Rural round-up

13/08/2021

Nats’ proposal on migrants welcomed – Richard Rennie:

National’s proposal for a clean out of New Zealand’s daunting migrant visa application backlog has been given a thumbs up from dairy farmers still grappling with labour shortages.

National party leader Judith Collins has proposed Immigration NZ be required to clear the backlog of skilled migrant workers already here and seeking residency status. 

These are estimated to be over 30,000 and include vets and dairy farm herd managers. 

National has also proposed a “de-coupling” of skilled migrant staff from specific employers, instead making them tied to a sector or a region. . .  

Concern over ‘rushed reforms’, lack of detail – Neal Wallace:

The hectic pace of Government-initiated reform will result in poorly drafted legislation that will create a windfall for lawyers, warns National Party Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.

Replacement draft legislation, such as for the Resource Management Act (RMA), lacks detail or an understanding of unintended consequences, he says, which will be determined by litigation.

“Either way the legislative changes coming at us like a steam train do not have that detail,” Simpson said.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) acknowledges it has a heavy workload developing policy to reform the RMA, climate change, indigenous biodiversity and water. . .

Water sampling technology on trial – Shawn McAvinue:

It is a data stream with a difference.

AgResearch Invermay senior scientist Richard Muirhead is developing new technology to help farmers wanting to improve water quality to make better decisions.

For the past two years, Dr Muirhead has been working on a project to get sensors to measure the levels of nitrogen, sediment, E.coli and phosphorus in waterways.

Sensor technology had been imported to measure the first three contaminants but the search continues for technology to measure phosphorus. . .

Tekapo -the Dark Sky Project is the place to stargaze – Jane Jeffries:

In the heart of the Mackenzie country is the small, quaint town of Tekapo, famous for the Good Shepherd church and the stunning vista through its window behind the altar. However, when the lake and mountain views disappear after dusk and the skies darken our twinkly solar system is exposed. It’s paradise for star gazers and a wonderful sight for young and old.

Whether you are a star gazer or just want to find out more about our solar system the Dark Sky Project in Takapo (Tekapo), is the place to start.

But before I talk about Tekapo’s terrific night sky, the town’s name needs an explanation. Tekapo was originally called Takapo. Takapō is the name the Ngāi Tahu tribe ancestors recorded. At Dark Sky Project they are extremely proud of their region and use the name Takapō, so that’s what we will call it.

Firstly, Takapo is one of the best places in the world to observe the night sky and it’s easily accessible. Minimal light pollution means the night sky views stretch as far as the eye can see. . . 

Farmland director elections nominations open :

Nominations are being sought for this year’s Farmlands Director Elections.

Two seats – one North Island and one South Island – are being contested. Farmlands Directors Dawn Sangster and Gray Baldwin are retiring by rotation in 2021 and both have indicated they are standing for re-election.

Farmlands Chairman Rob Hewett says having a say in governance is crucial to the ongoing success of the co-operative.

“Having high calibre shareholder representatives is critical not only to Farmlands but all rural co-operatives,” Mr Hewett says. “We have made tremendous strides in growing the talent pool of rural governance, alongside Silver Fern Farms, through the To the Core programme. . . 

Grazing cattle can improve agriculture’s carbon footprint – Adam Russell:

Ruminant animals like cattle contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and grasslands, and proper grazing management can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and overall footprint, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.

Richard Teague, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and senior scientist of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon, said his research, “The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America,” published in the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Journal of Soil and Water Conservation presents sustainable solutions for grazing agriculture.

The published article, authored by Teague with co-authors who include Urs Kreuter, Ph.D., AgriLife Research socio-economist in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life SciencesDepartment of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Bryan-College Station, was recognized at the society’s recent conference as a Soil and Water Conservation Society Research Paper for Impact and Quality.

Teague’s research showed appropriate grazing management practices in cattle production are among the solutions for concerns related to agriculture’s impact on the environment. His article serves as a call to action for the implementation of agricultural practices that can improve the resource base, environment, productivity and economic returns. . .


Apologising for others easier

18/06/2021

The government has apologised for the dawn raids featuring the Prime Minister’s trade mark compassion.

I’m not doubting her sincerity. But apologising for actions of previous governments that took place before she was born is so much easier than the apology, and amends, she owes for the inhumane treatment of families split by the Immigration Ministry’s intransigence over reuniting them:

Only 560 people qualified for a border exemption that the government announced in April to reunite split families.

Today, one man will get to hold his 18-month-old son, whom he has not seen since he was four days old.

Meanwhile, his family’s friends are having to explain to their six-year-old girl why waiting on a visa decision meant she could not yet be reunited with her father while her friend is.

Olivia Constable has started doubting her Mum’s promise that “we’ll see Daddy again one day, but not sure which”.

“She asked my friend Debbie whether the phone conversations she has with Bart on FaceTime ‘is that pre-recorded, is it like a movie?'” said her mother Caroline Waldron. “Because it feels to her like they are saying the same thing every time. And if it’s a recording of some sort she is listening to, and is her Dad actually dead?” . . 

This is cruel and unusual punishment for people with skills the country desperately needs and their families.

Henco de Beer, whose family are among the few permitted entry, explains the consequences of keeping families apart:

“I know of many people who are going through divorce cases, families falling apart, and children who are seeking psychological help, children who refuse to speak to their parents, getting up to nonsense, being involved with the wrong groups of friends. And these are good people, but the position has really, really warped their lives into a whole different direction.”

The number of split families is hard to calculate, but Immigration New Zealand (INZ) received 6559 requests for border exceptions on humanitarian grounds between August and April. . . 

That is 6559 partners and children of valued workers whose family bonds are deemed to be less important than a whole lot of people anyone with a heart would regard as less in need of a space in MIQ.

The cruelty is being noticed overseas. Candice Matthews ,a Kiwi in Canada, writes, immigrants are our people:

. . .They are not papers, but people. If you define people by their status, whatever that status may be, you are no different to those politicians that have put horrible policies in place during the last century in the name of something, anything, nothing.

Immigration New Zealand smells of nothing learned from other crises, nor other countries’ dirty hands, nor other groups of people’s exclusions in the name of this-is-all-new-to-me-so-if-I-mistake-and-break-families-up-then-that-is-a-reasonable-cost-for-my-lack-of-understanding.

Actually, Immigration New Zealand smells of America. Would you like to supersize that with your order of common sense, sir?

It is not acceptable to determine the worth of a person based on a permit she holds in her purse.

We do not accept your future apology.

After Covid, hundreds of documentaries will be made on the impact of Covid-19 on the Government’s power to make makeshift policies and break broken people.

One day, a documentary will cover New Zealand. One day, all the immigrants that you legally allowed into this country, and then left to weep, beg, barter and pay to play in your lottery of who looks the least bit immigrant and who has the most money, will have a say in this documentary. . . 

Do not come to us begging for forgiveness when Kiwis learn what you did and didn’t do for those who call New Zealand home. Our tallest-poppy syndrome will quickly turn to a wickedest-politician syndrome.

Covid requires caution, controls and risk-mitigating policies, but not at the absolute cost of common sense.

When I read an article about an immigrant woman who hasn’t seen her baby in almost two years because Immigration New Zealand deems children being raised by persons other than their parents acceptable, I start to wonder if Covid is code for colonisation.

Do you remember when we kept children away from their parents in the name of colonisation? If you don’t, ask any Māori family.

We do not accept your future apology. We demand action. Now.

Let those actions make news here in Canada, instead of having to hear another horror story about Immigration New Zealand and how they allowed characters from a children’s show into their country, but not the woman from South Africa who is waiting for your department to decide whether being a mother is a true necessity to her children.

If you would like to barter with our people’s lives, you should start by bartering your own. Send your child away and have her only come home when the last immigrant family’s child is finally reunited with their parents in New Zealand.

I would strongly advise you to accept not seeing your child for the next three years at the rate you are going. We challenge you to live without your child for two years, Jacinda.  . . 

What makes the continuing refusal to reunite families worse, is that the government is still criticisng Australia for its treatment of its illegal immigrants and offering to bring some here.

How on earth can another country’s illegal immigrants have more right to come here and be a  higher priority than the families of people who came here legally, bringing skills we need and doing essential work New Zealanders can’t?

What’s happened to the be kind mantra we were all exhorted to follow?

The apology to Pacifica people for historical wrong-doing for which this government wasn’t responsible looks like hypocrisy when there’s absolutely no compassion being shown about keeping families apart for which it is responsible.


Rural round-up

20/03/2021

NZ apple volumes fall: millions will be lost in exports:

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), the industry association representing all apple, pear and nashi growers in New Zealand, has released an updated crop estimate for 2021.

In January, the industry was forecasting a gross national crop of 558,672 metric tonnes, 5% down on the 2020 harvest. The export share of the gross crop was forecast to be 374,751 metric tonnes (20.8 million cartons), 7% down on 2020, reflecting a shortage of available labour and significant hail events in the Nelson and Central Otago regions.

“As we near peak harvest, it has become increasingly clear that we will not achieve those initial forecasts”, NZAPI CEO Alan Pollard said. . .

Hort industry wants workers not workshops :

“What a slap in the face to the horticulture and viticulture sectors today’s $350,000 ‘wellbeing support package’ is as they face losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” says ACT Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron and Immigration spokesperson James McDowall.

“These people don’t need workshops, they need workers,” says Mr Cameron.

“To get this pitiful news in a week when it’s become clear that Hawke’s Bay is short of thousands of workers and estimates its apple losses alone will run to between $100 and $200 million this year is just sickening.

“The Government doesn’t seem to understand the lifecycle of plants, having rationalised that a sector that had ‘had it good’ for a number of years could suck up one rotten harvest. . . 

Immigration NZ overturns decision on sheep scanners’ work visas – Riley Kennedy:

Immigration New Zealand has given the green light to 11 foreign sheep scanners to help New Zealand farmers.

Sheep scanning happens around April and May and is the pregnancy test for ewes due to give birth this coming spring.

It comes after the scanners’ applications for critical worker visas were previously denied, however, an Immigration NZ spokesperson said it recently received new information about the availability of sheep scanners in New Zealand.

The department then informed employers who had applied for workers and had been declined, that their requests would be reconsidered. . .

Make sureyou have a grazing contract in time for winter:

The Winter Grazing Action Group (WGAG) is stressing to farmers the importance of having grazing contracts in place for the coming season.

The group was set up by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last year in response to a report from the Winter Grazing Taskforce, which made 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare became a key part of all winter grazing decisions in the pastoral supply chain.

He said the action group’s job was to recommend ways to improve animal welfare following what he called “a lot of concern about managing winter grazing for cattle, sheep, and deer across the country”. The group’s 15 members represent industry organisations, government, vets, farmers, and other rural professionals. It is supported in its work by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

WGAG Chair, Lindsay Burton said the group was keen to emphasise the need for grazing contracts for livestock when grazed off farm to make sure health, nutrition and welfare needs are understood and managed especially during periods of greater risk like winter. . . 

MPI seeks feedback on new organic regime:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is seeking feedback on proposed regulations for organic primary sector products.

“The proposals set out the details of the proposed regime for organic food, beverages, and plant and animal products,” said Fiona Duncan, director of food skills and science policy.

The proposals outline the processes that would apply to businesses marketing organic products. Producers and processors of organic primary products, as well as importers, exporters and domestic-focused businesses, will be interested in how these proposals could apply to them.

“With these proposals, consumers would be better able to tell which products are organic and make more informed choices about what they buy,” said Ms Duncan. . . 

 

Harness the power of earthworms – Paul Reed Hepperly:

When moist, practically all soils from tundra to lowland tropics support the activity of earthworms. Largely unseen, earthworms are a diverse, powerful workforce with the capacity to transform soil into fertile ground.

Found in 27 families, more than 700 genera and greater than 7,000 species, earthworms vary from about 1 inch to 2 yards long. Their living mass outweighs all other animal life forms in global soils. Although we may view earthworms as being both prolific and productive, do we fully appreciate our human capability to favor their beneficial efforts as allies allowing farms and gardens to flourish? I think not.

Earthworms’ powerful activities include promoting favorable soil structure, increasing biological diversity, improving soil function, balancing nutrients needed by plants and animals and optimizing living soil. . . 


Rural round-up

22/07/2019

Large farms have more eco-options – Colin Williscroft:

Harder hill country farms have more options for increasing productivity and eco-efficiency than easy hill country farms, AgResearch scientist Alec Mackay says.

Farmers on extensive sheep and beef farms on hard hill country can continue to make production and eco-efficiency gains by increasing the reproductive performance of ewes and lamb weaning and growth rates, he told the Animal Production Society’s annual conference.

They can shift from breeding cows and older cattle to buying and finishing younger cattle. . .

Stinginess upsets plant breeders – Richard Rennie:

The Government has been accused of leaving plant breeders short when it comes to addressing Treaty of Waitangi issues around plant variety rights.

Policy makers are in the process of seeking breeder input on the revised Plant Variety Act to better protect breeders and their seed and germplasm.

Maximum fines are only $1000 and offer little disincentive to the theft of plant intellectual property. . .

Steak award gives company confidence – Sally Rae:

It’s a long way from Mataura to Dublin.

But that was the journey taken by Alliance Group’s steak, which won a gold medal in the World Steak Challenge in Ireland.

The company’s Pure South handpicked 55-day aged beef, processed at its Mataura plant, won a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet.

There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries and the title of world’s best steak was awarded to a grass-fed Ayrshire ribeye steak reared in Finland and entered by JN Meat International, from Denmark . . .

Latest survey: most employers delighted with RSE:

A survey of New Zealand companies involved in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme has garnered positive results.

The survey, by Immigration New Zealand, shows 45 percent of the RSE members grew their businesses as a result of employing workers from the Pacific.

Immigration’s Pacifica Labour and Skills Manager, George Rarere, said a stable, seasonal workforce meant more employers were able to expand, invest more in equipment and offer jobs to locals. . .

Flexi-milking – same Milk more sleep – Anne Hardie:

Flexible milking frequencies have proved a solution to a Westport farm’s problems with dry summers, Anne Hardie reports.

Last season John and Jo Milne milked their cows twice a day, 3 in 2, 10 in 7 and once a day to achieve good production results during a severe drought on their Westport farm and plenty of sleep-ins.

You read it right – 10 in 7. From mid-December to the end of February they were milking the cows 10 times during the week which meant twice a day (TAD) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then once a day (OAD) on the other days. And through the season they changed milking frequencies four times. . .

Exciting year in dairy for Kimberley – Yvonne O’Hara:

Kimberley Simmons (15) is passionate about dairy cows and has had an excellent year so far, dairy-wise.

It has included a trip to International Dairy Week in Australia in January, and a win in a national competition last month.

The Menzies College year 10 pupil lives with her parents Teena and Sandy and brother Jack on a 61ha property near Dacre.

The family runs 175 cows and several chickens, and they have three studs – the Brydale Jersey Stud, the Lowburn Milking Shorthorn Stud and the Lowburn Holstein Friesian Stud. . .

 


Rural round-up

22/09/2018

Changes on the farm are improving water efficiency:

A water tax isn’t workable – but changes on the farm are improving water efficiency

IrrigationNZ says that introducing a nationwide water tax is not workable, and that allowing irrigators to continue to invest in more modern irrigation systems rather than taxing them will result in the biggest improvements in water use efficiency.

“A water tax has been considered in other countries internationally but in every case it has been abandoned. Other countries have found it too complex and expensive to design a fair water tax which can be easily implemented without resulting in adverse outcomes,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . .

1080 drop to go ahead after failed legal bid :

A conservation group has failed in its legal bid to stop a 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges near Auckland.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

It argued that the drop breached the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers.

However today the court refused the Trust’s bid to further halt the drop.

“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds.” . .

Plans for huge tahr cull upset Otago hunters – Simon Hartley:

A sweeping cull of at least 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr proposed by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, has outraged some recreational hunters in Otago.

Ms Sage’s sudden announcement of the high killing ratio may yet be challenged in court.

Killing of the tahr, which are related to goats and were introduced here in 1904, is to start within two weeks.

Ms Sage is proposing the Department of Conservation kill 10,000 animals in various areas in the Southern Alps over the next eight months because the animal’s estimated 35,000 population was “three times” that permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. . .

Meat firms need more staff – Chris Tobin:

South Canterbury meat companies are so desperate for workers to start the new killing season they are recruiting overseas.

Immigration NZ has approved work visas for 24 migrant employees to work at Alliance Smithfield this season.

Figures released to The Courier by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show Immigration NZ has also allowed Silver Fern Farms to employ 49 overseas workers in Canterbury, although the information did not specify what the break-down figures between the company’s two plants at Pareora and Belfast, Christchurch, were.

Work visas for 18 overseas workers for Anzco Foods at Ashburton have also been approved. . .

New Everyday FarmIQ pack targets mainstream dairy and livestock farmers.

A new range of software subscriptions from FarmIQ address the growing information needs of New Zealand dairy and livestock industry.

With a clear focus on the information needs of dairy and livestock farmers, the new packs will help mainstream New Zealand farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.

Darryn Pegram, FarmIQ Chief Executive Officer, said subscriptions start at $55 a month for the new “Everyday FarmIQ” software pack, delivering a broad suite of recording and reporting tools. . .

 ‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats -“

New findings suggest that more intensive agriculture might be the “least bad” option for feeding the world while saving its species – provided use of such “land-efficient” systems prevents further conversion of wilderness to farmland.

Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than “high-yield” farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be “spared the plough”. . . .


Rural round-up

05/11/2015

Fonterra expected to meet its forecast payout as lower production boosts prices – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s largest dairy exporter, is expected to be able to meet its forecast payout to farmers for this season even after dairy prices fell at a second consecutive auction.

Average prices fell 7.4 percent at last night’s GlobalDairyTrade auction, following a 3.1 percent decline the previous auction, which snapped four consecutive gains.

Auckland-based Fonterra, owned by about 10,500 farmers, has said it expects to pay its local producers $4.60 per kilogram of milk solids for the 2015/16 season. . . 

Women of Influence 2015 finalists: Rural

The finalists for the 2015 Women of Influence Awards in the Rural category, proudly sponsored by NZ Farmer.

Olivia Egerton

Olivia is movement manager for Te Hono, a movement of more than 130 CEOs and leaders who represent 80% of New Zealand’s largest and most innovative primary sector companies. Its vision is to shift New Zealand from a price-taking to a market-shaping nation. In the last 12 months Olivia has facilitated the transition of Te Hono towards a structured framework with more than 250 individual and collective actions achieved and many more in progress. . . 

Keri Johnston

Keri is a director and natural resources engineer at Irricon Resource Solutions, a leading environmental consultancy based throughout Canterbury and North Otago and working throughout the South Island. . . 

Julia Jones

Julia is a farm enterprise specialist with KPMG, providing continued support to the rural community through mediation and one-on-one support. One of Julia’s specialities is health and safety. . . .

Katie Milne

Katie is a Rotomanu dairy farmer on the West Coast, and a Federated Farmers’ board member. Katie was most recently awarded the Dairy Woman of the Year Award this year. With her partner, Ian Whitmore, she farms 125 hectares, milking 200 Jersey cows on a farm purchased in 1992. . . 

Bronwyn Muir

Brownyn is director of OnFarmSafety New Zealand, employing 12 staff throughout New Zealand, and focused on assisting farmers to implement compliant, practical, workable health and safety systems. . . .

Helen Slattery

Helen is a director of Slattery Contracting, Matamata’s only registered contractor with the New Zealand Rural Registered Contractor scheme, and she holds qualified contractor status. Five of the staff are qualified contractors, holding the National Certificate in Agricultural Contracting Level 3, with a sixth staff member going through the qualification at the moment.. . . 

Sophie Stanley

Sophie is head of rural at Figured, having started as part of the founding team in early 2014. Figured is an online farm financial management tool that integrates with Xero, and within a year the company has grown to close to 20 staff as well as growing its Australian business. . . . 

Michelle Thompson

Michelle is the chief executive at the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and was instrumental in establishing this organisation. She is an experienced chief executive and senior manager who has provided services to a range of health sector organisations including the NZ Rural GP Network, the PHO Alliance, General Practice NZ, Compass Health, Southern Cross and Kowhai Health Trust. . . . 

The winners were announced last night. Katie Milne won the Rural section, Joan Withers won the Supreme Award.

IrrigationNZ launches 2015 snapshot of industry:

IrrigationNZ will launch its first-ever annual snapshot of New Zealand’s irrigation sector at today’s AGM in response to enquiries about the health of the industry and proposed developments across the country.

“The 2015 Irrigation Snapshot provides a transparent window on irrigation in New Zealand – where we irrigate, what’s happening with future developments, how much water we use, what it is taken for and the value this creates for our nation. Many stakeholders have asked for an update on the status of irrigation so we’ve pulled together the latest data to illustrate the national situation,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. . . .

Farmers welcome Filipino workers’ reprieve:

Farmers are pleased at the government’s offer of a second chance for Filipino dairy workers caught in visa scams.

Applicants who admit to providing false information about their work experience in order to gain a visa, but who are otherwise compliant, will be eligible for a further work visa.

But workers and advocacy groups are still concerned there could be snags in the process.

Immigration New Zealand has been reviewing the past year’s visa applications from Filipinos after a dual Filipino/New Zealand national was charged with falsifying qualifications and work experience in visa applications. . . 

Wine industry welcomes registration system for wine regions:

Introduction of a Bill by Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Goldsmith enabling geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits to be registered in New Zealand has been warmly welcomed by New Zealand Winegrowers.

“The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill will be a significant advance for the New Zealand wine industry,” said New Zealand Winegrowers CEO, Philip Gregan. “Our ‘Geographical Indications’ – the names and places where our wines come from – are at the very heart of the New Zealand wine story and this Bill provides an additional level of protection for them.” . . .

First Cheese Off the Line at Fonterra’s Eltham Expansion:

The expansion of Fonterra’s Eltham site has reached a key milestone, with the first individually wrapped slices of cheese now coming off its new production line destined for supermarket shelves around the globe.

The new line is part of a $32 million project to bolster the site’s cheese capability, doubling the amount of the world-renowned sliced cheese that can be produced at the Taranaki-based site.

Director New Zealand Manufacturing, Mark Leslie says Fonterra is constantly looking at trends in key markets and working with customers to help meet their growth with investment. . . 

Nominations in for Silver Fern Farms’ director elections:

Four nominations have been received for the one available position on the Silver Fern Farms Board of Directors.

Angus Mabin retires by rotation at the Company’s 2015 Annual Meeting which is to be held in Dunedin on Wednesday 16 December 2015. Angus Mabin has advised he will not stand for re-election.

The candidates for election are:

– Anthony O’Boyle

– William Oliver

– Oliver Saxton

– David Shaw . . .

Agricultural economics explained with an analogy to solar and wind power – Utopia:

It’s a video, click the link to watch (there’s a few words that might offend).


Rural round-up

03/10/2015

Federated Farmers’ President praises WTO and criticizes those stalling the TPP at Geneva Forum :

The last 20 years of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have provided an objective framework on which to base our international trade and seen the organisation provide great assistance to small countries like New Zealand.

That was the message from Federated Farmers’ President Dr William Rolleston, Vice President of the World Farmers’ Organisation, in his address overnight to a WTO Public Forum in Geneva.

“New Zealand is a small country, which means our political influence bilaterally can be limited. Without WTO rules, disputes are more likely to be settled on bargaining power rather than the evidence,” said Dr Rolleston. . .

Fossicking in Fonterra’s annual report – Keith Woodford:

The release of Fonterra’s annual report on 24 September coincided for me with a long plane trip back from China. I used the time trying to work out what all the numbers really mean. It was not an easy task.

Fonterra’s annual report – like most reports from large companies –provides masses of numbers. Some are clearly there for public relations purposes. Others are there to meet the required rules of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). And then there is another set of numbers which Fonterra constructs according to its own rules.

These additional measures are called non-GAAP measures; i.e. ‘non-generally accepted accounting measures’. Fonterra itself acknowledges that these measures are not standard between companies, so comparison must be made with caution. . . 

‘Cloud of dread’ over Filipino workers:

A Filipino worker in the dairy industry says people with false documents are being denied visas and sent home, despite many of them not knowing their paperwork was wrong. 

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed it is investigating multiple work visa applications involving Filipino dairy workers in the South Island, after staff noticed false claims of work experience and qualifications on visa applications.

Roberto Bolanos is a dairy farmer in North Canterbury, who arrived from the Philippines 10 years ago.

Mr Bolanos said the problem started with recruiters in the Philippines who offered people dairy jobs in New Zealand, along with documents, at a cost of, in some cases, $15,000. . . 

Government to consider amending National Bovine TB plan:

An independent Plan Governance Group made up of representatives of funding organisations, OSPRI, and wider stakeholder interests, has reviewed the bovine tuberculosis National Pest Management Plan (TB Plan). Today it gave its final advice on the proposed changes to the TB Plan to the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy. The changes build on the significant progress made by OSPRI under the current TB Plan.

The Plan Governance Group considered a range of technical and scientific advice, and strongly believes that the eradication of TB from New Zealand is both feasible and economically justifiable. The proposed changes to the TB Plan were consulted on with farmers, local communities, and other stakeholders in June and July this year. Over 400 quality submissions, covering a wide range of issues, were received on the draft Plan proposal, and the Plan Governance Group took them into account as it prepared its final proposal to the Minister. . . 

Rabobank Beef Quarterly Q3 2015: Traded Volumes Are Reaching Quota Limits:

New Zealand and Australia beef exports to the US are set to reach their quota limits in Q4. Meanwhile, global economic conditions—such as the appreciation of the US dollar and the depreciation of the yuan and the real—are having an impact on beef trade, according to the Rabobank Beef Quarterly Q3.

A strong US dollar has led to a reduction in US exports and support for US imports, while a weakening Chinese economy and devaluation of the yuan are curbing beef prices in China, and the devaluation of the real is expected to support Brazilian exports in the coming months. “With little change expected in major beef-trading economies in the coming quarter, other than a possibility of the US FOMC raising interest rates, a strong US currency is expected to continue to affect global beef trade”, according to Angus Gidley-Baird, Senior Animal Protein Analyst at Rabobank. . . 

Commission issues second draft determination on wool scouring assets application:

The Commerce Commission has released a second draft determination maintaining its preliminary view that it should allow Cavalier Wool Holdings (CWH) to acquire New Zealand Wool Services International’s (NZWSI) wool scouring business and assets.

The Commission released its preliminary view on CWH’s application in March 2015 and has since received further information and submissions from interested parties on various matters. The second draft determination has been released to allow interested parties the opportunity to submit on this new information.

Commission Chair Dr Mark Berry said having considered the new information, the Commission is still of the view that the public benefits of the acquisition would outweigh the loss of competition. . . 

Ballance thriving as it plans next 60 years:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients achieved record sales and returned $76 million to shareholders while keeping margins tight and prices affordable, Chairman David Peacocke told the annual meeting of shareholders in Tauranga on Wednesday.

He said the result for its financial year ended 31 May 2015 capped off a milestone year for the co-operative, which celebrated 60 years since the first shares in legacy company Bay of Plenty Fertiliser were issued. Noting the co-operative “not only survives but also thrives”, he said its core value of collective strength remained unchanged while it evolved to meet the current needs of farming.

“What has changed is that farmers are busier, operating over larger properties and working within increasingly tight environmental demands. So along with a secure supply of the right nutrients, we continually broaden our scope to tailor our products, our technology solutions and our advice for today’s farms, and the farms of the future.” . . .


Rural round-up

29/09/2015

PM announces Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary:

Prime Minister John Key has announced the creation of a 620,000 km2 Ocean Sanctuary in the Kermadec region, one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth.

“The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life,” Mr Key says.

“It will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area twice the size of our landmass, and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland. . . 

John Key's photo.

“Pretty damned exciting news” say Kermadec campaigners:

Champagne corks popped as the news was released that the Kermadec region has become an ocean sanctuary. Kermadec campaigners Forest & Bird, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and WWF-New Zealand were together when they heard the news.

The Prime Minister John Key made the momentous announcement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The creation of the Sanctuary once again puts New Zealand at the forefront of marine protection on the international stage.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km northeast of the Bay of Plenty New Zealand. The area is one of the most geologically diverse in the world. It contains the world’s longest chain of submerged volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench with a depth of 10 kilometres. . . .

Proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary:

With no forewarning from Government the industry needs time to consider the full implications, Seafood New Zealand Chairman George Clement said.

“The seafood industry is committed to rational and effective marine conservation measures. These include a representative network of BPAs (Benthic Protected Areas) established at the industry’s behest and implemented throughout 30 per cent of the Exclusive Economic Zone, covering an area larger than the Kermadecs. . . 

Tatua Cooperative beats market with $7.10/kgMS payout for 2015 – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Tatua Cooperative Dairy Co, the Tatuanui-based dairy company founded 100 years ago, set the 2015 payout for its farmer suppliers at $7.10 per kilogram of milk solids, the highest of any New Zealand processor, while affirming a drop in payout for 2016.

Revenue rose to $286 million in the 12 months ended July 31, from $266 million a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Earnings before milk payout, retentions and tax fell to $121.2 million, from $136.4 million a year earlier.

Chairman Stephen Allen said the decline in pretax earnings reflected an increase in overall milk collection from farmers in the latest year and the “dramatic decline” in dairy prices. It equates to a payout $7.73/kgMS before retentions and tax. The company retained 63 cents/kgMS before tax. . . 

Migrant worker scam uncovered:

More than 30 Filipino workers reportedly paid $15,000 to obtain false documents clearing them to work on New Zealand dairy farms.

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed multiple Filipino workers have provided false and misleading information when applying for visas here.

Immigration NZ assistant general manager Peter Elms said the department started scrutinising visas more closely after discovering multiple issues, relating to claimed work experience and qualifications.

The department has not confirmed the number of cases that it is aware of, nor whether it was investigating, but the Philippine government said it was investigating at least 30 cases. The Philippine government’s Overseas Employment Administration is also looking into the claims. . . 

Alliance says merger with Silver Fern would risk creating ‘beached whale’ as rival tackles over-capacity – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – Alliance Group chairman Murray Taggart says any merger with Silver Fern Farms risks creating a “big beached whale” of the New Zealand meat industry because its rival needs the capital offered by China’s Bright Food just to rationalise plant capacity and reduce its debt burden.

Bright Foods’ Shanghai Maling Aquarius unit has offered to invest $261 million cash in Silver Fern Farms (SFF) to become a 50-50 partner with the Dunedin-based meat company in a deal that would leave the business debt free and with funds to upgrade plants, spend more marketing higher-value meat products and provide a new route into China.

The injection of funds has stoked speculation a stronger SFF could subsequently dictate terms for a tie-up with Alliance, something the two firms have failed to achieve in a decade of sporadic talks. Alliance says it made an offer to SFF prior to the rival embarking on its capital-raising process and had “worked hard to engage with SFF and discuss opportunities for industry consolidation” over the past 10 years. . . 

Partnering with China – Keith Woodford:

This last week I have been in Beijing at the NZ –China Council Forum. Led by Minister Steven Joyce and co-chaired by Sir Don McKinnon, it has been all about building partnerships.

There were about fifty New Zealanders there, including industry folk and staff from the relevant Government ministries – Trade and Enterprise, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Primary Industries. And there was a similar number of Chinese people from industry and their government.

Now to some people, the idea of building partnerships with China is anathema. Ten days ago I was involved in a passionate debate in Wellington about just that topic. It is all right to trade with the Chinese, so the argument went, but we should not think of partnering. The Chinese are different, and we should not in any way imply support for their way of doing business. . . 

Surge in water data for World Rivers Day:

To mark World Rivers Day this Sunday, regional councils are releasing their latest water quality data on the Land, Air, Water, Aotearoa website, which this year includes lake quality monitoring.

Launched in March 2014, www.lawa.org.nz began reporting water quality results at 1100 river sites. Since then, it has expanded into coastal bathing beaches and water allocation, tripling the number of monitoring sites for which data is available.

From this weekend, users will also be able access water quality data for monitored lakes, providing a more complete picture of the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater.

Stephen Woodhead, chair of the regional sector group of Local Government New Zealand, said that public debate showed that rivers and lakes were  important to New Zealanders and regional councils took their role in water stewardship very seriously. . . 

Drought-hit farmers sow grass seed donations – Annabelle Tukia:

Ten north Canterbury farmers are about to get some relief from the drought that has plagued their region for the past year after a group of business owners got together to try to ease the financial burden of the dry spell.

It’s been a tough 12 months on Damian Harrison’s Cheviot farm.

“This drought has been like driving in a tunnel, and you drive and drive and drive and never see daylight at the end,” says Mr Harrison.

But today at last there was a little ray of hope, in the form of Murray Stackhouse and his tractor and drill. The local contractor, along with a machinery company, have got together and are re-sowing grass onto 10 drought-stricken north Canterbury farms for free. . . 

Indonesia reopens door to NZ beef imports:

Indonesian media are reporting that trade officials there have done a u-turn on efforts to cut down imports of beef from New Zealand.

The Indonesian Trade Ministry has issued permits for the State Logistics Agency to import as much as 10,000 tonnes of beef from New Zealand.

The ministry said it wanted to stabilise meat prices in the country, and New Zealand was chosen because the price of beef from here was lower than the cost of Australian meat. . . 

NZ Honey fights MPI over alleged health claims on Manuka Doctor, Manuka Pharm branding – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand Honey International, the closely-held honey products maker, wants a judicial declaration on whether its trademarks Manuka Doctor and Manuka Pharm amount to health claims after the Ministry of Primary Industries withdrew export approvals, blocking the firm’s sales into certain markets.

MPI has been cracking down on the manuka honey industry amid international criticism there was more manuka honey coming out of the country than New Zealand actually produces. With no industry consensus on what constitutes manuka honey, MPI introduced an interim labelling guideline in July 2014 to give the industry clarity and protect consumers from false claims, as well as to try to improve credibility of the manuka products. . . 

Calf collection paves way for fertility project:

A huge logistical exercise that involved collecting hundreds of calves from farms all over the North Island has set the scene for a ground-breaking research programme aimed at lifting fertility rates in the dairy industry.

In recent weeks, heifer calves from 619 farms across Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay have been collected so that they can be reared and milked together as one herd. The “Animal Model” research herd will comprise equal numbers of Holstein Friesian calves with very high and very low fertility genetics, carefully selected from contract matings in spring last year and purchased from farmers by DairyNZ. . . 


Rural round-up

02/06/2015

Experimentation pays dividends – Sally Rae:

Ask Graham Hunter how many trees he has planted through the years and there is a pause.

Because, with about 40ha in forestry on the property he farms with wife Pam, 20km from Lawrence, along with 5km of shelterbelts, not to mention all the trees planted on their previous farm, the answer is literally ”thousands and thousands”.

Mr and Mrs Hunter were named the South Island Husqvarna farm forester of the year at the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association’s conference in Whangarei. . . .

Effluent pond test tool a first: designer – Allison Beckham:

The designer and developer of a new, high resolution device to test whether effluent ponds are leaking says it is the first test in New Zealand which provides farmers with accurate scientific information.

Other tests available collected information only once every 24 hours, Opus principal rural consultant Dr Marc Dresser, of Hamilton, said.

But the device he and fellow Opus Rural Services engineer Andy Johnson have designed and built uses two probes to calibrate information every 10 seconds, taking into account rainfall, evaporation and atmospheric pressure changes. . .

Minister to represent NZ at UN Food and Agriculture conference:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy leaves for Europe today to represent New Zealand at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ (FAO) Biennial Conference in Rome.

The FAO is an inter-governmental organisation with 194 member nations. Its aims include the sustainability of natural resources while driving economic and social progress.

“As a country founded on our primary industries, New Zealand can add real value to the discussions at the conference,” says Mr Guy. . .

Larger Japanese stake in Anzco gains OIO approval – Tim Cronshaw:

A Japanese company investing just over $40 million has won Overseas Investment Office approval to buy a larger stake in the major meat processor Anzco Foods founded by chairman Sir Graeme Harrison.

Existing shareholder Itoham Foods met overseas investment criteria to lift its ownership to 65 per cent of the company, from 48.2 per cent,  after buying three lots of shares from Nippon Suisan Kaisha Limited, known as Nissui,  Harrison and Janz Investments which is majority owned by Harrison with senior Anzco managers.

Anzco is now a subsidiary of Itoham which is Japan’s second largest meat based manufactured and processed foods company. Itoham announced in February it wanted a larger shareholding as part of expansion plans in its processed meat business to meet growing Asian demand. . .

 Visa application holdups add to farmers’ Gypsy Day headaches – Phil McCarthy:

A Southland dairy leader is calling on Immigration New Zealand to extend migrant visa concessions handed out elsewhere to workers on farms in southern regions.

This month the Government announced changes to immigration policy which will make it easier to recruit and retain Filipino migrant workers for the Canterbury rebuild.

The change meant that employers who wanted to retain a lower-skilled Filipino worker could do so without having to renew the visa annually. They would also not have to apply for a variation of conditions if they changed employer. Overseas people working in tourism in Queenstown have also had their visa requirements short-cut  on a temporary basis. . .

 Rural agents bet on farmland boom – Matthew Cranston:

COMPETITION is growing between Australia’s major rural land selling agents as farm sales volumes are expected to come out of a trough and major institutional and private investors seek to gain a foothold in the growth area of agriculture.

Elders chief executive Mark Allison, who saw the rural services company sell more than $1.4 billion in real estate last year, is taking on the new entrants of CBRE and Colliers International.

He is aiming for 12 real estate agency acquisitions next financial year and 40 by fiscal 2017. . .

Saddle up for the High Country: – Mark Abernethy:

THE colonial days of stockmen and bushrangers come alive when you journey on horseback.

There was a point when the slow clop of the hooves and the primal shade of the gum trees could have placed us in a much earlier era of history.

There were eight of us on horseback, sliding through the high country of the Great Dividing Range just north of Glen Innes in New South Wales, the iron barks and gums swaying under the clear skies; and if it hadn’t been for the occasional click of an iPhone camera, we could have been riding through the colonial frontier, about to bump into a bushranger or a bullock team. . .


Irrigation delay as bad as drought

12/10/2013

Immigration NZ’s fast-tracking visas for overseas specialists to repair the 800 irrigators damaged by wind in Canterbury is boosting efforts to get irrigation underway.

But Irrigation NZ says delayed irrigation is a real concern and the economic consequences could rival last year’s drought.

“It’s great to see the help that’s gone into getting irrigators back on track” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. “The fast-tracked Visas are good news for those desperately awaiting repairs. However we’re very aware that even with overseas assistance, the picture is grim for farmers whose irrigators require complicated rebuilds. Some won’t see irrigation before Christmas which could reduce milk production, threaten crop viability and put pressure on stock food supplies.”

It also causes problems with getting rid of effluent which is usually sprayed on pastures with irrigators.

Ashburton’s Rainer Irrigation welcomed four centre pivot technicians from South Africa this week.

Assistant Manager Lucas Cawte says the sheer workload generated by the wind’s severity far exceeded the company’s resources for a quick turnaround and overseas staff will significantly reduce downtime for farmers.

“We’ve brought these guys in from South Africa to focus on pivots as these sustained the most damage and that’s where the pressure point will be. It was pretty short notice for Visas but IrrigationNZ spoke with Immigration and forwarded contacts and it was a straightforward process. The turnaround was about 24 hours and our guys are now here. That’s unheard of.”  

Rainer Irrigation has already fixed ¼ of the irrigators on its books but Mr Cawte says those repair jobs don’t represent the scale of damage they have seen. 

“We’ve focused on the ones with minimal damage using stock we had. But the next phase will be heavy repairs and we’re still waiting on parts. One container has arrived from Australia where we cleared out their stock and another container is due shortly from the US. Our suppliers have really come to the party as we originally thought it would take six to eight weeks to get parts.”

Mr Cawte says farmers had been very understanding as they knew the scale of repairs the industry was facing.

“Many are helping where they can by providing us with telelifters and other machinery and throwing their own manpower at the job. But it is early days still.”

Immigration New Zealand’s Assistant Area Manager Christchurch, Steve Jones, says the department was happy to work with IrrigationNZ to expedite the application process for offshore irrigation crew.  

An Immigration Manager from the Christchurch branch was provided as a dedicated point of contact. The manager was able to advise on the type of applications for offshore staff and where they should be lodged. Having one point of contact for IrrigationNZ and the various irrigation companies had proved very effective, says Mr Jones.

“We consider requests for urgent processing on a case by case basis and, where there are compelling reasons, we will prioritise the processing of applications lodged. This was clearly a situation where time was of the essence and we agreed to prioritise applications accordingly,” says Mr Jones.

Immigration NZ’s acknowledgement of the urgency is appreciated but even with more specialists from overseas the scale of the work needed means it will be at least a couple of months before all irrigators are repaired.

Some farmers will decided the production lost justifies the expense of replacement equipment rather than repairs.


Immigration NZ tightens criteria for dairy workers

15/01/2009

Immigration NZ has tightened the criteria for migrants seeking work on dairy farms, requiring at least two years relevant work experience.

This is a response to the incresing number of dairy workers from the Phillipines and is a ploy to protect jobs for New Zealanders. That might be okay if there were locals willing and able to work on dairy farms but the rapid expansion in the industry has led to a shortage of good staff.

Note the word good – because any worker is not necessarily suitable and most employers would put the right attitude before experience when seeking staff.

Besides work on overseas farms may be so different from ours that “relevant” work experience it isn’t much use anyway.


Immigration rules too strict for dairy workers

26/08/2008

A change in the way Immigration New Zealand is interpreting policy  is hampering would-be employers trying to recruit overseas staff for dairy farms.

Immigration Placement Services manager Bruce Porteous, who is based in Manila, said as many as 500 workers have had their visa applications declined because they were not skilled enough.

Assistant herd manager and herd manager are on the INZ Immediate SKills Shortage list but the department has determined that an assistant herd manager needs the equivalent of a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 2, or two years’ work experience or both.

Five Rivers lower order sharemilker Scott Christensen said the rules were too strict. He had hoped to employ another Filipino as a dairy assistant this season but the person had had his visa application declined.

Mr Christensen said the man, who was a qualified veterinarian and worked in a zoo, was turned down by Immigration NZ because he did not have any practical dairy farm experience.

“We can take someone off the streets here and teach them to milk cows in five minutes,” he said. “If this man had milked 10 cows for the past two years then that’s all that would have been required.”

We’ve been having problems with INZ too because our herd manager wants to apply for residency but the rules require him to have a Bachelors degree or five years relevant work experience. He’s been working for us for 2 1/2 years and he’s worked his way up to herd manager, while completing AG ITO levels 2, 3 and 4. He’s had enough relevant experience and has the relevant qualifications for us but that’s not good enough for INZ.

 I sought advice from Federated Farmers which quite rightly works at the policy level rather than with individual cases. However, the bloke I spoke to said he’d had so many approaches from farmers struggling with INZ he could be working on the issue fulltime.

I don’t know who makes the decisions on what’s required but they obviously don’t listen to employers who are usually far more concerned about attitude than relevant experience.

People with good work ethics can easily be trained to milk cows and overseas experience is often so far removed from what happens here it can be a hindrance rather than a help.

I understand the need to ensure that immigrants aren’t taking jobs which could be done by New Zealanders. But there is a desperate shortage of good workers at all levels in the dairy industry and it’s being aggravated because INZ requirements are far stricter than those of the employers.


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