.

Winning the Young Farmer Contest’s national honours opened many doors to farming success and primary industry leadership for champions from the first decade.

Between 1969 and 1978 competition was very keen among thousands of Young Farmers Club members nationwide to achieve a place in the four-man grand finals, as they were then.

Every member was encouraged to participate to build public speaking skills, increase their industry knowledge and try to progress through club, district, regional, island and grand finals. . . 

Fonterra says climate change policy shouldn’t reduce methane emissions to zero – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group said it supports a target aimed at mitigating and stabilising methane emissions, but not seeking to reduce them to zero, in its submission on the productivity commision draft report on transitioning to a low-emissions economy.

“Agricultural emissions make up approximately half of New Zealand’s emissions and we support policies being set to help transition agriculture to a low emissions economy,” it said in the recently published submission. Submissions on the commission’s draft report – presented in April – were open until June 8 and the commission aims to present a final report to the government by August. . . .

AgResearch purchases full ownership of Farmax:
AgResearch has taken full ownership of agricultural software company Farmax Ltd by acquiring the shares of Brownrigg Agriculture, and Phil Tither, of AgFirst.
Farmax has been operating for 15 years and has already been used to add value to more than 5000 farm businesses in New Zealand and overseas. The software is used by farmers and their advisors to analyse, monitor and review farm operations to determine the production and economic outcomes of various managerial options. . .

Gallagher’s takes supreme ExportNZ award:

Gallagher Group has taken out the supreme award for the 2018 Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards for Auckland and Waikato regions.

Judges were impressed with the way the Hamilton-based business has become the leading technology company in animal management, security and fuel system industries over the past 80 years.

Founded in 1937, Gallagher’s was initially a 10-person business which designed and delivered New Zealand’s first electric fence solution. Today, it employs 1100 people across a global network of 10 countries through three business units. . . 

British farmers are ‘better equipped than anyone’ to deliver high quality food, says Michael Gove

NFU President Minette Batters has welcomed comments made by Michael Gove in his keynote speech at the NFU’s Summer Reception at the House of Commons on 25 June. 

Defra’s Secretary of State for food and the environment said he had ‘heard, received and understood’ the NFU’s call on government to uphold the high-quality produce that he said was a ‘hallmark of British agriculture’ in post-Brexit trade agreements.

He said that British farmers are ‘better equipped than anyone’ to fulfil the national and global demand for high-quality food. . .

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Rural round-up

13/05/2018

Farming programme empowers Maori women in Northland – Bayley Moor:

A programme aimed at upskilling and empowering Māori women in the farming industry has seen its first cohort from Northland graduate.

Graduates from across Tai Tokerau with backgrounds as private farmers, trustees on Māori land and working in the dairy and beef industries were presented with their certificate after completing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Wāhine Māia, Wāhine Whenua programme. 

Wāhine Māia, Wāhine Whenua is an intensive programme providing participants with skills from industry experts including measuring farm performance and potential, business planning, finding and accessing financial information – all condensed down into three, full-day workshops, to make it more accessible for time-poor women.  . .

DIRA distorts Fonterra decisions – Hugh Stringleman:

The review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act is well overdue considering the degree of added competition recently, which has implications for the open entry rule, Fonterra says.

“The industry has become highly competitive with a relatively large number of new entrants often backed by deep capital and global businesses,” it said.

“Open entry limits our farmer-shareholders’ and the industry’s ability to maximise value.

“It distorts investment decisions and leaves Fonterra’s farmers underwriting risk for competitors, who cherry-pick their suppliers.” . . 

Farmers want rules for agents – Nigel Stirling:

Mulitple lawsuits being brought by farmers against a South Island livestock firm looks like being the catalyst for regulation of the industry.

Five civil claims against Rural Livestock and a Serious Fraud Office investigation into a former employee of the Christchurch firm have prompted Federated Farmers to call for livestock agents to be licensed in a similar manner to their counterparts in the real estate industry. . . 

Scoring carbon emissions – Brian Easton:

A powerful social law suggests we often explain or do things the wrong way. This may be particularly true when we try to address Global Warming.

Gilling’s Law, one of the most powerful laws in the social sciences, states that the way you score the game shapes the way it is played.* A simple example is that once rugby was boring with a typical score of 9 to 6 – three penalties to two. Later the score for a try was raised from three points to five, bonuses were given for scoring a lot of tries (and also to a loser who gets close to the winner). The changed incentives led teams to take risks to score tries with the result of much bigger scores and a livelier game. . . 

Low cattle pressure, yet an environmental problem in New Zealand – Robert Bodde:

Mark and Pennie Saunders are milking 2,000 dairy cows on the New Zealand South Island. Due to the scale, the cost price is lower than average despite the solid financing. The entrepreneurs see availability of labor and environmental measures as the biggest threats.

Their cows and young cattle older than two months walk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the meadow. Mark and Pennie Saunders have therefore invested little in buildings. At the home location in Ashburton, 90 kilometers south of Christchurch, there are three pilots, one of which is out of use. One is for the housing of sober calves, and one contains some tractors and machines. The 4 tractors from 45 to 120 hp are 20 to 45 years old. They are, according to Mark, not worth more than € 165,000, including the tools.

The 80-stall rotary milking parlor, an outdoor fancier from 2004, has also been depreciated. In the first years, 1,200 cows went through twice a day. After an increase in business in 2007, 1,650 per day, 10 months per year. Since 2015, there are only ‘1,450’. That year they bought 130 hectares of the neighbor and they started a new location with 600 dairy cows on a 54-stall rotary milking parlor. “The decision to start at the second location was prompted by the scarcity of capable people”, says Mark. “It is certainly financially more attractive to milk for longer in the 80 stands. But with 1,650 cows, the employees were milking for nine hours a day. Then you will not keep your people. You can only bind them to you if they have varied work. ” . . .

(This was translated from Dutch, as internet translations do, it doesn’t get every word right).

Texas ranches manage cattle to improve pasture and watershed health – Sandra Postal:

The following is an edited excerpt from Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity by Sandra Postel, published by Island Press.

Few animals get as bad a rap these days as cattle do. They are blamed for soil erosion, water depletion, overgrazed rangelands, greenhouse gas emissions, and, when eaten, human heart disease. Often missing from such indictments of the mooing, tail-wagging, and, yes, methane-emitting bovine, however, is our role. How we choose to manage cattle determines their environmental impact, not the animals themselves.

“Ninety percent of people think cattle are bad,” said Robert Potts, president of the Texas-based Dixon Water Foundation. “But grasslands need well-managed grazing to stay healthy. We need to educate people about that.” . . 


NZ opts for UN Framework not Kyoto 2

10/11/2012

New Zealand is committing the the UN’s Convention Framework rather than signing up for stage two of the Kyoto Protocol:

The Government has decided that from 1 January 2013 New Zealand will be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries which collectively are responsible for 85% of global emissions. This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says.

In the transition period 2013 to 2020, developed countries have the option of signing up to a Second Commitment Period (CP2) under the Kyoto Protocol or taking their pledges under the Convention Framework. The Government has decided that New Zealand will take its next commitment under the Convention Framework.

“I want to emphasise that NZ stands 100% behind its existing Kyoto Protocol Commitment.  We are on track to achieving our target – indeed we are forecasting a projected surplus of 23.1 million tonnes. Furthermore, we will remain full members of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no question of withdrawing. The issue was always different: where would we take our next commitment – under the Kyoto Protocol or under the Convention with the large majority of economies? We have decided that it is New Zealand’s best interests to do the latter.

“It is our intention to apply the broad Kyoto Framework of rules to our next commitment. This will ensure that at least New Zealand has started a process of carrying forward the structure created under the Kyoto Framework into the broader Convention Framework.  This had been a point of principle of some importance to many developing countries. It would also mean that there would be no changes in domestic policy settings which had been modelled on the Kyoto Protocol rules.” . .

. . . The next decision will be to set a formal target for NZ’s future emissions track through to 2020 to sit alongside our conditional offer to reduce emissions between minus 10% and minus 20% below 1990 levels. “Cabinet has agreed in principle to set that target once we know exactly what the final rules will be on some crucial technical issues, including access to international carbon markets.”

The opposition and others of a dark green persuasion are saying the government has done the as a result of which the sky will fall and the sea will rise.
They’d prefer we stuff  our economy to make token gestures which will have little if any impact on the environment.
Our emissions are so small on a global scale we could kill all our animals and people and the resulting decrease in emissions would barely register.
That could be used as an excuse to do nothing but instead we’re aligning our efforts with those of most of our trading partners – except Australia.
P.S. I note one of those doing as we are is Canada, do I remember correctly that it pulled out of its first Kyoto commitment?

Less meat, better health, less carbon?

15/09/2012

A British study suggests eating less meat could reduce disease and carbon emissions:

. . . Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that cutting back on red meat consumption could decrease the number of cases of chronic disease by 3 to 12 percent, and make the carbon footprint nearly 28 million tons smaller per year by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The BMJ Open study included data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of British Adults in 2000-2001. Researchers looked at the amount of meat the people in the study consumed, as well as how many green gas emissions were emitted that are linked to 45 different kinds of food.

The BMJ Open study included data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of British Adults in 2000-2001. Researchers looked at the amount of meat the people in the study consumed, as well as how many green gas emissions were emitted that are linked to 45 different kinds of food.

After adjusting for proportions, the researchers found that people who regularly ate red or processed meat in the study also just generally consumed more food than people who didn’t regularly eat red or processed meat. So, they calculated that if people who ate the most red and processed meat in the study were to adjust their eating habits so they ate like the people who consumed the least red and processed meat in the study, that would decrease health risks (such as risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and heart disease) anywhere from 3 to 12 percent. . .

If I’m reading this correctly, it says people don’t have to just eat less meat, they have to eat less fullstop.

It’s not a matter of replacing red meat with other food but in reducing total food intake.

If eating less still provided a balanced diet there would almost certainly be health benefits. If reduced consumption led to reduced production there would probably be a reduction in carbon emissions too – although that would depend on what food was consumed, how it was produced, transported and stored.

But if the meat was replaced with other food it’s possible there would be no benefits to either people’s health or the environment.


Minnows can’t make big difference

02/08/2011

Quote of the week from Minister  for Climate Change Negotiations Tim Groser:

“We need some international context around this. I mean, with 0.2 percent of emissions, New Zealand just doing something way out there on its own doesn’t make a damn bit of difference,” says Mr Groser.

He says without buy-in from big emitters like the US and China, the talks are just that.

He was responding to criticism of New Zealand’s progress on reducing carbon emissions.

Not only are our emissions tiny on a world scale, most of them come from farm animals and there’s very little we can do about that.

That doesn’t mean farmers and processors aren’t doing what they can. Fonterra intends to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

But Mr Ferrier says the ETS is already costing dairy farmers about $3600 per year in increased energy costs.

He says efficiencies can be made without having to pile more costs onto farmers, who have already reduced on-farm emissions by more than 8% since 2003.

All farmers contribute to research on reducing emissions too.

But we’re still and minnow in the sea of emissions and there’s no point criticising us for doing too little when the whales are being left alone .


Smith speaks sense on emissions targets

11/12/2010

A friend is developing a farm which has small blocks of forestry.

As the Kyoto rules stand at the moment if he fells the pines re-plants in the same place or fells the trees and leaves the stumps he will have no carbon liability. But if he fells the trees, clears the stumps and replants trees in a different place he will.

Many hectares of land around Taupo were planted in trees because stock grazed there got bush sickness. It has since been recognised that this was caused by cobalt deficiency which can be addressed.

In other areas development incentives encouraged farmers to clear marginal land which is prone to erosion.

It would be better for both the economy and the environment if the land near Taupo was cleared for pastoral farming and the marginal land was returned to forestry but that is unlikely to happen under the current Kyoto rules which were designed with native forests in mind.

New Zealand is one of few, possibly the only, country in the world with a large areas of exotic forestry.

There may be sense in requiring the replanting of trees where they’ve been felled if you’re trying to save rain forests but it makes no difference to carbon emissions if replacement trees are planted in a different place.

New Zealand has put a lot of effort into getting this changed and now Climate Change Minister is sensibly saying New Zealand won’t commit to emissions targets unless forestry rules are clear.

He told the United Nations conference in Cancun New Zealand wants a change to allow pre-1990 forests to be harvested and re-planted elsewhere and also to lock up emissions for wood which is felled and used for building  rather than have it count as being consumed and its emissions released on felling.

It’s such a good idea, Whaleoil, who doesn’t praise lightly, has given him politician of the week on the strength of it.


Risks and opportunities in ETS

03/06/2010

The ETS will hold both risks and opportunities, Rabobank head of Food and Agribusiness Research Advisory, Justin Sherrard, told farmers in Oamaru.

“New Zealand farmers had proven ability to improve productivity year on year to remain competitive in international markets and the ETS will be another driver for this.”

He said the government has introduced the ETS to:

* meet international obligations,

*play its part in addressing a major global challenge;

*transition the economy to low carbon growth

* preserve our clean, green image.

Sherrard said an  ETS is the most cost effective way of achieving emissions reductions and international retailers are already cutting carbon..

Walmart has introduced a sustainability index target to cut 20m tonnes of carbon by 2015 – that’s about half of what New Zealand produces.

“It will send a signal up the supply chain and ask all supplier to reduce emissions and reward those which do,” Sherrard said.

Tesco has a carbon footprint label on products which show the total life cycle carbon emissions so it can give consumers information on which to base their choices.

The Japanese government has introduced a carbon labelling scheme.

Marks and Spencers is converting 50% of its branded products to Plan A products by 2015 and 100% by 2020 by working with suppliers.

The market is moving and suppliers who don’t move it will be at a disadvantage.

The ETS will impose costs but that’s what it aims to do in an attempt to encourage reductions and Sherrard said carbon could be a driver of innovation.

“Globally the food and agriculture sector needs to cut carbon from food production and New Zealand could be a leader in the agriculture sector,” he said.

“There is an opportunity for New Zealand to gain early access to techniques and technology. This will provide market access advantages and branding advantages.”

Farmers had opportunities to reduce exposure to carbon prices by using alternative fuels and when replacing machinery ensuring it was more fuel efficient.

Alternative energy such as solar or biogas could be used. There are also opportunities for efficiency gains in plant and equipment..

Sherrard said that to prepare for the ETS the food and agriculture sector needs to:

* ensure it understands how the ETS works and the associated risks and opportunities.

* engage effectively in the policy process before agriculture comes into the ETS.

* understand the mechanics of carbon pricing.

* ensure there is sufficient investment in innovation.

Individual farms won’t be participants in the ETS but processors will be.

“Markets hate uncertainty. You may not like what’s going to happen but at least we know what’s going to happen and we’re able to assess the risks and opportunities and act on them, ” he said.


Three questions:

25/11/2009

1.Why does the carbon liability for oil falls on consumers when the liability for food falls on producers?

2. Why is New Zealand criticised for our per capita emissions when we export most of what we produce form the animals that produce the bulk of our emissions?

3. Why action which reduces emissions in one place is deemed to be good, even if it leads to an increase in emissions in another place?


More food less carbon

08/10/2009

One of the criticisms of carbon emissions’ policy is the impact on agriculture and the need to increase food production.

Trade and Associate Climate Change Minister Tim Groser discusses this in an article published in the Wall Street Journal.

Reducing agricultural emissions cannot be at the expense of food production, however. To feed the world, food production will need to double by 2050. This is the same time frame in which the science tells us global greenhouse gas emissions will need to be halved if we are to limit global warming to two degrees centigrade. Already the food system is struggling to feed the world’s population, and food security will always take priority over climate-change considerations.

Groser says there are commercial reasons for reducing emissions and that the Global Alliance which New Zealand is promoting could find the answer to growing food without growing emissions.

If it doesn’t any attempts to reduce emissions will have to exclude agriculture because the need for food today will always win against the good of the environment tomorrow.


Smoking bad for environment

22/08/2009

It isn’t news that smoking is bad for human health but now it seems it’s bad for the globe’s health too.

The number of outdoor heaters has increased since smoking inside was banned and environmentalists are concerned about the carbon emissions from them.

 “100,000 homes all using a standard patio heater on average of one hour per week would generate a carbon footprint of approximately 18 000 tonnes, that’s equivalent to a medium-sized car travelling from Auckland to Wellington and back again around 60, 000 times,” says Kathryn Hailes, from Carbonzero programme.

“If these households stopped using their patio heaters cost savings could be potentially around $20 million dollars per annum, that’s a lot of savings that people could keep in their back pocket rather than using to heat the ambient temperature of the neighbourhood,” says Ms Hailes.

But do 100,000 homes all use a standard patio heater for an average of an hour a week?

We have a couple of patio heaters which we use for a few hours a few times a year – less than 10 hours in total.

We use a barbeque a lot more often, though usually for less than 15 minutes at a time.

“What seems very bizarre about them is that we’re busy insulating our houses so that we can minimise the amount of heat that we need to keep warm and here we are burning fuel outside with not even walls let alone insulation heating up the entire universe,” says Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party MP.

Environmentalists say they produce the same volume of climate-changing gases as a speeding truck. They’ve also calculated they consume as much energy as five electric fan heaters on full power.

The European parliament is in the process of banning the outdoor heaters and Australia is wondering about the environmental cost of them.

Here in New Zealand there are no plans for a ban but the energy efficiency and conservation authority says it’s keeping a close eye on developments in Australia.

Jeanette Fitzsimons doesn’t support a ban but says she is concerned about the heater’s carbon footprint. . .

 “It’s a question of personal responsibility of the person using them and that’s one of the things that a price on carbon emissions will start to create as it will raise the price of fuel and then people can decide ‘Do I really want to spend that much on outdoor heating or have I got better things to do with the money and the fuel,’ and for those determined to head outdoors on chilly evenings there’s always the option of putting on another jersey,” says Ms Fitzsimmons.

Personal responsibility and letting people make their own choice based on price is a pleasant change of tone from the Greens which have in the past been more keen on bans.

However, has anyone thought that if people weren’t outside enjoying themselves they might be somewhere else doing something else which caused even more emissions?


Kyoto take 2

24/05/2009

New Zealand was very badly served by the people who negotiated our commitments to reducing carbon emissions under the first Kyoto Protocol.

Trade & Associate Climate Change Minister Tim Groser is doing his best to ensure a better deal, not just for New Zealand but the global environment in the next round of negotiations.

The ODT’s Agribusiness editor Neal Wallace has a comprehensive interview with Groser in which he speaks of the need to include developing countries in future agreements, for scientific solutions to reduce agricultural emissions, and the importance of food security.

He also spoke of the risk to trade:

International climate change and trade liberalisation policies were linked, he said, but equally there could be a distortion in international trade.

A carbon tax or emissions trading scheme imposed in one country could result in carbon leakage, or another country retaliating by imposing tariffs and other trade restrictions, he said.

“Simply, I suspect that those politicians in various countries who today believe there is a simple fix to carbon leakage through unilaterally imposed carbon-tax adjustment do not actually intend to put a time-bomb under the world trading system.

“But there is no doubt in my mind that that is the risk.”

Regardless of whether the climate is changing and human induced emissions are contributing to it, the international politics require us to be seen to be doing our part to reduce them.

At least with Groser in charge, there’s hope that any agreements won’t wreck the economy without helping the environment which is what the original agreement would do.

You can read the interview here.


Do you want a sermon with that?

18/04/2009

A travel company’s blurb on a walking tour of Italy says:

Whilst at your discretion [the company] recommends arriving/departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transport’s minimal carbon emissions.

Is that the end of the sermon, or are they going to recommend that we don’t drop rubbish, eat too much, drink immoderately or do any of the other things which might impact on the health of the planet or ourselves?

While one company’s preaching at us, another is making us pay for their penance.

I don’t have a problem with supermarkets, or other businesses, charging customers for plastic bags – there’s a cost to them, someone has to pay, it might as well be the users and if that encourages more people to use reusable bags which in turn reduces rubbish that might be a good thing.

I say might because I don’t know if the total impact of manufacturing and eventually recycling or disposing of reusable bags is actually better for the environment than that of making and recycling or disposing of plastic bags.

But that’s an argument for another time, it’s paying the penance  about which I’m quibbling now.

 Foodstuffs (New Zealand) managing director Tony Carter will only say that it will be making “substantial contributions” to environmental causes, with the majority of the money charged for bags earmarked for this use.

* I’m a little confused by this because it appears customers are being charged extra for something that will be better for the environment and then the company is using the extra money to contribute to “environmental causes”. *

If this is a good policy for bags, why not give the majority of the profits from everything to environmental causes because everything they sell will impact on the environment?

Or, if resusable bags really are so much better for the environment, why not just charge the cost price and let customers choose what to do with the money they save by not having to pay the supermarket extra so they can give it away?

If , however, charging more so supermarkets can donate more is a good thing, why stop there? Why not donate some of the profit from pet food to the SPCA and from anything which doesn’t meet the low fat, low sugar, high fibre prescription for healthy eating to the Cancer Society or Heart Foundation?

Is that any sillier than donating most of the profit from reusable plastic bags to “environemntal causes”?

I don’t have anything against businesses making profits or choosing to give some of those profits to worthy causes, but the idea of charging more than they need to then giving the excess away is a bit too much like a government taking more tax and redistributing it for my liking.

I use reusable bags, at least I do when I remember to take them, and being charged for the plastic ones will almost certainly help me remember them more often.

I don’t have a problem with the user-pays-save-the-planet policy, it’s turning it into a mission I question.

Businesses should do what’s best for them and, like all of us, minimise their negative impact on the environment while they’re doing it.

But they can keep the sermons and if they choose to pay a penance, they need to understand they’re not doing us any favours by charging us more to let them do it.

Lou Taylor at No Minister  reckons retailing is a bloodsport and:

The retailers who survive are the ones who can evolve with the times, control their overheads and are prepared to accept lower profits from time to time.

They might also be the ones that forget the sermons and don’t expect us to pay their penance.

P.S. Apropos of reusable bags, Liberty Scott shows the Greens don’t get the idea of choice.

* I was confused, this policy applies to plastic bags not resuable ones.

UPDATE: The Visible Hand in Economics posts on industry based solution vs regulation

UPDATE 2: Poneke has made a welcome return and posts on a related matter: indulgences we can do without.


NZ’s eco footprint 6th biggest

29/10/2008

WWF reckons New Zealand has the 6th biggest ecological footprint  in the world.

The WWF calculations include carbon emissions from the production of imported goods and services and shows that Kiwis’ use of natural resources is excessive.

Do most of those carbon emissions come from animals?

And do these natural resources include the water and grass for the animals which produce the milk and meat to feed to people in countries which aren’t able to produce their own as efficiently – in environmental and economic terms – as we do?

And if so, how do we go about reducing our ecological footprint without ruining our economy; increasing ecological footprints in other countries who increase their production to compensate for the reduction in ours; and adding to the world wide shortage of food?


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