Rural round-up

09/02/2021

Environmental reforms putting more pressure on struggling farmers – Nadine Porter:

More mental health resources and shorter waiting times to access help will be needed to support dairy farmers trying to follow proposed new environmental rules, industry advocates say.

Rural Support Trust Mid-Canterbury wellbeing co-ordinator Frances Beeston said there had been at least a 30 per cent rise in farmers seeking support since Christmas, and she believed that would increase further as more environmental reforms were introduced.

The Climate Change Commission released a draft plan last week designed to help the Government meet its promise of reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases by 2050, and reducing biogenic methane emissions by 24 to 47 per cent by 2050.

The plan noted current policies would lead to an 8 to 10 per cent reduction in New Zealand’s livestock numbers, but said a 15 per cent drop would be needed to meet the Government’s targets. . . 

More trees less stock – Peter Burke:

More science and technology, more trees and fewer livestock is the prescription that the Climate Change Commission has offered up in its draft report on how to reduce greenhouse gases in the agriculture sector.

The report covers all aspects of New Zealand society and includes agriculture. In the 200 page chronicle, the Climate Commission sets out a plan for NZ to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2050.

It is a draft report, based on the commission’s own research and submissions from a wide range of organisations and individuals. It is now out for consultation before a final report is prepared by the end of May.

Commission chair Rod Carr says to achieve the Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050, there needs to be transformational and lasting change across society and the economy. He says the Government must act now and pick up the pace. . .

Will wool go the way of whalers? -Pete Fitz-Herbert:

“Being the best whale hunters in the world didn’t protect the whaling fleets.”

That comment from Climate Commission chair Rod Carr about New Zealand’s low-emission beef and dairy production, has Manawatu farmer Pete Fitz-Herbert thinking about the future of the wool industry:

In the future – will farmers be seen as whalers are now?

How long, before the last whale was harpooned off the coast, was the writing on the wall that it wasn’t the career choice that it once was? . . 

Why you should eat your heart out for ‘Organuary’ – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Encouraging people to eat more animal organs for Organuary may seem like a light-hearted response to the vegan movement, but research shows it could reduce greenhouse gases, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth investigates.

Eating the heart of your enemy might seem a bit extreme these days but in the past it was an acceptable part of a surprising number of cultures – surprising until one considers food scarcity, that is.

Eating whatever was available was a matter of expediency and the lore that arose around what each part of the body signified shows an early awareness of basic function.

Eating the brain and tongue gave knowledge and bravery; the heart gave courage and power. . . 

MBIE funds hemp research :

A Taranaki-based medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp venture is part of a group that will investigate ways to turn hemp seed hulls into products for the global market. Greenfern Industries is part of a partnership that was awarded $145,000 in cash and in-kind funding for research into products created from the by-products of hemp seed oil processing. Greenfern will work alongside industry partners Callaghan Innovation and Hemp Connect as part of the project funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Bioresource Processing Alliance (BPA).

BPA invests in research and development projects with the aim of generating additional export revenue for New Zealand by working with the primary sector to get better value out of biological by-products.

Boarding school parents sick of borders closing ‘at the drop of a hat’ – Jamieson Murphy:

THE parents of interstate boarding school students are constantly worried that when they drop their children off at school, they may not be able to get home, with state borders slamming shut “at the drop of a hat”.

The Isolated Children’s Parents Association has called for a nationally consistent and long-term approach to border restrictions for boarding students.

ICPA president Alana Moller said while urban schools were closed for weeks during COVID outbreaks, many rural students were not able to return to their boarding school for months, even several terms due to border closures.

“Students from western NSW who board in Victoria weren’t able to go, because they weren’t sure if they could come back,” Ms Moller said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

25/01/2021

NZ group cautions US to not turn climate change into ‘tit-for-tat tariff war’ – Adam Jacobson:

A proposal by the United States to tariff goods on countries which don’t meet their climate goals would be too complex to implement, a group representing New Zealand exporters says.

New US President Joe Biden is vowing to impose carbon fees on nations failing to cut emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement.

In December, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said Aotearoa was not on track to meet its obligations.

Export NZ executive director Catherine Beard said it would be a big issue for New Zealand’s economy if the US did impose import taxes, but the proposal didn’t appear to be realistic.    . . 

Shearing world record holder harnessed competitive edge – Evan Harding:

As a youngster Megan Whitehead was super competitive, perhaps best highlighted when, as an eight year old, she even made a race of drenching lambs when doing the job with her father.

That competitive nature has never waned, and on Thursday she harnessed it to become a world record holder in women’s shearing.

Whitehead, 24, shore 661 strongwool lambs in nine hours, beating the previous nine-hour record of 648 which was set in 2007 by Waikato shearer Emily Welch.

Whitehead, who lives in Glenham, Southland, left no stone unturned in preparing for the record attempt. . . 

Hui planned for marae-based project teaching Kaipara to grow kai:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is funding a new marae-based project to help Kaipara residents grow their own food.

The first of four educational hui will be held this month to teach people how to transform their backyards into food bowls.

MPI is providing $20,000 to Māuri Orā Ngāti Whatua Charitable Trust to develop the community education programme. . .

Beef slaughter prices cap margin potential – Sarah Friel:

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, farm gate prime and bull prices have decreased consistently. Decreasing cattle slaughter prices are not unusual for this time of year when processors have a strong supply of killable cattle. Based on five-year average prices, bull slaughter prices normally reduce by 25c/kg from early November to mid-January, and primes normally reduce by 35c/kg over the same period. However, it’s knowing when the market will recover that’s the issue.

Since early November, prime slaughter values have decreased by an average of 50c/kg. This equates to 300kg carcase weight steer devaluing by $150. In regard to bull prices, it’s a similar situation. These have reduced by around 45c/kg over the same period, translating to a $135 devaluation to a 300kg carcase weight bull.

Evidently, the national bull slaughter price has reduced less severely than prime. This is due to greater fluctuation in the US95CL price. . .

Observation trumps the test-tube – Owen Jennings:

Over the month of January I have had occasion to travel the length of New Zealand from the Bay of Islands in the north to Invercargill in the south.  In between lots of criss-crossing and visiting places large and small.  We did narrow gravel roads and main highways.  As a retired farmer I looked with interest to see what is happening in the light of claims of environmental disaster, imminent catastrophe and chaos.

Several issues became apparent.

The obvious is that New Zealand is a beautiful country, diverse, interesting and a great place to live.  It has never been truer.

Rural New Zealand looks amazing.  . .

Cracking a tough nut for macadamia growers

Macadamia researchers are breeding thinner shells for bigger kernels and tougher husks for resisting pests. 

The University of Queensland’s Professor Bruce Topp said these combined attributes would boost Australia’s $270 million industry, which earns $190 million in export income annually.

“Two thirds of every harvested kilogram is in the weight of the macadamias’ extremely tough shells. That’s a lot of wasted productivity,” Professor Topp said.

“The goal for many growers is to produce less shell and more kernel from each nut but with the shell still tough enough to resist pests.” . . 


Rural round-up

08/11/2020

Clarity on rules wanted – Yvonne O’Hara:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand continues to seek clarity from the Government on the new Essential Freshwater rules, including requirements concerning low slope maps for stock exclusion, winter grazing regulations and farm plans,chief executive Sam McIvor says.

BLNZ had extensive consultation with about 4500 farmers across the country during the submission process and got a “good measure” of farmers’ views and concerns.

“We did get some positive changes made, particularly around restrictions on land use changes for sheep and beef farms.”

However, there are still three key issues with the rules. . .

Award winner takes value from farm tour – David Hill:

Winning the Zanda McDonald would have been beyond Jack Raharuhi’s wildest dreams when he left school.

“I left school at a very young age and chose the wrong pathway in life — drugs and cars. So my dad put me on one of his friend’s farms for a few months and I absolutely hated it.”

But after a while, Mr Raharuhi found “riding around on a farm bike” wasn’t so bad, so he put his head down, studied hard and worked his way up.

The 27-year-old dairy farm manager for Pamu (formerly Landcorp) recently enjoyed a farm tour around New Zealand last month after winning the 2020 Zanda McDonald Award. . . 

The winds of change :

When New Yorkers Anders and Emily Crofoot took over Castlepoint Station on the eastern Wairarapa coast in 1998 they had to make some big adjustments, quickly.

Gone were the freezing winters and reliable summer rains – replaced with year-round growth, frequent summer droughts and relentless wind.

The Crofoots quickly discovered that looking after their farm’s soil required a shift from traditional thinking and practice.

Two attempts at sowing pasture in a conventionally cultivated paddock—and two spring gales that blew about a third of the seed straight out to sea each time—convinced them that there had to be a better way to establish pasture in this climate. . . 

Zespri weighs up partnership with Chinese kiwifruit growers – Susan Murray:

Zespri is considering co-operation with Chinese kiwifruit growers who are illegally growing New Zealand’s gold G3 kiwifruit.

Since late 2019, unlawful plantings of the variety in China have almost doubled to 4000 hectares.

Growers in New Zealand pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per hectare to grow it and Zespri will continue looking at legal channels to protect its plant variety rights.

But Zespri chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney said it had been advised to trial working with the small growers in China, in the hope this would prevent more plantings. . . 

MBIE investigating frozen fries import threat:

The New Zealand potato industry are relieved that the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) trade remedies team has now launched an investigation into the proven threat of surplus frozen fries being imported into New Zealand.

This MBIE decision was based on the positive evidence the New Zealand potato industry provided in their application completed in September this year, as part of the Potatoes New Zealand (PNZ) Pandemic Industry Recovery Plan.

The application was in response to the threat of increased dumped imports of surplus European frozen fries, to the NZ potato processing sector. The dumping and threat, combined with the effects of supply chain disruption caused by Covid-19, created an extraordinary situation that required investigation. . .

Harvesting downgrade fears allayed – Gregor Heard:

FARMERS throughout the northern cropping zone generally received good news when they returned to their harvesters last week after rain delays, with limited reports of weather damaged grain.

Yields continue to please, while farmers in southern NSW, Victoria and South Australia retain confidence of strong yields, although harvest will be some time off yet for many due to the cool finish to the cropping season allowing crops to mature slowly.

Meanwhile, the Queensland harvest is edging closer to completion, with good quality grain partially making up for slightly disappointing yields.

“A lot of people in my area on the Darling Downs have just about finished their harvest,” said Brendan Taylor, Agforce grains section president. . . 


Rural round-up

06/10/2020

Regenerative agriculture has become ‘political football’:

Regenerative agriculture has become “a bit of a political football” lately, and people need to regain perspective, Director and Management Consultant for Baker Ag Chris Garland says.

Farmers who practise regenerative agriculture were “sincere about what they’re doing”, and Garland thought they may be feeling “a bit overwhelmed” by the attention it had received lately.

Last week Environment Minister James Shaw was interviewed by The Country’s Jamie Mackay about the Green Party’s agriculture policy, which focused on moving New Zealand to organic and regenerative practices.

Garland heard the interview and accused Mackay of “whipping it into a bit of a frenzy”, although he did admit the Green Party co-leader didn’t really understand regenerative agriculture. . . 

Picture of snow costs to emerge – Laura Smith:

This day-old Southland lamb survived this week’s weather bomb, but most farmers around Southland are still working out the cost of the snow.

Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young said while some lamb deaths were normal, the snow would have affected the numbers — particularly in high country and foothills where lambing had just begun.

It was too early to tell how many died as the snow was only just clearing, he said.

“It was dry snow and that is not nearly as severe on young lambs as very heavy persistent rain.” . . 

Office to orchard, why these Kiwis are making the move to primary sector – Caitlin Ellis:

New Zealanders are switching the office for the orchard and the cockpit for cows in a bid to stay working following the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has reported a 60 percent increase in people receiving jobseeker benefits compared to this time last year in its quarterly labour market report. 

The report presents the state of the labour market in the March 2020 quarter in which the number of unemployed people rose by 5000 to 116,000. The current unemployment rate is 4.2 percent and economists are predicting a rise to somewhere between 5 to 6 percent. . . 

Lime business helps expand biodiversity – Yvonne O’Hara:

Following some trial and error, plus a little experience, a new nursery programme beside a lime mining site at Browns, near Winton, has germinated about 10,000 native seedlings in its first year.

The 480ha AB Lime site also has a 950-cow, 380ha dairy farm, with a neighbouring 70ha of native bush, including 13ha of wetlands, under restoration.

AB Lime environmental field officer Ainsley Adams said the ultimate goal was to translocate kakariki and South Island robins back into the area.

People would be able to see the dairy farm, native bush and wetlands at a field day hosted by the Mid-Oreti Catchment Group on October 8.

“We want to showcase what we are doing.” . . 

Fonterra sells China farms:

Fonterra has agreed to sell its China farms for a total of $555 million (RMB 2.5 billion*1), after successfully developing the farms alongside local partners.

Inner Mongolia Natural Dairy Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of China Youran Dairy Group Limited (Youran), has agreed to purchase Fonterra’s two farming-hubs in Ying and Yutian for $513 million (RMB 2.31 billion*1).

Separately, Fonterra has agreed to sell its 85 per cent interest in its Hangu farm to Beijing Sanyuan Venture Capital Co., Ltd. (Sanyuan), for $42 million (RMB 190 million*1). Sanyuan has a 15 per cent minority shareholding in the farm and exercised their right of first refusal to purchase Fonterra’s interest.

CEO Miles Hurrell says in building the farms, Fonterra has demonstrated its commitment to the development of the Chinese dairy industry. . . 

Wildfire ravaged this rancher’s cattle and maybe his family legacy. He blames politics – Anita Chabria:

Dave Daley stood recently on the edge of a barren ridge and bellowed out a guttural cry meant to call his cows home — if any remained alive after the North Complex wildfire decimated this national forest.

It was a long, mellifluous chant that sounded like “Come Boss,” taught to him by his own father and, he thinks, maybe originating with the genus of the species he hoped to find, Bos taurus, domesticated cattle.

When the sound finished bouncing off the far hills, miles across a plunging valley where the Feather River meandered into Lake Oroville, he waited in a silence so deep it can be made only by absence — of animals in underbrush, of leaves for wind to rustle, of life — hoping to hear the clanking of the bells each of his animals wears. But the silence held.

“You can replace a house,” he said, his voice hoarse and sorrow crinkling the sun-baked lines around his eyes, their color a pale green-brown that mirrored the scorched pine needles nearby. “You can’t replace this.” . .


If you don’t learn from mistakes

14/08/2020

The government is making the same mistake it made during the first lockdown at higher levels:

Wood processors say plants will close for good if the government persists with its plan to shut non-food industries in the event the Auckland lockdown moves into level 4.

Industry executives were alarmed yesterday when told that officials expected to apply the same essential and non-essential split as in March in the event that deeper workplace restrictions are required. During that lockdown many manufacturers – particularly exporters – fought unsuccessfully to keep operating given the safe distance working inherent in many of their operations.

Jon Tanner, chief executive of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, said the stakes are now much higher.

“If we get shut down this time there are plants that will close. There are plants that are that vulnerable,” he told BusinessDesk.

And he said all the sector’s efforts in April, getting safe working practices approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, are at risk of being wasted.

“We’ve got all the protocols in place. We’ve had them approved by MPI and MBIE. There’s no reason for the wood processing industry to be shut down.” . . 

The insistence on the arbitrary essential rather than safe is also a problem for horticulture. Mike Chapman, CE of Horticulture NZ  has outlined his concerns in an open letter to the Prime Minister:

We are writing to you on behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry to collectively address our growers’ concerns that independent fruit and vegetable retailers are not classified as essential services under Covid-19 Alert Level 3 and 4.

In New Zealand there are multiple ways fresh fruit and vegetables are available for sale to the general public. The majority of these sales are made through large supermarket chains and independent fresh fruit and vegetable retailers, at a market share of approximately 80 and 20 percent respectively. However, in Auckland independent retailers represent 60% of sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Growers will still be able to harvest fruit and vegetables but if 60% of Auckland sales aren’t available there will be a lot of wastage.

Unlike supermarkets, fresh fruit and vegetables sold through independent retailers are different grades than sold in supermarkets and in some outlets at more affordable prices and in high end outlets at higher prices. Independent retailers also sell culturally significant fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities (that aren’t readily available in supermarkets) that form the staple diets of different ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Supermarkets usually cater for mass buying, smaller greengrocers cater for niche markets.

When New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 and 3 earlier this year, households were significantly impacted by not having access to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from independent retailers, especially lower income households. In addition, rural communities often rely on independent retailers for supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables that are produced locally, where large supermarket chains are not readily present. This is in alignment with the government’s messaging to support local businesses.

In Auckland a large number of households in the poorer outer suburbs have lost the ability to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from their local independent retailers at affordable prices. Supermarkets tend to operate a structure whereby the consumer drives to the store. In lower socioeconomic areas this is not always practical and a portion of the population needs walking access to retailers selling fruit and vegetables.

Some elderly will usually shop close to home and might need only fresh produce. If they can’t get that locally they will be forced to go to supermarkets where they will be exposed to more people.

This issue is exacerbated by many households facing financial hardship since lockdown due to loss of employment and other pressures. The result of this situation is a significant increase in demand at foodbanks across New Zealand to provide food parcels to families in need. The horticulture sector has programmes in place supporting foodbanks, but this only addresses a small portion of the lack of supply.

While the government did confirm that independent retailers are able to operate in a contactless manner at Alert Level 3 and 4, this method of business operation is not suitable for many lower income households who don’t have the ability to order or pay for food purchases online.

The closure of independent retailers does not only impact consumers, it also impacts the horticulture industry who work tirelessly to provide all retailers, large or small, with seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. The closure of independent retailers during lockdown resulted in an excess of fruit and vegetables that could not enter the supply chain. This loss of access resulted in direct financial loss to growers from failure to sell their products, causing some to exit the industry and delay or reduce replanting. Ultimately, this impacts on consumers due to lower supply levels and increased pricing. These impacts will be further exacerbated by the current Alert Level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

When New Zealand was in lockdown earlier this year the horticulture industry, together with independent retailers, developed a protocol for the safe operation of retailers. This protocol used the principles of essential service operation, the same as other primary industry businesses and dairies had been using to operate. We know that the New Zealand government recognised protocols for independent retailers during Alert Level 3, as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment approved the operation of some retailers. Independent stores are much smaller than supermarkets and have indicated their ability and commitment to operating safely.

Producing fresh fruit and vegetables is regarded as essential, selling them should be too and the criteria for who sells them should be safety.

To maintain adequate supply of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to all New Zealanders, it is critical that both supermarkets and independent retailers are able to operate if they are able to demonstrate they can do so using Covid-19 safe practices. The horticulture industry sincerely requests that the government re-considers their decision not to recognise independent retailers as essential services. We ask that a decision is made to consistently apply to all independent retailers to ensure New Zealanders have access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables across the country.

We are available to discuss this request with you and your officials to find a solution that is in the safety and wellbeing interests of our team of five million.

Yours sincerely

Mike Chapman

On behalf of the New Zealand horticulture industry

Butchers will also be on the wrong side of the essential vs safe debate as they were last time. That nearly caused an animal welfare issue with pigs until the government bought 2,000 pigs a week and gave the meat to food banks.

Auckland Business Chamber CEO says the lockdown cost is too high:

Government says they learned things from the last lockdown so if they did can we do things differently and let all businesses that can comply with Covid-19 safety measures stay open, says Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett.

“The cost to businesses locked down and out of their livelihoods is too high,” he said. “Why can a dairy open and a supermarket sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but your local greengrocer cannot? It would be much better for the economy and wellbeing of the community to allow shops to operate if they follow the strict compliance and safety requirements that can be enforced for each alert level.”

Many small businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, are teetering with reserves run down, jobs at risk and confidence shaken, forced to shut their doors because they are not on government’s list of essential retail and services, Mr Barnett said. . .

If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them.

The government obviously hasn’t learned from its mistaken insistence on what was essential rather than what could operate safely earlier this year and is repeating it.

Businesses, consumers and the economy will pay the price for this with no health benefit.


Rural round-up

28/05/2020

Hauraki Plains farmers: ‘We just want some help‘ –  Maja Burry:

Farmers on the Hauraki Plains are banding together and holding socially-distanced shed meetings, as they fight the worst drought seen in the area in decades.

The Hauraki Plains, Coromandel Peninsula and eastern parts of South Auckland haven’t had had any meaningful rain in months. The dry conditions have become so dire in some parts of the Waikato region three district mayors have signed a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, calling for more support.

Ngatea farmers Megan and Michael Webster run 300 dairy cows and 900 diary goats, but this season due to the dry conditions they’ve had to take a financial hit and dry their stock off about a month earlier than usual.

Michael Webster said it had been a very challenging time, with average rainfall well down. . . 

Coronavirus: Kiwis more positive about farming after Covid-19 lockdown – Esther Taunton:

Kiwis are beginning to see farmers in a new light after lockdown, research shows.

Figures from UMR Research show 63 per cent of New Zealanders hold a positive view of sheep and beef farming, an increase of 9 per cent compared to just eight months ago.

Support for dairy farmers has also jumped, rising from 51 per cent to 60 per cent.

Horticulture tops the list with a positive rating of 65 per cent, while ratings for fisheries have clicked over into majority positive territory at 53 per cent, up from 47 per cent. . .

Fish & Game council embraces Feds, ungags boss -David Williams:

Fish & Game is extending an olive branch to Federated Farmers, against the advice of its chief executive. David Williams reports

The national Fish & Game council continues to try and cleanse itself of a tough stance against agricultural pollution, demanding a softer line from staff on public statements as it takes tentative steps to work with lobby group Federated Farmers.

Such a step would be a huge departure for the public body, which is funded by licence fees. It’s an environmental powerhouse which has successfully advocated for a dozen water conservation orders, and is well-known for taking a hard stance on the damage done by dairying.

That stance, pushed by long-time chief executive Bryce Johnson, has continued under successor Martin Taylor, who started in late 2017, just after the last general election. (In one of his first statements, he flayed dairy giant Fonterra’s environmental record, caused by, he said, its “single-minded focus on increased production at all costs, aided and abetted by weak regional councils”.) . . 

Project to explore turning waste into hand sanitiser – Maia Hart:

Turning waste into hand sanitiser is the next project for a research winery based in Marlborough.

The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) has awarded $84,700 in funding to Bragato Research Institute (BRI) for a pilot study exploring turning grape marc into hand sanitiser.

Grape marc is the stems and seeds leftover after pressing – which in Marlborough can total as much as 46,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The study would look to turn winery waste into ethanol. Any sanitiser made in the initial eight-month study would be bottled and donated to Marlborough health workers and first responders. . . 

Farmers feeling less pressure from banks Feds’ survey finds:

Farmers are feeling slightly more satisfied and less under pressure from their banks, the Federated Farmers May 2020 Banking Survey shows.

Responses to Research First from nearly 1,400 farmers found that the number feeling ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their bank lifted slightly from 68% to 69% in the past six months, and those feeling ‘under pressure’ dropped from 23% to 19%.

“Satisfaction had slipped as a trend since we started this twice-yearly survey in August 2015 and this is the first positive change since then,” Federated Farmers Vice-President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

New Zealand horticulture industry rewarded by outstanding survey result :

A survey showing that New Zealanders rate horticulture more highly than any other part of the primary industry sector is rewarding for fruit and vegetable growers across the country. 

UMR research released today shows that horticulture continues to receive the highest positive rating of 65%.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman says he sees the result as a reward for the way fruit and vegetables are grown in New Zealand.

‘Our growers are some if not the best in the world.  Over the years, the New Zealand horticulture industry has invested heavily in meeting consumer demand for fresh, tasty and nutritious food that is grown, harvested and transported in environmentally sustainable and ways.  . . 


Rural round-up

14/12/2019

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

02/10/2019

Are the water proposals a done-deal? – Mark Daniel:

Big questions have been raised by farmers at an environmental roadshow on the Government’s freshwater proposals.

What’s the difference between a dairy heifer and a beef heifer? It depends. Not a lot if you’re changing from a dairy to a beef operation, as it’s not a problem.

But a change from beef to dairy heifer rearing is demanding and will likely require resource consent as it’s likely to be considered intensification. . . 

Tatua pays $8.50/kgMS for last season’s milk:

Waikato milk processor Tatua has announced a final payout of $8.50/kgMS for last season, beating all other processors including Fonterra.

The co-op, supplied by 107 shareholder farms, achieved record group income of $364 million and earnings of $140 million in 2018-19. Milksolids processed from Tatua suppliers was 14.5 million kgMS, which is our divisor for earnings.

This was lower than the prior season, due to extended dry summer conditions across our milk supply area. . .

Work to control ryegrass flowering :

A quintessential Kiwi landscape usually includes green pastures dotted with livestock munching on healthy, vibrant grass.

Those green fields are generally full of ryegrass and in late spring the ryegrass flowers. When it does, it is no longer as nutritious for the livestock feeding on it.

A research project from the University of Otago’s department of biochemistry is aiming to develop a ryegrass that does not flower on-farm.

That project, headed by Associate Prof Richard Macknight and Dr Lynette Brownfield, was this month awarded $999,999 by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Endeavour Fund “Smart Ideas”
programme. . .

Agcarm affirms safety of glysophate:

Glyphosate is used in New Zealand by farmers, councils and home gardeners. It has recorded more than 40 years of safe use and has been the subject of over 800 studies, all of which have confirmed its safety.

The herbicide offers effective and safe weed control, is low-volatility and degrades quickly in soil. It continues to be rigorously tested by regulators in New Zealand and throughout the world, with over 160 countries approving its safe use.

At the heart of the hype that questions the safety of the herbicide, is a misleading classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made in 2015. IARC classifies substances using terms such as ‘possibly’ or ‘probably’ carcinogenic to define the potential hazard of a substance. This has led to several everyday products, including coffee, bacon and talcum powder, being categorised as ‘possibly carcinogenic’.  But the IARC report is not a risk assessment – it is the type and extent of human exposure that determines the actual risk. . .

Financial workshops aiming to empower dairy farmers planned by Dairy Women’s Network:

Helping dairy farmers gain a better understanding of their farming business and strengthening the relationship with their accountant is the focus of 10 workshops throughout New Zealand being run by the Dairy Women’s Network with support from NZ CA and CRS Software.

“As a not for profit organisation we have a focus of supporting woman in dairying in New Zealand to be the best they can be both on and off farm,” Dairy Women’s Network CEO Jules Benton said. . .

Producing food and capturing carbon – Arty Mangan:

An interview with Ariel Greenwood, a “feral agrarian” and grazer who manages a herd of cattle while restoring ecosystems.

Describe where you work.

I live and work on a 3,000-acre research preserve in the inter-coastal Mayacamas mountain range region of Sonoma County. Pepperwood has around 1,000 acres of open grassland, another several hundred of mixed oak woodland mosaic, deciduous and evergreen, and some serpentine outcropping, and then some dense dark woodlands. We actually have, I think, the eastern most stand of redwoods in the County. There’s a lot of bay trees and scrubby chaparral too in its own natural state. It’s a really breathtaking and in many ways really challenging landscape.

Pepperwood is a private operating research and ecological preserve. Really, every aspect from the vegetation to the soil to the broader watershed, and then even more largely the climate that we’re situated in is monitored and researched here with staff and other visiting researchers, so it’s very much a progressive conservation-oriented place. This is considered quite a robust eco-tone, the meeting of several different environments. . .


Auditor General keeping closer eye on PGF

17/04/2019

The Auditor General is going to be keeping a closer eye on the Provincial Growth Fund:

Auditor-General John Ryan said Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials had been told to improve the management of the fund after an initial review found the risk of some payments going astray.

“We carried out some preliminary work to review how [MBIE] was administering the fund,” he said, adding that the review resulted in recommendations to improve the management of payments from the fund.

“The fund also requires appropriations to be managed by multiple government departments and organisations, which increases the risk of unappropriated expenditure.” . . 

The spending of any and all public funds ought to be given very close scrutiny.

The size of the PGF – $3 billion – makes it even more important to ensure that money doesn’t go astray, especially when there are so many questions about the rigour, or lack of it, applied to the hand-outs.


Rural round-up

14/04/2019

Owner of M. Bovis-infected farm who had to shoot newborn calves: ‘you just learn to grit your teeth and do it’ – Gerald Piddock:

Henk Smit could handle the bullet in the mail and the death threats.

It was when the dairy farmer had to shoot his newborn calves that the impact of Mycoplasma bovis finally hit him.

Looking back, he now believes it is something no dairy farmer should ever have to put themselves through.

“I think was a really bad call,” he says at his quiet Maungatautari property. “On the other farm, we had a contract milker and that sent him over the edge, killing the calves, and he tried to commit suicide in spring. . .

Changing the face of farming – Stephen Bell:

Alternative proteins and genomics could change the face of New Zealand agriculture, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report suggests.

But they come up against the brick wall of the country’s attitude to genetic engineering and editing.

Advances in genomics offer potential to speed up the development of crops and livestock with desirable and valuable traits that meet productivity, quality and environmental goals. . .

Waikato Mycoplasma bovis free after properties cleared to return to farming – Gerald Piddock:

Waikato is Mycoplasma bovis free – for now.

The country’s largest dairying region has no properties infected with the cattle disease after the Ministry for Primary Industries lifted the active property classifications on five Waikato farms in the past month.

But that status may change with six farms under a notice of direction (NOD) status and seven under surveillance.  NOD properties are those which have a high risk of being infected, but have yet to return a positive test. . .

Mega mast another reason to continue GE research:

Turning our backs on promising tools for predator control is a massive disservice to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

“The ‘mega mast’ in New Zealand’s forests this autumn presents a huge challenge to our pest control agencies and countless volunteers.

“The frequency of these exceptionally heavy tree seeding events is likely to increase with climate change, yet this coalition Government has called a halt on research on genetic engineering technologies.” . .

Veterinarians gear up to help farmers comply with new animal welfare regulations:

Veterinarians are gearing up to help farmers comply with new legal requirements to use local anesthetic during the removal of any horn tissue from cattle that will come into force from October 1 this year.

NZVA Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Helen Beattie says the NZVA has been educating members so they are ready to help farmers comply with changes to the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations. . . 

This snap-on sensory could tell farmers exactly how much to water their crops – Nathan Hurst:

In 2010, scientists at California’s Pacific Institute, a global water think tank, defined a condition Earth could face called “peak water.” Loosely, it’s analogous to peak oil, but it’s not just that we’ll run out of water. Fresh water won’t vanish, but it will become still more unevenly distributed, increasingly expensive, and harder to access. Many parts of the world are facing water stress, and 80 percent of the fresh water that gets used around the world gets used for irrigating crops, according to the Pacific Institute’s president emeritus Peter Gleick.

Over the past 40 years or so, total water use in the United States began to level off. Part of that is due to greatly improved irrigation, and part of that is due to remote sensing technologies—satellites, radar and drones—that assess water stress in fields based on temperature or how much light the canopy reflected in different wavelengths. . . 


If not sacking AG must investigate

11/03/2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Rural round-up

15/11/2018

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

07/10/2018

Quite and capable – Richard Rennie:

A farm apprenticeship course now a year old is starting to have an influence on getting more Kiwis in jobs on dairy farms.

Tirau farm apprentice Kadience Ruakere-Forbes is among the first year’s intake under the Federated Farmers’ Apprenticeship Dairy Programme, a pilot programme supported by PrimaryITO, the federation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Dairy database rules under review – Hugh Stringleman:

The valuable core database of the New Zealand dairy industry is subject to a regulatory review by the Ministry for Primary Industries, to which organisations and people can make submissions.

Consultation will run for six weeks until November 12 and any submission becomes public information, MPI said.

The key issue is whether the regulated dataset remains well aligned with the dairy industry’s current and future animal evaluation needs. MPI said there has been some concern expressed among dairy genetics companies about the management of herd improvement data. . .

Huge costs of pasture pests – Peter BUrke:

Grass grub and porina are causing $2.3 billion of damage to New Zealand pastures annually, according to an AgResearch study.

Of the total estimated annual losses in average years, up to $1.4b occurs on dairy farms and up to $900m on sheep and beef farms.

But scientist Colin Ferguson says this figure relates only to the damage to pasture and doesn’t include the cost of replacing the pasture, destocking and restocking and the long lasting damage to affected pasture. . . 

$11m study dives into high value milk products – Peter Burke:

A five year, $11 million research project has begun, aimed at producing new high value milk products.

Led by Professor Warren McNabb, of the Riddet Institute, Palmerston North, the project will seek better mechanistic understanding of the various milks produced in New Zealand including cow, goat, sheep and deer.

A particular aim will be to develop new products for babies, very young children and elderly people in New Zealand and, especially, for export. . .

 

First failed WorkSafe prosecution:

Athenberry Holdings Ltd grows Kiwifruit near Katikati. Zespri buy the fruit, brand, market and sell the fruit. Zespri engaged Agfirst to sample and test maturity and quality of fruit.

Agfirst use a local packhouse Hume to collect the samples. AgFirst’s sample collector died during the collection of fruit when her quad bike overturned on rough ground next to Athenberry’s kiwifruit block.

She was employed by AgFirst who had contracted a local packhouse – Hume Pack-N-Cool Ltd (Hume). It appears the rider had taken the quad bike over steep and rough terrain away from the area where she was required to collect samples.

Her training and industry practices are that you stick to the offical and mown access paths. No-one was sure why she deviated. . . 

Gene edited food is coming to your plate, no regulation included – Lydia Mulvany:

For Pete Zimmerman, a Minnesota farmer, the age of gene-edited foods has arrived. While he couldn’t be happier, the soybeans he’s now harvesting are at the crux of a long-running debate about a “Frankenfood” future.

Zimmerman is among farmers in several states now harvesting 16,000 acres of DNA-altered soybeans destined to be used in salad dressings, granola bars and fry oil, and sold to consumers early next year. It’s the first commercialized crop created with a technique some say could revolutionize agriculture, and others fear could carry as-yet-unknown peril.

In March, the top U.S. regulator said no new rules or labeling are needed for gene-edited plants since foreign DNA isn’t being inserted, the way traditional genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are made. Instead, enzymes that act like scissors are used to tweak a plant’s genetic operating system to stop it from producing bad stuff — in this case, polyunsaturated fats — or enhance good stuff that’s already there. . . 


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