Does mainstream media help or hinder farming?

January 23, 2018

Key findings from Nuffield Scholar, Anna Jones’ report Help or Hinder?  How the Mainstream Media Portrays Farming to the Public were:

The urban/rural disconnect is real, more so in Western and urbanised societies, and both the media and farming industry are contributing to it.

Some mainstream media coverage is clouded by urban bias, knee-jerk distrust of agribusiness, failing to differentiate between campaigners and informers and an over-reliance on too few sources with an overt political agenda. There is a severe lack of agricultural specialism among general news journalists.

Farmers and industry are fuelling the disconnect through a lack of openness and transparency, disproportionate defensiveness in the face of legitimate challenge, disunity among farming sectors and a sense of ‘exceptionalism’ or entitlement to positive coverage.

The public debate and narrative around agriculture is being dominated by farming unions and lobbyists. Politics at an industry level is drowning out individuals at a farm level, contributing to more distrust.

Her full report is here.

Jones visited USA, Kenya, Denmark, Ireland, France and Belgium. Would her findings be very  different here?

New Zealand has some very good rural journalists in the print media including the Otago Daily Times’ Sally Rae; Stuff’s  Kate Taylor, Gerald  Piddock and Gerard Hutching; NZ Farming Weekly’s Neal Wallace, Annette Scott, Richard Rennie, Tim Fulton, Alan Williams; Pam Tipa and Nigel Malthus at Rural News and RNZ’s  Alexa Cook.

We also have a good variety of rural shows on radio and television.

Jamie Mackay does an excellent job of covering farming and wider rural issues on The Country as does Andy Thompson on The Muster.

Country Calendar seems to cover more lifestyle and alternative farmers now but still does very good work. Rural Delivery was always interesting but now it’s failed to get NZ on AIr funding probably won’t be back.

RNZ  has Country Life and its Friday night and early Saturday morning slots don’t matter so much when it’s easy to listen online at a time that suits better.

We are generally well served by rural media and rural journalists in general media.

The problem is other journalists outside rural media who don’t understand farming and wider rural issues.

They’re the ones who buy the anti-farming propaganda often wrapped in faux-green wrapping; the ones who pedal the emotion and don’t have the inclination or time to check the facts.

They’re the ones who serve farming and the wider rural community badly and undo much of the good rural media and journalists do.

 

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Rural round-up

January 14, 2018

Opuha River ‘flushing’ to control algae, didymo barely noticeable with river in flood, Opuha Ltd says – Elena McPhee:

It may have been barely perceptible to the eye, but releasing water from the Opuha Dam on Friday has hopefully wiped out a large quantity of didymo and other algae in the river, Opuha Water Ltd says.

Operations manager Craig Moore said the dam released a flow peaking about 65 cubic metres per second (cumecs), or 300,000 cubic metres in total during the “flushing” process in the Opuha River on Friday morning.

The river “pulse” stayed within river margins, and the wave was not really noticeable as it made its way downstream, Moore said. . .

Farmers make tracing stock hard -Neal Wallace:

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis is still the Ministry for Primary Industry’s goal but farmers appear unconvinced it is achievable.

Another case confirmed on an Ashburton farm this week took the total to 14 but some of the more than 800 farmers who attended packed meetings with MPI officials in Methven and Ashburton last Thursday think that while admirable, eradication is unlikely and they might have to learn to live with the disease.

The ministry’s response incident controller David Yard announced plans to test three samples of milk from every dairy farm in the country from February, including milk entering the food chain as well as milk excluded from the vat in a bid to uncover any infection clusters. . . 

Lambs wool in demand – Alan Williams:

Lambs’ wool was in short supply and sold strongly at Thursday’s wool sales in Christchurch and Napier.

Buyers pushed up prices as they worked to fill orders, especially for fleece at 30 microns and lower, PGG Wrightson South Island sales manager Dave Burridge said.

Those wools were up to 8% higher in price with 30 to 32 micron lambs’ wool up to 4% dearer in Christchurch. . . 

Sex on the farm: How gene editing can revolutionize feeding the world – Ed Maixner:

(Editor’s note: Change can be difficult, especially when it comes to adopting new ways of farming and producing food. But there are big innovations underway in labs and universities that analysts describe as “revolutionary,” enabling the creation of new plants and animals in months rather than decades. For the next few weeks, Agri-Pulse will explore “The Breeding Edge” – a seven-part series on how these new precision methods for plant and animal breeding are set to transform global food production and the potential impact for agribusinesses, farmers and consumers around the world.)

The process of producing food, protecting the environment, and improving animal health is advancing at a seemingly breakneck pace.

These advancements are driven in part by new scientific discoveries, genetic research, data science, enhanced computational power, and the availability of new systems for precision breeding like CRISPR—an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. . . 

C


Rural round-up

December 9, 2017

Culling continues, MPI quashes ‘stories’ – Sally Brooker:

Cattle culling is continuing on the South Canterbury dairy farms infected with Mycoplasma bovis.

All cows have been removed for slaughter from the first two farms in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ ”depopulation” programme.

The number of farms where the bacterial infection has been confirmed since July remains eight, and 21 properties are still under quarantine restrictions.

After all the infected herds are culled, the farms will be disinfected and go into a stand-down period when no cattle will be allowed there.

The ministry has quashed what it said were ”stories circulating in the farming community that M. bovis survives in soil for years”. . . 

Farmers withdraw appeal to save ratepayers’ cash:

Farmers have pulled the plug on an expensive Environment Court hearing but are deeply disillusioned Invercargill City Council turned its back on an option to amicably settle points of difference.

They are disappointed the rural sector is under relentless pressure to deal with contaminants but the city council is being allowed to discharge stormwater containing untreated human waste into some of the same waterways farmers are working hard to improve.

In October four Southland farmers jointly appealed Environment Southland’s decision to grant Invercargill City Council (ICC) consent to discharge urban stormwater into five local waterways.

The discharges include stormwater from roads, hard stand areas, roofs and permeable surfaces, as well as drainage water.  The ICC has acknowledged this stormwater includes raw sewage, due to the deterioration of infrastructure and incorrect pipe connections. . . 

Reducing nitrogen leaching discussed – Sally Brooker:

Pastures containing plantain and Italian ryegrass could help reduce nitrogen leaching without compromising productivity.

At a North Otago Sustainable Land Management (Noslam) workshop at Weston last week, two scientists from the Forages for Reduced Nitrogen Leaching discussed a six-year programme across the dairy, sheep and beef, and arable sectors, involving nine Canterbury farms.

Paul Edwards, from DairyNZ, said the study looked at plants that were better able to take up nitrogen from the soil and that contained less nitrogen themselves. Pasture that reduced the amount of nitrogen a cow took in and had improved metabolisable energy content would improve animal performance and reduce leaching from urine patches. . . 

Dry weather brings warnings – Neal Wallace:

The country could be headed for drought with no widespread rain expected for the next month to provide relief from the sweltering start to summer, Weather Watch head forecaster Philip Duncan says.

Farmers have contacted him concerned at the dry conditions and with little obvious respite he has warned the Ministry for Primary Industries there are signs the country could be in the early phases of a drought.

“I think we’re going into one but it is a long way off being declared.

“It is very dry and some areas on the east coast of both islands and north of Auckland towards Whangarei are the areas to watch. . . 

Advice for irrigators over a long, dry summer:

With much of New Zealand experiencing exceptionally dry conditions, IrrigationNZ has some advice for irrigators on how to make the most efficient use of water over summer.

According to NIWA, several areas in the South and North Island came close to or broke low rainfall records during November, with rainfall well below normal for much of Canterbury, the West Coast, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, Wellington, Wairarapa, Manawatu-Whanganui, and parts of Hawke’s Bay, Auckland, and the Bay of Plenty. . . 

Why demand for British wool is unravelling – Howard Mustoe:

It is in the finest carpets, it is in Harris Tweed, and now you’ll even find it in top-of-the-range beds; but at £1 a kilo, UK wool hasn’t been this cheap in seven years.

Only 14 months ago, it was worth 30% more. So why is wool coming down in price and how come the cost of that soft woollen jumper isn’t coming down as well?

According to Jo Dawson, who has spent 20 years in the wool trade, there are a number of reasons which have combined over time. Since sheep make wool come what may, if wool demand drops, prices can suffer quickly if fleeces go unsold. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 29, 2017

B+LNZ in global protein study – Neal Wallace:

The meat sector has launched a global study into the threats and opportunities posed by artificial protein, as the fledgling industry continues to attract eye-watering sums of money from rich people.

That investment had also started flowing domestically, with reports movie producers Sir Peter Jackson and his wife Frances Walsh and James Cameron and his wife Susan Amis-Cameron had established PBT New Zealand and started working with the Foundation for Arable Research in a future foods project. . . 

Conference focuses on the future of irrigation:

Registrations for IrrigationNZ’s 2018 national Conference are now open. Unlocking a Golden Future through SMART irrigation is the theme of the conference to be hosted at Alexandra from 17-19 April 2018.

“With so much public focus on irrigation and water issues in the media, this is an important opportunity for farmers and growers, the irrigation service industry, researchers, academics, councils and other groups to come together to discuss the future of water management and irrigation systems,” says Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ Chief Executive. . .

IoT Alliance calls for Government backing to help grow more food – Stuart Corner:

The executive director of the recently formed New Zealand IoT Alliance, Kriv Naicker, has called for government support of the group, its sister organisation the New Zealand AI Forum and the broader tech industry to help address the food needs of a growing global population.

His comments were made in the run up to a conference in Christchurch in early December at which the future of food will be discussed.

“Key tech leaders will attend the Feed the World 2030: Power of Plants Hackathon event on December 2 and 3,” Naicker said. . .

New Chair for New Zealand Avocado Growers Association:

Avocado grower and Avocado Growers Association Representative Tony Ponder has been elected as the New Zealand Avocado Growers Association and Avocado Industry Council Chair.

NZAGA Grower Representative Linda Flegg has been elected as the Vice Chair of the NZAGA.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the New Zealand avocado industry, with an incredible increase in value and the positive collaboration throughout the industry,” says Ponder. . .

Primary Wool appoints new director:

Waikato agribusinesswoman Janette Osborne has been appointed to Primary Wool Cooperative’s (PWC) board.

Chairman Bay de Lautour says special skills and understanding are required with PWC being the only New Zealand wool cooperative, and with its unique cooperative / corporate joint venture with Carrfields in CP Wool. . .

Provincial wedding and function venue business groomed for sale:

One of the plushest function and corporate all-in-one event venues in provincial South Island – complete with its own specialised bakery and patisserie-making kitchen – has been placed on the market for sale for the first time.

StoneBridge wedding and function venue in the South Canterbury township of Geraldine is a purpose-built event-hosting destination which is operated in conjunction with a commercial accommodation arm. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 15, 2017

Wool needs red carpet treatment – Neal Wallace:

Wool growers need to put their hands in their pockets to fund the education of marketers and retailers on the merits of carpet wool, an industry veteran says.

Richard Bloemendal, a director of Tech ‘N’ Color, has worked in the New Zealand textile industry since 1980. He said key people in the retail chain today were ignorant of the merits of wool.

He was commenting on news that thousands of bales of short, strong crossbred wool were being placed in storage since the price collapsed because of a lack of demand from yarn manufacturers. . .

Young blood comes in from the cold –  Neal Wallace:

As the country shivered this week through its coldest period of winter so far, 28-year-old Nigel Woodhead conceded the timing wasn’t great.

For the past nine months or so the newly-crowned FMG Young Farmer of the Year confessed to most days making sure his stock was shifted, healthy and fed before returning home to study and prepare for the annual contest.

Now, as the mercury plummets, he has no such excuse. . .

Footrot result a boost for merino – Annette Scott:

A scientific breakthrough has put Kiwi farmers a step closer to breeding footrot-resistant flocks and increasing production of premium Merinos.

Scientists from the NZ Merino Company broke new ground using DNA sampling to accurately predict how resilient a sheep’s progeny would be to footrot.

The breakthrough was the result of four years research and studies using the world’s largest single-site central progeny test. . .

Stink Bug Agreement signed:

 The Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is one of the biggest threats facing New Zealand’s horticultural sector. It threatens the livelihoods of primary sector producers, and would impact on the quality of life of all New Zealanders if ever able to establish here.

An agreement to reduce the damaging impact of BMSB incursion was signed today by a number of horticultural sector groups and Government at the Horticulture NZ Conference in Tauranga. . .

Letters to a Young Farmer– Danielle Nierenberg:

Today, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture released Letters to a Young Farmer,  a book which compiles insight from some of the most influential farmers, writers, and leaders in the food system in an anthology of essays and letters.

The United States is on the cusp of the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history, with more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44. Letters to a Young Farmer aims to help beginning farmers succeed through advice and encouragement, while inspiring all who work in or care about the food system. Among the 36 contributors to the book are thought leaders Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, Michael Pollan, Dan Barber, Temple Grandin, Wendell Berry, Rick Bayless, and Marion Nestle. I was honored to contribute to the book as well! . . 

Barbara Kingsolver Cheers on Young Farmers:

Letters to a Young Farmer is full of good counsel for the next generation from the likes of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and the noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

Dear young farmer,

Let me speak to you as a familiar, because of all the years I’ve cherished members of your tribe. Of course, I also know you’re only yourself, just as I remember the uniqueness of every intern, WWOOFer, and summer weed-puller who has spent a season or two on our family’s farm. Some preferred to work without shoes. Some were captivated by the science of soils, botany, and pest management. Some listened to their iPods, or meditated, or even sang as they hoed and weeded, while others found no music among the bean bee­tles. A few confessed to finding this work too hard, but many have gone on to manage other farms or buy places of their own. In these exceptional souls I invest my hopes.

I don’t need to tell you what there is to love in this life; you’ve chosen it. Maybe you’ve even had to defend that choice already against family or academic advisers who don’t see the future in farming. . . 


Rural round-up

July 9, 2017

Election muddies water issues – Neal Wallace:

Freshwater management faces significant reform regardless of who wins September’s general election.

The Labour and Green Parties would campaign on policies tightening the granting of resource consents for activities such as dairying.

Labour also promised to charge “a resource rental for large water take for irrigation at a fair and affordable price”.

Also in the wings, Environment Minister Nick Smith said a technical paper on options for allocating and pricing water was due in December and would have to be addressed by the incoming government. . . 

Champion kiwi lamb could be world’s healthiest and tastiest – Dave Gooselink:

A bid to produce the world’s healthiest red meat is proving a hit for a group of South Island high country farmers.

Their unique Te Mana lamb was launched onto the market this winter, to be served up at top restaurants both here and in Hong Kong.

Life on the farm’s been a lot tougher in recent years for the country’s sheep, as the growth of dairying pushes them higher into the hills.

Geneticist Aimee Charteris has spent the past decade on a project to create a new breed of sheep. . . 

Geneticist ‘stoked’ to be finalist – Nicole Sharp:

Julia Aspinall is an animal-breeding specialist.

Passionate about her work and the sheep industry, this year she was nominated for the Beef and Lamb New Zealand Significant Contribution to the New Zealand Sheep Industry Award for the first time.

She was announced as a finalist earlier this month, alongside retired Havelock North  Romney breeder Tony Parker and Parnassus Perendale breeder Tim Anderson.

“I was pretty stoked [to find out I was a finalist,]” she said.

“I’m passionate about doing what I’m doing.”

Originally from Mt Aspiring Station in Wanaka, Ms Aspinall has always had a love of the sheep industry. . . 

Confidence, new skills and impetus result from course – Sally Rae:

When Balfour farmer Jonny Elder signed up for the Rabobank farm managers programme last year, the timing was perfect.

Designed for emerging farmers, the programme focused on the development of business management skills, with an emphasis on strategic planning, leadership and self-awareness.

Mr Elder and his wife, Michelle, farm a 460ha sheep and beef property in Northern Southland, where they run ewes, fatten lambs and trade a mix of beef calves and Friesian bulls.

When he went on the course, the couple had just finished their first year farming on their own account — having previously farmed with Mr Elder’s father and brother — and they were ready to put into action their own ideas and visions. . . 

Pest fence broken – Annette Scott:

The biosecurity system is creaking and won’t be sustainable in five years, Ministry for Primary Industries readiness and response director Geoff Gwyn says.

Biosecurity had some big challenges that needed to be addressed collectively, he told farmers at the Federated Farmers arable industry conference.

“To put it bluntly, our system is creaking.

“Biosecurity is working but the model that is there is not sustainable for five years’ time.

“Leave it to the Crown solely and it ain’t going to work. We have got to do it together,” Gwyn said.

And while tourism was great for the country it created greater risk. . . 

Time farming moved on from low cost to added value – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Fieldays at Mystery Creek in mid-June showcased New Zealand innovation, interaction and, in some cases, simply imagination.

When the imagination was backed with evidence, facts and data, it transformed to a goal.

That was the case for the KPMG Agribusiness Agenda released on the first day of the Fieldays.

Titled ‘A Recipe for Action’, the 2017 Agenda said “NZ’s future is as an artisan, niche producer of premium quality, safe and sustainable food and beverages, fibre and timber products”. . . 

Future: threat or opportunity – Annette Scott:

The food industry is one of the fastest changing in the world so producing food to feed it will no longer be business as usual, technology futurist Rosie Bosworth says.

The Future Advantage consultant and communicator told more than 200 farmers at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s FarmSmart event in Christchurch that while not much had changed in the way food had been produced for the past 10,000 years, it was changing now.

Technology and science were creating change beyond business as usual.

“We are amidst an era of exponential change with new business models evolving, accelerating and converging at breakneck speeds.” . . 

Franco Ledger to stand in Southland – Jonny Turner:

Southern harness racing breeders will have free access to the bloodlines of one of the area’s most recent pacing stars next breeding season.

Two-time Southland horse of the year Franco Ledger, by Falcon Seelster, will stand his first season at stud at Macca Lodge in northern Southland this spring, with a zero service fee.

The horse’s former trainer, Hamish Hunter, and co-owners the What Ever Syndicate, were keen to give the horse an opportunity at stud, so they persuaded Macca Lodge to take the horse, proprietor Brent McIntyre said. . .


Rural round-up

July 3, 2017

Crippling footrot could become malady of the past for merinos – Gerard Hutching:

The perfect sheep: that’s the holy grail scientists working for the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) are chasing as they move a step closer to creating a merino that does not suffer footrot.

Using DNA testing, researchers can now accurately predict how resilient a sheep is to the crippling foot disease. Sheep breeders can use the information to selectively breed for greater resistance to footrot.

One of the outcomes is that the range of the breed might expand from dry high country to lowland regions, and its population could grow from 2 million up to 10 million.   . . 

Wool pile grows – Neal Wallace:

A collapse in the market for some types of crossbred wool has forced the stockpiling of thousands of bales amid warnings it could be another year before the market improves.

For some types of wool, farmers have been told more has been put in storage than has sold in the last nine months.

PGG Wrightson wool manager Cedric Bayly was reluctant to reveal figures but said the firm was storing three times the normal volume because of the drying up of demand from China for predominantly second shear 38 to 40 micron crossbred wool that was 50mm to 75mm in length. . . 

Putting the bounce back into wool returns – Chris Irons:

It’s incredibly frustrating that wool is languishing as the cellar-dweller in returns to farmer producers.

Given wool’s incredible attributes, and world markets that supposedly are clamouring for products that are renewable, natural, biodegradable and healthy, New Zealand wool should be doing just fine.

But while the prices for sheep and beef meat have bounced backed to sustainable levels, the returns from wool remain dismal, with no immediate prospect of an upward turn. . . 

Seafood’s men and women tell their stories:

New Zealand’s seafood industry is publicly promising to protect the environment and secure long-term sustainable fisheries.

A promise to the people of New Zealand will air tonight on mainstream television. It will feature people from throughout the country employed in catching, harvesting and processing the seafood that drives one of the country’s most important domestic and export sectors.

The country’s main seafood companies have collaborated to promote the television and web-based programme, committing to a code of conduct that backs the promise. . . 

Word ‘milk’ banned for use in branding of plant based products

Producers using the term ‘milk’ to market purely plant-based products have been forced to rebrand.

The EU Court of Justice confirmed a ban on products of a ‘purely plant-based substance’ using milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt as a marketing tool – terms reserved by EU law for milk of animal origin or products directly derived from bovine milk.

There are some allowances, including coconut milk, nut butter and ice cream, but the majority rule applies to all products not on the list of exceptions, such as soya and tofu. . . 

Agri business using IoT will jolt the NZ economy:

A new research study has identified agri-business as one of the best opportunities to use the internet of things (IoT) for economic advantage in New Zealand, mainly because of the contribution that agriculture already makes to the Kiwi economy.

The research study was commissioned by the New Zealand IoT Alliance, an independent member funded group of tech firms, major corporates, startups, universities and government agencies. . . 

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Ingredients of an all natural egg.


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