Rural round-up

24/07/2021

How real is the rural-urban divide? – Laura Walters:

If New Zealand is going to move towards a more sustainable primary sector, then media, politicians and fringe groups need to stop stoking division, writes Laura Walters.

Last week thousands of farmers descended on towns and cities across the country for the so-called Howl of Protest, a demonstration against government policies that farmers say are severely damaging the rural sector. The Southland town of Gore was gridlocked with 600 tractors, 1200 utes, and about 50 truck and trailer units. Overhead, four helicopters and a plane got in on the action. Similar scenes played out all over New Zealand. A resident of one provincial city described it as “the best Santa Parade, ever”.

To some onlookers, the protests would seem illustrative of a rural sector that is resistant to change, a far cry from the sorts of innovative, sustainable ideas – a whiskey distillery on a sheep and beef farm, for example, or an organic co-op with a reduced environmental footprint – that are celebrated on the likes of Country Calendar.

Ahead of the Howl of Protest, many left-wing politicians, farming industry bodies and even portions of the rural community itself predicted the protests would be dominated by this staunchly conservative rural minority. In anticipation of division and backlash, they distanced themselves from the protests. . .

Let’s get the real picture! – Dairy News:

 Just as Southland farmers were receiving praise from local authorities on their improved winter grazing practices, new photos surfaced of cows knee-deep in mud.

While there is debate about the authenticity of the latest photos, reportedly taken by environmental activist Geoff Reid, the truth remains that not all farmers are following winter grazing rules to the fullest.

Sadly, it is this small group of farmers who are trashing the reputation of hundreds of others doing the right thing.

Such farmers are only providing ammunition to activists roaming dairy paddocks with cameras and drones hoping to find distressed cows lying in mud and reigniting the debate on banning winter grazing practices. . .

African Swine Fever in Germany raises fears in New Zealand herds

There’s alarm in New Zealand’s pork industry following the discovery of the devastating pig disease, African Swine Fever, in Germany’s commercial pig farms.

The disease forced China, the world’s largest pig producer, to cull about half its herd after an outbreak two years ago.

NZ Pork chief executive David Baines said Germany now found the disease had gone from its wild herds into commercial farms.

Germany is the EU’s largest pork exporter, with product coming to New Zealand. . . 

A win-win deal for consumers and farmers – Annette Scott:

Thousands more Kiwi homes will be carpeted in wool following a landmark agreement between Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) and leading retailer Flooring Xtra.

Other independent retail stores are also in the partnership mix with WNZ in its bid to get affordable wool carpets into NZ homes.

Starting this month, WNZ will manufacture and supply wool carpet to Flooring Xtra’s 61 stores and independent flooring retailers across NZ.

Priced competitively compared with synthetic carpets, means New Zealanders have a genuine choice between a synthetic product or a natural product direct from WNZ’s 730 farmer-grower shareholders, WNZ chief executive John McWhirter says. . . 

LIC annual results: Farmers investing in high value genetics to help meet sector’s climate goals:

Livestock Improvement Corporation (NZX: LIC) announces its financial results for the year ending 31 May 2021, reporting increased revenue, profit and a strong balance sheet with no debt at year end.

The farmer-owned co-operative will return $17.8 million in dividend to shareholders, which equates to 12.51 cents per share. The fully imputed dividend represents a 14.4% gross yield based on the current share price of $1.21. The dividend will be distributed on 20 August.

“The LIC Board is proud to present another strong result to our farmer shareholders for the fourth consecutive year,” said Murray King, LIC Board Chair.

“This result is in line with our market guidance and a credit to our shareholders for their support of significant initiatives in the last five years to transform LIC into a modern, progressive co-op. These initiatives have delivered the benefits we said they would, including focussed investment in the business and a better return for our farmers. . .

It is time to tell the truth about whole milk – Arden Tewksbury

I recently had a conversation with one of our member dairy farmers who has been a patient in at least two different hospitals. At one of those hospital, he asked for whole milk with his lunch. He was told that milk “ is not good for you.” He asked to see the dietician who met with him and told him milk is not good for you.

Several weeks later, this farmer was admitted into a second hospital and again, at lunch, he asked for whole milk. He got the same reply, “I am sorry, milk is not good for you.”

So this time he asked to speak to the hospital’s top dietician who claimed that milk was not good because “it is 100% fat!” He told her that you would need a knife and fork to eat it because it would be hard cheese.

Most hospitals and their personnel provide good service to their patients, but their dieticians know very little regarding the value of milk. The whole milk we buy in the store has only a 3.25% fat content.  . . 

 


Rural round-up

24/06/2021

Carbon farmers bought swathes of NZ promising to create native forests — but researchers doubt it will work – Eloise Gibson:

A carbon farming business has bought swathes of the country and planted it in pine trees, promising it would one day regenerate into native forest – but researchers who’ve studied the concept doubt it will work.

New Zealand Carbon Farming (NZCF) has quickly grown to be one of the country’s biggest landowners, with more than 89,000 hectares either owned or leased. NZCF says it is the biggest provider of carbon credits in Australasia, and the biggest participant in New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

The business model is to find farmland with remnants of native forest nearby to act as a seed stock, then plant pine, which grows quickly and supplies a stream of income from carbon credits. The company says it selects sites with enough rain and decent soil, and that it will thin the pine and control pests, such as deer and possums, to enable indigenous forest to grow underneath (and eventually take over).

But two forestry scientists who helped pioneer the pine-to-native forest concept in New Zealand question whether native regeneration will happen on the scale the business is attempting. . .

DoC’s Mackenzie project dubbed a disaster – David Williams:

A $2.6 million Mackenzie Basin project abandoned its business case, lacked oversight, and achieved little. David Williams reports

A drive for greater protection in the fragile South Island high country turned into a “complete disaster”, according to a review ordered by Department of Conservation senior managers.

The external review report, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act, says the $2.6 million Mackenzie Basin project announced in the 2018 Budget had “no formal governance”, the partnerships section of DoC running it did not have “formal project management skills”, and external partners and stakeholders were “disillusioned and have heavily criticised the project”.

Some external parties, such as private landowners, hadn’t been contacted for nearly two years. Relationships with mana whenua were described as strained “at best” . .

Minister not plugged into community signal struggles:

It is unacceptable that a town just 10 minutes from Greymouth has such poor digital connectivity that they are not able to even receive Civil Defence warnings, National’s Digital Economy and Communications spokesperson Melissa Lee says.

Ms Lee has been advocating for rural communities which are being left behind by a lack of digital and communications infrastructure.

Dunollie is a small town on the West Coast and in March, Melissa Lee, along with National List MP based in West Coast-Tasman Maureen Pugh, visited its frustrated residents. Despite having a cell tower on the beach to enable tourists to stay connected, a hill between the beach and the township prevents the locals from accessing the signal. . . 

New Zealand pig farmers demand imported pork measure up to NZ’s animal welfare standard – Lauren Hale:

New Zealand pig farmers are supporting a petition calling for imported pork to be required to meet the same animal welfare standards as New Zealand pork.

Approximately 60 per cent of pork consumed in New Zealand is imported with most of it being produced in countries that farm pigs using practices that are illegal in this country.

“New Zealand’s pork sector operates to high welfare standards compared to many other countries who have less rigorous health, welfare and environmental regimes,” says David Baines, chief executive of NZPork, which represents New Zealand pig farmers.

“Our commercial pig herd also has a high health status and is not affected by the diseases that are having a very serious impact on pork industries in many other countries.

Homegrown Butcher named Supreme Champion at 2021 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards

Dion Kilminster produces top-quality beef and lamb — but the road to success constantly challenges him.

It was by chance that farmer-butcher Dion Kilmister met marketer Ali Scott in a Wellington pub on St Patrick’s Day nine years ago. But together, they’ve overcome the odds in more ways than one.

This year, their mixed box of gourmet beef and lamb took the Supreme Champion gong at the 2021 Outstanding NZ Food Producers Awards. “Pure beefiness,” commented one of the judges of the pack, which includes many different cuts of meat as well as gourmet sausages.

In 2018’s honours (see NZ Life & Leisure, May/June 2018), Dion and Ali’s Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats won the Ara Wines Paddock Champion award for its lamb. . . 

Invest Like a Farmer: the surprising similarities between how farmers and venture capitalists think – Sarah Nolet:

As a venture capitalist working in agriculture, I’m constantly surprised by the similarities between how farmers and investors think.

I came to agriculture in a roundabout way. I grew up in Silicon Valley and moved to Boston to study computer science and later work in the defense industry. It was during an accidental gap year in South America, where I was pulling weeds on an organic tomato farm in Argentina, that I first saw the potential to apply my systems background to agriculture.

I realized that much of the technology that was being developed was missing the mark because the people making it — while they were accomplished technologists — didn’t understand the culture, science, or business of farming. That’s when I began to develop my own investment thesis for agtech.

Agriculture has historically been a very different world to the heavily urban-focused startup and technology ecosystem. But though the lines between these two worlds are blurring, there’s still a huge gap between the two; not just in technology application, but also in language, culture and trust. . . .


Rural round-up

02/07/2020

Contractors need staff pronto – Annette Scott:

Without skilled operators rural contractors risk having millions of dollars of essential agricultural machinery sitting idle this spring. 

After an urgent meeting with Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, Rural Contractors is surveying members amid rising concern over the pending labour shortage.

Results so far reveal up to 1000 skilled machinery operators will be needed for the spring and summer.     

Many will need to be brought into NZ, Rural Contractors president David Kean said. . . 

Worker shortage worries pig farmers :

Pork producers are calling on the Government to urgently review its policies on skilled migrant workers as severe staff shortages hit. 

Pig farmers rely on experienced workers from overseas to meet a shortfall in staff with the necessary skills required to work with the country’s herd.

However, they are concerned skilled migrants already working on farms might not have their visas renewed or existing workers trying to return from overseas will be blocked, leaving many farmers with significant staffing shortages.

“The sector’s strong preference would be to have a pool of available skilled and unskilled New Zealand workers,” New Zealand Pork chief executive David Baines said.  . . 

Aerial top-dressing, deer among highlights of past century – Richard Davison:

In common with a record 70 families set to receive their Century Farm awards in Lawrence last month, the Mackies, of South Otago, were unable to share their story when Covid-19 intervened. Here they take the opportunity to do so, looking back over the Copland and Mackie families’ 100 years of farming the same land, with reporter Richard Davison.

Given the ups and downs of farming, it’s no mean feat to stay put on the same land for a century and more.

Every year, though, the Century Farms event in Lawrence marks a swag of families from across New Zealand achieving just that, and last month a record 70 families were due to pick up 100- and 150-year awards.

We all know what happened next, but many of those families’ stories still deserve to be told, helping paint a picture of the gambles, innovations, hard work and lighter-hearted moments of New Zealand farming down the years. . . 

Growing native plants creating legacy – Keri Waterworth:

The quality of water entering lakes, rivers and streams from farms in the Upper Clutha catchment is improving due to the thousands of natives planted around waterways on those farms. One of the nurseries supplying the plants is Wanaka’s Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Nestled in the shelter of an extensive QE11 convenanted kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka, the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery is at the end of an easy walk through the QEII Covenant Kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka.

On the Tuesday afternoon I visited, it was one of the two nursery volunteer afternoons held each week during winter, and only the second since the nursery reopened following the Covid-19 lockdown/restriction periods. . . 

Wine worker launches petition to ease visa conditions as concerns grow for next harvest – Maia Hart:

A petition has been launched calling for the Government to ease temporary work visa conditions for international winery workers impacted by Covid-19.

The petition, started by Cait Guyette, is calling for the Government to allow grape harvest workers already in New Zealand to stay until vintage 2021.

Guyette, who is from the United States but had a permanent job at a winery in Marlborough, said she felt disheartened there had been no leniency to allow harvest workers to continue working in New Zealand’s wine industry. . . 

NSW buys outback station in state’s largest single property purchase for a national park – Saskia Mabin:

It’s the vast embodiment of outback beauty and heartbreak — a sweeping western NSW cattle station that is, by turns, arid no-man’s land and lush waterbird haven, home to ancient Indigenous artefacts, the ghostly trail of Burke and Wills and now the nation’s newest national park.

“It can be very good and then it can be vile,” said Bill O’Connor, 84, owner of Narriearra station, which has just become the largest block of private land bought for a national park in the state’s history.

With nearby Sturt National Park, Narriearra will create a conservation area of close to half a million hectares, or twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

The 153,415-hectare station sits in the north-west corner of the state, with the dog-proof fence of the NSW-Queensland border forming its northern boundary. . . 


Rural round-up

17/04/2020

Pig-headed butcher ruling causing issues – Nigel Malthus:

The country’s pork producers say relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown rules might still not be enough to prevent an animal welfare crisis on the country’s pig farms.

They say pig farming is geared almost entirely to domestic consumption, depends on weekly throughput with no spare capacity, and unlike red meat has no established export market to take up the slack.

With the forced closure of restaurants and independent butchers, they are hurting, says NZ Pork chief executive David Baines. . .

Coronavirus: Lingering drought prompts more calls to rural helpline during Covid-19 – Lawrence Gullery:

Tight feed supplies and the ongoing drought has pushed up calls to the Rural Support Trust’s national helpline as more farmers seek help.

The trust’s national chairperson, Neil Bateup, said there had been a 40 per cent increase in calls since the dry weather started to grip the country in February.

He said traditionally the trust records around 35 calls at this time of the year but it was now up to 50.

“Difficulties around the drought, particularly low feed supply, would be the main reasons for the increase but we’ve got all of the other issues around financial planning, wellness, unemployment, relationships that are still coming in too.” . .

Coronavirus: tulip bulb export still a grey area – Rachael Kelly:

Tulip exporter Rudi Verplancke says it was a relief to watch a truck leave his plant in Southland with the hope to fulfil export orders.

The bulb growers have had 150 million bulbs sitting in storage, collectively worth $32 million, that are destined for lucrative northern hemisphere markets.

Triflor operations manager Rudi Verplancke said it was “a very big relief” to see an order leave the company’s plant near Edendale on Thursday morning but it was still a grey area regarding final permission to export. . .

Essential food teams need more staff:

Keeping food on the table is trickier under COVID-19 physical distancing conditions, but Hawke’s Bay’s food producers are focused on the task.

Hastings’ primary industry starred in national media this week, with a call for more workers. The need to keep everyone safe through physical distancing, from pickers in the field to the staff in pack houses and processing factories, means more people are needed across a whole range of steps in the food production process.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst is focused on ensuring people who may have lost their normal employment because of the virus are aware of other opportunities available.

“Our economy is our fertile land and what we harvest from it. To keep our economy moving, we must support our primary producers and keep our people in jobs.” . . .

Positive 2019 result gives certainty in disrupted global environment:

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative has reported a net profit after tax of $34.9m for the 2019 financial year. Its investment, Silver Fern Farms Limited, reported a net profit after tax of $70.7m for the 2019 financial year.

Silver Fern Farms Co-operative Chairman Richard Young said the financial result achieved by the Co-operative and Silver Fern Farms Limited for the 2019 year provides stability for both the Co-operative and the operating company.

“The Co-operative is in a strong position with no debt. Whilst this was achieved last year, we now have a strong platform to weather a period where our country and the world is in a period of considerable economic uncertainty.” . .

Avoparty with avocados:

NZ Avocado have teamed up with dinner party pop-up professionals, Kitchen Takeover, to unite separated friends and family around virtual dining tables during lockdown.

NZ Avocado and Kitchen Takeover want to help Kiwis connect with each other through food whilst they are apart, by providing the tools needed to host a virtual dinner parties at home.

#Avopartyanyway is a virtual dinner experience designed to be as heart-warming and fun as before lockdown began. Participants invite their friends, set up a video call, and get inspired by easy to follow, fun and healthy recipes. . .

 


Safe better than essential

01/04/2020

The government is deciding what is an essential business or service, Act says it would be better to determine what is safe:

 . .. If the objective is to stop the spread of COVID-19, then the test should be whether something can be done safely, not whether it is essential. Moving to a test of safety rather than necessity would be a much better way of fighting the virus while salvaging businesses.

‘Essential’ Compromises ‘Safety’

The Government rightly says it is essential to have food available. Once food is available in an area, no other activity is permissible. But making people travel further to visit a smaller number of bigger and busier stores undermines our goal of reducing the spread of the virus. Supermarkets have remained open because they are essential but they have only undertaken safety mechanisms more recently. Under a safety approach, only food stores with safe processes would be allowed to open, but all stores with such processes would equally be able to open. . .

It would be just as safe for butchers and greengrocers to be open, following best practice of allowing one customer in, one out and keeping everyone two metres apart, as it is for supermarkets, perhaps even safer if it meant fewer people in supermarkets.

Couplands announced yesterday it will close its South Island plant because it mostly supplies its own shops in the south and these aren’t deemed essential.

The bakery supplies about a third of the South’s bread. The plant closure will cause shortages and panic buying. Again, providing the stores have practices which keep their staff and customers safe, they should be able to stay open and lower the pressure on supermarkets.

Instead of the objective test ‘can this be done in a way that is safe’ we are facing a subjective test ‘does the Government think you need this.’ This level of government power is not sustainable.

Breakdown Of The Rule of Law

Subjectivity leads to absurdities and a breakdown of the rule of law. The Government has decided that eating halal meat is a goal important enough to justify opening some butcheries. Driving to the beach for a walk or a picnic is not. Which one is safer? . . .

Halal meat can be bought from supermarkets and a halal butchery isn’t any more or less safe than any other butcheries. It’s the safety practices they follow to protect staff and customers safe that matter, not religious practices.

If the decision to close butcheries isn’t reversed millions of dollars of meat will have to be dumped. That would be an unconscionable waste.

The closure of butchers is also risking animal welfare:

The Government’s decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list during the COVID-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector, says an industry group.

All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses and been forced to close as part of the Alert Level 4 lock-down for COVID-19.

However NZ Pork said the decision would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

“By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue,” said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines . . 

Back to Act:

Trust The People

Underpinning the ‘essential’ approach is a belief that people can’t be trusted to judge what is safe. (Can I do this without coming within two metres of others?, without touching things other may have touched?).

Safety Approach: Essential For The Recovery

We are going to have to recover as an economy. Free Press is approached daily by businesspeople in a state of despair. Their working capital may or may not last the first four weeks, it certainly won’t last further. Being able to operate under a safety approach is, to borrow a term, essential. Essential to what? Essential to people protecting their livelihoods in the coming months. . . 

The more businesses that continue operating, the more people who are able to keep working, the less the economic and social damage the lockdown will inflict and the faster the recovery will be.

What Would A Safety Approach Look Like?

A safety approach would involve a basic set of rules that people must follow. A two metre rule (Free Press regrets this would exclude televised dance competitions). Can you do this whilst remaining two metres from others? Yes or no? A ‘touched object’ rule. Can you do this without touching objects others outside your household have touched? Yes or no? A regular testing approach. Can we guarantee regular testing and contact tracing is possible? Yes or no? Obviously there is more to do, but we need to start developing a safety approach rather than an essential approach, pronto.

The only justification for the lockdown is to keep us all safe.

Whether or not a business can operate safely should be the only criteria for allowing it to do so through the lockdown.

That won’t compromise personal health and will help economic and social health.


Global pig fever alert

26/07/2019

African Swine Fever has been declared a global pandemic by the World Organisation for Animal Health:

That is an international major event putting New Zealand’s $750 million commercial pork industry at risk, NZ Pork general manager David Baines said.

“It’s concerning. It isn’t going away. In fact, it’s got bigger,” Baines said.

NZ Pork, the Ministry for Primary Industries and AsureQuality have embarked on a nationwide education campaign to warn people keeping domestic pigs or coming into contact with feral pigs of the risks of the disease.

“The industry is taking the threat of the disease extremely seriously.

“Watching the disease spread through Europe and Asia demonstrates how devastating it could be if it reached NZ,” Baines said.

Though the disease has no effect on human health the only response is to cull infected herds. . .

While there have been no detections of the it in NZ, about 60% of pork consumed in NZ is imported from more than 25 countries including China, Poland and Belgium that are identified as having the fever.

The virus is exceptionally hardy and can survive almost indefinitely in frozen meat. 

It can also be carried on clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles. . .

It’s estimated pigs are kept on at least 5500 properties outside the commercial industry with an unknown number of animals.

“One of the things we’re really emphasising is the importance of not feeding untreated meat scraps to pigs,” Baines said.

“The major risk to our industry is that African swine fever gets into the lifestyle or para-commercial pig population through the feeding of untreated food scraps and from there into our commercial herd.”

In NZ it is illegal to feed meat to pigs unless it has been cooked at 100 degrees, essentially boiled, for one hour.

“This is a key biosecurity measure as African swine fever is a very hardy virus and can survive in pork products that might not have been cooked thoroughly as well as various types of processed pork products. 

“It can infect the pigs that eat them.” . . 

The pork industry has been calling for an end to imports of pork for years.

Until now that’s looked like a non-tariff barrier to protect the local industry from overseas competitors.

The risk of ASF provides a much stronger case for restricting imports on biosecurity grounds.


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