Rural round-up

August 16, 2013

$65 million early windfall for Ballance farmers:

More than 18,000 New Zealand farmers are in for some good news this week, as Ballance Agri-Nutrients delivers support for cashflows at the start of the spring season with an early record rebate payment.

Ballance’s record rebate and dividend will start arriving in shareholders’ letterboxes this week as the co-operative pays out $65 million to shareholders six weeks ahead of schedule.

The co-operative announced a rebate and dividend averaging $65 a tonne last month and advised shareholders it would pay out earlier than usual to help shareholders with early season cashflows.

The rebate averaging $60.83 per tonne and a fully imputed dividend of 10 cents per share represents an average $6,500 return to a fully paid shareholder. It follows the record trading result of $92.6 million delivered by the co-operative. . .

Farmer development programme benefits sector:

Following a successful pilot during 2012, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is now rolling out a development programme for farmers on B+LNZ farmer councils and those involved in project farms.

Facilitated by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), the programme covers three broad topics: governance, communications and decision-making, and leadership. Each topic is covered in a two-day module in Wellington.

Wairarapa farmer George Tatham was one of 12 farmers from across New Zealand involved in the pilot. George, who has since become chair of the Eastern North Island farmer council, says the skills he picked up over the three modules have benefited his farm business, as well as his council work. . . .

Changes expected to have major impact on dairy farmers – Crowe Horwath,

The Inland Revenue Department (“IRD”) has announced that fundamental changes are going to be made to the National Standard Cost (NSC) valuation methodology for dairy cattle that will increase livestock values commencing from the 2014 income year.

While there are a variety of livestock valuation methods available to farmers, the valuation methods most commonly used are NSC and the Herd Scheme. As a result, the changes will have a wide ranging impact on dairy farmers.

You might be thinking, well why do I care about a change in valuation methodology? The reason why this change is important for dairy farmers using the NSC valuation method is that any increases in value arising under the NSC valuation method are taxable income to the farmer. This will see an increase in taxable income for all dairy farmers using the NSC valuation method. . .

Top ram producers recognised:

New Zealand’s top ram producers were toasted on Wednesday night at the Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill.

About 300 farmers and industry people attended the awards run by Beef + Lamb.

George and Kathryn Smith from Tamlet stud, near Wyndham, won the Alliance Group Terminal Sire gold award.

They run 300 recorded Texel ewes, 500 recorded Coopworth and 500 Romney ewes.

The Blackdale Sheep Industry Supplier of the Year Award went to Hugh and Judy Akers of Broadlands Station, who supply ANZCO. . .

Grass alone won’t grow the economy:

The fruits of a literary collaboration on innovation between the late Sir Paul Callaghan and award-winning science communicator Professor Shaun Hendy will be unveiled at Victoria University tonight.

The two physicists are authors of Get off the Grass, which will be launched in Wellington tonight (Thursday 15 August) and follows on from Sir Paul’s earlier book, Wool to Weta, which was published in 2009.

Get off the Grass argues that innovation in high-tech niches is the key to increasing New Zealand’s prosperity and that New Zealand needs to export knowledge rather than nature. . .

Entries open for international wine competition:

Entries are now open for the 2013 Avenues International Aromatic Wine Competition. Hosted by the Canterbury A&P Association in conjunction with the Canterbury A&P Show, the competition has been running for eleven years and is supported by competition naming rights partner Avenues – the magazine Christchurch lives by.

“Avenues is delighted to again be a sponsor of the International Aromatic Wine Competition. Nearly three-quarters of Avenues readers enjoy wine as part of their lifestyle, so it is fitting for us to support an event that toasts the best aromatic wines and their producers,” says Avenues Sales Manager Craig du Plooy. . .

Johanneshof Cellars Top Honours and Three Trophies at Spiegelau International Wine Competition:

Four medals, 3 trophies including joint ‘Producer of the Show’; not a bad effort for only entering five wines. Johanneshof Cellars, a small boutique winery in Marlborough, New Zealand, has taken top honours in the 2013 Spiegelau International Wine Competition.

Not only did the winery’s haul of accolades capture a cross section of their handcrafted wines including sparkling and dessert wines, but the two Gold medal winning wines went on to receive the Trophy for Champion Wine in both categories. The rare success of winning two trophies in one Show culminated at the end of the evening in Johanneshof Cellars being awarded the joint Trophy for ‘Champion Producer of the Show’. . .


Grass plus

August 7, 2013

The whey contamination scare has once again put the focus on New Zealand’s reliance on agriculture.

Shaun Hendy co-authored a soon to be released book with the late Sir Paul Callaghan entitled Get Off the Grass.

. . . In Get Off the Grass, Sir Paul and I investigate why New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.  In Sir Paul’s previous book, Wool to Weta, this was framed as a choice:  we choose to be poor because of the types of industries that we prioritise, such as farming and tourism, earn us relatively little per hour worked. In Get Off the Grass, we use ideas from economic geography and the study of complex systems to investigate why it has been so hard to innovate our way out of these low productivity industries. . .

With a title like Get Off the Grass, it won’t surprise you that we argue that New Zealand can and should look to do an awful lot more than just agriculture.  Some of the points we make in the book are:

  • There is a deep flaw in our reliance on the 100% Pure brand.  We need the edge our clean, green brand gives us to sell our agricultural commodities at good prices, yet the production of these commodities actually damages the environment.  See this piece I wrote for Unlimited magazine last year.
  • Economic diversity is crucial for long-term economic stability, and this in turn is crucial for growth.  The fluctuations in our dollar caused by the contamination of one of our major exports illustrates why.  The volatility caused by such crises in turn hurts other export sectors, making it even harder to get off the grass.
  • Diversity is regarded as a crucial ingredient for innovation, so our strong focus on agricultural research actually makes us less innovative as a nation, whether in agriculture or otherwise. Physics and chemistry have contributed an awful lot to agriculture, but agricultural science has not returned the favour.
  • Specialisation in a single industry is just not a good long term strategy.  No industry stays on top forever, and if your favoured industry becomes too important to fail, it will prevent you moving into other industries before it’s too late. . .

I don’t agree with all those points.

We are very innovative in agriculture and that has led to other successful innovations which earn export income, electric fences for example.

Thanks to our climate and soils we are very good at growing grass and turning it into protein.

We shouldn’t turn our backs on that natural advantage.

While the world wants our food we have a very good reason to keep on the grass – but that shouldn’t be stopping us diversifying into other exports.

There’s no need to get off the grass but we should be looking at how we can do grass plus develop other export industries.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can and should be both.


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