Rural round-up

30/03/2021

IrrigationNZ submits on Climate Change Commission Report – says water storage key to enabling emissions reductions:

IrrigationNZ has submitted the Climate Change Commission draft advice report and is supportive of the desire to reduce emissions in New Zealand, and play our part in this global issue.

“However, our view is that zero carbon targets won’t be met without investment in water storage, capture and precision use. Water infrastructure needs to be better recognised as an enabler to achieving our emissions reduction targets,” says Vanessa Winning, chief executive of IrrigationNZ

“Access to reliable water is essential for farmers and growers to diversify their land away from ruminant agriculture to a more mixed-production approach.

“We also see opportunity to augment or back up green electricity supply locally by local ‘bolt-on’ hydro electricity generation where water storage already exists as part of an irrigation scheme. The cost of water and energy, and the ability to source energy closer to use (localised) are going to be key to enabling behavioural change and reducing resistance. . . 

Output of dairy to fall with regulation – Laura Smith:

Mounting pressure on Southland’s agricultural sector is expected to hit dairy production.

Southland’s economic development agency Great South this month released a post-Covid scenario analysis report.

Economics consultants Infometrics produced the report.

Author Nick Brunsdon said economic activity in most industries would recover by 2025 but increasing stringency in environmental regulations would soon limit, and ultimately reduce, output from activities such as dairy and cattle farming. . . 

172 – Tom Hunter:

Hours that is. One hundred and seventy two hours is what shows up in my last fortnightly pay slip for the agricultural contractor I work for.

I finally have a Sunday off. A beautiful, lovely, empty Sunday after twenty consecutive days of 5am wake ups and 11pm bedtimes.

Others have more hours and I’m informed by those who’ve worked here for several years that two hundred plus hours per fortnight is a more normal harvesting season. We assume that it’s because we’ve had a long stretch of fine weather and started a little earlier than usual, so the load has been more spread out than in the past. The boys – and most of them are boys – are not happy about this since such incredible hours are a bonus on top of their other income earned on random jobs during the rest of the year. Without such work, times would be tough.

I’d probably be working longer hours were I on the chopper crews (maize chopping) that use tractors and trailers. Suitable only for short road runs from chop site to stack site, those drivers work deep into the night to get the job done. . . 

Three ways to cook the perfect steak – Craig Hickman (Dairyman):

Craig Hickman, aka Dairyman, shares his surprising, innovative and mildly controversial ways to cook the perfect steak.

I cook a pretty mean steak.

I’ve had plenty of practice and I’ve got my methodology down pat; season the meat at least an hour before you intend to cook it, bring the steak to room temperature before it hits the pan and always, always oil the meat instead of the cooking surface.

Then I discovered three things that made me rethink my whole steak ideology. . . 

Central Hawke’s Bay farming couple named national sustainability ambassadors:

Evan and Linda Potter are the new National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing, and the recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

The announcement was made last night at the National Sustainability Showcase at Te Papa in Wellington, where all regional supreme winners from the 2020 Ballance Farm Environment Awards were in attendance.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards is an annual celebration and promotion of sustainable farming and growing practices, where regional supreme winners come together to share ideas and information. . . 

Pasture symposium announced key speakers:

Raise the topic of pasture resilience, and key themes emerge among both New Zealand farmers and researchers, especially around climate change, according to a leading pasture scientist.

Over two days in May, arguably the best range of speakers on this topic ever brought together in NZ will gather in the Waikato to share their observations and latest findings at a one-off Resilient Pastures Symposium (RPS).

Organising committee chair David Chapman says it’s no coincidence that the presenters align so closely with what he describes as commonly-voiced suggestions about the future of NZ grassland farming.

Trend number one: “For farming everywhere south of Auckland, look at what people are doing in Northland. That’s what much of the North Island will be like in the future, so that’s where the answers lie.” . . 


Rural round-up

09/03/2021

IrrigationNZ seeks protection for small rural drinking water users :

IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning says that the Government’s Water Services Bill will collectively cost rural drinking water users upwards of $16 million.

IrrigationNZ has submitted feedback on the Water Services Bill this week to seek protection of small drinking water users in rural areas.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the intent of the three waters reform, and absolutely want to ensure rural communities have access to clean drinking water and not have another Hastings issue happen again, but there are a number of small individual farm owners and water users, which are being unintentionally captured by the Bill” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.

She says the submission explains, through case studies, how an alternative pathway can be sought for farmers and water users that still delivers on the intent of the Government’s bill.” . . .

Tourist spot water stoush – farmers cop unfair blame at Bridal Veil Falls – Lawrence Gullery:

Farmers are being blamed for contaminating a popular Waikato waterfall even though a test suggests the water is safe to swim in.

Signs at Wairēinga Bridal Veil Falls blame farmland run-off for “cloudy” water at the falls, despite a Whaingaroa Harbour Care project that appears to have dramatically improved water quality in the last decade.

But, as thousands of tourists troop past the sign at the popular summer spot, the Department of Conservation said the signs would remain until its own review and water quality tests were completed.

Federated Farmers said the department needs to “get off its high horse” and acknowledge it’s taken too long to review the water quality issues at the falls . . 

Lifting leadership skills of co-op leaders – Sudesh Kissun:

Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ) has expanded its governance training offering this year.

It says this is in response to the need for ensuring New Zealand’s cooperative shareholder governors (who often sit across multiple boards) have the right skill sets to be effective.

There are two courses specifically tailored to the co-operative model for aspiring / future directors:

A one-day introduction programme hosted by Westlake Governance. .

Better butter set to boom – Tom Bailey:

Beset by food fads and bad science, butter’s reputation is enjoying a sustained resurgence. Southern Pasture’s new senior vice president and general manager of post farmgate operations Tom Bailey explains why boutique butter is set to boom.

There’s no doubt butter is back. Since 2014, global demand for butter has increased at around 7% per annum.

Prices have hit multiple new highs and dairy farmers in key markets are turning to Jersey cows for their higher fat milk. It marks the reversal of a trend long driven by poor health advice and cheap convenience.

Butter’s boom to bust to boom. . . 

Q&A: Sandra Matthews on attending B+LNZ’s Annual Meeting & Showcase :

We talk to Sandra Matthews, a sheep and beef farmer from Gisborne about her takeaways from attending previous B+LNZ Annual Meetings ahead of the 2021 Annual Meeting & Showcase in Invercargill on 21 March.

Sandra, who sits on Beef + lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Eastern North Island Farmer Council, has attended B+LNZ’s Annual Meetings & Showcases since 2018 in the Gisborne region and then virtually ever since.

Sandra, why do you think it’s important to attend B+LNZ’s Annual Meeting & Showcases?

“It’s a great way to be kept up to date on what B+LNZ’s doing and what they’re working on in the future. . . 

Grass-fed Welsh lamb packed with protein:

Initial findings from recent analysis of PGI Welsh Lamb has revealed that meat from lambs reared on grass contain higher levels of protein-based amino acids and other nutritional benefits.

As part of the second year of testing on a major research project looking at the eating quality of Welsh Lamb, the most recent scientific analysis highlighted the presence of high amounts of amino acids which make up proteins, beneficial fats and minerals.

The Welsh Lamb Meat Quality Project looks at factors that affect variation in meat quality, as part of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) five-year, three-project, Red Meat Development Programme that seeks to help Welsh farming prepare for an increasingly competitive global marketplace. . . 


Rural round-up

24/02/2021

Lucky to be alive – Nigel Beckford:

Sheep and beef farmer Jack Cocks almost died from an aneurysm. Now he’s sharing with other farmers what his recovery taught him about resilience. 

Jack’s part of the team that runs Mt Nicholas, a high-country merino sheep and cattle station, on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. “I grew up on a sheep and beef farm, went to uni, travelled overseas and came back and worked in an agribusiness consultancy. My wife Kate and I came here to work in 2009. There’s a team of four of us that run the farm. It’s probably more of a democracy than a lot of farms but it works well. It means we can use all our different skills.”

Jack says Mt Nicholas is a great place to work and raise a family (they have two kids). “Although we’re in an isolated situation, there is a team of us here so we might see more people during our working day than many sheep and beef farmers. I really love what farming offers – that mix of running your own business as well as working outside doing practical things. We enjoy a huge variety of work.”

All that was suddenly at risk when he suffered his aneurysm in 2013.  “I’m very lucky to be here,” he says, remembering the night it happened. . .

IrrigationNZ supports Infrastructure Commission assessment that ‘status quo’ for water management no longer tenable:

IrrigationNZ is heartened by the release of Te Waihanga’s (Infrastructure Commission) state-of-play report #3 on water released today and agrees with many insights .

“The report acknowledges that the status quo of water management is unlikely to be sustainable – and we 100% agree,” says IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning.

“We are pleased the report highlights the need for a holistic and long-term strategic view of water to ensure optimal, sustainable and inclusive outcomes. This is long overdue and something we have advocated for. . . 

Regenerative agriculture white paper sets out pressing research priorities :

There is a pressing need for scientific testing of the anecdotal claims being made about regenerative agriculture. A new white paper sets out 17 priority research topics identified by 200+ representatives of New Zealand’s agri-food system.

Regenerative agriculture has been proposed as a solution for some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most acute challenges. Advocates suggest it can improve the health of our waterways, reduce topsoil loss, offer resilience to drought, add value to our primary exports, and improve the pervasive well-being crisis among rural farming communities.

With a groundswell of farmers transitioning to regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

A new white paper, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa New Zealand – Research Pathways to Build Science-Based Evidence and National Narratives, sets out 17 priority research topics and introduces 11 principles for regenerative farming in New Zealand. . . 

Young inventor on mission to transform wool sector – Annette Scott:

The strong wool industry can pin its hopes on a resurgence with $5 a kilogram return for coarse wool fibre in the sights of Kiwi inventor and entrepreneur Logan Williams.

Just 25 years of age and hailing from Timaru, Williams hit the headlines when he developed and successfully exited four revolutionary inventions, including polarised contact lenses to treat photosensitive epilepsy and a system to destroy methane gas produced on farms.

He received awards for his inventions, including a National Merit Award at the Eureka Science and Innovation Competition. . .

Roped in for life by rodeo – Sally Rae:

As the rodeo season continues around the country, Southland farmer and cowboy Greg Lamb has overcome a few hefty obstacles to get back in the saddle again. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Extraordinarily determined.

That sums up Greg Lamb, a Southland sheep and beef farmer and rodeo champion who has battled injury — and a brain tumour — while pursuing and succeeding in the sport he loves.

Mr Lamb (43), who farms near Waikaka, might be a bit banged up at the moment — he hit the ground with his shoulder “fairly hard” at Wairoa rodeo last month, fracturing his shoulder blade, four ribs and a vertebra — but he is focused on making a return this season. . . 

Westland’s new CEO takes reins :

Westland Dairy Company Limited’s new CEO Richard Wyeth is looking forward to bringing the strength of a global dairy giant to the opportunities that lie ahead for the West Coast dairy processor after taking up the leadership role this week.

Mr Wyeth’s arrival at Westland yesterday was welcomed by resident director of Westland Dairy Company Limited, Shiqing Jian, who stepped down as interim CEO. Mr Jian served as interim CEO following the resignation of former Westland CEO Toni Brendish in August last year.

“We hope Richard is as excited as we are about the opportunities that lie ahead for Westland as he takes stewardship of this iconic New Zealand company,’’ Mr Jian said. . . 


Rural round-up

18/12/2020

A near miss – Nigel Beckford:

A near-fatal accident completely changed Owen Gullery’s approach to life and farming. Now he’s alerting other farmers to the dangers of fatigue and burnout.

Owen contract milks 480 cows on a dairy farm near Cambridge. He’s been in the industry 20 years and loves ‘the daily challenges of farming – good and bad.’

“We’re having a good year, spring’s been kind to us in terms of weather – we’re not swimming round in mud. Everything’s tracking along nicely, the cows are doing well, it’s a nice property and good people.”

Which all sounds cruisy, doesn’t it? In fact, it turns out Owen’s lucky to be farming at all. A few years back a tractor accident almost claimed his life. It’s a moment he still vividly recalls. . . 

Paving the way for nurse practitioners – Annette Scott:

Raised in a farming family on Pitt Island, Tania Kemp’s upbringing had a huge impact on her career path as a rural nurse practitioner. She talked with her Annette Scott about bridging the rural health gap.

South Canterbury-based nurse practitioner Tania Kemp says rural health care needs to be promoted as a specialty area and not seen as the poor cousin to the glittering lights of urban medical practices.

Kemp has been recognised for her commitment and leadership in her drive to improve health care for rural communities.

The recipient of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network 2020 Peter Snow Memorial Award says the inequities of the rural health statistics urgently need addressing. . . 

IrrigationNZ honours Canterbury farmer – John Donkers:

Former IrrigationNZ chair John Donkers has long been involved in the politics of water with his many years of service to the industry recently honoured by the organisation. He talked with Annette Scott about his interest in water and irrigation.

Honorary membership of Irrigation New Zealand recognises outstanding contribution to the organisation and the 2020 honour has been awarded to South Canterbury farm consultant John Donkers.

A farmer and dairy farm consultant for more than 25 years, with involvement in IrrigationNZ since 2003, Donkers has a good understanding of how Canterbury’s water runs.

His initial interest stems from farming in central Canterbury and the need to understand the groundwater network. . . 

Dairy’s record milksolids production in a challenging year:

The annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics publication released today shows another record year for New Zealand’s dairy sector, with total milksolids production at a record high.

The DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) statistics show that in the 2019-20 season, New Zealand dairy companies processed 21.1 billion litres of milk containing 1.90 billion kilograms of milksolids (kg MS). This is a 0.6 percent increase in milksolids from the previous season.

Average milk production per cow also increased from 381 kg MS last season to 385 kg MS this season, while the latest count showed that New Zealand has 4.921 million milking cows – a decrease of 0.5 per cent from the previous season. This is again down significantly from peak cow numbers in 2014/15, which were at over 5 million. . . 

New analysis highlights dairy’s economic contribution:

The dairy sector is encouraged by today’s GDP results that emphasise New Zealand’s economic rebound amid Covid-19.

The dairy sector is playing a key role in a stable economy, contributing nearly one in every four dollars earned from total goods exports and services in the year to September 2020.

Recent Sense Partners analysis, for DairyNZ and DCANZ, shows the sector is delivering $20 billion in export value.

“Today’s GDP rebound may be a short-term benefit from the recovery in retail spending, wage subsidy and a hot housing market. So, it is important we don’t forget to focus on export-led growth moving forward,” said DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle. . .

Careers in horticulture look bright for Northlanders :

A local horticulture expo and ‘speed meet’ attracted more than 200 people from across Northland and the North Island last Wednesday.

Held at the Cornerstone Church in Kerikeri, the speed meet matched jobseekers with Northland growers needing workers for the season, training providers and career advisors.

Bruce Campbell, a Director on the Horticulture New Zealand board, says in the current environment, industry led events like this are critical for growers, and for those looking for immediate employment or to build a new career for themselves. . . 


Rural round-up

31/10/2020

Horticulture work ‘really hard’ at first, but there’s decent money to be made – Rob Stock:

Robert Doig spent three months pruning vines in Canterbury to take a break from his usual job as an auto industry sparkie.

The 31-year-old Cantabrian said he earned decent money in the spell from June to August, got fit, grew some muscles and loved working outdoors.

Now, he’s recommending horticulture work to people who’ve been left jobless as a result of the Covid-19 economic recession.

“It was great fun. The first few weeks were really, really hard, but it was a case of getting used to it, learning your own style,” he said. . .

IrrigationNZ delighted Northland water storage first fast-track approved:

IrrigationNZ is pleased to see that approval of a much needed water storage project in Northland to support horticulture, agriculture and provide drinking water is the first ‘cab off the rank’ under the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act.

IrrigationNZ CEO Vanessa Winning commented on the announcement made by Minister Parker today:

“These are exactly the types of projects we are keen to see more of as part of New Zealand’s Covid recovery process, and as a focus for regional investment. . . 

Dairy exports dip in September:

The value of dairy product exports in September 2020 fell from the same month in 2019, Stats NZ said today.

The fall was price-led, as the overall quantity of dairy products exported rose over the same period.

 “New Zealand exported a greater volume of dairy products in September 2020 than in the same month last year, but received less in return,” senior insights analyst Nicholas Cox said. . .

Agrochemicals air quality study planned for Marlborough – Chloe Ranford:

Are pesticides degrading air quality in rural areas? It’s a question researchers have begun investigating in New Zealand’s largest wine region.

The Marlborough District Council plans to trial a new air monitoring programme to better understand the “localised impacts” of farm chemicals, like spray drifts.

The study is due to begin within a year, and comes 13 years after a consultant hired by the council suggested it begin tracking air pollution near schools and residential areas in Blenheim, concerned that airborne agrochemical impacted human and environmental health. . .

 

Celebrating 15 Years of NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year competition:

Members of the New Zealand wine industry were delighted to be able to come together in Martinborough early October and celebrate fifteen years of the Young Viticulturist of the Year Competition. The celebration consisted of a conference entitled “Investing in the Future” followed by a dinner at the Town Hall. It was a great chance for the viticultural community to discuss the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead for the industry as well as look back over the last fifteen years.

Since 2006, the NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year initiative has helped support and encourage ambitious young people to become confident, strong leaders in the NZ wine industry. Investing in the future has paid off and there are many inspirational success stories of previous contestants and winners becoming some of the great innovators, pioneers and decision makers of the industry today. . . 

Cars can’t compare with cows when it comes to air quality – Steve Dittmer :

Here’s some sound science to clear the air on cattle’s contribution to air quality.

Many first heard of Frank Mitloehner when he exposed and invalidated the UN’s “Livestock Long Shadow” report and forced its withdrawal of wildly exaggerated cattle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Mitloehner is in the animal science department and is an air quality specialist at UC-Davis. He is not only eminently qualified to examine the nitty gritty of livestock and their environmental impact, his classes in California give him constant exposure to the thinking of younger generations regarding climate change and cattle. 

Mitloehner has been chair of the UN-Food & Agriculture Organization panel to benchmark the environmental impact of livestock production and a similar National Academy of Science, Engineering & Medicine panel. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

23/10/2020

Farm profit 26% drop predicted – Sally Rae:

Average farm profit before tax on sheep and beef farms is predicted to fall 26% this season amid continued uncertainty due to Covid-19, Beef+Lamb New Zealand’s new season outlook says.

The report, released yesterday, sets the scene for a challenging year with declines predicted in both sheep meat and beef export receipts as the pandemic affects global economies, consumer demand and trading channels.

Lamb export receipts were forecast to drop by almost 15% and co-products to decline about 8% compared with the 2019-20 season. Beef and veal export revenue was predicted to decline by 9%.

The uncertainty in the export market would be reflected in farm-gate prices and subsequent farm profitability, B+LNZ’s chief economist Andrew Burtt said in a statement. . . 

Jobs warning over migrant worker rules – Sally Rae:

Jobs are in jeopardy in the meat processing and exporting sector unless the Government recognises the essential role of its skilled migrant workforce, the Meat Industry Association has warned.

About a third of the country’s 250 halal processing workers would have to leave New Zealand next year due to the Government’s one-year stand-down policy, MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said in statement.

The loss of those people, along with ‘‘hundreds of other essential meat workers’’, could result in reduced production and job losses in New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry, Ms Karapeeva said.

“Most of the 42 halal processing plants in New Zealand now operate between 10-12 months per year. A shortage of skilled halal processing people could result in production at many plants being limited to six months in the year, which would mean processing of livestock for farmers is severely disrupted and employees might be let go. . . 

New woman at the helm of IrrigationNZ – Annette Scott:

Irrigation New Zealand is to be guided by a new chief executive in a new location and with a refreshed strategy. Annette Scott talked with Vanessa Winning about her new role.

FORMER DairyNZ farm performance manager Vanessa Winning is looking forward to leading New Zealand’s irrigation sector as it heads into a new era of management and renewed focus.

Winning has been appointed the new chief executive of IrrigationNZ, taking up the role in the organisation’s new Wellington base.

Following a review of the organisation’s activities the board, in July, put renewed focus on solving the tension between the fundamental need for irrigation in a post-covid NZ and the sector’s increasingly restricted license to operate. . . 

Campaign launched to help keep New Zealand Food and Beverage in hearts and minds of global consumers:

A global campaign designed to grow awareness, preference and demand for New Zealand Food and Beverage products in the key export markets of Australia, China, Japan, the USA and the UK has launched today.

The campaign, titled ‘Made with Care’, is being led by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and is part of a wider ‘Messages from New Zealand’ country brand campaign, which sees Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), NZTE, Ministry for Primary Industries, Education New Zealand and New Zealand Story join forces to promote New Zealand’s brand on the world stage.

New Zealand’s food and beverage industry is a key player in our economy, accounting for close to 46% of all goods and services exports in the past year. In 2018/2019, the industry had a combined revenue of $71.7 billion, with exports reaching more than 140 countries. . .

CBD lifts mānuka value higher – Richard Rennie:

If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then a snap-pack of Manuka honey may help you down a daily dose of CBD. Richard Renniespoke to Derek Burchell-Burger of Naki New Zealand about the company’s ground-breaking cannabidiol-infused honey nutraceutical.

For centuries cannabis and honey have been remedies used by assorted civilisations, and a Taranaki-based company is combining the two as a unique nutraceutical product.

“Indigenous cultures have been putting medicine in honey for generations, honey is a very good delivery system,” Naki New Zealand global marketing manager Derek Burchell-Burger said.

With Manuka honey’s popularity rising particularly over the covid pandemic, the company saw an opportunity for adding the therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD) to leverage off Manuka’s health and healing claims. . . 

 

Highly productive dairy farm and cropping operation placed on the market for sale:

A former market gardening operation now fully converted into a highly productive dairy farm and supporting cropping unit in the Eastern Bay of Plenty has been placed on the market for sale.

The 153.9-hectare property at Otakiri some 24-kilometres west of Whakatane milks a herd of between 410-430 cows to produce between 133,000-153,186 kilogrammes of milk solids annually, while also producing maize and silage for the herd.

The farm is made up of seven freehold land titles – all with a flat topography and linked by an extensive and high-quality network of crushed-lime races – with the maize and silage grown on a pair of 7.5-hectare blocks within the property. . . 


Rural round-up

21/10/2020

Urban New Zealand – you have been lied to – Jane Smith:

 Environmentalist and farmer Jane Smith says she wants to make urban New Zealand aware of the true long term costs of “headline-grabbing heroic environmental crusades”.

Urban New Zealand you have been lied to. You believed someone had your back, a master plan, a blue print for the future. In its place is a lonely black box. They say the devil is in the detail. There are no details – only hyperbole and headlines.

At record speed, New Zealand is blindsiding opportunities to embrace the unique advantage we have as a sustainable island nation.

As a humble food producer, environmentalist, taxpayer and common sense advocate I can’t help but analyse all aspects of policies, not just a one-sided narrow environmental view. . . 

Farmers want Labour to govern alone – Sally Murphy:

Farmers are anxiously waiting to see whether or not Labour will choose to govern alone or bring in the Green Party.

In one of the elections biggest surprises the strong National electorate of Rangitata swung with Labour candidate Jo Luxton winning the seat – becoming the first Labour MP to do so.

Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury president David Clark said he has heard of farmers voting strategically.

“I think potentially plenty of farmers have voted Labour so they can govern alone rather than having a Labour-Greens government- there’s been a lot of chat around about that but each to their own, the people have spoken.” . . 

IrrigationNZ appoints Vanessa Winning as new chief executive:

IrrigationNZ is delighted to announce that Vanessa Winning has been appointed as the organisation’s new chief executive starting on Monday 19th October, based in its new Wellington HQ.

Vanessa is a strategic executive leader with over 20 years experience in the agriculture, banking and corporate sectors with excellent stakeholder management and engagement skills.

Vanessa was most recently General Manager Farm Performance at DairyNZ, where she led a large team across the country to help farmers improve their businesses and reduce environmental impacts. Prior to DairyNZ, Vanessa spent 18 years in banking; trade; product development; marketing and communications. Vanessa has a commerce degree in economics and management, and a postgraduate degree in marketing. . . 

The cavalry arrives — finally! – Sudesh Kissun:

The first batch of overseas drivers for local agricultural contracting work is expected in the country next week, says Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) chief executive Roger Parton.

He says 119 applications filed on behalf of members by RCNZ were approved by the Ministry of Primary Industries and passed onto Immigration NZ for final verification and issuance of visas.

After arriving in the country, the drivers will spend two weeks at a Government quarantine facility. The cost will be met by the sponsoring contractor. Visas are being issued for six months and this includes the two-week spent in quarantine.

Parton says contractors will be breathing a huge sigh of relief. . . 

Family farm and sport combine for simple balanced life – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Farmer, husband, father, multisporter: Hamish Mackay prides himself on keeping life simple.

He owns Spotts Creek Station, a 1300ha property in the Cardrona Valley, near Wanaka, that he runs himself, with a bit of help from his father and uncle.

“I don’t have health and safety, PAYE or employment contracts, because I don’t need to, and because it’s frustrating. Keeping things simple is my priority.”

The straight-talking eldest son of Don and Sally Mackay grew up on Motatapu Station, near Wanaka, one of four stations in the Wanaka-Queenstown high country leased from the Crown by Canadian country-pop singer Shania Twain’s ex-husband, Robert Lange. . . 

New Tasmanian program to look at wool workforce needs – Caitlin Jarvis:

Tasmania’s shearer shortage will be put under the microscope as part of a new program run by Primary Employers Tasmania.

PET has secured funding from Skills Tasmania to run a program to examine the present and future workforce needs of wool.

Shearers and wool classers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the inability to move around the country.

Border restrictions and quarantine measures have left some shearers stranded in a state, other than the one where they normally live. . . 


Rural round-up

01/10/2020

Time for a change?

This year has been a difficult and challenging time not just for farmers, but for all New Zealanders.

For the farming industry, changing regulations, uncertainties about staffing and a difficult financial outlook top the list. Add to that changing weather patterns and high levels of debt: all these factors impact their mental health and wellbeing.

Last week, the country marked Mental Health Awareness Week. Dairy industry stakeholders called on politicians to make rural mental health a priority.

DairyNZ’s report, The view from the Cowshed, released last month paints a sad picture. . . 

IrrigationNZ launches innovative way to learn about water quality:

IrrigationNZ believes it is important Kiwis get up-to-date information about freshwater in their local catchments and have created a new way to do it.

‘Know Your Catchment’ is an online platform which showcases water monitoring data and different ways freshwater supports wellbeing.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says the platform is a step in the right direction to better inform the public about freshwater and help track the effects of farming practice change on water quality over time.

“This platform will engage and educate both rural and urban communities about the commitment farmers and growers have made to maintaining and improving water quality with information about water quality, irrigation, recreation, wetlands and more.” . . 

Candidates debate rural health priorities – Riley Kennedy:

Candidates from across the political spectrum went head-to-head in a debate to talk about their rural health priorities on Tuesday night.

The debate was organised in partnership with Mobile health and New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (NZRGPN).

In an election manifesto released by NZRGPN ahead of the debate, it noted three areas of concern, such as, long wait times for appointments to see health professionals, struggle to afford the costs of time and travel to manage their health and little to no access to specialist mental health and addiction services.

Its chief executive, Dr Grant Davidson, started off the debate by saying that rural health was in a crisis and it needs to be addressed. . . 

Decarbonisation is one option for Fonterra bosses to consider as they strive to make the co-op a national champion – Point of Order:

Rabobank’s  latest   survey    of farmer   confidence found dairy farmers more upbeat about the fortunes of the agricultural economy  than meat and wool  producers.  Dairy farmer net confidence rose to -29% (-33% previously).

Improving demand is the key reason for optimism among  dairy farmers. That’s  largely  because global demand for dairy has held up well during the course of Covid-19 with many consumers opting for simple, familiar, stable food products such as dairy during the pandemic.  And   since the last survey,  Fonterra has  lifted  the lower bound of its farmgate milk price pay-out range for the 20/21 season.

Then there is  Fonterra’s  performance  under   the  stewardship of  Fonterra chief executive Miles  Hurrell,    who  has succeeded  in  turning  the  co-op’s fortunes  around   after  two   grim  years. . . 

Ospri and LIC join forces :

OSPRI and the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) are urging farmers to play their part in improving animal traceability at a critical time on farm.

As the management agency for the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system, OSPRI has been working closely with LIC to ensure livestock data recorded in its livestock management system MINDA LIVE, is more easily transferable and can be captured real-time in NAIT.

“The recent upgrades mean a seamless transfer of livestock movements between both systems within two hours instead of just once daily,” says OSPRI chief executive Steve Stuart.  . . 

Tasmanian shearers left in limbo due to border restrictions – Caitlin Jarvis:

Tasmanian shearers are facing financial limbo as the state’s border control measures force them to stay in the state or face lengthy and expensive quarantine.

Not classed as essential workers, shearers are not able to gain exemptions to enter Tasmania, and the state was left without its injection of New Zealand and interstate shearers it relies on for a speedy season.

As the Tasmanian season begins to wind up, Tasmanian shearers and interstate shearers who were in the state before the pandemic face financial uncertainty and the inability to find future work once the season finishes up in the state. . .

 


Frank conversation on water

29/07/2020

Irrigation New Zealand is seeking a frank conversation about water:

Today Irrigation New Zealand released its 2020 Election Manifesto. IrrigationNZ represents most of the country’s large irrigation schemes and has 3500 members across 800,000 hectares of New Zealand contributing $5.4bn of GDP. The manifesto puts the following requests to the New Zealand Government:

A national water strategy that guides the future of water management and investment across Aotearoa New Zealand – and asks that IrrigationNZ be at the table to contribute to this.

A focus on water storage to ensure our communities are resilient to climate change and to assist with land-use change to meet sure carbon targets

The devastation droughts wrought on Hawkes Bay and Northland this year could have been minimised had water been harvested and stored when there was a surplus. Some of the damage inflicted on Northland by recent floods could have been offset, at least a little, had some of the rain been captured in dams.

More and better water storage would also have protected towns and cities from water shortages.

Policies that support irrigation and the environment, through monitoring, farm environment planning, innovation, and adaptation – and asks the government partner with IrrigationNZ to assist because of its ‘on the ground’ expertise.

A resolution to Māori rights and interests in freshwater – and offers support to iwi, hapū, and whānau groups about access to water and efficient, effective, environmentally sensitive irrigation development, where appropriate and beneficial.

An allocation framework that provides certainty and reliability of supply, whilst providing for multiple uses and benefits for economic, social, cultural, and environmental well-being. IrrigationNZ can assist agencies with this policy work through its expertise in managing complex changes to allocation frameworks in catchments with multiple stakeholders and water uses.

IrrigationNZ also states that it will support the sector and partner with Government, members and stakeholders to achieve the following:

  • develop a clear, recognised and unambiguous set of standards for irrigation
  • ensure efficient and effective water use that minimises adverse environmental effects
  • work to ensure widespread adoption of the irrigation standards
  • increase understanding of the benefits of irrigation.
  • support members in national and regional advocacy

IrrigationNZ is offering to share its knowledge, expertise, and data to support the above in relation to:

  • farm environment plans and the freshwater modules within them
  • Water storage solutions
  • Water allocation issues

“Freshwater use in New Zealand involves multiple aspects and is integral to life, IrrigationNZ wants to see this precious resource better managed through the development of a water strategy for Aotearoa,” says Elizabeth Soal, chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We are already seeing a focus on freshwater across various policy areas such as the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Fit for a Better World, Ministry for the Environment’s Essential Freshwater policy package and the Department of Internal Affairs three waters’ reform and establishment of the drinking water authority, Taumata Arowai.

“IrrigationNZ believes all these issues could be aligned with a water strategy to guide and lead decision-making and funding allocation at the central, regional, and local levels. This could be led by a bi-partisan, independent water commission.

“As part of this, we would also like to progress a frank conversation with the Government and stakeholders about water storage and irrigation development which does not shy away from both the benefits and the impacts.

“With primary industries the backbone of this country for the foreseeable future, and access to reliable water a critical part of enabling this, we must move forward and ensure the right investment and outcomes from best practice water management.”

North Otago has had very little rain for several months. When, as often happened before we had much irrigation, we would have been going into spring with little soil moisture and a lot of uncertainty about pasture and crop growth.

Thanks to several irrigation schemes, we know that irrigation will compensate for what nature hasn’t provided.

The economic and social benefits from that are immense and it also has environmental benefits by maintaining minimum flows in waterways and protecting soils from erosion.

If predictions of higher temperatures and more floods due to climate change are taken seriously, irrigation must be part of the mitigation plan.

Irrigation New Zealand’s 2020 Election Manifesto can be found here.


Rural round-up

18/04/2020

Northland drought: No feed, no water and coronavirus increases farmers’ stress – Denise Piper:

“Extreme” drought conditions in Northland are being called the worst for decades and have left farms with no stock food and with their water sources drying up.

In Northland, where little rain has fallen, more farmers are asking for help, said Julie Jonker, co-ordinator of Northland Rural Support Trust. 

“There is quite a lot of stress out there,” she said.

Many Northland farmers have already used all of their winter supplementary feed and alternatives, like palm kernel, are expensive and hard to source. . . 

Dairy farmers dry cows off early as tough winter nears :

Tight feed supplies and ongoing drought are forcing some dairy farmers across the country to dry off earlier than usual.

Fonterra Farm Source director Richard Allen estimates that about 13 percent of farmers have dried off by mid-April compared to 8 percent at the same time last season.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor declared a large-scale adverse event in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams. The worst-hit region, Northland is still holding out for decent rainfall. . . 

Freshwater 2020 – working towards improved outcomes balancing the environment with community and economic needs:

IrrigationNZ commends the work that has gone into the Freshwater 2020 report released today, and recognises this data helps towards providing certainty of where we need to head.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says, “Freshwater and related ecosystems are very complex, and as the report says, data gaps do remain. However, it is helpful for farmers to see where their improvements are working, and where further work is required.”

IrrigationNZ notes some positive trends emerging from the report for example: . . 

Puketoro Station — village in a bubble – Leigh McNeil:

Puketoro Station, inland from Tokomaru Bay, has been in lockdown for three weeks now under the Covid-19 rules, and it’s the same as every other farm in New Zealand — business as usual.

But what makes Puketoro slightly different from most farms is that there are 19 people in the station “bubble”.

So the McNeil Farming operation is a tiny village on its own, and in typical village fashion, the residents range in age from four months to Goldcard-holders.

The bulk of the shepherds are under 25 years old, so it’s been somewhat of a tough call for them to stay put for four weekends in a row. . . 

 

California farmer ploughs under lettuce after coronavirus shutters restaurant market – Mike Blake and Christopher Walljasper:

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – There should be tractors rumbling across Jack Vessey’s ranch, pulling wagons full of fresh-cut romaine lettuce to be packed and shipped to restaurants and grocery stores across the United States.

Instead, as the coronavirus outbreak upends the nation’s food distribution network, a tractor and plow destroyed rows and rows of green produce on Wednesday.

“You put your blood, sweat and tears into a crop,” said Vessey, president of Holtville, California-based Vessey and Company, Inc. “To just disc it into the ground: It’s painful.” . .

Digital initiative keeps Northland farmers connected during lockdown:

Northland farmers are embracing the digital age as they respond to the dual challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown and the region’s severe drought conditions.

Extension 350 (E350), Northland Inc’s award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme, is driving a digital initiative, which includes pilot video interviews with farmers, called “What’s on your mind?”, accessible via the programme’s YouTube channel.

The interview format encourages the farmers to share their thoughts on issues impacting their businesses, what specifically prompted these thoughts, and the process they expect to follow in developing and implementing responses to protect or enhance their businesses. . .


Recovery requires short cutting consent process

02/04/2020

The drought that has covered most of the country has reinforced the need for more irrigation and shows the need for  water infrastructure to be part of the  government’s call for infrastructure projects to kick-start the post-Covid-19 recovery:

IrrigationNZ supports the Government’s decision to ready infrastructure projects for construction following a return to normal in New Zealand as part of efforts to boost the economy. IrrigationNZ notes that water infrastructure has been included in this.

The pandemic and the lockdown have demonstrated how important the food and fibre sectors are to our country, to put food on the table and also to support our economy,” Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal says.

Covid-19 has inflicted near-mortal damage on tourism and export-education and highlighted, yet again, the importance of primary production. Farming, horticulture and viticulture would do even more with better water infrastructure.

‘’It is therefore not only a huge relief for the primary industries sector to see water included as essential infrastructure but also extremely prudent.  Not only will investment in water infrastructure projects create jobs during the construction phase, but they will also support the longer-term resilience of our economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and while health and wellbeing are the number one priority, planning ahead for the post-pandemic New Zealand is essential,” Ms Soal says.

The economic and social costs of dealing with the pandemic, the shutdown and the recovery will hold back the country for years.

Primary production and the businesses which service and supply it, and process its produce, will be more important than ever.

“In the last few decades, water infrastructure projects have typically been funded largely by local communities and end users.  As the effects of the pandemic affect regional economies on a scale we have not seen before, increased central government funding will be critical from now on.  High levels of co-funding at the local level will simply no longer be feasible” said Ms Soal.

“We also need to consider how certain processes the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act will affect the viability of projects” says Ms Soal. “For example, it is currently unclear how annual planning processes will occur or how resource consents can be fast-tracked to get projects ‘shovel-ready’ in a short time frame.  Consenting processes for major projects generally take years, not weeks” said Ms Soal.

If the economy is to get up to speed as quickly We need to create the jobs and earn the export income that will fuel the recovery. New projects, including irrigation, that will do this can’t be hamstrung by the current time consuming and expensive consent process.

After Cyclone Bola, then- Prime Minister David Lange ordered the army to construct a Bailey bridge without resource consent.

The government must find a way to enable short cuts to consent processes to allow infrastructure projects to start in weeks to a very few months not years.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the requirement to maintain high environmental standards. There are enough irrigation schemes that have improved economic, environmental and social sustainability already operating on which the standards for new ones could be based.

When the state of emergency is over and alert levels end, we’ll be faced with a new normal that will leave the country much poorer than it was just weeks ago.

We can’t afford to have repairs to the economic and social damage inflicted by Covid-19  and the response to it, hampered by torturous consent processes that held back development in the old normal.


Rural round-up

30/08/2019

Dairy farmers have ‘stepped up’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmers are not getting the credit they deserve for stepping up their game to improve their practices, dairy farmer and industry climate change ambassador Dean Alexander believes.

He and wife Suzanne winter 1200 cows on two flat 179ha and 242ha platforms effective near Winton.

”As an industry, we have made huge innovations in the past 10 to 15 years, which has been driven by regulations,” Mr Alexander said.

”Changes needed to happen and we have stepped up our game and ought to get credit for the progress we have made.”

He said the quality of water into waterways and estuaries had improved compared to 20 to 30 years ago. . .

Role of red meat in a healthy diet is globally recognised – Rod Slater:

I was saddened to read the article Hospitals should lead the way by cutting out meat (August 20) by Professor John Potter. He has a huge amount of experience and, unfortunately, he used every ounce of it to produce a thoroughly disingenuous and misleading piece of writing.

Firstly, I would like to address his criticisms of Dietitians NZ (DNZ). DNZ provided a statement in response to the Ministry of Health (MoH) releasing a report which suggested less meat and dairy in the health sector to reduce the impact on the environment, in what seems to be a move by the MoH that is severely deficient in local context. 

DNZ is entirely independent and performs a vital role in representing the nutrition scientists who have made it their life’s work to understand and advise on diet and health matters. For Prof Potter to discredit its response on the basis of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s “support” of DNZ is ludicrous. . . .

New grass could reduce methane emissions from animals – Maja Burry:

New Zealand scientists trialling a potentially environmentally sustainable grass in the United States hope to study its effects on animals in the next two years.

The genetically modified ryegrass has been developed by the Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, at its grasslands centre in Palmerston North.

Modelling has found it can grow up to 50 percent faster than conventional ryegrass, it is more resistant to drought and could reduce methane emissions from animals.

Trials are now progressing in the mid-west of the US, where genetically modified organisms can be field tested outside of the lab. . . 

 IrrigationNZ responds to Waitangi Tribunal report on national freshwater – changes to New Zealand’s water allocation framework:

IrrigationNZ says that the timing of the Waitangi Tribunal report and recommendations on freshwater and geothermal resources puts Māori rights and interests in freshwater firmly back in the public spotlight, just when the Government is set to release a raft of policy changes under the ‘Essential Freshwater’ package.

“We are in favour of the Waitangi Tribunal report’s recommendation to establish a body to oversee future water governance and management, including whether a Water Act is required to provide a new framework for freshwater,” says Elizabeth Soal, Chief executive of IrrigationNZ.

“We agree, and firmly believe, that New Zealand needs a national water strategy and a body to oversee this strategy so that this precious resource can be used and allocated for the benefit of all,” says Ms Soal. . . 

MPI pair helping farmers through `M. bovis’ process – Toni Williams:

Empowering farmers working through the Mycoplasma bovis process involves Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) regional managers Charlotte Austin and Lydia Pomeroy working long hours.

But, as a way of being prepared to fight for their cases and keeping up to date with the issues, it is something they are only too happy to do.

”We certainly lose sleep, but we also understand that it’s not nearly as big an impact on us.

”That’s why we will quite happily work a 12, 13 or 14-hour day ‘cos we understand that these individuals are living it,” said Ms Austin, speaking to media after the recent Mid Canterbury Mycoplasma bovis Advisory Group meeting in Ashburton. . .

What’s our beef with beef? – Helen Browning:

Red meat is not inherently unsustainable, despite recent headlines – it’s how it is farmed that matters.

A new report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for us to make radical changes to the way we farm and eat to prevent further global warming. But what did the IPPC report actually say on meat eating? Were the NFU and others right to say reporting was misleading?

As ever, the issues are complex, hard to convey accurately in an eye-catching headline or a snappy tweet.

The IPCC is clear that, on a global level, ruminant livestock – that’s cattle and sheep – carry a high greenhouse gas footprint. This leads to the conclusion that if we eat less red meat, we can reduce these emissions. . .


Rural round-up

01/08/2019

Rural folk – defend yourselves – Robin Greer:

As a proud Southland dairy farmer the wellbeing of our rural families concerns me greatly.

They are constantly bombarded with the hypocrisy of extreme groups and some ministers in our Government.

Many use mistruths to persuade people agriculture needs to be removed from the New Zealand landscape.

We have ministers in the Government who hate dairy farmers and their legacy is to deal with us.

Many of the statements made by some of these people would be called hate speech had it been directed at a different group of the community but farmers are fair game. . . .

First women to graduate from world-leading irrigation design programme :

The latest group of graduates in New Zealand’s Level 5 Certificate in Irrigation Design include the first two women to have done this course.

New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a national qualification in irrigation design.

“IrrigationNZ is proud to have been part of successfully graduating these students from this important course – which will become critical as farmers and businesses increasingly need state-of-the-art irrigation systems to demonstrate efficient and sustainable use of our shared water resources,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal.

“The qualification recognises the specialist skills needed to design technically efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation systems. . .

New Zealand must learn to talk about ‘evolving technologies’ – Sir Peter Gluckman – Eric Frykberg:

New Zealanders should get to grips with gene technology and not bury their heads in sands of short-term thinking, according to one of this country’s leading scientific thinkers.

Sir Peter Gluckman is a former chief science adviser to the prime minister, who has held many academic posts and currently heads a multidisciplinary think tank at Auckland University.

In a speech to the annual conference of Horticulture New Zealand, Sir Peter said New Zealanders must seriously debate evolving technology such as gene editing, and not leave it mired in rhetoric, and conflated with politics.

Sir Peter told his audience there had been centuries of change in organisms’ genetic make-up, which was speeded up with gene transplants in the 1970s. . . 

Third time lucky for winners – Luke Chivers:

Romney genetics and consistency guide Brian and Anna Coogan’s farming philosophy. They told Luke Chivers about winning the annual, national ewe hogget competition.

Convinced by his wife Anna to enter the national ewe hogget competition Brian Coogan has walked away with the top honours.

The Taihape farmer took out the Romney and flock performance sections, finishing just 0.33 of a point ahead of runners-up Allan and Leeann Woodrow of Waikana before going on to win the overall breeds supreme award in the 23rd annual event in Christchurch. . .

Value of red meat exports up by eight percent :

The value of red meat exports of sheep, beef and co-products increased by eight percent to $8.8 billion for the year to June 2019, according to the latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association.

More than 399,470 tonnes of sheepmeat was dispatched, similar to 2018 volumes but the value of these exports increased by six percent.

For beef, export volumes were up by nine percent to more than 453,202 tonnes with a 13 percent increase in value. Co-products exports increased by five percent. . .

Global meat-eating is on the rise, bringing surprising benefits

Things were different 28 years ago, when Zhou Xueyu and her husband moved from the coastal province of Shandong to Beijing and began selling fresh pork. The Xinfadi agricultural market where they opened their stall was then a small outpost of the capital. Only at the busiest times of year, around holidays, might the couple sell more than 100kg of meat in a day. With China’s economic boom just beginning, pork was still a luxury for most people.

Ms Zhou now sells about two tonnes of meat a day. In between expert whacks of her heavy cleaver, she explains how her business has grown. She used to rely on a few suppliers in nearby provinces. . . 

Livestock grazing is vital ‘interference’ to boost biodiversity, new Plantlife study finds – Ben Barnett:

Livestock grazing has a crucial role to play in addressing a dramatic decline in biodiversity-rich wildflower meadows, according to a prominent botanist who warns that totally abandoning land to nature will do more environmental harm than good.

By allowing nature to ‘rewild’ landscapes unchecked, three-quarters of the UK’s most threatened species would decline or disappear altogether within just three years, Dr Trevor Dines said.

Environmentalists have called for the so-called rewilding of parts of the countryside to address historic environmental damage and to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but habitats such as wildflower meadows need sufficient levels of grazing and management to prevent them from being lost, Dr Dines said. . .


Rural round-up

31/07/2019

Levies are killing farming – Annette Scott:

Levies are killing farming as changes to the Biosecurity Act and Nait set to be another nail in the coffin, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

The Government is fixing the Biosecurity Act and the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) Act to ensure they meet future needs, Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Implementing the programme for Mycoplasma bovis exposed the clunkiness of the outdated Biosecurity Act and lessons must be learned from the M bovis experience to formulate a law that’s more flexible and appropriate. . . .

Organic finds whisky farmers – Neal Wallace:

The Styx Valley is in a remote southern corner of the Maniototo basin in Central Otago where the seasons can be harsh. But that isn’t stopping John and Susan Elliot from running an innovative whisky distillery alongside their farm. Neal Wallace visits Lammermoor Station.

The story of Andrew Elliot discovering a copper whisky still on his Central Otago station early last century is family folk lore that resonates with John and Susan Elliot.

It is a link to the latter part of the 1800s when the Otago hills, rivers and valleys were crawling with gold prospectors, swaggers and opportunists. . . .

Guy’s pragmatism appreciated by Federated Farmers:

Farmers regarded Nathan Guy as a pragmatic and knowledgeable Minister for Primary Industries.    

The MP for Otaki, who among other roles served two years as Associate Minister of Primary Industries and four as Minister in the John Key-led government, has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020.

“His door was always open, and he was always level-headed and considered in his dealings with people,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said. 

“He had his finger firmly on the rural pulse and I always appreciated that you could have free and frank discussions with him, including occasionally by phone when he was out helping weigh and drench calves.  He has real empathy for the sector and for the wellbeing of rural communities.” . .

IrrigationNZ thanks Nathan Guy for his work in parliament congratulates Tood Muller:

IrrigationNZ wishes to thank Hon Nathan Guy for his contribution to the primary sector as he announces his retirement from 15 years in Parliament with a departure from politics next year.

Following news of Nathan’s decision, the National Party today announced that Todd Muller, Member of Parliament for the Bay of Plenty, will be picking up the Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Safety portfolios from Hon Nathan Guy. IrrigationNZ would like to congratulate Todd on this new role. IrrigationNZ also notes that Hon Scott Simpson, Member of Parliament for Coromandel, who leads the Environment portfolio for National, will take on Climate Change from Todd, which IrrigationNZ recognises as a sensible and good fit. . .

Grasslands brings science and practice together:

Linking science and technology with grassroots farming and production has been the key to the success of the Grassland Society.

The Grassland Society of Southern Australia has come a long way in the 60 years since a small group of farmers banded together in 1959 to help producers get the best out of their land.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Society assists farmers across three states to create better soils and pastures. . . .

Agricultural aviation celebrates 70th anniversary:

“In September 1949, a group of aerial work operators got together to form the NZ Aerial Work Operators Association ‘to advance the techniques of aerial work’ in the country,” said the New Zealand Agricultural Aviation Association (NZAAA) Chairman, Tony Michelle.

“We celebrate the achievements of those early companies and pilots at an agricultural aviation show at Ardmore Airport on Sunday 4 August, from 12 midday to 4pm. Many examples of aircraft that have worked in agricultural aviation will be on display. It also gives people a chance to mingle with many of the older pilots from those early days, as well as those safely flying our skies today. . .

Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019 kicks off this week

Now in its fifth year the first of the regional finals will be held this week as the countdown begins to find the Tonnellerie de Mercurey NZ Young Winemaker of the Year 2019.

This year there will be three regional finals and the winner from each will go through to represent their region in the National Final.

The North Island regional competition will be held on Thursday 1st August at EIT in Hawke’s Bay and is open to all emerging young winemakers in the North Island. . .

Brexit: Michael Gove admits farmers may never recover from no-deal – Paris Gourtsoyanis:

A no-deal Brexit would seriously harm the UK’s farmers, Michael Gove has admitted.

The Environment Secretary told the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) conference that there was “no absolute guarantee” that British farmers could export any of their produce to the EU in a no-deal scenario, and would face punishing tariffs even if they could.

Mr Gove also dismissed speculation that the UK Government could slash tariffs on food imports after Brexit, an idea hinted at by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. . .


Rural round-up

20/04/2019

Better data will help us do a better job – Federated Farmers:

The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released today will help all New Zealanders, not just farmers, identify the priorities for action.

But we can only manage what we have information on, Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“Our message during the last central government election campaign, when various candidates and commentators were putting the boot into farmers for environmental impacts, was that all Kiwis were in this together. This new report underlines exactly that. . .

Irrigation sector committed to continuing to improve environmental practices:

IrrigationNZ says the recent Environment Aotearoa report highlights the need for farmers and growers to continue work underway to: improve practices on-farm and upskill farmers; invest in cutting edge technology; and implement Farm Environmental Plans to change the way water is used for production.

“In partnership with national and regional government, it’s essential we continue to research, trial and adopt new practices and technology,” says Ms Soal.

“It is critical that we recognise that water is a precious resource which is essential for primary production and regional resilience in the face of climate change and that we use it in a way that is environmentally responsible,” says IrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal. . .

Dairy committed to a better environment:

DairyNZ says today’s Environment Aotearoa 2019 report gives honest insight into New Zealand’s environment and where the opportunities lie for the dairy sector, particularly for water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Strategic leader for DairyNZ’s environmental portfolio, Dr David Burger, said while the report shows the dairy sector has work to do, there is no doubt farmers are working hard to look after the environment – with significant work already undertaken over the last 10 years to improve environmental practices across New Zealand. . .

Living affects the environment – Neal Wallace:

Our way of life is putting the environment under pressure.

A report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand with evidence and trends of what is happening to the environment highlights nine key issues.

It is based on a comparison with previous reports, analysis of more than 60 indicators and new methods.

It found native plants, animals and ecosystems are under threat, changes to land vegetation are degrading soil and water, farming is polluting our waterways and water use affects freshwater ecosystems.

Urban centres create environmental pollution with urban sprawl occupying the best soils and destroying native biodiversity, it said. . .

Water tax decision allows environmental improvements to be targeted:

IrrigationNZ says the government’s decision not to introduce a water tax in the near future is good news for all New Zealanders.

“The Tax Working Group proposed a nationwide tax on all water use including for hydroelectricity, household, business and agricultural use. That would have resulted in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills for everyone,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal. . .

Wrightson gets OIO approval to sell seeds unit, still mulling size of return – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson has cleared the final hurdle to sell its seeds division to DLF Seeds for $434 million after securing Overseas Investment Office approval, but still hasn’t figured out how much to return to shareholders.

Now the OIO has signed off on the transaction, the rural services company anticipates the deal to settle either this month or May. . .

Whio ducks make a comeback after predator programme :

A nationally vulnerable duck species is making a comeback following a programme to curb predators in Fiordland.

About 64 breeding whio have been found during surveying of a security site for the blue ducks.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger Andrew Smart said extended trapping efforts and predator control enabled the whio to make a strong comeback. . .


Just 2%

23/03/2019

New Zealand is, as Geoffrey Palmer once noted, a very pluvial country.

We are blessed with a bountiful supply of water and contrary to the doom merchants who think we don’t have enough, all but 2% of it flows from its source to the sea.

IrrigationNZ used World Water Day, yesterday, to put water use in perspective:

. . .  In New Zealand the biggest consented water use is hydro-electricity generation. This uses about five times more water than all other water uses combined.

The next biggest user is irrigation. Worldwide irrigation grows 40% of the world’s food on 20% of the world’s agricultural land, and here in New Zealand irrigation also plays an important role in food production.

New Zealand is very fortunate to have plentiful supplies of freshwater when compared with other countries worldwide. 

The picture below shows how abstracted water is used in New Zealand:

 

 

 


Rural round-up

03/03/2019

Stemming lifestyle bock growth – Richard Rennie:

 Soaring kiwifruit orchard values have helped take some steam from the lure of subdividing quality land into smaller blocks in Western Bay of Plenty.

However, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also had to tighten up on development plans to help prevent the loss to uneconomic lifestyle blocks.

Alongside Tauranga City, Western Bay of Plenty is one of the country’s fastest-growing districts, recording a population increase from 27,000 in 1986 to 46,000 in 2013. . .

Farmingin the city – Luke Chivers:

When New Zealanders think of Auckland few think of farming. But a young Karaka dairying couple are combining their love of the city with their passion for the land. Luke Chivers reports.

IT WAS Gypsy Day 2016.

Traditionally, it is the start of the dairying calendar when accounts are settled, stock is bought and sold or moved to a new farm and new careers are launched. At least that was what Chris and Sally Guy hoped when their sharemilking agreement on a well-nurtured and developed inland slice of rural New Zealand kicked in. The couple are 50:50 sharemilkers with his parents Allan and Wendy who own the 80ha Oakview Farm in South Auckland.

New fertigation trial examines effects on nutrient loss – Pat Deavoll:

A new project to trial the use of fertigation, which could help reduce nitrogen leaching on farms, is underway.

State-owned farmer Pāmu was working with IrrigationNZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients on the trial which had received funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Fertigation is the application of small quantities of fertiliser through an irrigation system. Fertigation is used overseas but was uncommon in New Zealand. . .

Shearers clip for cancer – Toni Williams:

They came, they shore and they conquered, raising more than $85,000 for charity.

Around 70 vintage shearers from New Zealand and overseas, including current and former world champions, stars of the movie She Shears and All Black greats, appeared on the stands at the Shear For Life event at the Ewing Family property, at Hinds in Mid Canterbury on Saturday.

It was the brainchild of shearing mates Rocky Bull, Alan ”Bimbo” Bramley and Steven ”Dixy” Lynch, who wanted a chance to catch up with a few of the old shearing crowd. . .

Wyndham farmer Matt McRae’s community engagement contributes to Otago/Southland Young Farmer of the Year award  – Blair Jackson:

 Community engagement is something Wyndham farmer Matt McRae values highly.

It’s part of the reason he was recently named Otago/Southland Young Farmer of the Year.

Although his rugby career has taken a hit – he will play in Wyndham’s second string side to focus on his farming study and work – he enjoys what he does. . .

Glass bottles. Make a come-back on Country Calendar – Melenie Parkes:

A Nelson dairy farm is looking to the past to take it into the future. These dairy disruptors are using new technology to reinvent an old-fashioned favourite.

When Julian and Cathy Raine’s winter contract was cancelled by Fonterra in 2012, they had to come up with a plan to generate another source of income.

Their solution was to sell milk direct to the consumer using innovative vending machines, sourced from Europe and dotted throughout Nelson. . .

 


More than a CGT

22/02/2019

The proposed capital gains tax (CGT) has got most of the attention, but worryingly there’s more, including the proposal of a water tax that would affect everyone:

IrrigationNZ says a proposed nationwide water tax would affect all Kiwis, and there needs to be more discussion about how this would impact households, farmers and businesses.

“The Tax Working Party has recommended the government consider introducing a water tax on all types of water use including hydro-generation, household use and commercial water use,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ Chair.

“This would result in higher power and food prices for households and businesses and higher rates bills to pay for the irrigation of parks and reserves as well as direct water tax on household and business water use.”

An increase in the cost of production inevitably leads to an increase in the cost of what’s produced.

The working party is proposing that the water tax could be used to fund the restoration of waterways.

“While we all want to see cleaner rivers, often the solutions to improving rivers require people to change their existing practices both on farm and to prevent urban wastewater discharges into rivers. Just allocating money will not be the most effective solution,” says Mrs Hyslop.

This was proposed before the last election and was rightly criticised for taxing the good to clean up after the bad.

“We need to think about whether a water tax is equitable as water use varies hugely across regions based on rainfall. For example a Christchurch resident uses an average of 146,700 litres of water per year, while the average for a New Zealander is 82,800. Someone living in Christchurch would pay nearly twice as much in a water tax as someone living elsewhere and would also pay more in rates because in a dryer climate the Council will use more water to irrigate their local parks. Is taxing dryer regions such as Canterbury, Otago, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough more heavily with a water tax a fair way to fund river restoration nationwide?”

Mrs Hyslop says there are similar equity issues for farmers and growers.

“Some regions receive a significant amount of rainfall and farmers don’t need to use irrigation. Central Otago receives less than half the rainfall of Auckland, so farmers and growers rely on irrigation to grow stonefruit, wine and for pastoral farming to provide feed for animals. Only 7% of farmers use irrigation nationwide – why are those farmers being targeted to pay a tax which 93% of farmers won’t pay when there are many regions which have very poor waterways but little use of irrigation?”

Generally waterways with more irrigation are cleaner than those with less or none.

Mrs Hyslop says that a water tax on hydro-electric power generation would also add to power bills for households and businesses and this tax doesn’t make sense at a time when the government wants to encourage the use of renewable energy to meet climate change targets.

The poor already struggle to pay their power bills, why make it worse for no environmental gain?

“Currently a number of regions are suffering from very dry conditions and we need to be developing more water storage as climate change is predicted to bring more frequent droughts in the future,” she adds.

“We disagree with the suggestion in the report that introducing a water tax will encourage greater investment in water storage. If you look at the most recently approved water storage project – the Waimea Dam – a price increase for the dam construction nearly resulted in it not being built. Introducing a new tax on water use will add to be long-term costs of this and similar projects and make them less viable and less likely to be built. We really need more investment in these projects to ensure we have enough water to supply our growing population and get through more frequent future droughts.”

“We also have concerns that farmers and growers in many regions may face significant water tax costs in excess of $10,000 a year which will make it more difficult to fund the environmental improvements we all want to see to improve waterways,” she says.

“The report discusses how a water tax will encourage more efficient water use. There are already a number of existing incentives that encourage efficient water use including electricity costs and regulatory nutrient limit rules which require farmers to only use water when needed. The biggest improvements in water use efficiency come from modernising irrigation systems.Farmers and irrigation schemes have already invested $1.7 billion to modernise their systems since 2011, resulting in significant improvements in water efficiency. Introducing a major new tax will reduce farmers ability to replace an older irrigation system with a more water efficient model.” 

The capital gains and water taxes aren’t the only monsters unleashed by the TWG .

The Tax Working Group has gone much further than a Capital Gains Tax with a raft of new taxes targeting hard-working New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

There are eight new taxes including; an agriculture tax, a tax on empty residential land, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, a waste levy and a Capital Gains Tax.

“This is an attack on the Kiwi way of life. This would hit every New Zealander with a Kiwi Saver, shares, investment property, a small business, a lifestyle block, a bach or even an empty section,” Mr Bridges says.

“For farmers, who are the backbone of our economy, this is a declaration of war on their businesses and way of life. They would pay to water their stock, feed their crops and even when they sell up for retirement.

“Labour claims this is about fairness, but that’s rubbish. The CGT would apply to small business owners like the local plumber, but not to investors with a multi-million dollar art collection or a super yacht who won’t pay a cent more.

“The TWG has recommended one of the highest rates of Capital Gains Tax in the world. The Government would reap $8.3 billion extra in its first five years from ordinary Kiwis – small business owners, farmers, investors, bach and lifestyle block owners. After 10 years it would be taking $6 billion a year from Kiwis.

“It will lead to boom times for tax lawyers and accountants and even Iwi advisers, given recommendations for exclusions that include Māori land in multiple ownership.

“We believe New Zealanders already pay enough tax and the Government should be looking at tax relief, not taking even more out of the pockets of New Zealand families.

“National says no to new taxes. We would repeal a Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to the cost of living and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn.”

The government keeps trying to counter the accusation it’s not a good economic manager.

Introducing new and higher taxes is not the way to do it.

It should be aiming for higher quality spending not more spending and reducing the burden of tax to allow us all to keep more of our own money.

 


Rural round-up

15/11/2018

Wool cells used for new material – Sally Rae:

Deconstruction of coarse wool fibre to create new materials has been described as a ‘‘major breakthrough’’.

Researchers at Lincoln Agritech Ltd have broken down coarse wool — which  comprises about 75% of New Zealand’s wool clip — into its cellular components, creating new materials that are not wool but contain wool attributes.

The work was part of a $21 million seven-year research programme into new uses for coarse wool, co-funded by the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Fonterra must learn to be driven by profit not volume – Point of Order:

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan sought to cheer up the co-op’s farmer-shareholders by telling them at what was reported to be a “packed” annual meeting that “For a time this year, NZ farmers were paid this highest milk prices in the world.”

He insisted there has been a structural change in the co-op’s milk prices since Fonterra was formed. . . 

Using collaborative science to unlock our potential:

Enhancing the production and productivity of New Zealand’s primary sector, while maintaining and improving the quality of the country’s land and water for future generations. That’s the mission of the ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge.

National Science Challenges emerged from The Great New Zealand Science Project, which in 2012 invited New Zealanders to talk about the biggest science related issues for them.

The project resulted in 11 Challenges, set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in early 2016.

They are designed to ensure that science investment focuses on areas that matter most to New Zealanders. . .

Luxury cashmere produced here in NZ – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s fledgling cashmere industry, which has its roots in South Otago, has reached a significant milestone, as Sally Rae reports.

Production of the first pilot New Zealand-grown cashmere garments is being heralded as a milestone in the country’s fledgling cashmere industry.

In January, New Zealand Cashmere — formed by Clinton farmers David and Robyn Shaw — announced a partnership with Christchurch-based sustainable lifestyle fashion brand Untouched World and Wellington-based Woolyarns to commercialise a market for New Zealand-grown cashmere.

This week, Untouched World is launching a  retail store in Wanaka and those first garments will be on display. . . 

Dairy is not evil – Sudesh Kissun:

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis believes there will always be a place for dairy.

“I keep saying it: it’s not about too many cows, but how the land is managed,” he told Rural News. Curtis, who is leaving the helm of Irrigation NZ in March, says he knows some “very, very good” dairy farmers with good environmental footprints and some “very, very bad” dairy farmers with horrible footprints – and the same with good and bad cropping farmers.

“So, let’s stop going on about the land use thing because it’s all about land management practices,” says. . . 

Mycoplasma communication team needs to play with straight bat – Keith Woodford:

MPI is currently reporting a positive story about Mycoplasma bovis eradication. There is indeed good news to report. But in cricket terminology, the communication team needs to play with a straight bat.

I found myself to be a topic in MPI’s latest announcements. According to an anonymous MPI spokeswoman, I have made claims questioning the time of arrival that I have declined to back up, despite multiple requests. That is a falsehood. The MPI bat is not straight. I will return to that topic further down, but first the big picture.

Over the last six weeks, there have been four new infected farms detected and three new trending-positive (RP) farms. Some of these are large dairy farms and they have led to a new string of traces. Accordingly, active trace farms have increased from 208 to 245. There are also many hundreds of surveillance farms. . .

Waikato Innovation Park to build new spray dryer for growing sheep milk industry :

Plans are underway for a new spray dryer at Waikato Innovation Park to cater for the burgeoning sheep milk industry.

The $50 million dryer will sit alongside the Park’s existing dryer, but will have 2.4 times its capacity. It will be built by Tetra Pak with construction expected to start this month.

It is due to be on line by November 2019 and once completed, is expected to more than double employment at the plant from 17 to 35 staff. . . 

Novel plumbing for Massey research farm:

Massey University’s sheep and beef research farm is to begin nutrient leaching research using underground water and nutrient collection.

Keebles Farm (287ha), near Massey’s Manawatū campus, now has water collection under each paddock to allow all water to be collected and studied.

Deputy head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon says the farm will be the first to use a collection system of this type for sheep and beef research in New Zealand. . . 

A sensible decision to support safe crop protection options – Tim Burrack:

Their names almost make them sound like the villains in an old John Wayne movie: Palmer Amaranth, Tall Waterhemp, and Giant Ragweed.  

In reality, they’re among the worst invaders in a farmer’s soybean fields—prolific weeds that rob our food crops of moisture and nutrients, depress our yields, and resist many forms of herbicide. 

To fight them, we need the best technology available—and on October 31, the Environmental Protection Agency tossed us a lifeline.  . . 


Hunter Downs irrigation scheme down

10/10/2018
The Hunter Downs irrigation scheme hasn’t got enough support to go ahead.

Hunter Downs Water Ltd announced yesterday it did not have enough buy-in from landowners in its command area between the Waitaki River and Timaru.

The company owns resource consent to use up to 20.5 cumecs of Waitaki River water.

The irrigation proposition was launched in 2006.

In March last year, shares were offered in a $195million scheme to irrigate 21,000 ha and a government development funding grant of $1.37million had been made. By June 2017, the design was shrunk to 12,000 ha.

At the end of last year, South Canterbury rich-lister Gary Rooney’s offer to buy “dry shares” saved the project from being scrapped then.

In April, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd’s $70million term debt funding would no longer be available to the scheme. So the company released a new funding proposal in August, asking all prospective investors to reconfirm their commitment.

Not enough did.

Chairman Andrew Fraser said yesterday “a significant drop-off in support” meant the scheme could not proceed.

It was not all about intensifying land use and converting to dairying, but rather relieving pressure on existing water takes, decreasing reliance on surface water extractions, and using the plentiful Waitaki River resource, he said. . .

These schemes have to have the support of farmers. But without debt funding from Crown Irrigation, the cost would have been too high for too many. IrrigationNZ rightly calls it a lost opportunity for South Canterbury.

The scheme had the potential to significantly boost the Waimate economy, create jobs, improve people’s standard of living and help resolve water quality problems,” says Andrew Curtis, Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ.

“It’s disappointing that a scheme with wide reaching community benefits won’t proceed.”

“Much of Environment Canterbury’s plans for improving water quality in the South Canterbury coastal area rely on the development of the irrigation scheme to reduce pressure on groundwater and augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon. Hunter Downs still wants to use its consent to augment the Lake Wainono Lagoon, but the other environmental impacts of the scheme not proceeding will need to be worked through.”

The scheme wouldn’t just have drought-proofed farms, it would have    had environmental benefits in improved water quality and lagoon enhancement.

“While farmers benefit from irrigation development, so do local communities. Irrigation projects are difficult to get off the ground if farmers are the sole funders of major infrastructure projects. There have now been numerous studies completed of New Zealand irrigation schemes and all demonstrate that irrigation have significant benefits for local communities and create substantial new tax income for the government,” says Mr Curtis.

“Other countries are increasing their investment in water storage to recognise that their communities and economies need access to a secure water supply in a changing climate. New Zealand needs to keep making similar investments to future-proof our water resources and food production, and secure our export income.”

On the south of the Waitaki River the economic, environmental and social benefits of irrigation are obvious. Those on the other side of the river will miss out on all of that without the scheme.

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