Farmers’ pledge will work where water tax won’t

August 23, 2017

Farming leaders have pledged to make rivers swimmable:

In a first for the country, farming leaders have pledged to work together to help make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for future generations.

The Farming Leaders’ Pledge has been signed today by a group of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders, that represent over 80% per cent of that country’s farmed land, committing them to an ambitious goal of working to make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for their children and grandchildren.

Group spokesperson, Federated Farmers President and West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne says the intent behind the pledge is clear.

“Many of our rivers are not in the condition we all want them to be. We are doing this because we want our kids and their kids to be able to swim in the same rivers that we did as children.  And by swim we mean swim. It’s as simple as that.

“We’re standing up and saying we haven’t always got this right. More work is required and we will play our part. While there has been progress on farm in the past 10 years, we know there is more to be done, and that it must be done fast, and together.

Clean rivers aren’t an abstract concept for farmers.

This is the water we drink and wash with every day, not something we might visit a very few times a year.

“Today isn’t about laying out the detail on the huge amount of work going on already on farms up and down the country and how these efforts will need to increase.

“It’s about us as farming leaders signalling our commitment to making New Zealand’s rivers swimmable and doing everything we can to achieve that.”

Ms Milne, says the group understands much of the work needed will be challenging for the farming sector.

Challenging yes, but a  lot will build on work already being undertaken.

“We haven’t put a timeline on our commitment.  Each community will need to decide that for themselves.  This goal will be difficult to meet and we don’t have all the answers today on how it’s going to be achieved”, she says.

“We know that we have work to do. We know it will be challenging for farmers. We know the answers are complex and we don’t have them all now.   This commitment is simply the right thing to do in playing our part to give back to future generations what we enjoyed as kids.”

The Farming Leaders Group is an informal grouping of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders that was established in May 2017 to work on issues of importance to the sector. 

The current membership is Mike Petersen (Sheep & Beef Farmer), Michael Spaans (Dairy Farmer and Dairy NZ Chair), James Parsons (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Beef + Lamb NZ Chair), John Loughlin (Meat Industry Association Chair), Katie Milne (Dairy Farmer and Federated Farmers President), Bruce Wills (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Ravensdown Director), and John Wilson (Dairy Farmer and Fonterra Chair).

The improvements already made have been done by farmers who understand the importance of clean water, without the crude instrument of a water tax which Megan  Hands describes as a kick in the guts for farmers:

There is no doubt that water management is top of mind for many of us this election, but none more so than our farmers and growers, particularly those with irrigation. It’s struck me that using the word farmer seems to irk many, as if it has some kind of negative connotation.

The reality is that New Zealand’s farmers collectively are a group of thousands of small, often family run businesses and their employees. Many are self-employed and punch well above their weight to compete on a global scale, often up against farmers from nations who receive significant subsidies from their governments to assist with their costs of production, top up their incomes or assist them to undertake environmental works.

Irrigation dates to back the Ancient Egyptians and, simply put, we have it because we need water to grow crops or feed for our animals. In the areas of the country that have the most irrigation, rainfall can be scarce, ranging from just 300mm in parts of Central Otago, through to 500-700mm in Canterbury and Marlborough, as compared with the 1,200mm that falls in Auckland annually. Irrigation is used by some farmers and growers to supplement that shortfall in rain and to remain resilient in drought years.

Irrigation schemes don’t just allow farmers to weather dry weather. They also augment natural flows in rivers and streams to improve water quality and enhance water life.

What then is the likely impact of Labour’s water tax policy on these families and their communities?

On the face of it phrases like “polluter pays” or “user pays: may sound appealing, but the balancing of the environmental, social, cultural and economic needs of our communities is more complex than that.

An important point to note from the outset is that nobody in New Zealand pays for water. Even in Auckland, Watercare charges for the treatment and reticulation of water to your home or business, not for the water itself. In the same way as you pay the council through your rates or water bill, Irrigators pay for the infrastructure through consenting, drilling of wells, installation and running of pumping stations or through payments to irrigation schemes with costs of up to $800 a hectare.

That’s what we pay for water from North Otago Irrigation COmpany’s scheme – $800 a hectare a year. On top of that we have to have an environmental farm plan which is independently audited each year.

When Labour’s policy was first announced, there was little detail of pricing. It appears now we are looking at a price of 2 cents per cubic metre, or 1000 Litres.

For some context, to apply 1mm of water over 1 hectare of land it takes 10,000 litres of water or 10 cubic metres. So, to supplement that shortfall of rainfall and sustain crop or pasture growth it quickly equates to large volumes of water.

To keep the maths simple, a 200ha cropping farm growing grain or grass seeds in mid Canterbury applying 500mm of irrigation water a year would have a new additional tax bill of $20,000 a year.

A 100hectare vineyard in Blenheim might use 199,500 cubic metres of water through a drip micro system and have an additional tax bill of $3,990.

Another dairy farmer well known on Twitter has calculated his annual water tax bill on his farm to be $53,000.

Suddenly a couple of cents doesn’t sound so small.

It’s not just the amount but that it will be taken from irrigators regardless of whether their practices are contributing to water quality problems, some will go to Iwi and some will go to regional councils.

What’s left after the costs of collection and distribution is supposed to be used to clean up waterways, but how? It it’s individual farms causing problems they should be responsible for fixing them and not at the cost of those who are already doing everything right.

The key drivers for irrigation requirements are the soil type and its ability to hold water, the crops water demand and the evapotranspiration of the area. In the examples above, grapes have a lower water demand than pasture or grain crops. There is a great deal of science and high level of management that goes into managing irrigation efficiently.

One arable farmer at a meeting in Ashburton on Friday said that he had calculated that at 2 cents/m3 his annual water tax bill could equate to half his annual income. Another wondered aloud what happens if he has a crop failure and he receives zero income for that year but still must pay the tax for the irrigation water he used?

What will happen in wet seasons, like the last one, when there was hardly any irrigation? Our power bill was about 10% of what it had been the previous season which indicates we used about a 10th of the irrigation.

And what will they do with the seagulls which are causing the only water quality problem in the Kakanui River?

In districts where there are significant areas of irrigation this tax would mean millions of dollars being removed from these local economies in additional tax. In these regional areas, the small towns and cities rely on primary industry to keep them going. For Ashburton and Timaru some estimates have come in around $40 million. Tim Cadogan, mayor of Central Otago, is quoted as saying the tax will cost his district $6 million dollars. That’s millions of dollars not transferred to local tradesman, the local café or the rural supplies store.

This proposed tax has been portrayed as the solution to NZ’s water quality problems, although the more we learn about this policy the more difficult it is to link the purported benefits with the method proposed. If Labour do as they say and return the tax to the areas from which it is collected (minus the percentage that goes to iwi), the areas with the poorest water quality will only receive a small slice of the tax. This is because there is almost no correlation between swimability of rivers and irrigation.

This policy is based not on facts but on the unsubstantiated belief that irrigation causes water degradation.

In our area it’s the opposite case. The Waiareka Creek that used to be a series of semi-stagnant ponds now flows clear  all year and water life has re-established because irrigation water is doing what nature couldn’t – maintain water flows.

One of the greatest concerns regarding this policy is the possibility it could make meeting required reductions in nutrient losses more difficult. Making changes on a farm to improve water quality is not cheap and any additional money squeezed out of what are often tight budgets may make it more difficult to do so. As an example, $20,000-30,000 can pay for three or four soil moisture meters to aid in more targeted use of irrigation or perhaps part of a new effluent system.

A water tax is a broad-brush approach to what are varied and complex issues. In my view identifying the contaminants causing the water quality problems for a catchment and targeting the management of those at catchment scale is a far superior approach than paying money to a government organisation in the hope that it will be returned to be spent the catchment it came from.

Last Friday David Parker, Labour’s spokesperson for freshwater fronted a public meeting in Ashburton. While I’d already been publicly critical of the approach of a water tax, I wanted to hear what he had to say in more depth than a media soundbite or the 300-word summary on the Labour party website. I’ve also long believed that there is a legitimate conversation to be had about how we should fund environmental infrastructure such as the Managed Aquifer Recharge site in Ashburton, new storm water systems or floating wetlands such as those installed at Te Arawa in Rotorua.

I was bitterly disappointed.

Mr Parker provided photos of poor farming practices to set the tone. Of the farming practices that we were seeing in the photos, not even one of them was related to irrigation and none were from Canterbury. Almost every single one of them would be illegal in Canterbury under the existing Land and Water Regional Plan putting your consent to farm or your access to irrigation water at risk of being cut off.

When questioned on the price, Mr Parker warned the room that he wasn’t there to negotiate and threatened the farmers in the room that if they pushed him it would be 2 cents instead of 1 cent. He continually referred to the farmers in the room as “you people”, taking aim at them and telling them they alone were responsible for the rural urban divide.

It is the responsibility of us all to manage our water well and that includes irrigators, towns and cities, and other commercial users. If we are going to tackle these challenges we must do it together, instead of pointing the finger at one another.

The management of our freshwater is important for our ecosystems, our businesses and our recreation. Water is precious to all of us and deserves far more sophisticated and collaborative policy development then soundbites and feel good election policies if we are to deliver the kaitiakitanga it deserves.

The pledge by the farmers’ group will work where the water tax won’t.

It will be led by and accomplished by farmers working with farmers, not politicians extracting a tax only some of which will be applied to improving water quality.


Rural round-up

August 15, 2017

Labour’s water plan ‘dangerous, deceitful’, says Marlborough grapegrower – Oliver Lewis:

A Marlborough grapegrower has blasted Labour’s irrigation policy as “dangerous” and “deceitful”.

Wine Marlborough deputy chairman Simon Bishell said it was populist electioneering that would “drive a deeper wedge between the rural and urban divide”.

The Caythorpe Family Estate grower said international wine markets were incredibly competitive and any extra charge would put New Zealand exporters at a disadvantage. . . 

Concern for Hawke’s Bay farmers, growers over “water tax” – Victoria White:

Concerned members of Hawke’s Bay primary sector have waded into the debate on a Labour Party proposal for a royalty on commercial water.

Yesterday Labour leader Jacinda Ardern revealed their freshwater policy, which included charging an unspecified royalty on commercial water, with the revenue going to local regional councils to be used to clean up rivers, lakes and streams.

This royalty would include water bottlers, and farmers taking water for irrigation schemes. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand Responds to Scaremongering Claims:

Reacting to claims yesterday from Labour’s water tax spokesperson David Parker that its level of “scaremongering around this would make Donald Trump blush”, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says this is a disappointing way to start a policy discussion about water and land use.

“Since Labour announced last week that it planned to tax fruit and vegetable growers’ use of water, I have been contacted by many of our growers asking that Horticulture New Zealand speak out about this tax and its direct impact on the cost of healthy food,” Chapman says.

“The tax confuses water users with water polluters – they are not one and the same – and implies that people on municipal water supply already pay for water, when in fact nobody pays for water. The costs they are talking about relate to the infrastructure required to source water. . .  

Positive perception important to farmers – Sally Rae:

Dean Rabbidge is an advocate for telling the good stories in farming.

Mr Rabbidge (32), a Glenham sheep, beef and dairy farmer, is intent on not only growing his own farming business, but also defending what he views as a “bad rap” that farming receives from some.

He recently became a trustee and member of the Three Rivers Catchment Group, which was established to engage with all sectors of the community and educate around the management of fresh water.

The group comprised about 12 trustees, who were all farmers and who wanted to engage with the community around water quality issues. The catalyst for its formation was Environment Southland’s proposed Water and Land Plan.

Mr Rabbidge encouraged people to “do the right thing” and showcase best management practice. He wanted to “get some good noise” out there with all the good stuff that was happening, he said. . . 

Understanding meat behind marketing – Sally Rae:

When it comes to marketing meat, Wayne Cameron is in the enviable position of having experienced first-hand all aspects of the chain — from producer to restaurateur.

Mr Cameron has been heavily involved with the Silere alpine origin merino meat brand  established six years ago.

Originally a joint venture between the New Zealand Merino Company and Silver Fern Farms,  SFF later withdrew from the venture and Alliance Group took it up.

Mr Cameron’s latest role is as marketing manager premium products at Alliance Group, overseeing not only Silere but also Te Mana lamb, and other yet-to-be launched products, including a beef label due to be rolled out soon. . . 

NZ sheep numbers decline at a slower annual pace as farmers rebuild flocks –  Tina Morrison:

 (BusinessDesk) – The steady decline in New Zealand’s sheep numbers continued at a slower pace over the past year as farmers in some areas rebuilt their flocks following drought, natural disasters and the impact of facial eczema.

Sheep numbers reduced to an estimated 27.34 million as at June 30 from 27.58 million a year earlier, according to the latest survey from the Economic Service of farmer-owned industry organisation Beef + Lamb New Zealand. The annual 0.9 percent decline compares with last year’s 5.3 percent drop, and marks the fifth consecutive fall since 2012 when sheep numbers rose 0.4 percent. . . 

Farmers taking a hammering with One Plan, gorge closure :

“We won’t survive,” was Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis’ reaction to the Environment Court directed One Plan presented to Horizons Regional Council’s strategy and policy committee yesterday.

“The report is really scary,” Mrs Collis, an Eketahuna dairy farmer, said.

“We’ve seen the damage a loss of 30 per cent of business has meant to Woodville, with the close of State Highway 3 through the Manawatu Gorge. A drop in dairy farmer’s profit will be felt throughout our community,” she said. . . 

Otematata wetland project gets funding boost – Elena McPhee:

Volunteers are fencing, clearing willows, and planting 2200 native plants before spring for a wetlands restoration project at the head of Lake Aviemore. 

Another $15,000 has been granted for the conservation project as part of an ongoing Environment Canterbury initiative to fund biodiversity projects around the district. 

The Otematata Ratepayers Association received the grant from the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee to enhance another section of the 50 hectare Otematata Wetlands at the head of Lake Aviemore. 

The wetlands site is a popular recreation area, and is being restored by the community-led group.  . . 

Draft Report on Fonterra’s Base Milk Price Calculation:

The Commerce Commission has today released its draft report on Fonterra’s base milk price calculation for the 2016/17 dairy season.

The base milk price is the price Fonterra pays farmers for raw milk, which is set at $6.15 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2016/17 season just ended. The report does not cover the forecast 2017/18 price of $6.75 that Fonterra announced in July.

The Commission is required to review Fonterra’s calculation at the end of each dairy season under the milk price monitoring regime in the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg said with the exception of the asset beta component of the cost of capital estimate, Fonterra’s calculation of the 2016/17 base milk price is consistent with both the efficiency and contestability purposes of DIRA. . . 

Teacher resources bring primary industries into the classroom:

A new set of online resources will provide teachers with the information they need to help their students learn about New Zealand’s animal welfare, biosecurity and food systems, says Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston.

“The curriculum-linked resources are being rolled out so that teachers can help students to learn key knowledge and skills while also discovering how these key systems underpin the primary industries and play an important role in our economy, our environment and our way of life,” Ms Upston says. . . 

First female president of Agcarm:

Agcarm, the industry association which represents crop protection, animal health and rural supplier businesses, has appointed its first female president.

Dr Pauline Calvert heads the production animal business for MSD Animal Heath in New Zealand and was elected president at Agcarm’s annual meeting on July 27.

Under her presidency, Agcarm will continue to focus on promoting the responsible use of products, sustainable agriculture, environmental preservation, and sensible science-based regulation of crop protection and animal health products. . . 

Interesting Facts And Figures About The 2017 Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year National Final:

With the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year 2017 National Final looming closer (29th August 2017 at Villa Maria) the contestants are well into study mode, researching their projects, writing budgets, revising a wide range of subjects such as pests & diseases, soil nutrition, pruning, trellising and tractor skills to name but a few. Each of them is very determined to be this year’s winner.

Here are some interesting facts about the competition:

• 2017 will be the largest national final to date with SIX contestants . . 


Rural round-up

July 31, 2017

MPI urges vigilance – Annette Scott:

While he may be the first in New Zealand to have the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis detected on his farm, South Canterbury dairy farmer Aad van Leeuwen is confident he won’t be the last.

The Ministry for Primary Industries notified the detection of Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) disease on a South Canterbury dairy farm on July 25, but the identity of the property wasn’t revealed until four days later, on Friday, prompting speculation to run rife meantime.

Devastated that the disease – listed as an unwanted organism under NZ’s Biosecurity Act 1993 – had hit his dairy operation, van Leeuwen said he was co-operating 100% with MPI. . .

Japan frozen beef tariffs expected – Alan Williams:

New Zealand beef exporters are facing 50% tariffs on frozen exports to Japan over the next eight months.

Suppliers in this country have been caught in the reaction to big shipments from Australia, and especially the United States this year, so that total volumes have reached a trigger point at which the Japanese government has decided it needs to protect domestic farmers. . .

Give up farming generate power – Neil Malthus:

Farmers installing solar power can now get a better return from it than from farming itself, a solar power installer claims.

Electrical contractor Andrew Wells, of ABW Electric, Christchurch, recently set up Sunergy Solar to market solar photovoltaic systems. His company specialises in farm installations, marketed at farming field days and A&P shows; it also does residential systems.

Wells sees huge potential for solar power on farms: electricity charges for a dairy shed average $5000 – $6000 a month and solar panels now cost only about 8% of what they did 10 years ago. . . 

More wool needed for a brighter future – WNZ – Pam Tipa:

Greater sales volume is critical for Wools of NZ, says chair Mark Shadbolt.
The trademarked scouring process Glacier XT will be a more volume-focused business, he says.

“That will create lot more demand. It is creating a wool that is a lot whiter and brighter and is the sort innovation and technology we need to invest in to add value to the wool.

“We have had a lot of interest in the market for it because the brightness is the key aspect that the industry hadn’t been able to acquire until this technology became available.” . .

Southland a winner – Sonita Chandar:

Southlander Katrina Thomas knew “absolutely nothing about cows” when she and husband James Dixon converted to dairy farming.

But she turned that lack of knowledge around by joining the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) and volunteering her time to the community.

It is this generosity that saw her win the 2017 Dairy Women’s Network Dairy Community Leadership award. . .

NZ’s prosperity still tethered to farm gate – Liam Dann:

There’s nothing like a biosecurity scare to remind us that New Zealand’s economic prosperity is still – for better or for worse – tethered to the farm gate.

The instant that news of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in South Canterbury hit the headlines last Tuesday the dollar plunged.

Luckily it only dropped 20 basis points (0.2 per cent) before it became apparent that this was a more benign disease than foot and mouth.

But it was enough to put a deep V shape in the daily dollar chart and illustrate how quickly a more serious outbreak could take this country to the brink of recession. . .

Fonterra Australia increase farmgate milk price for the 2017/18 season:

Fonterra Australia has today advised its farmers of an increase of 20 cents per kilogram of milk solids (kgMS) to its farmgate milk price for the 2017/18 season, bringing its average farmgate milk price to $5.50kgMS. The increase will apply from 1 July 2017 and will be paid on 15 August 2017.

Fonterra’s additional payment of 40 cents/kgMS is payable on top of the revised farmgate milk price, and brings the total average cash paid to $5.90kgMS.

Fonterra Australia Managing Director René Dedoncker said that improved market conditions and the strength ohf the Australian business supported this step up. . . .


Rural round-up

July 27, 2017

Mycoplasma bovis – Media update Thursday 27 July 2017

Investigations continue in MPI’s response to the detection of the new-to-New Zealand cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis on a farm in South Canterbury.

The situation remains that the bacterial disease has been confirmed on one property.

MPI has this affected property under legal controls restricting the movement of risk goods such as stock and equipment off the farm. . . 

Fonterra Announces Lift in Farmgate Milk Price Forecast for 2017/18:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced an increased forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the upcoming 2018 season, to $6.75 per kilogram of milksolids (kgMS).

The Co-operative also announced a forecast earnings per share range of 45 to 55 cents, making the forecast total available payout to farmers in the 2017/2018 season $7.20 to $7.30, before retentions. Guidance regarding dividend payments will be provided as part of the interim financial results and will be considered by the Board in accordance with its dividend policy. . . 

New videos showcase Rotorua farming practices that help protect water quality:

A new video series has been launched to help farmers protect water quality.

Rotorua farmers, like other farmers throughout New Zealand, are being challenged to reduce nutrient losses from their land, while staying profitable. Excessive nutrient losses from farms and other sources cause water quality problems.

Proposed rules to help protect Lake Rotorua will require most local farmers to substantially reduce nitrogen losses with accompanying good management practices to tackle phosphorus losses. To help farmers to meet these nutrient targets, a series of ten 3-5 minute videos has been produced. . . 

Geographical areas can now be registered:

Wine and spirit producers are now able to register geographical indications, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean says.

“The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 came into force today, allowing wine and spirit makers to protect and associate themselves with particular regions,” Ms Dean says.

“Geographical indications will help to differentiate New Zealand brands locally and overseas. This will also provide a level of assurance that a product is authentic and holds the specific characteristics associated with its origins. . . 

Do you really know about the food on your table? – Anna Campbell:

I remember the first time I saw a banana tree, I was stunned at the growth patterns of what looked like upside down bananas.

I had a similar amazed reaction when I first saw cotton growing – endless rows of white fluff – when I had only ever seen the finished product. Recently, a news piece came through with the horrifying statistic that 7% of adults in the US believe chocolate milk comes directly from cows. But, is it really such a surprising statistic when you ask yourself what do you really know about the food on your table?

Most of us walk into the supermarket and buy our food from nicely stacked shelves, without thinking much about how it was grown. I am the same, especially for foods grown outside Otago. Most of us know what an apple orchard looks like, but how about a pineapple farm, a cashew nut farm, or even a sugarcane farm? . . 

10 mega myths about farming to remember on your next grocery run – Jenna Gallegos:

Most of us don’t spend our days plowing fields or wrangling cattle. We’re part of the 99 percent of Americans who eat food, but don’t produce it. Because of our intimate relationship with food, and because it’s so crucial to our health and the environment, people should be very concerned about how it’s produced. But we don’t always get it right. Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider these 10 modern myths about the most ancient occupation.

1. Most farms are corporate-owned

This myth is probably the most pervasive on the list. It is also the furthest off-base. Nearly 99 percent of U.S. farms are family-owned. The vast majority of these are small family farms, but the bulk of our food comes from large family farms. . . 

Horticulture magazine wins international award:

Horticulture New Zealand’s magazine for commercial vegetable growers, NZ Grower, has won an international award for its front cover illustration.

One of more than 400 entries for the 2017 Tabbie Awards – from the American based Trade Association Business Publications International – the July 2016 NZ Grower cover was awarded Bronze in the Front Cover – Illustration section. . . 


Rural round-up

July 23, 2017

Real progress can be made at catchment level – William Rolleston:

New Zealand, as we all know, is blessed with abundant water and we have it to ourselves.  

We have abundant water, but not always in the right place at the right time. For example, North Canterbury had been in drought for three years, affecting not only farmers who had to turn off their irrigators, but also rivers like Selwyn – the subject of intense media scrutiny over the early part of this year.  

In the final Selwyn River hurrah, before the rains came and ruined all the fun, The Press, in Christchurch, ran a front page article on the Irwell River where fishing had been destroyed.  . . 

The arguments for and against the Ruataniwha dam – Victoria White:

Over its lifespan, the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme has attracted its fair share of supporters and critics.

For some, the scheme promised a solution to drought problems which hampered the region’s economic development, and placed pressure on water supplies in the Tukituki catchment.

Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said without the dam, “severe water restrictions” would be placed on irrigators, which could impact their livelihood. . . 

Truffle enthusiasts converge on Waipara Valley

Truffle fanatics from around New Zealand have converged on the Waipara Valley in North Canterbury for the area’s third annual truffle festival.

The first of the fungus treasures were produced in the area only 20 years ago – but the region has quickly established itself as the country’s truffle capital.

Waipara Valley truffle grower, Gareth Renowden, said people had been travelling from as far afield as Auckland and Wellington for the festival events, which included hunts, cooking classes and truffle-themed lunches.

Mr Renowden said the truffle trade in the area had taken off and it was hoped in the future there would be a strong export industry. . . 

Wool volumes pick up, stockpiles linger :

A higher volume of wool was offered at New Zealand’s latest weekly auction as stockpiles from last season come to market.

Some 8873 bales were offered at yesterday’s North Island auction, 32% above the 6697 bales offered at the same time last year, AgriHQ said.

The auction achieved a strong clearance rate of 81%, ahead of the 74% average clearance rate in the previous season which ended June 30, AgriHQ said. . . 

Cropping farmers go to polls :

Cropping farmers go the polls in the next few weeks to determine the future of their levy-funded research organisation, Foundation for Arable Research.

Under the Commodity Levies Act growers have the opportunity to vote to renew levy orders every six years. A ‘yes’ vote will ensure FAR’s continued existence and on-going contribution to the cropping industry, while a ‘no’ vote would result in the organisation being wound up, and all research and extension programmes ceasing. . . 

Wish we’d thought of that – astounding agribusiness ideas – Ben Mack:

Agribusiness helps form the backbone of Aotearoa’s economy. Are you doing something stupendous that you think deserves to be recognised at the 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards? Then enter it in the Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment category, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you’ve got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

Farmshed Labs

Anyone who has lived in Aotearoa for any length of time can attest to how important the dairy and cattle industries are to the New Zealand economy, especially out in the regions. Likewise, anyone who has worked with cows on a farm can explain the tricky art of knowing when to breed a cow to a bull, and how often such attempts are unsuccessful. But guess what? Breeding cows isn’t art – it’s science. And there’s some wearable tech that’s making that science easier than ever before. . .

Cream cheese innovation at the heart of significant new build:

Dairy lovers across Asia will soon get their first taste of an innovative new cream cheese, as Fonterra announces plans for two new cream cheese plants at its Darfield site in Canterbury.

The Co-operative today marked the start of the ambitious project, inviting Selwyn MP Hon. Amy Adams and Selwyn District Council Mayor Sam Broughton to join Fonterra management and staff in turning the first sod on the new build. . . 

Feds man honoured for contribution – Laurel Stowell:

Whanganui’s Tim Matthews calls himself an amateur policy analyst.

He won Federated Farmers’ 2017 Outstanding Contribution Award at the federation’s annual general meeting in Wellington on June 21.

A sheep and beef farmer with 1000ha of hill country near Mangamahu, Mr Matthews has been a member of Federated Farmers since 1983. He’s been the vice-president and meat and fibre chairman for the Wanganui province at various times since then. . . 


Rural round-up

July 22, 2017

Rural women leaders take bull by the horns – Holly Ryan:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has lost track of the number of people who have called her farm in Kumara on the West Coast, asking to talk business with the man of the house.

Within minutes, she will often hear her husband say “I’ll hand you back to the boss, she can help you,” as he returns the phone to her.

This is because although the farm is a partnership, Milne is usually the one managing the books and keeping the business side of things ticking over. . . 

Mt Somers couple master schemes and farming diversification – Pat Deavoll:

No one will ever call Mid Canterbury farmers Kate and David Acland lazy. Not only do they run a 3800ha mixed livestock finishing farm with 25,000 stock units; they have tacked onto the family enterprise a dairy operation, an apiary, a Marlborough winery and a local cafe and farm store.

“Schemes interest us,” says David. “Diversification has been our strategy since 2012. We are spreading our income and are not at the mercy of any single industry.

“Driving our business to grow and intensify while staying true to our farming values is a challenge, but opportunities such as bee keeping allow us a whole new revenue stream without affecting the core business of the farm or affecting the environment.” . . 

Nuffield opens Manawatu farmer Matt Hocken’s eyes to global agricultural stage – Kate Taylor:

Applications are open for 2018 Nuffield Scholarships. Kate Taylor spoke to a 2017 scholar in the middle of his international travels.

The best thing about Mat Hocken’s Nuffield scholarship has been the way it has opened his eyes to the global agricultural stage. The hardest thing has been leaving his young family.

Hocken is farming a Manawatu property, Grassmere, that has been in his family for over 125 years. He works alongside wife Jana, with whom he has two young daughters, and his father Ross who lives on one of the support blocks nearby. . .

Federated Farmers Appeal ECan Catchment Proposal:

Federated Farmers has decided to appeal Environment Canterbury’s Plan Change 5.

The Plan Change is ECan’s solution to addressing water quality issues associated with farming activities in Canterbury – but excludes catchments already addressed.

The Federation backs the principles outlined in the proposal, but has decided to appeal on proxies attached to the plan. . . 

Fonterra to expand in Darfield

Fonterra will build two new cream cheese plants at its Darfield site.

With cream cheese undergoing a steady surge in popularity in Asia, the $150 million two-stage project will see the first plant completed in 2018 with a second to follow in either 2019 or 2020.

The two new plants will incorporate technology that will allow the firmness and consistency of the cream cheese be dialled up or down to meet customer preference.

Fonterra’s director of global foodservice Grant Watson said the investment is a timely one as more and more consumers around Asia develop a preference for milk-based products . . .

Angus on top at Steak of Origin –

Tim and Kelly Brittain, from Otorohanga, have been awarded this year’s Steak of Origin grand champion title for their Angus steak.

Being recognised as the country’s top beef producer is an achievement Tim and Kelly are extremely proud of.

“Each year our entries into this competition have stepped up a level and I am so proud that tonight all our work and efforts can be celebrated. This outcome is a significant achievement and something that Kelly and I have been working towards,” Tim said. . .


Rural round-up

July 20, 2017

Woman of the land counts herself lucky – Rose Harding:

Kate MacFarlane has always known what she wanted to do.

She grew up on Waiterenui Angus Stud at Raukawa so is a farm girl “to her DNA” and considers herself lucky in her life.

Lucky that her parents, Will and Viv, told her to follow her dreams, lucky she was able to travel and gain experience overseas, lucky she got the jobs she wanted and lucky with all the “amazing people” who have helped her. . . 

The mysteries of grass-fed milk – Keith Woodford:

Here in New Zealand, we live the notion that milk from grass-fed cows is superior to milk from cows fed other rations. Supposedly it is better for health. And supposedly the cows are happier if they can dance around in the sunshine doing what comes naturally. And supposedly it makes us more cost-efficient than our international competitors.

There is an element of truth to all of the above notions. But more often than not there is lots of myth intertwined with truth. Here, I want to tease out what is truth, what is myth, what depends on specific context, and some things that are still unknown. . . 

Sunless season dries up olive oil production – Susan Murray:

New Zealand’s olive oil producers have had a tough production season.

Harvesting is just ending, and for some growers their fruit volume and oil production is less than half last year’s.

Andrew Priddle is a Wairarapa olive grower and harvester and said there has been a lack of sunshine hours in summer and autumn, and the crops had matured three weeks later than usual.

He said the late crops led to more bird damage and coincided with an “off” year for the biennially producing trees. . . 

“Nightmare’ kumara season for farmers:

A kumara famer has described this year as a nightmare, with horrendous weather cutting the yield of red kumara by up to 45 percent.

The low yield of all varieties has had a big impact on prices as Statistics New Zealand reported kumara hit a high of more than $8 a kilo last month.

John Adolf from the kumara co-operative Delta Produce, said this year had been a shock for farmers after last season’s bumper crop.

A wet, cold spring, a long dry summer and heavy downpours through autumn caused major headaches for farmers, he said. . . 

$300,000 to help preserve native bush and fauna:

The Forest Bridge Trust has been awarded $300,000 from the Community Environment Fund, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today.

“The vision of The Forest Bridge Trust is to create a connected landscape of healthy forest and flourishing indigenous wildlife from the Kaipara Harbour in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. They plan to achieve that vision by connecting up bush remnants, fencing, planting and doing weed and pest control throughout the area,” Mr Simpson says. . . 

CropLogic plans A$8 mln IPO in ASX listing – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – CropLogic, the agricultural technology company, has launched its prospectus and is planning an A$8 million capital raising before listing on the ASX.

The Christchurch-based company is offering 40 million shares at 20 Australian cents each with a minimum subscription of 25 million shares, or A$5 million. The capital will be used to fund market development, research & development, ASX listing costs and working capital, it said. In May, it completed an A$2 million pre-initial public offering funding round. . . 

Polluted waterways issue widens town and country divide:

The contentious issue of our polluted waterways is deepening a country and town divide, with many farmers saying they are being unfairly blamed by city folk.

“We get lambasted by these allegations for polluting the rivers when in Canterbury we have very few polluted rivers whatsoever,” Canterbury dairy farmer Willie Leferenk said.

Further north sheep and beef farmer Lydia Murchison has noticed that townies seem to have lumped all farmers together. . . 

Farm sales and prices inch down in three months to June on year – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – The number of farms sold in the three months inched down on the year as did the median price per hectare for all farms, pointing to a softening tone in the rural real estate market, the Real Estate Institute said.

There were 459 sales in the year ended June 2017, 13 fewer than the same period a year earlier, or a decline of 2.8 percent. The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to June 2017 was $25,992 versus $26,361 in the same period a year earlier, a decline of 1.4 percent.

Eight regions recorded increases in sales volumes on the year in the three months ended June. Otago recorded the largest increase in sales, with 13 more sales, followed by Gisborne where nine more farms were sold. . . 

Nominations for Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election Open Monday:

Nominations for the Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election open Monday, 17 July with an election to be held for three farmer-elected Directors.

The Independent Nomination process will be run first with nominations needing to have been received by the Returning Officer, Warwick Lampp of electionz.com by 12 noon on Monday, 7 August 2017.

The Returning Officer will announce the Independent Nomination process candidates on Monday, 11 September 2017. . . 

Autogrow announces global first API Solution for indoor agriculture:

Autogrow has become the first of the established players to launch an API (Application Programming Interface) for indoor agricultural growers; greenhouses, vertical urban, containers, plant factories, offering access to data traditionally not available to them.

Called MyData(v0.2), this is the first release in a series of cloud-based solutions offering a universally accessible API to recent and historical growing data including light and relative humidity, wind speed, pH and EC. With a 24-hour data refresh and 180-day historical data available, growers will be able to utilise their information to discover operational insights or even custom-build or develop their own data solutions, services or apps without limitations. . . 

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