Rural round-up

14/08/2021

Feds worst fears realised on drinking water reforms:

Federated Farmers is profoundly disappointed to see the Water Services Bill reported back to the Parliament with the definition of a “water supplier” unchanged.

“The government has now signed itself up for the enormous task of tracking down every single source of drinking water in the land and making them belong to a register if they supply any other household,” Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.

Despite extensive arguments from Federated Farmers and many others at the select committee hearings, tens of thousands of rural and farm supply arrangements will fall within the scope of the new water regulator Taumata Arowai.

The new agency takes over from the Ministry of Health to take responsibility for the quality and provision of drinking water in New Zealand.

“We wanted the government to recognise the folly of trying to track down every single little supplier,” Andrew says. . .

Southland MP presents petition for dairy farmers:

Today Member of Parliament for Southland Joseph Mooney submitted his petition seeking allocated MIQ capacity to bring more skilled dairy farm workers into the country as the pressure of staff shortages continues to mount on farms across New Zealand.

Mr Mooney launched his petition to allocate 500 MIQ spaces each fortnight to skilled migrant dairy workers into the country in June, well in advance of the beginning of calving season.

“Calving is now well underway on many farms across the country and staff shortages have put an immense strain on both farm managers and existing workers,” Mr Mooney says.

“Labour must act now for the good of the physical and mental wellbeing of those working in New Zealand’s dairy farming sector. The shortage of workers across the dairy industry can only be described as dire. Farmers are desperate to find more staff, but they are just not out there. . .

New wool products seek markets – David Anderson:

A new initiative targeting new products and markets for NZ strong wool – with export applications as diverse as cosmetics and printing – has recently been launched.

Wool Source, a subsidiary of Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ), aims to develop the new products and assess market demand for the strong wool innovation. This follows the completion of its pilot production facility at Lincoln to manufacture its first deconstructed wool ingredients from 100% New Zealand strong wool.

The three-year programme aims to prove the commercial viability of the new deconstructed wool particle products. The goal is to develop more sustainable product ingredient alternatives for global manufacturers and consumers – while revitalising New Zealand’s strong wool sector, creating new value for our economy and communities.

“By funding fundamental and enabling science that creates new uses and products from our traditional wool clip, we aim to create better outcomes for farmers with increased demand and pricing at the farm gate,” WRONZ chair Andy Fox says. . . 

Farmers raised concerns about nutrient monitoring tool for ‘over 10 years’ :

A system used to estimate nitrogen loss from farms, and used by regional councils for regulation, has “significant problems”, Minister for the Environment David Parker says.

The software programme Overseer was initially developed to help farmers make more efficient use of nutrients, with the aim of boosting both productivity and profitability.

But it has steadily been adopted by regional councils to regulate farmers’ activity, with the end goal of improving water quality by limiting what ends up in waterways.

A report in 2018 by the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment criticised the tool as flawed, opaque and open to gaming by farmers.  . .

Primary Production Committee workforce inquiry opens for public submissions:

The Primary Production Committee has opened for public submissions on its inquiry into the future of the workforce needs in the primary industries of New Zealand.

The aim of the inquiry—which was initiated in March 2021—is to look into issues about the future of workforce needs in the growing food and fibre industries, and what they will look like in the short, medium and long-term future, as we continue to innovate and develop new technologies.

In the 52nd Parliament, the committee opened a briefing about vocational training in agriculture. The issues raised during the briefing will feed into the broader inquiry. . .

 

Gower lamb first to receive legal protection following Brexit:

Welsh Gower Lamb has become the first product to receive protected status under the UK’s new post-Brexit Geographical Indication schemes.

With the registration now complete, the meat produced from lambs born and reared on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales has gained full protection as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

Gower Salt Marsh Lamb producers were able to demonstrate their meat’s characteristics are essentially and exclusively due to its particular area of production.

The new Geographical Indication (GI) schemes were launched after the end of the transition period with the European Union. . . 


Rural round-up

03/08/2021

Dairy labour shortage: ‘I’m doing 16 hours a day minimum’ – Carmen Hall:

Fonterra dairy farmers are expected to pump $12 billion into the New Zealand economy including $1b to the Bay of Plenty, but the industry is still short of up to 4000 workers.

That means some farmers are working more than 16 hours a day as calving began, which is ”unsustainable” and is sparking fears for their wellbeing.

A joint survey by Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers this year, which received 1150 responses, showed 49 per cent of farms at the time were short-staffed while another 46 per cent of those vacancies went unfilled for more than three months.

Ōpōtiki dairy farmer Zac Brown said he was ”struggling big time to find skilled workers” and he still had a farm manager’s job up for grabs. . . 

Drowning in effluent – how a tired farmer was nearly a dead farmer

Owen Gullery grabbed a last lungful of air as his tractor cab filled with effluent, before desperately trying to kick out a window as it sank.

That moment in an effluent pond is one Gullery says he’ll never forget, and yet the kind of potentially fatal farm accident new figures from ACC show have reached a five-year-high.

In 2020, there were 22,796 farm-related injury claims accepted which came at a cost of $84 million. That is over 60 farmers getting injured every day.

ACC has spent more than $383 million on farm related injuries in the past five years, with the cost in 2020 the highest from this period. . . 

More farmer trainers needed – David Anderson:

There appears to be no shortage of school leavers wanting a career in the sheep beef and deer industry, but rather a lack of training farms.

That’s the view of the Growing Future Farmers (GFF) chair John Jackson. He says five open days – recently held by the trust in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Te Kuiti and Taihape – saw 38, 46, 29, 28 and 21 students turn-up at each venue, respectively. Jackson says there are more GFF open days planned for the South Island in mid-August at Winton, Omarama, North Canterbury and Blenheim.

“However, at this stage less than 20% of these students will get an opportunity because we have not an adequate number of training farms on which to place these students,” Jackson told Rural News.

“Our problem is not the inability to attract potential staff to the industry, but an inability to train the numbers we require.” . .

Dairy companies and volunteers dig deep to help restore waterways and bat colony – Lawrence Gullery:

David Jack surveys the rolling country over Rosebrae​ Farms and points to where the 200 hectare property borders the Pūniu River.

“That’s our southern boundary where the river is, it’s important because it’s one of the tributaries to the Waipā River, which later on flows into the Waikato River.”

Over the river is the King Country, Jack points out.

“Witi Ihimaera wrote a great book about the land wars and how the women and children had to get across the Pūniu to get into the King Country, where the troops couldn’t follow. . . 

Lamb prices high but size of fall concerns – Annette Scott:

Strong advances in farmgate lamb prices have seen a phenomenal turnaround with the AgriHQ lamb indicator hitting $9.05 a kilogram this week in the North Island and $8.80/kg in the South Island but there’s concern going forward.

AgriHQ senior analyst Mel Croad says some early new season contracts indicate the schedule will drop below $8 in December.

She says pricing would typically strengthen further through to October with expectation that $9 or above will still be around in September but the drop from there on raises concern.

The latest contracts released from some processors look to settle at slightly above $7.50 pre-Christmas. . . 

MPI using delay techniques – David Anderson:

Bureaucratic obfuscation is being used to stall the provision information about the costs and achievements of the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) ‘Fit for a Better World’ strategy.

On June 16, Rural News sent MPI an Official Information Act (OIA) request seeking more information relating to Fit for a Better World. The request asked only five questions relating to meetings, minutes, costs and outcomes of the programme.

However, on July 14 – on the last day of the 20 working day timeframe when an OIA must be answered – MPI replied that it would not be able to answer within the mandated timeframe.

In a classic stalling move, which has become a common tactic used by government departments around OIA requests, MPI has extended the time it will provide any answers till, “no later than September 8, 2021”, which adds another 40 working days, makking it more than three times the mandated OIA response timeframe. . .

Latest Tasmanian irrigation scheme underway – Andrew Miller:

Tasmania’s latest irrigation scheme, on the Tamar River, is expected to cover about 200 properties, producing a diverse range of crops and livestock.

Tasmanian Irrigation has called for expressions of interest in the scheme and held public meetings, to explain how it will work.

Tamar Irrigation Scheme Irrigators Representative Council chair Ed Archer, Landfall Angus stud, said the diverse range of producers would present challenges.

“It’s really a unique scheme as there is such a variety of producers in this region, some broadacre grazing, right through to small, niche cottage type enterprises,” Mr Archer said. . .


Rural round-up

19/07/2021

Dismiss protesting farmers as rednecks at your peril, Prime Minister– Claire Trevett:

The rules sheet issued by organisers of Friday’s Howl of a Protest showed farmers have learned from the errors of past protests.

It warned those taking part not to get into “heated arguments with people.”

“We want to be the sensible persuaders, not a bunch of rednecks.”

It is a valuable lesson, which was learned in the 2017 farmers’ protest in Morrinsville over Labour’s policy to charge for the commercial use of water. . . 

Farmers are riled up over everything and they’ve got a point – Kerre McIvor:

It takes a lot to get farmers off their land. But Friday’s Howl of Protest saw a goodly representation of every man and his dog fire up the Massey Fergs and John Deeres around the country and take to the streets in protest.

There wasn’t just one issue that had got them so riled up.

Farmers don’t see why they should be taxed to assist high-income city dwellers into electric cars when the rural community has no alternative right now but to use internal combustion engine 4WDs to do their work.

It’s not just the ute tax, though. It’s the moves to pricing on agricultural emissions. It’s the higher environmental standards on water. It’s the protection of sensitive land aka the land grab. It’s all of the everything. . . 

Mayor slams Shaw’s SNA claim – David Anderson:

Grey District’s mayor is unhappy at the lack of response from government ministers about concerns from West Coast leaders and iwi on Significant Natural Areas (SNAs).

Tania Gibson is seeking the support of all rural and provincial mayors around New Zealand in the battle to protect landowners from having their land locked up by the Government’s proposed SNA process in the new National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB).

In a letter to her fellow mayors, Gibson lambastes the attitude and response of Environment Minister James Shaw to opposition to the SNA process and the rural sector in general.

She told her fellow rural mayors that Shaw’s comments – “It is only a few Pākehā farmers down south whipping this up, spreading misinformation because they have always pushed back against the idea of any kind of regulation of protecting environmental conditions on their land…” have angered and disgusted her.

Still working to breed better sheep – Shawn McAvinue:

Texel stud breeders Alistair and Karen McLeod sold their grazing block in Central Otago to move to the Maniototo to continue their dream of breeding a better sheep.

Mr McLeod said people had been telling him he might be ‘‘getting a bit too long in the tooth’’ to be buying another farm to continue stud breeding.

‘‘When it’s your passion and you love doing it, it’s in your blood.’’

The McLeods had known fellow Texel breeders Mac and Mary Wright for about 25 years, meeting as New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association members, Mr McLeod said

Waitaki winemakers beat overall trend – Ashley Smyth:

Waitaki winemakers have been among the lucky ones this year, reaping a solid harvest despite a challenging year for New Zealand growers as a whole.

Waitaki Valley Wine Growers Association chairman Andrew Ballantyne said this year’s harvest was good.

“I think us and Central [Otago] were the only ones that were sort of up … We’ve actually had a pretty good run here in the Waitaki. It was a good harvest.”

Ostler co-owner and managing director Jim Jerram said there was a widespread problem with some frosts in the spring, which caused “major reduction in crops” in some South Island regions. . . 

 

Jimmy’s Farm hailed for protecting UK native breeds :

Jimmy’s Farm has gained Rare Breeds Approved Associate accreditation for its efforts in educating about the importance of the UK’s endangered native breeds.

The Suffolk farm, run by celebrity farmer Jimmy Doherty, has become the first recipient of accreditation, issued by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).

The charity has administered am accreditation scheme for farm parks for many years, creating a network which makes an important contribution for rare breeds survival.

The new Approved Associate scheme provides the opportunity to extend the benefits of RBST Approval for the UK’s rare breeds. .  .


Rural round-up

06/06/2021

Where’s the dollars and sense? – Jacqueline Rowarth:

With all the hype around the benefits of regenerative agriculture, a significant aspect appears to be missing – economics.

We hear about farmer wellbeing. Sometimes we hear about production. But where are the accounts?

If the approach and rethink about systems is so good, why is the income side missing in discussion?

Most of us understand that Country Calendar is now more about lifestyles and people stories than working farms (with the occasional exceptions). RNZ’s CountryLife is tending the same way. Both are focused on motivating an audience, which is mostly urban, to tune in. . . 

Hīkoiof hundreds against far-north SNAs to follow Dame Whina Cooper’s footsteps – Susan Botting:

Panguru great-grandmother Hinerangi Puru (84) will journey in the footsteps of her iconic mother Dame Whina Cooper next week in a hīkoi fighting new Significant Natural Area “land grabs” converging on Far North District Council’s head office.

The Hokianga kuia will be among expected hundreds from across the Far North and beyond in the hīkoi to FNDC’s head office in Kaikohe on 11 June.

“My mother marched to Wellington in 1975 at the age of 83 to the call of ‘not one more acre’,” Puru said of the journey she was also part of.

“Now, nearly 50 years on we’re still having to do the same thing with this hīkoi.” . . 

Carbon forestry’s desirability challenged at meeting – Rebecca Ryan:

“Call it carbon mining.”

Addressing the crowd at a public meeting in Weston on Monday night, Five Forks farmer Jane Smith suggested the word “farming” was no longer used in association with carbon forestry.

“The term farming suggests you are looking after a resource sustainably, long term, into perpetuity — and this certainly is not,” Mrs Smith said.

“So let’s call it carbon mining.” . .

Farmers fill skill gap – David Anderson:

Finding and training skilled workers is a growing problem in many parts of the NZ economy and the sheep and beef farming sector is no exception.

However, instead of sitting around and bemoaning this fact, a number of like-minded sheep and beef producers from around the country have decided to do something about it.

They have established the Growing Future Farmers (GFF) charitable trust, which aims to provide industry-led, on-the-job training and work for young people keen to enter the sheep, beef and deer farming sectors. “Evidence from farm employers and recruitment agencies indicate a considerable shortfall of well-trained people entering the industry over the last decade,” GGF trust board chair John Jackson told Rural News. . . 

Searching for the future on North Island hills – Keith Woodford:

Some weeks back I wrote an article on New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms, focusing on the current situation. I said I would be back as there was more to discuss about both the present and the future. Here, I want to focus more specifically on the North Island hill (Beef+Lamb Class 4) and hard-hill country (Class 3). These land classes comprise around 4000 farms and contain approximately 45 percent of New Zealand’s commercial sheep and beef farms.

Before heading further down that track, I want to share some information supplied by Rob Davison from Beef+Lamb. The 2017 Statistics Department national census indicates there are approximately 26,400 sheep and beef farms in New Zealand. However, Beef+Lamb estimates that only 9200, or 35 percent thereof, are commercial farms. These commercial farms typically have at least 750 stock units and comprise 97 percent of New Zealand’s sheep production plus 88 percent of the beef cattle production. That means there are another 17,200 lifestyle and hobby farmers.

Although the 17,200 non-commercial farmers may not be particularly important from a production perspective, they are still a very important part of the rural community. Many of these people have a day-job in the agricultural servicing industry. . . 

Cost to beef of China dramas impossible to measure – Shan Goodwin:

It was impossible to measure how much Australia’s geopolitical tensions with China might cost the beef industry because unique market dynamics were at play, senate estimates hearings in Canberra have heard.

Representatives from the red meat industry’s big research, development and marketing provider Meat & Livestock Australia appeared before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee and fielded questions on everything from global marketing budgets to carbon neutrality.

Managing director Jason Strong said China grew as a beef market for Australia extremely quickly. . .


Rural round-up

23/04/2021

The world is keen on our dairy products, which is great for our economy – but what happens when we start culling the cows? – Point of Order:

Although  global  trading patterns  are still recovering from the  Covid  pandemic, the  positive  outcome   for  New Zealand   is  that  it  has  strengthened  demand for  the  kind of foodstuffs we produce.

In particular  the   dairy  trade is booming  and  though  the current  production season is beginning to tail off, Fonterra’s latest global dairy auction showed  demand, far  from  falling off, is  still  very  strong,  with  prices  for  whole  milk  powder   51%  higher  than at the  level they were at  this time  last  season.

Dairy products are the country’s largest commodity export and Fonterra estimates milk payments to its 10,000 farmer suppliers for this season would contribute about $11.5 billion to the economy.

The  encouraging  factor   for those  producers  is  that  there  is  every sign  the   high prices  being  earned  at  present  will  be  sustained  into  the  next  season. . . 

Desperate hort sector demands government action – David Anderson:

Horticultural exporters, growers, food companies and industry leaders are pleading for the Government to make a plan to allow Pacific Island seasonal workers to return later this year.

At a media conference held in Hawke’s Bay last week, sector representatives called on the Government and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi to develop a plan that would allow more Pacific Island workers into the country in the year ahead.

They want to avoid the devastating impact that is happening to the current season’s crop as the labour shortage hits crisis point with fruit with harvesting is at its peak.

Due to the labour shortage, thousands of tonnes of fruit has been left on trees and the apple industry alone is already predicting losses upwards of $600 million, with the national crop forecasts down 14% on 2020. . . 

Possum fur paying out more than wool for one farmer – Susan Murray:

A King Country sheep farmer has earned more money from possum fur than wool this summer, as the wool strong industry continues to deliver below break-even prices. 

Ben Stubbs farms 650 hectares in the Waitomo area and said self-setting auto-kill possum traps on his QEII native block had nailed more than 800 possums this year.

It was a sad state of affairs to find the wool returns from his 2000 sheep could not compete with the fur from those possums, he said.

“We sold the first lot just recently and made $4000 which equated to more than my wool cheque. . . 

Fencers share knowledge, skills – Shawn McAvinue:

No-one was sitting on the fence — everyone agreed the sharing of techniques, product knowledge and safety tips benefits the fencing industry.

Fencing Contractors Association New Zealand’s longest-serving board member Stephen Mee, of Winton, said the association’s best practice days were a great opportunity to learn new skills, see the latest fencing gear and meet like-minded fencing contractors.

About 50 people, mostly fencing contractors and their staff, attended a day in Palmerston last week.

The theme was fencing on a contour and included topics such as setting strainers and hanging gates on an incline. . . 

Taramoa future proofed for sustainability coupled with income diversity:

A coveted award-winning Hawke’s Bay property manages to meet the needs of both pasture and plate, thanks to a history of smart management and value-added product returns. Taramoa Station located 65km north-west of Napier is on the market for sale by tender and showcases the leading edge of modern, sustainable hill country operations, and the opportunity to leverage that management into premium farm earnings.

Bayleys agent Tony Rasmussen says the property exemplifies the best of what a combined breeding-finishing operation in Hawke’s Bay can offer, both in the conventional pastoral sense, and for how it validates high environmental and product expectations.

“Taramoa claimed four awards in last year’s East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards, including for soil management, livestock and innovation. The current farming operation also has GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) accreditation and is proving its regenerative farming methods can provide both sustainability and profitability.” . . 

Solid performance underpins Pukenui appeal with several purchase options:

The desirable central Hawke’s Bay location of Pukenui Station offers future owners several farming and lifestyle options rarely found on properties of its scale, with potential to capitalise even further on the property’s finishing potential.

The 1,270ha property in the Ashley Clinton district generally enjoys safe summers, with rainfall exceeding 1,500mm a year a benefit from the property’s proximity to the Ruahine ranges. A 164-hectare title with hunting hut and woolshed or the 157ha Makaretu finishing block could be purchased separately.

With its medium- steep hill country contour spread between 400m to 600m, Pukenui also offers some highly cultivable 200ha of easy country providing ideal conditions for cropping and finishing youngstock bred on the steeper country. . . 


Rural round-up

13/03/2021

More scientific proof needed – David Anderson:

A new report has joined the chorus within the agricultural sector calling for proper scientific testing of the claims being made by regenerative agriculture practitioners and proponents.

Some of the claims made by regenerative agriculture advocates currently include that it can improve waterways, reduce topsoil losses, offer drought resilience, add value to primary exports and improve the ‘well-being crisis’ among rural farming communities.

However, a new white paper on regenerative agriculture, recently released by Our Land and Water, says there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for accurate scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

The research was funded by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, the NEXT Foundation and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. . . 

Pork industry demands law change for imported products to be labelled– Riley Kennedy:

The pork industry has slammed the government for refusing to make labelling country of origin mandatory on all imported pork.

Laws designed to give people clarity on where their food comes from were passed in 2018. However, last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said there would be a 12-month delay in the new rules coming into effect due to Covid-19.

As part of this, imported pork will need to be labelled with its country of origin, however, the pork industry says a loophole has been left unadvised.

This means pork that is imported and then further processed in New Zealand, including bacon and ham, will not be required to have such labelling. . . 

MPI lost touch – Peter Burke:

MPI boss Ray Smith says with the advent of the climate change proposals and the new essential fresh water regulations, MPI is gearing itself up to help farmers deal with these matters by getting more staff out into the field.

He believes that climate change is the biggest challenge of this generation.

“When I first started it was obvious to me that MPI had lost its outreach and in a sense it had lost some key relationships,” Smith told Rural News. “So we have built an agricultural investment service that has started to put that back and we have more people now based regionally. They have tended to deal with adverse events and things like that, which is good. But I am keen to build that service even further so we can stand alongside farmers and be an independent voice.”

He says the aim is get back some of what was lost many years ago with the demise of the Farm Advisory officers. . .

Automation a mixed blessing for fruit sector – Richard Rennie:

Burgeoning crop volumes have prompted the horticultural sector to lift pay rates as it competes on a tight labour market. The shortage and the cost increases put automation and robotics under the spotlight to help ease labour pressures. Richard Rennie looks at whether robots will replace humans on orchards sooner than later.

Last week’s announcement the kiwifruit sector would be paying a living wage of $22.10 an hour for packhouse work has the sector hoping higher wages will help fill a yawning labour shortage this year.

Filling that gap has only grown more challenging with the exponential growth in kiwifruit volumes over the past five years. The 23,000 workers estimated to be needed by 2027 are needed this year, and the 190 million trays expected to be achieved by then is now likely next season.

Further south the apple sector is grappling with similar issues, requiring at least 10,000 pickers and packhouse staff this season, drawing off locals, a national shared pool of 7000 Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) staff and any remaining backpackers. . . 

Feijoa harvest in full tilt a month early in Gisborne – Hugo Cameron:

Feijoas are expected to hit the shelves this week as good growing conditions have seen harvesting of this season’s crop kick off a month earlier than usual.

Kaiaponi Farms has been growing feijoas in Gisborne for the past 20 years and sells the fruit through its Joa brand for both the local and export markets.

Spokesperson David Hansen said the first fruit would normally be picked at the start March but the harvest got under way last month and was now in full swing, with decent volumes coming through.

The farm had seen sunny conditions which was great for the crops, along with a decent dose of water, Hansen said. . . 

 

Now is the time to talk to consumers – Charlie Beaty:

There has never been a bigger gap between the people producing food and the people consuming it.

Most people knew a farmer or were even related to one 70 years ago. Today, there are children who have never seen a real sheep.

They have no idea that bread is made from a wheat crop that grows in the fields. It’s a threat to our industry, there’s no doubt.

But it’s also an opportunity to step in, share the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of our industry. So let’s seize it. . . 


Rural round-up

09/10/2020

Tractors take to Gore streets as farmers protest freshwater rules – Rachael Kelly:

Southland farmers have made their feelings about the Government’s new freshwater rules known by clogging Gore’s main street with tractors.

More than 100 machines and some bulk sowers were driven through the town in protest of new rules for farmers, which the Government introduced in September with the aim of improving freshwater quality.

And as the big machines convoyed down the street, many shoppers stopped to watch, and other drivers tooted their horns in support.

It was the first major protest after Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young called on farmers to boycott the new rules in August. . . 

 

 

 

Balance needed between regulation and innovation – Warwick Catto:

 In recent years, New Zealand’s farmers have found themselves subject to increasingly strict rules and regulations.

These are mainly in terms of how they operate, enforced as a key part of our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contamination in our waterways. 

A quick review of the environmental policies announced so far by some of our key political parties, ahead of the election on October 17, suggests that further, harsher restrictions are likely. 

There’s no doubt that our agricultural sector has a vitally important part to play in New Zealand’s response to these key environmental challenges, and overwhelmingly, farmers are more than willing to adapt to meet the standards required of them.  . . 

Spotlight on vet shortage :

While the primary sector has been hailed as a saviour of the New Zealand economy during covid restrictions, a critical shortage of veterinarians and its impact on the primary sector just doesn’t seem to be viewed as important or sexy enough to see border restrictions streamlined.

“We’re led to the conclusion that veterinarians are just not viewed as important, or as sexy as other parts of the economy such as film making, which have seen wholesale exemptions created,” New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief executive Kevin Bryant says.

“This is surprising given veterinarians’ essential worker status during lockdown.

“We also understand that exemptions have been granted to build golf courses, build or repair racetracks and for shearers. Surely, veterinarians are at least as important in supporting the economic functioning of the country. . . 

Headwaters sheep ‘definitely superior‘ –

‘‘Being part of The Omega Lamb Project really gives you the best of both worlds,’’ North Otago farmer Ben Douglas says.

Mr Douglas and wife Sarah, and his parents, David and Cindy, farm 6000ha Dome Hills Station, near Danseys Pass.

‘‘My father tried various breeds in the past but we’ve found the Headwaters sheep is definitely superior for our type of farming. We’re very happy with their resilience and their performance. Then you have a whole other side, with the special qualities of the Omega lambs, the omega 3, the good intramuscular fats and the exceptional flavour and texture,’’ he said.

The 100% Headwaters flock was already established at Dome Hills when Mr Douglas returned to the station six years ago, following his university studies and then a banking career in New Zealand and London. . . 

It’s all kosher – Taggart –  David Anderson:

Farmer-owned cooperative Alliance Group says it has already returned $17 million of the $34.3 million it claimed from the Covid-19 wage subsidy.

In a statement to Rural News, Alliance chairman Murray Taggart said the co-op had been “open and upfront” about the wage subsidy.

“We have been in ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Social Development about the application of the subsidy and stated from the outset that we would return any funds not used to pay people. In line with that commitment, we have returned $17 million of the subsidy.”

Taggart said the company’s application for the wage subsidy was supported and endorsed by the New Zealand Meat Workers Union. . .

Soil carbon influences climate, farm productivity– Professor Louis Schipper:

In the first of three articles about soil carbon, Prof Louis Schipper from the University of Waikato explains why soil carbon matters to farmers, what influences it and what we currently know about carbon stocks in New Zealand’s pastoral soils.

Soil carbon is one of the most talked-about subjects in agriculture. 

That’s not surprising because carbon-rich soils support vigorous crop and pasture growth, and may be more resilient to stressors such as drought.

Changes in soil carbon stocks over time might also affect the climate.  . . 

Sheep farmers ask industries to make wool ‘first choice’:

Sheep producers are encouraging industries to make wool their choice of fibre as a campaign gets underway to highlight its natural qualities.

The sheep sector is celebrating the start of Wool Week (5 October – 18) today, and farmers are calling on politicians and green activists to back British wool.

The annual event aims to put a spotlight on wool’s natural performance qualities and ecological benefits.

The sector is keen to highlight the fact that fabrics such as polyester, nylon and acrylic are all forms of plastic and make up about 60% of the material that makes up clothes worldwide. . . 


Rural round-up

01/09/2020

Primary sector keen to streamline rules with govt – Neal Wallace:

Primary sector groups shut out of the final development phases of the Government’s freshwater policy are urging politicians to work with them to make the regulations workable.

Since late May, sector groups have been excluded from the formation of the policy other than a three-day opportunity to respond to the final draft.

“We had limited opportunity as an industry to provide feedback during the final rule writing process,” Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) chair Andrew Morrison said.

Until then, industry groups were working effectively with the Government and were getting concessions. . . 

Government refuses to act on workers – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are still struggling to fill the huge hole of workers it needs, despite recruiting 300 locals to the industry.

Meanwhile, the Government is refusing to allow more operators from overseas into the country. Read: Locals only will not ‘cut the mustard’.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has dashed any hopes of this happening, saying there will not be any special accommodation made for overseas agriculture contractor workers.

“The door won’t be open in time for the new season,” he concedes. . .

From Boeing to baling: pilots fly to the rescue of heavy agriculture industry for upcoming harvest:

New Zealand pilots waiting for international aviation to restart will be able to use their aviation transport skills to help meet the urgent need for heavy agriculture machinery operators throughout the country.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) Medical and Welfare Director, Andy Pender said that the Association had been working for several months with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Rural Contractors’ Association, other government departments and training providers to match pilot expertise with the immediate needs of the agricultural sector.

“By matching skills and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) licences pilots already hold, we’ve found almost 200 opportunities for pilots to put their skills to use with land-based machinery and do their bit for New Zealand’s essential agriculture economy,” Andy Pender said. . . 

Innovation-led LIC launches ‘Ag-celerator’ investment fund:

Leading agritech and herd improvement cooperative LIC has launched a new fund to support innovations with the potential to positively impact New Zealand’s valuable dairy sector.

LIC has launched an early-stage investment fund, named the LIC AgCelerator™ Fund, for individuals and entities seeking to develop innovations that will deliver value to the dairy industry from generating higher yields, improving animal health, diagnostic tools and improved traceability to sustainability, advancements in breeding techniques and leveraging big data for improvements to farm management.

LIC Chief Executive, Wayne McNee says annual investment in upstream agritech companies grew 44% year-on-year from 2012 to 2018 and a further 1.3% from 2018-2019 highlighting both the opportunities and need for expansion. . .

Creating opportunities for New Zealanders with hemp:

The NZHIA are using “Innovation as a Service” to identify opportunities for industrial hemp in the food, fibre and processing sectors.

Hemp has long been known for its properties as a food, strong fibre, and an environmental super crop now, it could spell opportunity for New Zealand farmers.

As part of their agriculture super node strategy, Christchurch NZ, with the support of NZHIA (New Zealand Hemp Industries Association), Webtools Agritech, and Hemptastic, are hosting the “Hemp Ideation Challenge” from 5-18 September 2020. . .

Top End station hand Ricky Wilson spent 15 weeks in ultimate isolation on a remote cattle property – Jon Daly:

Ricky Wilson, 33, voluntarily spent almost four months on a remote cattle station without seeing another human and completely cut off from civilisation.

His bizarre and uniquely Territorian tale takes social isolation to the extreme, thanks to a can-do attitude and wanton disregard for personal safety.

“I don’t think many people could handle it,” Mr Wilson said.

“I’ve been metres from a crocodile, I’ve been metres from buffalo, I’ve been in a cyclone, and I’ve been metres from lightning hitting the ground.” . .


Rural round-up

31/08/2020

Millions of tonnes of food at risk without foreign contractors farmers say – Bonnie Flaws:

Farmers stand to lose $110 million if and 27 million tonnes of food could go to waste if the Government does not allow at least 200 skilled heavy machine operators into the country, a new survey from rural contractors shows.

Contracting firms were desperate to get border exemptions for hundreds of heavy machine operators from overseas to carry out harvesting, hay baling and slurry removal, Rural Contractors chief executive Roger Parton said.

“There are huge implications for the farmers concerned and resulting shortages of feed for animals, especially if climatic events occur,” Parton said.

The survey showed 8200 farmers and 57 contracting firms around the country relied on foreign seasonal labour between October and March. Workers were usually recruited from the Britan and Ireland. . . 

Meat industry continues to do superb job – Allan Barber:

The return of community transmission underlines the excellent performance of the whole meat industry since Covid 19 reached New Zealand nearly six months ago in March. Farmers, transport and logistics operators, sale yards, exporters and domestic processors have all combined to ensure the health and safety of participants, while meeting the demands of customers, with only a minimal number of temporary plant closures. This contrasts markedly with experience overseas in countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Germany with admittedly a much higher incidence of coronavirus outbreaks in the rest of the world than here.

In April seven major American meat facilities shut down with cold storage inventories of beef, pork and poultry equivalent to two weeks of total production and almost half of Canada’s beef processing capacity was halted after Cargill’s closure and a slowdown by JBS in Alberta. A feature of the interruption to processing in the USA was the great difficulty for farmers to get their stock processed, accompanied by a surge in retail pricing which reflected positively in processor margins, while livestock prices plummeted. . . 

A glimmer of hope for New Zealand strong wool – David Anderson:

A Lincoln-based wool products company believes it offers a glimmer of hope against the increasing negativity currently saturating New Zealand’s strong wool industry.

Keraplast Manufacturing processes strong wool into natural keratin proteins for the booming global nutraceuticals market. Keratin is an essential component of hair, finger and toenails, and skin. The company sells its keratin products as an ingredient for use in health (wound treatment), and skin, hair and nail beauty products world-wide.

Keraplast general manager Paul Sapsford says a recent innovation involves a bioactive keratin product that’s taken in tablet or drink form to “supercharge” the body’s production of collagen, promoting wrinkle reduction and supporting hair follicle and nail strength. . . 

RMPP Action Network extended:

The Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Action Network programme has been extended until early next year.

The RMPP Action Network is an initiative to support farmers to develop the confidence to turn ideas into action on-farm. It’s made up of farmer action groups of seven to nine farm businesses. 

Action groups are farmer-led and supported by trained facilitators to guide a group and help identify experts who can share new knowledge and ideas needed to achieve their goals . .

Autogrow releases public API to empower growers:

Autogrow has released a public API (Application Programming Interface) allowing connectivity between their Folium sensor network and other farm sensor data.

“Growers currently feel frustrated by not having systems that speak to each other. And the truth is that, until other large industry players also provide public APIs, growers are always going to be constrained in what they can do with their data. But we’re leading the charge,” explains Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Morgan.

“We know that many growers use CSV exports like Microsoft Excel, which can be slow, labour-intensive and requires a lot of manipulation to get benefit. . . 

Biochar and zinc application can improve wheat grown in certain soils:

Researchers from The University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture and Sultan Qaboos University in Oman have found that the combined application of biochar and zinc can mitigate stress in wheat caused by the heavy metal cadmium.

Cadmium reduces the growth, yield, and zinc concentration in wheat grain due to oxidative stress. Its accumulation in soil can cause significant health risks to humans if it is introduced into the food chain via crops. 

The study, published in Chemosphere, is the first to show that the combined application of biochar and zinc to cadmium-contaminated soil improved both yield and grain zinc concentration, and reduced cadmium concentrations in grain. . . 


Rural round-up

29/07/2020

New farmer training programme being rolled out– Sally Rae:

Wanted — farmers to inspire the next generation of farmers to perform at their best.

That is what Growing Future Farmers (GFF), a training programme for young people interested in entering the sheep, beef and deer industry is looking for — providing a career pathway for farmers of the future.

A pilot programme has been held the Gisborne and Wairarapa regions and it will be rolled out to six regions next year, including two in the South Island.

The aim was to have 10 farmer trainers in each area.

Gisborne farmers Dan and Tam Jex-Blake spoke at information evenings in Winton and Kurow last week, outlining the programme to potential farmer trainers. . .

Ag contractors frustrated – David Anderson:

Agricultural contractors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of skilled workers available.

The frustration comes amid growing concerns for the industry and farm production in the face of a critical shortage of skilled machinery operators.

Industry body Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) is calling on the Government to allow overseas-based operators back into New Zealand to help alleviate the growing problem.

The end of a golden career :

Russell Lowe has spent almost 50 years selecting, observing, propagating and tasting kiwifruit at Plant and Food Research in Te Puke. Earlier this year Russell was recognised for his role in developing Zespri’s SunGold kiwifruit.

Forty-eight years ago, research scientist Russell Lowe moved to Te Puke to work at the DSIR’s new research orchard.

There was not a crop in the ground and Russell’s first job was to bang in posts so kiwifruit could be planted.

Now there are more than 40 hectares of fruit planted for research, greenhouses, eight coolstores, purpose-built labs, a packhouse and an office block on site. . . 

Pork surplus crisis averted by measures- Sally Rae:

It could have been an unmitigated disaster for the pork industry.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 and 3 restrictions earlier this year meant independent butchers were not allowed to open fully for retail customers.

That meant a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue, the worst-case scenario being the euthanasing of pigs on-farm.

However, such a crisis was averted through various solutions, including an innovative food bank initiative. . . 

Feds applauds carpet maker’s wool focus:

Federated Farmers congratulates the leadership shown by New Zealand carpet maker Cavalier Corporation in announcing last week it will to return to its roots as a wool and natural fibres-only business.

Cavalier said in February that profit margins selling synthetic carpets were getting thinner but sales of its wool carpets were steadily rising.

“Choosing to concentrate on New Zealand-produced natural wool, with its superior durability, warmth, sound-dampening and fire-retardant qualities is a smart decision for any company,” Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Chairperson William Beetham says. . . 

Aroma NZ buys leading NZ flower supplier:

New Zealand’s biggest green-lipped mussel health food company has bought one of the country’s largest flower growing companies.

Aroma NZ has successfully purchased Moffatt’s Flowers, which has been growing roses and other flowers in their Christchurch glasshouses since 1949.

As one of the largest rose growers and flower wholesalers in New Zealand, Moffatt’s grows 35 varieties of roses in a network of more than 20,000 square metres of climate-controlled glasshouses. This results in an annual output of more than three million rose stems, along with other flowers.

Aroma NZ director Ben Winters says they have been looking to diversify into different industry sectors. .  .


Rural round-up

22/07/2020

Alternative labour sources needed – David Anderson:

Industries that depend on migrant labour – like many in NZ’s primary sector – will need to find alternatives, according to a new report.

The need for alternatives is one of the key findings of the latest report on the agribusiness sector by KPMG in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2020 KPMG Agribusiness Agenda says that there is a stigma attached to a career in the production and processing of food and fibre products.

“The jobs are seen as being low skilled, low paid roles which are done by those for which there are no other employment options,” the report says.

“While such perceptions are a million miles away from the truth, they have made it difficult for organisations to recruit the labour force they need, even in countries with significant levels of unemployment.” . . 

Desperate lobbying for the status quo – Elbow Deep:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) reforms were a done deal; a cross-party panel of MPs had unanimously recommended a raft of sweeping changes that addressed issues that have been plaguing the industry for years, and they did so with a refreshing display of clarity, common sense and unity.

After eight years with no changes, a period during which independent processors have been given a leg up at the expense of New Zealand dairy farmers, the Select Committee decided that DIRA had achieved its goal of fostering competition in the dairy industry and it was time for all processors to stand on their own merits.

Having failed to convince the Select Committee to maintain the status quo with their formal submissions, the independent processors are now publicly lobbying to keep the uneven playing field tilted in their favour. They have arranged a last minute meeting with the Minister of Agriculture in an attempt to stop the legislation being passed before the election so they can have another go at arguing for the retention of DIRA’s open entry provisions. . . 

Forest owners to fund clean up of debris, logs at Tolaga Bay :

The Forest Owners Association has apologised and said the industry is committed to cleaning the beach and owners will pay for it, not ratepayers.

The beach in Uawa is strewn with logs and debris from forestry operations up in the hills.

The slash washed onto the beach over the weekend after a metre of rain fell in 24 hours.

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said: “On behalf of the forest industry … I unreservedly apologise to the community for the debris on the beach. They acknowledge it is unacceptable. I can assure the community on the East Coast that the forest industry is committed to cleaning the beach up in conjunction with GDC (Gisborne District Council) … that planning is underway.” . . 

Hope high for wool’s future :

The latest wool working group report brings some hope for reform, innovation and, most importantly, boosted returns for a sector that has languished for almost a generation of farmers as the smallest part of their income stream.

Released this month, the vision and action plan developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group contains three key recommendations to kickstart the strong wool sector as a sustainable economic fibre base once again.

These include developing a market focused investment case and road map for a strong wool sector, establishing the capability the sector needs to become “match fit” for future opportunities and establishing better co-ordination and governance capability. . . 

Trusts to get extra help – Peter Burke:

MPI says it’s looking at increasing its support to Rural Support Trusts and other rural advisory groups.

Director general of the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ray Smith, says it seems like the country is moving from one set of issues to another, which are all challenging to farmers.

He cites the droughts in the North Island and the feed shortage in the South Island – along with M. bovis and the damage from earthquakes.

“It feels like the expectations on those Trusts are growing and we are trying to increase our investment in them to help the local people,” he told Rural News. . . 

Rural data usage continues to soar as new tech drivers efficient farms and sustainable communities:

Rural broadband specialists, Farmside, have reported a massive 34% average year-on-year data usage increase in Aotearoa’s rural communities since 2017 as new technologies drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector. The internet provider, powered by Vodafone New Zealand, is a Gold Partner of the first Fieldays Online launched last week, showcasing three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside and Vodafone site set up for Fieldays Online features: water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of New Zealand’s waterways; smart traps run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (nb-IoT) network keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network (WAN) that securely connects all Pāmu New Zealand’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it is innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly over the last few years. . . 


Rural round-up

22/05/2020

RA 20 virus danger to NZ farming – Doug Edmeades:

There is another pandemic sweeping the nation. It is a new, exceedingly virulent virus, which is likely to do more damage to the New Zealand economy in the long-term than COVID-19, if left unchecked.

I am calling for an immediate lockdown – total elimination is essential to prevent New Zealand agriculture slipping back to the dark ages.

It is coded RA 20, but the full medical name is “Regenerative Agriculture 2020”. RA 20 is believed to have originated in the Great Plains in America. It quickly spread to the Australian Outback and then hopped the ditch to New Zealand.

Interestingly, like Covid-19, it is particularly severe in those weakened by other complicating factors. Some victims are known to have no knowledge of the important values of science, evidence, logic and reason. Another cohort includes those who know little about the principles of soil fertility, pasture management and animal husbandry.  . . 

Film gets monkey off his back – David Anderson:

A young Kiwi, Los Angeles-based, filmmaker has made good use of the lockdown period to help farmers battling with mental health issues.

Twenty-year-old Hunter Williams has shot and produced a short video that addresses the poorer mental health outcomes facing the rural sector. The short film encourages rural people to talk about the struggles they may be facing and not keep their feelings bottled up.

Williams told Rural News that he’d had his own mental health issues growing up and the film was something that was close to his heart. The eight minute documentary is called ‘The Monkeys on Our Backs’. Various farmers and organisations have been involved in the production, including the Rural Support Trust and Farmstrong.

Williams was raised in Hawkes Bay and comes from a large farming family. 

Venison marketers building on-line and retail sales :

Marketers of New Zealand farm-raised venison are making a concerted push to build sales through on-line outlets and through gourmet retailers. This gourmet product, normally sold mainly through food service distributors to chefs, has been particularly hard-hit by the sound of restaurant doors slamming shut around the globe.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) chief executive Innes Moffat says Covid-related restaurant shut-downs created a crisis for their food service suppliers and the farmers that supply them. Demand from chefs for NZ farm-raised venison – one of the industry’s greatest assets – overnight became a vulnerability.

“Fortunately our venison export marketers and/or their overseas partners already had small retail and on-line marketing programmes. They are now putting a lot of energy into generating more sales through these channels, while looking out for the green shoots of recovery in food service.” . . 

Potato prices reach all-time high in April:

Rising prices for potatoes, soft drinks (large bottles), capsicums, and fresh eggs saw overall food prices up 1.0 percent in April 2020, Stats NZ said today.

Potato prices rose 18 percent in April to a weighted average price of $2.51 per kilo, an all-time peak.

Some media reports suggest the potato industry has seen a 30–50 percent increase in demand from supermarkets and a shortage of workers.

“Higher demand and a shortage of potato pickers, many of whom stayed home due to fear of the COVID-19 virus, could explain this large price increase,” consumer prices manager Bryan Downes said. . . 

Hunting industry requires domestic support:

New Zealand’s guided hunting industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and is appealing for support from domestic hunters looking for a unique hunting experience.

“Guided hunting was worth over $50 million a year to the New Zealand economy and provided primarily international visitors with fantastic Kiwi hunting experiences on both private and public land,” says Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale. “It has also been an extremely important employer in provincial regions and has a low impact on our environment.”

“It really has been a New Zealand tourism success story.” . . 

Why your rural sales reps won’t sell remotely – St John Craner:

Remote selling isn’t something new yet we’re seeing a lot of resistance to it right now.

Many clients are telling us their reps won’t sell remotely, complaining that they “need to see the customer”.

Whilst I buy that argument in-part, selling remotely has been around for a wee while. Phone, email or online have been a stable source of sales for years. They aren’t new technologies. 

The real reason why most sales reps feel they can’t sell remotely is because of fear. . . 


Rural round-up

09/05/2020

Build more and be damned! – David Anderson:

Water storage is one of the keys to helping rebuild NZ’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, says Ian Proudfoot, KPMG’s Global Head of Agribusiness.

This was the message he gave to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee on the opportunities our food and fibre industries have to lead our national economic recovery.

“We have long been the developed nation with the greatest reliance on growing and selling biological products to the world to pay for our schools, roads and hospitals,” he explained.

“Now, more than ever, the industry recognises it needs to step forward to ensure that our country is able to maintain the living standards we have become accustomed to.” . . 

Drought relief ‘too little too late’ Hawke’s Bay farmer – Robin Martin:

A Hawke’s Bay farmer says the government’s latest drought relief package – a $500,000 fund for advisory services – is a “drop in the ocean” and won’t go far to alleviating struggling farmers’ problems.

Extremely dry conditions have hit much of the North Island and parts of the South Island in recent months and in some areas, including Central and Southern Hawke’s Bay, the situation remains dire.

Grant Charteris farms deer and beef cattle at Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay.

He said today’s relief package was a case of “too little too late”. . .

Telephone diplomacy to fight protectionism – Peter Burke:

Rising protectionism is one of the major concerns of New Zealand exporters in the light of COVID-19.

NZ’s chief trade negotiator, Vangelis Vitalis, told Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee that as a result of COVID, many countries will resort to protecting their own economies. NZ exporters fear this will make it much harder for them.

Vitalis says exporters are also concerned about the logistics of getting goods to market, but they have praised the work done by MFAT, NZTE and MPI in keeping freight lines open. . . 

New farm safety initiative aims to empower women to effect change :

A new farm safety initiative aims to rally rural women to help save injuries and lives on New Zealand farms.

Action group Safer Farms has partnered with Australian woman Alex Thomas to bring the #PlantASeedForSafety Project to New Zealand.

The project profiles women from all parts of rural industries and communities who are making positive and practical improvements to the health, safety and wellbeing of those around them.

With the message “save a life, listen to your wife”, it aims to raise the voices of rural women and boost their confidence in their ability to influence change and to inspire others to make safer, healthier choices. . .

Quinoa growers urged to band together and take on the world – Nigel Malthus:

One of New Zealand’s very few quinoa growers is calling on his colleagues to band together to help market their product.

Andrew Currie, who farms near Methven in inland Canterbury, believes he is one of only three commercial quinoa growers in the country. He’s the only one in the South Island and the only one with a breeding programme of golden, white, red and black quinoa varieties.

He told Rural News if there is any good to come out of the current COVID-19 emergency, it may be renewed support for locally grown produce. Currie says the post-lockdown environment will be very different.

“New Zealand farming will be the strength of our economy. Some people will need to change occupation to more rural orientated jobs.”  . .

Ag’s critical role in post-COVID recovery a unique opportunity – Michael Guerin:

Although Australia is weathering the COVID-19 storm better than almost any other nation, there is no doubt that it has dealt us a sickening blow.

And the worst is definitely still to come, as the long-term economic, employment and social effects become apparent.

However, out of the tragedy emerges a unique opportunity for Australian agriculture to lead the country out of the COVID-19 doldrums.

The NFF’s “Don’t panic. Aussie farmers have your back” campaign was highly successful in reassuring the public that our robust industry would ensure the country could feed itself.. . 


Rural round-up

08/04/2020

It’s okay to not be okay – Jamie Mackay:

 A recent personal tragedy has made The Country host Jamie Mackay reconsider his stance on mental health.

I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as there is a history of mental illness in my own family, but until relatively recently I was a bit blasé about mental health.

Back when my grandmother was a young mother under considerable stress raising six kids, she had what was at that time called ‘a breakdown’. She was sent off to a mental institution (as they were known then) three hour’s drive away.

We were often packed into the car when my father went to visit her, but we were never able to see her. She lived until I was 16 years of age, but I never met her. As a family we never talked about her, other than to acknowledge that she was institutionalised. . . 

Rural sector vital to recovery, despite confidence dip – David Anderson:

COVID-19 is negatively impacting New Zealand’s rural sector confidence.

The declining confidence comes as the country’s primary industries prepare to shoulder some of the heavy lifting for economic and social recovery, claims specialist rural bank Rabobank.

New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says the bank’s latest rural confidence survey shines a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation.

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the New Zealand economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” he says.  . .

Fruit, wine industries respond to coronavirus with vintage Kiwi adaptability – Georgia-May Gilbertson:

Kiwis are stepping in to cover a shortage of backpackers and overseas seasonal workers in the fruit and wine industries.  

For the last few years the kiwifruit industry has experienced a labour shortage when it comes to harvest, but New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president Nikki Johnson says covid-19 has changed that. 

“The way that our labour situation is laid out is that about 50 per cent are New Zealanders,  25 per cent are working holidays visa workers or backpackers, then 20 per cent are RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers,” Johnson said.  . . 

COVID-19: Growing interest in NZ sheepmeat in China – Peter Burke:

Chinese consumers are increasingly positive about New Zealand-produced beef, lamb and mutton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a social media analysis by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

B+LNZ’s market development team says it is monitoring Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the protein market, the perception of protein origin, and the changes in retail channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red meat grower organisation has published a report summarizing the latest findings, which can be found here:

Click here to view the full report. . . 

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown. . . 

‘Massive disconnect’: Helen Skelton urges public to respect farmers:

Television presenter Helen Skelton has said there is a ‘massive disconnect’ between food producers and the British public.

The BBC presenter, who currently hosts Springtime On The Farm, urged consumers to have greater respect for farmers.

The 36-year-old grew up on a farm herself, and has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for those who produce the nation’s food.

“Now I live on the edge of the city, and there’s a massive disconnect between food producers and the rest of the country,” she said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

01/01/2020

South Waikato dairy farmer recognised in New Year honours – Gerald Piddock:

Championing the rights of sharemilkers has seen Tony Wilding recognised in the New Years honours list.

The dairy farmer, who farms at Okoroire in South Waikato, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work in the dairy industry and the community.

He said his initial reaction when he found out was disbelief. Once it sunk in, he began to realise how special it was.

“I”m pretty delighted and particularly my family who have seen me doing such a lot of stuff that was unpaid for in a lot of areas.” . .

Prices strong, farmers low – report – David Anderson:

Despite generally strong commodity prices, farmer confidence remains at near record lows, according to the latest Agri Focus report from ANZ Bank.

“Confidence at the farm level remains subdued despite returns being near record levels,” the bank’s December 2019 report says.

“Farmers remain concerned as to how future environmental legislation will impact the profitability of their business.”

It adds that dairy land values are also under pressure for the same reason.  . .

LAND CHAMPION: Wool fashions farming’s future– Hugh Stringleman:

New Zealand Merino chief executive John Brakenridge has seen the future of the primary sector and pioneered many of its elements well in advance of most farmers, their processors and exporters.

Few people in NZ can claim the transformation of a primary industry through their life’s work and fewer still have taken the principles uncovered beyond their home industry for the betterment of the sector.

All that has been done by Brakenridge’s ideas, enthusiasm, business relationships and persistence.

The forging of long-term supply contracts between wool growers and apparel brands like . . 

Going green makes money – Jenny Ling:

A Northland farming family is adding value and creating extra income by supplying milk in glass bottles direct to customers. Jenny Ling reports.

Far North sharemilkers Gav Hogarth and Jody Hansen knew they needed a plan B when Fonterra announced a forecast milk payout with a three in front of it.

The couple had been milking their herd of pedigree Jerseys on a conventional, twice-daily milking system for five years at their Kawakawa farm when the dairy co-operative dropped the milk payout from $4.15 a kilogram of milksolids to $3.90 in early 2016. 

“At $3 you’re not making any money and farming is not sustainable at that level,” Gav says.

“The options were either I went back to work or we would have to borrow money to feed the cows,” Jody says. . . 

Contract milking offers opportunities – Pam Tipa:

Contract milking is a good introduction to self-employment, says Northland AgFirst consultant Kim Robinson.

Her advice to young people wanting to go 50/50 sharemilking is, to do one year of contracting milking first.

“Contract milking teaches people how to become self-employed, to run their own businesses . .

Global wardrobe study:

Our wardrobes are growing, which comes as no surprise given fibre production for clothing and the amount of clothes produced, is on the rise. But, like most things in life, we have options. Consumers have the power to choose what they wear and this choice can ultimately have a huge impact on what designers, brands and retailers produce.

For many, it may come as a surprise that our love for clothing is putting a strain on the environment. And with phrases such as “climate crisis” becoming the new normal, it’s time for individuals to pay attention to everyday habits. One small action, as insignificant as it may seem, can cumulatively have enormous impact. From wearing our clothes for longer, doing laundry less frequently, or paying attention to what our clothes are actually made of, consumers have the power to make a difference and influence brands’ business decisions.

This report examines consumer wardrobe and laundry behaviours, offering solutions to help reduce our impact on the environment every day. . . 

 


Rural round-up

23/11/2019

Take us with you – Rural News editorial:

According to a newly released Rabobank report, New Zealand farm businesses need to get ready for the full cost of environmental policies coming down the track as they make future investment decisions.

The report says with the country’s agricultural sector facing increasingly tougher environmental constraints, its decisions on investment and land use will need to take account of how these constraints impact on their farming businesses.

Rabobank says that despite the significant investments made by many New Zealand farmers over the past decade to improve performance of their farming operations, the increasingly tougher environmental reforms relating to water quality and climate change will progressively require farmers to account for a greater range of environmental impacts resulting from their farming operations. . .

Making it okay to ask for help – David Anderson:

Meat processing company Alliance has started an employee support programme aimed at getting colleagues to look after each other and keep an eye out for possible mental health issues.

Its ‘Mates at the Gate’ programme encourages staff to ask for support at an early stage and also educates employees on the signs their colleagues might be depressed or distressed.

The programme, which is specifically tailored to Alliance’s workforce, was launched across the company’s processing plants and corporate offices in November 2018.  . . 

Call for NZ and Scotland to join forces – David Hill:

A Scottish farmer and cattle judge would like to see New Zealand and Scotland work together to promote meat.

John Scott, who judged the all-breeds beef cattle competition at last week’s New Zealand Agricultural Show, has just completed an eight-year stint on the Quality Meat Scotland board, the equivalent of Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

”We’ve got some huge challenges with Brexit and the anti-red meat lobby,” Mr Scott said.

”It’s a world market now and I would like to see Scotland having closer ties with New Zealand.

”We need to increase consumption of meat around the world and the seasons are different between our countries, so we don’t need to be competitive. We have a lot of similarities and we can work together.” . . 

A day out at Fonterra’s PR farm – Alex Braae:

Were Fonterra’s Open Gates events a shallow PR stunt, or was there something deeper going on? Alex Braae went to Mangatawhiri to find out.

Walking into the Fonterra Open Gates event in Mangatawhiri, the first animals to see weren’t actually dairy cows. 

In an enclosure just next to the welcome tent, there were three beautifully clean and fluffy sheep. Their faces were sharp and alert, like the healthy energetic dogs that herd them. A throng of kids hung around them, reaching out to touch the exotic creatures.  . . 

Strong returns forecast from Zespri’s record European harvest:

Zespri’s European kiwifruit harvest is again expected to deliver strong returns for growers in Italy and France, along with another great tasting crop for consumers around the world to enjoy.

Sheila McCann-Morrison, Zespri’s Chief International Production Officer, says that with the Northern Hemisphere harvest well underway, Zespri is expecting to harvest around 19 million trays or almost 70 tonnes of kiwifruit from orchards throughout Italy, France and Greece. . . 

It’s forestry that must change not farmers – Rowan Reid :

AS a young forest scientist, I chose to work in the farming landscape in Australia. Despite the slogans of our conservation groups, the environmental frontline was not occurring at the forest blockade; it was at the farm gate. In just 200 years of white settlement, we had cleared the native forests off more than 60 per cent of the continent to create family farms. That’s about 15 times the area of the entire UK. The result was the greatest extinction of native animals and plants seen in modern times, massive land degradation problems, the release of millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, and mounting animal welfare issues due to heat and cold stress in farm stock.

Seeing that forestry – even the act of harvesting trees for timber – had a role to play in repairing the environmental damage and helping develop resilient family farms, I set my goal to make forestry attractive to the farming community. But rather than just promote what my peers saw as ‘good forestry practices’, I could see that it was forestry, rather than the farmers, that had to change. In 1987, I purchased a small degraded farm and set about planting trees for both conservation and profit. . . 


Rural round-up

22/05/2019

Nats stunned by methane target – David Anderson:

National’s climate change spokesman Todd Muller says the proposed target for methane reduction puts the New Zealand agricultural sector at “real risk”.

Muller has spent the best part of 12 months negotiating with Climate Change Minister James Shaw to get a workable, bi-partisan deal on agricultural emissions. He told Rural News the proposed methane targets are “widely overdone” and set an “unjustifiable target” for the NZ farming sector.

“There is a body of credible advice – such as recently from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) and Victoria University’s David Frame – that advocates far more sensible targets for methane,” he says. . .

National supports climate change bill but with concerns:

National has decided to support the Climate Change Response Act Amendment Bill through its first reading, but with serious concerns around the proposed methane target and the potential economic impact, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.

“National supports many elements of the Bill including establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, a framework for reducing New Zealand’s emissions and a framework for climate change adaptation.

“We have serious concerns about the target level that has been set. . .

 

More than 300 sheep rustled from Waimumu farm – Richard Davison:

Police say a mystery $65,000 stock theft has left the victims “extremely gutted”.

Mataura Police issued a public appeal yesterday, following a lack of leads concerning the rustling of 320 sheep and eight rams from a Waimumu farm, believed to have occurred during Easter.

Mataura Constable Wayne McClelland said a stock theft of this scale was “unusual” in his experience, and had caused considerable distress to the farm owners.

“Obviously a theft of this magnitude, where you’ve lost tens of thousands’ worth of property, would hit anyone pretty hard. It’s a significant loss of assets given the size of the farm in question.” . .

All ‘Barred’-up over M bovis – Nigel Malthus:

South Canterbury rural consultant Sarah Barr says there is a huge degree of anxiety on the ground over the surge in the Mycoplasma bovis eradication effort.

She told Rural News the announcement of the surge, made just before Easter, was worrying for people who had been previously caught up in the effort.

“People who know they’ve got traces, but haven’t yet been followed up. And people who aren’t involved but are concerned that now they may be.” . . .

North Otago farmer fulfills childhood dream to compete :

North Otago farmer Alan Harvey has dreamed of competing in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final since he was a child. He’ll finally get the chance in Hawke’s Bay this July.

North Otago farmer Alan Harvey has ambitious plans to double the size of his sheep flock.

The 28-year-old’s family farm in North Otago has 500 Border-Romney cross ewes, 150-200 trading cattle and arable crops.

He’s in the process of farm succession and is set to take over in July. . .

Genesis reimagines with new product for dairy:

For the first time in New Zealand, dairy farmers will be offered an electricity plan created specifically for their unique energy use with the launch of a new Genesis product, For Dairy.

Genesis Executive General Manager, James Magill, says For Dairy recognises that the way dairy farmers use electricity is far from standard and with this product could ultimately result in savings of

between 5 and 25 per cent off their milking shed electricity bill. . .

 


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