Rural round-up

December 7, 2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

November 29, 2019

Rates performance nothing to raise a glass to, Feds says:

It’s pretty telling when your cost hikes outrun even those of booze and cigarettes.

Council rates and fees outstripped every other consumer price index cost group between 2000 and 2019, the Federated Farmers 2019 Rates Report shows.

“It’s pretty much expected that prices of alcohol and tobacco products shoot up, especially with regular government tax increases, and indeed they jumped 120% in the last two decades,” Feds President and local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“But local authorities left them for dead, hiking their costs more than 170% – more than three times the CPI for all cost groups in New Zealand.” . .

Plenty promulgating prejudiced assumptions about farmers – Anna Campbell:

Recently, I was called out for frightening ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’ when I wrote about the threat of cellular agriculture and alternate proteins to agricultural products.

I think anyone in business should be aware of threats and New Zealand farmers have a track record of adjusting to markets as they need to, so I’m OK with being called out, but I did feel uncomfortable with the term ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’. What does that mean?

The majority of farms, including those run by families, are multimillion-dollar enterprises with complex cash-flows — romantic as farming can look, producing food for export is no cottage industry.

OK Anna, don’t get caught up on semantics, but it was not long after that I read an ODT interview with the new Otago Regional Council chairwoman, Marian Hobbs (October 29), here is an excerpt from the article: ‘‘she had problems with the growing number of huge farms owned by large landowners and corporations farmed by others ‘‘I wonder if they have the same love for the land, but that may be a prejudice I have to sort out.’’

Yes, that prejudice does need to be sorted out. Implying corporate farmers won’t care for the environment is presumptuous.  . . 

NZ lamb industry unfazed as British supermarket Waitrose ends imports :

Plans for the British supermarket Waitrose to phase out the importation of New Zealand lamb are disappointing but do not spell trouble for the sector, the meat industry says.

Having previously sourced lamb from New Zealand during the UK’s winter months, Waitrose announced this week it will aim to complete the move to 100 percent British lamb in 2021.

A Waitrose spokesperson, Tor Harris, said it showed the company’s commitment to British farmers and to the future of agriculture inside Britain. . . 

Dairy farmers producing more milk from fewer cows, latest ‘cow census’ shows:

The latest New Zealand Dairy Statistics released today by DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) reveal farmers’ focus on productivity and efficiency is paying off with milk production increasing despite cow numbers stabilising.

The 2018-19 cow census shows that total cow numbers have remained relatively stable, but the cows we do have are producing more milk than ever before.

New Zealand reached record milk production per herd and per cow this year, with dairy companies processing 21.2 billion litres of milk containing 1.88 billion kilograms of milk solids – both up 2.4% on the previous season. . .

Future proofing vegetable growing in Pukekohe:

More than 50 people are finding more about how to manage vegetable growing in Pukekohe in a changing regulatory environment, thanks to Horticulture New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand, Potatoes New Zealand, Onions New Zealand and the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association.

‘Growers, their advisers, fertiliser companies, and Auckland Council attended our first workshop,’ says Horticulture New Zealand Sustainability and Extension Manager, Ailsa Robertson.

‘It’s great to get everyone in the same room as a step towards getting everyone on the same page.  Our thanks to Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association Acting President, Kylie Faulkner for helping get the workshops off the ground. . . 

New members join Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Investment Advisory Panel:

Lucy Griffiths of Masterton and Anne-Marie Broughton of Whanganui have been appointed to the independent Investment Advisory Panel (IAP) for Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures).

With $40 million available each year from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), SFF Futures supports problem-solving and innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibre industries that will make a positive and lasting difference. It offers a single gateway to apply for investment, and provides grants of less than $100,000, right up to multi-million dollar, multi-year partnerships. . .


Caring more for cows than women

November 27, 2019

The government’s winter grazing taskforce has made 11 recommendations.

The report says some things should never happen, including animals giving birth on mud and avoidable deaths in adverse weather events.

Highlighted in the report is the fact that there is no agreed set of standards among farmers for good animal welfare practice, and what some consider good practice is still exposing animals to poor welfare.

But Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Dr Jenny Jago said her organisation, Beef+Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers had talked with the taskforce about the objectives being more practical for outdoor pasture-based systems.

Some of the recommendations made under the premise of ‘always’ and ‘never’ to take place is unrealistic in our pasture-based system,” said Jago.

“The report states farmers should always provide animals with a soft dry surface to lie on, which in an outdoor system subject to weather conditions, is simply not achievable even with the very best management.  A ‘never’ standard would apply if there was a little bit of rain or a lot of rain, which makes it impractical.

“Many farmers follow good management practice which is particularly important in very wet weather or snow events where a ‘plan B’ ensures farmers keep stock off the crop for periods of inclement weather.”…

Good management should not be up for debate, the problem is marrying that with what’s practical.

Sorting that out will take time:

Southland dairy farmer Jon Pemberton co-founded the farmer advocacy group Ag-Proud this winter. The recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress it created among farmers sparked the group’s formation.

Mr Pemberton said there were some sensible expectations around farming practices outlined in the report, including making sure stock were slowly transitioned from grass onto crops, to ensure there were no health complications.

But he said he did have some concerns around the practicality of providing dry-bedding for livestock at night and worried about what any new regulations could mean when farmers faced adverse weather events.

“There will be a lot of guys scratching their heads thinking how are we going to work around this … so I just do hope we are allowed the time to work through this,” he said

While not questioning the need for some farmers to improve management, we can question government policy that requires higher standards for cows than women:

This refers to the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre which forces women to travel to Invercargill to deliver their babies.


Rural round-up

November 26, 2019

Security for Otago farmers unclear amid water plans – Jono Edwards:

Some Otago farmers could be left with “unbankable” irrigation schemes as the Government recommends an overhaul of the Otago Regional Council’s planning processes.

Environment Minister David Parker yesterday released a raft of recommendations for the council after an investigation into its management of freshwater.

It said the council was not equipped to transfer hundreds of century-old water rights into resource consents by 2021, and regardless it should not do so because they would be processed under its current “inadequate” water plan.

On top of the rewriting of council plans already in progress, it recommended an interim plan change to transfer the permits into consents in the meantime.

They would be for a maximum of five years, which some farmers say is too short to ensure future security. . . 

Food bowl or toilet bowl? – John Jackson:

New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. 

By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 5New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. OPINION: By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 50 Shades of Green banner. I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. banner.

I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. . .

 

No slacking for M Bovis effort – Annette Scott:

There’s no time to slacken off over the next year if the , programme is to limit the disease, M bovis governance group chairman Kelvan Smith says.

The M bovis governance group, made up of Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Ray Smith, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle,  Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor and independently chaired by Smith, meets monthly to discuss and review the eradication programme.

Smith said the group is focused on strategic planning to ensure the programme builds on progress made to date and continues towards eradication.

“To date the programme has found 207 infected properties, stopping further spread of the disease and clearing the infection from these properties,” he said.  . . 

Beef + Lamb puts money where its mouth is- Nigel Malthus:

A ‘model’ sheep and beef farm in North Canterbury is away and running, its founders say.

The North Canterbury Future Farm, set up by Beef + Lamb NZ in partnership with local famers, has had an “OK” first full year of operation, said the organisers of its 2019 Open Day.

BLNZ’s partner is Lanercost Farming Ltd, formed by the landowner, Julia Whelan, with locals Simon Lee and Carl Forrester. . .

A natural blend of grains firms – Tim Fulton:

Two New Zealand-based, foreign-owned seed companies marked a milestone merger in October.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie has seen a good number of mergers and acquisitions over 45 years in the grain and seed trade.

Some deals went well and good and others were distinctly disappointing. The lastest was a natural blend, he said.

The sale of PGG Wrightson’s former grain and seed division has put McKenzie in charge of an Oceania business unit in a global business, DLF Seeds. . .

Pet day a national school tradition :

Dogs of every shape and size, miniature ponies, cats, lambs and guinea pigs put aside their differences and got together for Fairton School’s annual pet day last week.

Fairton School principal Mike Hill said, ”We are a little country school and pet days are a national tradition, and a lot of fun.”

The majority of the pupils had pets at home, so it was good to recognise the way they cared for their animals, he said.

It was also a great chance for parents, and visiting preschoolers from Stepping Stones @ Braebrook, to come to the school and be involved. . . 


Rural round-up

October 31, 2019

NZ aware of ASF threat – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s pork industry would be “decimated” if African swine fever (ASF) was to hit the country, New Zealand Pork chairman Eric Roy says.

Since China reported the first case of ASF just over a year ago, it has culled more than 131million pigs, or around 40% of the previous pig herd.

Some private sector estimates suggested the culling might have even been larger than official estimates, BNZ’s latest Rural Wrap said. 

NZ Pork was concerned the disease was spreading “quite rapidly” and was now in Timor-Leste, or East Timor, as it continued to move south from China. It has been confirmed in the Philippines and South Korea. . .

Kiwi vegan loonies are treasonous – Ryan Bridge:

How do you know there’s a vegan in the room? They’ll tell you.

It’s an old joke but a good one.

Vegans are like evangelical Bible Belt Christians from the United States. They want to ram their ideology down your throat at any chance they can get.

On Tuesday, you will hear in the news stories about a new survey of consumers. They will claim a third of Kiwis are on their way to becoming vegetarians or vegans. We’re all going green. 

But make no mistake, the percentage of Kiwis who are vegetarian or vegan remains at 3 percent. Yes, 97 percent of us are still into our meat and so we should be, especially in New Zealand. . .

Women elected to DairyNZ board – Pam Tipa:

Two Waikato dairy farmers were elected to DairyNZ’s board last week. Tracy Brown is a new member and Elaine Cook was re-elected at the annual general meeting in Hamilton on October 22.

They are two of five farmer-elected directors and three board-appointed directors who contribute to strategy and priorities on behalf of dairy farmers. DairyNZ now has a board of five women and three men.

Chair Jim van der Poel welcomed the directors and acknowledged their role in “playing a key part in setting the future direction of DairyNZ”. . .

A voice for telling rural stories – Alice Scott:

A strong desire to capture the essence of people and tell their stories  won a former West Otago woman the Rural Champion category at the NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards recently. Alice Scott reports.

Kate Taylor, who now lives in Hawke’s Bay, grew up in the small southern farming district of Dunrobin. 

She says entering the Rural Women business awards was a way for her to ”walk the talk” and share her story, as she has for so many years been preaching to the people she interviews.

Mrs Taylor is the youngest of four Rivett girls and grew up on her family’s sheep and beef farm known as The Glen. She attended Blue Mountain College, in Tapanui, and got her first job in Gore, at radio station 4ZG, then did a journalism course at Christchurch Polytechnic . .

NZ lamb exporters welcome Brexit deadline extension–  Maja Burry:

An extension to the Brexit deadline is being welcomed by New Zealand lamb exporters, who had been worried about possible disruptions to Christmas trade.

European Union leaders have agreed to extend Brexit until 31 January next year – meaning the UK will not leave as planned on Thursday. The bloc would also allow for a so-called “flextension” – meaning the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal was approved by Parliament.

The UK market is very important for chilled New Zealand lamb exports ahead of Christmas and there had been concerns from industry that the UK’s departure from the European Union during this period could present border delays and increased administrative costs. . . .

Deer farm for sale with tourism and hunting options :

An iconic Hawke’s Bay station founded on pioneering spirit and nurtured over 100 years by the same family is now on the market for the first time.

Historic Te Rangi Station, located 50 minutes north of Napier Airport is generating strong interest among farming circles as far afield as the South Island from potential buyers recognising the opportunities a deer fenced station of this scale and summer safe location offers. . .


NZ can’t afford $6b/year

October 31, 2019

The government’s Essential Freshwater proposal would cost far more than the country can afford:

Economic modelling by DairyNZ shows the proposed Essential Freshwater package could significantly harm New Zealand’s dairy sector and the wider national economy – by 2050, costing $6 billion per year. . .

DairyNZ initiated three studies into the potential economic effects of the Essential Freshwater proposals, two are independent and all three have been peer-reviewed.

The economic studies are supported by additional technical research by DairyNZ which analyses the likely water quality improvements. DairyNZ’s full submission will be released by end of day Thursday, October 31.

“The economic modelling shows us that the proposed Essential Freshwater policy package is one of the largest economic challenges posed to the dairy sector in a generation – its full effect could lead to a fall in our GDP of $6 billion by 2050, without even adding additional costs related to climate change,” said DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle.

The proposals focus only on the environmental leg of the sustainability stool and ignore the economic and social ones.

“But what is really crucial is that we believe other options are available to improve and strengthen the protection of ecosystem health and we will be outlining these in our full submission.

“The proposed freshwater changes would result in significant declines in milk production and is therefore a serious threat to the international competitiveness of New Zealand’s dairy sector.

“However, water quality and emissions gains can still be made with less stringent reforms, at a lesser cost to the New Zealand economy. Farmers care deeply about the environment and have been doing their bit to protect the environment and our waterways for some time,” said Dr Mackle.

This is the water farming families drink and use for recreation. It is in our interests to protect and enhance its quality.

“They are absolutely onboard with continuing to play their part in improving our waterways, however stringent changes cannot be at the detriment of farming’s future and the communities they support. We need to approach this carefully, balancing environment and economy – we can achieve both goals by working closely together on this issue.

“The economic analysis shows potential significant impact. By 2050, total milk production is forecast to fall by 24 percent and all national exports by 5.2 percent or $8.1 billion.”

Tax revenue from dairy is also forecast to more than halve by 2050, with an annual loss of $0.54 billion at the national level. . .

The forecast from the independent Sense Partners showed an extra  $1 billion loss  and another 4 percent reduction in milk production.

Where would that money come from if it didn’t come from dairying?

The more moderate freshwater reforms, in isolation, are not expected to have the same degree of economic impact.

“Four scenarios were modelled and scenarios one and two, which include actions around fencing, farm plans, capital expenditure, consented stand-off pads and nitrogen caps in priority catchments, had less financial impact for farmers and therefore the economy,” said Dr Mackle.

“In contrast, the consideration of proposed nutrient limits under scenario three was forecast to impose a significant financial burden on the dairy sector. Research by DairyNZ also shows that these limits – broadscale introduction of phosphorus and nitrogen leaching reductions in monitored catchments – are based on overly simplistic relationships and not supported by robust science.

“It is under these more stringent reforms that dairy will struggle to contribute as significantly to the national economy, as it does now.” . . .

The flow-effects would spread from farms to rural communities and beyond.

Southland, Taranaki, Marlborough and West Coast are likely to be most negatively affected. By 2050, GDP could fall in Southland by up to 3.6 percent; Taranaki by up to 2.9 percent; Marlborough by up to 3.2 percent and West Coast by up to 2.9 percent. Waikato would also be significantly affected.

“The proposed changes potentially compromise the vitality of regional communities, due to the importance of processing jobs as well as farm profits and expenses being a key source of revenue for other businesses,” said Dr Mackle.

Less milk means 15-20 percent less jobs and reduced competitiveness in global markets. This is an issue because nearly one-third of exported goods and 46,000 jobs are associated with dairy production in New Zealand.

“The proposed Essential Freshwater changes constitute substantial business risk for New Zealand dairy farms, with the number of insolvent farms forecast to jump from 2 to 11 percent by 2050.

“Dairy is here to play our part but it must be done in a way that supports the community and all Kiwis while working towards improved water quality.” . .

The freshwater proposals are yet another example of policy the country can’t afford from a government we can’t afford.

You can read more ofDairyNZ’s economic assessment on the proposals here.


Working with better than against

October 25, 2019

The government has seen sense and is accepting the primary sector’s proposal on agricultural emissions.

The agreement means agriculture will not join the Emissions Trading Scheme but instead work with the Government to reduce emissions.

There will be no processor levy from 2020 to 2025 as initially proposed but farmers and growers will have to implement farm plans and calculate their emissions and offsets at the farmgate from 2025.

A processor level would have penalised more efficient farmers and given no-one an incentive to improve.

Such a tax would have taken money from farmers, leaving them with less to invest in on-farm solutions.

Progress will be reviewed in 2022 and if the Government is unhappy it will revert to the original legislation.

That threat will hang over the sector but at least there’s breathing space.

We are pleased that the Government has recognised that it does not make sense to bring agriculture into the ETS and that we have a pathway to work with the Government to develop a more appropriate framework,” the sector said in a joint statement.

“We welcome this pragmatic and sensible decision by the Government to work in partnership with industry to achieve tangible on-farm change and hope that it might provide a blueprint for the way we work together to solve environmental challenges in the future.”

Would it be too much to hope a similar approach could be taken to water policy?

The 11-member primary sector group has committed $25m over five years to achieve these goals.

That group is Apiculture NZ, Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association, Deer Industry NZ, Federation of Maori Authorities, Foundation for Arable Research, Federated Farmers, Horticulture NZ, Irrigation NZ and the Meat Industry Association. . .

This shows the importance of unity and what can be achieved when working together.

It also shows the sense of government working with the sector instead of trying to impose impossible goals on it.

Federated Farmers’ response is here.

DairyNZ’s response is here.

 


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