Rural round-up

21/09/2022

Time to reopen the GE in agriculture debate – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Ideologically-based beliefs are preventing consumers from experiencing the benefits that gene editing in agriculture can bring, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth writes.

It is over two decades since the Royal Commission on genetic modification (GM) responded to the task of evaluating the technology within the context of New Zealand.

The major theme of the 473-page report was self-described as “preserving opportunities”.

The authors went to considerable lengths to explain the different concerns and perspectives of New Zealanders who, by and large, were comfortable with GM for medical purposes, but were less so in food production. . . 

Holy cow milk is best!  – Warren McNab:

 Plant-based beverages are expensive and provide only a small fraction of the nutritional goodness of cow’s milk.

These are the findings of a new study, published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal (August 8), which assessed the nutritional profiles of a range of plant-based beverages – such as soy, oat, coconut, almond or rice drinks – and compared them to standard bovine milk.

Researchers collected 103 plant-based products from supermarkets in Palmerston North, New Zealand. These drinks were found to have much lower quantities of the 20 nutrients measured – such as calcium and protein – and were significantly more costly than cow’s milk.

The study was carried out by Riddet Institute scientists, from Massey University, in Palmerston North. The Riddet Institute is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), hosted by Massey University. . .

HortNZ says National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land is critical :

The National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land will provide protection for the country’s best land and soil so it can be used to produce food.

‘Covid has taught us that we can’t take for granted that there’ll always be New Zealand grown vegetables and fruit on our retailers’ shelves,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley.

‘HortNZ has advocated for nearly a decade for government policy that recognises the importance of our best soils, and ensures that they are prioritised for what they are best for – producing healthy vegetables and fruit.

‘All along, we have said that with good planning, New Zealand can have fresh vegetables and fruit, and houses.’ . . 

ORC consent map upgraded to be farmer-friendly :

Otago Regional Council (ORC) has upgraded its online consent mapping site in a move designed to make the service more farmer-friendly.

The map, Consents in Otago, now includes a property-by-address, legal description or consent number search function, satellite imagery similar to Google Maps, plus named waterways, a polygon/draw tool and also a print button, says Alexandra King, ORC team leader consents.

“It’s now much more user friendly for farmers who’re working through the mapping part of their applications, specifically intensive winter grazing plans,” she says.

King says the tool allows farmers to easily identify and measure blocks throughout their farms, and help them in identifying risk areas/sensitive receptors on-farm such as critical source areas, waterways, wetlands or water bores. . .

Who will join the next generation of beekeepers? :

Mossop’s Honey and Apiculture New Zealand are looking for the next Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship recipient to get a boost into the apiculture industry.

The scholarship was set up five years ago as a way of giving young people the best possible start in the apiculture industry. It includes $2000 to be put towards best-practice training or set-up costs, membership of industry body Apiculture New Zealand for a year, attendance at the industry’s national conference in the year of the award and an accommodation allowance for Conference.

Last year’s recipient, Alyssa Wilson from Canterbury, is currently finishing off a Primary ITO course the scholarship helped pay for. The course involves writing about and photographing her practical experience working at Gowanleagold with beekeeper James Corson, where she says she is “learning heaps”.

While attending the Apiculture New Zealand Conference in Christchurch this year, Alyssa says she particularly enjoyed listening to Dr Sammy Ramsey, one of the international speakers from the United States. . . 

Fears Australian farm labour woes may worsen with loss of UK backpackers under trade deal – Khaled Al Khawaldeh:

Rosie Bradford arrived from the UK in November 2019 on a working holiday visa ready to trade in some of her youthful energy for the chance to enjoy the Aussie sun for an extra year or two.

“The only reason I went to do it [farm work] was obviously to get my second and third year. I was so focused on that but after doing it, I would definitely say I would have still done it,” she said.

“I absolutely do not regret doing farm work at all. I learned a lot from those experiences. And I met so many amazing people. But to be honest [without the compulsion] I probably wouldn’t have done … I probably wouldn’t have been that interested.”

Bradford would end up spending three years working in parts of the country where most Australian workers do not venture. Picking bananas in Tully, oranges and mandarins in Gayndah, grafting in Tasmania, and even working on a fishing boat in Darwin. Like many of her compatriots, she helped fill a gap in a workforce stretched thin in a vast, but highly urbanised, country. . . 


Rural round-up

06/09/2022

If GM opponents aren’t swayed by the potential of genetic science to help feed the world, might the health benefits do the trick? – Point of Order:

Is NZ  steering  itself  back  into the  Dark  Ages  with its  negative  policy  on genetic  modification?

Thanks  to the  pressure   of the  Green movement  20  or so  years  ago, releasing a genetically modified organism  in New Zealand without approval is illegal.

In New Zealand you cannot import, develop, field test or release a genetically modified organism without approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (previously known at the  Environmental Risk Management Authority).

Yet  because  of great strides in fundamental research, biology is becoming ever more programmable, as  The  Economist  reported last week. . . 

Councils talk Three Waters at Select Committee :

Two district councils have spoken to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee this week, expressing opposition and concerns regarding the controversial Three Waters Reform.

If passed, the Water Services Entities Bill would see the set up of new entities and transfer council management of water services to four water services entities. In return, councils would be made the sole shareholders in the entities, possessing one share per 50,000 people in their area.

A delegation from Manawatū District Council (MDC), led by Deputy Mayor Michael Ford, presented their opposition on Monday.

They expressed concerns around property rights and fair compensation for the investment made by residents, claiming there was a possibility that the transfer of Three Waters services into the proposed entities would stifle economic development. . . 

Huge rivers of gravel pose farming challenges – Brendon McMahon:

Parts of a Barrytown farm are slowly being smothered by gravel brought down from creeks in the Paparoa Range.

Dairy farmer Richard Reynolds said the blowout of creeks on to farmland had been remarkable in the past year, often triggered by sudden and localised cloud bursts.

The situation was not helped by the loss of vegetation flattened and killed off in the headwaters during Cyclone Fehi in 2014.

“The cyclone was the tipping point of it and it’s just taken off since then,” Reynolds said. . . 

Farmers look to ride on the sheep’s back once again – Georgia Merton:

Wool prices have languished in the doldrums for decades but the worldwide drive for a more sustainable future where natural fibres replace synthetics has raised hopes that strong wool can finally make a comeback

Once upon a time, strong wool was a major money spinner for New Zealand.

It was the golden fleece, with farmers rumoured to have paid off their mortgages in one wool clip during the boom of the 50s. Retired fourth generation sheep farmer Murray Urquhart remembers family tales from the famous boom. “My uncle was the biggest single taxpayer in Canterbury for three years in a row,” Murray tells Frank Film, and explains that this was mostly because of the US Army needing to keep their soldiers warm during the Korean War.

These days, though, it’s costing many farmers more to shear their strong wool sheep than they can get back for the wool itself. As Highfield Station farmer Michael Northcote points out, wool has almost become a by-product of meat – a nuisance, even. “Because there’s just no money in it,” Michael says. “It costs . . 

Mairi Whittle a Taihape farmer with two tiny tots in tow – Country Life:

A toddler on her back, a newborn in front and five dogs alongside… that’s how you might find Taihape sheep and beef farmer Mairi Whittle.

While Tad has now graduated out of his pack and sits alongside as Mairi feeds out to the cattle and rounds up ewes, things do take longer with two under two, she says. 

Mairi’s little boys are the fifth generation on Makatote – 600 hectares of steep but fertile hill country which has been in the family for more than a century.

Mairi has farmed it for four years and in April bought the block from her family. . . 

 

New Zealand Young Farmers launch FMG Young Farmer of the Year season 55 :

New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) is proud to launch the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest into its 55th season.

The Contest kicks off on the 15th of October 2022 with the first of 11 District Contests to be held throughout Aotearoa. NZYF members are invited to register for the agricultural challenge where they’ll flaunt their practical and theoretical know-how in the bid to qualify through to the next round, the Regional Finals.

The District Contests are one-day events organised by NZYF Clubs. Whether it be through organising, competing, or coming along as support, all members are encouraged to get behind their local District Contest to be a part of NZYFs largest event.

The top contestants from each District Contest will progress through to the Regional Finals, where they will once again demonstrate the broad and varied skillset of a modern farmer. Seven Regional Finals will be held between February and April 2023. . . 


Rural round-up

02/06/2022

Rethink on GM policy needed – Richard Rennie:

John Caradus, scientist and chief executive of AgResearch’s commercial entity Grasslanz Technology, is pushing industry leaders, politicians and farmers to reconsider genetic modification (GM) as the primary sector grapples with the challenges of climate change, nutrient losses and disease. He spoke to Richard Rennie about his recent work reviewing GM globally.

There is a level of hypocrisy within New Zealand’s stance on genetically modified (GM) foods that does not sit well with John Caradus. 

He points out NZ consumers can shop for over 90 different GM foods produced from 10 plant species here, but NZ farmers are unable to grow any of them.

“We have a regulatory system that makes it extremely difficult for any entity considering doing so,” he says. . . 

Up to 6 week delay in cattle processing as meat works face backlog – Sally Murphy:

Processing capacity at meat works around the country is returning to normal but a backlog remains.

There had been a backlog for months due to staffing shortages as workers isolated with Covid-19.

That made it harder for farmers to offload stock, which caused huge stress, especially in areas where feed levels were tight.

An update provided to farmers by Beef and Lamb and the Meat Industry Association showed staff levels were now returning to normal and capacity from plant to plant was ranging from 80-100 percent. . . 

Keep driving innovation, meat sector leader says – Sally Rae:

Last week, Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva visited North Otago, the birthplace of New Zealand’s frozen meat industry. She talks to business and rural editor Sally Rae  about the state of the red meat sector.

It is time to celebrate.

That is the message from Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva to all levels of the red meat sector, from the farming community through to processors and other industry organisations.

Ms Karapeeva was in Oamaru last week for a function to mark National Lamb Day, the 140th anniversary of the first shipment of frozen New Zealand lamb arriving in the United Kingdom in 1882, and the centenary of the New Zealand Meat Board. . . 

Red meat exports achieve record April but markets prove volatile :

New Zealand red meat exports hit a record in April however ongoing volatility in China indicates head winds in the coming months, says the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

New Zealand exported products worth $999.6 million during the month of April, up 16 per cent on April 2021 with the value of overall exports increasing to most major markets.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of MIA, said that while red meat exports continued to achieve good returns, there was some fluctuation in demand, particularly in China and the US.

“The value of overall exports to China was down six per cent year on year. There was also a small drop in the volume of both sheepmeat and beef exported. The reduction in sheepmeat was largely due to China, with beef exports to the US also dipping. . . 

Reaping rewards of maize crop – Shawn McAvinue:

In a bid to protect against the impact of dry conditions, a trial maize crop on a West Otago dairy farm will return next season and be more than twice the size.

Matt Haugh and his partner Kirsten McIntyre own Cottesbrook Dairy, milking 1450 cows across two platforms on about 470ha near Heriot.

Mr Haugh said pasture growth had been good for most of the summer but dry conditions started to bite in late summer and early autumn.

The dry conditions were an “absolute killer”, because the farm traditionally relied on rain at that time of year. . . 

NZ farmer wins world wood-chopping title – Carmelita Mentor-Fredericks:

How much wood could a Kiwi cut if a Kiwi could cut wood?

A lot – if Taumarunui sheep and beef farmer Jack Jordan and Tokoroa’s Cleveland Cherry’s performances at the Timbersports World Trophy event on Saturday in Vienna, Austria, is anything to go by.

However, it was Jordan who came out tops after taking on national champs, many of whom are lumberjacks from around the world, for the coveted title.

The competition, which is organised by Stihl France, sees 16 competitors take metal to wood as they face off using a variety of chopping tools to out chop each other – whoever chops the most wood in the least amount of time wins. . .


Rural round-up

14/04/2022

Call for review of genetically modified tech regulation in NZ -Nona Pelletier:

It is time for a full regulatory review of genetically modified organisms and technologies (GM), according to a groundbreaking report by the Productivity Commission.

“The current regulation of GM does not reflect technological advances,” the report said, adding there had been no review of GM covered by the 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act since 2001.

The report titled, New Zealand firms: Reaching for the frontier, said it was good practice to regularly review regulatory regimes, to ensure they remained fit for purpose, accommodated new technologies and did not stifle innovation.

The Climate Change Commission made a similar recommendation in its recent draft advice to government regarding GM. . . 

Feds – overdue GM discussion offers GHG solution:

As reports on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continue to be rolled out, it was the government’s reaction to another report – the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on genetic engineering – that caught Federated Farmers’ attention.

“Farmers are intensely interested in further reducing their world-leading GHG emissions footprint per kilogram of food produced, but the Federation has been saying for several years now that we need new tools to do so,” Feds president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“Genetic modification is one of those new technologies that offers exciting potential.”

Last year, the Productivity Commission’s ‘Reaching for the Frontier’ final report said the Government should undertake a full review of the regulation of genetic modification (GM), to ensure it is fit for purpose and supports domestic innovation. . . 

Majority of Dunstan Downs to be preserved for conservation under tenure review :

The majority of high country station Dunstan Downs across Canterbury * and Otago is set to be preserved for conservation.

A tenure review agreement will see around 12,250 hectares, or 99 percent of the station become conservation land.

Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) head of crown property Sonya Wikitera said public feedback informed the decision to make more of the pastoral lease conservation land and improve public access to the area.

Wikitera said it was significantly higher than the 9500 hectares proposed to become conservation land under the preliminary proposal. . . 

Decision to approve new export log fumigant :

A decision-making committee of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved an application for a new gas to fumigate export logs and timber.

EDN is a new tool to kill common pests found in wood. It is a potential alternative to methyl bromide, which is now heavily restricted.

EDN is already approved for use in Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, and Russia. The Czech-based manufacturer, Draslovka, applied to the EPA for approval to import the gas into Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The EPA’s role in regulating hazardous substances involves carefully balancing environmental, health, economic, and cultural factors. The application process for EDN has been lengthy due to the complex technical considerations required for the safe use of the fumigant,” says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances group. . . 

Forest owners call for forest trade mission to India following approval of new fumigant for log exports :

The Forest Owners Association wants a delegation of government ministers to urgently go to India to try to re-open the export log market there, following the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority approval for EDN fumigation of export log stacks.

The EPA has just announced it has approved the use of ethanedinitrile as a replacement for methyl bromide to fumigate logs in New Zealand before they are exported.

EDN is a far more environmentally friendly fumigant. It is effective on insects and pathogens, but breaks down quickly in the environment. It is neither a greenhouse gas nor does it deplete the ozone layer.

India however still stipulates that methyl bromide must be used for log imports from New Zealand. No other fumigants are currently approved by India. . . 

opportunity for new entrants, the report highlights some of the key concerns and sets out a series of recommendations to governments to address the issues. . . 

Sydney Royal 2022: Bathurst’s Jessica Fernley named 2022 Rural Achiever – Billy Jupp:

BATHURST’S Jessica Fernley has been named the 2022 Sydney Royal Easter Show Rural Achiever, standing out in field of eight impressive finalists.

This year’s winner was announced at a function held in the Sky Deck, Olympic Park, on Tuesday night, which capped off an action-packed week for the Rural Achiever finalists.

The RAS Rural Achiever award is a state-wide program run by the RAS of NSW to help shine a light on emerging young leaders aged 20-29, who are focused on contributing to their communities and regional Australia.

Having recently completed a bachelor’s degree rural science at University of New England Jessica is currently completing a masters in global development through James Cook University, with the hopes of helping build resilience in farming communities. . . 

* Dunstan Downs is on the right side of the Waitaki River, that puts it in Otago, not Canterbury.


Rural round-up

03/10/2019

Gas targets will divide society – Alan Williams:

Alliance believes its Dannevirke sheep meat plant’s small size will let it survive a big fall in eastern North Island livestock numbers because of a loss of farmland to forestry.

If a similar change in land use happens in Southland the farmer-owned co-operative could be more exposed because the bigger operators in a region are likely to be most affected, chairman Murray Taggart said.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the scale of land use change could mean the loss of half a meat plant in the eastern North Island, he told shareholders in North Canterbury.

The industry believes taking out half a million stock units would essentially close down the equivalent of one plant, he told Farmers Weekly. 

The transparency of the scale of forestry interests buying farmland appears greater in the eastern North Island than in other regions.

It is possible the full extent of the loss of productive farmland might not be picked up until the damage is done. . . 

GM safe and we need it: plant biologists – Associate Professor Richard Macknight, Dr Lynette Brownfield, Associate Professor Paul Dijkwel, Associate Professor Michael Clearwater, Professor Paula Jameson and Dr Nijat Imin:

 A group of scientists belonging to the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists say it’s time to review GM laws. They say new techniques in gene-editing can help ensure a clean green future for New Zealand.

When genetic modification technologies were newly-developed, people were rightly concerned that this relatively untested technology might harbour risks to health and the environment. So in the year 2000, the NZ government established a Royal Commission into the use of GM. After widespread and careful consultation, the commissioners’ report recommended an approach that preserved opportunities and that NZ should “proceed carefully, minimising and managing risks”. Specifically, around crop plants, the commissioners suggested New Zealand postpone any decision until more information had been obtained and the technology had developed.

The Royal Commission was nearly 20 years ago, so where do things now stand around crop plants?  . . 

Controversial red meat research bucks vegan diet trend recommendations – Stephanie Bedo:

As more people turn to eating less meat, new and “controversial” research gives you reason to return to red meat.

While the vegan trend has taken off, a series of reviews has found there are very few health benefits to cutting your meat consumption.

Based on a series of five high-quality systematic reviews of the relationship between meat consumption and health, a panel of experts recommends that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat at their average current consumption levels. . . 

Miraka pioneers farm carbon report :

Māori-owned milk processor Miraka is now reporting carbon emissions for each of its 100-plus supplier farms.

The Taupo company claims this as a first for New Zealand.

The farm-specific reports give detailed understanding of each farm’s greenhouse gas emissions and compare results between farms.

Miraka’s general manager of milk supply, Grant Jackson, says many of its farmers know little about their carbon footprint. . . 

A toast to the future – what we’ve learned from 200 years of New Zealand wine – Sarah Templeton & Lisette Reymer:

A birthday is always a time for reflection; a time to consider all you’ve achieved and what goals you’d want to tackle in the future.

I imagine that’s no more relevant than at a cool 200th – maybe one day I’ll know, if modern medicine does its thing. 

But believe it or not, this year we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of the New Zealand wine industry, which outdates even the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Aussie Reverend Samuel Marsden recorded September 25, 1819 as the day he first planted a vine in Kerikeri. The birthday was celebrated last week with the replanting of a vine in the same spot outside the Stone Store, accompanied by a celebration dinner and of course, a lot of wine.  . . 

Dutch tractor protest sparks ‘worst rush hour’ – Anna Holligan:

Tractor-driving farmers taking to the streets to demand greater recognition have caused the worst ever Dutch morning rush hour on Tuesday, according to motoring organisation ANWB.

There were 1,136km (700 miles) of jams at the morning peak, it said.

Farmers reacted angrily to claims that they were largely responsible for a nitrogen oxide emissions problem.

A report has called for inefficient cattle farms to be shut down and some speed limits lowered to cut pollution.

Farming groups believe they are being victimised while the aviation industry is escaping scrutiny. . . 


Archaic GM law holding NZ back

18/06/2019

New Zealand’s archaic genetic technology law is stifling breakthrough science:

Pressure is mounting on the Government to tackle the controversial area of genetic technology, with officials warning if it doesn’t, the country could face lost opportunities – ranging from economic benefits to cutting-edge medical treatments and combating diseases like kauri dieback.

Documents obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act reveal the current law around genetically modified organisms (GMO) is out of date and could be restricting New Zealand’s access to the advancements the technologies provide.

In a Ministry for the Environment briefing to Environment Minister David Parker in June 2018, officials warned New Zealand could fall behind the rest of the world in the genetic engineering space. It said the rapid pace of technological change is forcing countries to clarify their positions, and recommended the Government update the law and at the very least spark a national conversation about genetic modification.

“The developments raise questions as to whether New Zealand’s regulatory framework is still appropriate as the Gnis becoming outdated in light of developments. We believe a broad public conversation is required to ascertain New Zealanders’ views on the developments.”

The HSNO Act has never had a full review, meaning it hasn’t evolved since 1998.  

“The current regime is inflexible and reflects a 1998 understanding of genetic modification (GM) and the social priorities at the time.”

The law hasn’t changed but the science has.

National’s research, science and innovation spokesperson Parmjeet Parmar told Newshub the Government’s dropped the ball and the law should be looked at.

“Looking at the way this technology has evolved over the last seven or eight years, it’s outdated and definitely not fit for purpose.”

Parmar believes ignoring the advice is harming the environment and the economy.

“This is shutting down the conversation, which is not good for any Government. I think we should be really open-minded about seeing how we can take advantage of any technology. This is just like any technology – we need to learn to use it to our advantage and that is where they’re lacking.” . . 

Ecologist Jamie Steer told Newshub the legislation needs to be reviewed because the technology could be a game-changer.

“In terms of gene editing, it’s already been raised as a possibility to affect the Predator Free 2050 goals, including the possibility to achieve one of the interim goals around making a science solution that’s capable of eradicating one of the target species. Another possibility is using genetic modification for increasing the survival and fitness of a species. Both are feasible but would require significant research and public engagement.” . . 

Gene editing is not mixing genes from different species.

It’s simply selective breeding – opting for beneficial genes and getting rid of harmful or less productive ones.

It’s what we’ve been doing for thousands of years. The only difference is that new technology enables it to happen faster.

Gene editing could lead to the development of more nutritious food, it could be used to fight disease in people, animals and plants, it could be used for predator control.

The risks of not moderating the policy, providing its lead by science are far less than the risks of sticking with outdated law based on outdated science.

 

 

 

 


Rural round-up

12/05/2019

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
. . .

 


We need to talk about GM

24/09/2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


GM could be greener

02/07/2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Rural round-up

16/02/2018

Drought, disruption undermines farmers’ confidence:

A marked drop in farmer optimism and growing concern about the ability to recruit suitable staff are stand-out features of the Federated Farmers Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey.

For the first time in two years, farmer optimism has decreased, including negative perceptions of the economy, farm profitability, farm production and farm spending. Farm debt levels have also increased and fewer farms are now debt-free.

The Federated Farmers survey is conducted by Research First twice a year (January and July) and 1070 farmers responded to the questionnaire last month. . . 

Time to get real about forestry – Graham West:

Last year I commented on the high returns from current harvesting, however I don’t believe this is being translated into significant interest in new planting, certainly not at the rate of the governments aspirational target of 50,000ha per year. The Crown Forestry action is clearly around doing deals to secure land for leasing and other deal makers, like Toitu Te Waonui, and various forestry consultants, are doing the same, good on them.

But this doesn’t really raise the general awareness of the forestry business opportunity for land owners and investors. The challenge is how to create a pipe line of prospects who are considering land use change. The target group must be the approximately 25,000 drystock farmers in New Zealand, owning 9.5m hectares. The timeline is also important, seedlings for next winter are already booked, but the deadline for orders to secure plants for the following winter (2019) needs to be placed with nurseries by Oct-Nov 2018. . . 

Minister needs to step up as drought worsens in Coastal Taranaki:

The Minister for Primary Industries needs to step up and listen to the rural sector in the face of the worsening drought in Coastal Taranaki, National’s Rural Communities Spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

Mrs Kuriger reached out to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last week to discuss ideas put forward by the Taranaki Rural Support Trust, but the Minister has not accepted the invitation to meet.

“It would seem that the response by the Minister – since initially declaring the drought – has been to bury his head in the sand on the Coastal Taranaki issue. . . 

Govt passing the cap around primary industry:

The Government is going cap-in-hand to the primary sector seeking support to help eradicate the rapidly-spreading cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“It’s my understanding that the Ministry for Primary Industries is canvassing the dairy and red meat industry for contributions to fund the response and eradication of this disease.

“In Parliament yesterday the Minister Damien O’Connor couldn’t say how much money the Government is prepared to contribute to fully eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis.

“Knowing how tight the Government’s finances are because of its other big-spending commitments – and even with financial contributions from industry – Mr O’Connor has an uphill battle convincing his Cabinet colleagues how critical funding of over $100 million actually is,” Mr Guy says. . . 

National welcomes continuation of 1080 policy:

A reassurance from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that there has been no change in policy over the use of 1080 poison is welcome, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Maggie Barry says.

“At today’s annual review the Director General, Lou Sanson, reassured the Environment Select Committee that not only has there been no change in 1080 policy, but DOC expects to expand its use.

“This approach is critical to achieving National’s long term Predator-Free NZ by 2050 vision. Possums, rats and stoats kill 25 million birds a year, and if DOC was hamstrung from using 1080, we would see further unique species becoming extinct. . . 

Regulator asks how gene-edited food should be treated:

Planning for future GM foods coming down the line, the food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for suggestions for how it should consider applications for foods that have been made using new genetic techniques that aren’t currently covered by their laws.

The current code only covers food produced by genetic techniques that add DNA into a genome and doesn’t cover newer gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9 which knock out genes or proteins, or others that don’t change the DNA of the final food product.

FSANZ are asking for submissions on how these newer techniques should be assessed before they go to market. Options range from treating them like conventional breeding techniques – given a green light once a technique has been proved safe – or to be treated like current genetically modified organisms which would mean that each application requires a rigorous safety assessment. . . 

Golden Rice: Loved by humanitarians, reviled by environmentalists – Green Jihad *

Despite the Philippines and Bangladesh edging toward commercializing it, New Zealand’s food regulation agency (FSANZ) endorsed approving importing Golden Rice for sale in order to reduce trade disorder with Asian countries that allow it.

Unfortunately, an opposition group named GE-Free New Zealand has started an effort urging New Zealand’s food safety minister to review the FSANZ’s recommendation in hopes of eventually halting the importation of Golden Rice. The organization’s views are nearly in line with what environmentalist groups, like Greenpeace, have been claiming about GMO’s for years.

Golden Rice has been a vital source of nutrition for many people in developing countries who lack Vitamin A that humans need to help them survive. Sadly, environmentalist groups are undaunted in halting not only the dissemination of Golden Rice and all other GMO’s but their production too. This being done so that more humans die of starvation or illness resulting from malnutrition due to a reduction in the food supply. . . 

Sustainable ag series – farmers – Dirt to dinner:

The agriculture industry is often criticized for using too much water, using too many chemicals, and adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

However, farmers have their boots on the ground and occupy the front lines of sustainability initiatives within agriculture. No farms, no food!

While some farmers employ better approaches to farming sustainably, no farmer deliberately damages human or environmental health or wants to waste their inputs, such as water, pesticide, and labor. As stewards of the land, it is in a farmer’s best interest to preserve all of their resources for future generations of farming. . . 

* (Hat tip: Utopia):


Rural round-up

13/02/2018

Crown Forestry offering farmers deal to plant pines – Andrew McRae:

Crown Forestry is chasing unproductive farmland suitable for commercial planting of pinus radiata to help it meet the government’s one billion trees program.

The 10-year target will require new planting to cover 500,000 hectares.

Farmers and other landowners with at least 200ha to spare are being asked by Crown Forestry, a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries, to consider the offer.

Land owners are being offered a lease or joint-venture option with Crown Forestry paying all establishment and management costs, paying rent to the land owner and allowing any carbon credits to be retained.

The land would need to pass a few other tests, such as being reasonably fertile, have easy access and be identified as suitable for production forestry. . . 

Champion pair marching towards the Golden Shears:

Reigning Golden Shears champions Rowland Smith and Joel Henare loom as possibly the hottest favourites to win again this year after dominating the major events at the 58th Otago Shearing and woolhandling championships in Balclutha.

The two young dads have each been competing in the top class since their teens, and in The Balclutha Memorial Town Hall on Saturday 31-year-old Smith blitzed even reigning World champion and New Zealand teammate John Kirkpatrick to win the Otago Open shearing title and head New Zealand to a test-match win over Wales, while Henare, 26, won both the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year and Southern Circuit woolhandling titles.

Smith’s Otago championships was his 8th in a row in the four weeks since his last blemish, when he failed to qualify for the final at the Tauranga show on January 14. But he’s had 31 wins in finals in a row in New Zealand since he was fourth at the Rotorua A and P Show in January last year. . . 

Ship and cargo causing a helluva stink for farmers:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to hold firm on a shipment which has been previously turned away from the Ports of Auckland.

The vessel, carrying motor vehicles from Japan, was deemed a biosecurity risk after the discovery of over 100 brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB).

As no port in New Zealand has the capacity to fumigate the ship, it has been subsequently re-routed to Australia.

“That ship and its cargo should not be allowed anywhere near our shoreline until we have assurances that it is comprehensively fumigated with all the marmorated stink bugs destroyed,” says Guy Wigley, Federated Farmers’ Biosecurity Spokesperson. . . 

Rural Life reporter made Youth Ambassador :

Southern Rural Life journalist Nicole Sharp is the Southland A&P Show’s John Robins Youth Ambassador for 2018.

The John Robins Youth Ambassador is awarded each year in the memory of the late John Robins, who was  passionate about getting young people involved with the Southland A&P Show.

Miss Sharp was presented with the award by Mr Robins’ wife Joyce, at a function at Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill,  on Sunday, commemorating 150 years of the A&P show.

The John Robins Youth Ambassador position was established as a way of encouraging youth to become involved in the show. . . 

Choosing technology to enhance sustainability – Terry Wanzek:

I choose to grow genetically modified crops on my farm for a simple reason: sustainability.

These products of modern science make me more economically and environmentally sustainable, allowing me to grow more food on less land, benefitting my family, consumers, and the wider world.

My 84-year-old father helps me put things in perspective. He worked this land before my brother and I did, teaching us the value of hard work and the art of agriculture.

Back in his heyday, he mostly grew wheat.  Today’s biotechnology has allowed us to expand our crop choices to more corn and soybeans, along with wheat.  My father was delighted when an acre produced 80 bushels of corn. Today, that would be an economic calamity – worse than letting the land lie fallow. We like to see an acre produce at least 150 bushels, are pleased when it hits 170, and always hope for more. . . 

https://twitter.com/FAOKnowledge/status/961725791787773952

Hundreds turn up to sheep milking events:

New Zealand’s dairy sheep industry took a big step forward when a major investment in genetic improvement and farm system development was formally launched at Waikino Station on the western shores of Lake Taupo. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by dozens of potential investors and distributors from overseas, and a farmer open day attracted 300, including rural bankers and accountants.

The investment has been made by the Chinese partner in the Maui Milk joint venture with local dairy sheep pioneers, the Waituhi Kuratau Trust, whose farm also borders the lake. The JV has milked 3000 ewes on that property since 2015 and lessons learned are being implemented in the green-field development at Waikino Station which adds another 2000 ewes to the tally. . . 


Rural round-up

23/05/2016

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act out of date and out of time:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Government to urgently set up an expert panel to review the regulation of genetic modification (GM) in the wake of a report by the National Academy of Sciences which confirms the safety of GM crops.

GM crops have been used in agriculture since 1996 and the study carried out by US-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examined the literature, listened to speakers and heard comments from the public to determine the negative effects and benefits of commercial GM crops.

Federated Farmers President Dr William Rolleston says the report found there was no substantiated evidence of a difference in risk to human health between current commercial GE crops and conventional crops. . . 

Future-focussed farm since 1863 – Sally Rae:

Brendon Cross is the sixth generation to farm amid the spectacular beauty of the Otago Peninsula.

He and his wife Paula’s vision for farm sustainability was rewarded recently when they were named supreme winners in the Otago Ballance Farm Environment awards.

At a field day last week, judging co-ordinator Judy Miller described it as a successful farming operation that incorporated the complexities and challenges of farming in a semi-urban environment. . . 

YFC’s support after accident appreciated – Sally Rae:

Brooke Solly had been meaning to join the Maniototo Young Farmers Club.

The young shepherd had every intention of heading along to a meeting but she got busy, breaking in a horse, and never quite made it.

Then on April 2 this year her life changed, potentially forever, when she rolled her vehicle and suffered serious injuries, including spinal damage.

“I got through 22 years of not breaking any bones and then decided to do a hell of a job of it,” she said dryly. . . 

NZ export log prices lift in May as weaker currency offsets higher shipping costs – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand export log prices advanced this month as a decline in the local currency made the country’s shipments more competitive, offsetting a lift in shipping costs.

The average wharf gate price for New Zealand A-grade logs edged up to $120 a tonne in May, from $119 a tonne in April, according to AgriHQ’s monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and saw millers.

The in-market price of A-grade logs in China, New Zealand’s largest market, advanced to US$113/JAS from US$111/JAS last month as inventory levels on Chinese ports remain moderate, following a relatively low build up of stock on ports during the Chinese New Year holiday period. . . 

Business leaders from Agritech industry to gather at the upcoming INZBC Summit 2016:

Over 300 global business leaders and stakeholders will come together on 13th June for first of its kind summit on Agritech, being held by INZBC. The summit will witness business leadership from across New Zealand and India to discuss in depth the scope of agribusiness in both the countries.

The Summit is being held in partnership with New Zealand National Fieldays, the most respected organisation in NZ for Agriculture. . . 

New Zealand Winegrowers welcomes modernisation of Customs and Excise regime:

New Zealand Winegrowers has welcomed today’s announcement by the Minister of Customs around the modernisation of New Zealand’s Customs and Excise legislation.

‘The legislation was becoming increasingly outmoded and an update has been badly needed’ said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers. ‘We are looking forward to changes in areas such as moving goods around New Zealand and simplifying the process for applying for refunds of excise for unsold damaged goods.’ . . 

NZ should be milking it in organic market:

Consistent growth in the demand for organic produce over the last four decades is a missed opportunity New Zealand dairy farmers can’t afford to ignore any longer, says organics stalwart Bob Crowder.

His comments are a response to a payout forecast of $9.20 for organic milksolids, more than double the price of conventional milk, which he believes has the potential to take New Zealand back to being a world leader in organics.

He laments New Zealand letting its status as a frontrunner in organics slide. “At one time we were one of the top certified organic nations in the world. Now we’re almost insignificant in the global picture,” says Mr Crowder. . . 


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