Rural round-up

04/05/2021

Return of the rabbit plague – Melanie Reid:

The saying goes: “Never turn your back on a rabbit, especially in Central Otago”. But New Zealand has. And now the population has exploded – again. This week, Newsroom Investigates launches an in-depth series about the South Island rabbit rampage.

Rabbits are eating their way through parts of the South Island, turning productive farm land into bare, honeycombed ground where only weeds survive. Lifestyle blocks and subdivisions around Queenstown are infested. The North Otago town of Moeraki has them in plague proportions.

Welcome to another environmental fiasco in Aotearoa.

There have been two occasions in our history when rabbits were almost wiped out: in 1947, when the government set up a Rabbit Destruction Council with the aim to “kill the last rabbit,” and exactly 50 years later when the calicivirus was released illegally by a fed-up farmer. . . 

Sector fears govt module will confuse farmers – Neal Wallace:

The release of a Government initiated online tool to help farmers manage intensive winter grazing may create confusion, a primary sector group fears.

The online farm plan module was launched this week by the ministries for Primary Industry (MPI) and Environment (MfE) ahead of a similarly targeted information jointly formulated by Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ), DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and Deer Industry NZ.

B+LNZ environmental policy manager Corina Jordan says having two separate plan templates in circulation creates confusion, sends mixed messages and “adds to the noise” at a time farmers should be focused on developing a winter grazing plan.

“It was unnecessary for MPI and MfE to step into this space because we had a farm plan already developed. We were already doing it.” . . 

R&D crucial to meet GHG goals – Anne Boswell:

New Zealand farmers are already doing their bit, but more tools will be needed if they are to meet the targets outlined in the Climate Change Commission’s proposal.

DairyNZ says a substantial investment into research and development (R&D) is crucial if farmers are to meet the recommendations set out in the independent Climate Change Commission’s (CCC) draft carbon budgets proposal, released in January this year.

As an industry body, DairyNZ has made a comprehensive submission to the commission on farmers’ behalf, backed by economic, farm systems and scientific evidence. 

The submission outlined two key messages: don’t shift the goalposts, and that substantial investment in research and development was critical to the success of the proposal. . . 

Feds keen to engage in immigration review:

Federated Farmers is pleased that the Productivity Commission has decided to hold an inquiry into our current immigration settings and looks forward to engaging in the process.

The primary industries have traditionally looked to the migrant workforce to fill a range of roles where sufficient numbers of Kiwis are not available.

“The closure of the border has seen many roles, both permanent and seasonal, unable to be filled by Kiwis,” Feds Immigration Spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The various sectors have done what they can to encourage more New Zealanders to work on farms, including training and recruitment initiatives and increases in wages, but some roles and regions remain critically short on suitable staff.. .

Agriculture machinery sales continue to be buoyant:

Growing demand for agricultural machinery and equipment has kicked 2021 off to fantastic start, according to the Tractor and Machinery Association of New Zealand (TAMA).

The momentum began to build during spring and summer of 2020 as the result of increasing customer confidence, said TAMA president Kyle Baxter.

Mr Baxter said he was seeing first-hand how strengthened commodity prices were giving farmers and rural contractors the confidence to invest in new equipment. .  .

Te Uru Rākau – NZ Forest Service explores biofuels as a major opportunity for New Zealand:

Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service is laying the foundations for a new biofuels industry, to turn forestry waste into a potential billion-dollar industry, and working on a business case with help from global investment experts Indufor Asia Pacific Ltd.

“Establishing a biofuels industry in New Zealand will require significant investment, so we’re moving ahead with developing the business case for this investment,” says Jason Wilson, director of sector investments at Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service.

Mr Wilson says research shows a biofuels industry would help New Zealand to meet its emissions targets and provide jobs and new industries in our regional centres. . . 


Rural round-up

21/04/2021

Climate change – proposals impossible for farmers – Brian Fellow:

Unfeasible and unfair” — that pretty much sums up the reaction of pastoral farming sector groups to the Climate Change Commission’s draft plan for reducing agricultural emissions out to 2035.

The latest national greenhouse gas inventory, released this week, tells us that enteric methane — belched out by ruminant animals and much the largest source of emissions from farms — made up 37 per cent of national emissions in 2019. That is too large a share to be left in the too-hard basket.

But the inventory also tells us that the increase in annual enteric methane emissions since 1990 has been only 5.5 per cent, when gross emissions from all sources have risen by 26 per cent over that period. Between 2018 and 2019, enteric methane emissions increased at only one-tenth of the pace of emissions generally.

This suggests they are not the most pressing problem; carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use is. . . 

Call a halt to housing eating away at our food production potential – Feds :

While the Ministry for the Environment Our Land 2021 report identifies some challenges in front of us, it also includes plenty of positives, Federated Farmers says.

“The fact that 49% of New Zealand remains native land cover is something to be proud of, especially as we get ready for the release of the National Policy Statement Indigenous Biodiversity,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Our Land 2021, released today, also notes no decline in soil quality from 1994-2018, “and that’s worth acknowledging given the big jump in food production and value from a declining area in farmland. Farmers rely upon good soils, and we’re positive about soil quality improvements to come through good management practices. Federated Farmers would encourage the Ministry for the Environment to use a more current and wider soil data base to determine current soil health across New Zealand, as the data used in this instance seems too small to give an accurate picture. . .

Family does hard yards to transform station – Sally Rae:

The Pavletich family recently celebrated 100 years of farming Station Peak, on the north bank of the Waitaki River. Rural editor Sally Rae speaks to them about their lengthy tenure on the land — and their plans for the future.

Kieran Pavletich always knew that water was the key to the success of Station Peak.

It was his vision to one day see the flats of the property, on the Hakataramea Highway near the Hakataramea township, green, using the valuable resource of the neighbouring Waitaki River.

He and his wife Julie moved to live on the farm in 1982 and, soon after, 120ha was developed into border-dyke irrigation. Unfortunately, that development coincided with the toughest farming climate since the Depression. . . 

James Cameron explains dairy cattle grazing decision for his Wairarapa farm – Nita Blake-Persen:

Film director James Cameron is defending his decision to graze hundreds of dairy cattle on his farm, despite being an outspoken critic of animal agriculture.

Cameron and his wife, environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron, own about 1500 hectares of land in South Wairarapa, which they are transforming into an organic vegetable farm.

They are big proponents of plant-based diets and have been outspoken about the need to move away from animal products to improve the environment.

That’s prompted some criticism from Wairarapa locals who say they are not walking the talk when it comes to being “animal-free”, given there are hundreds of cows on the Camerons’ farm. . .

Australian farmers attracting Kiwi workers with relocation packages  – Sally Murphy:

An Australian recruiter hopes the trans-Tasman travel bubble will help fill huge shortages of labour on Australian farms.

In November the Australian Government began offering $2000 for New Zealanders to relocate to help with the shortage of horticulture and agriculture workers.

With the quarantine-free travel bubble open, recruiters across the ditch are now stepping up their advertising campaigns – offering free airfares and good wages.

A farm in Western Australia has put the call out for an air-seeder tractor operator – offering free airfares, accommodation, food and $32.50 an hour. . . 

 

Pig farmers urged to ramp up biosecurity measures as illegal importation of pork increases – Jane McNaughton and Warwick Long:

The pork industry is calling on pig owners to boost their biosecurity measures after African swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus fragments were again detected in pork products seized at Australia’s international mail centres.

Between November 5, 2018 and December 31, 2020, 42.8 tonnes of pork products were intercepted on air travellers, and 9.4 tonnes intercepted in mail items at the Australian border.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said FMD was considered the biggest animal disease threat to Australia’s agriculture.

“An outbreak of FMD in Australia would lead to the closure of major livestock, beef, lamb, dairy and pork export markets with serious economic and social effects in other sectors, including tourism,” he said. . . 


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