Enabling better environmental outcomes in agriculture

26/08/2020

Nuffield Scholar Kate Scott presents her research on enabling better environmental outcomes in agriculture:

You can read Kate’s report here.


Rural round-up

26/07/2020

Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop – Yvonne O’Hara:

Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a “massive drop in productivity” within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry. . .

M bovis eradication on track -Annette Scott:

The number of properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis has dropped to an all-time low, triggering a wave of confidence that the plan to eradicate the cattle disease from New Zealand is on-track.

Three years on since the disease was first confirmed in NZ, industry leaders are confident the world-first attempt to eradicate the disease is making positive gains towards eradication being within reach in the coming seven years.

As of July 22, the M bovis programme had just four confirmed active properties on its books.

Of these,  two are dairy and one beef in the North Island, with one beef property in Canterbury.  . . 

Smith downplays British farming fears – Nigel Stirling:

A former Trade Minister is hopeful he can play his part convincing Britain to open its farmers up to increased competition from New Zealand and other rival producers once it leaves the European Union.

Lockwood Smith credited his appointment to a new commission advising the British government on trade agreements and agriculture to his long experience as a farmer and former trade and agriculture minister, as well as his knowledge of the British farming and political scene as a recent High Commissioner to London.

“There is a realisation that (British) agriculture needs to move forward and this is an attempt to find a consensus on how best to do that,” Smith said. . . 

Can-do farm installs methane-run generator – Yvonne O’Hara:

Dairy effluent is being used to power an Isla Bank milking shed and mitigate methane emissions at the same time.

Dairy Green and Scandrett Rural owner and consultant John Scandrett has been overseeing a biogas conversion project at Glenarlea Farm, Isla Bank, since November 2016.

Glenarlea Farm, which is owned by the Fortuna Group and managed by Brendon and Lorelai Santos, milks about 900 cows at peak.

Bacteria convert effluent solids into biogas, of which methane and carbon dioxide are the main constituents.

The methane fuelled a converted diesel motor, which drove a generator to make electricity, Mr Scandrett said. . . 

Taranaki dairy farm doing twice the average milk production scoops national awards :

A Taranaki dairy farmer who has won a raft of production awards attributes his success to having well-grown young stock.

Stefan Buhler milks 260 Holstein Friesian cows on his 80-hectare coastal farm at Manaia near Hawera.

The herd produced 202,000 kilograms of milksolids (kgMS) in the 2019-20 season.

“It was a record season for us, despite the drought. We produced 2525 kgMS per hectare, which is quite incredible,” he said. . .

Report questions gender bias in succession planning – Mollie Tracey:

WHILE the agricultural industry has made great progress in advancing women in the workforce, little work has looked into shifting traditional patterns of patrilineal farm succession, which act as gender barriers for daughters growing up on farms.

That’s according to a new report by 2017 Nuffield scholar and Morawa farmer, Katrina Sasse, who investigated the position of daughter successors in United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – a study that was motivated by her own keen interest as a daughter successor and desire to help women in Australia find a pathway back to the family farm. 

It’s an unfortunate fact that in rural communities some people continue to view daughter successors differently to sons and more needs to be done to empower young Women to remain in family farming operations. . . 


Rural round-up

13/06/2020

Farm jobs offer competitive pay rates say industry experts – Bonnie Flaws:

Former sports trainer Tim Wilson had always harboured dreams of working on a farm, and last year changed career to do just that.

Wilson was motived by both the lifestyle and the potential earnings that farming offered, he said.

He took a $20,000 pay cut to start as a farm assistant, but said he knew long term his earning potential was much higher on the farm.

Wilson started out as a farm assistant and was now beginning his first year training in herd management on a farm near Te Puke, close to Tauranga. . . 

Kiwi workers hold the key to vineyards’ survival, but could we cut the mustard? – Maia Hart:

As thousands become beneficiaries, New Zealand’s biggest wine region still has job opportunities. Could white collar workers really earn their keep in the vineyards? Reporter Maia Hart attempted a morning in the vines. She made minimum wage.

Flanked by rural Marlborough’s grapevines before sunrise, 34 overseas workers in their high vis vests are illuminated by headlights from the company car, jogging on the spot to get their blood pumping and stretch their muscles against the autumn chill.

The workers are in the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, a huge labour force doing critical hand pruning over winter. Amongst the group are beginners, who worked in New Zealand during summer, stuck in the country because of the Covid-19 pandemic closing borders.

Thornhill Horticulture and Viticulture supervisor Francis Law said it takes a couple of seasons before workers start to realise how much money they can make. They’re likely to make minimum wage to start with. . . 

How many logs do we need? – Dileepa Fonseka:

A new bill has forest owners fuming, but it could be the tip of the iceberg for them if NZ First are re-elected to Government

Forest owners feel blind-sided by a bill before Parliament, but more changes could be coming.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the owners of forests hadn’t lived up to their end of a social contract to grow the domestic wood processing industry. 

He signalled they could expect harsher treatment next term if NZ First were re-elected to Government.

That could start with reversing forestry’s special exemptions under the Overseas Investment Act, and could see NZ First could join forces with National after the election to make that change. . .

No going Dutch on farms – Gerard Hutching:

A Nuffield scholar from the Netherlands has been researching the difference in the roles women play in agriculture in New Zealand, which is quite different in her native country. Gerard Hutching reports. 

Dutch dairy farmer and Nuffield scholar Heleen Lansink left New Zealand recently with a heightened appreciation of the differences between the roles of women in agriculture in this country and the Netherlands. 

Lansink lives and works with her husband Rogier and their four children on a dairy farm in eastern Holland, close to the German border. They run 85 milking cows on 55ha. . . 

Asian markets bolster red meat exports :

The overall value of New Zealand red meat and co-products exported for April might have been broadly similar to the same period last year, but the impact of Covid-19 resulted in changes to some major markets.

Analysis by the Meat Industry Association showed New Zealand exported $859million of lamb, mutton, beef and co-products during the month. Total exports to the United Kingdom were down 27% to $39.6million compared with last April, and down 30% to Germany ($22million).

Exports to China continued to recover, up 16% to $353.6million.

There were also increases for other Asian markets, particularly Japan, with total exports up 66% to $46.8million and Taiwan up 36% ($36.4million). . . 

New Ballance recruit is a positive sign for agriculture:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients reputation and great farmer-led culture were just some of the reasons why Auckland based IT professional, David Healy, wanted to join the team.

David Healy, an executive with over 20 years of experience leading change management initiatives for start-ups, public organisations and private companies has accepted the role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) with the 100% New Zealand (NZ) owned farming co-operative.

David has a proven track record in operations management and research, product and business development across diverse industries including lifestyle company VF Corporation, Icebreaker (before and after they were purchased by VF) and Kathmandu Ltd. . . 


Rural round-up

02/03/2020

Global study to benchmark farms – Annette Scott:

A global study of regenerative agriculture is under way to identify chances to extract more value from sheep and beef exports.

Beef + Lamb is doing the study to understand the similarities and difference of regenerative agriculture to NZ farming practices.

The study will look at the opportunities for farmers and include a global consumer perspective to understand what potential there is for red meat exports.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said with increasing interest in regenerative agriculture here and abroad, sheep and beef farmers want to lead in that space.  . . 

The wool industry is still facing challenges – Pam Tipa:

The wool industry continues to face challenges with depressed wool prices for a third year in a row, says Primary Wool Cooperative chair Janette Osborne. 

“Combined with increased shearing and associated costs this now means a net loss on wool for many farmers,” she says in the co-op’s annual report

“We are also seeing an overall gradual decline in total wool volumes with both lambs and ewes going to the works woolly and lower grade oddments including dags being used on farm for environmental work.” . . 

Meat Businesswomen to address World Meat Conference:

Global networking group, Meat Business Women are stepping onto the world stage as they accept an invitation to speak at the World Meat Congress (WMC) in Cancun, Mexico on June 12. 

Touted as the most influential and informative event on the global meat industry calendar, the WMC brings together approximately 1,000 international delegates to discuss issues and trends affecting meat and livestock organisation which are fundamental for sector outlook. 

Meat Business Women Chair, Laura Ryan says she’s delighted with the opportunity to speak directly about the group’s goals to an audience that can instigate change.  . . 

History has a habit of repeating itself – St John Craner:

NZ Ag yet again faces a number of fronts. Plant-based food, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, coronavirus, commodity cycles and climate. Yet we have options. We can diversify our markets.

China’s coronavirus is highlighting the need for us to ensure we’re not over-reliant on one market. Maybe China is the easy option? Either way they say: “when you choose easy life can be hard, when you choose hard life can be easy”.

There are many other countries in South East Asia (49 to be precise) who want our world-class produce like India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar. These countries’ economies are predicted to grow faster than China due to their own growing middle class who are earning higher incomes.  . . 

Farm societies have common issues – Ben Hancock:

This is the fifth and final in a series of articles written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Beef + Lamb insight and strategy analyst Ben Hancock looks at the possibility of farmers generating energy while combating climate change and being easier on the environment.

Farming the world over, as much as the context, production and scale vary, shows, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After nearly six months on the road of my Nuffield journey I was struck by the similarities across continents and farming systems. 

So many of the issues we face in New Zealand can be translated to our counterparts around the world.  . . 

Elderly UK farmers should be paid to retire, says Minister :

UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice has an unusual solution to improving the environment: paying farmers to retire.

Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union’s 2020 Conference this week, Eustice said that some veteran farmers are ‘standing in the way of change’, reports The Telegraph.

He said that paying veteran farmers a lump sum would enable them to ‘retire with dignity’. . .


Rural round-up

01/03/2020

Food producers in pressure cooker – Corrigan Sowman:

We are not alone as New Zealand farmers feeling the weight of change bearing down on us. 

It is a global trend.

It has many different, complex drivers but two stand out – consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainability and farmers ability to capture it.

The resulting pressure is evident a recent survey of Canadian farmers that found 45% have high levels of perceived stress, 58% met the criteria for anxiety classification and 35% met the criteria for depression. . . 

Mission completed – Carter bows out – Peter Burke:

David Carter’s served 26 years in parliament, including time as the Minister of Agriculture and speaker of the house and now he’s going back to his old job – that of a farmer.

Recently 67-year-old Carter announced that he’s ending his long parliamentary career and heading back home to his farms on Banks Peninsular, near Christchurch.

Since his days as a student completing an Ag Science degree in the 1970s, Carter harboured the notion of becoming the Minister for Agriculture . .

Bridging the communication gap – Hamish Murray:

This is the third in a series by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Marlborough high-country farmer Hamish Murray discusses the communications gap between older farmers and the youngsters working for them.

There is an increasing breakdown in the communications between young and older farmers and both are struggling to get what they want and need out of conversations.

We have a generation of farmers raised by parents who lived through World War II, which shaped their childhoods and ment no one spoke about the emotional stuff for fear of weakness. No positive feedback was given or received for fear of getting a big head. 

Contrast that with the generations entering the workforce today who are growing up with a constant stream of feedback via social media and online lives that is so constant they never consider life could be any different. . . 

 

Making the most of wine – Brad Markham:

A Canterbury couple had to make compromises to ensure their herd was all-A2, but it was key to them owning their first farm. Brad Markham reports.

A lucrative contract supplying sought-after A2 milk to Synlait has helped Daniel and Amanda Schat buy their first dairy farm.

The Canterbury couple is in their second season milking 385 mainly Holstein Friesian cows on 103-hectares (effective) at Darfield.

Before buying the irrigated property in June 2018, they were 50:50 sharemilkers on an 800-cow farm owned by Daniel’s parents at Te Pirita. . . 

 

Hot cows, less delicious wine: The problems food growers face with climate change – Eloise Gibson:

Twenty years ago, George Moss didn’t often worry about planting trees to shade his cows. Cows in chilly Tokoroa didn’t experience searing heat.

Now, he’s at the end of two extremely hot, dry, summers and he’s started having meetings with a tree-planting company.

“We are seeing significant change in the climate down here,” he says. “We have had droughts, the daytime highs are getting higher and the winters are warmer than they were when we came down here 25 years ago.” . . 

Tightening Agricultural Property Relief ‘could devastate’ farms:

Any move to tighten Agricultural Property Relief rules could ‘devastate’ family farms across the UK, the farming industry has warned.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is looking at plans to make inheritance tax (IHT) rules stricter in a bid to raise around £800 million a year, the Daily Mail reports.

Currently, people can invest in agricultural land and their children do not have to pay inheritance tax on their value if they are passed on after death.

Business property relief is also in Mr Sunak’s crosshairs. This gives up to 100% off IHT if the deceased has an interest in a firm or shares in an unlisted company. . . 

 


Rural round-up

29/02/2020

Attacking the noblest profession – Hamish Marr:

In this, the second in a series written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars farmer Hamish Marr says farmers are down because they are constantly being attacked while at the same time being denied access to the tools that can help them feed the world while addressing critics’ concerns.

After almost half of this year travelling the world there are a lot of thoughts in my head regarding agriculture and farming.

The biggest take-home for me is the universal problem of people wanting what they haven’t got simply through believing the grass is always greener over the fence and genuinely not understanding agriculture and what is involved in food production. . .

Country Calendar: busy life for Young Farmer Of The Year contestant – Melenie Parkes:

Lisa Kendall is a farmer with a full plate. As well as running her own business, she also works at a rural supply store and volunteers with Riding For The Disabled. 

She also won the Northern Regional final of Young Farmer Of The Year competition and is in the running for the Grand Final in July. As if that’s not enough, she is also pregnant with her first baby.

“The baby will be a farming baby,” says Kendall emphatically. “It will have to be,” she laughs. . . 

Energy the next ag evolution? – Cameron Henderson:

This is the first in a series of articles written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Canterbury farmer Cam Henderson looks at the possibility of farmers generating energy while combatting climate change and being easier on the environment.

Prices are good and interest rates are low but farmers’ moods are down because the regulatory pressure gives them little hope for the future. 

Researchers are furiously searching for more sustainable ways of farming food and fibre but what if there was a whole new sector that could provide a light at the end of the tunnel? . . 

Fonterra reaffirms forecast farmgate milk price and earnings guidance, and revises milk collections:

Fonterra Co-operative has reaffirmed its forecast Farmgate Milk Price range at $7.00-7.60 per kgMS and its forecast full-year underlying earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share. It has also revised its forecast milk collections for the 2020 season down from 1,530 million kgMS to 1,515 million kgMS.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the Co-operative remains confident in its forecast Farmgate Milk Price range and it is also maintaining its underlying earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share despite current market conditions as a result of coronavirus. . . 

A2 Milk profit rises as infant formula sales increase:

A2 Milk has delivered a strong financial result, with increased sales in its infant nutrition business and with better than expected profit margins.

The specialty milk company’s net profit rose 21 percent in the six months to December to $184.9m, with an underlying sales margin of 32.6 percent.

Sales rose 32 percent to $806.7m, with a 33 percent gain in the infant nutrition business. . . 

West Coast DHB recruiting ‘rural generalists’ to solve doctor shortage – Lois WIlliams:

The West Coast District Health Board is planning to tackle a shortage of hospital doctors with a new breed of medics: rural generalists.

The Association for Salaried Medical Staff (ASMS) released a staffing survey this month, revealing what it called “a whopping 43 percent shortfall of senior doctors” at the DHB.

Five out of eight heads of department at the West Coast DHB said they did not have enough specialists for their services and estimated they were eight doctors short. . .

NFU tells government to honour UK farm standards pledge :

The government has been urged by the NFU to honour its manifesto commitment in the Agriculture Bill to safeguard UK food and farming standards.

The government has published its future farming policy updates, as the Agriculture Bill goes through the Committee Stage in the House of Commons.

And at the same time, new details on the future post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) has been unveiled.

This will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating or restoring habitats for wildlife . . 

 

 


Rural round-up

07/05/2019

Research needed before tree-planting – Sally Rae:

Landowners considering planting trees need to question whether the benefits to their overall farming business are greater with the land in trees or in its existing use, RaboResearch sustainability analyst Blake Holgate says.

Government policy changes in forestry and climate change would make forestry a more appealing land-use option for some landowners. However, they should carefully consider a range of financial, strategic and environmental issues to ensure they made informed decisions, a new report by Rabobank said.

Mr Holgate, the report’s author, said there was “no one-size-fits-all” approach when deciding whether to plant trees.

It was important landowners gathered the appropriate information and sought expert advice to ensure the long-term implications of planting were well understood and any planting was done in the right place, with the right species for the right purpose. . . 

Farmers want clarity – Guy – Pam Tipa:

Farmers want policy certainty and are petrified about “kneejerk popular politics” similar to what the Government did with the oil and gas industry, says National agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy.

“The agriculture community is very concerned that they could be next,” Guy told Rural News at the Rabobank Farm2Fork seminar in Sydney. “I am picking up at this conference, talking to Kiwi farmers, that there are already headwinds.

So while prices are looking quite good for our farmers, there are very strong headwinds coming at them, to do with water quality, biological emissions, biodiversity and, importantly, capital gains tax and environmental taxes. . . 

First year a ‘learning curve’ for president – Sally Rae:

Simon Davies describes his first year as president of Otago Federated Farmers as a “learning curve”.

Mr Davies, a Toko Mouth sheep and beef farmer, took over from Phill Hunt last May. Now, he is preparing for his first provincial annual meeting in the top job.

It will be held on Friday at the function room at Centennial Court Motel in Alexandra from 4pm.

Part of that learning curve had been the diverse range of topics that he had been asked to comment on.

“It seems like an endless quantity of things that come along,” he said. . . 

Sound study makes water music – Richard Rennie:

Some avid gardeners swear playing music to plants helps accelerate their growth. Now researchers in Canterbury have found directing sound signals at soil could ultimately help improve its health, reduce nutrient losses and save farmers money. 

AgResearch senior scientist Dr Val Snow and Auckland University acoustics physicist Professor Stuart Bradley and have been leading work into better understanding the link between sound, water and run-off. They told Richard Rennie about their work.

A joint research project between AgResearch and Auckland University scientists at the leading edge of technology is using sound waves to determine optimal irrigation levels.

Known as the Surface Water Assessment and Mitigation for Irrigation (SWAMI), the technology is being used to define a relationship between how sound waves bounce off the soil surface and controlling irrigation applications. . . 

Health claims will sell goods – Richard Rennie:

Promoting New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture sectors as low-input, extensive, often grass-fed sources of food has become a leverage point for the industry, particularly red meat and dairy. But Nuffield scholar and business development manager Andy Elliot challenges it as an aspirational Aotearoa story. He wants to look harder at how products can earn more value through understanding consumers’ dietary and nutritional needs. He spoke to Richard Rennie.

As admirable as New Zealand’s extensive grass-fed farming system might be it’s not enough of a selling point to continue improving margins in an increasingly competitive international market, Nuffield scholar Andy Elliot says.

A year spent examining NZ’s path to markets has left him convinced a better approach is to re-evaluate why people eat, what they hope to get from food and what NZ products offer that others don’t. . . 

$5.7m loyalty payments to top shareholders:

Meat co-op Alliance Group has distributed $5.7 million in loyalty payments to key shareholders.

The quarterly payments have been made to the co-op’s Platinum and Gold shareholders who supply 100% per cent of their livestock to the company. Farmers are paid an additional 10c/kg for each lamb, 6c/kg for a sheep, 8.5c/kg for cattle and 10c/kg for deer.

The payments cover the period January-March 2019. . . 

 


Rural round-up

15/10/2018

Big changes coming – Neal Wallace:

Farming will change fundamentally if new freshwater quality management rules restricting intensive winter grazing and fertiliser use are introduced.

The Government last week released Essential Freshwater: Healthy water, fairly allocated, a report on how to improve freshwater quality within five years.

While it lacked detail the Government singled out winter grazing, hill country cropping, feedlots and nutrient use as causes of degraded water quality that will be a focus. . .

No rural-urban divide found here – Neal Wallace:

Anna Jones never forgot her rural roots when a career in journalism took her to live in some of England’s largest cities. Having experienced life on both sides of the fence she realised she had to do something about the role of the media in the urban-rural disconnect. She told Neal Wallace there are faults on both sides.

ANNA Jones concedes alcohol was involved in a game she created called Farmer Jargon Bingo, played with friends one evening in the English city of Bristol.

A simple concept, it required her urban friends to provide their definition of commonly used farming terms which the farmer’s daughter, journalist and Nuffield scholar duly recorded. . .

 

Move around world never regretted – Sally Rae:

Harry might have met Sally but when Rory met Frank, it was to lead to a move to the other side of the world.

Irish-born Dr Rory O’Brien is research manager at DRL Ltd, based at Invermay’s Agricultural Research Centre. Originally known as Deer Research Laboratory, it was established by Prof Frank Griffin in 1985 within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago.

It has worked closely with veterinarians and farmers for more than 30 years to develop and make available custom-diagnostic services. . . 

Moo beat music for process manager – Sally Rae:

Working in a shiny new $240 million nutritional formula plant is a far cry from a dream of being a musician.

But Nathan McRae, process manager at Mataura Valley Milk on the outskirts of Gore, has no regrets about eventually choosing a career in the dairy industry.

His interest was sparked in Europe during a year-long OE with his wife. He decided he wanted to take the opportunity the industry offered and pursued that interest when he returned to the South.

Gore-born-and-bred, Mr McRae has lived in the Eastern Southland town all his life, with the exception of his OE. . .

Commission releases draft report on Fonterra’s 2018/19 Milk Price Manual:

The Commerce Commission today released its draft report on its annual review of Fonterra’s Milk Price Manual for the 2018/19 dairy season.

Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg said Fonterra’s 2018/19 Manual remains largely consistent with the purpose of the milk price monitoring regime under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

The Commission has no concerns with Fonterra’s amendments to the Manual this year. However, the treatment of farmer support and the capacity of standard plants remain aspects of the manual that would benefit from revisions to improve consistency with the purpose of the regime and clarity, respectively. . . 

Hill country landscapes focus of five-year project:

Hill country landscapes are the subject of a comprehensive research project which focuses on growing diverse pastures to sustainably lift productivity and profitability, and benefit rural communities.

The five-year project, which is a collaboration between Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, PGG Wrightson, Seed Force and the Federation for Maori Authorities, will be looking at legumes and forage options for hill country, matching land use with land use capability, developing pasture management guidelines and building strong rural communities.

B+LNZ ‘s Research Manager Tanya Robinson says field work, led by Professor Derrick Moot from Lincoln University, has already started with plot trials evaluating a number of legumes and forages. . .

A sheep that stole the A and P show:

An enterprising sheep stole some of the limelight at the Ellesmere A and P Show on Saturday, gatecrashing a ribbon ceremony and masquerading as an alpaca after escaping from a pen at the shearing shed.

The cunning plan came unstuck when there weren’t enough ribbons to go around, leaving the opportunist ovine without so much as a stitch of silk to wear, with barely anywhere to hide and looking decidedly sheepish as it stood beside the beribboned alpaca section winners with their owners in the main oval. . . 

Low emission cows: farming responds to climate warning – Jonathan Watts:

From low-emission cows to robotic soil management, the farming industry will have to explore new approaches in the wake of a UN warning that the world needs to cut meat consumption or face worsening climate chaos.

That was the message from Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), this week as policymakers began to discuss how Britain can address the challenges posed by the recent global warming report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Farming and land use are set to move to a more central position in the climate debate in the wake of that report, which urged countries to widen their emissions-cutting efforts beyond the energy industry to agriculture and transport. . .

 


Does mainstream media help or hinder farming?

23/01/2018

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.

 


Rural round-up

14/11/2017

Landpro director gets time away – Sally Rae:

Otago’s Solis Norton and Kate Scott were recently named among the latest crop of Nuffield scholars. They talk to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about their work and the adventure that lies ahead.

Kate Scott quips that Landpro — the Central Otago-based planning and surveying company she jointly founded a decade ago — is “taking over the world, one small regional town at a time”.

From a staff of one to about 30 now, the business expanded  incrementally as its reputation grew, with more people and disciplines added, and there were long-term goals to maintain that growth.

An office was established in Cromwell 10 years ago and there were now also offices in Gore and New Plymouth. . . 

Passionate about energy – Sally Rae:

“It will be an adventure.”

So says Solis Norton, of Port Chalmers, who has been named a 2018 Nuffield scholar, along with Simon Cook (Te Puke), Andy Elliot (Nelson), Turi McFarlane (Banks Peninsula) and Kate Scott (Central Otago).

He expected it would be a  very busy time but  was looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.

Dr Norton grew up in Dunedin’s Northeast Valley and went to Massey University, where he completed a bachelor in agricultural science degree in 1996, a masters degree in applied science and then a PhD in the epidemiology of Johne’s disease in New Zealand dairy herds. . . 

North Island leaders up for Australasian agri-business award:

Three diverse and inspirational young agribusiness leaders have been selected from across Australasia as finalists for the 2018 Zanda McDonald Award.
The award, regarded as a prestigious badge of honour for the industry, recognises agriculture’s most innovative young professionals from both sides of the Tasman.

Lisa Kendall, 25, hails from Auckland, and is owner/operator of Nuture Farming Ltd, a business she established to provide agricultural services to people in and around her home city. She was a Grand Finalist in the 2017 FMG Young Farmer of the Year, and took out the People’s Choice Award, the AgriGrowth Challenge and the Community Footprint Award. Kendall plays an active role in schools, encouraging urban students to consider the career opportunities in agriculture. She is also vice-chair of the Franklin Young Farmers Club. . . 

Joint efforts on water quality – Rebecca Nadge:

The Otago Regional Council is working with Central Otago farmers in a bid to monitor and improve water quality in the area.

At a meeting in Omakau last week, local farmers discussed the strategy with ORC environmental resource scientist Rachel Ozanne and environmental officer Melanie Heather.

The plan involves ongoing testing of water at Thompson’s Creek in a cross-section of three tributaries, as well as regular monitoring in Waipiata and Bannockburn.
Ms Ozanne said the project would continue until May, with testing carried out on a fortnightly basis. . . 

Strong interest shown for Future Farm programme:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s search for a “Future Farm” is in its final stages and farmers are being urged to get in touch if they’re interested in being part of this unique programme.

B+LNZ is seeking to lease a hill country sheep and beef property with around 6,000 stock units for the Future Farm, which will trial new technologies and farm systems. . .

TPP agreement safeguards New Zealand’s export sector:

Federated Farmers congratulates Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the coalition government for recognising the importance of free trade to New Zealand.

Following a frenetic few days of negotiations at the APEC summit in Vietnam, the New Zealand Trade delegation has succeeded in brokering agreement with 11 countries from the Asia-Pacific region- to move the deal forward.

Federated Farmers thanks all the Ministers and officials involved for their dedication and resolve. . . 

CPTPP important to maintain competitiveness:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is welcoming the progress made towards realisation of a TPP agreement (now referred to as CPTPP).

“Timely implementation of the CPTPP market access arrangements is necessary to ensure New Zealand exporters do not end up at a tariff disadvantage into one of our largest dairy markets” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther

The trade dynamic for dairy in the trans-pacific region has evolved in recent months with the European Union and Japan concluding negotiation of an FTA agreement which delivers market access gains to European dairy exporters similar to those agreed for New Zealand under TPP.  . . 

Cultivate With Care After Big Wet – Bala Tikkisetty

Following the wettest winter on record, farmers are currently cultivating their paddocks for pasture or crop rotation.

As they do so, it’s important to be aware of and manage the associated environmental risks.

Sediment and nutrients from farming operations, along with erosion generally, are some of the most important causes of reduced water quality and cultivation increases the potential for problems. . . 

Argentina is saying hello to the world again – Pedro

We’re saying hello to the world again.

That’s the simplest way to understand last month’s elections in Argentina, in which the party of reform-minded President Mauricio Macri made important legislative gains, picking up seats in both chambers of our Congress.

 

As a farmer in Argentina, I’m pleased by this political victory—but I’m even more encouraged by what it means for my country’s general direction.

For too long, we’ve faced inward rather than outward. Although Argentina grows a huge amount of food and depends on global trade for its prosperity, we have behaved as if none of this mattered. The previous government slapped huge export taxes on farm products and didn’t consider the consequences. We stepped away from the world market.

This wasn’t my decision, but rather the decision of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the head of the Peronist Party. When she took office a decade ago, export taxes were already high—and she worked to raise them even more.

The American President Ronald Reagan once made a wise observation: “If you want less of something, tax it.” . .

Vietnamese farmers flourish in the Northern Territory to become Top End’s top growers – Kirsty O’Brien:

Michael Quatch arrived in Australia as a refugee of the Vietnam War. Now he is one of the most successful growers in the Northern Territory.

During picking season, work starts well before sunrise and does not end, but Mr Quatch is not complaining — he snags a few hours of rest here and there as he works hard to get the fresh produce from his farm at Lake Bennet in the Top End onto supermarket shelves.

The 45-year-old is the biggest hydroponic farmer in the Northern Territory, running 16 hectares of shaded cropping mainly producing tomatoes and cucumbers.

But Mr Quatch had to overcome obstacles difficult to fathom when you first meet this jovial, optimistic farmer. . . 

 


Rural round-up

09/03/2017

The big deluge: Fresh weather warnings as slips affect Coromandel homes, close roads, power off:

Fresh dire weather warnings have been issued as slips force people out of Coromandel properties and roads remain closed across sodden parts of the North Island.

As water recedes and slips are cleared off roads from yesterday’s massive one-in-a-100-year deluge, Northland is being told to be on watch for potentially damaging thunderstorms to hit mainly south of Kaitaia as the region comes in for a period of torrential rain. . .

Lange, manager get access awards – Guy Williams:

The men responsible for opening up public access to high country land between Arrowtown and Glendhu Bay have been recognised by the Walking Access Commission.

Switzerland-based record producer Robert ”Mutt” Lange and his Arrowtown-based manager, Russell Hamilton, received Walking Access Champion awards at a ceremony at Parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Hamilton, who accepted the famously publicity-shy Mr Lange’s award on his behalf, said it was ”very nice” to be recognised..

How I beat the black dog within myself –  Jon Morgan:

The latest person to come out and admit they have had problems with depression is a young Methven farmer, Sam Robinson.

Writing on NZ Farming’s Facebook page, he spoke movingly about how bleak it can be to feel so down that you want to kill yourself.

He acknowledged that it is difficult for those who have no experience of mental illness to recognise the signs and be supportive.

He had one suggestion for what they could do – just to say to their mate next time they are in a social situation something like, “I think you are a good sort and I bloody like you“. . .

Cattle lost in fire: it’s horrible out there, the things I saw – Michael Pearce:

Larry Konrade of Ashland likes hunting everything from doves to huge whitetail bucks.

But when he left his house Tuesday morning with a favored rifle, he was dreading the day. He felt even worse when it was over.

“It’s horrible, just horrible. I left the house with (60) shells and used them all,” Konrade said. He said he probably killed 40 cows, “and in a lot of places there weren’t even very many left alive to put down.” . .

Nuffield scholars identify challenges for NZ – Richard Rennie:

Last year’s Nuffield Scholars are uneasy at competing countries’ ability to match or outpace New Zealand agriculture.

In a summary of their experiences the unbalanced rhetoric around emerging technologies was also noted.

Wellington based government agricultural development manager Jessica Bensemann reported her concern over New Zealand agriculture’s level of disconnectedness from global trading trends and patterns after visiting Asia, United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Instead she warned New Zealand’s primary sector appeared to be transfixed within the farm gate. . .

Rugged rural fellas wanted:

The call has gone out for young, gallant rural gents to compete for this year’s New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays’ Rural Bachelor of the Year.

Eight finalists will be selected for the popular competition, which takes place during Fieldays at Mystery Creek Events Centre from June 14-17.

The competition is in its seventh year and entries close at the end of March. . .


Rural round-up

10/06/2016

Synlait forecast milk price $4.50 kgMS next season:

Synlait Milk’s forecast milk price for the 2016 / 2017 season is $4.50 kgMS and will carry a higher than usual advance rate for milk suppliers.

Chairman Graeme Milne said the prospect of another tough season will be slightly offset for Synlait suppliers as they’ll start the season in a stronger cash flow position than they were expecting.

“Cash flow is really important at this time of year and we’ve prioritised a significantly higher advance rate for our milk suppliers’ benefit,” said Mr Milne. . . 

One more step to Open:

It’s a long way from Whangamomona to Somerset, but distance has been no barrier for Taranaki shearer Darren Alexander.

Alexander has celebrated his first trip to England by winning a title at one of England’s major shows.

The 22-year-old shearer, who graduated from Lincoln College in Canterbury with a B.Sc last year, won the senior final at the British Golden Shears, during last week’s Royal Bath and West Show at Shepton Mallet in the southwest of England. . . 

2016 Sheep Industry Awards Finalists Announced:

Finalists in the 2016 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards have been announced.

The awards are now in their fifth year and Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Sam McIvor said they were a great way to celebrate the New Zealand sheep industry and the farmers who produce the best sheep meat in the world.

“It’s right that we acknowledge the top performers and showcase our industry, which is a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy.

“These businesses and individuals can rightly take their place as outstanding performers on both the domestic and international business stage,” McIvor said. . . .

Environment Showcase Celebrates Best Of Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture:

Supreme winners from the eleven regions participating in the 2016 Ballance Farm Environment Awards will be honoured at New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Sustainability Showcase in June.

Celebrating environmental excellence and culminating with the naming of the National Winner of the 2016 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), the annual Sustainability Showcase is regarded as a premier event on the farming calendar.

This year’s Showcase is being held in Northland where the next recipient of the Gordon Stephenson trophy will be announced at a special gala dinner on June 22 at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Bay of Islands. . . 

More funding for the New Zealand cycle trail:

The Government is investing more than $1.2 million in seven new projects for the upkeep and maintenance of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key announced today.

The investment comes from the fourth round of the Maintaining the Quality of the Great Rides Fund and priority has been given to proposals that aim to improve safety and quality of the Great Rides – the premier rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

“The Great Rides are used by thousands of people every day and have provided a significant boost to New Zealand tourism,” Mr Key says. “This funding will help ensure visitors can continue soaking up New Zealand’s beautiful scenery in a safe and enjoyable way. . . 

Nuffield scholar looking to Merino for returns

The sheep meat and wool industry is Victoria’s third largest agricultural industry by value, but 2014 Nuffield Scholar Tim Gubbins believes the future of this important industry could be even brighter with a greater focus on reproductive potential.

The Darlington farm manager is responsible for a sheep flock consisting of 10,000 composite ewes.

The operation also includes a winter grazed area of approximately 2,100 hectares, as well as an annual cropping program of around 600 hectares. . .

Seawater tomatoes set new farming benchmark – Andrew Marshall:

A landmark $100 million-plus greenhouse complex capable of producing 16,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually from solar power-filtered seawater officially opens in arid South Australia in October.

The much-anticipated 20-hectare Sundrop Farms development near Port Augusta will be the world’s biggest “seawater greenhouse”.

It is also the latest of about seven big scale hydroponic greenhouse developments to have sprouted in Australia in less than a decade. . . 


Alistair Polson dies aged 58

06/06/2014

Agriculture envoy and former Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson has died.

“Alistair was a great farmer and a truly great New Zealander who has been taken from us way too soon,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Bo and their family. 

“Bo and Alistair formed the most amazing and loving partnership and while Alistair was called overseas as Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, she kept the farm and family running.

“Where do you start with someone who gave so unstintingly of himself?  It is telling that despite Bo and Alistair’s home being inundated by the 2004 floods they put community before self.

“Alistair has been an office holder at most levels of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, serving as Wanganui provincial president and later National President between 1999 and 2002.

“Alistair has also served as a director of both the Waitotara Meat Company, PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms) and the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation. He has also served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council and the then National Animal Welfare Advisory Board.

“With a strong environmental ethos Alistair chaired the NZ Landcare Trust for seven years and in 2012, he became chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust. 

“Chairing the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust was something I know Alistair was deeply proud of.  It assured him the next generation of farmers cared for the land every bit as much as he did.

“Alistair himself won the Grasslands Memorial Trust Award for sustained improvement of pastures and sheep breeds in Wanganui hill country.  He was a past Nuffield Scholar and would later chair the New Zealand Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust too.

“In 2004 he was appointed New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy by the Hon Phil Goff and continued in that role to 2013 under the Hon Tim Groser.

“In Argentina, for the World Farmers Organisation earlier this year, South American delegates mentioned Alistair’s name with reverence.  He was a noble man of true mana who gave his all for New Zealand.

“Alistair was a giant and his loss touches us all greatly,” Mr Wills concluded.

The Farm Environment Trust also pays tribute:

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has lost a truly inspirational leader.

Alistair Polson died on Thursday, June 5, following a short illness.

The well-known Wanganui farmer was a highly respected member of the farming community. He had extensive experience in business management and farming politics, serving as national president of Federated Farmers from 1999 to 2002. In 2004 he was appointed Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand, and in 2012 he was elected chairman of the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFE).

NZFE acting chairman Simon Saunders says Mr Polson will be greatly missed by the Trust and by the wider farming community and he extends his sincere sympathy to Bo Polson and their children, Nick, Guy and Sarah.

“They have shared Alistair with so many and the loss of such a wonderful husband and father will be devastating, their family plans and dreams for the future have been so sadly taken from them.”

“Alistair made a massive contribution to New Zealand agriculture and he was a passionate and inspirational advocate for New Zealand farming. The Trust and New Zealand agriculture in general have lost a valued leader and a great friend.”

Mr Polson took over the chairmanship of NZFE in October 2012.

Prior to joining the Trust he was a member of the judging panel for the National Winner award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He was a key supporter of the concept that good environmental practice and profitable farming go hand in hand.

“Alistair jumped straight into the role of chairman and he led the organisation with considerable professionalism and a huge amount of enthusiasm,” Mr Saunders says.

“He quickly grasped what the Trust was all about and his proven leadership ability was a great asset for the Trust and the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr Saunders says Mr Polson had a huge amount of passion for agriculture and a warm and approachable personality.

“Alistair loved nothing more than to be able to discuss and promote all the great attributes of our agricultural industry”

Mr Polson’s achievements in agriculture were extensive. He was a former director or committee member of a number of rural-based organisations, including AgITO, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Veterinary Council of New Zealand and NZ Landcare Trust.

An agricultural science graduate from Massey University and a Nuffield Scholar, he also held company directorships with two major meat companies.

Mr Polson farmed in the Mangamahu Valley, near Wanganui.

“The wheel has turned completely since the days when the hero in the valley was the farmer who chopped down as much bush and scrub as possible. Now the heroes are the farmers who are retiring native bush, fencing waterways and planting trees for shade, shelter and erosion control.” – Alistair Polson.

Farming and New Zealand are the richer from his contributions and the poorer for his too-early death.


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