Rural round-up

December 18, 2017

Let’s crunch the facts and the debate on irrigation – AgriView NZ:

The Labour Government’s decision to cut additional funding for new irrigation plans has sparked debate over the value of irrigation to agriculture and the economy in recent weeks. According to the 2017 Manifesto on water policy, Labour will “Honour existing commitments, but remove Crown subsidies for the funding of further water storage and irrigation schemes”, a measure falling under the government’s wider aims to improve water quality nationwide, and “restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable state within a generation”.

For Dr. Mike Joy, senior lecturer in Ecology and Zoology at Massey University’s Institute of Agriculture and Environment, the negative environmental impacts of intensive irrigated systems are undeniable. . . 

Lepto no longer men-only disease – Peter Burke:

With more women working in farming, more are contracting the disease leptospirosis, says the president of Rural Women NZ, Fiona Gower.

She told Dairy News, at a recent international conference on leptospirosis in Palmerston North, that the changing nature of the workforce on farms and in the rural sector generally means this disease is no longer a probably only for men.

Women are getting to work on farms in their own right or in a partnership, “feeding calves, milking cows, doing work with the stock — much more hands on these days”. . . 

The AstinoTM: New Zealand’s newest sheep breed moves wool up the value chain:

Developed by wool innovation specialists Lanaco, The Astino is bred specifically for the company’s premium, wool-based healthcare products – offering farmers the opportunity for better wool returns.

Breeder Andy Ramsden says Astino represents a positive step-change in the industry.

“It’s increasingly clear that supplying generic wool on the open market is not sustainable. The way forward for farmers is twofold – transitioning to innovative new breeds that are branded and controlled and forming partnerships with manufacturers like Lanaco, who have the global reach and marketing capability to earn a premium”. . . 

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Did ewe know . . .  wool clothing helps your skin breathe and regulate temperate better.

New national Dairying Award announced:

A new national award will recognise dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainable dairying and who are ambassadors for the industry.

The Fonterra Farm Source Responsible Dairying Award has been introduced by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards to recognise those dairy farmers who are respected by their farming peers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying.

Rachel Baker, NZDIA Executive Chair, says that farmers are being encouraged to share stories of how they are farming responsibly, both environmentally and socially. . . 

Beef reads into the headlines – Shan Goodwin:

BY 2020, health related expenditure in Australia is expected to overtake the spend on restaurants and hotels.

Meanwhile, incomes are growing fast in Asia.

Dishonest companies are being exposed online.

Consumers are looking for country of label origins on food packaging.

And the plethora of competing sources of information means nobody knows what or who to trust.

As inconceivable at it may seem, these apparent peripheral tidbits all have quite the potential to influence the future fortunes of the Australian cattle producer. . .

We must not take NAFTA’s blessings for granted – Tim Burrack:

How is NAFTA good for your children and grandchildren?” A very direct – and insightful – question asked by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at a recent round of NAFTA talks, according to an account in last week’s Wall Street Journal.

Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, a railroad executive who described the incident, offered his own response in an op-ed. He cited the usual statistics: U.S. farm exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled since NAFTA lowered tariffs in the 1990s. Without this trade agreement, he wrote, the billions of dollars in goods and services that we now sell to Canadians and Mexicans “would be replaced by products from other markets,” such as Europe and South America.

All that’s true. I’ll even take it a step further: Without NAFTA, America’s agriculture-dependent heartland would sink into a new depression. . . 

Early releases and empty aisles: is this the beginning of the wnd to the #StockShowLife? – Uptown Farms:

The North American International Livestock Exposition is wrapping up and as is customary, my newsfeed is filled with pictures from the green shavings.

There’s an emerging theme to this year’s photos and posts- one of emptiness. The show introduced a new, shortened schedule for the first time in years, drastically reducing the number of animals and people that held over to the end.

Those exhibitors still left are posting pictures of empty barn aisles and vacant ringside seats, even while Supreme Champions are being selected.

It’s heartbreaking. . . 


Rural round-up

August 30, 2016

Pet theories don’t make water safer:

Federated Farmers urges the public to apply some good old-fashioned common sense and scrutinice the statements of activists as they push their anti-farming agendas in the wake of the Havelock North water-borne gastrointestinal disease outbreak.

Top of the list would be Dr Mike Joy’s statements on The Nation last Sunday where he said:

“’Central and local government had allowed massive intensification [of dairying] that had caused the problem’ when in fact the closest dairy farm we can find is some 40 kilometres away”, Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston says.

Or his statement that “animals have to come out of agriculture”.

“The sanity of this statement for New Zealand can stand on its own merits.

“In the context of this bacterial episode he said that ‘over time you find it deeper and deeper and deeper [in the groundwater]’ when it is known that as water penetrates the ground, bacteria are progressively filtered out and their survival diminishes.” . . .

GoodYarn mental health scheme award winner – Sally Rae:

A rural mental health initiative developed by WellSouth has received international recognition.

WellSouth’s health promotion team was named joint winner of best mental health promotion/mental illness prevention at the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Services Conference in Auckland for its GoodYarn programme.

GoodYarn was developed specifically for farming communities to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of stress and mental illness, to give people the confidence to talk with someone when they were concerned, and to know where to get help. . . 

Farmers: we will fight for livelihoods – Tim Miller:

Farmers in Tarras are prepared to go all the way to the Environment Court to protect their livelihoods.

Members of the Lindis Catchment Group voted at a meeting in Tarras last night to  appeal the Otago Regional Council’s decision to set a minimum flow rate for the Lindis River catchment at 900 litres per second from October 1 to May 31 every year.

Committee member and local farmer Bruce Jolly said 26 members of the catchment group voted unanimously in favour of appealing the decision. . . 

 

Cattle theft would’ve need 10 trucks – Federated farmers:

A possible theft of 500 dairy cows from a Canterbury farm has stumped police investigating their disappearance.

Pennie Ormsby-Saunders told Newshub she has a herd of 1300 cows but last week noticed more than a third of them were missing.

Rick Powdrell from Federated Farmers says stock thefts are a concerning trend.

“In recent times there’ve been a number of thefts in that area. Now whether these are connected, we don’t know. . . 

Stand built for world champs – Sally Rae:

Four South Otago men will have little time to admire their handiwork when the world’s best shearers and woolhandlers converge on Invercargill next year.

Since May, Otago Shears committee members Bruce Walker, Ken Payne, Neville Leslie and Geoff Finch have spent 130 hours preparing the shearing stand for the Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling championships.

About 4500 sheep will be shorn by competitors from about 30 countries at ILT Stadium Southland from February 9 to 11. . . 

US ag exports expected to rise by $6 billion in 2017:

US agricultural exports are expected to rise in 2017 from 2016 levels, largely due to higher exports of oilseeds and products, horticultural products, cotton, and livestock, dairy, and poultry.

According to the latest Outlook for US Agricultural Trade Report from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, agricultural exports in fiscal year 2017 are projected at $133.0 billion, up $6.0 billion from the revised fiscal 2016 forecast of $127.0 billion.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “These numbers once again demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of US farmers and ranchers in the face of continued challenges. . . 


Do you hear the people . . .

June 21, 2014

Protests by the usual suspects on the left aren’t unusual.

It takes a lot more than the usual disgruntlements to get other people on to the streets in any number which makes yesterday’s Don’t Damn the Dam rally a serious sign of popular support.

RivettingKate Taylor recorded the rally in words and photos:

CHB people gathered in Waipukurau in their droves this morning to support the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. The dam.

I was going to say hundreds of people lined the streets, but I really have no way of quantifying how many people were there. Watch the news tonight – they might tell you. Suffice to say, in Kate terms, there were lots and lots.

Farmers, bankers, fertiliser reps, spreader drivers and two former regional councillors Ewan McGregor and Kevin Rose, who are probably secretly glad the decision is not up to them anymore.

There were tractors, utes, motorbikes, stock trucks and a few huntaways. . .

After clogging up the state highway system for a wee while, the vehicle possession (bigger than the annual Christmas parade but no Santa!!) parked up and the “green space” on “post office corner” was filled with claps and cheers for Mr Streeter and Mr Heaton, HB Federated Farmers president Will Foley and local fifth-generation farmer (and CHBDC district councillor) Andrew Watts. We also heard from someone from Timaru who had seen the growth in South Canterbury from the Opuha dam and resulting irrigation systems. . . .

I think the someone from Timaru was Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston.

Feds is firmly behind the project, but Hawkes Bay provincial president Will Foley is concerned about nutrient limits:

Last month, Massey’s Dr Mike Joy told a Canterbury audience, “The nitrate toxicity in some waterways is 10 times the safe level already. We have gone from safe levels of 1.9 millilitres a litre, to 3.8ml/l in Canterbury.”

With the Tukituki Board of Inquiry proposing a limit of 0.8 milligrams per litre for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, it would seem contradictory, but its draft decision is about a very different limit – what it believes is good for ecosystem health.  And on the nitrate toxicity score, the draft National Objectives Framework has set 6.9ml/l as the bottomline and the Tukituki is not even remotely close. 

So let’s park Dr Joy and focus on what we all want to achieve for the Tukituki. 

That means remembering why we started out in the first place.  It was to tackle an algae that’s been with us forever called Periphyton.  Everyone agrees it’s a problem so what’s the solution?

We get Periphyton because the Tukituki is a rocky river running warm during summer low flows.  Its growth is exacerbated by nitrogen and phosphorus so Hawke’s Bay Regional Council came up with a three-pronged approach hitting phosphorus, managing nitrogen and increasing water flows. 

In all the debate since, this environmental solution with strong economic benefits has been parked out of sight.

You can only increase water flow during summer by storing rainwater and that’s where Ruataniwha comes in.  This extra water helps to cool the Tukituki during summer while flushing it of Periphyton.  That’s been the experience of South Canterbury’s Opuha scheme on a similar river. 

We’ve had a similar improvement in the Waiareka Creek from the North Otago Irrigation Company scheme.

It used to be little more than a series of stagnant ponds. Now with guaranteed minimum flows from irrigation water it runs clean and wildlife has re-established.

Another experience is the economic boon Opuha has been to South Canterbury.

Yet during the Board of Inquiry, Dr Joy’s colleague Dr Death, helped to shift the focus off Periphyton and towards the stream life of rivers using a model developed for the Manawatu; a very different river to our Tukituki. Arguably, that’s how a limit of 0.8mg/l entered the minds of the Board of Inquiry, but how many invertebrates found in water doesn’t correlate to any one nutrient. 

Ironically, it was Fish and Game’s Corina Jordan who confirmed that while nitrogen and clearly phosphorus have impacts, so does river flow, sediment, light intensity and temperature.  The upshot being that there is no straight line relationship between a limit of 0.8mg/l and invertebrate health. 

Farmers like me are not in denial because Federated Farmers is okay with having a number, but that number must be an indicator and not chiselled into granite.  Especially since that number was derived from a model not validated for the Tukituki River and especially since Dr Death’s use of the Macroinvertebrate Community Index happens to be an indicator itself.

The Hawke’s Bay community needs a solution but the proposed limit of 0.8mg/l is so blunt, it makes Ruataniwha untenable. 

The Port of Napier is right to call Ruataniwha a game changer for the entire Hawke’s Bay region.  Before Ruataniwha’s viability was compromised we were talking about a quarter of a billion dollar boost each and every year.  If 0.8 remains as a hard limit, it not only kills the dam but means the region going forward will become $50 million poorer each year.  

Unless 0.8 becomes an indicator it will seriously compromise all the farming we currently have.  We’re not just talking sheep and beef but the guys who grow crops, the guys who run orchards, those who milk and even the guys who grow the grapes our region is famous for.

A hard limit of 0.8 means no Ruataniwha leaving us with Periphyton, a worsening economy and increasingly, rivers suffering from ever lower and warmer flows due to drought.  If farms convert to forestry we can possibly add sediment to that list.  Can anyone tell me what the environmental or community upside is? 

Dr Doug Edmeades wrote recently, “the best pieces of advice I was given as a young scientist: ‘Edmeades, I do not give a damn for your opinion what are the facts.”  Opinion seems the basis for 0.8mg/l but it is fact that it’s 14 times more stringent than the international standard for drinking water.  Don’t damn our dam.

Water storage and the irrigation it enables can improve both water quantity and quality.

It provides recreational opportunities and a significant economic boost. Farmers will make the biggest investment and take the biggest risk but as the people rallying yesterday obviously realise the benefits will flow right through the community in more jobs and more business opportunities with the economic and social boost that will bring.

The people of Hawkes Bay spoke through their support for the rally yesterday.

The Regional Council will show whether or not it heard them when it makes it decision on supporting the project, or not.


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