Farmers angry with AgResearch

18/03/2014

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson said last week’s meeting with farmers in Gore was constructive over plans to move scientists from Invermay to Lincoln was constructive.

The meeting was initiated by the Southern Texel Breeders and hosted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Eighty seven people attended the meeting, of which about 50 were farmers.

“It was good to be able to speak to concerned farmers directly about our plans to deliver them better science and higher returns. It was a good wide-ranging discussion, and wasn’t solely focused on our reinvestment plans for AgResearch campuses,” says Dr Richardson.

“There was also discussion on government investment in science, industry support for science and how to take research forward.

“Regards our campus reinvestment plans, we understand the concerns of Southland and Otago farmers, and it was an opportunity to reinforce the fact we are not closing Invermay – in fact we’d like to increase the numbers of staff there who are dealing with on farm and regional environment issues.”

AgResearch’s Future Footprint plan will position the organisation for the long-term to deliver better science, more effectively, to New Zealand farmers, the pastoral sector and the New Zealand economy.

The Southern Texel Breeders passed a motion requesting an independent review of the plan, which will involve the co-location of scientists into science innovation hubs, allowing for a more effective collaborative approach to tackle national science ‘big issues’.

Dr Richardson says the plan will see $100 million reinvested to create modern facilities that are functional, adaptable and fit for modern science.

“Future Footprint will see us maximising the use of our facilities and specialist infrastructure to achieve better returns for AgResearch, our clients and the pastoral sector,” says Dr Richardson.

“We remain committed to find the best solution to continue to deliver the science all New Zealand farmers rely on to stay ahead of their international counterparts.”

Farmers aren’t convinced and they’re angry.

They pay levies which provide a good part of AgResearch’s funds and they want scientists to stay based where the bulk of sheep and beef farming takes place – in Otago and Southland.

Immigration Minister and Dunedin-based MP Michael Woodhouse isn’t convinced AgResearch has yet made its case for shifting scientists from Invermay to Lincoln.

As the debate about the merits of an AgResearch hub being established at Lincoln, Mr Woodhouse confirmed to the Otago Daily Times yesterday he had visited Invermay and talked to the staff.

There had been a fear that leaving just 20 scientists at Invermay to deal with farming services and animal services was a ”death spiral” number. But Mr Woodhouse had been ”assured” by AgResearch 20 was the absolute minimum number of scientists and it was hoped to lift the number to 50 scientists at Invermay in the future.

”We need to test that plan and make sure it is the right thing to do for New Zealand Inc and New Zealand agriculture. Can we be confident moving 50 scientists out of 80 from Invermay is better than moving the 30 from Christchurch to Invermay? I am not convinced AgResearch has met the test set them by Minister [Steven] Joyce.” . . .

The plan hasn’t met the farmers’ test.

Dr Andrew West tried to merge AgResearch and Lincoln when he headed AgResearch and failed. Farmers think he’s trying to achieve the same thing by another route now he’s vice chancellor of the university.

They wonder if the plan has more to do with shoring up Lincoln than what’s best for the industry.

AgResearch gets a lot of their money and they are worried that much-needed research will suffer from the loss of institutional knowledge and distance from the main concentration of sheep and beef production.

Whether or not the move goes ahead, one option for any spare buildings no-one has mentioned is as the headquarters for the Otago Regional Council.

The ORC has been looking for a new home and had expensive plans for one in the city. That was torpedoed but they still need a bigger base.

Invermay, with or without the current AgResearch staff, could be an option.


Rural round-up

31/07/2013

Fonterra’s ‘overdraft clearing forecast’ for 2013/14:

A milk price of $7.50 per kilogram of milksolids (kg/MS), now being forecast by Fonterra Cooperative Group for the 2013/14 season, is an ‘overdraft clearer’. Federated Farmers believes farmers will look to pay back credit lines extended to them during the drought.

“This increase in the payout forecast from $7 to $7.50 kg/MS comes off a very strong balance sheet,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairman.

“Obviously this and an advance payout of $5.50 kg/MS, is great news after a disappointing back end to the last season. Given this time last year payout forecast were being paired back, seeing it go up is a huge relief. . . .

Increased forecast milk price, advance payout evidence of Fonterra’s strength: Brown:

A 50 cent increase in the forecast Farmgate Milk Price and advance for the 2013/14 season is reflection of the Co-operative’s strength said Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown.

The Fonterra Board of Directors today announced a revised Farmgate Milk Price forecast of $7.50 per kg/MS for the 2013/14 season, including a $5.50 advance, and an estimated dividend of 32 cents per share.

Ian Brown: “This outcome is evidence of a strong organisation that has moved appropriately for the benefit of its supplier Shareholders. . .

Latest water quality trends ‘red letter day’ for farming:

Good environmental farm management is starting to show through in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) latest River condition indicator.  This shows that over a decade at 90 percent of the sites tested, most of the MfE’s key indicators were either stable or improving.

“Improved management of the land and water resource by everyone may be starting to show up in these water quality results,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“In broad brush terms New Zealand’s water quality is steadily improving.

“In recent years, farmers and communities have really stepped up their efforts but we know we can and must do better. This latest report shows we are heading in the right direction and we need to take this as encouragement to further step up our collective efforts. . .

AgResearch Plans Its Future Footprint:

The country’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, has released further details of its plans to reinvest $100 million into its campus facilities and resources.

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says the proposal is now with staff for consultation and involves a major reconfiguration and reinvestment of AgResearch’s campus and farm infrastructure to create a vital agricultural research institute for the next 50 years.

“We will be modernising our science facilities, co-locating our capability wherever possible, and participating in large agriculture innovation hubs, all of which will generate greater returns across the pastoral sector.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to put AgResearch in the best possible long-term position to do more quality science more effectively and efficiently, and to make a much bigger difference to the agricultural sector’s productivity and profitability,” he says. . . .

New on-line weather forecast service:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today launched a new online mountain weather forecast service that will improve the enjoyment and safety of trampers, hunters, mountain bikers, skiers and fishers using New Zealand’s National and Forest Parks.

“New Zealand’s mountain environment can quickly turn from warm and calm to treacherous. We can improve the safety and enjoyment of users by providing more frequent and detailed weather forecasts on the internet,” Dr Smith says.

“We lose about six people per year in our mountains and often these deaths are weather related. We also have about 150 mountain search and rescue callouts a year. This improved weather service will reduce risk and save lives.

“The new online mountain weather forecast service will provide standardised five day forecasts updated every day for 24 mountain locations across eight of New Zealand’s most popular parks. This compares to a previous service of eight locations with a mix of forecast lengths from two to five days and from a frequency of twice daily to weekly. . .

Speech to Horticulture New Zealand annual conference – Nathan Guy:

Today I want to talk to you about my priorities for the primary sector, of which horticulture is a major part. In particular I want to talk about the two goals that the Ministry for Primary Industries has – to grow and protect New Zealand’s economy.

As you all know, the primary sector is the powerhouse of our economy. It is worth around $30 billion a year to the New Zealand economy and makes up around 72 per cent of our exports.

Your industry is a major part of this equation, with New Zealand’s horticultural exports earned $3.6 billion in the year ended 31 March 2013. The total value of horticultural products produced is around $6.6 billion. . .

Farm Environment Awards Motivate Northland Farmers to Lift Game:

Participating in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards inspired Ken and Janine Hames to step up environmental work on their Northland farm.

Ken says they entered the awards to benchmark themselves against other farmers and “to see where we were at” in terms of environmental sustainability.

He and Janine, a vet at Ruawai, first entered the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2010 and were thrilled to win two category awards.

“I guess it showed we were on the right track,” says Ken, who runs an intensive bull finishing operation on 400ha at Paparoa, southeast of Dargaville. . .


Rural round-up

09/10/2012

Rabobank Australia and New Zealand Agribusiness review October:

Key highlights:

• A warm end to spring is on the cards for most of Australia according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean will maintain values around typical El Niño thresholds for the remainder of 2012.

• The US Federal Reserve announced the third stage of its quantitative easing program to help boost investment and spending in the economy. On a negative note, the World Trade Organisation downgraded its forecasts for growth in global trade in 2012 and 2013 by over one percentage point in response to slowing global economic activity.

• The New Zealand dollar has held firm over the course of the past month following the announcement of further liquidity measures in key global economies. The Australian dollar found some relief on the news of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision and softer external trade numbers and is currently trading around the USD1.025 level. . .

The full report is here.

A Successful Year for Agresearch:

On-farm pest control, new value-added products and improved environmental performance are three of the significant contributions made by AgResearch scientists to New Zealand’s agricultural economy over the past year, according to its 2012 annual report.

At the same time, the country’s largest scientific organisation has sought to realign itself more closely with its farmer, government, industry sector and other stakeholders, says Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson.

“There is still much to do and we have valued the willingness of our sector partners to engage with us,” he says. . .

If you stand for nothing; does that mean anything is acceptable….or not?

This is the dilemma for NZ Inc agriculture as AgResearch announces the recent success of ‘Daisy’ a cow genetically modified to produce milk with much less beta-lactoglobulin (BLG). This is a milk whey protein known to be allergenic to some people. See the NZ Herald version of the story here.

I’m not commenting on the clever science behind GM Daisy – essentially using two microRNAs and RNA interference to knock down the expression of BLG. AgResearch next want to normally breed from Daisy and see if the same non-BLG milk is produced by her daughters – a several year exercise. . .

Free database will open access to best tree information

Farmers looking for information about any aspect of planting and managing trees in the working landscape will soon be able to access a new online – and free – database listing the most useful and credible information resources available. This database will range from practical aspects of growing and harvesting trees for timber through to establishing riparian plantings and management information such as budgeting and forest ownership options.

As a vital first step the project organisers are looking for input from farmers, via a short online survey as to how they prefer to receive this type of information. This survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Trees_on_Farms. . .

Below-ground protection from new grass endophyte

A Canterbury pasture plant breeding company is set to release a major advance in the fight against a multi-million dollar farming problem, insect pests.

Cropmark Seeds Ltd has managed to endow its pasture varieties with an endophyte “GrubOUT® U2” that gives grass grasses greater persistence under insect attack, above and below ground.

“It’s perhaps the greatest advance in plant breeding in 20 years, and it will have a dramatic effect on our farming systems and production” said Cropmark Seeds Marketing Manager Garry Begley.

The key to this breakthrough is the phrase “below ground”.

Livestock Farm Winners Inspire Other Farmers to Enter 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Winning the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award in the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards was welcome recognition for Okahu farmers John and Lurline Blackwell and their son Peter.

But it wasn’t the main reason they entered.

“We weren’t looking for glory,” John says.

“We just wanted to support the competition and learn more about sustainability.”

The Blackwells farm a 345ha sheep and beef property, southeast of Dargaville. ‘Summer Hill Farm’ runs a small but highly productive sheep flock and finishes around 400 bulls a year. The farm also runs Wagyu-cross steers and heifers on contract. . .

Mind-bending video of a sheep with an upside down HEAD… and man who filmed it insists it was no fake – Alex Ward:

Look a bit closer and you will notice something very odd about this sheep.

Seemingly defying nature quite happily as it nibbles grass, it is indeed a sheep with an upside down head – but is it real?

The owner of the YouTube video of the weird animal insists it was no fake as the clip sparked the curiosity among thousands, becoming an internet hit with almost 50,000 views in five days. . .

(Hat tip CoNZervative)


%d bloggers like this: