Rural round-up

October 29, 2012

Agricultural debt an economic winner – Brian Gaynor:

New Zealand has a strange attitude towards debt. We criticise the agriculture sector for having too much debt even though it generates the bulk of the country’s export earnings.

Meanwhile individuals are encouraged to take on more and more debt albeit this generates little economic activity and makes residential property less and less affordable for new home buyers.

This weird situation is highlighted in a recent report by the Ministry of Primary Industries, an amalgam of the old agriculture, forestry, fishing and food safety ministries. It also comes through in a major report by ANZ Bank, “Greener Pastures: The Global Soft Commodity Opportunity for Australia and New Zealand”. . .

Farmers may be pressured to trade shares for cash:

Dairy farming representatives have suggested that some highly indebted farmers may find themselves under pressure from their banks to sell the economic rights to some of their Fonterra shares for cash.

Fonterra has released details of the shareholders fund which it’s launching next month as part of its Trading Among Farmers plan.

TAF will allow outsiders to invest in the dividend earnings from shares that farmers deposit in the fund, in exchange for the cash value of the shares. . .

Scientist pursuing life-long fascination – Sally Rae:

Julie Everett-Hincks’ fascination with sheep breeding and lamb survival began at a young age.

Now a senior scientist at AgResearch Invermay, Dr Everett-Hincks grew up on a sheep farm in South Otago and, as soon as she could walk, she was out with her father on the farm.

Even as a young girl, she wondered “why some sheep made better mothers than other sheep”. . .

Ministry boss operation focussed – Tim Fulton:

The petrol-head running the Ministry for Primary Industries loves his engines, although he’s been known to pad around Pastoral House in a sports jacket and the most modern of casual shoes. This man you could have just met at a BBQ is Wayne McNee, a leading driver of the country’s economic growth.

He’s spending a fair bit of private time getting ready to marry for a second time and has only just quit ploughing plenty into his son’s motor-racing career.

Jamie McNee is a top New Zealand hope, having excelled in Toyota Racing formula four and then the Toyota Championship where he finished third, winning a couple of races.

McNee senior says motor-racing is one of his passions but it got to a point with Jamie, spending roughly $150,000 a year, where he couldn’t sustain the cost of funding his career. . .

Sheep take over Spanish streets:

Spanish shepherds led a flock of more than 2,000 sheep through central Madrid on Sunday in defence of ancient grazing, migration and droving rights threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

Many tourists and residents were surprised to see traffic cut to allow the ovine parade to bleat its way across some of Madrid’s most upscale urban streets.

The right to use droving routes that wind across land that was open fields and woodland before Madrid grew from a rural hamlet to the great metropolis it is today has existed since at least 1273. . .

Community Activities and Bass Guitar Balance Busy Farming Lives:
Southland farmer Euan Templeton is not a big TV watcher.As well as running a 545ha sheep and beef farm at Waimatuku, east of Riverton, Euan and wife Linda are involved in a host of off-farm activities that “keep us young”.Music and gardening are key hobbies for the couple. Euan is captain of the local Boys Brigade company, a church elder and a member of the Lions Club. He also sings in the Southern Sounds Barber Shop Chorus and plays bass in a rock band.

All this makes for a busy life, but Euan reckons they have achieved a fairly good balance between the demands of their coastal farm and their off-farm interests. . .

Science leader for MPI

August 21, 2012

The Prime Minister has had a chief science advisor since early in his first term, now the Ministry of Primary Industries has a science leader too:

Dr Ian Ferguson (MNZM) has been appointed to the newly created position of Departmental Science Adviser for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Deputy Director General of Policy Paul Stocks announced today.

“This is an exceptionally important role for the Ministry,” Mr Stocks said. “I am confident that Dr Ferguson will provide strong science leadership to ensure that MPI is well connected across government and with the science community, and will continue to produce high quality scientific advice.”

The role focuses on the key areas of quality assurance of science inputs into regulatory decision making; strategic direction for science investment; and ensuring that MPI is able to effectively deal with emerging risks and opportunities. . .

The recognition of the importance of a scientific approach to policy is welcome. It is especially important in the MPI which oversees the productive industries which play such an important role in the economy and have such an impact on the environment.

It’s very easy for governments to have good ideas,  ensuring they are based on sound science will help to ensure they work in practice.

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