4,000 cattle to be culled

October 13, 2017

The Ministry of Primary Industries has ordered around 4,000 cows from seven farms to be culled to prevent the spread of Mycoplasma bovis:

The Ministry for Primary Industries is moving forward with control measures to prevent further spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, with plans being developed with farmers to cull animals from the known infected farms.

“Since the start of this response in late July, we’ve carried out tens of thousands of tests of the infected, neighbouring and trace properties as well as district-wide testing in Waimate and Waitaki, and nationwide testing of bulk milk,” says MPI’s Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn.

“The only positive results for the disease have been on 7 infected properties, leading us to be cautiously optimistic that we are dealing with a localised area of infection around Oamaru,” Mr Gwyn says.

“To prevent further spread of the disease, around 4,000 cattle on 5 of the 7 infected properties will need to be culled and a programme put in place to decontaminate the properties and then re-populate the farms. The 2 other properties have had a small number of animals culled already and no cattle remain.

“This whole operation is about managing the disease while keeping our future options open. We want to minimise the risk of further spread of the disease.  Moving ahead with depopulation of the affected farms will allow them to get back to normal business as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Currently there is no need to remove animals from other farms in the Van Leeuwen group that are under restrictions. Testing of animals on those farms continues and should infection be found, they will be subject to the same measures.

In the coming weeks MPI will be working closely with the animal industry bodies, the Rural Support Trust and others to support the affected farmers.

DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and Beef+Lamb New Zealand support the actions MPI is taking, while at the same time recognising that this is a difficult time for the farmers involved. The industry bodies believe the measures are necessary to protect New Zealand cattle farms against this disease. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where Mycoplasma bovis is not endemic, which is why the industry groups support such significant measures to keep it that way.

“The coming weeks will present new challenges and will be tough for these affected farmers. MPI will work with those affected to make the process as straight forward as possible. I’d like to particularly thank the owners, sharemilkers and farm workers involved for their ongoing support, recognising this is a very difficult time for them,” Mr Gwyn says.

“I want to be very clear that this isn’t something that’s going to start tomorrow. This is a big logistical exercise, it needs to be thoroughly planned and co-ordinated and we will be doing it with the farmers who know their businesses best,” Mr Gwyn says.

MPI anticipates the first stage of the process – removing the animals – will start after consultation with affected parties. Most of the cattle will be sent for slaughter in accordance with standard practice.

All premises, transportation vehicles and equipment involved in culling will follow a strict decontamination and disinfection protocol to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.

Once depopulation is completed, there will be at least a 60 day stand-down period where no cattle will be permitted on the farms. During this time the infected properties will be cleaned and disinfected.

Following this work, the aim will be to get cattle back on the farms as quickly as possible. Surveillance, monitoring and testing will remain in place for a period as a further safeguard.

The affected farmers can apply for compensation for verifiable losses relating to MPI exercising legal powers under the Biosecurity Act.

The disease carries no risk to human health but there is no cure for it. Culling is a drastic step but it has the support of affected farmers and industry groups including DairyNZ:

Dairy farmers around the country will be reassured by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) decision to cull animals on farms infected with the disease Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis), says DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

“Since M. bovis was first identified in July farmers have been on high alert and worried about the impact of this disease,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ is supportive of MPI’s decision to step up control measures by culling these animals. However, we also know that the decision will create heartache for the affected farmers, and our sympathies are with all those involved on-farm.”

Dr Mackle says the decision follows extensive work and testing by MPI, with significant support from DairyNZ and many other agencies. Since the disease was first identified in July over 30,000 tests have been carried out by MPI.

MPI is increasingly confident that infection has not spread outside the primary farming enterprise involved with this outbreak, or any of the other farms also under restricted place notices.

Over the coming weeks there will be continued monitoring and testing in the interests of shutting down this disease in New Zealand.

He says biosecurity is fundamental to the future success of all New Zealand’s primary sectors, dairy included. . . 

This is echoed by Beef + Lamb NZ:

. . . James Parsons, chairman of B+LNZ, said: “The decision will obviously have significant implications for the farm businesses and the rural communities affected by this disease outbreak and we wish to see all available support and compensation provided to those affected. We believe these measures are necessary to protect New Zealand cattle farms against this disease.

“New Zealand takes its biosecurity very seriously and is one of the few countries in the world where this disease isn’t endemic, so that’s why the industry is willing to support such significant measures to keep it that way.” 

Federated Farmers also supports the move:

The decision to destroy stock which have been in contact with affected animals is the only option which will ensure peace of mind for the rest of New Zealand’s dairy and beef farmers, Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.

“We also support the continuation of strict movement controls on the remaining 13 properties that have been placed under Restricted Place Notices.

“These restrictions have significant implications for the people concerned, and all other farmers, so this action is essential to keep the option of eradication on the table.”

M. bovis infected stock can be severely affected by the disease, causing pain and suffering.

“We recognise the disease has come at a significant emotional cost to the affected farming families and their animals. The process of culling whole herds will be very stressful for the people concerned.

“But the disease does not respond to treatment and cannot be vaccinated against. Culling is the only logical option to prevent ongoing suffering of the animals.”

From a national perspective, our size, relatively low population and geographic isolation gives us the ability to manage and attempt to eradicate biosecurity incursions, when other countries cannot.

“M. bovis is found in most countries, including Australia, this is a disease that we definitely don’t want and we should seek to eradicate it, if feasible.

“We’ve remained free of many pest animals and pest plants (weeds) and diseases that have decimated other country’s livestock industries. For the sake of our livestock industries and the economy, it’s crucial we act now to ensure this remains the case,” Katie says.

Culling the cattle is necessary but that won’t make it any easier.

When some of our cows tested positive for TB a few years ago we had to cull a few dozen from the herd.

That was hard enough but a very small loss compared with the thousands to be culled on these farms.

MPI will pay compensation based on the commercial value of the stock but that won’t cover the loss of income or the costs of rebuilding the herd. Nor will it replace generations of breeding that went in to building up the herd.

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Rural round-up

October 11, 2017

Fall in farm worker deaths ‘encouraging’ – Alexa Cook:

The number of deaths and serious injuries in the farming sector have dropped this year.

Figures from WorkSafe show that this year, up until 1 October, there have been nine deaths in agricultural workplaces, compared to an average of 15 deaths for the same period each year from 2014 to 2016.

Statistics show that the agricultural sector has had almost four times the number of workplace deaths than forestry, construction and manufacturing since 2011. . . 

Nine vying for three spots in Farmlands director elections – Sally Rae:

Voting is open in this year’s Farmlands director elections and there is a strong southern presence among the South Island candidates.

Nine candidates will contest the three director vacancies this year, with elections required in both the North and South Islands.

The South Island vacancy will be contested by former long-serving Alliance Group director Murray Donald (Winton), former Otago regional councillor Gary Kelliher (Alexandra), accountant Mel Montgomery (Southland), former Federated Farmers national board member David Rose (Southland) and current Alliance Group director Dawn Sangster (Maniototo). . . 

Alliance plans capital spending of $54:

Alliance Group is investing $54million in capital expenditure during the next year.

Outlining the investment at a series of roadshows throughout the country, chief executive David Surveyor said the success of the business strategy meant the co-operative was in a position to reinvest to continue to build the company’s operational performance.

In addition to a pool payment, the company would have a bonus share issue and reward farmer shareholders by increasing their shareholding in the co-operative.

The level would be based upon the supply of lambs, sheep, cattle, calves and deer during the 2017-18 season, Mr Surveyor said in a statement. . . 

Possum peppering – still totally implausible, seven years on – Alison Campbell:

Kerikeri award entry turns possums into burning issue“, proclaims a headline in the Northern Advocate.

The story is about an entry in the WWF-NZ’s Conservation Awards for 2017; I hope the judges have a good grasp of science and scientific method. From the article:

The entry from Kerikeri promotes a new take on an old-world biodynamic method of ridding fields of rodents and other furry pests.

It is called peppering, and involves burning the pelts and carcasses of said pests until they’re little more than ash, grinding it finely, mixing it with water and “spray painting” the substance back on the affected land.

Apparently, this version of the ‘traditional’ practice is new in the sense that so far it has not been applied because it lacked ‘scientific background’. . . 

Sheep Meat And Beef Levies to Remain Unchanged:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) announced today that sheep meat and beef levies will remain unchanged for the levy year commencing 1 October 2017.

B+LNZ Chairman James Parsons says the Board has reviewed budgets and activities for the financial year commencing 1 October 2017 and that the sheep meat levy on all sheep slaughtered would remain $0.60 per head and the beef levy, on all cattle slaughtered (including beef cattle and dairy cattle but excluding bobby calves), at $4.40 per head GST (exclusive). . . 

Voting for the 2017 Fonterra elections and resolutions underway:

Voting is now open for the 2017 Fonterra Board of Directors’ Elections, the Shareholders’ Councillor Elections in 10 wards, and six Annual Meeting resolutions.

This year Shareholders have the opportunity to elect three Fonterra Directors. The three candidates are Independent Nomination process candidates Brent Goldsack, Andy Macfarlane and John Monaghan. Each candidate requires Shareholder support of over 50% of votes to be elected. . . 

Farmers Fast Five: John McCaskey – Claire Inkson:

Farmers Fast Five : Where we ask a Farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to John McCaskey : Pioneer of the Wine Industry, Farmers Advocate, Entrepreneur, and Proud Farmer.

1….How long have you been farming?

Since I was big enough to hold a bottle and feed a lamb—say 1939! My infant years were filled with helping feed pigs & chooks progressing to milking the house cow and churning butter after school! By age 10 I was going to be a farmer! I passed all agriculture subjects for School Cert 1954 . . 

New deal sees Palgrove partner with NZ super fund

Leading Queensland seedstock producers, David and Prue Bondfield, Palgrove, are the latest agribusiness to partner with a superannuation fund in order to grow their business.

The Bondfield family released a statement on Wednesday saying their business, had entered into a partnership with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZSF). The terms of the transaction remain confidential.​  . . 

Select Harvest rejects Arab takeover, launches $65m local capital raising – Andrew Marshall:

Select Harvest has more than 7000 hectares of almond plantations likely to deliver about 15,800 tonnes of crop next year.

Hot on the heels of rejecting a $430 million Arab takeover offer, big almond growing and nut processing business, Select Harvest, has launched a share market capital raising bid for about $65m.

Select has already placed 10.7m new shares worth about $45m with institutional investors. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

October 6, 2017

Methane, nitrous oxide levels can be reduced – Nicole Sharp:

Methane and nitrous oxide levels can be reduced on-farm and mitigation options are already available for farmers.

AgResearch science impact leader Robyn Dynes spoke to a group of rural professionals in Invercargill recently about what mitigation options were available to reduce greenhouse gases.

Methane is produced by cows when feed is digested by rumen microbes and 87%-92% of it is produced in the rumen.

Four options either available to farmers at present or being worked on would help reduce methane levels, Dr Dynes said. . . 

Focus goes on safety – Yvonne O’Hara:

Central Otago wool harvesting workers and contractors have contributed to an industry-first online health and safety education resource.

Members of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association’s ”Tahi Ngatahi” working party were in the region last week to hold three focus groups to ”flesh out” content for the series of short and sharp videos and other information for the online units.

The group hopes the resource will be launched in April or May next year. . . 

Westland shareholders back governance changes:

Westland Milk Products shareholders today strongly endorsed a package of changes designed to improve and update the co-operative’s governance.

Westland Chairman Pete Morrison said, “Shareholders at today’s Special General Meeting in Hokitika approved the changes with 93.5% percent in favour. This will ‘future proof’ the structure and tone of the governance of our co-operative, and better equip Westland for the opportunities and challenges ahead of us.”

Morrison said one of the key recommendations in the report, a programme to identify and upskill potential shareholder directors, was well received, with feedback from shareholders during the consultation and at the SGM emphasising that continuity and succession planning was important. . . 

Dairy sector strong as it gazes at uncertain future:

Trans Tasman Political Pulse

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS – The dairy sector may be facing a future filled with political uncertainty, but the Fonterra result shows it is working from a strong base with potential to grow further and strengthen the wider economy.

As reported in Trans Tasman’s sister publication The Main Report Farming Alert, Fonterra delivered a solid result, marked by foodservice sales growth into China. Its returns ensure farmers’ protability is back close to long-run averages of $990/ha, with a further lift of protability projected in the current season.

The dairy industry is a vital engine for the economy, but it needs solid Govt backing, particularly as it competes in global markets. Currently, 87% of all NZ dairy exports are restricted by quotas or tariffs of more than 10%. . . 

B+LNZ and MIA concerned by UK media reports of a EU-UK deal on WTO quotas:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the New Zealand Meat Industry Association are concerned by reports that the EU and UK have reached a “deal” to split the EU’s WTO tariff rate quotas following Brexit.

“Given the importance of the European Union and United Kingdom for New Zealand’s sheep and beef exports, stability and certainty is vital,” said James Parsons, Chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. “The tariff rate quotas form part of the EU’s WTO commitments and are legally binding rights and obligations. . . 

PGG Wrightson Plants its Future Growth With Promapp:

A PGG Wrightson, a New Zealand Stock Exchange listed company and a leading provider of products, services and solutions to growers, farmers and processors, has announced that it is now deploying Promapp business process management software across its recently expanded Retail and Water division.

In a strategy designed to support the organisation’s ongoing focus on effective service delivery, business improvement and risk management, Promapp will provide the organisation’s staff with a centralised repository for storing and managing critical processes as well as an enhanced facility for reporting on the status of processes, improvement actions and risks. . . 

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Farmer – I”m more than you think: mechanic, meteorologist, scientist, machine operator, financial planner, agronomist, computer operator, animal caretaker, family.


Rural round-up

September 22, 2017

Water tax ‘not about bottlers’ – they’d pay less than 3 per cent, says IrrigationNZ:

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern should not answer questions about the party’s proposed water tax by saying it’s about targeting water bottlers, says IrrigationNZ.

When Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was asked in last night’s TVNZ Leader’s Debate whether rural New Zealand had got offside with her over Labour’s proposed water tax, particularly the farming community, Ms Ardern answered: ‘No. I targeted water bottlers. . . I targeted water bottlers as that’s something New Zealanders wanted, for them to pay their fair share.” . .

Farmers should know they are still appreciated:

Rural New Zealand can easily feel ignored or misunderstood in political discussion these days.

Though this has been a predominantly urban country for many generations now, it is perhaps only in the last two generations that most New Zealanders were not familiar with farming life.

Previously, most would have had a family connection with farming and in many cases personal childhood experience of living on or near farms. So it is no wonder that the Labour Party’s proposals to tax farmers for river pollution and climate change should produce the demonstration in Morrinsville on Monday. . . .

Farmers must have say on water tax – Pam Tipa:

The Labour Party’s water tax policy is “pretty short on details,” and the farming sector needs to have input into a final plan, says Beef + Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons.
“If Labour is in government we would want to work with them to work out how we could best deliver on swimmable rivers, while making sure we don’t ‘crucify’ the primary sector at the same time.”

Parsons says Labour leader Jacinda Ardern had been clear that the party would not lay out all the detail until a decent conversation had been held with those who would be affected if they were in government. . . 

Six months has transformed farming country in once drought-stricken North Canterbury – Pat Deavoll:

What a difference six months has made to North Canterbury, which this time last year was still embroiled in drought.

Regular rainfalls since May have turned brown paddocks green, and farmers moods swing from despondent to optimistic about the summer ahead.

Will Wilding of Te Mania Angus stud at Conway Flat, said he was having “the best spring in a long time.” after three years of drought. . .

DCANZ, DairyNZ and MPI endorse Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam: 

DairyNZ, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have today endorsed the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam, marking New Zealand’s commitment towards global sustainable dairy development.

The Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam signals both a commitment towards feeding the world with safe and sustainable products, and enhancing sustainability. . .

Ballance Farm Environment Awards a boost for work in progress kiwifruit orchard:

Entering the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards encouraged Whakatane kiwifruit growers Iain and Leanne Blackwood to “sharpen their game”.

The couple both work full time on their 7.95ha orchard, which includes 4ha of SunGold, 0.61ha of Sweet Green (G14) and 3.3ha of Hayward Green.

“We entered after talking to our neighbour’s daughter, who worked for Zespri, encouraged us to have a go,” Iain says.

The Blackwoods were still developing the golden kiwifruit when they were judged. . .


Farmers’ pledge will work where water tax won’t

August 23, 2017

Farming leaders have pledged to make rivers swimmable:

In a first for the country, farming leaders have pledged to work together to help make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for future generations.

The Farming Leaders’ Pledge has been signed today by a group of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders, that represent over 80% per cent of that country’s farmed land, committing them to an ambitious goal of working to make New Zealand’s rivers swimmable for their children and grandchildren.

Group spokesperson, Federated Farmers President and West Coast dairy farmer Katie Milne says the intent behind the pledge is clear.

“Many of our rivers are not in the condition we all want them to be. We are doing this because we want our kids and their kids to be able to swim in the same rivers that we did as children.  And by swim we mean swim. It’s as simple as that.

“We’re standing up and saying we haven’t always got this right. More work is required and we will play our part. While there has been progress on farm in the past 10 years, we know there is more to be done, and that it must be done fast, and together.

Clean rivers aren’t an abstract concept for farmers.

This is the water we drink and wash with every day, not something we might visit a very few times a year.

“Today isn’t about laying out the detail on the huge amount of work going on already on farms up and down the country and how these efforts will need to increase.

“It’s about us as farming leaders signalling our commitment to making New Zealand’s rivers swimmable and doing everything we can to achieve that.”

Ms Milne, says the group understands much of the work needed will be challenging for the farming sector.

Challenging yes, but a  lot will build on work already being undertaken.

“We haven’t put a timeline on our commitment.  Each community will need to decide that for themselves.  This goal will be difficult to meet and we don’t have all the answers today on how it’s going to be achieved”, she says.

“We know that we have work to do. We know it will be challenging for farmers. We know the answers are complex and we don’t have them all now.   This commitment is simply the right thing to do in playing our part to give back to future generations what we enjoyed as kids.”

The Farming Leaders Group is an informal grouping of New Zealand pastoral farming leaders that was established in May 2017 to work on issues of importance to the sector. 

The current membership is Mike Petersen (Sheep & Beef Farmer), Michael Spaans (Dairy Farmer and Dairy NZ Chair), James Parsons (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Beef + Lamb NZ Chair), John Loughlin (Meat Industry Association Chair), Katie Milne (Dairy Farmer and Federated Farmers President), Bruce Wills (Sheep & Beef Farmer and Ravensdown Director), and John Wilson (Dairy Farmer and Fonterra Chair).

The improvements already made have been done by farmers who understand the importance of clean water, without the crude instrument of a water tax which Megan  Hands describes as a kick in the guts for farmers:

There is no doubt that water management is top of mind for many of us this election, but none more so than our farmers and growers, particularly those with irrigation. It’s struck me that using the word farmer seems to irk many, as if it has some kind of negative connotation.

The reality is that New Zealand’s farmers collectively are a group of thousands of small, often family run businesses and their employees. Many are self-employed and punch well above their weight to compete on a global scale, often up against farmers from nations who receive significant subsidies from their governments to assist with their costs of production, top up their incomes or assist them to undertake environmental works.

Irrigation dates to back the Ancient Egyptians and, simply put, we have it because we need water to grow crops or feed for our animals. In the areas of the country that have the most irrigation, rainfall can be scarce, ranging from just 300mm in parts of Central Otago, through to 500-700mm in Canterbury and Marlborough, as compared with the 1,200mm that falls in Auckland annually. Irrigation is used by some farmers and growers to supplement that shortfall in rain and to remain resilient in drought years.

Irrigation schemes don’t just allow farmers to weather dry weather. They also augment natural flows in rivers and streams to improve water quality and enhance water life.

What then is the likely impact of Labour’s water tax policy on these families and their communities?

On the face of it phrases like “polluter pays” or “user pays: may sound appealing, but the balancing of the environmental, social, cultural and economic needs of our communities is more complex than that.

An important point to note from the outset is that nobody in New Zealand pays for water. Even in Auckland, Watercare charges for the treatment and reticulation of water to your home or business, not for the water itself. In the same way as you pay the council through your rates or water bill, Irrigators pay for the infrastructure through consenting, drilling of wells, installation and running of pumping stations or through payments to irrigation schemes with costs of up to $800 a hectare.

That’s what we pay for water from North Otago Irrigation COmpany’s scheme – $800 a hectare a year. On top of that we have to have an environmental farm plan which is independently audited each year.

When Labour’s policy was first announced, there was little detail of pricing. It appears now we are looking at a price of 2 cents per cubic metre, or 1000 Litres.

For some context, to apply 1mm of water over 1 hectare of land it takes 10,000 litres of water or 10 cubic metres. So, to supplement that shortfall of rainfall and sustain crop or pasture growth it quickly equates to large volumes of water.

To keep the maths simple, a 200ha cropping farm growing grain or grass seeds in mid Canterbury applying 500mm of irrigation water a year would have a new additional tax bill of $20,000 a year.

A 100hectare vineyard in Blenheim might use 199,500 cubic metres of water through a drip micro system and have an additional tax bill of $3,990.

Another dairy farmer well known on Twitter has calculated his annual water tax bill on his farm to be $53,000.

Suddenly a couple of cents doesn’t sound so small.

It’s not just the amount but that it will be taken from irrigators regardless of whether their practices are contributing to water quality problems, some will go to Iwi and some will go to regional councils.

What’s left after the costs of collection and distribution is supposed to be used to clean up waterways, but how? It it’s individual farms causing problems they should be responsible for fixing them and not at the cost of those who are already doing everything right.

The key drivers for irrigation requirements are the soil type and its ability to hold water, the crops water demand and the evapotranspiration of the area. In the examples above, grapes have a lower water demand than pasture or grain crops. There is a great deal of science and high level of management that goes into managing irrigation efficiently.

One arable farmer at a meeting in Ashburton on Friday said that he had calculated that at 2 cents/m3 his annual water tax bill could equate to half his annual income. Another wondered aloud what happens if he has a crop failure and he receives zero income for that year but still must pay the tax for the irrigation water he used?

What will happen in wet seasons, like the last one, when there was hardly any irrigation? Our power bill was about 10% of what it had been the previous season which indicates we used about a 10th of the irrigation.

And what will they do with the seagulls which are causing the only water quality problem in the Kakanui River?

In districts where there are significant areas of irrigation this tax would mean millions of dollars being removed from these local economies in additional tax. In these regional areas, the small towns and cities rely on primary industry to keep them going. For Ashburton and Timaru some estimates have come in around $40 million. Tim Cadogan, mayor of Central Otago, is quoted as saying the tax will cost his district $6 million dollars. That’s millions of dollars not transferred to local tradesman, the local café or the rural supplies store.

This proposed tax has been portrayed as the solution to NZ’s water quality problems, although the more we learn about this policy the more difficult it is to link the purported benefits with the method proposed. If Labour do as they say and return the tax to the areas from which it is collected (minus the percentage that goes to iwi), the areas with the poorest water quality will only receive a small slice of the tax. This is because there is almost no correlation between swimability of rivers and irrigation.

This policy is based not on facts but on the unsubstantiated belief that irrigation causes water degradation.

In our area it’s the opposite case. The Waiareka Creek that used to be a series of semi-stagnant ponds now flows clear  all year and water life has re-established because irrigation water is doing what nature couldn’t – maintain water flows.

One of the greatest concerns regarding this policy is the possibility it could make meeting required reductions in nutrient losses more difficult. Making changes on a farm to improve water quality is not cheap and any additional money squeezed out of what are often tight budgets may make it more difficult to do so. As an example, $20,000-30,000 can pay for three or four soil moisture meters to aid in more targeted use of irrigation or perhaps part of a new effluent system.

A water tax is a broad-brush approach to what are varied and complex issues. In my view identifying the contaminants causing the water quality problems for a catchment and targeting the management of those at catchment scale is a far superior approach than paying money to a government organisation in the hope that it will be returned to be spent the catchment it came from.

Last Friday David Parker, Labour’s spokesperson for freshwater fronted a public meeting in Ashburton. While I’d already been publicly critical of the approach of a water tax, I wanted to hear what he had to say in more depth than a media soundbite or the 300-word summary on the Labour party website. I’ve also long believed that there is a legitimate conversation to be had about how we should fund environmental infrastructure such as the Managed Aquifer Recharge site in Ashburton, new storm water systems or floating wetlands such as those installed at Te Arawa in Rotorua.

I was bitterly disappointed.

Mr Parker provided photos of poor farming practices to set the tone. Of the farming practices that we were seeing in the photos, not even one of them was related to irrigation and none were from Canterbury. Almost every single one of them would be illegal in Canterbury under the existing Land and Water Regional Plan putting your consent to farm or your access to irrigation water at risk of being cut off.

When questioned on the price, Mr Parker warned the room that he wasn’t there to negotiate and threatened the farmers in the room that if they pushed him it would be 2 cents instead of 1 cent. He continually referred to the farmers in the room as “you people”, taking aim at them and telling them they alone were responsible for the rural urban divide.

It is the responsibility of us all to manage our water well and that includes irrigators, towns and cities, and other commercial users. If we are going to tackle these challenges we must do it together, instead of pointing the finger at one another.

The management of our freshwater is important for our ecosystems, our businesses and our recreation. Water is precious to all of us and deserves far more sophisticated and collaborative policy development then soundbites and feel good election policies if we are to deliver the kaitiakitanga it deserves.

The pledge by the farmers’ group will work where the water tax won’t.

It will be led by and accomplished by farmers working with farmers, not politicians extracting a tax only some of which will be applied to improving water quality.


Rural round-up

August 4, 2017

Paid to think and loving it – Sally Rae:

For Beef and Lamb NZ’s first independent director the future is already here. Sally Rae speaks to Melissa Clark-Reynolds.

Melissa Clark-Reynolds sums herself up succinctly — “I’m a geek”, she says simply.

The high-profile technology entrepreneur and business leader was in Dunedin yesterday to speak at the red meat sector conference.

Her visit coincided with her being named Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s first independent director.

And, as Ms Clark-Reynolds (53) puts it, it is a governance role she is “pretty bloody happy about”. . .

‘Real opportunity’ to carve out niche – Sally Rae:

It is time to refresh the red meat sector’s strategy, which is facing “headwinds”, the industry’s conference was told yesterday. Sally Rae reports.

New Zealand’s red meat sector is on track for its vision of an $11.4billion sector by 2025, Beef and Lamb New Zealand chairman James Parsons says.

There was a “real opportunity” to carve out a niche by telling its story as ethical food producers. However, there were also a few “headwinds”, Mr Parsons told those attending the red meat sector conference in Dunedin yesterday. . .

Antara Ag to sell Southland sheep milking farm – Brittany Pickett:

Antara Ag is selling one of its three Southland farms, as it consolidates its sheep milking operation.

The company exclusively supplies Blueriver Nutrition HK, milking 10,000 east friesian-poll dorset ewes on three Southland farms. Antara Ag manufactures infant formula from sheep milk for export to China and was the first company in New Zealand to do so.

General manager Jazz Hewitson said the company was putting its Brydone operation up for sale to get rid of some land and “consolidate what we’re already doing“. . .

Top agricultural start-ups get a lift from Sprout accelerator business programme – Jill Galloway:

Fledgling agricultural start-ups are getting a helping hand to grow their business from the Sprout agritech business accelerator programme in Palmerston North.

Business strategy advisor Stu Bradbury said Sprout’s job was to help businesses.

“People in New Zealand often have good ideas, but have no idea how to get them to market. At Sprout we can help.”

Bradbury has experience in the start-up world after founding several businesses in the agri-tech sector, and went on the sell Precision Irrigation, to a United States company. . .

Battle for our Birds 2017 underway:

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says this year’s Battle for our Birds 1080 operations are now underway to protect our most vulnerable native wildlife from the scourge of rats and stoats fuelled by widespread forest seeding.

“Work at 34 sites covering more than 800,000 hectares of high value conservation land has begun and DOC field staff are monitoring another seven sites to see if rodents are at damaging levels,” Ms Barry says. . . .

One man a pig and a goose – Unexpected Farmer:

I am well known in the area as the crazy lady who takes animals, but there are some occasions when even I say NO! As everyone knows I am often in bed well before my children, unfortunately the Spanish never understand this and feel 9pm is a suitable time to be sat outside my gates…. hand on horn!

The other night Mr P turned up, placed hand on horn, and kept it there until we appeared, this was my first issue, closely followed by the fact it was dark and cold. We didn’t even have time to do hello’s and how are you’s before he launched in to I have a pig for you!

The next 20 minutes were strange even by my standards. . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

July 22, 2017

Rural women leaders take bull by the horns – Holly Ryan:

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has lost track of the number of people who have called her farm in Kumara on the West Coast, asking to talk business with the man of the house.

Within minutes, she will often hear her husband say “I’ll hand you back to the boss, she can help you,” as he returns the phone to her.

This is because although the farm is a partnership, Milne is usually the one managing the books and keeping the business side of things ticking over. . . 

Mt Somers couple master schemes and farming diversification – Pat Deavoll:

No one will ever call Mid Canterbury farmers Kate and David Acland lazy. Not only do they run a 3800ha mixed livestock finishing farm with 25,000 stock units; they have tacked onto the family enterprise a dairy operation, an apiary, a Marlborough winery and a local cafe and farm store.

“Schemes interest us,” says David. “Diversification has been our strategy since 2012. We are spreading our income and are not at the mercy of any single industry.

“Driving our business to grow and intensify while staying true to our farming values is a challenge, but opportunities such as bee keeping allow us a whole new revenue stream without affecting the core business of the farm or affecting the environment.” . . 

Nuffield opens Manawatu farmer Matt Hocken’s eyes to global agricultural stage – Kate Taylor:

Applications are open for 2018 Nuffield Scholarships. Kate Taylor spoke to a 2017 scholar in the middle of his international travels.

The best thing about Mat Hocken’s Nuffield scholarship has been the way it has opened his eyes to the global agricultural stage. The hardest thing has been leaving his young family.

Hocken is farming a Manawatu property, Grassmere, that has been in his family for over 125 years. He works alongside wife Jana, with whom he has two young daughters, and his father Ross who lives on one of the support blocks nearby. . .

Federated Farmers Appeal ECan Catchment Proposal:

Federated Farmers has decided to appeal Environment Canterbury’s Plan Change 5.

The Plan Change is ECan’s solution to addressing water quality issues associated with farming activities in Canterbury – but excludes catchments already addressed.

The Federation backs the principles outlined in the proposal, but has decided to appeal on proxies attached to the plan. . . 

Fonterra to expand in Darfield

Fonterra will build two new cream cheese plants at its Darfield site.

With cream cheese undergoing a steady surge in popularity in Asia, the $150 million two-stage project will see the first plant completed in 2018 with a second to follow in either 2019 or 2020.

The two new plants will incorporate technology that will allow the firmness and consistency of the cream cheese be dialled up or down to meet customer preference.

Fonterra’s director of global foodservice Grant Watson said the investment is a timely one as more and more consumers around Asia develop a preference for milk-based products . . .

Angus on top at Steak of Origin –

Tim and Kelly Brittain, from Otorohanga, have been awarded this year’s Steak of Origin grand champion title for their Angus steak.

Being recognised as the country’s top beef producer is an achievement Tim and Kelly are extremely proud of.

“Each year our entries into this competition have stepped up a level and I am so proud that tonight all our work and efforts can be celebrated. This outcome is a significant achievement and something that Kelly and I have been working towards,” Tim said. . .


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