Rural round-up

17/02/2021

Cows, coal and carbon – Elbow Deep:

I was once told by someone much smarter than me that the Green Party policy of today will be Labour Party policy in 10 years’ time. Even without that level of insight, nobody who has been paying attention to the political discourse for the past decade will be very surprised at the Climate Change Commission’s recent report, though there do seem to be large numbers of people shaking their heads in dazed bewilderment.

The Commission’s report largely reflects the findings and recommendations of the Royal Society’s 2016 one, Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy for New Zealand. That report was essentially ignored by the government of the day, but it is extremely unlikely the current government will treat the latest version in the same manner.

The report calls for, among other things, an immediate end to the construction of coal fired boilers, an end to the burning of coal for process heat by 2037 and a reduction in the national dairy, beef and sheep numbers of 15% each by 2030.

No matter how climate hesitant you might be or how little New Zealand has contributed to global warming since pre-industrial times, the Commission estimates that figure to be 0.0028 degrees C, the fact remains our share of global warming is 4 times greater than our share of the total population and 1.5 times greater than our share of landmass. . . 

Waterways benefit from farmer’s ‘dream’ :

A Southland dairy farmer has invested $200,000 over the last 10 years in planting and fencing around a river and creeks on his property – an outcome of a dream he had back in his native Zimbabwe.

Edwin Mabonga, who together with his wife Fungai milk 850 cows on a 270ha farm bordering the Aparima River at Otautau near Invercargill, used to spend time in Zimbabwe reading books about New Zealand.

“It was always a big goal of mine to come to New Zealand because I saw it as being the world benchmark for dairy farming,” he says. “We used to read books to learn as much as we could and eventually decided to move to find out what the big deal was.” . . .

Agribusiness icon helping to change dairying :

Project to reduce nitrate run-off from farms attracts critical corporate clout.

A key environmental project on lower North Island dairy farms has attracted renewed corporate backing – and a grandmother is helping bring it about.

Two of New Zealand’s biggest business players, Fonterra and Nestle, have joined a DairyNZ-led project in the Tararua district in which a blend of the herb plantain is being sown in pastures with the aim of both reducing nitrate run-off into waterways and lowering on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

The two companies are bringing their muscle to the project by providing additional funding to enable the 50 farms taking part to increase the amount of plantain they grow. . . 

Lasers used as bird deterrent – Jared Morgan:

Using lasers to control birds might sound like science fiction but Ewing Stevens hopes the technology will save his grapes from the peckish pests.

At age 94, Mr Stevens believes he is New Zealand’s oldest vintner but his age is no barrier to being at the cutting edge of technology when it comes to managing his crop at Anthony James Vineyard near Alexandra.

This week three lasers were installed at his Hillview Rd vineyard to replace labour intensive and expensive bird netting.

Mr Stevens said the idea was born out of a conversation with Viticultura co-owner Timbo Deaker, whose Cromwell-based company manages Mr Stevens’ grapes through its vineyard management service, about three years ago. . . 

FMG Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regional Final postponed :

Following Auckland’s move to Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country to Alert Level 2, we have made the decision to postpone the Northern FMG Young Farmer of the Year Regional Final based on Government recommendations.

Given the uncertainty around the latest COVID-19 community cases, postponement of the event is the safest and most cautious option despite contingency plans we have in place to run events during an alert level two.

Like other businesses, organisations and events, we need to respond and do our part to limit the potential spread of this virus.

The safety of our competitors, staff, sponsors and spectators is our main priority. It is imperative that we protect our people and do not put anyone at risk. . .

 

Grange visit a flashback for ‘Birley girls’ – Shawn McAvinue:

A former Taieri farm girl got her dying wish to say goodbye to the homestead she was raised in.

Joan King (83) and her sister Patricia Snell (75) were young girls when their family moved on to The Grange farm in East Taieri.

Their parents, Percy and Rita Birley, managed the nearly 300ha sheep, beef and dairy farm.

The women, from Motueka and Auckland respectively, visited the homestead recently to celebrate Mrs King’s birthday. . .


Rural round-up

19/01/2021

Why we can’t plant our way out of climate change – Marc Daalder:

As New Zealand gears up to fight climate change, experts warn that we need to actually reduce emissions, not just plant trees to offset our greenhouse gases, Marc Daalder reports

This year is shaping up to be a major one for climate policy. Between the Climate Change Commission releasing its recommendations around our Paris target and emissions budgets and a major climate summit in Glasgow in November, 2021 is the year the New Zealand Government will finally lay out in detail its plans to fight climate change.

Ahead of February 1, when the Commission will release drafts of its advice for consultation, experts warn that we shouldn’t be taken in by the allure of trees as a silver bullet. It’s true that major reforestation will be crucial to slowing global warming (and has added biodiversity benefits as well), because all plants sequester carbon breathed in from the atmosphere. . . 

Daigou disaster – Elbow Deep:

It is surprising how quickly a company’s fortunes can change; the A2 Milk Company (A2MC) played a dangerous high-stakes game, relying heavily on an informal network of Chinese students and personal shoppers to distribute much of its product into China. It’s a game that has cost other companies dearly in the past.

Daigou, buying on behalf, is a network of Chinese nationals living in or visiting Australia who buy local products and ship them back home to groups of friends, customers cultivated via the social media app WeChat. It is not uncommon for Chinese tour groups to visit stores like the Chemist Warehouse and buy products in bulk, much to the ire of locals.

Such is the demand from China for Australian packaged products that in 2019 a Sydney store owner was found to have stockpiled 4,000 1kg tins of baby formula ready for export. . . .

Concerns over shearer ‘bidding wars’ – Gerald Piddock:

Reports of unofficial bidding wars among Australian farmers to secure shearers has a New Zealand shearing boss worried it could lure Kiwi shearers across the Tasman to chase the money, leaving the industry short-staffed.

The shortage of shearers in Australia due to covid-19 restrictions meant some farmers were paying shearers 20-50% premiums per sheep above the usual rate, the ABC reported.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford told ABC farmers were offering shearers A$4-$5/head to shear sheep. The minimum pay rate to shear a sheep in Australia is A$3.24.

Prior to the covid-19 border restrictions, these jobs would have been taken up by NZ shearers. . . 

Exchange rate a pain point for meat export – Neal Wallace:

A wildly fluctuating exchange rate is causing headaches for meat exporters. Silver Fern Farms (SFF) says between October and November the NZ-US exchange rate rose from $US0.65 to $US0.71, wiping $140 a head off beef and up to $11 off a lamb.

As of late this week the exchange rate was $US0.72.

In a Christmas update podcast, SFF’s supply chain manager Dan Boulton says in addition to exchange rate fluctuation, the other headwind facing exporters as they enter peak production, is the congested global supply chain.

This is causing issues with container availability, shipping schedules and port access. . . 

Tractor industry remains optimistic for 2021:

The tractor sales industry finished 2020 on a strong note with December sales up 18.4 % on 2019.

Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president Kyle Baxter says that while 2020 definitely posed challenges for the industry, the current mood of members is positive.

Overall tractor sales for 2020 were down 15.3% compared with 2019, with sales for the bigger machines (375+ HP) particularly affected with a drop of 25%. . . 

Dairy markets stable despite Covid challenges – Carlene Dowie:

Global dairy markets appear to be weathering the COVID-19 storm with prices stable despite pandemic-induced changes in demand in key markets.

The Australian Milk Value Portal’s latest Global Dairy Update says resilience in demand for dairy products is underpinning the market.

International analysts are also pointing to stability – with ANZ in New Zealand last week lifting its forecast farmgate price there by 7.5 per cent while the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s dairy price index jumped for the seventh month in a row in December.

The Milk Value Portal’s Nanna Moller said the market outlook was mostly bullish, despite differences in global markets, with slowing growth in milk supply in Europe and Oceania and sustained demand for consumer staples. . . 


Rural round-up

23/11/2020

Supermarket inquiry might see rise in cost of fruit and vegetables, Horticulture NZ warns – Eric Frykberg:

People might end up paying more for their fruit and vegetables, not less, after an inquiry into supermarkets, Horticulture New Zealand says.

The industry group says growers who supply produce to supermarkets do not always get paid the price they need to meet all their costs.

The government this week confirmed the Commerce Commission market study Labour had promised during the election campaign.

The main focus of the investigation will be the experience of the consumer, but it will also look at the way that supermarkets procure their goods. . . .

NZ farmers adopted regenerative agriculture years ago – professor – Eric Frykberg:

A veteran farming academic thinks regenerative agriculture is a largely redundant concept for New Zealand because it has been practised here for years.

Keith Woodford said it was an American idea, born out of necessity on the prairies, but largely superfluous in New Zealand.

Regenerative agriculture focuses on topsoil regeneration, along with improving the water cycle, supporting biosequestration (or removal) of harmful products like greenhouse gases and enhancing the integrity of ecosystems.

It has become a popular catchcry in New Zealand and was strongly pushed by the Green Party during the last election. . .

NZ scientists lead the charge to explore benefits of pasture-raised beef and lamb :

New Zealanders will be invited to take part in a major research programme to assess the health and well-being benefits of eating pasture-raised beef and lamb, compared to grain-finished beef and plant-based alternatives.

Approximately 100 people will be monitored in two ground-breaking clinical studies, led by researchers from AgResearch, the Riddet Institute and the University of Auckland.

The projects will assess the physical effects on the body from eating the different foods for up to 10 weeks, as well as psychological elements, such as satisfaction, sleep and stress levels.

The research team includes meat scientists, agricultural academics, dietitians, behavioural experts and social scientists. . .

Wannabe lobbyists – Elbow Deep:

An exchange on Twitter caught my eye this week; a Waikato dairy farmer had landed a new 50:50 sharemilking job for the next season and was posing proudly with his family while holding a copy of his new Federated Farmers Herd Owning Sharemilking contract.

After some light hearted banter, the farmer was asked when he was going to sign up and become a Federated Farmers member. Tongue firmly in cheek he replied that, contracts aside, the only good thing to ever come out of the old boys club that was Feds was that they fought to keep Rural Delivery going. It was pointed out to him that Federated Farmers advocate strongly on local and central government issues for farmers. “What then,” he quite reasonable asked, “is the difference between Federated Farmers and DairyNZ?”

This was an excellent point and made me ponder what exactly the groups advocating on my behalf deliver, and is it what I want.

Finishing properties maintain the lead:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 118 more farm sales (+45.4%) for the three months ended October 2020 than for the three months ended October 2019. Overall, there were 378 farm sales in the three months ended October 2020, compared to 401 farm sales for the three months ended September 2020 (-5.7%), and 260 farm sales for the three months ended October 2019. 1,331 farms were sold in the year to October 2020, 0.3% fewer than were sold in the year to October 2019, with 19.2% less Dairy farms, 10.5% less Grazing farms, 1.3% more Finishing farms and 17.4% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to October 2020 was $28,399 compared to $25,637 recorded for three months ended October 2019 (+10.8%). The median price per hectare increased 5.5% compared to September 2020. . . 

Substantial dairy farm with subdivision potential placed on the market for sale:

A highly-productive low-input dairy farm on the outskirts of Hamilton – and encompassing a substantial quantity of lifestyle block sized sections – has been placed on the market for sale.

Drumlea Farm in Ngahinapouri some three kilometres south-west of Hamilton’s metropolitan boundary is a 336-hectare block comprising 17 combined titles – 14 of which are lifestyle block proportions. In addition, Drumlea Farm leases an adjoining 27 hectares of land on its northern boundary which is used mainly for grazing replacement cattle.

The farm currently milks some 750 cows – with all replacement stock carried on the property. At its peak, the farm has carried up to 920 cows. Production records from the past decade show the unit has milked between 252,000 and 353,000 kilogrammes of milk solids annually. . . 


Rural round-up

22/10/2020

Drought fears for South Canterbury, North Otago farmers – Maja Burry, Eleisha Foon:

South Canterbury and North Otago farmers are concerned they are on the precipice of a drought.

NIWA’s latest hotspot report showed the driest soils in the South Island and both winter and spring had so far failed to deliver meaningful rain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said the Waimate and Waitaki districts had received little rain since autumn and pasture covers are low for this time of year.

MPI’s rural communities and farming support director, Nick Story, said farmers were feeding out grain, destocking and looking for alternative grazing. . . 

Wildlife rules for private land queried by owners and businesses – Farah Hancock:

A policy aimed at protecting indigenous wildlife, which has struggled to gain consensus, is on its final dash to the finish line. Public support is strong, but landowners and industry still have concerns

The National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which will force councils to identify significant natural areas, including on private land, is hoped to improve the outlook for New Zealand’s 4000 threatened species

Not all are happy with the proposed policy, with submissions expressing concern about how areas on private land will be identified, and the impact on private landowners’ ability to use their land. . . .

 

Watermelon shortage predicted as biosecurity concerns hold up Tongan supply – Maja

Supermarket shelves could soon run dry of watermelons with all import channels for the fruit currently closed due to biosecurity concerns.

Imports of the fruit from Tonga were halted last week after live fruit fly larvae were detected at the New Zealand border on a consignment of watermelons from the country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said there would now be an investigation into the non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture Food, Forestry and Fisheries in Tonga.

“Until the suspension is lifted, all consignments of watermelons from Tonga arriving at New Zealand’s border will be held with the option of destruction or re-shipment in accordance with the Import Health Standard,” MPI said in a statement. . . 

Green lipped mussels are becoming heavy lifters – Keith Woodford:

Hatchery technologies and open-sea farms provide the platform for new endeavours with green-lipped mussels

A little over five years ago, I asked the question as to whether green-lipped mussels could be the next heavy lifter for the New Zealand export economy. At the time, the Government had a goal of doubling exports by 2025, which seemed exceedingly optimistic.

Both then and since then I have been frustrated by what I see as naivety within the broader community as to how New Zealand is going to pay its way in a complex and competitive world. There often seems to be unwillingness to grapple with the hard realities of a small isolated country in the South Pacific with a rapidly growing population and increasing inequalities.

I have listened many times to speakers who say that services rather than goods are going to be our salvation. When I ask where within that framework might we find a competitive advantage, I typically hear only generic terms such as ‘technology’   Our two big service industries are tourism and the education of foreign students. . . 

Election 2020, the red tsunami – Elbow Deep:

I had intended to use this month’s column to look back at the three years which have passed since the farmer protests in Morrinsville and determine if a Labour/New Zealand First/Greens Government was as scary as predicted.

Events overtook me and clearly, since Labour won the party vote in all but four electorates, it wasn’t that scary at all.

At the last election farming issues were front and centre in a highly divisive campaign that left farmers feeling kicked around like the proverbial political football. At the heart of this division was the proposed water levy, a proposal that didn’t even make it past coalition negotiations, which generated a lot of heat while distracting from the real message David Parker was trying to push; freshwater reform.

This election, in the wake of plummeting tax receipts and a higher than normal reliance on income from agricultural exports, every single political party was courting the farming vote. . . 

Agricultural equipment sector remains positive :

The agricultural equipment sector remains in a positive mood throughout the country says the Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA), which represents the sector in manufacturing, retailing and distribution.

TAMA sales statistics for the year to date (September 30) are down around 18 percent compared with 2019‘s record-breaking year, however indicators remain positive as New Zealand enters the peak of another growing season.

TAMA president Kyle Baxter said despite sales volumes being down in some equipment ranges, members were confident regarding business trading across dealerships and local equipment manufacturing. . . 


Rural round-up

22/09/2020

Water and labeling high on hort sector’s election wish-list – David Anderson:

New Zealand’s horticulture industry has set out its wishes for the upcoming election campaign, covering water, climate change, country of origin labelling and labour issues.

Industry body Hort NZ is asking that any future government ensures the horticulture sector can develop “within a supportive framework that enables sustainable growth”.

It says the sector currently contributes more than $6 billion to NZ’s economy, is the country’s third largest export industry and employs approximately 60,000 people.

“What horticulture needs in order to continue its success in producing fresh and healthy food for New Zealand and export markets is quite simple.” . . 

Rural environment grows ideas just fine – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Two years ago when he was playing for the Southland Sharks, Clinton man Lydon Aoake struggled to stay motivated.

The now 30-year-old was in the team that took out the 2018 New Zealand Basketball League. That year he juggled training, a full-time job at Danone Nutricia, and fatherhood.

“When I was working out trying to get fit for the Sharks, I wanted to get a personal trainer, but Clinton was pretty rural,” Mr Aoake said.

“So I had a little bit of a fitness background, I knew what I needed to do — it was just the PT motivation that I wanted.” . . 

Fonterra’s dividend – my five cents – Elbow Deep:

It has been quite the year for Fonterra, the co-operative not only won unanimous parliamentary support for the changes they sought to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, they also returned to profit after last year’s first ever financial loss. That profit, a stunning $1.3 billion turnaround from the previous season, saw Fonterra pay suppliers their fourth highest payout in the Co-op’s history; $7.14 per kg of milksolids and a 5c dividend on shares.

As dairy farmers we have been pretty well insulated from the worst financial effects of the pandemic, it has been business as usual thanks largely to Fonterra’s ability to navigate the strict requirements of operating under various levels of lockdown and to quickly react to changes in demand caused by Covid-19.

It struck me as curiously ungrateful, then, that the first response I saw on social media to Fonterra’s excellent result was a complaint the dividend was too low. This, it turns out, was not an isolated expression of that sentiment. . . 

Fonterra stabilises finances with back to basics model, selling assets and retaining profits – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra has stabilised its finances with more asset sales forthcoming. It now operates a conservative model supported by its farmer members. But the model will not create the ‘national champion’ that the Labour Government has always hoped for

Fonterra’s annual results announced in 18 September for the year ending 31 July 2020 indicate that Fonterra has made good progress in stabilising its financial position. A key outcome is a reduction in interest-bearing debt by $1.1 billion, now down to $ 4.7 billion. This has been brought about through asset sales and retained profits.

Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers told a media conference immediately after release of the results that further debt reductions were desired.  The key measure that Fonterra is now using for debt is the multiple of debt to EBITDA, which now stands at 3.4. The desired level in the newly conservative Fonterra is between 2.5 and 3. . . 

Self-shedding sheep study:

Massey University is examining the economic impact and the production consequences of crossbreeding with Wiltshire sheep to a fully shedding flock.

Coarse wool sheep farmers are struggling with the cost of shearing in relation to the value of the wool clip. Many are considering if changing to a self-shedding flock, such as a Wiltshire, is a better way forward.

However, the cost of purchasing purebred Wiltshires – and the limited numbers available – means this is not a viable option for many. However, there are examples of farmers successfully grading up to Wiltshires by continual crossing.

But there is a general lack of accurate recorded information on the costs, benefit and pitfalls from doing so. . . 

Plug pulled on 2021 Marlborough Wine and Food Festival – Tracy Neal:

Organisers of next February’s Marlborough Wine & Food Festival have pulled the plug early.

It is the first time in the event’s 36-year history it has been cancelled, but the potential lingering challenges over Covid-19 posed too much risk.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove said it had been a really tough decision that would impact businesses in our community.

“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest. . . 


Rural round-up

18/08/2020

COVID-19: Time to invest in primary sector R&D – Jacqueline Rowarth:

More investment in agriculture is required to achieve further growth post-COVID, according to Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

Agricultural debt has reached almost $63 billion dollars, up from $12 billion in 2000.

Not generally mentioned in the same news item is that over the same time period, business debt has increased to $122 billion from $41 billion and household debt (mortgage and personal debt) has increased to $297 billion from $70 billion.

New Zealanders have been investing on farm, in business and in their homes to improve the futures, just as the Government has done during the COVID-19 response. . . 

Farmers need a business mindset – Tony Benny:

A Canterbury farming couple made several changes to their farm system to be more environmentally sustainable, earning them the 2020 Canterbury Balance Farm Environment Supreme Award. Tony Bennyreports.

The key to improved environmental outcomes is for farmers to be profitable and efficient so they can afford to make necessary changes, say Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award winners Tony Coltman and Dana Carver.

“It’s not enough to be a good dairy farmer, meaning good with cows and grass, you have to be able to run a profitable business as well. If we, as farmers, don’t learn to be good business managers we’re going to struggle to survive in the world we’re heading into,” Dana says. . . 

Spontaneous fractures – Elbow Deep:

It’s a little daunting starting a new dairy season when you’re coming off the back of the best season the farm has ever had; record production has the effect of setting high expectations of yourself and your staff, and the desire to beat the previous year’s results is foremost in your mind.

Mid Canterbury has had the perfect start to the 2020 season; pasture covers lifted in June thanks  to mild temperatures and good rainfall while all the cows were off farm, and the continuing mild and dry weather since the cows came home has made this one of the easiest calvings I can remember.

While I’ve been making the most of the fine and settled weather I’ve also been waiting for something to go wrong, after all nothing this good can last forever.  I’ve been maximising the benefits of the great conditions while simultaneously bracing myself for an adverse event along the lines of the snowfall of 2006, the one that left this farm without power for twelve days and others in the dark for much longer. . . 

Vets unable to explain broken shoulders in cattle – Gerald Piddock:

Veterinarians and other experts are mystified to explain why more dairy cows are ending up with broken shoulders.

Dairy heifers seem to be most prone to the humerus bone injuries during their first lactation, although they occasionally fall to them in the second lactation. Experts believe the broken shoulders are not an issue with beef cattle.

Broken shoulders appeared mostly during peak lactation in September-October, although they also occurred before calving and through to December, Massey University veterinary professor Dave West told farmers at Limestone Downs Station’s annual field day.

West said a soon-to-be-released study from the university showed this was a serious problem in the dairy industry. . . .

TB strain linked to feral pigs – Colin WIlliscroft:

The same strain of bovine TB infecting Hawke’s Bay cattle has been traced back to feral pigs in the Waipunga area off the Napier Taupo Highway, although pest control on the block of land where the pigs were found has been held up through an objection before the Maori Land Court.

Farmers who attended a recent series of three meetings in Hawke’s Bay, arranged by Ospri to update them on the status of the TB control operation in the region, were told DNA-typing of the TB strain found affecting the region has been traced back to feral pigs on about 12,000ha of Tataraakina C Trust land.

That confirms that the spread of TB in Hawke’s Bay is coming via wildlife and not through movement of livestock. . . 

Ground spreaders celebrate award winners:

The winners and runners up of the 2020 New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) awards were congratulated by Executive Officer, Melanie Dingle, on their contributions to the ground spreading industry at the association’s recent online AGM.

Ted Usmar, head of engineering at Waikato-based Wealleans Ltd, was awarded the Trucks & Trailers sponsored Innovation Award for his long-term commitment to continuous improvement to technical efficiency and driver safety. During his 30 year career, Ted has created engineering solutions that ensure spreader trucks work as efficiently as possible while offering the best safety features for operators. From making small tweaks to full re-designs, Ted’s foresight and innovation is recognised in New Zealand as well as overseas. . . 

Six farmers develop Scotland’s first gluten free oat supply chain :

Six farms have collaborated to develop Scotland’s first gluten free oat supply chain that guarantees provenance, assurance and full traceability.

The market opportunity for gluten free oats drove the six Aberdeenshire farmers to investigate a new supply chain.

The group recognised that, while oats are naturally gluten free, there was no oat assurance scheme that guaranteed that oat storage post-harvest and milling facilities hadn’t been contaminated with gluten from other cereal grains. . .

 


Rural round-up

22/07/2020

Alternative labour sources needed – David Anderson:

Industries that depend on migrant labour – like many in NZ’s primary sector – will need to find alternatives, according to a new report.

The need for alternatives is one of the key findings of the latest report on the agribusiness sector by KPMG in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released 2020 KPMG Agribusiness Agenda says that there is a stigma attached to a career in the production and processing of food and fibre products.

“The jobs are seen as being low skilled, low paid roles which are done by those for which there are no other employment options,” the report says.

“While such perceptions are a million miles away from the truth, they have made it difficult for organisations to recruit the labour force they need, even in countries with significant levels of unemployment.” . . 

Desperate lobbying for the status quo – Elbow Deep:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) reforms were a done deal; a cross-party panel of MPs had unanimously recommended a raft of sweeping changes that addressed issues that have been plaguing the industry for years, and they did so with a refreshing display of clarity, common sense and unity.

After eight years with no changes, a period during which independent processors have been given a leg up at the expense of New Zealand dairy farmers, the Select Committee decided that DIRA had achieved its goal of fostering competition in the dairy industry and it was time for all processors to stand on their own merits.

Having failed to convince the Select Committee to maintain the status quo with their formal submissions, the independent processors are now publicly lobbying to keep the uneven playing field tilted in their favour. They have arranged a last minute meeting with the Minister of Agriculture in an attempt to stop the legislation being passed before the election so they can have another go at arguing for the retention of DIRA’s open entry provisions. . . 

Forest owners to fund clean up of debris, logs at Tolaga Bay :

The Forest Owners Association has apologised and said the industry is committed to cleaning the beach and owners will pay for it, not ratepayers.

The beach in Uawa is strewn with logs and debris from forestry operations up in the hills.

The slash washed onto the beach over the weekend after a metre of rain fell in 24 hours.

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said: “On behalf of the forest industry … I unreservedly apologise to the community for the debris on the beach. They acknowledge it is unacceptable. I can assure the community on the East Coast that the forest industry is committed to cleaning the beach up in conjunction with GDC (Gisborne District Council) … that planning is underway.” . . 

Hope high for wool’s future :

The latest wool working group report brings some hope for reform, innovation and, most importantly, boosted returns for a sector that has languished for almost a generation of farmers as the smallest part of their income stream.

Released this month, the vision and action plan developed by the Wool Industry Project Action Group contains three key recommendations to kickstart the strong wool sector as a sustainable economic fibre base once again.

These include developing a market focused investment case and road map for a strong wool sector, establishing the capability the sector needs to become “match fit” for future opportunities and establishing better co-ordination and governance capability. . . 

Trusts to get extra help – Peter Burke:

MPI says it’s looking at increasing its support to Rural Support Trusts and other rural advisory groups.

Director general of the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ray Smith, says it seems like the country is moving from one set of issues to another, which are all challenging to farmers.

He cites the droughts in the North Island and the feed shortage in the South Island – along with M. bovis and the damage from earthquakes.

“It feels like the expectations on those Trusts are growing and we are trying to increase our investment in them to help the local people,” he told Rural News. . . 

Rural data usage continues to soar as new tech drivers efficient farms and sustainable communities:

Rural broadband specialists, Farmside, have reported a massive 34% average year-on-year data usage increase in Aotearoa’s rural communities since 2017 as new technologies drive efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector. The internet provider, powered by Vodafone New Zealand, is a Gold Partner of the first Fieldays Online launched last week, showcasing three of the latest innovations driving smarter, and more connected, farms.

The Farmside and Vodafone site set up for Fieldays Online features: water quality monitoring system RiverWatch that analyses real-time data on the health of New Zealand’s waterways; smart traps run on Vodafone’s narrowband IoT (nb-IoT) network keep the bird sanctuary at Punakaiki predator-free; and a Wide Area Network (WAN) that securely connects all Pāmu New Zealand’s farms with its corporate offices.

Farmside CEO Jason Sharp says it is innovations such as these that has seen the demand for rural connectivity grow relentlessly over the last few years. . . 


Rural round-up

24/06/2020

Freshwater style over substance – Elbow Deep:

Much has been written about the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) newly released National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater, some groups are cautiously optimistic while others are outraged. Generally when nobody is happy with a decision Government has made it’s an indication they’ve got things pretty much right; I’m not so sure that’s the case this time.

From a farmer’s perspective the NPS could have been much worse; we were faced with the prospect of tearing down thousands of kilometres of fences and putting them back up a couple of metres further away from waterways, and worse, the prospect of a “one size fits all” nitrogen limit for the entire country in spite of its potentially devastating economic consequences for diminishing environmental outcomes.

The majority of freshwater ecologists in the MfE science and technology action group (STAG) were arguing for this blanket nitrogen limit, 1mg of dissolved inorganic nitrogen per litre of water, or 1% DIN. The remainder of the nineteen-strong STAG, the Cautious Five, wanted to use another method  entirely to measure a river’s health, the macroinvertebrate community index (MCI); quite literally counting the creatures in the water to determine how healthy it is. . .

Place on rural leaders’ board chance to give back – Yvonne O’Hara:

Former Nuffield scholar Kate Scott, of Cromwell, has joined the national scholarship programme’s overseeing body as a trustee.

The New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust (Rural Leaders) runs both the Nuffield New Zealand farm scholarship programme and the Kellogg rural leadership programme.

She replaced trustee James Parsons.

“It was an opportunity for me to give back and support the trust, which helped support my scholarship.

“I am looking forward to working beside other board members to provide learning and rural leadership opportunities throughout New Zealand,” she said. . .

Stranded seasonal workers want to go home – Jared Morgan:

Vanuatu’s approach to repatriating seasonal workers stuck in Central Otago may be motivated by economics more than fears of Covid-19, an orchardist and a worker say.

Strode Road Orchard owner Lochie McNally said Vanuatu had not had a case of Covid-19 and the disease had been effectively eliminated in New Zealand, making it difficult to understand what Ni-Vanuatu officials were waiting for.

Orchardists and viticulturists were willing to pay for flights home for the men; he questioned if leaving the workers here was politically motivated.

Mr McNally said it would be cheaper to pay for flights home than to keep paying the men, in his case eight, as work ran out. . . 

Blue Mountain College wins 2020 AgriKids Grand Final:

A talented trio from Blue Mountain College has taken out the title as the 2020 AgriKids winners.

The “West Otago Rams,” made up by Charlie Ottrey, 12, Dylan Young, 12, and Riley Hill, 13, were awarded the title at the Grand Final on Friday.

When asked how the trio felt about their win, they replied in unison “happy,” “overwhelmed,” “and a little bit surprised as well”.

They said the day was really fun but also challenging, with it being their first Grand Final. . . 

New Zealand’s sheep milking business is expanding :

New Zealand’s sheep milking industry has reached a significant milestone as Spring Sheep Milk Co. adds three new farmers to their growing supplier base for the coming dairy season. The new farms are coming onstream as the global dairy company responds to demand for nutritional products made with New Zealand sheep milk.

The addition of new farms is an important tipping point for Spring Sheep as this year the milking flock maintained by external suppliers will exceed that of Spring Sheep’s own farms. These additional milking ewes will help grow the company’s product lines into new markets as well as.

Growing consumer awareness and clinical evidence of sheep milk’s nutritional and digestibility benefits means demand is rising and Spring Sheep is now looking to partner with additional suppliers for the following 2021 dairy season. . . 

Study shows EU intervention programme wreaked havoc on global dairy prices; U.S> groups call for end to EU dumping of dairy products in international markets:

An economic analysis published today shows the serious impact of the European Union’s Skim Milk Powder (SMP) Intervention Program on the U.S. dairy industry—especially to U.S. farm-gate milk prices—in the years 2016-2019.

The report authors conclude that the United States was “economically harmed by the EU’s Intervention program for SMP” in three ways. First, the EU program depressed the global price of SMP, which lowered U.S. milk prices in 2018 and 2019, contributing to a $2.2 billion loss of U.S. dairy-farm income those years. The EU program also artificially inflated its global export market share, resulting in drastically lower market share for U.S. dairy exporters and other SMP exporters and U.S. dairy export losses of $168 million from 2018-2019. Finally, the analysis shows that when the EU unleashed its stockpile of “Intervention SMP” onto the global marketplace, the disposal of the product had harmful effects on the competitiveness of the United States in historically important export markets including Southeast Asia.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the leading dairy trade associations in the United States—the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC)—point to this economic analysis as proof that the EU’s SMP Intervention program wreaked havoc on the U.S. dairy industry. In their letter, the groups urge the U.S. government to prevent the EU from using future Intervention practices to effectively dispose of publicly stockpiled EU dairy products at discounted prices in the international markets. In May, dairy groups from across the Americas joined to call for an end to the EU Intervention Program. . . 


Rural round-up

24/03/2020

Farmers want essential services clarity :

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is urgently seeking clarity from the Government about what primary sector activities will qualify as essential after the Government effectively put the country into lockdown for four weeks to stop the spread of covid-19.

Milne said she has made it clear in conversations with the Government the definition of essential business has to be as wide-ranging as possible so farmers can keep functioning.

“They are part of the food chain and we need them. 

“The people who do service farming, they have an as equally critical role as us who are growing the food.  . . 

Otago farmers nervous about labour from border restrictions :

Uncertainty over travel for the international workforce is compounding what has been a difficult season for orchardists in Central Otago.

Border restrictions and reduced airline capacity in response to Covid-19 are creating anxiety in the industry.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and chief executive of 45 South – New Zealand’s largest cherry exporter – Tim Jones said traditionally two-thirds of his workforce came from overseas, half on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas and half backpackers.

“As a grower, I sit here nervous about labour and we know we use as many Kiwis as we can but to supplement that we employ RSE labour and we employ a lot of backpackers and our obvious concerns are they may not be around in the sort of numbers we’ve had recently. . . 

A DIRA decision – Elbow Deep:

As the world is faced with torrents of horrific news as the pandemic sweeps the globe, it feels like there is little to be positive about. But over recent weeks there have been two small gems for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The first piece of good news was Fonterra’s half year financial results, which are a remarkable turnaround from the Co-op’s first ever loss posted last year. The loss wasn’t insignificant or so small it could be dismissed as a rounding error, the Co-op lost over half a billion dollars which only makes the recent turnaround even more impressive.

At a time of mass uncertainty when many people don’t know if they’ll still have a job in a few months, it is somewhat relieving that these results will see Fonterra inject more than $11 billion into the New Zealand economy through milk payments to their farmers. Those farmers will in turn spend over half of that in their local communities, communities which need money now more than ever before. It’s not just Fonterra farmers who will benefit from the Co-op’s strong performance; independent processors around the country will be benchmarking themselves off the Co-op’s strong performance. . .

Rural sector crying out to recruit more staff – Jacob McSweeny:

While thousands of people around the country are facing joblessness a recruiting company is calling out for workers in the primary sector, saying there were 40 jobs in South Canterbury available now.

Agstaff, Canstaff and New Zealand Dairy Careers managing director Matt Jones said the need for workers had increased as a result of implications from the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The work does not stop — it’s ramped up as some of our clients in the primary production sector increase production to meet New Zealand’s needs.

“The cows still need milked and the crops must be picked,” Mr Jones said.

He said he had a client in South Canterbury who needed 40 people to start immediately. . . 

Post-quake study reveals hort potential – Nigel Malthus:

Large areas of North Canterbury and South Marlborough – affected by the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquakes – offer wide potential for horticulture.

A Plant and Food Research investigation has found that several crops – in particular, apples, grapes, hazelnuts and walnuts – could be grown in pockets throughout the region.

It identified 41,515 ha of land – or about 9% of the total 466,000ha – that would potentially be suitable. . . 

Vets offer Covid-19 advice:

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has some advice for animal owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association representing New Zealand veterinarians says COVID-19 should not reduce the care owners give to their animals’ health and welfare.

“We appreciate there are many issues that people are dealing with in relation to COVID-19, particularly those self-isolating or with family members taking this precautionary measure,” says New Zealand Veterinary Association chief veterinary officer, Dr Helen Beattie.  . . 

Why cradle-to-cradle needs to be included in fashion’s sustainability rating tools :

A review of a leading environmental impact tool for apparel finds that unless improvements are made, weaknesses in the underlying science could lead to misleading results, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the environment.

What do textile lifecycle assessment tools do?

Textile lifecycle assessment (LCA) tools aim to understand, quantify and communicate the environmental credentials of textiles with the intent of minimising environmental impact.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Material Sustainability Index (MSI) is increasingly being adopted by industry but this LCA method currently fails to account for the complexity of the textile industry.

“Several significant environmental impacts and processes are excluded from the MSI and PM, including recyclability, biodegradability, renewability of resource used, microfibres, abiotic resource depletion (minerals) and abiotic bioaccumulation,” said Dr Steve Wiedemann of Integrity AG & Environment.  . . 


Rural round-up

11/12/2019

Carbon neutrality requires permanent forests not production forests – Keith Woodford:

In recent months I have been writing about land-use transformation that will be driven increasingly by carbon trading. If New Zealand is to approach net-zero carbon, then it can only be achieved by a combination of modified lifestyles plus new technologies that either don’t yet exist or are yet to be commercialised. Even with all of these things, it will still require lots of forest plantings to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere in the economy.

A key point underlying the recent articles I have written is that the implications for rural-landscape change have been under-estimated and poorly communicated. A key thrust of this current article is that it is only by permanent forests rather than multiple-rotations of production forests that the march of the pine trees across the landscape can be managed. . .

Fonterra finds an ally – Elbow Deep:

I recently found myself in a pub with a group of people I’d only just met, and for reasons that still remain unclear found myself waxing lyrical about the myriad shortcomings of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA). I was as eloquent and convincing as only a man on his fifth pint can be, and when I finally paused for breath to consider whether I’d missed any crucial points, the woman next to me fixed me with a cool stare and asked “Is that your opinion or Fonterra’s?”

Less than a week later I was online watching DIRA submissions to the Primary Production Select Committee and saw National MP Amy Adams ask Federated Farmer’s Dairy Chair Chris Lewis almost exactly the same question. Why, Adams wanted to know, should the Select Committee take any notice of a Federated Farmers submission. “I’m just trying to understand,” Adams said, “how you ensure that it isn’t effectively the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council by another name.”
Was Lewis voicing Fed’s opinion or that of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council’s?

Therein lies the problem for the Committee of MPs, how do they cut through the obviously self-serving nature of every submission and arrive at the decision of what’s best? . . 

Merino brand plan global from the start – Sally Rae:

The International Wool Textile Organisation held its Wool Round Table in Queenstown recently, 19 years since its last event in New Zealand. Since 1930, IWTO has represented the collective interests of the global wool trade. Business and rural editor Sally Rae attended one of the days.

Hamish Acland has always seen things a little differently.

That came about from the environment he grew up in — an entrepreneurial Canterbury farming family — and has been a trait that he has followed. That was particularly evident with the founding of merino clothing brand Mons Royale.

Ten years on, and Mons Royale now has 700 retail stockists globally, offices in Innsbruck, Vancouver and Wanaka and 50 staff. It has recently opened its first pop-up retail store in Rees St, Queenstown. . . 

Dairy Environment Leaders are embracing change:

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders have concluded their 7th Annual farmer-led forum in Wellington and are returning to their individual communities optimistic about the future of dairy farming and energized to drive positive change, says DEL Chairwoman Tracy Brown.

“This year’s theme was about embracing change and supporting communities’ which we strongly believe are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other” Mrs Brown said.

“Farmers are demonstrating a real willingness to embrace change, and New Zealanders need to see that willingness and support our rural communities and famers on their journey to a more sustainable future. We are all in this together and we all want the same thing at the end of the day. . . 

Big bucks to perk up farmers – Neal Wallace:

An injection of up to $9 million in 23 Southland catchment groups should also help improve the wellbeing of farmers.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the funding at a Thriving Southland function at Five Rivers in northern Southland in what is the first region-wide extension project funded by the $229m Sustainable Land Use package.

Thriving Southland chairman Ewen Mathieson says the project will help farmers reduce their environmental footprint by paying for experts to provide them with advice and guidance.

Enhancing or extending the catchment group model will also provide a social outlet for farmers that should enhance their wellness in an era when they are becoming increasingly isolated. . .

Grasslands more reliable carbon sinks than trees – Kat Kerlin:

Forests have long served as a critical carbon sink, consuming about a quarter of the carbon dioxide pollution produced by humans worldwide. But decades of fire suppression, warming temperatures and drought have increased wildfire risks — turning California’s forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources.

A study from the University of California, Davis, found that grasslands and rangelands are more resilient carbon sinks than forests in 21st century California. As such, the study indicates they should be given opportunities in the state’s cap-and-and trade market, which is designed to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. 

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, could inform similar carbon offset efforts around the globe, particularly those in semi-arid environments, which cover about 40 percent of the planet .. . 


Rural round-up

15/11/2019

Talking key on young farmers’ road home – Alice Scott:

The pressures of the modern world are taking their toll on the mental state of the country’s young people. Alice Scott talks to a young rural lad who has been through it and come out the other side.

Ticking along in his tractor at 11kmh, Harry Railton is drilling the last of the 100ha of oats for the next season, the ryecorn paddocks are up next and then that will be him for the season, as far as tractor work goes.

We establish that his location, in Tekapo, is somewhat outside the Southern Rural Life delivery zone, but, he agrees, it doesn’t matter; battling one’s own inner demons is a universal issue and one that is becoming more important to talk about as the modern world becomes just too much to take for some . .

National and Freshwater November 2019 – Elbow Deep:

I was less than enthusiastic at the thought of attending National MP Todd Muller’s water meeting in Ashburton last month. This wasn’t through any fault of Muller, National’s spokesperson for agriculture, but rather his party’s approach to the raft of challenges farmers are currently facing.

National’s proxies have been advocating for public protest both openly on social media and behind closed doors with industry groups. Protest was a disaster for farmers at the last election and, no matter how good it may have been for the National Party, I still don’t see it as a constructive or useful tool.

Another reason for my antipathy was the recent policy announcement coming from the National Party leaders; the dog whistling has been so loud my Labradors are in a constant state of confusion. Even if there was evidence unvaccinated children of solo mums had caused the measles outbreak in Auckland, and there isn’t, cutting the benefits of those parents still wouldn’t have prevented it. . . .

Political parties and GMOs: we all need to move on – Grant Jacobs:

Recently more than 150 post-graduate students and young scientists presented an open letter to the Green Party via The Spinoff, encouraging them to reconsider their position on genetic modification. Their target is tackling climate change issues.[1]

Can any party continue to be dismissive about genetic modification (GM) contributing to better agriculture?

We all want safe food, and the environment and climate change are important issues to tackle. New varieties can contribute, including those developed using GM. . . .

Couple’s jersey venture promoting wool:

Two years ago, Lawrence farmers Julie and Murray Hellewell decided to seize the day and find their own answer to the dire state of New Zealand’s strong wool industry.

”We just got sick of seeing people not wearing wool. Everyone is going on about doing something about the state of the wool industry but no-one ever actually does anything. We just decided we might as well have a go ourselves,” Mr Hellewell said.

The Hellewells teamed up with wool buyer John Milne of Balclutha’s Ken Milne Wools to establish contacts in the wool sector. All of the fleece is from the Hellewell’s Perendale lamb flock; at 30 microns, the lamb fleece is used for the outer shell of the jersey and lined inside with New Zealand merino wool which is supplied through the knitwear factory. . . .

Dairy sheep open day draws huge crowd– Mark Daniel:

300 plus rurals turned up at the fifth annual Spring Sheep Co open day at Matangi near Hamilton.

The high turnout was little surprise with New Zealand’s bovine dairy industry under the pump. Pushing the message ‘Discover New Zealand’s Gentlest Milk’, building on advantages for those struggling to digest cow milk, the presenters talked the audience through Spring Sheep’s journey so far.

That journey centred around bringing together aspects like the NZ production environment, building a scaleable supply chain, understanding the needs of consumers and new product development. . .

Red meat ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk – Abi Kay:

Red meat is the ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk, according to a leading nutrition expert.

Professor Robert Pickard, emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, said the agricultural industry had been ‘the butt of an enormous journalistic effort to sell copy by producing totally indefensible headlines’ about red meat causing cancer.

Prof Pickard also hit out at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report which claimed processed meats ‘definitely’ cause cancer and lean red meat ‘probably’ causes cancer. . .


Rural round-up

27/09/2019

Southland farmer pens powerful open letter to Jacinda Ardern – Esther Taunton:

A Southland farmer has written a powerful “open letter” to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, urging her to hear farmers’ concerns over proposed freshwater standards.

Ashley Lester’s letter said the eight-week consultation period on the Government’s policy reforms fell during the farm’s busiest time of year.

“To clarify, my team are working 12-hour days to take care of my stock, seven days a week,” she wrote. . .

Water, Protest and Engaging with the Process — September 2019 – Elbow Deep:

The Ministry for the Environment is holding a series of meetings around the country as part of their consultation process for the discussion document Action for Healthy Waterways.

Once the consultation has finished and all the submissions have been summarised, the Ministry will pass their advice on to Cabinet who will then issue a National Policy Statement for Freshwater.

That’s it. There’s no select committee hearing and no need for a law change, the NPS will provide direction to regional and district councils as to how they should carry out their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act.

Realising I needed to learn a lot more about the proposals I attended the Ashburton meeting along with some three hundred other concerned locals, and I’m very glad I did because I learned a lot. Not from the officials giving the presentation, as you might expect, but from the well informed members of the audience. . . 

 

Can Fonterra find a fresh future from a curdled past? – Gyles Beckford:

In 2001 the country’s dairy industry elite unveiled plans for a colossus to bestride the globe.

The world’s biggest dairy exporter needed a name – and the ad-men dreamed up Fonterra – a word derived from the Latin phrase ‘fons de terra’ meaning “spring from the land”.

Inaugural chairman John Roadley said the new name would initially mean little to shareholders, staff and the public.

“Our challenge is to ensure Fonterra means something special to our shareholders, our staff and all New Zealanders within our first year,” he said. . .

Fonterra creates jobs in South Taranaki after job cuts, $605 million loss announced – Jane Matthews:

As it struggles to deal with record $605 million losses, dairy giant Fonterra has set out a plan create more than 30 jobs at its South Taranaki site.

But Eltham’s 34-job gain has come at the cost of 65 in Paraparaumu, north of Wellington, where the company is closing a speciality cheese factory.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell announced the move on Thursday as the company revealed its massive losses during the last financial year. . .

Family turns boutique cheese maker – Toni Williams:

A boutique sheep-milking operation on the edge of Ashburton town is making cheese in the district while the sun still shines.

But decisions on its future will need to be made soon.

Hipi Cheese, owned and operated by Jacy and Allan Ramsay, of Ashburton, started more than four years ago as they worked through their sheep milking processes. Their first milking was in November 2017.

The couple, who both work other jobs, have a micro-farm block of just under 2ha which stocks 24 mostly East Friesian milking ewes but in the past few seasons has included Dairymead genetics with ”a dash of Awassi” . . .

Crops thirsty for more rain – Matt Wallis:

With no substantial rain and the forecast leaving us forever guessing, crops have “hit the wall” as soil moisture reserves have all but depleted coinciding with above average daytime temperatures, wind and multiple frost events.

The current state of the NSW crop is far from perfect and at a crucial stage now of pod filling and flowering while northern Victoria is now beginning to experience symptoms of the NSW crop as the conditions push further south.

While time may be on the side of those further south of the Murrumbidgee, much like Geelong’s chance of adding another premiership to the cabinet, the hour glass is quickly running out. . . 

 


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