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.

 


Rural round-up

April 20, 2018

Irrigators should spread good news – Pam Jones:

Responsible irrigators need to spread the word about good work being done in the primary sector, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says.

Mr Cadogan, who spoke at the opening of the Irrigation New Zealand conference in Alexandra yesterday, said the primary and irrigation sectors were “under pressure” from the public to act responsibly, but did not court publicity and the public therefore sometimes did not know about their positive actions.

Irrigators should not be afraid to “tell the good news”, Mr Cadogan said.

He said it was important for the public to realise there was no direct line between irrigation and degradation of land and water quality, and there was sometimes a disconnect between town and country. . . 

Smarter data push for irrigation – Tom Kitchin:

Data can make irrigation more efficient, Animation Research Ltd owner Ian Taylor told the third and final day of a national body conference yesterday.

Mr Taylor made the point at the 2018 Irrigation New Zealand Conference and Expo in Alexandra yesterday.

“Water is one of the most valuable resources. How can [farmers] manage it more efficiently and how are they held accountable for ways to manage it? Technology has the tools that will allow us to do that,” he said. . . 

Unlisted celebrates first $1 bln issue as Zespri resumes trading after 2018 Gold3 tender – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri Group’s shares rose to a record when they resumed trading, after being halted for the 2018 allocation of Gold3 kiwifruit licences, pushing the kiwifruit exporter’s market capitalisation to $1.1 billion and making it the first $1 billion company on the Unlisted platform.

Some 16,860 Zespri shares traded today, of which 2,440 changes hands at a record $8.35. The shares first traded at $1.75 after Zespri listed on the Unlisted Securities Exchange in February 2016. . . 

Arden-Peters raid on regionans ramps up:

The Government’s raid on regional New Zealand is ramping up, with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor telling farmers they’ll be taxed thousands for carbon emissions, National’s Nathan Guy and Todd Muller say.

“Mr O’Connor has reportedly told East Coast farmers they’ll be taxed around $5000 to offset their carbon emissions,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“He’s pulling numbers out of the air before the interim Climate Change Committee even begins its work. . . 

Let’s protect our valuable soils, Horticulture New Zealand:

The need to protect New Zealand’s best soils for growing healthy fresh fruit and vegetables is clear in the Our land 2018 report released today, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.

“This report highlights the expansion in urban areas (a 10 percent increase between 1996 and 2012) and the accompanying loss of some of our most versatile land.

“We have been talking to Government about this issue in Pukekohe, near Auckland, as well as other prime growing areas for fruit and vegetables. Some of this soil is unique, particularly the volcanic soils around Pukekohe where vegetables can be grown all year in a frost free environment. This area feeds a lot of New Zealand. . . 

Te Rapa celebrates 50 years:

For over half a century Te Rapa has been a place of work, a producer of world class dairy, a supportive community and, for some, it has even been home.  

Te Rapa’s official opening on April 20, 1968, was a milestone which represented the confidence the New Zealand Co-Operative Dairy Company (now Fonterra) had in the productive Waikato, it’s dairy farming community and its role in the national economy.

“We had a real sense of community living in that village. There was a swimming pool, tennis courts, a rugby field and always plenty to do when you weren’t working. We had inter-factory rugby and netball competitions in the off season.”  Brian Whittington remembers when the site was being built and moving into the small village on site where 35 key staff members were housed. . . 


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