Rural round-up

December 14, 2019

RSE scheme ‘transformed’ the NZ fruit growing industry – Eva Corlett:

Millions of dollars worth of New Zealand fruit and grapes were at risk of rotting on the branch due to a shortage of local pickers. So a visionary group of Central Otago growers took a chance on guest workers from the Pacific, who also took a chance on them.

In the early 2000s the orchards and vineyards of central Otago were heavy with fruit. Peaches, cherries and grapes were ready to be plucked, boxed and shipped all over the world. But there was a problem. There weren’t enough people to pick them. 

Hiring backpackers and students on holiday was the usual practice, but it was risky, James Dicey, the man behind Mt Difficulty wines says.  . .

Rick’s Beef – world first tool to slow methane :

In a world first, New Zealand sheep farmers now have the ability to breed animals that emit less methane.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics has launched a “methane research breeding value”. Breeding value (BV) is used to help select important traits ram breeders want to bolster in their flock, such as low methane-producing animals.

The launching of this significant breeding tool is thanks to a 10-year, multimillion-dollar collaboration between the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and AgResearch, supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Ministry for Primary Industries. . .

Feds happy to see recognition for the future of farming:

The government’s launch today of a strategy for the future of farming will encourage farmers to continue with the work they are already doing, constantly focusing on improving their farming operations, Federated Farmers says.

It is particularly pleasing to see the focus in the Primary Sector Council’s vision on the need to develop a mindset that embraces science, technology, research and development, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says.

“I was also pleased to see the focus on infrastructure in here. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes the Primary Sector Council’s unification vision

Horticulture New Zealand says the Primary Sector Council’s vision to align the food and fibre sector is the right one, because it will enable the sector and the Government to respond collectively to current and future challenges.

‘This is right for our sector as only by working together, will we respond successfully to consumer and government requirements,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Consumers across the world are more and more interested in knowing exactly how the food they eat has been grown, harvested and transported. They also want to know that the environment has been well looked after, as have the people that have been involved in producing the food. . . 

Council funding recommendations deserve action – Feds says:

Some worthwhile recommendations but ultimately underwhelming is Federated Farmers’ summary of the Productivity Commission’s final report on local government funding and financing.

“On the whole, the inquiry and the final report don’t move the dial much on local government funding issues and will provide little comfort for long-suffering ratepayers, especially farmers who pay a disproportionate share of the burden,” Feds President and local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“It looks like we’ll be sticking with over-reliance on a property-value based rating system that for farmers in particular can have no correlation to services used or cost-sharing fairness.  And of course the Commission was never going to find an answer to councils that don’t exercise financial discipline and hike rates well ahead of inflation.” . . 

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Rural round-up

November 29, 2019

Rates performance nothing to raise a glass to, Feds says:

It’s pretty telling when your cost hikes outrun even those of booze and cigarettes.

Council rates and fees outstripped every other consumer price index cost group between 2000 and 2019, the Federated Farmers 2019 Rates Report shows.

“It’s pretty much expected that prices of alcohol and tobacco products shoot up, especially with regular government tax increases, and indeed they jumped 120% in the last two decades,” Feds President and local government spokesperson Katie Milne says.

“But local authorities left them for dead, hiking their costs more than 170% – more than three times the CPI for all cost groups in New Zealand.” . .

Plenty promulgating prejudiced assumptions about farmers – Anna Campbell:

Recently, I was called out for frightening ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’ when I wrote about the threat of cellular agriculture and alternate proteins to agricultural products.

I think anyone in business should be aware of threats and New Zealand farmers have a track record of adjusting to markets as they need to, so I’m OK with being called out, but I did feel uncomfortable with the term ‘‘mum and dad farmers’’. What does that mean?

The majority of farms, including those run by families, are multimillion-dollar enterprises with complex cash-flows — romantic as farming can look, producing food for export is no cottage industry.

OK Anna, don’t get caught up on semantics, but it was not long after that I read an ODT interview with the new Otago Regional Council chairwoman, Marian Hobbs (October 29), here is an excerpt from the article: ‘‘she had problems with the growing number of huge farms owned by large landowners and corporations farmed by others ‘‘I wonder if they have the same love for the land, but that may be a prejudice I have to sort out.’’

Yes, that prejudice does need to be sorted out. Implying corporate farmers won’t care for the environment is presumptuous.  . . 

NZ lamb industry unfazed as British supermarket Waitrose ends imports :

Plans for the British supermarket Waitrose to phase out the importation of New Zealand lamb are disappointing but do not spell trouble for the sector, the meat industry says.

Having previously sourced lamb from New Zealand during the UK’s winter months, Waitrose announced this week it will aim to complete the move to 100 percent British lamb in 2021.

A Waitrose spokesperson, Tor Harris, said it showed the company’s commitment to British farmers and to the future of agriculture inside Britain. . . 

Dairy farmers producing more milk from fewer cows, latest ‘cow census’ shows:

The latest New Zealand Dairy Statistics released today by DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) reveal farmers’ focus on productivity and efficiency is paying off with milk production increasing despite cow numbers stabilising.

The 2018-19 cow census shows that total cow numbers have remained relatively stable, but the cows we do have are producing more milk than ever before.

New Zealand reached record milk production per herd and per cow this year, with dairy companies processing 21.2 billion litres of milk containing 1.88 billion kilograms of milk solids – both up 2.4% on the previous season. . .

Future proofing vegetable growing in Pukekohe:

More than 50 people are finding more about how to manage vegetable growing in Pukekohe in a changing regulatory environment, thanks to Horticulture New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand, Potatoes New Zealand, Onions New Zealand and the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association.

‘Growers, their advisers, fertiliser companies, and Auckland Council attended our first workshop,’ says Horticulture New Zealand Sustainability and Extension Manager, Ailsa Robertson.

‘It’s great to get everyone in the same room as a step towards getting everyone on the same page.  Our thanks to Pukekohe Vegetable Growers’ Association Acting President, Kylie Faulkner for helping get the workshops off the ground. . . 

New members join Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Investment Advisory Panel:

Lucy Griffiths of Masterton and Anne-Marie Broughton of Whanganui have been appointed to the independent Investment Advisory Panel (IAP) for Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures).

With $40 million available each year from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), SFF Futures supports problem-solving and innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibre industries that will make a positive and lasting difference. It offers a single gateway to apply for investment, and provides grants of less than $100,000, right up to multi-million dollar, multi-year partnerships. . .


Rural round-up

November 26, 2019

Security for Otago farmers unclear amid water plans – Jono Edwards:

Some Otago farmers could be left with “unbankable” irrigation schemes as the Government recommends an overhaul of the Otago Regional Council’s planning processes.

Environment Minister David Parker yesterday released a raft of recommendations for the council after an investigation into its management of freshwater.

It said the council was not equipped to transfer hundreds of century-old water rights into resource consents by 2021, and regardless it should not do so because they would be processed under its current “inadequate” water plan.

On top of the rewriting of council plans already in progress, it recommended an interim plan change to transfer the permits into consents in the meantime.

They would be for a maximum of five years, which some farmers say is too short to ensure future security. . . 

Food bowl or toilet bowl? – John Jackson:

New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. 

By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 5New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. OPINION: By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 50 Shades of Green banner. I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. banner.

I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. . .

 

No slacking for M Bovis effort – Annette Scott:

There’s no time to slacken off over the next year if the , programme is to limit the disease, M bovis governance group chairman Kelvan Smith says.

The M bovis governance group, made up of Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Ray Smith, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle,  Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor and independently chaired by Smith, meets monthly to discuss and review the eradication programme.

Smith said the group is focused on strategic planning to ensure the programme builds on progress made to date and continues towards eradication.

“To date the programme has found 207 infected properties, stopping further spread of the disease and clearing the infection from these properties,” he said.  . . 

Beef + Lamb puts money where its mouth is- Nigel Malthus:

A ‘model’ sheep and beef farm in North Canterbury is away and running, its founders say.

The North Canterbury Future Farm, set up by Beef + Lamb NZ in partnership with local famers, has had an “OK” first full year of operation, said the organisers of its 2019 Open Day.

BLNZ’s partner is Lanercost Farming Ltd, formed by the landowner, Julia Whelan, with locals Simon Lee and Carl Forrester. . .

A natural blend of grains firms – Tim Fulton:

Two New Zealand-based, foreign-owned seed companies marked a milestone merger in October.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie has seen a good number of mergers and acquisitions over 45 years in the grain and seed trade.

Some deals went well and good and others were distinctly disappointing. The lastest was a natural blend, he said.

The sale of PGG Wrightson’s former grain and seed division has put McKenzie in charge of an Oceania business unit in a global business, DLF Seeds. . .

Pet day a national school tradition :

Dogs of every shape and size, miniature ponies, cats, lambs and guinea pigs put aside their differences and got together for Fairton School’s annual pet day last week.

Fairton School principal Mike Hill said, ”We are a little country school and pet days are a national tradition, and a lot of fun.”

The majority of the pupils had pets at home, so it was good to recognise the way they cared for their animals, he said.

It was also a great chance for parents, and visiting preschoolers from Stepping Stones @ Braebrook, to come to the school and be involved. . . 


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

November 6, 2019

Hort strong but uneasy – survey – Pam Tipa:

Positive sentiment still prevails across horticulture, but Government policies are weighing on the minds of growers.

So says Hayden Higgins, Rabobank horticulture senior analyst. He was commenting on results of Rabobank’s early September confidence survey of 59 horticulturalists (see sidebar for details).

The results saw only minor shifts, some up and some down, in results pertaining to their own businesses. . . 

Farmers need empowerment – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Reducing stock numbers and increasing legislation is not the way to empower farmers – or attract newcomers to the sector, writes Dr Jacqueline Rowarth.

People hearing the media coverage of farmers under stress can be forgiven for wondering why the farmers are so worried.

After all, they have been told repeatedly that they can reduce their environmental impact by reducing stock numbers, and that doing so will increase farm profitability as well. . . 

Directors Donna Smit, Andy Macfarlane returned to Fonterra board :

Fonterra directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane have been returned to the co-op’s board after retiring by rotation.

Shareholders Scott Montgomerie and Ellen Bartlett were elected unopposed to the directors’ remuneration committee and Ian Brown was elected unopposed as the Fonterra farmer custodian trustee, Fonterra said.

All successful candidates will take office at the close of Fonterra’s annual meeting in Invercargill on Thursday. . . 

 

Meat processor still shut down –  Sally Brooker:

Oamaru Meats is still working through the problems that forced it to shut down in September.

The company, owned by China’s BX Foods, stopped all processing after access for its beef to China was suspended.

Director Richard Thorp said about 140 staff were stood down while managers worked with New Zealand and Chinese authorities to regain the lost access.

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman said the suspension was not related to food safety issues and applied “only to Oamaru Meats and not to exports from any other New Zealand meat establishments”. . . 

Naked and afraid: breeding for shedding sheep – Nicola Dennis:

I have written before about how much we love our shedding sheep. We love our Wiltshires from a distance because they never really need any hands-on work. Wiltshires don’t need shearing, dagging or tailing.

Our Wiltshires were “bred up” from minimally shepherded Perendales by the previous occupants of our land. They stag leap over fences at the very sight of us. Because of this, we have also discovered that we can forgo drenching and almost all other forms of handling. From my window, I can see the ewes roaming over the hills in the distance with troupes of energetic lambs bouncing behind them. That is about as close as I will get until it is time to draft the lambs for their big OE. . . 

Livestock farmers feel ‘under siege’ amid climate change and vegan debates – Chris Hill:

Livestock farmers feel “under siege” from a barrage of negativity over climate change, agricultural emissions, healthy diets and veganism – and they urged a more balanced discussion about more sustainable meat production.

In recent months, the under-fire industry has been highlighted as a key component of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, sparking discussions on the global impact of farm animals on the environment, and debates about whether meat-free diets could be part of the solution to global warming.

It added to the ethical arguments of a vocal vegan movement, endorsed by influential celebrities like Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, who recently sparked controversy by saying adopting a vegan diet is the “only way to truly save our planet”. . .

 


Rural round-up

November 4, 2019

$9 billion shock – Neal Wallace and Annette Scott:

Claims the Government’s essential freshwater proposals could cost the livestock industry over $9 billion a year are selective, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says.

That is the estimated cost of compliance and lower production of meeting proposed freshwater reforms, submissions from Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ say.

More than 12,000 submissions were made by last week’s deadline.

The reforms have been labelled by some farming bodies as unbalanced, unnecessarily harsh and unsustainable. . .

M bovis’ eradication initiatives vindicated – Sally Rae:

An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) believes achieving eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still feasible.

The group’s latest report was released yesterday by the Ministry for Primary Industries in which it supported the changes the M. bovis programme had made over the past six months.

Given available data, achieving biological freedom from M. bovis was feasible provided the number of undetected infected herds was not large, infection had not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds was reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls, it said. . .

Faith, family and farming– Sonita Chandar:

Southland farmers are community and spiritual leaders in the Islamic community. They put their faith above everything and answered the call to help  after the Christchurch mosque shootings. They talk to Sonita Chandar about their experiences and farming.

On Friday March 15 Invercargill farmer and imam of the world’s southernmost mosque, Reza Abdul-Jabbar, was delivering his weekly sermon when a worshipper’s phone rang.

Until then it had been super quiet, as it usually is during the service.

He reminded the man it was a time for silence, not to take the call and continued. 

But other phones began ringing. . .

Fonterra’s dream run in India – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra three months ago launched its first consumer brand in India under the Fonterra Future Dairy joint venture.

The brand Dreamery has had a “fantastic reception”, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, global consumer and foodservice.

Fonterra is working with joint venture partner Future Group which is present in 26 of 31 Indian states with over 2000 modern trade outlets and 5000 public distribution outlets. . .

Experts have their say on whether cherries justify their popularity – Mark Price:

Faced with all manner of economic worries — from Trump to freshwater policies — where might investors put their hard-won savings in the hope of a better than deposit rate return? Might cherries — the horticultural darling of the moment in Central Otago — be the answer? Mark Price sought out two opinions.

Ross and Sharon Kirk are cherry industry consultants trading as Hortinvest Ltd. They have the biggest netted orchard under management in Central Otago (close to 40ha), and are in the process of planting two 80ha, ‘‘fully-netted’’ development

Suitability for Central Otago

Q: What are the basic requirements for cherries to thrive?
A: Low rainfall over harvest, good winter chilling, reasonable soils (nutrient), adequate water, reasonable shelter from wind, and netting (to keep out birds).

Q: Which requirements does Central Otago meet?
A: All of the above, although the bird netting is expensive. . . .

Cute as buttons :

North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

Often referred to as the “cutest sheep in the world” this distinctive breed with black face and ears, curly forelocks and spotted knees and hocks originate in the mountains of the Valais area of Switzerland.

They imported their first embryos from the UK in 2018 and from the 32 embryos 18 live lambs were born so there’s no guarantee they’ll work. The embryos cost $2000 a pop so it’s a quite an investment. .


Rural round-up

October 11, 2019

Anger at slow compensation process –  Sally Rae:

”I think I would rather have cancer than Mycoplasma bovis.”

That was the hard-hitting opening line in a letter from North Otago farmer Kerry Dwyer, to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last month.

Mr Dwyer and his wife Rosie were among the first farmers affected by Mycoplasma bovis when their property was confirmed as having the bacterial cattle disease in August 2017.

It was in March last year that Mr Dwyer first publicly expressed fears over the compensation process.

Now, more than two years after having all their cattle slaughtered due to the disease, and a year after lodging their last compensation claim, they were still waiting for settlement.

But after the Otago Daily Times contacted MPI yesterday, a spokesman said director-general Ray Smith had requested an urgent review of the Dwyers’ claims and MPI would pay what was owing by the end of the week. . . 

Hurunui mayor blames public opinion for ‘unattainable’ water targets – Emma Dangerfield:

An outgoing North Canterbury mayor says “public opinion and impatience” are driving proposed water quality targets that will be impossible to meet.

Environment Minister David Parker last week released the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management and the Government’s rewritten National Policy Statement, which aims to improve New Zealand’s waterways, crack down on farming practices and increase regulation. The plan includes a mandate for councils to have freshwater plans in place by 2025.

In a statement published on the Hurunui District Council’s website, mayor and farmer Winton Dalley said the Government was responding to the “huge pressure of public opinion and impatience with what in their view is … [a] lack of progress to return all water to a quality, which – in many cases – is unattainable.”

Water quality issues in the district were not only caused by rural and urban pollution, he said. . . 

Irrigation achievement celebrated:

The prosperity of the Mid Canterbury district stems from the 67km-long Rangitata diversion race (RDR), which started from humble beginnings with workers using picks, shovels and wooden wheelbarrows in its development at Klondyke, Mid Canterbury in 1937.

It has gone on to supply water to the district’s plains and helping to generate social and economic benefits to Mid Cantabrians, from the people on the land, to those in its towns and villages.

The engineering feat required for its development was celebrated with new signage provided by the Mid Canterbury RDR community and those connected to the system.

They included farmer and RDR Management Ltd (RDRML) chairman Richard Wilson, irrigation scheme representatives, members of the engineering fraternity and other invited guests such as ”RDR Kid” Viv Barrett (87), who, at age 5, lived with his family in the RDR camp at Ealing as his father Jim was the first RDR raceman. . . 

Teenager creates company to get high-speed network to rural communities – Rebecca Black:

A Whanganui teenager has big plans to get fibre internet speeds to rural customers.

Alex Stewart, 14, says rural communities are paying fibre prices for copper speeds and face a huge bill to get access to faster internet.

Stewart was staying at Turakina Beach, 20 minutes south of Whanganui, when he got talking to frustrated locals who had been in touch with a telecommunications company about getting cell phone coverage and better internet. . . 

Painting cows like zebras keep flies at bay – study – Angie Skerrett:

A new study suggests painting cows with zebra stripes could be the answer to the age-old problem of fly attacks on livestock, and bring economic and environmental benefits.

Biting flies are serious pests for livestock, which cause economic losses in animal production. 

However a new study by Japanese researchers and published in PLOS One found that black cows painted with zebra stripes are nearly 50 percent less likely to suffer from the bites.

Researchers used six Japanese Black cows with different paint designs in the study. . . 

African Swine Flu just a stone’s throw from Australia :

The deadly virus which has claimed one quarter of the world’s pig population is now perilously close to our northern border.

A disease that has wreaked havoc and caused mass devastation to the global pig population, has now spread from China to other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and now Timor-Leste.

Outbreaks of African Swine Fever also continue to be reported in eastern Europe as the deadly spread shows no signs of slowing. ASF is reported to have already wiped out a quarter of the world’s pigs, and the risk of it infecting pigs in other countries in Asia and elsewhere remains a serious threat. The disease is known to kill about 80 percent of animals which become infected. . . 

 


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