Rural round-up

July 31, 2013

Fonterra’s ‘overdraft clearing forecast’ for 2013/14:

A milk price of $7.50 per kilogram of milksolids (kg/MS), now being forecast by Fonterra Cooperative Group for the 2013/14 season, is an ‘overdraft clearer’. Federated Farmers believes farmers will look to pay back credit lines extended to them during the drought.

“This increase in the payout forecast from $7 to $7.50 kg/MS comes off a very strong balance sheet,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairman.

“Obviously this and an advance payout of $5.50 kg/MS, is great news after a disappointing back end to the last season. Given this time last year payout forecast were being paired back, seeing it go up is a huge relief. . . .

Increased forecast milk price, advance payout evidence of Fonterra’s strength: Brown:

A 50 cent increase in the forecast Farmgate Milk Price and advance for the 2013/14 season is reflection of the Co-operative’s strength said Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown.

The Fonterra Board of Directors today announced a revised Farmgate Milk Price forecast of $7.50 per kg/MS for the 2013/14 season, including a $5.50 advance, and an estimated dividend of 32 cents per share.

Ian Brown: “This outcome is evidence of a strong organisation that has moved appropriately for the benefit of its supplier Shareholders. . .

Latest water quality trends ‘red letter day’ for farming:

Good environmental farm management is starting to show through in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) latest River condition indicator.  This shows that over a decade at 90 percent of the sites tested, most of the MfE’s key indicators were either stable or improving.

“Improved management of the land and water resource by everyone may be starting to show up in these water quality results,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“In broad brush terms New Zealand’s water quality is steadily improving.

“In recent years, farmers and communities have really stepped up their efforts but we know we can and must do better. This latest report shows we are heading in the right direction and we need to take this as encouragement to further step up our collective efforts. . .

AgResearch Plans Its Future Footprint:

The country’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, has released further details of its plans to reinvest $100 million into its campus facilities and resources.

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson says the proposal is now with staff for consultation and involves a major reconfiguration and reinvestment of AgResearch’s campus and farm infrastructure to create a vital agricultural research institute for the next 50 years.

“We will be modernising our science facilities, co-locating our capability wherever possible, and participating in large agriculture innovation hubs, all of which will generate greater returns across the pastoral sector.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to put AgResearch in the best possible long-term position to do more quality science more effectively and efficiently, and to make a much bigger difference to the agricultural sector’s productivity and profitability,” he says. . . .

New on-line weather forecast service:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today launched a new online mountain weather forecast service that will improve the enjoyment and safety of trampers, hunters, mountain bikers, skiers and fishers using New Zealand’s National and Forest Parks.

“New Zealand’s mountain environment can quickly turn from warm and calm to treacherous. We can improve the safety and enjoyment of users by providing more frequent and detailed weather forecasts on the internet,” Dr Smith says.

“We lose about six people per year in our mountains and often these deaths are weather related. We also have about 150 mountain search and rescue callouts a year. This improved weather service will reduce risk and save lives.

“The new online mountain weather forecast service will provide standardised five day forecasts updated every day for 24 mountain locations across eight of New Zealand’s most popular parks. This compares to a previous service of eight locations with a mix of forecast lengths from two to five days and from a frequency of twice daily to weekly. . .

Speech to Horticulture New Zealand annual conference – Nathan Guy:

Today I want to talk to you about my priorities for the primary sector, of which horticulture is a major part. In particular I want to talk about the two goals that the Ministry for Primary Industries has – to grow and protect New Zealand’s economy.

As you all know, the primary sector is the powerhouse of our economy. It is worth around $30 billion a year to the New Zealand economy and makes up around 72 per cent of our exports.

Your industry is a major part of this equation, with New Zealand’s horticultural exports earned $3.6 billion in the year ended 31 March 2013. The total value of horticultural products produced is around $6.6 billion. . .

Farm Environment Awards Motivate Northland Farmers to Lift Game:

Participating in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards inspired Ken and Janine Hames to step up environmental work on their Northland farm.

Ken says they entered the awards to benchmark themselves against other farmers and “to see where we were at” in terms of environmental sustainability.

He and Janine, a vet at Ruawai, first entered the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2010 and were thrilled to win two category awards.

“I guess it showed we were on the right track,” says Ken, who runs an intensive bull finishing operation on 400ha at Paparoa, southeast of Dargaville. . .


Water quality concern for all

October 19, 2012

The Ministry of Environment report on water quality shows most of our popular coastal swimming spots are fine for swimming most of the time but there are many freshwater swimming spots which should be avoided.

The immediate response to this was criticism of farmers and “dirty dairying” in particular.

But farmingin genreal and dairying in particular are not the only culprits.

The New Zealand Herald editorial calls for more action from farmers but also points out:

. . . Oil and brake fluid released onto roads is carried by rains into stormwater drains and end up in streams. Too often in heavy rain wastewater systems overflow and add to the contamination. . .

I make no excuses for people who pollute waterways but some of the criticism levelled at farmers is unfair and where farming can be blamed, it’s not necessarily dairying that is causing problems.

The MfE data summary shows the Kakanui River at Clifton Falls as having poor water quality.

This is very near the intake for the rural water scheme which supplies the water we drink but it is upstream of any dairy farms.

Further down the Kakanui from Clifton Falls, below several sheep and dairy farms and some intensive horticulture,  at the estuary the water quality is fair.

We’ve been working with the regional council to ensure we’re doing all we can on our farm to protect waterways. Tests showed high E-coli below a dam and it wasn’t our stock or farming practices which were to blame, it was water fowl.

Some water issues can be laid at the feet of human visitors too  Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers water spokesman notes:

“Being a representative farmers’ organisation, we know our members cannot duck or hide that a number of these sites do fall in rural areas. Federated Farmers is aware of this and is why we are working across industry and with our own members to lift agriculture’s game.

“I know farmers ‘get it’ and this is why it is wrong to blame farming for everything. Doing that masks the reality there are very poor sites around settlements and near camp sites. . . 

Some farmers still need to improve their practices but most recognise the need to protect waterways. Feds chief executive Conor English says:

. . . The focus needs to be on finding solutions, based on sound science and profitable and sustainable farming.

Farmers are custodians of the land and water, harvesting for the benefit of today and future generations. They want to leave it better than they found it.

While some still need to pull their socks up, farmers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars putting in effluent systems, excluding stock from waterways, measuring fertiliser and investing in more efficient irrigation. That investment has allowed export growth, earning money to pay the bills for hospitals, schools and other services. It provides jobs and has improved the environment.

Water-quality measures must include all those whose discharge into rivers . . .

Water quality concerns us all and improving it requires improvements in both rural and urban practices.


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