Rural round-up

November 3, 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

September 14, 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

August 31, 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

July 1, 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

June 7, 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

February 26, 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

February 12, 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?

 

 

 

 


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