Rural round-up

March 24, 2020

Farmers want essential services clarity :

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is urgently seeking clarity from the Government about what primary sector activities will qualify as essential after the Government effectively put the country into lockdown for four weeks to stop the spread of covid-19.

Milne said she has made it clear in conversations with the Government the definition of essential business has to be as wide-ranging as possible so farmers can keep functioning.

“They are part of the food chain and we need them. 

“The people who do service farming, they have an as equally critical role as us who are growing the food.  . . 

Otago farmers nervous about labour from border restrictions :

Uncertainty over travel for the international workforce is compounding what has been a difficult season for orchardists in Central Otago.

Border restrictions and reduced airline capacity in response to Covid-19 are creating anxiety in the industry.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and chief executive of 45 South – New Zealand’s largest cherry exporter – Tim Jones said traditionally two-thirds of his workforce came from overseas, half on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas and half backpackers.

“As a grower, I sit here nervous about labour and we know we use as many Kiwis as we can but to supplement that we employ RSE labour and we employ a lot of backpackers and our obvious concerns are they may not be around in the sort of numbers we’ve had recently. . . 

A DIRA decision – Elbow Deep:

As the world is faced with torrents of horrific news as the pandemic sweeps the globe, it feels like there is little to be positive about. But over recent weeks there have been two small gems for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The first piece of good news was Fonterra’s half year financial results, which are a remarkable turnaround from the Co-op’s first ever loss posted last year. The loss wasn’t insignificant or so small it could be dismissed as a rounding error, the Co-op lost over half a billion dollars which only makes the recent turnaround even more impressive.

At a time of mass uncertainty when many people don’t know if they’ll still have a job in a few months, it is somewhat relieving that these results will see Fonterra inject more than $11 billion into the New Zealand economy through milk payments to their farmers. Those farmers will in turn spend over half of that in their local communities, communities which need money now more than ever before. It’s not just Fonterra farmers who will benefit from the Co-op’s strong performance; independent processors around the country will be benchmarking themselves off the Co-op’s strong performance. . .

Rural sector crying out to recruit more staff – Jacob McSweeny:

While thousands of people around the country are facing joblessness a recruiting company is calling out for workers in the primary sector, saying there were 40 jobs in South Canterbury available now.

Agstaff, Canstaff and New Zealand Dairy Careers managing director Matt Jones said the need for workers had increased as a result of implications from the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The work does not stop — it’s ramped up as some of our clients in the primary production sector increase production to meet New Zealand’s needs.

“The cows still need milked and the crops must be picked,” Mr Jones said.

He said he had a client in South Canterbury who needed 40 people to start immediately. . . 

Post-quake study reveals hort potential – Nigel Malthus:

Large areas of North Canterbury and South Marlborough – affected by the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquakes – offer wide potential for horticulture.

A Plant and Food Research investigation has found that several crops – in particular, apples, grapes, hazelnuts and walnuts – could be grown in pockets throughout the region.

It identified 41,515 ha of land – or about 9% of the total 466,000ha – that would potentially be suitable. . . 

Vets offer Covid-19 advice:

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has some advice for animal owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association representing New Zealand veterinarians says COVID-19 should not reduce the care owners give to their animals’ health and welfare.

“We appreciate there are many issues that people are dealing with in relation to COVID-19, particularly those self-isolating or with family members taking this precautionary measure,” says New Zealand Veterinary Association chief veterinary officer, Dr Helen Beattie.  . . 

Why cradle-to-cradle needs to be included in fashion’s sustainability rating tools :

A review of a leading environmental impact tool for apparel finds that unless improvements are made, weaknesses in the underlying science could lead to misleading results, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the environment.

What do textile lifecycle assessment tools do?

Textile lifecycle assessment (LCA) tools aim to understand, quantify and communicate the environmental credentials of textiles with the intent of minimising environmental impact.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Material Sustainability Index (MSI) is increasingly being adopted by industry but this LCA method currently fails to account for the complexity of the textile industry.

“Several significant environmental impacts and processes are excluded from the MSI and PM, including recyclability, biodegradability, renewability of resource used, microfibres, abiotic resource depletion (minerals) and abiotic bioaccumulation,” said Dr Steve Wiedemann of Integrity AG & Environment.  . . 


Rural round-up

October 15, 2019

Liberated they sold the plough – Neal Wallace:

Mike Porter reckons he has re-educated himself how to farm in the last five years. Neal Wallace meets the South Canterbury arable farmer who is not afraid of change.

Mike Porter is a considered man.

His views and actions are more than opinions formed from spending too many hours behind the wheel of a tractor on his South Canterbury arable farm.

Porter has carefully considered and studied options to some of the big issues he faces on his 480ha arable and livestock farm at Lyalldale, which he runs with wife Lynne. . .

Stronger YFC, school links the goal – Yvonne O’Hara:

Otago-Southland territory manager Bridget (Biddy) Huddleston, of Alexandra, is keen to see closer ties between the New Zealand Young Farmers clubs, and schools.

”Nationally, we are going to increase our focus on Young Farmers clubs and the [school-based] TeenAg clubs,” she said.

”Moving forward, the challenge for us will be how we are going to structure that.”

She also wants to encourage a greater uptake of the organisation’s education ”Agrication” food production resources, which have been developed by NZYF and teachers, ticked off by NZQA and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership for schools, which are designed to give pupils a greater awareness of food production. . .

Frost this spring has been ‘unrelenting’, say winegrowers – Maja Burry:

Winegrowers in some regions are reporting a turbulent start to the new grape growing season, with frost-fighting efforts already well up on last year.

ANZ rural economist Susan Kilsby said early varieties were budding which was causing some concern due to the recent cold snap.

“There certainly has been some concern around frost, certainly in the Wairarapa and Marlborough, so everyone’s been out fighting frost, [but] so far I’ve only heard of damage of small areas of some of the early season crops,” Ms Kilsby said. . . 

Held stock boost sheep numbers – Alan Williams:

South Island sheep numbers rose slightly in the latest June year but some of the gain was caused by higher numbers being carried over for processing between July and September.

In the North Island the sheep population was slightly lower on June 30 than a year earlier and also included plenty of carry-over trade lambs in the Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty due for processing, Beef + Lamb says its New Season Outlook.

Total sheep numbers were estimated at 27.4 million, with the North Island at 13.5m, down 92,000 or 0.7%. South Island numbers were 13.9m, up 1.4%. . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s milk price:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2018/19 dairy season.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s base milk price calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

The base milk price is the average price that Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which was calculated at $6.35 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2018/19 dairy season. The report does not cover the forecast 2019/20 price of $6.25-$7.25 that Fonterra announced in May.

Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg said this year’s review of the 2018/19 base milk price revealed no new major areas of concern. . . 

Medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience seeks experienced grower – Esther Taunton:

A Kiwi company is on the hunt for a green-thumbed project manager, preferably with cannabis growing experience.

Gisborne-based Rua Bioscience was the first local company to secure a license to cultivate medicinal cannabis and is now looking for someone to help grow its budding operation.

Advertised online this week, the cultivation project manager would “play a key role in setting up stage two of our cultivation and growing activities”.  . . 

China is breeding massive pigs that weigh more than a grand piano -Kristin Houser:

Pork Problems

A devastating outbreak of African swine fever has destroyed an estimated half of China’s pig population over the past year or so.

That’s a huge deal given that China consumes more pork than any other nation, so China’s government responded by urging farmers to increase pig production — and some have taken that to mean they should breed the biggest pigs we’ve seen this side of “Okja,” according to a new Bloomberg story.

Making Weight

Bloomberg notes that some Chinese farmers have managed to increase the typical average weight of their pigs at slaughter from 110 kilograms (242 pounds) up to 140 kilograms (308 pounds).

In the province of Jilin, meanwhile, farmers are trying to raise the pigs “as big as possible,” farmer Zhao Hailin told Bloomberg, with the goal being an average weight of 175 to 200 kilograms (385 to 440 pounds) as opposed to the typical 125 kilograms (275 pounds). . .


Time to free up Fonterra

August 28, 2019

It’s time to free up Fonterra but the government plans to only tinker with the Diary Industry Restructuring Act:

National is opposing the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment (DIRA) Bill at first reading, as we believe competitive pressure should drive the dairy market forward rather than half-baked regulation, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“National believes it is vital we have an efficient and innovative dairy industry that supports the long-term interests of farmers and consumers. This means having a strong Fonterra, strong smaller manufacturers and a robust domestic liquid milk and retail market.

“The Government’s Bill goes some way to achieving this, but National believes the time has come to reduce aspects of Fonterra’s regulatory burden.

“It makes sense that Fonterra can now build in robust animal welfare and environmental conditions in its supply terms. However we believe the New Zealand market is sufficiently mature for Fonterra to have the ability to treat returning suppliers on different commercial grounds than those who have stayed with the cooperative.

“We’re also opposed to Fonterra having to continue to support scale competitors with start-up milk supply. There is a vibrant competitive milk supply landscape in New Zealand, which is only going to increase as global interests eye up our milk pool. We no longer believe Fonterra needs to give these future competitors a hand up.  

Requiring Fonterra to supply competitors might have been acceptable when the original Act came into force, setting up the company.

But there is now more than enough competition to enable new companies to establish themselves without forcing Fonterra to supply them.

That many of these companies are foreign owned is particularly galling given the three parties’ in government continue to rail against foreign ownership and have made it all but impossible for foreigners to buy farmland, unless they’re going to plant trees on it.

“National supports rural New Zealand and knows the importance of the dairy industry to our country. We want legislation that will help it succeed on the world stage not constrain it.”

The legislation that sought to encourage competition is now costing Fonterra too much.

It’s time to stop tinkering with it and free it from the rules that give its competitors a free ride at its expense.


Rural round-up

June 30, 2019

Bovis takes a human toll – Sally Rae:

Next month will mark two years since bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was first confirmed on a South Canterbury dairy farm. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae speaks to Waimate farmer Carl Jensen, who has first-hand experience of the outbreak.

“As soon as you get that phone call, ‘hi, it’s MPI’, the anxiety journey has started.”

Carl Jensen has traversed that road – with many twists and turns – since becoming caught up in the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in April last year.

The Waimate farmer has come out the other side; restrictions to his farming operation have been lifted, compensation has finally been paid and his business is back on track. . .

‘M. bovis’ anguish: ‘frank’ feedback helping in long process – Sally Rae:

For those farmers most affected by Mycoplasma bovis, the cure may very well seem worse than the disease, programme director Geoff Gwyn says.

“We all need to do everything we can to support them, and that starts with us continuously making sure our systems and processes are working well, and then working in partnership with farmers to get this job done,” he said.

MPI regularly talked to the likes of Waimate farmer Carl Jensen and other farmers, who gave “frank and robust” feedback on how it could improve and that was a very important part of making the programme work. . .

Rat numbers are at a 48-year high and the environment is suffering – Leah Tebbutt:

Rat numbers have exploded across New Zealand and it is no different in Rotorua with some saying numbers are at a 48-year high.

Pest controllers’ phones are ringing off the hook due to an outbreak caused by a mega mast Forest and Bird say.

A mega mast is an over-abundance of plants that have a high seed production, in turn providing food for pests.

The problem began close to four months ago and there are ways to avoid a problem like this in future said Alpeco managing director Heiko Kaiser. . . 

Robust process vital in DIRA review – John Aitkinson:

A robust review process is needed for the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), writes Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers Dairy Section chairman John Atkinson.

DIRA is a major part of dairy farming.

It is an important tool in the food chain that allows you to enjoy your cheese, your latte or if you’re partial to it, New Zealand made dairy milk chocolate.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) was a special Act passed by the Helen Clark-led Government enabling the formation of Fonterra in 2001. . . .

A tractor for every day of the week – Samantha Tennent:

Manawatu farmer Reuben Sterling would much rather be behind the wheel of a tractor than at the shed milking.

His preference for tractors goes back to when he was growing up on the family farm at Rangiotu. He would often head out with his dad Rob and sit next to him while he mowed paddocks and did other jobs.

“I guess every farm kid wants to be like their dad and drive the tractor,” Sterling says.

“I remember being about six and going to get the cows in for milking on my own with the four-wheeler. . . 

Shearing and Woolhandling World Championships: Meet the Kiwi team

The 18th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are being held at Le Dorat, France, next week.

Teams from around the world, including New Zealand, will compete. The competitions take place on July 4-7.

The Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling Team will be there. Check out their profiles below. . . 

‘Our small towns are toppling like dominoes: why we should cut some farmers a checkRobert Leonard and Matt Russell:

How we address an expanding list of crises related to global warming is the most demanding question of our day. So far, our approaches have been piecemeal, enormously costly and largely unsuccessful.

A common denominator for many of these crises is in how we use the land, and that is where we will find the solution. A simple, cheap and relatively quick fix is to pay farmers and ranchers for environmental services. Not traditional government cost-share programs; we mean cut them a check when they provide measurable environmental services. It would cost Americans pennies per meal.

We already provide enormous taxpayer support for farmers to stabilize our food supply. The Trump administration’s trade bailouts for farmers to the tune of $28 billion in 2018 and 2019 are examples. Unfortunately, right now, farmers who invest in conservation practices are at a competitive disadvantage to those who don’t.  . . 


Rural round-up

June 26, 2019

Farmers urged to submit on carbon bill – Pam Tipa:

Both DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ are urging farmers to have their say on the proposed Zero Carbon Bill by July 16.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the potential implications of this legislation, in particular the targets for methane reduction, are huge for the agriculture sector.

“That’s why farmer engagement is so important,” he says. He is encouraging dairy farmers to make a submission.

The bill’s full name is the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. . . 

Kiwi’s quinoa dream now a reality – Andrew Stewart:

A liking for a particular food on a foreign trip is paying dividends for Dan and Jacqui Cottrell and providing extra income for their Taihape farm. They told Andrew Stewart how they discovered quinoa and set about growing it in the central North Island.

Dan and Jacqui Cottrell didn’t realise an overseas adventure would change their lives forever. 

The year was 2012 and the couple were making the most of their South American odyssey when they had an epiphany in Peru. 

They had been eating a lot of quinoa, of which 80% of the global supply is grown in Peru, on their trip.  . . 

 

DIRA changes fall short – farmers – Sudesh Kissun:

Farmers want dairy industry regulations to apply equally to all milk processors in New Zealand.

They still want an end to the open entry/exit provisions of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) and an end to Fonterra providing subsidised raw milk to rival processors.

However, in proposed DIRA changes the Government has retained the open entry provisions but has allowed Fonterra the right to refuse milk from suppliers who are “not compliant with the co-op rules and from new dairy conversions”. . . 

Small kiwifruit have big taste – Richard Rennie:

Fruit size is providing the headwind to the new kiwifruit season while taste is the tailwind thanks to an exceptional late season ripening period that has left Zespri marketers with a paradigm for foreign markets.

Zespri’s grower alliance manager David Courtney said Green fruit size this season is 2.5 sizes smaller than usual and SunGold two sizes down on usual with the long, dry, ripening period scaling fruit down but pushing up drymatter levels to create exceptionally well flavoured fruit.

“We have had one grower who has been growing kiwifruit for 40 years who said he has never reported better drymatter levels in his crop.” . . 

New Zealand’s most fertile land dug up for housing – Indira Stewart:

Over the last decade more than 200 produce growers in Auckland have closed up shop as more rural land has been rezoned to residential to keep up with the demand for housing.

Now, after 60 years of growing vegetables in South Auckland, celery farmer Stan Clark has decided to close up as well.

Mr Clark’s celery farms were re-zoned from rural to residential in 2009 and the rising land rates are making business unsustainable.

The family is preparing to sell their much-loved farms in Pukekohe, a suburb that holds some of the country’s most fertile land, much of which is being dug up for housing. . . 

Large-scale dairy conversion farm with its own lake-sized reservoir placed on the market for sale:

A large-scale dairy conversion farm – complete with a huge lake-like reservoir –which has seen primary sheep and beef production replaced over the past decade in favour of milking, has been placed on the market for sale.

Strathallan Station some 26-kilometres north-west of Gisborne is a 1,213-hectare property currently milking a herd of 1,000 cows. Towards the centre of the property is a two-and-a-half-metre-deep ‘reservoir’ lake large enough for recreational kayaking and duck hunting. The reservoir sustains not only the farm’s irrigation needs, but also its milk shed requirements. . .


Rural round-up

June 14, 2019

Progress persists amidst disruption – Hugh Stringleman:

The growing focus on food as medicine is driving massive change in the agri-food industry, KPMG agri-food senior manager Emma Wheeler says.

Writing in the 2019 Agribusiness Agenda she said the health and wellness decade has begun and is bringing disruption through innovation and technological transformation.

Consumer needs and demands underpin the pace of change. . .

‘Hyper farm’ to aid land decision-making:

Agresearch has teamed up with Dunedin tech company Animation Research Ltd to help farmers see the future.

The partnership is part of a research programme – the New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age (NZBIDA) – which has been designed to enable transformational change to the country’s agricultural sector and supply chains.

As one strand of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded programme, Dr Seth Laurenson and Dr Remy Lasseur are designing a “hyper farm” using ARL’s world-renowned visualisation technology.

It helped landowners to see what their properties would look like as a result of any changes as well as understand how changes would affect water quality, finances, carbon sequestration and biodiversity among other factors. . .

Feds finds useful policy ideas in National’s paper:

Federated Farmers is heartened that workforce issues are identified as a hot topic in the National Party’s ‘Primary Sector Discussion Document’, released today.

National is proposing better promotion of primary sector careers and increased vocational training opportunities. It is also floating the idea of an Agriculture Visa for migrant workers and nine-month dairy farm placements under an expanded RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.

“Picking up on serious and persistent sector concerns, National also says it wants feedback on how to make Immigration NZ more responsive and accessible to employers facing labour shortages,” Federated Farmers Dairy chair and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says. . . 

Fonterra and farm leaders gripe at O’Connor’s DIRA decision – Greenpeace is even more grouchy – Point of Order:

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor didn’t win too many new friends  (and may have lost some) with his  decision  on the review of  the  Dairy Industry Restructuring  Act, the  2001  legislation  which set up  Fonterra  supposedly to   become  a  “ national  champion”.   

We  all know  how  that  has turned out.

So   what were the reactions to  O’Connor’s  latest  move to improve the  legislation  which initially had the  objective of  “promoting  the efficiency  of  NZ  dairy markets”?. .. 

New appointed director for Horticulture New Zealand Board:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board has appointed Dr Bruce Campbell, of Tai Tokerau Northland, as an appointed director.

Dr Campbell is experienced in governance, innovation, talent development and the future development of a wide range of horticulture sectors and was, until 2018, the Chief Operating Officer at Plant & Food Research. He has a particular interest in building partnerships with Māori to create new food businesses and also in growing career pathways to get talented people into horticulture. . .

Large rise in meat and dairy manufacturing:

The largest rise for five years in volumes of meat and dairy products drove manufacturing up for the second quarter in a row, Stats NZ said.

After adjusting for seasonal effects, the volume of total manufacturing sales rose 2.0 percent in the March 2019 quarter, after a 2.4 percent rise in the December 2018 quarter. It was led by a strong 11 percent rise in meat and dairy products manufacturing. . .

Helping New Zealand farmers take care of our land:

New Zealand’s green reputation is one of this country’s strongest selling points, but how to manage the relationship between farming and the environment is complex and controversial.

How do we support New Zealand farmers transition to a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable future?

The clamour to act urgently on climate change is adding pressure on farmers to manage environmental sustainability, but farmers often have to make trade-offs between what they want to develop and what’s affordable. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 9, 2019

A recipe for disaster:

That old saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees could well describe the government’s infatuation with forestry at the expense of farming.

Objections are growing stronger in rural New Zealand to the impact the ‘one billion trees’ programme will have on the regions’ farming landscapes, infrastructure and communities. Concern is such that a new lobby group has formed, wanting to preserve the economy, health and welfare of the NZ provinces.

Named 50 Shades of Green, it aims to convince politicians and decisionmakers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces and ultimately may endanger the national economy. . . 

DIRA review nibbles at the status quo and avoids the big questions – Keith Woodford:

The current review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) does not address the big decisions that face the New Zealand dairy industry. That may well be a wise decision by Government.

Big decisions will indeed be necessary over the coming years. Clearly, they are difficult decisions. However, trying to make those decisions through the DIRA mechanism would be a brave decision and, in all likelihood, with unintended consequences. So, the Government has stepped back.

Instead, Government is using DIRA to nibble around the edges.  Whether those nibbles are the correct nibbles remains a moot point. . . 

Rural real estate feeling the pinch in South Canterbury – Samesh Mohanlall:

Parts of the rural real estate market are struggling in Canterbury and South Canterbury with key industry figures saying they are concerned about the effect of compliance regulations, anti-farming rhetoric and Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) climate emergency declaration.

South Canterbury’s Federated Farmers president Jason Grant and rural estate agents say much of the gloomy projection in the latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) rural report stemmed from environmental constraints and negative sentiments “coming out around farming”.  . .

Carbon farms help soil, water – Annette Scott:

Carbon farming is about managing soil, vegetation, water and animals while turning opportunities on the farm into improved business performance and profitability.

All while ensuring long-term benefits to farm businesses, the local economy and the environment.

That was the buy-in for more than 60 farmers and industry stakeholders who attended a Canterbury Agribusiness carbon farming seminar.

Most attendees when asked why they attended said the same – to understand something that’s all a bit new and learn what opportunities are available to them. . . 

Nelson mums find solution for skin condition in the paddock – Anuja Nadkarni:

It all started with some flowers planted in a paddock.

Dot Kettle and her partner Georgia Richards traded in their fast-paced corporate lives in Wellington for a more relaxed life to raise their three boys in Dove Valley, 45 minutes from Nelson more than 10 years ago.

Kettle, a lawyer, and IT analyst Richards knew next to nothing about farming, but with 42 hectares of land, the couple decided to plant a field of peonies for export as they are the ideal blooms for Nelson’s climate. . . 

Dodgy fert size to get shake-up – Richard Rennie:

Lumpy, uneven and irregular fertiliser, long the bane of farmers and spreaders, will face tighter scrutiny once the Fertiliser Quality Council establishes standards for the product’s physical qualities.

While standards have been set for the mineral and nutrient content of fertiliser, council chairman Anders Crofoot admits it has taken longer than expected to set them for particle shape and size.

“Setting the chemical standard for fertilisers was fine and has worked well for a long time. . .

 


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