Rural round-up

22/10/2021

Benefits all round in NZ-UK free trade deal:

Federated Farmers says today’s announcement of a free trade deal between the United Kingdom and New Zealand is great news for consumers and farmers in both countries.

“The United Kingdom is walking the talk when it comes to promising a truly global Britain,” Federated Farmers National President Andrew Hoggard says.

“We congratulate the New Zealand team of negotiators, officials and politicians who have tenaciously pursued this deal. The result is impressive. It’s a job well done.”

Federated Farmers has a long history of supporting efforts to free up global trade and it takes every opportunity to get producers in other countries to embrace trade liberalization. . .

UK FTA ‘back to the future’ :

Today’s announcement of a comprehensive new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom will offer some welcome variation in market access to New Zealand exporters, say the EMA.

“It’s great news for many of our export members, particularly in the horticulture, wine and honey sectors. The dropping of 97% of all tariffs from day one is a major success and the access to new investment in both direction is also significant,” says Chief Executive, Brett O’Riley.

“I don’t think New Zealand would have had this level of free access into the UK since before the UK first went into the then European Economic Community (EEC) back in 1973. That was a black day for many exporters, but this announcement is a bit ‘Back to the Future’ in terms of access.” . . 

NZ Apple industry welcomes UK free trade agreement :

New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc (NZAPI), the industry association representing the country’s apple, pear and nashi growers, has welcomed the announcement from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Trade Minister, Damien O’Connor, that an agreement in principle has been reached on a Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom.

“We congratulate Minister O’Connor and the MFAT negotiating team for achieving this outstanding outcome”, says NZAPI chief executive Alan Pollard.

“The United Kingdom is a very important market for our apples and pears, regularly featuring in the top two or three markets by volume. . . 

Wrestling with forestry decisions – Keith Woodford:

Carbon and forestry, increasingly linked to overseas investors, continue to outmuscle sheep and beef but nothing about carbon is simple

I had intended this week to move away from forestry to other topics. But once again, I have been drawn back to forestry because it is the biggest issue right now facing rural land-use.

For those who are farming sheep and beef there is the disconcerting reality, but also in some cases exciting reality, that carbon farming is now the most profitable land use.

Somewhat ironically, this changing land-use is also relevant to the dairy industry, which in combination with the other pastoral land uses is supposed by 2030 to reduce methane by 10 percent. It is looking as if much of this might now come from the decline in sheep and beef. . .

Meat industry backs mandatory vaccination for sector workers :

The meat processing industry says it would support a vaccine mandate for staff.

It comes after the Government last week announced it would make vaccinations mandatory for education and health sector employees.

The Meat Industry Association believes the Government should also consider a mandate for other high-risk sectors, such as meat processing.

Association spokesperson Esther Guy-Meakin said it had written to the Food Safety and Associate Health Minister, Ayesha Verrall to make its views clear. . .

Strategically developed farm Eco farm with high regard for the environment is placed on the market for sale :

A strategically developed New Zealand sheep and beef farm aligned to an international award-winning environmental enhancement project has been placed on the market for sale.

The 377-hectare property on the Mahia Peninsula between Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay comprises rich pumice soils sustaining a mixture of fodder crops, fertile grazing pasture, and strategically planted native developments.

Over the past two decades, the farm – known as Taharoa – has been developed with a focus on creating an environmentally-sustainable operation. Two kilometres of the Whangawehi River flow through Taharoa. An organisation known as the Whangawehi Catchment Management Group was established to protect some 3,600 of land on Mahia Peninsula where Taharoa is located. . . 


Time to follow Tasmania?

13/10/2021

A couple of months ago the Prime Minister was using Australia as an example of what not to do.

There is one state that is an example of what to do and that’s Tasmania which hasn’t had a case of community transmission of Covid-19 for more than a year.

The obvious advantage it has over the rest of the country is it’s separated from them by water.

The South Island is separated from the North by water too, is it time to get a much harder border at Cook Strait?

Mike Yardley says it is:

The Government has failed to tighten up the ropey Auckland boundary and the risk it poses. And there’s been no desire from Wellington to seal off the zero-Covid South so that restrictions can be loosened.

Nero would be astounded at the scale of fiddling that has torched Christchurch’s most prestigious week.

So now the South is losing its biggest party, how about a comfort blanket?

The island of 1.2 million people hasn’t clocked a Covid case in the community for 336 days. As far as we know. The wastewater testing keeps coming up negative, all over the island.

Yes, Delta will finally reach the South, but why give it an early invitation, or a helping hand?

I believe the South Island should be sealed off from the North, by way of far tougher travel restrictions for the next six weeks. Only critical workers or the critically in need should be allowed to cross the Cook Strait, pre-conditioned on being vaccinated and testing negative. . .

A Stuff editorial also asks for a harder border:

Border protections within the country need to be shored up, considerably.

The South Island needs hard-border protections against the Delta variant’s creep out of the Auckland region.

The lower North Island, too, deserves something more than the velvet rope the Government has strung up in some of the harder-to-police parts of the Auckland border,.

The shortcomings of a border strategy have been evident in the upper North Island but more can and needs to be done to staunch the virus’ progress south – at least long enough to buy valuable time for vaccination protections to be built up in the community.

Public health experts, community and business leaders have all but linked arms to call for tougher criteria for who can cross the border out of Auckland and Waikato. Otago University’s Nick Wilson describes a limiting of what qualifies as essential travel, and requiring southbound travellers to be fully vaccinated, and have a nasopharyngeal Covid test, and then a rapid test at the border.

How hard would it be to require the full vaccination and the two tests for anyone leaving?

The lower North Island is surely able to be better defended by a hard-border approach too.

This shouldn’t be seen as coming at the expense of an encircled Auckland but it far better protects the health of more southern New Zealanders, let alone regional and national economies.

Moreover, it mitigates how thinly stretched resources might be. This is not a situation where misery loves company – less stressed areas are better placed to send, for instance, medical assistance where it’s most needed.

The obvious comparison, certainly for the South Island, is Tasmania, where an enviable record during the pandemic has not simply been attributable to the fact that the community there has a giant moat.

Many of the measures will ring familiar – border closures, testing, contact tracing – and there has been real rigour to requirements on returned travellers from other more problematic parts of the Lucky Country, quite apart from international returnees.  . . 

Keith Woodford says we need a Covid reset:

. . .Leadership sometimes means admitting errors and doing a reset. I have always liked the Eisenhower quote, of which there are several versions, that ‘planning is everything but plans are nothing’.  There is no point in trying to defend the indefensible. . . 

The late and lax rollout of vaccination is indefensible.

Had more people been fully vaccinated sooner, Delta would not be such a threat.

The vaccination programme has gone up several gears, but what else could be done?

In addition to any soft borders, there need to be two hard borders, one separating off the North Island into two, with Waiouru being a key border point. There would need to be additional hard-border points on Highways 2, 3, 4 and 5, with Highway 43 also blockaded.

Cook Strait provides a superb natural border between the North and South islands. Freight would continue by air and sea. The Cook Strait ferries could use different drivers, with North Island drivers leaving their loads on the ferry at Wellington and fresh drivers picking up the load in Picton. All passenger air-transport between the islands would cease except for medical emergencies.

These two hard borders do not necessarily replace existing soft borders. Rather, they are defensible borders with prospect of being maintained.

These hard regional borders may need to remain in place even after all within-region movements are opened up. At some point regional hard-borders would be removed for those who are vaccinated, but perhaps not until considerably later for the non-vaccinated.

In contrast, softer borders protecting regions such as Rotorua and Taupo will almost certainly be bypassed. All they can do is slow down the infection rate outside of Auckland before eventually being made irrelevant. . . 

There comes a time when individuals have to take responsibility for their own welfare. Society cannot be responsible for those who will not get the vaccine. . .

The alternative of staying in Level 3 over coming weeks appears to combine the worst of all outcomes. It is now evident that exponential growth is highly likely to continue. We will indeed end up with two groups of people, these being the vaccinated and the infected, but with everyone’s lifestyle affected.

To those who say that restrictions should be removed earlier than what I have set out here, my response is to say that we have to accept that it is only now that many people are becoming eligible for their second dose.

And to those who continue to say that we cannot leave anyone behind, I say that this current commitment is counter-productive. The non-vaccinated need to understand that broader society will not tolerate being treated in this way. And that is something that the Government also needs to understand.  Either people get the vaccine or they accept the consequences. . . .

That sounds harsh, but the alternative is that once every effort has been made to reach everyone who is willing to be vaccinated, the won’t-be vaccinated are preventing more freedom for the rest of us.

The consequences for the unvaccinated might result in hospitals being overrun with Covid cases. But lockdowns also have high health costs for people whose serious illnesses go undiagnosed, or untreated.

New Zealand’s initial response to Covid-19 gained wide international praise.

Much of that praise has turned to criticism and while the rest of the world is slowly opening up, more than a third of our population are locked down and the rest of us are waiting for what will be the inevitable spread of Delta unless the government does a reset and does it fast.


Rural round-up

08/10/2021

Post-1990 forest owners face complex decisions – Keith Woodford:

There are close on 400,000 hectares of non-registered post-1989 forests eligible to join the ETS. Once registered, many owners could within one year earn $7500 or more per hectare in historical credits back to 2018

 This is a further article in a series I have been writing exploring the issues of carbon farming.   The issues are important because we are on the cusp of massive land-use changes. These are driven by the current economics of carbon farming now being far superior to sheep and beef farming on most classes of land.

Carbon farming is part of a virtual market, called the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in which there is no exchange of a physical product. As such, the ETS is controlled by Government rules and regulations, rather than by physical supply and demand factors.

The carbon farming component of this virtual market relates to post-1989 forests. These are forests on land that was not in forest on 31 December 1989 or in the immediately preceding years.   . . 

From ‘hopeless in the hills’ to hearty hunter – Tracey Roxburgh:

Partly, it’s the thrill of the chase. Mostly it’s spending hours alone in his backyard — the hills around Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes — that puts a smile on Lee Murray’s dial.

Originally from Cromwell, Mr Murray moved to Australia when he was about 11 after his father got a job there in the mines.

After attending high school there, he moved back to Cromwell when he was 17 and decided he wanted to get into hunting.

‘‘I used to try and tag along with the boys that were hearty hunters [such as] Duncan Stewart. He’s a really well-known hunter in the Central Otago region, and I was terrible,’’ the 36-year-old said. . . 

Vet labour shortage at crisis point, recruitment agency says – Sally Murhpy:

Some vet clinics around the country are closing down – because they can’t get enough staff – a recruiter says.

In June the government announced 50 general practice vets would be allowed to enter the country with a border exception – to help with the labour shortage.

But The New Zealand Veterinary Association says only two have arrived – a further 11 are waiting for a spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Chief executive Kevin Bryant said they were hearing from overseas vets that they were reluctant to start the visa process due to the delays they are seeing with the MIQ process. . . 

Sunsmart farming is smart farming :

Federated Farmers wants to remind farmers and growers this is a good time to be thinking about getting “sunsmart” for summer.

More than 4000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year, accounting for 80% of skin cancer deaths in New Zealand.

It has been estimated up to 25% of farmers and growers have had a skin cancer.

Farmers and growers are at higher risk of catching melanoma due to New Zealand’s UV radiation intensity, and the time they spend outside. . . 

Lanolin market driven by increase in end-use industries :

Lanolin Market Driven By Increase in end-use industries, such as personal care and cosmetics, baby care products, and pharmaceuticals.

The worldwide market research report Lanolin Market scrutinizes the market’s current trends and growth indicators from 2021 to 2030. The research gives a detailed analysis of global demand, developing trends that are affecting this demand’s potential.

This report covers a variety of crucial but different topics. Moreover, it studies the latest technologies that will influence the Lanolin market future and global acceptance. As efficiency-enhancing technologies are condemning for market progress, our research analysts spoke with key opinion leaders and Lanolin industry players to provide the clients with an extensive picture of the market’s potential. . . 

Experience Comvita’s story of innovation and connection at World Expo 2020 Dubai:

Comvita, global market leader in Mānuka honey, is celebrating the start of Expo 2020 Dubai, with its own Expo experience, including the launch of an immersive digital showcase, designed to create a global movement where bees, people and nature can thrive in Harmony.

Comvita is a member of the Care Collective, one of the key sponsors and suppliers of the New Zealand Pavilion and is proud to share its connection to the New Zealand Pavilion theme of Care for People and Place.

Comvita Group CEO, David Banfield, says “The concept of Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of nature, has been one of Comvita’s guiding principles from the day we were founded in 1974. So for us, there is a genuine sense of alignment and connection with that New Zealand theme, which really embodies our entire purpose as an organisation. . . 


Rural round-up

25/09/2021

Management thinking 100 years ahead

The couple behind one of New Zealand’s most sustainable farms are challenging other farmers to think three or four generations into the future when making decisions.

The call comes from Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter. The couple are the Ballance Farm National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing, and current Gordon Stephenson Trophy holders – so they know a thing or two about the environment.

The Potters bought their 566 hectare hill country sheep, beef and deer farm – Waipapa Station – in 1997. They describe it as “a blank canvas” when they arrived at the gat with nothing more than fencing gear and a team of dogs. . . 

Eight finalists announced for prestigious Trans-Tasman agricultural award:

Judges of the Zanda McDonald Award, Australasia’s agricultural badge of honour, have announced eight finalists, and will crown not one but two winners for 2022 – one from each side of the Tasman.

Now in its eighth year, the prestigious award recognises future young leaders working in agriculture, and provides an impressive prize package centred around a tailored trans-Tasman mentoring programme. The eight talented finalists – four from Australia and four from New Zealand – have been selected for their passion for the industry, strong leadership skills, and the contributions they’re making in the primary sector.

The four New Zealand finalists are Adam Thompson, 35, director of Restore Native Plant Nursery, beef farmer and mortgage broker from Cambridge; Katie Vickers, 28, Head of Sustainability and Land Use for Farmlands, from Christchurch; Olivia Weatherburn, 33, National Extension Programme Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, from Mossburn Southland; and Rhys Roberts, 34, CEO of market garden and farm operation Align Farms, from mid-Canterbury. . . 

Fonterra moves on strategy and structure – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra pulls up the wagons to defend its territory, but is also hoping to sortie out with new nutritional endeavours

Fonterra’s release of its 2020/21 annual report has occurred in association with an additional big dump of information laying out the proposed future for Fonterra.  In essence, Fonterra is confirming that it is going to be a New Zealand company owned by farmers, with the first priority being to maximise returns to farmers.

That position should in itself come as no surprise. Fonterra has been talking that language for three years as it has divested itself of various overseas assets. However, this is the first time that there is a more comprehensive laying out of the long-term strategy, including consequent policy decisions. There are multiple headliners. . . 

Feds gives thumbs up for cross-border and jab efforts:

Federated Farmers is giving a shout out to government agencies handling the movement of essential workers across alert level boundaries, and to those DHBs and medical centres reaching out to rural people over COVID vaccinations.

“With Auckland now at Alert level 3 and access to takeaways resumed, there are still essential workers having to cross alert level boundaries south and north of Auckland. Many of them work in or with the primary industries – farmers, vets, stock transporters and food processors to name a few,” Feds national board member and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Quite rightly, essential workers are required to have proper documentation and it might all have been a big hassle.

“However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with the Ministry for Primary Industries, have made the process seamless and sensible. Hats off to them,” Chris said. . . 

Surprise win for rural internet pioneer :

Taranaki wireless broadband pioneer Matt Harrison has been elected to the board of TUANZ, the influential tech users industry group.

As one of two new regional members of the board of 10, Harrison says his “somewhat surprising election” reflects the new importance TUANZ is placing on making sure rural New Zealanders are included in its goal of making New Zealand one of the top 10 digital countries worldwide by 2030.

The election has come as a surprise for Harrison, the managing director of Primo. He says he was up against 15 other strong candidates from the telco industry, almost all of whom were from large companies in the main centres. He says being a regional internet provider and an advocate for rural users may have swung the vote his way.

“This shows me that there is strong support from the whole industry for what we are doing at Primo in providing connections to rural people who would otherwise miss out on having a quality internet link.” . . 

Lab grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The  science tells a different story – Joe Fassler:

Splashy headlines have long overshadowed inconvenient truths about biology and economics. Now, extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.

Paul Wood didn’t buy it.

For years, the former pharmaceutical industry executive watched from the sidelines as biotech startups raked in venture capital, making bold pronouncements about the future of meat. He was fascinated by their central contention: the idea that one day, soon, humans will no longer need to raise livestock to enjoy animal protein. We’ll be able to grow meat in giant, stainless-steel bioreactors—and enough of it to feed the world. These advancements in technology, the pitch went, would fundamentally change the way human societies interact with the planet, making the care, slaughter, and processing of billions of farm animals the relic of a barbaric past.

It’s a digital-era narrative we’ve come to accept, even expect: Powerful new tools will allow companies to rethink everything, untethering us from systems we’d previously taken for granted. Countless news articles have suggested that a paradigm shift driven by cultured meat is inevitable, even imminent. But Wood wasn’t convinced. For him, the idea of growing animal protein was old news, no matter how science-fictional it sounded. Drug companies have used a similar process for decades, a fact Wood knew because he’d overseen that work himself. . .


Rural round-up

24/09/2021

The ETS is both a gold mine and a minefield – Keith Woodford:

The Government never foresaw the land-use forces they were unleashing with the ETS

In recent weeks I have written multiple articles on the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with a particular focus on forestry. This week I also had an extended interview with Kathryn Ryan on RNZ ‘Nine to Noon’.  However, there is still lots more that needs to be said.

The bottom line is that carbon forestry is now far more profitable than sheep and beef farming on nearly all classes of land. We are indeed on the cusp of the greatest rural land-use changes that New Zealand has seen in the last 100 years.

For many sheep and beef farmers, carbon farming can now be a gold mine. The key requirement is pastoral land that will grow an exotic forest that will not be destroyed by storm, fire or disease.  . . 

A new visa scheme offering 3 years in Australia to agricultural workers threatens to crush NZ’s primary sector – Aaron Martin:

Australians must be laughing at our immigration woes.

The Australian government has announced a new visa aimed at enticing agricultural workers by offering them three years of residency to live in rural areas. New Zealand, however, has no official pathway or plan for migrant worker residency.

Why is the Ardern government consistently the loser?

We have very proud history of sporting success against Australia. We love nothing better than to beat them at anything. We’ve had success on multiple fronts but, sadly, our government seems to come up the loser against theirs. . . 

The human cost of no response :

The Prime Minister’s ‘Be Kind’ message is obviously struggling to get past Wellington’s 50k boundary and out to Rural New Zealand.

You can tell because, if there was any response from her or her ministers to the concerns Rural NZ has, I’d know. To date, the tally is 0.

As both a farmer and National’s Agriculture spokesperson I find it deplorable.

The heavy-handed approach the Government has adopted in trying to reach unrealistic, impractical targets for water, climate change, zero carbon, emissions and land use, to name but a few, has placed enormous pressure on the farming sector. . .  

Fonterra completes reset, announces annual results and long-term growth plan out to 2030:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced a strong set of results for the 2021 financial year, reflected in a final Farmgate Milk Price of $7.54, normalised earnings per share of 34 cents and a final dividend of 15 cents, taking the total dividend for the year to 20 cents per share. The results come as Fonterra moves through its business reset and into a new phase of growing the value of its business.

CEO Miles Hurrell says the last three years have been about resetting the business. “We’ve stuck to our strategy of maximising the value of our New Zealand milk, moved to a customer-led operating model and strengthened our balance sheet.

“The results and total pay-out we’ve announced today show what we can achieve when we focus on quality execution and an aligned Co-op.

“I want to thank our farmer owners and employees for their hard work and commitment over the last few years that has got us to this position. Together, we’ve shored up foundations and done this despite the challenges of operating in a COVID-19 world.

“Although the higher milk price and tightening margins put pressure on earnings in the final quarter, this is a strong overall business performance, allowing us to deliver $11.6 billion to the New Zealand economy through the total pay-out to farmers. . . 

Hawke’s Bay A&P show cancelled over Delta risk fears – Maja Burry:

The Hawke’s Bay A&P Show, due to be held late next month, has been cancelled due to the uncertainty and risks associated with the Covid-19 Delta outbreak.

Organisers said the executive committee of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society met last night to review the risks and after significant consideration, made the hard decision to cancel.

The show was scheduled to run from October 20th-22nd. It’s one of the largest in the country and usually attracts 30,000 people to the Tomoana Showgrounds.

Society president Simon Collin said whilst the country was in differing levels of restrictions, and with Covid-19 cases still appearing the country, the event couldn’t go ahead. . . 

Scientists aiming to enhance the `human-ness’ of infant formula

AgResearch scientists think they have identified a unique new way to make infant formula more like breast milk and better for babies, using ingredients that could enhance brain development and overall health.

Research into this next generation infant formula could create new opportunities for New Zealand’s primary industries in a global market worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

With funding over three years recently announced from the government’s 2021 Endeavour Fund, AgResearch scientists Simon Loveday and Caroline Thum, along with collaborators from Massey and Monash Universities, are aiming to enhance the “human-ness” of infant formula produced from New Zealand ingredients.

“We’ve recently discovered a new natural source of nutritional oil that is surprisingly similar to the fat in breast milk,” Dr Thum says. . . 

Demand for NZ apples in India continues to grow – Sally Murphy:

An apple exporter says efforts to grow demand in India are proving fruitful with orders skyrocketing.

Although they only make up a small proportion of total numbers, exports of pip fruit to India have been growing.

Ministry for Primary Industries figures show last year 5.5 percent of apple and pear exports went there, but to July this year exports to India made up 8.2 per cent.

Golden Bay Fruit in Motueka has been exporting apples there for over 20 years. . . 

 


Rural round-up

22/09/2021

UK identifies case of ‘mad cow disease’ :

British officials have identified a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said this week that the dead animal had been removed from a farm in Somerset, southwest England, adding there was “no risk to “.

“The UK’s overall risk status for BSE remains at ‘controlled’ and there is no risk to food safety or ,” said Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss.

APHA will launch a “thorough investigation of the herd, the premises, potential sources of infection and will produce a full report on the incident in due course”. . . 

Life split between town and country – Sally Rae:

From singing and shepherding to photography and physiotherapy, Hawea woman Anna Munro has a diverse lifestyle. She talks to rural editor Sally Rae about her career and her desire to help tell the farming story.

Anna Munro used to think she would love to end up owning a farm.

Now she’s not so sure. After all, the Hawea woman has the best of both worlds, dividing her time between working on Ardgour Station, near Tarras, and as a physiotherapist in Wanaka.

It might seem an unusual combination but, for outdoors-loving Mrs Munro, it suits her down to the proverbial tee. . . 

Mother of all protests on November 21 – Sally Rae:

They are calling it The Mother of All Protests.

Groundswell New Zealand has announced its next protest will be held on Sunday, November 21.

In July, convoys of thousands of tractors and utes took part in the rural group’s national Howl of a Protest event, protesting against what the rural sector says are unworkable government regulations.

Its Enough is Enough message, outlining the group’s concerns, was delivered at the protests, giving the Government a month to address the issues, or it said it would take further action. . . 

Carbon farming biggest change in land use – Nine to Noon:

Concerns the boom in carbon farming will dictate the future of New Zealand’s sheep, beef and production forestry, and questions over who has oversight over what one academic is calling “the biggest change in land use in New Zealand’s modern history”.  Kathryn speaks with Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University Keith Woodford, who says the implications are massive.  Also Forest Owners Association chief executive Phil Taylor, also managing director of the American owned forestry management company Port Blakely. . .

The story of our sunflowers :

The Topflite sunflowers have become something of an icon in Oamaru. Lots of visitors arrive in town asking where to find them and we’ve played host to many a photographer and film crew over the years — even moving one group on after they’d set up their tripods in the centre of the road…

Seeing as we’re gearing up to sow the next crop pretty soon, here’s some background on our little yellow heroes.

We originally grew sunflowers for oil in the 1960s but then moved to growing them for the bird clubs in 1974. People told us we were too far south for sunflowers to grow well but clearly we’ve proved them wrong! Our farms are in a dry area of North Otago and we get reasonably long and hot summers. It turns out that sunflowers grow well here.

October is when we sow the seeds. It’s pretty slow growing until December when the weather heats up. We usually get the first flower by New Year’s Day and by late January the flowers are at their most intense yellow. That’s the time of year to schedule your sunflower selfie! . . 

Agricultural robots market 2021 2021 booming across the globe by share key segments product distribution channel region:

MarketResearch.biz delivers in-depth insights on the global agricultural robots market in its upcoming report titled, “Global Agricultural Robots Market Trends, Applications, Analysis, Growth, and Forecast: 2018 to 2027”.

This report is based on synthesis, analysis, and interpretation of information gathered regarding the target market from various sources. Our analysts have analyzed the information and data and gained insights using a mix of primary and secondary research efforts with the primary objective to provide a holistic view of the market. In addition, an in-house study has been made of the global economic conditions and other economic indicators and factors to assess their respective impact on the market historically, as well as the current impact in order to make informed forecasts about the scenarios in future.

An agricultural robot is an equipment used in farming to improve productivity and reduce reliance on manual labor. These robots help automate tasks carried out by the farmers such as harvesting, weed control, seeding, sorting, and packing, thus allowing farmers to focus more on enhancing overall production yield. . . 

Winter closes quietly – stronger spring anticipated :

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were -51 less farm sales (-14.3%) for the three months ended August 2021 than for the three months ended August 2020. Overall, there were 306 farm sales in the three months ended August 2021, compared to 364 farm sales for the three months ended July 2021 (-15.9%), and 357 farm sales for the three months ended August 2020.

1,680 farms were sold in the year to August 2021, 37.3% more than were sold in the year to August 2020, with 153.8% more Dairy farms, 1% more Dairy Support, 24.4% more Grazing farms, 50.8% more Finishing farms and 46.4% less Arable farms sold over the same period.

The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to August 2021 was $27,250 compared to $25,460 recorded for three months ended August 2020 (+7%). The median price per hectare increased0.3% compared to July 2021. . .


Rural round-up

13/09/2021

Carbon farming will determine the future of sheep, beef and production forestry – Keith Woodford :

The carbon price is now high enough to change land-use sufficiently to blow away sheep and beef, but too low to significantly influence emission behaviours elsewhere

The concept of ‘carbon farming’ has been around for a long time. I recall carbon farming discussions with my colleagues at University of Queensland back in the early 1990s, but the industry has taken a long time to finally arrive.  Well, it is now here. And it has the potential to overwhelm not only the sheep and beef industries, but also have big impacts on the timber industry.

It is only six weeks since I wrote an article setting out that carbon farming is now considerably more attractive than sheep and beef on the hard North Island hill country. Then two weeks later I extended that analysis to the easier hill country. In a more recent article focusing on the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), I mentioned that the same conclusion could be drawn for considerable parts of the South Island. All of those can be found archived at my own site https://keithwoodford.wordpress.com in the forestry category. . . 

South American curbs on beef exports bode well for NZ’s prospects – Point of Order:

New Zealand’s beef exports may suddenly be  in high demand from  overseas  markets, in   the  wake  of  the world’s largest beef exporter, Brazil, suspending its beef exports to its No. 1 customer, China, after confirming two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease in two separate domestic meat plants.

China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil’s beef exports.   NZ’s  sales are relatively  modest, by comparison, but  reached  36%   of  our total  beef  exports   last  season.

The  other  big exporter  to  China,  Argentina,  in  June  decided  to   restrict  exports, with the  aim of  boosting domestic  supply.  Argentinian beef exports are to be  limited to 50% of the average monthly volume exported from July to December 2020. . .

Picking the better way to a better asparagus future:

Picking the way to a better asparagus future with robotic harvesting

A robotic asparagus harvester project led by growers and supported by the Government is set to reinvigorate the New Zealand asparagus industry, by alleviating ongoing labour challenges.

The New Zealand Asparagus Council (NZAC) and Tauranga-based Robotics Plus will work alongside New Zealand asparagus growers to develop a world-first commercial-scale autonomous robotic asparagus harvester to help address ongoing labour shortages in the industry and support growers to tap into high-value export markets.

The Government’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund is contributing $2.6 million to the $5.83 million project. . . 

September is bee awareness month:

This month is Bee Awareness Month and over the past 12 years Kiwis have celebrated our hard-working bees.

Not only do our bees produce a vital food source, as commercial pollinators they also play critical roles in our food chain, biodiversity and $5 billion Apiculture economy.

New Zealand has a healthy bee population with over 900,000 registered hives, however, we can’t get complacent about bee health. Bees all over the world face a range of threats including: biosecurity, climate change, disease, bugs and pesticides. If you want to play your part in supporting healthy bee populations, here are some simple and easy things you can do to help our bees. . . 

Scholarship gives young people boost into beekeeping career :

Young people interested in a beekeeping career are being encouraged to apply for the annual Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship, sponsored by Mossop’s Honey and Apiculture New Zealand.

The scholarship was set up three years ago as a way of giving young people the best possible start in the apiculture industry. The scholarship includes $2000 to be put towards best practice training and/or set up costs. It also includes membership of industry body Apiculture New Zealand for a year and attendance at the industry’s national conference in the year of the award.

Last year’s recipient, Bay of Plenty 18-year-old Angus Brenton-Rule, says the scholarship provided valuable support in his first year of beekeeping. As well as allowing him to buy resources to kick-start his career, Angus welcomed the opportunity to make connections with the wider industry through his membership of Apiculture New Zealand and his attendance at their June conference. “Conference was a really great opportunity to meet other beekeepers and hear about what’s happening in other parts of the country. I learnt lots.” . . 

Building community trust in agriculture – Jeannette Severs:

Call it social license, social trust or community trust – the bottom line is that consumers need a sense of connection with farmers in order to trust and rely upon their services and produce.

Personal relationships make the difference. That is the finding from a research project asking Australians how they feel about primary industries. It is also the experience of farmers engaged in paddock to plateagribusinesses. So why is there a critical belief that Australians don’t trust farmers?

Is it a beat-up of opinion circulated by commentators and mainstream media? Is it fed by the reactive responses of agri-industry organisations to criticism of Australian primary production?

The Community Trust in Rural Industries Program, funded by a number of industry research and development corporations in partnership with the National Farmers’ Federation and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries is a four-year project that analyses community perceptions of primary production – agriculture, fishery and forestry.  . .


Rural round-up

28/08/2021

Feds: Be targeted, not revolutionary, about RMA change –  Simon Edwards:

Federated Farmers has called for “extreme caution” in repealing or re-writing the Resource Management Act.

Targeted and focused change, rather than wholesale replacement, would provide the ability to make changes to address problems with the RMA whilst minimising the disruption to 30 years’ of case law, to councils, resource users and communities, Feds said a submission to the Environment Select Committee.

An independent economic assessment of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) warns of higher costs and more uncertainty.

Federated Farmers commissioned Douglas Birnie, Director of Enfocus to assess the economic implications of the NBA, the first of three new pieces of legislation planned to replace the RMA. His assessment is that the resource management approach proposed in the NBA risks: . . 

Pāmu reports a 29 million after tax profit:

A strong year for its dairy and forestry portfolios has seen the state owned farmer, Pāmu, report a $29 million after tax profit.

The company which owns about 200 farms said total revenue was $250 million – with the milk cheque accounting for half of all farm operating revenue.

Chief executive Steve Carden said the company was still hit with covid-19 disruptions such as lower prices for some red meat categories.

But as a diversified farming business, its capacity to offset any downsides in year on year returns with upsides across other aspects of its portfolio is growing. . . 

Food-derived opioids are a medical frontier – Keith Woodford:

In late 2020, I was invited to write a paper on food derived-opioids for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, with a focus including effects on microbiota.  Eight months later and the paper has been written, then refereed by three scientists chosen by the journal, then modified in response to the referees’ critiques and now published. The paper draws on and integrates evidence from 125 prior-published papers. It is available online via a link at the end of this post.

The key messages are that food-derived opioids from A1 beta-casein and also from gluten are a medical frontier, with clear evidence that they affect the microbiota in our digestive system, but also linking within a complex system to the brain and multiple internal organs.

Fundamental to this system is the widespread presence of opioid receptors to which the food-derived opioids attach. These opioid receptors are present in the brain, intestines, pancreas, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, adrenal glands and many other places.

The natural role of opioid receptors is as part of the internal messaging system between the gut, brain, internal organs and peripheral tissues. But when external opioids are consumed, either in the form of drugs or within food, then the internal messaging is disrupted. The body then reacts to this in multiple ways, including inflammation and autoimmune responses. . . 

Good Progress on intensive winter grazing rules:

The Government’s confirmation it is shelving the unworkable pugging and sowing date rules in its latest intensive winter grazing proposal is positive for farmers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says.

The controversial pugging and resowing date rules have been replaced with a practical management approach under the revised intensive winter grazing proposals, which have just been released for public consultation.

“We, and other industry groups, have for some time been calling on the Government to replace the pugging and sowing date rules with sensible and pragmatic alternatives,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“It is positive for farmers that we now have clarity on the proposed approach in this area, which aligns with the recommendations of the Southland Winter Grazing advisory group last December. . .

Mānuka honey sales in US and China drives profit for Comvita :

The listed honey producer Comvita is crediting strong growth in Mānuka sales to the US and China for helping drive a return to profit.

Reported net profit after tax was $9.5 million, compared to a loss of $9.7 million in the previous year.

Comvita said the 2021 financial year had been a crucial one for the company, as it looked to prove the businessess’ significant potential.

In 2020 the company completed a strategic review and chief executive David Banfield said the business had gone through significant change in order to arrive at this point. . . 

Non-urgent veterinary appointments on hold:

Non-urgent veterinary appointments on hold until COVID-19 levels reduce

While veterinarians are still providing care and treatment for animals during lockdown, it’s far from business as usual.

According to two of Aotearoa’s key veterinary organisations, the Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), COVID-19 restrictions have changed how animals, as well as people, receive healthcare.

“Under Alert Level 4 restrictions, veterinarians can only provide care that can’t be postponed,” according to the Council’s Veterinary Advisor Dr Seton Butler. “As a result, non-urgent healthcare, routine vaccinations and regular checks need to be postponed until the situation changes.” . . 

Enviromark diamond certification for Silver Fern Farms:

Enviromark diamond certification reflects Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to sustainability best practice

Silver Fern Farms has achieved Toitū enviromark diamond certification, the highest New Zealand-based environmental certification. This represents another important step in Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to playing a leadership role in driving sustainability in the red meat sector.

Enviromark diamond is recognised internationally as equivalent to ISO 14001 accreditation, and to achieve enviromark diamond certification New Zealand companies in fact need to exceed some ISO requirements.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer said achieving enviromark diamond is a massive endorsement for the company’s systems and the ways it is managing environmental impacts and risk. . . 

 


Rural round-up

26/08/2021

Why the rush? – Barbara Kuriger:

The pace of regulatory change for rural communities has been relentless under the current government.

It’s the concern I hear most when I move among them around the country and speak with rural advocacy groups.

It’s the reason why Groundswell NZ founders, Otago farmers Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Paterson organised a tractor protest in Gore against the National Policy Statement on Freshwater in November. The group’s overwhelming national support since then led to the Howl of a Protest’ on July 16.

Agricultural, horticultural communities aren’t the types to jump up and down, so when they take to the streets in their thousands, you can bet there’s a reason. . .

Why NZ farmers should hope for positive results from research into the methane effects of lacing stock feed with seaweed – Point of Order:

A warning  bell  sounded  for  New Zealand farmers  when The Economist – in an editorial  last week headed “It  is  not  all  about  the  CO2” – argued  that carbon  dioxide is by far the most important   driver of  climate  change, but methane  matters  too.

The  final  sentence of  the  editorial reads,  ominously:

“Methane  should be  given priority on the  COP26 climate  summit  this  November”.

NZ may  fight  its  corner   vigorously   at the   Glasgow  summit,  but  the   risk is  that  delegates  there   will  seize  on  the  thesis  advanced  by The Economist    that   methane is  a more  powerful  greenhouse  gas  than  carbon   dioxide,  and  decide  to  target  it harshly. . . 

UK releases NZ free trade negotiation details as agreement nears :

The UK government has released more details of how negotiations have been progressing.

Tariffs on exports of honey and apples to the UK would be slashed and wine which faces tariffs of up to 20 pence per bottle would also be expected to be cut.

In return tariffs on British gin, chocolate, clothing and cars we import would be dropped.

Britain trade secretary Liz Truss said teams were working around the clock to get the deal done in the coming weeks.

“We are both big fans of each other’s high-quality products, so this could be a huge boost that allows British shoppers to enjoy lower prices and British exports to be even more competitive,” Truss said. . . 

Carbon farmers need to understand the ETS – Keith Woodford:

The price of carbon is determined by Government. There lies the risk for carbon farming. 

Two recent articles of mine have explored the economics of carbon farming on land that is currently farmed for sheep and beef.  Those articles showed that, if financial returns are what matters, then at current carbon prices the development of permanent forests for carbon credits provides significantly higher returns than sheep and beef.

My focus there was on the close to three million hectares of North Island farmed hill country, but a similar situation exists in considerable parts of the South Island. One big exception is the Canterbury Plains, where history shows that shallow soils plus norwest wind storms wreak periodic havoc to forestry operations.

Those findings on the apparent economics of forestry lead to a series of other questions. First, how reliable is this carbon market? Second, what are all the other important things apart from simple economics that need to be considered? . .

Recognition for forestry’s highest achievers in 2021:

The New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) has announced the winners of its prestigious 2021 awards. In what has been an exceptionally volatile year for many, the forestry sector remains a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy. NZIF President James Treadwell says the industry is working hard to benefit Aotearoa / New Zealand and New Zealanders, not only with significant returns to GDP but also to offer social benefits including carbon capture, recreation opportunities, clean water, biodiversity and general wellbeing. “We’re fortunate with our high-calibre industry professionals who set the standards for others to aspire to. The NZIF relishes the opportunity to celebrate with ‘the best of the best’ and to proudly champion the recipients of NZIF’s awards.”

This year’s recipient was acknowledged for their diverse range of skills and experience. From hard graft and commitment at grass roots level to high level policy planning and execution and academic leadership.

The NZ Forester of the Year award, which was presented in Wairarapa on Monday night by Minister Nash (Minister of Forestry) went to Paul Millen. . .

Sponsor support continues for Dairy Industry Awards:

Entries for the 2022 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) open October 1st with planning well underway and National sponsors continuing to back the programme.

The Awards programme allows entrants to connect, learn and grow as individuals across the board from Trainees and new entrants to the industry through to experienced Share Farmers.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon is thrilled to confirm DeLaval have renewed their sponsorship for the next three years. “It’s a significant commitment and we’re rapt to have world leaders in milking equipment and solutions for dairy farmers as part of our national sponsor family.” . .

 


Rural round-up

18/08/2021

Ongoing battle for river draining experience – Sally Rae:

As the microscope continues to focus on the Manuherikia River in Central Otago and its future minimum flows, rural editor Sally Rae talks to award-winning Omakau farmer Anna Gillespie about the stress the rural community is under.

They are two farmers farming – literally.

Central Otago couple Ben and Anna Gillespie trade under Two Farmers Farming, running a 400ha property at Omakau comprising a dairy grazing and beef finishing operation.

It was a challenging environment to farm in, with an average rainfall of about 450mm, temperatures in winter as low as -10degC and summer hitting more than 30degC, Mrs Gillespie said. . . 

Govt reforms ‘absolutely punishing’ – Neal Wallace:

Local authorities and industry groups warn they are being driven to breaking point by the volume and pace of Government legislation reforms.

One described the pace and scale as “absolutely punishing” and warned “it has the potential, unless managed very carefully, to break the system”.

Karen Williams, a former planner and current Federated Farmers vice president, says that pace shows no letting up, with parties given just one month to comment on the exposure draft of the first of three documents to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA).

“The RMA is 30 years old, so you don’t start looking at its replacement with one month of submissions,” Williams said. . . 

Carbon-farming economics are also attractive on easier country – Keith Woodford:

Given current carbon prices, the march of the pine trees across the landscape has only just begun. The implications are massive

My previous article on carbon farming focused on the North Island hard-hill country. If financial returns are to be the key driver of land-use, and based on a carbon price of $48 per tonne, then the numbers suggested that carbon farming on that class of country is a winner.

By my calculations, sheep and beef farms on this hard-hill country provide an internal rate of return (IRR) of around 2%, whereas my recent estimate for carbon farming was 9.7%.

Here I extend the analysis, still using a price of $48 per tonne, by looking at the easier hill country that Beef+Lamb (B&L) categorise as ‘Class 4 North Island Hill Country’. This fits between their ‘Class 3 North Island hard-hill country’ and the ‘Class 5 North Island intensive finishing farms’. . . 

Efficiency key to simple, profitable A2:A2 farm– Samatha Tennent:

A Waikato farmer has succeeded in creating a top farming business, as well as a career in the corporate world.

The desire to have a dynamic farming business as well as an exciting career off the farm, a Waikato farmer has come out on top in both.

And he got there by focusing on creating a simple, profitable farming operation with an efficient Jersey herd.

Zach Mounsey who is an equity partner and sharemilks 440 Jersey cows on 161ha at Te Kawa near Otorohanga on the family farm, which was the most profitable Waikato 50:50 sharemilker in Dairybase for 2018. He is also the general manager of milk supply for Happy Valley Nutrition (HVN), a new dairy processor aiming to produce high-quality infant formulas. . . 

NZ grower’s squash milk creates new export patch :

One of New Zealand’s largest buttercup squash growers is diving into Asia’s alternative proteins market with a plant-based milk.

Kabochamilk is a collaboration between Hawke’s Bay grower Shane Newman and Sachie Nomura, a Japanese celebrity chef who also developed a world first avocado milk.

Kabocha, a Japanese variety of squash, is a staple part of the Japanese and East Asian diet and New Zealand is one of the largest exporters of kabocha to Japan and Korea.

The Ministry for Primary Industries contributed more than $95,000 through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to help boost Kabocha Milk Co’s efforts to formulate, manufacture, and market a shelf-stable kabocha milk recipe that would appeal to consumers in Japan, Korea, China, and beyond. . . 

Commission publishes draft conclusion on base milk price:

Commission publishes draft conclusion on base milk price calculation

The Commerce Commission has today released a draft report concluding that Fonterra’s calculation of the base milk price it will pay farmers in the 2020/21 dairy season is consistent with the requirements of the milk price monitoring regime under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA).

Fonterra set a forecast price for the season of $7.45 – $7.65 per kilogram of milk solids according to rules set out in its Farmgate Milk Price Manual. DIRA requires the Commission to review Fonterra’s methodology for calculating the price and to conclude on whether the calculation is consistent with the purpose of DIRA and the rules set in the Manual.

The regime is designed to provide for the setting of a base milk price that is consistent with efficient and contestable market outcomes. . . 


Rural round-up

22/07/2021

Groundswell staying mum on future – Gerald Piddock:

Groundswell will keep its word and take no further action until August 16 to give the Government time to respond to its concerns that its farming regulations are unworkable.

The protests on July 16 saw thousands of farmers and their vehicles head to 57 towns and cities across the country to protest policies around freshwater, climate change and biodiversity.

“There’s definitely nothing to add to the protest because we have to wait until August 16 and we’ve given the Government until then to make a response,” Groundswell co-founder Bryce McKenzie said.

“But we have got other irons in the fire. There are other subjects we will be commenting on or putting stuff out on for people to look at separate to the protest,” he said. . . 

Backlash over protest advice to staff – Sally Rae:

Farmer-owned co-operatives have come under fire from the farming community for telling staff they were not allowed to represent their company’s brand at last Friday’s Groundswell New Zealand protest.

Some farmers have indicated shifting their support from co-operatives that took such a stance ahead of the Howl of a Protest, which drew thousands of people from throughout the country.

Clarks Junction farmer Jim Macdonald wrote to Farmlands chairman Rob Hewett before the event saying he was concerned and angered by the decision, and urged a change of heart.

Staff were told if they wanted to support Groundswell the company asked that it was done independently of Farmlands “to protect the Farmlands brand”. It is understood some other rural companies made similar requests to staff. . . 

Farmstrong: discovering my own values :

High country sheep and beef farmer Hamish Murray spent a year on a Nuffield scholarship studying businesses with high-performance team cultures. What he discovered was that before you can work on your team, you need to work on yourself.

HAMISH Murray has an impressive CV. He’s played top-level sport, studied overseas and now works with a team of seven full-time staff, running Bluff Station in the Clarence River Valley. The diversified operation includes 5500 Merino ewes, 950 Angus and Hereford breeding cows and 750 beehives.

“I love the variety of farming. The particular valley and property where we are just gets into your blood. It’s isolated and beautiful. I love being outdoors with our animals, I’m happiest when I’m out riding a horse and shifting stock,” Murray said.

“I spent the earlier part of my life getting an education and learning to do things other than farming, but for me coming back to farming was about giving my children the opportunity to grow up the same way I had. . . 

https://twitter.com/AniekaNick/status/141775380919178445

Grain sense: couple develop on-farm distillery – Sally Rae:

Southland sheep and cropping farmers Rob and Toni Auld are in high spirits.

The entrepreneurial couple operate Auld Farm Distillery, believed to be the southernmost on-farm distillery in the world, on their 200ha Scotts Gap property.

Being primary producers, they were previously used to watching the produce they grew heading out the driveway never to be seen again.

Being able to grow the grain to produce their own whisky was “next-level cool”, Mr Auld said. . . 

The big picture with sheep – Keith Woodford:

The sheep-farming retreat will continue despite excellent meat prices, with carbon farming the mega-force.

In recent months, I have written four articles focusing on the sheep and beef industries across New Zealand. My main focus has been to identify the current situation and to document how the situation varies for different classes of land across the country. Here I return to the overall big question: what is the future of the sheep industry?

There are two parts to that question. The first is the market opportunities. The second is about competing land-uses. . . 

Market opportunities

Apart from some dry hill and high-country farms lying east of the South Island Main Divide, wool is largely irrelevant. Fine-wool merinos are big contributors on low rainfall South Island farms and I expect that to continue. But elsewhere, wool no longer makes a worthwhile contribution to farm income. We can always live in hope, but that is not the basis on which to make land-use decisions. . . 

Productive avocado orchard with commercially run tourist operation placed on the market for sale:

A productive avocado orchard in the heart of Northland’s premier avocado growing district has been placed on the market for sale – with capacity to substantially increase its production scale.

The 15-hectare property is located at Waiharara near 90-Mile Beach in the Far North – which is fast becoming a regional production hub for avocados due to its climate, contour, and free-draining soils.

Located some 40 kilometres north of Kaitaia, the generally rectangular-shaped orchard for sale at 101 Turk Valley Road features nine sheltered and contoured blocks – three of which are now in full production.

Production records from the orchard show that the orchard has been relatively consistent with 12,000 trays being averaged over the past four seasons. The mature trees are Hass on Zutano rootstock, while the younger trees are Hass on Dusa and Hass on Bounty clonal rootstocks. . . 


Rural round-up

02/07/2021

Invercargill MP says the Government’s road funding cuts are a bitter blow – Penny Simmonds:

Roads are our lifeblood, and I’m particularly concerned about the economic impact on Southland if our roading infrastructure can’t be kept up to scratch.

The Southland District Council is currently grappling with some tough decisions around the future of our ageing road network after the Government recently cut funding by $7.5 million.

The situation in Southland is dire and the statistics make sober reading.

There are currently 1081 bridges, including 239 stock underpasses, across the province. . .

SNAs cover much of province – report says

It is official — West Coast is pretty much one big significant natural area.

A desktop assessment of native vegetation on private land on the West Coast has identified nearly every site as a potentially significant natural area.

Wildlands Consultants, which researched SNAs for councils working on a new combined district plan for the Coast, have handed in their report in time for the Te Tai o Poutini Plan Committee meeting yesterday.

The team of ecologists did a desktop evaluation of the region’s biodiversity using computerised topographical maps and have cautioned that nearly all the mapped sites will need to be field-checked. . .

David Parker admits wetland rules ‘have gone too far’ but changes will be difficult and expensive – Hamish Rutherford:

David Parker admits new rules on freshwater management have gone too far in defining wetlands, but the difficult path to fixing it shows why the Resource Management Act needs changing.

On Tuesday morning the Herald reported ministers have faced warnings from some of New Zealand’s leading housing and construction companies that the new rules on wetlands effectively mean farm tracks and even the overflow of septic tanks can be captured by the new definition.

As he released the first of three pieces of legislation which will replace the RMA, Parker said the freshwater rules brought into place just prior to the 2020 election would need to be fixed.

“We do accept that that definition’s gone a bit far,” Parker told reporters in the Beehive on Tuesday on the definition of wetlands. . .

Wairarapa durum wheat trial aims to supply NZ bakers:

It’s hoped a trial of durum wheat in the Waiarapa will help supply flour for New Zealand’s growing appetite for pasta.

Durum wheat had been grown in Canterbury and processed in a factory in Timaru, but inconsistency in quality led to the factory moving to Australia.

A Ministry for Primary Industries-funded study carried out between 2017 and 2020 found the wheat could be successfully grown in the Wairarapa thanks to its warm, dry summers and quality soils.

The Foundation of Arable Research is doing further work to see how growers can get the best value for the crop. . . .

Sheep remain dominant on South Island hill and high country –  Keith Woodford:

In previous articles, I first described the North Island’s 4000 commercial hill-country farms (Beef+Lamb Classes 3 and 4). Subsequently, I wrote about the approximately 4400 intensive sheep and beef farms that are spread across both North and South Islands (Beef+Lamb Classes 5, 6, 7 and 8). That left the story of 620 South Island hill-country farms and 200 high-country farms to be told here. It is a contrasting story.

The combined number of South Island hill and high-country farms is modest, comprising less than ten percent of the 9200 commercial sheep and beef farms in New Zealand. However, these farms comprise more than one third of New Zealand’s total sheep and beef grazing area.

These are big farms both by area and livestock numbers, despite much lower stocking rates than all other farm types.  However, the differences between the hill and high-country farms are sufficient that first I will consider them separately before, drawing out some common themes. . . 

Stoatally different! How the ‘science of individuals’ is changing how we see pests – Jamie McAulay:

It’s just before midday and starting to drizzle as stoat trapper Ana Richards pulls a rotting stoat carcass from a DOC trap and scoops it into a plastic container, dripping.

She’s 4 days into a 6 day trapping trip through Fiordland’s wild Murchison Mountains. From this rugged spur, the stinky stoat will eventually find its way to a University of Otago laboratory, and the forefront of efforts to understand how the ‘science of individuals’ plays out on protection of our native birds. 

We tend to think of pests as pests – a rat is a rat, a stoat is a stoat, right? But we know the types of prey taken by large bodied carnivores, like bears and wolves, actually varies considerably. Individuals have different tastes, or so it would seem. In my research, I joined scientists at the University of Otago, Department of Conservation and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to see if this was true of the small-sized carnivores too. We set out to understand individual variations in how small carnivores hunt, and how we could use any lessons to our advantage in the fight to protect native species.  . . 


Rural round-up

20/06/2021

Canty navigates post-flood infrastructure woes – Annette Scott:

Time is ticking for high country farmers rebuilding access infrastructure to get stock off their properties before the snow sets in.

Ravaged by the Canterbury flood event, three weeks on and high country farmers are grappling with greater than usual isolation as they wait for washed out roads and bridges to be repaired.

The biggest concern being to get stock out before the snow sets in.

“Usually in the first three weeks of June we would have had our first decent snow dump,” Erewhon Station farmer Colin Drummond said. . .

How will be Beef and Lamb vote break? – David Anderson:

Farmers around the country will vote soon on whether or not Beef+Lamb NZ will retain its right to continue to levy them and fund its operations.

However, BLNZ is facing a battle as it fights against typical farmer apathy when it comes to such votes, and a growing level of discontent among its levy payer about the industry organisation’s performance. David Anderson looks into the issues…

The powerbrokers at Beef+Lamb NZ may very well have a feeling of déjà vu with the organisation facing growing intensitities of farmer disgruntlement as its levy vote fast approaches. . . 

Supply chain drag on US beef bonanza – Hugh Stringleman:

Strong imported manufacturing beef demand and high prices in the United States are not being passed fully through to cattle farmers in New Zealand.

The US market is paying US$2.90 a pound for imported 95CL bull beef (NZ$8.95/kg cif) compared with US$2.66 this time last year.

The big difference in the comparison is the higher conversion value of the NZ dollar, currently US72c compared with 62c last June.

That impact alone is unfavourable by $300 a head, a Silver Fern Farms (SFF) spokesperson said. . . 

Intensive sheep and beef provides cash but wealth depends on capital gain – Keith Woodford:

Intensive sheep farms have been squeezed by dairy and are now drifting to beef with wool right out of the money

 This is the third article in a series investigating New Zealand’s pastoral sheep and beef farms. The first one was an overview of New Zealand’s 9200 commercial sheep and beef farms, and how the pastoral-farming area has declined over the last 30 years.  The second article focused on the North Island hill and hard-hill country, now comprising approximately 4000 of these 9200 commercial farms. On those hill farms, key issues are land-use competition between pastoralism and production forestry, combined with retirement of the tougher country for carbon farming.

This time my focus is on the 4400 intensive farms spanning both North and South Islands.They are classified by Beef+Lamb as Classes 5-8, with Class 5 being the in the North Island and Classes 6-8 being in the South Island. That leaves 200 high-country and 600 South Island hill-country farms that need their own analysis, but that will have to wait. . .

New Zealand has real opportunity to be a world leader in agritech:

TIN’s second annual Agritech Insights Report offers significant analysis of New Zealand’s Agricultural Technology export sector

Technology Investment Network (TIN) has released its second annual NZ Agritech Insights Report, providing compelling analysis of the size and scope of New Zealand’s leading agritech export companies, and the pipeline of promising Early Stage agritech companies.

Launched at Fieldays yesterday, the report provides a closer look into NZ’s agricultural technology sector based on data from TIN’s 2020 survey results, including size and significance, key export markets, investment challenges and opportunities, along with a comprehensive directory of over 110 early stage Agritech companies currently developing their own IP in New Zealand.

The Agritech Insights Report was first commissioned in 2020 to provide a baseline of data on New Zealand’s growing agritech export sector as the New Zealand Government launched its Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP). . . 

Pet milk formula new gold rush? Announcing world’s most comprehensive  series of goat milk formula for cats and dogs :

In the early 2000s, demand for infant formula skyrocketed. New Zealand has enjoyed a new export revenue stream since. Peaked in 2013, export value was over $700m a year for New Zealand and over 200 brands were entered the market to compete for limited manufacturing capacity.

The playing field was late restricted largely to few big players, especially these with own factories, following policy changes in China. Despite of the restrictions, New Zealand still enjoys steady export revenue in infant formula today.

Could pet milk formula be the next gold mine for New Zealand? “Yes, it’s entirely possible. “, said James Gu, one of the founders of PetNZ Ltd and creators of the PetNZC brand. . .


Rural round-up

06/06/2021

Where’s the dollars and sense? – Jacqueline Rowarth:

With all the hype around the benefits of regenerative agriculture, a significant aspect appears to be missing – economics.

We hear about farmer wellbeing. Sometimes we hear about production. But where are the accounts?

If the approach and rethink about systems is so good, why is the income side missing in discussion?

Most of us understand that Country Calendar is now more about lifestyles and people stories than working farms (with the occasional exceptions). RNZ’s CountryLife is tending the same way. Both are focused on motivating an audience, which is mostly urban, to tune in. . . 

Hīkoiof hundreds against far-north SNAs to follow Dame Whina Cooper’s footsteps – Susan Botting:

Panguru great-grandmother Hinerangi Puru (84) will journey in the footsteps of her iconic mother Dame Whina Cooper next week in a hīkoi fighting new Significant Natural Area “land grabs” converging on Far North District Council’s head office.

The Hokianga kuia will be among expected hundreds from across the Far North and beyond in the hīkoi to FNDC’s head office in Kaikohe on 11 June.

“My mother marched to Wellington in 1975 at the age of 83 to the call of ‘not one more acre’,” Puru said of the journey she was also part of.

“Now, nearly 50 years on we’re still having to do the same thing with this hīkoi.” . . 

Carbon forestry’s desirability challenged at meeting – Rebecca Ryan:

“Call it carbon mining.”

Addressing the crowd at a public meeting in Weston on Monday night, Five Forks farmer Jane Smith suggested the word “farming” was no longer used in association with carbon forestry.

“The term farming suggests you are looking after a resource sustainably, long term, into perpetuity — and this certainly is not,” Mrs Smith said.

“So let’s call it carbon mining.” . .

Farmers fill skill gap – David Anderson:

Finding and training skilled workers is a growing problem in many parts of the NZ economy and the sheep and beef farming sector is no exception.

However, instead of sitting around and bemoaning this fact, a number of like-minded sheep and beef producers from around the country have decided to do something about it.

They have established the Growing Future Farmers (GFF) charitable trust, which aims to provide industry-led, on-the-job training and work for young people keen to enter the sheep, beef and deer farming sectors. “Evidence from farm employers and recruitment agencies indicate a considerable shortfall of well-trained people entering the industry over the last decade,” GGF trust board chair John Jackson told Rural News. . . 

Searching for the future on North Island hills – Keith Woodford:

Some weeks back I wrote an article on New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms, focusing on the current situation. I said I would be back as there was more to discuss about both the present and the future. Here, I want to focus more specifically on the North Island hill (Beef+Lamb Class 4) and hard-hill country (Class 3). These land classes comprise around 4000 farms and contain approximately 45 percent of New Zealand’s commercial sheep and beef farms.

Before heading further down that track, I want to share some information supplied by Rob Davison from Beef+Lamb. The 2017 Statistics Department national census indicates there are approximately 26,400 sheep and beef farms in New Zealand. However, Beef+Lamb estimates that only 9200, or 35 percent thereof, are commercial farms. These commercial farms typically have at least 750 stock units and comprise 97 percent of New Zealand’s sheep production plus 88 percent of the beef cattle production. That means there are another 17,200 lifestyle and hobby farmers.

Although the 17,200 non-commercial farmers may not be particularly important from a production perspective, they are still a very important part of the rural community. Many of these people have a day-job in the agricultural servicing industry. . . 

Cost to beef of China dramas impossible to measure – Shan Goodwin:

It was impossible to measure how much Australia’s geopolitical tensions with China might cost the beef industry because unique market dynamics were at play, senate estimates hearings in Canberra have heard.

Representatives from the red meat industry’s big research, development and marketing provider Meat & Livestock Australia appeared before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee and fielded questions on everything from global marketing budgets to carbon neutrality.

Managing director Jason Strong said China grew as a beef market for Australia extremely quickly. . .


Rural round-up

20/05/2021

Farmers may not get much from the Budget but prospects are looking good in export markets – Point of Order:

The agriculture sector may not get the recognition it deserves in this year’s budget, nor much assistance along  the  road  to  reducing  methane emissions — but  at  least farmers  can take  satisfaction (as New Zealand  emerges into  the  post-Covid  era)  that  returns   for the  bulk of the  sector’s output  have  been  strong.  The prospects are that high prices for  most products will be  sustained  next season.

The latest  Global  Dairy Trade  auction this week saw prices  easing  slightly—but  for  the product  that bears  the  greatest influence  on Fonterra’s  farmgate milk price, whole milk powder, it is still 54%  higher  than  at this time  in the  previous season.

Analysts are confident it will stay around that  level next season.

The other encouraging sign for primary producers  is  that  prices  in the  meat  sector  are  buoyant.  This  week  Westpac lifted its farmgate lamb forecast to at least $8/kg, and sees it possibly rising to over $9. . . 

2021 New Zealand Dairy Industry Award winners demonstrate perfect progression pathway:

The 2021 Share Farmers of the Year are driven, professional and high-achieving siblings who benchmark excellence within the industry.

Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj from Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa were named the 2021 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Waikato’s Christopher Vila became the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Ruth Connolly from Waikato was announced the 2021 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes from a pool worth over $210,000.

Share Farmer head judge, Jacqui Groves from Westpac, says Manoj and Sumit impressed the judges with glowing reports from current and past employers and employees.

“They have amazing relationships with two sets of owners, who really believe in them and are following the boys’ dream.” . . 

The occupation – Bill Morris:

Wallabies may have evolved in Australia, but they’re so well suited to life in New Zealand that they have reached plague numbers for the second time in a century, eating their way through the landscapes of Canterbury and the Bay of Plenty and escaping from the containment zones created to hold them back.

FOUR-WHEEL DRIVES MODIFIED with custom-built shooting cages and heavy bull bars rumble off State Highway 1, lining up at a roadside reserve near the South Canterbury town of St Andrews. Gorse-scarred men and women drag a cargo of carnage from the vehicles.

Severed wallaby heads are dumped by the sack-load onto the ground to be counted, then turfed into a trailer for disposal. Wallaby carcasses are disembowelled with an axe before being weighed. The sickly reek of death drifts across the reserve, intensified by the late-summer heat. The flames of a stubble fire crackle in a nearby paddock, casting a thick pall of smoke and an orange hue across the scene. . . 

Fonterra’s restructure proposal risks the co-operative – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s decision on 6 May to present an alternative capital structure has opened a can of worms.  The shares have dropped around 15 percent and investor units are down 13 percent. There are no immediate cash implications, but Fonterra’s capital value has declined by more than $1 billion. This transfers through to farmer balance-sheets.  Given that this is just a proposal, the market response is remarkable.

There is close to zero chance that the proposals will be implemented in their present form. But the worms cannot be simply put back in the can. Fonterra has made it explicit that its current structure is no longer fit for purpose.  Those are not the exact words that Fonterra is using publicly, but they are the exact words coming in on the breeze.

Prior to the proposals being announced, there was no immediate need for action. Fonterra could have kicked the can down the road for several years and left it for another governance team, but they decided to front-foot it.  To that extent, their actions are laudable. But shooting themselves in both feet was not needed. . . 

Rating title dilemma for Waitomo farming blocks – Andy Campbell:

Rating changes introduced by the Waitomo District Council six years ago are to be reversed because of demand for rural land.

Councillors were told at last week’s audit, risk and finance committee meeting that the Office of the Valuer General (OVG) would be taking a special interest in farming properties on the outskirts of townships that had smaller titles.

Because of demand for residential land, the OVG said the smaller titles should constitute separate rating units – which may reverse some property amalgamations the OVG required as part of the 2015 revaluation.

In 2015, smaller titles used as part of a single farming unit were amalgamated to reflect the one farming unit. . .

Luxury treehouse – a dairy farm-stay with a difference:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or in the case of this Hakataramea Valley farm, if it ain’t broke – think bigger and think differently.

South Canterbury farmers Liz and Andy Hayes are the sixth generation to farm their beautiful part of the country, and it’s gone through several evolutions over the years (including a conversion from beef and sheep to dairy in 2013) and the latest one was their way of holding on to their farming past, but expanding into different, more adventurous territory.

That’s come in the form of a luxury treehouse accommodation which has just started taking bookings.

It was partly driven by a love for storybook fantastical fun, partly from a desire for diversification and partly them just extending a rural welcome – it was the Hayes’ way of opening their farm for others to enjoy. . . 

Supply and demand report reveals the bulls and bears – Nick Robertson:

As we get close to the end of May, vast tracts of Australia’s cropping area are enjoying favourable conditions.

Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales growers have been the recipients of some very good rain throughout autumn, and are well positioned as they finalise their winter sowing programs.

But it is a different story for Victoria and South Australia, where big parts of those regions are yet to get an autumn break.

It is not too late, but time is running out and crop yields may start to be cut from analysts’ production estimates. . . 


Rural round-up

08/05/2021

Sheep and beef farms are getting squeezed – Keith Woodford:

The sheep and beef industry is getting squeezed from all sides, yet export returns exceed $7 billion.

I decided recently that it was time to take a closer look at what is happening on sheep and beef farms. The underlying motive is that I have been giving thought as to what the sheep and beef industry, which contributes around $7 billion of export income each year, might look like in another ten or twenty years. But before getting too immersed in that future, I needed to make sure I understood the present and how we got to where we are now.

When I left school a very long time ago, I had in mind that I wanted to be a sheep farmer myself. As a school boy, I used to peruse the advertisements each weekend in Saturday’s newspaper and figure out what a farm for 1000 ewes plus young stock and a few beef cows would cost. The land cost was around 20,000 New Zealand pounds, with this converting subsequently in 1967 to around $40,000. The figure now is about 30 times that, perhaps more, before taking into account that 1000 ewes would no longer be anywhere near enough for a living. . . 

Two big announcements awaited from Fonterra – one deals with dairy payout, the other with the co-op’s capital structure – Point of Order:

So what  are  the  chances Fonterra’s  payout  to its farmer-suppliers  could  top  $8kg/MS the  soon-to-end  current  season?

That would give a  timely  boost  to  the  rural economy  and give  farmers  the kind  of  surge  in incomes  which  would encourage them  to  step up the  pace  of  adapting their dairy farming practices as  the  country  moves  to meet its  climate  change goals.

In March, Fonterra raised its forecast milk price for this season to between $7.30 and $7.90kg/MS with a mid-point of $7.60. That was up from $7.14 last season.

But now, after several  good  results  from the fortnightly GDT auctions, and indications from futures contract prices, the  speculation  is that the payout  could go  higher. . . 

Farms hidden economic vulnerability revealed – Jonathan Milne:

A new stress test reveals just how exposed our farmers are to labour shortages, drought or a downturn in commodity prices.

Milk prices are high and times seem good for dairy farmers – but the Reserve Bank warns half of dairy farms face debt restructuring if milk solid prices drop back below $5.50/kg.

Dairy is just one of the primary production sectors where pockets of high debt create real economic exposure – for farming families, provincial communities and the economy.

While still relatively small, banks’ lending to horticulture producers has maintained a solid growth rate, increasing 11 percent in the year to March. Banks should continue to monitor associated risks, including the sector’s vulnerability to labour shortages and severe weather events, the Reserve Bank says in its first Financial Stability Report this year. . . 

Should rabbits be on the LIM report – Jill Herron:

It’s a dream lifestyle in a dream location, but owning property in Central Otago often comes with an expanding family of unwanted guests. Should real estate agents be telling prospective buyers about the rabbit problem?

World famous for its breathtaking landscape, skifields, wineries and pristine lakes, Central Otago is also fast becoming notorious for its pest population.

And those buying into the lifestyle dream need to be aware of what they are taking on, according to long-time real estate agent, Edwin Lewis.

The fact the costly, destructive and incredibly persistent pests accompany most purchases is proving a rude shock to many newcomers throughout the region. . . 

Minaret Station PLUS an amazing West Coast wilderness experienceJane Jeffries :

Arriving at the Alpine Helicopters hanger in Queenstown, I was full of anticipation for our three days at Minaret Station. I’d read about this property and have always had an inkling to go. Now three nights for the price of two, thanks to Covid, we are on our way. This much talked about Minaret luxury lodge, set in a glacial valley in the Southern Alps, is seriously remote. We had to chopper over some of New Zealand’s most inaccessible, jagged terrain to get there.

The well-known Wallis family are at the heart of this working farm. They are acknowledged in the Central Otago community for their contribution to aviation, farming, deer exporting and tourism. Sir Tim Wallis was one of the great deer farming pioneers. As a young man, his love of the land, aviation and adventure lured him into the helicopter business. He pioneered live deer capture from helicopters which lead to a significant industry in New Zealand. His nick-name, ‘Hurricane Tim,’ was well-earned for his daring flying and would not be approved by OSHA today!

As the helicopter fleet grew to support the commercial and agriculture arm of the family business, they decided to diversify into tourism. They started offering scenic flights and heli-skiing in the South Island in the 1980s. Then, in 2010 they opening the doors to the Minaret Alpine Lodge. The family wanted to share the beauty of the 50,000-acre working farm, home to some 12,000 deer, 1,300 cattle, and 1,000 sheep. . . 

Ravensdown appoints national agronomy manager:

Ravensdown has appointed Will Waddell as its new National Agronomy Manager. Will’s responsibility will be enhancing the co-operative’s service in seeds, agrichemicals and agronomic advice.

The new role leads a nationwide team of nine specialist agronomists supported by a product management team of four and benefits from Ravensdown’s partnership with Cropmark Seeds.

“I look forward to supporting and leading our talented team of agronomists to bring practical and innovative farm systems solutions to our shareholders as we respond to environmental and social needs,” says Waddell.

General Manager Customer Relationships Bryan Inch congratulated Will Waddell on his appointment to the newly created position. . . 


Rural round-up

24/04/2021

Looking after the land ‘a passion’ – Shawn McAvine:

Looking after the land is a “passion” for Central Otago farmers Ben and Anna Gillespie.

The couple won the 2020 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and opened their farm gates in Omakau for a field day last week.

Mrs Gillespie, speaking to about 100 people on the day, said she and her husband were a “solid team”.

She did the “stock work and finances” and he did the “tractor work, irrigation and agronomy“. . .

The cost of getting soil fertility wrong:

Although many people on the planet are willing to pay more for New Zealand produce, productive land to grow that food and fibre is becoming unavailable here in our own backyard.

Both the current government and previous governments aimed to double export dollars from the primary sector.

In answer, ingenious farmers and growers have had to become more efficient with their inputs to do more with less land. The Ministry for the Environment’s report entitled Our Land shows export values of the primary sector doubled while available highly productive land halved between 2002 and 2019.

This was an impressive achievement, but not without impacts. Hitting the political ambition whilst reducing land use and environmental issues is going to require farmers to become even more efficient in the use of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. . .

Trans-Tasman competition expected to increase for dairy farms seeking workers – Maja Burry:

New Zealand dairy farmers are being urged to make staff retention a priority, with the trans-Tasman bubble expected to make the labour market even more competitive.

Both New Zealand and Australia’s primary industries are facing labour shortages, with border restrictions cutting off the normal flow of migrant workers.

A recent survey by the groups Federated Farmers and DairyNZ found almost half of the sector is understaffed, with a quarter of farmers unable to fill some roles for over six months.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble on Monday had resulted in some agricultural labour recruiters in Australia ramping up online advertising campaigns targeting New Zealanders – offering free airfares and good wages. . . 

A2 moves from a brand to a category – Keith Woodford:

Many more A2 milk and A2 infant formula brands are now emerging across the globe but market leader The a2 milk Company is struggling

A notable change has been occurring recently with A2 milk products now available from multiple manufacturers. That includes at least three brands of A2 infant formula available here in New Zealand. These offerings are the original a2 Platinum from The a2 Milk Company (ATM), plus relative newcomers Karicare A2 from Danone and Haven A2 linked to Zuru.

There are also now at least three A2 fresh-milk brands in New Zealand, these being Fonterra, Fresha Valley, and a strangely named “organic A3” product which, according to its owners, is also produced exclusively from A2 cows.

Internationally, there are multiple A2 brands of both A2 milk and A2 infant formula now available, particularly in Asia, to a lesser extent in the Americas, but with Europe still lagging. . . 

The harvest has passed but we are not saved – Tom Hunter:

So that’s it. The last of the maize has been chopped and dropped into bunkers, pits and stacks all across the Waikato.

I’ve finished my first, and likely my last season, on the harvesting teams. As always with such work it seems that time has run much faster than a start last September factually shows. About the only slow period was in January as the huge machines were prepped for the coming chore and eyes closely watched the growing maize to pick the right time for gathering.

This time of year has always been celebrated, so let’s start with Bruegel’s classic from 1565. . . 

‘A farmer with 50 cattle today will only be allowed to have 24 in 2030’ – Catherina Cunnane:

The Rural Independents have warned that the Climate Action Bill will “kill the economy while doing nothing to protect the environment”. 

They fear that “small farms will be in danger of disappearing and replaced by large corporate interests, while one-off rural housing will cease to exist”.

The group believe the bill will cause “immeasurable damage to Irish agriculture”, cause food security issues, lead to thousands of direct and indirect job losses across rural Ireland and create enormous and costly volumes of red tape. . . 


Rural round-up

16/03/2021

Forestry issues still need much debate – Keith Woodford:

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

In my last article on forestry, a little over two months ago, I ended by saying that “there is a need for an informed and wide-ranging debate as we search for the path that will lead to the right trees in the right place, planted and owned by the right people”. Here I take up that issue again.

In the interim, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has published its draft report on how New Zealand might meet its Paris obligations through to 2050. A key message in the report is that forestry must not be used as the ‘get out of jail card’ (my term) that avoids facing hard decisions elsewhere in the economy.

The CCC estimate is that under current policy settings and with carbon priced at $35 per tonne, then new forests will increase by 1.1 million hectares by 2050. If the carbon price rises to $50 then the CCC thinks new plantings will increase to 1.3 million hectares. . . .

Small steps boost farm’s biodiversity:

Farmers discovered that there are many ways to protect and enhance mahinga kai and biodiversity values while visiting Waimak Farm in Eyreton recently.

The 612-hectare farm includes the largest remaining kanuka stand in North Canterbury. Due to its important biodiversity values this area is being protected by farm managers Richard and Susan Pearse.

Richard Pearse says the kanuka stand provides an important seed source and seedlings have been taken from the area to try and recreate a similar ecosystem in other dryland areas. He is aiming to plant approximately 1000 native trees per year throughout the entire farm.

“It’s important for us to protect this area as there are hardly any of these dryland areas left. It is easier to protect what you already have on farm than starting from scratch.”

Arts approach to rural mental health in Tairāwhiti – Alice Angeloni:

A mental health service that uses mahi toi (the arts) to create culturally safe spaces will reach into rural Tairāwhiti.

The primary mental health service will support west rural and East Coast communities and is expected to start between April and June.

A report before Hauora Tairāwhiti’s district health board last month said $900,000 left over from another Ministry of Health contract would fund the service over two years.

But as it was a “finite resource” to 2022, with no guarantees of funding being extended, building leadership capability within the community would be key to making the service sustainable, the report said. . . 

Nature school demand grows post lockdown – Emma Hatton:

The demand for one-day nature or forest schools is on the rise, with advocates saying if schools do not provide more outdoor-based learning, the demand will continue to grow.

At Battle Hill farm in Pāuatahanui in Wellington, about a dozen children aged between four and 12, gather every Wednesday for nature school.

They start the morning with a hui to decide what the day will look like, possibly geo-caching, tree climbing or making damper to eat over the fire they will build. They also check the weather and debrief on any safety issues. . .

2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards winners announced:

The 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winner is excited to be part of the New Zealand dairy industry, producing dairy products with the lowest carbon footprint in the world and is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy. 

Women achieved a clean sweep, winning all three categories in Auckland/Hauraki. Rachael Foy was named the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmer of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Thames Civic Centre on Thursday night and won $10,300 in prizes and four merit awards. The other major winners were the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year Stephanie Walker, and the 2021 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Emma Udell.

Rachael was named the Auckland/Hauraki Dairy farm manager of the year in 2017 and placed third at the National Finals.

“The benefits of entering the Awards are numerous, including networking, benchmarking my business, the prizes, raising my profile and the National finals week,” she says. . . 

Carbon bank – Uptown Girl:

Everyone is all paper straws, and bicycles, and reusable grocery bags and water bottles, and then we’re over here like, “Here’s our dirt.”

Actually, we call it soil. And we have to make that clarification or our college soil professor will drive down here and make it for us.

But seriously. Did you know our soil, when managed right, is a massive carbon bank? That’s right – we are storing carbon right here, right below our feet!

What you’re looking at is a crop field where we grow grains to harvest every year. You’re seeing green cover crop, that was planted in the fall before harvest of our corn to make sure our soil was never bare. . .

 


Rural round-up

16/02/2021

Hackles rise over stock reduction numbers – Hamish MacLean:

A possible 15% reduction in livestock numbers on red meat and dairy farms by 2030 could break New Zealand’s under-pressure agriculture industry, some farmers fear.

While industry groups are taking a cautious approach to the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice package, its preferred path includes reduced livestock numbers by 2030.

And the already weary farming sector feared an urban-centred Government could again make changes for rural New Zealand that did not match what was happening on the ground, Riverton sheep farmer Leon Black said.

Mr Black, a former Beef + Lamb New Zealand southern South Island director, said any policy that led to fewer farms in the South would be catastrophic for rural communities. . . 

Concern over land reform changes – Annette Scott:

Changes proposed in the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill threaten the viability of high country farming for pastoral lessees.

The Bill proposes to amend the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and the Land Act 1948, to end tenure review and redesign the regulatory system to deliver improved Crown pastoral outcomes.

But farmers say the Bill is poorly drafted, placing unreasonable limitations on day-to-day farming activities for pastoral leaseholders.

Farmers will be bogged down in red tape and environmental outcomes would go backwards. . . 

Zespri faces a China conundrum – Keith Woodford:

China is New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit market. Growth of this market has been spectacular with the Zespri-owned SunGold variety much-loved by Chinese consumers. The problem is that the Chinese are also growing at least 4000 hectares of SunGold without the permission of Zespri. 

That compares to about 7000 hectares of SunGold grown in New Zealand.

The question now facing Zespri and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry is what to do about it.  There are no easy solutions.

This issue is something I discussed with local folk in the kiwifruit-growing regions of China way back in the years between 2012 and 2015. It did not need an Einstein to work out that the SunGold budwood was already there. . . 

Kiwifruit settlement a token, but an important one – Nikki Mandow:

This weekend’s settlement over PSA kiwifruit disease compensation is good news for the taxpayer, but bad news for business owners, particularly farmers. 

On Saturday morning, a group of kiwifruit growers announced they had reached a settlement with the Crown over damages they suffered after virulent kiwifruit vine disease PSA entered New Zealand. The bacteria arrived in 2009 in imported Chinese pollen because of a Ministry of Primary Industries biosecurity blunder at the border, and it devastated the industry.

The growers wanted $450 million, plus interest, to compensate them for the destruction of their orchards; in some cases the destruction of their livelihoods. 

But late on Friday night, with the final stage of a seven year-long court battle due to start in the Supreme Court today, they settled for $40 million. . . 

‘Absolutely gutted’: Maniototo A&P Show cancelled over alert level move – Yvonne O’Hara:

The Maniototo A&P Show, scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled.

Secretary Janine Smith said organisers made the tough decision to cancel the show after the Government moved the nation to Alert Level 2 and Auckland to Alert Level 3 on Sunday night.

The situation was being assessed by the Government every 24 hours. . . 

Cattle game is trusted; but society still wants oversight – Shan Goodwin:

Cattle producers enjoy a high level of trust by the Australian community but that does not equate to support for a relaxed regulatory environment.

This is the key finding from first-of-its-kind independent research into public perceptions of the cattle industry’s environmental performance, from a team headed up by The University of Queensland.

The work points to the need for a rethink of how the industry sometimes frames the relationship between environmental regulation and community trust.

A well-designed regulatory framework that is developed with the engagement of key stakeholders enables the demonstration of sound environmental performance and should not be framed as a burden, or the result of society being ‘on our back’, says lead researcher Dr Bradd Witt. . . 


Rural round-up

05/02/2021

Dairy prices and Fonterra’s re-establishment as a global leader should be celebrated far beyond the cowsheds – Point of Order:

The New Zealand economy, although battered  by the  Covid-19 pandemic, has  moved   into 2021  in  better  shape  than  anyone  might have predicted  just six months ago.

To  a degree  this has been due  to  the  continuing vibrant performance  in the export  sector  particularly  by the  primary industries. This  week  there  was a  fresh surge  of  confidence   within that sector  because of the signal from the big dairy co-op, Fonterra, in lifting its  milk payout  forecast.

Fonterra  now expects to pay farmers between $6.90-$7.50kg/MS. That is up 20c a kg from its previous forecast range of $6.70 -$7.30. . . 

Dairy markets have hit a sweet spot but big challenges remain – Keith Woodford:

Global dairy markets continue to grow despite negative sentiment in some quarters. The Climate Change Commission expects less cows to be balanced by more milk per cow. Man-made ‘udder factories’ are yet to emerge.

The combined effect of the three latest global dairy auctions has been that US-dollar prices for dairy have risen eleven percent since Christmas. A farmgate payment above $NZ7 for each kg of milksolids (MS) of fat plus protein for the dairy year ending in May 2021 now looks close to ‘baked in’.

This means that for a second year, farmgate prices will exceed $7. This will be the first time that prices have stayed above $7 per kgMS for two consecutive years.

It will also mean that five years have passed since the two bad years of 2015 and 2016. The bad years were largely driven by EU internal quota removals and a consequent surge in EU production. . . 

Feds survey shows farmer confidence has bounced back:

Farmer confidence has bounced back to where it was pre-Covid19 but attracting and retaining staff remains a headache, the latest Federated Farmers Farm Confidence Survey shows.

Of the nearly 1,100 farmers who completed the Research First survey in the second week of January, a net 5.5% considered current economic conditions to be good. That’s a 34-point jump from the July 2020 survey when a net 28.6% considered them bad, marking the lowest level of farmer confidence in the 12 years the six-monthly survey had been conducted.

“Looking ahead, a net 43.8% expect general economic conditions to worsen over the next 12 months. That sound a bit grim, but just six months ago 58.7% of survey respondents expected a deteriorating economy,” Federated Farmers President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said.

“I think farmers, like other New Zealanders, are feeling buoyed by the way we’ve handled the pandemic despite the torpedo to international tourism. The agricultural sector is willing and able to maintain production so long as regulatory and other stumbling blocks don’t trip us up.” . . 

Positive attitude asset during lockdown:

A new study* has found a strong ‘can do’ attitude and cooperative spirit in the agricultural industries were significant factors in minimising losses and uncertainties during the COVID restrictions last year in New Zealand and Australia.

Co-authored by Lincoln University’s Dr Lei Cong, with contributors from a number of institutions including AgResearch, The University of Queensland, NZ Institute of Economic Research, and Plant and Food Research, it measures the immediate impacts of COVID-19 control measures to June 2020 on the agri-food systems of Australia and New Zealand and how resilient those systems were.

It found the effects on both countries were broadly similar, and there were relatively minor economic impacts across the surveyed industries.

It stated the high level of ingenuity in the rural communities, both in Australia and New Zealand, was likely a key element of their resilience and capacity to overcome movement restrictions and the disruption of value chains. . . 

Kiwi conservationists count wins in war on wallabies – Nita Blake-Persen:

Pest control experts say they are finally starting to make a dent in New Zealand’s exploding wallaby population, as a battle to stop them destroying native forests rages on.

Checkpoint cameraman Nick Monro and reporter Nita Blake-Persen headed out on a hunt to see how it’s all going.

The government last year allocated $27 million towards culling wallabies as part of its Job for Nature programme.

Among those to receive funding is Dr Tim Day, a pest control expert working in the Bay of Plenty.

Wallaby numbers have been growing in the area in recent times, and Day described them as a “little known villain”. . . 

Scientists have taught spinach to send emails and it could warn us about climate change – Marthe de Ferrer:

It may sound like something out of a futuristic science fiction film, but scientists have managed to engineer spinach plants which are capable of sending emails.

Through nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists.

When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to the scientists. . . 

 


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