Rural round-up

August 14, 2017

“Parallel Parker” Needs to Do A Better Job of Lining Up Labour’s Water Policy:

Federated Farmers wants Labour to honour the commitment it made to only look at charging overseas-owned water bottlers and to permanently park its discriminatory tax on water that will divide communities and undermine regional economies.

On 21 June this year, then Labour leader Andrew Little told the Federated Farmers national conference, in front of the media, that they were not going to tax water across the board – just look at water bottling. When news reports on this started to come out, Labour changed its tune.

At the beginning of this week Mr Parker was telling us it would apply to “large commercial users”, but now, and the end of the week, we hear it won’t apply to the very large companies putting water in bottled products right now in central Auckland. . . 

Labour could have knocked the water debate out of the park; But the economics of its royalties policy just don’t work; Let’s hope they get some nationalistic headlines out of it before questions are asked – Alex Tarrant:

Labour this election had the opportunity to knock the water pricing debate out of the park. Jacinda Ardern’s announcement Wednesday was instead a nod to politics over policy.

On the face it, the headline announcement that all commercial water users would be charged based on usage was a welcome addition to the water allocation and pricing debate in New Zealand this year.

But going beneath the surface throws up more questions than answers. These mainly stem from the policy’s central theme of different royalty rates applying to different water users, and depending on the quality of water used.

I made my views clear on this issue back in March. Let’s have a proper water pricing debate that encompasses all water use. We also need clarification on who owns water before we go about charging for it. . . 

Govt sets out path to better freshwater:

The Government’s new National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater Management will deliver cleaner lakes and rivers with ambitious new targets for improving their recreational and ecological health, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“The new policy confirms the Government’s national target of 90 per cent of rivers and lakes being swimmable by 2040. The policy has been strengthened following consultation by requiring regional councils to set regional targets and regularly reporting on achieving these. This ambitious plan will require 1000km of waterways be improved to a higher grading each year. It is being supported by new national environmental regulations governing activities like fencing stock out of waterways and forestry. . . 

Farmers welcome support to improve environment:

The Government’s announcement of $44 million to support freshwater improvement projects is welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor says that over the past two years, in particular, the organisation has responded to farmer demand for support in the environment space. “Through this work, we’ve identified that – while farmers want to take action – knowing where to start and what to prioritise can be a barrier.

“This government funding is timely and will help us better support farmers to deliver on their water quality ambitions.” . . 

California crops rot as immigration crackdown creates farm worker shortage – Chris Morris:

Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.

Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News.

The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage. The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here. . .

Collaboration essential for sustainable dairy farming:

If a future in sustainable farming is to be achieved in the coming years, companies in both the private and public sector need to be working both faster and more collaboratively, says dairy farm investment company Fortuna Group.

Southland-based Fortuna Group, along with Dairy Green, are the innovators at the forefront of New Zealand’s methane recovery system.

While there are other methane recovery plants in New Zealand, the partnership’s plant at Glenarlea Farms in Otautau is the only one that is consistently and reliably generating electricity from methane.  . . 

Lower fruit prices bittersweet due to high vegetable prices:

Fruit prices fell 5.2 percent in July 2017, contributing to a 0.2 percent fall in food prices, Stats NZ said today.

Cheaper avocados and strawberries led the fall in fruit prices in July. Avocado prices fell 29 percent in July, coming off a near-record high in June, and strawberry prices fell 23 percent. The average price for a 250g punnet of strawberries was $5.92 in July 2017, compared with $7.71 in June.

“Strawberries are unseasonably cheap for this time of year,” consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh said. “They typically reach their lowest price in December, but are currently dropping in price due to more imports from Australia.” . . 

NZ wool sale volumes rise at double auction across North, South islands  – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – A higher volume of wool was sold at auction in New Zealand this week after organisers skipped a week and held a double auction across both islands.

Some 80 percent of the 15,054 wool bales offered at auctions in Napier in the North Island and Christchurch in the South Island were sold yesterday, AgriHQ said. That’s ahead of the 72 percent clearance rate for the 2016/17 season which ended June 30, and the average 77 percent rate for the first six weeks of the current season. . . .

Sanity prevails over proposed animal manure imports says Feds:

Sanity based on sound science has prevailed says Federated Farmers after the Government confirmed it would no longer be permitting imports of products containing animal manure.

The decision follows a Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) investigation which discovered imported compost from the Netherlands, intended for mushroom growing, contained animal manure.

“This is the right decision and we are glad the Government has taken this step. Federated Farmers made a strong submission earlier in the year against these imports,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson. . . 

Synlait Invests in Category Management to Target Growth:

Synlait Milk is investing in category management capability to support increased business development in existing and new categories.

“Building discipline in category management is a crucial step in our pursuit of profitable, and sustainable, growth opportunities,” says John Penno, Synlait’s Managing Director and CEO.

“We’re here to make the most from milk. Category management will allow us to continue planning our growth into the most profitable categories, products and customers, and to monitor our progress against those plans.” . . 

Fonterra hailed as top NZ co-op:

Fonterra has been judged New Zealand’s top co-operative business of the year, and praised for a “stunning financial turnaround, generous social responsibility programmes and a high profile campaign proudly proclaiming its Kiwi farmer-owned, co-operative status”. 

The sector’s peak body Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ) made the award at a function in Auckland last night.

Shareholders’ Council Chair Duncan Coull, who collected the award, says our farmers should take real pride in this special recognition for their co-op.

“Our farmer shareholders set themselves high standards, and it’s their daily hard work and commitment that drives the success of the co-op. I also want to recognise the energy and contribution of our staff in helping build a co-op that returns such value to shareholders, local communities and the New Zealand economy.”  . . 


Labour wants consent to farm

August 12, 2017

Labour’s water tax policy holds a sting in its tail:

Farmers and horticulturalists face the prospect of resource consents if they want to make a shift in land use under a Labour government.

Buried in Labour’s water policy announcement was its intention to dump the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management and replace it with a policy based on recommendations made by Environment Court judge David Sheppard in 2010.

Sheppard’s recommendation was any increase in farming intensity including more livestock, irrigation or fertiliser would no longer be permitted under the Resource Management Act unless a resource consent was obtained.

That suggestion was shelved by National when it instead opted for the policy statement on freshwater management now in play.

Federated Farmers water spokesman Chris Allen said he was surprised to learn about the resource consent provision in Labour’s policy, which had less profile than the water royalty charges mooted.

“But take that along with the water charges and they have just added another level of burden and cost on producing food in this country.

“It would seem the $18 cabbage will become more of a reality.”

He also challenged the costs the consent conditions would bring.

“This will require a significant increase in the number of people skilled to work in this area of consenting.

“Even here just in Canterbury right now we cannot get enough of those people, let alone throughout NZ.”

He said Labour’s water package taken in its entirety should have all New Zealanders concerned. . .

Water New Zealand has joined the critics of the policy:

. . . “It is only fair that some of the profits from the taking of water are returned to communities to help restore degraded water quality,” says Chief Executive John Pfahlert.

But it’s not fair that people who are already doing everything they can to protect and enhance waterways and in areas where there aren’t quality problems should pay for clean-ups elsewhere.

In principle it acknowledges the value of water and its huge contribution to our economic security and way of life.”

He says he can understand why voters would be attracted to policies that include charging big commercial users such farmers who rely on irrigation and water bottling companies. But he believes a fairer approach would be to charge everybody who uses water.

“Why target farmers and water bottlers and not industrial and domestic users in order to ensure that water is used efficiently across all sectors?”

John Pfahlert says it is important that there is a consistent approach to any policy on water and water pricing and not a knee-jerk response to opinion polls.

He says although publicly appealing, this policy raises many difficult questions.

“Currently the Government’s view is that nobody owns water. This policy takes the view that everybody owns the water.

“This shift in ownership status would raise questions of the rights of Maoridom who could legitimately claim a share of ownership under the Treaty of Waitangi.”

John Pfahlert says there are also questions around the mechanisms that would be used to impose a charge on water consent holders and irrigators.

“It would probably mean there would need to be retrospective legislation and this would raise many fish hooks for farmers and for the government.”

Massey University agribusiness expert Dr Jame Lockhart says the policy is the wrong solution to the wrong problem:

Dr Lockhart says the policy has been borne out of unsustainable growth by the dairy industry and foreign-owned bottling plants exporting water at no cost and creating little, if any, benefit to New Zealand.

“There is no doubt that some of our waterways have degraded with the intensification of land use,” he says. “This is due to many things – water extraction for irrigation, reducing flow levels, is only one. But if these are the problems that Labour is trying to solve, then the policy cabinet is full of tried and true methods to rectify them.”

He says the impact on farmers will be immense, especially those in regions where water supply is at risk, including the Heretaunga Plains, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury in particular and North and Central Otago.

“If this tax, and it is a tax, is at the levels being mooted, there could be as much as $500-600 billion to be paid by irrigation users, including vegetable growers, vineyards, and orchardists. Agriculture and horticulture is being asked to bear the entire burden for the nation’s water use and the degradation of its waterways.” . . .

The policy also raises questions over property rights and Treaty claims.

“Due to the abundance of water in New Zealand, we have not assigned value to it in the way we should. That means New Zealand has built an agricultural and horticultural sector around water being free, while the volumes used are regulated to some extent, all the costs to date are around access and application, such as storage, pumping and distribution.

“So, if a business has its own harvesting and storage, does it pay the same royalty as a business that takes artesian groundwater or surface water? At that point some fundamental property rights are being removed from those who have invested in their own systems.”

He says the thorny issue of who owns water in New Zealand has, until now, been something that successive governments have tried to avoid.

“Who owns water in New Zealand? Right now, Labour is saying that if they become government they do. At that point, water ownership becomes highly contestable and immediately opens the door for another round of Treaty claims.”

There are also anomalies in the policy, Dr Lockhart says, including during periods of drought.

“Labour appears to be offering some leniency during drought events so when water has the most value to the agricultural and horticultural sectors, and the environmental consequences are greatest, the tax will be either lowered or removed completely. That shows it is not an environmental issue they are trying to solve at all.

“Labour is boldly going where no government has gone before – but this is looking largely punitive as opposed to being a deliberate effort to restore the quality of our waterways.

“The policy simply has not been thought through as anything other than a vote gathering exercise. Our tax system should not be built on the principle that someone has to do worse for you to do better.”

This is echoed by the Taxpayers’ Union:

Labour’s Water Tax policy is quickly becoming the laughing stock of public policy circles with parallels being made to its infamous 2014 NZ Power policy – which, ironically, saw the very industry which escapes the Water Tax whacked with an economic gorilla.

Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union says, “Three week’s ago, if Andrew Little got up and announced a new water tax, but couldn’t answer how much it is, he’d have been laughed off the stage”.

“How can Labour credibly protest against industry claims that cabbages will cost $18 and grocery bills will sky-rocket when they can’t put a single number next to their policy?”

“As much as NZ Power was laughed at, at least David Cunliffe had some numbers.”

Minister for Primary Industries said the policy is like sending farmers a blank invoice.

Labour has little understanding of farming and very few MPs outside Auckland and Wellington.

Perhaps that’s why they haven’t joined the dots between the profitability of farming and those who service and supply the industry, nor between the costs of food production and the cost of food.

 


Rural round-up

August 10, 2017

Farmers to Labour: “Tell Us Your Numbers”:

Federated Farmers’ challenge to Labour is: “Tell us what numbers you have in mind.”

Labour yesterday announced proposals for a tax on water for large commercial users, including farmers who rely on irrigation water, but in the absence of detail some eye-watering numbers in the billions of dollars have been floated.

Federated Farmers water spokesman Chris Allen said the pledge to consult with those affected if Labour is part of the new government is appreciated, but it still means voters are sailing blind into the election. . .

Seven farm tests show  no disease – Sally Rae:

The first test results from seven of Van Leeuwen Dairy Group’s farms have returned negative for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The bacterial disease has previously been confirmed on two VLDG properties in the Waimate district, the first time the disease had been detected in New Zealand.

In an update yesterday, response incident controller Eve Pleydell said two further rounds of testing would be required on those seven farms before they could be declared free of the disease. Results were pending for the remaining seven VLDG properties.

Good progress was made during the weekend, as laboratory teams continued to test thousands of milk and blood samples from VLG farms and neighbouring properties, Dr Pleydell said. . . 

‘No evidence’ imported frozen semen cause of mycoplasma outbreak:

Key points
MPI has confirmed no evidence that of resistance to mycoplasma in imports of bovine semen.
World Wide Sires – marketing arm of the largest dairy farmer owned cooperative in the world Select Sires/Accelerated Genetics – reinforce all bulls and semen free of the disease.

The New Zealand arm of the largest dairy farmer owned cooperative in the world – and one of the globe’s major semen companies – is pleased MPI has confirmed there is no evidence that resistance has developed to mycoplasma in imported bovine semen*. . . 

Horticulture election manifesto asks for land and water protection:

Horticulture New Zealand has launched its 2017 Election Manifesto with five key priorities for the new Government, to be elected on 23 September.

“Keeping unique growing land and having sensible policies around access to water are critical to New Zealand’s ongoing supply of safe, healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“One of our main asks for a new Government will be a food security policy for New Zealand. This may sound redundant in such an abundant land, but there are a host of challenges to our food supply including urban encroachment on unique growing land, emotional battles over water, changing weather patterns, access to enough people to grow and harvest our food, and increasing border traffic meaning more potential biosecurity risks. . . 

New national standard for plantation forestry:

A new nationwide set of environmental rules for managing New Zealand’s 1.7 million hectares of plantation forestry will better protect the environment and deliver significant savings in compliance costs, Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith and Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston say.

“Forestry is New Zealand’s third largest primary industry but its efficiency is hampered by the confusing mix of planning rules across New Zealand’s 86 councils. The strength of this national approach is that it will better protect the environment while also improving the productivity of the forestry sector by applying consistent environmental standards to reduce operational costs,” Dr Smith says. . . 

What’s gone wrong with New Zealand farming? – Glen Herud:

New Zealanders were once proud of our farming heritage. But at some point, as agriculture intensified and started spilling into our other source of pride, our clean green image, trust was lost, writes GLEN HERUD.

To the general public, it looked like farmers were getting greedy.

But like Auckland housing, farming has changed from an every man’s game. And the answer is not to tweak the regulations or adjust nitrogen inputs with new technology. These are both fine. The answer is a whole new system.

The number of dairy herds in New Zealand is decreasing but the size of each herd is increasing.

A graph from Dairy NZ shows that in 1986 there were 16,000 dairy herds with an average herd size of 140 cows. Today we have 11,500 herds with an average herd size of 420 cows. . . 

The great food disruption: part 4 – Rosie Bosworth:

Milk without the cow, meatless burgers that bleed, chicken and shrimp made from plant matter, and now foie gras without a force-fed goose in sight. A new food revolution enabled by science and biotech is brewing and, if it succeeds, animals will have little to do with the future of food. For some, that future looks rosy, but, as Dr. Rosie Bosworth writes in part three of a series, the implications for New Zealand’s agricultural sector could be less than palatable.

Tyson Foods – one of the biggest meat producers in the world – sent its principal scientist, Hultz Smith, to the Modern Agriculture Foundation’s Cultured Meat and Path to Commercialisation Conference in Israel this year to learn from the world’s top-tier cellular agricultural and tissue engineering scientists, researchers, academics and industry leaders. A proponent of cellular agriculture, Hultz even openly supports cultured meat research, viewing it as a viable substitute to current meat production and one that gives consumers a broader choice. And in late 2016 the company launched a $150 million venture fund zeroing in on the alternative protein – including cellular agriculture – space. “This fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food,” said Monica McGurk, Tyson executive vice president of strategy, at its launch. . .

Australia’s Capilano Honey profits bolstered from capital gain in asset sale to Comvita JV – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Australian honey maker Capilano Honey’s joint venture with Comvita has had an immediate, if unrealised, benefit for the Queensland-based company’s bottom line.

The two honey companies teamed up last year to create Medibee Apiaries in Australia to produce Leptospermum honey, commonly known as manuka, for medical and natural health products. In July last year, Capilano realised a capital gain of A$2.1 million following the sale of its manuka beekeeping assets into the joint venture with no tax attributable to the capital gain on the asset sale, it said. The total assets it sold into the joint venture were worth A$9.2 million. . . 

PGG Wrightson full-year profit gains 5.7% as lower debt costs offset stalled revenue growth –  Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson posted a 5.7 percent gain in full-year profit, meeting its guidance, as the rural services company benefitted from lower interest costs, offsetting stalled growth in revenue.

Profit rose to $46.3 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from $43.8 million a year earlier, the Christchurch-based company said in a statement. Sales fell to $1.13 billion from $1.18 billion. . . 

Young Grower of the Year decided next week:

The winner of the New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower and four regional Young Fruit Grower winners will compete next week for the national title Young Grower of the Year 2017.

On August 16 and 17, at the Sudima Airport Hotel in Christchurch, the five finalists will test their horticultural skills and knowledge. This year’s entrants are:

New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2017 – Scott Wilcox, Pukekohe
Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower 2017 – Jordan James, Whakatu
Central Otago Young Fruit Grower 2017 – Ben Geaney, Waimate
Nelson Young Fruit Grower 2017 – Ralph Bastian, Appleby
Bay of Plenty Fruit Grower 2017 – Erin Atkinson, Te Puke . . 


One week two taxes

August 10, 2017

It’s just over a week since Jacinda Arden took over as leader of the Labour Party and she’s already announced two new taxes.

The first was a fuel tax :

The Labour Party might have changed its leaders but where it wants to take New Zealand hasn’t changed, National Party Campaign Chair Steven Joyce says.

“By resurrecting a decade-old idea of charging Aucklanders another tax it’s now clear why they had to abandon the “fresh approach” line,” Mr Joyce says.

“Regional Fuel Tax was Labour Party policy back in 2007 and it has been rejected by voters many times since then. It’s about as tired as R&D tax credits.

“Labour would make Aucklanders pay at least another 10 cents a litre every time they fill up their tank and that’s just for starters. That would have a real impact on the cost of living for hard-working Aucklanders.

“And it would probably spread around the country. Last time around, Wellington and Canterbury were lining up for regional taxes too. There is also no national price so fuel companies could easily transfer the cost to motorists around the country.” . .

The second is a water tax.

 A Labour-led government would implement royalties for bottled water, irrigation schemes and other commercial uses, leader Jacinda Ardern told the Environmental Defence Society’s annual conference in her first major policy speech on environmental policy since becoming party leader last Tuesday.

Drinking water, stockwater for farms, and ‘non-consumptive’ uses such as hydroelectricity generation would not face the charges, which would be set following a national conference of affected industries and water users within the first 100 days of the new government, Ardern said. . .

What happens when irrigation water is also used for stock?

Why is water for stock to drink seen as a more virtuous use than water to grow grass for stock to eat?

Farmers are understandably worried:

Pledges from Labour to consult on a “proportionate and fair” royalty for irrigation water have eased the concerns of farmers – but only by a tiny margin.

They remain terrified by the potential impacts on farming families, rural communities and the entire economy.

Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen said consultation is welcome “but talking won’t allay the fears of farmers of where this could go”.

The Federation remained opposed to any royalty on irrigation water, especially when it remains unclear what purpose it would serve, other than adding another tax.

“At least Labour appears now to be proceeding with caution, recognising the considerable risks. They’ve promised that if they are part of a new government, deciding the levels of any royalty on commercial use of water will be preceded by consultation.”

Mr Allen said the 10 cents a litre figure some had bandied around would bankrupt farmers and cripple our export competitiveness and regional economies. Even one thousandth of that figure, if that’s a level Labour has in mind, would be “eye-watering” given the volume of consumptive water use.

“With any royalty, farmers and growers would have little choice but to pass on the extra cost, if they could, meaning New Zealand consumers would pay more for food, and our products would be at a disadvantage against imports.”

Farmers recognised some positives in the Labour policy announcements. They would applaud that riparian planting would qualify for carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme, “but we hope this is not a hint of a policy announcement to come on including animal emissions in the ETS”.

And the idea of activating young people who are out of work to join water quality improvement projects is worthwhile.

“That will get young people out on the land and more familiar with the farming sector, and they’ll get to experience – and help with – the large amount of environmental enhancement work farmers are already doing.”

But the whole exercise of adding a new tax on water, even if the revenue is shared with regional councils for water quality work, “is counter-productive, and a money-go-round with administration costs added in.

“Farmers are working hard to live within the limits imposed by environmental standards and the desire by all New Zealanders – farmers included – to clean-up water quality hot-spots.

“Adding an extra cost in the form of a water tax drives a perverse incentive for farmers to intensify their activity, and deprives them of income that at worst puts them out of business and at best leaves them with less money to spend on environmental protection work.”

Labour has pledged to consult, and Federated Farmers would take that opportunity, Mr Allen said.

“If we can get round a table with them, we’ll be able to talk them through all the downsides of what they’re proposing in a rational way. This needs to be done without the distraction of a general election.”

Federated Farmers believes an important principle is that if there’s to be a charge for commercial use of water, it should be paid by all, with no room of discrimination.

“If you’re going to be stupid enough to bring this in, it’s got to be fair.”

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said Labour’s proposal to introduce a water royalty for commercial water users would be difficult and require extensive consultation around the regions.

. . .“Within a farming business, just like any business, commercial water rates already apply. Our farmers also pay for access to irrigation, and access to water on their land through council consents. Water royalties could potentially duplicate these costs.

“Labour earlier hinted that such a levy wouldn’t result in a cost increase for farming, but without a robust conversation about how their water royalty policy will work we can’t know exactly how this would affect dairy farmers.” . .

Horticulture NZ says “Let’s not do this“:

“Extra costs on growers of fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables will make healthy food more expensive,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“This seems incongruous with policies around alleviating poverty and the benefits of healthy eating to reduce the economic burden of secondary health issues as a result of obesity.

“Horticulture New Zealand supports sound, consistent water policy to support efficient use of water and we have issued our own such policy (available here).

“But we do not support a blanket tax without due consideration of New Zealand’s water priorities as a nation. These priorities must include water for drinking, sanitation and food production.

“Today’s statement does not provide sufficient detail about Labour’s intentions, which should be made clear prior to the election. We don’t feel it is enough to say that if Labour forms the next Government, there will be a conversation about water within the first 100 days.

“There is already the Land and Water Forum which has been working on the wider issues of water allocation, rights and use for some time.

“Horticulture is a rapidly growing industry, contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of New Zealand. Our vision is healthy food for all forever. We do not want to see the cost of fruit and vegetables grown in New Zealand, supporting local economies and providing jobs, pushed up higher than the cost of imported or processed food. We do not believe the long-term outcomes from a blanket water tax would benefit New Zealanders.”

The Taxpayers’ Union says a water tax shouldn’t pick and choose:

“Picking and choosing who pays what ‘water tax’ and changing the tax rate based on its use, is economic silliness,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union

“In principle, a case can be mounted for charging users of water. However, Labour’s proposal seems more focused at the users, than the actual use.”

“If Labour is genuine in charging a ‘fair’ amount for water, why hasn’t it backed tradable permits for water? That’s a far more efficient, fair, and environmentally beneficial system than royalties payable by some users.”

“Jacinda Ardern comparison to royalties on oil and gas is a bit silly. Labour’s water royalty policy is akin to saying, they’ll charge oil drillers if the oil is used to make asphalt, but not if it’s used for plastics. Our point is that a water royalty should treat industries the same – rather than pick and choose.”

“The most disappointing thing about today’s announcement is that it’s really just another tax on business and entrepreneurship.

With the Treasury swimming in money, Labour should be explaining how it will lower the tax burden to get Kiwi businesses ahead – not saddling industry with even higher tax bills.”

Taxing water for bottling will be popular with voters even though a tiny amount of available water is involved and there’s a danger of it being regarded as an export tariff.

But why tax water for bottling unprocessed but not the water that is processed into beer, wine and other beverages? Or will the spring water at Speights be taxed too?

Taxing irrigators might be popular in some places until the consequences become apparent – higher costs for milk, meat, fruit and vegetables.

But popular isn’t necessarily good and the water tax is unfairly targeting a small number of businesses, most of which are in Canterbury and Otago.

Most of these will have fenced and planted waterways and already be doing everything else they can to protect and enhance water on or near their farms. It is unfair and unreasonable to take money from them to clean up other people’s messes elsewhere.

It is especially unfair for those of us who have to adhere environmental farm plans which are independently audited each year, where the only problem with nearby water is E.Coli from seagulls and where we pay the costs of water to provide environmental flows in the Waiareka Creek.

Some of the money would go to regional councils the rest would be absorbed into the consolidated fund, to be used for Treaty settlements, where there is no need for it.

The government is forecasting surpluses for years ahead, there is no need for any new taxes unless there are compensatory cuts elsewhere.

The water tax is Labour’s attempt to hide its economic profligacy under environmental camouflage.

Two new taxes in one week prove that the party has a new leader but nothing else has changed including its tax and spend policies.


Hysteria Greenpeace business as usual

June 30, 2017

Federated Farmers says Greenpeace’s report is verging on hysteria:

Federated Farmers is disappointed Greenpeace has resorted to sensationalist rhetoric in a report published today that implies agriculture and related activities are a threat to all New Zealanders’ health.

The report which goes by the title “Sick of too many cows”, is a predictable if not misguided attack on the primary sector- the country’s largest exporter and employer of around 160,000 people.

“This is Greenpeace doing a good job of what they do best – plenty of headlines and hyperbole. Let’s be frank, those claims made about New Zealanders’ health being endangered due to livestock is extreme to say the least, says Chris Allen, Federated Farmers’ Water Spokesperson.

“What’s particularly disturbing is their accusation that irrigation and farming causes cancers and infectious diseases.”

Federated Farmers expects plenty of hyperbole and sensationalism and welcomes an open forum leading into the General Election, but this latest anti-farming rant smacks of desperation.

It leaves little room for constructive dialogue with no concrete language throughout the report.

The Federation also finds it ironic that the Havelock North water contamination outbreak is raised, yet it had nothing to do with dairy farming nor so called industrial farming or irrigation.

We note Greenpeace acknowledges most farmers are working hard to improve their environmental footprint. However, it’s unfortunate they have not researched basic facts about irrigation and proposed schemes.

“For example, those that have signed up to the Ruataniwha scheme are horticultural enterprises, arable and sheep and beef farmers.

“The fact is there are no new dairy conversions amongst the 190 farmers signed up, while only one irrigator will expand an existing dairy farm by a mere 100ha.

“What is also overlooked is that irrigation is crucial for many fruit and horticultural crops, and there is evidence that irrigation can have better environmental outcomes. The majority of dams being built are for community water and security of supply for drinking water alongside irrigation,” Chris said.

Federated Farmers otherwise is proud of all New Zealand farmers’ focus and efforts towards managing the environment.

Dairy farmers had spent over $1 billion in the past five years, which meant 97% of the waterways on New Zealand dairy farms are now excluded from dairy cattle.

Sheep and beef farmers meanwhile have been main contributors to the establishment of QEII covenants, protecting private land for conservation at a real and opportunity cost of $1.2 to 1.4 billion dollars.

“Let’s be clear, farmers are not solely responsible for what is raised in this report. We are taking ownership through seeking solutions and acting on them. Scaremongering the public with extreme claims in an election year, is short-sighted and lacks integrity,” says Chris.

This scaremongering and extreme claims aren’t just for election year.

It’s business as usual for Greenpeace, high on emotion and low on facts.

They forget, ignore or simply don’t know that farmers have a very high interest in good water quality.

Waterways which run through and near farms are the source of drinking water and the playground for farming families.

Ensuring they are clean isn’t just an academic concept or political point-scoring exercise, it’s personal and immediate.


Why’s Labour picking on farmers?

June 28, 2017

Labour is still planning to pick on farmers:

Labour has vowed to charge a royalty on the use of water for farming.

At last week’s Federated Farmers annual conference, party leader Andrew Little appeared to change stance on its election policy held since 2011, which was to charge a resource rental on farmers who use water for irrigation and discharge too many nutrients.

After Little had delivered his speech to the conference, Feds environment spokesman Chris Allen praised him for saying farmers and politicians were “all in this together.”

“I’d like to congratulate you on your environmental policy where you’ve abandoned the idea of resource rentals. It’s not mentioned but I imagine you have actually abandoned it,” Allen said.

In response Little replied: “If you’re talking about the old water policy, yeah that’s not our policy. And we’re not standing on that and you shouldn’t expect to see that.”

On Sunday Labour clarified its position. Little said in a statement that cleaning up rivers so that they were clean enough to swim in was the most important freshwater issue for the election, but it was also fair that a royalty should be charged where public water was used in large quantities for private gain.

“It was reported following my speech to Federated Farmers last week that Labour has abandoned its policy of charging a royalty on farming uses of water. We haven’t.”

“At the conclusion of my speech I was asked about resource rentals which I thought was a  reference to our NZ Power policy of 2014. I replied that we were not continuing with that policy.  I confirmed we would impose a levy on bottled water.  This was in addition to our focus on water quality, which I had already spoken about.

The idea of charging a royalty on bottled water will be popular.

On the face of it, it’s like royalties on gold or oil. But minerals aren’t used by everyone the way water is and imposing a royalty for some users but not all might be problematic.

“The message of my speech was that we will work with farmers on regulatory change and that there is urgency to act on environmental quality and climate change. We remain committed to setting a resource rental for large water take for irrigation at a fair and affordable price,” Little said. . . .

Why pick on farmers?

What’s the difference between farming and other businesses which use water?

Councils use huge amounts of water which is ultimately for private benefit.

Why is using water to produce food and earn export income less of a public good than using water to process food or any other goods, drink, bathe or shower, wash cars, fill swimming pools or any of the myriad of other uses to which town and city water supplies are put?

If improving water quality is the aim, why not target storm water and other urban contaminants too?

Most farmers have put a considerable amount of effort and money into ensuring they are minimising their environmental footprints which includes cleaning up waterways degraded by poor practices in the past and ensuring they’re doing all they can to protect and enhance them.

Some still aren’t up to standard and water policy should focus on those who aren’t doing the right thing, not make the good pay because some are still bad.

 

 

 


Feds 1st female president in 118 years

June 23, 2017

Federated Farmers’ new president, Katie Milne, is the first woman to hold the office.

West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne is the new Federated Farmers’ National President- becoming the first woman in the Federation’s 118-year history to hold the presidency.

Ms Milne succeeds Dr William Rolleston who steps aside after his three-year tenure.

A previous Federation Board member and West Coast Provincial President, Katie was Dairy Woman of the Year and a Rural Woman of Influence in 2015.

She contested the position with Anders Crofoot who was vice-president.

Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard was elected National Vice President while South Canterbury farmer Miles Anderson takes over as National Meat and Fibre chair with Rick Powdrell stepping aside.
Waikato farmer Chris Lewis takes over as National Dairy Industry Chair succeeding Andrew Hoggard.

North Canterbury farmer Lynda Murchison has been elected as one of two Board members at large alongside Chris Allen who was reappointed.

Arable chair Guy Wigley remains on the Board pending next week’s arable sector AGM. . .

Federated Farmers like all voluntary organisations faces challenges with membership but still plays a vital role advocating for the farming industry and rural people.

Feds and its president play a very important role, especially now farmers are such a small minority and the rural-urban gap is widening.


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