Rural round-up

14/04/2014

Challenge of creating a strong red meat sector – Allan Barber:

I am obviously not alone in trying to work out ways of creating a strong red meat sector with profits being shared equitably between the participants. But it is an elusive model which nobody has yet succeeded in identifying. It makes me wonder if it is an impossible dream, but there are a number of determined dreamers who are still intent on finding the solution.

Recently I have had an exchange of emails, not always amicable, with John McCarthy, chairman of MIE, who is committed to achieving consensus among farmers about a future industry structure which will get away from the price taker model.

He takes me to task, quite legitimately, for seeing things from the companies’ perspective which, he says, focuses on making a profit for shareholders. But this doesn’t satisfy farmers’ objectives of being sustainably profitable which is the only way a strong red meat sector will emerge. He agrees the top farmers are performing satisfactorily, but in his view these only comprise 20-25% of farmers. . .

Wool industry picks up dropped stitches – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s wool industry is ”a wee bit broken” , Wools of New Zealand chief executive Ross Townshend says.

At an autumn roadshow in Waikouaiti, Mr Townshend spoke of his observations since starting the job in August last year.

Sixty years ago, 85% of sheep farmers’ revenue was from wool and 15% was from meat, and now it was the complete opposite. . .

Linking youth and the land – Sally Rae:

Annika Korsten is on a mission to expose disengaged Dunedin youth to rural work opportunities.

Ms Korsten, a recipient of a $100,000 World of Difference grant from the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, is establishing a programme, on behalf of the Malcam Charitable Trust, to develop opportunities for young people aged 18 to 24 to transition to work or further rural training.

Describing herself as passionate about people, place and food and the inter-relationship between the three, she said she enjoyed facilitating networks and connecting people. . .

 

The costs of GMO labelling -Foodie Farmer:

There has been much discussion over whether or not the labeling of “GMO” foods would add to the cost of food production or not. This was one of the supporting arguments for GMO labeling at the legislative hearing at the Maryland House of Delegates Committee on Health and Government Operations during which Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, both insisted that labeling costs would be minor at best.

So does Mother Jones

So does The Grist

Wow, do these scientists and journalists have any understanding of the food supply chain from farm gate to grocery shelf?
Apparently not, nor does anyone else who thinks that “GMO” labeling won’t increase the cost of food.
Here is my pictorial analysis of the food supply chain from my farm gate: . . .

 

What is Your Dairy farm Profit?  – Pasture to Profit:

What is dairy farm profit? Is profit a dirty word? Too few New Zealand dairy farmers know their profit? Discussion groups rarely discuss or compare profit. Few farmers financially benchmark. Why do farmers and consultants continue to use profit per hectare to compare farms?

PROFIT = GROSS FARM REVENUE – FARM OPERATING EXPENSES + NON-CASH Adjustments. Non-Cash Adjustments include changes in feed & livestock inventory, inclusion of Family labour & Management and depreciation. See NZDairybase   Why do so few NZ dairy farmers know what their profit is? Profit per hectare is not enough, although every farmer should calculate Profit/hectare.  . . .


Rural round-up

04/01/2014

MP: Tractor protest well worth it – Sue O’Dowd:

The retiring politician who once drove a tractor up the steps of Parliament would do it all again.

Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern famously gunned the tractor called Myrtle up Parliament’s steps in a 2003 protest against the Labour Government’s proposed flatulence tax on ruminants. It was later described as the single most effective protest in scuttling what was deemed an idiotic proposal.

Today Ardern is still incensed the Government sacked eminent ruminant scientists conducting research into harnessing methane emission to improve production, even as it was proposing to tax those emissions.

“The scientists were working on something that would potentially overcome the problem, but the Labour Government sacked them because it wanted to introduce a tax on the productive sector that drives the economy of New Zealand.

“It was a lie and it still is a lie. [The proposed tax] was nothing to do with environmental problems. It was about getting extra revenue from the productive sector and it was about wealth redistribution. . .

Fonterra scare could have been prevented– Catherine Harris:

The botched Fonterra botulism scare in August last year might have been prevented if an independent food safety centre had existed, a top toxicologist says.

Professor Ian Shaw, of the University of Canterbury, is among those to welcome the idea of a $5 million food safety centre, which was recommended last month by a government inquiry into New Zealand’s food safety systems.

Shaw, who has chaired a food safety body in the UK, said the Government’s proposal was “a bloody good idea”.

If there had been a food safety centre in place when the Fonterra scare occurred, the test results might have been known more quickly and the false alarm possibly avoided, he said. . .

Sheep injures man:

A man has been airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital with serious chest injuries after being ‘‘rammed’’ by a sheep on a farm north of Hunterville.

Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter pilot Lance Burns said the man did not appear to have been trampled but had obviously been headbutted relatively hard by the sheep.

It was thought he was in a pen with the sheep at the time of the incident.

He stabilised by St John paramedics on board the rescue helicopter and arrived at Palmerston North Hospital in a serious condition. . .

DOC targets rats to help save struggling bats – Neil Ratley:

The Department of Conservation is going in to bat for a critically endangered mammal species in Fiordland.

A low count of long-tailed bats in the Kepler Mountains is prompting DOC to design and undertake rat control to protect the rare species.

The rat control will emulate that undertaken by DOC in the Eglington Valley, the only other known long-tailed bat habitat in Fiordland.

There was excitement surrounding the discovery of the long-tailed bat colony near the Kepler track in December 2011, with DOC staff estimating the population was close to 70. . .

The Myth About Seed Choice – Foodie Farmer:

I recently had a twitter conversation on a topic that seemed to perpetuate an urban myth – that farmers do not have a choice when it comes to planting seed or that seed companies “impose” their seeds on farmers, as if it is a dictatorship… Last time I checked, America was a pretty free country. Most people are able to make choices on what they buy at the store… So why would that be different for farmers?

As a family farm, we grow both GMO (we don’t actually use this term but for the sake of this blog, am using it for the reader for whom it may be a descriptor) and non-GMO crops and choose our seed produced from a variety of different seed companies, buying directly from our neighbors, which frankly, is the whole point of the fabric of rural America. We support one another. . .

Donkey meat contamination scare in China’s Walmart – Horsetalk:

Several Walmart outlets in China have withdrawn “five-spice donkey meat” after tests revealed the presence of fox meat.

The company is helping authorities in eastern Shandong province investigate the Chinese supplier.

Walmart confirmed it found traces of DNA from animals other than donkey after testing the product. The Shandong Food and Drug Administration had been reported as saying the product contained fox meat. . .


10 most annoying words about ag

02/01/2014

The winner of AgChat Foundation’s #1 blog post in the Top #AgBlog Posts of the year is :

Jennie Schmidt (aka The Foodie Farmer) for her post, “Top 10 Annoying Words About Agriculture.

She begins:

A few weeks ago, I emailed around a poll to my farm and Ag friends both near and far to ask them to give me their top 10 words that most annoyed them that are used in referencing agriculture and farming. I received a lot of interesting responses. There were many, many repeats which I have ranked in order from top to bottom. What it boils down to is that as a culture, we want everyone “in their place”. We want to define the people whose opinions differ from ours and confine them to a box. Social media is littered with examples of people and organizations lumping together and defining those who hold different beliefs in a negative way. It is a way of stereotyping, generalizing, misrepresenting, and for some, the ulterior motive of spreading misinformation. . .

The worst words were:

1. “BIG” – In the context of activist groups, “big” is a derogatory term linked to the perception that the majority of farms are corporate farms.Frankly, the term “big” used in this context sounds rather kindergarten-ish. It has little to do with size but more to the idea that family farms are small farms whereas big farms must be corporate. . .

2. “Factory” – Activists now define climate-controlled barns as “factories”. If you are defining animal agriculture by agenda driven documentaries such as Food Inc, then you have chosen to limit your perspective and specifically elected not to look for balance in the whys and where-fores of food production in the current day. . .

3. “Industrial” – in modern agriculture, industrial is a word used to demonize progress and technology. Efficiency is apparently acceptable in other sectors, but not in farming. . .

4. “Douse” – A word used to describe pesticide application. This is the type of rig used to apply pesticides and fertilizer. There is a fine mist (which in this pic happens to be fertilizer) guided by our GreenSeeker to apply only what the crop needs. Our family eats what we produce. Agricultural inputs are expensive. Why would we “douse” anything we grow with pesticides or fertilizer? . . .

5. “Pump“- The word “pump” made the list thanks in part to Panera Bread’s failed @EZChicken antibiotic campaign that illustrated in cartoon manner, chickens being injected with antibiotics and that farmers who use antibiotics are lazy. “Pump” really goes in line with the word “douse” as in every thing farmers do, we’re believed to do to the excess. Any good business person will tell you that makes no sense whatsoever, but I suspect most of those who throw these terms around have never run their own businesses. Its easy to criticize someones business when your paycheck is funded by “unnamed donors” to a non-profit. . .

6.  “Corporate“- as I said in #1, the majority of farms in the US are family owned and operated. They may vary in size, and they may be “incorporated” for tax purposes (C or S Corp) and for liability protection (LLC for example). . .

7.  “GMO/Frankenfoods” – Wow, this one is hot in social media these days. One of the prevalent anti-GMO claims is that the foods made from genetic engineering (GE) technology haven’t been studied and are not safe. A study in the journal Critical Reviews of Biotechnology looked at a decade of research on “GMO” foods and found no credible evidence that GMOs threaten health or safety of humans or the environment. A review of the study can be found here. . . .

8.  “SuperWeed” -Let me just say it like it is…. Weed resistance is not a genetic engineering issue, it is an agronomic issue. Weed resistance to herbicides did not begin with RoundUp or with GE crops. The chart below is from the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds. It shows that resistant weeds were occurring well before GE crops were ever on the market. Notably, glyphosate/RoundUp which receives the most media attention, is 6th in chronological increase after 5 other classes of herbicides. You should also know that glyphosate/RoundUp did not come about because of GE crops. . . .

9.  “Shill” – while I consider “big” to be a rather kindergarten-ish word about Ag, “shill” is definitely a high school bully word. If you take the time to read the comments section of a polarized discussion on social media, often the first stone thrown is “you’re a shill for Monsanto”. Sometimes kindergarten is combined with high school and the commenter says “you’re a shill for Big Ag”. . .

10. “Agrarian” – Picture “American Gothic. The word “agrarian” brings a romantic notion of the days of old, and therefore, not being appreciative of where modern agriculture has brought our society as a whole. It demeans the profession that we love, and that somehow, all of society would be better off if we went back to subsistence farming. Agrarian, after all, is a society where the majority of citizens participate in farming, not the current 1.5% of the US population. . .

Although she is writing from her experience of farming in the USA, her concerns are shared by farmers and farming families here and no doubt in most other countries.

 


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