Rural round-up

15/11/2019

Talking key on young farmers’ road home – Alice Scott:

The pressures of the modern world are taking their toll on the mental state of the country’s young people. Alice Scott talks to a young rural lad who has been through it and come out the other side.

Ticking along in his tractor at 11kmh, Harry Railton is drilling the last of the 100ha of oats for the next season, the ryecorn paddocks are up next and then that will be him for the season, as far as tractor work goes.

We establish that his location, in Tekapo, is somewhat outside the Southern Rural Life delivery zone, but, he agrees, it doesn’t matter; battling one’s own inner demons is a universal issue and one that is becoming more important to talk about as the modern world becomes just too much to take for some . .

National and Freshwater November 2019 – Elbow Deep:

I was less than enthusiastic at the thought of attending National MP Todd Muller’s water meeting in Ashburton last month. This wasn’t through any fault of Muller, National’s spokesperson for agriculture, but rather his party’s approach to the raft of challenges farmers are currently facing.

National’s proxies have been advocating for public protest both openly on social media and behind closed doors with industry groups. Protest was a disaster for farmers at the last election and, no matter how good it may have been for the National Party, I still don’t see it as a constructive or useful tool.

Another reason for my antipathy was the recent policy announcement coming from the National Party leaders; the dog whistling has been so loud my Labradors are in a constant state of confusion. Even if there was evidence unvaccinated children of solo mums had caused the measles outbreak in Auckland, and there isn’t, cutting the benefits of those parents still wouldn’t have prevented it. . . .

Political parties and GMOs: we all need to move on – Grant Jacobs:

Recently more than 150 post-graduate students and young scientists presented an open letter to the Green Party via The Spinoff, encouraging them to reconsider their position on genetic modification. Their target is tackling climate change issues.[1]

Can any party continue to be dismissive about genetic modification (GM) contributing to better agriculture?

We all want safe food, and the environment and climate change are important issues to tackle. New varieties can contribute, including those developed using GM. . . .

Couple’s jersey venture promoting wool:

Two years ago, Lawrence farmers Julie and Murray Hellewell decided to seize the day and find their own answer to the dire state of New Zealand’s strong wool industry.

”We just got sick of seeing people not wearing wool. Everyone is going on about doing something about the state of the wool industry but no-one ever actually does anything. We just decided we might as well have a go ourselves,” Mr Hellewell said.

The Hellewells teamed up with wool buyer John Milne of Balclutha’s Ken Milne Wools to establish contacts in the wool sector. All of the fleece is from the Hellewell’s Perendale lamb flock; at 30 microns, the lamb fleece is used for the outer shell of the jersey and lined inside with New Zealand merino wool which is supplied through the knitwear factory. . . .

Dairy sheep open day draws huge crowd– Mark Daniel:

300 plus rurals turned up at the fifth annual Spring Sheep Co open day at Matangi near Hamilton.

The high turnout was little surprise with New Zealand’s bovine dairy industry under the pump. Pushing the message ‘Discover New Zealand’s Gentlest Milk’, building on advantages for those struggling to digest cow milk, the presenters talked the audience through Spring Sheep’s journey so far.

That journey centred around bringing together aspects like the NZ production environment, building a scaleable supply chain, understanding the needs of consumers and new product development. . .

Red meat ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk – Abi Kay:

Red meat is the ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk, according to a leading nutrition expert.

Professor Robert Pickard, emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, said the agricultural industry had been ‘the butt of an enormous journalistic effort to sell copy by producing totally indefensible headlines’ about red meat causing cancer.

Prof Pickard also hit out at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report which claimed processed meats ‘definitely’ cause cancer and lean red meat ‘probably’ causes cancer. . .


Rural round-up

28/09/2018

NZ farmer confidence slides into negative territory– Rabobank:

New Zealand farmer confidence has eased from the previous quarter and is now at net negative levels for the first time since early 2016.

The third quarterly survey for the year – completed earlier this month – has shown net farmer confidence has fallen to -three per cent, down from +two per cent recorded in the June 2018 survey.

The survey found a fall in the number of farmers expecting agricultural economy conditions to improve in the coming 12 months (down to 20 per cent from 26 per cent last quarter) as well as those expecting conditions to worsen (23 per cent from 24 per cent previously) while an increased number of New Zealand farmers were expecting the performance of the agricultural economy to stay the same (54 per cent from 46 per cent last survey). . .

Room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness:

Survey shows room for improvement despite progress on M. bovis awareness

More than half of sheep and beef farmers have made changes to reduce the risk of their stock becoming infected by Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), according to research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

57 per cent of farmers recently surveyed reported they had taken precautions against the disease while 71 per cent of farmers feel that they have a high level of knowledge on how to protect their stock from M. bovis.

Around a third of farmers surveyed (34 per cent) said they had implemented a buffer zone between them and their neighbours’ stock, as well as communicating with their neighbours about stock on the boundary. . . 

A jigsaw with bits missing – Annette Scott:

Mycoplasma bovis had a head-start on officials trying to eradicate it but Nait is helping them catch up.

While Nait is not perfect it has enabled the eradication attempt that otherwise might not have been possible, Ministry for Primary Industries intelligence group manager Alix Barclay says.

That head-start has, over time, meant changes to the design of surveillance and how it is implemented, Barclay said.

The intelligence team is responsible for tracing the disease, surveillance, targeting of sampling, data management and the diagnostic laboratory systems. . . 

Westland Milk’s payout at low end of guidance; cuts 2019 forecast – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Westland Milk Products has cut its forecast for the 2019 season due to weak global butter prices and announced a farmgate return near the bottom end of guidance.

New Zealand’s third-largest dairy company said its final milk payout for the 2018 season was $6.12 per kilo of milk solids, less a 5 cent retention. That delivered a net average result for shareholders of $6.07 per kgMS. The cooperative had forecast a payout of $6.10 to $6.40 and the retention enabled it to report a pre-tax profit of $3.3 million for the 12 months ended July 31. . .

Tatua Financial Results for the Year Ended 31 July 2018:

The Tatua Board or Directors and Executive met on 26 September 2018 to consider the financial results for the 2017/18 season and decide on the final payout to our Suppliers. We are pleased to report that Tatua has had a good year and has achieved record Group revenue of $357 million, and earnings of $127 million.

Our focus on growing our value-add businesses has contributed significant additional revenue and our bulk ingredient product mix has served us well. . .

Selling bulls but keeping semen rights – Alan Williams:

Te Mania Stud is looking for sons of its sale-topping Australian sire to move the Angus breed forward.

Starting this year the stud is keeping a 50% interest in the semen of all the bulls it sells.

“This keeps us protected if one of the bulls comes through with brilliant traits and we can get that semen back to use through our dam line,” stock manager Will Wilding said.

The deal involves only semen sales. There’s no income-share when buyers use the bulls for physical mating.

Semen from Te Mania Garth was brought from Australia and used to breed the top-priced rising  . .

2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards entries open October 1st:

With less than a week until entries open in the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, organisers of the regional competitions are gathering in Rotorua for the annual conference to fine tune processes and launch events.

General Manager Chris Keeping says the conference is an opportunity for the many volunteers from around the country to come together after a busy winter season. “The conference will be a busy few days, bringing everyone up-to-date with the changes made to the entry criteria and visa requirements,” she says. . .

On the brink of innovative Ag technology acceptance: A Kenyan farmer’s perspective – Gilbert Arap Bor:

Farmers have good years and bad years. Here in Kenya, however, the good years never have seemed quite as good as they should be and the bad years have felt worse than necessary.

That’s because we can’t take advantage of a tool that farmers in much of the developed world take for granted: GMO crops. In many countries, they’ve transformed farming, helping farmers contend with weeds, pests, and drought. In my country, we’re still languishing in the 20th century, waiting for the arrival of this 21st-century technology.

We may in fact be on the brink of embracing innovative technology for agriculture, but the long and winding road to this welcome destination has been full of frustration and false starts. We’ve been at it for an entire generation. Africa already faces plenty of problems: poverty, climate change, a poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption and more. So the failure of Kenya and most other African nations to take up GMOs is especially painful because this problem is almost entirely self-imposed. . . 

 


Rural round-up

21/07/2018

Crop biotech 3.0: a farmer’s perspective – Craige Mackenzie:

Here in New Zealand, we did not participate in the GE Gene Revolution. Farmers like me see an advantage in making sure that we do not miss the next one. 

You’ve seen the statistics. Farmers around the world have planted and harvested billions of acres of genetically engineered crops. Not long ago, we used to talk about GMOs and conventional crops as if they belonged in different categories. Increasingly—and especially in North and South America—GMOs are the new conventional. They’ve become an ordinary part of agriculture. 

Some nations, of course have resisted the use of GMOs, starting with members of the European Union. New Zealand has taken its own wait-and-see approach, turning it into a sort of permanent delay. The science on GMOs safety to human health and our environment may be settled but my country has wanted to preserve its clean-green image in food production, in the belief that this gives us a competitive advantage as we market ourselves to the world.  . . 

Eradicating cattle disease M. bovis in New Zealand may be costly, even impossible, but we must try – Riachard Laven:

In May this year, the New Zealand government decided that it would attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease that affects cattle.

A phased eradication means that an additional 126,000 livestock will need to be culled, at an estimated cost of NZ$886 million.

Here’s what we know, what we don’t know and what’s at stake.

How do we know this is a new incursion?

M. bovis causes mastitis and arthritis in adult cattle and pneumonia in calves. It is found around the world, but New Zealand was one of the last disease-free countriesuntil the detection of infected cows on a dairy farm in July 2017.  . .

Career path judged correctly – Sally Rae:

Brooke Flett never intended a career in farming.

But now, settled on the family dairy farm at Scotts Gap in Southland, it was “working out all right”.

“Most of the time, I love it,” she laughed.

Miss Flett (26), who is chairwoman of Thornbury Young Farmers Club, was recently named Young Farmers national stock-judging champion.

She grew up on the farm and boarded at Southland Girls’ High School before studying at Victoria University for a bachelor of arts in education.

But it “never really clicked” and she did not pursue a career in that area. .

Farm sales and prices ease on year June but horticulture farms shine –  Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Farm sales fell 7 percent on the year in the three months to June and the median price per hectare was down 16.3 percent although horticulture farm prices continued to push higher, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 427 farms were sold in the three months ended June 30 from 459 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,480 farms were sold in the year to June, down 17 percent on the year. . .

Software to keep containment’s out:

Fertiliser co-op Ballance will commercially launch a new farm environment planning tool, MitAgator, by spring.

Developed by Ballance and AgResearch, MitAgator measures the loss of four main farm contaminants — nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli.

New Zealand-wide trials are pointing to a launch by late September. . .

Deer velvet looking good in Asia

Long-term prospects for NZ velvet in the major Asian markets are looking positive says Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) Asia manager Rhys Griffiths.

“There has been an explosion in consumer demand for consumer-ready velvet-based products in Korea. Ten years ago this product category didn’t even exist,” he says.

“In the past six months, 23 new velvet-based healthy food products have been launched in Korea; the majority of them using NZ velvet. . .

Importers snap up cheap U.S. soybeans as China stops buying – Karl Plume:

China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, threatened for weeks and enacted Friday, have driven down prices and triggered a wave of bargain shopping by importers in other countries stocking up on cheap U.S. supplies, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Chinese buyers have so far this year accounted for just 17 percent of all advanced purchases of the fall U.S. soybean harvest – down from an average of 60 percent over the past decade, the analysis found. They are instead loading up on Brazilian soybeans, which now sell at a premium of up to $1.50 a bushel as U.S. soybean futures have fallen 17 percent over six weeks to about $8.50, their lowest level in nearly a decade. . .

The rise of soil carbon cowboys – Peter Byck:

Ranching is a rare occupation. Rarer still are the ranchers pioneering new ways to graze cattle, transforming their ranches and farms into vibrant ecosystems, producing black ink for their bank accounts and giving their incredibly robust animals a great life (with the exception of one bad day).

These new grazing methods have many names — mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, holistic management. Our group of scientists and ranchers call it Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing.  . .


Rural round-up

11/12/2017

Once a day switch reaps benefit in intensive farming system – Gerald Piddock:

Dave Swney’s decision to switch his younger cows to once a day (OAD) milking has paid dividends with better animal health and reproductive performance.

The contract milker decided this year to put his younger cow herd on OAD immediately after calving to try and reduce lameness, which had been a massive challenge on the 124 hectare farm.

“A lot of our decisions this year have been based around lame cows. It’s the one area we really wanted to focus on and we feel that if we can get that right, then a lot of other benefits are going to come from that.” . . 

Farmers need more rain soon – Annette Scott:

Drought fears are growing as farmers across the country suggest they could be in big trouble if it doesn’t rain before Christmas.

Many farmers were reporting lower than usual cuts of balage and silage with others pushing stock off early to processors.

For deer farmers a dry early summer was a real challenge because it coincided with the fawn drop and the need of hinds for lush, high-quality feed for lactation and maximum fawn growth. . . 

Stock flood fears – Alan Williams:

Meat processing plants have become very busy in the last two weeks as farmers react to very dry conditions by unloading stock but it’s just become a typical season for this time of year, the companies say.

Plants were working overtime and on Saturdays and livestock backlogs were starting to build-up.

“Two weeks ago I would have said the season was slow but now it’s up to normal,’’ Anzco Foods general manager of agriculture and livestock Grant Bunting said.

“It usually happens about now.”

However, the change had been sudden and three to four weeks ago farmers who usually had a weaning draft were contemplating finishing lambs themselves. . . 

Farmers Fast Five – Beverley Forrester:

The Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Glenmark Rural Women’s Branch President, Yarn Producer, Exporter, Author, Fashion Designer and Proud Farmer Beverley Forrester.

1.How long have you been Farming?

All of my life: 66 years. Brought up on the 4th generation family farms Warkworth, North Auckland, and is still run now by my sister and myself. Since 1986 I have been in Hawarden, North Canterbury, on what is also a 4th generation family farm with which we won the 2006 New Zealand Century Farm and Station Award.

2.What sort of farming are you involved in? 

Farming sheep (natural coloured chemical free wool), cattle and tourists. I have a yarn production and export business in yarn and livestock. . . 

Farmers Fast Five – Jonathan Carden-Holdstock:

The Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about Farming, and what Agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Vice President of The Canterbury Dairy Goat Breeders Association and Proud Farmer Jonathan Carden-Holdstock, pictured here with his wife, Proud Farmer Chris Carden-Holdstock.

1. How long have you been farming?

I grew up on and around small traditional family run dairy farms near the Devon and Cornwall border in England. I went to Agricultural College in this area as well

2. What sort of farming were you involved in?

Mostly Dairy farming with the Holstein Friesian breed. We no longer supply Fonterra but still milk a small herd of Holsteins for calf rearing along with my wife’s Pedigree Saanen and Toggenburg Dairy Goats. The milk from this goes into calf rearing and soap. We have always had some beef cattle, I love the Red Devon breed as this was so common in the area I grew up in. . . 

Don’t tell me or others how to eat, pray and love – Mark Wilson:

Summer is BBQ time and what a glorious start to the BBQ season here in the Wakatipu. Add in some great Test cricket on the TV and the arrival of our latest shipment of Bainfield Road lamb from down south, the team at Arthurs Shore couldn’t be happier.

However, as each year goes by I feel a growing animosity towards the carnivores amongst us. It started but a whisper but, amplified by like-minded anti-meat and dairy campaigners banding together on social media and more support in mainstream media, it is now a full-blown movement of some size. . . 

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Rural round-up

02/09/2016

Fonterra on the eve of disruption – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings’ challenge ‘build windmills not walls’ is galvanising the dairy co-operative, writes Fran O’Sullivan.

Theo Spierings’ leadership has been tested as he re-engineers New Zealand’s biggest business during the tough times of a lengthy global commodity slump.

The story of how NZ dairy farmer incomes have plummeted, the company’s staff numbers have been slashed and hard calls made with its suppliers is well-traversed.

But behind the scenes there has been a fundamental refocusing of the company’s strategic operations which Spierings expects will result in a “strong picture” when he unveils Fonterra’s financial results late next month. . . 

Value-add products need a point of difference – Keith Woodford:

[This article was commissioned by the NZ Herald. It was written on 8 August 2016 and published on 31 August 2016. Since being written, some 24 days ago, we have seen substantial increases in dairy commodity prices, and in the short term (i.e. the forthcoming GDT dairy auction on 6 September GMT, and possibly subsequent auctions) these increases are likely to continue. However, the fundamentals remain unaltered; i.e commodities are highly volatile and will remain so, but there are also many traps for the unwary along the value-add path.]

There is increasing recognition within New Zealand that the dairy industry is in some trouble. Heading into a third year of low prices, questions have to be asked whether the industry is on a false path. And if so, where is the path back to firm ground?

Some will argue that the answers are simple: that we should reduce the dairy footprint on our land, and that we should focus on value-add. In reality, it is not that simple.

For those who live in the cities, it is easy to miss the importance of agribusiness to the overall economy. Much of New Zealand’s economic growth of the last 15 years is a direct consequence of a bountiful economic environment for agriculture in general and dairy in particular. . . 

GMO ruling frustrates biotech industry, farmers:

A lobby group representing New Zealand’s biotech industry fears further changes around the way genetically modified organisms are regulated could potentially force companies and scientists to shift overseas.

The High Court has upheld the Environment Court’s decision that local councils can have control over use and release of genetically modified organisms in their district.

The ruling was based on an appeal by Federated Farmers, which argued the release of GMOs was already regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority and local councils were not qualified to make such decisions.

But lobby group NZBIO chief executive Will Barker said the decision would come as a blow to the industry. . . 

Boat to change face of commercial fishing in NZ launched in Nelson:

A ceremony steeped in tradition was held in Nelson today to celebrate the launch of a boat that will change the face of commercial fishing in New Zealand.

The state-of-the-art vessel has been built for Tauranga-based fisherman Roger Rawlinson, of Ngati Awa descent. It has been named Santy Maria after his mother, who started the business with his father Bill more than 25 years ago.

The Santy Maria is the first vessel in Moana New Zealand’s $25-30 million fleet renewal project. It has been designed by Australian company OceanTech, with the technical expertise and vast fishing experience of Westfleet CEO Craig Boote, and constructed to the highest specifications by Aimex Service Group in Nelson. . . 

Seafood industry continues steady growth path:

The seafood industry continues to show strong growth with export earnings reaching $1.78 billion in the year to June, Seafood New Zealand’s Executive Chairman George Clement said today.

Speaking at the seafood industry’s annual conference, George Clement said the June result was an increase of $201 million on the same time last year, ”further demonstrating that we continue to make a significant contribution to the economy as one of the country’s main export earners,” he said.

“Last year industry accepted the Government’s aspirational goal of doubling export revenues by 2025 and we are on the growth path to achieve this,”
he said. . . 

The thirsty truth about avocados – Mitch McCann:

From Instagram to Pinterest, this is the golden age of avocados.

They’re so popular, the New Zealand industry’s earnings have doubled in the past three years.

Earlier this year avocado prices skyrocketed to around $4.50.

But now you can grab one for less than $2.

That’s because we’re into a bumper season, which may end up being New Zealand’s biggest ever.

But growing avocados takes a lot of water – much more than for things like potatoes, tomatoes and lettuce. . . 

Seeka announces the purchase of the Kiwi Crush™ and Kiwi Crushies™ product ranges from Vital Food Processors Ltd.:

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries (NZX-SEK), New Zealand’s and Australia’s largest kiwifruit grower, today announced the purchase of the Kiwi Crush and Kiwi Crushies product ranges from Auckland based Vital Food Processors Ltd (Vital Foods) for an undisclosed sum.

Kiwi Crush is a range of 100% natural kiwifruit based drinks that have since the early 1990s helped New Zealanders support and balance the digestive system. . . 

Hawkes Bay wine celebration reveals master class talent:

Two big names in the wine industry will be the hosts of the first-ever F.A.W.C! Masterclasses, at the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration.

A must-do event for wine lovers, when the cellar doors of 38 of the region’s finest wineries come together – the Hawke’s Bay Wine Celebration is being held in Auckland and Wellington next month. This is a unique opportunity to meet the winemakers while sampling award-winning wines. The event will showcase 50 Chardonnays, 38 Syrah, more than 30 Merlot Cabernet blends, as well as aromatic Riesling and Gewurztraminer through to newcomers Albarino, Tempranillo and luscious dessert wines. . . 


Rural round-up

07/07/2016

Need for young blood – Peter Burke:

The aging population in agriculture is working against New Zealand, says Lincoln University’s Jon Hickford.

Speaking to Rural News at the Careers in Agriculture hub at Fieldays, Hickford says this is a huge problem, compounded by NZ’s rapid urbanisation and disconnection from the agri sector.

The problem now is to find enough good young people to work in agriculture.

“The problem across the western world is that young people are entirely urbanised and don’t realise the job opportunities out there on the land. In the case of NZ, agri defines our existence as a country. . . 

Cheap food has high price:

A Lincoln University expert is warning of the cost of focusing on producing food cheaply.  

A report into European farming policy ‘Does the CAP still fit’, co-authored by Lincoln University Professor of Farm Management Alison Bailey, says there is overwhelming evidence at local, national and global levels that food systems need to change.  

The paper was for the Food Research Collaboration on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which provides support to Europe’s farmers. . . 

Feds support stance on GMOs by 107 world-leading scientists:

As more than 100 world-leading and award-winning scientists voice their support of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Federated Farmers continues to endorse farmers’ rights to decide what technologies are used on their farms.

Federated Farmers’ spokesperson Katie Milne said it’s clear that the long-term stance opponents have against all GMO is well and truly outdated and lacks scientific scrutiny.

“Federated Farmers recognises GMOs can provide many positive benefits to farmers and it’s up to individual farmers to decide whether to use GMOs or not. We have a neutral stance on this.

“Through GMOs farmers could have cows without horns or have the ability to not breed calves, there are many positive animal welfare outcomes for the industry,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Feds unveil guide to local government excellence:

See full Federated Farmers Local Government Manifesto here.

A best-practice, practical and common-sense approach to governance has been unveiled by Federated Farmers at its national conference in Wellington today.

Federated Farmers’ Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne said this tri-annual guide promotes the latest thinking on how councils should be engaging with and providing services to farmers and other ratepayers.

“Farmers are some of the largest funders of local government and the sector most likely to be impacted by regulation developed and implemented by councils. “Farmers need level-headed councillors who prioritise real needs over the ‘nice to haves’. They also need to respect the considerable contributions from ratepayers,” said Ms Milne. . . 

Livestock and sustainability – challenges and opportunities for New Zealand:

Livestock may provide one-third of the value of global agricultural production, but it comes at a big cost for the planet. Livestock uses 80 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, putting pressure on water resources and biodiversity and emitting 14.5 per cent of the planet’s greenhouse gases.

The benefits, risk, trade-offs and consequences are complex and policy makers are always looking for guidance. Now, new guidelines have been developed by the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). The Committee’s report Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock? was launched last week at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. . . 

UK referendum opens can of worms and some opportunities  – Allan Barber:

The referendum on EU membership produced a result nobody really expected and nearly half the voters didn’t want, but now everyone has to plan for an uncertain future. There have even been suggestions the exit might not happen, unless the Westminster Parliament passes the required motion to activate the start of the exit process. It’s not worth thinking about the implications for British democracy, if that were to happen.

In the immediate aftermath of the 23 June referendum there are only two certainties in a sea of uncertainty – the pound is worth a lot less than it was which will affect export receipts, but red meat access to the EU including the UK will not change for two years from the time the UK invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets the exit process officially in motion. . . 

Agriculture set for slow-down – OECD:

The latest 10-year outlook from the OECD warns the recent period of high agricultural commodity prices is most likely over.

The report, produced with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said overall market growth was projected to slow and agricultural trade was expected to grow at less than half the rate of the previous decade.

The report – ‘OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025’ – said global agricultural trade was expected to grow by 1.8 percent per annum in volume during the next 10 years. . . 

Do possums howl at the moon?

Knowing if nocturnal pest mammals are more affected by the phases of the moon or by illumination could bring New Zealand one step closer to being pest free and save control agencies significant sums of money.

Lincoln UniversityEcology Master’s student Shannon Gilmore’s research into the effect lunar phases and illumination have on activity levels in possums, stoats, rats and mice is aimed at finding more effective and efficient means of targeting and managing these pests.

“It costs millions every year to control their populations,” says Shannon. “We’re waging a kind of war on pests. We need to discover their weaknesses. What trait do all four have in common that we can take advantage of? They are all nocturnal, and many nocturnal animals dramatically reduce their activity with the full moon, while others can become more active. . .

 


Rural round-up

29/03/2016

Rural economy is not all doom and gloom:

All is not gloomy in the agricultural community even though collapsing dairy prices have left a hole at the heart of the sector, New Zealand farming analysts say.

And while dairy problems are having a ricochet effect on other farmers, some areas of the rural economy are doing well and others are booming.

One of the most optimistic sectors is the apple and pear industry. . . 

Not enough mouths – Annette Scott:

Rain has hit the spot for much of the South Island’s parched farmland but with it has come a new challenge – what to do with the feed.

The countrywide shortage of livestock was starting to kick in sooner than expected, Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Peter Reveley said.

“We have had some absolutely brilliant rain. . . 

Waikato Lavender Farm owners farewell business after 20 years – Kelsey Wilkie:

After 20 years at the helm, the founders of Waikato’s Lavender Farm are moving on.

Ian and Bev Parlane opened the gates to the Alphra Lavenders farm at Orakau, 8km south of Te Awamutu, 20 years ago.

The purple garden spreads across one hectare.  . . 

Ham-fisted definitely, incompetent possibly – Allan Barber:

Fonterra’s succession of ultimatums to its suppliers smack of ham-fisted bullying and incompetence. The company’s first ultimatum was to push payment terms out to 90 days for a ‘small percentage’ of its New Zealand suppliers in line with its global practice , followed by an invitation to attend Dragon’s Den type negotiating sessions in which it has served notice it will demand 20% price reductions.

There is nothing wrong or sinister about a customer trying to negotiate better terms of trade as a means of increasing efficiency, but in Fonterra’s case the company appears to have completely ignored the value of proper communication and relationships with its suppliers. Many of these will be contractors that have devoted resources and valuable service over a number of years; these contractors will be an integral cog in the life and prosperity of the rural communities they serve and live in. . . 

Political high-fliers win farming award: ‘Cows don’t talk back’  – Gerald Piddock:

Two novices running a dairy farm have taken the title of regional Share Farmers of the Year – and it’s not just their career change that’s gaining attention. 

Matthew Herbert and Brad Markham say they are also the first same-sex couple to win a trophy at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

The former political advisor and journalist crossed the ditch two years ago, swapping talk with Australia’s top politicians to pulling teats on a dairy farm. . . 

These vitamin fortified bananas might get you thinking differently about GMOs – Nathanael Johnson:

In the winter of 2014, students at Iowa State University received emails asking them to volunteer for an experiment. Researchers were looking for women who would eat bananas that had been genetically engineered to produce extra carotenes, the yellow-orange nutrients that take their name from carrots. Our bodies use alpha and beta carotenes to make retinol, better known as vitamin A, and the experiment was testing how much of the carotenes in the bananas would transform to vitamin A. The researchers were part of an international team trying to end vitamin A deficiency.

The emails reached the volunteers they needed to begin the experiment, but they also reached protesters. “As a student in the sustainability program, I immediately started asking questions,” said Iowa State postdoc Rivka Fidel. “Is this proven safe? Have they considered the broader cultural and economic issues?” . . .

New Zealand’s fisheries performing well:

New Zealand’s fisheries continue to perform well, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst says.

He was commenting on the latest Status of New Zealand Fisheries report published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Around 83 per cent of individual fish stocks of known status and almost 97 per cent of landings are above or well above levels where their sustainability would be a cause for concern, he says.

“These figures are the result of a robust process and show that we are as good as or beyond the standard of the best in the world,” he says. . . 


Feds challenge NZ Greens to follow Aus Greens on GMOs

11/01/2016

Federated Farmers is challenging the New Zealand Green Party to follow Australian Greens on moderating their stance on Genetic Modification.

Federated Farmers has welcomed a shift in thinking by the Australian Green Party and encourages their New Zealand counterparts to be equally open minded about the benefits of genetic modification.

Over the past week Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale has conducted a series of interviews in which he has opened the door to changing the party’s longstanding opposition to genetically modified organisms.

He told ABC radio that “the concerns are less around human health and much more around the application of the technology when it comes to giving farmers choice.” In another interview with The Land he said he did “not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops” and that “it’s a bit simplistic to say GMO’s are safe or they’re not safe.”

“This is entirely in line with Federated Farmers’ position of giving farmers choice about what and how they farm, and assessing the benefits and risks of genetically modified organisms on a case-by-case basis,” says Federated Farmers National President Dr William Rolleston.

“It’s refreshing to see such an open minded approach from the Australian Greens on what we see as a key issue for the agricultural sector, and we encourage the NZ Green Party to also review their policy on genetic modification.”

“If you look at some of the biggest challenges facing farmers at the moment, such as drought and pressure from some quarters to reduce biological emissions. These are both things that likely have a scientific solution,” says Dr Rolleston.

Dr Rolleston said genetic modification has been used extensively around the world, to the benefit of farmers and the environment, without any incident of harm attributable to the GM aspects of the application.

“Although no crops using GM are approved or grown here yet, this vitally important science is being used successfully in New Zealand. GM products such as food enzymes, medicines and animal feed are now commonplace.”

“We ask that the Greens open their minds to the agricultural sector also taking advantage of these rapidly evolving technologies,” he said.

Di Natale, like Rolleston, is a medical doctor:

. . . Senator Di Natale – whose medical career included practicing in regional areas – said he personally had no philosophical or ideological objections to the science of GM.

He said genetic modification was “something we’ve done for a long time in medicine”.

“I do not have a blanket objection to the use of genetically modified crops – I absolutely don’t – and it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I support the use of genetic modification in medicine,” he said. . . 

In response to this, Grant Jacobs writes at Sciblogs:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks much of the ‘debate’ on GM is unhelpful.

Below are a few suggestions to those thinking about this issue, or who wish to offer public comment. . . 

 

  • Remember that genetic engineering (GE) has applications far wider than just crops, and more than just herbicide-tolerant crops.
  • If your concern is food safety or environmental issues, talking about ‘GMOs’ is a distraction away from issues (if any). It is the traits of each crop or animal variety that determine if there might be risk, not how the crop or animal was first bred.
  • If your concern is over transgenic organisms, say ‘transgenic organisms’ not ‘GMOs’.
  • If your concern relates to business aspects, make sure those concerns are real, related to GMOs and avoid straw-man arguments.
  • If your concern relates to international trade, give examples of it being an issue (rather than ‘what if’-style claims).
  • Be aware of misapplied or inappropriate cultural memes, or conflation with separable things.
  • Aim for discussion, not ‘debate’ or argument. . . 

If you follow the link you can read his elaboration on each point.

A lot of the debate on GMOs is based on politics and misinformation rather than science.

Caution on any new technology is wise, but a blanket ban on GMOs is not.

 


Rural round-up

03/11/2015

Advertising executive’s shock speech tackles farmer depression – Rachel Thomas:

The final speech of the day was supposed to be a light-hearted talk about city boys working in the country.

Instead, advertising executive Matt Shirtcliffe stood up in front of a conference of roughly 120 farming and business folk and told them his wife was dead. 

“Depression took her life.” . . 

The presentation is here.

Kathryn Ryan interviewed Matt Shirtcliffe here.

India farmers’ ‘seeds of suicide’: 200-year old story behind a modern tragedy – Aneela Mirchandani :

In 1998, a farmer in Warangal, India killed himself after a failed crop by drinking pesticide. His body was found hours later lying amidst his one-acre crop, which was overrun by worms. This suicide was one of many that were reported on at the time; the incidence was particularly high among cotton farmers. It set off much hand-wringing in the press: how was India failing its farmers?

The stated cause of this farmer’s suicide was debt, and many anti-GMO activists have linked a spate of similar tragedies to the introduction of GMO cotton — although the genetically engineered crop was not introduced into India until 2002. But if one looks deeper, one can see the real cause: modern crops and a modern economy abutted against a rural population that had changed little since the nineteenth century. . . 

“We farm!”  Wait…  What?  (Our cows explained) – Uptown Girl:

“What do you do?”  Sometimes I identify myself with a lengthy description of my career in Ag finance, but often I just leave it at, “We farm!”
 
I also find myself using “We farm” as an explanation as to why I am alone so often at gatherings.  But the more people I talk to, the more I realize that not everyone knows what I mean when I say, “We farm”.  So I am going to explain exactly what “farming” means to my family.
 
Our farm consists of our cows, our sheep, and our row crops.  I will cover each of these over the next few posts, but will start with our cows.
 
One of my favorite parts of our farm is our cattle herd.  We have what is commonly called a “Cow/Calf operation” – meaning we maintain a group of cows who will raise a baby calf each year, and then sell the baby at weaning time.  . . 

New regulations to protect oceans:

New Government regulations to manage the waste and pollution within New Zealand’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) come into effect today, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says. 

“These new regulations cover discharges of pollutants and waste from offshore installations like oil rigs and ships in the six million square kilometres of ocean in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. They provide clear rules that protect the ocean environment and are the final stage of implementing the Government’s new environmental law covering the ocean,” Dr Smith says.  . . 

Glerups extends wool contract with NZ Merino through 2017 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Glerups, the Danish woollen slipper maker, has extended its contract with New Zealand woolgrowers to meet increased demand for its product.

The company inked a 2017 contract through the New Zealand Merino Company for 120 tonnes of wool for about $1.5 million, during a visit to New Zealand this week, and expects to return next year to secure a 2018 contract, said Glerups supply chain manager Jesper Glerup Kristensen, the son of the company founder Nanny Glerup. It also extended its 2016 contract by 20 tonnes to 100 tonnes, up from 80 tonnes this year. . . 

Red Meat Sector welcomes decision to negotiate an EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) are delighted that the European Union and New Zealand are set to progress negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, as announced by Prime Minister John Key in Brussels.

The European Union (EU) is a very significant export market for New Zealand red meat products, worth nearly NZ$1.9 billion for the year ended December 2014. The EU is New Zealand’s largest market by region for sheepmeat exports, and second-largest for chilled beef and wool exports. . . 

Appointment of Independent Director to Fonterra Board:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited announced today the appointment of a new Independent Director Clinton Dines who will take up the Board position made vacant when Sir Ralph Norris steps down at the Annual Meeting on 25 November.

Chairman John Wilson said world-class governance is one of the Board’s top priorities, and the Co-operative needed directors with a broad range of talent and depth of business experience.

“The Board welcomes Mr Dines, an Australian, who has outstanding business and governance credentials. . . .

Fonterra Welcomes Progress towards NZ EU FTA:

Fonterra has welcomed today’s announcement in Brussels that Prime Minister John Key will begin discussions on a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

“This is an important first step towards a comprehensive and high-quality free trade agreement with the EU. We have free trade agreements with almost all of our other major trading partners, so this really is the missing piece,” said Miles Hurrell, Group Director of Co-operative Affairs. . . 

Wine Industry welcomes prospect of free trade with the EU:

New Zealand Winegrowers welcomes the announcement of a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the EU.

Improved access into the EU would be hugely beneficial to industry growth, commented Philip Gregan, New Zealand Winegrowers CEO. ‘An FTA with the EU would be a great outcome for New Zealand’s wine industry. The EU, as a whole, represents our single largest market, with exports totalling over $460 million and representing in excess of 30% of total wine exports. . . 

 


Rural round-up

14/09/2015

Federated Farmers welcome court ruling on genetic modified crop:

A Western Australian Court of Appeal ruling on genetically modified (GM) crop liability has been welcomed by Federated Farmers as a landmark decision which clearly sets out fundamental responsibilities of good neighbours that apply equally well in New Zealand and around the farming world.

In 2014, organic farmer Steve Marsh sued his neighbour, GM farmer Michael Baxter, for damages after sheaves of GM canola blew onto his property, resulting in his partial decertification as an organic farmer. Mr Marsh also sought a permanent injunction preventing his neighbour from growing GM crops.

At the time the case went to court, anti-GM groups, confident of a win, hailed it as potentially precedent setting. . . 

25 pieces of advice for 25 year-old farmers – Matthew Naylor:

I have been a farmer in my own right for a quarter of a century.

I know that I look unfeasibly young to make such a claim; I started work at 15 and pretty well managed to avoid higher education.

Twenty-five more years of toil and I will be looking at the age of retirement from the other side.

To commemorate this halfway milestone, I have compiled the little that I have learned over my 25 years of experience into 25 pieces of advice for 25-year-old farmers.

  1. Set a clear and simple business plan and stick to it. Tell it to anyone who will listen – your family, colleagues, customers, competitors and even the postman.
  1. Kill weeds when they are small – this rule applies to any problem you encounter in life. . . 

Street doctor tells rural people to watch their health – Jill Galloway:

A doctor who specialises in treating people in rural regions says farmers need to get their own health checked more often.

Dr Tom Mulholland talked to about 50 people at the old Parewanui school near Flock House, Bulls this week.

“Farmers are good at looking after their stock and their land, but not so good at looking after themselves and their top paddock [their heads].”

About half the group listening to him talk were men. . . 

NZ stands firm on lamb export deal:

New Zealand will not agree to a review of New Zealand’s quota of lamb exports to Europe despite pressure from British farmers, the government says.

Livestock board chairs from Britain’s farming unions, meeting in Brussels, have called for the review. They say New Zealand has moved from sending frozen lamb to chilled lamb and from carcasses to bone-in cuts, representing a substantive change to the original deal signed in the 1980s.

But Trade Minister Tim Groser points to later trade negotiations which changed that agreement. . .

Avocado congress should ‘raise industry profile‘:

The World Avocado Congress get underway in Peru today.

The congress is held every four years and New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular, who is in Peru, said it was a great opportunity to raise the profile of the industry.

Ms Scoular said the congress, which runs for a week, allows countries to share science and research information. She said tree productivity and irregular bearing of avocados would be a hot topic because it was a global issue. . . 

Whitebait, birds receive conservation boost:

Whitebait will be making a comeback into Christchurch and more will be done to protect the habitats of Canterbury’s colony-nesting river birds, says Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner.

The Community Conservation Partnership Fund is providing more than $126,000 to the Whaka Inaka project to restore whitebait habitat in Christchurch, and more than $33,000 to the Braided River Partnership project to improve the success of colony-nesting birds along Canterbury rivers.

“Whitebait spawning in Christchurch has declined, particularly after the earthquakes caused significant habitat damage. The Whaka Inaka project will provide an immediate temporary spawning habitat for whitebait along 3km of Christchurch river banks,” Ms Wagner says. . . 

A falling dollar not all bad news – Rick Powdrell:

I was just thinking lately how things can change so abruptly in a year.

Farmers are once again facing tough realities of global export trade, price volatility and geopolitical unrest.

This time, last year, dairy was buoyant with record payout and nothing looking at halting the juggernaut.  Sheep meat prices were positive for the season; beef was in the ascendancy and wool finally rebounding.

Fast forward and dairy is struggling with sheep meat failing to deliver on anticipated returns. Still, beef is extremely strong and wool has continued its gradual recovery. . .


Rural round-up

31/08/2015

Why people oppose GMOs even though science says they are safe – Stefaan Blancke:

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have met with enormous public opposition over the past two decades. Many people believe that GMOs are bad for their health – even poisonous – and that they damage the environment. This is in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence that proves that GMOs are safe to eat, and that they bring environmental benefits by making agriculture more sustainable.

Why is there such a discrepancy between what the science tells us about GMOs, and what people think? To be sure, some concerns, such as herbicide resistance in weeds and the involvement of multinationals, are not without basis, but they are not specific to GMOs. Hence, another question we need to answer is why these arguments become more salient in the context of GMOs. . .

Win over dumping celebrated – Patrick O’Sullivan:

Local growers are celebrating after winning their fight against the relaxation of anti-dumping measures.

They have been lobbying against a proposed relaxation of the measures, which threatened the local canning industry.

Cabinet had agreed in principle to change the rules which would have resulted in anti-dumping duties only after damage to local industry was proven, with the duties removed after an Automatic Termination Period (ATP).

Dumping is illegal under World Trade Organisation agreements. . .

El Niño predicted to give farmers a rough ride over spring and summer –  Michael Forbes and Caleb Harris:

Climate scientists are warning farmers to brace for a large-scale El Nino, with rainfall expected to drop by 15 per cent in some regions and increase by the same amount in others.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) is projecting the upper North Island and east coast of both islands will be hardest hit by dry conditions, which could mimic the devastating drought that shaved $618 million, or 0.9 per cent, off national GDP in 1997-98.

Principal climate scientist Andrew Tait said there was a 97 per cent chance El Nino would continue until October and a more than 90 per cent chance it would persist through until April 2016. . .

Retired farmer gives helping hand to struggling sharemilkers  – Hannah Lee:

A man who knows a thing or two about how tough farmers are doing it right now is helping out with a free meal.

Retired Lepperton farmer Bob Pigott said the industry has always had its ups and downs, but the current conditions were pretty dire.

As a way to lend a helping hand, Pigott has donated $1000 in meal vouchers at Sporty’s Cafe and Bar in New Plymouth, for sharemilkers who are in need of a night away from the stress of the job.

“To go from $8.25 to $3.85 payout, I mean, it’s pretty disastrous.

“It’s part and parcel of the job though isn’t it, prices go down and come back again – it’s happening again but I think it’s a lot worse this time.”  . . .


Quote of the day

01/07/2015

. . .  The whole point – indeed the underlying, triumphal, raison d’être of science – is that it is the only way of thinking and doing things which human society has ever dreamed up which is designed, sometimes, to fail.

The ‘failure’ of a trial is not a ‘failure’ at all, in the conventional sense. It shows that something was wrong with the assumptions that came from the laboratory experiments. . . Michael Hanlon writing about how Anti-GM protesters don’t understand how science works.


Rural round-up

07/06/2015

Fed Farmers appeals GMO decision:

Federated Farmers has lodged an appeal with the High Court over a decision allowing Northland Regional Council to regulate the use of genetically modified organisms in the region.

The farming lobby group had previously appealed to the Environment Court over the matter. Last month the court ruled the council had jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act to decide whether GMOs can be used.

The council would do this though regional policy statements and plans.

Federated Farmers’ president William Rolleston was seeking clarification on some points of the decision but would not discuss details because it was before the court. . .

Winners of 2015 Green Ribbon Awards announced:

Project Janszoon has named as the recipient of the Supreme Award at this year’s Green Ribbon Awards, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced at the ceremony held at Parliament tonight.

“Project Janszoon has carried out an impressive job restoring and protecting one of New Zealand’s greatest natural assets: the Abel Tasman National Park. Project initiatives include extensive pest and weed control, the return of important plants and animals like rata and kaka and future proofing the project through education and community engagement,” Dr Smith says. . .

 

Maize growers nervous – John Hodge:

Although I’m an optimist I am becoming more aware that maize growers are exceptionally nervous about the future of the industry in New Zealand.

I see problems arising in the future for us and optimist or not I have to admit things are not looking rosy. Having farmed my way through ups and downs for the past 60 years, my optimism has always got me through. So my advice to other growers is to do the same because when we can hope things will come right it makes it bearable.

The drop in payout to dairy farmers has had an immediate effect on their demand for both maize silage and maize grain, which combined with the drought conditions over the last three years, has been hard going. With dairy farmers looking for cheaper options to feed their herds, it’s fair enough that maize farmers are feeling nervous. . .

Continued pressure on wool:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s Marketing Executive, Mr Paul Steel reports that the weakening New Zealand dollar coupled with exporter pressure to meet shipping requirements and limited supply continues to underpin the market.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came down 2.14 percent compared to the last sale on 28th May.

Of the 6,876 bales on offer, 94 percent sold. . .

 NZ lamb wool price rises to record amid strong demand, limited supply – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand lamb wool prices jumped to a record high amid strong demand from exporters and limited supplies.

Lamb wool climbed to $7.45 per kilogram at yesterday’s South Island auction, from $7/kg at last week’s North Island auction, the highest price that AgriHQ has recorded since it began collecting wool prices in July 2005. The price for clean 35-micron wool, a benchmark for crossbred wool used for carpets and accounting for the majority of New Zealand’s production, held at $6.20/kg for a third week, its highest level since November 2013 and 17 percent above year earlier levels. . .

 Canterbury Seed consolidates cereals partnership with KWS:

Canterbury Seed and cereal breeder KWS UK continue to cement their long standing partnership as the number of New Zealand growers recognising the distinct benefits of the KWS cereal varieties increases.

The relationship now extends to new cereal varieties being evaluated in New Zealand under local conditions at the same time as the varieties being entered into the UK official trials. This is crucial given not all UK varieties will perform in New Zealand and allows for evaluation before moving forward into the local trial system.

During the 2014 – 2015 seasons, Canterbury Seed evaluated five new wheat varieties and seven new barleys – two wheat and one barley variety progressed to New Zealand trials. . .

 

Wellington Gets Set For Big Farm Environment Celebration:

This year its Wellington’s turn to host New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s annual Sustainability Showcase – a premier event on the national farming calendar.

To be held on June 24 in Parliament’s Banquet Hall, the Showcase honours Supreme winners of the 2015 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) and culminates with the naming of the National Winner and the presentation of the esteemed Gordon Stephenson trophy.

New Zealand Farm Environment Trust general manager David Natzke says having the event in Wellington provides the rural community with a chance to celebrate its successes in front of an audience that includes some of the nation’s top decision-makers.

 


Rural round-up

26/02/2015

Federated Farmers advises farmers to prepare Feed Budgets:

As stock feed becomes scarce Federated Farmers is encouraging farmers to get a feed plan and budget under way for the remainder of the year.

Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson says “The dry conditions and reduced payout have left many farmers not only short of feed now, but facing a shortage for the rest of the year.”

“Farmers may have already done this, but given this is a pretty stressful time we want to remind them to keep it up to date.” . . .

A2 Milk’s premium payout attracts farmer interest with lower dairy prices this year – Fiona Rotherham:

 (BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, says it’s had more interest from farmers interested in supplying the company since dairy prices have dropped this year.

A2 Milk pays a premium of around 5 to 7 percent to its small number of farmer suppliers in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK, which has become more attractive as the farmgate milk price for standard milk has dropped markedly this season. Dairy exporter Fonterra Cooperative Group is due to update tomorrow morning its forecast milk price which was reduced to $4.70 per kilogram of milk solids in December compared to $8.40/kgMS last season. . .

 

Old Reefton mines to be cleaned up:

New Zealand’s most toxic contaminated site located near Reefton in two old mines are to be cleaned up in a joint funding agreement between the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation totalling $3 million, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today in Reefton.

“The Prohibition and Alexander mine sites are acutely toxic and a blight on New Zealand’s clean, green reputation. The levels of arsenic are among the highest recorded anywhere in the world at 400,000 parts per million on land, or 500 times the safe level, and in water at 300 parts per million, or 33,000 times the safe limit for drinking water,” Dr Smith says.

“We need to clean up this site so as to prevent ongoing contamination to the surrounding environment and make the site safe for future generations. . .

It is time to stand up for agriculture – About Agriculture:

Ahhhhh, Sunday morning.  The perfect time to sit down with a cup of coffee and actually open and read some of those links I’ve been eyeing up on twitter and facebook.  This week I started jotting down a few ideas for a couple blog posts and now I am searching social media to help with some thoughts to finish one.  I read through a few posts and news stories until I stumble upon a newly posted video of a TEDx talk by Robert Saik on GMOs.  Knowing Roberts company (AGRI-TREND) and his values, I figure that I should take the 20 minutes and listen, and I am really glad I did.

Our farm is not a customer of AGRI-TREND so there is no conflict of interest, this is not a paid post, and I am not ‘shilling’ in any way.  It is sad that these are statements that I feel I have to make when speaking up for biotechnology and agriculture, but the accusation of somehow being employed by “big Ag” (whatever ‘big Ag ‘means) is all too common. . .

Hat Tip: Utopia

White clover rewards careful sowing:

Farmers can get up to 20% more white clover established in their new paddocks simply by sowing it differently, a Canterbury trial has found.

Agriseeds compared five different techniques for establishing new pasture in autumn, plus a control treatment, to find out more about what effect sowing method has on clover population in the sward.

Broadcasting clover and ryegrass seed on the surface, then harrowing and rolling it to simulate the effect of a roller drill, gave the best result when the swards were analysed nine months after sowing. . .

 

The World’s LOUDEST Apple:

SweeTango® apples are the hottest apple in the world right now and it’s all about texture! SweeTango® have cells that are twicethe size of normal apples which gives them their legendary crunch and makes them amazing to eat. It’s also the reason why they’ve been scientifically proven to be the loudest apple in the world!

Bred by the University of Minnesota, who are known for developing unique varieties, SweeTango® has a flavour that is rich and intense at a time when many apples are becoming bland.

SweeTango® apples are ready in late January, before any other fresh commercial apple varieties are available. And because The Yummy Fruit Company are the only company growing them outside of the United States it means we get to enjoy them first each season! . . .

 


A tale of two conferences

12/02/2015

 

Lincoln University is hosting an international conference on food science and technology:

The overarching theme of the conference is the future of food innovation, nutrition and technology, and it will bring together more than 250 scientists, government officials and industry representatives from more than 50 countries around the globe.

The conference also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of the International Journal of Food Science and Technology (IJFST) – one of the oldest and most established journals in food science and technology in the world.

The conference theme is a highly relevant one, with food science and technology expected to play an increasingly important role in addressing current and future challenges in food production.

A large and rapidly growing global population, deteriorating agricultural soils, increasing demand for water resources, and the need to rapidly modify production methods based on climate change are all providing a serious challenge to the field of food science.

According to Lincoln University Professor in Food Science, Editor-in-Chief of IJFST, and conference chairman, Charles Brennan, the event is a unique opportunity to facilitate an information exchange that brings together industry, universities and research centres.

“The mix of those attending should allow for some good dialogue between both industry and research, which is tremendously important to ensure that tangible and workable projects are undertaken, the right kind of issues are addressed, and new opportunities are identified.

“The conference will also provide a great opportunity to showcase the pivotal role New Zealand plays in the area of food science and product innovation. . .

This conference will highlight the scientific approach to the challenge of feeding the world.

Offsetting Behaviour posts on another conference which provides a stark and unscientific contrast:

A plucky group of scientific outsiders, presenting results outside of the mainstream consensus, hosts its own conference with presentations mostly from those in their heterodox club. They present themselves as providing the truth that is much opposed by big moneyed interests. They’re celebrated in a reception hosted in Parliament by one of the political parties. The media is expected to highlight their alternative take on reality, with perhaps some offsetting commentary from those in the mainstream; the overall effect, though, is to stoke and legitimise popular misunderstandings. . .

This weekend brings GMO-sceptics to Wellington. Presentations include “Pesticides: scilencing the ecosystem and silencing our children” and “Overweight, undernourished, sterile and dying of cancer. Our food is it sealing the fate of humanity?”

And the Greens are hosting them in Parliament: . . .

Imagine the uproar if another party was to host a pseudo-scientific conference in parliament.

A few further notes:

  • The keynote speaker, Gilles-Eric Seralini, found tumours in mice fed GM crops. But his paper was retracted due to concerns like these. It was later elsewhere republished in a friendlier outlet.
  • Vandana Shiva, also there speaking, earned this profile in the New Yorker, which concluded:

    When Shiva writes that “Golden Rice will make the malnutrition crisis worse” and that it will kill people, she reinforces the worst fears of her largely Western audience. Much of what she says resonates with the many people who feel that profit-seeking corporations hold too much power over the food they eat. Theirs is an argument well worth making. But her statements are rarely supported by data, and her positions often seem more like those of an end-of-days mystic than like those of a scientist.

  • On 29 January this year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a rather timely survey on scientific support for use of genetic modification techniques in food. Huffington has the summary

    In sharp contrast to public views about GMOs, 89% of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe.

    That’s the most eye-opening finding in a Pew Research Center study on science literacy, undertaken in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and released on January 29.

    The overwhelming scientific consensus exceeds the percentage of scientists, 88%, who think humans are mostly responsible for climate change. However, the public appears far more suspicious of scientific claims about GMO safety than they do about the consensus on global warming.

    Some 57% of Americans say GM foods are unsafe and a startling 67% do not trust scientists, believing they don’t understand the science behind GMOs. AAAS researchers blame poor reporting by mainstream scientists for the trust and literacy gaps.

    The survey also contrasts sharply with a statement published earlier this week in a pay-for-play European journal by a group of anti-GMO scientists and activists, including Michael Hansen of the Center for Food Safety, and philosopher Vandana Shiva, claiming, “no scientific consensus on GMO safety.”

The scientific consensus on GMOs is as strong as the scientific consensus on climate change. Will Browning have to retract this like he had to pull back from endorsing homeopathy for Ebola?

The Greens could play at highlighting the heterodox views on GMOs a couple years ago. But when 89% of scientists say GMO food is safe?

Scientific validity isn’t based on popularity.

But if the Greens decry as deniers those who doubt the high percentage of scientists who support the concept of human induced climate change what are they if they doubt the even higher percentage who say GMOs are safe?

And is parliament the appropriate place for such a conference?

 

 

 

 


GM crops can help counter affects of climate change

11/01/2014

Dr Robert T. Fraley, co-winner of the 2013 World Food Prize writes on the role GM crops could play in countering the affects of climate change:

. . .  at the very same time the demand for food is skyrocketing, food production is under severe pressure from climate change. It is fair to say that this represents one of the greatest challenges in the history of humanity.

But it’s one that GM crops can help meet. In fact, they’re already being called on to do so. In Africa, for example, climate change is leading to more frequent and more severe droughts, which are threatening the continent’s staple maize (corn) crop. In response, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), a public/private partnership, is helping to improve food security and the livelihoods of smallholder maize producers in Africa by developing new drought-tolerant and insect pest-protected maize hybrids. WEMA is providing the technology royalty-free to African seed companies for distribution to smallholder farmers. The WEMA project is led by the Kenyan-based African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) and involves Monsanto, CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and five National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.

But water-efficient maize and the other advances we have already made are only the tip of the iceberg. Seeds that offer even better drought resistance, nutrition, higher yields, and many other benefits are now under development by scientists around the world.

In fact, continuing the advance of science is not really the issue. The bigger challenge is the social and policy barriers that block many of the potential innovations. . . 

It’s not science but emotion and  politics that are the stumbling blocks and there’s nothing new in that.

. . . Innovation in the food supply has evoked strong reactions throughout recent history. It happened when milk was first pasteurized a little more than a century ago. And it happened when Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution and founder of the World Food Prize, introduced his newly bred Mexican wheats to India and Pakistan. Some of Dr. Borlaug’s field trials were sabotaged. When others succeeded, rumors spread that growing the Mexican wheats would make the land sterile, or children who ate them would become sterile. In fact, these wheats ended up saving hundreds of millions from starvation.

Dr. Borlaug used to say it all the time: “You must be prepared for opposition.” I think those of us who believe in the promise of biotechnology have not prepared the way we should have.

I think all of us engaged in the struggle to feed the world need to create more understanding of the fact that the safety of our products never has been and never will be compromised. GM foods are the most thoroughly studied food products ever launched commercially. The issue has been examined in more than 1,700 studies by hundreds of independent research groups and reviewed by the world’s leading scientific and medical authorities, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization. The consensus is clear. As the European Commission’s review concluded, there is “no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.” Yet doubts remain, and we in the scientific community need to engage in meaningful conversations to address them.

Although we have done a good job communicating with farmers, we haven’t connected as well with consumers. I am confident they will at least be open to listening to us if they know we’re listening to them.

I believe we can find common-ground solutions. They’ll be found around agriculture that minimizes the environmental impact of water and land use and that reduces the risk of political disruption. . . .

The Green Party is trying to urge New Zealand to follow the Tasmanian Government’s lead and have a moratorium on genetically engineered (GE/GMO) crops and animals.

There’s more than a little irony in this – the party which is most vociferous about its concerns about climate change and the impact of farming on the environment is equally determined to oppose one of the measures that could mitigate the impact of rising temperatures on food production.


GMO regulation for govt not councils – Feds

01/07/2013

Federated Farmers agrees with Environment Minister Amy Adams that the regulation of genetically modified organisms should be a matter for central government not local bodies.

“Federated Farmers would welcome amendment to the Resource Management Act to “clarify the respective functions and roles of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and local government,” as the Minister put it,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson.

“We are not overly impressed with some councils wasting ratepayer resources on trying to ape the EPA. As Minister Adams put it, councils should not “set up their own independent states where they write their own rules and ignore the national framework”.

“Especially when those rules are based on what seems to be ‘pub-talk’.

“A Northland inter-council working party’s draft section 32 analysis recommending ‘local regulation’ to restrict GMO’s, only references one website known for its anti GMO stance, one anti-GMO book and one of the key proponents for local regulation.

“A section 32 analysis should be based on sound science but this analysis is neither unbiased nor rigorous. It puts these councils on a collision course with the EPA, which does possess the brainpower and resources to test more than an internet search engine.

“Bizarrely, the Northland inter-council working party’s analysis makes no mention of the GMO based equine influenza vaccine, which is currently approved for conditional release in New Zealand.

“Nor, I must add, what the cost to Northland’s bloodstock and racing industries would be if councils tried to block its use.

“That’s why the legality of councils regulating GMOs is highly questionable.

“Federated Farmers view, shared by Minister Adams, is that the only appropriate way to make these decisions is through careful scrutiny of the science. We entrust the EPA with the scientific and funding resources to make these types of scientific assessments.

“Councils need to stick to their knitting and regulating GMO’s is not it,” Katie Milne concluded.

Councils, often rightly, complain about obligations and subsequent costs imposed on them by central government.

They should be relieved that this is one responsibility they aren’t required to shoulder.

Councils are unlikely to have the expertise to properly evaluate GMOs and more likely to be swayed by emotion than science, as most opposed to them are.


Minister backs science

27/06/2013

Environment Minister Amy Adams will block councils from setting their own rules on genetically modified organisms.

. . . Ms Adams said in the House that she was concerned that councils were trying to go against central Government’s rules on new organisms.

“Local councils are local councils – they operate under the national framework. There has never been the ability for them to rewrite national rules that they don’t like.

“And if councils have concerns about the way GM regulation in New Zealand works, they should raise those with the [Environment Protection Agency] and attempt to address the legislation on a national basis. They should not set up their own independent states…”

She said she would amend the Resource Amendment Act to clarify who was responsible for regulating GMOs. . . 

Ms Adams argued that the National-led Government had been consistent on the issue, and pointed to Crown Law advice from 2003 which said it was not a good idea for councils to regulate GMOs under their own plans.

The minister said communities could be confident that legislation provided a robust system of controls and set a high bar for the entry of GMOs into New Zealand.

The Minister is backing science against emotion, as she should.

Much of the opposition to GMOs is anti-science and anti-business.

There are strict controls on GMOs set by central government and that provides a sufficient safeguard.


Where’s the science?

24/05/2013

People who oppose genetic engineering will be protesting in several cities around New Zealand in support of a global March Against Monsanto.

But where’s the science which supports their contentions?

Can they refute the claim by former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas?

I think the controversy over GMOs represents one of the greatest science communications failures of the past half-century. Millions, possibly billions, of people have come to believe what is essentially a conspiracy theory, generating fear and misunderstanding about a whole class of technologies on an unprecedentedly global scale.

This matters enormously because these technologies – in particular the various uses of molecular biology to enhance plant breeding potential – are clearly some of our most important tools for addressing food security and future environmental change.

I am a historian, and history surely offers us, from witch trials to eugenics, numerous examples of how when public misunderstanding and superstition becomes widespread on an issue, irrational policymaking is the inevitable consequence, and great damage is done to peoples’ lives as a result.

This is what has happened with the GMOs food scare in Europe, Africa and many other parts of the world. Allowing anti-GMO activists to dictate policymaking on biotechnology is like putting homeopaths in charge of the health service, or asking anti-vaccine campaigners to take the lead in eradicating polio.

I believe the time has now come for everyone with a commitment to the primacy of the scientific method and evidence-based policy-making to decisively reject the anti-GMO conspiracy theory and to work together to begin to undo the damage that it has caused over the last decade and a half. . .

It shouldn’t be hard for scientific methods and evidence-based policy making to triumph over a conspiracy theory, generating fear and misunderstanding about a whole class of technologies.

But emotion beats facts which is why people will be marching.

 

 

 


Calling out the anti-GMO conspiracy theory

02/05/2013

Since Mark Lynas gave his speech in Oxford in January supporting GMOs he has been subject to a co-ordinated campaign of intimidation and hate, mostly via the internet.

He’s not giving in to the bullies.

. . . I have been encouraged by emails and other support from globally-renowned scientists who are experts on this issue, and who all said basically the same thing to me: ‘You think you’ve got hatemail? Welcome to my world’.

I think these scientists are the unsung heroes of this saga. They carried on with their important work and tried year after year to fight against the rising tide of misinformation, while people like me were belittling and undermining them at every turn. I won’t mention names, but they know who they are. Some of them are here today, and I would like to give them my deepest thanks.

So for me also there is also a moral dimension to this. The fact that I helped promote unfounded scare stories in the early stages of the anti-GMO movement in the mid 1990s is the reason why I now feel compelled to speak out against them. I have a personal responsibility to help put these myths to rest because I was so complicit in initially promoting them.

My activism, which I wrongly thought of at the time as being ‘environmental’, has done real damage in the world. For me, apologising was therefore only the beginning. I am now convinced that many people have died unnecessarily because of mistakes that we in the environmental movement collectively made in promoting anti-GMO fear. With that on your conscience, saying sorry and then moving on is not enough. Some restitution is in order.

Following a decade and a half of scientific and field research, I think we can now say with very high confidence that the key tenets of the anti-GMO case were not just wrong in points of fact but in large parts the precise opposite of the truth.

This is why I use the term conspiracy theory. Populist ideas about conspiracies do not arise spontaneously in a political and historic vacuum. They result when powerful ideological narratives collide with major world events, rare occasions where even a tiny number of dedicated activists can create a lasting change in public consciousness. . .

. . . The anti-GMO campaign has also undoubtedly led to unnecessary deaths. The best documented example, which is laid out in detail by Robert Paarlberg in his book ‘Starved for Science’, is the refusal of the Zambian government to allow its starving population to eat imported GMO corn during a severe famine in 2002. . . .

Thousands died because the President of Zambia believed the lies of western environmental groups that genetically modified corn provided by the World Food Programme was somehow poisonous. I have yet to hear an apology from any of the responsible Western groups for their role in this humanitarian atrocity.

Friends of the Earth was one of those responsible, and I note that not only has no apology been forthcoming, but Friends of the Earth Europe is still actively promoting GMO denialism in the EU in a new campaign called Stop the Crop. Check out their Youtube video to see how they have learned nothing in ten years.

Another well-known example is that of Golden Rice, genetically modified to contain high levels of beta carotene in order to compensate for the vitamin A deficiency which kills hundreds of thousands of children around the world and blinds many more every year. One study on the prospects for Golden Rice in India found that the burden of vitamin A deficiency could be reduced by 60%, saving 1.4 million healthy life years.

Here the actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine – because they were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism. . .

I think this campaign is shameful and has brought the entire environmental movement into disrepute, with damaging consequences for the very beneficial work that many environmentalists do. Greenpeace’s campaign against vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice should therefore be cancelled, and I call on everyone concerned about children’s health to lobby Greenpeace and demand that this happens immediately and without delay. . .

The anti-GMO campaign is based one motion not science.

It has an anti-business campaign which is not supported by facts.

GMOs aren’t a magic bullet that will end world hunger but they are one of the tools that will help feed the world.


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