Rural round-up

27/03/2020

Farming must step up, sector heads say – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s lockdown over Covid-19 is an opportunity for the agricultural sector ‘‘to step up and remind our country how great we are’’, Farmlands chief executive Peter Reidie says.

The farm supplies co-operative has been identified as an essential service and will remain open, although customers have to call or email orders first, and a contactless collection process will then be arranged.

Yesterday, Mr Reidie said the world would still need to be fed and New Zealand was very well placed in terms of the quantity and quality of its produce .

‘‘Provided we can get things on boats … we should keep on keeping on. That’s got to be the ambition,’’ he said.

It was a reminder of the importance of landowners, farmers and orchardists. . . 

Kiwi Jack Raharuhi takes the crown in top Australasian award:

Jack Raharuhi from Pāmu Farms in Westport, and Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer of the Year 2016, has been crowned the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award winner.

Raharuhi, 27 years old, is the Buller Dairy Group Operations Manager for Pāmu, where he oversees 4 dairy farms and a machinery syndicate at Cape Foulwind, and Health and Safety leadership for 10 dairy farms. He is also Chair of the West Coast Focus Farm Trust, and heavily involved with training and mentoring staff as part of the West Coast 2IC Development Programme.

The annual Award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour by the agribusiness industry, recognises and supports talented young individuals in the ag sector from Australia and New Zealand. It was launched in 2014 in memory of Australian beef industry leader Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013. . . 

Carrying on farming and consider grain options for stock feed:

Farmers can carry on doing what they do best – putting high quality food on people’s tables and earning export revenue – with confirmation direct from the Prime Minister that they are an ‘Essential Service’ that can continue operating under the Covid-19 lockdown from midnight Wednesday.

Services associated with the primary sector, including food processors, diagnostics, farm suppliers, freight and trucking can also go about their business, while taking all practical steps to limit people to people contact.

This confirmation they are vital to helping the nation survive the virus crisis will be a relief and reason for pride for many farmers and workers in those associated industries. But for some, there remains a pressing concern – the drought, and how to feed stock. . . 

Dairy Trainee of the Year spots all go to women :

Women won all three placings in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

The awards were presented at the West Coast Events Centre in Shantytown on Tuesday last week.

Alexis Wells won the trainee section, Dallas Bradley was second and Stephanie Gray claimed third place.

Ms Wells (21) is a farm assistant on a 307ha, 670-cow Pamu Farms of New Zealand property in Reefton. She is studying level 4 husbandry and feeding with Primary ITO and said she was proud to have made it to the dairy awards finals three years in a row. Her goal is to the win the national title. . . 

Pandemic postpones DoC predator control – David Williams:

The Conservation Department will halt operations to kill bird-eating pests during the four-week national shutdown. David Williams reports

Pest control operations to protect rare and vulnerable native species are about to cease.

The Department of Conservation will halt all biodiversity work during the upcoming four-week national shutdown, director-general Lou Sanson confirms.

“We debated that seriously but when we heard the Prime Minister [on Monday], and we understood the seriousness of the lockdown, the number one focus for New Zealand is to stop people moving, and that means all our biodiversity work stops, our construction work stops. About the only things we’ll be doing is the operation of sewerage schemes, search and rescue, and fire.”

(DoC acts as the local council, providing utilities like drinking water and sewerage schemes, in places like Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.) . . 

Exports rise as dairy gains while logs and fish fall:

Total goods exports increased in the February 2020 month due to an increase in the value of dairy products, Stats NZ said today.

The total value of meat exports was little changed, but higher quantities were exported to the United States instead of China.

The increase in total good exports was despite falls in exports of logs and fish, particularly to China, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The value of total goods exports rose by $212 million (4.5 percent) from February 2019 to reach $4.9 billion in February 2020. . . 


1080 or death to natives

12/09/2018

Doc, Federated Farmers, Ospri, Royal Forest & Bird and WWF-NZ are countering the emotion against 1080 with facts:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is fully committed to the use of 1080 to protect our forests and native wildlife in the face of the current campaign of misinformation and is joined by other agencies in standing up for the use of this pesticide.

New Zealand’s native wildlife is in crisis. The flocks of native birds that used to fill our forests have been killed and replaced by vast populations of rats, possums, stoats and other introduced predators. This is not the future most New Zealanders want.

These animals also carry diseases which pose a danger to people, pets and farm animals.

DOC, OSPRI (TBfree NZ), Federated Farmers, Forest & Bird and WWF-NZ all agree that 1080 is an effective, safe and valuable tool in the fight to protect New Zealand’s forests and native birds, bats, insects and lizards.

The agencies above, along with community groups and volunteers, invest huge amounts of time and effort to protect out native taonga from predation. There are multiple tools and technologies used to control predators of which 1080 is one. 1080 is a highly effective toxin and a necessary tool to help protect our native species.

We use a range of methods including the latest self-setting traps and there is significant research being undertaken into pest control technologies. However, Forest and Bird volunteer trappers agree they could never cover the vast and inaccessible areas that aerial 1080 operations can. Biodegradable aerial 1080 is the most effective tool we have for suppressing rats, possums and stoats in one operation over large, difficult to access wilderness areas—where most of our native wildlife lives.

Huge areas of native bush is inaccessible by foot and the only way currently available to kill pests where trapping is impossible is 1080.

Scientific and technological advances, including genetic modification, might provide alternatives in the future but there are no viable alternatives now.

These organisations use or advocate for 1080 because it is backed by years of rigorous testing, review and research by scientists from Landcare Research, Universities, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Ministry of Health and the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

In 2011, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright wrote a comprehensive report on 1080 and the current Parliamentary Commissioner, Dr Simon Upton, stands by Dr Wright’s analysis and recommendations.

The results are clear that where 1080 is used, our birds and native wildlife start to flourish.

We understand that some New Zealanders have genuine concerns and fears about 1080 in relation to the environment, water, animal welfare and wild food sources. We urge them to seek out www.1080thefacts.co.nz that addresses these issues.

New Zealanders have a choice: use 1080 to protect our native species over large-scale wilderness areas or end up with collapsing and denuded forests and our native species restricted to pest-free islands and fenced sanctuaries.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/standupfor1080

Lou Sanson, Director-General, Department of Conservation

Chris Allen, Board Member, Federated Farmers

Barry Harris, Chair, OSPRI

Kevin Hague, Chief Executive, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society

Livia Esterhazy, Chief Executive, WWF-NZ

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal which will need a range of pest control measures to achieve, including some not yet invented or feasible.

Until science and technology come up with effective alternatives, the choice is 1080 or death to native birds, bats, insects and lizards, and the destruction of native fauna.


Rural round-up

25/06/2018

Mycoplasm bovis can transfer to sheep, goats, deer, pigs and poultry – Keith Woodford:

Currently, there is a fervent ‘behind-the-scenes’ debate as to whether eradication of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand is feasible.

It is well over a month, possibly close to two months, since the international Technical Advisory Group (TAG) voted six to four in favour of eradication being feasible. This would have been based on information supplied to them by MPI and assessed over a telephone hook-up. New evidence since then provides further complexity and concerns.

First, there is extensive evidence from overseas that Mycoplasma bovis can transfer between species and that it can infect sheep, goats, pigs, deer and even poultry. Strictly speaking, this is not new evidence as it was sitting there all along in the scientific literature and easily found. However, the implications of this within the New Zealand environment have not been considered to date. . .

A killer worse than M bovis – Nigel Malthus:

A cattle disease prevalent on 100% of New Zealand farms is much more serious than Mycoplasma bovis, a veterinarian says.

Lincoln University Dairy Farm veterinarian Chris Norton told farmers at a recent focus day there that though M. bovis dominates the news, another disease — Johne’s — affects more farms and kills more cattle.

Johne’s was discovered first in Taranaki 100 years ago in one cow, Norton said. . . 

DoC explains game export process – Tim Fulton:

Deer and other game animal products are getting a new export process and the Department of Conservation (DOC) is trying to ensure exports aren’t stopped at foreign ports because of it.

Japanese border authorities last month stopped a New Zealand velvet exporter’s shipment at an airport because they did not recognise DOC’s approach to certifying legally hunted and farmed game animals.

DOC has been issuing certificates of export for deer, tahr and chamois products.

A new form letter from DOC director general Lou Sanson will list seven species of introduced deer plus Himalayan tahr, chamois and possums. 

They are introduced species that can be legally hunted and exported as trophies, velvet, fur and meat. . . 

Nats out building rural bridges – Annette Scott:

Life is not going to get easier anytime soon for rural New Zealanders, National Party leader Simon Bridges told a meeting of 300 people in Ashburton.

Bridges, as part of his Connecting with Communities regional roadshow, said increased intervention in people’s everyday lives and policies that will make it harder for regional businesses to operate are becoming reality under the Labour-led Government.

And changes to industrial relations law will directly affect regional economies.

The big increase in the minimum wage and amendments to the 90-day employment trial were prompting employers to think twice about taking on new staff. . . 

Nominations Documents Ready for 2018 Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election:

Nominations for the Fonterra Board of Directors’ Election open Friday, 6 July with an election to be held for three farmer-elected Directors.

This year John Wilson, Ashley Waugh and Nicola Shadbolt retire by rotation. They may all stand for re-election if they wish – none have announced their intentions at this stage. . .

Record entries for Hawke’s Bay Young Fruitgrower competition:

Eight of Hawke’s Bay’s top young horticulturists will face off in the Hawke’s Bay Young Fruitgrower of the Year competition in Napier on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 June.

This year’s entrants are:
Lisa Arnold, orchard operations assistant at Bostock NZ
Tom Dalziel, foreman at Mr Apple NZ
Ryan Gittings, York Group assistant manager at Sunfruit Orchards Ltd
Wade Miller, leading hand at Bostock NZ
Luke Scragg, senior leading hand at T&G
Philip Siagia, general orchard hand at Mr Apple NZ
Anthony Taueki, foreman at Mr Apple NZ
Lincoln Thomson, assistant manager at Sunfruit Orchards Ltd

Critical elements to maintain member loyalty in co-operatives :

To fully engage the members of co-operative and mutual enterprises, managers and directors of CME’s must understand their members wear four hats when engaging with their co-operative, according to a study conducted by researchers from The University of Western Australia.

The study analysed three Australian producer co-operatives including Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd (CBH), Murray Goulburn Co-operative (MGC), and Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-operative Ltd (GFC), and examined the nature of member commitment and loyalty in co-operative and mutual enterprises (CMEs).

Professor Tim Mazzarol from UWA’s Business School and Institute of Agriculture says directors and managers of CME’s should recognise that members do wear multiple hats with which they engage with the enterprise. These hats are Investor, Patron, Owner and Community Member. . . 


Rural round-up

04/06/2018

Porirua boy now a top farmer – Neal Wallace:

An extra year’s experience was the telling factor for Harepaora Ngaheu, this year’s recipient of the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer award. Neal Wallace spoke to the Te Teko dairy farmer.

On June 1 Harepaora Ngaheu began contract milking on a Bay of Plenty dairy farm and, according to his long term plan, should own a dairy farm within 10 years.

It is a spectacular turnaround for someone who five years ago was drifting through life and stumbled on the dairy industry through a training course. . .

The social science of Mycoplasma – Dr Gareth Enticott and Dr Anne Galloway:

Usually when animal disease strikes, it is the advice and expertise of the veterinary sciences that is sought.

However, recent disease outbreaks such as Foot and Mouth in the UK in 2001, have led to the recognition that the social sciences should also play an important role in the management of animal disease. They should also be important to help understand and manage the impacts of mycoplasma in New Zealand.

Whilst there are some important differences between Mycoplasma and the UK’s FMD outbreak, there is already a remarkable similarity between the two events. Taking lessons from social studies of animal disease, the following issues should be of concern for all involved in the management of Mycoplasma:

1. Trust

In 2001, the outbreak of FMD in the UK was accompanied by a complete breakdown in trust between farmers, vets and the Government (Poortinga et al., 2004). Why was this? . . 

Youngsters see the light on working outdoors :

Kiwi youngsters in town and country schools are learning about the prospect of farming careers via AgriKids and TeenAg, devised by NZ Young Farmers, says its chief executive Terry Copeland.

They are funded by the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain (TDVC) Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) scheme led by DairyNZ, Fonterra, MPI and others.

AgriKids and TeenAg, respectively, inform primary and secondary schoolers about farming and its career possibilities.

Apple accolades top great season and more trees already in the ground

Hawke’s Bay’s contribution to the world’s “most competitive” apple industry is set to grow, with more than 100,000 new plantings at just one Hastings orchard alone set to further the region’s future standing.

For the fourth year running, the United States-based World Apple Review has named New Zealand’s apple industry the most competitive on the global stage, against 33 major apple growing countries.

The review, released by Belrose Inc, the world fruit market analysts, stated that the innovations emerging from New Zealand’s apple industry would increasingly impact production and marketing throughout the world and added that high productivity gains helped deliver outstanding performance, ahead of its closest rivals Chile and the United States.. . .

Fonterra pays winter milk premium but transport costs eat into profit – Gerard Hutching:

Fonterra and other processors are paying a premium for milk collected during winter but farmers have been cautioned the payments are not the bonanza they seem.

South Island farmers are especially finding it hard to make a good profit because their milk has to be transported to Christchurch, for which they pay a higher transport surcharge.

In the North Island, Fonterra pays an average of $3.15 per kilogram of milksolids for the months of June and July – totalling $9.90 (based on the base price being $6.75 kg/MS). . .

The Perth Valley Project – what is it all about?

As reported in previous updates, we have recently begun working in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Predator Free 2050 Limited on a new research programme at a 12,000 hectare site within the Perth River Valley (South Westland).

Earlier this month we worked with West Coast Film to produce a short video about this ambitious and exciting programme of work, which aims to completely remove possums (and potentially rats) from the site and prevent them from re-establishing. . . 

Move over kale – steak is the new superfood – Amanda Radke:

Despite the decline in beef consumption in recent decades, America’s favorite protein is still a punching bag for many of our nation’s health woes. From cancer to diabetes to heart disease and more, everyone loves to point the finger at beef and ignore the fact that this product is a nutritional powerhouse packed with zinc, protein, highly absorbable iron, B vitamins and brain-fueling saturated fats.

Yet, this misguided rhetoric is complete white noise when we begin to look at diets that avoid animal fats and proteins altogether.

In a recent article from The Telegraph, Sarah Knapton studies* the long-term effects of vegetarian diets. Her conclusion — going meatless can lead to genetic mutations that raise the risk of heart disease and cancer.

(*I have no idea of the scientific value of this study)

 


Rural round-up

16/02/2018

Drought, disruption undermines farmers’ confidence:

A marked drop in farmer optimism and growing concern about the ability to recruit suitable staff are stand-out features of the Federated Farmers Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey.

For the first time in two years, farmer optimism has decreased, including negative perceptions of the economy, farm profitability, farm production and farm spending. Farm debt levels have also increased and fewer farms are now debt-free.

The Federated Farmers survey is conducted by Research First twice a year (January and July) and 1070 farmers responded to the questionnaire last month. . . 

Time to get real about forestry – Graham West:

Last year I commented on the high returns from current harvesting, however I don’t believe this is being translated into significant interest in new planting, certainly not at the rate of the governments aspirational target of 50,000ha per year. The Crown Forestry action is clearly around doing deals to secure land for leasing and other deal makers, like Toitu Te Waonui, and various forestry consultants, are doing the same, good on them.

But this doesn’t really raise the general awareness of the forestry business opportunity for land owners and investors. The challenge is how to create a pipe line of prospects who are considering land use change. The target group must be the approximately 25,000 drystock farmers in New Zealand, owning 9.5m hectares. The timeline is also important, seedlings for next winter are already booked, but the deadline for orders to secure plants for the following winter (2019) needs to be placed with nurseries by Oct-Nov 2018. . . 

Minister needs to step up as drought worsens in Coastal Taranaki:

The Minister for Primary Industries needs to step up and listen to the rural sector in the face of the worsening drought in Coastal Taranaki, National’s Rural Communities Spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

Mrs Kuriger reached out to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last week to discuss ideas put forward by the Taranaki Rural Support Trust, but the Minister has not accepted the invitation to meet.

“It would seem that the response by the Minister – since initially declaring the drought – has been to bury his head in the sand on the Coastal Taranaki issue. . . 

Govt passing the cap around primary industry:

The Government is going cap-in-hand to the primary sector seeking support to help eradicate the rapidly-spreading cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“It’s my understanding that the Ministry for Primary Industries is canvassing the dairy and red meat industry for contributions to fund the response and eradication of this disease.

“In Parliament yesterday the Minister Damien O’Connor couldn’t say how much money the Government is prepared to contribute to fully eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis.

“Knowing how tight the Government’s finances are because of its other big-spending commitments – and even with financial contributions from industry – Mr O’Connor has an uphill battle convincing his Cabinet colleagues how critical funding of over $100 million actually is,” Mr Guy says. . . 

National welcomes continuation of 1080 policy:

A reassurance from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that there has been no change in policy over the use of 1080 poison is welcome, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Maggie Barry says.

“At today’s annual review the Director General, Lou Sanson, reassured the Environment Select Committee that not only has there been no change in 1080 policy, but DOC expects to expand its use.

“This approach is critical to achieving National’s long term Predator-Free NZ by 2050 vision. Possums, rats and stoats kill 25 million birds a year, and if DOC was hamstrung from using 1080, we would see further unique species becoming extinct. . . 

Regulator asks how gene-edited food should be treated:

Planning for future GM foods coming down the line, the food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for suggestions for how it should consider applications for foods that have been made using new genetic techniques that aren’t currently covered by their laws.

The current code only covers food produced by genetic techniques that add DNA into a genome and doesn’t cover newer gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas9 which knock out genes or proteins, or others that don’t change the DNA of the final food product.

FSANZ are asking for submissions on how these newer techniques should be assessed before they go to market. Options range from treating them like conventional breeding techniques – given a green light once a technique has been proved safe – or to be treated like current genetically modified organisms which would mean that each application requires a rigorous safety assessment. . . 

Golden Rice: Loved by humanitarians, reviled by environmentalists – Green Jihad *

Despite the Philippines and Bangladesh edging toward commercializing it, New Zealand’s food regulation agency (FSANZ) endorsed approving importing Golden Rice for sale in order to reduce trade disorder with Asian countries that allow it.

Unfortunately, an opposition group named GE-Free New Zealand has started an effort urging New Zealand’s food safety minister to review the FSANZ’s recommendation in hopes of eventually halting the importation of Golden Rice. The organization’s views are nearly in line with what environmentalist groups, like Greenpeace, have been claiming about GMO’s for years.

Golden Rice has been a vital source of nutrition for many people in developing countries who lack Vitamin A that humans need to help them survive. Sadly, environmentalist groups are undaunted in halting not only the dissemination of Golden Rice and all other GMO’s but their production too. This being done so that more humans die of starvation or illness resulting from malnutrition due to a reduction in the food supply. . . 

Sustainable ag series – farmers – Dirt to dinner:

The agriculture industry is often criticized for using too much water, using too many chemicals, and adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

However, farmers have their boots on the ground and occupy the front lines of sustainability initiatives within agriculture. No farms, no food!

While some farmers employ better approaches to farming sustainably, no farmer deliberately damages human or environmental health or wants to waste their inputs, such as water, pesticide, and labor. As stewards of the land, it is in a farmer’s best interest to preserve all of their resources for future generations of farming. . . 

* (Hat tip: Utopia):


If only there’d been a teal deal

16/02/2018

The governing coalition is all at sea over fisheries monitoring:

Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.

“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.

“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.

“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.

“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.

“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leant on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.

“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.

The Green Party has had to swallow a lot of dead rats in its agreement to support Labour and New Zealand First in government.

Had they been able to countenance a deal with National last year, there would be no compromise over on-board cameras.

If the Greens could moderate their radical left economic and social agenda, they could sit in the political middle, able to go left and right.

A teal deal would have been better for both the economy and environment than what we’ve got – a red and black one with a weak green off-shoot.


Threats to DOC staff beyond appalling

06/12/2017

The Department of Conservation is appalled at threats to its staff:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) confirms that it has asked New Zealand Police to investigate after receiving a second threatening letter from an anti-1080 protestor in Taranaki.

The aggressive letter intensifies threats against DOC staff and claims more sika deer will be released unless DOC stops its use of 1080 to control predators.

Appalled would be a mild reaction to these very serious threats.

It follows an anonymous letter in October which said sika deer were being released in Taranaki forests in retaliation for 1080 operations.

The Director General of Conservation, Lou Sanson says DOC will not be speculating on who wrote the letter or why, as it is now a matter for the police to investigate.

“However these threats to DOC staff are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated. I am appalled that someone would threaten our staff in this way as they are trying to go about their daily work to protect our native species and wildlife.”

“DOC is responsible for managing more than a third of New Zealand’s land area and it’s important our staff are able to get on with their job of protecting conservation areas without fear of being harmed or harrassed,” Mr Sanson says.

DOC has put measures in place to protect staff and contractors, including asking staff to be more vigilant as they go about their daily work.

Overall the level of 1080 protest has been relatively low this year and most have protested lawfully. “Apart from a few isolated cases, the feedback we get is that most New Zealanders strongly support DOC’s work to protect our native species and habitats and understand why we need to use 1080 as part of our war against predators,” Mr Sanson says.

1080 isn’t perfect but in some areas it’s not only the best, it’s the only way to kill introduced animals that prey on native birds, destroy bush and carry disease which can spread to farm animals and people.

Not everyone is convinced by the science and they are free to protest against 1080 lawfully.

Going beyond lawful protest to threats against public servants is beyond appalling.


Rural round-up

06/07/2016

How many ticks does SFF need? – Neal Wallace:

Silver Fern Farms can rightly ask just how many hoops does it have to jump through before opponents of the proposed transaction with Shanghai Maling accept the legitimacy of last year’s shareholder approval of the deal?  

The Companies Office and Financial Markets Authority – bodies charged with administering business behaviour – have both rejected complaints about SFF’s handling of last October’s shareholder vote, the financial information supplied to its shareholders and to Shanghai Maling.  

But a more important hoop it could be argued SFF has easily traversed is shareholder support. . . 

Highly profitable banks are playing a long-term and responsible game with struggling dairy farmer borrowers – Rees Logan:

In the year to March 2016, lending to the dairy sector increased by 9% to approximately $40 billion.

During that same period, land prices in the dairy sector dropped 16%, according to Real Estate Institute (REINZ) figures. This fall in land prices means the increased lending is effectively funding the losses the banks’ customers are suffering as a result of the low dairy payout.

Key asset values are decreasing (land and livestock) and debt is increasing so owner equity and bank security is quickly eroding. 

DairyNZ figures show approximately 50% of New Zealand’s dairy sector debt is held by the top 20% of its indebted farmers. This is a major concern. . . 

Marlborough farmer ‘wild’ after overnight electric fence theft – Jennifer Eder:

An electric fence has been stolen in Marlborough in an overnight heist, leaving stock on the loose and a farmer out of pocket.

Grovetown farmer George Wadworth found his sheep loose along the road on Sunday morning and discovered about a kilometre of fence had vanished.

“I was pretty wild. My main concern was not really for stock safety but people using the road. It’s quite close to a main highway, and if a sheep hits someone’s windscreen at 100kmh, it’ll kill you.”

Community constable Russ Smith said someone had “gone to quite a bit of trouble” to remove 250 plastic fence standards, or electric fence posts, from the  16-hectare vineyard. . . 

NZ commodity prices rise in June, led by seafood, dairy – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand commodity prices rose for a second month in June, led by more seafood and dairy products, although an appreciating kiwi dollar limited those gains in local currency terms.

The ANZ commodity price index rose 3.7 percent last month, after a 1.1 percent increase in May. On an annual basis, prices were down 5.4 percent. In New Zealand dollar terms the index rose 0.3 percent, adding to a 2.5 percent increase in May, and an annual decline of 5.9 percent. The trade-weighted index rose 4.9 percent in June.

“There was broad-based strength across all the major categories. However, producers won’t be celebrating too loudly,” ANZ Bank New Zealand agri-economist Con Williams said in his report. “In many cases, world prices are still below the same time last year and the NZD rose over the month too.” . . 

New partnership supports takahē recovery

A newly-signed partnership between DOC and Fulton Hogan will help the critically-endangered takahē continue its recovery, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

Worth $1 million, the partnership was signed at the Burwood Takahē Centre near Te Anau today by DOC director-general Lou Sanson and Fulton Hogan’s director of investments, Bob Fulton.

“The Takahē Recovery Programme has just had its most successful breeding season on record, with 38 chicks fledged,” Ms Barry says.

“Consistently high numbers of chicks are being produced each year, thanks to the hard work of DOC staff, volunteers and our Treaty partner, Ngai Tahu. Fulton Hogan will support the next step in the species’ recovery.” . . .

TB eradication scheme marks milestone:

New Zealand has taken another step towards becoming TB-free with large areas of previously infected land being declared free of the disease.

OSPRI administers the TBfree programme aimed at eradicating bovine tuberculosis from cattle, deer and wildlife.

It has has been progressively achieving this by intensive possum control, then carrying out wildlife surveys to confirm the disease has been eradicated. . . 

Fonterra Lichfield Achieves One Million Building Hours:

Major milestones are being knocked off as construction on one of the world’s largest dryers races towards completion – the result of over one million working hours on the new Fonterra Lichfield milk powder dryer.

For more than 3,000 people representing 300 companies, the finish is now clearly in sight as the September commissioning date for this world-class dryer nears.

South Waikato Operations Manager Sam Mikaere says it takes one look at the numbers behind the build to get an appreciation for its impressive scale.

“This is not just any dryer we’re building. Along with our D2 dryer down at Fonterra Darfield, this will be the biggest milk powder dryer on the planet,” he says. . . 

Record turnout at RCNZ annual conference:

A record turnout of 153 contractors, from all around the country, descended on the Bay of Islands – in late June – for this year’s RCNZ annual conference.

RCNZ national president Steve Levet was delighted with the record conference turnout – held at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort, in Paihia, from June 27-30 – given the current economic climate.

“This is the largest turnout that I can recall and it seems many rural contractors have decided to ignore some of the doom and gloom merchants and are clearly focussed on looking forward to better times.”

Mr Levet says the conference had an exciting agenda of relevant and pertinent issues to the rural contracting sector – along with a number of top-line speakers. This year’s conference theme was: “Your Business from Start to Finish” and it also celebrated the 20 year anniversary of Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) as an organisation. . . 

Hawke’s Bay Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker 2016 Announced:

Congratulations to Alex Roper from Mission Estate for winning Hawkes Bay Young Winemaker 2016. The competition took place on 1 July at EIT in Taradale followed by dinner and contestants speeches at Mission Estate. Yvonne Lorkin was the charming and entertaining MC who also ran the wine options section of the evening.

Congratulations also goes to Tom Hindmarsh from Dry River in Martinborough who came second (contestants from around the North Island were eligible to enter) and Brad Frederickson from the Hawke’s Bay Wine Company who came third. . . 


DOC approves land swap for Ruataniwha

05/10/2015

The Department of Conservation has approved a land swap which is necessary if the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme is to go ahead:

An application by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company to exchange land required for the Ruataniwha water storage scheme has been approved by DOC Director General Lou Sanson.

Lou Sanson says he has approved the land exchange because it will mean a net gain for conservation.

The decision means that the Department of Conservation will receive approximately 170 hectares of private land containing beech forest and regenerating native bush, in return for 22 hectares of the Ruahine Forest Park.

“The public will gain three times the area of black beech forest under this proposal, plus the new land will extend and complement the adjacent Gwavas Conservation Area,” he says.

The 170 hectare exchange block also includes two additional wetland sites, and is promising habitat for skinks and geckos, he says.

“On the other hand, the 22 hectares to be removed from the Ruahine Forest Park has been heavily logged in the past, is partly infested with weeds such as willow and Darwin’s barberry and contains a former house site,” Lou Sanson says.

Mr Sanson says the decision follows a thorough and open public process and the careful assessment of the ecological values of both sites.

The Director General has decided to revoke the protected status of the 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park to enable the exchange to take place.

Under the Conservation Act, proposed land exchanges must result in an overall conservation gain for public conservation land and promote the purposes of the Act.

“I believe this land exchange well and truly meets that test,” he says.

Lou Sanson says the land exchange is conditional on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company undertaking extra conservation programmes to help eradicate wilding pines from the exchange land and to restore whio/blue duck habitat.

The exchange is also conditional on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme going ahead.

In a separate decision, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company will be required to trap and transfer native fish species present at the dam site.

Full details of the decision are here.

The El Niño forecast predicts drought for much of the east coasts of both the North and South Islands this summer.

North Otago has had less than half its annual rainfall and the drought which struck North Canterbury last year still hasn’t broken.

Hawkes Bay had a deluge a couple of weeks ago but if the forecast is right, it won’t get much more this summer.

Any farmers on dry land who could afford to take up irrigation and haven’t yet, need to think of the next generation.

As my farmer told a meeting on the scheme when we were in Hawkes Bay a couple of years ago – think ahead fifty years. Do you want your grandchildren thanking you, or calling you silly old Bs for passing up the opportunity to drought-proof your farms.


Rural round-up

25/11/2013

Lenders suggest farmers get better governance in place:

Farmers are being asked by rural lenders to take a board approach to their operations and stop making important decisions around the kitchen table.

Fraser Farm rural financial advisor Don Fraser says banks are asking farmers to get better governance and structures in place.

He says the banks are wanting a board approach and it’s best practice for everybody including the lender.

Mr Fraser says while he can’t provide specific details of the banks asking farmers to take this approach he knows it is happening under the radar.

He says in the past farmers have often made decisions and then gone to the banks asking them to fund it. . .

Export tax proposal won’t fix forestry – Alan Emmerson:

The loss of jobs at Rotorua as the result of yet another sawmill closure is a tragedy.

The problem is the Chinese are prepared to pay a high price for logs and, speaking as a forester, I’ll take the best price I can get.

Ultimately I’m not concerned where my logs are processed, just that I can make the most money from my long-term investment.

The issue for sawmills is they have to pay a high price for logs and the New Zealand dollar is high. The combination of the two factors makes many export sawmills uneconomic.

Like it or not, that is the way of the market. . .

NZ faces massive pest explosion:

New Zealand faces one of its biggest pest population explosions in decades.

This year is a mast year for the South Island’s beech forests, which means the trees are going through their heaviest seeding in nearly a decade. That means a feeding frenzy for mice and rats which leads to an explosion in stoats and weasels.

And to make matters worse, DOC Director General Lou Sanson says possum control hasn’t been operating at full capacity over the last year. . .

Rabbit control at Earnscleugh’s heart – Sally Rae:

If it were not for rabbiters, the Campbell family would not still be on Earnscleugh Station.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the future of the vast Central Otago high country property hung in the balance.

Plagued by rabbits, they were in ”serious strife” and it was an ”absolute nightmare”, Alistair Campbell told about 300 people attending a field day at the property on Friday.

Today, 21,000ha Earnscleugh Station is a far cry from the barren landscape of those rabbit-plagued years when some areas resembled a desert, without a blade of grass. . .

Visiting Canada to study water issues – Sally Rae:

Waitaki Irrigators Collective policy manager Elizabeth Soal will travel to Canada next year to study water management and beneficial farming practices.

Ms Soal, who is also a director of Irrigation New Zealand, has been named a 2014 Churchill Fellow, receiving a travel grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

The Oamaru woman will head overseas in July next year and spend four weeks travelling in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, meeting government representatives, academics, water managers, farmers and members of the irrigation community. . .

Wine wins proof of Central’s strength – Timothy Brown:

The performance of Central Otago wines at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards has shown the area has matured as a wine growing region.

Central Otago wines won 18 gold medals in the initial judging process and dominated the pinot noir category.

The elite gold medal and trophy winners will be announced at the awards dinner on November 23 in Queenstown.

Akarua Winery won three golds. Winemaker Matt Connell said he was ”thrilled” with the results. . .

 Quad safety heading in the right direction – Jeannete Maxwell:

Quad bikes have been in the news again following coroner Brandt Shortland’s well-constructed findings into five deaths in 2010-11.

Given the families involved will be grieving anew it is something we need to be sensitive about.

Yet any mention of a quad bike these days seems to attract almost irrational media attention.

Quad bikes are bikes and are not all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), though Federated Farmers is seeking to get them reclassified as an agricultural vehicle. . .


Rural round-up

22/11/2013

Farmers welcome the PCE’s water contribution:

Federated Farmers has welcomed the report of Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, entitled, Water quality in New Zealand: Land use and nutrient pollution and is offering to help ground truth some of the modelled assumptions.

“Federated Farmers has consistently said we need good science to underpin policy decision making,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson.

“As Dr Wright conceded at the launch water is complex and the modelling arguably represents the worst case.  It does however highlight the cumulative effects of land use intensity upon water.  It represents our future if we do absolutely nothing but that is not a future we’d like to be a part of.

“Farmers understand there are some challenges but we mustn’t forget that New Zealand has some of the best quality water on earth.  There is also enormous resource and work being put into finding practical workable solutions and we have made some good progress. . .

Time and tide waits for no man or woman – Jeanette Maxwell:

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Zambia for the inaugural World Farming Organisation Women’s committee meeting, the international day of Rural Women and the Zambian National Farmers Union conference.

This has much resonance for the issues we will be discussing over the next two days.

Travelling to a country like Zambia gave me an opportunity to see how farmers do business in a developing nation.  A working farm there can be anything from 10 hectares to many thousands of hectares.

In Zambia I found that 62 percent of all farmers are women.  Women also make up a large share of the labour force and much of the weeding and crop maintenance is done by women.

For many farmers the land is transferred by succession and while there are opportunities to buy land you do need to know the right people.   In Zambia, succession is seen as being critical for the continuation of farming and for feeding the nation.   Sounds familiar. . . .

New DOC boss signals cultural shift:

Farming leaders are applauding a cultural shift signalled by new Department of Conservation (DOC) boss Lou Sanson.

Mr Sanson, who took over as DOC chief executive about two months ago, told the Federated Farmers’ national council in Wellington on Tuesday that DOC would be focusing more on partnership arrangements with farmers and other community and commercial interests, including fishing and mining.

He said Canterbury’s Hakataramea Basin was an example of what he meant by a cultural change for DOC, with a lot of land taken back into its control through tenure review.

“We’ve also taken a lot of musterers’ huts. Generally a farmer 100 years ago put a poplar or a willow beside the hut to give him firewood for the hut,” Mr Sanson said. . .

Contest gives credit to sharemilking role – Sue O’Dowd:

New Zealand’s premier dairy farming contest can be traced to a Taranaki man who thought a sharemilkers’ competition would provide a window to show off their skills.

Murray Cross was a sharemilker at Ngaere when he suggested the Taranaki Sharemilkers Association should run a Sharemilker of the Year competition. At the time he and wife Ruth were on the farm his father, Sydney Hamilton Cross, had bought after he returned from World War II.

Murray Cross drew his inspiration for the competition from going through the process for a Nuffield scholarship. Although he was unsuccessful, he thought he could apply what he had learned to a competition in Taranaki for sharemilkers.   . .

Meat co-ops see obstacles to merger:

Silver Fern Farms and the Alliance Group, agree that further consolidation is needed in the meat industry.

But both big farmer-owned co-operatives see different obstacles in the way of the farmer campaign to merge the two co-ops as the starting point for forcing wider changes in the industry.

The Meat Industry Excellence group is frustrated at the failure of the major processors and exporters to agree on any reform measures after months of discussions. It is pushing a merger idea in co-op board elections currently underway.

However, Alliance Group chair Murray Taggart of Canterbury says it does not support the view that the co-operatives should be the main vehicle for consolidation and bear the costs. . .

Sustained crop returns for wheat and maize:

Digging a little deeper into the budget for grain fertiliser has valuable paybacks in terms of crop yields for maize and wheat, according to recent studies funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

Trials were undertaken in Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in spring 2012 to evaluate the performance of standard urea against Ballance Agri-Nutrient’s SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor AGROTAIN®. Agrotain is a nitrogen stabiliser that has been proven to suppress ammonia volatilisation, delivering more nitrogen directly to the soil where it can contribute to plant growth.

The trials showed that the additional cost of $11/ha for SustaiN (applied at 100 kg N/ha) was readily recouped. . .

 


Crusading conservationists

25/09/2013

The Opposition is doing its best to land a blow on Conservation Minister Nick Smith but not making any headway.

At Question Time yesterday he just stuck to the facts –

I can only quote Doris Johnston, the Deputy Director-General of Conservation, and she said this: “He never saw the draft submission that everyone’s been talking about. It was never provided to his office. It was an internal working draft by [Department of Conservation] staff …”. I think that is pretty clear. . . .

Again I quote Doris Johnston, the Deputy Director-General of Conservation, who was very well respected under the previous Government in that role. She said this: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision making. He never told me his view.” So how could it be possible for them to have drawn any conclusion about my view? I simply asked for a full briefing and a copy of the submission. . . .

The answers also revealed concerns in the Department:

. . . Can I quote directly from an email from a senior Department of Conservation planning manager, who said this before the submission was finalised: “I’m a bit concerned that from a manager’s perspective, the issue about whether we should be involved in the plan change.” That is, there were senior managers in the Department of Conservation who did not agree with the draft submission.

Those concerns have prompted a review of the submission process by DoC:

The Director General of Conservation Lou Sanson says he has asked for a review of the department’s process for dealing with its submission on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal.

Mr Sanson says he stands by the decision taken by his senior managers not to submit on the wider environmental aspects of the proposal and says the Minister did not direct DOC about the submission it was making.

Mr Sanson says he does have questions about the time frames for making final decisions on the submission.

Mr Sanson says he has also initiated an internal investigation into the unauthorised release of a departmental email in connection with the submission.

He says the release of these emails calls the department’s integrity into question and he has asked an independent reviewer to look into this issue. . .

Labour is blaming the leak on low morale in DoC.

It is more likely to be confusion over the role of crusading conservationist and public servant.

This problem was raised by former States Services Commission Mark Prebble in an interview with Kathryn Ryan:

“Public servants have to implement the policies of the government of the day

Many people come to government to try to support a good cause. They don’t realise the one who has to determine which good cause is to be supported is the democratically minister of the day. And quite a lot of departments, not slinging off at their professionalism but say DOC, you get a lot of people who join DOC because they know they want to save a kakapo and if not a kakapo it will be the lesser spotted whatever. And if the lesser spotted whatever is not on the minister’s list of priorities they’ll find it hard to do.

A key part of the role of senior public servants is to explain to them well it is the minister who has to take the heat in public about that and the public servant really isn’t just employed to follow their own interests and if they want to follow their interests they can go and work in the private sector like anyone else. . .

. . . No public servant should be zealous about the particular cause they’re interested in. They should be zealous about democracy and respecting the law. . .”

He gave DoC as an example of people who join with an agenda which might not be that of the government which they are there to serve.

Federated Farmers also criticises the draft:

Federated Farmers is unsurprised a draft Department of Conservation (DoC) report on the proposed Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme never advanced beyond draft status.  The Federation instead believes publicly accessible information needs to lead the debate.

“I would have thought our politicians would have learned from the recent C. botulinum scare that the only report which counts is the final one,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers Environment spokesperson. 

“Instead of shadow boxing over what a draft DoC report may have said, we need to focus on the facts and the detailed amount of evidence, which is publicly accessible. 

“Take the Section 32 report on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.  This identifies the source for up to 70 percent of phosphorous (P) loading at times of low flow in the Tukituki as being the four urban wastewater treatment ponds, servicing Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane and Takapau.

“So if you genuinely want to stop the Tukituki from “running green,” then upgrading wastewater plants seems an obvious place to start.  That is underway but it also takes money; the kind of money economic activity generated by water storage delivers.

“But don’t take my word for it.  Read the backgrounders that are available from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s website I would also encourage doubters to read up on Canterbury’s Opuha Dam because it has exceeded all environmental and economic expectations.

“This is why we take issue with the suggestion Ruataniwha is open slather with few controls.  That’s insulting to anyone who takes freshwater management seriously.  There is also a package being put in place, which puts greater expectations on farmers and townships alike.

“That’s the kind of community-led ownership of freshwater management that reforms underway are looking to encourage. 

“It also baffles me that those who speak loudest about ‘collaboration’ and ‘democracy’ become combative when they don’t get their way.  Or rather, when they don’t think they’ll get their way.

“If you don’t trust my words about the volume of work being put into Ruataniwha, just read the evidence submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It shows you how the applicant has little to hide,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.

Water quality is an important consideration but opposition must be based on facts not an anti-farming, anti-irrigation bias.

Experience in North Otago shows improved water quality because of improved water flows during dry periods combined with compulsory environmental farm plans for anyone taking water through the irrigation company.


%d bloggers like this: