Rural round-up

02/03/2021

MPI opposed nitrogen bottom line over economic concerns – Anusha Bradley:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) opposed introducing a tough bottom line for nitrogen levels in rivers over concerns the economic impact would outweigh the environmental benefit, documents show.

MPI repeatedly clashed with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), even though scientific experts said a Dissolved Organic Nitrogen (DIN) level of 1 mg/L was the best way to protect rivers.

Emails obtained under the Official Information Act show MPI staff wanted the economic cost of introducing a bottom line pushed more prominently in a cabinet paper about nitrogen level options put to ministers in May 2020.

It’s the first time MPI’s influence on the issue has been revealed. . . 

Food security in decline – Samantha Tennent:

Rising temperatures and global warming are having a direct impact on the agricultural sector and food system, as shown in the ninth annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI) released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.

Agricultural production has become more vulnerable in 49 countries compared to the previous index period. The index measures the underlying drivers of food security in 113 countries, based on the factors of affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience.

“With food security declining again, we all must heed the urgent call to renew our collective commitment to innovation and collaboration,” Corteva Agriscience chief executive James Collins Jr. says.  . . 

Venison marketers planning chilled season contracts:

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) is expecting improved market conditions for venison in the coming year, with better prices assured for venison animals processed for supply in the European game season. 

“In the next few weeks some venison companies will be offering minimum price supply contracts for the game season, for shipment of chilled venison during September and October,” Deer Industry NZ chair Ian Walker says.

“Contracts offered in 2020 were $7 – $7.20 a kilogram, when Europe was gripped by Covid-19. This year we are seeing restaurants starting to reopen in North America. Also prices for all meats in major world markets have begun what economists expect will be a steady long-run climb.

“Despite all the disruption caused by Covid, the 2020 European game season went well, both at food service to restaurants and at retail.  Importers were understandably cautious with their orders, but they sold everything and could have sold more, if not for airfreight disruptions. . .

T&G Global’s full-year profit surges:

Vegetable and fruit grower T&G Global’s profit has more than doubled as strong demand for its apples drove an increase in revenue.

Net profit for the year ended December rose to $16.6 million from $6.6m the previous year, with revenue up 16 percent to $1.4 billion.

It said rising demand for its apples drove earnings, which rose more than half on the year before. . .

NZ’s First farm sustainability linked loan to deliver water and biodiversity benefits:

In a New Zealand first, ethical dairy investor Southern Pastures has entered into a three-year $50 million sustainability-linked farm loan with BNZ and its syndicate.

Southern Pastures, owner of Lewis Road Creamery, will receive financial incentives for meeting new water quality and biodiversity targets and for achieving further reductions in its already low on-farm carbon emissions. Achievement of the targets will be directly linked to lower loan costs.

“This deal recognizes that farming to mitigate climate change and environmental impacts is in our common interest,” says Southern Pastures Executive Chairman Prem Maan. “In my view, farming in New Zealand should be driven by the ambition to become carbon neutral.” . .

 

Ag mega trends report warns of big trade, production changes ahead – Andrew Marshall:

Australian farmers have been warned to prepare for much wealthier, more demanding overseas customers; more volatile trade environments dominated by multiple economic superpowers, and technology which may add $20 billion a year to farm sector productivity.

As the population of high income countries triples to 3 billion in 30 years, our fruit and vegetable and protein-rich meat, dairy product and nut exports will be in hot demand – doubling in some Asian markets.

However, sales growth will be more modest for wheat, coarse grains and rice as developing nations shift away from starchy staples.

Farm production will also be under intensified pressure to use more efficient energy, water, labour and land use strategies, while climate volatility will make agricultural productivity more challenging, and add more gyrations to commodity markets. . .


Rural round-up

18/01/2021

Mobile black spots: Meet the Kiwis with worse mobile coverage than the developing world – Tom Dillane:

Teresa Wyndham-Smith remembers with a laugh when it first dawned on her that mobile coverage was better in West Africa than the West Coast of New Zealand.

That was five years of signal silence ago.

The 57-year-old writer and journalist returned to her home country after a decade in Ghana, and plonked herself down in Te Miko, a settlement on the 1000-plus kms of mobile black spots along New Zealand highways.

“I’m originally from Wellington but I was living in Ghana in West Africa for 10 years before I moved to the Coast,” Wyndham-Smith said. . . 

SWAG ready to tackle 2021 – Annette Scott:

The Strong Wool Action Group (SWAG) tasked with lifting New Zealand’s strong wool industry out of the doldrums, has kick started the new year on a positive footing.

Since putting the call out in November for financial support, industry contributions have now reached more than $500,000.

SWAG, established and incorporated late last year, is targeting a $3 million working budget to fund identified opportunities that will increase the demand and value of NZ produced strong wool.

The company aims to raise $700,000, matched with the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) funding, will secure a total operational budget of about $3m. . . 

From liquid gold to price crash : NZ’s honey hangover – Jane Phare:

Mānuka honey producers have been reaping the profits from selling pots of gold in recent years but now there’s a glut of non-manuka varieties as beekeepers stockpile, hoping prices will recover. New Zealand has more than 918,000 beehives, and Jane Phare looks at why the country is oozing with honey and why Kiwis looked for something less expensive to spread on their bread.

It was always a Kiwi staple, honey on toast in the morning, a spoonful to help the medicine go down. It was sweet, yummy and affordable.

Then, the so-called magical health benefits of mānuka honey became known worldwide causing export sales to take off. As the mānuka honey story reached fever pitch, so did the prices. Honey producers were earning upwards of $100 a kilo, selling little pots of dark golden nectar. . . 

Alliance partners with children’s charity :

Alliance Group will become an official partner of Ronald McDonald House South Island, the independent charitable trust providing free accommodation and support to families who need to travel to Christchurch and Invercargill for their children’s medical treatment.

The partnership will see the co-operative provide support for the Ronald McDonald House major 2021 fundraiser – the annual Supper Club events in Christchurch, Queenstown and Invercargill – and donate meat for a range of events throughout the year.

Alliance will also play a key role in the charity’s Host a Roast month in July – when people are encouraged to host a roast, brunch or lunch and invite friends and colleagues to attend for a $20 donation to support the Ronald McDonald House programmes.

“Ronald McDonald House is very close to the hearts of many of our people, our farmer shareholders and the wider community,” Alliance chief executive David Surveyor said. . . 

 

New Alps2Ocean leg opens to rave reviews – Doug Sail:

A new $1.2 million section of the Alps2Ocean cycle trail has proved a hit with holidaymakers as they discover rarely seen South Island scenery.

The 16-kilometre section from Sailors Cutting to the top of the Benmore Dam in the Waitaki Lakes region follows the Ahuriri arm of Lake Benmore serving up sights that users have raved about since it opened on December 18.

Among the more than 7000 cyclists and pedestrians to have tried the track so far was Stuffphotographer John Bisset who has previously completed the four sections from the start in Aoraki/Mt Cook through to Omarama.

“It was an awesome ride with great vistas. . .

America’s biggest owner of farmland is now Bill Gates – Ariel Shapiro:

Bill Gates, the fourth richest person in the world and a self-described nerd who is known for his early programming skills rather than his love of the outdoors, has been quietly snatching up 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S. — enough to make him the top private farmland owner in America.

After years of reports that he was purchasing agricultural land in places like Florida and Washington, The Land Report revealed that Gates, who has a net worth of nearly $121 billion according to Forbes, has built up a massive farmland portfolio spanning 18 states. His largest holdings are in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres). Additionally, he has a stake in 25,750 acres of transitional land on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, which is being developed as a new suburb.

According to The Land Report’s research, the land is held directly and through third-party entities by Cascade Investments, Gates’ personal investment vehicle. Cascade’s other investments include food-safety company Ecolab, used-car retailer Vroom and Canadian National Railway.  . . 


Rural round-up

19/12/2020

Open letter to Prime Minister Ardern re Immigration NZ border exemption confusion– Julie South:

Dear Prime Minister (and Minister Faafoi & Ms Standford)

Open Letter:  clarification sought on rationale used for border exemption denials for health care workers

I’m writing this Open Letter with the hope you’ll be able to answer my questions because it appears no one else in your government is able to.

There are quite a few questions in this letter, so to make it easy for you, I’ve highlighted them in blue.  I’ve also provided some background information to give you context.

I’m hoping you can help me because my colleagues and I are struggling to understand the rationale applied by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in recent border exemption denials for the health care workers I specialise in finding jobs for. . . 

Shares in a2 tumble as company slashes forecast – Catherine Harris:

Shares in dairy company a2 have plunged more than 20 per cent on Friday as the company slashed its forecast to reflect a longer than expected recovery in its some of its selling channels.

The glamour stock’s share price fell more than 23 per cent to $10.78 in late afternoon trading, after a2 downgraded its revenue forecast for the first half to $670 million, and between $1.40 billion to $1.55b for the full year.

That was well down on 2020’s stellar full year revenue of $1.73b, and its September guidance of $1.8b to $1.9b, with $725m to $775m for the first half. . . 

A new lease on life – Neal Wallace:

Torrid life experiences proved to be Lindsay Wright’s apprenticeship for work with the Rural Support Trust in Southland. Neal Wallace talks to the former Wendonside farmer about the scratches and bruises that life has served up to him.

Lindsay Wright agonised for months about what to do with his fourth-generation family farm.

The uncertainty was adding to his depression but in the end, the decision only took a few minutes to make once he started working with a counsellor to address his health issues.

She asked him three questions: Did he want to stay as he was? Did he want to sell it? Did he want to employ a manager? . . 

Alliance demonstrates agility in tough year:

Shareholders at the Alliance Group Annual Meeting this week were told the cooperative showed agility in an unprecedented year as a result of Covid-19 and adverse weather events.

Last month, Alliance Group announced an underlying profit of $27.4 million.

Adjusted for a one-off event of ‘donning and doffing’, the annual profit result was $7.5 million before tax.

The red meat co-operative achieved a record turnover of $1.8 billion for the year ending 30 September 2020.

Lawyers called in over 119 year old mistake – David Williams:

Officials want to exclude a reserve from a Crown pastoral lease, which might spark a court battle, David Williams reports

When Lukas Travnicek flew over Canterbury’s Mt White Station he’d done his research.

The Czech Republic native, and New Zealand resident, knew the average rainfall of the Crown pastoral lease property, which borders the Arthur’s Pass National Park, and factored its 40,000 hectares (about a quarter of Stewart Island) into his development plans, should he buy it.

“I saw it from the chopper, the very first time and they didn’t want me to land because they said that it would be disturbing for the manager and you’re not sure if you really want to buy it. But I made the pilot land.” . . 

Govt must listen to farmers on freshwater rules:

The Government must listen to feedback from farmers on its freshwater rules,” says ACT’s Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.

Stuff reports that the Southland Advisory Group has recommended pugging rules and resowing dates be scrapped from the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.

“ACT has said from the outset that the rules are impractical and will seriously impact on production.

Last week, an Economic Impact Report on Land and Water Management in the Ashburton District suggested the rules would reduce farm profitability by 83 percent a year. . . 

The mystery of Tekapo’s disappearing lupins: Who killed the social media star? – Brook Sabin:

It’s one of New Zealand’s most iconic shots: Lake Tekapo, the mountains and a bright glow of purple. You probably know what purple I’m talking about. Yes, the “L” word – “lupins”.

Mackenzie Country is known around the world for its lupins; before Covid-19 Lake Tekapo would often have traffic jams around lupin hotspots.

The trouble is, when some strike that perfect Instagram pose – little do they know they’re actually frolicking among weeds.

Lupinus polyphyllus (which to be fair, sounds like the plant equivalent of an STI) is commonly known as the russel lupin, or just “that purple Instagram flower”. It is the weed equivalent of 1080; opinions are bitterly divided. . . 


Rural round-up

13/09/2020

Millions in farmer income put at risk with open-ended review – Animal Genetics Trade Association:

Widened Terms of Reference and a longer timeframe for review of the safety of live animal transportation may lose the industry, and the nation, close to $200 million.

“The safe shipping of people and animals to their destinations is hugely important to our trade. We support this part of the review and need to learn how whatever happened to the ship can be prevented in future exports.

“However, a necessary review of ship safety following a maritime disaster has inexplicably morphed into an unnecessary wider review into the welfare of animals. “

The review may require cancellation of the close to $200 million in contracts between now and December. . . 

Tomato shortage follows lockdown:

Tomato prices rose 38 percent in August 2020 to a weighted average price of $13.65 per kilo, an all-time high, Stats NZ said today.

A shortage of tomatoes due to COVID-19 uncertainty caused higher than normal prices.

“About 40–50 percent of tomatoes are sold to independent grocers, cafes, and restaurants, which were unable to open during COVID alert levels 3 and 4 in April,” consumer prices manager Nicola Growden said.

“Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, many growers delayed or reduced replanting tomato crops at this time. . . 

Former chairman highlights Trust’s conservation role – David Hill:

The QEII National Trust’s work with farmers is “living proof” that agricultural production and conservation can coexist on farm, James Guild says.

The Canterbury high country farmer stepped down as chairman of the trust earlier this year after serving the maximum term of nine years, or three terms of three years.

In that time, Mr Guild has seen the organisation grow to support more than 190,000ha of covenant land, about the size of Rakiura Stewart Island or Molesworth Station, near Hanmer Springs.

“We take on two new covenants a week, or about 120 a year. At one stage it was 300 a year and there’s still a lot of demand, but we’ve had a refocus towards quality,” he said. . . 

Decades of dietary advice misguided – Allan Barber:

For at least the last 40 years international health guidelines have recommended minimising intake of saturated fats contained in red meat, dairy, cocoa and palm oil in a mistaken attempt to improve public health, particularly in first world countries. Heart disease skyrocketed to become the leading cause of death by 1950 and scientists hypothesised the cause to be dietary fat, particularly the saturated variety.

Although there have been sceptics who did not believe this apparently irrefutable scientific conclusion, they have been unable to inspire a rational debate of the facts, because the hypothesis was adopted by public health institutions (WHO, FDA, American Heart Association and others) before it had been properly tested. Any attempt to challenge them resulted in public reactions of anger and accusations of sacrilege, remembering this was many years before the internet and social media enabled the instant spread of online vitriol. As is the case today, the problem was compounded by the media taking a position and refusing to present the counterargument.

I have been interested in this topic for quite some time because I believe red meat and dairy are unfairly vilified, while personally I have neither an increase in cholesterol nor a heightened risk of heart disease. Suddenly last week I received an article from The Australian entitled “How dairy and fat could save your life” and I was also lent The Big Fat Surprise – Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet, an authoritative book based on thousands of scientific studies and hundreds of interviews by New York author and journalist Nina Teicholz .. . 

Scholarship timing ‘perfect’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Maggie Ruddenklau received her $1500 tertiary scholarship from the Upper Clutha A&P Society last year, at exactly the right time.

It paid for her new laptop following the demise of her old one.

“I had my laptop for a few years and the same time as I heard about winning the scholarship it stopped working.

“At university a laptop is your most prized possession so it worked out really perfect.” . . 

CropX acquires Regen to grow global footprint and give farmers unmatched in-soil insights:

CropX, a global soil sensing and agricultural analytics leader, today announced the acquisition of New Zealand-based Regen, a leading provider of cloud-based, precision effluent and irrigation decision support tools. Current Regen customers now have access to CropX’s unmatched combination of in-soil data and advanced farm management analytics and automation tools.

“The importance of understanding soil health and what is happening beneath the ground is finally coming into the spotlight. This acquisition will help us further build our on-farm irrigation, effluent and nutrient management product lineup as we lead the market in delivering accurate in-soil insights,” said CropX CEO Tomer Tzach.  . . 


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