Rural round-up

31/01/2019

Brain tumour felled Fonterra’s last hands on chairman – Fran O’Sullivan:

John Wilson who died on Monday at just 54 years of age was possibly the last Fonterra chairman to take a hands on approach to governing New Zealand’s largest company.

It was inevitable that Wilson would play a strong and sometimes quite political role in public life in New Zealand – the upshot of Fonterra’s dominance of the dairy industry – at times locked into confrontational situations with equally strong-minded politicians on both sides of the House.

Wilson was passionately devoted to Fonterra; strong-willed, direct, not afraid of anyone – yet also imbued with sufficient charm, persuasiveness and an ability to ride through the hard-knuckled politics of the NZ dairy industry to survive many a battle until his last year as chair. . . 

‘Outrageous’: EU votes to reduce NZ export rights – Pattrick Smellie:

The European Union’s parliament has taken a decisive step towards unilaterally reducing New Zealand’s rights to export specified quantities of tariff-free sheepmeat, beef and dairy products to the trading bloc if and when Brexit occurs.

The move has been slammed as “outrageous” by former trade negotiator Charles Finny in a Tweet and “disappointing” by the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the proposed moves risk compounding “growing international economic uncertainty and rising trade tensions”. . . 

Expert evidence rejects water conservation order bid :

Evidence from nine experts supports Horticulture New Zealand’s evidence that a water conservation order (WCO) is not the way to ensure healthy Hawke’s Bay rivers, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

Horticulture New Zealand opposes the application for the WCO in the Lower Ngaruroro River and the Clive River.

“This impacts our economy and our food supply and a WCO is a blunt instrument that has been surpassed with better national and regional planning tools,” Mr Chapman says. . . 

Guy Trafford analyses the sheep meat market showing the changes to where our product goes, and where our rivals are focusing – Guy Trafford:

With the uncertainty around Brexit and what the balance of future access to both the EU and the UK for sheep meat maybe it could be timely to have a look at the drivers of international sheep meat trade.

Australia and New Zealand account for approximately 90% of international trade and both have declining flock numbers. Since 1990 Australia have dropped from 180 mln down to 65 mln and New Zealand from 58 mln to around 28 mln today. It has only been the increased productivity of both flocks, in regard to meat production, that has kept the industry viable with the critical mass required to remain competitive. . . 

Synlait follows Fonterra with lower forecast farmgate payout – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk has cut its forecast payout to farmers for the current season, following Fonterra’s lead, as weaker global demand and strong domestic production weighs on international prices.

The Rakaia-based milk producer expects to pay $6.25 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2019 season, down from its previous forecast of $6.75/kgMS. That projection will depend on commodity prices recovering for the rest of the season, something Synlait said it considers realistic. . . 

Scott Tech, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon in automated pin boning project – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – Scott Technology and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon have teamed up to automate the removal of pin bones from King salmon with backing of more than $500,000 from Seafood Innovations.

Brent Keelty, Mt Cook’s processing operations manager, says the only way currently of de-boning King salmon is by hand. . . 

World first IoT farming tech trial  NZ

A pioneering arable farming tech trial is expected to make a quantum leap to help boost New Zealand’s primary export revenue.

New Zealand has a low understanding of how the internet of things (IoT) can assist with farm management and sustainability and adoption of precision agriculture techniques also remains low.

New Zealand’s primary industry export revenue is forecast to reach $43.8 billion for the year to June 2019, an increase of 2.5 percent from 2018. . .

TracMap Data Now Available in FarmIQ:

Integrating two of the country’s leading farm software systems means farmers can now have TracMap Proof of Application data seamlessly passed to their FarmIQ account, ensuring records are updated quickly and accurately for compliance and management needs.

“This is an important development for FarmIQ’s customers. Many farmers have been asking us for Tracmap’s Proof of Application and Proof of Placement data for some time,” said FarmIQ chief executive Darryn Pegram. . . 

Should primary producers do more to protect their data?:

While farmers and horticulturalists continue to integrate new digital technologies into their businesses, this data reliance does bring with it new vulnerabilities and risks. The next generation of producers are doing away with basic spreadsheets and building their businesses using a real-time data streams and cloud-based platforms for analysis and storage.

In the past, a simple computer backup was, in many cases, all that was needed. It has now been replaced by a complex web of data-points, data validation, storage, security access and data control. . . 

New funding for 31 community-led projects:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today announced funding of $9.8 million for 31 new Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) projects.

The SFF provides funding for projects led by farmers, growers, and foresters aimed at building economic, environmental and social sustainability in the primary sector. It has recently been replaced by MPI’s new Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) programme. The 31 projects were in the pipeline prior to its launch in October 2018.

“SFF has been instrumental in kicking off both small and large innovative, community-led projects, and laying the groundwork for SFF Futures,” says Steve Penno, Director of Investment Programmes.

“The new 31 projects cover areas from apiculture and dairy to soil management and horticulture, and are great examples of innovative thinking. . . 

Farmers furious at inclusion on Aussie Farms’ map – Alastair Dowie:

‘Ill-informed’ and ‘disgraceful’ are just some of the words Victorian farmers have used upon finding their details on the controversial Aussie Farms map.

Made public last week, the map identifies a large number of rural and farming enterprises, as well as some saleyards, abattoirs and intensive production operations, across Australia.

Many farmers are furious that their personal information has been displayed on the map without their permission. . . .

 


Check out but never leave

16/01/2019

UK PM Theresa May’s Brexit proposal was resoundingly defeated:

MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29 March.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.

The confidence vote is expected to be held at about 1900 GMT on Wednesday.

The defeat is a huge blow for Mrs May, who has spent more than two years hammering out a deal with the EU. . . 

The referendum vote for Brexit got only a narrow majority.

Many people who voted didn’t understand the implications of leaving the EU.

May is in a no-win situation.

The EU won’t agree to a deal that will encourage other countries to leave and British MPs won’t agree to a deal that they think will be unpopular with their constituents.

The longer negotiations go on, the more the EU looks like the Hotel California – you can check out but you can never leave.

 

 


Rural round-up

29/11/2017

Not all gloom and doom on farming environmental front – Pat Deavoll:

I was on a field day at Mt Somers a few weeks ago sitting in a paddock with about 200 others listening to Nick France speaking on lambing his hoggets. Over the fence was a paddock of legume plantain mix. The plantain I recognised as Ecotain from having written an article on the plant a few weeks beforehand.

Apparently, Ecotain promises to significantly reduce nitrogen leaching in the urine patch. It works in four ways; by increasing the volume of cows urine which dilutes the concentration of nitrogen; by reducing the total amount of nitrogen in animals urine; by delaying the process of turning ammonium into nitrate in the urine patch; and by restricting the accumulation of nitrates in soils growing Ecotain. . .

Young horticulturist hoping to pave the way for more women as industry faces accusations of sexism – Sean Hogan:

Shanna Hickling’s typical day could involve getting her hands dirty checking soil quality along the vines, or testing and experimenting in her research lab.

“The business is very diverse, dynamic, what you are doing today will be completely different to what you’re doing the next and that makes it exciting,” the 25-year-old microbiologist told 1 NEWS.

Her passion is being recognised as she claimed the 2017 Young Horticulturalist of the Year award, becoming just the third woman to do so. . .

‘No guarantees’ for red meat trade post-Brexit:

UK and New Zealand ministers have been discussing the future of post-Brexit trade between the two countries.

Britain’s international trade secretary Liam Fox, in New Zealand on a four-day visit, has met Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker.

New Zealand exports about $2 billion of red meat to the EU and has a tariff-free quota of 228,000 tonnes of sheepmeat a year.

Exporters are worried about what will happen to this quota during negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union. . . 

Silver Fern Farms Announce New Chief Executive’:

Silver Fern Farms’ Board of Directors has appointed Simon Limmer as its new Chief Executive.

Silver Fern Farms Co-Chair Rob Hewett says Mr Limmer has an excellent set of skills and experience to continue the strong progress Silver Fern Farms has been making as a leading red meat food company.

“The Board is excited by the leadership Simon will bring to Silver Fern Farms. Simon comes with deep commercial experience in the food, manufacturing and service sectors both here in New Zealand and in several of the key international markets in which we operate,” Mr Hewett says. . . 

It’s been 30 plus years and dairy farmers are still giving:

Rural Exchange and RadioLIVE are proud to promote IHC and to help DairyNZ spread the word about dairy farmers.

Dairy farmers are not just about kissing babies and smiling for the camera. Sure, they like babies, including ones that moo – and when the weather’s good and the grass is growing, they’re known to crack a smile.

Over the past 33 years, dairy farmers around the country have raised more than $30 million for people with intellectual disabilities. . .

More robust biosecurity measures a necessity says Feds:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is toughening its stance on visitors who ignore New Zealand’s strict biosecurity laws.

MPI revealed it has increased fines by 50 percent since 2014 to air passengers who flout entry requirements, with 9100 infringement notices issued to date this year. . .

Central Otago winemaker wins Enterprising Rural Women Awards:

Central Otago winemaker Debra Cruickshank is the supreme winner of the Enterprising Rural Women Awards.

Cruickshank, of Tannacrieff Wines, was one of four finalist vying for the award at the RWNZ National Conference in Invercargill on Saturday.

At DC Wines, Cruickshank, has created Central Otago’s niche market for not only port but also provided a solution for fast-growing boutique vineyards wanting to create wine. . .

 


Rural round-up

17/07/2017

Susatainability key to role as new AgResearch leader – Sally Rae:

The big thrust for AgResearch in the future has to be around farm and environmental sustainability issues, new chairman Jeff Grant says.

His focus would be continuing to build on AgResearch’s ability to deliver science that was “highly relevant” to the future of farming.

Regional council changes, in a bid to get better outcomes around land and water, would force AgResearch to provide the science to ‘‘get the answers’’ and the tools for farmers.

“I see the organisation as being the lead provider of answers that allow farmers to meet the expectations for producing high quality food in natural and sustainable environments, while also being able to run a viable business. . .

Cattle grazing on river edges keeps weed ‘shambles’ down on extensive farms – Bob Todhunter:

With alI the bad publicity our rivers are receiving I feel the general public is confused between extensive and intensive grazing.

I would like to make some observations about stock grazing alongside waterways. I am no scientist, however I do have 70-plus years of practical observation.

I remember being taught fishing by my grandfather in the 1950s on the rivers of the Canterbury Plains when sheep and cattle were grazed extensively by the riverbeds. . .

Pine tree seedlings in short supply after poor growing season  – Jill Galloway:

A shortage of pine tree seedlings after a poor growing season for tree nurseries has hit some forest owners and farm foresters.

Patrick Murray ,who is owner of Murray’s Nurseries at Woodville in Tararua, said he had turned down orders of 1.2 million pines.

“We grew around five million pinus radiata but could easily have sold more. It has been a wet summer and poor autumn and that affected badly the growth of the trees.” . . 

EU farmer subsidies under threat – Nigel Stirling:

There are signs that the massive subsidisation of European agriculture could be cut back.

New Zealand has long fought the policy, which tops up the incomes of millions of European farmers.

For decades, NZ has argued the policy keeps European production higher than justified by market prices, and supply on global markets out of kilter with demand. . .

Alliance looks to food service growth – Alan Williams:

Alliance Group hopes that its new food service business will be achieving annual sales above $100 million in the next three years or so.

A four-strong development team is working up a pilot programme in the United Kingdom that the meat exporter will use as a springboard for wider Europe, and into Asian markets as well, general manager sales Murray Brown said.

“Who knows how it could go – we’re a $1.5 billion business and if we could get the food service up to 10% of total sales over three years that would be $100m to $150m.” . .

Nitrate data suggests a corner turned – Nicole Sharp:

Environment Southland’s latest water quality report shows a trend of decreasing or indeterminate nitrogen levels and Southland farmers deserve a pat on the back for this, Agribusiness farm consultant Deane Carson says.

Nitrate levels in Southland had always been an area of significant concern for him, and for a while were somewhat out of control, he said.

But the latest report showed the majority of the sites were indeterminate for nitrite­nitrate nitrogen (NNN) levels over the five years covered and nine of the 49 sites had a decreasing trend. . .


Gibraltar tensions

06/04/2017

An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession and  Spain ceded it to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

It’s still a British Overseas Territory on Spain’s south coast dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge.

That rock can be seen easily from a good distance away an ever-present reminder to Spain of  Britain’s possession of the territory.

Gibraltar is only 6.7 km2   in area but is strategically placed. In World War II it provided a base from which the Royal Navy controlled exit and entry to the Mediterranean Sea and half the world’s seaborne trade passes through the strait today.

Tensions over Gibraltar have risen again now the European Union offered Spain a right of veto over the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU after Brexit.

A significant majority of the 32,000 people who live in the territory have repeatedly voted overwhelmingly both for their own autonomy and to reject any sharing of sovereignty with Spain. But that doesn’t stop Spain’s ambition to reclaim the territory.

Spain may very well return to the days when it effectively embargoed Gibraltar, denying easy access to tourists and forcing residents to rely on air links to Great Britain to run their economy. The bureaucrats in Brussels frankly may also cheer on Spain’s punishment of the population and economy of Gibraltar as a means to signal its annoyance with Great Britain for turning its back on the European experiment.

Spain, however, is playing with fire and risks creating a precedent which will burn it several times over. Here’s the problem:

While Spain might object to Great Britain maintaining sovereignty over a 2.6 square mile territory which Madrid sees as its own, Spain has its own enclaves on the Mediterranean carved out of what should be, but for historical accidents of centuries past, sovereign Moroccan territory.

Ceuta is only seven square miles. In 1415, the Portuguese captured Ceuta and, during the next century when Portugal and Spain briefly united, Spaniards flocked to the city. The 1668 Treaty of Lisbon formally ceded Ceuta to Spain to whom it has belonged ever since. Spain, along with France, was a colonial power in Morocco but, in 1956 when Spain withdrew from northern Morocco (it would leave the Western Saharan in 1975), it continued to hold Ceuta.

Melilla, only 4.7 square miles, has a similar history. Spain conquered the city in 1497 and rebuffed subsequent Moroccan political and diplomatic efforts to win it back. Spain may consider it an autonomous territory but, it reality, it is a colonial outpost and an accident of history.

Spain may seek advantage from Brexit going forward in order to reclaim Gibraltar; that’s Madrid’s prerogative. However, so long as Spain continues to hold Ceuta and Melilla, instead of allowing an extension of Moroccan sovereignty, then Spain and the European Union’s case will be both hypocritical and weak.

Our first visit to Gibraltar was prompted by a desire to watch the touring Lions play Otago in 2005. We were living in Vejer de la Frontera, a village in Andalusia on the Costa de la Luz, where the locals favour football and we thought  Gibraltar would be the nearest place where people would be watching rugby.

It’s connected to Spain by a narrow isthmus on which Gibraltar airport is built.

We followed the advice of locals that it’s easier to enter the territory than face the queues when driving and once through customs and immigration we walked across the tarmac to the town.

Our first impressions weren’t positive.

The town was full of high-rise apartments that looked like they’d been designed in England with no appreciation of the Mediterranean climate.

However, the locals were friendly and we had no trouble finding a pub that would be showing the rugby next morning. The locals became friendlier still when the Lions won.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the rock, meeting the Barbary Macaques and learning about the military history including the WW II tunnels.

 

Legend has it that Britain will lose control of the territory if the apes die out. This was the seed from which Paul Gallico wrote his book Scruffy.

Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven includes a more realistic and harrowing story of war in Gibraltar.

 

 

 


Disunited Kingdom

25/06/2016

The United Kingdom is a disunited kingdom.

The UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union but two of the four countries which comprise it did not.

England and Wales voted to go, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay.

This could prompt another move for Scottish independence and possibly a push to reunite Ireland.

The decision already has its casualties.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he’ll stand down, saying he thought the ocuntry need fresh leadership and couldn’t captain the ship to its next destination,

Reports that Morgan Stanley would move 2000 jobs to Dublin of Frankfurt were later denied but both the pound and euro fell after the referendum result was announced.

The pound dropped below the crucial $1.40 mark amid fears that the UK would vote to leave the European Union. Sterling fell as much as 10% early on Friday, and is on track for its worst one-day fall in history. After trading at $1.3262, down nearly 9%, as of 5.27am BST, the currency recovered slightly to 1.3394 as of 6.05am BST.

The euro fell the most since it was introduced in 1999 while other currencies in Europe also took a hit, Bloomberg reported. . . 

The wheels of politics and bureaucracy grind very slowly so there will be no immediate changes but Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor sent an email to farmers saying:

  • The EU and UK are New Zealand’s most valuable sheepmeat markets and Brexit could have significant implications.
  • It is unclear right now exactly how this will play out as Prime Minister Cameron has not confirmed that he will act upon the results. There are three key issues we are focused on at present:
    • Ensuring that we maintain our overall quota access into the EU and UK as the UK renegotiates its access into the EU. This will take some time and we will be able to work with the NZ government and EU/UK governments to understand the process and ensure the best possible outcome for NZ sheep and beef farmers;
    • Understanding the impact of Brexit on the sheep and beef markets in the UK and EU. The EU currently takes 90 percent of the UK’s sheepmeat exports.
    • Other indirect impacts could be appreciation of the NZD against the EU and UK.

NZ quota access into the EU & UK

  • New Zealand currently has a quota of just under 228,000 tonnes of sheepmeat into the EU at zero duties. This represents over half of New Zealand’s total global sheepmeat exports. The UK currently takes half of our exports to the EU by value.
  • New Zealand also has a smaller quota of 1,300 tonnes of beef into the EU at an in-quota duty of 20%.
  • As the UK negotiates its exit from the EU over the next couple of years it will be negotiating how much of these quotas will be transferred solely to them and on what terms.
  • Under WTO rules, New Zealand’s overall levels of access to both the EU and UK will have to remain the same, but we will lose the flexibility to decide which of the two entities to send our exports to depending on demand from customers.

Potential impact on EU and UK Markets

  • There will also likely be disruption on UK and EU markets.
  • The UK exported 90 percent of its sheepmeat exports to the EU last year. It currently faces zero tariffs into the EU.
  • If it loses its preferential access into the EU then its domestic market will be oversupplied, further reducing demand for NZ product, but this could potentially improve our market into the EU. 

The process of Brexit as we understand it at present:

  • There will be no immediate change to any access conditions until the UK officially ‘exits’ the EU which will take around two years, if not longer.
  • The departing Member State must notify the European Council (the leaders of each Member State) that it has decided to leave, and after this the departing Member State and the remaining Member States must negotiate the terms of exit.
  • The terms of exit must be agreed between the departing Member State, and a qualified majority of the remaining Member States. A qualified majority means 55 percent of remaining Member States, representing 65 percent of the remaining EU population.
  • European Union membership will automatically cease two years after the departing Member State gave notice of withdrawal if no agreement is reached. However, if there is unanimous agreement from all Member States, the negotiation process can be extended.
  • Under the WTO rules, the UK and EU would be legally obliged to retain New Zealand preferential access conditions (quotas) for red meat, however how this would be achieved is a cause for concern for the sector.

Federated Farmers says New Zealand needs to milk Brexit for all it’s worth:

With Britain voting to exit the European Union today, Federated Farmers is urging diplomats and export companies to be quick off the block and first inline for meetings to push New Zealand’s agenda.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston said: “Britain leaving the EU will create a considerable degree of political and financial uncertainty but we must consider what new opportunities might be won. This could be a great opportunity to work with lamb producers in the UK to get better outcomes for both countries.

“We have a shared history with the UK and want to ensure this outcome works in both countries’ interests. We need to emphasis our common thinking and remind Britain we are an important ally.

“The key thing for farmers is assessing how this change will affect trade to Britain as well as Europe and what this means for our free trade negotiations.

“The vote suggests a significant threat against the trends of globalisation and trade liberalisation. New Zealand as a small open economy will be a loser if protectionism prevails.” Dr Rolleston said.

Currently New Zealand primary exports to Britain are at three percent and 11 percent to Europe. Farmers are in a very different position than we were when Britain entered the European Union 43 years ago; at that time 40 percent of our exports went to Britain. Before that in the 1950s over 80 percent of New Zealand exports went to Britain.

Charles Finny echoes the need to move quickly:

What has happened today is hugely significant for New Zealand.
The UK is still a major market for us the official stats of $1.651 billion is probably understated. Taking the UK numbers out of the EU total reduces our goods exports to the EU to $3.738 billion – $1 billion less than our exports to ASEAN.
Our FTA negotiation with the EU has just become hugely complicated.
And we have our quotas into the EU – hard fought for and then hard defended potentially up for re-negotiation.
I think markets are over reacting. Nothing will happen to trade flows overnight. Moreover we can do a FTA with the UK fast and help to negotiate access for the UK into Asia that will be superior to that the EU will. And I think the chances of a UK-US FTA is also higher than a TTIP being concluded.
I don’t think that the consequences for UK trade with the EU will be as negative as many have been suggesting. Even in a worst case scenario of no FTA type relationship there will be almost zero negative impact apart from in agriculture
I don’t think the negatives for NZ will be as big as some have suggested – so long as we move fast.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, writing before the result was known,  says we should keep calm and carry on:

. . .Such political uncertainties aside, there is no need to panic. Not even in case of Brexit. The slogan has to be ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Even a Brexit vote would not mean that Britain is out of the EU straight away. It would only give the UK government the mandate to inform Brussels of their wish to withdraw. They would not have to do so immediately though. If Prime Minister Cameron had to go, he would most likely leave this task to his successor.

Negotiations would only begin once the EU is officially notified. Under Article 50 of the EU Treaty, these would take at least two years.

Over all this time, nothing would change. Britain would have access to European markets. And they could well retain it depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

So we will watch the count of the referendum with excitement. But let’s keep calm no matter what the result. There is no need to panic either way.

The referendum result will mean big changes for the UK and will almost certainly prompt change in the EU.

The UK’s entry to what was then called the European Common Market  caused a great deal of angst and difficulty for New Zealand because the UK bought so much of our produce.

Its exit shouldn’t be nearly so problematic because our trading eggs are in far more baskets.

Where there are big changes there are also opportunities.  New Zealand should make the most of them and continue to promote free trade and seek deals with individual countries and trading blocks.

 

 


Brexit – stay or go?

23/06/2016

Tonight, New Zealand time, the polls open to allow people in the UK to vote on whether or not they stay in the European Union.

The euro makes life easier for people travelling between the countries which use it. But monetary union doesn’t work properly when the parties to it don’t have economic union.

The UK was sensible to retain its own currency.However, the rush to swap pounds for euro shows people believe victory for the leave campaign would result in a substantial fall in the value of the pound.

The theory of the EU has a lot to commend it  – a single market with free movement of people and trade. But politics and a bloated bureaucracy have too often meant the promise hasn’t been realised.

Whatever the people of Britain and Northern Ireland vote for or against Brexit, the EU needs major reform.

 

 


TPP text released

06/11/2015

The full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has been released just as the government always said it would be.

The usual suspects, at least some of whom are opposed to any trade, will continue their opposition. Some might even trawl through all of its 6,000 pages to base their opposition on something which is actually in the agreement.

But one of the measures of the importance of being in this particular tent was what happened soon after the 12 countries to it reached their agreement.

Indonesia said it wants to join and the EU approached New Zealand to start negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.

The TPPA is not perfect but we have too much to lose by not being part of it and enough to gain by signing up to make it worthwhile.

 


Rural round-up

03/11/2015

Advertising executive’s shock speech tackles farmer depression – Rachel Thomas:

The final speech of the day was supposed to be a light-hearted talk about city boys working in the country.

Instead, advertising executive Matt Shirtcliffe stood up in front of a conference of roughly 120 farming and business folk and told them his wife was dead. 

“Depression took her life.” . . 

The presentation is here.

Kathryn Ryan interviewed Matt Shirtcliffe here.

India farmers’ ‘seeds of suicide’: 200-year old story behind a modern tragedy – Aneela Mirchandani :

In 1998, a farmer in Warangal, India killed himself after a failed crop by drinking pesticide. His body was found hours later lying amidst his one-acre crop, which was overrun by worms. This suicide was one of many that were reported on at the time; the incidence was particularly high among cotton farmers. It set off much hand-wringing in the press: how was India failing its farmers?

The stated cause of this farmer’s suicide was debt, and many anti-GMO activists have linked a spate of similar tragedies to the introduction of GMO cotton — although the genetically engineered crop was not introduced into India until 2002. But if one looks deeper, one can see the real cause: modern crops and a modern economy abutted against a rural population that had changed little since the nineteenth century. . . 

“We farm!”  Wait…  What?  (Our cows explained) – Uptown Girl:

“What do you do?”  Sometimes I identify myself with a lengthy description of my career in Ag finance, but often I just leave it at, “We farm!”
 
I also find myself using “We farm” as an explanation as to why I am alone so often at gatherings.  But the more people I talk to, the more I realize that not everyone knows what I mean when I say, “We farm”.  So I am going to explain exactly what “farming” means to my family.
 
Our farm consists of our cows, our sheep, and our row crops.  I will cover each of these over the next few posts, but will start with our cows.
 
One of my favorite parts of our farm is our cattle herd.  We have what is commonly called a “Cow/Calf operation” – meaning we maintain a group of cows who will raise a baby calf each year, and then sell the baby at weaning time.  . . 

New regulations to protect oceans:

New Government regulations to manage the waste and pollution within New Zealand’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) come into effect today, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says. 

“These new regulations cover discharges of pollutants and waste from offshore installations like oil rigs and ships in the six million square kilometres of ocean in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. They provide clear rules that protect the ocean environment and are the final stage of implementing the Government’s new environmental law covering the ocean,” Dr Smith says.  . . 

Glerups extends wool contract with NZ Merino through 2017 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Glerups, the Danish woollen slipper maker, has extended its contract with New Zealand woolgrowers to meet increased demand for its product.

The company inked a 2017 contract through the New Zealand Merino Company for 120 tonnes of wool for about $1.5 million, during a visit to New Zealand this week, and expects to return next year to secure a 2018 contract, said Glerups supply chain manager Jesper Glerup Kristensen, the son of the company founder Nanny Glerup. It also extended its 2016 contract by 20 tonnes to 100 tonnes, up from 80 tonnes this year. . . 

Red Meat Sector welcomes decision to negotiate an EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) are delighted that the European Union and New Zealand are set to progress negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, as announced by Prime Minister John Key in Brussels.

The European Union (EU) is a very significant export market for New Zealand red meat products, worth nearly NZ$1.9 billion for the year ended December 2014. The EU is New Zealand’s largest market by region for sheepmeat exports, and second-largest for chilled beef and wool exports. . . 

Appointment of Independent Director to Fonterra Board:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited announced today the appointment of a new Independent Director Clinton Dines who will take up the Board position made vacant when Sir Ralph Norris steps down at the Annual Meeting on 25 November.

Chairman John Wilson said world-class governance is one of the Board’s top priorities, and the Co-operative needed directors with a broad range of talent and depth of business experience.

“The Board welcomes Mr Dines, an Australian, who has outstanding business and governance credentials. . . .

Fonterra Welcomes Progress towards NZ EU FTA:

Fonterra has welcomed today’s announcement in Brussels that Prime Minister John Key will begin discussions on a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

“This is an important first step towards a comprehensive and high-quality free trade agreement with the EU. We have free trade agreements with almost all of our other major trading partners, so this really is the missing piece,” said Miles Hurrell, Group Director of Co-operative Affairs. . . 

Wine Industry welcomes prospect of free trade with the EU:

New Zealand Winegrowers welcomes the announcement of a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the EU.

Improved access into the EU would be hugely beneficial to industry growth, commented Philip Gregan, New Zealand Winegrowers CEO. ‘An FTA with the EU would be a great outcome for New Zealand’s wine industry. The EU, as a whole, represents our single largest market, with exports totalling over $460 million and representing in excess of 30% of total wine exports. . . 

 


Like bad old days

08/02/2013

We’re now nearly three decades from the bad old days when farming was governed by subsidies.

Farmers in other parts of the world haven’t made the tough but necessary change to standing on their own feet.

Among them are the Welsh whose reliance on subsidies is behind their plea for Britain to stay in the European Union:

Welsh farming could be ruined if the UK leaves the European Union and its common market, warned Farmers’ Union of Wales president Emyr Jones.

Speaking at a FUW lunch at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday (30 January), Mr Jones said 80% of Welsh farm income was dependent on payment support from the European Union and access to EU markets, a sum worth up to half a billion pounds. . .

Market access from free trade among member states is one of the EU’s strengths but political union isn’t the only way to get rid of trade barriers.

The subsidies are one of its big weaknesses.

Subsidies encourage inefficient farming, add costs to both tax payers and consumers, and blind producers to market signals.

Farmers here used to be heavily subsidised. The abrupt introduction to the real world by the reforms of the 1980s was painful but necessary and no good farmer would want to go back to the bad old days.


Commonwealth economies beating EU

16/07/2012

The Commonwealth today is just a loose group of nations tied together by little more than historical links to Britain.

But its economic growth is better than that of the European Union:

Economic growth, in real terms, in the European Union (see definition below) has been falling decade upon decade since the 1970’s, and more sharply since 1973. . . . In contrast to the EU, economic growth in the Commonwealth has accelerated over the post 1973 period, as shown in chart 2.

The Commonwealth has already overtaken the EU for its percentage share of GDP and is on track to overtake the Eurozone:

The future looks even better:

The IMF produces forecasts for economic growth for the EZ and the Commonwealth for the next 5 years. Given the current crisis in the EZ the 2.7% annual average growth forecast might be thought optimistic. But optimistic or not it pales into insignificance compared with the continued growth expected in the emerging markets of the Commonwealth.

GDP Growth Forecasts (Real terms, average annual growth)

  2012 – 2017
Eurozone 2.7%
Commonwealth 7.3%

Source: IMF, World Economics calculations

For many years we thought New Zealand had been disadvantaged by Britain’s entry to the EU. Perhaps the opposite is the case:

Why did we join the Common Market in the first place? What was the knock-down argument used by Heath, Jenkins and the rest? Do you remember? The Commonwealth, they told us, was finished. We needed to be part of an alternative market, one that would grow.

At the time, the claim seemed sound enough. Between 1945 and 1973, Western Europe enjoyed spectacular growth, bouncing back from the artificial low of the Second World War. Britain and her Commonwealth, by contrast, were exhausted and indebted. Much of our postwar decline was caused by successive governments eroding their debts through inflation, unaware of, or perhaps untroubled by, the damage they were doing to our national competitiveness and productivity.

We can now see that our timing could hardly have been worse. We joined the EEC in 1973. Europe’s Wirschaftswunder came to an abrupt end with the oil shock of 1974, and never properly got going again. The expansion came instead in the Commonwealth markets from which Britain had just stood aside. . .

Given the economic weakness of Europe and strength in Asia, we are much better off with growing markets closer to home.

There might be opportunities for us in other developing markets we don’t yet have much trade with too even though we might at the moment have little in common except that historical accident which makes us all part of the Commonwealth.

Hat tip: I was led to the Telegraph through a blog, but have forgotten which. If it was yours, feel free to either leave a comment or email me and I’ll give credit where it’s due.


Planet EU like Planet Labour

28/06/2012

The theory behind the European Union might be good, but in practice it is full of problems, not least of which is the rules and regulations which hinder businesses unnecessarily.

There is no better example than a ruling from the EU’s Court of Justice that workers who happened to get sick on holiday were legally entitled to take another holiday:

The workers originally won their case in a Spanish court, where they argued that collective bargaining agreements made a distinction between annual leave and sick leave that was recognized by Spanish law. The National Association of Large Distribution Businesses, known as Anged, appealed to the Supreme Court in Madrid, which then asked the Court of Justice for a ruling on how to apply European law covering working times.

The Court of Justice had previously ruled that a person who gets sick before going on vacation is entitled to reschedule the vacation, and on Thursday it said that right extended into the vacation itself.

“The point at which the temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant,” the court found.

The ruling applies across the European Union of 27 countries.

It isn’t unknown for people to suffer self-inflicted illnesses while on holiday from too much sun, food and/or alcohol.

If I read this ruling correctly it would allow people who have hangovers to add an extra day to their holidays . There would be nothing to stop them repeating the acts which led to the hangover which would result in another day’s illness and a subsequent extra day’s holiday and keep on doing that.

This ruling effectively enables people to take permanent holidays.

It shows that Planet EU is similar to Planet Labour – a place far removed from the real world where there’s no understanding of the connection between productivity and progress.

Hat tip: Anti Dismal


Fined for producing more

27/10/2011

Milk production in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands has been higher than expected.

That ought to be cause for celebration in a world we keep being told is short on food and where developing countries are hungry for protein.

But no, they will be fined a total of €221m because they exceeded their annual quota.

What makes it even sillier is that 14 countries produced less than their quota and total EU production was 6% lower than quota.

The quota system is to be phased out as part of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy which aim to end government protection for the dairy industry.

The process of getting away from protection can be painful but this is a good example of what’s wrong with letting governments and bureaucrats interfere in trade.

Leaving the market to set the price is better for producers and consumers.


Can’t keep borrowing and hoping

21/07/2011

Quote of the week from Liberty Scott:

You cannot keep borrowing to pay for consumption now in the hope you can borrow more in the future.

The post, which I recommend reading in full,  is about the European Union. The line quoted has universal application for individuals, businesses and nations.

It highlights one of the flaws of Labour’s tax policy. It’s not balanced by any policy to reduce spending and will require an enormous amount of extra borrowing in the short to medium term.

Borrowing for infrastructure and other investment which will help economic growth isn’t necessarily bad. Borrowing to pay for consumption was part of what Labour did wrong in its last term and they don’t appear to have learned from that mistake.


EU to sell off dairy stockpile

23/05/2010

Just as we’re beginning to relax about the outlook for dairy prices Phil Clarke reports that the European Union is inviting tenders for the skim milk powder and butter it stcok-piled when prices fell.

Currently there are some 76,000t of butter and 257,000t of powder in EU stores. First tenders have to be submitted by traders by 1 June, with a decision by the management committee on 3 June (two weeks today).

The EU insists it will fix the price and volume to be released “taking into account the market situation”.

Stockpiles eventually get sold and unless it’s done very carefully it will depress the price.  In whch case the emasre  measure designed to soften the blow of falling prices will delay the return to higher ones.


Spain takes over US presidency?

03/01/2010

The headline says:

Spain takes over US presidency

That really would be headline news but the story which follows is somewhat less sensational:

Spain took over the presidency of the European Union on Friday. . . The six-month rotating post passed from Sweden to Spain at the stroke of midnight. . .

We usually refer to the European Union as the EU. In Spain it’s the Union Europeo and they call it the UE, but I don’t know any language where it’s the US.


EU removes dairy subsidies

21/11/2009

Break out a celebratory bottle of milk, the European Union has removed subsidies on dairy products.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said:

“International dairy prices have shown a marked improvement across the board in the last three months, reflecting a more positive outlook in international dairy markets.

“In response to this market improvement, the European Union has been gradually scaling back its export subsidies since late October. The removal of remaining export subsidies sends an encouraging message to the international dairy market and I welcome that.

“I will continue to make the point in my international contacts that it is important not to revert to subsidies as a response to market conditions.

“All countries with dairy industries have an interest in a healthy international market. This is a positive development toward that end,” Mr Groser said.

That is very good news. However, let’s not forget the dairy produce which the Eu stockpiled when prices fell.

Releasing it will increase the supply which could dampen prices.

Phil Clarke sees this from the British point of view:

One thing that will be crucial is the rate at which butter and skimmed milk powder stocks are released from intervention in the EU. Last week the commission only went so far as to say it was following things closely and would not do anything to hinder recovery.

But EU dairy body Eucolait is worried that, if the commission leaves it too late, many food processors will switch out of dairy fat and into vegetable oil – and the opportunity to reduce stocks will be missed.

It’s a difficult balancing act, but one the commission has to get right if the dairy sector is to enjoy any kind of stability.

It’s tempting to say the sooner they get rid of the stockpiles the better, but flooding the market with dairy produce which has been stockpiled would depress prices.


We’re the rock stars Johnny Rotten

19/05/2009

Federated Farmers reckon New Zealand farmers are economic rock stars and  want to invite Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten)  to visit so they can show him just how good dairy produce is when it comes from free range cows.

This invitation has been mooted because the former member of the Sex Pistols has been fronting advertisements In Britain urging people to buy British butter because  – he says – it’s better.

“Never mind the butter, it’s the quality of the milk what counts,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy vice-chairperson.

“While all milk may contain the same basic properties, kiwi cows are in a league of their own.

“Grazing outdoors on GM free grass and natural winter feed makes for happy cows and fantastic quality milk.  This milk is crafted into quality butter and other dairy products and the only thing holding us back in the UK, is the European Union’s ridiculous tariff barriers.  

“One of our senior staff members, David Broome, lived in the UK for seven years.  He tried Country Life Butter, once, and described it to me in colourful terms that Johnny Rotten would understand.

“David said only hand crafted but expensive British butter matched New Zealand butter for quality. The difference being that New Zealand butter can readily be found by British consumers in their local supermarket and convenience stores.

“New Zealand butter and dairy products, like our wine, is a taste revelation.

“New Zealand’s climate and quality pasture means we are in an agricultural sweet spot.  British consumers literally taste freedom when they eat New Zealand butter.

“While I’d like to think of dairy farmers as being the rock stars of the New Zealand economy, I’d be pleased to host that old punk rocker, John Lyndon, on my farm.

While he’s not casting aspersions on our butter, jokes aside, all primary producers need to be very careful about what we say about produce from other countries.

We may compete in the market but we should be allies in the battle against unscientific claims on production methods and quality. There’s more than enough unfounded claims based on emotion making life difficult for farmers and manufacturers of primary produce without people in the industry adding to it.

Attempts to woo consumers by putting them off competitors’ products might backfire and put them off those products regardless of where they come from.

There is one good thing about the ad, though. It might show anyone who still thinks a Buy Kiwi-Made campaign is a good the idea that it’s not, because we can’t say it’s better for us to buy local while exhorting people elsewhere to buy our exports.


Last bastions of communism

31/03/2009

Communist farming practices are usually associated with North Korea and Cuba.

European Union MP Daniel Hannan who excited international interest with his attack on Gordon Brown’s policies, has found another bastion of agricultural communism: the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy:

Price fixing, storeage and destruction of food stocks for which their are no markets, wanton passing on of costs and suffering to the third world which is deprived of markets, people penalised by high prices and high taxes . . .

Those are the costs, who gets the benefits?

As Hannan says on his blog:

Who does best out of the system? EU bureaucrats, natch. . .

And it doesn’t matter where it is, the bureacrats get the benefits from subsidies and tariffs and everyone else pays the costs .

Hat Tip: Taxpayers’ Alliance


Jamie Oliveoil’s recipe for EU Ag Fudge

31/03/2009

Jamie Oliveoil  is having a boil up to campaign against Britain’s membership of the European Union.

I’ll leave that issue aside because this video is also a compelling argument against subsidies and for ensuring politicians and bureaucrats don’t interfere with the relationship between producers and consumers.

Agricultural Fudge, Subsidy Stew, Tariff Tortellini . . . however you cook them up they cause economic indigestion.

They cost taxpayers and consumers, they threaten food supplies, lead to gluts and shortages and they distort markets.

The people they hurt the most are the poor who can’t afford to pay more for their food and face unfair competition when they sell their produce.

Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media Show & Taxpayers’ Alliance


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