Rural round-up

04/10/2020

Regenerative agriculture: let’s put these claims to the test – Catherine Wells:

Lincoln University’s Professor Derrick Moot and retired plant scientist Dr Warwick Scott have done an admirable job by drawing Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s attention to the pros and cons of “regenerative agriculture”.

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, a soil scientist, has written on the topic too. In an article for the New Zealand Herald’s “The Country section”, which challenged the notion that moving to regenerative agriculture with an organic focus will create a primary sector with more ability to help with Covid-19 recovery. Her conclusion: this is wonderful in theory, but doesn’t work in practice.

NZIAHS members should be lending their support – but the bigger issue which should perturb us is the attack on science itself in this era when easy access to the internet can spread fake news, deceptions, falsehoods, fabrications and canards faster and over a much vaster patch of the globe than a top-dresser can spread superphosphate. . . 

Banning nitrogen fertiliser would put food production back decades – Macaulay Jones:

When it comes to synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, good management practices should be encouraged, not an outright ban, writes Federated Farmers Climate Change and Trade Policy adviser, Macaulay Jones.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is suffering from a PR problem in New Zealand.

It’s regularly demonised and blamed for the degradation of waterways, for contributing to climate change and for enabling a perceived unsustainable growth of farming. Some are even calling for it to be banned altogether.

But while synthetic nitrogen fertiliser can undoubtedly lead to environmental issues if used carelessly, it’s this careless use which should be avoided – not the use of the product. . . 

Feds reject trade concerns – Colin Williscroft:

Federated Farmers is confident that scaling back new freshwater regulations or making amendments to climate change legislation will not hurt New Zealand’s prospects of future free trade deals.

As reported in last week’s Farmers Weekly, NZ’s top trade negotiator Vangelis Vitalis has warned sheep and beef farmers that their environmental and animal welfare record will come under close scrutiny, as countries search for ways to protect their own food producers who have taken a hit to demand for their products as a result of coronavirus.

Vitalis acknowledged that environmental regulations will come at a cost to NZ farmers, but says it could pay off in terms of providing improved market access under future free trade deals by helping to quell opposition to them in those countries involved.

Feds president Andrew Hoggard agrees with Vitalis that NZ both needs and has a good environmental record that can be presented internationally. . . 

Nearly 5 million ewes lost in 10 years – Mel Croad:

The breeding ewe flock continues to battle land use changes and wavering popularity with farmers. However, with many water regulations and policies negatively targeting cattle, sheep farming could find favour once again. Achieving any growth in ewe numbers will be hard in the next 12 months though.

The latest Beef + Lamb NZ Stock Survey estimates breeding ewe numbers held at 16.86 million head. While the breeding flock has stabilised, there could be a real inability to build numbers. The number of hoggets that dispersed this year is the greatest issue. Drought conditions forced farmers to offload hoggets rather than keep them as replacements. This partially explains why the 2019 lamb crop was recently revised higher by over 500,000 head. 

Forecasts peg breeding hogget numbers to be back by 740,000 head on last year, mostly within the North Island. Chances are not all these hoggets were mated this year, or would have even entered the breeding flock next year, but the significant drop in numbers creates a couple of issues. . . 

A precious endeavour:

A possum hunter, a farming couple and a young Polish man are part of the small community who live in Endeavour Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds where, even in this remote spot, the effects of the global pandemic are being felt.

Country Life visited the bay and discovered Covid-19’s tentacles have a long reach indeed.

Listen duration22:24

A hammock in the bush and a feed of wild goat is heaven to Endeavour Inlet’s Possum Gary.

The tall lean Southlander has been living on and off in the bush around the furthest reaches of the inlet in the Marlborough Sounds for about five years now, setting traps and living off the land.

Endeavour Inlet is at the Cook Strait end of Queen Charlotte Sound/ Tōtaranui, a good hour from Picton by boat. . .

Green Party activists told don’t use ‘big words’ when talking to rural voters and Travellers – Cormac McQuinn:

GREEN Party activists have been told not to use ‘big words’ when trying to appeal to rural voters as they may not understand what they mean.

Senator Róisín Garvey said party members need to “choose their words” adding that she learned this from working with Travellers.

Ms Garvey made the remarks at the party’s National Convention during a debate on the “anti-Green narrative” in rural areas that sees the party struggle to win votes outside the big cities.

The Clare-based Senator said of rural voters: “we don’t have to give them statistics on carbon this and climate that and use big vocabulary. . . 


Rural round-up

12/06/2020

Experts call for review of regenerative farming ‘mythology’ –  Sally Rae;

Two prominent plant science academics have called for the establishment of an expert panel of scientists to review claims made about regenerative agriculture.

In a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, Dr Derrick Moot, a professor of plant science at Lincoln University, and retired senior lecturer Dr Warwick Scott said they were concerned about the “mythology” of regenerative agriculture “and its worrying increased profile in the New Zealand media and farming sectors”.

New Zealand sheep and beef farmers had world-leading agricultural practices and the underpinning scientific principles of the country’s current agricultural systems were in danger of being devalued by a system they believed had several serious shortcomings, they said.

They were particularly concerned the “erroneous publicity” about regenerative agriculture would divert the limited New Zealand agricultural science resources from more important, substantive issues.

To define regenerative agriculture was difficult, the pair said. . . 

Dairy industry needs skilled, willing workers, wherever they’re from – Esther Taunton:

“New Zealand’s dairy industry has a shortage of skilled and willing workers.”

It’s a simple sentence so why does such a large chunk of the non-dairy farming population seem to have a problem understanding the key words – “skilled” and “willing”?

When Stuff ran the story of two South Island farmers desperately trying to get their skilled migrant workers back across our closed borders before the start of calving, it took just minutes for the keyboard warriors to roll out the same tired accusations and arguments.

“Serves them right for choosing migrants over Kiwis!” they cried.

But they didn’t. Not without trying to find Kiwi workers first, anyway. Because even if they didn’t want to employ New Zealanders, farmers have a legal obligation to advertise for local staff before they’re able to start recruiting offshore. . . 

Strong 2019/20 financial result for Zespri helps support regional New Zealand:

2019/20 Financial Results Summary:
• Total Operating revenue: NZ$3.36 billion
• Total fruit sales revenue: NZ$3.14 billion
• Total New Zealand-grown fruit and service payments: $1.96 billion
• New Zealand and Non-New Zealand trays sold: 164.4 million trays
• Zespri’s net profit after tax NZ$200.8 million
• Expected Total Dividends: NZ$0.94

Almost NZ$2 billion was returned to New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry following Zespri’s 2019/20 season, helping support thousands of businesses, workers and regional communities around the country.

Zespri’s 2019/20 Financial Results show total fruit and service payments, which are returns direct to the New Zealand industry, increased by 8 percent year on year to NZ$1.96 billion. . . 

Meating’ the need:

While COVID-19 lockdown rules have now been eased, many New Zealand foodbanks remain under huge pressure as breadwinners lose their jobs and savings run dry.

To help keep up with this demand and to provide something a bit different from the regular food box items, a charity set up by farmers is connecting donated produce from farmers with processors and foodbanks.

‘Meat The Need’ was founded by South Island farmers Wayne Langford and Siobhan O’Malley. Since it started in mid-April, meat from more than 200 animals, including cattle, sheep and deer, has been donated to food banks around the South Island, enough for a staggering 90,000 meals for vulnerable families! . . 

Expos aimed at creating win-win – Tracey Roxburgh:

A Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) initiative is hoping to create a win-win from the Covid-19 economic crisis.

The SIT is holding two Agricultural Redeployment Expos, one each in Queenstown and Te Anau, this week, hoping to attract people who may have lost jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector to retrain in the agricultural sector, which is facing a shortage of about 150 skilled machinery operators this year.

Annually, the agriculture sector has sought fill those roles with workers from the United Kingdom and Ireland, in particular, but given border closures this year due to the global pandemic, that will not be possible. . . 

Native plants sequester carbon for longer – Marc Daalder:

A new study indicates native plants, despite their tendency to grow more slowly than exotic species like Pinus Radiata, are better at storing carbon in the soil for longer periods of time, Marc Daalder reports

Exotic plant species release 150 percent more carbon dioxide from the soil than native New Zealand plants, according to a new study from the Bio-Protection Research Centre published in Science.

The research is the latest development in an extended scientific debate over whether to prioritise planting native or exotic species to increase biodiversity and fight climate change.

While it doesn’t upset the longstanding scientific consensus that faster-growing plants sequester more carbon – and that exotic species planted outside their usual range will grow faster – the study does complicate the picture of the carbon cycle. . . 

Time for EU to commit to level playing field for trade:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has welcomed New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker’s statement that it is unacceptable for New Zealand exporters to continue facing an ‘unlevel playing field’ in the EU.

Details leaked ahead of the 8th round of EU-NZ FTA negotiations have revealed the EU is seeking to maintain an extreme level of market access restriction against New Zealand dairy exports. The leaked EU market access offer comes despite both parties having committed to ‘work towards a deep, comprehensive, and high-quality Free Trade Agreement’.

DCANZ Chairman, Malcolm Bailey, says the reported EU offer, comprised of miniscule quota volumes and high in-quota tariffs, could never credibly form part of a free trade agreement between the economies. . . 


Rural round-up

24/11/2014

Has Australia leapfrogged New Zealand in China? Keith Woodford:

The big agribusiness news this week is that Australia and China have reached a free trade agreement. This has come as somewhat of a surprise to our Government here in New Zealand who thought negotiations still had some way to go. They have been even more surprised at the apparent quality of the agreement. And our Australian cousins have been quick, entirely for their own internal purposes, to claim their agreement is better than what New Zealand achieved some six years ago.

We can afford to be generous in our congratulations. In the greater scheme of things it demonstrates that globalisation of food trade is increasing. When the dust settles on the Australian agreement, New Zealand will take up with the Chinese on any issues that the Aussies have bettered us on. New Zealand will undertake those discussions with the same politeness that has characterised New Zealand’s previous negotiations with China, and which have held us in such good stead in the past. . .

Pair getting the best of both worlds – Sally Rae:

Working from home means the best of both worlds for Keri Johnston and Haidee McCabe.

Ms Johnston and Mrs McCabe are the principals of Irricon Resource Solutions, an environmental consultancy based in Canterbury and North Otago.

The pair were named the supreme winners in this year’s Enterprising Rural Women Awards, which were announced during Rural Women New Zealand’s national conference in Rotorua. . .

Dairying big change from pervious jobs – Sally Rae:

For Otago couple Glenn and Lynne Johnston, switching from their respective previous jobs of courier driver and hairdresser was a big change but they have no regrets.

The couple, who milk 550 cows just south of Waihola, have been in the dairy industry for 12 years.

Mrs Johnston, who is the new convener for the Dairy Women’s Network, grew up in Milton, while her husband is from Dunedin, and the couple decided to have ”a whole lifestyle change”.

They started at Five Rivers and worked around Northern Southland for a couple of years before becoming managers in an equity partnership at Awarua. . .

 Voluntary contributions recognised with Lincoln University medal:

Between them former Lincoln University academics Dr Warwick Scott and Dr Rowan Emberson have taught and conducted research at the institution for 72 years, but it was not that which was being recognised at a ceremony today.

The pair were each awarded the Lincoln University Medal, an honour which acknowledges those who, in the opinion of the Lincoln University Council, have provided long-term meritorious voluntary service and support which has enhanced the fabric or reputation of the University.

Dr Scott worked as a plant scientist at Lincoln for 39 years, retiring in 2009 as a senior lecturer. However, for the last 14 years he has been part of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest, initially setting the questions for the contestants, with his growing contribution recognised when he was named its first patron in 2012.

He said the competition showcased agriculture to urban audiences, for whom it was essential to understand the depth of talent in the agricultural sector and its importance to the economy. . .

10 things about harvest most non-ag people don’t know – Wanda Patsche:

Now that we have finished our harvest for 2014, I thought I would write a few, fun random thoughts about harvest. Some things about harvest most non-ag people don’t know.

1. Lunches are eaten in the field. Thank goodness for autoSteer in tractors and combines. Autosteer is a mechanism that automatically steers the combine/tractor. I can literally eat, with both hands, while the combine/tractor continues to operate. And I ate many meals this way! Multi-tasking at it’s finest. And if you have lunch delivered to you, it’s eaten right where you are at. It comes to you. Farmers really do love harvest meals – just a nice little pick-me-up and one less meal to prepare. Trust me, it’s the little things.

2. The smells, sights and sounds of harvest. Nothing compares to smelling corn as it is harvested, watching the corn augured into the grain cart or truck, and hearing the sounds of corn dropping into the corn bin. Yes, it’s the simple things you cherish. But it’s the simple things that really are the big things of life. . .

Investors back Prime Range Meats’ growth plan:

In a move that will see Prime Range Meats firmly hooked into its own secure supply chain into China, Lianhua Trading Group is increasing its shareholding from 24.9% to 75%.

The move has been approved by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) – approval required because part of Prime Range Meats’ (PRM) assets include 99.1 hectares of land used for holding stock for the plant, some of which is sensitive wetlands and bush.

PRM managing director Tony Forde, fellow shareholder/director Ian (Inky) Tulloch and associated parties have sold down after diluting their shareholdings earlier this year, following a competitive sales process, through the issuing of new shares. This introduced new capital into PRM then and this new transaction will also see capital expenditure on PRM’s plant of several million more in coming months. . .


Rural round-up

01/07/2012

The risks of global worming:

FOR decades, the overuse of antibiotics has encouraged the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria which, though they have never broken out and caused an epidemic in the way that was once feared, have nevertheless been responsible for many deaths that might otherwise have been avoided. Now something similar seems to be happening in agriculture. The overuse of drugs against parasitic worms which infest stock animals means that these, too, are becoming drug-resistant. That is bad for the animals’ health and welfare, and equally bad for farmers’ profits.

This, at least, is the conclusion drawn by Ray Kaplan, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia who has just published a review of research on the problem. His results, which appear in Veterinary Parasitology, make grim reading. . .

Young man on a mission – Sally Rae:

Tangaroa Walker is a young man with a very clear and bold vision for his future.   

By the time he is 40, Mr Walker (22) wants to own holiday homes in Queenstown and Mt Maunganui, a dairy farm in Southland and be living on a beef farm at Whakamarama, in the Bay of Plenty, the area where he grew up.   

They might be hefty goals but, given what the Southland-based lower order sharemilker has already achieved, you get the feeling he will most likely achieve them . . .

Dad’s death led to organis shift – Sally Rae:

Southland dairy farmer Robin Greer always had a desire to    process his own milk.   

He did some research and spent one day a week for 18 months in his kitchen, making cheese from recipes he found on the internet and in books.   

 He taught himself to make most of the cheeses now produced at the factory he and his wife Lois established on their farm.

They market their products – milk, cheese and yoghurt – throughout New Zealand, under the Retro Organics label, and  are looking at export opportunities. . .

Tests uncover way to cut use of 1080 poison – Gerald Piddock:

Landcare Research scientists are cautiously optimistic they have discovered a method of killing rabbits as effective as current methods but using significantly less 1080 poison. 

    The breakthrough came after Landcare and the Otago Regional Council carried out experiments on two high country stations in Central Otago last winter. 

    The experiments were based around refining how bait was sown on rabbit-prone country from fixed-wing aircraft by altering the volume of bait used for rabbit control. . .

Helicopters only way to cull deer:

It took sweat, precision and millions of dollars to make Highland Cuisine Ltd a venison exporter but owner Bill Hales fears a game council will put its deer procurement and customer relationships to the sword.

Parliament is mulling legislation for the council as part of a national wild game management strategy.

Submissions to the bill have poured in to the Environment and Local Government select committee, including those dismissing it as excess political baggage from MP Peter Dunne.

Yes, the council and wild game strategy is part of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with Dunne’s one-man United Future Party. But that political history doesn’t change much for people like Hales. . .

Young agribusiness team from Massey competes in China – Pasture to Profit:

Massey University(NZ) had a team competing in theInternational Food and Agribusiness Management Association student case study competition, held in Shanghai,China.

The competition is in its 7thyear and is held in conjunction with the IFAMA annual forum and symposium. The late “Daniel Conforte” (an inspirational lecturer at Massey University) had a long standing association with IFAMA and at the opening of the Symposium was made a fellow of IFAMA the highest honour, a well deserved tribute recognising his passion and contribution to the organisation.  . .

Young farmer contest announces first ever patron:

A career in education and working with young people provided an excellent foundation for Dr Warwick Scott’s involvement with The National Bank Young Farmer Contest.

After 12 years of close association with the event, Dr Scott has recently been appointed as the first Contest Patron.

“I am deeply honoured,” he says. “It is a privilege to work with this amazing event which, year after year, showcases the on-going talent New Zealand has among its young famers, both men and women.”

ANZ Bank, DairyNZ partner on financial benchmarking of farms – Peter Kerr:

DairyNZ is partnering with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group to boost the financial performance of dairy farms.

Under a memorandum of understanding, DairyNZ’s business performance analysis tool, DairyBase, will be available to ANZ Bank economists and agri managers when working with farmers, they said in a statement.

DairyBase consolidates the financial results from more than 1,800 farmers, allowing like with like comparisons. Some 41% of dairy farmers currently use benchmarking . . .

First ever ‘Green 50’ list shows booming green sector:

New Zealand’s first definitive list of companies making money improving the environment has just been launched by strategic research company New River.

Top of the New River Green 50 list is Auckland-based Chem Recovery, which recovers and recycles heavy metals to produce 99.9 per cent pure re-usable metals; followed by Stonewood Homes, builder of a 7-star green building; and Reid Technology, a New Zealand leader in solar power. Other companies on the list include Flotech, a technology pioneer allowing organic waste to be converted into methane for pipeline gas; and Outgro an innovative fetiliser company enabling farmers to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen run-off into waterways while increasing their yields. . .


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