Rural round-up

December 7, 2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

November 30, 2019

Good sheep meat prices will last – Annette Scott:

Despite global trade wars, Brexit and the impact of African swine fever the trade fundamentals for New Zealand’s sheep meat sector remain among the strongest in living memory.

Spring lambs at $9 a kilogram and record high mutton prices are not a flash in the pan, Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt and senior insight analyst Ben Hancock say. 

And the fundamentals leading to record highs in the sheep industry look set to continue for at least the next three years.  . . 

Fonterra claims sustainability progress

It is not easy being green when you are not profitable, Fonterra leaders say in the co-op’s third annual Sustainability Report.

The past financial year was tough and one of significant challenges and fundamental change in the culture and strategy of the co-operative.

“Given the tough year we had it would’ve been easy to push sustainability to one side, whereas we have in fact continued to make progress,” chief executive Miles Hurrell said.

“We have underlined our commitment to the importance of sustainability and firmed up plans to do more on climate change, coal, waste and sustainable packaging.” . . 

New wool partnership ‘one of the biggest’ in New Zealand history – Angie Skerrett:

A new partnership between a Canterbury-based wool company and one of the world’s largest apparel and footwear companies is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and VF Corporation have formalised a framework that will grow the market for ZQ certified merino wool.

ZQ natural fibre is the world’s leading ethical wool with growers having to adhere to the requirements set out in the ZQ Grower Standard. . .

US redwood sequoia company wins approval to buy more NZ land – Eric Frykberg:

A US company wanting to grow giant redwood trees here to sell the lumber back home has won the right to buy another 4000ha in New Zealand.

Tough restrictions on cutting down Redwood, or Sequoia, in the US means people cannot get enough of it to use as a building material.

The wood is especially popular for things like decking and outdoor furniture, as it is admired as both attractive and robust.

To meet the need, the Soper Wheeler Company of California set up the New Zealand Redwood Company in Taupō in 2001.

New Zealand’s moist climate allows higher growth rates for Sequoia than in California. . . 

New tool for farmers to measure their GHG :

Options for farmers have now broadened when it comes to managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint on-farm.

The recent inclusion of urease-coated urea fertilisers as an option in the nutrient budgeting tool OverseerFM means farmers will now be able to demonstrate the benefits of its use in reducing farm emissions.

Urease-inhibited urea fertiliser, such as Ravensdown’s N-Protect, has dual benefits. It decreases volatilisation losses, therefore increasing agronomic efficiency by retaining more nitrogen (N) in the root zone. . . 

Dairy Environment Leaders trade gumboots for suits:

The DairyNZ Dairy Environment Leaders are hosting their 7th Annual farmer-led forum in Wellington from 2 – 4 December with a firm focus on supporting communities and embracing change, says DEL Chairwoman Tracy Brown.

“There is a lot of change currently facing our sector with issues like reducing emissions and improving water quality front of mind for both farmers and the general public” Mrs Brown said.

“Our Dairy Environment Leaders are rising to the challenge and leading from the front as they engage with supporters, critics and other farmers. . . 


Rural round-up

November 28, 2019

Government is losing the forestry debate with rural New Zealand – Keith Woodford:

The response of Government Ministers to rural concerns about forestry policy is polarising the debate. Describing rural perspectives as ‘fiction’, and upset rural protesters as ‘rednecks’, is counter-productive.

The combination of the Zero Carbon Act and forthcoming Emission Trading Scheme legislation will transform the New Zealand landscape. The Government has done a poor job of educating New Zealanders as to what it will mean. The Government is now on the defensive.

In this article, the focus is on multi-rotation production forestry. The associated story of permanent forests must wait for another article.

The starting point is that New Zealand has a policy goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. That means, among other things, that either New Zealand has to find new energy sources to replace fossil fuels, or else it has to offset those emission in other ways. The offsetting has to start right now. . . 

Government waterways proposal to move fences could cost millions – farmers – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers who have paid millions of dollars to put fences alongside waterways fear having to pay millions more to move them.

This worry has arisen from the government’s proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, which was released in September.

This plan called for fences to be set back at least five metres from a creek that runs through a farm, to stop nutrients leaking into the water.

Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said many creeks had already been fenced off, and those fences might have to be shifted under the proposed new rules.

“If we have put up fences to exclude stock, the last thing we want, now the goalposts have moved, is to do the whole job all over again,” Mr Allen said. . . 

Debate rages over report findings about meat, health – Brent Melville:

Whether you prefer burgers or beans, it is clear that international lobbying against red meat continues to gain momentum.

The latest volley comes from a recent joint survey by researchers at Oxford University and University of Minnesota.

Their report, “Multiple health and environmental impacts of food”, went further than just the health benefits or otherwise of different foods, linking ingredients associated with improved adult health to lower environmental impacts. And vice-versa.

The researchers picked 15 foods, measuring their impact if they were added to what an average Western adult would eat on a daily basis. . . 

Milk could be carbon-neutral now, says new study – Eloise Gibson:

By boosting how much maize cows eat, modestly reducing stock numbers, shrinking fertiliser use and buying carbon offsets, New Zealand milk could be carbon neutral today, according to a new study modelling changes to a typical Waikato dairy farm.

Researchers at AgResearch have calculated that a typical Waikato dairy farm could go carbon neutral now and still make a profit.

As a bonus, a farm that adopted the changes could also reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 42 percent, improving water quality.

Crucially, the farms profit could also increase, by 15 percent, after factoring in a premium paid by climate-conscious consumers. . . 

More farmers feeling bank pressure, Feds survey finds:

In the last six months farmers’ satisfaction with their banks has continued to erode and the number who feel under pressure from banks has risen from 16% to 23%, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

“While most farmers remain ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their banks, the number giving those ratings have slipped from 71% in May this year to 68% in our November survey,” Feds economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. That’s the lowest since we began the twice-a-year surveys in August 2015.

“This is disappointing but not at all surprising given what we have been hearing over the past several months of banks getting tougher and changing conditions as they seek to contain or even reduce their exposure to agriculture, and also as they respond – prematurely – to the Reserve Bank’s proposals on bank capital,” Andrew says. . . 

 

Dairy, beef, and lamb exports rise in October:

Exports of dairy products, beef, and lamb, particularly to China, increased in value in October 2019, Stats NZ said today.

However, the rises were partly offset by falls in logs and kiwifruit.

In October 2019, the value of total goods exports rose $206 million (4.3 percent) from October 2018 to reach $5.0 billion.

The rise in exports was led by milk powder, up $194 million (32 percent) from October 2018. The rise was quantity-led, but unit values were also up. . .


Rural round-up

November 12, 2019

‘Huge gaps” in environmental data – Colin Williscroft:

Shortcomings in New Zealand’s environmental reporting system undermine rules designed to protect the environment, a new report says.

A review of the reporting system Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton identifies huge gaps in data and knowledge and calls for concerted action to improve the system.

He says the data gaps, along with inconsistent data collection and analysis, make it hard to construct a clear national picture of the state of the environment – and whether it is getting better or worse. . . 

Fonterra confident of making progress – Sally Rae:

While there are more big strategic decisions ahead for Fonterra this year, chairman John Monaghan is “very confident” in the progress the co-operative is making.

Addressing yesterday’s annual meeting, Mr Monaghan said the 2019 financial year was a year of significant challenges and change within the co-operative, as it continued to fundamentally change its culture and strategy.

It was another tough year of significant change for farmers which included the Government’s policy announcements on climate change and freshwater, the effect the Reserve Bank’s proposal to tighten capital reserve rules had on banks’ willingness to lend, and the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

Fonterra’s decision not to pay a dividend and significantly impair a number of assets was a surprise to many farmer shareholders. . . 

Underpass creates safer stock route – Alice Scott:

In 1930, Jim MacDonald’s father was one of many stock drovers on what is now State Highway 87 to take sheep through from Waipori to the Waipiata saleyards; he would pick up different station mobs on horseback with a couple of heading dogs.

These days the MacDonald family require three staff, high-visibility vests for people and dogs and flashing hazard lights on the top of their utes, and that is just to get the stock across the road.

This year Mr MacDonald said the time had come to install a stock underpass as it was no longer safe to cross stock over State Highway 87.

“We’ve had a few dogs go under the wheel of a vehicle and the logistics have just become very difficult. The road just seems to get busier and busier. . . 

Seized fruit tree cutting imports stoush: Nursery owners meet with MPI – Eric Frykberg:

Nursery owners are meeting officials of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in Wellington to try to resolve a continuing stand off over seized cuttings of new varieties of fruit trees.

They have said the Ministry overstated the case when it said progress was being made to resolve the matter, and many claims were still outstanding.

The problem began 16 months ago with the dramatic seizure of 48,000 fruit tree cuttings by officials from MPI. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements are critical to the ongoing success of export industries like horticulture. 

‘Last year, New Zealand exported more than $3.6 billion to 128 different export markets,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘This year, that figure is expected to grow by a further 3.8 percent.  Such high levels of growth can only be achieved if export trading conditions are supportive, and barriers to entry are reduced constantly.’  . . 

Successful conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations welcomed by Onions New Zealand:

Onions New Zealand welcomes the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements like these underpin the success of the New Zealand onion sector.

‘The RCEP covers trade among New Zealand and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, except India.  That is, half the world’s population,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘Without reduced tariffs and clear trading arrangements, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like Asia and Australia. 

‘Agreements like these mean more onions can be exported with the higher returns going directly back into regional New Zealand communities. . . 


Rural round-up

October 16, 2019

Farmers backed by court – Jono Edwards:

The Environment Court has backed Lindis River farmers and water users with a potentially precedent-setting minimum-flow decision.

In a ruling released this week, Judge Jon Jackson set a minimum flow for the river of 550 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1640 litres per second, which are the limits proposed by the Lindis Catchment Group.

This will cancel the limits set by Otago Regional Council-appointed commissioners of a minimum flow of 900 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1200 litres per second.

The catchment group is hailing the decision, having long said the original limits would be devastating for farmers and the local economy.

Water users are awaiting the second proceeding from the court on the issue, which is an “application for a suite of water permits to take water from the river”. . . 

 

Water groups welcome Lindis ruling – Jono Edwards:

Central Otago water leaders hope the Otago Regional Council will back future minimum flows with evidence after an Environment Court decision in the Lindis River.

In a ruling released last week, Judge Jon Jackson set a minimum flow for the river of 550 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1640 litres per second, which are the limits proposed by the Lindis Catchment Group.

The decision could have implications for the setting of minimum flows in the Manuherikia, Arrow and Upper Cardrona rivers.

Manuherikia farmer and water leader Gary Kelliher, who is chairman of the Manuherikia subgroup of the Otago Water Resource Users Group, said water users all over Central Otago would be relieved “to see a sensible outcome has been found”. . . 

 

Cheap avocados: good for consumers but selling at a loss – Eric Frykberg:

Remember the bad old days of the $11 avocado? That was back in May.

The passage of the seasons has subsequently done wonderful things for deprived palates, which were forced to salivate in vain back then.

Vegeland in Christchurch has been advertising avocado at 39 cents each on Facebook.

In Waikato, a roadside stall went further, selling small avocados for $3 for a bag of ten.

However, the industry organisation, New Zealand Avocado, said these prices were unrealistic. . . 

NZ Dairy Industry Awards gives Taranaki sharemilkers confidence to expand

An award-winning South Taranaki couple has doubled the size of their dairy herd in less than four years.

Hollie Wham, 26, and Owen Clegg, 27, 50:50 sharemilk 400 cows across two properties at Manutahi, south of Hawera.

The couple bought their first 180-cow herd in 2016. Condensing the long calving spread was a priority. . . 

Nanotechnology solutions explored in agricultural sector :

Researchers from Lincoln University are investigating how to use nanotechnology in agriculture to increase productivity and reduce environmental impact.

Lincoln University Associate Professor in Animal Science Craig Bunt said his team was looking to develop a groundbreaking nano-coating which could be applied to fertiliser to control its rate of release into soil, and to seeds to control their timing of germination.

Dr Bunt said controlling the rate of release for fertiliser was important because release that was too rapid can result in excessive nitrogen being lost into soil and waterways, causing significant pollution and other negative environmental impacts. . . 

Time to be reasonable on convergence spend – James Porter:

This is going to be a difficult one, because I don’t think it is possible for us all to agree on what is a fair allocation of the promised ‘convergence’ money.

But, before we get started, can we at least agree the ground rules? Can we disagree without being disagreeable, can we listen to each other and assume the best and not the worst? Because tone matters – treating each other with civility and dignity matters.

We only have to look at the toxic state of UK politics to see what happens when the other path is taken and I – and I’m pretty sure most farmers, be they hill or lowland – want nothing to do with it.

My family has a foot in both camps, because although I farm on arable land, my heart is in the highlands. In 1976, my father bought a farm called Cashlie, near the top of Glen Lyon, that is where we spent our summer holidays growing up, fishing and swimming in the lochs and river, walking in the mountains, and helping with the gathering, marking, shearing and dipping. . .


Rural round-up

August 1, 2019

Rural folk – defend yourselves – Robin Greer:

As a proud Southland dairy farmer the wellbeing of our rural families concerns me greatly.

They are constantly bombarded with the hypocrisy of extreme groups and some ministers in our Government.

Many use mistruths to persuade people agriculture needs to be removed from the New Zealand landscape.

We have ministers in the Government who hate dairy farmers and their legacy is to deal with us.

Many of the statements made by some of these people would be called hate speech had it been directed at a different group of the community but farmers are fair game. . . .

First women to graduate from world-leading irrigation design programme :

The latest group of graduates in New Zealand’s Level 5 Certificate in Irrigation Design include the first two women to have done this course.

New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a national qualification in irrigation design.

“IrrigationNZ is proud to have been part of successfully graduating these students from this important course – which will become critical as farmers and businesses increasingly need state-of-the-art irrigation systems to demonstrate efficient and sustainable use of our shared water resources,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal.

“The qualification recognises the specialist skills needed to design technically efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation systems. . .

New Zealand must learn to talk about ‘evolving technologies’ – Sir Peter Gluckman – Eric Frykberg:

New Zealanders should get to grips with gene technology and not bury their heads in sands of short-term thinking, according to one of this country’s leading scientific thinkers.

Sir Peter Gluckman is a former chief science adviser to the prime minister, who has held many academic posts and currently heads a multidisciplinary think tank at Auckland University.

In a speech to the annual conference of Horticulture New Zealand, Sir Peter said New Zealanders must seriously debate evolving technology such as gene editing, and not leave it mired in rhetoric, and conflated with politics.

Sir Peter told his audience there had been centuries of change in organisms’ genetic make-up, which was speeded up with gene transplants in the 1970s. . . 

Third time lucky for winners – Luke Chivers:

Romney genetics and consistency guide Brian and Anna Coogan’s farming philosophy. They told Luke Chivers about winning the annual, national ewe hogget competition.

Convinced by his wife Anna to enter the national ewe hogget competition Brian Coogan has walked away with the top honours.

The Taihape farmer took out the Romney and flock performance sections, finishing just 0.33 of a point ahead of runners-up Allan and Leeann Woodrow of Waikana before going on to win the overall breeds supreme award in the 23rd annual event in Christchurch. . .

Value of red meat exports up by eight percent :

The value of red meat exports of sheep, beef and co-products increased by eight percent to $8.8 billion for the year to June 2019, according to the latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association.

More than 399,470 tonnes of sheepmeat was dispatched, similar to 2018 volumes but the value of these exports increased by six percent.

For beef, export volumes were up by nine percent to more than 453,202 tonnes with a 13 percent increase in value. Co-products exports increased by five percent. . .

Global meat-eating is on the rise, bringing surprising benefits

Things were different 28 years ago, when Zhou Xueyu and her husband moved from the coastal province of Shandong to Beijing and began selling fresh pork. The Xinfadi agricultural market where they opened their stall was then a small outpost of the capital. Only at the busiest times of year, around holidays, might the couple sell more than 100kg of meat in a day. With China’s economic boom just beginning, pork was still a luxury for most people.

Ms Zhou now sells about two tonnes of meat a day. In between expert whacks of her heavy cleaver, she explains how her business has grown. She used to rely on a few suppliers in nearby provinces. . . 

Livestock grazing is vital ‘interference’ to boost biodiversity, new Plantlife study finds – Ben Barnett:

Livestock grazing has a crucial role to play in addressing a dramatic decline in biodiversity-rich wildflower meadows, according to a prominent botanist who warns that totally abandoning land to nature will do more environmental harm than good.

By allowing nature to ‘rewild’ landscapes unchecked, three-quarters of the UK’s most threatened species would decline or disappear altogether within just three years, Dr Trevor Dines said.

Environmentalists have called for the so-called rewilding of parts of the countryside to address historic environmental damage and to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but habitats such as wildflower meadows need sufficient levels of grazing and management to prevent them from being lost, Dr Dines said. . .


Rural round-up

May 16, 2019

Tool for assessing water quality not reliable – scientists – Eric Frykberg:

A group of scientists have gone public with claims that the widely-used Overseer water quality system for farms might not be reliable.

They are the former Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group director Martin Manning, Massey University’s professor emeritus of industrial mathematics, Graeme Wake, Massey agricultural senior scientist Tony Pleasants and a retired associate professor of mathematics, John Gamlen.

Overseer is an online software model which was originally designed as a commercial mechanism for farmers to minimise the amount of fertiliser they used relative to their economic output from their farm. . . 

Looking after the people and the land  – Toni Williams:

Pencarrow Farm is a unique property just minutes from an urban shopping centre. Not only is it picturesque but it is a highly productive and environmentally sound enterprise.

It must be, as it has just won five awards in the 2019 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards – the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award, the Synlait Climate Stewardship Award and the Norwood Agri-business Management Award.

It is acknowledgement that owners Tricia and Andy Macfarlane, and contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver, are doing the right things. . .

Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic:

Deer Industry New Zealand is disappointed by the government’s announced emissions reduction targets for agriculture. 
Dr Ian Walker, Chair of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), says that under current conditions these targets would result in significant reductions in stock numbers. Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in the future, the level of reduction would effectively mean that the agriculture sector was being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming, but also offset the contribution of other sectors. 
“The deer industry as part of the pastoral sector is prepared to play its part in climate change mitigation. We do not deny human-induced climate change nor our responsibility to mitigate. The pastoral sector is willing to target net zero global warming impact from agricultural gasses.  But the targets for methane announced by the Government go beyond net zero global warming impact. DINZ cannot support these targets,” he says. . . 

Rural Equities sells second-largest property – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Rural Equities, the farming group majority-owned by the Cushing family, has agreed to sell its second-largest property as it rejigs its portfolio.

Puketotara, a beef and sheep finishing operation near Huntly, covers 1,146 hectares and typically carries 12,000 stock.

The company, which trades on the Unlisted exchange, said it expects about $11.7 million from the sale including livestock. The deal will settle on June 20. . . 

YTD tractor and farm machinery sales steady:

Sales of tractors and farm machinery are currently steady compared to 2018 but there are a few challenges facing the sector, says Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president, John Tulloch.

TAMA year-to-date figures to the end of April showed a total of 1104 sales across all HP categories compared to 1111 in 2018: a drop of 0.6%. North Island sales decreased by 4.7% with 713 sales compared to last year’s 748 but South Island sales increased by 7.4% with 390 compared with 363. . . 

Established blueberry orchards placed on the market for sale:

The land, buildings and orchards sustaining one of New Zealand’s quality blueberry growing and processing operations has been placed on the market for sale.

The portfolio encompasses three separate properties in the Central Waikato areas of Rukuhia and Cambridge – the hub of blueberry production in New Zealand. Some 80 percent of New Zealand’s blueberry crop is grown in the Waikato region, with its nutrient-rich peat-based soils. . . 


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