Sign for science

02/12/2020

Southland beef breeder Laurence Paterson has launched a petition seeking a science-based approach to fresh water policy:

Petition Request:

That the House of Representatives urge the Government to review and amend the National Policy Statement For Freshwater Management to ensure that it is based on science and best practice for each catchment and farm and does not require farmers to sow on specific dates.

Petition Reason:

As a passionate freshwater person I believe the new regulations are unworkable and mandatory sowing dates compromise health and safety and cause mental health stress. In my view, one size cannot fit all: farmers with good environmental outcomes should not be penalised by an expensive consenting process and poorer performers should be assisted by council field staff to improve. I believe that farming should not have an expensive EU-style consenting process strangling expenditure on improvements.

The regulations are too prescriptive and if the letter of the law is followed will add costs, complexity and stress. They will also reduce production which will not only cost farmers it will cost the country in less food at higher prices for New Zealanders and less export income.

Please sign the petition to support a science-based approach to better environmental outcomes.


Rural round-up

25/11/2020

Biotech sector report calls for genetic modification rules review :

The biotech sector wants the government to review the rules around genetic modification saying the restrictions are holding the industry back.

A landmark report on the sector predicts the industry could be worth as much as $50 billion.

However, the Aotearoa Boosted by BioTech report pulls together a raft of constraints and challenges identified over the last decade, that need to be overcome before this can happen

A burgeoning part of the wider technology industry, BioTech mainly innovates out of the primary sector but is also popular in health, industrial and environment. . .

Moeraki’s indomitable slow fish legend :

Fleurs Place, in Moeraki, is one of New Zealand’s best-loved restaurants, and many people call it the best seafood restaurant in the country. However, Fleur Sullivan never even wanted to start a restaurant when she first came to Moeraki nearly 20 years ago. That’s just how things ended up after she started trying to help people out.

Thinking this month about Slow Fish – which is about preserving traditional fishing communities and connecting people more directly with the fish they eat, as much as it is about protecting marine reserves – Moeraki is an interesting case study. It illustrates just how vulnerable such fishing communities in Aotearoa have become in recent decades.

Ask most people what it is they like about Fleurs Place and, in addition to the beautiful setting and homely atmosphere (not to mention Fleur herself, who personally greets nearly every guest as if they’re old friends), a common answer will be its simplicity and honesty.

Fleur serves wholesome, simple, delicious food made with high quality local ingredients – including fresh fish caught by local Moeraki fishers, landed right on the dock beside the restaurant door. It seems like a simple enough model: put a restaurant by the jetty of a sleepy old fishing village, and serve fish straight off the boats. But as anyone who knows anything about commercial New Zealand fisheries will know, this “simple” set up is anything but simple. . .

Hunt scoops leadership award – Sudesh Kissun:

Southland drystock farmer Bernadette Hunt has scooped the 2020 primary industry’s leadership award.

The award, presented last night at the 2020 Primary Industries conference dinner in Wellington, recognises Hunt’s commitment to advocating for farming, particularly given her efforts to highlight the challenges farmers face nationwide measuring up to the government’s new freshwater regulations.

“Bernadette has the rare combination of having a clear vision of what’s right and wrong, being able to articulate a strong message and bring others on the journey. She absolutely leads by example,” Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland said.

The Outstanding Contribution award, sponsored by Massey Ferguson and presented by chief executive Peter Scott, went to Beef and Lamb’s Rob Davison. . . 

Kiwifruit orchard wins inaugural award for excellence in Māori horticulture :

A kiwifruit orchard in the Eastern Bay of Plenty has taken out the inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Māori horticulture.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy competition, which is in its 87th year, celebrates excellence by Māori across the farming sector.

For this first time this year the award was focused on recognising excellence in horticulture.

The award went to Te Kaha 15B Hineora Orchard, a 11.5 hectare freehold block of Māori land at Te Kaha, 65km east of Ōpōtiki. . . 

Training targets farm freshwater plans:

As farm freshwater plans are set to become part of industry requirements following the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms, Massey University has created short courses to meet what will be a growing demand for training in the area.

As a result of changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, almost all farms in New Zealand will need to have a freshwater plan.

One of the concerns voiced by the industry about that, is there are not enough people with the necessary training to make that requirement a reality.

Massey dairy production systems professor Danny Donaghy says the new short courses are designed to fill that gap and move away from the traditional “hours and hours of online lectures,” and will instead focus on flexibility, new technologies and case studies. . . 

Constellation Brands NZ enters agreement  with Giesen Group to sell its Riverlands Winery:

New Zealand’s largest exporter of New Zealand wine to the US, Constellation Brands New Zealand, has sold its Marlborough-based Riverlands Winery to family-owned Giesen Group.

One of three Constellation-owned wineries in New Zealand, the Riverlands Winery has been part of the company’s portfolio since 2006. While the facility is no longer suited to Constellation’s ambitious growth plans, its capacity for smaller production runs ensured a great fit with Giesen’s production plans. Its location across the road from Giesen’s existing Marlborough winery cemented the extension as a logical and exciting strategic move for the innovative New Zealand-owned brand.

The sale of the winery is planned to settle in mid-December this year, in time for the upcoming 2021 harvest. Giesen is hopeful all current Riverlands employees will join the their team and be part of their future growth plans for the winery. . . 

Primary producers set to crack into nut producing orchard up for sale:

One of New Zealand’s biggest commercial macadamia nut orchards and associated macadamia nut processing and manufacturing operations have been placed on the market for sale.

The 8.1-hectare Top Notch Macadamias operation at Patetonga on the Hauraki Plains near the base of the Coromandel produces more than 15 tonnes of the high-value hand-harvested nuts annually – all of which are processed on-site and marketed through an established retail network, and directly via on-line sales.

Among Top Notch’s vast product catalogue range are salted nuts, roasted nuts, chocolate-coated macadamia nuts, honey caramel nuts, macadamia muesli, sweet macadamia brittle, macadamia butter, and macadamia dukkha. . . 

Classic country pub with mini golf course has buyers teed up:

A modern country pub operating in one of New Zealand’s premier year-round outdoor adventure and tourism regions – coming complete with its own 18-hole mini-golf course – has been placed on the market for sale.

Schnapps Bar in the centre of the North Island is located near the pivotal junction of State Highways 47 leading into and out of Tongariro National Park, and the north to south routed State Highway 4.

With World Heritage status, nearby Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park. Situated just a few hundred metres from National Park’s only petrol station and grocery store, Schnapps Bar is one of only a few licensed hospitality premises operating in the area. . . 

 


Rural round-up

08/09/2020

Much of the plan is not common sense’ – Yvonne O’Hara:

Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson estimates it will cost him about $1.6 million to comply with the new freshwater rules for fencing off waterways on his Central Otago hill country property.

He will also have to take about 47ha out of use to follow the 5m buffer rule.

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 sets out new objectives and policies for farming including waterways, nutrient losses and winter grazing and the rules come into effect tomorrow.

He agrees with Federated Farmers Southland president Geoffrey Young that some of the rules are unworkable and supports Mr Young’s recent call for a boycott of the new rules. . . 

Revelations in the cow shed – Peter Burke:

Mental health and connectivity are two of the main issues affecting dairy farmers in this country according to a survey by DairyNZ.

The so called ‘cow shed’ survey shows that 62% of farmers say that they or someone on their farm had experienced mental health issues over the last year.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says he was “quite surprised” at how high this number was.

“I think the stresses that came out in the survey were drought, with two thirds of those surveyed saying they had been affected by drought in the last little while,” he told Dairy News.

Winding up a long career championing New Zealand – Sally Rae:

When Lyn Jaffray walks out the door of Silver Fern Farms’ headquarters in Dunedin tomorrow, it will be the end of an era, as business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Lyn Jaffray is preparing to close his last deal with Silver Fern Farms.

When he retires tomorrow, it will mark a 48-year association with the company which has included more than 20 years managing its China market.

The former All Black’s departure follows a discussion about succession and a year-long transition period, and he was happy with the timing of it.

“I’m comfortable where we are, the company’s going great, I’m comfortable with closing the deal,” he said. . . 

Doc’s revised 2020/21 tahr management plan is ideology hidden in a glossy brochure:

The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association believes the Department of Conservation’s revised tahr control operational plan released yesterday shows that culling the Himalayan tahr herd as now planned is based on ideology, political interference, a lack of quality data and science, and made to appease the extreme views of Forest & Bird who continue to maintain their threat of bad faith court action.

Deerstalkers Association Chief Executive Gwyn Thurlow says the decision defies good sense and logic and is another example of a string of poor decisions made by this Government.

Gwyn Thurlow says “After reviewing the latest iteration of the plan, we can see no substantive change to the Department’s approach from before the High Court win by the Tahr Foundation because the bottom line is the number of operational hours has not reduced. This means our tahr herd will be decimated, as feared. . . 

$4.7 million in funding for SVSS from MPI:

A project to boost vegetable growers’ efforts to care for the health of the environment while supplying fresh, healthy food, has received $4.7 million in government backing from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The funding adds to the $2.8 million already invested by industry into Sustainable Vegetable Systems, a four-year project, focused on improving crop nutrient management for the growing of potatoes, onions, brassicas, butternut squash, carrots, and leafy greens.
MPI is investing in the project from the Productive and Sustainable Land Usepackage, which promotes farming and growing practices that deliver more value and improved environmental outcomes. . . 

Campaign to boost British venison amid fall in demend :

An innovative working group has been created across England and Wales to reignite the venison market following a drop in demand due to Covid-19.

The group will focus on strengthening existing markets and opening new channels to counter competition provided by imports and slashed demand.

The Wild Venison Working Group is chaired by the Forestry Commission and has representation from stakeholders in woodland management, shooting, gamekeeping, and venison supply sectors.

In the absence of natural predators, the deer population in the United Kingdom is at its highest level for the last 1,000 years. . . 


We all want clean water but

06/09/2019

There’s no argument on the goal of clean freshwater but there’s significant angst in rural New Zealand over the way the government plans to get it.

We all want clean water, but not in a way that drastically increases the cost of farming and therefore food, destroys livelihoods and communities, and sabotages the economy.

Federated Farmers says the government’s proposals for cleaner freshwater throw farmers under the tractor:

Federated Farmers estimates large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released today.

The Essential Freshwater announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80%. 

“It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this,” Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen says.   

“The long term targets for nitrogen reduction, are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas.”

Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to ‘GMP’ – good management practice policy.

“But with today’s proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand.”

Feds has one simple message for the government, freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers are already doing the work.

“Lumping regional councils, with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone’s rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results,”  Chris says.

“Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts,” Chris says.

“Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway.”

Feds is particularly concerned about the proposed “interim controls” which will have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there will be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.

“The discussion documents say an ‘interim control’ is not a ban.  But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it’s a ban, pure and simple,” Chris says.

This ban will have a significantly negative knock-on effect for all rural and urban communities where the activity of the primary sector is the lifeblood earner for the cafes, sports clubs, banks, insurance companies, car dealerships, restaurants, shopping malls and all the other people downstream of New Zealand’s largest earner.

“All we ask is for regulation that is based on science and evidence.”

Federated Farmers encourages all farmers to do their best to input into this process despite the short consultation period of six weeks and it being at the busiest time of the year for farmers.

Beef + Lamb NZ says the proposals would make sheep and beef farmers sacrificial lambs:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says plans to lock down current land uses will have a disproportionate effect on the majority of sheep and beef farms that are low input, extensive systems with a light touch on the environment.

“The sheep and beef sector’s vision is for New Zealanders to continue to be able to swim in and collect food from the freshwater surrounding sheep and beef farms,” says B+LNZ’s Chairman Andrew Morrison. 

‘Sheep and beef farmers are committed to protecting the health of our waterways and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far, however, we know there is still more work to be done.  

“The Essential Freshwater proposals are comprehensive and will take time to assess, however, we are deeply concerned by some of the analysis we have seen – including modelling that suggests 68 percent of drystock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted into forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations, while more intensive land uses largely remain the same.

Forestry isn’t necessarily good for water quality with sediment and slash washing into waterways after harvesting.

“These proposals will undermine the viability of a low-intensity sector which supports over 80,000 jobs and generates exports of $9.1 billion a year.  It risks decimating rural communities, especially when coupled with other proposed policies such as the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Ultimately, we are concerned the sheep and beef sector will bear a disproportionate impact of the proposed policies, far outweighing the environmental impact of our farming systems.”

Issues around nitrogen leaching are driven primarily by cattle stocking rates and high loadings of nitrogen fertiliser, leading to greater concentrations of nitrate leaching into waterways. 

“Most sheep and beef farming systems operate within the natural capacity of the land due to our low stocking rates and efficient, low input farming model,” says Mr Morrison.

“Our nitrogen leaching rates are low and in catchments where sheep and beef farms are the predominant farming system, nitrogen levels are not an issue. 

“The sheep and beef sector’s main water health issues are sediment, phosphorus and intensive winter grazing on crops.  We are committed to addressing our contribution to these issues and understand the need for increased oversight for activities which pose a higher environmental risk.

“However, the devil is in the detail and we will be looking to ensure any new requirements are matched to the environmental effects we are looking to manage.

“The Essential Freshwater proposals that will likely have the greatest impact on sheep and beef farmers are a range of “grandparenting” provisions that restrict land use change, and flexibility within a farming system to diversify.

“In doing this, the greatest flexibility is provided for those that currently undertake high intensity, high discharging land uses.

“New Zealand’s most sustainable and low intensity farming systems, those with the lightest environmental footprint, will have no flexibility moving forward to adapt to these and or other environmental pressures.  The success of our farming system has been the ability to adapt and diversify.”

The approach proposed also fails to take into account the other benefits that extensive farming systems provide such as biodiversity and supporting healthy and vibrant rural communities, says Mr Morrison. 

“The government’s objective of “holding the line” is understandable, but the way it would be implemented will lead to a perverse outcome where blanket limits are placed on everyone, even though individual farmers’ contribution to the problem differs wildly.

“While the government says these are interim controls until councils have new plans in place, there are no timeframes and based on our previous experience, councils’ processes will take many years. During that time, the damage will be done.”   

Sheep and beef farmers have been working to address a wide range of environmental issues, he says.  

“We are committed to addressing freshwater quality issues such as erosion, E.coli and phosphorous by working towards all farmers having land and environment plans by 2021.  Our sector has already lifted this from 36 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2019, and many farmers are getting involved in catchment communities.

“While there is still more to do, in-stream sediment concentrations have been improving as farmers have been planting native and poplar trees in erosion prone areas and retiring some land from production.   

“It appears from the proposal that many sheep and beef farmers will be punished for doing the right thing.  Over the last 30 years we’ve doubled export revenue from the industry while reducing our land use foot print, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. 

“At the same time our sheep and beef farms are a reservoir for almost three million hectares of native vegetation, making up nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s remaining native vegetation and including 1.4 million hectares of native forest, which co-exists alongside productive agriculture.” 

B+LNZ has extensive resources to support farmers in adopting best management practice for intensive winter grazing on crops and has over the last year led a pan-sector process to develop common policy solutions and build on industry initiatives to manage these activities. 

DairyNZ makes a plea: let’s all improve our waterways without destroying rural communities:

Today’s Essential Freshwater Package shows healthy and swimmable waterways are important to all New Zealanders, including dairy farmers, who share the same aspirations to protect our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the dairy sector and our farmers share the same vision communities, Maori and Government have to protect and improve our freshwater resources.

“The Essential Freshwater Package announced today provides a real opportunity for everyone to have their say in this important conversation. We know we can’t farm without healthy water and land, and we reflect this in our Dairy Tomorrow sector strategy, and we need to acknowledge the work that’s already taken place,” said Dr Mackle.

“Our dairy sector is already on the journey to improve and protect water quality and our farmers have been working towards this for more than a decade.”

Dr Mackle said at the same time it is acknowledged that, in some catchments, community expectations for water quality has not yet been met. Here, further action is required by all land users, including dairy, to halt a decline and longer-term solutions put in place to restore the health of these waterways.

“This policy package focuses not only on dairy but all land use activities, including sheep and beef, horticulture and urban activities, reflecting that we all have a part to play in improving our waterways,” said Dr Mackle.

But it doesn’t focus on bird life. The major contributor to the poor quality of some waterways is birds, for example the seagulls which nest on rocks beside the Kakanui River.

“We agree with a focus on ecosystem health and alongside this, options to better track the impact of improvements farmers are making to work towards this. However, we have serious concerns that the proposed approach of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus may not achieve improved ecosystem health and could have a significant impact on the viability of farm businesses and rural communities. We need to understand this better and what it means for our water quality, farmers and for the country.

“We know from experience that regulation is one tool, but hearts and minds are vital to create enduring change. We also want this to be grounded in facts and science, as well as economic and social analysis.

“Many things impact on ecosystem health, nutrients are often not the key driver. It will be important to recognise a catchment-by-catchment targeted approach as opposed to blanket one-size-fits all rules.

Solutions to problems in one catchment, or even part of a catchment, may not be applicable to all.

“We believe further uptake of Good Farming Practices and Farm Environment Plans across all farms, catchments and land users nationally is an effective way to accelerate further improvements,” said Dr Mackle. “Over 3000 farms already have a comprehensive Farm Environment Plan and we support that every farm has have one by 2025.

“Overall we support the intent of the Essential Freshwater Package but we haven’t been involved in its development, so we need to understand the proposed policies in more detail.

“It is important the policies contribute to meaningful improvements in water quality for the community and there are realistic expectations for all landowners.

“We believe on-farm initiatives are already contributing to maintaining or improving water quality across many catchments and the most recent LAWA report supports this, with almost all water quality measures showing more sites improving, than not.”

Dr Mackle said there is an opportunity to extend on the good work already done by promoting good farming principles across all catchments, farms and land owners. “This should build on successful sector initiatives, including the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord, and we don’t want to see our good work undone.

“Our farmers are adaptable and have made significant changes to how we farm over the last 30 years. We will continue to learn and make changes into the future,” said Dr Mackle.

“We recognise that over time, future land use may look different than it does today. It is important that farmers have the certainty, tools and adequate transition time to continue on the journey and make the changes that may be needed over the next generation.

“Looking forward, we are encouraged by the prospect of a vibrant primary sector and rural communities, benefiting from healthy and resilient waterways.”

These proposals are typical of so many of the governments that don’t follow the science and take a balanced approach to sustainability taking into account economic, environmental and social impacts.

Water quality degraded over many years and reversing that will take time.

You can download a copy of Action for Healthy Waterways here.


Rural round-up

18/07/2014

New rules tough for everyone – Andrea Fox:

The jury is in on pollution crime against New Zealand’s waterways and lakes and no one – farmer, business, suburbanite, or city apartment dweller – will escape the verdict’s impact.

The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014, released by the Government this month, is the latest decree on a matter considered to be of national significance.

Yes, farmers have been fencing off rivers and streams and managing effluent systems better for several years in the name of freshwater protection policy under the Resource Management Act. And they have made big improvements.

What is new is a change to that policy statement. It is going to be tough on farmers – but equally tough on urban NZ. . .

Top genetic selection produces biggest antlers – Heather Chalmers:

Producing deer with some of the biggest antlers in New Zealand takes careful genetic selection and a dollop of luck, says South Canterbury deer farmer Chris Petersen.

Just as others follow the breeding lines of thoroughbred racehorses, Petersen does the same for deer.

“I know all the top stags and hinds in New Zealand. I study them.”

Farming Highden Deer Park with his wife Debra at Sutherlands near Pleasant Point, his stags are highly regarded for their antlers, both for trophies and velvet. The 130 hectare rolling downlands farm carries 364 spikers and mixed-age stags, 122 mixed-age hinds and 55 18-month hinds, as well as this season’s progeny. Most stags are grown out to seven years old for the trophy market, with 27 out of 30 sold last year. . .

Stink over cattle compost – Shelly Robinson:

A North Canterbury business that composted cattle heads and ears for a gelatine factory was forced to stop taking the waste after complaints about the smell from neighbours.

T W Transport’s composting facility at Burnt Hill, Oxford, has been fined seven times by Environment Canterbury (ECan) for odour issues in breach of its resource consent.

Company director Ted Wills said it stopped taking the waste from Gelita NZ Ltd because of the complaints. “If there was a smell out our way, even among the farms spraying effluent on paddocks or silage, we still got the blame,” he said. . .

Fast, slow beef finishing assessed in Far North:

HAVING ALL animals on a farm growing at the same pace could result in big risks for drystock farmers, delegates at the final Finished in 20 Months beef seminar in Northland heard last month.

The three-year Beef + Lamb New Zealand project ran multiple studies to find techniques which would let farmers get beef cattle to finishing weights before their second winter, a key aim being to avoid having heavy animals on pugging prone clay soils when it gets wet.

But some in the trial have argued even 20 months is too long and target kill weights need to be hit at 15-16 months so they can be sold before Christmas and the subsequent slides in schedule prices. . .

Many markets for miscanthus:

FUEL, BEDDING, shelter, forage: super-tall perennial grass miscanthus could have markets as all of them, says Miscanthus New Zealand, a Te Awamutu-based company promoting the crop.

The grass is already fairly widely used in Europe and the United States as a bioenergy crop but was only introduced to New Zealand in 2010 with about 40ha now established in various crops and trials nationwide.

“It’s a triploid hybrid so it’s completely infertile,” says Miscanthus NZ managing director Peter Brown. . .

GFAR Partnering with EAT to create research network uniting agriculture and nutrition:

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) has entered into a strategic partnership with the EAT Stockholm Food Forum. GFAR provides a forum for experts and organizations around the world to share agricultural research and create positive change. EAT is an international network made up of experts on sustainable food, nutrition, and health. By teaming together, GFAR and EAT hope to lead an integrated approach to increasing the sustainability and nutritional value of food.

Dr. Gunhild Anker Stordalen, director of EAT, recently spoke about her organization and the reasons behind this new alliance. . .

Six key recommendations for ramily farming in North America:

In April, representatives from 35 organizations around the world gathered in Québec City to participate in the Dialogue on Family Farming in North America. Motivated by the United Nation’s designation of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), the dialogue included workshops, panel discussions, and question periods organized by UPA Développement International (UPA DI) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This week, a report was published summarizing the key presentations and findings from the event.

Canadian presenters spoke on a range of topics including the importance of women in small farming, and the challenges of farming profitably without formal training. . .


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