Meet Dairy Women’s Network’s new chair

November 6, 2019

Cathy Brown has stepped down from her role as chair of the Dairy Women’s Network and North Island farmer Karen Forlong has succeeded her.

. . .Dairy Women’s Network CEO Jules Benton said she was looking forward to working more closely with Forlong as “she’s just so passionate about dairy, and in particular women’s role in dairy.”

Benton also paid tribute to the Brown, who has been chair for three years, saying her commitment and support has been invaluable, thanking her for all her efforts and guidance.

“She is not at the front of the bus anymore, but is still on another seat on the bus,” Benton told attendees at last week’s AGM while DairyNZ CEO Dr Tim Mackle said she should be proud of all the network has achieved while she has been its chair.

Farming near Atiamuri, Forlong has been a member since the network was formed in 2000, having experienced various roles that includes conference committee involvement in 2005 and 2012 then becoming Conference Chair in 2014, participation in the Agri-Women’s Development Trust Escalator Program, a leadership and governance programme for women involved in primary industries and rural communities and is Chair of Vetora BoP, a incorporated society vet club with a 75 year history in the Rotorua region.

“I really appreciate what a great privilege it is to find myself in this position now,” she said. “I’m a really inclusive person, and something I’ve learnt from our previous chair Cathy and hold very dear is the fact that the gold is always in the room.”

I see myself as the conductor of a great orchestra, and I’m not actually playing an instrument, I’m just there to bring all of the fabulous components together.”

She says women in dairy can find their sense of belonging and tribe at Dairy Women’s Network. “It was a phone call from Pattie O’Boyle in 2000 asking me to be part of the first meeting of the regional group for Rotorua that gave me a place to land, a tribe, somewhere that was safe and was a place of trust.”

“Dairy Women’s Network realises life is not a series of silo’s but is the complexity of many things coming into balance; family, people, the team, the community, animals, environment and financial wellbeing that are all are reliant on each other.”

“Connection is the cornerstone of a strong culture and our rural communities and Dairy Women’s Network is a connector as it delivers through face-to-face connections and through technology and online engagement.”

“The Dairy Women’s Network as place to land is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.  That place needs to feel inclusive, that it will stand with you on your journey, support you, bring to the table the truth and separate the noise from the facts and impart clear and concise  .”

She stressed that Dairy Women’s Network needs to grow leaders, to be the enabler and the cheerleader behind the voices of the future, taking on the role as story tellers.

“The industry needs an engaged, full noise voice,” she said.  “One that is consolidated, unified, loud and proud.  We as a Network need to be part of the collaborative approach for our future and as women we are intrinsically wired to function in this state, so we have a responsibility to use this skill and drive it, unrelentingly.”

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NZ can’t afford $6b/year

October 31, 2019

The government’s Essential Freshwater proposal would cost far more than the country can afford:

Economic modelling by DairyNZ shows the proposed Essential Freshwater package could significantly harm New Zealand’s dairy sector and the wider national economy – by 2050, costing $6 billion per year. . .

DairyNZ initiated three studies into the potential economic effects of the Essential Freshwater proposals, two are independent and all three have been peer-reviewed.

The economic studies are supported by additional technical research by DairyNZ which analyses the likely water quality improvements. DairyNZ’s full submission will be released by end of day Thursday, October 31.

“The economic modelling shows us that the proposed Essential Freshwater policy package is one of the largest economic challenges posed to the dairy sector in a generation – its full effect could lead to a fall in our GDP of $6 billion by 2050, without even adding additional costs related to climate change,” said DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle.

The proposals focus only on the environmental leg of the sustainability stool and ignore the economic and social ones.

“But what is really crucial is that we believe other options are available to improve and strengthen the protection of ecosystem health and we will be outlining these in our full submission.

“The proposed freshwater changes would result in significant declines in milk production and is therefore a serious threat to the international competitiveness of New Zealand’s dairy sector.

“However, water quality and emissions gains can still be made with less stringent reforms, at a lesser cost to the New Zealand economy. Farmers care deeply about the environment and have been doing their bit to protect the environment and our waterways for some time,” said Dr Mackle.

This is the water farming families drink and use for recreation. It is in our interests to protect and enhance its quality.

“They are absolutely onboard with continuing to play their part in improving our waterways, however stringent changes cannot be at the detriment of farming’s future and the communities they support. We need to approach this carefully, balancing environment and economy – we can achieve both goals by working closely together on this issue.

“The economic analysis shows potential significant impact. By 2050, total milk production is forecast to fall by 24 percent and all national exports by 5.2 percent or $8.1 billion.”

Tax revenue from dairy is also forecast to more than halve by 2050, with an annual loss of $0.54 billion at the national level. . .

The forecast from the independent Sense Partners showed an extra  $1 billion loss  and another 4 percent reduction in milk production.

Where would that money come from if it didn’t come from dairying?

The more moderate freshwater reforms, in isolation, are not expected to have the same degree of economic impact.

“Four scenarios were modelled and scenarios one and two, which include actions around fencing, farm plans, capital expenditure, consented stand-off pads and nitrogen caps in priority catchments, had less financial impact for farmers and therefore the economy,” said Dr Mackle.

“In contrast, the consideration of proposed nutrient limits under scenario three was forecast to impose a significant financial burden on the dairy sector. Research by DairyNZ also shows that these limits – broadscale introduction of phosphorus and nitrogen leaching reductions in monitored catchments – are based on overly simplistic relationships and not supported by robust science.

“It is under these more stringent reforms that dairy will struggle to contribute as significantly to the national economy, as it does now.” . . .

The flow-effects would spread from farms to rural communities and beyond.

Southland, Taranaki, Marlborough and West Coast are likely to be most negatively affected. By 2050, GDP could fall in Southland by up to 3.6 percent; Taranaki by up to 2.9 percent; Marlborough by up to 3.2 percent and West Coast by up to 2.9 percent. Waikato would also be significantly affected.

“The proposed changes potentially compromise the vitality of regional communities, due to the importance of processing jobs as well as farm profits and expenses being a key source of revenue for other businesses,” said Dr Mackle.

Less milk means 15-20 percent less jobs and reduced competitiveness in global markets. This is an issue because nearly one-third of exported goods and 46,000 jobs are associated with dairy production in New Zealand.

“The proposed Essential Freshwater changes constitute substantial business risk for New Zealand dairy farms, with the number of insolvent farms forecast to jump from 2 to 11 percent by 2050.

“Dairy is here to play our part but it must be done in a way that supports the community and all Kiwis while working towards improved water quality.” . .

The freshwater proposals are yet another example of policy the country can’t afford from a government we can’t afford.

You can read more ofDairyNZ’s economic assessment on the proposals here.


Playing for the payer

September 18, 2019

What’s the value of dairying to the economy? It depends who you ask:

The recent NZIER report trivialises the significant role the dairy sector plays in New Zealand’s economy – and fails to look at the specifics of the Government’s freshwater package, according to DairyNZ.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the report, commissioned by Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace, is less an economic report and more a high-level commentary on the dairy sector’s role in the economy – and paints an inaccurate picture.

“This is yet another case of environmental lobbyists targeting dairy farmers – who are people trying to do the right thing by the environment and who are actively working to make changes on-farm to protect it,” said Dr Mackle. “By singling out dairy farmers, they are ignoring other contributors to water quality and, therefore, are limiting our ability to actually fix the problems where they exist.

“The NZIER report trivialised dairy’s role in the economy – 3 percent of GDP equates to 28 percent of merchandise exports and one-fifth of goods and services exports coming from the dairy sector.

“The NZIER report does not analyse the economic benefits of dairy to regional communities – which is a critical aspect of dairy farming’s contribution to NZ Inc. Dairying is the engine of the regions, in terms of income and jobs. For example, it is the top income earner in Waikato, West Coast and Southland.

“Yesterday we saw the latest MPI Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which showed dairy makes up $18.1b of $46.4b exports to June 2019. Dairy exports were up $1.47b last year – this has flow-on effects to our communities, where we employ 46,000 people on and off-farm.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) recently completed an advisory report on the Essential Freshwater Package that showed that national limits for nitrogen and phosphorus would potentially impose very large costs on agriculture.

“In that report, it referred to a Waikato modelling study which found that land-use change was required to achieve the nitrogen and phosphorus limits proposed – with changes resulting in a dairy revenue loss of $140m per year,” said Dr Mackle

The LGNZ report showed that these goals require an enormous amount of land use change to take place, with many farms becoming uneconomic and communities being impacted negatively due to rural depopulation and a loss of annual income.

“Modelling for Southland showed that achieving a 9 percent reduction in nitrogen loss would reduce dairy profits by $17m a year,” said Dr Mackle.

“In terms of innovation, dairy farmers are an extremely innovative sector but the reality is that all land users play a role in water quality and more than innovation is required – it also needs broadscale adoption by all land users.

“As a sector, we are solutions-focused – and have been for years, and our farmers have been voluntarily working to look after their land and waterways. Our Water Accord shows a range of great progress, including fencing 98% of significant dairy waterways and stock crossing points or culverts for almost all waterways nationwide.

“We all acknowledge there is more work to be done – but we need to work together and recognise when good work is happening and allow time for change to occur.”

NZIER produced a report that played the tune the payers – Fish & Game, Forest & Bird and Greenpeace – wanted.

In doing so it seriously undervalued the economic importance of dairying in and to New Zealand and seriously underestimated the devastating impact the freshwater proposals would have on rural communities and the country.


Rural round-up

September 7, 2019

Farmer’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern: Part 2 –  Andrew Stewart:

 Last month Rangitikei farmer Andrew Stewart wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about his concerns over climate change and farming. In his follow up letter, he calculates his farm’s emissions profile and finds some worrying statistics.

Nearly a month ago I wrote an emotive open letter to Jacinda Ardern and the farming leaders of New Zealand.

My motivation was to try and articulate what I was feeling as a sheep and beef farmer in regards to climate change obligations.

Now I want to share the facts about my own farm and my emissions profile that inspired me to write the open letter. . . 

Time to recognise real progress made by dairy farmers – Tim Mackle:

I can remember a time not so long ago when more than 70 per cent of the country loved our dairy farmers, but it feels like things have changed in recent times. Farmers are doing their best to stay “relentlessly positive” in the face of relentless criticism, but it’s not easy.

Some commentators are quick to stand back and fire shots at farmers from a distance, but what does that actually achieve? It’s easy to criticise our dairy sector in the New York Times.

It’s much harder to voluntarily put in fencing at your own cost that almost runs the equivalent of New Zealand to New York and back – but that’s exactly what our dairy farmers have done.

New Zealand dairy farmers have fenced off 24,744km of waterways. That means that 97.5 per cent of the significant waterways on New Zealand dairy farms are now excluded from dairy cattle. We have also constructed bridges and culverts for more than 99.7 per cent of 44,386 regular stock crossing points on dairy farms. . . 

Water plan cautiously welcomed, but deadline tight, say dairy, beef, lamb sectors :

The Government’s water proposals will not work as a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to dairy and sheep and beef farmers, says Sam McIvor. The Beef+Lamb chief executive spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, along with DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle about the Action Plan for Healthy Waterways which was announced yesterday.

While both Mackle and McIvor said they welcomed the idea behind the freshwater plan, they still have concerns for their industries.

Government figures showed the average annual cost on the proposals would be $9350 for a lowland dairy farm, but a hill country sheep and beef farmer could be looking at $14,850. . . 

Social licence to operate just as important as methane reduction – Allan Barber:

Amid all the debate about agriculture’s responsibility to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, and the appropriate levels for those targets, it may seem counterintuitive to claim an equally pressing problem is to earn a licence to operate. Just as great a threat to agriculture’s future is not whether it faces a potentially unachievable government imposed target, but a business environment in which consumers make their decisions based on their perception of the acceptability of the food they eat.

All primary production sectors – red meat, dairy, horticulture, fisheries, forestry and the rest – must recognise they are in competition for the attention of consumers who increasingly have the luxury and the right to decide between products they consume on the basis of multiple dimensions, way beyond the traditional choice based on taste, price and availability. While we are continually told the world’s population will provide ready markets for more than New Zealand can produce, we are also being made increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and working with instead of exploiting the environment. . .

Oamaru’s Berry family are breaking the mound with special blue cheese – Lucy Corry:

Simon Berry eats blue cheese on toast for breakfast. Not every day, of course, but he has to do his bit to support the family business. “I love all our cheeses, but the blue’s the best,” he says. “It depends on the season, because there’s so much scope. I mean, I do love the halloumi. But yeah, I’m definitely a blue cheese guy.”

It’s not as if he doesn’t have a wide variety to choose from. Whitestone Cheese, the company started by his father Bob and mother Sue back in 1987, now produces 25 different cheeses from its Oamaru factory. One of those cheeses — the Vintage Windsor Blue that Simon is so fond of having on his toast of a morning — is now exported to France. It also won a gold medal in the 2019 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards, along with Whitestone’s Ferry Road Halloumi (the highest scoring cheese in the awards) and its Vintage Five Forks.

Wool footwear:

Thanks to our more active lifestyles and casual approach to dressing, runners are undoubtedly one of the most popular items in today’s global market. The success of wool in footwear lies not only in the fibre’s natural properties, but also in its ability to be constructed in a way that aids performance.

Using the latest fully-fashioned knitting technology, wool footwear can be knitted to its final shape, reducing the amount of wastage associated with regular cut-and-sew techniques.

Wool fibres can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour and then allow it to evaporate, helping keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. . .


We all want clean water but

September 6, 2019

There’s no argument on the goal of clean freshwater but there’s significant angst in rural New Zealand over the way the government plans to get it.

We all want clean water, but not in a way that drastically increases the cost of farming and therefore food, destroys livelihoods and communities, and sabotages the economy.

Federated Farmers says the government’s proposals for cleaner freshwater throw farmers under the tractor:

Federated Farmers estimates large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released today.

The Essential Freshwater announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80%. 

“It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this,” Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.   

“The long term targets for nitrogen reduction, are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas.”

Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to ‘GMP’ – good management practice policy.

“But with today’s proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand.”

Feds has one simple message for the government, freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers are already doing the work.

“Lumping regional councils, with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone’s rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results,”  Chris says.

“Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts,” Chris says.

“Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway.”

Feds is particularly concerned about the proposed “interim controls” which will have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there will be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.

“The discussion documents say an ‘interim control’ is not a ban.  But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it’s a ban, pure and simple,” Chris says.

This ban will have a significantly negative knock-on effect for all rural and urban communities where the activity of the primary sector is the lifeblood earner for the cafes, sports clubs, banks, insurance companies, car dealerships, restaurants, shopping malls and all the other people downstream of New Zealand’s largest earner.

“All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence.”

Federated Farmers encourages all farmers to do their best to input into this process despite the short consultation period of six weeks and it being at the busiest time of the year for farmers.

Beef + Lamb NZ says the proposals would make sheep and beef farmers sacrificial lambs:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says plans to lock down current land uses will have a disproportionate effect on the majority of sheep and beef farms that are low input, extensive systems with a light touch on the environment.

“The sheep and beef sector’s vision is for New Zealanders to continue to be able to swim in and collect food from the freshwater surrounding sheep and beef farms,” says B+LNZ’s Chairman Andrew Morrison. 

‘Sheep and beef farmers are committed to protecting the health of our waterways and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far, however, we know there is still more work to be done.  

“The Essential Freshwater proposals are comprehensive and will take time to assess, however, we are deeply concerned by some of the analysis we have seen – including modelling that suggests 68 percent of drystock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations, while more intensive land uses largely remain the same.

Forestry isn’t necessarily good for water quality with sediment and slash washing into waterways after harvesting.

“These proposals will undermine the viability of a low-intensity sector which supports over 80,000 jobs and generates exports of $9.1 billion a year.  It risks decimating rural communities, especially when coupled with other proposed policies such as the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Ultimately, we are concerned the sheep and beef sector will bear a disproportionate impact of the proposed policies, far outweighing the environmental impact of our farming systems.”

Issues around nitrogen leaching are driven primarily by cattle stocking rates and high loadings of nitrogen fertiliser, leading to greater concentrations of nitrate leaching into waterways. 

“Most sheep and beef farming systems operate within the natural capacity of the land due to our low stocking rates and efficient, low input farming model,” says Mr Morrison.

“Our nitrogen leaching rates are low and in catchments where sheep and beef farms are the predominant farming system, nitrogen levels are not an issue. 

“The sheep and beef sector’s main water health issues are sediment, phosphorus and intensive winter grazing on crops.  We are committed to addressing our contribution to these issues and understand the need for increased oversight for activities which pose a higher environmental risk.

“However, the devil is in the detail and we will be looking to ensure any new requirements are matched to the environmental effects we are looking to manage.

“The Essential Freshwater proposals that will likely have the greatest impact on sheep and beef farmers are a range of “grandparenting” provisions that restrict land use change, and flexibility within a farming system to diversify.

“In doing this, the greatest flexibility is provided for those that currently undertake high intensity, high discharging land uses.

“New Zealand’s most sustainable and low intensity farming systems, those with the lightest environmental footprint, will have no flexibility moving forward to adapt to these and or other environmental pressures.  The success of our farming system has been the ability to adapt and diversify.”

The approach proposed also fails to take into account the other benefits that extensive farming systems provide such as biodiversity and supporting healthy and vibrant rural communities, says Mr Morrison. 

“The government’s objective of “holding the line” is understandable, but the way it would be implemented will lead to a perverse outcome where blanket limits are placed on everyone, even though individual farmers’ contribution to the problem differs wildly.

“While the government says these are interim controls until councils have new plans in place, there are no timeframes and based on our previous experience, councils’ processes will take many years. During that time, the damage will be done.”   

Sheep and beef farmers have been working to address a wide range of environmental issues, he says.  

“We are committed to addressing freshwater quality issues such as erosion, E.coli and phosphorous by working towards all farmers having land and environment plans by 2021.  Our sector has already lifted this from 36 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2019, and many farmers are getting involved in catchment communities.

“While there is still more to do, in-stream sediment concentrations have been improving as farmers have been planting native and poplar trees in erosion prone areas and retiring some land from production.   

“It appears from the proposal that many sheep and beef farmers will be punished for doing the right thing.  Over the last 30 years we’ve doubled export revenue from the industry while reducing our land use foot print, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. 

“At the same time our sheep and beef farms are a reservoir for almost three million hectares of native vegetation, making up nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s remaining native vegetation and including 1.4 million hectares of native forest, which co-exists alongside productive agriculture.” 

B+LNZ has extensive resources to support farmers in adopting best management practice for intensive winter grazing on crops and has over the last year led a pan-sector process to develop common policy solutions and build on industry initiatives to manage these activities. 

DairyNZ makes a plea: let’s all improve our waterways without destroying rural communities:

Today’s Essential Freshwater Package shows healthy and swimmable waterways are important to all New Zealanders, including dairy farmers, who share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the dairy sector and our farmers share the same vision communities, Maori and Government have to protect and improve our freshwater resources.

“The Essential Freshwater Package announced today provides a real opportunity for everyone to have their say in this important conversation. We know we can’t farm without healthy water and land, and we reflect this in our Dairy Tomorrow sector strategy, and we need to acknowledge the work that’s already taken place,” said Dr Mackle.

“Our dairy sector is already on the journey to improve and protect water quality and our farmers have been working towards this for more than a decade.”

Dr Mackle said at the same time it is acknowledged that, in some catchments, community expectations for water quality has not yet been met. Here, further action is required by all land users, including dairy, to halt a decline and longer-term solutions put in place to restore the health of these waterways.

“This policy package focuses not only on dairy but all land use activities, including sheep and beef, horticulture and urban activities, reflecting that we all have a part to play in improving our waterways,” said Dr Mackle.

But it doesn’t focus on bird life. The major contributor to the poor quality of some waterways is birds, for example the seagulls which nest on rocks beside the Kakanui River.

“We agree with a focus on ecosystem health and alongside this, options to better track the impact of improvements farmers are making to work towards this. However, we have serious concerns that the proposed approach of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus may not achieve improved ecosystem health and could have a significant impact on the viability of farm businesses and rural communities. We need to understand this better and what it means for our water quality, farmers and for the country.

“We know from experience that regulation is one tool, but hearts and minds are vital to create enduring change. We also want this to be grounded in facts and science, as well as economic and social analysis.

“Many things impact on ecosystem health, nutrients are often not the key driver. It will be important to recognise a catchment-by-catchment targeted approach as opposed to blanket one-size-fits all rules.

Solutions to problems in one catchment, or even part of a catchment, may not be applicable to all.

“We believe further uptake of Good Farming Practices and Farm Environment Plans across all farms, catchments and land users nationally is an effective way to accelerate further improvements,” said Dr Mackle. “Over 3000 farms already have a comprehensive Farm Environment Plan and we support that every farm has have one by 2025.

“Overall we support the intent of the Essential Freshwater Package but we haven’t been involved in its development, so we need to understand the proposed policies in more detail.

“It is important the policies contribute to meaningful improvements in water quality for the community and there are realistic expectations for all landowners.

“We believe on-farm initiatives are already contributing to maintaining or improving water quality across many catchments and the most recent LAWA report supports this, with almost all water quality measures showing more sites improving, than not.”

Dr Mackle said there is an opportunity to extend on the good work already done by promoting good farming principles across all catchments, farms and land owners. “This should build on successful sector initiatives, including the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, and we don’t want to see our good work undone.

“Our farmers are adaptable and have made significant changes to how we farm over the last 30 years. We will continue to learn and make changes into the future,” said Dr Mackle.

“We recognise that over time, future land use may look different than it does today. It is important that farmers have the certainty, tools and adequate transition time to continue on the journey and make the changes that may be needed over the next generation.

“Looking forward, we are encouraged by the prospect of a vibrant primary sector and rural communities, benefiting from healthy and resilient waterways.”

These proposals are typical of so many of the governments that don’t follow the science and take a balanced approach to sustainability taking into account economic, environmental and social impacts.

Water quality degraded over many years and reversing that will take time.

You can download a copy of Action for Healthy Waterways here.


Rural round-up

August 24, 2019

Climate report gives much needed detail – Pam TIpa:

The latest IPCC Special Report has the potential to turn the way we look at climate change on its head, says DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

It highlights the challenges of providing sustainable food for a growing population and says animal sourced food from sustainable systems has a role to play.

The IPCC Special Report, released this month, is a “welcome contribution” to the developing debate on climate, says Mackle. . .

Milk shake – Why the future of dairy looks scary – Teresa Cowie:

Dairy’s huge role earning export dollars for New Zealand is facing a threat some say could bring it to its knees. Lab-grown milk protein is now stepping outside niche cheese and ice cream markets and into the bulk ingredient arena. As Teresa Cowie has been finding out, a fight for this bulk commodity market could have serious consequences for our dairy industry.

At a lab in San Francisco, scientists working for New Zealand synthetic dairy start-up New Culture are trying to work out how they can produce mozzarella that looks, tastes and very importantly stretches like the real thing. Across the Pacific at home in Auckland, the company’s founder Matt Gibson says, as a vegan himself, the plant-based cheese offerings that refuse to melt properly and fail to satisfy in the taste department drew him towards exploring yeast fermented dairy protein, that cuts out the need for cows.

Plant-based diets are moving from niche to mainstream as consumers become more aware of the issues of animal welfare, climate change and pressure to feed the growing population. And this shift is predicted to be a huge disruption for New Zealand dairy, as makers of lab-produced products race to take over the ingredients market our farmers rely on. . . 

Pragmatism sweeps into Mackenzie debate – David Williams:

An environmental group floats ideas for protecting the Mackenzie Basin’s landscapes. David Williams reports.

It’s both the poster child and the problem child.

Turqouise lakes and tawny tussocks draw more than a million tourists to the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin each year. But many believe irrigation-fuelled intensive farming – on former Crown-owned leases, often, within easy view of the highway – is ruining landscapes and sending mixed messages to turn tourists off.

The Government won’t buy the whole basin, so how do you balance protection with economic activity, while acknowledging those, including Māori, with important connections to the land? . . 

‘Men have always taken the glory’: Why more women are becoming farmers – Harriet Agerholm:

Hannah Jackson was helping a farmer get his sheep ready for a country show, when he told her to let “the lads down the road” groom the rams because they were “far too strong” for her.

The 27-year-old did not listen. “I went into the pen where there were these big male sheep, flipped one on its bum and started filing its feet,” she says. “I’d stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any man.”

More and more women like Hannah, who now runs her own farm, are entering the male-dominated UK agriculture industry.

About 17% of farmers are female, up from 7% in 2007-8, according to last year’s Office for National Statistics’ annual population survey. . . 

Silver Fern Farms wants to close Fairton pelt processing plant :

New Zealand’s largest meat processor, Silver Fern Farms wants to shut its pelt processing plant at Fairton, just outside Ashburton.

The company said this would affect 44 staff at the Fairton site and four others preparing pelts at Pareora further south. A final decision will come after consultation with staff and their union, which will take until the end of August.

Staff had been presented with potential redundancy, as well as work options at other Silver Fern Farms sites in the region, it said.

Silver Fern Farms closed its Fairton sheepmeat processing plant in May 2017, affecting 370 staff, following a decline in regional sheep numbers. . . 

Multi-faceted approach required for management of internal parasites:

Changes in land use or farm policies which result in predominance of young livestock could be recipe for disaster in terms of the development of drench resistance.

Ben Allott from North Canterbury Vets says while sheep and beef farmers are often encouraged to use triple active drenches to circumnavigate drench resistance issues, he says this ignores the changes that need to be made to address the fundamental issues that are creating the environment for drench resistance to occur.

Stocking policies that drive a reliance on chemicals to control internal parasites create the perfect environment for breeding drench resistant worms. These include intensive lamb finishing operations, particularly under irrigation and dairy heifer grazing. . .

Now that scientists have sequenced the avocado genome, can we grow them in Minnesota?   – Kamari Stewart:

From toast to theme restaurants, the avocado has soared in popularity in the United States. Consumption is up from 436.6 million pounds annually to 2.4 billion pounds between 1985 and 2018.

Researchers from Texas Tech University and the University of Buffalo have studied avocados in a way that is best described as a 23andMe test. They compared the roots of the Hass cultivar (a Mexican-Guatemalan hybrid) and a Mexican strain, to West Indian, Guatemalan, and other Mexican varieties. They discovered that the avocado genome has naturally evolved over time to increase its resistance to disease—a finding that could be significant for the future of avocado breeding.

The discovery could help growers breed more disease-resistant avocados, and eventually lead to varieties that are drought-resistant or less temperature sensitive, and can be grown in northern and drier climates. More growing options could help supply match demand and protect shoppers from a price hike like this year’s. In early July, avocado prices were 129 percent higher than they were at the same time in 2018. . . 

 


Science when it suits again

August 16, 2019

The government is ignoring its own scientific advice over setting methane reduction targets:

Advice to the Government from MPI’s officials shows that the Government’s proposed methane reduction targets go well beyond the science of what is needed for New Zealand to meet its 1.5⁰C Paris Agreement commitments and was purely a political decision made in Cabinet.

“Official’s advice validates the arguments we have been making that methane does not need to reduce by the amount proposed by the Government in the Zero Carbon Bill in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5⁰C,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s CEO Sam McIvor.

Mr McIvor’s comments are also echoed by DairyNZ’s CEO Dr Tim Mackle.

“The agricultural sector has consistently said that the Government is asking farmers to do more than what’s required, and more than what’s being asked by other sectors of the economy, and this has been confirmed by the Government’s own advice”, says Dr Mackle.

“We are willing to play our part to address climate change and want to have a transparent and science based discussion about what that should be.”

The government can’t ask us to accept the science on climate change then ignore it in responding.

While the Government referenced the IPCC report, in applying the target for a global reduction in methane emissions to New Zealand, they have conveniently omitted the IPCC’s caveat that makes clear these global targets shouldn’t simply be slapped on individual countries.

It is also ignoring the Paris Accord which stipulates that cliamte change mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

“The combined effect of the excessive methane targets and net zero target for nitrous oxide, which even go beyond the IPCC’s advice for this gas, means that New Zealand is effectively aiming to go below 1.5 degrees and by doing so, letting other countries off the hook,” says Mr McIvor.

The Government is even being inconsistent in its own statements in saying it has relied on IPCC advice, with parliamentary written questions showing it did not seek any specific advice from the IPCC in doing this.  Instead the Government has cherry picked the numbers it wanted and gone with the highest ranges it could find for methane, as well as going beyond what the IPCC recommended for nitrous oxide.

Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard says that the advice from MPI vindicates the sector’s position that the Government has opted for a political target on methane rather than a scientific one.

“When the IPCC explicitly states their global methane reduction targets shouldn’t be used as national targets, and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to set targets in a manner that doesn’t threaten food production and to take into account different national circumstances, it’s disappointing that the Government has opted to pursue a political target agreed at Cabinet to make it feel good on the world stage regardless of its lack of scientific backing or the disastrous consequences it could have on New Zealand’s food producers,” says Mr Hoggard.

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, and Federated Farmers, while all having made individual submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, are united in their view that the proposed 24-47 percent target is too high and are encouraging the Government to take a science-based approach that reflects the fact that methane only needs to reduce by a small amount each year in order to contribute no additional warming.

The government is proposing unrealistic targets. Even trying to meet them will come at a high cost, in both economic and social terms, with no environmental gain.

In doing so it is using only the science that suits it again.

There is a better way – setting realistic targets and working with agricultural groups to drive real behaviour change on farm:

Sector organisations have put forward an alternative Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment – He Waka Eke Noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework to help the rural sector reduce its footprint.

“We want to play our part and take action. That’s why we have put forward a credible five-year work plan with clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes” Dr Mackle says.  

“Our proposed plan is a collective initiative across multiple agricultural sectors, and includes rolling out Farm Environment Plans for all farms by 2025 to ensure every farmer knows their emissions footprint, where on farm those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them”.

Having reliable data is important so that a farmer can make decisions and trade-offs factoring in resilience, profitability, and all the business decisions that need to be weighed up.

“We are asking the Government to partner with the agricultural sector to develop and deliver targeted programmes of action and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. We strongly believe that working in partnership is the best approach to deliver real change” Dr Mackle added.

“DairyNZ does not support a levy on farmers in the ETS at processor level because it won’t drive the behaviour change to reduce emissions.

“It will take money out of farmers pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.

“Safeguarding the environment and maintaining a sustainable and competitive dairy sector is very important to our farmers, customers, and consumers. 

“Farmers care about the environment and are continuously refining their farm systems to improve environmental outcomes.“The dairy sector is committed to playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions alongside the rest of the New Zealand, but policy responses need to be fair and they need to drive the right behaviours” Dr Mackle concluded.

DairyNZ’s submission on Action on agricultural emissions can be found here.

The government has a choice – it can set realistic targets for methane reduction and work with the primary sector to achieve sustainable on-farm changes; or it can ignore the science and impose unrealistic targets providing neither the tools nor incentives farmers need to make a positive difference to their practices and the environment.


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