Rural round-up

August 19, 2019

Fonterra woes for two biggest shareholders – Rebecca Howard:

Fonterra Cooperative Group’s two biggest shareholders – Dairy Holdings and state-owned Landcorp Farming – say the latest downgrade will weigh on their own earnings and add to farmer malaise against a backdrop of already weak confidence.

The dairy exporter this week said it expects to report a full-year loss of as much as $675 million and won’t pay a dividend as it slashes the value of global assets. It will be the second annual loss in a row.

This is a concern and will have quite an impact on farmer balance sheets and cash flow. Our hope is that Fonterra completes the strategy refresh quickly,» said Colin Glass, chief executive of Dairy Holdings. . .

Gene editing could combat ‘weed trees’ and climate change – Esther Taunton:

A forest industry leader has joined the growing chorus of voices calling for serious public debate on genetic technologies.

Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir said the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s recently released report on gene editing should be taken seriously by anyone concerned about the state of the environment.

The report highlighted the problem of wilding conifers, where, despite a multimillion-dollar control programme, the weed trees continued to spread, Weir said. . . 

Farmers call for law change on gene-edited crops – Tom Allen-Stevens:

What sort of regulatory environment for new breeding technologies is required and what will be the implication for farmers, and ultimately consumers, who lie at the heart of this debate? CPM reports exclusively on a survey of farmers.

GM can be a divisive topic, and the farming community is no less split on how and whether it should be introduced as the public in general. Views on gene-editing, however are harder to gauge.

A survey was undertaken in March 2019 by the Gene-Editing for Environment and Crop Improvement Initiative, that represents scientists, breeders and others in the UK agricultural industry with an interest in new breeding technologies (NBTs). The views expressed aren’t representative of farming opinion as the respondents have been selected as those who are relatively well informed on a technology that is, as yet, largely unknown and not commercially available. . . 

We can’t continue to pave paradise and put up a parking lot:

We’ve grown lazy and complacent. Fattened on the plenty provided by rich lands, we are now increasingly turning  our backs on them.

So separated have we become from the production of the food that passes over our plates; so inexorable has the shift been in human resources and amenities from the heartland to the high street, that the Government has seen a need to step in and protect the fertile soils that have long fed it all.

That complacency is built on something of a lie.

Most of us live in cities and other centres of urban sprawl. But the images that we employ to sell our country to others, and the dream to ourselves, are those of bucolic rural spread, mile upon mile upon mile of rolling river, meadow and gentle hill, all leading to majestic mountain ranges. . . 

Seaweeds help curb cow burping :

Queensland researchers say a pink seaweed that stops cows from burping could help slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Asparagopsis grows prolifically off the Queensland coast and a CSIRO study five years ago found it was the only seaweed they knew of that stopped cows burping methane into the atmosphere.

New Zealand research into seaweed supplements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has identified another species with such effects on the nation’s coast.

Researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast are now investigating how it might be farmed on a commercial scale and added to cattle feed to slash emissions. . . 

We need genetic engineering to stave off climate change-induced global hunger – Devang Mehta:

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Climate Change and Land, a document authored by 107 experts from 52 countries. It warned that “Land is a critical resource.”

The main conclusion of the report is that humans already use nearly half of the planet’s land for food production and, as global population levels rise, agricultural land is going to be in very short supply. This is because one of the effects of climate-change will be a decline in agricultural productivity across the tropics, meaning that we will need to cut down forests and convert unused land into farmland. This deforestation will lead to even more carbon emissions, culminating in a vicious cycle of increasing warming. 

The report is a frightening 1,400 page-long prediction of rising food costs and starvation of the world’s poor. In fact, behind all the numbers and probability estimates is one truth that carries throughout — that climate change is going to be especially hard on the poor and on people living in the tropics. The IPCC concludes that as carbon dioxide levels rise and the planet warms, farms in temperate latitudes (i.e. the wealthier countries of Europe and North America) will in fact see an increase in yields.  . . 

5 things to do in the countryside – Life of a Country Mum:

Hey lovely country people,

I thought I would give you an in site to some of the top activities I love to do and also activities I can’t wait to do with my baby!

I am a strong believer that all this technology for children is what’s making the world a horrible place (in certain places). What ever happened to us all going to the outside playing, using our imagination. They were the best memories for me when I was younger.

Fields, haybales and making dens! I have so many stories I could tell you with my siblings. . . 

 


Rural round-up

May 12, 2019

Changing GM policy will be good for the environment and Carbon Zero – Dr William Rolleston:

The Opportunities Party’s new policy on genetic modification(GM), which lines up with Australian law, has given New Zealand farmers hope that they too may be able to use genetic modification in their battle to improve water quality and mitigate climate change towards Carbon Zero.

During my time as Federated Farmers president, farmers, in response to scientific evidence, shifted their focus from increasing production to reducing our environmental footprint.  

We can continue to produce food and fibre while putting the least demand on our resources by improving productivity, benefiting both environment and farmer.  Local councils recognise this by regulating for environmental outcomes rather than blindly restricting inputs – for example, low water nitrogen targets rather than limiting fertiliser or cow numbers. . .

NZ embracing gene-editing is a ‘no-brainer’ – Geoff Simmons – Finn Hogan:

Successive New Zealand governments have been “deaf to developing science” says The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader Geoff Simmons.

TOP is calling for deregulation of a form of gene editing called CRISPR, a technique that can be used to remove undesirable traits from an organism or add desirable ones.

Gene editing (GE) could be used for things like removing the genetic trigger for cystic fibrosis in a person, making manuka more resilient to myrtle rust or helping kauri trees fight dieback. . .

African swine fever in China will affect NZ dairy sector: report – Sally Rae:

China’s devastating outbreak of African swine fever will have a spillover effect on the dairy sector, a new report by Rabobank says.

China is the world’s largest pork producer and accounts for about 50% of pork production globally.

The African swine fever epidemic was expected to reduce the country’s pork production by 25%-35%, resulting in increased demand for other animal proteins but lower demand for feedstuffs, the report said.

Rising demand for beef could constrain China’s milk production if dairy cow culling accelerated to fill some of the gap in animal protein demand. . .

From gate to plate’ farming on Country Calendar – Melenie Parkes:

When Ali and Dion Kilmister were looking to save on transport costs they bought their own stock truck, which Dion now drives. And when they wanted to sell their beef and lamb direct to customers, they set up their own online meat delivery business. 

With seven farms to run, the husband-and-wife team has had to rely on creativity and self-sufficiency. If there’s something they need, they make it a reality. 

Their farms are spread out across 200km from Dannevirke to Wellington. While operating over such a wide area has its problems, it also has distinct benefits.  . .

Bring on the tough challenges – Andrew Stewart:

Being the boss isn’t easy and it’s even harder going solo on tough hill country prone to long, cold winters and dry summers. But for Taihape farmer Mairi Whittle it’s her dream come true. Andrew Stewart called in to see how she’s getting on.

The Taihape to Napier highway is a sometimes snaky road surrounded by vast landscapes and prominent landmarks. 

Clean, green hills stretch as far as the eye can see and this strong farming country produces sought-after stock. 

But it can be a brutally challenging environment to farm in too. Winters at this altitude are long, cold and punctuated by snowfalls. Summers are becoming increasingly dry with rain far less dependable after the holiday period.  . .

Court rules dairy factory illegal:

SYNLAIT remains committed to its $250  million Pokeno factory despite a court decision that means the plant was built in breach of covenants restricting use of the land.

The milk powder maker says it is confident it can find a solution to the ownership problem now afflicting most of the land on which the factory stands because of the Court of Appeal decision.

That ruling effectively means the factory was built in breach of covenants on the land.
When Synlait bought the 28 hectares of land in February 2018 it was conditional on the seller, Stonehill Trustee, obtaining removal of that restricted its use to grazing, lifestyle farming or forestry
. . .

 


Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


Rural round-up

October 10, 2018

High lamb prices will hit profit – Nigel Malthus:

Alliance Group has warned that its annual result, due to be reported in November, will show a drop in profit.

“The financial performance of the company this year will be down… meaningfully,” chief executive David Surveyor told farmers attending the company’s roadshow meeting in Cheviot last week.

However, he assured shareholders the company is profitable, the balance sheet remains “incredibly strong, and for the avoidance of any doubt we have the ability to make sure we build our company forward.” . . 

3 M bovis farms confirmed through bulk milk testing – Sally Rae:

 Only three farms have been confirmed through bulk milk testing as having Mycoplasma bovis – but the Ministry for Primary Industries says it is too early to speculate about final results.

The second bulk milk surveillance programme was being undertaken now as spring was the best time to test for the disease, the ministry said.

Infected animals were more likely to shed the bacteria after a stressful period, such as calving and the start of lactation
.

To date, almost 10,000 of the country’s 12,000 dairy farms had completed two rounds of testing, MPI said in an update
.

Govt committed to Mycoplasma bovis eradication; $25.6M spent to date – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – The government has paid $25.6 million in compensation claims related to Mycoplasma bovis and remains committed to phased eradication, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

One of the biggest challenges for farmers has been navigating the compensation process and Ardern and O’Connor announced a new recovery package aimed at making that easier.

The package includes a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The Ministry for Primary Industries has also produced an improved compensation form and guide and an online calculator of milk production losses. It will also provide regional recovery managers for key areas. . . .

Marc Rivers: The man with Fonterra’s fortunes in his hands – John Anthony:

Marc Rivers has a TEDx talk. And it’s not about numbers, profit and loss – and there is no mention of balance sheets.

Rivers, Fonterra’s top number cruncher, is not your typical chief financial officer.

Unlike their charismatic chief executive counterparts, chief financial officers are generally regarded as robotic accountant types, capable of presenting a company’s financial position in jargon that few people understand. . . 

State of the Rural Nation Survey finds rural dwellers less likely to talk to health professionals

  • Seven in ten people have felt increased stress over the last five years
  • Those aged 18-39 feeling the most pressure
  • 61 percent said living rurally limits access to mental health resources

A recent survey has found that 70 percent of rural New Zealanders have felt more stress over the last five years.

The State of the Rural Nation Survey, conducted by Bayer New Zealand and Country TV, asked participants several questions regarding their views on critical topics impacting rural New Zealand today, including a series of questions around mental health.

Of those who responded that they had felt increased stress over the last five years, over half (54 percent) attributed financial pressures as the main reason, while the impact of environmental factors (ie droughts, flooding, hail) on people’s work and livelihoods came in at a close second (49 percent). . . 

Gene editing in brief: What, how, why:

Embracing gene editing could have huge benefits for New Zealand’s primary industries and we shouldn’t be scared of the technology, scientists say.

The latest paper in a series from the Royal Society Te Apārangi outlined five ways gene editing could be used in farming and forestry and scientists are keen for Kiwis to discuss the issue.

It sounds scary, though.  So what’s it all about?

Gene editing (also known as genome editing) is the targeted alteration of a specific DNA sequence. While older genetic modification technology typically added foreign DNA to a plant or animal, gene editing involves precise modification of small sections of existing DNA.  . . 

Mental health workshop focus on rural people:

Workshops being held across the country are equipping farmers and rural professionals with the tools to recognise and support those who are struggling.

NZ Young Farmers has organised five of the Good Yarn workshops, the second of which was held in Carterton last week.

Greytown dairy farmer Rachel Gardner, one of 14 attendees last week, is encouraging other young people to talk about mental health. . . 

Meat measurement technology given funding boost :

Adelaide-based AgTech startup MEQ Probe has received $500,000 funding from Meat & Livestock Australia and industry partners Teys Australia and the Midfield Group to test ground-breaking technology to objectively measure the eating quality of meat.

Coming just a few months after MEQ Probe took home a coveted Pitch in the Paddock prize at the tri-annual Beef Australia event, the funding also includes investment from MEQ Probe founder, AgTech betaworks Availer.

It will enable a commercial pilot of the MEQ Probe technology, which uses nanoscale biophotonics to measure the marbling and tenderness of meat; both major drivers of eating quality.   . . 

 

Blueberry orchard for sale offers jam-packed opportunities:

A substantial blueberry orchard with its own commercial processing plant and refrigerated pack-house – producing one of the rarest but highest-yielding blueberry crops in New Zealand – has been placed on the market for sale.

The 8.8-hectare property at Gordonton in the Waikato features some eight hectares of blueberry plantings under canopy cover, along with buildings, equipment, and plant used for picking, sorting, packing and chilling blueberries.

Planted on peat soil and regularly fertilised, the orchard has some 15,000 trees – including 500 of the new Jaac variety of blueberry which produces a heavier-yielding crop than traditional clones. Other blueberry varieties grown in the orchard include Powder Blue, Tiff Blue, Centra Blue, O’Neal, Sunset, and Velluto. . . 


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