Rural round-up


Jane Smith on what urban people really think about farmers:

Although the Government may be “factose intolerant” when it comes to farming, urban people are hungry for more information says Jane Smith.

The North Otago farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that she had “some really robust conversations with urbanites” in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown recently.

“I’ve in effect sort of run my own referendum of what they really think about farmers and gosh, it’s been really insightful”. . .

Farmers fear significant losses – Toni Miller:

As farmers anxiously await the outcome of the Government’s Essential Freshwater plan, Ashburton farmer David Clark has outlined the significant losses it could have on his arable farm operation.

It includes crop income losses of 92%, sheep gross income losses of 62% and an expenditure decrease of 70%, affecting businesses, contractors and services in the district used by the farm.

He questioned how any government could suggest a plan that resulted in ”such economic vandalism”.

Mr Clark, attending a public meeting in Ashburton, organised by National Party opposition agricultural spokesman Todd Muller, said it was a comparative analysis based on a report done by Environment Canterbury’s head scientist Dr Tim Davie in 2017, using similar cutbacks for the Waihora Selwyn Zone. . .

Farmers fear loss of millions as slip repair wait continues – Aaron van Delden:

Waikura Valley farmers face missing out on millions in income during one of their most lucrative seasons of the year following a road slip three months ago.

Access to about 9000 hectares of some of the country’s most isolated productive land – about four hours’ drive north of Gisborne – was completely severed for several days when a slip came down on Waikura Road about 15km from the turnoff on State Highway 35.

The slip on 22 August left 36 valley residents from 13 households stranded in a part of the country that averages up to 3m of rain a year. . .

OAD milking brings environmental, financial benefits – Yvonne O’Hara:

Milking once a day year-round has both environmental and financial benefits, Dipton dairy farmer Jim Andrew says.

Mr Andrew and his wife Sandra bought and converted the Lumsden-Dipton highway property specifically for once-a-day milking full time, about 10 years ago.

He was born and bred on a Wairarapa sheep and beef farm before moving to Southland to become a rural manager for the Bank of New Zealand.

The Andrews then bought their own farm as part of a syndicate before buying the Dipton property. . .

Apple industry changes prompt some growers to get environmentally creative with plastic waste:

Significant growth and redevelopment in the apple industry has prompted some growers to get environmentally creative with the way they dispose of kilometres of plastic irrigation pipes.

New Zealand’s largest organic apple grower, Bostock New Zealand, pulled out 80 kilometres of irrigation pipes during winter and has teamed up with Aotearoa New Zealand Made to recycle it into black damp-proof film for the building Industry and black rubbish bags.

Bostock New Zealand Orchard waste coordinator Lisa Arnold said the initiative is a good way to give a new meaningful life to orchard waste. . .

Promising signs for drive for milling wheat self-sufficiency:

A big drop in the amount of unsold cereal grain since July, and continuing strong demand for milling wheat, are key features of the latest Arable Industry Marketing Initiative (AIMI) survey.

It is estimated unsold stocks of cereal grain, summed over all six crops, reduced by 44% between 1 July and 10 October.  “That’s a good sign, even if deliveries hadn’t happened by the time of the October survey, that people have been meeting the market and getting product sold,” Federated Farmers Arable Vice-Chairperson Grains, Brian Leadley, said.

Total production from the 2019 harvest (wheat, barley and oats) was 799,900 tonnes, about 25,000t up on the 2018 harvest. . .

Bias trumps science


There’s mixed news in Land, Air Water, Aotearoa (LAWA)’s 10-year trends report which was released yesterday:

. . .LAWA River Water Quality Lead Dr Tim Davie said the 10-year trends released today show the complexity of freshwater ecosystems.

“Looking at the trends, we see a mixed bag of improving and degrading sites across all water quality parameters. At the national level, for every parameter there are more sites showing signs of getting better than getting worse, except for the MCI trend which shows 2 out of 5 monitored sites are likely or very likely degrading,” said Dr Davie.

The MCI is used by scientists to monitor changes in macroinvertebrate populations because macroinvertebrates are responsive to multiple environmental changes such as flow, habitat, temperature, water quality and sediment. Macroinvertebrates are small animals (e.g. insects, worms, and snails) that live on or just below the stream-bed and are an important food source for fish.

“Macroinvertebrates are a good indicator of the wider health of waterways and have a high ecological value, so it’s disappointing to see they’re under pressure. 

“On the other hand, it’s positive to see improving trends for the eight chemical-physical water quality indicators as we know these are quicker to respond to change. It is particularly encouraging to see ammoniacal nitrogen improving at many sites given the work of councils in reducing point source discharge and farmers keeping stock out of waterways,” said Dr Davie. . . 

Dr Davie said that populations of freshwater insects, worms and snails were “likely or very likely degrading” at two out of five sites being monitored which was disappointing he  doesn’t think the overall picture is bleak:

“They respond to different things like climate, the amount of sediment and a lot of different things,” Dr Davie said.

“So they’re a better overall indicator [of the state of the ecosystem] but they do take longer to respond.

“We know that our river systems can take a long time for the macroinvertebrates to improve when you start doing things to improve them.”

It was positive to see improving trends for the eight other water quality indicators, including clarity, turbidity, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorus, Dr Davie said.

It is positive to see improvements in these indicators but of course not everyone thinks that:

However, Victoria University water scientist Mike Joy said snapshot samples of chemicals from sites selected by councils were giving skewed results.

“You can have what look like improvements because the amount of nitrate is going down in the water,” Dr Joy said.

“But what you haven’t accounted for is the amount of algae going up in the water.

“And that’s why the invertebrates are showing virtually the opposite [to the other results] because they have been wiped out – they can’t survive because of oxygen depletion and their habitat being smothered by algae. That’s the invertebrates showing the true story that the nitrates aren’t showing.” . . 

Meanwhile, farming and irrigation and population pressure continued to degrade waterways, he said.

“I’d love to know how anyone would expect it could be getting better when we haven’t done anything to make it better.” . . 

His bias is trumping the science here.

Rivers in areas with irrigation are generally cleaner than those in areas without irrigation.

It is also wrong to say farming continues to degrade waterways and “we haven’t done anything to make it better.”

Dr Davie said there was a lot of work going on trying to keep stock out of rivers and planting alongside rivers – but the flow-on effects for macroinvertebrates took longer. . .

Farmers have spent, and are continuing to spend, considerable money and time creating and protecting wetlands, fencing off waterways and doing riparian planting.

Water quality didn’t degrade suddenly and it won’t magically improve overnight.

But the report shows more sites are improving than degrading which indicates changing practices and protective measures are having a positive impact.




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