Rural round-up

May 9, 2020

Build more and be damned! – David Anderson:

Water storage is one of the keys to helping rebuild NZ’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, says Ian Proudfoot, KPMG’s Global Head of Agribusiness.

This was the message he gave to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee on the opportunities our food and fibre industries have to lead our national economic recovery.

“We have long been the developed nation with the greatest reliance on growing and selling biological products to the world to pay for our schools, roads and hospitals,” he explained.

“Now, more than ever, the industry recognises it needs to step forward to ensure that our country is able to maintain the living standards we have become accustomed to.” . . 

Drought relief ‘too little too late’ Hawke’s Bay farmer – Robin Martin:

A Hawke’s Bay farmer says the government’s latest drought relief package – a $500,000 fund for advisory services – is a “drop in the ocean” and won’t go far to alleviating struggling farmers’ problems.

Extremely dry conditions have hit much of the North Island and parts of the South Island in recent months and in some areas, including Central and Southern Hawke’s Bay, the situation remains dire.

Grant Charteris farms deer and beef cattle at Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay.

He said today’s relief package was a case of “too little too late”. . .

Telephone diplomacy to fight protectionism – Peter Burke:

Rising protectionism is one of the major concerns of New Zealand exporters in the light of COVID-19.

NZ’s chief trade negotiator, Vangelis Vitalis, told Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee that as a result of COVID, many countries will resort to protecting their own economies. NZ exporters fear this will make it much harder for them.

Vitalis says exporters are also concerned about the logistics of getting goods to market, but they have praised the work done by MFAT, NZTE and MPI in keeping freight lines open. . . 

New farm safety initiative aims to empower women to effect change :

A new farm safety initiative aims to rally rural women to help save injuries and lives on New Zealand farms.

Action group Safer Farms has partnered with Australian woman Alex Thomas to bring the #PlantASeedForSafety Project to New Zealand.

The project profiles women from all parts of rural industries and communities who are making positive and practical improvements to the health, safety and wellbeing of those around them.

With the message “save a life, listen to your wife”, it aims to raise the voices of rural women and boost their confidence in their ability to influence change and to inspire others to make safer, healthier choices. . .

Quinoa growers urged to band together and take on the world – Nigel Malthus:

One of New Zealand’s very few quinoa growers is calling on his colleagues to band together to help market their product.

Andrew Currie, who farms near Methven in inland Canterbury, believes he is one of only three commercial quinoa growers in the country. He’s the only one in the South Island and the only one with a breeding programme of golden, white, red and black quinoa varieties.

He told Rural News if there is any good to come out of the current COVID-19 emergency, it may be renewed support for locally grown produce. Currie says the post-lockdown environment will be very different.

“New Zealand farming will be the strength of our economy. Some people will need to change occupation to more rural orientated jobs.”  . .

Ag’s critical role in post-COVID recovery a unique opportunity – Michael Guerin:

Although Australia is weathering the COVID-19 storm better than almost any other nation, there is no doubt that it has dealt us a sickening blow.

And the worst is definitely still to come, as the long-term economic, employment and social effects become apparent.

However, out of the tragedy emerges a unique opportunity for Australian agriculture to lead the country out of the COVID-19 doldrums.

The NFF’s “Don’t panic. Aussie farmers have your back” campaign was highly successful in reassuring the public that our robust industry would ensure the country could feed itself.. . 


Rural round-up

April 21, 2020

Our greatest opportunity – Penny Clark-Hall:

After 10 or so years of a society dislocating itself, with the farming community being challenged to meet the evolving values of its urban counterparts, we have been given a gift. A chance to reconnect.

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  . .

Sector wants deal on reforms – Neal Wallace and Colin Williscroft:

Primary sector leaders have been in discussions with the Government to try to reach a consensus on freshwater reforms.

The 11-member Food and Fibre Leaders’ Forum, which represents the primary sector, is adopting a similar approach to last year’s accord on reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and for several months has had regular meetings with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and senior Cabinet ministers.

The Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms have been temporarily stalled by covid-19 with Environment Minister David Parker saying dealing with the crisis necessitates the reconsideration of priorities and timing. . .

Wanna job? We’ve got it – Annette Scott:

Primary industries face a serious staff recruitment pinch of grave concern to AgStaff director Matt Jones.

The impact of covid-19 is alredy starting to bite and with hundreds of vacancies on his books it’s only going to get worse over the next year, Jones said.

Through his employment businesses Jones recruits staff for jobs from farm and agricultural contracting and food processing to seasonal staff and quality assurance experts, many coming from around the globe to work in New Zealand.  . . 

Are pine trees killing kauri?

A new study suggests that kauri dieback disease may be connected to the lack of protective fungi in plantation pine forest soil.

Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, the study, by Bio-Protection Research Centre PhD candidate Alexa Byers and others, looked at the differences in the bacteria and fungi living in the soil of kauri forest and surrounding pine plantations in the Waipoua area. It found soil in the pine forest’s neighbouring kauri forests lacked several species of fungi and bacteria that protect plants, promote growth, and improve their health (for example Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).

“The loss of core microbiota from native soil microbial communities… surrounding remnant kauri fragments could be altering the forest’s ability to respond to pathogen invasion,” Ms Byers wrote. . . 

Energy farm to trial zero carbon solutions – Nigel Malthus:

Lincoln University has unveiled plans for what is expected to be a globally-unique Energy Demonstration Farm to help the primary sector meet its future zero-carbon obligations.

The farm is designed to be fossil fuel-free and feature solar and wind power, bio-fuel, and energy storage solutions while showcasing the range of technology available and how it can be applied, as well as providing data for research and innovation.

Project leaders Dr Wim de Koning and Dr Jeff Heyl say the farm would allow the University and their research partners to make mistakes, so farmers won’t have to.

Fury of British farmers as public sector caterers vow to cut meat served ins cools, hospitals, universities and care homes by 20 percent to improve diets and help environment – Jack Wright:

  • British farmers are furious at public sector caterers vowing to cut red meat servings in schools, hospitals, and care homes by 20 per cent
  • NFU board member Richard Findlay described move as ‘frankly ridiculous’
  • He called #20percentless a ‘misguided project’ that is ‘wholly inaccurate’
  • The aim is to cut greenhouse gases linked to livestock and boost public health
  • Hitting the target would remove nearly 20million lb of meat every year in the UK . . .

Rural round-up

April 3, 2020

COVID-19: Farming keeps the economy ticking – Nigel Malthus:

An analysis by two Christchurch economists has underlined the value of the farming sector to the country during the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown.

David Dyason and Peter Fieger have produced an analysis of who is likely still to be working and who may not be, based on the Government’s definition of essential business (although the definition is changing as exemptions develop).

They say based on 2019 figures, approximately 123,800 people in Canterbury are employed in essential services, which represents 40.6% of all employment within the region.

This is almost identical to the national economy at 40.4%. . .

COVID-19: Misery on UK farms – Peter Burke:

Wake up, New Zealand: that’s the message from a New Zealander trying to manage a large dairy farm in the UK amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

A friend of the man who wishes to remain anonymous called Dairy News in a bid to make farmers in NZ aware of the situation in the UK which he describes as horrific.

The person whom we will call ‘Brian’ manages a large intensive dairy farm and has a staff of twelve says he’s not sure that farmers in NZ realise the problems they are about to face. . . 

Moving day guide is coming – Gerald Piddock:

Guidelines for sharemilkers and farm owners for the dairy sector’s Moving Day are being written.

Federated Farmers sharemilkers chairman Richard McIntyre is fielding numerous calls from sharemilkers asking him how Moving Day will work.

While much of the Government’s focus is on immediate issues, Moving Day is on its radar.

“We are going to be discussing it more and more over the coming weeks as it becomes clearer and clearer of what it might look like.” . .

Stock feed sells out in drought-hit Wairarapa – Marcus Anselm:

Demand for stock baleage has been high in Masterton as the Covid-19 virus compounds a tough summer for Wairarapa’s farmers.

Masterton District Council (MDC) workers are ploughing on through during the lockdown response to the worldwide pandemic.

Staff at the Homebush sewage treatment plant have been working on through the crisis, with enhanced health and safety measures, to meet demand.

Treated wastewater is used to water nearby land, with plants cropped and sold on as stock baleage. . .

 

Fonterra seeing demand spike for some products – Guyon Espiner:

A bright spot is emerging in the economic gloom with New Zealand’s largest company Fonterra saying it is in good financial heart and expects to remain so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell told RNZ that the global dairy giant, owned by its 10,000 farmers, was expecting the milk price to hold in the current range of $7-7.60 per kilogram of milk solids.

Fonterra was not expecting job losses or significant drops in revenue and was even seeing demand spike for a number of its products.

“Effectively what you’re seeing here in New Zealand play out with stockpiling of products in supermarkets – we’ve seen that play out across a number of our markets around the globe.” . .

Award-winning cheesemaker shares recipe for success:

The reputation of Whangārei’s Grinning Gecko Cheese Company continues to soar after picking up a massive 11 medals at this year’s New Zealand Cheese Competition. This adds to its highly impressive track record of international and national awards won every year during its seven years in business.

So, what is the secret of its success? “Mahi whānau and aroha sums it up pretty well,” revealed owner Catherine McNamara. A winning recipe, but one that will no doubt be tested by the effects of the nationwide lockdown.

In an industry that has traditionally been led by European countries, with heavily guarded hand-made processes and recipes passed down through generations, this small New Zealand business continues to prove it is formidable competition. The latest national awards come swiftly after Grinning Gecko’s now eight-medal-winning Camembert won a gold award at the International Cheese Awards last year. . .

 


Rural round-up

March 24, 2020

Farmers want essential services clarity :

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is urgently seeking clarity from the Government about what primary sector activities will qualify as essential after the Government effectively put the country into lockdown for four weeks to stop the spread of covid-19.

Milne said she has made it clear in conversations with the Government the definition of essential business has to be as wide-ranging as possible so farmers can keep functioning.

“They are part of the food chain and we need them. 

“The people who do service farming, they have an as equally critical role as us who are growing the food.  . . 

Otago farmers nervous about labour from border restrictions :

Uncertainty over travel for the international workforce is compounding what has been a difficult season for orchardists in Central Otago.

Border restrictions and reduced airline capacity in response to Covid-19 are creating anxiety in the industry.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and chief executive of 45 South – New Zealand’s largest cherry exporter – Tim Jones said traditionally two-thirds of his workforce came from overseas, half on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas and half backpackers.

“As a grower, I sit here nervous about labour and we know we use as many Kiwis as we can but to supplement that we employ RSE labour and we employ a lot of backpackers and our obvious concerns are they may not be around in the sort of numbers we’ve had recently. . . 

A DIRA decision – Elbow Deep:

As the world is faced with torrents of horrific news as the pandemic sweeps the globe, it feels like there is little to be positive about. But over recent weeks there have been two small gems for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The first piece of good news was Fonterra’s half year financial results, which are a remarkable turnaround from the Co-op’s first ever loss posted last year. The loss wasn’t insignificant or so small it could be dismissed as a rounding error, the Co-op lost over half a billion dollars which only makes the recent turnaround even more impressive.

At a time of mass uncertainty when many people don’t know if they’ll still have a job in a few months, it is somewhat relieving that these results will see Fonterra inject more than $11 billion into the New Zealand economy through milk payments to their farmers. Those farmers will in turn spend over half of that in their local communities, communities which need money now more than ever before. It’s not just Fonterra farmers who will benefit from the Co-op’s strong performance; independent processors around the country will be benchmarking themselves off the Co-op’s strong performance. . .

Rural sector crying out to recruit more staff – Jacob McSweeny:

While thousands of people around the country are facing joblessness a recruiting company is calling out for workers in the primary sector, saying there were 40 jobs in South Canterbury available now.

Agstaff, Canstaff and New Zealand Dairy Careers managing director Matt Jones said the need for workers had increased as a result of implications from the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The work does not stop — it’s ramped up as some of our clients in the primary production sector increase production to meet New Zealand’s needs.

“The cows still need milked and the crops must be picked,” Mr Jones said.

He said he had a client in South Canterbury who needed 40 people to start immediately. . . 

Post-quake study reveals hort potential – Nigel Malthus:

Large areas of North Canterbury and South Marlborough – affected by the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquakes – offer wide potential for horticulture.

A Plant and Food Research investigation has found that several crops – in particular, apples, grapes, hazelnuts and walnuts – could be grown in pockets throughout the region.

It identified 41,515 ha of land – or about 9% of the total 466,000ha – that would potentially be suitable. . . 

Vets offer Covid-19 advice:

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has some advice for animal owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association representing New Zealand veterinarians says COVID-19 should not reduce the care owners give to their animals’ health and welfare.

“We appreciate there are many issues that people are dealing with in relation to COVID-19, particularly those self-isolating or with family members taking this precautionary measure,” says New Zealand Veterinary Association chief veterinary officer, Dr Helen Beattie.  . . 

Why cradle-to-cradle needs to be included in fashion’s sustainability rating tools :

A review of a leading environmental impact tool for apparel finds that unless improvements are made, weaknesses in the underlying science could lead to misleading results, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the environment.

What do textile lifecycle assessment tools do?

Textile lifecycle assessment (LCA) tools aim to understand, quantify and communicate the environmental credentials of textiles with the intent of minimising environmental impact.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Material Sustainability Index (MSI) is increasingly being adopted by industry but this LCA method currently fails to account for the complexity of the textile industry.

“Several significant environmental impacts and processes are excluded from the MSI and PM, including recyclability, biodegradability, renewability of resource used, microfibres, abiotic resource depletion (minerals) and abiotic bioaccumulation,” said Dr Steve Wiedemann of Integrity AG & Environment.  . . 


Rural round-up

March 6, 2020

Be a good boss and we’re unstoppable – Sudesh Kissun:

A dairy sector made up of good bosses would make us unstoppable, says Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Chris Lewis.

Good bosses would attract workers to dairy farms. “Therefore, the recruitment process would be more competitive and the calibre of those you employed would increase,” he says.

“Your staff would solve more problems, find more opportunities therefore you and your farm business would be more successful.” . . 

Where the big dry really hurts :

It was shaping up to be Bill Cashmore’s best year on the farm with record prices for beef and lamb, but the worst drought he’s ever known has put paid to that.

The deputy mayor of Auckland and his son Robert who runs the 1220-hectare sheep and beef farm in Clevedon, about an hour south east of Auckland’s CBD, will have to make some drastic decisions if no rain comes in the next couple of weeks.

It’s so dry old native trees growing next to a stream are dying and the brown summer grass has turned grey. Cashmore describes it as ‘fried”. . . 

The Golden Shears: Woolly sheep bring sheer excitement to competitors :

The country’s best shearers are gearing up for a busy day of finals today at The Golden Shears in Masterton.

Destiny Paikea, of Ngāti Whātua descent, has qualified for the Junior Shearing Final.

Paikea comes from a long line of shearers and grew up in the West Otago as a wool handler.

She eventually began competing in shearing competitions two years ago. . .

Average Canterbury farmer ‘just treading water’ – Nigel Malthus:

Half of Canterbury dairy farms aren’t operating profitably, says Ashburton farm consultant Jeremy Savage.

“The average Canterbury dairy farmer at the moment is just treading water: that would be the polite way of putting it,” he said.

“And that’s the average. If the average is just treading water there’s a number of dairy farmers . .

Sector comes together to support drought-hit farmers:

Northland Inc’s Extension 350 has combined with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ to provide a reference point for farmers battling to respond to the effects of the worst drought in years.

This is being done by bringing together a number of Northland farmers who will share their responses to the situation via the Northland Inc website, with weekly updates on their current focus and actions.

“This sector-wide collaboration creates an overview to help farmers prioritise their actions, focus on their farms and manage their wellbeing through this extremely stressful period,” said Luke Beehre, Project Lead of Extension 350 (E350), the award-winning farmer-led and farmer-focused programme. . .

Fonterra chairman confirms retirement in October:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (FCG) Chairman John Monaghan has confirmed that he will retire as a Director of the Co-operative when his current 3-year term ends at its Annual Meeting this November.

In a note to the Co-operative’s farmer-owners and unitholders, Mr Monaghan explained that his decision was the next step in the Fonterra Board’s development and succession planning.

“After 11 years as a Director, and having seen through the introduction of our new strategy, operating model, and with our debt reduction efforts well progressed, the timing is right for me and for the Co-op. . .

Pāmu welcomes major US investment in ag sector technology:

The investment by major United States company Merck and Co in FarmIQ, is an endorsement of the technology that Pāmu has been championing since the inception of the agri-tech company, Pāmu Chief Executive Steven Carden says.

“This latest investment from a global player in animal health and welfare confirms the vision we had when FarmIQ was started, which was to enable greater productivity by joining up the whole agriculture data ecosystem,” Mr Carden said.

Pāmu holds a 30% shareholding in FarmIQ and is one of its original shareholders and biggest customers. The company has actively championed changes such as the Health and Safety module widely used by FarmIQ customers. . . 

Key kiwifruit operator’s packing and coolstore property for sale while industry booms:

A medium-sized Takanini packhouse and coolstore used exclusively for post-harvest in the $2.9 billion New Zealand kiwifruit industry is on the market for sale and leaseback.

The 7,223 square metre Auckland Pack & Cool (Apac) facility on 1.1 hectares at 149 Phillip Road, Takanini packs and coolstores kiwifruit for export and distribution by the country’s single desk seller Zespri International.

It is one of the kiwifruit industry’s key post-harvest operators, with the resources to pack about 3.5 million trays each season, and a combined on-site and satellite cool storage capacity for 1.75 million trays. . . 

 


Rural round-up

February 23, 2020

Virus bites into jobs – Neal Wallace:

More than 1000 logging contractors, a number industry leaders say could double, have been laid off in recent weeks as the economic impact of China’s battle to contain coronavirus begins to bite.

Meat companies and market analysts report increased activity at ports and distribution of perishable products such as food as business in parts of China returns to normal.

But disrupted shipping schedules are creating a fresh set of challenges for exporters. . .

Lim: real food is here to stay – Gerald Piddock:

Eating fads come and go but real food will never go out of fashion, chef Nadia Lim says.

Natural food, whether grown from the ground or captured from the sea or sky, will always have a place on the food plate, Lim told the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Waikato.

The dietitian, author, Masterchef winner and My Food Bag founder said the trend to veganism and plant-based alternative meat and dairy will be temporary once consumers understood what is in these products. . .

Importance of healthy plants celebrated in Year of Plant Health:

Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) at Parliament tonight.

“Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to our economy,” says Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

“Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed approximately $9 billion to the New Zealand economy in 2019. . .

North Canterbury farming keep an eye on the dry:

The Hurunui Adverse Events Committee has been monitoring how farmers are going in the current dry weather, and to remind their communities of the wealth of experience and information available.

Famers in North Canterbury have plenty of drought experience and can take credit for being in reasonable shape as February brings weeks of hot, dry weather and high evapotranspiration.

“If we learned one thing in the 2014-2017 droughts, it was that you need to make decisions early on what you can control,” says Winton Dalley, Chair of the Hurunui Adverse Events Committee. “Its good practice to have plans and deadlines in place to destock, send stock out to graze, and buy in supplements while they are available at an affordable price. . .

Cows can help reverse global warming – Nigel Malthus:

Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.

An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.

“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.” . . 

New milk vat monitoring systems for Fonterra farmers:

Fonterra is beginning to install new milk vat monitoring systems over the next couple of years.

The aim is to support their farmers’ production of high-quality milk and make the co-op’s milk collection more efficient.

Richard Allen, group director of Farm Source, says the new milk vat monitoring systems are part of Fonterra’s commitment to help make farming easier.  . .


Rural round-up

February 19, 2020

‘Game could soon be over for some farmers ‘ – Nigel Malthus:

Proposed new environmental rules for the Waimakariri District will drive some farmers off their land, say farmers and their support groups.

The district is facing new rules under the proposed Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (CLWRP), which calls for staged cuts to Nitrogen losses over coming decades – up to 90% reductions in some specified zones.

One dairy farmer in the most-affected “purple zone” near Oxford said he had a consultant run the figures for his farm and it showed that at 30% reduction he might as well “give the keys to the bank” and walk away. . .

Headlines don’t match the research – Dr Jacqueline Rowarth:

Diet-shaming appears to be the new trend and virtue-signaling by ‘celebrities’ is rife.

They’re doing it for their children. Only the cynical would wonder whether their on-line profile needed a boost.

The claim is that animal protein damages the environment more than plant protein, so we should be eating the latter rather than the former. Whether this is true or not very much depends upon which production systems are being compared and the basis for the calculations.

The latest report hitting the headlines is from the University of Otago. It attempts to make dietary recommendations for the New Zealand context, but states overtly that UK data were used. Further, the base for the dietary calculations was 2,130 kilocalories. It wasn’t protein to provide essential amino acids. . .

Dairy and diamonds are forever – Amos Palfeyrman:

One day in the mid to late 2000s I stumbled upon a National Geographic article describing Lab Grown Diamonds and how they would lead to the inevitable demise of the diamond mining industry. 

I couldn’t help but agree with the author.

Why scour the Earth for shiny objects when science now offers an alternative, diamonds grown in labs. These gems weren’t synthetic substitutes. They were optically, chemically and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. 

Though I was a long way from facing the choice between lab grown and mined diamond I’d decided that when the time came I’d be proposing to my future wife with a broker’s receipt for shares or perhaps a digger. Both seemed of much more use than a shiny rock.  . . 

Synlait pegs back growth – Hugh Stringleman:

Synlait has downgraded its earnings guidance for the current financial year by about 15%, saying it would now fall within a range of $70 million to $85m.

The previous guidance was for a 10% increase on last year’s $82m, chief executive Leon Clement said.

He blamed reduced sales expectations in the key China infant base powder market, much more volatile lactoferrin prices, and slower growth in consumer-packaged infant formula sales. . .

Feds delighted to be part of successful eradication effort:

A Wairarapa community-wide effort, backed by government, has achieved what is thought to be a biosecurity world first.

The complete eradication of the pea weevil from the Wairarapa required a four-year ban on the growing of peas, not just for commercial growers, but for all gardeners.

Federated Farmers has been involved in helping growers work through the processes around the biosecurity response and eradication since the beginning of the response, back in 2016.

“The pea industry is worth $130 million to New Zealand. Wairarapa growers and farmers were initially aghast at talk of a ban on growing, for years,” Federated Farmers arable chair, and Wairarapa grower, Karen Williams says. . .

After 139 years, Masterton A&P Show may end – Piers Fuller:

Sweeping changes and nominal entrance fees may not be enough to keep Masterton’s 139-year-old A&P Show from coming to an end.

A disappointing turnout to this year’s event at Solway Showgrounds on Saturday have organisers questioning the feasibility of running the annual show.

“It’s obvious the way things are heading that we simply can’t afford to carry on,” Masterton A&P Association president Peter McWilliam said. The organisation was in good health, but the agricultural showcase was unsustainable. . .


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