Rural round-up

January 19, 2020

Avocado trees killed in Far North orchard :

An avocado orchard in the Far North has been vandalised – alongside the words “water thieves” – in an apparent protest against water usage in the parched region.

Windbreaks have been slashed and graffitied, water pipes have been cut and about 20 trees have been killed over the Christmas period at Mapua Orchard, near Houhora.

Orchard manager Ian Broadhurst said it wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was definitely the worst.

He said Mapua was part of a wider group of 17 orchards in the region that had applied to the Northland Regional Council for consents to draw water from the Aupōuri aquifer. . . 

Federated Farmers: Mycoplasma Boris tax hit unfair:

Federated Farmers is seeking Ministerial support for a change to tax legislation so farmers whose breeding stock are culled as part of the Mycoplasma bovis eradication effort are not disadvantaged by the tax regime.

“Currently farmers whose dairy or beef breeding cows are valued on their books under the National Standard Cost scheme and whose cattle are culled as part of the Mycoplasma bovis response will most likely end up with a hefty tax bill. This is not a fair outcome for affected farmers and we believe it’s an unintended consequence of the tax legislation,” Federated Farmers economics spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . .

All work and no play for southern food producers – Jacqui Dean:

For most of us, the first days of the New Year are spent resting, reflecting and rueing the excesses of the Christmas period.

The ham on the bone is being whittled away, the recycling bin is housing a few too many empty bottles and we’re all hoping that someone else will take the initiative and tidy away the Christmas decorations for another year.

But for a great many people, the early weeks of January are all about work.

With Central Otago accounting for nearly 60 per cent of planted summer fruit orchards in New Zealand, it’s fair to say that all eyes are on this neck of the woods as the country hankers after its fresh produce. . . 

Native trees supply looks tight – Richard Rennie:

The nation’s Billion Trees target by 2028 might be missed by a quarter because of a lack of capacity and resources to meet it.

The goal includes having 200 million native trees planted by 2028. 

However, a survey commissioned by the Forests Ministry survey indicates only 160m native seedlings can be supplied by then. 

That is based on a sustainable growth rate of 7.5% a year for a sector that has had 12-15% growth for the past three years but that has been described unsustainable over any length of time. . . 

‘Unusable’ plastic sitting at Smart Environmental has future in fence posts

Change is on the way for the classic Kiwi fencepost, with a new venture making them out of recycled plastic.

Future Post has joined forces with Smart Environmental’s Kopu site, collecting bales of recycling which will then be turned into fence posts.

The Smart Environmental plant services Thames-Coromandel, Hauraki, Matamata-Piako and Waipā, and Future Post is expecting to save around 15 tonnes of plastic a month.

“It means there’s a reasonable percentage of plastic now being reused; however, there’s still a hell of a lot that is unusable and still has no market,” Smart Environmental’s Waikato and BOP regional manager Layne Sefton said. . . 

Food made from ‘bacterial dust’ is ‘ludicrous’, beef group says :

British beef producers have called a proposal to feed the population with synthetic lab food made from bacteria as ‘ludicrous’.

George Monbiot claimed in the recent documentary ‘Apocalypse Cow’ that conventional farming will end in 50 years time.

Instead of food produced from farms, the human diet will eventually rely on synthetic food made in laboratories, the environmental activist claimed in the show.

Monbiot visited a team of researchers in Finland who unveiled their process for food production – made out of bacteria and water. . .


Rural round-up

January 16, 2020

Simplistic climate change lessons counterproductive, Federated Farmers says:

Introducing school children to the science underpinning climate change is positive and worthwhile but great care will be needed to ensure there is balance, Federated Farmers says.

“Teachers will need to present and explain the pros and cons of various courses of action in response to global warming, and in particular guard against the lessons fostering feelings of panic or hopelessness,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

While much of the material in the ‘Prepare today, live well tomorrow’ teacher resource is instructive and compelling, some of it is misleading unless the nuances of the topic are explored, Andrew said. . . 

How the trees and birds returned to Camp Hill – Guy Williams:

Thirteen years ago, a Californian movie software engineer and psychotherapist bought 73ha of land at the head of Lake Wakatipu.

Lifelong environmentalist Rob Lay had a growing sense of alarm about climate change, and decided the best thing he could do was plant trees. Guy Williams visited him at Camp Hill to ask about a  restoration project that has produced stunning results.

When Rob Lay bought Camp Hill in 2006, it had three forlorn patches of forest.

The stands contained mountain and red beech trees hundreds of years old, but sheep and cattle grazed beneath them, preventing the growth of a forest understorey and natural regeneration.

He had come to New Zealand the year before to commercialise digital effects software, including helping Weta Digital with its work on Peter Jackson’s King Kong. . .

Iwi catch the horticulture wave – Hugh Stringleman:

Planting has begun on a large avocado orchard in Maori ownership near Kaitaia, in the Far North, while debate continues over the sustainability of irrigation to keep that new development and many others in the region alive and productive.

Ngai Takoto’s farming business, Rakau Ora, has started planting a 20ha orchard in the northern Sweetwater district, west of Awanui.

Further planting of 40ha is planned over the next two years and 200ha in total in a decade, Ngai Takoto chief executive Rangitane Marsden said. . . 

Changing South: The Huntaway :

New Zealand has its own breed of dog: the hardy, uncomplaining Huntaway.

They’re essential team members on many a station – the “take ’em away” experts moving sheep to the farmers’ whistles.

As part of a series Newsroom is running over summer, Christchurch documentary-maker Gerard Smyth catches up with Jude, Frank, Jett and Floyd, some of the Huntaways on the 126,000 acre Mt White station in Inland Canterbury. . . 

Former Wellard boss vows to design new era of livestock carriers – Vernon Graham:

Six months after he “ceased” employment as CEO of Australian-based livestock exporter, Wellard, Mauro Balzarini has announced he is launching a new venture to build cleaner, smarter livestock carriers.

He left Wellard last June, ending 40 years of involvement with the company by his family.

Mr Balzarini had been the chief executive officer of the business for 15 years and led it to a public listing on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2015. . . 

Natural England beef over ‘anti-meat’ TV after Channel 4 show that called for end to all farming – Helena Horton:

Channel 4 show calling for farming to be completely scrapped and replaced by factories which produce food out of bacteria has been criticised by the head of Natural England.

The show, Apocalypse Cow, aired on the public broadcaster on Wednesday night, and was fronted by vegan activist George Monbiot, known for being arrested at the Extinction Rebellion protests last year.

In it, he argues that farming is responsible for the world’s environmental ills and calls for “farm-free food” made in laboratories.

Tony Juniper, the head of Natural England, disagreed with his claims that grazing animals are bad for the planet. . . 


Rural round-up

January 15, 2020

Artificial-food debate needs science, not science fiction – Keith Woodford:

In recent months I have received many emails asking if I have seen the RethinkX report  demonstrating how in ten years’ time animal proteins will have been largely replaced by artificial foods. By 2030, demand for cattle products will supposedly have fallen by 70%. At that time the global grasslands can be returned to nature.

Then this last week the emailers have been asking if I have seen George Monbiot’s report  in The Guardian on how artificial foods will replace both plant and animal foods, thereby saving the planet. According to Monbiot, this food of the future will be made in big laboratory-like factories in which the energy to drive bacterial growth-processes comes from hydrogen separated out from within water molecules.

My response to both the RethinkX and Monbiot reports is that we need more science and less science fiction when shaping the path ahead. . . 

Meat blip no crisis – Nigel Stirling:

The sudden bout of weakness in the Chinese market at the end of last year was to be expected after a rapid run-up in prices in the previous six months, meat exporters say.

Exporters reacted swiftly to a 15-20% drop across all sheep meat and beef categories in the two weeks before Christmas with cuts to schedule prices and the revaluation lower of inventories.

The sudden drop left Chinese importers scrambling to renegotiate contracts while some refused to pick containers up from the wharves. . . 

 

Kiwi carpets are going places – Annette Scott:

Innovative yarn systems showcasing the unique characteristics of New Zealand wool are putting them on planes and into offices, shops and homes around the globe.

Carrfields Primary Wool (CPWool) and NZ Yarn chief executive Colin McKenzie said the global marketing efforts of CPWool mean the humble sheep in the nearest paddock could be producing wool that is destined for some very high places around the world.

McKenzie said the innovative yarn systems of CPWool produce the unique characteristics of NZ wool that designers and customers love and that competitors find difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. 

“Our whole product innovation strategy is to purposely step off the commodity curve, to become global leaders in providing leading-edge woollen yarn for carpets and rugs.” . . 

Canyon Brewing buzzing over bee initiative:

In a corporate social responsibility initiative, Canyon Brewing is sponsoring three thriving beehives in Arthur’s Point, near Queenstown.

Bee the Change founder, Neal McAloon, has placed five apiaries (hive locations) across the district in a bid to help save the bees and grow educational awareness.

Go Orange Marketing Manager Emma Hansen says she’s thrilled Canyon Brewing is part of the initiative. . .

Pioneering settler farm and homestead placed on the market:

Oakdale is situated only a short walk or drive from the historic Puhoi village community, its legendary watering hole and within 35 minutes of central Auckland.

The farm was developed, and home built by Charles Straka (born 1870, the son of Paul Straka) more than 120 years ago, and holds a prominent place in local and New Zealand history.

Paul Straka, arrived on one of the first ships to land in New Zealand from Bohemia, the War Spirit, in 1863 as a 33 year old single man. Their emigration was fueled by tales of golden lands overseas and the promise of free land if they could pay their own passage. . . 

Missouri charmer led double life, masterminded one of the biggest frauds in farm history – Mike Hendricks:

Like all the best con artists, Randy Constant was a charmer, hard not to like.

Big hearted. Good listener. You’d never have guessed that the father of three, grandfather of five was a liar, cheat and serial philanderer who masterminded one of the biggest and longest-running frauds in the history of American agriculture.

“He was a wonderful person,” an old friend said. “He just had that other side to him.”

And then some.

“What he done shocked me to death,” said Stoutsville, Missouri, farmer John Heinecke, who did business with Constant for years. “I didn’t know he was that kind of corrupt.” . . 


Rural round-up

July 18, 2019

Suggestions definitely off the agenda – Neal Wallace:

Fonterra will not retain 50c of the milk payout, as suggested by commentators, or change the way it sets the milk price as part of its business reset, chief financial officer Marc Rivers says.

It is confident it can address its debt issue and strengthen its balance sheet without those measures.

The reset is on track to meet its target of $800m this year while reduced spending will boost its profitability.

“We’re both tightening our belts and looking for savings but also looking at our investment portfolio,” Rivers said. . .

Speculators push lamb prices up – Neal Wallace:

Speculators have pushed North Island store lamb prices 35c/kg above the same time last year despite winter slaughter prices being similar to last year.

Affco’s recent $9/kg contract for prime lambs appears to have hyped the store market even though AgriHQ analyst Nicola Dennis says other meat companies are offering winter slaughter prices that mirror last year’s at about $7.50 to $7.80/kg.

The contract is available only in August to Affco clients who have been regular suppliers and applies only to stock processed at North Island plants. . .

Grower group still busy after 100 years – Pam Tipa:

A group of vegetable growers centred on Pukekohe in South Auckland say regulatory changes could be do-or-die for their growing enterprises.

The Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA) celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and vice president Kylie Faulkner says the advocacy role of the group is crucial.

“There are a lot of changes happening now with the Resource Management Act, the National Water Policy Statement and how the different councils are approaching those rules,” she told HortNews.  . . 

Vege growing nice addition to farming business – Peter Burke:

It’s easy to see what the small central North Island town of Ohakune is famous for. On the outskirts of the town is a huge carrot and a children’s play area based on this popular vegetable.

Peter Burke reports on a vegetable grower who has helped enhance the town’s great reputation.

Ron Frew started growing carrots in 1967, just after coming home to Ohakune from completing his university degree. Since then, he and his family have built up a huge farming business which includes growing carrots and potatoes.

They also have a dairy farm and a large sheep and beef property running 25,000 breeding ewes and 650 breeding cows.  . . 

Protein competition on the rise in China – Sally Rae:

Increased protein competition in China is being cited by Rabobank as something to watch as strong demand for beef from China drives up export returns.

In Rabobank’s latest Agribusiness Monthly report, animal protein and sustainability analyst Blake Holgate said the China Meat Association had announced the Chinese government would be expanding its sourcing of animal protein products in an attempt to replace the lost pork production that had resulted from the African Swine Fever outbreak.

That might include allowing imports of Indian buffalo and lifting the current ban on UK beef. There were also reports of an increase in the number of international meat facilities being accredited for export into China. . .

Why George Monibot is wrong – grazing livestock can save the world – L. Hunter Lovins:

George Monbiot’s recent criticism of Allan Savory’s theory that grazing livestock can reverse climate change ignores evidence that it’s already experiencing success

In his recent interview with Allan Savory, the high profile biologist and farmer who argues that properly managing grazing animals can counter climate chaos, George Monbiot reasonably asks for proof. Where I believe he strays into the unreasonable, is in asserting that there is none.

Savory’s argument, which counters popular conceptions, is that more livestock rather than fewer can help save the planet through a concept he calls “holistic management.” In brief, he contends that grazing livestock can reverse desertification and restore carbon to the soil, enhancing its biodiversity and countering climate change. Monbiot claims that this approach doesn’t work and in fact does more harm than good. But his assertions skip over the science and on the ground evidence that say otherwise. . .

 


Farm subsidies transfer cash to rich

July 3, 2013

George Monbiot says farming subsidies are a transfer of cash to the rich.

The main subsidy, the single farm payment, is doled out by the hectare. The more land you own or rent, the more money you receive. . .

When our government says “we must help the farmers”, it means “we must help the 0.1%”. Most of the land here is owned by exceedingly wealthy people. Some of them are millionaires from elsewhere: sheikhs, oligarchs and mining magnates who own vast estates in this country. Although they might pay no taxes in the UK, they receive millions in farm subsidies. They are the world’s most successful benefit tourists. Yet, amid the manufactured terror of immigrants living off British welfare payments, we scarcely hear a word said against them. . .

Thanks in large part to subsidies, the value of farmland in the UK has tripled in 10 years: it has risen faster than almost any other speculative asset. . .

An uncapped subsidy system damages the interests of small farmers. It reinforces the economies of scale enjoyed by the biggest landlords, helping them to drive the small producers out of business. . .

He could have added that subsidies  distort the usual rules of supply and demand, increase inefficiencies, limit choice and add costs for consumers, protect poor performers from their own folly and create unfair competition for non-subsidised produce.

Most New Zealand farmers were somewhat less than enthusiastic about being dragged into the real world by the Lange-Douglas government in the mid 1980s but I haven’t met a single one who would want to go back to subsidies.

It’s better to face the market and prosper, or not, as a result of your own efforts than be at the mercy of political and bureaucratic whim.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


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