Rural round-up

August 10, 2018

Who cares about farmers? NZ needs them around – Anna Campbell:

Buzzwords and trendy phrases have a wave-like cycle.

When you first hear a phrase, your ears prick up, but you don’t necessarily take it in. When you next hear the phrase, you start to register its meaning and context. A few more hearings and the phrase becomes embedded – perhaps you use it yourself. The end of the phrase-cycle starts when the buzzword or phrase is used so often, it loses meaning and starts to irritate.

There are some tired words and phrases that have started to irritate me recently, so I hope this means they are ending their wave, or at least I stop using them – ”ripe for disruption” and ”social licence to farm” are two such examples. In their defence, such phrases come about because they are pithy, topical and represent something worth exploration.

Talking about buzzwords is really my way of introducing my growing irritation at the concept of farmers requiring a ”social licence to farm”. The phrase has come about because there is a realisation in the agri-community we need to improve some of our practices and provide evidence of such changes on the back of a growing rural-urban divide (another term starting to irritate me), food scares and a requirement for transparency around food production. . . 

Canines have nose for the job – Yvonne O’Hara:

A request from beekeepers in Canterbury led a Dunedin dog trainer to become a key element in the fight against the devastating bee disease American foulbrood.

Rene Gloor, of Rene Gloor Canine Ltd, is originally from Switzerland and has spent the past 30 years training dogs to detect many odours.

His dogs were used to detect biosecurity risks, including fruit, plants, meat, seeds, eggs and reptiles, for the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Since leaving MPI, he has set up his own business and worked in Taiwan, Korea and other Asian countries for the past eight years. . . 

Mycoplasma bovis compensation is a mixed bag with big delays and lots of angst – Keith Woodford:

The complexities of Mycoplasma bovis compensation are causing much angst both for MPI and farmers. Simple claims are being dealt with in a matter of weeks. More complex cases get stuck.  Unfortunately, most cases are complex.

The easiest cases for MPI should be where farmers have dairy beef.  Once the farms are ‘depopulated’, to use the official term, it is a painstaking but straight forward process of disinfection and then clearance some 60 days later.  Replacement dairy beef animals should be easy to find, although of course there is a risk of reinfection if bad choices are made. . . 

Collaboration tackling bee disease – Yvonne O’Hara:

Beekeepers and dogs are joining forces to combat the devastating American foulbrood (AFB), the beekeeping industry’s equivalent of foot-and-mouth disease.

If a new research project is successful, tools and tests may be developed that might eliminate the disease, commercial apiarist Peter Ward says.

The Southern Beekeepers Discussion Group has been given $143,000 from the Sustainable Farming Fund to develop and trial new tools to detect AFB. . . .

Why it’s okay to stick with meat and dairy – Lyn Webster:

I was cutting up a dead cow for the dogs and as my knife slid through the rich red meat which will provide days and days of dense nutrition, my thoughts turned to the prophesied meat- and dairy-free future we all face.

We are being led to believe that our future food lies not in the farmed animals which have provided us with life for generations but in engineered plant-based food and laboratory food grown from stem cells.

The fallout from this in New Zealand appears to be a mass exodus of support for the farmers who provide the food and a lean towards veganism and an attitude amongst some young people (the millennials, who apparently drive the buying decisions) that somehow vilifying (dirty) farmers and investing in these supposedly “clean” foods will somehow be the saving of the planet. . . 

Living Water: new approach delivering results:

The innovative mindset of the Living Water programme is delivering new approaches and tangible results for freshwater, biodiversity, farmers and communities.

Living Water is a 10-year partnership between Fonterra and the Department of Conservation that brings farmers, scientists, councils, communities and Mana Whenua together to identify and implement solutions that will enable farming, fresh water and healthy eco-systems to thrive side by side.

Dairy farming is central to New Zealand’s economy, but how we are farming is having an impact on our lowland freshwater ecosystems. Our streams, lakes, rivers, lagoons and coastal estuaries are being impacted by high levels of nutrients, sediment, effluent and other pollutants. This has resulted in freshwater ecosystems being reduced and degraded and that is where Living Water comes in. . . 

NFU warns net zero emissions goal could make UK farmers ‘uncompetitive‘ – Abi Kay:

The NFU has warned a net zero emissions goal being pursued by the Government could make UK farmers ‘uncompetitive’.

The union’s deputy president, Guy Smith, made the remarks after a cross-party group of more than 100 MPs wrote to the Prime Minister to urge her to back the target.

In the letter, the MPs said the UK should become one of the first countries to set the goal in law, citing a recent poll by Opinium which showed 64 per cent of adults agreed emissions should be cut to zero over the next few decades. . .

 


Fonterra aims to restore 50 freshwater catchments

July 18, 2017

Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings, has announced an ambition to restore 50 freshwater catchments, signalling the Co-op’s desire to take a leading role in improving New Zealand’s waterways.

“We acknowledge we have an important role to play in addressing water quality in New Zealand. Kiwis want swimmable waterways and that’s an aspiration we share. We’ll work with local communities to improve the quality of our streams and rivers,” said Spierings.

Fonterra launched its 10 year Living Water partnership with the Department of Conservation in 2013, with the aim of achieving sustainable dairying in healthy freshwater ecosystems. The programme focuses on five catchments and aims to improve natural habitats, and freshwater outcomes.

“Living Water has taught us a huge amount and we are making a significant impact on the initial regions. Now we want to amplify those results with the launch of a new initiative that will target 50 catchments.

“Our immediate focus will be on working with communities, Government and key partners to identify the catchments and develop a strategic framework for the programme. This is a major undertaking and we need to get it right, but we are committed to making substantial progress,” said Spierings.

Spierings made the announcement at the annual meeting of the New Zealand Sustainable Business Council held in Auckland yesterday. The Council’s Executive Director, Abbie Reynolds, said she was delighted Fonterra was making a significant commitment to improve water quality.

“The business case for sustainability is clear and it’s pleasing that a growing number of organisations are making robust commitments to improving New Zealand society and the environment. It is great that Fonterra is making an ambitious commitment, which is both bold and restorative,” Reynolds concluded.

Water degradation has occurred over many years and has multiple causes.

Intensive dairying has been part of the problem but the industry has done a lot to repair the damage and reduce its environmental footprint.

Niwa’s freshwater and estuaries chief scientist Dr John Quinn notes a significant improvement:

There has been a lot of improvement in dairy industry practice in the last 15 years. Dairy shed effluent management has improved and is more professional, and the majority of streams on dairy farms are now fenced to exclude cows. Things like the Farm Enviro Walk Toolkit and Sustainable Dairying Water Accord have increased adoption of a range of good environmental practices. These advances have been industry-led, rather than driven by government rules.” . . 

More than 97% of streams running through dairy farms are now fenced, so cows are out of waterways. Waterways are still receiving E. coli and Campylobacter from other unfenced stock and wild animals. They’re also getting microbial pathogens from land runoff when it rains. A 2005 NIWA study found that rain can wash a million to a billion E. coli bacterium per square metre of hillside into streams.

Riparian strips can help. These are the areas where plants grow alongside streams. They trap and absorb nutrients and microbes, including E. coli, in surface water. In the best conditions, riparian strips can remove at least 60% of nitrogen and 65% of phosphorus from runoff and groundwater.

There’s even more to riparian strips than the benefits to water quality. Trees holds together river banks, which stabilises them as habitats for insects and prevents silting and cloudy water that disturbs fish. The shade of trees creates cooler and more humid conditions, which insects need, and prevents over-growth of plants in the stream. Their branches and leaf litter provides direct habitat and food for many of the insects that like riverside conditions for only parts of their life stages, particularly larval, before moving to other habitats.

It is good to have this acknowledgement of the work that’s been done and the positive impact it’s having.

There’s still a lot more to do and Fonterra’s initiative will make a major contribution to it.


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