Rural round-up

March 27, 2019

Westland’s biggest shareholders sit on the fence over Yili offer:

Westland Milk’s biggest shareholders — investment fund Southern Pastures and the state-owned Landcorp — are biding their time over Yili’s takeover offer.

Hokitika-based Westland said this week that it had signed a conditional agreement for the sale of the co-op, which will see the Chinese dairy giant pay farmer-suppliers $3.41 a share.

Westland will seek shareholder approval for the proposed transaction at a special shareholder meeting, expected to be held in early July.

Southern Pastures, which has former All Black Graeme Mourie as one of its principals, owns 5.5 per cent of the co-op, which would be worth $13.6 million under the offer.  . . 

Nait a difficult beast but NZ ‘had no chance’ against M. bovis without it – Esther Taunton:

Cattle on 150 farms have been checked against national animal tracing records as part of efforts to wipe out the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis but just one property passed muster.

Dr Alix Barclay, the Ministry for Primary Industries’ intelligence manager for the M. bovis response, said only one property had achieved a 100 per cent match with its National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) account.

The disappointing result highlighted the importance of making changes to the system, Barclay said. . . 

Hayward family cultivate success in South Canterbury by seizing the day – Samesh Mohanlall:

Farming operations flourish on hard work, seizing the chances that come your way and having people that are trustworthy around, the family of a successful South Canterbury venture say. 

Geoff Hayward and his wife Joy, who own and lease 1700 hectares of land for their sheep, beef and cropping operation across the Timaru district, told about 50 visitors to their Mt Horrible farm from the Beef + Lamb annual meeting on Thursday, that the key to their expansion is taking opportunities that come their way. . . 

Pitching in to protect mudfish:

They may be tiny, slimy and reclusive, but the Canterbury mudfish are well worth protecting. 

Kōwaro, as they’re named in te reo Māori, are a treasured species for local iwi Ngāi Tahu and having more of them around helps protect other freshwater natives such as kōura (crayfish) and kākahi (mussels).

Unfortunately, they’re also rare and endangered. 

Fonterra is providing funding to Environment Canterbury to help them implement innovative technology in what is the first project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. . . 

A2 names China CEO –  Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co has appointed Li Xiao as chief executive of its greater China operations.

Li was previously president of the Kids Entertainment Division of Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational which owns the Hoyts cinema group. He starts in the A2 Milk role at the end of April, based in Shanghai, and will join A2’s senior leadership team. He will report to the firm’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Nathan and managing director Jayne Hrdlicka. . . 

Patience needed for Fonterra’s streamlining, says FNZC’s Dekker – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Farmers and investors will need to be patient with Fonterra Cooperative Group’s overhaul of its business, which sometime-critic First NZ Capital analyst Arie Dekker says is moving in the right direction.

The cooperative’s board is working through a review of the business which has seen several assets put on the market to help cut the milk processor’s debt levels, and has signalled more divestments are coming. . . 

Miscanthus – the magic plant:

In a Rural Delivery television programme last year Prof Steve Wratten of Lincoln University described Miscanthus as a “magic plant”. Although there was a degree of poetic licence in that statement, it is very understandable why he described Miscanthus in that way. But there are no magicians involved. Miscanthus is a truly remarkable plant that has so many advantages and options for commercial use that people who hear about it tend to think “This is too good to be true!”.

So they ignore it. The phenomenal success of Miscanthus therefore actually detracts from securing serious interest in both growing and using it. Contrary to people’s initial reaction, what seems like hype, is in fact true. . . 

It’s time to strengthen trespass laws:

Activist trespassers are making a joke of our legal system – carrying out brazen invasions of private farms and walking away with a slap on the wrist, only to reoffend. It’s time for governments to act.

In recent months we’ve witnessed a spate of farm invasions by activists who think their opinions place them above the law.

These farm intruders are entering private premises, often in the dead of night, often while streaming live on the internet – all just a stones’ throw from where farmers and their families are sleeping.

Police and the court system have proven powerless to help, with those caught walking away with fines equivalent to a parking ticket. . . 


Rural round-up

February 3, 2019

January ‘hottest month’ on record but farmers say growing season ‘extraordinary‘ – Matt Brown:

January in Marlborough has matched the record for the region’s hottest month since records began in 1932.

The month also smashed the record for days above 30C, with 10 sweltering days compared to the previous record of six in 1990.

But hotter days and cooler nights saw the month tie with January 2018 and February 1998 for the title of ‘hottest ever month’ in Marlborough with the mean temperature of 20.7 degrees Celsius, Plant and Food Research scientist Rob Agnew said. . .

 Up to 75 jobs from new North Waikato chicken hatchery – Gerald Piddock:

The opening of a multimillion dollar chicken hatchery in Waikato’s north has bought with it between 50 and 75 jobs and economic benefits to the entire region, say locals and iwi leaders.

Owned by American poultry giant Cobb Vantress, the $70 million hatchery in Rangiriri West, north of Huntly, currently employs 50 staff. That will expand to between 70-75 people once it is fully operational later this year.

For locals Stephen Pearce and Phillip Lorimer, employment at the hatchery was too good of an opportunity for locals to pass up. . . 

Rural sector scares off trainees :

Using Landcorp farms in a restructured vocational education training system for the primary industry is one option being considered by the Government.

Farming leaders have called on the Government to buy Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre’s Masterton campus from the liquidators to secure future vocational farm training, saying once gone it will be difficult and costly to replace.

“It is crucial that facility in Masterton remains available to agricultural training,” Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland says. . .

Plantain research a game-changer for farmers :

Game-changing new research into how plantain crops can reduce nitrogen loss from dairy farms will put upper Manawatu farmers at the forefront of dairy science.

Dairy farmers in the Tararua catchment face reducing nitrogen loss from pastures by an average of 60% to meet the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council’s One Plan targets.

To achieve them farmers are adopting a range of on-farm changes and the region’s new plantain research could be a key component. . .

Farmers sick of being treated as rates ‘mugs’:

Farmers are out of patience with councils that treat them as cash cows, with a new Federated Farmers survey showing less than 4% believe they get good value for money from their rates.

“It’s local government election year and those chasing our votes can expect some very pointy questions on why average council rates in New Zealand jumped 79.7% between June 2007 and June 2017 when inflation (CPI) for the same period was only 23.1%,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says. . . 

Navajo shepherds cling to centuries-old tradition in a land where it refuses to rain – David Kelly:

More than a hundred rowdy sheep pressed up against the gates of the corral as Irene Bennalley drew near. Dogs yipped, rams snorted.

Just after 7:30 a.m., she flung open the pen and the woolly mob charged out in a cloud of dust. Well-trained dogs struggled to keep order as the flock moved across the bone-dry earth searching for stray bits of grass or leaves.

“Back! Back!” the 62-year-old Bennalley shouted at the stragglers separating from the flock — ripe pickings for coyotes or packs of wild dogs. . . 

Photos reveal Queensland cotton farms full of water while Darling River runs dry

These photos were taken by the Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick from a light plane over southern Queensland near Goondiwindi, on Wednesday.

They show rivers such as the Condamine relatively full, and storages on cotton farms holding thousands of megalitres of water.

Yet three hours away in north-west New South Wales, the Barwon and Darling rivers are a series of muddy pools. . . 


Rural round-up

December 6, 2018

Dairy product prices climb as whole milk powder gains – Margaret Dietz:

(BusinessDesk) – Dairy product prices rose at the Global Dairy Trade auction, stemming a decline that began in May.

The GDT price index gained 2.2 percent from the previous auction two weeks ago. The average price was a US$2,819 a tonne, compared with US$2,727 a tonne two weeks ago. Some 36,450 tonnes of product was sold, down from 42,966 tonnes two weeks ago.

Whole milk powder climbed 2.5 percent to US$2,667 a tonne. . . 

Dairy bosses are best employers:

In the first-ever Primary Industries Good Employer Awards dairy farmers Ben and Nicky Allomes won the top accolade, the Minister of Agriculture’s Award for Best Primary Sector Employers.

Woodville dairy farmers Ben and Nicky Allomes have been named the Best Primary Sector Employers. 

The couple, who own Hopelands Dairies, also won the Innovative Employment Practices award. . . 

Fonterra reaches provisional deal with Beingmate:

Fonterra Cooperative Group has reached a provisional deal with Chinese partner Beingmate Baby & Child Food to unwind their Darnum joint venture in Australia.

The joint venture – 51 percent owned by Beingmate and 49 percent Fonterra – produced infant formula products at the Darnum plant in Australia for Beingmate’s Chinese customers, and was a key component of Fonterra’s plan to expand its reach into China’s second and third-tier cities. . . 

Voting for the 2nd Fonterra Directors’ Election is underway:

Voting is now open for the 2018 Fonterra Board of Directors’ Second Election.

Only two candidates from the first election, Leonie Guiney and Peter McBride, obtained more than 50% support from voting shareholders. The Rules of the first election state that if not enough candidates obtain more than 50% support, there must be a second election. . . 

Dairy loan done on a handshake, details to follow:

It beggars belief that the Government has dispensed a $9.9 million low-interest loan to a dairy company without having finalised the terms, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund couldn’t tell the House what terms he had in mind when he undercut commercial lenders to provide debt funding for a new processing plant.

“I wouldn’t blame any business like Westland Milk for accepting a cheap loan from a secure lender. . . 

Apple producer’s underlying profit looks to be at top end:

Apple producer Scales has had a bumper year with a record export crop lifting profits to the top end of guidance.

The company’s underlying profit was likely to be at the top end, or slightly exceed, the current guidance range of $58 million to $65m, in the year ending December.

Managing director Andy Borland said it was an excellent performance for the group, with all business units performing well over the year. . . 

New Landcorp chair appointed:

Dr Warren Parker has been appointed as Director and Chair of Landcorp, the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson and Associate Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Shane Jones announced today.

Dr Parker is a former Chief Executive of Scion (the NZ Forest Research Institute) and Landcare Research, and was previously Chief Operating Officer of AgResearch. He currently holds a number of board roles including on Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Farmlands Cooperative Society, Genomics Aotearoa and is the Chair of the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group. Until recently he was Chair of the New Zealand Conservation Authority. . . 

Landcorp out of touch with real farmers:

Landcorp’s submission to Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group (TWG) is a kick in the guts to rural communities, National’s Nathan Guy and David Carter say.

“Landcorp’s sneaky submission to the TWG proposing a water tax, nitrogen fertiliser tax and not opposing a capital gains tax proves how out of touch the state-owned company is with farmers on the ground,” Mr Guy says.

“With 6700 other submissions, why was Landcorp pressured to put in a submission that was more than a month late? The reality seems to be that the TWG are hell-bent on introducing environmental taxes and a capital gains tax, so they leaned on Landcorp to submit supporting more taxes and levies. . . 

New president and vice president elected to HortNZ board:

The Horticulture New Zealand board elected Barry O’Neil as its new President and Chairman at a meeting today. Mr O’Neil replaces Julian Raine, who has been President and Chairman for six years and who has made a significant contribution to horticulture for New Zealand. Mr Raine has stood down to pursue other business interests.

Bernadine Guilleux was elected Vice-President, with both positions effective from 1 January 2019. . . 

Busy orchardist advises small businesses start payday filing:

A Hawke’s Bay orchardist is advising fellow small businesses to be ahead of the game on payday filing.

This is the mandatory requirement from April next year for employers to file their payroll information to Inland Revenue every time they pay their staff.

Te Mata Figs owner Helen Walker has been paying her five staff fortnightly and sending across their details using the online entry method in myIR. . . 


Rural round-up

August 6, 2018

Top official knows the human cost of bovis – Sally Rae:

July 22, 2017, will go down as a significant date in New Zealand’s agricultural history. On that day, bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was confirmed as being in the country, triggering New Zealand’s largest and most expensive biosecurity response. Sally Rae, who has covered the outbreak since the beginning, reflects on the past year and also talks to the man charged with heading the national response.

Geoff Gwyn admits hearing from farmers hit by Mycoplasma bovis is the toughest part of his job.

“These stories are intensely personal. Being under regulatory control or, worst case scenario, having a herd built up over decades culled is a really tough time for people.

“It has a large impact on their psyche, their mental health, the financial viability of their business. All these are hard conversations to have.” . .

US company buys NZ wool for insulation – Gerard Hutching:

New Zealand wool producers have landed a large contract to supply a United States company with fibre for home insulation.

They also claim wool is a healthier product than fibreglass which is the dominant insulating material on the market, a claim that has been disputed by fibreglass manufacturers.

The deal, brokered by NZ Merino (NZM), will see 200 tonnes of Landcorp coarse wool supplied to US insulation company Havelock Wool. This represents about 10 per cent of Landcorp’s supply to NZM. . . 

New Zealand’s beef cattle herd continues to grow:

New Zealand’s beef cattle herd increased by 1.9 per cent over the past year while the decline in the sheep flock was slowed by a lift in hoggets as farmers responded positively to strong prices and good grass growth leading into winter, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

The annual stock number survey conducted by B+LNZ’s Economic Service, shows 3.7 million beef cattle with beef production continuing to grow.

The largest contributor to the increase in the number of beef cattle was a lift in weaner cattle in Marlborough-Canterbury, which was driven by younger cattle being retained by beef breeders. . . 

No big rise in calf kill expected – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers should get a little more money for their bobby calves this season but meat companies don’t expect a big increase in slaughter tallies.

Higher prices overseas for skins and the lower value of the New Zealand dollar have enabled some meat companies to add up to 20c/kg to their bobby calf schedules.

Others said they are paying the same as last winter and will be competitive with prevailing prices.

The range for medium calves, 13.5kg to 18kg carcaseweight, where most weights fall, is reportedly $1.85/kg to $2/kg. . . 

Storage ponds a ‘ludicrous’ alternative to dam:

Claims about storage ponds being a viable alternative to the Waimea Community Dam are ludicrous, says Waimea Irrigators Limited (WIL) Chair Murray King.

“There are many reasons storage ponds won’t solve the region’s water problem, including insufficient capacity, ponds not addressing the minimum flow requirements on the Waimea River, and the lack of funding available for them.

“The idea is utterly ludicrous. A combined storage volume of 6 million cubic metres of water won’t meet the minimum flow requirements set out in the Tasman Resource Management Plan (TRMP) and provide adequate water for water users in dry periods. The minimum flows were established through an Environment Court process so the Council can give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. . . 

Collaboration critical to capture red meat sector opportunities:

The opportunities and challenges facing New Zealand’s red meat sector were highlighted at the annual Red Meat Sector conference held in Napier this week.

The one-day conference, which attracted around 250 red meat industry stakeholders, featured a range of speakers who set the scene for the sector, identified the challenges and highlighted the many opportunities for red meat in a dynamic global market.

One of the over-riding themes was the need to work collaboratively to ensure the red meat sector is well positioned to capture premiums for its product on the world stage.

In setting the scene, former Zespri CEO and chair of the Primary Sector Council Lain Jager said he is convinced there will always be a market for ruminant protein because the world needs more protein. . . 

The dairy season in New Zealand kicks off with a reasonable seasonal weather outlook:

Even with El Nino talk intensifying the weather looks good for the start of the dairy season

Dairy cows around the country tend to freshen in the month of August and grass growth becomes important as production ramps up with warmer weather. It was only last December when large parts of the country were shocked by the dry and exceptionally warm weather. This year, in contrast, looks to be headed in a slightly different direction. The latest and updated every ten-day seasonal rainfall and temperature outlook is for benign conditions through October.

The slightly drier monthly forecasts for Northland through the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and the Manawatu and down the west coast of the South Island and into Southland might be welcomed. . . 

Cedenco Foods is Hawke’s Bay Exporter of the Year:

An impressive commitment to product development and innovation has seen fruit and vegetable manufacturer Cedenco Foods New Zealand named as ExportNZ Hawke’s Bay ASB Exporter of the Year.

The Gisborne-based business was presented with the award by the Head of Trade Finance at ASB Bank, Mike Atkins, at the sold-out awards dinner last night at the Napier Conference Centre. Earlier in the evening, Cedenco had won the inaugural T&G Global Best Medium to Large ExporterAward.

The judges said Cedenco impressed them with their investment in market research, customer relationships, and R&D to get their product right for the customer. . . 

Kiwi ingenuity a stand-out at  this year’s Pork Awards – winners announced at NZPork’s annual gala dinner:

New Zealand’s creative culinary ingenuity shone bright at The Orange in Auckland last night, where a mix of local farmers, butchers, retailers and industry leaders gathered to celebrate the winners of the eleventh annual Pork, Bacon and Ham Awards.

The competition, which took place in July, provided more than 40 pork retailers from across the country with the chance to showcase their best and most innovative New Zealand born and raised pork products. . . 


Rural round-up

June 19, 2018

In wake of M. Bovis, look after each other

To those who in some way are in the depths of New Zealand’s farming world, or part of the sector in some way, and to those who might not read this because they are not farmers — I’m thinking of us all, writes Mischa Clouston.

This Mycoplasma bovis is colossal. It will reach far and affect many of us in some way. In a huge, indescribable way.

I’m scared for my cattle owner friends; it must be such a heavy weight to carry just now, knowing you could lose so much.I’m scared for fellow managers or milkers; if there are no cows, do we even have a job in the dairy and beef industries? .

I’m worried for the health sector, helping support the strain and worry. But let’s not forget the agribusiness owners whose business is on farms or with product or services for cattle — the small business owners relying on the spending from farmers who may, in time, have little left in their own pots. . .

Otago water rights: ‘It’s time for this to be sorted out’ :

Water is the new gold in Otago and there is a mountain of work to bring water allocation in the area in line with the rest of the country before time runs out.

The Otago Regional Council is working to have the region’s antiquated water take regime brought in line with the Resource Management Act by the October 2021 deadline.

Water rights in Central Otago and parts of the surrounding districts were first allowed as mining rights to aid in the extraction of gold in the mid 19th century. . .

Down to earth and sharing the view glamping style – Sally Rae:

Patrick and Amber Tyrrell are genuinely living the dream.

It sounds a little like something out of a film script:  South African farmer’s son meets Waitaki Valley farmer’s daughter in a co-operative agricultural community in the Israeli desert.

Eventually, they move to the Waitaki Valley, where they build an off-the-grid home with spectacular views, and  focus on getting down to earth — literally. In February last year, Mr and Mrs Tyrrell launched Valley Views Glamping  (glamorous camping) on their property in the foothills below Mount Domett.

“It feels like we’ve found our calling in life,” Mrs Tyrrell said . .

Government needs to rethink Landcorp:

The Government needs to shrink their ownership of farms through Landcorp and use them to give young Kiwi farmers the opportunity to lease and ultimately own some of these farms, National Party spokesperson for Agriculture Nathan Guy says.

“The Government owns massive tracts of productive land through Landcorp, 385,503 hectares – or around six times the size of Lake Tāupo, even though there is little public good from Crown ownership.

“Landcorp not only provides a poor financial return to taxpayers but the Governments’ ownership of these farms is keeping Kiwi farmers out of the market. . . 

Northland farmers gain insights on Queensland beef sector:

Northland sheep and beef farmers Kevin and Annette Boyd were among a group of 20
farmers who attended a week-long educational beef tour in Queensland last month
organised by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

The tour featured two days at the world-renowned Beef Australia event in Rockhampton
as well as visits to a range of beef operations throughout Queensland including
Brisbane-based meat retailer Farmer in the City, Grassdale feedlot in Miles, the Roma
saleyards and Emerald-based Clissold Downs (beef trading) and SwarmFarm (agritechnology).

The tour was organised by Rabobank to provide the bank’s local and international beef
clients with an opportunity to network with other farmers and to learn more about beef
operations in Queensland. . . 

Lack of decision support tools in forestry:

Recent comments by officials and “experts” on planting one billion trees, the plight of hill country forestry and woody debris flows, have not touched on the total lack of decision support tools so that farmers and other local forest investors can make the right decisions. Without engaging a costly consultant, farmers are expected to take a risk on a 25-year land commitment in an information vacuum.

Unlike the plethora of levy and government funded systems and tools available to farmers on agricultural decisions, there is next to nothing on forestry. The forest grower levy is mostly consumed by overseas owned forestry corporates looking to protect and enhance their assets, to maintain a social license to operate in a foreign land. As a result the forest levy doesn’t get spent expanding a local forest industry. . . 

Bayer North Canterbury Young Viticulturist of the Year 2018 announced:

Congratulations to Zoe Marychurch from Bell Hill who won the Bayer South Island Regional Young Viticulturist of the Year competition on Friday 15th June.

This is a new regional competition added to the Young Vit competition this year and is open to contestants from Nelson, Canterbury and Waitaki. The winner goes through to represent their own region so Marychurch will represent North Canterbury in the National Final in August.

Four contestants battled it out at Greystone in Waipara – three from North Canterbury and one from Nelson. “The calibre of the contestants was high and it was great to see their enthusiasm and passion for viticulture evident throughout the day” says Nicky Grandorge, National Co-ordinator. They were tested on a wide range of skills including budgeting, trellising, pruning and pests and diseases. . . 


Rural round-up

June 16, 2018

Cube cleans up farm and orchard footwear – Hugh Stringleman:

Farm and orchard gate footwear cleaning and disinfection is expected to be a growing business for Jacson3 of Hamilton, which launched its portable biosecurity system at the National Fieldays.

Partners Jackie Humm and Russell Knutson, pictured, showed their Jacson Cube for the first time, after 18 months in development.

The product replaces the messy and often ineffective buckets and brushes that are now used on most farms and orchards. . . 

Regulator says Fonterra’s asset beta for calculating milk price ‘not practically feasible’ – Jonathan Underhill:

(BusinessDesk) – The Commerce Commission says it is concerned that the ‘asset beta’ Fonterra Cooperative Group uses to determine the farmgate milk price is too low, meaning it ends up paying its farmers a higher price for their milk than would be warranted under the company’s enabling law.

“The impact of this is that Fonterra calculates a higher milk price than would be the case if it used a more feasible allowance for risk in the cost of finance, consistent with other processors,” the commission said in a statement accompanying an ’emerging views’ paper. . . 

Second place still winner for NZ food if branded:

Lincoln University agrifood marketing expert Dr Nic Lees says we need to make more of being second when it comes to international food ratings.

Research from Lincoln University and the University of Florida, showed that most western consumers view New Zealand food as the next best thing to their local products.

However, Dr Lees said we are not taking advantage of this positive perception of the quality and safety of our food products.

“Unfortunately we are missing out on this premium because many overseas consumers are unaware their food originates in New Zealand.” . .

Deer milk wins Innovation Award at Fieldays:

Pāmu’s (formerly Landcorp) focus on innovation in the food business has been recognised at the 50th Fieldays, winning the Innovation Grassroots awards, with its ground-breaking deer milk product.

After three years of trial and testing, with partners Sharon and Peter McIntyre, who farm near Gore, today’s award caps an exciting week for deer milk, with a chefs tasting in Auckland on Monday.

Chief Executive Steve Carden says that deer milk was the sort of innovation that the agriculture sector needs to invest in to make sure we remain competitive. . .

Growing the future of forestry – top scholars rewarded:

Winners of the inaugural IFS Growth Tertiary Scholarship awards have been announced for 2018.

This prestigious scholarship initiative was established by innovative industry specialists IFS Growth, to support exemplar students, in pursuit of a qualification for the forestry industry. The award provides a powerful kick-start into the world of forestry with cash towards course tuition fees, work experience opportunities and entry into the company’s graduate career programme. . .

Sowing seeds of healthy childhood motivation for new charity partnership :

Helping young New Zealanders have the best chance of a healthy childhood is the driving force behind a new partnership between New Zealand’s leading charitable child health research funder and premier seed supplier, Pioneer® brand products.

Pioneer Head of Commercial Operations, Steve Richardson, said that the partnership with Cure Kids is a tangible way that our organisation, as a seed supplier can take an active role in improving health outcomes for New Zealand children. . .


Govt sowing seeds for another ag-sag?

May 7, 2018

Let’s start with something we can agree on: we all want clean waterways.

Where opinion diverges is on how that is to be achieved.

The government thinks part of the solution is in reducing cow numbers:

Environment Minister David Parker told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that in some parts of New Zealand cow numbers may have to be cut.

‘Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.’

It’s not just a cow issue and it’s not just nitrogen and phosphorus as this chart from the Agricultural Research Centre shows:

As I have said many times before, the major contributor to problems in the Kakanui River isn’t farming it’s  seagulls.

Back to Q&A, just like with the government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration, it has no idea about the economic impact of reducing cow numbers:

CORIN This is a massive signal. This is like your oil and gas. This is you saying to the farming sector, ‘You cannot continue with some of your practices in dairying, and we will force you to have less cows.’ What work have you done to look at what the economic impact of that would be? Because we know if there’s a drought, for example, and milk production goes down a couple of percent, it takes off a percent off GDP.

DAVID Mm. Well, I think the Landcorp example is illustrative that it’s not the end of the world for dairying.

The Landcorp example is not a good one because the company’s return on capital is abysmal and it’s propensity for making losses couldn’t be sustained by private businesses.

CORIN Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

DAVID We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise. Can I go back to what I was saying that I think one of the answers to this in south Canterbury, for example, lies in land use change towards more cropping, more horticulture, which are high-value land uses. . . 

It’s not just difficult to model, it’s ignoring the reality that land, climate and soils that suit dairying don’t necessarily suit horticulture.

Jacqueline Rowarth pointed out nearly two years ago, a reduction in cow numbers would have unexpected consequences:

Replacing dairy with horticulture might have some economic merit, but land suitability has to be considered, as does the supporting infrastructure and inputs.

The point about any land-based activity is that it suits the topography and climate, which interact with the parent material to create the soil. Farmers and growers understand the nature of the interaction, and then manage the deficiencies – fertilisers, irrigation, shelters, for instance.

They also consider the infrastructure, processors and markets. Land that can be used economically and environmentally sustainably for horticulture has mostly been converted already.

There are also detrimental environmental impacts to be considered. Research on the Canterbury Plains reported in the media last year indicated that dairy conversions involving fertiliser and irrigation, actually increased organic matter.

The reverse is also true. And when organic matter breaks down, nitrogen is released as is carbon dioxide.

Massey University’s professor Tony Parsons has examined the land-use challenge with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Research Centre (NZAGRC). He has calculated that at a given N input, dairy produces two to three times as much food, similar or less methane and less than half the amount of nitrogen loss.

He has also shown the use of supplements improves efficiencies. Combined with strategic use of shelters and feed pads, nitrogen losses can be reduced. . . 

A lot of work has been, and continues to be, done into improved practices which reduce dairying’s environmental impact

Keith Woodford says that we need a rational debate about water:

In recent years, the debates about water rights and water pollution in New Zealand have become increasingly torrid. Most New Zealanders have fixed views on the topic and are confident their views are correct. Human nature then leads to so-called facts being organised to buttress those fixed views.

There is a term for this phenomenon called ‘noble cause corruption’.    The problem is that ‘we’ have the ‘noble cause’ and ‘they’ have the ‘corruption’. And so, within this framework, the water debate has been characterised by huge superficiality, rhetoric and shouting. The opportunities for shared learning and accommodation have been minimal. . . 

Radical environmentalists and anti-farming groups have done a very good job with the superficiality, rhetoric and shoutingWhat we need now is science and the recognition that problems decades in the making will take time to solve and that improving water quality isn’t as simple as reducing cow numbers.

Currently, there is great confusion between issues of water quantity and water quality.  Dirty dairying has become the catch phrase.  At a public level, distinguishing between nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, bacterial loadings and sediment does not occur.  There is also very poor understanding as to the constraints to cash crop and horticulture production in the absence of irrigation.

The rural community also has to accept that change is necessary. . . 

The rural community, and farmers in particular have generally not only accepted that change is necessary but have poured money into making changes which enhance and protect waterways.

They are aware, as the government and many others don’t appear to be, that water quality isn’t just about the environment, it also has a direct impact on the economy.

It is remarkable how huge swathes of the big-city populations have lost sight of the dependence New Zealand has on its natural resource-based industries. They do not appreciate that destruction of agriculture is incompatible with poverty elimination. . . .

Dairying has revived communities that were dying, creating jobs on farms and in businesses which service and supply them. Schools which were in danger of closing have had their rolls boosted, sports clubs which were in decline have been revived.

It has also provided a huge boost to the national economy, as the biggest or second biggest export earner and a major contributor to the annual tax-take.

The regional slush fund will be no compensation for the destruction of businesses and the people who depend on them. The fund itself will be in danger if the tax take and export income are severely reduced by attacks on farms and farmers.

The Lange-Douglas policies created the ag-sag of the 80s.

Few would argue with the necessity for change and what that government did but this government ought to have learned from the damage done by how they did it.

Farmers aren’t arguing against the need for clean water.

We’re just very worried that the government is sowing the seeds for another ag-sag.

They, and too many other people, don’t understand the economic and social cost of forcing fast changes, especially where they’re not backed by science.


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