Rural round-up

November 17, 2019

Under the sacred mountain

East Cape farmers Rob and Mary Andrews appreciate the opportunities they have been given by people who they have worked for in the past and they enjoy returning the favour to others, as Colin Williscroft discovered.

As the first place in the world to see the sun as it rises every day Mount Hikurangi is on a few bucket lists.

But few people venture to Pakihiroa Farms, about 20km inland from Ruatoria, where Rob and Mary Andrews live and work and which includes the mountain in its boundaries.

The farm is in an isolated spot in a part of the country that does not attract a lot of passing traffic, given it’s not on the way for most New Zealanders.  . . 

Busy gets busier – Cheyenne Nicholson:

An artificial insemination run is just one of many things a West Coast farmer has up her sleeve to generate extra income for the farm. Cheyenne Nicholson reports. 

RUNNING an Airbnb, milking 140 cows and raising two small children keep Hokitika 50:50 sharemilkers Thomas and Hannah Oats busy.

And if that isn’t enough, Hannah, in a bid expand her skills, to benefit their own business and generate some extra income has trained and qualified to become an artificial insemination technician. . . 

Cherry on top for station’s returns :

Twelve hectares of cherry trees planted in September at Mt Pisa Station, Central Otago complete the first stage of a $15.5 million cherry project by the horticultural investment firm Hortinvest.

Mt Pisa Station’s landowners, the MacMillan family, are among the investors who underwrote the planting. The sheep and beef business has set aside 80ha of prime pastoral land for the venture as it diversifies into horticulture.

The orchard will produce cherries for export from the summer of 2021-2022. . . 

Hort export figures challenged – Pam Tipa:

Horticulture’s export revenue growth is likely to be about 10% in the current financial year – not the 3.8% forecast by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Horticulture NZ (HortNZ) chief executive Mike Chapman says he doesn’t know where MPI got its figure in the Situation and Outlook report for Primary Industries.

Growth for horticulture was 13.7% in the year ended June 2019 in the September updated report. But it is forecast to be down to 3.8% in the current year.

HortNZ has asked how MPI arrived at that forecast because the report doesn’t say. . . 

Growth, exports recognised – Luisa Girao:

An Invercargill Blue River Dairy manager believes the company is changing the face of the New Zealand dairy industry and recent recognition adds support to such a view.

Earlier this week, the Southland-based company received awards for fastest-growing manufacturing business and fastest-growing exporter at the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards, held in Auckland, which ranks the country’s fastest-growing businesses.

The company was also announced as the fifth-fastest-growing business overall. . . 

People keep stealing hemp from US farms, thinking it’s weed – Jason Nark:

People see the serrated leaves and the fuzzy buds from afar, but it’s the familiar smell wafting over the field that seals the deal.

They pack a not-so-brilliant idea into their heads and scramble to yank the hardy plants right from the soil. Back home, they light up and sit sober in the smoke, writing off their heist as a bunch of dank weed.

Hemp resembles marijuana, its much more psychoactive cousin, in just about every way except one: It probably won’t get you high. People in the US state of Pennsylvania caught stealing hemp still haven’t figured that out. . . 


Rural round-up

November 12, 2019

‘Huge gaps” in environmental data – Colin Williscroft:

Shortcomings in New Zealand’s environmental reporting system undermine rules designed to protect the environment, a new report says.

A review of the reporting system Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton identifies huge gaps in data and knowledge and calls for concerted action to improve the system.

He says the data gaps, along with inconsistent data collection and analysis, make it hard to construct a clear national picture of the state of the environment – and whether it is getting better or worse. . . 

Fonterra confident of making progress – Sally Rae:

While there are more big strategic decisions ahead for Fonterra this year, chairman John Monaghan is “very confident” in the progress the co-operative is making.

Addressing yesterday’s annual meeting, Mr Monaghan said the 2019 financial year was a year of significant challenges and change within the co-operative, as it continued to fundamentally change its culture and strategy.

It was another tough year of significant change for farmers which included the Government’s policy announcements on climate change and freshwater, the effect the Reserve Bank’s proposal to tighten capital reserve rules had on banks’ willingness to lend, and the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

Fonterra’s decision not to pay a dividend and significantly impair a number of assets was a surprise to many farmer shareholders. . . 

Underpass creates safer stock route – Alice Scott:

In 1930, Jim MacDonald’s father was one of many stock drovers on what is now State Highway 87 to take sheep through from Waipori to the Waipiata saleyards; he would pick up different station mobs on horseback with a couple of heading dogs.

These days the MacDonald family require three staff, high-visibility vests for people and dogs and flashing hazard lights on the top of their utes, and that is just to get the stock across the road.

This year Mr MacDonald said the time had come to install a stock underpass as it was no longer safe to cross stock over State Highway 87.

“We’ve had a few dogs go under the wheel of a vehicle and the logistics have just become very difficult. The road just seems to get busier and busier. . . 

Seized fruit tree cutting imports stoush: Nursery owners meet with MPI – Eric Frykberg:

Nursery owners are meeting officials of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in Wellington to try to resolve a continuing stand off over seized cuttings of new varieties of fruit trees.

They have said the Ministry overstated the case when it said progress was being made to resolve the matter, and many claims were still outstanding.

The problem began 16 months ago with the dramatic seizure of 48,000 fruit tree cuttings by officials from MPI. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements are critical to the ongoing success of export industries like horticulture. 

‘Last year, New Zealand exported more than $3.6 billion to 128 different export markets,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘This year, that figure is expected to grow by a further 3.8 percent.  Such high levels of growth can only be achieved if export trading conditions are supportive, and barriers to entry are reduced constantly.’  . . 

Successful conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations welcomed by Onions New Zealand:

Onions New Zealand welcomes the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements like these underpin the success of the New Zealand onion sector.

‘The RCEP covers trade among New Zealand and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, except India.  That is, half the world’s population,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘Without reduced tariffs and clear trading arrangements, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like Asia and Australia. 

‘Agreements like these mean more onions can be exported with the higher returns going directly back into regional New Zealand communities. . . 


Rural round-up

October 13, 2019

Farmers backed by court – Jono Edwards:

The Environment Court has backed Lindis River farmers and water users with a potentially precedent-setting minimum-flow decision.

In a ruling released this week, Judge Jon Jackson set a minimum flow for the river of 550 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1640 litres per second, which are the limits proposed by the Lindis Catchment Group.

This will cancel the limits set by Otago Regional Council-appointed commissioners of a minimum flow of 900 litres per second and a primary allocation of 1200 litres per second.

The catchment group is hailing the decision, having long said the original limits would be devastating for farmers and the local economy. . .

Fraser Whineray: a results-oriented business leader with a track record on decarbonisation – Point of Order:

Fonterra’s  board,  under   heavy  fire   for the losses racked up  in  the last two years,  may at last   be getting something  right.  Its recruitment of  Mercury’s  CEO Fraser Whineray to the newly created  post of  chief operating  officer   puts him in pole position to drive innovation,  efficiency, and  sustainability  in the co-op.

When he joins  Fonterra  next year  he will bring with him the credentials of having transformed Mercury,  simplifying the business  through the divestment of overseas interests and developing a  compelling strategy for  sustainable growth.

Harbour  Asset Management’s Shane Solly  said Whineray adds  “a  bit of grunt to the front row at Fonterra”. . . 

Time to modernize our biotech laws – Dr Parmjeet Parmar:

Biotechnology advancement has been rapid, and we’re being left behind due to our restrictive legislation, writes National List MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar.

Biotechnology is occurring all around the world and we need to have an informed discussion on how it could affect New Zealand.

Our legislation needs to be amended to ensure that we can make advancements that need made, while having a clearly regulated framework that mitigates risk.

Recently I announced alongside National Party Leader Simon Bridges, that National would make the required changes to the Hazardous Substances and Organisms (HSNO) Act should we be elected in 2020. . .

Government must focus on maintaining land’s productive capacity, says Horticulture New Zealand:

Moves by the Government to protect highly productive land must focus on maintaining the productive capacity of that land. 

‘We need a national policy that ensures New Zealand can grow enough vegetables and fruit to feed itself, now and in the future, and at affordable prices,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘That’s why we support the Government’s action to protect highly productive land.  However, policy makers must also remember that the land itself is only one factor in vegetable and fruit growing. 

‘Growers also need access to water for irrigation, they need to be able to apply sufficient fertilizer, and they need to be able to operate machinery like frost fans and infrastructure like packhouses, 24/7 depending on the time of the year.

‘If for any reason, growers cannot do this, they need to have the option to use the land for other purposes.’  . . 

Agribusinesses reap accelerator benefits :

Sprout accelerator is offering $500,000 to innovators from traditional agritech and future-food focused start-ups.

Eight will be selected to join the six-month accelerator starting in January.

The Accelerator offers $75,000 worth of business coaching, mentoring, network access and MBA style block courses.

Entrepreneurs will receive business mentoring and workshops from world-class business owners and directors from across the technology, agricultural and food industries.  . .

Stop the farm invasions inspired by Aussie Farms Map – Brian Ahmed:

OVER the past two months, the Victorian Parliament has listened to farmers about the impact of farm invasions on farming families, our industries, and our way of life.

As a chicken egg farmer myself, I presented to the inquiry last month along with my daughter, Danyel, who I hope will one day take over our family farm.

Danyel spoke with passion about her love of farming and desire to keep our multi-generational farm growing into the future. 

But, as Danyel told the inquiry, with the rise in farm invasions, she is too scared to live on the farm with her young family. . . 


Less food higher prices

October 8, 2019

Vegetable growers have joined other primary producers in criticising the government’s freshwater proposals:

Vegetable prices could increase by as much as 58% by 2043, risking New Zealanders’ health, if central and local government policies that will stop new vegetable growing in New Zealand are accepted.

That’s the finding of a Deloitte report prepared for Horticulture New Zealand to balance debate around land use and freshwater quality. 

Deloitte found that if vegetable growers are prevented from expanding to keep up with demand, by 2043, New Zealanders could be paying as much as $5.54 in today’s money for a Pukekohe-grown lettuce, instead of about $3.50.

Sheep, beef and dairy farmers are worried about not being able to expand and fear having to contract which will reduce production and the supply of food.

‘Big increases in fresh vegetable prices will have a negative impact on the health of New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

Increases in prices for dairy products, eggs, meat and milk will have a similar impact.

‘Already one in five children do not have enough healthy food to eat[1] while malnutrition rates in children and older New Zealanders are also increasing.[2]’ 

Mike says vegetable growing across the country is under a lot of pressure: competition for highly productive land, access to freshwater, climate change mitigation, the need to further protect the environment, and increasing government and council regulation. 

‘If all these pressures are not well-managed in a coordinated, long-term way, New Zealand-grown fresh vegetables will become a luxury that few can afford.  This will have a negative impact on most New Zealanders’ health, putting even more pressure on our health system.’ 

Mike says New Zealand needs to increase not decrease the growing of fresh vegetables.    

‘We must increase vegetable growing so we can feed New Zealanders now and in the future, and have a healthy population.

‘Access to new irrigation to expand vegetable, fruit, berry and nut growing needs to be maintained, as it is a win-win situation.’ 

Mike says that what New Zealand really needs is a food security policy. 

‘A move towards increased food self-sufficiency and increased domestic production will improve New Zealand’s ability to feed itself, making us less dependent on imports.  This move would also ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables are more affordable, which would have a positive impact on the health of all New Zealanders, especially those who are less well off.’

In June, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomed a Ministry of Health report on food insecurity:

. . .The report, which is based on 2015-16 data, found that “children in food insecure households had poorer parent-rated health status, poorer nutrition, higher rates of overweight or obesity, asthma and behavioural or developmental difficulties” while “parents of children in food insecure households reported higher rates of psychological and parenting stress, as well as poorer self-rated health status.”

“The stress and strain of being able to provide adequately for a family, while surviving on a very low-income places enormous pressure on parents, and often a well-balanced diet is sacrificed,” says Professor Ashton. . . 

One of the group’s recommendations was to increase benefit levels. That will do nothing to help food security and the purchase power of the poor if concerns about proposals which reduce food production are realised.

It’s basic economics of supply and demand. If it becomes more difficult for horticulturalists and farmers to grow fruit, vegetables and other crops, and raise cattle, deer, pigs, poultry and sheep, they will produce less food and that will lead to higher prices.


Rural round-up

September 8, 2019

Who needs the Greens when Labour hates farmers this much? – Mike Hosking:

Here’s the irony of David Parker. Parker was once the Minister of Economic Development and is currently the Minister of Trade and Export Growth – and yet he has done more than anyone these past two weeks to achieve exactly the opposite.

It was Parker who stopped the hydro dam on the West Coast despite every council, three of them, iwi, the Department of Conservation and 90 per cent of Coasters all being for it.

And now he’s put out water regulations that may as well come with the headline ‘we hate farmers’.

Tim Mackle’s piece in the Herald on this subject is excellent. It basically starts with him wistfully remembering a time when farmers were liked. Well I have a message to rural New Zealand: you still are, at least by people like me, realists who understand the energy, effort, and risk required to do what you do. . . 

The waters are rising on farming – Kerry Worsnop:

The release of the Essential Freshwater Report, ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ will undoubtable add further turbulence to an already stormy torrent of proposed Central Government policy effecting Regional Councils and land based industries.

The report’s stated intention is to ‘stop the further degradation of New Zealand’s Freshwater resources and start making immediate improvements so that water quality is materially improving within 5 years’.  The reference to immediacy is no idle threat, with Regional Councils being expected to comply with many of the proposals by June 2020.

No one can argue with the intent of the report, and few would negate the importance of prioritising our greatest natural resource, however the scope and likely implications of the report will be a topic of much discussion in the coming weeks and months. . .

Forgotten aspects of water – Mike Chapman . .

The Government released its consultation on freshwater this week (click here).  We are now busy analysing it in detail and it is really too early to reach a view about the ultimate impact, especially before the consultation. 

Two of the background documents also released make interesting reading and provide insight into the thinking behind these proposals.  Te Kāhui Wai’s recommendations are strident.  They go to the core of the water issues facing New Zealand including: iwi/hapu water rights, a moratorium on additional discharges for the next 10 years, establishing a Te Mana o te Wai Commission, and developing a new water allocation system that conforms with iwi/hapu rights and obligations. 

The Freshwater Leaders Group’s recommendations include: bringing our water resources to a healthy state within a generation, taking immediate steps to stop our water becoming worse, and achieving an efficient and fair allocation system.  They also recommend an immediate stop to poor agricultural and forestry practices, and a complete halt to the loss of wetlands.  In summary, the reports are very similar in the outcomes they are seeking – immediate action to stop further degradation.

In all I’ve read, missing is how much water New Zealand gets each year and how much use we make of that water.  NIWA figures show that 80% of our water flows out to sea, 18% evaporates and only 2% is used.  My point is that there is more than enough water for everyone.  The problem is we are not being smart in our use of water and we are not planning for the impact of climate change – long dry summers.  . . .

Time for change – Neal Wallace:

A one-size-fits-all approach to freshwater management will penalise farmers shrinking their environment footprint, Beef + Lamb chairman Andrew Morrison says.

Farmers, like everyone, want clean, fresh water but the blanket regulatory approach in the Government’s Action for Health Waterways discussion document lumps those who have cut their footprint with those who haven’t.

Federated Farmers’ reaction was scathing.

Water spokesman Chris Allan said proposed nitrogen reduction targets of 80% mean farming will cease in large parts of rural New Zealand. . .

Fonterra’s clean-out is overdue – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmer-shareholder with the largest number of shares believes the co-operative’s house cleaning and write-downs are absolutely necessary and overdue.

Former director Colin Armer, who with his wife Dale has 10 million supply shares, says over-valued assets mean farmers sharing-up in the past four years paid too much.

He has made a formal complaint to the Financial Markets Authority over inconsistent valuations and executive performance payments. . .

Irrigating farmers record better enviro audit grades – Nigel Malthus:

Irrigating farmers in the Amuri district in North Canterbury are continuing to record improved environmental performance.

The latest round of Farm Environment Plan audits by the Amuri Irrigation Environmental Collective have given 97% of the farmers collective A or B grades, the remaining 3% a C grade and none a D.

That contrasts with 20% rated as C and 6% as D in the first round of collective audits four years ago. . .


Rural round-up

August 4, 2019

Science and fairness asked for by farmers – Corina Jordan:

Climate change is a hefty challenge, and sheep and beef farmers feel its effects in more frequent floods and extreme droughts.

This is why Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) backs the objectives of the Zero Carbon Bill and why – as a sector – we’ve already announced a target to be net carbon neutral by 2050.

BLNZ backs the Government’s targets of net zero by 2050 for the long lived gases CO2 and N2O. Getting CO2 under control is critically important because fossil fuel emissions will ultimately affect whether or not the world succeeds in combating climate change. . . 

Let them eat bark – Mike Chapman:

New Zealand faces several climate change challenges, thanks to being an island nation and having an economy that relies on primary production. 

One solution to our country’s challenges being touted at the moment is the planting of even more pine trees as forest sinks to offset our carbon emissions. 

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton has raised questions about this approach, saying that ‘our open-ended use of forests to license further carbon emissions will needlessly delay the critical transition to eliminating carbon altogether’ (New Zealand Listener, 6 July 2019). 

Native forest currently covers 7.8 billion hectares while pine forest covers 1.7 billion.  . . 

More trade is best way to sustainably feed humanity – expert – Pam Tipa:

Globalisation is the only way to feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 with a healthy diet on a healthy planet, says a global food expert.

And there is no vegetarian wave moving across the planet, he says. 

Some regions, such as Southeast Asia, need more red meat and eggs, says Australian doctor Sandro Demaio, chief executive of the global foundation EAT, in Norway.

EAT tackles human malnutrition and planetary challenges such as climate change. . . 

No deal will shut export gate – Annette Scott:

New Zealand’s export gateway to Europe via Britain will close with a no-deal Brexit, Kiwi red meat sector Brexit representative Jeff Grant says.

NZ sees Britain as a natural entry point for trade with the European Union, especially for small businesses that can’t afford to have a foot in both markets.

But if there is no deal by October 31 that gateway will be jeopardised.    

The odds are it will be a no-deal Brexit, Grant said.

“And that will have serious implications, particularly for the red meat industry.

“Commercial risk management is going to be very important to negotiate trade deals with the United Kingdom in years to come,” Grant told the Red Meat Sector conference. . . 

Beware the Risk 5G Poses to Rural Internet Users:

Despite the hype surrounding Vodafone’s launch of the next cellphone technology, it risks a serious downside to thousands of rural broadband users, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA.NZ).

“Vodafone and its competitors are putting huge pressure on Government to reallocate radio spectrum so they can run 5G more cost-effectively,” WISPA Chairman Mike Smith says.

“However, some of the spectrum the mobile companies are trying to claim is already used commercially by about 30 regional WISPs, who collectively service many tens of thousands of rural customers. These customers are farms who use the Internet for business management, rural kids who use it for study, and rural people who depend on it for social inclusion. Most can’t get Internet any other way. . . 

Children’s book wins big – Robyn Bristow:

A children’s book by a North Canterbury author has been a winner far beyond its target audience.

The quirky farm tale, Uncle Allan’s Stinky Leg, has taken two first places in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature.

It is the fifth title written by Jennifer Somervell, of Oxford, co-authored with her sister Margery Fern and designed by Margery’s daughter Ezra Andre, to have won first place at the awards.

It took the top prize in the humour section and for interior design. . . 

 


Food security paramount

July 26, 2019

Horticulture New Zealand says  the Zero Carbon Bill must amended to include all the Paris Agreement, including safeguarding food production.

‘At the moment, the Bill just focuses on one part of the Agreement, climate change,’ said HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman who appeared before the Climate Change Select Committee this morning. 

‘The full Agreement makes it quite clear that countries need to find ways to adapt to climate change “in a manner that does not threaten food production”. 

‘As currently drafted, the New Zealand Bill makes no mention of food production.  To the horticulture industry, this is a significant oversight given this legislation will be fundamental to New Zealand’s future. 

It’s also a sign of how blinkered the government is to primary production and its importance to New Zealand.

‘New Zealand’s primary sector is already one of the most carbon efficient in the world.  However, to meet future obligations, we will need to reduce the carbon needed to produce the whole food basket, while not reducing the volume or nutritional value of that food.’ 

Mr Chapman said as it stands, the Bill is like saying a half built house is completely finished.

‘We feel strongly that the Government needs to honour the full Paris Agreement and make amendments to the Bill to ensure that New Zealand has “food security”. 

‘By the term “food security”, we mean that our country is able to grow all the fresh and healthy food that we as New Zealanders need.  This will be in a world where it is increasingly difficult to import fresh food, due to all manner of challenges.  The impact of climate change, isolationism and trade tariffs will be the key issues.’ 

Food security ought to be of paramount importance to any government.

In New Zealand, given the importance primary production plays in the economy our government ought to be concerned not just about our ability to feed ourselves, but our ability to feed people in other countries too.

Instead it’s allowed its focus on saving the planet to blind itself to the necessity of feeding the country and the world.

The government is asking us all to make sacrifices and pay higher prices to reach its commitment to carbon reduction under the Paris Accord but completely ignoring the Accord’s stipulation that carbon mitigation should not come at the expense of food production.

This blindness is even worse when our contribution to global emissions is tiny and our contribution to world food supplies is significant.

If the government wants us to accept the science on climate change it must follow the science in its response.

If it wants us to help it meet its commitment reduce emissions under the Paris Accord, it must accept the Accord’s requirement to meet commitments without threatening food production.

HNZ’s full submission is here.

 


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