Southland shows sense

July 4, 2019

A few days ago I declared a common sense emergency.

Jane Smith is blunter:

Although Jane Smith is not a climate change denier, she says there is no denying things have got “out of control” when it comes to cities declaring a climate emergency.

In fact, this North Otago farmer wants to declare an “Emergency of Political Stupidity”.

“All of these headlines are politically driven propaganda, rather than evidence-based” Smith told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

As a former Ballance Farm Environment Award winner, Smith knows her stuff when it comes to keeping New Zealand clean and green, but a climate emergency is a step too far in her book.

“I just think now is the time to be working together in a calm and rational way – and I’m not a climate change denier at all. It’s just that this is a long game, and we actually need to be thinking about it together and building that plane while we’re flying it I guess”.

Another issue bugging Smith at the moment is millennials being diagnosed with climate change anxiety over the “looming anticipated threats about what might be happening in the future”.

“That is not conducive to really cool, calm and rational thinking. Opinion seems to be taking over fact … and I just think that’s ridiculous“. . .

The political stupidity emergency is coming closer now Jacinda Ardern is contemplating declaring one of behalf of the government.

The Prime Minister’s admission that she is open to the idea of declaring a climate change emergency is nothing more than hot air and rhetoric, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“This amounts to nothing more than political posturing and virtue signalling, the Climate Change Minister himself has admitted that he expects emissions to continue to rise until the mid-2020s, and declaring an emergency would not have any impact on this.

“There is no clear understanding of what declaring a ‘climate emergency’ would actually mean or what would occur as a result.

“When governments declare emergencies they are for natural disasters and requires the full and urgent attention of all relevant government departments. This declaration lacks all such substance and is merely a feel good statement with no plan or meaningful action standing behind it.

“If the Government was explicit in what it would change, fund, or prioritise differently by declaring an emergency then we would be open to the debate, but currently it is just symbolism over substance.

“National is taking a bipartisan approach to climate change and supports the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission. The focus should be on developing real plans to drive our emissions down rather than making empty declarations.”

People clamoring for declarations of climate emergencies should be very careful what they’re wishing for.

Any urgent actions, which is what emergencies demand, would have high economic and social costs and, given just how small New Zealand’s contribution to the problem is, the environmental benefits would be at the very best minimal.

But there is hope in Southland where cooler heads are prevailing:

Environment Southland has today voted against declaring a climate emergency.

Councillor Robert Guyton put forward the motion at a full council meeting to declare a climate emergency. It was seconded by Cr Lyndal Ludlow. . .

However, a second motion put forward by Cr Eric Roy stated council would “commit to applying best practice and best science to it’s responsibilities and accords urgency to developing an action plan.”

This was then voted on – the results being all but two councillors voting in favour of it. . .

Environment Southland is showing sense.

Commitment to best practice, best science and urgent development of an action plan will achieve far more than the empty words and hot air which are the declaration of a climate emergency.

 


Rural round-up

May 17, 2019

Time for agricultural industry to lead the way – Anna Campbell:

It seems a long time ago that National MP Shane Ardern rode ”Myrtle”, his elderly tractor, up the parliamentary steps in protest at the proposed ”fart tax”.

That was back in 2003 and there have been many iterations of carbon reduction schemes since then with agriculture sliding along relatively unscathed. One did feel that it was only a matter of time before the grace period was over. Climate change has not gone away, a raft of regulations are on their way, but they do look a little different from what we were expecting.

The biggest difference to the current scheme versus previous schemes is the split gas regime, where methane is treated separately due to its shorter lifespan in the atmosphere – the target is a 10% reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, with a provisional reduction of 24% to 47% by 2050. . . 

‘Major reset’ for honey industry – Yvone O’Hara:

There has been strong growth by the honey industry during the past few years but with demand and prices dropping by as much as 50% compared to the previous season, there will be belt tightening and rationalisation, Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says.

She said the strong growth and good returns in the past few years had attracted a lot of new entrants to the industry.

However, the domestic and international markets have been ”a bit sluggish”. . . 

Katie Milne responds to Shane Jones’ claim that farmers are ‘moaners‘:

Farmers have come under fire this week from MP Shane Jones, who says they need to stop “bitching and moaning”. Jones launched into farmers while talking to host Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday. But what do farmers say in response? Mackay catches up with one of Jones’ targets, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, who says the urban/rural divide has damaged people’s opinions of farmers.

“I don’t like the term ‘whingeing’,” says Katie Milne. “But we do like to highlight and try to talk to the issues that do affect us that people do have control over.”

The Federated Farmers president is responding to claims from the Minister of Forestry and Regional Economic Development Shane Jones that farmers are moaners. . . 

Facts ‘overrated’ in farming’s fight for social licence – Glen Herud:

There’s the “thing” and there’s the perception of the “thing” and they are not the same thing.

You could say, there’s the “dairy farm” and there’s the perception of the “dairy farm” and they are not the same thing.

You can change the thing but that doesn’t necessarily change the perception of the thing. . . 

FarmStrong: Shearer’s look after top paddock :

An initiative in the wool harvesting industry is changing traditional attitudes to injury prevention and wellbeing and it’s not just shearing crews who are benefiting.  

Times are changing in the woolshed, Shearing Contractors’ Association spokesman Mark Barrowcliffe says.

He’s been running his King Country business for nearly 20 years, employing up to 50 staff at peak season. . .

Busby takes the feijoa for New Zealand’s oldest sheep – Tracey Neal:

Busby’s genetic roots might lie in the blustery North Sea island of Texel, but the owners of what was possibly New Zealand’s oldest sheep said he has thrived on a more gentle lifestyle.

The Texel-Romney cross wether is estimated by Lynley and Barry Bird to be 24-years-old, measured against the ages of their now-adult children who rescued him as a lamb. . .


Rural round-up

May 1, 2019

Gas tax won’t cut farming emissions – Neal Wallace:

A capital gains tax is off the agenda but farming leaders are warning the imposition a suite of new taxes and regulations is pending.

In addition to farmers paying a greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year the Government is expected to impose tougher regulations on freshwater quality, aerial cropping, winter grazing and feedlots.

“When you look at everything else coming down the pipeline, if I was asked to pick one we were prepared to lose it would be this one, the one we have won,” Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard said of the capital gains tax.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out water and fertiliser taxes as suggested by the Tax Working Group. . .

Top dairy title revealed tonight – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy farmer Emma Hammond, of East Limehills, felt honoured when she was nominated for this year’s prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award.

The only South Island-based finalist, she and the other three women will hear if they are winners during a dinner this evening at the Allflex Dairy Women’s Network’s conference in Christchurch.

”For us to be recognised for what we do and get that acknowledgement is humbling,” Mrs Hammond said. . .

Farm management whizz ‘well on track‘ – Sally Rae:

At 19, James Matheson set a goal of having $1 million equity by the time he was 30.

Now 26, the Gore farm manager is ”well on track” to achieve that, sitting at between $700,000 and $800,000.

It has been a meteoric rise for a young man who had never previously considered a career in the dairy industry.

Now he and farm owner Chris Lawlor were endeavouring to help other young people follow a similar path through an innovative initiative. . . 

Highlife on top of the world – Andrew Stewart:

Setting up a tourism venture on a farm not only provides a second income but also acts as a public relations exercise to help bridge the rural-urban divide. And when it includes luxury glamping and breathtaking views the visitors cannot fail to be impressed. Andrew Stewart took a look.

In terms of spectacular views, Angus and Sarah Gilbertson’s farm is up there with the best. 

Rising to 600 metres above sea level at the highest point, the panorama on a clear day encompasses all the mountain peaks of the central plateau, Mount Taranaki to the west and the clear blue waters of the Tasman Sea far to the south. 

Between these stunning landmarks are great swathes of some of the most productive farming country in New Zealand that connect the landscape in various shades of green. It’s the sort of view you can’t help but stop and enjoy and this is part of the reason the Gilbertsons created their glamping business five years ago. . . 

The 10 biggest stories in farming over the past 25 years – Jamie Mackay:

My final chat on Newstalk ZB with the laconic Larry Williams was a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.

Larry was stepping down after 27 years at the drive helm on ZB, while I was blowing out the candles on an accidental radio career spanning a quarter century in rural broadcasting.

For our penultimate ZB cross the week earlier I’d turned the tables on Larry and, without warning, asked him some unscripted questions. Much like his metronomic golf swing, he’s sometimes hard to get off script, but on this occasion he took up the challenge with good humour. . . 

Hunt on for ‘M.bovis’ study project manager – Sally Rae:

The search for an assistant research fellow to project manage a study on the impacts of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities has attracted a high level of interest.

In January, it was announced the University of Otago would undertake a study on the emotional, social and psychological impacts of the bacterial cattle disease on southern farmers and farming communities.

The two-year study, due to start this month, will look at the impact of the eradication programme on farmers specifically and the wider community more generally. . . 

Medicinal cannabis firm Pure Cann New Zealand gets $6 million investment– Rebecca Howard:

Pure Cann New Zealand, which counts former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe as its executive chair, has secured $6 million from Australia’s Cann Group for a 20 per cent stake in the local medicinal cannabis company.

The investment will be made over stages with the initial 10 per cent to be completed on or before August 30 and a further 10 per cent when New Zealand regulations come into force and Pure Cann’s board approves the construction of its commercial cultivation facility.

The New Zealand government anticipates introducing new regulations, licensing requirements and quality standards governing medicinal cannabis usage by the end of this calendar year. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 7, 2019

Miles Hurell says Fonterra top job was never a done-deal :

The Country’s Jamie Mackay always thought Miles Hurrell would be a shoo-in for Fonterra’s chief executive position but the man himself says it was never a done deal.

“Far from it. They gave me an opportunity to see what we could do in that six months [as interim CEO] and clearly it’s worked. The board have liked what they’ve seen,” said Hurrell.

Fonterra’s new chief executive told Mackay he is well aware that he has a big job ahead of him. . . 

Years of work ahead to eradicate M. bovis, programme director says  – Brianna McIlraith:

More than 80,000 cows have been culled around the country as part of the effort to stop the spread of the Mycoplasma bovis disease, but eradication is still a long way off, the man in charge of the programme says.

Geoff Gwyn said another two years of ‘heavy lifting’ lay ahead before the Ministry for Primary Industries was confidently on top of the bacterial disease, and experts had advised that eradication could take between five and 10 years. . .

Potentialseen in double-muscled Beltx sheep breed – Sally Rae:

A Southland farming family has invested significantly in the Beltex sheep breed, believing it will be of ”major benefit” to the New Zealand sheep industry.

Brent and Ann-Maree Robinson, and son Michael, who farm at Glenham, near Wyndham, last year paid $12,000 for a ram lamb at the inaugural Beltex sale in Canterbury.

Last week, they bought the second top-priced ram lamb for $21,000 at this year’s sale at Mt Somers, a 2-tooth ram for $11,500 and some Beltex ewes to help build their breeding programme. . . 

Woman claims inaugural female shearing crown – Ellen O’Dwyer:

Emily Welch still remembers the time a fellow male competitor refused to shake her hand for out-shearing him.

That was in 2007, when Welch came second in the senior finals at the Golden Shears.

Now the Waikato shearer is the first to have her name etched on the women-only trophy after taking first place in the inaugural event at this year’s Golden Shears competition in Masterton. . . 

Community rallies to support Cambridge wetlands project :

A Cambridge school’s planting project not only assisted local farmers’ environmental efforts, but also attracted plants and sustenance from local businesses.

As part of an environmental initiative between DairyNZ’s education programme and the Student Volunteer Army, 26 rural schools were matched recently with 26 farmers to carry out riparian planting projects around the country.

Two farmers taking part were sharemilkers Stu and Leah Gillanders, who teamed up with a class from Cambridge Middle School to plant a wetland on Merv and Marion Hunt’s Karapiro farm. . .

Dannevirke TeenAg award winner’s passion for Hereford  cattle :

Dannevirke teenager Niamh Barnett knows first-hand how nerve-racking bidding at a livestock auction can be.

The 17-year-old bought some Hereford cows at the Woodlynd Polled Herefords dispersal sale in Gisborne in February 2018.

“I went with a price I was prepared to pay for each animal. I just hoped I didn’t get outbid,” she laughed. . . 


Rural round-up

December 27, 2018

Leave the water rules to locals – Neal wallace:

When water arrived in Maniototo 34 years ago it not only transformed the region’s dryland farms but also Geoff Crutchley’s views on water management.

Crutchley was initially reluctant to become involved in the murky world of water and irrigation management but was prodded into action in response to what he considered inflated water prices being demanded by the precursor to the Maniototo Irrigation Company.

So began an involvement that continues today but which has challenged some of his previous views while shaping others.

His experience has formed views on three issues in particular. . . 

Wilding pine effort set to triple – Jono Edwards:

The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.

Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.

At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.

This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.

Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way. . . 

Improving farm performance – one effluent pond at a time – Jim van der Poel:

As a dairy farmer, I take great pride in looking after my farm – its animals, the grass under their feet, our team and how we protect the environment. Every aspect contributes to a successful business.

So, like many farmers, I am disappointed when a few let down the majority. There have been some instances this year of poor effluent compliance, despite many farmers doing great work in this space.

All dairy farmers have a responsibility to manage the effluent from their cows and it is taken seriously by the vast majority who are investing in reliable, sustainable farm systems. . . 

Ex-director suggests Fonterra suspends dividends – Sudesh Kissun:

A former Fonterra director says the co-op could suspend dividends to shore up its balance sheet rather than sell key assets.

Greg Gent says farmers and investors would understand if the co-op suspended dividends to get its books in better shape. And it could suspend dividends and sell some assets that don’t align with its new strategy.

However, he wants to see the co-op’s strategy before decisions are made on selling assets. . . 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2018 – Jamie Mackay:

The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer’s worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.

Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we’ve given it a hell of fright in 2018. . . 

Bird veteran still has pluck – Alan Williams:

The glamorous part of the year is over for long-time poultry exhibitor Doug Bain.

After several months of winter and spring shows around the South Island with a lot of ribbons and accolades it is back to the real work of breeding hens and ducks for next year.

“You need to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a hobby for me,” the 82-year-old says.

He doesn’t keep count of the birds he breeds and has no preferences. 

“I like them all.” . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 11, 2018

Fonterra is in a fix but farmers should beware of what happens when the Govt steps in … – Point of Order:

“Govt won’t fix Fonterra’s problems” – so ran  the  strapline  on  the  NZ Herald’s  weekly  “The Business”  last  Friday.

And  thousands   of  Fonterra’s  farmer-suppliers,  reading  the  article which quoted Agriculture Minister Damien  O’Connor,  almost  certainly would have sighed  with relief.

Who  would want   this   government  to  “fix”  their  industry?  Look what happened to  the   oil and  gas  exploration industry  after  Energy Resources  Minister   Megan Woods  applied  her  “fix”  to  it. . . 

NZ plays down threat to European agri interests in FTA talks – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand trade negotiators are trying to get their European counterparts to recognise that the nation’s agricultural exports are small-fry in comparison to the regional bloc’s farming sector.

The second round of free trade negotiations between New Zealand and the EU is underway in Wellington, with 31 European officials in the capital to make progress in a deal politicians say they’re keen to fast-track. In a 90-minute public forum, the chief negotiators – Peter Berz for the EU and Martin Harvey of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – said there was a lot of commonality between the parties, but that agriculture is a sticking point.  . .

Breakthrough technology could save dairy industry millions:

A new device that detects processing losses in dairy plants could save the industry millions of dollars a year and help prevent pollutants from entering waterways.

Lincoln University-owned research and development company, Lincoln Agritech Ltd, developed the breakthrough technology and it was then commercialised by Christchurch-based start-up company, CertusBio.

The result is a robust, automated biosensor capable of continuous monitoring in commercial operating conditions. Known as Milk-Guard, the device uses a lactose-specific enzyme to measure the percentage of dairy products present in waste streams and processing lines
.. .

12 lessons from the Future of Farming Dialogue – Jamie Mackay:

What’s in store for the rural sector? Host of The Country radio show Jamie Mackay got a glimpse at the Bayer Future of Farming Dialogue conference in Düsseldorf and Amsterdam. Here’s what he discovered:

1)

Even though it was very much tempered by sitting much closer to the front than the back, 17 hours is a hell of a long time to be stuck on a plane.

The Auckland-Dubai direct flight is the third-longest commercial flight on the planet, behind Auckland-Doha and Perth-London.

2)

The world faces a food crisis. How to feed a potential population of 10 billion people by 2050? In 1960 we had more than one acre (0.4 ha) of arable land for every person on the planet. Today that number is less than half that. Many of our most productive soils now grow only houses. . . 

 

Multi-pronged approach critical to successful environment strategy – Allan Barber:

Since announcing its environment strategy in May, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand team responsible for developing the plans, processes and tools to help farmers achieve the ambitious goals of being carbon neutral by 2050 and every farm having an active farm plan by 2021 has been working flat out to get the right farm planning systems in place. The strategy identifies four areas of focus – cleaner water, carbon neutrality, thriving biodiversity and healthy productive soils – with their own specific goals and a detailed implementation plan, supported by a series of what are termed ‘foundations’.

Initially there are two foundations which explicitly rely on the participation of individual farmers. The first is helping farmers navigate the myriad of farm environment plans out there so they can identify the one that complies with local regulations and is best suited to help them document their individual on farm environment plan; the second foundation will encourage the establishment and facilitation of catchment communities which are relevant to the farmers’ local areas.  . . 

CP Wool announces exclusive partnership to distribute NZ wool carpets in US:

Premium New Zealand wool carpets and rugs will soon be available to thousands more US consumers under a new distribution partnership between Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) and J Mish Mills.

Under the agreement, leading carpet business J Mish will design and manufacture carpets and rugs from yarn grown and spun in New Zealand. The products will then be distributed throughout the US via J Mish’s large network of dealer and designer relationships. . . 

Feral sheep’s wool could set world record

A feral ewe captured on a remote bluff will have her first brush with the shears this weekend and organisers say she could have the longest wool in the world.

The crossbred sheep was caught in the Mapiu district, south of Te Kuiti, by Amie Ritchie and Carla Clark.

Named Suzy by her captors, the ewe is not believed to have been shorn before.  However, that will change at The Wool Shed, the national museum of sheep and shearing, in Masterton on Sunday. . . 

Why we need a real forestry strategy – Rod Oram:

We’re an odd country when it comes to trees. We have a lot of them but no overarching long-term policy for them. Consequently, our short-term forestry decisions deliver some adverse outcomes, both economic and environmental.

And on our current course it’s going to get worse. We’re racing to plant one billion trees in a decade to help us meet our climate commitments (as last week’s column discussed), develop regional economies, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance biodiversity such as helping to save native birds from extinction.

Trees could do all of that for us. But only if they can flourish in healthy ecosystems. To do so, they need all the help we can give them over three or four human generations. Instead, we’re working in silos over just a decade or two, the longest time most commercial enterprises can wait for an investment to pay off. . .

Major investors back medicinal cannabis with stake in Helius:

Cannabis-focused biotechnology company, Helius Therapeutics, announced today it has completed its $15m capital raise and is now backed by a small group of New Zealand investors, led by tech entrepreneur, Guy Haddleton.

Haddleton says “Helius Therapeutics has all the features we seek in a high-potential investment. The company has a clear and large vision, extraordinary talent and deep go-to-market experience. More importantly, Helius will improve significantly the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders”. . .


We need to talk about GM

September 24, 2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


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