Rural round-up

October 8, 2019

Green Rush: Foreign forestry companies NZ’s biggest landowners – Kate Newton & Guyon Espiner:

The four largest private landowners in New Zealand are all foreign-owned forestry companies, an RNZ investigation has found.

Despite a clampdown on some overseas investment, including a ban on residential sales to offshore buyers, the Labour-led government has actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined ‘special forestry test’.

Since the government was formed, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related land sales – about 31,000 hectares of it previously in New Zealand hands.

Of that, about half has been sold via a streamlined ‘special forestry test’ introduced by the government last October. . . 

Have your say on water – David Burger:

DairyNZ is working flat tack on assessing the Government’s proposed Essential Freshwater Package.

It is of huge significance to farmers and some of the specific proposals are causing concern, particularly at a time when there is so much to do on-farm. 

The time frames for consultation are extremely short, especially given the amount of change being proposed, the complexity of the issues and the sheer volume of material to understand.

Since it was released DairyNZ’s water quality scientists, policy experts and economists have been working through the details to understand their implications on the environment, dairy farming families and our communities.  . .

Farmers’ riparian planting pays for West Otago pool’s new roof – Jo McCarroll:

A few years ago Lloyd McCall, then chair of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, was thinking about the riparian planting needed along the region’s farms’ roughly 4000km of waterway.

“So I worked out how many plants we’d need and it was lots,” he says.

At the same time, McCall was on the committee fundraising to put a new roof on the West Otago Swimming Pool. . .

Successful wintering starts with planning in spring :

Careful planning in spring is an important part of successful wintering and it starts with choosing the right paddocks to grow winter crops in, DairyNZ South Island head Tony Finch says.

”Choosing your paddocks is a crucial part of planning for winter,” Mr Finch said.

”Critical source areas, waterways, shelter, water troughs and being prepared for prolonged weather events all need to be taken into account when selecting a paddock.”

Critical source areas are low-lying parts of a farm, such as gullies and swales, where water flows after rain events. . .

Geraldine High School student named Aorangi TeenAg Member of the Year:

A stroke of luck seven years ago has put a Geraldine student on a path to becoming an arable agronomist.

Ben Chambers, 17, is about to embark on his final set of exams at Geraldine High School.

The Year 13 student has been secretary of the school’s thriving TeenAg club for the past two years. . .

How feeding cattle contributes to national security – Shan Goodwin:

FORGET endless data sets and science-back evidence, the path to communicating with anti-meat campaigners is in changing our own mindset and being able to communicate our ‘why’ in an engaging manner.

So says Colonel Sam Barringer, a veterinarian by trade who spent 30 years in the US Air Force and US Army, during which time he was deployed to 25 different countries and earnt numerous medals and awards for exemplary performance in combat.

Col Barringer today provides technical assistance to Diamond V ruminant teams and plays a key role in the company’s food safety initiatives. He also has extensive knowledge in human behavioural science. . .

 


Rural round-up

September 20, 2019

Call for an end to scaremongering – David Hill:

Incessant scaremongering over the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food has to end, the chief executive of the Foundation for Arable Research says.

Dr Alison Stewart says while the attention on plant-based proteins could be seen as a win for the arable sector, the debate should not be seen as an ”either/or” scenario.

”New Zealand has to stop endlessly talking about what its future could look like and just go out and make things happen, and it has to stop the incessant scaremongering around the threat to the livestock industries from plant-based food.

”It should not be an either/or situation but a win-win where New Zealand is seen as a leader in both animal and plant production systems.” . . 

Enjoy NZ meat and dairy without guilt – Katie Milne:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne explains why consumers can tuck into the milk and meat that New Zealand produces without qualms about global warming and health impacts.

You are what you eat.

To each his own.

Two time-worn sayings that have much to recommend them, and that are relevant in today’s discussions about vegetarianism, red meat, nutrition and the environment.

They’re certainly worthwhile topics to talk about and in recent years voices saying meat eaters are doing a disservice to their health and the planet have become more insistent and strident. . . 

Freshwater changes not set yet – Yvonne O’Hara:

The Government’s   Action Plan for Healthy Waterways  proposal includes tighter restrictions for farmers, including restrictions on land intensification, improvements to “risky” farm practices, and more controls on changing land use to dairy. Consultation meetings in Southland attracted hundreds of vocal farmers. Yvonne O’Hara reports.

Farmers need to “make some noise”, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s general manager policy-advocacy Dave Harrison.

All farmers, rural business owners and employers are urged to make submissions to the Ministry for the Environment (MFE) about the Government’s Essential Freshwater: Action for healthier waterways package.

The Government has released a discussion document that outlines proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Environmental Standards, to clean up and prevent further water quality degradation. . . 

 

5 Fast Takes after Freshwater Consultation Meeting – Siobhan O’Malley:

Summary of my thoughts after attending the Freshwater Consultation Meeting in Nelson for the Ministry for the Environment last night…

Number 1 – gratitude. I am so grateful for industry organisations like Beef+Lamb, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers who look at all the details of this legislation through the lense of their industries and who have teams of people who understand policy fineprint. There are so many details and implications to be understood. The farmer is already working 90 hours a week right now in calving and lambing, and it isn’t their zone of genius to analyse policy. So I felt mega grateful we have those organisations to do the heavy lifting. I plan to check out the summaries they have emailed me, because I realised last night I need help understanding this far reaching and massively complex legislation.

Number 2 – wow this is going to cost a lot. This is something not being well communicated in the current media reporting, who seem to be describing mainly what farmers will have to do. I began to appreciate the scale of spending required by local councils all over the country to upgrade their infrastructure for sewage, wastewater and stormwater, and that about blew my mind. And that was before I thought about how much individual farmers will be spending on farm environment plan consultants, fencing, riparian planting and infrastructure, as well as loss of income from retired land.  . . 

Vote for those who understand farming – Rhea Dasent:

Local elections are coming up and Federated Farmers reminds members how important it is to vote.

The quality of local government in rural communities can mean the difference between dodgy roads and safer ones, thousands of dollars in rates, and the kind of regulation you face on-farm.

Councillors have an important role in influencing the development and implementation of regional and district plans.

Councillors who know and understand farming, or who recognised the practical need to engage with farmers on plan development and implementation, are critical to good resource management. . . 

Female farmers gather to celebrate women in ag at Longerenong – Gregor Heard:

THE INSPIRING story of a former Vietnamese refugee now part of a broadacre farming business in South Australia’s Barossa Valley was a highlight at this week’s Emmetts Celebrating Women in Agriculture Ladies Day event at the Longerenong field days site in Victoria’s Wimmera region.

A large crowd of females in agriculture gathered at Longerenong for the day, organised by Emmetts, one of south-eastern Australia’s largest John Deere dealerships.

The group heard the story of Yung Nietschke, who along with participating in her family farm business with her husband, also works as an educational consultant developing mentoring programs for women and youth. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 19, 2019

New environmental laws will encourage stampede into forestry:

The governments’ new environmental proposals will further accentuate the move of good, productive farmland into forestry according to environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green.

50 Shades of Green Chair, Andy Scott said the figures provided by the government were, at best, dishonest.

“The government is claiming the cost of fencing waterways will cost hill country sheep and beef farmers a few thousand dollars,” Andy Scott said. “This is plain wrong.

“One farmer on easy hill country tells me his cost will be nearer to $one million. He can’t afford it and is selling his farm for forestry. . . 

50 ways dairy farmers show their love for the land:

To mark the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, DairyNZ brings you 50 ways dairy farmers are showing their love for their waterways, land and environment.

It’s fair to say that almost all dairy farmers care deeply for the natural world that surrounds them every day of their lives – and they are passionate about protecting and nurturing it for the generations to come.

For dairy farmers, the focus in the past few years has been on improving waterways, enhancing biodiversity, and controlling predators, both weed plants and animal pests, such as possums, rats and stoats.  They know some of their actions are also already helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and that there are further mitigations under development they will be implementing in the future.

The farmers around the country who are part of the Dairy Environment Leaders programme, set up six years ago to develop responsible dairying, are true kaitiaki. They not only roll up their sleeves on their land, but they are also inspiring other farmers. They are active in their communities, on boards and local committees and catchment groups, leading the way in achieving good outcomes for the environment and farming.  . .

Palmerston North TeenAg student lands coveted cadetship :

A determined Palmerston North student has achieved a long-held goal of landing a cadetship in the food and fibre sector.

Alex Argyle, 16, is one of only three people accepted for next year’s cadet intake at Pukemiro Station in Dannevirke.

Almost 50 people applied for the coveted two-year cadetships.

“I’m over the moon. I’m quite young for my year at school, so initially it came as a bit of a shock when I found out,” said Argyle. . . 

First four candidates for Fonterra elections :

Sitting Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been announced as two of the four independently assessed candidates for the 2019 Fonterra board elections.

The other two candidates are Philipp Haas and Cathy Quinn. As re-standing directors, Smit and Macfarlane automatically go through to the ballot: Haas and Quinn were recommended by the Independent Selection Panel after their assessment process.

There are two different ways that shareholders can stand for the board – as Independently assessed candidates or as non-assessed candidates. . . 

New directors to help push for smarter farming:

Agri-environment expert Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, farmer Nicola Hyslop and governance and e-commerce leader David Biland have joined Ravensdown’s board of directors it was announced at the co-operative’s 2019 annual meeting in Lincoln.

Shareholders of the co-operative hailing from Southern Waikato to Northland elected Jacqueline who is from Tirau.  Nicola, a Timaru sheep, beef and arable farmer, was elected director for the Canterbury area. Jacqueline replaces incumbent director Kate Alexander and Nicola replaces Tony Howey, who has retired from the board.

Auckland-based David Biland, who is currently director of management consultancy Hughland Limited, joins as an appointed director replacing Glen Inger who has been on the Board for 12 years.

Ravensdown chairman John Henderson said the new directors were exceptional additions to the Board and would help drive further success for the co-operative and its shareholders. . . 

What we can learn from the Visible Farmer project – Dr Jo Newton:

With over 104K views and 700 shares of their Season 1 Trailer, Visible Farmer – a short film series showcasing the largely untold stories of the role women play in food and fibre production – has made its presence felt on social media.

While any initiative seeking to empower, inspire and encourage women should be celebrated, there’s more to Visible Farmer.

Visible Farmer has already achieved what few projects have achieved in agriculture – a community united around and helping share a vision.

Gisela Kaufmann is the co-creator of Visible Farmer and says she has been utterly humbled and thankful for all the support. . . 


More immigration isn’t what they campaigned on

September 18, 2019

The government has announced changes to immigration policy with a streamlined temporary work visa.

It’s been greeted positively by Federated Farmers:

“Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has  been taken on board – we congratulate the government,” Feds employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted.”

By ditching the ANZSCO skill level classifications, there is much greater scope for a migrant worker to achieve career progression on our farms.

“The changes incentivise farmers to invest in training and supporting migrant employees because there’s a greater chance of keeping them than currently exists.

It’s such a waste of time and effort to train people only to have them forced to leave the country when their visas run out.

“We also acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach in reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders.  The migrant worker’s children can be educated here, and their partner can get an open work visa,” Lewis said.

“It’s a positive for rural communities to have settled and content families, not just single men who may well be sending all their money home to their family.”

It’s far better to have families together here, participating in the community, than to separate them with the worker isolated and sending money home.

The government has indicated the dairy industry is a likely early target group for one of the new sector agreements, containing specific terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers.

“Federated Farmers looks forward to working with other Team Ag  partners and the government to help get this sector agreement right,” Lewis said.

DairyNZ and the tourism industry are among others who are pleased with the changes and I agree with them.

Unemployment levels are low throughout New Zealand and out of the main centres are down to the unemployable. It is at least difficult, and often impossible, to get locals who are capable of working on farms, orchards, hospitality and tourism in the regions.

But what do all the people who voted for the governing parties, Labour NZ First and the Green Party think?

All three parties criticised immigration levels when they were in opposition and campaigned on cutting it back.

We can be grateful that now the anti-immigration rhetoric has met the reality of worker shortages it’s the voters who believed the talk who are disappointed but businesses will find it easier to get the staff they need.


Playing for the payer

September 18, 2019

What’s the value of dairying to the economy? It depends who you ask:

The recent NZIER report trivialises the significant role the dairy sector plays in New Zealand’s economy – and fails to look at the specifics of the Government’s freshwater package, according to DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the report, commissioned by Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace, is less an economic report and more a high-level commentary on the dairy sector’s role in the economy – and paints an inaccurate picture.

“This is yet another case of environmental lobbyists targeting dairy farmers – who are people trying to do the right thing by the environment and who are actively working to make changes on-farm to protect it,” said Dr Mackle. “By singling out dairy farmers, they are ignoring other contributors to water quality and, therefore, are limiting our ability to actually fix the problems where they exist.

“The NZIER report trivialised dairy’s role in the economy – 3 percent of GDP equates to 28 percent of merchandise exports and one-fifth of goods and services exports coming from the dairy sector.

“The NZIER report does not analyse the economic benefits of dairy to regional communities – which is a critical aspect of dairy farming’s contribution to NZ Inc. Dairying is the engine of the regions, in terms of income and jobs. For example, it is the top income earner in Waikato, West Coast and Southland.

“Yesterday we saw the latest MPI Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which showed dairy makes up $18.1b of $46.4b exports to June 2019. Dairy exports were up $1.47b last year – this has flow-on effects to our communities, where we employ 46,000 people on and off-farm.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) recently completed an advisory report on the Essential Freshwater Package that showed that national limits for nitrogen and phosphorus would potentially impose very large costs on agriculture.

“In that report, it referred to a Waikato modelling study which found that land-use change was required to achieve the nitrogen and phosphorus limits proposed – with changes resulting in a dairy revenue loss of $140m per year,” said Dr Mackle

The LGNZ report showed that these goals require an enormous amount of land use change to take place, with many farms becoming uneconomic and communities being impacted negatively due to rural depopulation and a loss of annual income.

“Modelling for Southland showed that achieving a 9 percent reduction in nitrogen loss would reduce dairy profits by $17m a year,” said Dr Mackle.

“In terms of innovation, dairy farmers are an extremely innovative sector but the reality is that all land users play a role in water quality and more than innovation is required – it also needs broadscale adoption by all land users.

“As a sector, we are solutions-focused – and have been for years, and our farmers have been voluntarily working to look after their land and waterways. Our Water Accord shows a range of great progress, including fencing 98% of significant dairy waterways and stock crossing points or culverts for almost all waterways nationwide.

“We all acknowledge there is more work to be done – but we need to work together and recognise when good work is happening and allow time for change to occur.”

NZIER produced a report that played the tune the payers – Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace – wanted.

In doing so it seriously undervalued the economic importance of dairying in and to New Zealand and seriously underestimated the devastating impact the freshwater proposals would have on rural communities and the country.


Dairy delivers for NZ

September 16, 2019

Professor Graeme Doole, DairyNZ principal economist has some facts to counter the anti-dairy rhetoric:

Every New Zealander is better off today thanks to the nation’s dairy cows – and that’s no exaggeration.

We will continue to be better off into the future too, because of this important sector and its powerful linkages to the overall well-being of New Zealanders.

The nutritional benefits of dairy to the human body as part of a balanced diet are factually documented. Dairy is also central to many of our culinary cultures – from crumbly cheddar and smooth brie, to ice cream, yoghurts, and butter for baking or on toast with marmalade.

What might not necessarily be as readily understood is the way the dairy sector helps to provide many of the things Kiwis say matter to them.

As we look at what makes life here in New Zealand good, and what can make it better, I want to cast light on how dairy works with every drop of milk to help improve our lives, from helping to pay for the goods and services we value, to assisting to reduce the price of others, including imported items.

Anyone worrying about poverty and hunger ought to be encouraging more dairy production here to keep the price lower and reduce the price of and reliance on imports.

At the same time dairy farmers, who are such innovators and are so responsive to the signals they receive, are improving their environmental practices, be it fencing and riparian planting to protect waterways, installing upgraded effluent systems, or working to reduce greenhouse gases.

They are also playing a key role in communities nationwide as they work together to address issues with water quality.

Dairy is closely intertwined with the entire economy, contributing in so many ways to higher living standards for New Zealanders.  Quite simply, the healthier the country’s economy, the better the quality of our lives, both now and into the future.

The dairy sector will earn New Zealand around $17.5 billion in export revenue this year, and is set to top that next year. This is greater than the revenue accruing to the forestry, meat, and wool sectors combined.

The entire economy benefits from this expenditure through dairy’s spending, directly, as in what dairy farmers and dairy companies go out and buy from businesses across the country, and indirectly.

Dairy significantly helps to fill Government’s tax coffers too, providing more money to pay for the essential services that help to improve peoples’ quality of life – education, hospitals, social security and welfare, police and so forth.

In the 2018-19 year we estimate that dairy farmers paid around $0.5 billion in taxes. For the 2019-20 year they will likely pay even more.

Dairy also delivers for regional government with rates and other charges, helping to pay for local infrastructure and services. Last year, farmers alone paid more than $200 million in rates.

Currently, the dairy sector employs 46,000 workers – that’s the entire population of Timaru, Canterbury’s second largest city, or more than all those living in Wellington’s Upper Hutt.

On-farm there are 34,000 full-time equivalent employees, and a further 12,000 across 35-plus dairy processing plants.

Dairy sector employment has grown faster (+3.1 percent per year) since 2000 than the rate of national job creation (+1.8 percent per year), boosting rural communities.

Not bad credentials really.

Regional statistics 2017-2018

Northland

    • Dairy generated $500 million in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $350 million; dairy processing $150 million at Fonterra’s Edgecumbe and Reporoa sites.
    • Dairy provided 2,800 jobs – 2,400 on farm; 400 in processing.

Waikato

    • Dairy generated $2.2 billion in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $1,600 million; dairy processing $600 million at 11 sites (Fonterra nine, plus one each for Tatua and Miraka).
    • Dairy provided 13,400jobs – 9,900 on farm; 3,500 in processing.

Bay of Plenty

    • Dairy generated $500 million in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $350 million; dairy processing $150 million at Fonterra’s Edgecumbe and Reporoa sites.
    • Provided 2,800 jobs – 2,400 on farm; 400 in processing.

Taranaki

    • Dairy generated $950 million in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $800 million; dairy processing $150 million at Fonterra’s Eltham, Kapuni and Whareroa sites.
    • Provided 5,500 jobs – 3,700 on farm; 1,800 in processing.

Lower North Island

    • Dairy generated $700 million in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $550 million; dairy processing $150 million at Fonterra’s sites in Longburn and Pahiatua, and Open Country’s in Wanganui.
    • Provided 4,400 jobs – 3,100 on farm; 1,300 in processing.

West Coast-Tasman

    • Dairy generated $260 million in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $250 million; dairy processing $10 million at Fonterra’s Takaka site and We4stland’s near Hokitika.
    • Based on the population of 75,344, this equates to $3,450 per person that was injected into the West Coast-Tasman economy thanks to dairy.
    • Provided 2,100 jobs – 1,500 on farm; 600 in processing.

Marlborough-Canterbury

    • Generated $1.5 billion in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $1,2 billion; dairy processing $300 million at five sites – Fonterra’s at Brightwater, Clandeboye and Darfield, Synlait’s at Dunsandel and Westland Milk Product’s at Rolleston.
    • Provided 8,500 jobs – 6,000 on farm; 2,500 in processing.

Otago-Southland

      • Generated $1.1 billion in regional GDP – dairy farming contributed $950 million; dairy processing at $150 million at five sites – Fonterra’s at Edendale and Stirling, Open Country’s at Awarua, Danone’s at Balclutha and Mataura Valley Milk’s near Gore.
      • Provided 6,100 jobs – 5,100 on farm; 1,000 in processing.

The green radicals, other anti-farming groups and individuals calling for a reduction in cow numbers haven’t joined the dots between dairying and its significant contribution to the economy and the country’s well being.

They take no account of the efforts put into addressing problems caused by poor practices in the past and ensure better ones in the future.

They are also blind to the fact that if climate change is a concern it is better to have more dairying here where it is so efficient than in other countries where it is less so.


Deliberate or ignorant?

September 10, 2019

The government’s Action for healthy waterways has a lot to say about farming but was developed without any input from the industry groups like Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ,  Deer Industry NZ, Federated Farmers and  Horticulture NZ.

It proposes new requirements that would:

  • strengthen Te Mana o Te Wai as the framework for freshwater management
  • better provide for ecosystem health (water, fish and plant life)
  • better protect wetlands and estuaries
  • better manage stormwater and wastewater, and protect sources of drinking water
  • control high-risk farming activities and limit agricultural intensification
  • improve farm management practices.

Eric Crampton points out that proposals could bankrupt some farmers.

 . . .Let’s step back and consider why strict targets without compensation are likely to cause a lot of bankruptcies. 

Farm purchases and dairy conversions are often heavily leveraged. Farmers will have borrowed to purchase the land and to put in the infrastructure improvements for irrigation and dairying. The selling price of the land, and the amounts that banks have been willing to lend, reflect the expected return that comes from the business. 

That return builds in certain expectations of the regulatory environment. 

Farmers have never had to pay for water directly. The value of water instead is reflected in the value of an irrigation consent tied to a piece of land. Research done earlier this decade suggested that land with an irrigation consent traded for up to fifty per cent more than comparable land without a consent. In other words, the value of the water was already incorporated into the selling price of the land. And that value will not have gone down over the intervening years.

A big change in the regulatory environment around water abstraction, or around allowable nutrient runoff or on-farm practices, would substantially change the cost calculus for already heavily leveraged farms. Costs go up, returns go down, and net cash flow is insufficient to pay the mortgage. Hello, bankruptcy. . . 

This isn’t fear-mongering.

The proposals are as drastic as the changes that precipitated the ag-sag of the 1980s.

Farmers are very aware of the costs and risks to their businesses. The government appears not to be worried about that, but have they taken into account the huge economic hit the country would take with the huge fall in production, and therefore export-earnings?

The paper was launched last week, consultation meetings have started, mostly in cities, and people have only six weeks to submit.

That is a very short time for people to read, absorb, reflect and respond let alone right in the middle of lambing and calving, the busiest time of the year for dairy, beef and sheep farms.

Is the timing deliberate or are those behind it simply ignorant of the demands placed on farmers in spring?

A cynic might think they know but don’t care.

The goal of clean water is one no-one should argue against but the government would have a much better chance of reaching it, without a huge economic and social cost, if it worked with farmers and their industry groups, and gave more time for them to come up with practical solutions.

 


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