Rural round-up

March 27, 2018

MPI cattle cull “the right thing” – Jono Edwards:

The  farming industry is viewing a Mycoplasma bovis cull of more than 22,000 cattle as a tragic necessity.

The Ministry for Primary Industries announced yesterday it would begin a cull of 22,332 cattle today on all infected sites after scientific testing and tracing confirmed the disease was not endemic.

It was working immediately with farmers to kill the stock on the 22 active infected properties which still contained cattle, it said.

The disease can cause pneumonia, abortions, lameness and mastitis and can result in the deaths of infected cows. . . 

Sheep goes for $8k at first NZ auction of Beltex ram lambs – Maja Burry:

About 300 people attended the first ever sale of Beltex ram lambs in New Zealand on Friday.

The Beltex, whose name combines Belgium and Texel, are a breed of muscle heavy sheep that have higher meat yield.

Beltex breeder Blair Gallagher said the interest around the inaugural sale, which was held at his mid-Canterbury farm was very positive.

On offer was 16 purebred Beltexes, 20 Beltex-Poll Dorsets, 18 Beltex-Suffolks and 10 Beltex Perendales. . .

Farmers given food for thought – Sally Rae:

Hakataramea Valley farmers have been given some food for thought with the suggestion they could market their products directly to consumers.

The idea was raised by Prof Keith Woodford during a field day at Waikora Station last week organised by the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective.

The collective, set up in 2016, comprises a group of farmers whose aim is to assist and encourage the protection and enhancement of the valley’s environment and promote profitable and sustainable farming practices for future generations. It has been working closely with the New Zealand Landcare Trust, Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, local iwi and the Waimate District Council to ensure a collaborative and cohesive approach. . . 

Thermal imaging reveal Tekapo pests predator – Kathy Guthrie:

When Sam Staley went to the Defence Force’s Tekapo Military Training Area back in 1996 to run the Military Camp and Training Area for a three year stint, one of the tasks at the time was pest control. Today, 22 years later, he’s still there, and so are some of the rabbits, but after two decades of the comprehensive rabbit control operation which Sam initiated, the rabbits are nothing like the problem they used to be on the 19,000 hectare military site.

“The training area is unique,” Sam says. “It’s a very special bit of dirt! It’s probably the most intensively managed, non-grazed piece of high country land in Canterbury. It includes unique and nationally threatened plants and native fauna like alpine weta, rare butterflies and moths and many endangered vertebrates such as the Mackenzie Basin skink.” . . 

Robots are trying to pick strawberries. So far they’re not very good at it – Dan Charles:

Robots have taken over many of America’s factories. They can explore the depths of the ocean, and other planets. They can play ping-pong.

But can they pick a strawberry?

“You kind of learn, when you get into this — it’s really hard to match what humans can do,” says Bob Pitzer, an expert on robots and co-founder of a company called Harvest CROO Robotics. (CROO is an acronym. It stands for Computerized Robotic Optimized Obtainer.)

Any 4-year old can pick a strawberry, but machines, for all their artificial intelligence, can’t seem to figure it out. Pitzer says the hardest thing for them is just finding the fruit. The berries hide behind leaves in unpredictable places. . . 

Dairy farmers plea for help after Dean Foods ends milk contracts –  Sarah Gisriel:

Sixteen percent of the nation’s dairy farms are in Pennsylvania, but that industry is in crisis.

Two weeks ago, life changed for 26 farmers in Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

“I went to the mail, and in it was a certified letter from Dean Foods,” said Alisha Risser, the owner and operator of an 80-cow farm.

The letter told farmers that Dean Foods was ending its contract by June 1, due to a market surplus of milk.

“It’s the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to do in our lifetimes. To get that notice, and your world is absolutely rocked,” said Kirby Horst, of Lynncrest Holsteins. . . 


Rural round-up

March 19, 2018

We need a long cool look at water – Andrew Curtis:

As years go, 2017 was dramatic.

In February, one of the biggest fires in New Zealand history ignited on the Port Hills in tinder dry conditions, causing thousands of residents to evacuate.

In March, the upper North Island was soaked, with Auckland experiencing its wettest March day in 60 years, and over 300 homes were flooded.

July brought flooding to Otago and Canterbury, and snow and strong winds to other areas. . . 

Mix of farming, forestry, engineering keeps McKenzies busy – Sally Rae:

When it comes to thinking outside the square, it would be hard to look past the innovative McKenzie family from Clinton.

Colin McKenzie jokes they have a lot of junk around, but they are incredibly clever at turning that “junk” into all sorts of machinery.

As well as running a large sheep and beef operation, they also do their own forest harvesting, utilising some of their own home-made technology. . . 

Effluent technology set to lift dairy water efficiency – Jamie Thompson:

Nutrient efficiency is vital to Ravensdown as a component of smarter farming — good for the bottom line and the environment.

Water efficiency is now a catch-cry and the dairy sector is being urged to lessen its water ‘footprint’.

Crucial to this challenge is how effluent is managed. Recycling and reusing the nutrients in dairy shed effluent is good practice, showing that dairy farmers are doing the right thing. This comes with a price tag: 70% of dairy farmers’ environmental spending goes on effluent management (see graph). . .

Passion for dairy farming shows through for Canterbury environment award winners:

The Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards have been won by a dairy farming company showing a fantastic level of passion, pride and promotion for its industry. David and Brenda Hislop, Mark Daly and Janet Girvan are partners in Medbury Farm Limited – milking 1240 cows on 442ha at Hawarden.

The awards judges said the partners show strong awareness of farming practices and how they influence the environment. “They show excellent attention to detail to business planning, governance and policies and how that influences and drives the business, as well as great staff and people management.” . . 

Fonterra close to reaching Argentina deal :

Fonterra is close to reaching a deal with Argentina-based dairy co-operative SanCor, according a media report from Buenos Aires.

The Argentine newspaper La Nacion reported that Fonterra was anticipated to finalise a deal with SanCor by the end of this month.

La Nacion, in a translated report, said Fonterra and SanCor would form a new company, of which Fonterra would have 80 to 90 percent control. The remaining shares would stay with the dairy farmers in Argentina. . . 

Education doesn’t encourage creativity’ – Jill Galloway:

The education system does not value creativity enough, says a business commentator.

Chanelle O’Sullivan​ was one of five speakers at a creativity breakfast seminar, one of 10 events being held as part of the Manawatū-hosted Agri Food Week.

Described as an entrepreneur who founded the websites Rural Mums and Virtual Insights, O’Sullivan advised people to not rely on anyone else “as no one is coming to rescue you”. However, people should not feel ashamed of failing. . . 

Four candidates for Silver Fern Farms board :

Conor English, the youngest brother of former Prime Minister Bill English, is throwing his hat in the ring for election to the Silver Fern Farms board of directors.

English is the former chief executive of Federated Farmers who started his farming career at the family farm in Dipton. He is also chairman of Agribusiness New Zealand, a company he founded after leaving Federated Farmers in 2014.

Board members Fiona Hancox and Rob Hewett, and chairman, retire by rotation at the company’s annual meeting in Dunedin on April 18.

Four candidates have put themselves forward for the two available positions on the board. Hancox and Hewett have both advised they will stand for re-election, while nominations have been received for Chris Allen and English. . . 


Rural round-up

September 6, 2017

Ag-tech edge requires boldness – Conor English:

Just as the axe handle allowed the human race to prevail, New Zealand needs to put its mind to discovering the next combination of technologies that is going to keep our country at the forefront of ag and food technology.

That is going to take capital, risk, and some out-of-the-box thinking.  There is much to do if we want to lead the race, writes Conor English.

The axe handle was incredibly important for the human race.

By combining three previously separate elements — a stone, a stick and string — humans invented a tool that gave them leverage and strength to better hunt animals that were faster and stronger than us. . . 

New technologies helping clean up NZ’s waterways:

New Zealand farmers and companies are starting to use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, data analytics and automation to decrease impact on New Zealand rivers, a leading national tech expert says.

In countries, right across the world the IoT devices are being used to help clean up water, New Zealand IoT Alliance executive director Kriv Naicker says.

Irrigation is by far the largest use of water in New Zealand, making up 65.9 percent of water use between 2013 and 2014, the Ministry for the Environment says. . . 

Farmers becoming ‘lepers’ due to cattle disease scare – Gerard Hutching:

South Canterbury and Otago beef farmers are unwitting victims of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis even though testing so far has shown their livestock are free of any traces of the disease.

A farmer who rears calves as dairy support told Stuff he had a contract worth $100,000 for 200 calves cancelled as soon as the buyer heard the animals were being tested.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has indicated these farmers will not be eligible for compensation. . . 

Provisional tax relief at last – Chris Cunliffe:

Provisional tax has long been difficult to get right and expensive to get wrong.

But not anymore: the much-maligned old rules have been put out to pasture.

These assumed farmers and growers could correctly forecast their income tax liability ahead of time, but if their prediction was not spot-on they got slapped by Inland Revenue’s steep interest on top of the underpaid amount.

Now new rules provide greater certainty about payments and reduce compliance costs for businesses who calculate their payments using the standard method. This method means you base your payments on 105% of last year’s income tax liability (or 110% of the previous year’s liability if your return has not been filed). Most taxpayers pay provisional tax this way. . . 

Dunedin produces mastitis diagnostics – Sally Rae:

A Dunedin-based startup has produced a diagnostic test kit to help farmers deal with the costly problem of bovine mastitis.

Mastitis, which is inflammation of the udder, is a major financial burden to the dairy industry, both in New Zealand and globally.

It was predominantly treated using antibiotics and mastitis treatment was the largest single use for animal health antibiotics.

On average, it was estimated to cost about $60,000 a year for an 800-cow herd, and the industry, as a whole, about $280 million.

Mastaplex founder Dr Olaf Bork has been developing products for treating mastitis at the Bayer Centre for Animal Health, before patenting his own research and founding the startup company. . . 

Wet flattens milk curve – Hugh Stringleman:

The extraordinary number of wet days over winter has raised the worry of a repeat spring milk production plateau rather than peak.

Soils in almost all dairying districts were saturated and fine weather was needed to kick-start spring grass growth and milk production.

Dairy farmers in northern provinces had almost completed the extended winter pasture feeding rotation when cows were break-fed the saved autumn pasture growth for 90 days. . . 

Major increase in community conservation funding:

Conservation work in New Zealand will be supercharged by substantially increasing the amount of money available to hard-working volunteer groups, National Party Conservation Spokesperson Maggie Barry says.

“We have a beautiful natural environment, and the efforts of local communities are crucial to protecting our landscape and native species for future generations,” Ms Barry says.

To support these groups, National will more than double the amount of funding available through the Department of Conservation Community Fund, from $4.6 million to $10 million a year. . . 

Spring farm sales upturn expected – Alan Williams:

Winter calving and lambing preparations and rainfall impacts have slowed the rural real estate market but prices have remained firm.

With an increased milk payout and higher beef prices “a quiet air of confidence or perhaps relief is quietly growing with the rural sector”, Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.

Sales for the three months to the end of July were down by 76 to 392 compared to the end of June when there were 459 sales. In the July period last year there were 468 sales. . . 

New Zealand King Salmon fy17 result and dividend exceed expectations:

A combination of operational achievements and a successful market positioning strategy underpins strong growth for New Zealand King Salmon Investments Ltd which today reported its full year result for the twelve months to 30 June 2017 (FY17). The Board affirms the Company’s full year FY18 forecast as presented in its Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) dated 23 September 2016, prepared for its Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Key highlights include:

• Net profit after tax of $22.8 million, up 778% on the comparable twelve month period to 30 June 2016 (FY16) and 125% ahead of the Prospective Financial Information forecast (PFI) . . 

Fieldays reveals post-event survey results and theme for 50th anniversary in 2018

Results from a recent visitor and exhibitor survey has New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays celebrating another successful year as preparations begin for their 50th anniversary event in 2018.

In the survey, 96 per cent of visitors rated their experience of Fieldays 2017 as “good” to “excellent” and 92 per cent of exhibitors said they would exhibit again.

The iconic event, billed as the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, saw a record 133,588 people through the gates – its highest visitor number yet. . . 


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rural round-up

July 7, 2014

From southern farmer to Featherston Street – Gerard Hutching:

One senses Conor English is not the sentimental sort. And yet he confesses to “just about crying” the day he sold a John Deere 1075 Hydro 4 header.

No coincidence, then, that the outgoing Federated Farmers chief executive has a desk littered with models of Massey Ferguson and JD farm machinery.

And although it is about 20 years since he worked fulltime on a farm, he can still wax lyrical over a Massey 188 or a JD 44-40 cropping tractor. Today’s machines, however, are “like 747s” compared to the tractors of yesteryear.

So English knows his way around a farm. Until he arrived in Wellington in the early 1990s, he was in a partnership in Dipton, Southland, near the family farm. . .

Young farmer of the year betters dad’s efforts – Tony Benny:

The winner of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest 2014 grand final David Kidd made history by being the first winner to come from the Northern region in the competition’s 46 year history.

Kidd topped his father Richard’s achievement of coming third in the 1984 final and confessed he’d likely give dad some cheek about their respective finishes.

”Let’s set this as the benchmark for the northern region’s competitor and let’s start a dynasty of northern region chalking up some bolds on the back of that Grand Final programme,” Kidd said after the televised final in Christchurch’s SBS Arena.

With the other six regional finalists Kidd spent Thursday and Friday competing on and off the farm. They had to make a market innovation presentation, sit a written exam, be interviewed, face an HR challenge and give a speech. On-farm competition included hanging gates, cutting up a lamb carcass, welding and splitting firewood. . .

Shearing marathon for cancer – Sally Rae:

Shearing has always been a hobby for Tarras stock manager Cole Wells – but now he had decided to take it one giant step further.

Next year, Mr Wells (28) plans to shear over a 24-hour period – with a break every two hours – to raise money for the Cancer Society, particularly for the research and treatment of prostate cancer.

His goal is to shear between about 750 and 800 crossbred lambs and he has a fundraising target of $24,000, which equates to $1000 an hour. . .

Support needed for dairy hub:

Plans to establish a $26.5 million permanent commercial demonstration dairy farm in Southland need the support of dairy farmers in the region.

”We have one shot to get this right and we need the Southern community behind us, because it is not going to happen without it,” Southern Dairy Development Trust (SDDT) chairman Matthew Richards said.

Mr Richards and project leader Maurice Hardie presented the proposal at an Environment Southland meeting in April. . .

Keen for another crack at TeenAg title – Sally Rae:

Admittedly, there was a little sibling rivalry when the High Country Hillbillies took on the Gumboot Girls – and the rest of New Zealand – in the TeenAg national final.

Holly Malcolm (15) and Ella Sanderson (14), the High Country Hillbillies, and Holly’s sister Georgia (16) and Brittany Caldwell (16), the Gumboot Girls, were representing Aorangi, along with Cody Callaghan and Thomas Yeatman, from Timaru Boys’ High School. . .

Teaching excellence recognised:

Last night, the Prime Minister presented the 2014 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards at a ceremony in Wellington.

Dr Rainer Hofmann, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Lincoln University, was one of the 2014 recipients.  The nomination recognised Rainer’s ability to reach out to his students to establish relevance and to stimulate real interest as their motivation for learning.   His teaching practices start with the relationship – to produce engaged and successful students by providing the environment for them to want to learn, and to flourish.  The subtle techniques used by Rainer ensure each student can enjoy, and benefit from, the learning environment whilst being pushed to achieve their potential – almost without them realising it because they are enjoying the experience.   

“Rainer embodies the concept of attachment-based learning.  His engaging attitude makes learning easy and his masterful teaching promotes deep, enquiring and life-long learning,” said University of Otago Senior Lecturer, Dr Kumari Valentine, in support of Rainer’s nomination.  . .


We don’t care who’s in government

July 7, 2014

Quote of the day:

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

Strictly speaking, he doesn’t mean apolitical, which means not interested in politics, he means not politically aligned.

Federated Farmers is a voluntary organisation which supports and advocates for its members.

It works with governments and political parties on behalf of its members and wider rural community to get the best for them, not to advance any particular political view.

Like other business organisations, and many charities, and unlike most unions, it’s not politically aligned and it’s stronger for that.


For next generation

July 6, 2014

Conor English used his last speech as CEO of Federated Farmers to stress the importance of  keeping up for the next generation: (the bold is mine).

It is a pleasure to be at my final AGM for Federated Farmers. Having spent almost four years in my twenties and six years in my forties, I will not be spending one day at Federated Farmers in my fifties! I technically finish on the 23 July, six years to the day that I started, and then the following day I am lucky enough to turn 50.

There are many things one could talk about on such an occasion, the progress that has been made, the importance of farming families and the rural sector to NZ, but I just want to touch on a few issues and express perhaps a more personal view and take some license.

I was talking to a regional government politician recently, and I asked him if he could look an 11 year old in the eye and say that he was looking after her future with the decisions being made in his region. Reality is he couldn’t. I am of course referring to the Ruataniwha dam. I would qualify this by saying I have not read the final report of the board of enquiry, but my personal view is that this is an unfortunate situation. Hawkes Bay is one of New Zealand’s fantastic regions that has now far less of a future. In simplistic terms the board of enquiry has said you can build the dam but you can’t use the water. In my view unfortunately politics appears to have triumphed over the environment.

We all need to be able to look our 11 year old child in the eye and say that we are looking after their future. The 11 year old girls and boys of Hawkes Bay will now be looking for a future elsewhere. Bad decisions matter.

I am a big believer in trying to make informed decisions. I think it is critical that decisions are made with as many facts as possible. While emotion has its place, decisions need to be made on more than that. Science is very important too, and we need to have objective measures to assist as well. Trade-offs are often required so it’s important we take the time and make the effort to get as informed as possible, so we don’t have unintended consequences. In my view we may not have made fully informed decisions with TAF. So are we making informed decisions on water?

As the father of six children I believe I have as big a stake in the future as everyone else does. I absolutely want a future that sees our environment looked after. Sustainability is a word that is used a lot; indeed Federated Farmers mission is to influence decision makers for more profitable and sustainable farming. I was fortunate enough to represent New Zealand at the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainability a couple of years ago. There were 50,000 people at this conference. I asked as many people as I could what their definition of sustainability was. I got as many answers as the people I asked. In my view it is about being able to do things for generations. That is we need to be able to harvest the environment but not harvest the capital of the environment. Farmers in New Zealand do this every day. If there are some that don’t, they do need to buck up there ideas.

Should we go back to prehistoric levels of biodiversity or other environment indicators? The environment has been changed by human kind and it will continue to do so, but it must be done in a way that does think about future generations. Every New Zealander needs to take some responsibility.

When I look at the issue of water quality, it is puzzling for me because New Zealanders have not had an open and honest discussion about it. There has been far too much emphasis on one element, which is nitrogen, and far too much generalisation about farming, Where has been the examination of the impact of the other things that impact on water quality? A singular focus on only nitrates will mean we end up solving the wrong problem.

There is a river going through the Milton township, and the Otago Regional Council put out a notice that said ‘Please do not swim below the bridge because the e-coli levels are unsafe for swimming’. This was not because of the 28 dairy farms on the catchment but because Milton pumps partially treated sewage into the river. This council however, then chose to put out a further newsletter about a year later calling for public meetings to talk about the impact of dairy effluent storage on water quality. If you had no farms, you still won’t be able to swim because of the sewage situation. We are here in Palmerston North, who apparently has the worst river in the world, really? Is this council investing in its sewage scheme? No I don’t believe it is. Is it talking about dairying being the big polluter? Yes I think it is. Is it solving its own problems? No its not.

My challenge to every New Zealander is that we need to be more up front and honest about these things. My view is until every New Zealander takes responsibility for the impact that they are having on their water quality, and until we have more transparency around the nature of that water quality problem and solutions, we will not make the progress that we need to make.

With issues such as climate change, again it is important that we make informed decisions. It is not good for the global environment to have less farming happening in New Zealand. It is not clear to me how farmers paying someone some money will change the weather. What is clear to me though is that more effort into improving productivity, more effort into innovation, into a collective global effort to look at broader solutions would be practical and useful, as well as more effort into water storage. If you think it is going to get hotter water storage is a useful thing to do. This is why I have been very puzzled by the green opposition to water storage projects. My challenge to them is please explain to New Zealanders how drought is good for the fish, the environment, the economy and society?

I don’t subscribe to the notion that unless you have green in your name you are not green. If that were true, perhaps we should change the name to Federated Green Farmers or FGF. Farmers by the nature of their workplace and what they do are actually the green jobs. Farmers are the ones making decisions at the coalface so to speak, and by and large they do a very good job. As an organisation, Federated Farmers was an instigator in setting up Landcare Research, QEII Trust, tied up with the Balance Awards and more recently has taken over the management of the AgRecovery Trust.

We have done this because the environment matters to farming. People who call themselves “green” could learn a lot from farmers. My challenge to these people is to make the effort. Work with farmers to look for win win practical, fair, economic sensible solutions that actually make a difference in the real world. Please do not just look for some emotional sound bite that’s just about creating fear and raising money for your organisations. Celebrity doesn’t solve environmental problems.

If you do look in the eyes of an 11 year old, one of the things you know with certainty is that the world they will grow up in, in terms of technology, is different to the world when I was 11. This is why I have been extremely passionate about the rural broadband initiative. It is absolutely critical if we want our regions to prosper and to enhance the environment that we have the railway tracks of broadband and cellphone coverage. The world is going mobile.

This government is to be congratulated, that when they didn’t quite have it right they listened to Federated Farmers and changed policy to enable the rural broadband initiative to be far more substantial than what it was going to be. My challenge to this government and future government’s is that there must be far more investment in provincial New Zealand in terms of cell coverage and broadband infrastructure.

Our population is growing but a lot of that growth is in Auckland, which is creating challenges for that city. People will simply not live in the regions unless they can be connected. If the government is going to be involved in these things it needs to prioritise provincial New Zealand. When the RBI initiative runs out, I think its next year at a minimum, then it needs to be continued for another six years.

Also with technology comes new ways of learning and is incumbent on our schools, universities and research institutions to adapt to what I know is a big challenge. I have been on a couple of boards of trustees and I know the teachers in those schools are very good and their hearts are in the right place, but again when we look at the rest of the world we need to ensure that our children can be up with the latest and the greatest in learning techniques if we are to remain competitive with the rest of the world.

As an aside, I would also comment that some of our curriculum needs to be adapted. I asked one of my children what they were covering in their history subjects and it was essentially the same as what I did a decade or two ago. History doesn’t change of course so maybe that’s not so surprising, but the present context in which we study does. In my view, every school in New Zealand should now be looking more east when it studies how other people live and some of the historical events over time. Since I was 11, our trading patterns have shifted dramatically but our curricular hasn’t much. That’s simply not good enough.

I have to say I am very proud of my wife Jo Coughlan who along with Labour MP Raymond Hau is the Co -Chair of New Zealand China language week, amongst other things. This initiative is looking to provide some leadership to not only encourage people to learn another language, but also more about the culture and history of China.

We are part of Asia and we are part of the West. This is a fantastic position to be in.
We are also seeing some other big shifts, as well as the shift from west to east. Demographically on the demand side we are seeing more, older, wealthier people, who can afford to pay more for protein. This is great for New Zealand. The challenge is how do we capture as much of this opportunity for the benefit of New Zealand? However, on the supply side in New Zealand we have a bit of a challenge as the farms are getting bigger and the families are getting smaller.

Succession is an issue. The family farm needs to be exempted from any capital gains tax, just as the family home is proposed to be. We need more human capability, and governments who want to double exports should be prioritising more resources into agricultural and food education.

Speed is increasing and by definition things are happening quicker. In the geo political space the changes taking place in countries such as Ukraine and Iraq seemed to happen extremely quickly. We have seen changes take place right through North Africa, where 40 year old regimes were toppled quickly.

It’s the same in the supply chain, commodity and financial markets. This increase in speed increases volatility and heightens the requirement for us to manage risk. Farmers have incredible risks as they operate in a biological farming system, with weather, exchange rate and international market volatility. There are a lot of variables changing on a daily basis. Farmers need to manage risk more. Federated Farmers plays its part by helping to manage regulatory risk.

My challenge to all farmers is to front up with that crunchie bar a day and financially support your organisation.

Probably one of the most fundamental changes there has been in the last couple of thousand years has been what I have termed a change from people being “readers” to “writers”. For most of my early childhood I read and listened to what my parents or the government told me, or what people trying to sell me things told me. Now however, with capability of the internet and social media, we can write about that. When I book a hotel now I don’t read what the hotel says about themselves, I read what other people have written about it.

This has fundamentally changed some of the relationships in our society and in a way has democratised countries that may not have the traditional traits of democracy. It means that things are more visible, it means that agriculture is more visible. Farmers are on a stage and they need to understand that what they do and how they behave can go global in a very short space of time. This is an opportunity as well as a challenge. Unfortunately we may be defined by our weakest link so all farmers need to get it right.

I was at Alibaba HQ recently and on just one of their platforms, by 1pm in the afternoon, they had transacted over 10 million transactions. That means change.

I could talk all day about change and a few other views I might have but this is my last speech at a Feds AGM, so I actually want to say thank you to a few people.

You cannot be in the role I have been in without having a lot of support from a lot of people. Federated Farmers is a big team effort, and I have always believed that our model of elected farmers working alongside paid professionals is a very powerful and effective one. I hope it continues.

I do want to thank the magnificent staff at Federated Farmers. They are a very dedicated and passionate bunch of people. It has been my privilege to be your boss. I am a huge believer that life is about being happy and successful. I would like to think that the staff feel that way about the contribution they each have made over the past six years. In particular I would like to mention the senior management team and my PA’s that have had to put up with me. They have done a great job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. So thank you.

Farmer engagement is critical to organisations like Federated Farmers, but more importantly it is critical to the running of the country. If New Zealand’s biggest sector does not engage through Federated Farmers and our voice is not heard, then the outcomes for the country would be less than they might be.

It has been hugely satisfying for me to see the calibre of elected people coming into Federated Farmers. As they say, success breeds success. I would like to thank all those office holders and in particular the two boards I have served under over the past six years. I have learnt a lot and I have enjoyed their friendship and stimulation of some, at times tense, discussions on various issues.

It has always been my view that it is unprofessional to expect people to read your mind. My hope going forward is that the farming community will continue to stand up and say what it thinks about issues. Our urban people do actually want to know, and they want to know from the horse’s mouth. I think it is unfair to expect others to know what we are thinking without articulating it. Some of these issues are difficult and are complicated but we need to get the views on the table. We need the contest of ideas. I like people to think. This is why I say some of the things I say from time to time.

My focus has very much been on articulating solutions rather than just problems. You cannot implement a problem. One thing I would say though is while often farmers can focus too much on problems and not enough on solutions, NGO’s can often focus too much on a solution, or a perceived solution without actually analysing the problem. Jumping to solutions isn’t always the smartest thing to do without fully understanding the practical, as well as political, problem. The “least worst outcome” syndrome is one I personally dislike enormously.

In my view, with water quality this is possibly the case. I am very nervous about solutions that would see diffuse nitrates allocated to individual farms and then a cap and trade regime introduced. Overseer as a regulatory tool is a mistake. There is a reason why no one else in the world has done this. I think there needs to be caution when the changes are going to impact the social fabric of rural New Zealand over the next couple of years and the agricultural fabric for the next couple of hundred years.

As well as the staff and elected people of Federated Farmers I do want to thank the membership of Federated Farmers, and all those in the rural community. It has actually been my privilege and pleasure to serve you in the capacity I was so fortunate to have been given six years ago.

Almost finally, I would like to thank the two presidents I have served under, Bruce Wills and Don Nicholson. The relationship between the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Board is absolutely critical and I have been fortunate that most of the time that has been a very good relationship. Yes at times there have been differences, but that is a good thing. It is good to have a contest of ideas, so to Bruce and Don, thank you both for the support and the learnings I have had from each of you.

I would just like to thank my family and in particular my wife Jo. This role can be demanding of your time, especially the cocktail circuit, and Jo I would have to say, has been incredibly supportive and patient and I want to publicly acknowledge her for that. She is amazing and she deserves me, so I am happy for her on that score!

Having mentioned my wife, before I finish, I do want to acknowledge the role and contribution that the fairer sex make to agriculture. When my mother went to finance the purchase of a farm in 1972, Wrightson at the time didn’t finance it, not because the proposition didn’t make sense, but because it was a woman making the proposition. Thankfully we have moved on from that.

Women make a huge contribution to agriculture and New Zealand. Rural New Zealand understand this. Now when winners are announced at the dairy awards, mostly it is a couple who come to the stage to receive it. Everyone knows that makes sense. I think the gender partnership in the rural community is a real strength and I would encourage more women to become involved with Federated Farmers just like our two current excellent woman board members.

I am very proud of what Federated Farmers and our rural community has achieved. There is a still lot to do. Collectively farmers are a fantastic group of kiwis who want the world to be a better place, who take risks and do the work to enable this to happen. I salute you.

Finally, what is next? Well it isn’t politics, its business again. I have set up an organisation called Agribusiness New Zealand. We will be focusing on exporting, investment and projects, both domestically and internationally. It’s a different way of making a difference. Well I am not 11 anymore, I turn 50 in 20 days and I can say I am very happy with my lot and very excited about where my life is going. Watch this space. Thank you.

 And thank you Conor, for the positive difference you made as CEO and your strong advocacy for farming, farmers and the wider rural community.

 


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