Rural round-up

July 8, 2020

Let them eat wood – Dame Anne Salmond:

The farmers are right. As the price of carbon rises, the settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will make it more profitable to plant pine trees than to grow food (or native forests) in many parts of New Zealand.

On the East Coast, for instance, a landowner will be paid 10 times more by year 5 for planting pine trees instead of native forest, and farmland is going under pine trees in many places. With wool prices at historic lows, and rising carbon prices, this trend will only accelerate.

On highly erodible soils, the folly of planting shallow-rooted pine trees and clear-felling them every 25-30 years is obvious. Witness the tsunami of logs and sediment that have drowned streams, rivers, houses, fields, beaches and harbours in places like Tolaga Bay, Marahau, and many other parts of New Zealand.

With two-thirds of the forestry industry owned overseas, like the logs, the profits are exported, but the costs remain behind. Ravaged landscapes, wildling pines, roading networks wrecked by logging trucks, workers killed and injured in the forests. . . 

Farmer’s pitch to big biz: My land, your trees, planet’s gain –  Jo Lines-MacKenzie:

One farmer’s novel pitch to big firms to use her land for carbon offset tree planting is being touted as a win-win for both the business and agricultural sectors.

Federated Farmers says the idea could catch on and they could be the organisation to make it work.

The idea has been sparked by King Country farmer Dani Darke who posted a proposal on social media to offer up 10 hectares of her own land to plant native trees.

She pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Z Energy, and anyone else who wanted to participate. . . 

Strath Taieri the new food bowl of New Zealand – Sally Rae:

Strath Taieri is a traditional farming district, best known for sheep and beef cattle. But an irrigation proposal being mooted has the potential to see it diversify into other areas, including horticulture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Strath Taieri — the new Food Bowl of Dunedin?

That’s what the Strath Taieri Irrigation Company (STIC) believes could happen if the Taieri Catchment Community Resilience Project wins approval.

It is a project that has been talked about for decades but which, in recent times, has gained momentum, with an application for funding made to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Without reliable water, the future for the district would be bleak, STIC said.

And by bringing more irrigation water to the area and ensuring certainty of supply, there was potential for diversification of the traditional sheep and beef farming area into the likes of horticulture, as well as increasing productivity within existing farming operations. . . 

Direction of horticulture industry aligns with Fit for a Better World:

Horticulture New Zealand says the horticulture industry’s future focused strategies align well with what is proposed in Fit for a Better World

‘Horticulture is already well into the journey that has been identified and proposed in these reports, and this journey will continue,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Immediately post lockdown, our entire industry – comprising more than 20 different fruit and vegetable product groups – got together with key government departments to develop and implement a strategy and work programme that will see horticulture spearhead New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from Covid.

‘We are encouraged to see that the proposal identifies a key opportunity to accelerate the horticulture industry’s development, which fits perfectly with our own work. . . 

Low-methane ‘elite’ sheep breeding project finds success – AgResearch scientist – Eric Frykberg:

Low methane appears to be a breedable trait that does not affect economic value in sheep, and could lead to a cumulative 1 percent reduction in emissions each year, farmers have been told.

AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe told a webinar organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Council that research into such animals had been going on for a decade.

Rowe said a study of 1000 sheep divided into high emitting and low emitting animals found these traits were passed on to successive generations.

“After three generations we have 11 percent less methane per kilogramme of feed eaten,” she said. . . 

Bingara producers turn to embryos to breed back out of drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

Bingara producer Rhonda King and her 86-year-old father Alf were steaming ahead with their Speckle Park herd when back-to-back droughts crippled their momentum.

In January they had made the decision to sell the final remnants of their 300-head herd at Doctors Creek when rain came not long after and saved them from the decision.

With cattle prices soaring to record levels Ms King opted to use her lifetime travel savings to purchase embryos rather than replacement livestock and is hoping to breed her way back into business.

Their herd currently consists of about 90 Speckle Park including cows, heifers and bulls with an additional 11 Angus recipients purchased from another stud. . . 


Rural round-up

July 6, 2020

The perils of growing food in the era of Covid-19 – Eric Frykberg:

More evidence has emerged of the perils of growing food in the era of Covid-19.

The main problem is that many essential workers from overseas cannot come in because of travel restrictions, either as backpacking working holiday makers, or Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme workers from the Pacific Islands.

This point was made repeatedly by agricultural sectors at a Parliament’s Primary Production Select Committee yesterday.

Representatives of the strawberry industry told the committee that had done all they could to attract New Zealand workers – even growing strawberries on tables so that pickers don’t have to toil all day bent double. . . 

Rural water hijacked – Gerald Piddock:

Farmers are worried Environment Minister David Parker’s decision to fast track Watercare’s consent to take Waikato River water for Aucklanders will come at the expense of their allocations.

There is concern farmers who were ahead of the Auckland Council’s water company in the queue for consent applications could now miss out because of the decision, Waikato Federated Farmers president Jacqui Hahn said.

“It’s not really right. A region should look after its own.” . . 

Farmers donate meat to charity :

A North Otago farmer who is among the first in the country to contribute to a new meat donation service is hoping others will follow.

Meat the Need is a national charity designed to supply meat to City Missions and food banks.

The meat is donated by farmers, processed, packed and delivered to those most in need.

Altavady Farm’s Kate Faulks was one of the first Silver Fern Farms farmers to support the cause, donating a cow and a beef steer.

She is part of a North Otago family business made up of four farms: two dairy farms (Providence farm, Fortitude farm), one dairy support farm (Living Springs Farm) and one dairy support/beef farm (Altavady Farm). . . 

Report shows swell in demand for irrigation – Daniel Birchfield:

A dry autumn helped the North Otago Irrigation Company pump out its third highest recorded volume of water to properties on its scheme since it was opened close to 14 years ago.

About 38million cum of water was delivered to 163 farmer shareholders, irrigating 26,000 hectares of land in the 11 months to May 31, the company’s report to the Waitaki District Council, presented on Tuesday, showed.

There was strong demand for irrigation over the peak summer period, after a typically slow start in October and November, which the report said was more than offset by demand in December and January.

The dry autumn which followed boosted demand further.  . . 

Hemp success at Darfield farm:

As one of the world’s most controversial (and misunderstood) plants, hemp is good for a whole lot of things: shoes, clothing, paper, you name it. And now it’s proven to be a perfect crop for the Co-op.

It was grown at Fonterra’s Darfield farm as a first-of-its-kind trial to see how hemp grows under dairy wastewater irrigation. They’ve found it’s a profitable, resilient and nutrient-gobbling alternative to the usual pasture grown at the 850ha Darfield farm, located just out of Christchurch.

While Hemp looks like cannabis, it does not contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.

Fonterra’s Regional Farm Operations Manager, Steve Veix says the dry, hot Canterbury summers make it challenging to find the ideal crop to grow on-farm, which traditionally grows pasture. . . 

2020 Tonnellerie De Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year competition to go ahead:

Entries are now open for the 2020 Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year Competition. Plans are well underway for the regional competitions to take place throughout September and the national final in November.

The competition is open to all those under the age of thirty involved in wine production. This includes cellarhands, cellar managers, laboratory technicians, assistant winemakers and winemakers.

The competition helps stretch the ambitious contestants as well as help them widen their network and start making a name for themselves. . .


Rural round-up

June 26, 2020

Govt’s obsession with planting trees a big mistake – Mike Hosking:

am glad the forestation of this country at the expense of good, productive farmland finally appears to be getting the sort of attention it deserves. The trouble with a crisis, is it takes your eye off all sorts of balls, and  various issues would have had far greater scrutiny if we hadn’t had a virus to deal with.

Planting trees to allow us to meet our Paris accord deal is potentially a catastrophic mistake that is unfolding before our eyes.

Firstly, because our calling card to the world is not our climate credentials, it’s the food we sell. For that you need productive land. Under the Emission Trading Scheme changes, the price of carbon lifts. As it lifts, it becomes more attractive to buy land to plant trees.

Planting trees is easy, and people always take the easy path. And what makes this worse is many who invest in these trees have no intention of harvesting them. They’re simply there to clip the ticket. . . 

Majority of farmers find Fonterra Shareholders’ Council ineffective – survey – Eric Frykberg:

The main watchdog for dairy giant Fonterra has been told it has to lift its game.

The comments came in the first of a two-part inquiry into Fonterra Shareholders Council.

The council is supposed to monitor the company on behalf of its 10,000 farmer shareholders, but it has incurred a lot of criticism including comments from the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that it was “less a watchdog than a lapdog”.

The Shareholders Council commissisoned a review of itself last year, chaired by veteran public servant James Buwalda. . . 

Wool classer receives merit award – Yvonne O’Hara:

Wool has always been part of Anne-Marie Parcell’s life.

“I love it and not a day goes by when I am not staring at sheep or touching wool. If I am not spinning it, I am shearing or crutching or drafting. I never wear polar fleece,” the Bannockburn wool classer said.

And neither did the two lambs that turned up last week wearing wearing wool jackets.

Ms Parcell was delighted when she was given a merino merit award from the New Zealand Wool Classers Association recently, for the clip she classed at Northburn Station, near Cromwell. . .

Fonterra announces Peter McBride as chairman elect:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (FCG) has announced that current Farmer Director, Peter McBride has been selected as the Co-operative’s Chairman-elect by his fellow Directors.

Under Fonterra’s constitution, its Chairman is selected by the Board from within its pool of seven elected Farmer Directors.

Mr McBride will replace current Fonterra Chairman, John Monaghan when he retires as a Director of the Co-op at its Annual Meeting this November. . .

Adept wool presser will never give up :

Here’s a riddle … If two shearers clip a total of 100 sheep, and one shears three more than the other — what is the tally for each? Turangi Morehu jokes that he has asked this riddle to many in the shearing fraternity over the years, including world champion Sir David Fagan “and I’m still waiting for his answer”, he quips.

Mr Morehu, known to most as Tu, “after one and before three”, is the ubiquitous and hard-working character floating between the gangs of Peter Lyons Shearing, keeping an eye on things for Mr Lyons and wife, Elsie.

Originally from Tuatahuna and spending his younger years in Rotorua, Mr Morehu has worked as a wool presser since he left school at the age of 13 . .

Kauri still waiting for dieback plan – Farrah Hancock:

A pest management plan for kauri dieback is missing in action. Farah Hancock reports.

Thirty months after it was announced, there’s still no National Pest Management Plan for kauri dieback.

In 2017, the Government said it was moving immediately to strengthen efforts to protect kauri trees. One of those efforts was creating a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP).

“An NPMP shows how serious we are about protecting kauri. It is by far the strongest piece of regulation available and will ensure mandatory hygiene practices, consistent regulations that apply nationally, stronger governance and access to funding,” said Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor when he announced the plan in December 2017. . .

Britain opens free trade negotiations with New Zealand – Liz Truss:

This week is the start of an exciting new chapter in the shared history of Britain and New Zealand.

Our two island nations are already close friends, bound tightly by cultural, economic and social ties that have stood the test of time.

Britain is the largest ex-pat community in New Zealand. We both share a language, a head of state and a system of common law. We also share a strong commitment to free and fair trade, and believe fundamentally in the rule of law and the power that democracy has to drive forward human progress. . .


Rural round-up

May 29, 2020

Oxford research: Livestock emission calculations could be ‘unfair and inefficient’ – Sylvester Phelan:

The way that governments are setting targets for different greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be “unfair, inefficient and dangerous”, according to researchers at Oxford University – referencing the calculations of livestock emissions such as methane in particular as inaccurate.

Researchers from the LEAP (Livestock, Environment and People) project, based at the Oxford Martin School, made the argument in a paper published in Environmental Research Letters last month.

In the paper, the scientists say the commonly-used GWP100 (Global Warming Potential) method “obscures how different emissions contribute to global temperature change”. . . 

Forestry reform bill ‘cumbersome and unworkable’ – industry– Eric Frykberg:

There has been scathing criticism of the government’s latest forestry reforms at a parliamentary select committee.

The reforms are part of the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on Budget night] and has already surfaced for consideration at a parliamentary select committee.

This law would require forestry advisers, log traders and exporters to join a register and agree to work on nationally agreed standards.

The aim was to reduce the number of logs being exported raw and to direct more towards New Zealand sawmills and create jobs as a result. . .

Farm Environment Plans come out on top for growers and the environment:

Farm Environment Plans have come out on top as the best way for vegetable and fruit growers to manage their environmental impact and at the same time, provide evidence to regulators. 

That’s the finding of independent research called Joining the Dots, conducted by Agrilink NZ and New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP) for the New Zealand horticulture industry.  (Farm Environment Plans are part of the horticulture industry’s GAP programmes.)   

Horticulture New Zealand Sustainability and Extension Manager, Ailsa Robertson says the research is exactly what the industry has needed to support the use of Farm Environment Plans. 

‘Joining the Dots shows what we knew all along, which is that Farm Environment Plans are the best tools for growers to use to understand their environmental impact and put in place actions to reduce that impact, where necessary.  . . 

Federated Farmers – Rabobank remuneration survey shows good growth in farmer pay:

Strong growth in pay packages in the last two years is another reason for New Zealanders to consider a career in agriculture, Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says. 

The 2020 Federated Farmers – Rabobank Farm Remuneration Report, released today, shows that between 2017/2018 and 2019/20, the mean total remuneration package (i.e. salary plus benefits such as accommodation, meat, firewood, Kiwisaver, etc) has increased significantly for farm employees across all sectors groups. 

Based on survey responses relating to nearly 3,000 on-farm positions, the report shows the mean farm employee remuneration package for dairy farm workers rose by 9.7% to $57,125, across sheep/beef farm roles it was up by 7.6% to $55,568, across grain farms it was up by 3.1% to $58,800 and in ‘other’ specialist farm roles outside standard position descriptions, it was up by 16% to $61,288.  . . 

After seven years Alison Gibb steps of Dairy Women’s Network board:

After seven years Alison Gibb will pull up her chair as a Trustee at next week’s Dairy Women’s Network board meeting for the last time.

“It’s time to step back and let fresh eyes and input take the organisation to the next level, and it’s also important for me that I move on to new challenges,” she said.

“I was on the appointments committee for the three replacements (for the Dairy Women’s Network Board) and believe that they will bring a different set of skills and provide an exciting freshness to the board.” . . 

Wine growers hope harvest fortunes will remain golden – Tracy Neal:

Marlborough winemakers are hoping the best harvest in a decade will help shore up exports and cellar door sales.

Covid-19 hit hardest as the harvest was in full-swing, forcing a rapid shift in how it was managed.

Now the grapes are in, some say the hard work is only just starting as they strive to maintain markets.

On a late autumn morning, as the fog was just lifting off the hills above the Wairau River, Huia Winery’s team of three – Claire Allan, husband Mike and daughter Sophie, were taking a break amid the tanks and wooden barrels in their organic winery. . .


Rural round-up

May 14, 2020

COVID-19: Farming continues while pollution falls – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth on how the agriculture and horticulture sectors are supporting New Zealand through the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPINION: New Zealanders have been urged to order food from outlets that don’t use Uber, and to be extremely careful using Tinder.

The first is because of expenditure (Uber apparently takes 35% of the bill). The second is because of COVID-19 and potential to transmit the virus. (NRL players have been forbidden to use the app and the difficulty of maintaining 2m distance must be acknowledged.)

It is probable that rural dwellers will find it easier to comply with these requests than those who live in urban districts. It is possible that rural dwellers have never used either of the two services. It is also possible that rural dwellers are wondering about how much money is evaporated on services that make it easier to spend more money on services.  . . 

Court grants farmers appeal extension :

The Environment Court has granted extra time to allow appeals on the Waikato Regional Council’s plan change 1.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn said individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from May 11 to file appeals.

Industry groups including Federated Farmers have a shorter deadline of 50 working days from April 28 to file their appeals. . . 

Water users frustrated as ORC torpedoes local decision-making:

As if there wasn’t already enough stress and economic hurdles facing the region, the Otago Regional Council has added to the uncertainty. 

The submission period closed on the ORC’s Proposed Plan Change 7 on water permits on Monday.  However, because Council notified the plan change, and then asked the government to call it in, there’ll be another whole round of submissions once the Environmental Protection Authority renotifies it, which is frustrating to impacted resource users.

Federated Farmers – like most, if not all, other rural representatives – has opposed PC7.  

“We said in our submission that it fails on tests of cost-effectiveness, fairness, adequate consultation, and consistency with existing policies,” Federated Farmers Otago President Simon Davies says. . .

Pride regained telling people we are farmers – Mike Cranstone:

It is great to be a farmer; it certainly has not been an easy autumn, but we are lucky to be still in charge of our businesses. And a farm is a perfect backyard for kids to be in throughout lockdown. Our consideration must go to those people with uncertain job prospects, and the many local small business owners who provide an invaluable service to the farming sector. I encourage farmers to think of what work, whether servicing or projects that we can bring forward to help these businesses get back on their feet.

This season was always shaping up to be memorable. In December it was shaping up to be one of the best, with good feed levels matched with an $8 floor to the lamb schedule, mid $7 and $6 for dairy and beef, respectively.

If we were feeling comfortable, the impact of Covid-19 and a lingering widespread drought put pay to that. For farmers, the drought is having a more immediate financial impact. There is plenty of uncertainty looking forward, with how the looming global recession will impact demand and prices for meat and dairy.

The drought has put significant pressure on farmers, with stock water being a real issue and now with low feed covers going into late autumn. Getting killing space for all stock classes has been difficult since December, with prime cattle being terribly slow. Farmers’ loyalty to their meat company has generally been well rewarded, but I am interested where that often-discussed meat industry overcapacity is hiding. It could be a long tough winter with low feed covers, please keep an eye on our fellow farmers’ welfare along with that of our animals. . . 

Feds wins time for Waikato farmers and growers:

The Environment Court’s decision to allow more time for the filing of appeals on Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1 has Federated Farmers breathing a sigh of relief.

All three of the Federated Farmers provinces affected by this plan change are delighted and somewhat relieved with this decision.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn says this means individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from 11 May to file appeals. . . 

Covid-19 could revive single-use plastics – agribusiness head – Eric Frykberg:

The Covid-19 crisis could be a big setback to progress on eliminating plastics, a rural expert has warned.

Ian Proudfoot, global head of agribusiness for KPMG, told a webinar the desire for health and hygiene could easily trump environmental worries about plastics.

His comments follow a steady pushback against plastics overseas and in New Zealand, where it led to a ban on single use plastic bags in many parts of the economy with the aim of reducing pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, which are a raw ingredient for many plastics.

Proudfoot warned however that people could easily come to view plastic-packaged foodstuffs as clean and safe and could start to insist on it, leading to a revival in the use of plastics. . .


Rural round-up

May 7, 2020

Horticultural labour shortage could mean food shortage, industry warns – Eric Frykberg:

Production of some food could become a casualty of the campaign against Covid-19, the horticultural industry says.

The industry said it strongly supported the fight against the disease, but no one should be blind to its real costs.

These included the risk of some growers quitting the business for lack of markets and workers, thereby reducing New Zealand’s food supply.

The comments come in the wake of a desperate plea from a Northland producer Brett Heap who grows zucchini on 30 hectares near Kerikeri. . . 

Hawke’s Bay farmers desperate in drought: ‘Mother nature has got it in for us’ – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers in Hawke’s Bay are becoming desperate as drought conditions continue in their region.

A series of pictures have been posted on Facebook showing dehydrated paddocks, some with barely a blade of grass growing.

Feed brought in from outside is expensive and sometimes unavailable.

Occasional rain has done nothing to dent the real problem. . .

Water quality not just farming’s problem – Peter Burke:

A report by the Government is offering further evidence that New Zealand’s freshwater is being impacted not just by farming but equally by urban development, forestry and other human activities.

Our Freshwater 2020, by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and the Department of Statistics (DoS), highlights how climate change is set to make the issues faced by our freshwater environments even worse. The report’s authors say it builds on the information presented in previous reports but goes deeper on the issues affecting freshwater in NZ.

This includes new insights on the health of freshwater ecosystems, heavy metals in urban streams, consented water takes and expected changes due to climate change. . .

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown.

Hortus owner Aaron Jay said his RSE workers were “flogging the wifi to death” on lockdown like any other household in Blenheim; chatting to people at home, and watching movies and sport. . . 

We are starting to see some hope – Meriana Johnsen:

The heart of the Gisborne economy is beating again as the forestry industry is back in full swing under alert level 3..

About 300 forestry workers lost their jobs or had hours reduced prior to the lockdown after China, which takes over 90 percent of the region’s logs, stopped doing so in February.

Eastland Port has been able to retain all 50 of its staff, and its chief operating officer Andrew Gaddum was relieved it had work for them. . .

 

New British-made camera detects crop disease quickly:

A new camera that will detect crop disease quickly and at a significantly lower cost has been developed by British researchers.

The technology could potentially save farmers worldwide thousands of pounds in lost produce, while increasing crop yields.

Traditional hyperspectral cameras, which can be used in agricultural management to scan crops to monitor their health, are expensive and bulky due to the nature of complex optics and electronics within the devices. . .


Rural round-up

April 30, 2020

Farmers ask government to align domestic, international emissions target – Eric Fryberg:

Two major farming groups have urged the Climate Change Commission to align New Zealand’s domestic policy with its international promises on climate change.

Dairy NZ and Beef and Lamb said it did not make sense for the government to do one thing within New Zealand and something else for the rest of the world.

Their concern was based on the relative importance of different greenhouse gases.

Domestically, the government has legislated a different emissions reduction target for long-lived gases like carbon dioxide, compared with a short-lived gas like methane. . .

Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year finalists reflect depth and diversity in the industry:

Three woman contributing to the dairy industry in very different ways are this year’s finalists in the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

Ngai Tahu Farming Technical Farm Manager Ash-Leigh Campbell from Christchurch, Auckland based microbiologist and bio chemist Natasha Maguire and West Coast dairy farmer Heather McKay are all in the running for the prestigious dairy award managed by the Dairy Women’s Network being announced early next month.

Dairy Women’s Network Trustee and a member of the awards judging panel Alison Gibb said all three finalists came from such different directions and perspectives which highlighted the depth and diversity of how women are contributing to the dairy industry in New Zealand. . . 

Ag exports a ‘godsend’ – Pam Tipa:

Primary product prices will fall further this year but remain at reasonable levels before some improvement in 2021, according to BNZ senior economist Doug Steel.

However, the falls – so far this year – have not been as much as might have been expected, he says.

“The defensive qualities of NZ’s food-heavy export mix may well be a Godsend for the economy as a whole during the current turmoil. If nothing else, it is easy to imagine a new-found appreciation for where our food comes from,” Steel told Rural News. . .

Ritchie instrumental in driving positive change for red meat sector – Allan Barber:

Tim Ritchie came into the Meat Industry Association as CEO at the end of 2007, initially intended to be for an 18 month period, and retired earlier this month over 12 years later. His first task was the planned merger of the processor representative organisation with Meat & Wool, the forerunner of Beef + Lamb NZ, which was strongly promoted by Keith Cooper, then CEO of Silver Fern Farms, and Meat & Wool chairman, Mike Petersen.

The merger was doomed to fail after dissension among the processors, some of which failed to see how the two organisations, one a member funded trade association and the other a farmer levy funded body, could possibly work as one. History has clearly shown the logic behind the eventual outcome which has seen MIA and B+LNZ each carving out a clearly defined role to the ultimate benefit of the red meat sector. . . 

Cautious optimism over apple exports – Peter Burke:

NZ Apples and Pears says while it’s early days yet, apple export volumes for this year are only slightly behind last year.

Alan Pollard, chief executive of NZ Apples and Pears, says so far there has only been 25% harvested, but the signs are encouraging and he’s cautiously optimistic.

He’s predicting that it may be a reasonable year, but not a great year. . .

An historic month:

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 50 less farm sales (-15.1%) for the three months ended March 2020 than for the three months ended March 2019. Overall, there were 281 farm sales in the three months ended March 2020, compared to 329 farm sales for the three months ended February 2020 (-14.6%), and 331 farm sales for the three months ended March 2019. 1,216 farms were sold in the year to March 2020, 15.9% fewer than were sold in the year to March 2019, with 32.6% less Dairy farms, 14.3% less Grazing farms, 26.1% less Finishing farms and 14.1% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to March 2020 was $21,130 compared to $23,383 recorded for three months ended March 2019 (-9.6%). The median price per hectare increased 2.7% compared to February 2020. . . 


Rural round-up

April 15, 2020

New research indicates NZ’s sheep and beef greenhouse gas emissions have been overstated:

AgResearch has developed a more accurate calculation of the nitrous oxide emissions from sheep, beef and dairy production, which shows that nitrous oxide emissions are two thirds and one third respectively lower than previously thought.

The new nitrous oxide measurement will reduce each sector’s total greenhouse gas emission by the following:

    • Total sheep emissions (including methane and nitrous oxide emissions) will be around 10.6 percent lower than previously reported. 
    • Total beef cattle emissions (including methane and nitrous oxide emissions) will be 5.0 percent lower than previously reported. . . 

Workers give up Eater break to clear logjam at meat plants – Eric Frykberg:

Staff at 12 meat plants run by Silver Fern Farms worked on Good Friday and Easter Monday to try to catch up with a serious backlog of animals needing to be processed.

The company won’t give any numbers because of commercial confidentiality but says a dent was made in the logjam of stock at hardpressed processing plants.

The problem arose even before the Covid-19 crisis, when drought killed off grass growth on many New Zealand paddocks, leaving little feed available for livestock.

To solve this problem, farmers sent their stock to the works early, creating a backlog of stock in waiting yards. . . 

Shearing not cut out – Pam Tipa:

Shearing has been deemed an essential service, but people must come first, says Mike Barrowcliffe, NZ Shearing Contractors Association president.

“The last thing an 80-year-old farmer wants is a whole lot of young people who haven’t been self-isolating turning up to his place to shear his sheep,” he says.

Everyone should put safety first throughout the whole supply chain – from the farmers themselves to contractor employees, Barrowcliffe told Rural News.

“They need to ask the questions, is it essential and can it wait?” he says. . . 

Vet firm uneasy over what services to offer – Sally Rae:

It’s not business as usual for vets — despite what the public’s perception might be, Oamaru vet Simon Laming says.

Mr Laming, of Veterinary Centre Ltd, which has clinics throughout the region, expressed concerns about the services the business should continue to offer, and the public perception of continuing to operate as an essential service.

A visit from police recently followed a complaint from a member of the public who had seen two people in one of the Veterinary Centre’s trucks.

What had been difficult to establish was exactly what services should be offered as guidelines were not very specific, Mr Laming said. . . 

Meat Industry Association calls for fair treatment in renewable energy targets:

New Zealand’s meat processing sector will need more time if it is to meet proposed targets for renewable energy, says the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Sirma Karapeeva, Chief Executive of the MIA, said the vast cost of converting coal-fired boilers to alternative heating by the proposed deadline of 2030 would place huge pressure on an industry that is already facing significant headwinds.

If the proposals go ahead in their current form, the sector would not be able to absorb the estimated $80 million capital cost of converting to direct electric, heat pump or biomass options in such a short time frame. . . 

Wattie’s is setting production records to help supermarkets meet consumer demand:

Teams of employees in Wattie’s factories in Hawke’s Bay, Christchurch and Auckland have been working as never before to help keep supermarkets stocked in their efforts to satisfy consumer demand in these unprecedent times of the Covid-19 crisis.

The range of products include Wattie’s tomato sauce, Wattie’s baked beans & spaghetti, soups and canned and frozen meals, frozen peas and mixed vegetables, and dips. On top of these are the seasonal products like peaches, pears and beetroot.

All this while, the country’s largest tomato harvesting and processing season is underway in Hawke’s Bay. Harvesting started on February 21 and is scheduled to continue until April 22. With social distancing requirements extending to the fields, the job of harvest operators can become very lonely with 12-hour shifts. . . 


Rural round-up

January 27, 2020

Land values slide – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy land values will slide over the next five years as farming is put under increased economic and environmental pressure, Rabobank says.

Tighter credit, reduced foreign capital and pending environmental change will all lead to softer dairy land prices in the short to medium term,  Rabobank’s Afloat But Drifting Backwards – A Look at Dairy Land Values Over the Next Five Years report says.

And an erosion of farmgate milk prices could put more stress on dairy land prices, author and dairy analyst Emma Higgins said.

The bank forecasts an average farmgate milk price of $6.25/kg milksolids for the five years – above the 10-year average but below recent prices. . . 

Federated Farmers backs call to slice agricultural subsidies:

Cutting agricultural subsidies that distort trade and production is a vital step in tackling world hunger and climate change challenges, Federated Farmers says.

“We’re right behind the messages on further reform of WTO rules on subsidies that the Cairns Group of major exporting countries put to world leaders in Davos this week,” Feds President Katie Milne said 

“New Zealand farmers are positive proof that reducing domestic subsidies drives innovation and food production efficiency, and ultimately delivers for the consumer in terms of quality, choice and prices, as well as for the environment.  Our meat and milk have one of the lowest carbon footprints per kilogram of product in the world.” . . 

Renewed call for easier trade in agriculture welcomed in NZ – Eric Frykberg:

A veteran trade lobby group emerged from hibernation in Switzerland last week to renew the call for easier trade in agriculture.

The 19-nation Cairns Group made its plea after ministers met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

The 33-year-old Cairns Group helped establish the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the 1990s.

But it went off the radar, after a later effort, the so-called Doha Round of trade talks, faltered. . . 

Total ban on livestock exports could threaten NZ’s trad – Fed Farmers – MAja Burry:

Federated Farmers is warning a ban on live exports would cut off an income stream to thousands of New Zealand farmers.

The government launched a review into the practice of exporting livestock in June last year, after New Zealand and Australian cattle died when being shipped to Sri Lanka last year.

The review is focused on cattle, deer, goat and sheep exports. A consolation document prepared by the Ministry for Primary Industries puts forward four options, which range from improving current systems to a total ban on the practice.

Public consultation on the review closed this week, with more than 3500 submissions being lodged with the ministry. . . 

Obstacles remain to a free trade deal with the EU – Sam Sachdeva :

Bold talk of an FTA between New Zealand and the European Union by the end of 2019 proved misplaced – and wrapping up talks in 2020 may also be a stretch unless major hurdles are overcome

By the end of 2019, Jacinda Ardern’s so-called “year of delivery” was as much about what her Government had failed to deliver as what it had, and near the top of the ‘not achieved’ list was a free trade deal with the European Union.

In fairness, Ardern was not alone in hoping a deal with the EU could be wrapped up swiftly. . . 

Maranoa Kangaroo Co-op offers graziers payment for roos- Sally Cripps:

A bold move in the kangaroo harvesting industry has been unveiled by the Maranoa Kangaroo Harvesters and Growers Cooperative.

The group based at Mitchell has resolved to introduce a 10c/kg payment to graziers for kangaroos harvested on their property from February 1, subject to conditions.

Among them are that both the grazier and the harvester must be members of the cooperative, a one-off $50 fee, and that the grazier must not apply for or use a Damage Mitigation Permit. . . 

 


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. . . 


Rural round-up

April 3, 2019

Westland Co-operative Dairy demise is self-inflicted – Keith Woodford:

The approaching demise of Westland Co-operative Dairy (trading as Westland Milk Products) has come as a surprise to many people.  It should not have done so.  At the very least, either a partial sale or major joint venture has been inevitable for some years. Survival as a co-operative is now impossible.

Most of the people I talk to think the sale to Chinese company Yili is a very bad idea. West Coasters do not like it. Even Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is of that opinion. And if a sale really is necessary, then the common perspective seems to be that it should be a local company.

In response, I say ‘dream on’. . . 

Taratahi owes creditors $31 million – Neal Wallace:

Employees will get what they are owed but nearly 1200 unsecured creditors will have to wait to see if they will be paid any of the $15.8 million they are owed following December’s collapse of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

An interim report by liquidators Grant Thornton says the sale of livestock will cover preferential creditors, employees, who are owed $2m, and Inland Revenue, owed $655,000, but there is no indication on the fate of other creditors.

Taratahi’s 518ha Mangarata farm is being readied for sale, over which Westpac has a secured mortgage, along stock, plant and shares. . . 

Crop work went like clockwork – Alan Williams:

Cropping demonstrations across cultivation, drilling, harvesting, balage and silage proceeded without a hitch at the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in Canterbury.

Twelve or so hectares can sound like a lot of land area but with several different crops being grown on adjacent strips and some machinery being 10 metres wide there’s not a lot of margin for error.

It helps that each crop and activity is worked at separate times but there’s still a lot of planning and a lot of people to organise. . . 

Forestry sales at record high – reports – Eric Frykberg:

New evidence is emerging of a booming forestry sector.

It follows last month’s report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showing 2018 forestry sales at a record high.

Since then, the Seattle based think tank Wood Resource Quarterly has highlighted New Zealand’s role in growing imports of logs by China.

Wood Resource Quarterly said the Chinese took a total of 40 million cubic metres of lumber through their ports last year.

That was over a third more than just three years earlier. . .

Cushing family’s H&G to buy 2.2% Wrightson stake from Agria – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Cushing family’s H&G vehicle has agreed to buy a 2.2 percent stake in rural services firm PGG Wrightson from Agria Corp. for $8.3 million.

H&G has agreed to pay 49 cents a share for 17 million Wrightson shares, matching Friday’s closing price. Agria owns 351.6 million shares, or 46.6 percent of the rural services firm, having divested a 7.2 percent holding in December when Ngāi Tahu Capital withdrew from a seven-year pooling arrangement with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. . . 

Record number of beekeepers have their say in latest check:

Almost a half of the country’s registered beekeepers have taken part in an annual survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

More than 3,600 beekeepers completed the 2018 Colony Loss Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 per cent of New Zealand’s registered beekeepers and 42 per cent of registered colonies,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor. . . 

Miscanthus – a carbon negative crop:

Most annually harvested crops require a lot of activity to get them established, grown and harvested. They need cultivation of the soil, weed control, planting, fertiliser, harvesting, sometimes waste disposal, packing and loading on a truck. Most of them need all that every year. In many cases, there is further cultivation, planting and cutting of a cover crop during the off season as well. Again, every year!

Miscanthus on the other hand needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards. There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases.  . . 


Rural round-up

February 7, 2019

Drought bites crops in Tasman with little respite forecast for growers – Katy Jones:

Growers are battling to keep crops alive on the Waimea Plains as the drought continues to bite in Tasman district, with no sign of a significant break in the prolonged dry spell.

Irrigators this week saw the amount of water they were allowed to take from catchments on the plains cut by 50 per cent, as the Waimea River dropped to its lowest level for this time of year since the “Big Dry” in 2001.

High winds at the end of last month compounded growers’ woes, further drying out land already parched by a lack of rain and high temperatures. . . 

Court to decide official location of a riverbank – Eric Frykberg:

Where does the bed of a river end and adjacent farmland begin? That is not an easy question to answer, when dealing with braided rivers that often change course.

However, the Court of Appeal will now get the chance to decide the official location of a riverbank.

The problem began in 2017 when a farmer was prosecuted for doing earthworks in the bed of the Selwyn River, in mid Canterbury.

Although he pleaded guilty, the case gave rise to debate about how wide a braided river actually was.

The District Court sided with Environment Canterbury and ruled a river was as big as the area covered by the river’s waters at their fullest flow. . .

Ravensdown CEO agrees farmers have sometimes applied too much fertiliser – Gerard Hutching:

Fertiliser company Ravensdown says it is trying to persuade farmers to use less nitrogen and concedes that in the past too much has been applied “in some cases.”

However it has recently developed new products which result in less nitrogen being lost to the atmosphere or leaching into the soil where it ends up in waterways.

Greenpeace has demanded the Government ban chemical nitrogen because it claims it causes river pollution. It has created billboards accusing Ravensdown and its competitor Ballance Agri-Nutrients of polluting rivers. . . 

Group ignores fertiliser facts – Alan Emerson:

Driving out of Auckland I saw a huge billboard with the message: Ravensdown and Ballance pollute rivers.

How can that be, I thought, but then I noted the billboard was put there by Greenpeace and Greenpeace never lets the facts get in the way of its prejudices.

Starting at the top, the two fertiliser companies don’t pollute rivers, they sell fertilisers, so factually it is wrong.

According to my dictionary pollute means contaminate with poisonous or harmful substances or to make morally corrupt or to desecrate.

How, then, can Ravensdown and Ballance pollute? . . 

Change constant in 50-year career – Ken Muir:

When you have worked for more than 50 years in the rural sector, change is a constant and for Andrew Welsh, an agribusiness manager at Rabobank in Southland, this has included everything from the model of car he was supplied with to the way he communicates with co-workers and his clients.

Mr Welsh said farming was in his DNA.

”My great grandparents farmed in South Otago and Opotiki, and going further back than that our relatives had farmed in County Durham before coming out to Hawkes Bay.”

He started in the industry at the bottom, he said.

”When I started at Wright Stephenson’s in Gore in 1968 as an office junior, I was everybody’s general dogsbody.” . . 

 

Halter targets April launch date

Kiwi agritech start-up Halter expects to commercially launch its unique GPS-enabled cow collars in April.

“We have just finished setting up our production line in China and we have had our first collars off the line come back,” chief executive and founder Craig Piggott told the Young Farmers conference.

“We are targeting April as our commercial launch. It’s all happening very quickly.”

Auckland-based Halter has developed the collar, which allows cows to be guided around a farm using a smartphone app. . . 


Rural round-up

February 4, 2019

Running Dry – Can NZ thrive without irrigation? – Eric Frykberg:

The government has pulled its backing for big irrigation projects, but smaller ones are still getting financial support. For Insight rural reporter, Eric Frykberg explores whether this middle path will be enough to keep farmers and growers in business and improve the quality of water in streams and rivers?

Stu Wright’s family is part of the fabric of Selwyn district, inland from Christchurch. They’ve worked the land near Sheffield for 125 years.  

The murky drizzle hanging over the furrows of his farm in the foothills of the Southern Alps, near Sheffield are at odds with his on-going struggle to keep his crops well hydrated.

Here he grows seed potatoes, garlic, radishes and rye.

But the way his family have farmed for over a century is no longer working. . . 

Virus has mixed results – Neal Wallace:

The new rabbit-killing K5 haemorrhagic virus has achieved an average kill rate of 47% of rabbits in Otago but rates on individual farms vary from very low to 80%, leading to farmer scepticism about its effectiveness.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead says while the 47% average is higher than forecast in the import application for the RHDV K5 virus, high immunity levels in parts of the province reduced its effectiveness.

Otago Federated Farmers president Simon Davies has had reports from farmers saying they have not seen any evidence the new strain is working. . . 

 

Woolhandler aiming to go ‘all out’ at champs – Richard Davison:

A Milton woolhandler plans to go “all out” for honours in the Otago champs.

The two-day Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are taking place in Balclutha on February 8 and 9, and competitors will be vying for both podium places on the day and cumulative points towards circuit titles – and ultimately a better shot at nationals.

For Milton woolhandler Cheri Peterson, who started in the shed professionally in 2007 aged 21, this season’s circuit began as simply another opportunity to hone her skills at the table, but has acquired a sharper competitive edge as it progresses. . . 

 

Eight southern tracks to go in NZTR plan – Steve Hepburn:

Gore may get a reprieve but even more galloping courses may be under threat.

Following on from last year’s Messara report, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing produced a report yesterday calling for the reduction of courses around the country. And it is looking to close more courses than Australian John Messara proposed, with Waikouaiti and Riverton fingered for closure among 23 venues.

NZTR said in a release it wanted to drop to 27 venues across the country by 2030. The would leave just nine tracks in the South Island. Eight tracks south of Timaru would close.

The plan was not in reaction to the Government-commissioned Messara report, which proposed a widespread reduction in tracks throughout the country, NZTR said. . . 

New Zealand 2019 apple and pear crop forecast released :

The New Zealand apple and pear industry is forecasting a modest increase in the gross crop for 2019, according to the annual crop estimate just released. A forecast gross crop of 604,500 metric tonnes is 2.5% up on 2018 production.

New Zealand Apples & Pears Chief Executive, Alan Pollard, says that “Notwithstanding some hail in Central Otago, growing conditions across the rest of New Zealand this season have been very good. Adequate rainfall means that all regions have good quantities of irrigation water, and sunlight and warmth are at some of the best levels that we have seen”. . .

U.S. Dairy Farmers Say Billions of Exports at Risk – Lydia Mulvany:

The U.S. dairy industry stands to lose billions of dollars over the next two decades if trade agreements with Japan, one of the biggest buyers, don’t materialize, according to a U.S. Dairy Export Council report released Wednesday.

The Japanese are gobbling up more cheesy pizzas and proteins like whey, at the same time that its own dairy industry is seeing a decline. Exporters are aggressively competing to supply that growing demand, and the European Union has a leg up on the U.S. due to a trade agreement that went into affect at the end of last year. Other major exporting countries are set to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact from which the U.S. withdrew. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 1, 2019

Flavours of childhood – Rebecca Fox:

Growing up in Argentina with Italian family heritage, it is not surprising Pablo Tacchini became a chef. Having just become a Beef + Lamb ambassador chef, he tells Rebecca Fox it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point.

Weekends were feast times in Pablo Tacchini’s childhood home in Argentina.

He would spend his mornings either in the kitchen making pasta with his grandmother or outside helping his father and grandfather barbecue.

”I grew up with that. Food is very important for me. It was an easy choice to see what I wanted to do.”

While he now lives and works thousands of kilometres from home, it is those flavours and experiences he seeks to replicate. . .

Federated Farmers on clean waterways survey: ‘Throwing rocks at farming all the time is just not helping’ – Eric Frykberg:

Federated Farmers has accused Fish & Game of using leading questions in a survey on clean waterways.

The agency commissioned a survey on public attitudes on protecting rivers and lakes from pollution.

The survey, by the research group Colmar Brunton, said 82 percent of respondents would support mandatory environmental standards for New Zealand’s waterways, enforced by local councils.

But Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen said the group asked leading questions. . .

$15m cherry project announced

Development of Central Otago’s cherry industry is set to continue with another multimillion-dollar venture announced this week.

Cherry investment firm Hortinvest is seeking expressions of interest from investors for a $15.5million orchard project on an 80ha site at Mt Pisa, near Cromwell.

It was the third cherry investment to be led by Hortinvest within the last two years in Central Otago and was to meet “an unprecedented global demand for premium cherries”, a Hortinvest statement said . . 

Recognising a dairy sector champion: Adrian van Bysterveldt:

The dairy sector is recognising the loss of one of its greatest champions, South Island-based Adrian van Bysterveldt.

Adrian was a passionate advocate and leader for pasture-based farm systems and his work helped shape and influence the direction of dairy farming, particularly in the South Island where he was a dedicated leader.

“Adrian was so passionate about all things dairy and really believed in pasture-based farm systems, he had an incredible enthusiasm for the sector and the people in it,” said Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive. . . 

New way of applying fertiliser has potential to benefit the environment:

A new guide has been released which will assist farmers and the irrigation industry to adopt the use of fertigation – a new way of applying fertiliser which is likely to reduce nitrogen leaching and save labour on farms.

Fertigation allows irrigators to be used to apply liquid fertiliser or liquid soluble fertiliser in small quantities at the same time as water. In New Zealand, most fertiliser currently used is solid and applied through ground spreading or aerial top dressing.

Internationally, fertigation is increasingly being adopted as good environmental practice. . . 

Unmodified quad bikes unsuitable for mustering cattle – Kate Dowler:

UNMODIFIED quad bikes have been ruled unsuitable for mustering cattle, in a landmark recent Queensland court decision.

And farmers are being warned the ruling means they could be held liable over quad bike accidents.

The decision has prompted calls from the National Farmers’ Federation for the safety of the bikes to be improved by manufacturers and for riders to also be held more accountable for their own safety. . . 

 


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