Not what farmers think

07/11/2022

Audrey Young has given Damien O’Connor the highest mark in her annual cabinet ratings:

. . . Damien O’Connor 9

Agriculture, Biosecurity, Land Information, Rural Communities, Trade and Export Growth

Outstanding year. Another FTA under his belt with EU–NZ deal concluded after UK-NZ deal last year. Important role in setting climate change policy in agriculture. Chairing CPTPP next year. Ageists may expect him to retire but why should he when he is at the peak of his career? Previously 9 . .

That isn’t what farmers think.

The UK trade deal is a good one but the EU one is not.

It looks like it was rushed through to give the government a good headline while the PM was in Europe.

It would have been far better to have continued negotiating than to have accepted this deal.

Whatever his role in setting climate change policy was, it hasn’t been good for farming, farmers, rural communities or the country.

Butchering He Waka Eke Noa would, by the government’s own figures, kill off one in five sheep and beef farms with consequent loss of jobs and export income that will make the ag-sag and share market crash of the 80s look like good times.

Turning productive farmland into forests is economic, environmental and social vandalism.

If there was any advocacy from the Minister on unblocking the immigration pathway for agricultural contractors and farm workers it hasn’t been effective.

Then there’s this:

New Zealand has agreed a declaration along with other members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that commits members to working together to boost sustainable agriculture and food systems, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said today in Paris.

The ‘Declaration on transformative solutions for sustainable agriculture and food systems’ was adopted at the OECD Committee for Agriculture on 4 November. . . 

“The Declaration will see OECD countries identify opportunities and challenges facing food production and share ways to tackle them. 

“It includes ensuring food security and nutrition for a growing global population, along with addressing environmental challenges in an inclusive manner. . . 

How does the goal of ensuring food security align with his government’s determination to tax farm emissions that by their own modelling will reduce food production so drastically?

If farmers had been rating the Minister he’d have got a very generous, not achieved.


Rural round-up

26/10/2022

Ag sector not impressed – David Anderson :

NZ’s farming sector has been left disappointed and stunned over the Government’s proposal to price agricultural emissions.

Federated Farmers argues the plans would “rip the guts out of small town New Zealand, putting trees where farms used to be”. It accuses the Government of throwing out the years of work the sector put into finding a solution and said it was “deeply unimpressed” with the Government’s take on what He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) put forward.

Modelling done by Ministry for Primary Industries shows that without representation – and assuming farmers paid the levies at the farm gate – using the price proposed by HWEN of 11c a kilo of methane, by 2030 production of milksolids would be down by up to 5.9%, lamb down 21.4%, beef down 36.7% and wool down 21.1%.

The same modelling showed that 2.7% of dairy land would go out of dairy production while 17.7% of sheep and cattle country would cease running livestock, presumably to be converted to forestry. . .

Emissions plan will sound death knell for farmer s – Mayor – Peter Burke :

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little says the Government proposal to charge the ag sector for emissions will be the death knell for East Coast farmers.

He says farmers like himself were already being treated like second class citizens and this proposal reinforces that.

“It takes away all hope,” he told Rural News.

Little says farmers are now talking about selling up and going to Australia where he says agriculture is booming. . . 

BLNZ calls out HWEN changes – Annette Scott:

More than two years of cross-sector collaboration with uncomfortable conversations and robust debate on pricing emissions has not been recognised and “I am gutted”, Beef + Lamb New Zealand director Nicky Hyslop says.

“I am gutted as a sheep and beef farmer and as a BLNZ director with the government decision to make significant changes to He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), which now have an unacceptable impact on a sheep and beef farmer,” Hyslop told farmers at the central South Island farmer council annual meeting.

“We get the current farmer anger and frustration but let’s channel that into strong messages that will resonate with the public, build pressure on the government and get constructive changes to make this whole thing workable.

“The bottom line is we are not going to agree to anything that threatens the viability of our industry and of our family farms. . . 

Call for more support for rural communities’ fight against climate change :

Government support for rural communities is vital to realising the potential in mitigating climate change says Rural Women New Zealand.

“Our members care for our land, our people and rural communities and we acknowledge the need to adapt, however, we would like to see more work on empowering rural communities through the provision of resources to effect positive change,” says National President Gill Naylor.

“There is no doubt that the solutions proposed by the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Change Partnership and the Government’s discussion document on pricing agricultural emissions, will have an impact on rural communities.

“Rural communities include the towns and regional centres which service them – the adverse impact of, and the opportunities afforded by, emissions pricing stretch further than the farm gate. . . 

Trust takes Ahuwhenua Trophy for top farm :

The Wi Pere Trust, a large sheep and beef farming operation at Te Karaka near Gisborne, was awarded the 2022 Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori sheep and beef farm. 

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor made the announcement at the Ahuwhenua Trophy awards dinner in Hawke’s Bay. He said Māori account for 25% of the production of sheep beef and wool in New Zealand, and have brought a highly professional approach to their farming operations. 

He encouraged everyone to go along to Ahuwhenua Trophy field days to better understand the complexity of the farms and passion of the farmers.

Trudy Meredith of Wi Pere Trust said winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy was absolutely amazing – especially given this was the first time they had entered the competition.  . . 

NZ Rural Land diversifies into forestry – Hugh Stringleman :

New Zealand Rural Land Company (NZL) is moving into forestry land ownership at a cost of $63 million for five properties in the Manawatū/Whanganui region.

The listed landlord has entered an agreement with private company NZ Forest Leasing to acquire the forest estate of approximately 2400ha and lease it all back to NZFL for a period of 20 years.

The settlement date for the acquisition is April 15, 2023 and the first year’s lease payment will be $4.98m.

Thereafter annual lease payments are subject to CPI-linked adjustments. . . 


Rural round-up

13/09/2022

Research looks at breeding more climate friendly cows :

New research has confirmed bulls’ genetics play a role in how much methane they emit, highlighting the potential for farmers to breed low methane-emitting cows in the future.

The news comes following the first year of a research programme run by major New Zealand artificial breeding companies LIC and CRV.

The research, funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), measures methane emissions from the burps of young bulls set to father the next generation of New Zealand’s dairy cows.

Results from year one, where the feed intake and methane emissions from 281 bulls were measured, found there is genetic variation in the amount of methane emitted after accounting for the feed eaten by the bulls, with the lowest emitting around 15-20% less methane than the average. . .

David Parker must delay winter grazing regulations :

The Government is about to pile up to $100 million of unnecessary compliance costs onto farmers because its freshwater regulations are more than a year overdue, National’s Agriculture spokespeople Barbara Kuriger and Joseph Mooney say.

“Under Environment Minister David Parker’s regulations, farmers must have a certified freshwater farm plan for winter grazing on sloping land. If they do not have a certified plan, they must obtain a resource consent,” Barbara Kuriger says.

“Two years after the regulations were passed, the Ministry for the Environment has not completed the framework allowing farmers to certify freshwater farm plans. Officials have indicated the framework will not be ready this year.

“The regulations have already been delayed by David Parker twice, but are now due to come into force in November. Because the guidelines will not be ready, many thousands of farmers will have no alternative but to apply for resource consents for their winter grazing. . . 

How Miles brings smiles to the nation’s cowsheds this time by upgrading earnings guidance – Point of Order:

The giant  dairy co-op Fonterra  has  sent  a  shiver  of  excitement  through the  country’s   cowsheds     by   upgrading  its earnings guidance to between 45 and 60c per share, up from 30 to 45c per share for the 2022-23  season.

At  a  time  when  other  sectors  of  the  economy   are  under  pressure, and the  dairy industry is  coping with  difficult  climatic  conditions,  Fonterra in effect is signalling  that NZ’s export  mainstay can  do  even  better  than it  did in the  previous outstanding season  in sustaining its  export  earnings.

Some  might   say  Fonterra is  at  last  on  the  brink of  fulfilling  the  promise  its  founders held  for it 20-odd  years  ago.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell foresees  the  possibility  that if  current conditions  persist, the revised guidance  could be raised   again. . . 

Sheep farmers roll out woollen mate for the wellnes market – Country Life:

With crossbred wool prices remaining low, some sheep farmers are having a serious crack at adding value to the fibre they proudly grow.

Canterbury farmers Jane and Mark Schwass are making felted wool exercise mats from their crossbred wool clip.

“A daughter brought a woollen mat home that was made offshore and imported into New Zealand for quite a significant amount of money and we thought, ooh this is something we could be thinking about!”

Most people use the woollen mats for Yoga and Pilates, Jane tells Country Life. . . 

Whaitiri to promote dairy sector’s interests in India while O’Connor deals with the IPEF – but he aims to review dairy quota, too – Point of Order:

Two new announcements  have been posted on the Beehive website since our monitoring yesterday, one dealing with the dairy sector, the other with New Zealand’s trade relationships.

One announcement said Food Safety Minister Meka Whaitiri is headed for India to address the World Dairy Summit in New Delhi, the flagship event of the International Dairy Federation.

The other said Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor is in the USA where he has joined ministerial representatives from 13 other economies across the Indo-Pacific region to launch negotiations on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).

A week earlier O’Connor had made another trade-related announcement with particular implications for the dairy industry, . . 

Central Australian cattle station saves big in maintenance after employing all-female crew – Hugo Rikard-Bell:

It’s about midday on Umbearra Station, and owners Angus and Kimberley McKay are sitting down for lunch with their crew, who are recapping the antics of the William Creek races held the weekend just gone.

Sixteen years ago, when Mrs McKay first arrived on the remote cattle property, 300 kilometres south of Alice Springs, the dining room set-up looked a little different. 

“I was the only female, and we’d have a whole table of males,” she said. 

Now, the tables have turned, and it is Mr McKay who is sitting at a full table of females, eating a lunch of freshly made quiche and salad. . . 


Rural round-up

03/05/2022

O’Connor now will support law changes needed for Fonterra’s capital restructuring – Point of Order:

Agriculture  Minister  Damien  O’Connor has  overcome  his objections to  the  capital restructuring of  dairy giant Fonterra  and  says  the  government  will  now  amend the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

The dairy giant wants to make it easier to join the company, while maintaining farmer ownership amid falling milk supply.

O’Connor  recognises  Fonterra as a key part of New Zealand’s world-leading dairy industry and a major export earner for the economy, sending product to over 130 countries.

Around 95% of all dairy milk produced in New Zealand is exported, with export revenues of  $19.1bn a year. It accounts for 35% of NZ’s total merchandise exports and around 3.1%  of GDP. The industry employs around 49,000 people. . . 

Is this the technology to win Kiwis over to genetic engineering? – Nikki Macdonald:

You’ve heard of fermenting yeast to make beer, but what about brewing GM microbes to make bioplastic? Using designer microbes to make stuff in fermentation vats has been described as the next manufacturing revolution, with potential to produce everything from cow-free cheese to sustainable fossil fuel replacements. But is GE-free New Zealand ready for it?

Veronica Stevenson bet her house deposit on a bee.

Before using GM microbes to make stuff was all the talk (Impossible Burger, mRNA vaccines), Stevenson set out to find the genetic recipe for the plastic-like film that lines the nest of a solitary Aussie bee.

All she had to do was work out which bit of the bee’s DNA linked to the nest material and put that code into a micro-organism, which then makes it in a fermentation vat, or bioreactor. . . 

Country Calendar couple put hopes in hemp – Kerry Harvey:

Southland farmers Blair and Jody Drysdale don’t let fear hold them back when it comes to finding ways to make their family farm work.

“You can’t be scared of failing. Give it a go and, as long as you learn by your failures, get up and carry on again,” Blair says.

The couple are the third generation of the family to farm the 320-hectare mixed cropping and livestock farm. Jody and Blair and their three children – Carly, 13, Fletcher, 11, and Leah, nine – took over from Blair’s parents in 2008. . . 

Waikato diary farmers struggling with historic dry conditions

Waikato dairy farmers are struggling with the region’s dry conditions, with no decent rainfall expected to fall anytime soon.

NIWA’s latest hot spot watch shows things have got really dry in the region within the last couple of weeks.

The driest soils across the North Island, compared to normal for this time of the year, are in Northern Waikato – and it doesn’t look like the situation will improve anytime soon, with no decent rain forecast.

Bart Van De ven is a sharemilker in Springdale, near Morrinsville. . . 

Where did we get the idea veganism can solve climate change? – Anthony Signorelli:

Cattle have been denigrated as a major cause of greenhouse gases (GHG) and, therefore, a cause of climate change. When I first heard this as a former farmer, I thought: That’s preposterous! Do cows have more impact than fossil fuels? No way.

Big claims

So, I looked it up. Sure enough, a 2009 report from the WorldWatch Institute claims livestock accounts for 51% of GHG — more than industry, coal-burning electricity generation, and transportation combined. Whatever those guys smoke at WorldWatch, I’d like some for Friday night! That report is no longer available on the WorldWatch site. (Links go to a dead page. A reader sent me this one.) It’s not hard to figure out why.

The original story emphasizing the GHG contribution of livestock came from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO published a study authored by Henning Steinfeld in 2006, which claimed that livestock produced 18% of global GHG and concluded that livestock was producing more GHG than the entire transportation sector. Although it is a mystery how WorldWatch inflated that to 51% three years later, the claim in the FAO study was eye-catching. Apparently, many eyes caught it, and then they read WorldWatch, too.

But there was a slight problem. . . 

Ravensdown secures co-funding to eliminate coal from aglime process :

Ravensdown announces today that it has achieved government co-funding to accompany the co-operative’s investment to install a biomass combustor at its Dipton lime quarry. Locally supplied wood fuel will replace coal in the lime-drying process – an important part of preparing the naturally occurring soil conditioner for use by Southland farmers and growers.

The co-operative’s commitment is being matched by funding through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund. The funding agreement with EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) commits Ravensdown to savings of at least 1,107 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum, reducing Ravensdown’s direct carbon footprint by almost 10%.

According to EECA, process heat accounts for over a quarter of New Zealand’s energy-related emissions, presenting a huge opportunity for businesses to take a lead in climate change mitigation. The GIDI Fund is part of the government’s Covid Response and Recovery Fund, established to drive economic stimulus and job creation through decarbonisation projects. . . 


Rural round-up

11/04/2022

Feed shortage a concern for dry south – Neal Wallace:

Dry conditions continue to grip farms in Southland and Otago, worsening already stretched feed supplies compounded by delays in getting stock processed.

Between 8mm and 30mm of rain fell over Southland and southern Otago this week, but temperatures have also fallen.

Weather forecasters are offering little prospect of significant regular rainfall for the remainder of April, although there another southerly next week could deliver a further 20-40mm.

“It’s still below average but much better than we have had in the last few months,” WeatherWatch chief forecaster Philip Duncan said. . . 

Global dairy prices weaken as China reduces its demand – Point of Order:

The ANZ world commodity price index hit a new record in March, lifting  3.9%.  Prices are very strong across most commodities, although none of the sub-indices are currently at record levels.

In local currency terms, the index gained just 0.5%, as local returns were eroded by a 3.1% gain in the trade weighted index (TWI).

While farmers were  digesting this  news, the latest global dairy auction  recorded a dip in prices as  demand weakened from Chinese  buyers.  The GDT  price index slid 1% to 1564 at the  auction following a 0.9% fall at the previous bimonthly auction.

Dairy prices have risen steeply at auction this year, pushing the index to record levels, as tight supply underpins demand. . .

Kiwifruit picker reveals secret to earning $60 per hour – Annemarie Quill:

Is it really possible to earn $60 an hour picking fruit? “Absolutely,” says Maketū’s Trish Townsend, who has been a kiwifruit picker in the Bay of Plenty for four years.

“I did $60 per hour yesterday, and I am looking forward to $90 an hour at Easter when we’ll be on time-and-a-half. As long as the weather stays fine, I will be going hard.”

Last month Stuff revealed that high pay rates of up to $60 per hour, and incentives such as cash bonuses, prizes and free transport, accommodation and food, are being offered to lure pickers to the kiwifruit industry, which is experiencing its “toughest-ever season” due to the impact of Covid-19.

The industry usually requires 24,000 people to pick and pack over a typical harvest, but is drastically short this season due to a lack of international workers, such as backpackers or seasonal workers from overseas. . . 

Cannabis farm gets 32m grant new generation coming into agriculture – Tessa Guest:

The government has given a cash injection to the country’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, saying it could become as successful as the wine industry.

Puro, a specialist cannabis grower near Kēkerengū, between Blenheim and Kaikōura, was given a $32 million grant today.

The $13m is coming from taxpayer money, and the remaining $19m is from private investors.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the “weird and wacky” grant would kickstart the organic medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand. . .

Mountain bike trails put new spin on Whanganui farm – Country Life:

Sheep bleating and shearing machines whirring are sounds of the past at the Oskams’ old woolshed.

Nowadays you are more likely to hear the buzz of bike chains, the hiss of tyre pumps and the whooping of mountain bikers stopping for a break after whizzing around the trails above.

Bikes hang in the sheep pens, the sheep dip has been turned into hot showers and the wool sorting table is used for preparing feasts when there’s a big crowd.

Tom Oskam spent his boyhood here on the land which is snuggled into a bend in the Whanganui River. It used to be part of a much bigger farm used for sheep, beef and forestry.   . . 

New Ravensdown chair to focus on pathways to progress :

Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farmer Bruce Wills has been elected the new Chair of Ravensdown as current Chair John Henderson concludes his term on 31 May 2022.

The former Federated Farmers national president is excited about the recently evolved strategy of the co-operative which is sharpening its focus on improving farmers’ and growers’ environmental and productive performance.

Bruce was voted in as a Ravensdown director in 2015, working closely with John Henderson who has been a director since 2004 and Chair since 2014.

“It’s been an eventful seven years on a Ravensdown board that, alongside the staff and management, have worked tirelessly towards a vision of smarter farming for a better New Zealand,” said Bruce. “I am passionate about Ravensdown’s role as the nutrient leaders in the areas of science, supply and solutions for an agsector striving for more sustainable ways forward.” . .

 


Rural roundup

04/04/2022

Food crisis coming farming leader warns – Tim Cronshaw:

The price of diesel has gone up so much that it cost Valetta grain farmer David Clark $4000 to fill up his combine harvester.

By the time he had finished harvesting a milling wheat crop that night it was empty and needed filling again.

A full tank only cost him $1700 last year.

Mr Clark said there was no alternative, but to pass on the extra cost to shoppers who would have to pay more for their bread. . . 

Surfing for Farmers hits the right spot – Nick Brook:

A nationwide initiative supporting farmers’ mental and physical health was a roaring success in its first season at Kaka Point in South Otago.

Surfing For Farmers (SFF) was launched in Gisborne in 2018 by Stephen Thomson after seeing how pressure on the rural sector was hurting farmers at an alarming rate.

The programme now operates at 18 beaches throughout New Zealand.

‘‘As much as we love this industry, the stress of the job can get on top of you. . . 

Govt drought support doesn’t go far enough – Simmonds

Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says the Government’s declaration of a drought in Southland is big on talk, but small on funding support.

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the current drought condition in the Southland, Clutha and Queenstown Lakes districts as a medium-scale adverse event.

The adverse event classification unlocks up to $100,000 in Government funding to support farmers and growers until October 2022, O’Connor says.

“The drought coupled with pandemic disruption to meat processing has contributed to added strain on people. . . 

Looking for the perfect peanut – Country Life:

Can New Zealand grow peanuts suitable for peanut butter?

To find out, eight peanut varieties are currently being trialled in Northland and one looks particularly promising…

A text of GPS coordinates leads Country Life to a paddock of peanuts in the Far North. It can’t be spotted from the road.

“It’s by design,” laughs Greg Hall from the Whangārei development agency Northland Inc. “It stops people ripping off our peanuts.” . . 

The roots go deep at Wanaka vineyard – Cosmo Kentish-Barnes:

Rippon winemaker Nick Mills looks across his family vineyard on the western flank of the Upper Clutha Basin, overlooking Lake Wānaka.

He says the land has its own spirit that he feels strongly.

Asked by Country Life to elaborate, he puts it like this:

“This land is about belonging, connections, love, family, team, voice, being blessed to be a place that grows grapes… that can talk with warmth and accuracy to this beautiful place.” . . 

Taking Stock: No shearers? – the wool industry hits a dilemma – Stephen Burns:

There have been many issues which have threatened the existence of the wool industry during the past 200 years when Merino sheep have been bred in Australia.

Some have been divisive to the point of pitting neighbour against neighbour, family against family – think of the troubles to introduce a Reserve Price Scheme in the early 1960’s or think again about the rancorous attempts to introduce wide combs.

Each were a cause of much heartache and dispute at the time but wide combs are now so readily accepted, it is a wonder so much time was sweated in denying their use.

That the Reserve Price Scheme eventually came undone only caused great financial pain to the many woolgrowers who continued to breed Merino sheep for their fleeces only to see them added to the wool stockpile until that accumulation was eventually sold. . . 


Good use of our money?

01/03/2022

Is this good use of our money?

Breakfast is an important meal and hotel breakfasts are expensive so that probably shouldn’t be criticised but the snacks can be.

MIQ wouldn’t be much fun and I can understand someone wanting some comfort food, but should taxpayers be paying for it?

Try telling someone who doesn’t have enough money to feed their family that their tax helps fund $60 of ministerial snacks.

Parliamentary Services obviously thinks that everything but the deodorant is okay, but if you’re on a ministerial salary wouldn’t you realise this isn’t a good look and pay for it yourself?


Rural round-up

23/02/2022

Baa humbug! Demand for sheep milk is “booming” but taxpayers are being milked to help a Maori collective invest in the industry – Point of Order:

As Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor has dipped into one of the troughs in his bailiwick to nurture a Maori sheep-milk enterprise.  As Minister of Rural Affairs, he has declared a medium-scale adverse event in cyclone-battered bits of the North Island.

This declaration (he announced) enabled the government to dip into other troughs to provide support for farmers and growers hit by the storms.

For starters, a modest – almost trifling – sum of $200,000 was made available for local Rural Support Trusts and Mayoral Relief Funds to use to help recovery efforts in Taranaki, Wairarapa, and the Waitomo district.

Damien O’Connor popped up again to announce state support for Māori landowners to invest in New Zealand’s rapidly growing sheep milk industry. . . 

Council-farmer bond important – Jessica Marshall:

The relationship between council and farmers is important, says outgoing Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips.

“I’ve always had a clear view that… we’ve got some regulatory responsibilities but actually we are focused on improving outcomes, we can’t do that without a good relationship with farmers,” Phillips told Dairy News after announcing that he will retire from the role in May.

That relationship hasn’t been without its tensions with some farmers, he says, but overall it’s been a positive one.

“I think if you look at some of the things we’ve done, we’ve changed our compliance activities, putting some emphasis on shed talks and those types of things.” . . .

‘We desperately need a bigger harvest in 2022’ – NZ Winegrowers :

The first grapes of the 2022 vintage have been picked and winegrowers are hoping for good yields as they try to replenish their cellars.

Last year’s harvest was 20 percent smaller than the previous year, forcing wineries to draw down on stocks to maintain their place in overseas markets.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said its members were feeling nervous heading into this crucial time of the year.

“This stock drawdown highlights that we desperately need a bigger harvest in 2022, to replenish cellars, and help satisfy international demand,” he said. . . 

Stonefruit picked for food banks – Tracie Barrett :

The saying goes that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade, but for orchardist Lars Molving, the fruit in question would be apricots.

Mr Molving’s main fruit crop is cherries, but he also has 100 to 120 Nevis apricot trees, which in the past have been picked by staff from Jackson Orchards and sold at their roadside stall.

Bumper crops this year meant the apricots were not needed by Jackson’s, so Mr Molving’s wife, Felicity Pugh, looked at who might be able to take them for foodbanks.

The couple contacted the Salvation Army in Alexandra, the Cromwell Foodbank and KiwiHarvest, a logistics and distribution agency that collects food that might otherwise go to waste and delivers it to foodbanks and service agencies. . . .

Blackcurrant molecule packs brain-boosting punch – Richard Rennie:

New Zealand blackcurrants are proving to hold a secret ingredient that helps maintain healthy brains and deliver significantly increased values to the country’s small group of growers. Richard Rennie spoke to Canterbury agronomist Jim Grierson about the brain boost delivered by blackberries.

Almost 30 years ago, Auckland University health researcher Dr Jian Guan identified the molecule cyclic Glycine-Proline (cGP) as a key brain nutrient that normalises a hormone known as IGF-1, essential for body health.

She found its presence contributed to improved health outcomes for people suffering from a number of age-related neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia. Keeping IGF-1 levels maintained through old age can help retain cognitive function.

Unknown to her, but about the same time blackcurrant growers were researching the key health compounds in their crop. . .

NZ seed exports holding up 22 February 2022 :

Despite ongoing COVID pandemic complications and shipping challenges, New Zealand’s seed exports are holding up well.

Over 55,000 tonnes or the equivalent of around 2750 shipping containers of high quality specialty seed was sent to over 70 international markets, worth more than $236m (FoB) in calendar year 2021, according to latest StatsNZ’s Overseas Trade Statistics.

Export revenue for the year ended December 2021 was 5% lower than a year earlier.

Around half of NZ seed exports by value go to the Netherlands (22%), Australia (11%), Germany (10%), and USA (8%). . . 


Rural round-up

11/02/2022

Farmer reluctance to testing – John Lewis:

A Federated Farmers president is not surprised to hear some in the industry are asking staff to avoid getting Covid-19 tests, saying many simply feel they cannot afford to be out of action.

It comes as the Government works on a policy to keep farmers working, with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor not ruling out the possibility of vaccinated, asymptomatic staff who tested positive continuing working within their bubbles.

Otago and Southland farmers, spoken to on the agreement they would not be named, admitted they knew farmers who had asked staff to avoid being tested if they were symptomatic for Covid-19.

A Southland sheep and beef farmer said he vowed to never get tested for Covid-19 because of the impact testing positive would have on his farm. . . 

Big apple crop comes with big challenges for industry :

New Zealand’s apple and pear crop for 2022 is predicted to reach 601,000 tonnes, closely in line with long term forecasting.

Assuming fruit is able to be picked and packed, export volume could be slightly higher than 2020 levels, which dropped following the disastrous Boxing Day hail event in the Nelson region. However, the lingering question on growers’ minds across the country is how much of the 2022 crop will get picked as the Omicron storm clouds gather. In any normal year, the crop estimate is based on the potential volume and assumes a normal growing season without adverse weather events or menacing labour and supply chain issues. Unfortunately, 2022 will not be a normal year.

With a potential 23.2 million 18kg boxes destined for customers in more than 80 countries, a very good growing season so far has provided increased sized fruit with high sunshine and warmth giving fruit size, colour, and crispness. Quality is particularly important as the industry continues to move to apple and pear varieties that it has developed within its own Prevar research programme. The variety mix continues to diversify as traditionally grown varieties such as Braeburn and Royal Gala decline in volume and New Zealand owned Dazzle, Envy, Piqa-Boo, and Rockit increase.

New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAPI) chief executive Terry Meikle says however, the increased crop volume and quality must be tempered by the fact that Omicron has now firmly established itself in New Zealand. . . 

Sunflowers hitting peak bloom – Rebecca Ryan:

Fields of sunflowers are brightening up rural North Otago once again.

Topflite’s sunflowers, grown by Rosedale Farming Co Ltd, have become an annual attraction in the Waitaki district, and they are about to hit their full height and golden glory.

Topflite general manager Greg Webster said the crops had developed slightly later than previous years, but were really ‘‘cranking’’ now.

‘‘They’ve been definitely enjoying the sunshine that we’ve had lately — and they’re looking good,’’ Mr Webster said. . .

Some New Zealand olive oils may not be as local as you think :

A recent Consumer NZ investigation of 20 extra-virgin olive oils revealed that some oils labelled as New Zealand also contain imported oils.

“Most oils state the origin of the olives or oil, but not all are upfront, and you could be forgiven for thinking some New Zealand olive oils are made from 100 percent New Zealand olives,”, said Consumer NZ research writer Belinda Castles.

Despite Matapiro New Zealand 100% Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Village Press First Press Extra-Virgin Olive Oil stating New Zealand on the front label, there’s no mention where the olives or oil comes from.

Matapiro said its oil was blended with Australian olive oil to meet demand. The company is hoping to return to wholly New Zealand grown olives and oil soon. . . 

NZ Young Farmers welcome new FMG Young Farmer of the year contest series sponsor :

The challenge is heating up for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest Series, with a new sponsor giving competitors the chance to showcase their smarts when it comes to environmental protection and regulation.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has officially joined the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest Series family.

NZ Young Farmers CEO Lynda Coppersmith says all competitors and NZ Young Farmers’ members have a genuine passion for the environment and preserving it for future generations which makes EPA a great addition to the Contest Series.

“Understanding and creating solutions to problems our environment is currently facing it is such an important part of farming and protecting the land we live on and love. It will be hugely beneficial for contestants to be challenged on this first-hand and to think more about the best ways to enhance and preserve our way of life into the future.” . . 

‘Horrendous’ Wheatbelt bushfires still pose a threat, says fire chief – John Dobson, Peter Barr, Paul Cook,:

Fires that tore through Western Australia’s agricultural heartland overnight scorching farmland and destroying homes still pose a threat.

Twin fires hit the Wheatbelt, about 250km east of Perth, yesterday afternoon as catastrophic fire conditions throughout the region brought gusty winds and temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. 

The bushfires came after two other major fires destroyed homes in southern WA on Saturday in Denmark and Bridgetown in a horrific weekend for firefighters.

On Sunday afternoon, four emergency bushfires were burning at once across the south of the state. . . 


Rural round-up

12/12/2021

Shipping delays and staff shortages bite the meat industry – Rachael Kelly:

Farmers are starting to struggle to get stock killed because staff shortages and shipping woes are causing major issues in the meat industry.

Ben Dooley, a farmer from Mimihau in Southland, said he had 200 ewes booked in with Alliance Group next week, but he was worried about finding more space for stock in the coming months.

“It’s definitely concerning. If this shipping container issue doesn’t get sorted out then we’re going to have some big problems in the next few months.”

The Alliance Group and Silver Fern Farms both say chronic labour shortages and global supply chain issues were causing problems. . .

Cheap accommodation, social sport used to entice workers for orchard jobs – Sally Murphy:

Efforts to attract workers to pick and pack fruit this summer are heating up – with more employers offering incentives to attract workers.

On the PickNZ website where orchards and packhouses advertise jobs, 42 percent are offering accommodation and 30 percent are offering bonuses.

Just under 20 percent are offering transport, social events and flexible working hours.

One company advertising on the site is Clyde Orchards. . . 

Fonterra’s Hurrell says New Zealand milk is the most valuable in the world – Tina Morrison:

New Zealand’s grass-fed farming model makes the country’s milk the most valuable in the world, Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell told farmers at the co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill.

Since taking over from Theo Spierings, Hurrell has moved Fonterra away from expanding its milk pools overseas, and brought the focus back to getting more value from the “white gold” produced by New Zealand farmers. His shift in strategy comes at a time when consumers are wanting to know more about where their food comes from and the environmental impact it leaves.

“We believe New Zealand milk is the most valuable milk in the world due to our grass-fed farming model, which means our milk has a carbon footprint around 70 per cent lower than the global average,” Hurrell told farmers. . .

 

River restoration starting to flow – Colin Williscroft:

The Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum recently won the supreme award at the 2021 Cawthron New Zealand River Awards for the catchment that has made the most progress towards improved river health. Colin Williscroft reports.

In a little over a decade, the Manawatū River has gone from being identified through Cawthron Institute research as one of the most polluted in the western world to that same organisation now celebrating the work being done to clean it up.

The Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum was established in 2010 in response to freshwater health problems facing the catchment.

The previous year Cawthron research showed the river topped a pollution measurement taken on 300 rivers across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand for all the wrong reasons. . .

Kiwifruit companies to amalgamate :

Seeka announces third amalgamation in 2021

 Gisborne growers will be delivered a stronger service with the proposed amalgamation of NZ Fruits and Seeka Limited.

In an agreement announced 10 December 2021, NZ Fruits shareholders are being offered Seeka shares and cash for their NZ Fruits shares. Seeka chief executive Michael Franks says the deal will enable Seeka to service the Gisborne region.

“The amalgamation will deliver a strong service to Gisborne growers,” says Franks. . . 

Research aims to develop more resilient sauvignon blanc vines :

An $18.7 million programme is aiming to introduce genetic diversity of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc grapevines.

The Bragato Research Institute is partnering with New Zealand Winegrowers, more than 20 wine companies and the NZ Viticulture Nursery Association on the seven-year programme.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor the vines were based on one clone which presented some risk.

“Developing improved, commercially-available variants of this grape variety will also act as an industry insurance policy against future risks from pests, disease and changing markets. . . 


Rural round-up

07/12/2021

Wool growers too have something to cheer about as dairy leads the charge in brightening farmers’ prospects – Point of Order:

City dwellers,  preoccupied by  Covid,  may not  have  observed  that the  country’s export  economy is  being  sustained  by   its  primary  industries.  Last  week  came  the  news that  Fonterra had  signalled a  record payout to its suppliers, pumping  $13.2bn into the  regions.

Some analysts think that may be on the conservative side and  the final payout will surpass  $9kg/MS.

In  any  case,  the  ANZ commodity  price index lifted  2.8%  in November,  pushing  it into new  territory.  The  bank’s economists, noting that dairy prices  led the   charge, reported they  were  supported  by strong  gains  in  meat.

Again,  because  of the  preoccupation with the pandemic,  it may have  gone  unnoticed that meat  exporters achieved record returns  in the season ended in September. Total export receipts for beef and sheepmeat  equalled the record returns of 2019–20 and were 17% up on the five-year average. . . 

Chisholm getting a real buzz out of breeding Southdown sheep – Sally Rae:

Matt Chisholm is the new ram on the block in the world of stud sheep breeding – and he could not be happier.

On Monday, Chisholm – a familiar face on television and an advocate for mental health, having publicly opened up about his struggles with depression – will head to North Otago to sell a ram from his newly established Southdown stud The Land.

The Cordyline Southdowns ram fair will be like no other, held in the grounds of Brookfield Park, a Heritage New Zealand category 2 listed property which featured in the New Zealand House and Garden tour in 2019.

Built on the outskirts of Oamaru by renowned local architect Thomas Forrester for original owner John Gilchrist, the first mayor of Oamaru, it is now owned by Jennifer (JJ) Rendell, who since buying the property in 2003 has created an imaginative garden retreat surrounding a restored Victorian homestead. . .

New funding to assess impact of on-farm planting on beneficial insects :

Plant & Food Research and co-investment partners welcome the $2.2 million of Government funding for a new project ‘Beneficial Biodiversity for the Greater Good’, just announced by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The $3.2 million, five-year research programme aims to understand the impact of native plantings on beneficial insect diversity and abundance on a range of farm types. It seeks to design plantings that optimise pollination and decrease pests on farms, without creating pest reservoirs.

“We’re grateful for the Government support through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, which will fast-track our research efforts significantly,” says Plant & Food Research lead researcher Dr Melanie Davidson. . . 

Unique partnership to enhance soil health and test regen-ag :

New research on farms across New Zealand will measure and provide farmers tools to enhance soil health, including identifying where regenerative agriculture practices can make a difference.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today announced a unique partnership between food producers Synlait Milk and Danone, science provider AgResearch, and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. The project will study soil health on 10 farms in Waikato, Canterbury and Otago over five years, to determine the impacts of changes in soil health on production, farm resilience and the environment, including climate change.

Soils underpin New Zealand’s food and fibre sector and managing for healthy soils improves the natural capacity of soil to sustain plants, animals, and humans. However, assessment of soil health on farms is not routinely measured in New Zealand, and so practical tools are needed to help farmers understand the detailed state of the soils and how best to manage them. . .

New Zealand National Fieldays Society’s annual report to reflect a changing world :

New Zealand National Fieldays Society (NZNFS) released its Annual Report following a virtual Annual General Meeting of Society Members held on Saturday. The new format report uses an all-inclusive approach to reflect the evolution of the organisation and reframe its wider impact.

Historically, the Society has provided an Economic Impact Report on its flagship event Fieldays® followed by a constitutional Annual Report – separate documents telling the Society’s story from different perspectives.

However, as the Society and the global landscape have evolved, a new approach to tell a more holistic story has been identified. The new-look report is also a step forward in aligning the economic analysis with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) guidelines. . .

Leading Australian producer picks New Zealand’s Redford software to transform operations:

Australia’s largest processor and packer of potatoes and onions, Mitolo Family Farms, has engaged New Zealand fresh produce software provider Radford Software to streamline operations across the entire value chain, from soil to supermarket.

Radford Software chief executive officer Adam Cuming said he was delighted that South Australian-based Mitolo Family Farms had chosen Radfords to support its next phase of growth.

“Onboarding a customer of Mitolo’s calibre reinforces our international growth strategy as we continue to focus on building client relationships across Australia and into the North American market,” Mr Cuming said. . .


Rural round-up

21/10/2021

Geographical Indications are among the sensitive issues for NZ in free-trade talks with EU – Point of Order:

Trade  Minister  Damien  O’Connor  has  revived hopes  that  New Zealand  can  land  a free  trade  agreement  with the  UK  this  year  and another one subsequently  with  the  EU, following  his just- concluded  mission  to  European capitals.

Farm lobbies  had  not been  confident   when  he  set  out.  In  the case  of the  UK  we had been beaten to the punch by  Australia.

It  seemed  unlikely  NZ  could  get  anything better  than their  Australian counterparts  who  appeared willing to  accept  a  long  phaseout on duties  on,  in particular,  most farm products, including dairy.

Since then Australia  has  entered  the  AUKUS  pact,  which  particularly  riled France’s President Macron because Australia’s decision to  acquire  nuclear submarines  from the US   meant cancellation of  a  previous  (very expensive)  deal to  buy French   diesel-powered submarines. . . 

Global dairy prices rise, hurrah – but so did the Kiwi dollar, and farm costs are climbing, too – Point of Order:

At    first  blush,  there  might have been  some  cheering   in  the  cowsheds  at results  from the  latest Fonterra Global Dairy Trade  auction, with  prices up by  an  average 2.2%.  But the ebullience would have  become  more subdued as  the  reality  sank in  that the  rise in the  NZ   dollar  against the  greenback  meant the price slipped  by  0.5%  in  local  currency  terms. Moreover,  with  costs rising  on  the  farm,  maybe  there  wasn’t  anything  to  cheer  about.

Perhaps   the  only  ray  of  light  has been  Fonterra’s  decision to  offer  smaller  amounts  of  WMP on the  auction  platform  because of  strong  contract demand   in  conjunction with the  expectation  this  season  of  flat  milk supply.

And  the    auction   showed demand is highest for food-service commodities, with butter up 4.7%, cheese up 2.9%, and SMP up 2.5%.

Still,  the average price for WMP  in  lifting 1.5% to an average US$3803 (NZ$5305) a tonne is now 25% higher than at the same time last year. . . 

Carbon farming concerns threaten future of sustainable forestry :

Concerns about the legitimacy of permanent exotic forest carbon farming projects threaten the future of sustainable forestry, Ekos chief executive Dr Sean Weaver says.

“Both native and exotic forests are part of the winning formula that will make carbon farming projects economic. There is a very real risk of Aotearoa New Zealand rejecting restorative carbon farming through policy settings that tar all permanent forest carbon projects – and we could take down sustainable forestry as collateral damage,” he says.

“The 2021 Climate Commission report recommended nearly 300,000 ha of new native forest by 2035 to meet our carbon target under the Paris Agreement. We also need hundreds of thousands of hectares of reforestation to build climate resilient landscapes in erosion prone areas.

“That’s a price tag in the billions, and grant funding won’t make a dent. The investment needed means carbon farming projects need to be profitable and able to service debt, Sean Weaver says. . . 

10 percent of Central Otago-grown fruit going to waste report finds

A new report has found more than 10 percent of the fruit grown in Central Otago is not being sold or eaten.

The Central Otago District Council commissioned the research to better understand how much fruit grown on orchards in the region isn’t being utilised, as a first step to supporting ideas to reduce fruit loss.

The report was written by horticulture consulting business, Thrive Consulting, which based its findings off surveys and interviews with local growers.

It found 85 percent of the apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines grown in Central Otago did leave the orchard for local and export markets, but the rest was not being sold or eaten. . .

Wellington Young Farmers to showcase sustainable innovation :

How could technology and practices solve some of the biggest environmental challenges currently facing New Zealand’s agricultural sector?

That’s the question being asked by Wellington Young Farmers at the Club’s free industry function held in the capital next month.

Showcasing some of the best of food and fibre’s emerging technologies and practices, the event would focus on innovation, the talented minds at the forefront of change and the sheer diversity of skills and thought required to keep New Zealand a global leader in sustainability.

Wellington Young Farmers’ Chair Jessica Black said as a Club, they knew how members and others in the industry were feeling with respect to environmental pressures and wanted to highlight what was being done to tackle those challenging issues. . . 

 

Minimum hourly rate increase at all Silver Fern Farms sites:

Silver Fern Farms and the New Zealand Meat Workers Union (NZMWU) have today announced a lift in the minimum hourly productive rate paid to existing and new employees at all Silver Fern Farm sites to $24 per hour – an increase of almost 10 percent.

Daryl Carran, National Secretary for the NZMWU says the rate increase is an important step in addressing misconceptions of meat processing as a low-paid occupation, and in placing a higher value on starting level roles in the industry.

“Recruitment and staff retention have become issues of critical importance across the primary sector and competing industries with simpler systems of pay can appear on face value to be more attractive,” says Carran. . . 

NZ Fishing lodge wins two international travel awards with borders closed:

Why has a tiny fishing lodge in the back end of the South Island won two international travel awards in the same month—when it’s had no international guests since March 2020?

Owen River Lodge is one of only two luxury New Zealand lodges to be named a winner in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards .

And it’s the second year in a row that we’ve done it.

We’ve also been awarded New Zealand’s Leading Lodge in the 2021 World Travel Awards —up against the likes of Blanket Bay, Huka Lodge and Hulbert House. . . 


Rural round-up

12/07/2021

Govt sends mixed signals on forest cap – Richard Rennie:

Putting a cap on exotic forest plantings is still an option on the table for the Government as it considers its response to the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations.

Last year in the lead up to the election, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor undertook to make resource consent a requirement for landowners seeking to convert over 50ha of higher-quality land into forestry.

The decision came amid mounting concern that greater areas of farmland were being lost to forestry, some to unharvested carbon forest plantings.

But Forestry Minister Stuart Nash signalled recently that the Government plans to back away from planting restrictions. . . 

Calls to diversify and integrate – Annette Scott:

New Zealand agriculture is missing the opportunity to diversify and integrate and come up with one good story.

Sectors are pushing their own barrows and not achieving maximum potential as an industry, Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) chief executive Alison Stewart says.

Speaking at the Primary Industries New Zealand Summit, Stewart urged collaboration.

“We do not work in a cohesive world; when are we actually going to agree to come together?” she asked. . . 

Caution urged for dog owners as lambing season approaches:

SPCA is urging dog owners, particularly those living near lifestyle blocks, to take extra care and keep track of their pets at all times, as early lambing season gets underway.

Every year sheep and lambs are injured or killed by roaming dogs in attacks that are not only traumatic for animals and people involved, but are often completely avoidable through responsible dog ownership.

With 175,000 lifestyle blocks nationwide and rural properties continuing to grow in popularity, SPCA Scientific Officer Dr Alison Vaughan says it’s important for dog owners – particularly those living in rural areas – to make sure their dog is secured and unable to roam. . . 

Emma Boase named emerging leader at Primary Industry Awards:

Horticulture New Zealand People Capability Manager Emma Boase was among a stellar line-up of primary industry excellence at last night’s 2021 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards in Christchurch.

Recognised as one of seven winners from a pool of 65 nominations, Emma took out the title of the Lincoln University Emerging Leaders Award for her efforts in attracting new talent into the horticulture sector.

The award is testament to Emma’s outstanding leadership and ongoing commitment to championing horticultural careers. . . 

Craig Muckle named Wheat Grower of the Year:

The champion wheat grower for 2021 is Craig Muckle.

Craig, who farms at Dorie in mid-Canterbury, was presented with the Champion Cup at the awards ceremony in Christchurch for winning the premium milling wheat award and also won the United Wheat Growers Bayer wheat grower of the year award with his wheat entry ‘Reliance’.

The judges said Craig’s entry’s quality specification was “bang on”. Craig was presented with the Champion Cup, by Garth Gilliam from Champion.

Craig was also the winner of the UWG Bayer wheat grower award. This award is to recognise excellence in the industry. . . 

Agronomist of the year award for what industry announced:

Kerry Thomas from Luisetti Seeds, was recognised as Agronomist of the Year in the United Wheat Growers Bayer Wheat Awards held in Christchurch on Wednesday 7 July.

The award was open to all industry professionals involved in seed and grain crop production.

The inaugural Agronomist of the Year Award, sponsored by the NZ Grain & Seed Trade Association, is designed to recognise an agronomist who has an endless knowledge of crop production and goes above and beyond to make sure the best possible crop is produced by growers said NZGSTA Grains & Pulses Chair Ed Luisetti. . . 

Sponsors sustain support for Dairy Industry Awards:

Planning for the 2022 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) continues at pace with National sponsors continuing to back the programme.

The Awards programme allows entrants to connect, learn and grow as individuals across the board from Trainees and new entrants to the industry through to experienced Share Farmers.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon is thrilled to confirm Meridian have renewed their sponsorship for the next three years along with a name change to the merit award. . . 


Rural round-up

05/06/2021

Canterbury flooding: Historic Grigg family farm wiped out by worst rain they’ve ever seen – Kurt Bayer:

Canterbury farmers bordering rivers have been devastated by the hundred-year flood, with lost animals, thousands of kilometres of smashed fencing, and green fields turned overnight into shingle. Surrey Hills Station farmer Arthur Grigg, whose access bridge, driveway and paddocks have been wiped out, says the Government needs to step up after the “extraordinary” event. Kurt Bayer reports.

From the picturesque plateau where he was married just weeks ago in the shadow of the century-old family homestead, Arthur Grigg surveys the damage.

“It’s a kick in the guts,” he says, shaking his head.

The place, Surrey Hills Station near Mt Somers, up until the weekend, had been looking good too. Grigg had been thinking about a mid-winter break, maybe a spot of fishing. . . 

Nothing – not even a hug – Tim GIlbertson:

Jacinda breezed in to town recently, with Damien in tow.

Following his triumphant decapitation of the live export trade, Damien was presumably looking for another prospering rural enterprise to put the taiaha into. But mother nature’s drought is successfully doing the job for him. So, he would have left disappointed.

The PM greeted local councillors and discussed the success of the mayoral task force for jobs, which has created 12 new positions. Loud applause. Then she visited a regenerative dairy farm.

What she did not do was look out the window of the ministerial BMW and say: “My God! You are having another massive drought leading to the massive long term economic and social damage to the entire region. We must act on water storage at once!” . .

Adopting a plant-based diet can help shrink a person’s carbon footprint, but a new study finds that improving the efficiency of livestock production will be an even more effective strategy for reducing global methane emissions.

The study looked at the intensity of methane emissions from livestock production around the world – in other words, how much methane is released for each kilogram of animal protein produced – and made projections for future emissions.

The authors found in the past two decades, advances in farming had made it possible to produce meat, eggs and milk with an increasingly smaller methane footprint.

Some countries, however, had not had access to the technology enabling these advances. . . 

Trophy win elates Trust boss -Peter Burke:

Tataiwhetu Trust chairman Paki Nikora is elated to have won this year’s Ahuwhenua trophy for the top Maori dairy farm. He never thought the trust would reach such heights in the agricultural sector.

Nikora says Maori tend to belittle themselves all the time. However, when push came to shove, the trust decided to give it a go and enter the competition. There were scenes of great excitement as Tataiwhetu, which runs an organic dairy farm in the Ruatoki Valley, south of Whakatane, was announced the winner and presented with the trophy by the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

When Nikora was presented with the trophy there were scenes of great jubilation as whānau came on stage to join in the celebrations, which included waiata and a haka.

Tataiwhetu runs 432 Kiwi cross cows and carries 188 replacement stock on its two support blocks. They milk once-a-day with the herd producing 129,140 kgMS a year. . . 

Calf rearing workshops to run through-out New Zealand:

Practical workshops on successful calf rearing by Dairy Women’s Network and SealesWinslow are ensuring New Zealand farmers are entering the season confidently with the right tools and knowledge to raise healthy calves.

Calf rearing is a critical time for dairy farmers, with success determined by the quality and management of newborn calves from the time of birth through to 12 weeks of age.

Each of the workshops will focus on the best practice behind providing food and shelter for newborns, with SealesWinslow’s Nutrition and Quality Manager, Natalie Hughes, presenting on calf housing and pen design for optimal health and stimulation. 

“During the workshops we’ll explore the latest research and look at how we translate this into practical tips and advice to set you up for a successful calf season,” said Hughes. . .

Farm working to give back more than it takes – Curtis Baines:

A farm on the outskirts of Melbourne is making waves within its local community, and it’s all thanks to an initiative connecting producers with consumers.

Sunbury’s Lakey Farms produces pastured lamb, beef, goat, mutton and wine.

The farm works with the philosophy that it puts back more than it takes, through ethical treatment of livestock and regenerative farming.

Lakey Farms owner John Lakey believes in the ideology that animals – particularly livestock – deserve fair treatment and an abundance of roaming space. . . 


Rural round-up

22/05/2021

Feds slam Govt’s immigration plans –  Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are urging farmers with staffing shortages to write to the Government to outline the effect it was having on their businesses.

The move comes after two announcements from the Government over the past few weeks concerning immigration.

It firstly denied an application by Federated Farmers and DairyNZ to bring in 500 skilled migrants to work on dairy farms.

Instead, it approved 125 agricultural machinery operators, below the 400 that is needed. . . 

Treasury to review forestry policy – Neal Wallace:

The Government has approved the sale of 32,644ha of farmland to foreign buyers since 2018 for conversion to forestry under its special policy that encourages overseas investment into the sector.

Information provided by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) reveals it approved through the forestry test the purchase by foreign investors of 30 livestock farms for conversion to forestry, and a further 35 existing forestry blocks covering 111,517ha.

The special forestry test was introduced in 2018 as part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement, which effectively streamlines the OIO process for foreign entities wanting to invest in forestry.

The policy is about to be reviewed by the Treasury, says an OIO spokesperson. . . 

South coping with the long dry – Sally Blundell :

The parched paddocks of farms on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula have run out of moisture – nothing is growing. Farmers fear climate change has arrived and have begun adapting the way they work the land.

Tim Davie, director of science at Environment Canterbury, pauses in a stony gulley, a narrow trough between banks of browning grass. It was not what he expected to see.

“I was hoping to show you some water on the Port Hills of Banks Peninsula,” he tells Frank Film. “But there’s nothing here. Normally this pond would be full of water, up to my waist. On the western flank of Pigeon Bay, Edward Aitken of Craigforth farm walks across the parched ground of his sheep and cattle farm. The scenery is dramatic, the hills a uniform brown against a relentlessly blue sky. “These paddocks would normally have new grass and established greenfield crops. They’ve been fallow now since last November. There is absolutely no moisture in the sub-soil.” . .

Budget 2021: Federated Farmers welcome funding, Dairy NZ says it missed the mark:

Biosecurity, agricultural emissions research and farm planning were areas that received a funding boost in yesterday’s Budget.

On the agricultural emissions front, $24 million was committed to research and mitigation technology development, which could include things like methane inhibitors and the breeding of low emission animals.

Meanwhile, $37m would go towards a national farm planning system for farmers and growers, in line with the government’s plan for all farms to have written plans to measure and manage emissions by the end of 2024.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said in order to meet its climate and environmental goals, there needed to be a single, easy to use framework. . . 

Women in seed forum :

A recent turn out of women engaged in employment within the Seed Industry shows the future of diversity within the sector is looking good.

The second NZGSTA Women in Seed Forum was held at Riccarton Park Function Centre on the 19th of May and attended by 108 women from the Seed Industry. The roles of these women varied from agronomists, lab technicians, logistics roles, administrative roles, account managers, research technicians, grain traders, farmers and those passionate about the grain and seed industries.

Developed and hosted by the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association, Executive Councillor Charlotte Connoley said “the purpose of the forum was to provide more opportunities for networking amongst women within the industry in addition to providing a platform for further discussion and collaboration around key challenges and opportunities that face the grain and seed industries.” . . 

Here Come The Girls: Cork students clinch 2021 Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition title

Five teenage girls at St Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill – who come from non-farming backgrounds – have just been crowned overall winners of the 2021 Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition.

Emily O’Donovan, Kelsey Hourigan, Helen Savage, Leah Buckley, and Rachel O’Gorman explored the topic ‘Communicating with the Consumer & Producer’ throughout the course of their 18-month project for the competition.

And, in an effort to educate consumers on the beef process, they created an App called ‘Angus Adventures’ which is available to download from Google Play.

The App focuses on the daily tasks of a farmer in an effort to inform consumers of the work and dedication required to produce Certified Irish Angus beef from farm to fork. . . 


Rural round-up

19/04/2021

Winter colony loss rates climb – Richard Rennie:

Beehive losses over winter have continued to show an insidious lift in numbers as the industry seeks out more answers on what is afflicting queen bee populations.

Latest survey data has found winter colony loss rates in New Zealand have lifted 10% on last year to afflict 11% of hives, in a continuing upward trend. The losses have crept upwards over the past few years with 2015 losses reported at 8%.

But Apiculture New Zealand Science and Research Focus Group chair Barry Foster says the rate remains comfortably below that of countries like the United States with a winter loss rate of 22%, and an international average loss rate across participating countries of 17%.

“It is hard to draw a real conclusion as to what the exact cause is, but the hard data is that it is largely due to problems with queen bees, along with varroa mite,” Foster said, . . 

B+LNZ seeks region-based slope maps – Neal Wallace:

Beef + Lamb NZ is calling on the Government to replace its low-slope stock exclusion map and stocking regulations with a region by region approach.

The map and associated stock exclusion rules were introduced last August as part of the Essential Freshwater regulations but have been deemed unworkable by farmers and farming groups.

Encouraged by the Government’s recognition that the intensive winter grazing rules needed modifying, B+LNZ is seeking the low-slope map to be replaced, saying it is inaccurate and unworkable, and stocking rules should be set regionally.

“Our position has been clear all along,” chief executive Sam McIvor said. . . 

Live export ban wrecks a growing industry – Mike Hosking:

Damien O’Connor has added another industry this Government has destroyed to its growing list.

Live animal exports are done.

While telling us it wouldn’t hurt our GDP, and despite admitting it’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars – he did concede there had been a bit of a “gold rush” of late.

That’s spin for “the industry is growing”. There is increasing demand for it, and in general I thought gold rushes were good. . .

Dairy farm trials app letting staff choose hours they want to work

A Mid-Canterbury dairy farm that is offering staff flexible work hours is seeing major benefits from the change.

Align Farms is trialling an app which lets staff to book in the hours they want to work.

Chief executive Rhys Roberts said a set number of people are needed for milking, but the app gives much more flexibility than a traditional roster where they are on deck from 4.30am until 5pm but only get paid for 10 hours because of meal breaks.

The new system allowed for a 9 hour paid workday in 9 hours. Freeing up 3 and a half hours. . . 

Business plan hatched to keep 320,000 hens in 139ha forest :

A South Waikato free-range egg company is setting up a new model of business – creating a forest for its hens to live in

The 139 hectare property will produce eggs under the Heyden Farms Free Range brand for egg producer and supplier Better Eggs Limited.

Developing over the next five years it will home 320,000 laying hens with eight laying sheds amongst 90,000 native and exotic trees.

Better Eggs chief executive Gareth van der Heyden said it was a whole new way of poultry farming in New Zealand that would enable the hens to live in a natural environment while producing eggs in a sustainable manner. . . 

In the Know – A New Mental Health Program for Farmers :

In the Know is a mental health literacy program developed at the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) created specifically to educate the agricultural community. With support from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, several CMHA branches in rural and agricultural communities offer this training.

The four-hour mental health literacy workshop is designed to fit with farmers/producers limited availability owing to rigid daily schedules, distilling critical information and incorporating agricultural community culture. The workshop was developed in collaboration with stakeholder groups, including various agricultural sectors, mental health literacy trainers, government and representatives from social work, psychology, epidemiology, and education.

In the Know is meant for farmers, producers and persons with whom they have regular contact. This may include, but is not limited to, family members, peers and allies in the agricultural industry such as veterinarians, breeders, seed or feed salespeople, financial institutions, accountants or community members who have direct contact with farm owners/operators. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

18/04/2021

New report warns that we’re building over our food basket – Alex Braae:

The 2021 Our Land report has raised serious warnings about our most productive food-growing land being turned over to housing. Alex Braae explains.

What’s all this then?

The environment ministry and Stats NZ have produced a new report called Our Land, which outlines exactly what New Zealand’s land is being used for, or how it is being left alone. Over and above the stats, it also shows the connections between land use, the economy, environmental outcomes, and even human wellbeing. 

What’s the big takeaway from the report?

A major fear that gets outlined in detail is about the spread of cities and residential areas into highly productive land – the sort that is vital for the growing of food. One point the report opens with is that our cities were mostly founded near this sort of top quality land, because that allowed enough food to be grown to sustain them.  . . 

O’Connor opts for a ban on exports of live beasts (rather than tighter regulations) to demonstrate our high animal-welfare standards – Point of Order:

Commodities are leading the global economic recovery. International demand for grains, dairy and forestry products is extremely strong – driven primarily by increased demand from China, ANZ Bank  economists say in their latest NZ Agri Focus.

Dairy markets shot up in March, driven by strong buying from China, among challenging conditions to deliver product to market. Since then prices have stabilised near current levels, encouragingly, despite more product being added to the GlobalDairyTrade sales channel.

The recent strength in global markets, combined with a slight softening in the NZ dollar. has been supportive of farmgate milk prices. . . 

Heriot saleyards closure sad but inevitable– Shawn McAvinue:

The Heriot saleyards closing after being a community meeting point for more than a century is sad but the writing was on the wall, a West Otago farmer says.

Farmer Graham Walker owns a 394ha sheep and beef farm in Park Hill and was the second generation of his family to sell stock at the saleyards, about 50km west of Lawrence.

The saleyards were a social place, which brought the community together.

However, the closure was inevitable, as fewer sales were being held as years passed, and as health and safety regulations had tightened. . . 

From dairy giant to tiny player: Miraka CEO Grant Watson – Laurilee McMichael:

It’s eight weeks in and Miraka’s new chief executive Grant Watson says that so far, it’s been a steep learning curve.

“Information overload,” he jokes. “Lots to learn, lots to soak up. It’s a big industry, that’s for sure, lots of moving parts.”

Happily though, dairy is not a new industry to Watson, who took up the Miraka role on February 3, replacing departing chief executive Richard Wyeth, who had been with the company for 11 years and who had taken it from being a plan with a greenfields building site to a respected player in the New Zealand dairy industry. Wyeth is now chief executive of Hokitika-based Westland Milk Products. . . 

Rural postie makes last run – Mary-Jo Tohill:

It is the end of the road for a South Otago postie — but in a good way.

After 18 years, David Fenton (67) has parked his rural post truck. He delivered his last parcel before Easter, and the new owners, Jane and Richard Whitmore took over the run early in April.

In almost two decades, Mr Fenton has covered about 846,000km. And while somewhat miffed not to have hit the million km mark — he would have got close had he kept going for a few more years — he was pleased with the decision to call time.

“I’ve been getting super for two years, so I’ve been double-dipping. Colleen [his wife] is retiring soon, and we’ve got to get out there and see more of New Zealand. There’s a whole lot more we want to see and go back to see, while we have the health to do it. . . 

Blue Peter drops anti-meat message after farmer’s beef with BBC – Ben Webster:

The BBC has dropped an anti-meat message to children from its Blue Peter green badge initiative after it drew a furious response from farmers.

The children’s programme offered the green badges, similar to the traditional blue ones, for youngsters who demonstrated they were “climate heroes” by making a pledge to “go meat-free”, switch off lights or stop using plastic bottles.

Gareth Wyn Jones, a father of three who runs a 2,000-acre farm in north Wales, last week condemned what he described as a “sweeping statement” that overlooked the lower environmental impact of grass-fed British beef and lamb. . . 


Rural round-up

15/03/2021

Office staff asked to help out in apple packhouses due to labour shortages  –

The corporate fruit and vegetable firm T&G Global is asking its office based staff to help out in apple packhouses.

This year all apple growing regions are facing severe labour shortages for both picking and packing the crop.

As a result T&G Global, originally known as Turners and Growers, is asking Hawke’s Bay staff to swap computer terminals for apple trays.

Its operations director Craig Betty said the firm was under real pressure to meet export schedules and needs 70 more people right now, so salaried staff and family members were being asked to help out. . . 

Covid-19 exposes global biosecurity systems as ‘fractured’ – expert – Riley Kennedy:

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a fractured global biosecurity system and a new approach is needed, a biosecurity expert says.

The paper by distinguished professor Philip Hulme from the government funded Bio-Protection Research Centre has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal BioScience.

Hulme said Covid-19 had shown there needed to be an approach to biosecurity that integrated threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, recognising that disease or invasions in one sector often spilled over into the others.

He said the Covid Tracer app and the National Animal Indenification and Tracing (NAIT) system, were two examples of where lessons can be learnt and shared among different industries. . . 

Duck shooting season in doubt for many this year:

Many hunters and farmers will miss out on this year’s duck shooting season because the Police are failing to address a backlog of firearms licence applications, National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There are 10,000 applications waiting to be processed with 3000 of those just licence renewals.

“With opening weekend for duck shooting season fast approaching the Police should be adding more resources to help clear the backlog.

“Hunters missed out last year due to the Covid-19 restrictions. They’re understandably itching to get back out on the pond, but they may miss out again this year because of an administrative backlog. . . 

FarmIQ links to Lead with Pride :

For Darfield dairy farmer Dan Schat, the decision to supply Synlait and participate in the company’s Lead with Pride initiative has proven to be a good one three years into farm ownership.

The Schats enjoy the double premium of supplying A2 milk and being on the Lead with Pride initiative, both making the company payments worth the extra effort the initiative involves.

Lead with Pride encompasses the four pillars of supply to Synlait, recognising and rewarding best practice in environment, animal health-welfare, social responsibility and milk quality. . . 

Produce industry launches UN initiative in New Zealand to address hunger and increase wellbeing:

Aotearoa’s $6 billion fresh produce industry today rolls out a localised UN initiative, as it celebrates the launch of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV).

The 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables to highlight the nutritional benefits of fresh produce.

The official launch this evening at Parliament will be hosted by the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture, in partnership with United Fresh, New Zealand’s pan produce industry organisation, Horticulture New Zealand and Plant & Food Research.

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables will showcase the government-funded Fruit & Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative which addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an exemplary programme with a case study presented by the international group AIAM5 in August last year. . . 

This California start up has a meat test it says can help prevent the next pandemic – Chloe Sorvino:

Food ID, a San Mateo, California-based startup, has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will help improve the safety and transparency of the U.S. meat supply.

The funding comes from S2G Ventures and will be used to commercialize the company’s rapid-result tests that can detect antibiotics in animals and a range of other adulterants, like heavy metals in seafood. Food ID says it has been working inside some industrial slaughterhouses for more than a year and that its tests are finding many of the meats being sold as “antibiotic-free” are not.

“There’s a feeling that consumers understand what they are buying and there’s authenticity,” says Food ID cofounder Bill Niman, the legendary grass-fed beef rancher in Northern California. “We know that’s not totally true, and when that becomes clear to the suppliers and to the brands that depend on antibiotics costing a premium to consumers, we’re gonna be very busy.”

Niman says he is offering the meat industry its first comprehensive testing platform and can provide more accuracy and transparency for consumers, who are increasingly looking for antibiotic-free meat, and paying on average $1 more per pound for it. . . 


Diplomacy 101

05/02/2021

The Taxpayers’ Union has come across a helpful and not at all patronising guide to Diplomacy 101 for our Australian friends:

A masterclass by Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Trade.

The enhanced free trade agreement with China has passed and I was ready to bask in the media adulation. This was quite the feather in my West Coast fishing hat given I had only been Minister of Trade for less than four months – most of that over the summer break.

I must confess to being later surprised and disappointed at the lack of media adulation, even from The Spinoff. Apparently, this deal had been worked on for years and was bound to happen. One of my young staffers (or possibly a new Labour MP, it’s hard to tell these days) suggested that “even Phil Twyford could have gotten this agreement through.”

Back home we would have thrown the troublemaker down a mine, back in the days we had mines on the West Coast. Today, he’d probably hit some camera drone stuck in a rockfall and I would get sued. I miss the old days.

Putting that slight setback behind, it was time to establish my legacy beyond just trade. I plan to be a player on the world stage. The starting point was obvious: Our closest neighbour and major trading partner, Australia. They are always open to constructive criticism from Kiwis.

International relations with China seemed like a safe place to start my global punditry. Neither Australia nor China are at all touchy about third parties commenting on their geo-political affairs.

After reading a copy of The Economist which had been sitting in my lobby for nearly four months, I decided against lecturing the Aussies. Under that brash exterior, they are sensitive and surprisingly fragile souls. So instead, I went with the educative approach.

My key messages were:

    • Do what New Zealand does, because we are better than Australia.
    • Be respectful to China like New Zealand is. Australia, by inference, is not.
    • Develop a mature relationship with China like New Zealand has. Australia, by inference, has not. I am not saying the Sino-Ocker relationship is immature, just that it is not mature.
    • My counterparts in Canberra should choose their words carefully because words matter in diplomacy. I think that I have graphically demonstrated that principle here.

My comments got a lot of media coverage which is obviously a good thing when most people do not know that you have been an MP for 26 years and a Minister of the Crown for nine years.

Once I actually read the media coverage, it was not as positive as I expected. In fact, it was not positive at all. I wanted headlines like “Magnanimous Minister helps struggling Trans-Tasman sibling”. Instead, I get “A trade minister goes on record going way off script.” That’s not very kind. Ingrates.

The media has overlooked my credentials in cross-border trade. I have brokered deals between Greymouth and New Plymouth, which counts as international commerce where I come from.

I heard that the Australian Trade Minister – you know, whatshisname – respects my view. Quite right, and I think this reflects my standing in the international pecking order. However, that same pesky staffer, who I would have fired if Andrew Little had not abolished all the laws allowing you to fire people, pointed out that “respects my view” in Australian Parliamentary slang is short for “bring it outside mate, if you think you are hard enough.”

Australian politics are odd. Still, at least Grant Robertson respects my view here. He told me himself at Cabinet the other day.

Bottom line: I antagonised both our major trading partners in one interview for no discernable reason.

Key thing is: Got my name in the paper!

 


Rural round-up

16/12/2020

Agriculture minister warned of impact of Covid-19 on industry’s future – Eric Frykberg:

Minister of agriculture Damien O’Connor has been has warned that the primary sector faces strong headwinds as the impact of Covid-19 lingers on into coming years.

In its traditional briefing to the incoming minister, the Ministry for Primary Industries said the global economy was forecast to decline by 4.4 percent this year.

Although agriculture withstood the impact of Covid-19 better than most sectors and enjoyed growth of 4.6 percent annually between 2010 and 2020, it would be exposed to weak demand from a nervous world economy, and some sectors were likely to struggle financially.

This problem would be especially severe as governments around the world eased back on fiscal and monetary stimulation, thereby reducing the buffer between ordinary businesses and general economic conditions. . . 

Government warned about potential spread of wilding pines – Eric Frykberg:

The government has been warned that without controls, wilding pines could cover one fifth of all New Zealand’s land area by 2035.

The warning came in a briefing to the incoming minister of biosecurity, Damien O’Connor.

These briefings come after every election and alert an incoming minister to the main problems that must be dealt with.

The briefing from Biosecurity New Zealand, which is part of MPI, said some progress had been made in dealing with wilding pines. . . 

1980s downturn recorded in book – Linda Clarke:

Mid Canterbury farmers today are among the most productive on the planet, but 35 years ago they were angry and bitter about government policies that were driving some from their land.

The rural downturn of the 1980s had a big impact on the district’s farmers and their families. The businesses of Ashburton suffered, too.

Emotional and hard decisions made then continue to have ramifications for some families today, says first-time author Alison Argyle, who has published a book about the downturn and its resulting grief, stress and challenges.

She spent nearly three years interviewing 40 farmers, workers, farm consultants, bankers, social workers and others and has woven their stories into a 130-page book called The Half Banana Years. . .

Strawberry prices squished as exports drop :

Strawberry prices fell 43 percent in November 2020 as COVID-19 border restrictions reduced exports, Stats NZ said today.

Soaring air freight costs since COVID-19 border closures has made exporting products much more expensive, and a shortage of international workers in the fruit picking industry has meant that growers can’t pick their fields fast enough, meaning that many berries are too ripe for exporting.

“With less exports there is more supply available for domestic consumption, causing lower prices,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.

Strawberry prices were an average price of $3.45 per 250g punnet in November, down from $6.04 in October. . . 

Lamb numbers up, despite a challenging year for farmers – Bonnie Flaws:

Despite tough droughts and meat processing restrictions as a result of Covid-19, farmers have achieved a near record number of lambs this season.

For every 100 ewes, an average of 130 lambs were born compared with an average of 124 over the prior 10 years, Beef and Lamb New Zealand says.

Its Lamb Crop Outlook report for 2020, which forecasts the next year’s exports, showed the total number of lambs born this year was only slightly less than in spring 2019 when 131 lambs were born for every 100 ewes. . .

What does resilience really mean? – Lorraine Gordon:

Story brought to you by THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE and FARMING TOGETHER PROGRAM.

In November 2019, off the back of the toughest drought in Australian history, my family farm at Ebor was ‘smashed’ by the Ebor fire at one end of the property and the East Cattai fire at the other end.

This took out approximately 20kms of boundary fence and $700,000 in infrastructure. These catastrophic fires completely devastated our landscape in a few hours.

Come March, we had just re-opened our farm tourism and function centre, when COVID-19 hit. This shut down our tourism business for much of the remaining year.

This is a familiar 2020 story for many Australians. It initiated a deep dive on my behalf into what makes people and landscapes truly resilient. . . 


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