Rural round-up

08/05/2020

Concern farmers’ wellbeing affected: –  David Hill:

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Andy Munro is concerned for the wellbeing of farmers as they negotiate the ongoing effects of a dry season and the Covid-19 lockdown.

He said last month’s rain was “a great morale booster” for farmers in the drought-affected area in North Canterbury.

“Since that rain four weeks ago, things went pretty quiet. But it’s just a pity we haven’t had a follow-up rain and we really need a good warm follow-up rain, particularly for the farmers from Waipara north to get some growth before winter.

“It’s starting to get dry and cold in that northern part, but other than that it’s business as usual. . . 

Farmers need to be heard not patronised:

The Government’s drought recovery advice fund announced today is merely a drop in the bucket for supporting farmers affected by drought, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“The fund is specifically for providing affected farmers with recovery and planning advice, but does not contribute to farmers’ rising feed costs or general business costs.

“Most farmers already know what is needed to help their business recover and it is insulting for the Government to tell them they simply need to seek more advice to get through the drought. . . 

Rural GPs not just another business – Peter Burke:

Rural General Practice Network chair Dr Fiona Bolden is disappointed that the Government is treating rural general practices the same as any other business in the community.

Bolden told Rural News that rural GPs were expecting to get two payments from the Government to assist them financially.

However, she says while they had received the first payment, Cabinet vetoed the second payment – just days before it was expected to be paid.  . .

Differing responses to wage subsidy scheme – Allan Barber:

The country’s meat processors have followed two distinctly different paths in response to the government’s wage subsidy scheme which is available to all businesses for 12 weeks, providing they can substantiate a 30% drop in revenue during the period. Silver Fern Farms, Alliance, ANZCO, Taylor Preston and Blue Sky Meats have all claimed the subsidy to varying extents, whereas AFFCO, Greenlea and Wilson Hellaby have decided it is not justified or necessary, at least partly on ethical grounds.

The contrast in approach has already been commented on by independent economist, Cameron Bagrie, who has slammed the two largest claimants, SFF which has claimed $43 million and Alliance $34 million, for taking advantage of taxpayer funding when they are classified as an essential business, operating in lockdown. Equally Bagrie complimented those companies not making a claim because they were getting on with business as usual. Speaking to The Country’s Jamie Mackay, he said “the wage subsidy is out there to support businesses that are getting clobbered, that are effectively in lockdown.”

I am not convinced this interpretation is either totally fair or even correct. Both SFF’s Simon Limmer and Alliance’s CEO David Surveyor are clear the wage subsidy is not a company entitlement, but is paid directly to various categories of employees: firstly it maintains standard wage rates at normal processing speeds despite the 30-50% reduction to meet distance requirements, it retains those who would have to have been terminated seasonally, and it is used to pay those who cannot work e.g. because of age,  compromised immunity or family circumstances. . .

Community to the rescue for harvest – Toni Williams:

CharRees Vineyard owners Charlie and Esma Hill put a call out on social media for help to harvest during lockdown.

They were so overwhelmed by community response, including some from Christchurch, they had to turn people away.

The lockdown harvest, approved by Ministry for Primary Industries as essential for food and beverage production, attracted about 20 people from Ashburton and Methven — many who had never harvested grapes before — to put their hands up to help.

The pickers worked alongside family members of the couple and vineyard workers to pick the first of three annual grape harvests. . . 

Red meat exports top $1 billion in March 2020, a first for monthly exports:

The monthly value of New Zealand red meat and co-product exports topped $1 billion for the first time, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Total exports reached $1.1 billion in March 2020, an increase of 12 per cent on March 2019.

While overall exports to China for the month of March were down by nine per cent compared to last March as a result of COVID-19, exports to all other major markets increased, demonstrating the agility and resilience of the New Zealand red meat sector. . . 

Time to take ag reform out of the “too hard basket” – Fiona Simson:

Regional Australia is well placed to be the engine that powers Australia’s COVID-19 recovery. The bush has done this before, with strong exports helping keep recession at bay during the Global Financial Crisis.

And, after a challenging period of drought, bushfires and floods, widespread rainfall has seen the fortunes of farmers begin to improve. Agriculture is ready and raring to grow.

As we dare to cast an eye to the world post-COVID-19, now is the opportune time to consider the changes agriculture and regional Australia needs to best contribute to the recovery task. . . 


Rural round-up

13/01/2020

OZ farmers suffer heavy losses – NFF – Sudesh Kissun:

Australian farmers have lost significant livestock in bushfires raging across the country, says National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson. 

Simson says many farmers had lost homes, livestock and infrastructure.

“While we don’t know exact numbers yet, there has been a significant loss of livestock in parts of the country, most recently in areas such as northern Victoria and the south coast of NSW,” she says. . . 

‘Sheer weight’ of multiple issues taking toll on farmers – Sally Rae:

The ‘‘sheer weight’’ of issues facing farmers in Otago and Southland is taking a serious toll on their mental health and wellbeing, a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service report says.

The annual lamb crop report, released this week, said morale among sheep and beef farmers in the two regions was low.

The implications for farming practices and effects on profitability of government policies announced affecting the sector were unclear but likely to be far reaching.

While policies covering freshwater and greenhouse gas emissions were prominent, the likes of Mycoplasma bovis, reform of the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme, tightening of bank lending arrangements, the One Billion Trees programme, winter grazing practices, biodiversity, urban perception of farming, and how to manage succession were also having notable impacts. . . 

New boss sees pastoral potential – Richard Rennie:

The vast grassland expanses of South America offer some exciting opportunities for Gallagher’s new general manager Darrell Jones.

Jones is a couple of months into his new role but almost 20 years into working for the agri-tech company. 

Formerly the company’s national sales manager he is excited by what his recent business excursion to South America revealed.

“We have had a presence in South America for some time but everything sold over there is basically from behind the counter. 

“We want to really work on what our point of difference is for electric fence systems there and a big part of that is farmer education.  . .

Farmlands moves focus forward – Neal Wallace:

New Farmlands chairman Rob Hewett wants the farm supplies retailer to shift its focus to meeting the anticipated needs of farmers five years in the future.

Given the requirement for farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address freshwater quality Farmlands needs to help its 70,000 shareholder-owners make those adjustments and that means supplying advice, services and technology they will need in the future.

“Farmers want a road map and hope and we are moving the company from being very good at providing something farmers needed five years ago to provide things we anticipate farmers will need five years from now.” . . 

Mechanisation new for the US – Tessa Nicholson:

The impetus behind developing the Klima stripper back in 2007 was a continual lack of labour during the pruning season.

Growers and companies all over the country were facing shortages and every year there was the underlying fear that pruning would not be completed in time for bud burst.

The Klima quickly caught the attention of grape growers in both New Zealand and Australia, but breaking into the US has until recently been a difficult one, says Klima founder Marcus Wickham. . . 

Australian celebrity chef samples both sides of the dining experience at Walter Peak High Country Farm:

Visiting Australian celebrity chef Justin North enjoyed a chance to sample the gourmet BBQ lunch menu before heading to the kitchen to work with Executive Chef Mauro Battaglia at Walter Peak High Country Farm in Queenstown on Tuesday 7 January.

North says the first impression when walking through the doors into the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant is the absolutely beautiful aroma.

“Credit to Executive Chef Mauro Battaglia and his whole team as it’s clear that a lot of love, care and thought goes into the food. You can see there is such a lovely culture within the kitchen team, and everyone is so passionate about what they are doing. You can tell it’s more than just a job to everyone.” . . 

 

The insidious flaw in the “Less Meat” argument — we need soil, not soy – Seth Itzkan:

The insidious flaw with the “less meat” argument is that it implies that meat is bad (when, of course, it isn’t) while looking the other way as it advances soil-depleting, GMO soy, faux meat products at the expense of nutritionally superior, regenerative beef and dairy alternatives that are essential for enhancing soil carbon, reviving pasture ecosystems, and just now gaining a foothold in supermarkets.

What Burger King and other franchises should do instead of carrying Impossible Foods paddies, is to insist that each region source at least 10% of their meats locally and via ecologically restorative production. That would jumpstart the food revolution genuinely poised to deliver a safe climate. . .

 


Rural round-up

05/08/2019

Beef’s bad rap based on poor science: prof – Brent Melville:

Beef has been getting a bad rap – blamed for everything from increased cancer to greenhouse gas emissions by environmental and commercial influencers.

Prof Frederic Leroy, Professor of Food Science and biotechnology at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, said meat had effectively become a scapegoat for commercial and environmental advocates, much of which was based on bad science.

Speaking at the red meat sector conference this week in Christchurch, Prof Leroy said the industry as a whole had a responsibility to change the narrative.

“The anti-meat lobby has gained traction in Europe and elsewhere over the past few years. Its led to calls for a sin tax on meat or even meat eaters being banned from restaurants, by high level policy-makers.”

Prof Leroy said one of the major issues is that advocates had linked a reduction in CO2 gas emissions directly to meat intake. . . 

Keeping it simple – Luke Chivers:

Farmers have been worshipping at the altar of productivity for too long.

“More production doesn’t necessarily mean more profit,” 35-year-old Ben Riley says. 

“It’s more about keeping your costs low.”

Ben and wife Renee milk 110 cows on their 38 hectare farm at Rockville in Golden Bay.

The farm is System 2 and they are adamant a small farm doesn’t have to mean less value so focus on profitability rather than production.

They focus on maintaining a grass-based system and looking after pastures, particularly through winter and spring to sustain quality. . . .

From the ground up – Maureen Howard:

We’ll need to feed extra billions by mid century while being kinder to the land and reducing planet-heating carbon emissions to zero. The challenge has prompted some to call for a great food transition.  Maureen Howard talks to a farmer playing his part.

“It’s like cottage cheese, but black,” says Peter Barrett of the soil that lies beneath Linnburn Station, his 9300ha beef and sheep station at Paerau in Central Otago.

Above ground, depending on the time of year, sheep may be spotted grazing beneath the gaze of yellow sunflowers, surrounded by a mix of up to 30 other plant species.

Not just a pretty postcard, Linnburn Station is home to 25,000 winter stock units. In fact, this is farming close the limits. Much of the terrain is exposed rocky high country and for the past two years, the already low mean annual rainfall has declined to just 170mm. Temperatures fluctuate from below zero to 40degC. . . .

 

Regional wrap:

Winter’s been tracking quite dry in Northland so working outside has been pleasant. Kumara growers are starting to put their Kumara beds in  – the grower we spoke to will spend the next six weeks putting in seven kilometres of small tunnel houses – about a metre wide and half a metre high. He says you have to grow a crop to grow a crop. Seed kumara will be planted by hand and spend a couple of months in the houses growing and sprouting before being planted out in the paddocks.

Pukekohe has had changeable weather with some showers from passing cold fronts. Vegetables are in heavy supply because of near perfect winter growing conditions and extensive plantings. That’s excellent for consumers but growers are losing money. . . 

Big names join forces to connect farmers and consumers :

Better connecting farmers and the food and fibre they produce with consumers is the aim of a new communications campaign led by the National Farmers’ Federation.

“Aussies continue to support farmers through tough times such as drought and floods,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“And, more and more they would like to learn more about modern agriculture, and how and why we grow what we do. In general, the community is interested in the story behind their beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, wool, cotton and more.” . . 

Dismantling free markets won’t solve biodiversity threat – Matt Ridley:

Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives. . . 


National Ag Day needed here too

21/11/2017

It’s National Agriculture Day in Australia where the rural urban divide is widening:

The traditional divide between city slickers and their country cousins has turned into a yawning chasm, with 83 per cent of Australians convinced agriculture and farming have no or little relevance to their lives.

A new survey commissioned for the first National Agriculture Day tomorrow also found only 4 per cent of Australians correctly identified agriculture as the fastest-growing sector of the Australian economy, while fewer than half had met or talked to a farmer in the past year.

The National Farmers Federation, which commissioned the survey, believes it proves an urgent need for agriculture to promoted nationally as an exciting, hi-tech industry vital to Australia’s economic future, to reverse the misperception it is a dull, outdated sector of the past.

NFF president Fiona Simson said few Australians are aware that the nation’s once-quiet agricultural sector is now producing more than $64 billion of food and fibre products annually, provides 1.6 million Australians with jobs, grew at a phenomenal rate of 23 per cent last year and single-handedly prevented the economy from reversing into recession over the previous two quarters.

“This is an industry that is powering ahead and which was the largest contributor to national economic (GDP) growth in the last two quarters, but no one in the cities knows that any more,” Ms Simson lamented yesterday.

“In the old days, everyone knew a farmer and understood what farmers did and where their food came from, but city people are now so geographically distant and disconnected from the broader agriculture and food industries, that all that understanding and interest has been lost.”

It doesn’t help that increasing urbanisation means fewer people in the media understand farming and wider rural issues, nor that this has allowed the radical green movement to dominate the debate with arguments based on emotion rather than science.

The 2016 census revealed that 49 per cent of Australians today were either born overseas or have foreign-born parents, while 70 per cent live in the eight capital cities.

The number of farmers has also shrunk from 320,000 to fewer than 90,000 in the past 35 years according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, while the country-to-city population drift and the nation’s urbanisation has continued unabated. . . 

Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said there was no more important industry than agriculture, and National Agriculture Day was a time for all Australians to acknowledge and thank generations of farming families.

“Our nation’s farmers, and agricultural and food sector workers and businesses, do so much more than simply keeping us fed; they are international leaders, stewards of Australia’s landscape and environment and produce some of the best food on the planet that feeds 60 million people around the world,” Senator Ruston said.

“The Aussie farmer has made Australia the lucky country.”

The importance of agriculture to New Zealand’s economy is very unusual in a developed country but the contribution is often undervalued.

Is it time we had a National Agriculture Day too?


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