Rural round-up

July 1, 2020

Regenerative ag’s mythology questioned – David Anderson:

The “mythology” of regenerative agriculture and lack of scientific evidence has prompted two renowned plant scientists to write to Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

In the letter, Lincoln University’s Professor Derek Moot and retired plant scientist Professor Warwick Scott, express their concerns about the increased profile of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand media and farming sectors.

They have called on the minister to convene an expert panel of scientists to review all the claims made about practice.

“It is important that sound science drives our agricultural systems,” they say. “We believe such a panel should provide a robust critique of the claims made about ‘regenerative agriculture’ to ensure the public, industry and policy makers have a balanced and scientifically informed view of the ideas promulgated.” . .

Rachel Stewart on the Green Party and farmers:

To say Rachel Stewart isn’t backward in coming forward is somewhat of an understatement.

The self-described “ex-media, ex-farmer, ex-train driver” falconer has often ruffled feathers with her forthright opinions – especially when it comes agriculture.

So Stewart’s’ recent Twitter activity, criticising the Green Party and coming out in support of farmers, caught the attention of The Country’s Jamie Mackay, who invited her to talk on today’s show.

The Greens are moving away from their environmental roots and becoming too urban, Stewart told Mackay. . . 

Seeking new markets in the West – Keith Woodford:

Neither Europe nor the USA are going to do us any trading favours. It is all about self-interest

In recent weeks I have been exploring and writing about some of the challenges in finding new markets that would allow New Zealand to stem its increasing reliance on China. My focus in the last three trade articles has been first on North East Asia, then the ASEAN countries of South East Asia, then South Asia and Iran. This week I look further west to Europe and the Americas before completing the circle.

First to recap a little.

The emergence of China as the most important trading partner of New Zealand has been a function of natural alignment between what New Zealand produces and what China wanted, complemented by New Zealand also wanting what China has been producing at lower cost than anyone else. . .

Tomato red spider mite pest discovered in New Zealand for first time – Maja Burry:

A pest known for damaging tomato plants and other crops has been detected in New Zealand for the first time

Biosecurity New Zealand said two populations of the tomato red spider mite (Tetranychus evansi) were found near Auckland Airport and in Pakuranga as part of routine surveillance several weeks ago.

Tomato red spider mites are the size of a full stop and are very difficult to identify. The mite’s main hosts are plants in the Solanaceae family, including tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. They also attack beans, kumara and some ornamentals – roses and orchids. . .

Juniper hunt seedlings could grow New Zealand’s first gin berry plantation – Robin Martin:

New Zealand is one step closer to establishing the country’s first plantation of Juniperus communis – whose berries are the key ingredient of gin – following a nationwide search for the elusive conifer.

About 40 trees were discovered as part of the Great New Zealand Juniper Hunt, and seedlings are now being nurtured at Massey University and at two locations in Taranaki.

Egmont Village lifestyle block owner Marlene Busby had aspirations of making gin herself when she snipped a bit of juniper bush at a garden centre some 30 years ago.

“At the time I sort of took a little bit. They were going to pull them out anyway so it didn’t really [matter] any way. . . 

Waitaki’s geological wonderland – Mike Yardley:

Crossing the border dividing Canterbury from Otago, the Waitaki River, is like a pathway into another world. A region built on the remains of prehistoric creatures from a vanished world. The wondrous Waitaki District has always been proud of its rocks, lustily exemplified by the creamy pure texture of Oamaru Stone that underpins the classic good looks of the historic town’s Victorian Precinct. But before hitting town, I ventured west into the heart of the Waitaki Valley, to delightful Duntroon, with its pending designation as a Global Geopark by UNESCO. As Australasia’s first Geopark, it threads together the spell-binding natural landforms, abundant fossil finds and rich cultural history of the Waitaki Valley, which was under sea when Zealandia drifted away from Gondwana. Seismic forces later thrust the ancient seabed upwards, at the same time that the Southern Alps were formed.

Robert Campbell, the wealthy land-owner and runholder established Duntroon in 1864, naming it in honour of his Scottish birthplace. This cute-as-a-button village is home to the Vanished World Fossil Centre, but before heading there, don’t miss Duntroon’s assorted trove of evocative landmarks. . .


Rural round-up

March 16, 2020

Rural people show their support – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmer Mark Warren has posted a call for help on social media in an attempt to let other farmers who are finding life tough know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Warren, who owns Waipari Station in Central Hawke’s Bay, says after a sleepless few hours of the 2am churn and trying to be sensible and realise that his Ts and Ps (temperatures and pressures) are in the red zone, he realised he needed help.

“Although I keep hoping to be back to 12 volts, after a weekend wading through waste-deep mud and pulling lambs out of dams I realise my volt meter is struggling to stay in the safe zone. . .

It was all done on a handshake – Neal Wallace:

Stud breeding has enabled the Robertson family from Southland to settle family members onto farms. But Neal Wallace discovers that is only part of the formula for successful farm succession. Being a tight knit, focused and strong family unit also helps.

It might be dismissed as a cliche but the adage that an apple never falls far from the tree is applicable to the Robertson family from Southland.

The Robertsons farm Duncraigen Farm at Mimihau near Wyndham and the cornerstone of their business are stud Hereford cattle, Romney and Dorset Down stud sheep and various crosses of those breeds. . .

 Attracting more ag students – Peter Burke:

The numbers of students taking up agricultural degrees at Massey University is not really increasing, according to Professor Peter Kemp – head of the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey.

He says there are isolated areas such as animal science that have gone up. However, in horticulture and general agriculture the numbers are lower than they were a few years ago.

Kemp says this is despite the industry, at the same time, having more jobs. He says it’s really hard to unpack the reasons for this. . . 

Blade shear champ looks to 2022 – George Clark:

South Canterbury world champion blade shearer Allan Oldfield is training strategically in an attempt to retain his title at the next shearing and woolhandling world championships in Scotland in 2022.

Mr Oldfield, who is a finalist in the rural sportsman of the year category in this year’s Rural Games, started competing when he was 16 years old in New Zealand’s intermediate blade shearing grade . .

Business is blooming – Toni Williams’s:

Turley Farms Chertsey, in the heart of Mid Canterbury, is among a growing number of farms turning to sunflowers as a rotation crop to use between plantings.

Sunflowers are good for high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic (monounsaturated) acid (at least 80%), and good as a frying oil. It also has a good shelf life and is used in infant formula.

The farm group, which has properties scattered throughout Canterbury, has planted more than 40ha of sunflowers at the Chertsey site. There are 62,000 sunflower plants per hectare. . .

Aussie flock hits 116 year low – Sudesh Kissun:

Prolonged dry conditions in rural Australia are taking a toll on its national sheep flock.

The latest forecast from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) says sheep numbers will fall 3.5% this year.

According to MLA’s 2020 Sheep Industry Projection, stock numbers have been dropping due to drought in key sheep producing regions. . .


Planet before people

January 7, 2020

Some hospitals are forgoing science in putting the planet’s health before that of their patients:

Patients’ health will suffer if hospitals cut down on meat and dairy in meals, the country’s former chief education health and nutrition adviser warns.

However, another researcher has backed the push for plants to replace meat and dairy in meals, saying our meat consumption seriously harms health and the planet.

New sustainability guidelines for the health sector include a recommendation to reduce meat and dairy, including by developing new hospital menus and encouraging plant-based diets. Some hospitals have brought in “meat-free Monday” trials.

The environment can and does impact on health but thinking that a little less meat eaten in hospitals will have an impact on climate change is ridiculous and the health and welfare of patients must be hospital’s first priority.

The guidelines have been criticised by Grant Schofield, professor of public health at Auckland University of Technology.

“We are talking about our most vulnerable, sickest people, and food is an important part of that, and we take meat and dairy out – it just utterly beggars belief,” he told the Herald.

“Hospital food is generally of a pretty poor quality anyway, it is generally pretty highly processed. If you wanted to improve hospital meals you would look at the quality of the food, and meat would be my last possible target, because it is one of the best sources of nutrition, protein, good-quality fat and vitamins and minerals. To take that out of it seems objectionable.” . . .

My experience of hospital food is that it is high on stodge and low on protein, roughage and vitamins, of which meat can be a valuable source.

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy but it takes a lot of care, and usually higher cost, to replace the nutrients lost from going meat-free.

Schofield, who advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet and quit his Government advisory role over a lack of action on obesity, said cutting meat and dairy in hospital meals to counter climate change was “nonsense”.

“I think we have unfairly demonised meat and got it into our heads that it is somehow ruining the planet.”

The Ministry of Health’s sustainability guidelines were released in July, and note that agriculture accounts for almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sigh, a repeat of the half-baked argument that doesn’t take into account either nutrient content of what agriculture produces nor that most of the produce is exported to feed people in other countries so eating less here will have no impact at all on production.

After the guidelines were released Dieticians NZ, the professional body for dietetics, labelled the meat and dairy recommendation disappointing and not appropriate for those in hospital, who are often malnourished.

People in hospital are there to be treated for what ails them, not to be used for virtue signalling.

Not everyone agrees.

That position drew a response from Professor John Potter, of the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, who wrote in a blog post that even if some patients needed more protein, this could be sourced from plants. . .  

It could, but not as easily and probably at a greater cost.

A nutritious diet is an important part of healing and good health.

Decisions on what people in hospital eat should be made on the basis of the science that determines what’s best for them, not that of the planet, especially when emotion rather than science often guides the anti-meat dogma of the dark green who put the health of the planet ahead of the health of people.


Rural round-up

November 13, 2019

Banking pressures and Fonterra position prompt low dairy farm sales – Sam Kilmister:

Dairy farm sales are plummeting towards record lows as the sector faces uncertainty and a financial squeeze.

Banking pressures and the financial position of dairy giant Fonterra have been cited as the main factors for another drop in farm sales, which are down 6.7 per cent over the past 12 months. 

Despite an 8 per cent increase in the three months to September, the number of farms sold continues to drop as farmers come to grips with compliance laws, freshwater proposals and frugal banks. . . 

Meet the huntaway – the dog New Zealand calls its own – Jendy Harper:

Hamish Scannell doesn’t have a favourite dog. The Mt White Station shepherd says it “depends on the day”.

He’s certain about one thing, he couldn’t do his job without them. Like most New Zealand shepherds, Scannell and his dogs are a package deal. He owns a mix of heading and huntaway dogs.

Heading dogs are typically border collies, a breed of Scottish origin. The huntaway though, is uniquely New Zealand, acknowledged by the national Kennel Club as being the country’s only indigenous dog breed. . . 

Tree protest this week:

The protest group ‘50 Shades of Green’ is organising a march on Parliament this week to try and stop good farmland being covered in pine trees.

Asked why we they are marching, organisers say the answer is simple.

“Farmers love the land. Many farms have been nurtured for generations to feed not only New Zealand but 40 million people internationally as well.

“We’re now seeing that land gone forever, often to overseas based aristocrats and carbon investors.” . . 

Native planting tailored for better survival – Sally Rae:

Fonterra has announced a partnership between Farm Source and ecological consultancy Wildlands to reduce the cost of on-farm native planting.

Speaking at the dairy co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill last week, chairman John Monaghan said Fonterra understood the significant uncertainty and frustration farmers felt when it came to the likes of climate change and freshwater.

The co-operative was putting more energy and resources into developing on-farm tools, research and solutions to help farmers continue to run healthy and sustainable businesses. . . 

Bringing bacon home in south – Sally Rae:

American-born veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann has made his home in the South while continuing to work around the globe. He speaks to rural editor Sally Rae.

He’s an international expert in pigs who has ended up living in Otago.

Dr Eric Neumann has an impressive list of credentials, having been involved in livestock production, aid and development projects, infectious disease management and research, controlled experimental trials, international project management and collaboration, government-sector biosecurity policy development, and one-health training around the world.

He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Massey University, and also holds positions as adjunct research associate professor at the University of Otago, Centre for International Public Health, and as affiliate Associate Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Iowa State University. . . 

Cowboy’s last frontier: Rancher is a rare breed in O.C. raising cattle in the traditional way – Brooke E. Seipel:

From head to toe, Frank Fitzpatrick looks the part.

With a large, black cowboy hat tilted over his forehead, the 68-year-old cattle rancher casually propped a cowboy boot – fitted with spurs – on a post of a corral with about 20 bulls inside.

“I decided on my 8th birthday I wanted to be a cowboy, and I haven’t changed my mind since,” he said, looking at the herd of red Barzona cattle.

Fitzpatrick tends almost 600 head of cattle between ranches in Indio and Trabuco Canyon – the latter just miles from his home in Silverado, the same home he moved into on his 4th birthday. He attended Orange High School, where he joined the Future Farmers of America. By his senior year he had about 20 bulls. . . 


Why wouldn’t the Herald print this?

October 17, 2019

Speak Up for Women has the column by Rachel Stewart the NZ Herald wouldn’t print:

It seems far-fetched that the mere hiring of a Massey University venue by a feminist organisation could cause so much indignation and rage, but these are not typical times.

A bunch of females getting together within a public space to discuss the issues currently affecting them is far from new, and very far from radical.

Yet, the idea that ‘Feminism 2020’ would dare to congregate at a venue on Massey’s Wellington campus saw a number of students stage a sit-in, which culminated in the handing over of a petition calling on the university to cancel the event.

What is so threatening about women coming together and talking? According to the protestors and petitioners, the organisers of the event – Speak Up for Women – are essentially devil incarnates.

Petition organiser Charlie Myer said the university shouldn’t be “facilitating this kind of discussion”. Feminism 2020 “could have [the event] anywhere” but it wasn’t appropriate for them to hold it at a university, which was supposed to support transgender students.”

Last time I looked universities were required to respect and uphold the quaint, old-fashioned tenet of free speech too. And Massey has, thus far, held out against the pressure of every thrown guilt trip known to mankind. You know, we don’t feel “safe”.

Myer also disputed the group was feminist and simply meeting to discuss women’s issues. “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism.”

Don’t you just love it when men tell women what feminism actually is? I find it adorable. Like a possum in my pear tree. So endearing.

Another endearing move was to then see the spokesperson for diversity and inclusion accreditation business Rainbow Tick Martin King say that if Massey did not cancel the event it was likely it would trigger a review of its accreditation.

The spectre of losing their Rainbow Tick must be downright scary for them. I mean, since students are now their financial customers, Massey naturally wants to keep the client happy at all costs.

But back to ‘Speak Up For Women’ and their apparently devilish ways. Why do some students so feverishly want them cancelled lest they be “harmed” by their words? Of course, you’d think simply not attending would put paid to that, but I’m being far too logical.

No. These students believe that no one should be allowed to discuss, debate, or hear the reasons why many women are concerned about an amendment (currently on hold) to the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Bill that would allow a person to change their legal gender by simply signing a declaration.

The group formed because they were legitimately concerned the amendment would prevent women from excluding men from changing rooms, bathrooms, women’s prisons, women’s shelters and any other women and girls-only space. In a nutshell, they don’t agree that trans women are women just because they say they are.

The group supports the current law, which allows a person to change the sex on their birth certificate if they go through certain steps – specifically applying in writing to the Court and obtaining a medical sign-off from a doctor.

They also make it clear they support the rights of transgender people to live without violence and discrimination.

However they don’t agree that trans women should be allowed to compete against natal females in sport. In their view, it’s not a level playing field.

Now, what’s so heinous about that? Why does holding such views mean they should be de-platformed, cancelled, and marginalised?

Eerily, many of the organisers and some of the speakers are lesbian so why would the ‘L’ part of the LGBTQ be considered such a threat to organisations such as Rainbow Tick? Is the imperative of ‘diversity’ no longer extended to lesbians? Or feminists – regardless of their sexual preferences? Good ol’ intersectionalism strikes again! It’s a conundrum.

And therein lies the problem with intersectionalism. The manic race to win the title of ‘most oppressed and marginalised group’ sets up a spiralling vortex of ever-tightening circles of meaninglessness.

Will there be protests if the event goes ahead? Will the protestors consist mainly of male activists telling those women to shut up? Because that’s the rub for me. Seeing men shouting women down via megaphone, rattling windows, banging doors and generally screaming at them, reminds me why I’m a feminist all over again.

Tactics like these are being employed in Britain and the U.S. and where they go, we tend to go. If similar methods are on show at the ‘Feminism 2020’ event, it’ll be quite the statement.

Ask yourself this.

Why is it that some men are angry, abusive, and disruptive around such incredibly important issues to some women? What’s driving their need to shut women up? Why is free speech good for the gander, but not so welcome from the goose?

When did an open discussion by women about women’s rights become so threatening?

Actually, more to the point, when didn’t it?

What is in here that would stop it being published?

No-one is being defamed.

No-one is being incited to harm anyone or do anything illegal.

It’s a point of view with which some may agree or disagree, in part or in whole.

Why wouldn’t the Herald publish it?

 


Thugs’ veto wins again

October 17, 2019

Massey University hasn’t learned from the Don Brash deplatforming debacle:

Massey University has advised Speak Up For Women to find an alternative venue for its Feminism 2020 event. The University has received external advice on its health, safety and wellbeing obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and its duty of care to the University community, and has made the decision on these grounds.

The legal advice we have received is that cancellation of the event, as concluded by the report, is the only way to eliminate the risk to health and safety and to ensure that the University would not be in breach of its health and safety obligations.

Massey University is committed to the values of academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, as values that lie at the very heart of the tradition of a university and academic inquiry. However, this event has created significant disruption to our students, staff and University operations, and we cannot accept any further risk or issues, or any risk of potential harm that may impact upon a particularly vulnerable community.

When health and safety is used as an excuse, it’s the thugs’ veto winning again.

Who’s Speak Up for Women?

Speak Up For Women is a diverse group of ordinary New Zealanders who initially came together to campaign against the sex self-ID amendment being pushed through as part of the BDMRR Bill.

We found each other on social media, at political party events, through our work, and through friends.

We began with a shared concern about the impact of transgender politics (including self-ID) on the rights of women and girls, but now realise that there is no one advocating for women across the board. Traditional women’s groups now focus heavily on gender identity and what is left is a void of services and advocates for women. . .

A lot of people will share these concerns.

Some might be threatened by this but the answer is to use logic and facts provide a counter-argument, not to use the thugs’ veto to shut down those espousing them.

A media release from Melissa Derby who was to speak at the event says:

In September, Massey said it would host the Feminism 2020 despite objections, and that it was ‘committed to free speech as a fundamental tenet of a university’. It looked like Massey had learned from the public backlash against its cancellation of last year’s event with Don Brash.”

“Yet, as of today, Massey has shut down the event, seemingly due to pressure from a vocal group of activists. Today’s announcement reveals the University’s true position is one of absolute weakness. Massey says it values free speech while its actions prove the opposite.”

“Not only has the University refused to uphold its stated commitment to free speech, it is being deliberately vague about its reasoning. Massey cites health and safety concerns, but it’s completely unclear whether this refers to threats of protest, or concern over ‘harmful’ speech. This is the most feeble use of a ‘health and safety’ excuse we’ve seen at a university yet.”

“Whoever thought we’d see the day when feminism is on the banned list at a New Zealand University? Ironically, I was going to speak at this event on the dangers of identity politics and the need for people to talk to one another.”

“If a University’s default response to ‘any risk of potential harm’ is the cancellation of speech, then it ought to shut up shop. Universities have traditionally been a space for free expression, protest, and the contest of ideas. Massey has disgraced this tradition.”

A woman who planned to speak on the need for people to talk to one another, has been deplatformed by threats from people too scared to hear what she has to say.

 

 


Rural round-up

May 16, 2019

Tool for assessing water quality not reliable – scientists – Eric Frykberg:

A group of scientists have gone public with claims that the widely-used Overseer water quality system for farms might not be reliable.

They are the former Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group director Martin Manning, Massey University’s professor emeritus of industrial mathematics, Graeme Wake, Massey agricultural senior scientist Tony Pleasants and a retired associate professor of mathematics, John Gamlen.

Overseer is an online software model which was originally designed as a commercial mechanism for farmers to minimise the amount of fertiliser they used relative to their economic output from their farm. . . 

Looking after the people and the land  – Toni Williams:

Pencarrow Farm is a unique property just minutes from an urban shopping centre. Not only is it picturesque but it is a highly productive and environmentally sound enterprise.

It must be, as it has just won five awards in the 2019 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards – the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award, the Synlait Climate Stewardship Award and the Norwood Agri-business Management Award.

It is acknowledgement that owners Tricia and Andy Macfarlane, and contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver, are doing the right things. . .

Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic:

Deer Industry New Zealand is disappointed by the government’s announced emissions reduction targets for agriculture. 
Dr Ian Walker, Chair of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), says that under current conditions these targets would result in significant reductions in stock numbers. Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in the future, the level of reduction would effectively mean that the agriculture sector was being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming, but also offset the contribution of other sectors. 
“The deer industry as part of the pastoral sector is prepared to play its part in climate change mitigation. We do not deny human-induced climate change nor our responsibility to mitigate. The pastoral sector is willing to target net zero global warming impact from agricultural gasses.  But the targets for methane announced by the Government go beyond net zero global warming impact. DINZ cannot support these targets,” he says. . . 

Rural Equities sells second-largest property – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Rural Equities, the farming group majority-owned by the Cushing family, has agreed to sell its second-largest property as it rejigs its portfolio.

Puketotara, a beef and sheep finishing operation near Huntly, covers 1,146 hectares and typically carries 12,000 stock.

The company, which trades on the Unlisted exchange, said it expects about $11.7 million from the sale including livestock. The deal will settle on June 20. . . 

YTD tractor and farm machinery sales steady:

Sales of tractors and farm machinery are currently steady compared to 2018 but there are a few challenges facing the sector, says Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president, John Tulloch.

TAMA year-to-date figures to the end of April showed a total of 1104 sales across all HP categories compared to 1111 in 2018: a drop of 0.6%. North Island sales decreased by 4.7% with 713 sales compared to last year’s 748 but South Island sales increased by 7.4% with 390 compared with 363. . . 

Established blueberry orchards placed on the market for sale:

The land, buildings and orchards sustaining one of New Zealand’s quality blueberry growing and processing operations has been placed on the market for sale.

The portfolio encompasses three separate properties in the Central Waikato areas of Rukuhia and Cambridge – the hub of blueberry production in New Zealand. Some 80 percent of New Zealand’s blueberry crop is grown in the Waikato region, with its nutrient-rich peat-based soils. . . 


Real Time GDP

December 18, 2018

Massey University has launched a real-time gross domestic product (GDP) tracker, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Called GDPLive, the online portal uses machine learning algorithms and the most up-to-date data possible, including live data sources. It allows users to instantly see estimates of how the New Zealand economy is performing on a daily basis, and provides GDP forecasts.

“GDP measures all market-based transactions, so it’s a very good indicator of how well an economy is performing,” says Professor Christoph Schumacher from Massey University’s School of Economics and Finance.

“GDPLive has been developed with the most up-to-date data from government sources and a diverse range of partners, including PayMark, KiwiRail and PortConnect, so we can get a sense of how the New Zealand economy is tracking in real time.”

Professor Schumacher says GDPLive’s use of cutting-edge machine learning technologies provides informed forecasts, making it a valuable supplementary decision-making tool for businesses. He says it will be a significant improvement on government reporting, which currently releases national GDP figures quarterly and regional figures annually. . . 


Rural round-up

November 23, 2018

P kicking out dope in the provinces – Richard Rennie:

Rural New Zealand is playing host to a wave of methamphetamine (P) lab production and consumption that has knocked cannabis off its pedestal as the recreational drug of choice in the provinces.

Research by Massey University associate professor Chris Wilkins has highlighted that contrary to popular belief it is rural New Zealand, not large metropolitan centres, where P’s availability has resoundingly surged.

His research work has revealed small towns and rural areas where gang influence predominates are targeted specifically for P use to maximise gang drug revenue. . . 

Heading for a TB-free future – Barry Harris:

Ospri Chairman Barry Harris says New Zealand farmers can be proud of the progress of the TB Plan towards eradicating the infectious livestock disease bovine tuberculosis.

Among the most important challenges facing New Zealand agriculture is managing and eradicating diseases that threaten our dairy and meat exports. 

While Mycoplasma bovis has hogged the headlines recently, the progress of the TBfree programme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis has been quietly progressing as planned.

TB, caused by the similar-sounding Mycobacterium bovis, has been a problem for farmed livestock since they arrived in the 19th century.  . . 

Push for authorities to subsidise farmers’ use of dung beetles to help reduce environmental impacts – Gerald Piddock:

A company that grows and supplies dung beetles to farmers wants to partner up with local government to lift the insect’s uptake across New Zealand.

The insects are another tool to help pastoral farmers mitigate their environmental impact, according to Dung Beetle Innovations director Shaun Forgie​.

Forgie, along with business partner Andrew Barber and Peter Buckley, outlined to Waikato Regional Councillors at a recent committee meeting why it would be economically and environmentally beneficial for landowners and local government to include the beetles in steps for improving water quality and soil health. . . 

Stud stock agent judge of qualities – Sally Rae:

Among the hordes of exhibitors and visitors through the sheep pavilion at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch last week, there was a familiar face.

Stud stock agent Roger Keach is a well-known figure within the New Zealand stud stock industry and  regular show attendee for many years.

This year, he was tasked with judging the Hampshire sheep section and  all-breeds wool ram hogget class. . . 

Getting in behind – Rebecca Harper:

A lack of practical experience made it hard for Ashley Greer to get a foot on the career ladder in the sheep and beef industry, but she refused to take no for an answer. After years of trying, she has landed her dream job shepherding on a progressive sheep and beef farm near Masterton. Rebecca Harper went to visit her.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. It’s an old proverb, but one that is particularly relevant for 28-year-old Ashley Greer.

Ashley set her heart on a career in the sheep and beef sector and began studying towards her Bachelor of Science, majoring in agricultural science and minoring in animal science, at Massey University. In her holidays, she needed to obtain placements on farm. . .

North Otago meat plants ‘flat out’ – Sally Brooker:

North Otago’s two major meat processing plants are working flat out.

Alliance Group Pukeuri plant manager Phil Shuker said the site just north of Oamaru was operating three chains, processing both beef and sheep.

”Lamb is continuing to come through strongly, with the plant having just completed a very busy period processing chilled Christmas orders for the important United Kingdom market. . . 

Thriving horticulture sector behind new degree at Massey University – Angie Skerrett:

A booming horticulture industry has prompted the introduction of a new degree course at Massey University.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) quarterly outlook figures for New Zealand’s primary sector estimates growth in the horticulture sector for the coming year will be 13.1 percent, a $0.7 billion increase on the previous year.

A three-year Bachelor of Horticultural Science degree is set to begin in February to cope with the expected growth. . . 


Rural round-up

November 15, 2018

Wool cells used for new material – Sally Rae:

Deconstruction of coarse wool fibre to create new materials has been described as a ‘‘major breakthrough’’.

Researchers at Lincoln Agritech Ltd have broken down coarse wool — which  comprises about 75% of New Zealand’s wool clip — into its cellular components, creating new materials that are not wool but contain wool attributes.

The work was part of a $21 million seven-year research programme into new uses for coarse wool, co-funded by the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Fonterra must learn to be driven by profit not volume – Point of Order:

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan sought to cheer up the co-op’s farmer-shareholders by telling them at what was reported to be a “packed” annual meeting that “For a time this year, NZ farmers were paid this highest milk prices in the world.”

He insisted there has been a structural change in the co-op’s milk prices since Fonterra was formed. . . 

Using collaborative science to unlock our potential:

Enhancing the production and productivity of New Zealand’s primary sector, while maintaining and improving the quality of the country’s land and water for future generations. That’s the mission of the ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge.

National Science Challenges emerged from The Great New Zealand Science Project, which in 2012 invited New Zealanders to talk about the biggest science related issues for them.

The project resulted in 11 Challenges, set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in early 2016.

They are designed to ensure that science investment focuses on areas that matter most to New Zealanders. . .

Luxury cashmere produced here in NZ – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s fledgling cashmere industry, which has its roots in South Otago, has reached a significant milestone, as Sally Rae reports.

Production of the first pilot New Zealand-grown cashmere garments is being heralded as a milestone in the country’s fledgling cashmere industry.

In January, New Zealand Cashmere — formed by Clinton farmers David and Robyn Shaw — announced a partnership with Christchurch-based sustainable lifestyle fashion brand Untouched World and Wellington-based Woolyarns to commercialise a market for New Zealand-grown cashmere.

This week, Untouched World is launching a  retail store in Wanaka and those first garments will be on display. . . 

Dairy is not evil – Sudesh Kissun:

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis believes there will always be a place for dairy.

“I keep saying it: it’s not about too many cows, but how the land is managed,” he told Rural News. Curtis, who is leaving the helm of Irrigation NZ in March, says he knows some “very, very good” dairy farmers with good environmental footprints and some “very, very bad” dairy farmers with horrible footprints – and the same with good and bad cropping farmers.

“So, let’s stop going on about the land use thing because it’s all about land management practices,” says. . . 

Mycoplasma communication team needs to play with straight bat – Keith Woodford:

MPI is currently reporting a positive story about Mycoplasma bovis eradication. There is indeed good news to report. But in cricket terminology, the communication team needs to play with a straight bat.

I found myself to be a topic in MPI’s latest announcements. According to an anonymous MPI spokeswoman, I have made claims questioning the time of arrival that I have declined to back up, despite multiple requests. That is a falsehood. The MPI bat is not straight. I will return to that topic further down, but first the big picture.

Over the last six weeks, there have been four new infected farms detected and three new trending-positive (RP) farms. Some of these are large dairy farms and they have led to a new string of traces. Accordingly, active trace farms have increased from 208 to 245. There are also many hundreds of surveillance farms. . .

Waikato Innovation Park to build new spray dryer for growing sheep milk industry :

Plans are underway for a new spray dryer at Waikato Innovation Park to cater for the burgeoning sheep milk industry.

The $50 million dryer will sit alongside the Park’s existing dryer, but will have 2.4 times its capacity. It will be built by Tetra Pak with construction expected to start this month.

It is due to be on line by November 2019 and once completed, is expected to more than double employment at the plant from 17 to 35 staff. . . 

Novel plumbing for Massey research farm:

Massey University’s sheep and beef research farm is to begin nutrient leaching research using underground water and nutrient collection.

Keebles Farm (287ha), near Massey’s Manawatū campus, now has water collection under each paddock to allow all water to be collected and studied.

Deputy head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon says the farm will be the first to use a collection system of this type for sheep and beef research in New Zealand. . . 

A sensible decision to support safe crop protection options – Tim Burrack:

Their names almost make them sound like the villains in an old John Wayne movie: Palmer Amaranth, Tall Waterhemp, and Giant Ragweed.  

In reality, they’re among the worst invaders in a farmer’s soybean fields—prolific weeds that rob our food crops of moisture and nutrients, depress our yields, and resist many forms of herbicide. 

To fight them, we need the best technology available—and on October 31, the Environmental Protection Agency tossed us a lifeline.  . . 


Rural round-up

November 12, 2018

Fonterra hopes for collaboration in review of regulating law – Jeremy Rees:

Fonterra has welcomed the review of the law which governs it and urged farmers and shareholders to work with the government to get it right.

At its annual meeting, Fonterra chairman John Monaghan told the 360 farmers in the audience that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), which regulated the company was a complex piece of legislation but it was important to get any changes right.

“Let’s be clear. Fonterra’s performance, good or bad, is not driven by DIRA,” he said.

“But an updated DIRA can deliver our shared vision for the future of the New Zealand dairy industry.”

The government began in May a review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 which sets the parameters for Fonterra, the co-operative dairy giant. . . 

Fonterra is under attack from all sides, and now from within, as it grapples with issues that date back to 2001. These restraints allow its competitors to pick away at its good bits. China holds a tariff lever over NZ policymakers – Guy Trafford:

A busy week for Fonterra with the appointment of the two new directors and one still to come. Later today comes the result of the asset review instigated after the poor results from last season.

One of the new directors, Leonie Guiney has made her position plain in September she was quoted saying she wants the company to shift its whole strategy away from investments, like Beingmate and China Farms, which she says are “beyond our capability”.

If Fonterra thought they may get an easier path in the future through a revamp of the DIRA, the indications coming out are any thing to go by they are going to be disappointed. In fact, some are suggesting that the goal posts have been moved further away with a 70% mark as the point which is more likely to trigger a freeing up of some of the constraints the Coop is required to operate under. . .

New directorate to run M bovis programme – Annette Scott:

The new Mycoplasma bovis Response Directorate will provide a more robust model for the ongoing response to the cattle disease.

The directorate has been established after the decision by the Government and industry to try to eradicate M bovis and in consultation with Ministry for Primary Industries staff.

MPI response and readiness director Geoff Gwyn has been appointed to lead the new body.

Gwyn has headed the M bovis response since the cattle disease was found in July 2017. . . .

Swarmstorm design to benefit beekeepers:

Hobby beekeepers could have an alternative product to recollect swarms and maintain bee reproduction rates thanks to the work of Massey University industrial design student Liam Brankin.

The 22 year-old has devised a prototype backpack he calls the Swarmstorm that uses a suction hose, similar to a household vacuum cleaner, to suck and capture bees into a cardboard container before they are transferred to hives to continue the reproduction and honey-producing process.

His design is part of the Exposure graduate exhibition of final year work by design, art, creative media and music students from the College of Creative Arts, which opens at the Wellington campus on Friday.  . . .

Commission authorises extending restrictions on infant formula marketing ;

The Commerce Commission has authorised members of the Infant Nutrition Council Limited to extend the advertising and marketing restrictions in their Code of Practice to cover infant formula products for children aged up to 12 months of age.

Currently, the restrictions only apply to infant formula products for children aged up to six months of age. The INC asked the Commission to authorise the extended advertising and marketing restrictions, as the extended restrictions may lessen competition. . .

Nursery industry congratulate Young Hort 2018 runner-up:

Runner up Young Horticulturalist of the year, Devin Westley, is an extraordinary young man with a huge passion for his work as a nurseryman and innovator in the industry.

His employer, Southern Woods Nursery and the NZ Plant Producers’ Industry are delighted with his placing in the New Zealand Young Horticulturalist 2018 competition.

Devin also took home awards for best practice, practical activities and best speech on the night at the award’s dinner in Auckland last night. . . 


Rural round-up

October 6, 2018

Acquifer scheme off and running – John Keast:

A switch was flicked, Rangitata River water bubbled in a basin, then slid along a man-made creek bed in the dry South Hinds riverbed.

It is there it will do its work: increase flows in the Hinds River – often dry in its middle reaches – replenish underlying aquifers, feed newly planted native plants, enhance a wetland and, it is hoped, enhance bores used to supply water to Mayfield.

The water was released last week as part of the work by the Managed Aquifer Recharge Governance Group’s project to boost aquifers, dilute nitrates and lift river and stream flows. . .

Alliance backed on long term approach – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group management has received a strong message from suppliers to keep investing in the company’s longer-term strategy, rather than take a short-term approach, chairman Murray Taggart says.

Mr Taggart and fellow directors and management are travelling the country, attending the co-operative’s annual roadshows.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, he said feedback from shareholders and suppliers had been “pleasantly positive.” . . .

Where once was gorse, blackberry and bracken are fields of lush grass, vegetables, and sprightly calves – Marty Sharpe:

Over the course of his 36 years Hemi Robinson has watched the area he calls home slowly decay.

Rust and algae-covered car bodies litter paddocks, once-loved weatherboard homes crumble quietly into the dirt and wave after wave of blackberry, gorse and bracken encroach and consume once fertile and productive land.

This is Raupunga, between Napier and Wairoa. Population 250-ish and falling. . .

Benevolent history repeats – Ross Hyland:

The Duncan, Perry and Howard families have a long connection with farming.

They were instrumental in setting up Smedley, Taratahi and Massey University and the latest generation is doing it again with a group of farms in Rangitikei, particularly Otiwhiti and Westoe, providing a start on the land for cadets from all round the country.

Much has been said and written of the Duncans of the Turakina Valley but the transformation that has been happening on Otiwhiti Station deserves some focus of its own.

The farm cadet training school was established at Otiwhiti by Charles and Joanna Duncan and Charles’ parents, David and Vicky, in 2006. With the addition of Jim and Diana Howard’s Westoe Farm near Marton it could well be the premier farm cadet training establishment in the region. . .

Farmers have choice of five candidates to fill three seats

Fonterra is conducting a wide-open contest among five nominees to fill three vacancies around its board table, which consists of seven farmer-directors and four independents.

The retirements of former chairman John Wilson through ill-health and of long-serving director Nicola Shadbolt mean Ashley Waugh is the only sitting director seeking re-election.

Because the co-operative recently reported its first loss in 17 years of operations Waugh is exposed to a possible backlash through the ballot box from disgruntled shareholders. . .

An innovative lamb product is vying for two of New Zealand’s top food awards:

Alliance Group’s Te Mana Lamb has been announced as a finalist in two categories of this year’s : Frozen, which is offered in association with Palmerston North City Council; and the NZ Food Safety Primary Sector Products Award.

The Primary Sector Products Award looks for single ingredient foods – those sold in their purest form, with minimal processing – where producers, researchers and manufacturers have added-value to primary products through introducing new varieties, cultivars or breeds.

Te Mana Lamb has been produced as part of the Omega Lamb Project – a Primary Growth Partnership led by Alliance, in association with farming group Headwaters New Zealand Ltd and the Ministry for Primary Industries. . . 


Keep left, obey speech limit

August 9, 2018

Nominating Garrick Tremain for Cartoonist of the Year on the strength of this:

You can see more of his cartoons here.

 

 


365 days of gratitude

August 8, 2018

The furore over Don Brash being banned from Massey isn’t all bad.

It’s brought the importance of free speech to the fore and showed that people can put aside political bias to stand up for a principle.

I’m grateful for that.

 


Thugs’ veto working

August 7, 2018

When the Free speech coalition withdrew its urgent application for a  judicial review of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues,  coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin said it would turn its focus to the thugs’ veto:

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

The need for such action has been confirmed by news that the thugs’ veto is already working at Massey University:

“Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas should resign after cowardly barring Don Brash from speaking at the University”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After veiled threats from a left-wing thug in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, she capitulated this morning and prevented Dr Brash from speaking on ‘security’ grounds.

“A student wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: “I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this matter and steps you will take to ensure the safety of those attending. Remember in light of their type of “Free Speech” does not come Free of Consequences.’”

Brash, a former Reserve Bank Governor and Opposition Leader, was due to speak to the Politics Society tomorrow.

“I have long feared that American-style anti-intellectual, violent intolerance would come here.

“It has appeared at Massey this week and the university has completely failed to the test.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins should follow the British and defund universities that do not protect freedom of speech in their campuses.

“Universities exist to promote robust debate, educate, and search for the truth.

“They do not exist to coddle students and protect them from views they might disagree with. . . 

Dr Cumin adds:

In blocking former Leader of the Opposition and Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash from speaking on campus tomorrow, Massey University disgraces an important tradition of free speech on university campuses and a fundamental tenet of a liberal democracy.

Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor appears to have capitulated to the veiled threats of protesters, cancelling the event for ‘security’ reasons.

Free Speech Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin says, “Publicly-funded universities in New Zealand and across the western world have a proud tradition of upholding freedom of speech. If we allow the ‘heckler’s veto’ to shut down contentious speech at a university, a place that should be a bastion of free expression, what hope can we have for free speech anywhere else?”

“Hecklers and thugs have been emboldened by Auckland Council’s recent capitulation on similar grounds. That’s why the Free Speech Coalition is pressing ahead with court action to prevent a dangerous precedent where a minority can shut down any speech by threatening violent protest.”

“The Police need to put their hands up and restate their commitment to protecting freedom of speech from would-be violent protesters.”

“Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas must reverse her decision *and ensure that she works with authorities to provide a safe environment for the expression of ideas on her campus. The fundamental role of universities is to foster dissenting views, debate, throw light on and challenge the establishment, but certainly not shut down speech. This is a disgraceful act from a university leader.”

Would the vice-chancellor give in to threats from a hard-right group should the speaker be , for example, advocating Maori sovereignty or special treatment for refugees? Would she let right to life activists silence proponents of abortion or euthanasia?

If she didn’t she’d be guilty of political bias, if she did she’d be allowing the thugs’ veto again.

That’s the danger that follows what she wrote about constraining free speech and her decision to ban Dr Brash.

She is setting herself up as an arbiter of what is a permissible view and what’s not; which opinions can be aired and which can’t and she’s setting a very dangerous precedent which let hecklers and thugs silence people with whose views they disagree.


Let some knowledge flourish?

August 6, 2018

Then-vice chancellor of Massey Chris Kelly provoked outrage after making comments about women vets:

Kelly told Rural News that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students were women and in the first year when there was a high ‘cull’, it was the female students who continued because the work was largely academic.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass,” he told Rural News. “Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.” . . 

When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by women. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a fulltime equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we’re graduating a lot of vets, we’re getting a high fallout rate later on.” . . 

Shortly after the outrage, he stepped down.

He apologised yesterday and said the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

He told the university today that he intended to step down from his position, effective immediately.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said his decision followed media coverage of his comments.

“Having had time to carefully consider the views of many staff, students and stakeholders, I believe that it is in the interests of the university that I step aside,” he said. . .

Martin van Beynen wrote at the time that the chancellor’s point was lost in the silly vet sexism fracas:

 . . But there is a wider problem with jumping from a great height on a man like Kelly.

Kelly spoke his mind giving a view which was not hateful or disrespectful. Essentially he was saying the taxpayer gets more bang for their buck by training male vets because of the nature of the job and the fact women, due to an unfortunate quirk of biology, have babies and want to spend some time with them.

It sounds like a defendable view which should prompt some debate. There might actually be a problem brewing away in vet education due to the dominance of female graduates. That won’t be talked about now because no-one will be brave enough to raise it.

The danger is that due to the sensitivity of the issue and possible ramifications of expressing a view, the wrong decisions will be made, not because people don’t know the facts or what to do, but just because to raise the difficult matters is a career wrecker.

The last and important point is that it’s quite healthy for people to shoot their mouths off now and again. It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think.

Exactly. It is far better to know what people think than to have their views and opinions, whether they be right or wrong, silenced.

The importance of free speech is not something the current Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas appears to believe in:

The right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society. This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.

History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.

So far so good but then she writes:

Freedom of expression is one thing, but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance, hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference. . .

But not all religions are equal when it comes to criticism. I’ve yet to read or hear anyone attacking Christianity accused of hate speech.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. . .

She’s right that hate speech, however, it’s defined, isn’t free speech.

But the point that free speech would permit people to indulge in hate speech appears to have escaped her.

. . . Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Universities support our staff and students to push boundaries, test the evidence that is put to them and challenge societal norms, including examining controversial and unpopular ideas.

This also obliges our institutions to support staff if and when they are attacked for engaging in such debates.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

And as I regularly remind our graduates, with rights come responsibilities.

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

All of that is reasonable.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

While I have concerns about what exactly hate speech is, I can’t argue against countering it with reason and compassion.

But then she concludes:

Hate speech has no place at a university. My university values our commitment to ideas and scholarship and free expression. . .

Spot the contradiction: a commitment to free expression and the exlusion of hate speech.

A university of all places ought to be able to counter the misguided, misinformed and mistaken by reasoned and reasonable debate, not by shutting them up and shutting down their right to express their views, however wrong or revolting those views are.

Karl du Fresne writes we should be very suspicious about claims of “hate speech”:

. . . My first concern is that much of what is emotively described as hate speech isn’t hateful at all. Too often it simply means opinions and ideas that some people find distasteful or offensive. But merely being offended is no justification for stifling expressions of opinion in a liberal, open democracy that depends on the contest of ideas. 

More worryingly, accusations of “hate speech” can be used to intimidate people into silence and put discussion of certain issues and ideas off-limits. In fact I believe that’s the over-arching aim.

Anyway, who defines hate speech? The term is bandied around as if there’s some agreed definition. But there’s not, and freedom of expression is too precious to leave it to an aggrieved minority or an academic elite to define it and therefore determine what the rest of us may say.

It’s also an infinitely elastic term. In Britain, where police have the power to prosecute for hate speech, there have been some frightening cases of overkill and heavy-handedness. 

Better to set the legal bar high to allow plenty of space for free speech, as the courts have tended to do in New Zealand. By all means, draw the line at harmful acts, direct threats to people’s safety or incitements to violence against minorities. But the law already allows for criminal prosecution in such cases.

We have far more to fear from people who want to suppress speech than we do from those who say things that others find objectionable. The real issue here is language control – because if you can control the language people are allowed to use in political discourse, you can control the range of ideas people are permitted to articulate and explore. . .

No, language is the latest battleground in what is known as the culture wars. The mounting clamour for tougher laws against so-called hate speech is an outgrowth of identity politics, in which minority groups are encouraged to see themselves as oppressed or disadvantaged because of their colour, ethnicity, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation. 

Hate speech makes some colours, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations more equal than others.

This has generated a demand for protection from comments that might be seen as critical or belittling – hence the frequency with which we hear people being accused of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny.

No one likes to have these labels pinned on them, so people keep their heads down. Accusing someone of hate speech has the same effect. It’s a quick way to shut down debate. . .

It’s so much easier to accuse someone of hate speech than it is to debate and counter what they say with facts and reason.

Journalists, of all people, should be ardent advocates of free speech because they have the most to fear if it’s abolished. In totalitarian regimes, journalists are often the first people to be imprisoned (as in Turkey) and even risk being murdered (as in Putin’s Russia).

But the most illiberal pronouncement I have read on the supposed dangers of free speech came from a university vice-chancellor who clearly thought that ordinary New Zealanders can’t be trusted to form their own sensible conclusions about contentious issues.

This pompous academic thought we needed guidance to keep us on the right path. And where from? Why, from universities.

We can infer from this that universities see themselves as having taken over the Churches’ role as moral arbiters. God help us all.

That the academic is vice chancellor of the same university the former-chancellor resigned from for saying something which got the crowd baying intrigues and concerns me.

Kelly wasn’t criticised for saying young men mature later and drink too much. He didn’t say that women don’t make good vets. He did say women work shorter hours than men.

He got his numbers wrong – saying women vets worked two-fifths of the time men did when younger vets work similar hours and after 30 women vets work an average of 37 hours a week and men an average of 45.

He might also be accused of not wording what he said better.

But over-egging the numbers and wording what he said somewhat clumsily ought to be a minor transgression.

A vice chancellor of a university, which is supposed to be a bastion of free speech, declaring that hers won’t  be ought to be a major one.

Kelly’s comments provoked an outrage, lots of media coverage and led to his resignation. All I’ve come across in response to Thomas’s declaration that Massey won’t uphold free speech are a very few well reasoned opinion pieces arguing against her.

Liam Hehir didn’t refer to Thomas’s remarks but he highlights the value of free speech and the danger in silencing it:

. . . New Zealand has developed a similar free-speech culture.

And the value of that culture isn’t that it protects racists and crackpots. It’s that it protects the humane and decent, who will not always hold the reins of power. The re-emergence of authoritarianism in continental Europe, where free-speech rights are less embedded, may well provide a warning here.

So should we accord liberal free speech rights to those with deplorable views? Yes. But it’s not to protect them from us. It’s to protect us from them.

Kelly stood down as chancellor for speaking freely, if what turned out to be unwisely in these politically-correct times. Vice chancellor Thomas declared Massey a free speech-free university and hardly raised an eye brow.

The uiniversity’s motto is floreat scientia – let knowledge flourish.

It isn’t qualified as some knowledge but if free speech can’t flourish there, can all knowledge?


Rural round-up

October 10, 2017

Dairy company Synlait to spend on research at Massey University – Jill Galloway:

A rival to dairy giant Fonterra could spend millions of dollars on research in Manawatū.

Canterbury-based dairy company Synlait will use some of its $7 million annual research and development budget at Massey University and its FoodPILOT​ unit.

It wants to spend the money on innovation, specifically on processing and packaging, as well as new products, and plans to develop a new centre for its operations. . . 

Mataura Valley Milk something special – Bernard May:

Mataura Valley Milk is creating something special just north of Gore.

We’re building a highly specialised nutrition plant unlike any other in Australasia to manufacture premium nutritional formulas.

It’s a completely different business from a dairy company, as we will be making highly functional and high-value products to order.

Mataura Valley Milk is a positive, and many would argue necessary, addition to the dairy industry in Southland. . . 

Tihoi Farm finds right balance:

Taking part in DairyNZ’s P21 research programme has helped Parkhill Farms to not only reduce its environmental impact, but also maintain profitability.

Chris Robinson of Parkhill Farms values having a choice about which farming system he wants to run. However, he also values water quality and understands that regional regulations limiting nutrient loss from his operation will affect his farming practice.

In 2015, DairyNZ was searching for a commercial farm on which to apply research proven at a farmlet scale. For Chris and brother-in-law Richard Webber, it was a great opportunity to investigate changes to their farming system to meet potentially conflicting goals. And so the P21 Focus Farm was created. . . 

Feds calls for stable and responsible government negotiations:

 

Next week promises to be a defining period for negotiations to form a new government and Federated Farmers is asking that whoever governs is pragmatic about future actions.

“Federated Farmers is ready to work with any government. We are an advocacy organisation for farmers, it is our job to work with all government, and opposition, representatives,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says. . . 

Rural video blogger shares positive farming stories – Brad Markham:

Staring down the barrel of a camera, Sophie Brown is momentarily distracted by a noisy, low-flying plane overhead.

The usually unflappable Taranaki farmer quickly tilts her camera skyward, attempting to catch a glimpse of the winged intruder.

The chatty blonde’s out in an old barn introducing viewers of her video blog to the 80 bull calves she’s rearing this spring. . .

Farmers Fast Five: Sophie Brown – Claire Inkson:

Proud to be a Farmer Farmers Fast Five: Where we ask a farmer five quick questions about farming, and what agriculture means to them. Today we talk to Heels 2 Boots Video Blogger and Proud Farmer Sophie Brown

How long have you been farming?

I honestly don’t know when I became a farmer. Coming from the city, farming wasn’t natural to me, so when I started dating my husband eight years ago, everything farm related was new! Three years ago when we moved to the new family farm, I gave up my day job, so I guess I became a ‘farmer in training’ then! I only recently, on a departure card at the airport, described myself as a farmer, that was a big step for me! . . 


Rural round-up

September 27, 2017

Fear and loathing in the farming press – Colin Peacock:

Claims that the election pitted town against country were strongly echoed in the media – especially the farming press.

Hundreds of farmers beat a path to Jacinda Ardern’s home town of Morrinsville last Monday.

They feared a change of government would hit their bottom line and that they were being blamed too much for the state of the environment. Their strength of feeling prompted many pundits and reporters to say the gulf between town and country was widening. . .

Farmers ‘ batten down their hatches’ post election – Alexa Cook:

Some farmers are “genuinely worried” about the uncertain outcome of the election and are keeping their wallets in their pockets, Federated Farmers says.

Farmers have demonstrated against several Labour Party policies – including a proposal to introduce a charge for irrigation, and to include agricultural in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Last week New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he would not support National or Labour’s policies to impose new taxes on farmers nor include agriculture in the emissions scheme. . .

World Rivers Day heralds boost for water quality data:

Understanding and improving our waterways requires high quality information and communities can now access the latest on their rivers, lakes and streams thanks to fresh data available today. World Rivers Day highlights the value many people see in rivers, and strives to increase public awareness and improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

Water quality is of high importance to many across New Zealand and became a key election issue. It is clear New Zealanders want to see a lift in the quality of our fresh water resources.

This World Rivers Day environmental monitoring organisation Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is adding the latest fresh water quality data at lawa.org.nz, where communities can easily access data from over 1400 lakes and river monitoring sites. . .

Synlait to invest in Palmerston North research and development centre – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk, the South Island-based milk processor, will establish a research and development centre in Palmerston North to drive new product development, process technology and packaging.

Rakaia-based Synlait is partnering with Massey University and FoodPilot, which is located at the university’s Palmerston North campus and houses the largest collection of pilot-scale food processing equipment in the southern hemisphere. The business-to-business dairy products manufacturer, which counts milk marketer A2 Milk as a key customer, announced last week that it’s looking to enter the market for branded consumer products for the first time. . .

Where are they now?  – Anne-Marie Case-Miller;

The winners of the 2003 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year title believe the Dairy Industry Awards are an important part of the industry and career succession, and potential entrants should prepare well and have a go.

It took Andrew and Alison Watters two attempts to win what was then called Sharemilker of the Year, now known as Share Farmer of the Year competition. . .

Zespri chooses head of sales Dan Mathieson as new CEO – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri, New Zealand’s statutory kiwifruit exporter, has chosen its global president of sales and marketing Dan Mathieson as its new chief executive.

Mathieson, who first joined Zespri in 2003, has worked in multiple roles in the business primarily based in Asia. Chair Peter McBride said Mathieson has an impressive track record and in his time leading the company’s sales and marketing he had grown Zespri’s mature markets and diversified the business into new markets. . .


Rural round-up

October 31, 2016

Graduates take red meat path – Sally Rae:

Young Telford graduates William Benson and Lisa Bonenkamp will today embark on careers in the red meat sector.

The pair have completed their studies at Telford, where they were involved in the Red Meat Network, a tertiary network designed to increase the number of high achieving graduates entering the sheep and beef industry. Established last year, the network allowed 20 leading students from six tertiary institutions to hear high calibre speakers from the red meat sector, including New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy Mike Petersen. It was funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership, a Primary Growth Partnership programme.

Encouraging young people into the red meat sector was a key part of increasing productivity, RMPP general manager Michael Smith said. . . 

Chinese investment in NZ likely to shift to companies – Alexa Cook:

Public suspicion and red tape is discouraging Chinese investment in New Zealand, a Shanghai Pengxin boss says.

Shanghai Pengxin president of overseas investment Terry Lee told a Chinese agriculture conference in Wellington they wanted to control the value chain from farm gate to the table, but New Zealand kept putting up hurdles.

Mr Lee told the audience New Zealand’s government tailor-made regulations so Shanghai Pengxin could not buy Lochinvar station last year.

He said there should have been an apology, and while suspicion was a natural reaction to foreign investment it was not helpful for New Zealand. . . 

The future of milk – Lynley Hargreaves:

Value-added milk products are likely to continue their rise, says new Royal Society of New Zealand Fellow Dr Skelte Anema. That means we’ll keep moving away from commodities like dried milk powder and export more expensive products such as fresh and long-life liquid milk and cream. A Principal Research Scientist at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, Dr Anema has worked in the New Zealand dairy industry since 1990. He tells us how the science and economics have changed, and how processing milk in different ways can effect milk proteins, making for more consistent products, a longer shelf life, or even pourable cheese.

When you first started working in this area, New Zealand had cream-topped glass bottles of home-delivered milk. How has the research environment changed in the last 26 years?

Fresh milk that is sold in New Zealand is only a very small part of our milk supply. But one thing that’s very different now is that we used to do a lot of research on milk powder. . . 

Jane Hunter Honoured by Marlborough Wine Industry:

Jane Hunter, owner of Hunter’s Wines in Marlborough, has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the board of Wine Marlborough.

The annual award is given in recognition of services to the wine industry over a period of time.

Jane, who arrived in Marlborough in 1983, has played an integral role in making Marlborough a household name in international wine circles.

Arriving in the province in 1983 as a viticulturist for Montana Wines, she went on to marry Ernie Hunter, the founder of one of Marlborough’s first wineries. When Ernie died in 1987, Jane took over the reins of the company. . . 

Future of Food:

The Netherlands and New Zealand have much in common, in both culture and economics, particularly in the areas of agri-food, horticulture and trade. Next month, the Embassy of the Netherlands is hosting a one-day forum, in cooperation with Massey University and FoodHQ, which will take advantage of the many parallels between the two nations with the aim of creating momentum for exploring new opportunities where we can collaborate on the issues of sustainable food commerce in key global markets.

Next month’s Future of Food Forum will be opened by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Netherlands Minister for Economic Affairs Henk Kamp. The Forum includes presentations and discussions between leaders from the private and public sector, including Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings, Zespri chief executive Lain Jager and Massey Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey. . . 

Insects are the sustainable food of the future –  Dick Wybrow:

The buzz is getting louder as we make more room on our dinner tables for bugs.

With a growing global population and shrinking resources, some experts think insects could eventually replace meat and fish.

It’s been estimated that it takes 1750 litres of water and more than 6kg of feed to make an average hamburger.

So maybe it’s time to bite the bugs back.

We already know a handful of freeze-dried ants or a salad sprinkled with crickets can provide heaps of protein. . . 

Meth use spikes amongst rural Australians:

There are calls for drug monitoring in rural areas after a study found meth use among rural Australians is twice as high as those living in cities.

One in 43 people in rural areas are using the drug, according to researchers from the University of Western Australia – that’s 150 percent more than in 2007.

In cities, use has only gone up 16 percent.

The highest rates of usage were found in rural men aged 18 to 25, particularly tradies. . . 

Nine Hours in the Combine : Reflecting on #My60Acres – Uptown Farms:

The corn is harvested!  It took Matt and I, each running a 9500 John Deere combine with a 6 row corn head, about nine hours to harvest the entire 60 acres.  So now that it’s all done, here are my thoughts.

Farming is hard work!

There might be a reason only 2% of Americans do this – it’s hard!  I try to battle that fairy-tale version of farming on my  blog but I don’t think I’ve given enough credit to the physical aspect of farming. 

I see him come home every night  covered head to toe in dust and looking physically exhausted.  But it never really registered with me.  Especially this time of year.  I know working cattle is hard, shearing sheep is hard. But driving a tractor or a combine?  . . 


Rural round-up

October 19, 2016

New Zealand Food Awards unveils the ‘best of the best’ for 2016:

The winners of the 2016 New Zealand Food Awards, in association with Massey University, were unveiled this evening at a gala dinner among 400 guests at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, with nine products from 11 companies taking out the top spots.

A record number of entries – up 62 per cent on last year – made competition for the prestigious awards more intense than ever this year.

Wanganui’s Coastal Spring Lamb proved the overall champion, claiming the ultimate accolade of the Massey University Supreme Award, as well as the Export Innovation and Chilled Foods Award categories with its Lamb Rack. Judges were particularly impressed with the process used to grow, market and sell the product from pasture to plate.

Coastal Spring Lamb owners, Richard and Suze Redmayne, say winning the Massey University Supreme Award was a dream come true and great recognition for the farming families behind the high quality product. . . 

Exporters back single QA standard for deer farms:

All five major venison marketing companies and the NZ Deer Farmers Association (NZDFA) are backing the introduction of a revamped quality assurance programme for farmed deer.

The companies have agreed on a single standard for deer that will eliminate duplication between companies running their own QA programmes. They have also agreed that, after a three-year phase-in period, compliance with the QA standard will be a requirement for the supply of animals for Cervena™ venison.

The development of the single standard was initiated by the marketers and co-ordinated by Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) as part of the industry’s Passion2Profit (P2P) programme. . . 

NZ to support dairy development in Peru:

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has today announced New Zealand will contribute $4 million to a four-year dairy development partnership with Peru.

“The New Zealand Peru Dairy Support Project will use our expertise to improve the profitability of up to 90,000 dairy farmers in the Peruvian Sierra,” Mr Joyce says.

“The project will focus on assisting Peruvian farmers with New Zealand technologies to improve milk and cheese production, handling and processing practices, and more effective research and extension.

“Dairying has good potential to increase smallholder dairy productivity and incomes in the Sierra, generating regular cash income and contributing to household nutrition and food security. . . 

Hawke’s Bay Apple Crop Budding Well for a High Quality Season:

Hot, sunny weather in Hawke’s Bay is budding well for another high quality apple crop as the trees reach full bloom.

One of New Zealand’s largest apple growers, BOSTOCK New Zealand is expecting a solid season in 2017.

BOSTOCK New Zealand Owner John Bostock says the outlook is positive thanks to mild weather and few frosts.

“Warm, dry conditions are ideal when trees are in bloom – we have had some really hot days in Hawke’s Bay, with temperatures reaching the mid 20s and indications show it’s a strong bud. . . 

The Stories of Ehrlich, Borlaug and the Green Revolution – Gopi Rajagopal:

 Fifty years after high yielding variety seeds came to India, a look at how they got here – and what may have happened if they didn’t.

For the average person, the names Ehrlich and Borlaug may not mean anything. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the two Americans, in their own way, did something extraordinary. Paul R. Ehrlich, a professor of biology at Stanford University, painted a depressing picture of the state of the world – a picture that had hundreds of millions dying within a decade, and nations such as India and England ceasing to exist.

Norman Borlaug, along with his associates, proved Ehrlich wrong. Borlaug helped nations such as Mexico and India double, even triple, their crop yield – an increase that outpaced the population growth rate and ensured that famines would remain only in the history books. . . 

Inland Revenue considers updating farmhouse expenses rules:

Inland Revenue is looking to bring tax accounting practice regarding farmhouse expenses into line with the law.

This is all part of a review of out-dated practices and policies.

The practice of full-time farmers deducting 25% of farmhouse expenses without needing to provide evidence of their business use has been accepted by the department since the 1960s.

Farmers have also been able to deduct 100% of rates bills and interest costs on loans.

Inland Revenue Group Tax Counsel Graham Tubb said this has allowed some farmers to claim deductions for private spending. . . 

Farmers’ Market Comes to Town:

Four New Zealand farmers have joined forces to bring the freshness of farmers’ market free range eggs to selected supermarkets across the country – introducing Craft Farmers’ Co-op. Kiwis can now enjoy premium free range eggs, within days of local hand-picking.

Located in Northland, Auckland, Wairarapa and Canterbury, the four independent farmers share common philosophies in the way they care for their hens and respect their environment. By collaborating as Craft Farmers’ Co-op, the farmers can provide farm-fresh free range eggs direct to more Kiwis in more locations.

Craft Farmers’ Co-op eggs are hand-packaged at the farm, into biodegradable, recyclable cartons, each with a story about the local farmer who picked them. This means people know exactly where their eggs have come from – the ultimate in traceability. . . 

Pioneering vineyard placed on the market for sale:

The first sheep farm/vineyard conversion property in the Marlborough district of Ward, continuously owned by the same family for six generations, has been placed on the market for sale.

A pioneering vineyard that led the conversion from sheep farming to grape growing in its region has been placed on the market for sale, ending six generations of family ownership.

Francis Estate Vineyard at Ward, South-East Marlborough, was established as a sheep and beef breeding farm by Frederick William (Billy) Francis and his wife Agnus Elizabeth Francis in 1905. The farm remained a meat and wool production focused operation until the late 1980s when the removal of farm subsidies affected the profitability of the sector nationwide. . .

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