Rural round-up

November 12, 2018

Fonterra hopes for collaboration in review of regulating law – Jeremy Rees:

Fonterra has welcomed the review of the law which governs it and urged farmers and shareholders to work with the government to get it right.

At its annual meeting, Fonterra chairman John Monaghan told the 360 farmers in the audience that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), which regulated the company was a complex piece of legislation but it was important to get any changes right.

“Let’s be clear. Fonterra’s performance, good or bad, is not driven by DIRA,” he said.

“But an updated DIRA can deliver our shared vision for the future of the New Zealand dairy industry.”

The government began in May a review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 which sets the parameters for Fonterra, the co-operative dairy giant. . . 

Fonterra is under attack from all sides, and now from within, as it grapples with issues that date back to 2001. These restraints allow its competitors to pick away at its good bits. China holds a tariff lever over NZ policymakers – Guy Trafford:

A busy week for Fonterra with the appointment of the two new directors and one still to come. Later today comes the result of the asset review instigated after the poor results from last season.

One of the new directors, Leonie Guiney has made her position plain in September she was quoted saying she wants the company to shift its whole strategy away from investments, like Beingmate and China Farms, which she says are “beyond our capability”.

If Fonterra thought they may get an easier path in the future through a revamp of the DIRA, the indications coming out are any thing to go by they are going to be disappointed. In fact, some are suggesting that the goal posts have been moved further away with a 70% mark as the point which is more likely to trigger a freeing up of some of the constraints the Coop is required to operate under. . .

New directorate to run M bovis programme – Annette Scott:

The new Mycoplasma bovis Response Directorate will provide a more robust model for the ongoing response to the cattle disease.

The directorate has been established after the decision by the Government and industry to try to eradicate M bovis and in consultation with Ministry for Primary Industries staff.

MPI response and readiness director Geoff Gwyn has been appointed to lead the new body.

Gwyn has headed the M bovis response since the cattle disease was found in July 2017. . . .

Swarmstorm design to benefit beekeepers:

Hobby beekeepers could have an alternative product to recollect swarms and maintain bee reproduction rates thanks to the work of Massey University industrial design student Liam Brankin.

The 22 year-old has devised a prototype backpack he calls the Swarmstorm that uses a suction hose, similar to a household vacuum cleaner, to suck and capture bees into a cardboard container before they are transferred to hives to continue the reproduction and honey-producing process.

His design is part of the Exposure graduate exhibition of final year work by design, art, creative media and music students from the College of Creative Arts, which opens at the Wellington campus on Friday.  . . .

Commission authorises extending restrictions on infant formula marketing ;

The Commerce Commission has authorised members of the Infant Nutrition Council Limited to extend the advertising and marketing restrictions in their Code of Practice to cover infant formula products for children aged up to 12 months of age.

Currently, the restrictions only apply to infant formula products for children aged up to six months of age. The INC asked the Commission to authorise the extended advertising and marketing restrictions, as the extended restrictions may lessen competition. . .

Nursery industry congratulate Young Hort 2018 runner-up:

Runner up Young Horticulturalist of the year, Devin Westley, is an extraordinary young man with a huge passion for his work as a nurseryman and innovator in the industry.

His employer, Southern Woods Nursery and the NZ Plant Producers’ Industry are delighted with his placing in the New Zealand Young Horticulturalist 2018 competition.

Devin also took home awards for best practice, practical activities and best speech on the night at the award’s dinner in Auckland last night. . . 


Rural round-up

November 4, 2018

Farmers promoting safe stress-free workplace: – Sally Rae:

At Huntly Road Dairies, Duncan and Anne-Marie Wells have a philosophy when it comes to staff.

“They don’t work for us. We work with them. I think there’s a bit of a difference there,” Mr Wells explained.

And the Outram dairy farmer never expected any staff to do something on the farm that he had not done, or was not capable of doing. . . 

Farmers: DIRA past use-by date:

Farmers at the launch of public consultation on the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act review are united in their belief its days are numbered.

The act has achieved its purpose Otago farmers told Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor who told them at the launch on Duncan and Anne-Marie Well’s Taieri farm the 2001 law had enabled the dairy industry to grow in volume, to innovate and for new companies to establish.

It is time for a review but that process has also been triggered by Fonterra’s share of South Island milk falling below 80%. . . 

Seeking a place to call home:

Making time for family and friends is important to a Waikato farming family. Fritha Tagg reports.

Farm facts
Owner: Piako Middle Farm
Sharemilkers: Olin and Anna Greenan
Location: Morrinsville, Waikato
Farm size: 214ha, two dairy sheds
Cows: 650 Friesian and crossbred
Production: Target 1100kg MS/ha
Farm working expenses: $1.90 . . 

New screen fish friendly, automated: – Yvonne O’Hara:

Fish no longer die and hours of labour have been saved each day after a new ”quantum leap” piece of equipment was installed as part of the Galloway Irrigation Company’s pumping system recently.

A new, specially adapted, self-cleaning, fish-friendly screen has been added to prevent fish and other debris from getting trapped. The water leaves the Manuherikia River, travels up a race, through the pumping infrastructure and then back to the river. . .

Giving up meat won’t save the cliamte – Frank M Mitloehner:

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change. . . 

What’s happening in rural Aoteraroa-NZ?:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around Aotearoa New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Te Ika-a-Māui-North Island

In Northland at least 30 millimetres fell and some lucky farms received between 50-70. It was really needed and may let some farmers shut up silage paddocks which they haven’t been able to do so far. Recently sown crops will germinate but follow up rain is required. The main cloud on the horizon is, with a lot of beef cattle in the region, the dropping schedule price and what will happen from now on. . . 

 


Rural round-up

November 3, 2018

Fonterra fails test –  Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra achieved a positive result in only one of its nine key performance indicators in the 2018 financial year, its Shareholders’ Council says.

That one positive was the milk price of $6.69/kg MS up 9% from the season before.

Negative achievements against targets were recorded for the total amount available for payout, earnings per share, consumer and food service volume, the gearing ratio, working capital days, return on capital, milk volume collected and employee injuries. . .

Law change could target farmers with poor environmental record – Maja Burry:

Farmers and other stakeholders are being asked to have their say on legislation governing the nearly $17 billion diary industry. 

In May, the government began a review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) 2001, which regulates Fonterra as the dominant player in the market to protect farmers, consumers and the wider economy.

The review will look at how the price of raw milk is set for farmers, how competitive the milk market is – as well as incentives for farmers to move into more sustainable production methods. . .

Fonterra acknowledges release of DIRA options paper:

Fonterra acknowledges the release today of the Government’s options paper on the review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

The Act is a complex piece of legislation and it’s important to New Zealand that the review is thorough.

We recognise the significant work that the Ministry for Primary Industries and Minister O’Connor have put into the document and we appreciate their high degree of engagement with industry so far. . . 

Not meeting honey rules cost Auckland businessman $26,000:

An Auckland businessman has been fined more than $26,000 for offences related to making false therapeutic claims about honey and failing to ensure he was a registered exporter.

Jonathan Paul Towers, 43, has been sentenced in the Auckland District Court and fined $26,300 after earlier pleading guilty to one charge under the Food Act and one charge under the Animal Products Act. . .

WIL locks in $11.5 M toward revised Dam cost:

To secure a 100-year water supply for Tasman and Nelson through the Waimea Community Dam, a group of local businesses has committed to invest $11 million in Waimea Irrigators Limited. Waimea Irrigators Limited (WIL) is issuing a Replacement Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to shareholders today detailing its additional investment of $11.5 million in the $102 million Dam project.

In August it was announced that the cost of the project increased by $26 million. Subsequently, Tasman District Council (TDC) approved a revised funding proposal that included a greater WIL contribution. Through an investor vehicle and additional in loan funding from Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL), WIL can meet its commitment to the project. . . 

Bird Mask’ now available to buy

Off the back of some seriously positive chirping, Air New Zealand and material innovation brand Allbirds have made their collaboratively designed eye mask, dubbed the ‘Bird Mask’, available to purchase online and at selected Nordstrom stores in the United States. . .

From today, fans of the Bird Mask can purchase their very own mask through the Allbirds online store, the Air New Zealand Airpoints™ Storeand Air New Zealand merchandise store, and at Nordstrom stores in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. . .


Not as ungreen as painted

August 28, 2018

Mainstream and social media has had lots of stories about opposition to plans for a dairy farm at Simons Pass.

Neal Wallace provides some balance showing the plans aren’t as ungreen as they’re being painted:

. . . The Murray Valentine portrayed by critics of the dairy farm he is building on Simons Pass Station near Lake Pukaki is an uncaring, heartless capitalist, devoid of any ethics who plans to milk 15,000 cows on the most environmentally sensitive land in the South Island.

The Murray Valentine who occupies an orderly but busy office in Dunedin’s central city is genial, reserved, studied, methodical and who, true to his accountancy profession, makes decisions on fact not emotion.

He is not going to milk 15,000 cows on Simons Pass. . . 

Of the 800,000ha in the Upper Waitaki catchment, about 250,000ha is flat to rolling country that can be farmed. There is sufficient water allocated to irrigate about 25,000ha.

Valentine’s plans, which have never been a secret, are to irrigate 4500ha.

“Not many people who oppose me, I believe, have read the consent.”

Many of the people who oppose this and other similar plans tend to be driven by emotion not facts.

Valentine said critics demand he rip up his consents but that is not an option given the long, drawn-out process to secure them, dating back to soon after 2004 purchase of the property by his family trust.

He now has all the consents needed and started milking 800 cows this season.

That will progressively grow over seven years to about 5000 cows through three sheds.

Forty centre pivots will irrigate the 4500ha, of which about 1500ha will be the dairy platform. The rest will be dairy support, dairy-cross beef finishing and a halfbred sheep breeding unit.

Valentine said Simons Pass will be a closed unit worked in conjunction with a 2000-cow dairy farm he owns in North Otago.

He has made several significant and costly concessions including agreeing to control weeds and pests on 2500ha of ecologically-significant land he set aside for conservation as part of his irrigation consent.

The retired land dissects his farm in a large S shape and Valentine will protect it with 30km of rabbit fencing at a cost of $11.50 a metre.

That’s more than $300,000 of fencing alone.

A further 1300ha of land closest to Lake Pukaki was retired to the Crown under a tenure review agreement. . .

His consent requires annual monitoring of water quality at his boundary.

He intends doing it monthly to ensure he gets an accurate picture of the quality of water leaving the property and can respond quickly to any issues.

Technology measuring irrigation rates, soil moisture and the weather will help decision-making while drones will monitor the centre pivots and stock troughs.

Water for the small area of irrigation the previous owners and neighbour had consent for came from the Maryburn Stream but Valentine has invested $8 million in an 8km pipe delivering water from the Tekapo hydroelectric canal to his boundary, allowing the Maryburn consent to be retired.

“I believe I have shown enough responsibility on the conservation side. I am not shirking my responsibility.”  . . .

Many of those opposing the development paint the area as an unspoiled wilderness, but it’s not and one of the things spoiling it is hieracium.

The invasive weed hieracium is encroaching over much of the basin, killing tussock and causing soil loss through erosion.

Photos taken on Simons Pass in the 1970s showed tussock at hip height but 20 years later the weed has rendered the land barren.

“Most people would describe it as a desert.”

Cultivation and fertiliser in recent years have restored vegetative cover. . . 

Keeping invasive weeds at bay is costly in financial terms. Not doing it is expensive in environmental terms.

The Lindis Pass, which is not far from the Mackenzie, used to be covered in tussock. Year by year hieracium has taken over and hillsides which once waved with tussocks are now bare and erosion-prone.

If Fonterra wasn’t required to pick up milk from anyone who wants to be a supplier it’s possible that dairying in the Mackenzie wouldn’t be viable.

But unless, and until, the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act is changed to allow Fonterra to say no to would-be suppliers, the company has no choice about where suppliers farm.

Opposition to the plans has got personal, overlooking the fact that Valentine has spent six years and a considerable amount of money getting consents.

If those opposing the plans have grounds for their concerns they should be aiming at the consenting authorities and process, not the man.


Rural round-up

August 15, 2018

Appeal decision a win for irrigators but more work needs to be done:

An appeal to Environment Canterbury’s Plan Change 5 nutrient modelling rules has been resolved with a major win achieved for irrigators, says IrrigationNZ.

A Hearings Panel on the Plan Change proposed a new requirement that would have effectively required that all older spray irrigation systems in Canterbury be replaced with new ones by 2020. It was estimated that this change would cost irrigators $300 million.

All parties to the appeal agreed that an error in law had been made when the Hearing Panel introduced this as a new requirement because no submitter had asked for this change.

INZ carried out testing on 300 irrigation systems in Ashburton and Selwyn districts over two summers recently which found that older spray irrigation systems can achieve good levels of water efficiency if regular checking and maintenance is carried out

First M bovis case confirmed near Motueka in Tasman – Sara Meij:

The first case of M. Bovis has been confirmed in the Nelson region.

Biosecurity New Zealand said on Tuesday a property near Motueka, in the Tasman district, had tested positive for the bacterial cattle disease.

Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said the affected property was a mixed sheep and beef farm.

The farm was identified through tracing animals from known infected farms and it was now under a Restricted Place Notice, which meant it was in “quarantine lockdown”, restricting the movement of animals and other “risk goods” on and off the farm. . .

At the grassroots: farmers contribute too – John Barrow:

I recently returned a little disappointed from the Local Government New Zealand conference in Christchurch.

From a dairy farmer’s perspective I was disappointed at the lack of recognition of the cost of farming and issues we are facing – all the emphasis was on urban.

The conference theme was We are Firmly Focused on the Future: Future Proofing for a Prosperous and Vibrant NZ. . .

Draft report on review of Fonterra’s 2017/18 base milk price calculation:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2017/18 dairy season.

The base milk price is the average price that Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which was set at $6.75 per kilogram of milk solids for the season just ended.

The report does not cover the forecast 2018/19 price of $7.00 that Fonterra announced in July.

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

Four does go into one – Sonita Chandar:

Teamwork is the secret to success for the Southland farm judged the best dairy business in the land. Sonita Chandar reports.

Despite three of the four partners living in the North Island the success of a Southland farming business can be attributed to exceptional teamwork and good clear lines of communication.

Each partner brings strengths to the table but no one is above the others. They are all equals, make decisions as a group and share in the spoils of their collective success.

MOBH Farm, an equity partnership made up of Kevin Hall, Tim Montgomerie, Jodie Heaps and Mark Turnwald, won two category awards as well as being named the supreme winner at the 2018 Dairy Business of the Year awards (DBOY). . .

Farmers rally around Cancer Society fundraiser at Feilding Hogget Fair – Paul Mitchell:

The rural community is banding together to get behind the Cancer Society, with personal connections running as deep as their pockets.

The annual Hogget Fair at the Feilding Stockyards on Wednesday is one of the biggest in New Zealand. For the second year running, farmers will donate sheep to help those who are doing it tough.

The money raised from selling the sheep will go directly to supporting Manawatū-Whanganui cancer patients. . .

Rare heifer triplets thriving on Taieri farm – Sally Rae:

Holy cow – it’s a girl. Or in the case of a heifer calving on a Taieri dairy farm last week, it was a gaggle of girls, handful of heifers.

The first-calver produced a very rare set of heifer triplets on the Miller family’s farm at Maungatua. Andrew Miller and his father Jim had never encountered triplet calves before.

Andrew was particularly amazed the Kiwi-cross calves had all survived and were now doing well in the calf shed. . .

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Business not Minister’s business

June 14, 2018

NZ First MP Shane Jones has stomped with his clod hoppers where he has no business to be again:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has climbed into the leadership of dairy giant Fonterra, calling for chairman John Wilson to follow chief executive Theo Spierings out the door.

Jones said he told the company it should stop being political and instead focus on its business.

Says the Minister who uses personal attacks instead of polite discourse and ought to be focusing on politics not meddling in business.

They should focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money they’ve lost overseas. I believe that they have become disconnected from the farming community.”

Jones said he had suggested to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor whether it was time to restructure the dairy co-op, and singled out Wilson for special mention.

Doesn’t he know that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), under which Fonterra was created, is under review already?

The leadership of Fonterra, I believe, starting with the chairman, is full of its own importance and has become disconnected.”

He said there was an absolute absence of accountability for the “enormous amounts of dough” that the current chairman had presided over.

This sounds very like a minister full of his own importance presiding over a billion dollar slush fund with little accountability.

The CEO has gone, well that’s only one party of the double-Dutch we’ve had to put up with in Fonterra over the last nine years. I thoroughly believe this … that as the CEO leaves Fonterra, the chairman should in quick order catch the next cab out of town.

Double-Dutch? Is this a xenophobic reference to the retiring CEO Theo Spierings and past chair Sir Henry van der Heyden who stepped down nearly a decade ago?

“I’ve been bloody disappointed that Fonterra, in my view, the leadership has not accepted that there’s a new Government and there is a new narrative and I’ve had a gutsful of them believing they are bigger then what they really are.” . .

Believing they’re bigger than they are? That’s rich coming from the party with far more power – and voter money – than its voter support at the election entitle it to.

This sort of tirade does nothing to reassure  businesses which are already very wary of the policies and directions of the government.:

The time has come for the Prime Minister to step in and discipline her Regional Economic Development Minister who repeatedly seeks publicity by attacking business leaders, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said today.

“Business confidence in New Zealand is plummeting and the reasons for that are mounting.

“The Government’s low growth policies like higher taxes and stronger unions are causing businesses to hire fewer people and invest less in growth and it has them concerned about the future of New Zealand and who can blame them?

“Because on top of that you have a loudmouth Regional Economic Development Minister who’s putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.

“Shane Jones’ attacks on Fonterra’s leadership are the latest burp from a man who is fast losing any respect he once had.

“He says Fonterra’s leadership is ‘full of their own importance’.  That sounds like a more apt description of himself.

“He even added he’s ‘worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterrra chairman has presided over’.

“This is startling hypocrisy from the same man who defended his own region getting the lion’s share of funding from his billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund by stating ‘to the winner goes the booty’.

“Well it’s not his booty and it’s clear Shane Jones has no idea what accountability means.

“This Government has decided to spend $3 billion over the next three years on regional economic development, including roundabouts and church restorations. It’s critical the responsible is up to the job and focused on doing his job well.

“At the moment, all he seems good for is attacking business leaders whenever a few days have gone by without some of the media coverage for which he craves.

A friend who was at the KPMG breakfast at which Jones launched his tirade said it was entirely inappropriate, and a very poor reflection on the MP and the government.

Fonterra is a co-operative. The performance of the company and its chair are the business of its shareholders not an MP.

There is some dissatisfaction and there are concerns but this season’s  milk price is the third highest since the company was formed.

Shareholders could well be more concerned about the MP who has no business interfering in their business than the chair’s performance.

So Jones’s loose lips could well strengthen the position of Wilson who is up for re-election this year.


Rural round-up

May 13, 2018

Farming programme empowers Maori women in Northland – Bayley Moor:

A programme aimed at upskilling and empowering Māori women in the farming industry has seen its first cohort from Northland graduate.

Graduates from across Tai Tokerau with backgrounds as private farmers, trustees on Māori land and working in the dairy and beef industries were presented with their certificate after completing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust’s Wāhine Māia, Wāhine Whenua programme. 

Wāhine Māia, Wāhine Whenua is an intensive programme providing participants with skills from industry experts including measuring farm performance and potential, business planning, finding and accessing financial information – all condensed down into three, full-day workshops, to make it more accessible for time-poor women.  . .

DIRA distorts Fonterra decisions – Hugh Stringleman:

The review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act is well overdue considering the degree of added competition recently, which has implications for the open entry rule, Fonterra says.

“The industry has become highly competitive with a relatively large number of new entrants often backed by deep capital and global businesses,” it said.

“Open entry limits our farmer-shareholders’ and the industry’s ability to maximise value.

“It distorts investment decisions and leaves Fonterra’s farmers underwriting risk for competitors, who cherry-pick their suppliers.” . . 

Farmers want rules for agents – Nigel Stirling:

Mulitple lawsuits being brought by farmers against a South Island livestock firm looks like being the catalyst for regulation of the industry.

Five civil claims against Rural Livestock and a Serious Fraud Office investigation into a former employee of the Christchurch firm have prompted Federated Farmers to call for livestock agents to be licensed in a similar manner to their counterparts in the real estate industry. . . 

Scoring carbon emissions – Brian Easton:

A powerful social law suggests we often explain or do things the wrong way. This may be particularly true when we try to address Global Warming.

Gilling’s Law, one of the most powerful laws in the social sciences, states that the way you score the game shapes the way it is played.* A simple example is that once rugby was boring with a typical score of 9 to 6 – three penalties to two. Later the score for a try was raised from three points to five, bonuses were given for scoring a lot of tries (and also to a loser who gets close to the winner). The changed incentives led teams to take risks to score tries with the result of much bigger scores and a livelier game. . . 

Low cattle pressure, yet an environmental problem in New Zealand – Robert Bodde:

Mark and Pennie Saunders are milking 2,000 dairy cows on the New Zealand South Island. Due to the scale, the cost price is lower than average despite the solid financing. The entrepreneurs see availability of labor and environmental measures as the biggest threats.

Their cows and young cattle older than two months walk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the meadow. Mark and Pennie Saunders have therefore invested little in buildings. At the home location in Ashburton, 90 kilometers south of Christchurch, there are three pilots, one of which is out of use. One is for the housing of sober calves, and one contains some tractors and machines. The 4 tractors from 45 to 120 hp are 20 to 45 years old. They are, according to Mark, not worth more than € 165,000, including the tools.

The 80-stall rotary milking parlor, an outdoor fancier from 2004, has also been depreciated. In the first years, 1,200 cows went through twice a day. After an increase in business in 2007, 1,650 per day, 10 months per year. Since 2015, there are only ‘1,450’. That year they bought 130 hectares of the neighbor and they started a new location with 600 dairy cows on a 54-stall rotary milking parlor. “The decision to start at the second location was prompted by the scarcity of capable people”, says Mark. “It is certainly financially more attractive to milk for longer in the 80 stands. But with 1,650 cows, the employees were milking for nine hours a day. Then you will not keep your people. You can only bind them to you if they have varied work. ” . . .

(This was translated from Dutch, as internet translations do, it doesn’t get every word right).

Texas ranches manage cattle to improve pasture and watershed health – Sandra Postal:

The following is an edited excerpt from Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity by Sandra Postel, published by Island Press.

Few animals get as bad a rap these days as cattle do. They are blamed for soil erosion, water depletion, overgrazed rangelands, greenhouse gas emissions, and, when eaten, human heart disease. Often missing from such indictments of the mooing, tail-wagging, and, yes, methane-emitting bovine, however, is our role. How we choose to manage cattle determines their environmental impact, not the animals themselves.

“Ninety percent of people think cattle are bad,” said Robert Potts, president of the Texas-based Dixon Water Foundation. “But grasslands need well-managed grazing to stay healthy. We need to educate people about that.” . . 


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