Rural round-up

August 28, 2019

Stressed southern farmers get help – Neal Wallace:

Agriculture leaders are scrambling to support Southland farmers struggling to deal with the seasonal pressures accentuated by a media campaign questioning their winter grazing management and animal welfare.

Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the campaign has added to the seasonal stress of calving and lambing and a wet, cold latter part of winter.

“We are very concerned for farmers.  . . 

Not Just A Southland Issue — August 2019 – dairymanNZ:

Last week the Minister of Agriculture announced the members of his taskforce that will investigate the practice of wintering cow on crop in Southland, their brief being to “do a stocktake of the multiple initiatives that are already underway to promote good winter grazing practices and identify why those are not currently working for all.”

The issue has of course been brought to a head by environmental campaigners in Southland releasing drone footage of cows up to their hocks in mud along with pictures of cows calving in similar conditions.

The reaction from farmers on twitter has been starkly divided; Southland farmers believe it is an issue for their region to tackle without interference from central government or advice from outside experts, let alone from the lone environmentalist appointed to the taskforce. They are not interested in the opinions of non-farming urbanites whose only experience with wet weather grazing was that one time they got caught in the rain during a picnic.  . . 

Eagerly grabbing their chances – Neal Wallace:

Blair and Jane Smith freely admit to having their share of good fortune as they embark on their farming careers but that doesn’t mean they are resting on their laurels. Neal Wallace reports.

It might be a cliche that business success is all about opportunities but that is the reality for North Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith.

In 2008 as they were in the process of taking over Jane’s family farm neighbours Bruce and Fay McNab invited them to look over their hill property.

Blair says they initially had no idea why they got the invitation but the farm was for sale and the McNabs viewed them as potential owners. . . 

 

Beefing up women’s voices :

Ten years ago Lindy Nelson was wondering why rural women weren’t more visible as decision-makers around the table in the boardroom or even in their own farm kitchens.

She did some research and decided to take the bull by the horns, setting up an organisation to give them a bigger voice.

The Agri-Women’s Development Trust was born and now trains and supports hundreds of women – and now men too – to make change in New Zealand’s primary sector and in rural communities. . .

Battery-powered tractors still a long way off – Mark Daniel:

The likelihood of electric or hybrid powered farm tractors still appears a long way off.

The German news site Top Agrar says research by Fendt indicates that the energy density of currently available batteries would not suit high horsepower prime movers.

Fendt director of research, development and purchasing, Heribert Reiter, says tractors up to 68hp (50kW) can typically use batteries to run for one to four hours depending on the task. . . 

‘Widespread support’ for advance parties – Trevor Walton:

They sound as if they are small military detachments charged with reconnaissance, but in the case of the deer industry’s advance parties (AP) they are in fact the main body of the army.

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) Passion2Profit manager Innes Moffat said there were now 29 advance parties, involving 352 of the industry’s 1200 or so commercial deer farms and more than 30% of the industry’s deer.

”There are eight APs operating across Otago and Southland, catering for farmers in different districts and with different interests,” Mr Moffat said.

”For example there are environment APs in Central Otago and Southland; an AP catering for farmers who specialise in elk/wapiti; and a data group in Southland working on a short term project. . . 


Rural round-up

August 14, 2019

Mainland venison marketer calls China home – Sally Rae:

When Hunter McGregor established a business in China four years ago, it was pioneering stuff.

Mr McGregor runs a Shanghai-based venison importing and distribution business, working with specialist New Zealand venison producer Mountain River Venison.

There was no market for venison in China and so it had been about creating both interest and demand for the product – “because it doesn’t sell itself”.

What he has also found is that running a business in China is getting harder. And that, quite simply, was “because it’s China”. “It’s the way things are,” he said. . . 

Looming 6A plan deadline pushed out – Sally Rae:

A significant milestone looms for rural landowners in April next year when new obligations are scheduled to come in to play to comply with the Otago Regional Council’s 6A plan change for rural water quality. But if a proposal from staff, headed to a council meeting this month, gets approval from councillors, that date will be pushed out to April 2023, as rural editor Sally Rae reports.

In a nutshell, Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner says parts of the much-discussed 6A are working really well – but other parts are not.

And with the deadline just months away, the council did not believe it could enforce what was due to come into effect.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times ahead of the council meeting, Ms Gardner stressed the ORC was “absolutely not” walking away from its responsibilities around water quality, which remained its number one priority. . . 

Fonterra’s losses provide more questions than answers – Keith Woodford:

The forthcoming asset write downs of more than $800 million announced on 12 August by Chairman John Monaghan are clearly damaging to Fonterra’s balance sheet. It also means that Fonterra will now make a loss for the year of around $600 million. However, the implications go much further than that.

The losses mean that Fonterra will need to sell more assets to bring its ‘debt to asset ratio’ under control. The losses also ping back to the balance sheets of its farmer members, where the Fonterra shares are assets against which these farmer members have their own debts. Many dairy farmers are already struggling with their balance sheets, with banks now requiring debt repayments on loans that used to be interest-only.

If these write downs are the full story, then Fonterra will survive. The big question is whether these are all of the write downs, both for now and the foreseeable future. . . 

Farmers are getting more milk from each cow – they deserve a much better performance from Fonterra  –  Point of Order:

This   is the second  chapter  in the  woes  of  Fonterra, and  behind  it   the  dairy industry,  on  which the  New Zealand  economy is  so  dependent.

Point of Order   listed  some of those  woes    last  week.  Now, in the  wake  of  the latest  revelation,  Fonterra  will  have to absorb a loss of between $590m and $675m for the current financial year.

Critics   of the industry have  sprung  to the attack:  Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones is calling Fonterra’s management “corporate eunuchs” and labels Fonterra’s board as “grossly inept”. . . 

Meat prices drive increase in overall food price index:

Rising meat prices drove food prices up in July 2019, Stats NZ said today.

Meat and poultry prices rose 2.8 percent, with higher prices for chicken, lamb, and beef, partly offset by falling pork prices.

Chicken pieces were a big driver of the monthly price rise, up 7.0 percent. The weighted average price in July was $8.61 per kilogram compared to June ($8.05 per kilo). As well as being a big contributor to the monthly change, chicken pieces were up 8.8 percent annually. In July 2018, the weighted average price for chicken pieces was $7.91 per kilogram.

Lamb chop prices reached an all-time high in July, up 1.7 percent. The weighted average price was $17.70 per kilogram compared with $17.41 in June and $16.33 a year ago. . . 

Finding the Will to Live

When Elle Perriam’s partner ended his own life in 2017, she set about changing the lives of others, embarking on a national tour in June to encourage farmers to ‘Speak Up’

New Zealand is in what can only be called a mental health crisis. Around 500 New Zealanders per year die by suicide, and we have some of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. The statistics are even worse in the rural demographic, where suicide rates are 20–50 per cent higher than in urban areas. The pressures of agriculture, coupled with the typical stoic, silent culture that permeates rural New Zealand can mean that those who are struggling often find it difficult to seek help, or to talk about their private battles. Geographical isolation can also be a factor, with some farm workers employed on remote high-country stations for months at a time with limited off-farm contact.

In December 2017, 21-year-old North Otago farm worker Will Gregory tragically ended his life, leaving his family, friends and girlfriend Elle Perriam devastated. Following Will’s death, Elle, a Lincoln University student, looked for a way to create positive change in the rural mental health sector, and the idea for the ‘Will to Live Speak Up Tour’ was born. Elle, with the help of her sister Sarah, launched the tour at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival in October 2018, with Will’s black Huntaway Jess as mascot. . . 

It’s a tough time being a farmer these days – Kate Hawkesby:

It’s a tough time to be a farmer these days. I really feel for them. Sure, they’ve been through lots of good and bad times, that’s the nature of farming, but it feels like this current climate is really tough.

Farming seems under fire from the government in a changing climate of new taxes, regulations, rules. it costs more to be on a farm these days. And that’s before we even get to Fonterra.

After massive write-downs of its assets, Fonterra’s forecasting a huge loss this financial year of around $675 million. That’s the second biggest loss since it began 20 years ago. No dividends will be paid to shareholders this financial year. . .


Rural round-up

August 8, 2019

Meat industry concerned by education shake-up :

A shake-up of vocational education could be a backwards step for training in the meat industry, the sector’s leaders say.

Last week, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced seven key changes in store for on-the-job training and apprenticeships, which included the creation of a “mega-polytech”.

Up to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils would also be created to “replace and expand” Industry Training Organisations (ITOs). . . 

Consumer trust is key for future success of NZ food industry:

Consumer trust has never been more valuable to the New Zealand food industry and is set to play a key role in its future success, a visiting international agricultural expert has told the horticulture sector. Yet winning and sustaining this trust has also never been more complex.

Speaking at the New Zealand Horticulture conference in Hamilton last week, the Sydney-based general manager for RaboResearch Australia and New Zealand Tim Hunt said consumer trust was becoming an increasingly precious commodity for New Zealand food producers.

“New Zealand’s emerging markets, like China and South East Asia, place a high value on food safety and the process of food preparation, while more mature wealthy markets are willing to pay for sustainability, animal welfare, fairness and attractive provenance,” he said. . . 

‘No ordinary job’: Dairy farmers put in the hard yards over calving – Esther Taunton:

Most calves are born like Superman, with their front legs up over their heads, but sometimes even Superman needs a hand, Taranaki sharemilker Jody McCaig says.

McCaig and her husband, Charlie, farm at Te Kiri, inland from Opunake, and like dairy farmers around the country, they’re headed into another busy calving.

At the height of the season, up to 50 calves a day will be born on the 1000-cow, 320-hectare property. . . 

Stop pigeonholing farm systems– TIm Fulton:

Support for regenerative agriculture is building across New Zealand and Australia. As Crown-run Landcare Research seeks state funding to test the principles and practice Tim Fulton spoke to Australian soil science leader Professor John McLean for an assessment of the movement.

At home with a newborn in southeast Queensland Associate Professor John McLean recently read a an article on regenerative agriculture in the special Fieldays issue of Farmers Weekly.

Bennett is a principal research fellow at the university’s Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems and the immediate past president of Soil Science Australia. . .

New Zealand’s first carbon neutral milk plant – Nigel Malthus:

French global food company Danone says it will spend NZ$40 million on its Nutricia spray drying plant at Balclutha to achieve net carbon neutrality there by 2021.

NZ operations director Cyril Marniquet says it will make the Balclutha plant NZ’s first carbon neutral one of its kind.

A NZ$30m biomass boiler will reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent, the company says, of removing 60,000 cars from NZ’s roads. And a more efficient waste water treatment plant will meet Danone’s stringent global clean water standards.  . .

China confirms it is suspending agricultural product purchases in response to Trump’s new tariffs – Kate Rooney:

China confirmed reports that it was pulling out of U.S. agriculture as a weapon in the ongoing trade war.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said Chinese companies have stopped purchasing U.S. agricultural products in response to President Trump’s new 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods.

“This is a serious violation of the meeting between the heads of state of China and the United States,” the Minister of Commerce said in a statement Monday that was translated via Google. . . 


Labour counters facts with threats

August 19, 2017

Labour hasn’t got the facts to back up its water tax policy so is resorting to threats:

That quote is from David Parker, Labour’s Environment spokesman.

A royalty for using a public resource?

Will it be sunshine and air next?

They are also just as much public resources as water and are also necessary ingredients for growing food.

 


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