Rural round-up

June 3, 2019

Townies ringing the changes on rural folk – Nigel Malthus:

Decisions are being made about and for New Zealand’s rural communities by the 80% of the population who live in urban areas, say the authors of a new book on rural change.

Current trends favour a market led, business focussed approach to regional growth, but these trends downplay social and community considerations, and that needs further thought, the authors say.

Heartland Strong: how rural New Zealand can change and thrive finds that rural communities have enormous strengths which could be enhanced and maintained even in the face of inexorable change. . .

Debt problems rise only slightly – Nigel Stirling:

The number of dairy farmers struggling with high debt has risen slightly, according to the Reserve Bank’s latest stock-take of the health of the financial system.

In its twice-yearly Financial Stability Report it said the number of non-performing dairy loans reported by the trading banks has increased slightly.

“The dairy sector is continuing to recover from the two major dairy price downturns in the past decade. . .

Plan needed for competing wood demands – Fonterra – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Wood is a viable industrial fuel but greater effort may be needed to ensure that new demand from processors doesn’t strip supplies from existing users, Fonterra says.

Co-firing the firm’s Brightwater milk powder plant near Nelson on a wood-coal blend shows that wood is a viable means to reduce emissions from process heat, Tony Oosten, the firm’s energy manager, says.

Capital and fuel costs for new wood or coal boilers are now very close and the company could – were it to be building its Darfield 2 dryer in Canterbury again – do that with wood. . . 

 

World leading scientist teaming up with Fonterra on sustainability:

Professor Ian Hunter is a serial entrepreneur. Born in New Zealand, he started his first company at age nine and published his first scientific paper at age 10.

Now living in Boston, he’s the Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, the co-founder of 25 companies, and has more than 100 patents to his name.

He’s also working on a new project – a partnership with Fonterra to solve some of dairy farming’s biggest sustainability challenges.

Kakariki Fund to help horticulture starts accelerate growth:

A wholesale investment offer being launched this week is aimed at helping the emerging stars of the New Zealand horticulture sector accelerate their growth.

Kakariki Fund Limited, which is seeking $100 million, will invest in orchards, vineyards, plantations and farms to be co-managed by leading horticulture processors and exporters including apple growers Rockit Global and Freshmax, Sacred Hill wines, craft beer hop grower Hop Revolution, Manuka honey producer Comvita and kiwifruit grower and packer DMS Progrowers.

Kakariki is targeting annual investment returns of 10%*, which will be made up of earnings from the sale of crops through the partners and any increases in land values.  . . 

Meat is magnificent water, carbon, methane & nutrition  – Diana Rodgers:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

There was a recent article in The Washington Post entitled “Meat is Horrible”, once again vilifying meat, that was full of inaccurate statements about the harm cattle impose on the land, how bad it is for our health, and how it should be taxed. Stories like this are all too common and we’ve absolutely got to change our thinking on what’s causing greenhouse gas emissions and our global health crisis.

Hint: it’s not grass-fed steak

In the few days since the story originally came out, I’ve been brewing up some different angle to write. I’ve written here, and here about the benefits of red meat, and how Tofurky isn’t the answer to healing the environment or our health. I keep saying the same thing over and over. Recently, I posted this as a response to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new claims that a plant-based diet is optimal. I also wrote about Philadelphia’s sugar tax here, and I don’t think a meat tax is any better of an idea, especially when the government is subsidizing the feed. I’m feeling quite frustrated. . . 


Rural round-up

April 6, 2019

FARMSTRONG: Putting people first comes first

A thriving Canterbury dairy farmer puts as much thought into looking after his staff as he does stock and pasture. 

Duncan Rutherford manages an operation with 14 staff, 2300 cows and some sheep and beef on a 3300-hectare property. 

He and his family are still dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. 

“It was a reasonable challenge all right. A couple of houses got fairly damaged and one is still being repaired.  . . 

Exporters’ Brexit concerns grow – Peter Burke:

New Zealand primary produce exporters’ concerns continue rising about the confusion in the British parliament over Brexit.

NZ’s agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says given the possibility of a no-deal, exporters are making contingency plans for such an event.

But they also still hope a deal will be agreed so they won’t have to trigger plans for a no-deal. The whole thing is a terrible mess, Petersen told Rural News last week. . . 

Young farming couple applauded for farm sustainability – Angie Skerret:

A farming couple applauded for their commitment to farming sustainability have a simple message for other farmers – make a plan and make a start.

Simon and Trudy Hales, of Kereru Farms, are one of eleven regional winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards – taking out the Horizons regional award.

The Hales are the fourth generation to farm the land, and have worked hard to make positive changes on their 970ha sheep and beef farm near Weber. . .

A2 Milk says lift in dairy prices may impact in FY2020 – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Company said recent increases in dairy pricing will have an impact on gross margin percentages in the 2020 financial year but it doesn’t anticipate any significant impact this year.

Dairy product prices rose for the ninth straight time in the overnight Global Dairy Trade auction. The GDT price index added 0.8 percent from the previous auction two weeks ago and average prices are now up 28 percent since the auction on Nov 20.

“We do not anticipate any significant impact to gross margin percentage during FY19 as a result of recent increases in dairy pricing as reflected in Global Dairy Trade Indices. . . 

Dairy industry tells EU ‘hard cheese’ – Nigel Stirling:

The dairy industry is digging its heels in over the European Union’s attempts to seize dozens of cheese names for the exclusive use of its own producers.

The EU has long sought to use its free-trade agreements to extend its system of Geographical Indications (GIs) and its trade talks with NZ have been no exception.

As part of the talks the European Commission has given NZ negotiators a list of 179 food names and hundreds more wine and spirit names linked to European places it says should be given legal protection over and above that provided by this country’s own system of GIs protecting names of wines and spirits introduced several years ago. . . 

Scott and Laura Simpson’s focus on data collection pays off in Inverell drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

SOME of the toughest decisions are made during unfavourable seasons but for Inverell’s Scott and Laura Simpson their efforts during the good times are making their management easier. 

The couple are into their fifth year of ownership of the 1700 hectare property Glennon, which was previously run by Mr Simpson’s parents. 

At the time they had a herd of Brangus content types so the pair moved to incorporate more Angus genetics and breed more moderate females.  . . 


Rural round-up

March 5, 2019

Irrigation issues in Soal charge –  Annette Scott:

Elizabeth Soal started her new role as chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand last week and while a lot of challenges lie ahead there’s also a load of opportunities for the irrigation industry. She talked to Annette Scott.

PUBLIC awareness of water quality and how water is used and is changing the debate around water policy, Irrigation New Zealand’s new chief executive Elizabeth Soal says.

“The wider public is becoming more involved in debates and this trend will continue in the future. . . 

Mycoplasma Bovis risks are much greater than admitted – Keith Woodford:

Taxpayers and farmers are collectively committed to pay more than $800 million for eradication of Mycoplasma bovis. It is therefore reasonable that they are provided with good information as to how eradication is proceeding.

Unfortunately, the current information from MPI is not the full story. At the heart of the problem is the unwillingness of MPI to admit many of the things they do not know or are uncertain about. As one senior MPI person said to me in an unguarded moment, we would come across as clueless. . .

Call surprises agents – Nigel Stirling:

The body representing livestock agents is surprised at renewed calls for regulation after it moved to more strictly police the conduct of members just last September.

The Stock and Station Agents Association for the first time adopted a code of practice for its members and set up a disciplinary body for those failing to uphold the new code. . .

Otago farmers may voluntarily restrict water usage due to dry conditions – Tim Brown:

Farmers in Central Otago may resort to voluntarily restricting their water use in the next week as the prolonged hot and dry weather shows no sign of abating.

There’s plenty of feed locked away after a wet spring but the ground is now brown and dry, and there’s not much rain on the horizon. . .

 

Strength lies in team work for Manawatu Dairy Awardw inners:

The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners say the strength of their farming business lies in the teams they have created to support their goal of growing their business.

Jemima and Thomas Bebbington say that entering the dairy industry awards has given them a better understanding of their business. “The Dairy Industry Awards gave us the opportunity to look into every nook and cranny of our farming business, and receive feedback from farming professionals,” say the couple, who have entered the Awards twice previously. . . 

Former livestock farm land placed up for sale as upmarket residential  enclave :

A large portion of elevated countryside pasture land previously run as a part of a dry stock farm has been placed on the market for sale for conversion into an upmarket boutique housing subdivision.

The approximate 12.8-hectare site overlooks the Waikato township of Paeroa, and is consented for subdivision into low density residential housing sections. The land is being subdivided off a bigger 302 hectare drystock farm which will remain in primary production use as a grazing block. . .


Rural round-up

March 4, 2019

EU makes a galling offer – Nigel Stirling:

The European Union is pressing New Zealand to drop the use of some cheese names in free-trade talks but is refusing to open its own dairy markets to increased competition in return.

Negotiators met for the third round of talks in Brussels last week. NZ’s lead negotiator Martin Harvey said the talks had made progress since being launched in July last year and the EU had already tabled an offer on agricultural market access.

“The EU has made us an offer but it is not satisfactory.” . . .

Milk price up but decisions loom – Neal Wallace:

Fonterra decided not to pay an interim dividend because of its debt reduction priorities and steps to improve its operational performance, chairman John Monaghan says.

Fonterra lifted its forecast farmgate milk price range 30c to $6.30-$6.60/kg MS on the back of improved demand from Asia, specifically China, and bad weather slowing production in Australia and Europe.

Countering that, geopolitical pressure in Latin America has made trading conditions difficult in some countries, chief executive Miles Hurrell said. . .

History made as Canterbury woman qualifies for for FMG Young Farmer of the Year final:

A North Canterbury shepherd has made history after qualifying for the prestigious FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

Georgie Lindsay, 23, won the fiercely-contested Tasman regional final in Culverden last night, beating seven other contestants.

She’s the first woman from the sprawling region to make it through to the grand final in the contest’s 51-year history. . .

Chance to lower N leaching – Ken Muir:

Southern Dairy Hub business manager Guy Michaels said the key takeaway from last week’s field day at the Hub near Wallacetown was that there is a range opportunities for farmers to save money and reduce nitrate (N) leaching. ”While it is still early days for our research, our monitoring programme being carried out in association with AgResearch is starting to provide a picture of the differences in nitrate leaching in different situations,” he said. . . 

Enterprising family’s team work bears fruit – Sally Brooker:

Usually, it’s the kids who leave home. In the Watt family, it was the parents.

Julie and Justin Watt own Waitaki Orchards, just east of Kurow. Their eight children have become so involved in the business that they have stayed to run different aspects of it.

“Justin and I and the youngest are in Duntroon,” Mrs Watt said when the Oamaru Mail called in last month. “We were the first to leave home.” . . . 

The high school where learning to farm is a graduation requirement – Mary Ann Lieser:

A group of teens gathers quietly in the predawn darkness. Dressed in warm clothing, they meet before breakfast to help capture and pack broiler chickens to be taken to a slaughterhouse. They fed, watered, and watched the birds grow; now they prepare them for their final trip. Eventually, the birds will return as meat and be cooked for the teens to eat.

High school students at Olney Friends School, located on 350 acres near Barnesville, Ohio, witness the cycle of birth and death time and again during their four years on campus. Founded in 1837 to serve the children of Quaker families, Olney has always had a farm program and students have been involved in its operation to varying degrees. . .

 


Ag journalists recognised with awards

October 16, 2017

The role of agricultural and rural journalists is even more important now that fewer people have links to farming and rural New Zealand.

The best have been recognised in the annual Guild of Agricultural Journalists’ Awards.

Wellington-based Radio New Zealand Radio Rurals journalist took out the top award for agricultural journalists at the 2017 awards night for the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators.

Alexa Cook won the supreme award, the Ministry for Primary Industries Rongo Award, which recognises excellence in agricultural journalism. She won the award for coverage of a week-long mustering in Muzzle Station, the first after the Kaikoura earthquake. Her items were featured on Morning Report, Checkpoint, and Insight programmes and on the Radio NZ website. 

Rural New Zealand is very well served by specialist rural and farming publications but many of these are delivered free only to those on rural delivery postal routes.

Radio NZ, is broadcast nationwide with a big urban audience which means Alexa’s work has a broader reach in both town and country.

Runner-up in the MPI Rongo Award was The Dairy Exporter team of NZ Farm Life Media, for several features, particularly the Team Building feature.

Other award winners were:

  • The AgResearch Science Writers Award, established to enhance standards of science writing, especially about pastoral agriculture, was won by Alexa Cook and Carol Stiles
  • The Rural Women New Zealand Journalism Award was won by Sally Rae of Oamaru, for articles which appeared in the Otago Daily Times
  • The Federated Farmers Broadcast Journalism Award was won jointly by Carol Stiles and Alexa Cook
  • The DairyNZ Dairy Industry Journalism Award which recognises the ability to communicate the complexities of the dairy industry, was won by Jackie Harrigan for articles in The Dairy Exporter.
  • The inaugural Zespri Export Journalism Award, which recognises the vital importance of exports to the New Zealand economy, was won by Fairfax Media’s Gerard Hutching.
  • The Alliance Group Ltd Red Meat Industry Journalism Award, which focuses on all aspects of the red meat industry was won by Alexa Cook, of RNZ Rural News
  • The Beef + Lamb New Zealand News Award, which recognises excellence in hard news journalism, focusing on any aspect of the beef and sheep industry, was won by Nigel Stirling for articles in Farmers Weekly and NZX Agri’s Pulse, both on trade talks.
  • The Federated Farmers Rural Photography Award was won by Des Williams, for a photo which appeared in Shearing magazine.
  • The inaugural Rural Women New Zealand Rural Connectivity Award, recognising the importance of connectivity to rural communities and agri-businesses in rural areas, was won by Alexa Cook.
  • The Guild’s own award – the Agricultural Journalism Encouragement Award – is designed to encourage and recognise excellence among journalists with three or less years reporting on agricultural issues. This year, it was won by Brittany Pickett, of Invercargill, for articles which appeared in the NZ Farmer.

 

The ODT covers Sally’s Rae award here.


Rural round-up

October 9, 2017

Water conservation orders dam up vital conversation – Andrew Curtis:

The past few weeks have seen hundreds of Hawke’s Bay residents take to the streets to protest against a proposed water conservation order that would limit the amount of water taken from the Ngaruroro River. Nearly 400 submissions on the order have been received, with submitters split evenly between those for and against.

The Ngaruroro has had water drawn from it since the time settlement of the Heretaunga Plains started more than 100 years ago. Its waters support the orchards and vineyards that contribute to Hawke’s Bay’s identity and our enjoyment of New Zealand grown produce. Two-thirds of New Zealand’s apples come from the area, along with nectarines, onions, sweetcorn, squash and internationally renowned red wine. Thousands of jobs in Hastings and Napier rely on produce and business from these fertile plains. . . 

Healthy returns likely to continue – Tony Leggett:

Volatility is ever present but Alliance Group expects to deliver healthy farmgate returns for all types of livestock over the coming months.

Speaking at a roadshow meeting in Feilding on Tuesday, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Heather Stacy presented positive price ranges for lamb, mutton and beef.

“It’s been a strong year to date for farmgate prices but we’re really looking forward with caution. These price ranges I’m about to deliver are not a guarantee,” Stacy said. . .

Getting women active in decision making:

A course designed to lift farm profitability by helping farming women become more active partners in their farming businesses is achieving outstanding results, according to new research.

The Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) course funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Primary Growth Partnership Programme and run by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust has since 2014 built up the skills, knowledge and confidence of 650 farming women. . .

Meat quota outrage – Nigel Stirling:

The New Zealand sheep meat industry has gained a powerful new ally in the United States as access arrangements to its single most valuable market, Europe, are again thrown into doubt.

The industry was jolted by Britain’s announcement last week that it had agreed with the European Union how import quotas would be split after it left the 28-country bloc in 2019.

It was thought Britain had agreed to take part of the 228,000 tonne tariff-free quota previously covering the whole EU. The British portion would be based on its previous three years of imports. . .

Bananapocalypse: The race to save the world’s most popular fruit – Paul Tullis:

In a hot, dry field near a place called Humpty Doo in Australia’s Northern Territory, scientists are racing to begin an experiment that could determine the future of the world’s most popular fruit, the lowly banana.

Dodging the occasional crocodile, researchers will soon place into the soil thousands of small plants that they hope will produce standard Cavendish bananas — the nicely curved, yellow variety representing 99 percent of all bananas sold in the United States. But in this case, the plants have been modified with genes from a different banana variety. . . 

 


Rural round-up

July 17, 2017

Susatainability key to role as new AgResearch leader – Sally Rae:

The big thrust for AgResearch in the future has to be around farm and environmental sustainability issues, new chairman Jeff Grant says.

His focus would be continuing to build on AgResearch’s ability to deliver science that was “highly relevant” to the future of farming.

Regional council changes, in a bid to get better outcomes around land and water, would force AgResearch to provide the science to ‘‘get the answers’’ and the tools for farmers.

“I see the organisation as being the lead provider of answers that allow farmers to meet the expectations for producing high quality food in natural and sustainable environments, while also being able to run a viable business. . .

Cattle grazing on river edges keeps weed ‘shambles’ down on extensive farms – Bob Todhunter:

With alI the bad publicity our rivers are receiving I feel the general public is confused between extensive and intensive grazing.

I would like to make some observations about stock grazing alongside waterways. I am no scientist, however I do have 70-plus years of practical observation.

I remember being taught fishing by my grandfather in the 1950s on the rivers of the Canterbury Plains when sheep and cattle were grazed extensively by the riverbeds. . .

Pine tree seedlings in short supply after poor growing season  – Jill Galloway:

A shortage of pine tree seedlings after a poor growing season for tree nurseries has hit some forest owners and farm foresters.

Patrick Murray ,who is owner of Murray’s Nurseries at Woodville in Tararua, said he had turned down orders of 1.2 million pines.

“We grew around five million pinus radiata but could easily have sold more. It has been a wet summer and poor autumn and that affected badly the growth of the trees.” . . 

EU farmer subsidies under threat – Nigel Stirling:

There are signs that the massive subsidisation of European agriculture could be cut back.

New Zealand has long fought the policy, which tops up the incomes of millions of European farmers.

For decades, NZ has argued the policy keeps European production higher than justified by market prices, and supply on global markets out of kilter with demand. . .

Alliance looks to food service growth – Alan Williams:

Alliance Group hopes that its new food service business will be achieving annual sales above $100 million in the next three years or so.

A four-strong development team is working up a pilot programme in the United Kingdom that the meat exporter will use as a springboard for wider Europe, and into Asian markets as well, general manager sales Murray Brown said.

“Who knows how it could go – we’re a $1.5 billion business and if we could get the food service up to 10% of total sales over three years that would be $100m to $150m.” . .

Nitrate data suggests a corner turned – Nicole Sharp:

Environment Southland’s latest water quality report shows a trend of decreasing or indeterminate nitrogen levels and Southland farmers deserve a pat on the back for this, Agribusiness farm consultant Deane Carson says.

Nitrate levels in Southland had always been an area of significant concern for him, and for a while were somewhat out of control, he said.

But the latest report showed the majority of the sites were indeterminate for nitrite­nitrate nitrogen (NNN) levels over the five years covered and nine of the 49 sites had a decreasing trend. . .


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