Rural round-up

October 18, 2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 30, 2019

Our farmers are better than ‘No. 8 wire’ thinkers – Julia Jones:

The much-used Kiwi phrase ‘No. 8-wire mentality’ has long been considered the way we do things in the farming world, but Head of Analytics at NZX Julia Jones is wondering if its value has now expired.

Yes, “No. 8-wire mentality” is cute, and it’s a little bit funny, but what I hear when people say it is: not asking for help, roughly stringing something together without a plan, a rip-shit-and-bust kind of attitude, a default solution and a broken piece of wire holding something together within inches of its life.

I just don’t see how this is something for us to strive towards for the future; we deserve better than being seen as No. 8-wire thinkers, because we are far more than that. . .

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. Director Chris Garland says morale among the company’s farming clients is as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. . . 

Jigsaw has four families in picture – Annette Scott:

Four families working together presents challenges but equally it’s provided disproportionate opportunities for the Guild clan on High Peak Station, farm operations manager Hamish Guild says. Annette Scott visited High Peak to learn how the pieces of the large farming puzzle have come together. 

High Peak Station is a spectacular 3780 hectare, high-country farm near the Rakaia Gorge in Canterbury.

The Guild family bought the traditional pastoral farming property in 1973, originally running just sheep and beef with deer added in the late 1970s.

It was a case of having to look at a new way of making the property viable.

“Dad (James) and his brother Colin took up farming High Peak, moving from their family cropping farm at Temuka (South Canterbury) when their father, my grandfather Alastair, decided High Peak was for us,” Hamish said. . .

Farmers ‘dead keen’ to improve water practices – council – Alexa Cook:

A group of farmers near Whakatāne are working with the regional council to try and improve water quality by changing the way they farm.

Agribusiness consultant Ailson Dewes has gathered about 15 dairy farmers on behalf of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to understand more about how their farming systems can impact water quality.

Ms Dewes said the group was facing the issue head-on.

“They are sitting around the table, they are exposing all their numbers in terms of the health of their business, their environmental footprint, the way they farm – and they’re saying ‘we realise the way we farmed in the past is not the way we can farm in the future’.

“They are dead keen to solve problems and find new ways to farm with a lower footprint.” . . 

From Canton to Kerikeri: the varied life of Joe Ngan :

Joe Ngan was born in 1932 in a small village near Guangzhou in southern China.

He’s now 87 and lives near his two kiwifruit orchards in Kerikeri, Northland.

But getting to his home of 40 years was a scary and long-winded affair.

When Joe was two, his mother died while giving birth to his sister, leaving Joe and elder brother Sun virtually as orphans. Their father was working in New Zealand. . . 

No four pounds of beef doesn’t equal a transit-Atlantic flight – Frank Mitloehner and Darren Hudsonnk:

A story in The New Yorker came out this week about Dr. Pat Brown, the founder of Impossible Foods. If readers scan the headline and subhead, they’ll get the gist of what author Tad Friend is trying to say: “Can a plant based burger help solve climate change? Eating meat creates huge environmental costs. Impossible Foods thinks it has a solution.”

That’s unfortunate. It might even be dangerous. In the article, Mr. Friend writes that Every four pounds of beef you eat contributes to as much global warming as flying from New York to London – the average American eats that much each month.

If only. . .


Rural round-up

September 16, 2019

Farmers despair :

Rising stress levels among farmers struggling to digest a deluge of regulatory changes while weathering constant attacks by critics, have community leaders worried.

BakerAg director Chris Garland says morale is as low as he has ever known it and he is seeing experienced, stoic farmers burst into tears, worn down by constant public attacks on the industry while trying to comprehend the impact of new rules.

He is worried about the mental wellbeing of farmers, a view shared by the heads of several rural support trusts.

Rural Support’s national chairman Neil Bateup says demand for help in his region of Waikato has increased. . . 

The increasingly uncompromising Todd Muller – Alex Braae:

National’s new agriculture spokesperson finds himself in one of the party’s most important portfolios, at a time of dramatically increasing tensions in the sector. Will Todd Muller, a man regularly mentioned as a future leader contender, find common ground?

Todd Muller’s obsession with politics began with an American encyclopaedia, which his parents bought from a door to door salesman in 1979. 

The long biographies of US presidents jumped out at him. He copied their signatures, and drew pictures of them. In time, Muller even came to write a book about his future political dreams. 

“The short synopsis is that I go to America when I’m about 21, I become the vice-president of the United States when I’m 28, and then of course some tragedy befalls the president, and I become the president. And I serve as the United States president for 13 consecutive terms.”  . . 

Data and science do the work – Neal Wallace:

The topography of The Ranch in south Otago is steep to rolling hill country but it is managed and performs like an intensive breeding and finishing farm. Farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson tell Neal Wallace much of the performance comes down to decisions based on science and data.

The impact of data on agriculture has been reckoned to be comparable to that of fertiliser.

The challenge is to decipher that volume of data about farm performance and parameters into a workable form and that is where south Otago farm managers Maurice and Renee Judson have an ace up their sleeve.

The farm is owned by Canterbury-born Lincoln University-trained lecturer and plant physiologist Dr David Ivory who has spent about 30 years working for the United Nations on sustainable agricultural programmes around the world and his wife Wichanee. . . 

Let’s get behind our rural community – Kerre McIvor:

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a column calling for there to be a Cockietober – a month to celebrate farmers and their invaluable contribution to the economy.

I felt, back in 2017, that farmers had got a rough ride during the election campaign, and that farmers were getting it in the neck unfairly. They were being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact that city dwellers are letting literal and metaphorical crap flow into their harbours and rivers. They were being told how to manage their stock by people who’d never set foot on a farm. They were told they didn’t pay their workers enough, they were being told they were destroying the planet by providing milk and meat for consumers, they were told they mistreated their animals.

I thought things were bad two years ago. But it appears things have got much, much worse.

In an open letter to the nation, BakerAg, a rural business consultancy firm, has called for people to get in behind our rural community. . . 

Sheep water ban stuns farmers – Colin Williscroft:

Farmers have been broadsided by a rule in a proposed regional council plan that will cost some of them $1 million each.

Greater Wellington Regional Council’s proposed Natural Resources Plan includes sheep among stock to be excluded from waterways throughout the region, including hill country, a rule neither farmers nor the council saw coming.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham said the rule was not raised during the plan’s hearings process.

But the proposal is unworkable. . . 

Launch of the New Zealand Agritech Story:

New Zealand has a new story to tell, one that highlights the nation’s ingenuity, development of cutting-edge technology, and care for its people and place.

The New Zealand Agritech Story provides a compelling way of promoting New Zealand’s agricultural technology internationally, to build awareness and preference for New Zealand solutions and ultimately help more New Zealand agritech businesses succeed on the world stage.

The NZ Agritech Story, launched today, includes a comprehensive suite of free promotional materials that highlight New Zealand’s leading edge in the sector.

Peter Wren-Hilton, the executive director of Agritech New Zealand, said the story would make a key difference for export companies. . . 

Brazil’s fires and biofuels – Jim Steele:

From leaf cutting ants that cultivate fungus gardens to flowers that fool potential pollinating insects into having sex, the magic of rainforest ecology always inspired my love for nature’s creativity. So, it’s no surprise that any and every report of burning rainforests would rally deep concerns across the globe. Nonetheless I am disturbed by dishonest gloom and doom regards recent Amazon fires. NASA reports since 2003 the square kilometers of forest burned each year has dropped by roughly 25 percent. But such good news doesn’t get headlines.

Although the NY Times wrote the fires have no climate connection, meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who writes numerous catastrophic climate articles for Slate and the New York Times, suggested the fires show, “We are in a climate emergency”. As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years, but Holthaus dishonestly tweeted, “The current fires are without precedent in the past 20,000 years.”

To heighten global hysteria, French president Macron and actor Leonardo deCaprio, tweeted photographs of forest infernos. But those photos were taken 20 years ago. Likewise, Madonna tweeted wildfire photos taken 30 years ago, and others tweeted flaming photos from regions far from the Amazon.

Activist vegetarians denounced meat-eaters for deforestation, arguing forests are burnt to create pastures for cattle. But they failed to mention pastures previously created for grazing without deforestation, are now being usurped by biofuel cultivation. Indirectly, it’s the biofuel fad that has driven cattle grazers to carve out new pastures in the rain forests. . . 


Rural round-up

September 14, 2019

Farmers feeling victimised by current government:

Farmers feel they are being dragged through the mud as continued environmental regulations are imposed on the sector.

An open letter has been sent to the Prime Minister this week asking for more consideration for the rural industry.

The letter says the Government’s approach to environmental policy is undermining the mental health and well-being of the pastoral sector . .

Govt freshwater proposals a blunt instrument for complex water problems:

The meat industry says the Government’s freshwater proposals represent a blunt instrument for complex water problems.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said they generally welcomed the proposal for processing plants to have a Risk Management Plan for wastewater discharges into waterways.

“Under resource consent requirements, processing sites already have similar plans in place.” . . 

Foreign buyers circle dairy debt – Nigel Stirling:

Foreign hedge funds have approached the country’s largest rural lender about buying dairy loans the bank wants off its books.

It is understood a large international investment bank has flown in to sound out industry consultants on the potential for buying assets from the big banks, including loans to dairy farmers.

The international interest comes as the Australian-owned banks review their New Zealand operations in light of proposals from the Reserve Bank to significantly increase the amount of capital they must hold against their loans.

Feds plead for rates fairness – Hugh Stringleman:

Rating for revenue gathering by councils based on the salable value of farms is not a true assessment of ability to pay, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says.

“It is a bit like assessing someone’s wealth on the basis of the car they drive,” she said in a forward to Federated Farmers Platform on the 2019 local government elections.

The federation makes no apology for focusing heavily on the cost of local government and how that cost is recovered. . . 

There are 600 jobseekers in Wairoa. Its major employer Affco meatworks wants to hire immigrants :

A leading Wairoa youth advocate hopes the town’s major employer will never have to use imported labour despite lodging an application with Immigration New Zealand for approval to hire overseas workers.

The application has been lodged by Affco Talley, current operators of a plant that has a history in the town dating back 103 years and employs hundreds of workers each year.

It’s opposed by the New Zealand Meatworkers Union, but Wairoa Young Achievers Trust youth service manager Denise Eaglesome-Karekare, who is also the town’s deputy mayor, has a goal to make sure any shortfall in the available labour force is still able to be filled by those in the town. . .

Vegan activists are tormenting farmers into quitting – Tim Blair:

Farms run as much on trust as they run on sweat, long hours and hard work.

By nature accessible and open, farms are not easily secured against destructive forces. That’s where the trust comes in. Farmers trust us not to damage their properties and livelihoods, and in exchange they feed and clothe us.

It’s a win-win social pact. Or at least it was, until the recent rise of militant veganism.

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke last month described the torment caused by vegan and animal liberationist farm invasions. . .


BakerAg open letter on water policy

September 13, 2019

Chris Garland, a director of BakerAG has penned an open letter to government:

The Prime Minister:   Jacinda Ardern

Minister for the Environment:   David Parker

Minister of Primary Industries:   Damien O’Connor

Minister of Health:   David Clark

Dear Ministers

BakerAg NZ Ltd has been providing business consultancy to the rural sector for over 35 years. Morale among our farming clients is now as low now as it was in the Rogernomics years of the late 80s and during the GFC. The difference in those earlier years, is that farmers still felt valued by the NZ public.

This government’s approach to environmental policy is undermining the mental health and well-being of the pastoral sector. Government has contributed strongly toward turning the NZ public against farming, which has had a severe impact on farmers’ self-esteem and on their ability to cope with a rapidly changing policy environment.

As examples, the Zero Carbon Bill and the National Freshwater Policy Statement are having a profound impact on the pastoral industry, which has compounded over a short period of time.

The terms of trade in the sheep and beef sector are some of the most buoyant seen for the last 20 years, yet there is a malaise among these farmers that emanates from a sense of worthlessness. The dairy industry is struggling to recover from a three-year downturn, it’s had the M. Bovis outbreak to deal with and is now seeing a withdrawal of support from the finance sector.

How does the government expect to achieve behaviour change from constituents who are dejected and feel alienated from society? Ministry of Health statistics confirm that mental health in the rural sector has deteriorated significantly over the last five years. The government must understand that its own actions are exacerbating this decline.

It’s a sad situation that some of the governments $1.9 B investment into NZ’s mental health will be needed to counter the impact that this government has had on farmers’ mental state. One of the leading initiatives of the Wellbeing Budget is to “Take Mental Health Seriously.” This Government’s actions are having a negative effect on the mental health of a large section of the community.

Farmers are not environmental vandals. They are a business sector that has found itself at the centre of a maelstrom of environmental concern. Most of these concerns around water quality and greenhouse gas emissions are legitimate. But farmers didn’t set out to deliberately degrade water quality or to produce GHGs. These are unintended consequences of their business activity, which until recent years, had been wholly endorsed by the nation. It took 150 years to get to this position. It will take more than five years to achieve environmental sustainability.

One of farmers’ greatest attributes is that they are problem solvers. Give them a problem and some tools, and they will find a way to fix that problem. It’s this ingenuity that has made NZ farming some of the most efficient in the world. The food they produce is regarded as being of the highest quality throughout the world.

Farmers now recognise that there is a problem with the environmental impact of their activities. They want to fix this. But they are not being given an opportunity to find their own solutions. Instead they have been subject to a relentless dialogue of rhetoric, regulation and rejection.

The farming community has not been recognised for the positive efforts that a great many land owners have gone to mitigate their environmental impact. The negative public view of the sector has been influenced by government dialogue. This is not the way to change behaviour or effect policy.

If this government is genuine about improving mental health and genuine about motivating farmers to address environmental issues in their industry, it should:

  • Give landowners credit for the progress that has already been achieved in environmental management (exemplified by Ballance Environmental Awards competition, the Ahuwhenua Trophy, QE II and Nga Whenua Rahui covenants, and Country Calendar subjects).
  • Acknowledge that there is an environmental conscience in the farming sector.
  • Provide balance in the accountability message: urban, industrial, domestic, pastoral.
  • Acknowledge that the pastoral sector makes a valuable contribution to the NZ economy.
  • Ask the sector how it believes environmental expectations should be met?
  • Give the sector an opportunity to develop and implement its own solutions.
  • Assist in developing tools and methodology.
  • Work with them.

CHRIS GARLAND

Director

On behalf of BakerAg NZ Ltd

www.bakerag.co.nz      

References to the ag-sag of the 80s is not hyperbole.

Our local, The Fort at Enfield, hosted a lunch to raise funds for prostate cancer on Wednesday

. Around 100 people were gathered and conversation kept coming back to how hard it was in the 80s and how much worse what’s being imposed on farming is now.

The changes of the 80s were tough, but necessary and based on economics.

The changes the government is threatening to impose on farming now are tougher and based on emotion not science.

Reports from consultation meetings are making matters worse. MfE has underestimated turnouts so venues are too small and those fronting them aren’t able to answer technical questions.

Comments like this from the Minister for Agriculture don’t help either.

Rather than blaming the messenger he should be listening to the message and trying to understand the very real concerns that farmers and those who service and supply them have.

P.S.

BakerAg produce the weekly AgLetter. You can subscribe to it here.

Jamie Mackay interviewed Chris Garland on The Country yesterday.


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