Rural round-up

July 3, 2020

Rock bottom crossbred wool prices pose dilemma for farmers – Maja Burry:

Crossbred wool prices have plummeted to new record low levels in the wake of Covid-19, with some farmers receiving less than a dollar a kilogram for their wool.

Coarse wool makes up about 85 percent of New Zealand’s total wool clip, but prices have been low for years.

South Canterbury sheep farmer and former Federated Farmers meat and wool chair, Miles Anderson, said the problems facing the sector had been exacerbated further by the coronavirus.

Miles Anderson said at the moment returns to farmers didn’t even come close to covering the costs of shearing and in some cases, it wasn’t even worth sending the wool off farm. . . 

Environmental devastation at Tolaga Bay may take a century to recover, says councillor – Bonnie Flaws:

Forestry waste has again flooded the beaches of Tolaga Bay.

A video of a log-covered Tolaga Bay beach had been shared widely on social media on Tuesday.

A storm hit the district on Queen’s Birthday weekend 2018, washing over 40,000 cubic metres of wood onto beaches.

“We had 300 millimetres [of rain] up there over the weekend and a total new amount of wood has come down,” local farmer Henry Gaddum said. . . 

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand calls for genuine government consultation over tahr kill:

New Zealand’s largest outdoor recreation retailer, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, today called on the Government to get back around the table and genuinely work with the hunting community to develop a pragmatic and long-term solution for the management of the South Island’s tahr population.

Hunting & Fishing New Zealand Chief Executive Darren Jacobs says it is extremely disappointing that a lack of consultation has once again required legal action, with the Tahr Foundation seeking an injunction this week in the High Court to stop a widespread cull due to start on 1 July.

“This is the second time in less than two years that hunting groups have had to take court action to stop plans for an extreme tahr cull and force the Government back around the table to talk with hunting groups, and other interested parties, to develop a collaborative approach to managing the tahr population,” says Jacobs. . . 

Anger at DoC’s ‘sham consultation’ over tahr slaughter plans:

The Tahr Foundation is condemning the Department of Conservation for what it describes as DOC’s “sham consultation” over plans to kill thousands of Himalayan tahr.

DOC’s kill operation is due to start today but the final version of its plan was only released just before midnight, minutes before it came into force. The plan confirms that DOC aims to exterminate tahr from national parks and kill thousands more through the Southern Alps.

The Tahr Foundation says that is outrageous and confirms that the already suspect consultation process was a farce.

Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley says DOC’s tactics are cynical. . . 

LIC strengthens partnership to support future farming leaders:

LIC has strengthened its support for growing the next generation of primary sector leaders with the signing of a three-year agreement with Rural Leaders which runs the highly-respected Nuffield Farming Scholarship and Kellogg Rural Leadership programmes.

Farmer owned co-operative LIC is committed to further enabling rural business professionals and farmers to flourish at a time when career opportunities on and around farms are strong says LIC Chief Executive Wayne McNee.

“We’re proud to have strengthened our partnership with Rural Leaders having previously had an association for five years,” he explains. “We’re excited to further cement our support for the future leaders our sector needs to retain and grow if we are to maintain global status as a world-class provider of agritech, food and products. We need leaders with passion and depth to navigate the challenges and opportunities being faced. Like Rural Leaders, LIC is focused on empowering people to grow and we’re delighted to be working with Rural Leaders to support more talented Kiwis to embark on forthcoming Nuffield and Kellogg programmes.” . . 

Overwhelming support to continuing seed levy:

Growers have overwhelmingly supported the continuation of the Non-Proprietary and Uncertified Herbage Seeds Levy order for another six years.

“In fact, from 82 percent in favour at the last levy vote in 2014, support shown during the vote last November had risen to 91 percent,” Federated Farmers Herbage Seedgrowers Subsection Chairperson Hugh Wigley says.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and the rest of Cabinet have approved continuation of the levy, and it will be gazetted this week.

“Grasses and clovers are vital to our sector but contracts for growing from proprietary seed are not always available and are more expensive. This levy safeguards supply of non-proprietary and uncertified seeds and provides different options to our farmers,” Hugh says. . .

 Wine industry, researchers and educators mark milestone with MOU:

Three institutions offering wine and viticulture courses have signed an agreement that will see them collaborate on research and student learning with the Marlborough Research Centre and Marlborough-based Bragato Research Institute.

The Memorandum of Understanding brings together tutors and students from Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, Otago Polytechnic, the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, whose Budge St campus also houses Bragato’s research winery, as well as the Marlborough Research Centre.

MRC Chief Executive Gerald Hope says the MOU is another milestone towards the development of the campus as the national centre for wine-making and viticulture, following on from the opening of the Bragato research winery in February. . .


Rural round-up

June 26, 2020

Govt’s obsession with planting trees a big mistake – Mike Hosking:

am glad the forestation of this country at the expense of good, productive farmland finally appears to be getting the sort of attention it deserves. The trouble with a crisis, is it takes your eye off all sorts of balls, and  various issues would have had far greater scrutiny if we hadn’t had a virus to deal with.

Planting trees to allow us to meet our Paris accord deal is potentially a catastrophic mistake that is unfolding before our eyes.

Firstly, because our calling card to the world is not our climate credentials, it’s the food we sell. For that you need productive land. Under the Emission Trading Scheme changes, the price of carbon lifts. As it lifts, it becomes more attractive to buy land to plant trees.

Planting trees is easy, and people always take the easy path. And what makes this worse is many who invest in these trees have no intention of harvesting them. They’re simply there to clip the ticket. . . 

Majority of farmers find Fonterra Shareholders’ Council ineffective – survey – Eric Frykberg:

The main watchdog for dairy giant Fonterra has been told it has to lift its game.

The comments came in the first of a two-part inquiry into Fonterra Shareholders Council.

The council is supposed to monitor the company on behalf of its 10,000 farmer shareholders, but it has incurred a lot of criticism including comments from the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that it was “less a watchdog than a lapdog”.

The Shareholders Council commissisoned a review of itself last year, chaired by veteran public servant James Buwalda. . . 

Wool classer receives merit award – Yvonne O’Hara:

Wool has always been part of Anne-Marie Parcell’s life.

“I love it and not a day goes by when I am not staring at sheep or touching wool. If I am not spinning it, I am shearing or crutching or drafting. I never wear polar fleece,” the Bannockburn wool classer said.

And neither did the two lambs that turned up last week wearing wearing wool jackets.

Ms Parcell was delighted when she was given a merino merit award from the New Zealand Wool Classers Association recently, for the clip she classed at Northburn Station, near Cromwell. . .

Fonterra announces Peter McBride as chairman elect:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (FCG) has announced that current Farmer Director, Peter McBride has been selected as the Co-operative’s Chairman-elect by his fellow Directors.

Under Fonterra’s constitution, its Chairman is selected by the Board from within its pool of seven elected Farmer Directors.

Mr McBride will replace current Fonterra Chairman, John Monaghan when he retires as a Director of the Co-op at its Annual Meeting this November. . .

Adept wool presser will never give up :

Here’s a riddle … If two shearers clip a total of 100 sheep, and one shears three more than the other — what is the tally for each? Turangi Morehu jokes that he has asked this riddle to many in the shearing fraternity over the years, including world champion Sir David Fagan “and I’m still waiting for his answer”, he quips.

Mr Morehu, known to most as Tu, “after one and before three”, is the ubiquitous and hard-working character floating between the gangs of Peter Lyons Shearing, keeping an eye on things for Mr Lyons and wife, Elsie.

Originally from Tuatahuna and spending his younger years in Rotorua, Mr Morehu has worked as a wool presser since he left school at the age of 13 . .

Kauri still waiting for dieback plan – Farrah Hancock:

A pest management plan for kauri dieback is missing in action. Farah Hancock reports.

Thirty months after it was announced, there’s still no National Pest Management Plan for kauri dieback.

In 2017, the Government said it was moving immediately to strengthen efforts to protect kauri trees. One of those efforts was creating a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP).

“An NPMP shows how serious we are about protecting kauri. It is by far the strongest piece of regulation available and will ensure mandatory hygiene practices, consistent regulations that apply nationally, stronger governance and access to funding,” said Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor when he announced the plan in December 2017. . .

Britain opens free trade negotiations with New Zealand – Liz Truss:

This week is the start of an exciting new chapter in the shared history of Britain and New Zealand.

Our two island nations are already close friends, bound tightly by cultural, economic and social ties that have stood the test of time.

Britain is the largest ex-pat community in New Zealand. We both share a language, a head of state and a system of common law. We also share a strong commitment to free and fair trade, and believe fundamentally in the rule of law and the power that democracy has to drive forward human progress. . .


Rural round-up

May 28, 2020

Hauraki Plains farmers: ‘We just want some help‘ –  Maja Burry:

Farmers on the Hauraki Plains are banding together and holding socially-distanced shed meetings, as they fight the worst drought seen in the area in decades.

The Hauraki Plains, Coromandel Peninsula and eastern parts of South Auckland haven’t had had any meaningful rain in months. The dry conditions have become so dire in some parts of the Waikato region three district mayors have signed a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, calling for more support.

Ngatea farmers Megan and Michael Webster run 300 dairy cows and 900 diary goats, but this season due to the dry conditions they’ve had to take a financial hit and dry their stock off about a month earlier than usual.

Michael Webster said it had been a very challenging time, with average rainfall well down. . . 

Coronavirus: Kiwis more positive about farming after Covid-19 lockdown – Esther Taunton:

Kiwis are beginning to see farmers in a new light after lockdown, research shows.

Figures from UMR Research show 63 per cent of New Zealanders hold a positive view of sheep and beef farming, an increase of 9 per cent compared to just eight months ago.

Support for dairy farmers has also jumped, rising from 51 per cent to 60 per cent.

Horticulture tops the list with a positive rating of 65 per cent, while ratings for fisheries have clicked over into majority positive territory at 53 per cent, up from 47 per cent. . .

Fish & Game council embraces Feds, ungags boss -David Williams:

Fish & Game is extending an olive branch to Federated Farmers, against the advice of its chief executive. David Williams reports

The national Fish & Game council continues to try and cleanse itself of a tough stance against agricultural pollution, demanding a softer line from staff on public statements as it takes tentative steps to work with lobby group Federated Farmers.

Such a step would be a huge departure for the public body, which is funded by licence fees. It’s an environmental powerhouse which has successfully advocated for a dozen water conservation orders, and is well-known for taking a hard stance on the damage done by dairying.

That stance, pushed by long-time chief executive Bryce Johnson, has continued under successor Martin Taylor, who started in late 2017, just after the last general election. (In one of his first statements, he flayed dairy giant Fonterra’s environmental record, caused by, he said, its “single-minded focus on increased production at all costs, aided and abetted by weak regional councils”.) . . 

Project to explore turning waste into hand sanitiser – Maia Hart:

Turning waste into hand sanitiser is the next project for a research winery based in Marlborough.

The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) has awarded $84,700 in funding to Bragato Research Institute (BRI) for a pilot study exploring turning grape marc into hand sanitiser.

Grape marc is the stems and seeds leftover after pressing – which in Marlborough can total as much as 46,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The study would look to turn winery waste into ethanol. Any sanitiser made in the initial eight-month study would be bottled and donated to Marlborough health workers and first responders. . . 

Farmers feeling less pressure from banks Feds’ survey finds:

Farmers are feeling slightly more satisfied and less under pressure from their banks, the Federated Farmers May 2020 Banking Survey shows.

Responses to Research First from nearly 1,400 farmers found that the number feeling ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their bank lifted slightly from 68% to 69% in the past six months, and those feeling ‘under pressure’ dropped from 23% to 19%.

“Satisfaction had slipped as a trend since we started this twice-yearly survey in August 2015 and this is the first positive change since then,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

New Zealand horticulture industry rewarded by outstanding survey result :

A survey showing that New Zealanders rate horticulture more highly than any other part of the primary industry sector is rewarding for fruit and vegetable growers across the country. 

UMR research released today shows that horticulture continues to receive the highest positive rating of 65%.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman says he sees the result as a reward for the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand.

‘Our growers are some if not the best in the world.  Over the years, the New Zealand horticulture industry has invested heavily in meeting consumer demand for fresh, tasty and nutritious food that is grown, harvested and transported in environmentally sustainable and ways.  . . 


Rural round-up

April 18, 2020

Northland drought: No feed, no water and coronavirus increases farmers’ stress – Denise Piper:

“Extreme” drought conditions in Northland are being called the worst for decades and have left farms with no stock food and with their water sources drying up.

In Northland, where little rain has fallen, more farmers are asking for help, said Julie Jonker, co-ordinator of Northland Rural Support Trust. 

“There is quite a lot of stress out there,” she said.

Many Northland farmers have already used all of their winter supplementary feed and alternatives, like palm kernel, are expensive and hard to source. . . 

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

Tight feed supplies and ongoing drought are forcing some dairy farmers across the country to dry off earlier than usual.

Fonterra Farm Source director Richard Allen estimates that about 13 percent of farmers have dried off by mid-April compared to 8 percent at the same time last season.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared a large-scale adverse event in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams. The worst-hit region, Northland is still holding out for decent rainfall. . . 

Freshwater 2020 – working towards improved outcomes balancing the environment with community and economic needs:

IrrigationNZ commends the work that has gone into the Freshwater 2020 report released today, and recognises this data helps towards providing certainty of where we need to head.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says, “Freshwater and related ecosystems are very complex, and as the report says, data gaps do remain. However, it is helpful for farmers to see where their improvements are working, and where further work is required.”

IrrigationNZ notes some positive trends emerging from the report for example: . . 

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

Puketoro Station, inland from Tokomaru Bay, has been in lockdown for three weeks now under the Covid-19 rules, and it’s the same as every other farm in New Zealand — business as usual.

But what makes Puketoro slightly different from most farms is that there are 19 people in the station “bubble”.

So the McNeil Farming operation is a tiny village on its own, and in typical village fashion, the residents range in age from four months to Goldcard-holders.

The bulk of the shepherds are under 25 years old, so it’s been somewhat of a tough call for them to stay put for four weekends in a row. . . 

 

California farmer ploughs under lettuce after coronavirus shutters restaurant market – Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper:

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – There should be tractors rumbling across Jack Vessey’s ranch, pulling wagons full of fresh-cut romaine lettuce to be packed and shipped to restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.

Instead, as the coronavirus outbreak upends the nation’s food distribution network, a tractor and plow destroyed rows and rows of green produce on Wednesday.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a crop,” said Vessey, president of Holtville, California-based Vessey and Company, Inc. “To just disc it into the ground: It’s painful.” . .

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

Northland farmers are embracing the digital age as they respond to the dual challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown and the region’s severe drought conditions.

Extension 350 (E350), Northland Inc’s award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme, is driving a digital initiative, which includes pilot video interviews with farmers, called “What’s on your mind?”, accessible via the programme’s YouTube channel.

The interview format encourages the farmers to share their thoughts on issues impacting their businesses, what specifically prompted these thoughts, and the process they expect to follow in developing and implementing responses to protect or enhance their businesses. . .


Rural round-up

January 24, 2020

Failure won’t be farmers’ fault – Arthur Tsitsiras:

Farmers, like any business people, always look to keep costs down and make a profit. 

Farming, however, is an industry with a unique set of variables. Droughts can severely affect crop and livestock growth, floods and storms damage crops and infrastructure, unexpected disease outbreaks and wavering demands in certain products can all have wide-ranging impacts completely out of farmers’ hands. 

In addition, farmers are now expected to be conscious about their environmental impact.  . . 

Primary Sector Council’s starry-eyed vision – Nigel Malthus:

Late last year, the Primary Sector Council (PSC) unveiled its vision for the future of New Zealand’s primary industries.

It centres on the Māori concept of Taiao, which emphasises respect for, and harmony with, the natural world.

The council was established by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in April 2018 on a two-year mission to provide strategic advice on issues and to develop a sector-wide vision for the future. . . 

Here comes the sun . . . (flowers) – Sally Brooker:

One of North Otago’s favourite crops is making an impact again.

Sunflowers are maturing in paddocks on Thousand Acre Rd, between Oamaru and Kakanui, attracting photographers and adding a feel-good element to the landscape.

They are grown by the Mitchell and Webster families for their animal feeds company Topflite.

“You never get sick of them,” general manager Greg Webster said of the giant yellow flowers. . . 

Robot start-up Radius Robotics seeks to solve world’s soil depletion – Catherine Harris:

Farming by robot is no longer a fantasy, and it also could be a breakthrough for preserving our soil quality, a group of Kiwi entrepreneurs say.

Christchurch’s Radius Robotics is developing a wheel-based robotic system which would direct drill seeds with a minimal footprint, irrigate, weed and collect data.

Reducing the amount of land having to be tilled was one of its key aims, co-founder Henry Bersani said. . . 

Farmers encouraged to seek advice on farm succession planning – Sam Kilmister:

A series of workshops is designed to get farmers thinking about life after the farm.

Farm succession is a pressing topics among sheep and beef farmers, with more than 50 per cent of sheep and beef farms expected to change hands over the next decade.

The Red Meat Profit Partnership will hold a series of workshops educating Rangitīkei farmers on business transition and help them to navigate what can often be a difficult process. . . 

Fonterra leaves impression:

An internship at Fonterra proved to be just as valuable to Massey University science student Victoria-Jayne Reid as it was to the dairy co-operative with the development of a new testing regime.

The third-year science student spent her summer at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre across the road from Massey’s Manawatu campus helping to validate a new test for fat content in milk products that has proved to be robust and simple.

“The old reference method was highly laborious, it involved hazardous chemicals, manhandling and it took a long time,” Reid says. . . 


Rural round-up

December 9, 2019

Rural rates chan pulls tighter – Richard Rennie:

The Federated Farmers rates report for the year has highlighted the continuing ability of council rates to outstrip other cost indices, with property owners experiencing a 170% increase over the past 20 years.

That rise has left standard cost indices for dead, even when compared to typically high-rising products like alcohol and tobacco, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said.

Those two products rose 120% over the same period, with significant tax increases on them through that period.

Food prices increased 50% over the same period while transport costs went up 30%.

Farmers are desperate for a handbrake on rates rises but concerned councils appeared to be signalling further rises are likely. . . 

Minister failing to give farmers the facts:

Damian O’Conner has badly let down rural New Zealand by not requesting economic and social analysis on his Government’s freshwater proposals, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“Ministry for Primary Industries officials revealed today in Select Committee that they did not conduct any economic or social modelling prior to the release of the proposals, nor did the Agriculture Minister ask them to.

“It is Damien O’Connor’s responsibility to look out for rural communities and make sure the facts are laid out before hammering them with the most significant policy proposal farmers have faced in years. . . 

Massive high-tech pest control operation in Perth Valley declared a success – Lois Williams:

The company that carried out a massive pest control operation in South Westland’s Perth Valley this year is declaring it a success.

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) supported by DOC blitzed the remote river catchment near Whataroa with 1080 pellets in two aerial drops, in April and July, following intensive pre-feeding with non-toxic pellets.

But it also set up a network of 700 traps for rats and possums, all connected by radio and satellite to rangers phones and laptops, along with 142 cameras to detect stoats.

The company’s aim is to rid the Perth Valley of all predators and keep them out – something that has never been achieved outside of fenced sanctuaries and islands. . . 

Dairy compliance on the up and up:

The Dairy industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have adopted the shared goal to achieve 100% compliance with all resource consents, and are almost 80% towards the goal, celebrated at this week’s Dairy Compliance Awards.

The Dairy Compliance Awards recognise Hawke’s Bay dairy farmers who consistently achieve full compliance with their resource consents.

This is the sixth year of the Dairy Awards, covering water takes, farm dairy effluent and air discharge consents. Over the years, overall compliance has improved from 71% in 2012-13 to 78% in 2018-19. . . 

Good sense sold up the river – Alan Moran:

Earlier this week some 3,000 irrigators and their supporters rallied in Canberra against government policy on Murray-Darling irrigation and management.  With the  cacophony of dozens of semi-trailers’ blaring horns, it was certainly noisy. Ominously for the National Party, their representatives were treated with considerable hostility, particular anger being directed at water Minister David Littleproud. Enduring the jeers, the Nationals would have been especially dismayed at the warm welcome for Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.

The current drought has exacerbated a contrived water shortage that government policy has engineered in the Murray. Having set a cap on water extractions in 1999 — roughly a third of the average flow — the productive uses of this “working river” have been gradually reduced.  As a supplier of a vital agricultural input to a formerly barren area that grew to supply 40 per cent of the nation’s farm produce, the river has been de-rated.  At a cost of $13 billion, some 20 per cent of the flow has been diverted to “environmental” use. This has caused a five- to ten-fold increase in the price and forced thousands of farms out of business. . .

Winston Nutritional secures Chinese Government approval for infant formula production:

Winston Nutritional is one of only two New Zealand manufacturers in 2019 to secure approval from China to produce infant formula.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017.

Winston Nutritional (17888) has achieved infant formula plant registration from the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC) for its Auckland-based blending and canning facility. It secured a general dairy registration in 2017. . . 


Rural round-up

November 4, 2019

$9 billion shock – Neal Wallace and Annette Scott:

Claims the Government’s essential freshwater proposals could cost the livestock industry over $9 billion a year are selective, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

That is the estimated cost of compliance and lower production of meeting proposed freshwater reforms, submissions from Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ say.

More than 12,000 submissions were made by last week’s deadline.

The reforms have been labelled by some farming bodies as unbalanced, unnecessarily harsh and unsustainable. . .

M bovis’ eradication initiatives vindicated – Sally Rae:

An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) believes achieving eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still feasible.

The group’s latest report was released yesterday by the Ministry for Primary Industries in which it supported the changes the M. bovis programme had made over the past six months.

Given available data, achieving biological freedom from M. bovis was feasible provided the number of undetected infected herds was not large, infection had not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds was reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls, it said. . .

Faith, family and farming– Sonita Chandar:

Southland farmers are community and spiritual leaders in the Islamic community. They put their faith above everything and answered the call to help  after the Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk to Sonita Chandar about their experiences and farming.

On Friday March 15 Invercargill farmer and imam of the world’s southernmost mosque, Reza Abdul-Jabbar, was delivering his weekly sermon when a worshipper’s phone rang.

Until then it had been super quiet, as it usually is during the service.

He reminded the man it was a time for silence, not to take the call and continued. 

But other phones began ringing. . .

Fonterra’s dream run in India – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra three months ago launched its first consumer brand in India under the Fonterra Future Dairy joint venture.

The brand Dreamery has had a “fantastic reception”, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, global consumer and foodservice.

Fonterra is working with joint venture partner Future Group which is present in 26 of 31 Indian states with over 2000 modern trade outlets and 5000 public distribution outlets. . .

Experts have their say on whether cherries justify their popularity – Mark Price:

Faced with all manner of economic worries — from Trump to freshwater policies — where might investors put their hard-won savings in the hope of a better than deposit rate return? Might cherries — the horticultural darling of the moment in Central Otago — be the answer? Mark Price sought out two opinions.

Ross and Sharon Kirk are cherry industry consultants trading as Hortinvest Ltd. They have the biggest netted orchard under management in Central Otago (close to 40ha), and are in the process of planting two 80ha, ‘‘fully-netted’’ development

Suitability for Central Otago

Q: What are the basic requirements for cherries to thrive?
A: Low rainfall over harvest, good winter chilling, reasonable soils (nutrient), adequate water, reasonable shelter from wind, and netting (to keep out birds).

Q: Which requirements does Central Otago meet?
A: All of the above, although the bird netting is expensive. . . .

Cute as buttons :

North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

Often referred to as the “cutest sheep in the world” this distinctive breed with black face and ears, curly forelocks and spotted knees and hocks originate in the mountains of the Valais area of Switzerland.

They imported their first embryos from the UK in 2018 and from the 32 embryos 18 live lambs were born so there’s no guarantee they’ll work. The embryos cost $2000 a pop so it’s a quite an investment. .


Rural round-up

November 2, 2019

Ringing up in tears’ : Canterbury farmers doing it tough – Jo Moir:

Canterbury farmers say they’re at breaking point. A recent Ministry of Health report presented to MPs showed suicide was up 20 percent in rural areas compared to a drop of 10 percent in cities and towns.

Droughts, floods, earthquakes, farm debt, M bovis, looming water quality reforms and climate change legislation have Canterbury farmers feeling under the pump.

Ashburton farmer and Federated Farmers’ board member, Chris Allen, said nothing brought home just how many farmers were battling depression than a funeral. . .

Researchers did deeper in fight against climate change – Rebecca Black:

Researchers have found deep soil holds potential to off-set greenhouse gas emissions and improve production for farmers.

Dr Mike Beare and his colleagues at Plant and Food Research have been studying how soils differ in their potential to store carbon, and the risk for carbon loss.

Beare said many of New Zealand’s long-term pasture top soils are approaching saturation and don’t have the potential to store carbon near the surface.

Many continuous pasture soils in New Zealand are stratified, with carbon levels declining rapidly with depth. “Where there is much greater potential to store additional carbon is below the surface soil,” Beare said. . . .

Give farmers the tools and they will respond – Todd Muller:

The Government should let farmers focus on continuing to produce world class food, not trying to negotiate complex tax systems, writes National’s spokesman for Primary Industries, Todd Muller.

Last week the Government announced a broad agreement had been reached with the agriculture sector on how to approach the very complex challenge of reducing our emissions from sheep and cattle animals in New Zealand.

Unlike our CO2 emissions, which we’re all exposed to whether we’re a farmer or city dweller via the carbon price, natural emissions from belching and urinating cows and sheep currently sit outside a pricing regime. . .

Biosecurity business pledge signed by 50 companies:

A group of 50 New Zealand companies have signed a first-of-its-kind pledge to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The Biosecurity Business Pledge – which includes some of New Zealand’s biggest businesses, including Fonterra, Auckland Airport, Goodman Fielder, Countdown and Mainfreight – was launched today by participating businesses and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. . .

Feds urges going the extra mile with biosecurity pledge :

Businesses which sign up to the Biosecurity Pledge 2019 are underlining a commitment to go the extra mile to protect our environment and economy from diseases, pests and hazardous organisms. 

“It’s one thing to tick all the boxes in terms of meeting all the regulatory requirements.  That should by now be standard practice,” Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams says.

“The Pledge campaign, supported by Federated Farmers and 10 other farmer and grower organisations, is about businesses actively looking for ways to cut out potential risks to protect not just their own interests, but those of their peers, the wider community and our little slice of paradise at the bottom of the world. . .

 

Filipino farmer grows new life in New Zealand after rough beginning – Emma Dangerfield:

Bob Bolanos had a good life in the Philippines but political corruption prompted him to move his young family to New Zealand and start at the bottom again. Emma Dangerfield reports.

When a Philippines Government official offered Bob Bolanos a top electrical contract, he knew he had to leave.

The farmer was well connected, so he and his young family were well looked after, and he was regularly awarded good contracts because of who he knew. But it did not sit well.

Something about it made me sick to my stomach,” he says. “I didn’t want my children being brought up in that environment.” . .


Rural round-up

October 18, 2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 4, 2019

Sheepmeat and beef exports in 2019-20 both forecast to break $4 billion for the first time:

China’s demand for New Zealand’s beef, lamb and mutton is forecast to propel both sheepmeat and beef exports past the $4 billion mark for the first time.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) New Season Outlook 2019-20 report forecasts beef, lamb and mutton prices to lift from historically high levels, helped by continuing strong export demand and an expected weakening of the New Zealand dollar.

“We have forecast increases in farm-gate prices for beef, lamb and mutton in 2019-20, because small increases in in-market prices are expected to be further assisted by an easing of the New Zealand dollar,” says B+LNZ Chief Economist Andrew Burtt. . . 

Agriculture Minister O’Connor under fire at Gore meeting – Rachael Kelly:

The Minister of Agriculture refused to accept that the Government is affecting farmers’ balance sheets.

O’Connor fronted up to a Ministry for the Environment freshwater consultation meeting in Gore attended by about 400 farmers on Thursday.

He told farmers to “get over it” when he was questioned about farmers’ equity.

While he told the crowd the one thing the Government needed to front up to was how banks were treating farmers at the moment, it wasn’t long before a heckler said it was O’Connor’s Government that was driving the equity out of farmer’s balance sheets. . .

Farmers urged to have say on water – Yvonne O’Hara:

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young can see why some farmers could become disheartened and consider giving up their farms if they continue to get hammered by new regulatory requirements and increasing compliance costs.

He has done the maths on the impact the Government’s proposed Essential Freshwater rules would likely have on his ability to earn a living from his 5400ha hill country sheep and beef Cattle Flat Station, near Balfour.

It runs about 15,000 stock units including 8000 breeding ewes and 550 cows, on mainly hill country. . . 

Celebrity chef Al Brown says city slickers are the ones ruining the environment – Teresa Ramsey:

City slickers need to clean up their own backyard before criticising farmers, top New Zealand chef Al Brown says.

Brown, who owns restaurants in Auckland and Wellington, slammed “urban keyboard warriors” in a Facebook post aimed at defending farmers.

During a weekend in rural Raglan, Brown said he was impressed by the “extraordinary beauty of the NZ countryside”.

“Farm after farm in beautiful condition…..we witnessed many new plantings of native trees, fenced off waterways and blocks of old established bush breaking up the pastural land and providing ample shade for the stock,” he said in the Facebook post. . . 

The Trans-Tasman honey wars :

Small jars of New Zealand Mānuka honey are about to go on sale in the UK for nearly $3000 each.

The ‘super’ honey is collected by helicopter from remote parts of the North Island where there are heavy concentrations of Mānuka trees.

The high price is driven by a limited supply. A thousand jars only will be available exclusively from Harrods. While most of New Zealand’s Mānuka honey does not command such an extravagant price there is strong and growing demand internationally. . . 

Nelson man takes Young Grower of the Year – Angie Skerrett:

A Nelson man with a strong family connection to horticulture in the region has been named as New Zealand Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Jono Sutton was announced as the winner at an awards dinner in Tauranga on Wednesday night.

As the regional Nelson finalist he was up against six other contestants from around New Zealand.

The finalists were tested on a range of practical tasks and theory during the week, culminating in the awards presentation. . . 

 

Sour milk: how are US dairy farmers coping? – Lindsay Campbell:

US farming has seen better days.

Matt Moreland has taken what little hope he had left in dairy farming and put it behind him.

Moreland, who comes from three generations of dairy farmers, thought that after graduating from college he would follow that path as well.

But with the decline of milk prices and uncertainty of the industry’s future, he says it didn’t take long for him to come up with other ways to pay the bills. . .

 


Rural round-up

September 10, 2019

2050 deadline to improve freshwater in New Zealand – Rachael Kelly and Gerard Hutching:

A lobby group says some Southland farmers may abandon their land because of new water rules but the agriculture ministers says it’s a ridiculous statement to make.

Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker released a draft National Policy Statement and National Environment Standards: Freshwater, on Thursday.

They propose changes to farming practices and new rules for councils, aiming to stop the degradation of waterways and clean up rivers and lakes within a generation.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young says some of the rules nitrogen may be able to be met but the numbers around freshwater may just be a step too far and there is going to be a significant financial cost. . . 

Water policy is doomed to fail – Aan Emmerson:

I can’t see anyone in the provincial sector being remotely surprised at the draconian nature of Environment Minister David Parker’s policy announcement on water quality.

For a start, Parker told us in June there would be tighter regulation of the agricultural sector.

He also made the earth-shattering statement he would regulate what, in his view, were some of the riskier farming practices.

Last Thursday’s statement came in three parts, a diagram, a bland summary then the actual document, all 105 pages of it.

Climate change Bill concerns for SFF – Brent Melville:

Silver Fern Farms, the nation’s largest procurer and exporter of red meat, has tabled “significant concerns” related to the economic impacts of the Government’s proposed climate change response Bill.

In its submission to the environment select committee this morning, the company said while it supported the Bill’s ultimate temperature increase goals, it had concerns specific to methane reduction targets, the inability of farmers to offset the warming effects of biogenic methane and processor obligations for farm emissions.

Silver Fern Farms head of communications and sustainability Justin Courtney said the submission had largely been informed by discussion with more than 750 of the company’s 15,500 farmer suppliers across New Zealand. The zero carbon proposals as tabled were “top of the list of farmers’ concerns”, he said. . . 

The unpopular tree sucking carbon from our air – Eloise Gibson:

Pinus Radiata grows like a weed, which is why it’s so fast at sequestering carbon. But since many people prefer native trees, forestry scientists are proposing an unconventional solution to get the best of both worlds.

To measure how much carbon is in a tree, you first have to kill it.

You slice up the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and roots and dry the dismembered tree parts in an oven. Then you weigh them.

“It takes a long time,” says Euan Mason, a professor at the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. “I did some in 2012 with two students, and in six weeks I think we did 25 trees.” . . 

New campaign promotes wool’s benefits – Brent Melville:

Recent experiments in Japan measured the efficiencies of using wool carpet versus a synthetic option in two identical houses.

The wool option resulted in electricity savings of between 8% to 13%, with additional savings of up to 12% for cooling under the same conditions.

It is one of the fast facts contained in an informative and highly stylised campaign, designed to educate international frontline carpet and other retailers on the benefits of strong wool.

The “back to basics” approach is the brain child of wool sales and marketing company Wools of New Zealand (WNZ), in the belief that frontline retailers are neglecting the natural benefits of the fibre in the rush to sell synthetic product.

The heart of the programme is a 12-part “wool benefits” marketing campaign, which the company says has resonated strongly with local and international customers alike. . . 

NSA celebrates ban on false advertising about wool:

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is pleased to see the response by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banning some misleading advertising from PETA propagating the lie that wool is cruelly obtained from sheep.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: ‘NSA is pleased to hear this decision by ASA that exposes PETA’s advertising for what it is, grossly inaccurate jargon which is misleading the public as well as damaging farmers reputations and livelihoods. The simple undeniable fact is that removing wool from sheep is necessary for their health and welfare. It does not harm them, and it does not exploit them. Wool is a by-product of their existence.”

Following reports of cruelty during shearing last year (2018), NSA joined with several other industry bodies to create a clear set of guidelines for farmers and shearing contractors to follow to ensure they shear to the highest standard possible. . . 


Rural round-up

September 6, 2019

Farmers face $1b bill to meet new freshwater requirements :

Government proposals to radically improve the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater resources look likely to cost farmers at least $1 billion over 10 years.

Environment and Agriculture ministers David Parker and Damien O’Connor released a swag of documents from the government’s Essential Freshwater policy review at Parliament this morning.

The discussion document on a new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management details proposals that would:  . . 

New rules to manage water – Neal Wallace:

The Government wants to take a tougher stance on and have a greater say in freshwater management, a discussion document released today reveals.

Action for Healthy Waterways will require every farmer to have a farm plan to manage risks to fresh water by 2025, extends rules on the exclusion of stock from waterways and sets new standards for intensive winter grazing.

Regional councils will have until 2025 to implement a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater and till then the Government proposes tighter controls on land-use intensification and the introduction of interim measures to reduce nitrogen loss within five years in identified catchments with high nitrate or nitrogen levels. . .

Rural innovations secure support – Luke Chivers:

A 14-year-old entrepreneur with an ingenious scheme to provide broadband access to isolated, rural communities is one of four ventures to receive support from the Rural Innovation Lab.

The backing was announced at the Beehive by Lab chairman Mat Hocken.

The initiatives came after a wide call for people to submit ideas to help solve rural issues. . .

Commodity export prices provide some cheer, even for those downcast Fonterra farmer-suppliers – Point of Order:

NZ lamb export prices have hit their highest level since 1982. That mightn’t be good news if you are contemplating a roast leg of lamb for the barbecue this weekend.

But for NZ meat producers that, and the high prices being earned in markets like Japan for beef, suggest it’ll be a good season for NZ’s meat producers.

This is despite the global uncertainty stemming from trade wars particularly between China and the US, two of NZ’s main markets. The outbreak of swine fever in China is likely to sustain demand for other meat such as beef. . . 

Breeding for parasite resistance important:

WormFEC Gold a collective of farmers breeding for parasite resistant genetics are leading the pack as drench resistance becomes more prevalent and drench failure is reported across the country.

Ten breeders across New Zealand have joined forces creating WormFEC Gold bringing together more than 200 years combined experience breeding highly productive, parasite resistant rams. The aim of their breeding programme – verified by Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL) – is to strengthen flocks and save farmers time and money by reducing the number of times flocks need to be drenched. As a group they work collaboratively to improve parasite resistant stock genetics and educate farmers about the value of including parasite résistance in stock selection decisions. . . 

Benefits of entering Dairy Industry Awards numerous:

Entries for the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards open on Tuesday 1st October and are an opportunity for entrants to secure their future while learning and connecting with others and growing their career. The 2019 Share Farmers of the Year say the benefits to their career and business from entering are worth the effort and time.

Colin and Isabella Beazley won the 2019 Northland Share Farmers of the Year and went on to win the National title as well. “We entered to benchmark ourselves against the best and also for the networking opportunities,” they say. “The networking and contact with industry leaders is unparalleled and we have used these relationships to grow our business.” . .

Farmers could lose tens of thousands as vegan activists plan fortnight-long blockade of UK’s largest meat market – Greg Wilford:

It is the largest wholesale meat market in Britain, and celebrated for selling some of the nation’s finest cuts of beef, lamb and pork for more than 800 years.

But, if vegan activists have their way, London’s Smithfield Market could be transformed into a parade of fruit and vegetable stalls without any animal produce in sight. . .


Rural round-up

June 12, 2019

Dairy law changes spur dissent – Sally Rae:

Changes to dairy industry legislation will bring some improvements to the sector but also represent “a missed opportunity”, both Fonterra and Federated Farmers say.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday announced changes to be made to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA) and the Dairy Industry Restructuring Raw Milk Regulations 2012.

The changes include allowing Fonterra to refuse milk supply from new conversions and from farmers who did not comply with its supply standards. . . 

Crush protection for quad bikes very worthwhile option – Feds:

Federated Farmers is on board with WorkSafe’s decision to “strongly recommend” installation of a crush protection device (CPD) on quad bikes used for work purposes.

“We support WorkSafe’s policy clarification.  For some time Federated Farmers has been saying CPDs, or roll over protection as it used to be called, can be a very useful injury prevention option in many – but not all – farm settings,” Feds President Katie Milne says.

“There is still some debate about CPDs, including from quad bike manufacturers who say they are unsafe, and those who say the device itself can cause injury in some circumstances.  But like WorkSafe, Federated Farmers believes there is now enough evidence from credible sources to say that farmers should at least be considering Crush Protection Devices. . . 

Forest awards apprentices of the year a chip of the old block – Sally Rae:

Paige Harland was born to be in the bush.

Miss Harland (21) comes from a Southland family who have sap in their blood over three generations.

Named apprentice of the year at the recent 2019 Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards, she works for Harland Brothers Logging.

The business was established by her grandfather and great-uncle, later taken over by her uncle Peter and is now run by her cousins Jesse and Corrie Harland. . . 

Deer farmers set example:

Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter have won the premier Elworthy Award in the deer industry’s 2019 environmental awards.

The Potters were praised by the award judges for their work in enhancing the environmental performance of their property.

They have owned the 640ha Waipapa Station for 20 years.

A bush clad gully on their Elsthorpe farm is a highly visible and attractive aspect of the Potters’ contribution. . . 

 

Decision to not front Lumsden meeting ’embarrassing’, MP says:

The Ministry of Health and Southern District Health Board decision not to meet with Southland midwives today has been described as a slap in the face.

The meeting was called to help midwives practice safely in the area after the former Lumsden Maternity Centre was downgraded.

It was cancelled after both organisations decided not to front up to midwives this afternoon.

National’s Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was embarrassing that neither were prepared to meet with midwives for the good of the rural communities. . . 

Meet the midwives at Fieldays:

For this first time this year, midwives will have a stand at Fieldays at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

Midwives play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of rural communities throughout New Zealand and the thousands of people who flock to the country’s premier agricultural show, will have an opportunity find out more about their work.

Out of New Zealand’s total population of 4.8 million, approximately 576,000* people live in rural areas. Around 55,000 women give birth annually in New Zealand; nearly a third of whom live in rural areas. . . 


Rural round-up

May 15, 2019

Tip Top sale half of debt target – Hugh Stringleman:

The sale of Tip Top to a joint-venture northern hemisphere company, Froneri, for $380 million has achieved almost half of Fonterra’s debt reduction target.

When its Beingmate shareholding is divested and a half share of DFE Pharma is sold, Fonterra should reach its $800m reduction target by July 31.

The Beingmate stake has a market value of about $280m and the DFE share about $200m, based on annual sales figures.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell has therefore made a good start on promised financial reforms of substantial debt reduction, cuts in capital and operational expenditure and 7%-plus return on capital invested by farmer-shareholders and unit holders. . . 

Gisborne woman takes out SI Sheep Dog trials event:

Gisborne’s Jo Waugh has won the zig zag hunt at the South Island sheep dog trial championships, the first time a woman has won the event in more than 100 years.

And not only did the 30-year-old and her huntaway dog, Guy, get on the podium, but two other women also joined her in the top seven, clocking up another achievement in the usually male-dominated event.

The South Island Sheep Dog trials were held in Hanmer Springs this week but farmers and shepherds have been competing since the sport first landed in New Zealand in the 1800s. . . 

MIE man changed priorities fast – Neal Wallace:

Richard Young was elected to the Silver Fern Farms board on a platform of industry restructuring and agitating for a merger with Alliance. Six years later the Otago farmer is the co-operative’s boss. He talks to Neal Wallace.

Richard Young vividly remembers the induction for new directors the evening before his first meeting as an elected member of the Silver Fern Farms board.

It was 2013 and the newly elected directors were taken through the co-operative’s accounts ahead of the annual meeting the next day.

It was not pretty. . . 

Tiny farm run on ethical principles– Sally Brooker:

An Alma family is proud to have set up the district’s smallest dairy farm.

Bethan and Bryan Moore have a herd of just 13 Ayrshire cows with calves on 6ha alongside State Highway 1. They will soon be selling milk in glass bottles.

The Moores bought the land about 18 months ago, after four years of sharemilking in Tasmania. Mrs Moore grew up near Cardiff, Wales and met Mr Moore, a farmer from the North Island, on her travels to New Zealand. . . 

Seeka cuts earnings forecast on smaller crop – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Kiwifruit grower and marketer Seeka has cut its full-year earnings guidance by $4 million due to reduced harvests in both New Zealand and Australia.

Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are likely to range from $32.5 million to $33.5 million in the 2019 calendar year, down from the $36.5-$37.5 million range the Te Puke-based company signalled a month ago.

Seeka, the biggest kiwifruit producer in New Zealand and Australia, said unseasonably hot, dry weather in both countries has reduced fruit size and crop volumes. . .

Meeting of Otago Drought Group – Sally Rae:

The work of the Otago Drought Group is a great example of farmers and their organisations collaborating to manage climate challenges locally, Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor says.

The group met again this week to update its discussions on the dry conditions in the Clutha district, how farmers were faring and what actions might be needed.

The group, which included Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead, representatives from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the Otago Rural Support Trust and the Ministry for Primary Industries, convened early in any adverse weather event. . . 

Flying Pig cafe going to market:

One of the Waitaki district’s most recognisable restaurants is on the market.

The Flying Pig Cafe, with its distinctive porcine pink exterior, has long been a landmark in Duntroon.

It has been closed since illness befell its owners in early 2017, and is now for sale.

An Auckland couple bought the cafe in 2007 after discovering it during a holiday driving around the South Island. Business began to soar after the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail opened in 2014. . . 

Hi-tech boosts growers’ bottom lines:

“Incredibly clever” technology that elevates cool rooms into a state-of-the-art controlled atmosphere chambers is helping Hawke’s Bay’s growers make the very best of their crops.

It is not just about chilling fruit, it is about controlling the air conditions inside the cooler to hold it in the best possible state until market conditions are optimal; which could be any time over the 12 months after the crop has been picked.

Next week, growers have the opportunity to learn more about that technology from the Europeans who make it. . . 


Rural round-up

December 18, 2018

Government believes Mycoplasma bovis can be eradicated :

The Government is confident that the cattle disease M. bovis can be eradicated in New Zealand.

It would be a world first if successful.

“Based on all the evidence presented to us, we are confident that eradication is possible and that we are on track in what’s a world first but necessary action to preserve the value of our national herd and economic base, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said today . . 

Federated Farmers cautiously optimistic on M.bovis plan:

Federated Farmers is supportive of today’s government call that we may be able to achieve the biosecurity triumph of being the first country in the world to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

While there are farmers throughout the country still battling with the aftermath of the disease’s discovery, Feds believes we can all start to feel more confident about the outcome of the eradication.

“We are cautiously optimistic, and still have fingers and everything else crossed,” Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis says. . .

Climate research leads world:

A government research programme has positioned New Zealand as a world leader in research into mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture and adapting to climate change, a recent independent review has found.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme supports the generation of new climate change knowledge across NZ’s agriculture and forestry sectors.

The independent review found SLMACC has triggered new research and boosted NZ’s understanding of the potential impacts and implications of climate change for a range of primary industries, particularly pastoral farming systems and responding to drought. . .

Farming sustainably – Sonita Chandar:

Tiaki, the sustainable dairying programme launched by Fonterra last year, is ticking all the boxes for farmers.

The programme, which helps farmers farm in more sustainable ways, has been in place for a year. 

At its launch Fonterra set an initial target of having 1000 farm environment plans in place. 

The Dairy Tomorrow Strategy will see all farmers adopting a sustainable dairying plan by 2025

“When we committed to the programme we increased the number of sustainable dairy advisers we had in the field,” Fonterra sustainable dairying general manager Charlotte Rutherford said.

“However, demand has outstripped supply.  . . 

New NAIT compliance officers in the field:

A cohort of 27 new NAIT compliance officers are ready to hit the ground and start working with farmers after graduating from their training programme on Friday.

Animal Welfare and NAIT Compliance Manager, Gray Harrison, says the new officers are part of a stepped-up effort to educate farmers about their NAIT obligations, and enforce compliance with the scheme.

“The new officers will be located throughout the country helping farmers use NAIT consistently and taking action when non-compliance is detected. . . 

Ngāi Tahu backs out of Agria deal, takes stake in Wrightson:

Ngāi Tahu Capital has taken a direct stake in PGG Wrightson, ending a seven-year relationship with Singapore-domiciled Agria as the foreign investor’s grip on the rural services firm remains uncertain.

Last Friday, the investment arm of the South Island iwi ended an agreement that pooled its investment in Wrightson with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. Ngāi Tahu Capital was a junior partner in the joint venture with a 7.24 percent stake. At the time, it touted the $15 million investment as diversifying its portfolio and building international relationships. . . 

Computational breeding: Can AI offer an alternative to genetically modified crops? – Greg Nichols:

Hi Fidelity Genetics (HFG), a company that uses sensors, data science, and statistical genetics to create non-genetically modified crops, just raised $8.5 million in a Series A. It’s a sign of the growing importance of data science in agriculture, and it may signal an alternative path to sustainable farming without the use of genetic modification.

The issue is a prickly one. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been touted as saving the world by increasing food supply and maligned as a lever by which Big Ag constrains the market while doing untold damage to public health and delicate ecosystems. As the debate rages on, GMOs have come to dominate agriculture, accounting for more than 90 percent of the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the U.S., according to the USDA. . . 


Rural round-up

October 11, 2018

Fonterra is in a fix but farmers should beware of what happens when the Govt steps in … – Point of Order:

“Govt won’t fix Fonterra’s problems” – so ran  the  strapline  on  the  NZ Herald’s  weekly  “The Business”  last  Friday.

And  thousands   of  Fonterra’s  farmer-suppliers,  reading  the  article which quoted Agriculture Minister Damien  O’Connor,  almost  certainly would have sighed  with relief.

Who  would want   this   government  to  “fix”  their  industry?  Look what happened to  the   oil and  gas  exploration industry  after  Energy Resources  Minister   Megan Woods  applied  her  “fix”  to  it. . . 

NZ plays down threat to European agri interests in FTA talks – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand trade negotiators are trying to get their European counterparts to recognise that the nation’s agricultural exports are small-fry in comparison to the regional bloc’s farming sector.

The second round of free trade negotiations between New Zealand and the EU is underway in Wellington, with 31 European officials in the capital to make progress in a deal politicians say they’re keen to fast-track. In a 90-minute public forum, the chief negotiators – Peter Berz for the EU and Martin Harvey of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – said there was a lot of commonality between the parties, but that agriculture is a sticking point.  . .

Breakthrough technology could save dairy industry millions:

A new device that detects processing losses in dairy plants could save the industry millions of dollars a year and help prevent pollutants from entering waterways.

Lincoln University-owned research and development company, Lincoln Agritech Ltd, developed the breakthrough technology and it was then commercialised by Christchurch-based start-up company, CertusBio.

The result is a robust, automated biosensor capable of continuous monitoring in commercial operating conditions. Known as Milk-Guard, the device uses a lactose-specific enzyme to measure the percentage of dairy products present in waste streams and processing lines
.. .

12 lessons from the Future of Farming Dialogue – Jamie Mackay:

What’s in store for the rural sector? Host of The Country radio show Jamie Mackay got a glimpse at the Bayer Future of Farming Dialogue conference in Düsseldorf and Amsterdam. Here’s what he discovered:

1)

Even though it was very much tempered by sitting much closer to the front than the back, 17 hours is a hell of a long time to be stuck on a plane.

The Auckland-Dubai direct flight is the third-longest commercial flight on the planet, behind Auckland-Doha and Perth-London.

2)

The world faces a food crisis. How to feed a potential population of 10 billion people by 2050? In 1960 we had more than one acre (0.4 ha) of arable land for every person on the planet. Today that number is less than half that. Many of our most productive soils now grow only houses. . . 

 

Multi-pronged approach critical to successful environment strategy – Allan Barber:

Since announcing its environment strategy in May, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand team responsible for developing the plans, processes and tools to help farmers achieve the ambitious goals of being carbon neutral by 2050 and every farm having an active farm plan by 2021 has been working flat out to get the right farm planning systems in place. The strategy identifies four areas of focus – cleaner water, carbon neutrality, thriving biodiversity and healthy productive soils – with their own specific goals and a detailed implementation plan, supported by a series of what are termed ‘foundations’.

Initially there are two foundations which explicitly rely on the participation of individual farmers. The first is helping farmers navigate the myriad of farm environment plans out there so they can identify the one that complies with local regulations and is best suited to help them document their individual on farm environment plan; the second foundation will encourage the establishment and facilitation of catchment communities which are relevant to the farmers’ local areas.  . . 

CP Wool announces exclusive partnership to distribute NZ wool carpets in US:

Premium New Zealand wool carpets and rugs will soon be available to thousands more US consumers under a new distribution partnership between Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) and J Mish Mills.

Under the agreement, leading carpet business J Mish will design and manufacture carpets and rugs from yarn grown and spun in New Zealand. The products will then be distributed throughout the US via J Mish’s large network of dealer and designer relationships. . . 

Feral sheep’s wool could set world record

A feral ewe captured on a remote bluff will have her first brush with the shears this weekend and organisers say she could have the longest wool in the world.

The crossbred sheep was caught in the Mapiu district, south of Te Kuiti, by Amie Ritchie and Carla Clark.

Named Suzy by her captors, the ewe is not believed to have been shorn before.  However, that will change at The Wool Shed, the national museum of sheep and shearing, in Masterton on Sunday. . . 

Why we need a real forestry strategy – Rod Oram:

We’re an odd country when it comes to trees. We have a lot of them but no overarching long-term policy for them. Consequently, our short-term forestry decisions deliver some adverse outcomes, both economic and environmental.

And on our current course it’s going to get worse. We’re racing to plant one billion trees in a decade to help us meet our climate commitments (as last week’s column discussed), develop regional economies, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance biodiversity such as helping to save native birds from extinction.

Trees could do all of that for us. But only if they can flourish in healthy ecosystems. To do so, they need all the help we can give them over three or four human generations. Instead, we’re working in silos over just a decade or two, the longest time most commercial enterprises can wait for an investment to pay off. . .

Major investors back medicinal cannabis with stake in Helius:

Cannabis-focused biotechnology company, Helius Therapeutics, announced today it has completed its $15m capital raise and is now backed by a small group of New Zealand investors, led by tech entrepreneur, Guy Haddleton.

Haddleton says “Helius Therapeutics has all the features we seek in a high-potential investment. The company has a clear and large vision, extraordinary talent and deep go-to-market experience. More importantly, Helius will improve significantly the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders”. . .


Rural round-up

October 10, 2018

High lamb prices will hit profit – Nigel Malthus:

Alliance Group has warned that its annual result, due to be reported in November, will show a drop in profit.

“The financial performance of the company this year will be down… meaningfully,” chief executive David Surveyor told farmers attending the company’s roadshow meeting in Cheviot last week.

However, he assured shareholders the company is profitable, the balance sheet remains “incredibly strong, and for the avoidance of any doubt we have the ability to make sure we build our company forward.” . . 

3 M bovis farms confirmed through bulk milk testing – Sally Rae:

 Only three farms have been confirmed through bulk milk testing as having Mycoplasma bovis – but the Ministry for Primary Industries says it is too early to speculate about final results.

The second bulk milk surveillance programme was being undertaken now as spring was the best time to test for the disease, the ministry said.

Infected animals were more likely to shed the bacteria after a stressful period, such as calving and the start of lactation
.

To date, almost 10,000 of the country’s 12,000 dairy farms had completed two rounds of testing, MPI said in an update
.

Govt committed to Mycoplasma bovis eradication; $25.6M spent to date – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – The government has paid $25.6 million in compensation claims related to Mycoplasma bovis and remains committed to phased eradication, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

One of the biggest challenges for farmers has been navigating the compensation process and Ardern and O’Connor announced a new recovery package aimed at making that easier.

The package includes a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The Ministry for Primary Industries has also produced an improved compensation form and guide and an online calculator of milk production losses. It will also provide regional recovery managers for key areas. . . .

Marc Rivers: The man with Fonterra’s fortunes in his hands – John Anthony:

Marc Rivers has a TEDx talk. And it’s not about numbers, profit and loss – and there is no mention of balance sheets.

Rivers, Fonterra’s top number cruncher, is not your typical chief financial officer.

Unlike their charismatic chief executive counterparts, chief financial officers are generally regarded as robotic accountant types, capable of presenting a company’s financial position in jargon that few people understand. . . 

State of the Rural Nation Survey finds rural dwellers less likely to talk to health professionals

  • Seven in ten people have felt increased stress over the last five years
  • Those aged 18-39 feeling the most pressure
  • 61 percent said living rurally limits access to mental health resources

A recent survey has found that 70 percent of rural New Zealanders have felt more stress over the last five years.

The State of the Rural Nation Survey, conducted by Bayer New Zealand and Country TV, asked participants several questions regarding their views on critical topics impacting rural New Zealand today, including a series of questions around mental health.

Of those who responded that they had felt increased stress over the last five years, over half (54 percent) attributed financial pressures as the main reason, while the impact of environmental factors (ie droughts, flooding, hail) on people’s work and livelihoods came in at a close second (49 percent). . . 

Gene editing in brief: What, how, why:

Embracing gene editing could have huge benefits for New Zealand’s primary industries and we shouldn’t be scared of the technology, scientists say.

The latest paper in a series from the Royal Society Te Apārangi outlined five ways gene editing could be used in farming and forestry and scientists are keen for Kiwis to discuss the issue.

It sounds scary, though.  So what’s it all about?

Gene editing (also known as genome editing) is the targeted alteration of a specific DNA sequence. While older genetic modification technology typically added foreign DNA to a plant or animal, gene editing involves precise modification of small sections of existing DNA.  . . 

Mental health workshop focus on rural people:

Workshops being held across the country are equipping farmers and rural professionals with the tools to recognise and support those who are struggling.

NZ Young Farmers has organised five of the Good Yarn workshops, the second of which was held in Carterton last week.

Greytown dairy farmer Rachel Gardner, one of 14 attendees last week, is encouraging other young people to talk about mental health. . . 

Meat measurement technology given funding boost :

Adelaide-based AgTech startup MEQ Probe has received $500,000 funding from Meat & Livestock Australia and industry partners Teys Australia and the Midfield Group to test ground-breaking technology to objectively measure the eating quality of meat.

Coming just a few months after MEQ Probe took home a coveted Pitch in the Paddock prize at the tri-annual Beef Australia event, the funding also includes investment from MEQ Probe founder, AgTech betaworks Availer.

It will enable a commercial pilot of the MEQ Probe technology, which uses nanoscale biophotonics to measure the marbling and tenderness of meat; both major drivers of eating quality.   . . 

 

Blueberry orchard for sale offers jam-packed opportunities:

A substantial blueberry orchard with its own commercial processing plant and refrigerated pack-house – producing one of the rarest but highest-yielding blueberry crops in New Zealand – has been placed on the market for sale.

The 8.8-hectare property at Gordonton in the Waikato features some eight hectares of blueberry plantings under canopy cover, along with buildings, equipment, and plant used for picking, sorting, packing and chilling blueberries.

Planted on peat soil and regularly fertilised, the orchard has some 15,000 trees – including 500 of the new Jaac variety of blueberry which produces a heavier-yielding crop than traditional clones. Other blueberry varieties grown in the orchard include Powder Blue, Tiff Blue, Centra Blue, O’Neal, Sunset, and Velluto. . . 


Rural round-up

June 5, 2018

Cold facts don’t diminish need to look after farmers – Liam Dann:

Economists and business writers tread a fine line between staying true to the data and the reality of the experience suffered (or enjoyed) by individuals.

There is a risk of coming across cold and robotic.

Take the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

I felt a little cold hearted this week pointing out the scale of the cattle cull is not statistically large. . .

Not worth the stress farmer says – Sally Rae:

Mycoplasma bovis-affected farmer Kerry Dwyer believes the huge amount of stress placed on farmers through the massive cull of cattle will not be worth the result.

Last Monday, the Government unveiled an $886 million plan to eliminate the disease, rather than undertake long-term management. If successful, New Zealand would be the first country in the world to do so.

The cull, of about 126,000 cattle in addition to the 26,000 well under way, would take place over one to two years.

Mr Dwyer, who voluntarily sent 400 calves to slaughter, said success relied on the premise the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) testing regime was accurate and no animals “slip through the net . .

Farmers roast MPI – Annette Scott:

The heat was on Ministry for Primary Industries officials as they sat before 800 farmers at a where-to-from-here Mycoplasma bovis meeting in Ashburton last week.

As the questions and criticism flew from the floor so did the eyebrows rise at the front table that included MPI director-general Martyn Dunne, MPI response veterinary adviser Eve Pleydell and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The turnout was indicative of the concern the district stands to lose 25% of its dairy herd. . .

Demand for seedlings stuns mānuka farming group – Esther Taunton:

An offer of free mānuka seedlings has been so popular, the scheme is almost 200 per cent oversubscribed. 

Mānuka Farming New Zealand (MFNZ) offered 1.8 million seedlings to landowners, enough to cover about 1635 hectares across New Zealand.  Within a week, 70 applications were received, accounting for 3.6 million seedlings.  . .

All the cowshed is a stage for singing dairy farmer – Jane Matthews:

Every day Patrick Johnson dresses up for work and sings to a crowd of 750 for about three hours.

But Johnson’s not a musician; his costume is an apron and gumboots and the audience never applaud him – they’re cows.

Johnson is a South Taranaki dairy farmer who recently started recording himself singing while he was milking cows and posting a video on the internet everyday in an attempt to make fellow farmers smile. . . 

 

Taking the lead on water – Sally Rae:

Irrigation New Zealand has been involved in the development of Good Farming Practice: Action Plan for Water Quality which will be launched tomorrow. Sally Rae talks to Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis about water — and his varied career.

Andrew Curtis has no interest in “getting back to old Blighty”.

The affable English-born chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) is happily settled in Canterbury with his family.

Their lifestyle block is stocked with Belted Galloway cattle and they consider New Zealand “home. . .

We have a responsibility to help our farmers says chef and restauranteur Matt Moran – Matt Moran:

I’m proud to say that I’m a fourth-generation farmer. I had a rural upbringing on a cattle and dairy farm near Tamworth and still have a commercial farm in the NSW Central Tablelands.

Throughout my childhood we, like most farmers, hit both bad times and good and I thank this rural upbringing for instilling in me a work ethic and a certain toughness. It also gave me a genuine understanding of just how hard farmers work to supply us with the food we rely on at every meal and the quality we demand.

With all the discussion these days about food and sustainability, many of our farmers are struggling to be sustainable in even the most basic sense of making ends meet. . . 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

June 1, 2018

Farmers at country club: ‘We want to stop the spread’-:

A small Tararua farming community has told the agriculture minister of the uncertainty facing it because of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Damien O’Connor visited the community of Makuri near Pahiatua today as part of the government’s Mycoplasma bovis roadshow.

Tararua district mayor and farmer Tracey Collis was there and told Checkpoint there was a lot to be learned from the Mycoplasma bovis scare.

“Watching the uncertainty in farmers in the district – it’s not something you wouldn’t wish on anybody,” she said.

“I think we need to tidy up our practises. [Husband] Mike and I spent five years as organic dairy farmers and within that system anything that came onto the farm was cleaned.” . . 

M bovis eradication costs will be uneven:

The costs of the attempted eradication of Mycoplasma bovis will be borne unevenly, although economists say the full extent of the costs has yet be calculated.

The Government chose to attempt to eradicate the presence of the bacterium, noting the current estimates of eradication costs were smaller than the estimated costs of management.

No country has yet successfully eradicated the disease, but the Government does not want to regret not trying. . . 

Decision made but important to find the cause – Allan Barber:

The Government decision to eradicate rather than contain Mp. Bovis has the merit of drawing a line under the first stage of the disease outbreak. There were three options under consideration: eradicate, manage or do nothing; the third was clearly not seriously considered, but there must have been a serious debate between the first two. In the end the eradication course of action was chosen because it gives ‘the best shot’ at eliminating the disease to the benefit of the New Zealand agricultural sector, particularly the dairy industry, and the economy.

The other factor which weighed in favour of the chosen option was MPI’s cost estimate of $886 million in contrast to $1.2 billion from attempting to manage the disease, although at any point along the way it may prove necessary to accept eradication is not possible and management will then become the default option. The likely first trigger point for a change will come in October/November after calving when cows are at their most stressed and liable to show signs of Mp. Bovis. The third option of doing nothing has been estimated to cost $1.3 billion in lost production over 10 years as well as continuing productivity losses. . . 

ANZ announces Mycoplasma Bovis assistance package:

ANZ Bank today announced an assistance package to help Mycoplasma Bovis-affected cattle farmers meet their short-term cash-flow requirements and ultimately re-establish their herds.

The ANZ Mycoplasma Bovis relief package is in response to this week’s Government announcement stating it would work with farming sector leaders to attempt to eradicate the disease, which is not harmful to humans, over the next few years.

The package will be effective immediately.

ANZ also acknowledges the efforts of the Rural Support Trust and will make a $20,000 donation to support their important work with local farmers on the ground. . . 

Future Focus planning boost for farming partners in Tararua

Tararua and Southern Hawke’s Bay sheep and beef farming couples are among the first in the country to be offered a new programme to help them plan for long-term business success, developed in response to strong industry demand.

Launched recently, the programme equips farming partners to decide their business and family goals together, then use that to plan for, and lead, their teams.

Funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) PGP programme, Future Focus, is initially being offered in seven rural centres, involving more than 100 participants.

Designed and delivered by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), each two-day programme will be held over two months. . . 

Supply pressure building in major world beef markets:

It’s been a positive start to 2018 for the global beef sector – with production and consumption up and prices generally favourable – however, building pressures in some of the world’s major beef-producing nations have the potential to change export market dynamics, with implications for New Zealand, according to a recently-released industry report.

In its Beef Quarterly Q2 2018 – Production continuing to Grow, but Supply Pressure Starting to Mount, agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank says supply pressure is growing in global beef markets due to dry weather conditions in the US, a surplus of animal protein in Brazil and changes in live cattle trade out of Australia.

Report co-author, Rabobank New Zealand animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says the degree to which these supply pressures continue to build will determine the extent of their impact on global markets. . . 

Survey underlines rural connectivity frustration:

Plenty of rural folk have jumped at the chance to respond to a Federated Farmers survey on the quality of telecommunications connectivity out in the provinces.

There were close to 500 responses within 24 hours of the launch of the survey.

“It’s hardly surprising because we know from member feedback that broadband and mobile blackspots cause considerable frustration,” Federated Farmers Vice-President Andrew Hoggard says.

“Technology is a huge and increasing facet of modern farming. If the apps and programmes on farmers’ digital devices drop out or run at crawl-speeds, they simply can’t run their businesses efficiently.” . . 

The survey link is https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/a09e7cdf97874d85b722169fc6649d4f . . .

 


Rebuilding trust

May 29, 2018

The government’s decisions to attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis is an expensive one, but not eradicating it would be even more costly:

The Government says it has reached an agreement with farming sector leaders to attempt to eradicate the disease from New Zealand.

The cull, of around 126,000 in addition to the 26,000 already underway, will take place over one to two years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said to not act would cost even more than what would be spent on trying to eradicate it – $886 million.

$1.3b over 10 years was the estimated cost of not acting.

“Today’s decision to eradicate is driven by the Government’s desire to protect the national herd from the disease and to protect the base of economy – the farming sector,” Ardern said.

“This is a tough call – no one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is the spread of the disease across our national herd,” she said.

“I personally do not want to look back on this time … and say I wish we had tried harder.

“We have this one shot to eradicate, and we are taking it together.

“We want New Zealand to be free of it,” Ardern said.

The Government will meet 68% of the cost and Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand will meet 32%. . . 

Farmers have mixed views on the wisdom of this decision but it’s backed by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, Federated Farmers and the National Party.

Culling all the cattle will be devastating for farmers and sharemilkers but at least the government has committed to much faster action on compensation claims:

Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor said:

. . “I’ve also asked MPI to revisit the compensation process and they’ve developed a new streamlined approach for those whose animals are culled to enable a substantial payment within a matter of days.

“Farmer welfare is crucial and I’d like to thank the Rural Support Trusts for the work they’re doing. With this decision we know more help is needed and the Government and industry groups are committed to helping farmers through this stressful time. . . 

No-one thinks eradicating the disease will be easy and as David Williams writes, another  difficult task will be rebuilding trust in MPI:

. . When the dust settles, and the debate about eradication – or not – is over, MPI needs to start listening. Listening to farmers, to vets, to business people. Because I think MPI’s biggest job is not getting rid of M. bovis, it’s regaining trust. . . 

(MPI admits compensation payments have been too slow. Biosecurity response director Geoff Gwyn told Newshub: “I lose sleep over the fact there are people out there suffering as a result of the actions we’re putting on, and I know it’s cold comfort for them, but they are taking a hit for the national herd.”)

It doesn’t stop there, however. Criticism of MPI is also happening in the supermarket aisles, over the bar in rural pubs and over farm fences. Most importantly, it’s happening at the dining table, shaping the attitudes of the next generation of farmers. Many are probably saying the same things as the infected farmers – but some are undoubtedly going further.

In South Canterbury, there’s talk that there have been signs of disease in some herds for years. Given what’s happened, some are asking why authorities were told at all.

Trouble ahead

That’s the biggest problem. A few people tell me the way MPI has handled this outbreak means, they think, some farmers won’t be inclined to report problems in the future. They don’t think MPI has their back. This is not to defend such behaviour, but to give the authorities a heads-up. If that attitude spreads like M. bovis has, there’s trouble ahead.

As with TB, farmers must be confident that if they report a problem it will be taken seriously, they will be treated fairly and compensated quickly.

Without that confidence, some farmers will be tempted to quietly shoot and bury infected stock.

Of course, in Roger Smith’s perfect world, everyone would do the right thing. But human nature – as proved by the failure of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system – tells us that doesn’t always happen.

MPI can’t possibly put field officers in every farm, so it has to rely on farmers to report problems. But this mood of mistrust, born of M. bovis, creates a climate of fear and self-reliance rather than faith in the system. The country needs faith, however, and it’s up to MPI to restore it.

What we’ve seen in recent months, however, is farmers turning on farmers, as the secrecy over which farms are infected leads to suspicion and accusation, not just about who knew what but when they knew it. The slowness or non-existence of compensation payments is an added stress. Businesses are failing, people are struggling and MPI is coming across as detached and cold-hearted.

At a national level, Federated Farmers says its members have to lift their game, particularly when it comes to animal identification and tracing. (Northland’s branch is calling for a full, independent inquiry about MPI’s approach to biosecurity.) Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has instructed officials to take a tougher approach to compliance with the tracing system, NAIT. These conversations should have been had years ago.

Problems with NAIT – both the system itself and compliance – must be addressed and addressed quickly.

The tougher conversations are to be had face-to-face with farmers. Yes, there needs to be a better job of selling the benefits of NAIT – that’ll help uptake. But the crucial conversations will be farmers telling MPI what they need, how best to help them and how, when the next outbreak hits – because it will – the ministry can improve its response.

Of course, just because the farmers are talking, doesn’t mean that MPI will listen.

MPI has lost the confidence of farmers.

They didn’t appear to realise the human and financial cost to farmers whose businesses have been threatened and the importance of clear communication and speedy settling of compensation.

Eradicating M. bovis must be its primary focus but it must take seriously the criticisms aimed at it and ensure that its systems and staff training improve so it and they regain farmers’ trust and are ready and able to respond faster and better to the next biosecurity incursion.

MPI’s media release gives some hope that it has already learned from its mistakes.

We understand this will be painful for farmers who are affected, and we are committed to looking after those who have Mycoplasma bovis on their farms.

If you are a farmer and need support, help is available through your industry group representative, individual response case manager, or the Rural Support Trust.

• Rural Support Trust: 0800 78 72 54

• MPI: 0800 00 83 33

Industry representatives:

• Dairy NZ: 0800 43 24 79 69

• Beef + Lamb NZ: 0800 23 33 52

• Federated Farmers: 0800 32 76 46

We’re calling on rural communities to support each other, especially affected farmers and those that appear to be finding it hard. If you have any concerns about someone you know, contact the Rural Support Trust or other community support services.

Download the Looking after yourself fact sheet [PDF, 813 KB]

Compensation

Compensation is available for anyone who has verifiable losses as a result of directions they are given by MPI under the Biosecurity Act to manage Mycoplasma bovis.

Farmers that are directed to have animals culled or their farm operations restricted under movement controls will be eligible for compensation. In particular, farmers whose animals are being culled will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within 2 weeks of a completed claim being lodged.

Learn more about Biosecurity Act compensation

Mycoplasma bovis compensation claim form user guide [PDF, 446 KB]

MPI must now ensure its actions match its words, and to date, this from Keith Woodford, shows they haven’t:

There are going to be huge challenges for MPI. To date, they have not covered themselves in glory. All members of their response team will have been working hard within imposed limits, but the MPI system has let them down with too many layers of management and an inability to make timely operational decisions for each farm.

The most urgent issue right now relates to all of the NOD (suspect) farms in the South Island that have their cows and their feed in different locations. As just one example of many, there is a Mid Canterbury farmer I know of who is caught in the constipated bureaucracy and as of today still cannot get approval to shift his stock less than two kilometres to another farm he owns (and which he agrees will then also become a NOD farm).

These cows need to be moved and should have been progressively moved over recent weeks as they were dried-off, if they are to have feed to eat. This farm is not one of the infected properties, rather it is just one of the 300 NOD suspect properties.

We don’t know how many farms are in this situation of cows isolated from their winter feed, but almost certainly well over 100. This is not the ‘gypsy day’ situation but something quite different. And it is a big animal and human welfare issue.

There should be no hold-up over permission to move stock from one block to another owned by the same farmer who agrees to it becoming a NOD farm.

The Government appears to be underestimating the complexity of the compensation claims. The challenge is that claims have to be ‘verified’, but loss of income claims are always debatable. Claim settlements require agreements on what would have happened and by definition that is impossible to verify objectively.

An MPI source advises that any claim over $75,000 requires five separate signatures across various ministries from within the Wellington bureaucracy after the technical assessors have reached agreement. Given the future tsunami of claims, from both infected and suspect properties, and the reality that almost no claims have yet to be settled except in partial amounts, there will be a need for a separate and preferably independent Claims Assessment Commission. . . 

 

This map shows the extent of the known spread of the disease. It looks bad and it is.

But so far all cases can be traced back to a single source, all infections are the same strain and nothing has been traced back further than 2015. It is a lot of farms and a lot of cows and devastating personally and financially for those affected.

Eradication will require a huge effort by the farmers affected and MPI and big changes within the dairy industry and those who support and service it.

 


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