Rural round-up

03/10/2020

Green bureaucrats pushing our farmers to the brink – Nick Cater:

While it would be foolish to judge a movie by its trailer, the Australian-made feature film Rams is looking like a parable for our times. It is a battle between bureaucrats and two honest, hardworking farmers played by Sam Neill and Michael Caton, heavily disguised behind beards.

When inspectors discover a single sick ram they respond by seizing every sheep in the valley. Neill and Caton resist by hiding their breeding stock in their homes, covering their tracks with copious quantities of air freshener.

Let’s hope it ends happily, unlike in real life, when a farmer caught in the sights of the farming police is generally on a hiding to nothing.

Late last year the National Farmers Federation set the laudable goal of increasing the value of farm production from about $60bn a year to $100bn a year by 2030. Good luck. The regulators and their enforcers have other ideas. Their intention is to limit the expansion of farming and, if possible, force it into retreat, turning farmers from food producers into unpaid stewards of native trees and grasses. . . 

Big costs for freshwater compliance – Neal Wallace:

Meeting new freshwater regulations will cost landowners $900 million and another $140m a year in annual compliance costs and loss of profits.

Farmers Weekly has collated forecast costs from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in the Action for Healthy Waterways policy, which variously came into force from September 3.

Fencing 32,000km of waterways to meet new stock exclusion, regulations will cost farmers $773m, while the loss of production on the 19,000ha lost from the three-metre riparian setback is estimated at a further $17m.

The MfE calculates fencing costs at $5/m for dairy, $14/m for sheep and beef and $20/m for deer. . . 

Crown land limits harm NZ branding – Philip Todhunter:

“Our primary sector is such a huge part of our economy and our brand.”

So said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on July 7, announcing the launch of a plan to help farmers “to fetch more value, create more jobs and bolster our green reputation”.

Sixteen days later, her Land Information Minister introduced a Bill that threatens the economic future of a collection of farms that embody Brand New Zealand; compromises the ability of those farms to provide the raw materials that underpin some truly global labels; and puts at risk the long-term environmental wellbeing of the land it is supposed to protect.

A week, as they say, is a long time in politics.

Currently, 1.2million hectares of the South Island comes under the Crown Pastoral Lease regime. These are not the type of leases that cover a house or commercial building: while they have 33-year terms, they are perpetually renewable, meaning the leaseholder enjoys exclusive possession of the land indefinitely. . . 

Proud to reach 30 year milestone – Mary-Jo Tohill:

On Christmas Eve 1989, two Earnscleugh orchardists walked into an Alexandra lawyer’s office — and walked out with an irrigation scheme.

There were two key players in ‘Team Tony’; Tony Banks, the 2016 recipient of the Ron Cocks Memorial award for outstanding leadership in the irrigation industry, and Earnscleugh Irrigation Company managing director Tony Lepper.

These were the days when landowners were promised a new, fully piped irrigation scheme, through the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, and when the Government was divesting itself of irrigation schemes.

“By 1986, $21million was touted for an Earnscleugh upgrade, but the settlers [the landowners] said they couldn’t afford $677 per hectare,” Mr Lepper said. . . 

Spring surprise – Neal Wallace:

A rapid thaw has eased the worst effects of this week’s storm, which blanketed much of Otago and Southland in snow and caused lamb losses described by some farmers as the worst ever.

Actual losses will not be known until tailing, but Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young expects the storm will reduce his lambing percentage by 5%.

His Cattle Fat Station property is in the area hit by the heaviest snow, which encompasses Waikaka, Waikaia and West Otago hill country areas, where lambing was under way.

Coastal South Otago and the southeast corner of Southland were also hit hard. . . 

Gutsy fight: Livestock agent Mike Wilson shares his story of survival to help save others in the bush – Lucy Kinbacher:

Most people know Mike Wilson as the bloke at the bull sale with a pen in his hand and notepad in his back pocket.

He takes a seat on the bottom row of the grandstand, a strategic position where the auctioneer can see his subtle, yet impactful bids.

There’s a couple of buyers cards wedged inside his catalogue and he wears a vest, even when the weather is a little warm.

On the outside you’d hardly think there was anything different with the 70-year-old livestock agent. . . 


Rural round-up

15/09/2020

Fears for harvest as seasonal workers locked out by Covid-19

Hawke’s Bay growers are facing a serious seasonal labour shortage as the reality of Covid-19 sinks in.

The horticulture and viticulture sectors in Hawke’s Bay need about 10,000 seasonal workers to work across the region starting from next month.

They expect there will be a significant shortfall of people for the upcoming season – which will affect harvest time the most.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said if the fruit was not picked, thousands of permanent jobs would be at risk. . . 

Green Party’s agricultural policy ignores basic science:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is based on a mistaken understanding about the environmental impact of livestock farming FARM spokesman Robin Grieve said today

James Shaw attempted to justify his Party’s policy to price livestock emissions on his belief that livestock produce half New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The science and the facts about ruminant methane emissions do not support that.

FARM was set up to present the facts about ruminant methane and the Green Party policy demonstrates how much the facts and the science of ruminant methane emissions are missing from the political debate about global warming. . . 

Farming passion through a lens – Cheyenne Nicholson:

A love of capturing a moment in time through the lens is helping a Manawatu farmer reach her goal of 50:50 sharemilking. Cheyenne Nicholsonreports.

Six years ago Renae Flett combined her love of farming with her love of photography to create her photography business Renae Flett Agri and Events Photography.

Her photos feature in farming magazines and agricultural marketing campaigns, and she has shot several weddings, maternity shoots and everything in between.

“I love to take photos of anything farming. I love farming. It’s my passion just like photography, so being able to combine the two makes me pretty lucky, (and) it’s all grown pretty organically,” she says. . . 

 

Fonterra targets community support where it’s needed most:

Fonterra is taking a new approach to how it provides nutrition to communities, to better reach those most in need across New Zealand.

CEO Miles Hurrell says, as a New Zealand farmer owned co-op, with employees spread right across regional New Zealand, Fonterra is part of many communities.

“We’ve taken a good look at what the country is facing into, particularly in the context of COVID-19, and asked if our current way of doing things is supporting the people who need it most.

“We can see there’s a need for us to expand our thinking and take a more holistic approach that reaches more people – which is why we’re making these changes,” says Mr Hurrell. . . 

New Zealand hemp industry set to generate Hemp $2 billion per annum and create 20,000 jobs:

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs.

Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association (NZHIA) for the government to take the shackles off this burgeoning ‘wellness’ industry.

“We are well behind other countries in our attitude to hemp,” says NZHIA Chair, Richard Barge. “Although it is non-psychoactive, many of our current laws treat it as though it is. This report highlights just how short sighted those laws are in economic terms, and how out of step New Zealand is with the rest of the world.” . . 

Lower North Island butchers sharpen up for competition:

Butchers from across the lower North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2020 Alto Young Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition.

It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Braham Pink from Evans Bacon Company in Gisborne placed first in the Alto Young Butcher of the Year category and Jacob Wells from New World Foxton, claimed first spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category.

This was the first regional competition in a national series to find New Zealand’s top butchers to compete in a Grand Final showdown in November. The lower North Island contestants put their boning, trimming, slicing and dicing skills to the test as they broke down a size 20 chicken, a whole pork leg, and a beef short loin into a display of value-added products. . . 

 


Rural round-up

17/06/2020

New contest celebrates agripreneurs – Richard Rennie:

GlobalHQ, publisher of Farmers Weekly and Dairy Farmer, is sponsoring B.linc Innovation’s inaugural awards celebrating innovation and technology in the primary sector.

The Celebrating Success Innovation Awards run by the Lincoln University’s Blinc Innovation centre have three sections.

They are for on-farm innovation, off-farm-consumer innovation and a creative innovation-future tech award for secondary school students.

Global HQ co-owner Dean Williamson said the primary sector has had to respond to covid-19 in numerous innovative and nimble ways to continue growing, harvesting and processing primary products. . . 

Te Puke’s golden promise: Harnessing the post-Covid potential of a furry little fruit – Josie Adams:

The Bay of Plenty is synonymous with kiwifruit. With a large contingent of new workers moving in this season from Covid-displaced industries, Josie Adams asked what life is like for those who’ve been there for years.

Under a very heavy tree in Tom French’s orchard waits a very heavy hedgehog. About a metre above the hog the tree has two branches grafted on; golden kiwifruit. This is one of only a few trees with fruit left; the rest have been picked, packed, and put in storage. This fruit is for the family, and for any roaming animal with enough patience. 

French has been in the kiwifruit business for 40 years, and hedging his bets on a 50/50 split between golden kiwifruit and traditional greens has helped him weather some of the industry’s storms.

First planted in the Bay of Plenty in the 1930s, by the 70s and 80s, kiwifruit – formerly known as Chinese gooseberries, and before that monkey peaches – were taking off. French estimates they were selling trays for up to $16. Then, there was a heart-stopping price drop: five competing export companies, combined with a slowdown in demand, meant those same trays were worth only $4. . . 

Fed Farmers boss welcomes environmentalists to Southland – Louisa Steyl:

Federated Farmers Southland president Geoffrey Young extended an olive branch to environmentalists by inviting them to see the improvements made to winter grazing conditions in the region.

Young invited Angus Robson, Geoff Reid and Matt Coffey to Southland at the weekend, on behalf of all farmers, after receiving an email from Robson raising concerns about practices on a particular farm.

The three visited the farm, along with two others, on Saturday, and Young said it proved to be a worthwhile day.

“It was quite a robust discussion,” Young said. . . 

Dairy just the job – Samantha Tennent:

A sharp rise in unemployment is on the horizon because of covid-19 but the dairy sector will offer some reprieve. 

DairyNZ is encouraging people to consider work on dairy farms in a new Go Dairy campaign that offers entry-level training to help the transition to farming.

While the Go Dairy career-changers campaign, supported by Federated Farmers, aims to create awareness of the job opportunities there is a big emphasis on ensuring new staff understand what is involved in farm life.

“We want a win-win situation for new dairy farming employees to be happy and fulfilled in their new lifestyle and jobs and for farm employers to have great talent working for them,” DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says. . . 

Bouncing forward :

The kids are back at school, we can once again spend time with small groups of friends and family, and takeaways can offer a night off cooking. Looking back, we dairy farmers were grateful to be essential workers during Covid-19 Levels 3 and 4, with kids able to roam around the farm and help us out!

With glorious Taranaki weather, and the mountain visible from the dining room window most days, our kids were very motivated to get their home learning tasks done by lunch so they could spend the afternoon outside. Riding their motorbikes around the farm improved their riding skills. Going for on-farm runs and bike rides or playing soccer and rugby on the front lawn kept them physically busy.

I took up running and joined the online fitness group ‘Strong Woman’. Now I take time most days to get in a run or a workout. I never felt I had time pre-Covid to focus on my fitness. . . 

Life attracts life’: the Irish farmers filling their fields with bees and butterflies – Ella McSweeney:

Michael Davoren shudders when he thinks of the 1990s. He’d been in charge of his 80-hectare farm in the Burren, Co Clare, since the 1970s, and the place was in his blood. The Davorens had worked these hills for 400 years.

But growing intensification fuelled by European subsidies meant that most farmers in this part of Ireland were having to decide between getting big or getting out. Hundreds were choosing the latter.

Davoren followed the advice to specialise and chase the beef markets. “The more animals I kept, the more money I got,” he says. “I put more cattle out, bought fertiliser, made silage. Slurry run-off was killing fish. But if I kept fewer animals I’d be penalised 10% of my subsidy.” . .

 


Rural round-up

19/05/2019

Selling sheep and beef farms to forestry is a threat to food and trade – Stuff Editorial:

His pockets stuffed with millions of dollars for regional development, his mind set on getting unemployed cousins off the couch to plant a billion trees, he stood before a mayoral reception and urged people to get involved.

“If you have an aspiration to turn marginal land into forestry, we are going to do it …” he told his hosts.

The official guide to his One Billion Trees Programme featured the Manawatū sheep and beef farm owned by Justin and Mary Vennell. . . 

Farmer uneasy over farm to forestry conversion plan – Heather Chalmers:

Government incentives to plant trees is leading to a rush of sheep and beef farms being sold for conversion to forests.  

Farmers are worried about the trend, saying that once hill country properties are planted in forests, they will never return to pastoral farming.     

While the Government had banned overseas people, apart from Australians and Singaporeans, from buying existing residential and lifestyle properties, rule changes had made it easier for foreigners to invest in forestry.   . .

There’s rarely a day at least one story from New Zealand Farmers Weekly doesn’t feature in my rural-round-up.

It’s also the one give-away paper that is a must read not just in ours but in every other farming house I know.

It deserves its title of Best Trade Publication in the Voyager NZ Media Awards.

Climate policy still clouded – Neal Wallace:

The government is still to decide the mechanics of how and how much farmers will pay for methane emissions and if it will mean inclusion in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Initially, the point of obligation will be with milk and meat processors but Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says that is for ease of administration and he has made research on shifting the liability to individual farms a priority.

“I want to see us reward good on-farm behaviour and practice as quickly as we can.” . .

Northland a centre of share farming excellence – Hugh Stringleman:

Share Farmers of the Year Colin and Isabella Beazley have their hands full with winter milking and a herd expansion by 200 cows for next season.

The magnitude of their win on the national stage, carrying more than $50,000 worth of prizes, is slowing sinking in amid the enhanced planning and provisioning alongside usual farm work and family life.

Fortunately, they do not have to move farm or home for the next three contracted years of their dairying careers, milking 530-550 cows and aiming for more than 200,000kg milksolids next season. . .

Preventing farmer suicides through helplines and farm visits – Allee Mead:

In 2016, dairy farmers Meg Moynihan and her husband lost the buyer for their organic milk. Because she was working for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Organic Program at the time, Moynihan thought it’d be easy to find a new buyer, but “all doors were closed,” she said. “It was the beginning of the milk glut.”

 


Fonterra has a heart

08/05/2019

The world’s biggest dairy exporter shows  it has a big heart:

Fonterra’s milk tankers are Andrew Oliver’s favourite thing in the world and local tanker drivers have long known that Andrew won’t go to bed until they’ve been on the farm.

But when it became unmanageable for his 65-year-old parents, the world’s biggest dairy exporter stepped in to help.

They changed their milk tanker schedule in the entire district so that Andrew would go to bed on time.

Andrew Oliver is one of about eight people in the world living with Fryns-Aftimos syndrome – he’s the oldest known to have it and the only one in New Zealand with the condition.

The extremely rare syndrome is the result of a mutation in one of his chromosomes which means that, at 35 years old, he has the mental age of a 6-year-old and suffers many other symptoms.

For the past 15 years he’s had a special relationship with Fonterra tanker drivers.

Ken Oliver, his father, said Andy discovered the tanker when the farm went onto the night shift for milk pick up.

“[He] learned what it was, came out to see it occasionally and once in awhile would talk to a driver. But then with Andy, the normal thing is with something like this – it would become a habit. And so he had to be out to see the tanker. That became part of his nightly routine.”

Andy’s nightly routine consists of a list of things he has to tick off.

Every night he draws a picture to give to the tanker driver, he has to watch the weather report on the 6pm news, then he has dinner and a bath.

But the last thing to tick off – is the tanker.

Ken said that if the tanker hadn’t come, Andy wouldn’t go to bed. For him, waking up at 5am to tend the farm, it became a struggle.

“We simply didn’t know when the tanker was coming. You might get 2am in the morning or something like that and he wouldn’t go to bed until the tanker had come.”

For over a decade, Andrew’s parents managed his tanker visits until one day Ken says he came to a breaking point.

“Deirdre had just been diagnosed with having had a minor stroke, I was absolutely out on my feet trying to keep the farm going. Surviving on three or four hours sleep and I’d just run out. I’d hit the wall and so I phoned the call centre and actually started crying on the phone, I was just so shot.

“I just said look, my life has just become impossible and just explained what was going on. I need sleep and I can’t get sleep until this boy’s in bed.”

The person at the call centre decided to help. . .

The company changed its tanker schedule for the whole Te Rapa district so that Andy could go to bed on time.

Tanker drivers have also given Andrew a hi-vis Fonterra jacket and raised money to buy him a bike.

I’m delighted to be a shareholder in a company with employees who care.

UPDATE: TIm Fulton wrote about this in NZ Farmers Weekly several years ago.


Rural round-up

02/03/2019

Proposed water tax a ‘burden’ on low-water  regions – Stuart Smith:

The proposed new water tax that was announced as part of a swathe of other new taxes potentially facing Kiwis will disproportionally impact on low-rainfall regions like Marlborough.

There are eight new taxes in Michael Cullen’s proposal: the Capital Gains Tax (CGT), tax on vacant residential land, agriculture tax, water tax, fertiliser tax, environmental footprint tax, natural capital tax and a waste tax.

Much has been said about the CGT but the suggested water tax, too, would impact all Kiwis negatively and in particular our farmers, horticulturalists and wine growers in low-rainfall areas. . . 

Partnerships between men and women are critical for farming success – Bonnie Flaws:

With many farms run by married couples, the role of women in farming is a critical one, a female dairy farmer says.

Jessie Chan-Dorman, a former dairy woman of the year, said male farmers could see everyday how women contribute to the business, and they respect that.

“I would say the percentage of women in farming is at least 50 per cent. Nearly every farming business has a partnership that has historically not been seen. But they’ve always been there.” . . 

Studies smoke out fire behaviour – Richard Rennie:

The risk of summer fires is a constant farmers and foresters learn to live with. But the Port Hills fire in 2017 and the Nelson fire last month have brought a human threat to wildfires many Kiwis thought was confined to Australia and North America. With wildfires now affecting rural and urban people Richard Rennie spoke to Scion rural fire researcher Dr Tara Strand about how we are getting smarter at understanding rural fires.

A TEAM of Scion researchers is part of a 27-year history of research into New Zealand’s rural fires, a quiet brigade of climate experts and fire analysts whose job is to help make rural firefighters’ jobs more effective and safer. . .

Grape yield under threat – Joanna Grigg:

Marlborough is experiencing a hydrological drought.

Lack of rain in the mountain catchment has left the Wairau River low, Marlborough District Council hydrologist Val Wadsdworth said.

And summer storage capacity on the plains has been found wanting as a result. January rain of 18mm was soon sucked up by 30C plus temperatures in February.  . .

Matamata to host FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final :

A Waharoa dairy farmer is facing fierce competition in her quest to be named the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Sophia Clark will take on seven other contestants in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional final in Matamata next month.

It will be the 30-year-old’s fourth attempt at clinching a coveted spot in the national final. . .

Scott St John leaves Fonterra Fund manager’s board as units hit record  low – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra director and veteran capital markets executive Scott St John has left the board of the shareholder fund’s manager, the same day the units plunged to a new low.

A notice to the Companies Office last night noted St John ceased being a director of FSF Management Co, the manager of the dual-listed Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund, which gives investors exposure to the cooperative’s earnings stream. He is still a director of Fonterra. . .


Rural round-up

13/01/2019

No rescue for Taratahi :

A rescue package for the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was rejected by the Government last year, which left the national training provider no option but to face liquidation.

The Farmers Weekly has been told the package consisted of cost savings, a restructured business and courses, the planned sale of the 518ha Mangarata farm in the Wairarapa, a $6 million working capital cash injection and moratorium on refunding over payments to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

Last year the Government spent nearly $100m bailing out Unitec, Whitireia and Tai Poutini polytechnics. . .

The vegans are coming, so Kiwi farmers need to give us something to believe in – Daniel Eb:

Environmental limits, changing tastes and a redefined social licence are driving consumers away from animal proteins. In part two of a series on the rise of veganism, Daniel Eb looks at what New Zealand must do to get on board.

There is a sense of impending transformation ahead for agriculture in New Zealand. The world’s richest consumers – New Zealand’s target market – want products that speak to their identity. They are increasingly perceiving value in terms of experience, and are less willing to tolerate our production-first model. In short, they want something to believe in. In the second part of this series on veganism I outline a way forward, an opportunity to re-imagine our value as food producers and our impact on the world. . .

Postive start for wool sales – Alan Williams:

The calendar 2019 wool sales season in the South Island started brightly, with indications of business being written in China, and helped by lower volumes.

Crossbred prices remain at depressed levels and there are still issues to be faced, but the positive start was refreshing, with finer crossbred wools up to 6% dearer at Christchurch on Thursday, and strong wools up to 2% better, PGG Wrightson’s South Island sales manager Dave Burridge said.

The small volumes of new season’s lambs’ wool were keenly sought after, with prices well ahead.  . .

Meet the couple at No.1 State Highway, Far(thest) North – David Fisher:

At the point in the road where there is little left of State Highway 1, you’ll find Herb and Colleen Subritzky.

In the evenings they sit on the deck of their home, overlooking the road – New Zealand’s longest road stretching more than 2000km from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south – nursing cold beers and listening to birds filling the silence of the Far North.

All day, buses and cars race by their home to cover those final few kilometres to Cape Reinga. At 6pm, the main parking area shuts and the flow reverses, dwindles then stops. From then until morning, it must be one of the quietest stretches of road in the country. . . 

Eight vie for Otago/Southland FMG Young Farmer title – Sudesh Kissun:

Two former workmates at the iconic Mount Linton Station are set to clash in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest.

Jacob Mackie and Allen Gregory, who are both 25, will go head to head in the Otago/Southland regional final in Milton next month.

“I can’t wait. I really enjoy the challenge of competing. It pushes your boundaries and makes you work on your weaknesses,” said Allen. . . 

Farmer credits his dog with fighting off attacking steer – Kristin Edge:

Johnny Bell reckons his little dog, Jade, saved his life by fighting off a steer that bowled the veteran farmer and was attacking him on the ground.

The canine companion then ran along the road to get help for her wounded master who had been knocked unconscious. Bell’s front teeth had been smashed out, his right eye severely bruised as was his ribs and legs.

What was not immediately evident was the Northland farmer was suffering a brain bleed. . .


Reluctant farmer sees light

22/09/2018

NZ Farmers Weekly profiles Cameron Henderson:

Cameron Henderson grew up on a dairy farm in Waikato but early in his career he decided dairy farming wasn’t for him. Eight years ago he saw a new light in the industry and joined the gold rush of dairying in a new pocket of Canterbury. His journey to farm ownership has been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride but he has no regrets. Annette Scott joined him on-farm to hear his story.

Cameron Henderson started his journey in the dairy industry working for Fonterra as a business analyst.

Growing up on the family dairy farm in Waikato he’d made the call early that he wasn’t keen on being a dairy farmer.

“As a kid I thought there’s got to be more to an agricultural career than wet, cold and mud. . .

 


Rural round-up

25/08/2018

Call for compo for farmers maintaining walkways – Maja Burry:

A high country farmer says there should be compensation for landholders affected by increasing visitor numbers.

A draft report published earlier this year by the Walking Access Commission found that a growing population, combined with record international tourist numbers is putting pressure on some access to the South Island High Country.

Andrew Simpson, who owns Balmoral Station at Lake Tekapo, said about 100,000 people use the Mt John Walkway on his farm each year.

Mr Simpson said he wanted people to enjoy his land, but he was having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on track maintenance this year, even with some support from the Department of Conservation. . .

Farmer leaders back off – Neal Wallace:

Farming sector leaders are unimpressed by the last-minute inclusion of far-reaching search and surveillance powers changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act.

Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ leaders, who endorsed the changes a week ago, said they understand the need for the change but the late additions should have been open to public scrutiny instead of being pushed through Parliament under urgency.

The Farmers Weekly was told a drafting error omitted the search and surveillance powers from the original Nait Act.

Farming sector leaders have been criticised for supporting the changes but they now say they were unhappy at the rushed legislated process. . . 

NAIT still long way from meeting original objective – Allan Barber:

NAIT is like a long running soap opera which viewers can watch faithfully for a couple of years, go back to after a long absence and find nothing much has changed. It was first thought of back in 2004, took eight years of argument, design, business case preparation and readings in parliament and it was finally implemented in July 2012 with a three year lead-in for cattle.

In 2016 a review was started which was finally completed in May this year and presented to the present Minister for Primary Industries. When it finally saw the light of day, you could have been forgiven for thinking it would be a review of all the reasons NAIT doesn’t yet appear to be working properly, but I understand it was always intended to be a routine review of the programme after three years in operation. . . 

Exchange rate reset will breathe new life to agriculture – Keith Woodford:

The recent decline in the value of the New Zealand dollar is about to breathe new life into agriculture. It will take some months before the benefits flow through to farm level, but the macro signs are there to be seen.

The key question is whether we are seeing a strategic reset or is it just short term. My own thinking is that it is medium term through to around three years and maybe beyond, but with inevitable volatility. Beyond that I cannot see.

First let’s get the basic maths sorted out. A lower value of the New Zealand dollar means that we get more New Zealand dollars for exports. And in the New Zealand context, that largely relates to our primary industries, principally agriculture and horticulture, but also forestry and fishing. . . 

A new weapon will help in the Stink Bug battle:

The addition of another weapon to fight any incursion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on our shores is excellent news, Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson Karen Wiliams says.

“We’re delighted to learn the Environmental Protection Authority will allow controlled release of the tiny Samurai Wasp if this stink bug were ever to get a foothold here.

“The BMSB is a scourge that could put a multi-billion dollar hit on our economy. For arable and horticulture farmers, a scenario where a breeding population could get established here is a nightmare,” Karen says. . .

Seeka 1H profit falls on further banana business writedown – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Seeka, New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit grower, posted a 6.5 percent decline in first-half profit despite revenue rising, as it wrote down the value of its banana-sourcing business further.

The Te Puke-based company reported profit of $10.4 million in the six months ended June 30, from $11 million in the same period a year earlier. Seeka said the bottom line included a $1.5 million writedown of goodwill to its tropical fruit business, Seeka Glassfields. Revenue rose 8.5 percent to $145.4 million, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation lifted 7 percent to $23.5 million. . . 

Federated Farmers keen to work with new Extension Service:

A new extension service intended to bring knowledge and resources to farmers struggling to keep up on production efficiency and environmental protection fronts is a “positive”, Federated Farmers board member and Arable chairperson Karen Williams says.

“Offering support so farmers can get up to speed is certainly preferable, and more likely to achieve progress, than wielding the big stick of fines and more regulations.

“The new extension service could prove helpful but we would urge MPI to continue to work with farming groups on the mechanics of it and how it is rolled out,” Karen said. . .

Apple and stonefruit group willing to engage in meaningful discussions with MPI following High Court judgment:

The group of five industry members who joined together to challenge MPI’s directive for nurseries and orchardists to contain and/or destroy tens of thousands of apple (Malus) and stonefruit (Prunus) plants has received the High Court judgment and is currently reviewing this in detail.

The judge found that the MPI directions, issued under s116 of the Biosecurity Act were unlawful and has directed MPI to reconsider.

The judgment encourages MPI to work with industry to develop and agree a more appropriate set of directions that address their key biosecurity concerns. . .


Rural round-up

07/05/2013

Fixed price contracts not priority for most meat companies – Marie Taylor:

As debate on the state of the red-meat sector continues, Marie Taylor asked 12 meat processors what they had to offer farmers in terms of stable pricing they could bank on.

Fixed-price contracts are few and far between in the meat industry.

The New Zealand Farmers Weekly surveyed 12 meat companies in New Zealand to find out what was on offer in terms of predictable, stable pricing farmers could bank on.

The most encouraging responses came from Silver Fern Farms, Ovation, Progressive Meats, Lean Meats and Firstlight Foods. . .

New animal welfare strategy released:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has launched the New Zealand Animal Welfare Strategy today, setting out a high level framework for how we treat animals.

“The strategy Animal Welfare Matters sets out a formal foundation for New Zealand’s animal welfare legislation and policy,” says Mr Guy.

“It says that it matters how animals are treated, and that we have responsibilities toward animals. It also says that using animals for activities like farming and racing is acceptable as long as it is humane.”

The strategy lists four main routes to improved animal welfare: . . .

Federated Farmers back new animal welfare strategy:

Federated Farmers is fully supporting the release of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Animal Welfare Strategy.

“The strategy reflects Federated Farmers own policy on animal welfare,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“It really does matter how animals are treated and farmers have both a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure requirements are adhered to.

“New Zealand’s farmers are actually world leaders in integrating animal health and welfare into their farm management planning. Something recognised by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

“This strategy reaffirms our international leadership and reputation. It is a strategic means to ensure this reputation is not only maintained but improved and Federated Farmers supports it. . .

Word of Hawke’s Bay Wines Spreading In China:

Hawke’s Bay wines, in particular high quality reds, are steadily gaining exposure in the expansive Chinese market with two recent initiatives adding to the awareness. 

Four influential Chinese media writers visited the region and were hosted by Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers and five wineries, while four local wineries attended one of China’s most important international wine trade fairs, the Chengdu Wine & Spirits Fair.

Immediately after her visit, Sophie Liu, an independent wine writer and educator, has blogged positively about her time in Hawke’s Bay and is planning articles to appear in Wine World, Wine & Taste and World Cuisine magazines, as well as http://www.wines-info.com

Her colleague Fan Yiren, who is one of China’s most influential social bloggers with accumulated fans of 63,374,307 on one site and over 330,000 on Weibo (Chinese Facebook equivalent), blogged daily. He is also planning to write four to five feature blogs. . .

At home and overseas, New Zealand seafood is on the dinner table:

When fish is on the menu, the type of fish you get can depend heavily on where you live.

Salmon, tarakihi, and gurnard are the most-commonly available fish species in supermarkets and fish shops as tracked in the consumers price index (CPI), Statistics NZ said today. However, some species are not widely available in all regions.

“Snapper and trevally are generally available in shops from Nelson northwards, but barely feature further south where sole is more commonly available,” prices manager Chris Pike said.

New Zealand’s seafood industry, published today by Statistics NZ, gives an economic overview of selected parts of the country’s seafood industry and provides a comparison between 2007 and 2012. . .

Trials show there’s a lot to love about molasses:

A further round of farm trials in the Waikato has reconfirmed the value of Crystalyx Dry Cow dehydrated molasses blocks as a Dry Cow winter management tool.

The results were shared at a farm open day in Putaruru, in March, with Jackie Aveling, Animal Nutrition Manager at Altum, saying the good turnout reflected farmers’ interest.

“Overseas trials over some 20 years have consistently confirmed the performance of dehydrated molasses blocks. Farmers want to know if the same results can be achieved in New Zealand. Our trial work with Crystalyx, which is specifically formulated for local conditions, gives them the facts they need to support its performance.”

The repeated trial work done by Dr Mark Oliver, science director of the Liggins Institute’s Ngapouri Farm research station near Rotorua, which saw a control herd supplemented with magnesium and trace elements following current best practice guidelines, and the other Crystalyx Dry Cow. . .

Organic Farm Pioneers High-tech Voluntary Milking System:

Robotic or voluntary milking systems, where the cows choose for themselves when they want to be milked and the whole job is done by a computerised machine, are still as rare as tits on a bull in New Zealand.

Heritage Farm, a certified organic dairy farm at Karaka, just south of Auckland, was the first farm in New Zealand to install a DeLaval Voluntary Milking System.

Early adopters David and Cathy Yates, who own and run Heritage Farm with their son Brian, are really pleased with their move to computerised milking. They have now had two and a half year’s experience with the system and say that its benefits go way beyond not having to spend hours in the milking shed every day putting on and taking off teat cups. They include improved animal health and welfare, and better pasture and feed management – all made possible by the quantity and quality of the data that the system provides, along with doing the manual work of milking. . .


Rural round up

31/12/2012

What farmers face in 2013  – Caleb Allison:

Farmers face their most volatile year in recent memory as New Zealand’s agriculture sector remains at the mercy of world markets, according to industry commentators.

While every year comes with a certain level of uncertainty for the farming community, Waikato University’s head of agribusiness, Professor Jacqueline Rowarth told NBR ONLINE it is of particular concern this year.

“Many farmers are already running at a very slim margin. . .

Happy helping Kiwi kids – Hugh Stringleman:

Delivering milk to 56 Northland schools is very rewarding, say Luke and Corrine McDonald, Fonterra Brands franchisees based in Whangarei.

Twice a week they have two of their four trucks on the roads around their large delivery area, delivering the 250ml UHT cartons and picking up the empties for recycling.

Northland was the provincial pilot for the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme, launched at Manaia View School, Whangarei, last March. . .

Paying it forward at Little Acres – Tim Fulton:

Animal care centre run “in the spirit of koha” is getting a make-over, propelled by the kind of generosity that got it started.

Jacqui Emmett and her husband Barry operate the non-profit Little Acres in western Waikato, helping prepare surplus livestock for new homes.

The Te Akau couple charge nothing for taking in animals, despite feed costing them up to $350 a week.

In fact, if money gets tight the humans are the last to be fed. . .

Debt mediation law would rein-in banks: Walker – Jamie Ball:

A farm debt mediation law would reduce the tendency for banks to engage in “reckless” lending practices similar to the mass marketing of complex interest rate swaps to farmers, according to campaigner Janette Walker.

“It will also introduce a level of fairness that will rebalance the power structure, which is presently poorly balanced in the bank’s favour.

“It’s about setting up a more transparent process. The banks have responsibilities and so do the farmers. It also stops the banks doing their snatch and grab,” the farmer’s advocate said. . .

Porina biocontrol promise :

IMAGINE LOOKING across the farm and being pleased to see hundreds of creatures vomiting and dying of dehydration.Sounds surreal, but it’s becoming reality thanks to smart scientists working on porina caterpillar control.

Mark Hurst, AgResearch Lincoln, and his Invermay colleague Colin Ferguson, have, for several years, been working with bacteria Yersina entomophaga MH96, a bug Hurst discovered in native grass grubs in 1996. It’s since been found to be deadly to porina and other insect pests such as bronze beetle and diamond back moth. . .

Bayer and Motutapu Restoration Trust announce forest planting partnership

The Motutapu Restoration Trust has today announced a partnership with Bayer, which is contributing $25,000 for forest restoration to celebrate the company’s 150th birthday in 2013.

In addition to donating to the Trust to support the planting of a block of forest, Bayer will offer its staff an annual opportunity to volunteer on the island to help with planting and weeding.

“In 2013, Bayer celebrates its 150th birthday and we will be marking that in various ways around the world,” Bayer New Zealand Ltd Managing Director Patricia Castle said today. “Helping create a home for kiwi and takahe is something our team in New Zealand would love to support so we’ve chosen to take responsibility for funding the planting and maintenance of two hectares of forest on Motutapu as our birthday gift to New Zealand. . .

TV3 has a video of: Mustering sheep with a remote control quadcopeter.

And NZ Farmers Weekly has a selection of photos of 2012.


Rural round-up

29/01/2011

Pied Pipers of Galapogos Sally Rae writes in the ODT:

Herbert couple John and Bruna Oakes have played a major role in helping protect the wildlife and plant life of the Galapagos Islands.

Mr and Mrs Oakes, who own Central South Island Helicopters, were approached to do some work for the Ecuadorian Government, due to their expertise in pest control. . . 

The golden shearer hits 70 – Colin Williscroft writes in the ODT:

When Brian “Snow” Quinn needs to shear his flock of about 400 ewes, he does most of the hard work himself, although he admits getting in some help when it is needed.

At 70, there is nothing wrong with that, he reckons.

In his heyday, of course, Mr Quinn was a champion shearer – a world champion at one stage – and today he is still hugely respected for his legacy, having won the Golden Shears competition in 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972. . .

Only the tough survive the Wairere hills – Jon Morgan writes:

Asked to explain the key to being a successful sheep breeder, Derek Daniell thinks for a second or two, then smiles and says, “Well, to put it simply, it’s about tits and bums.”

He looks down the hill to a small group of two-tooth ewes hugging the shade of an overhanging bank and explains. “It’s tits because the ewes need to be good milkers and rear big lambs.” He points to the two-tooth rams on the hillside above him and adds, “And it’s bums because that’s where most of the meat is.”

 All sheep prices look good: Tony Chaston at Interest.co.nz writes:

With a picture telling “a thousand stories”, we thought it would be good to review where livestock commodity prices are at compared to the last 3 years by way of our charts.

The wool price rises are spectacular, with crossbred prices back to they were in the 80’s. And it may not be over yet with supply  restricted and no stocks in the pipeline.

 

Wools second auction of the year produced price rises that are unprecedented for decades.

The 6-13% rises for different wool classes lifted the indicator levels dramatically, especially for crossbred (44-49c) and lamb (61c) wools. . .

Rakaia sales show confidence – Tim Fulton writes in NZ Farmers Weekly:

Three years ago it felt like a struggle to get rid of them – now his top pen of store lambs has made $151 and owner Stuart Millar can’t help murmuring “it’s incredible”.

Millar, a champion sheepdog trialist, attributes the price shift to a massive shortage of sheep as dairy expansion and storm losses alter supply and demand for stock.

Flock numbers appeared to be well back on early-season estimates, Millar said following his family’s Suffolk and Perendale sale at Peak Hill.

Their offering of just over 2600 lambs averaged $100 as did another Gorge property Snowdon Station which sold 5400 Suffolk and Perendale lambs. . .

Works buyers breaking ranks – also in NZ Farmers Weekly:

With works struggling to find enough cattle some buyers are starting to break ranks and are competing for cattle by paying premium prices, PGG Wrightson agent Vaughan Vujcich said at the Kaikohe sale.
It was another strong market with 780 head on offer with prices for most of the store market on a par with the previous week which was already high. However, there were still increases for heavier, more forward cattle with schedule changes and a lack of prime cattle for killing.
The cattle market at Pukekohe was very strong with all classes being in very big demand, Chris Humphrey of Livestock Mart Auctions reported.
“This is a trend which looks to only get better as was predicted late last year as cattle numbers are very low in most sales and demand is huge. This will not change for a long time and this shortage of cattle is a real concern,” he said. . .

Confessions of a hunter-gatherer – Steve Wyn-Harris in the Farmer Weekly:

For many years at this time I’ve felt a martyr to the cause on behalf of this country’s export earnings, well at least from Hinerangi Road anyway.

I’d diligently keep slogging away except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day while all the neighbours, stock trucks and various reps magically disappear. The road becomes a sleepy quiet byway instead of its usual busy vein of commerce and frantic activity.

I wonder how others can be so organised at a busy time of the year or alternatively why I am not. . .


Young Country

13/08/2009

New Zealand Farmers Weekly has a lot of competition from other give-away papers which turn up in rural mail boxes but consistent quality, original stories and intelligent commentary make it a must read.

The people behind it also have courage because they’ve launched a magazine, too.

Young Country is, as its name suggests, aimed at younger rural people but should appeal to a wider audience.

dairy 10004

The cover story of the current issue features  Alex, Anna and Pip Ewing, the third generation to farm Cattle Flat Station in the Matukituki Valley beyond Wanaka.

Their father, Charlie, took over the property from his father and he has worked hard over the years to make sure the same opportunities existed for his children.

His daughters have not only accepted those opportunities created for them, they have grabbed them with both hands  and are beginning to stamp their own mark on the family’s farming and helicopter businesses through hard work, grit and determination.

I got my money’s worth from this story by itself, and there’s plenty more good reading in the magazine: two sides of the debate over irrigating Canterbury; some of the people who are improving performance on Maori farms; a look at rural broadband; carbon farming . . .

A recession may not be the best time to launch a magazine, but if this one continues as it has started it should not just survive but prosper.


Word no longer bond

01/06/2009

A friend who’s a cropping farmer had signed up deals selling grain for winter feed to dairy farmers which they are now cancelling.

Earlier in the year the Farmers Weekly reports that dairy farmers were walking away from maize deals, leaving contractors with as much as a third of their crop unsold.

The milk payout has fallen and next season’s forecast is lower than this season’s. The price of grain has also fallen, but would these farmers have paid more had the price gone up after they’d signed the deal?

In our area we like to think we can still do business on a handshake, but thses examples show there is a growing number of people for whom their word is no longer their bond.


Hidden agenda in NZX purchase of CPL?

06/05/2009

I greeted uncrtically the news that NZX was buying Country-Wide, publishers of most of of the papers which get delivered free to rural mail boxes, including my favourite NZ Farmers Weekly.

Others aren’t so innocent.

Cactus Kate finds some sharp knives in the NZX Haystack .

Jenni McManus reports  that Trans-Tasman editor in chief Max Bowden has made a Commerce Commission complaint because he thinks NZX is trying to act as regulator in a market in which it would be a participant.

At issue: whether an organisation calling itself a regulator should be cornering the market in anything, let alone a commercial enterprise, by acting as both a player and the market enforcer.

Adolf at No Minister smells something fishy and asks:

How can it be that the regulator of share trading activities in New Zealand companies an be allowed to itself operate trading companies which are not part of its core activity, namely regulation? What happens when one of its own companies transgresses?

Roarprawn also smells something whiffy and agrees with Fran O’Sullivan who questions why the stock exchange is putting on gumboots.

Expanding into publications during the economic downturn is a bold move.

The Cross memo explains that the NZX is getting into an “advertising-reliant media publication” in this climate. She contends print media are the best way to contact farmers while internet access remains slow and inconsistent for rural New Zealand.

“This protects to a certain extent rural publications from the downturn in advertising in mainstream/daily media publication and, second, farmers’ behaviours as the majority still read physical papers instead of accessing the internet for their news and information.”

The memo predicts it will be more than five years before farmers swap to online news services.

I’m not so sure about that, improvements to rural boradband services are moving quickly. We’ve got wireless broadband but discovered by accident we could get a much better service through the phone line now.

I’ve always used “you don’t do rural broadband” to put off people wanting us to change to telephone providers. But when I used that line with a cold-caller on Monday I was told they did and we could get broadband access via our phone line. I phoned Telecom to check and was told that our exchange had been upgraded and our phone line could now deliver broadband.

If that service is as good as promised more country people will turn to the internet for news rather than waiting for the papers which come with the mail – which for us isn’t until early to mid afternoon.

This point is made by Quote Unquote who also has questions about the NZX purchase of CPL.

. . .  there are some astute comments about magazine publishing in general which Weldon could consider – in particular, Rundle’s key line:

To go into the magazine trade now is like starting a stable just as the first Model T Ford rolls off the line.

We’ve been getting a regular stream of change-of-address emails from farming friends who have discovered they no longer have to rely on dail-up access to the internet.

The service we get in the country still doesn’t deliver the ultra-fast speeds available in cities, but it won’t be far away and when it comes, our readinghahbits will change.

You can’t tuck a PC into your back pocket as you do with a paper when you’re heading up the back paddock . But if you’ve already read the news on the net  over breakfast you won’t need to.

The question of who’s going to pay for the news on internet will wait for another day.


NZX buys Country-Wide Publications

28/04/2009

Country-Wide Publications is being sold to NZX for an undisclosed sum.

CPL Owners Dean Williamson and Tony Leggett, who bought CPL in 1997, have grown the business to produce 78 publications a year under seven mastheads, and from a turnover of $250,000 in 1997 to over $7 million in 2008. CPL publications reach all 86,000 farmers in New Zealand at least once every week.

Roarprawn doesn’t think it’s a good investment, but I do.

Fielding-based CPL publishes several rural papers including NZ Farmers Weekly, Country Wide South and Country Wide North and the recently acquired Dairy Exporter.

All are give aways which are delivered to rural mail boxes and all are quality publications which concentrate on rural news, issues and features. Unlike some giveaways the majority of their stories are fresh rather than rehashed press releases, are well read by farmers and attract good suppport from advertisers.

The CPL media relesase says:

Dean Williamson said, “This is an exciting next step for both the CPL business and the rural sector as a whole. Bringing NZX and CPL together creates a raft of new opportunities. Both are innovative companies focused on growth.”

Tony Leggett said, ” We understand our market and our business model reflects that. We give farmers the information they need, and astute advertisers appreciate that. We focus on value.

“Print media remains the right medium to reach farmers at this point in time. As we see increased broadband penetration in rural areas, we are likely to see more interest in our online offerings and will continue to develop products in this space,” said Leggett.

CPL operations will remain based in Feilding, managed by Dean and Tony. “This is a long term investment in the New Zealand rural sector,” said Weldon.

This isn’t the NZX’s first foray into rural business, it already owns Agrifax,  Dairy Week and Pro-Farmer Australia.


Are Fonterra’s ethics up to scratch?

03/10/2008

NZ Farmers Weekly has an interview with Warren Leslie, the Dairy Board’s last chief executive, who said:

he would have “moved heaven and earth” to declare a product recall immediately he had information about poisoned milk.

He also said the Board had discussions with San Lu, in which Fonterra has a 43% stake, two years before Fonterra was created but they had other priorities.

“The whole arrangement in China needed to be very carefully thought through … if you don’t start with really good milk you can’t make the range of product we can here.

“The first thing you have to do is to try to get the standards raised. In any investment we might have made anywhere, we would have wanted to put our own people in, get our own standards in place and generally raise the bar,” Larsen said.

Does that mean the Dairy Board would not have been keen on a joint venture, or only invested in a majority shareholding?: “That would have been a matter for the board, but certainly from a management point of view the answer to that is yes.”

Larsen said his reaction to the SanLu crisis was “one of great sadness”.

“If you look at the chart of risk that most corporates use, the model we had had a big centrepiece and it in were the words ‘food safety’. Food safety is absolutely and utterly non-negotiable. Other risks are negotiable in business but if you are a food company your reputational risk, your brand equity is all on the line, and you do not put it at risk.”

So would Larsen, as Fonterra did, have initially settled for a quiet trade recall of Sanlu product, as advised by local Chinese government authorities? : “Like hell I would’ve.”

The NBR reports that former independent chairman of Fonterra’s disbanded ethics committee Dr Simon Longstaff also has concerns about the San Lu investment and said had the committee still been in place:

he was ‘almost certain’ it would ahve been involved from the outset in putting procedures in palce for setting up the joint venture with San Lu . .

Dr Longstaff is now the executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney. He said ethical considerations for Fonterra include:

* the “health and safety of the consumers of these products” – though Dr Longstaff accepts it’s extremely difficult to try to protect consumers against malicious conduct of others.

* Concerns for the welfare of Fonterra, and its capacity to generate wealth for New Zealand.

* The duty of a really significant New Zealand company not jsut to look after the singular interests of its farmers but also to recognise that whatever it does has the capacity to affect New Zealand’s reputation; and

* Whether the board or senior management have maintained a capacity to deal with these ethical issues in a complex world which “refuses to be tamed by our ignorance”.

“Most ethical questions are not good versus bd, right vbersus wrong – it’s competing interests all being [weighed],” Dr Lognstaff said. “The thing about making good decisions – it’s not jsut a matter of common sense. It requires engagement, confidence and you’ve got to care. If anyone in the company was involved in a decision which sought to place the interest of the company or its partners in China ahead of the children, then that in my mind would be fudnamentally wrong. A betrayal of the ideals of New Zealand.”

I don’t believe that Fonterra deliberately put commercial interests ahead of children’s lives. But I do wonder if the company had all the information it needed before it went into partnership with Sanlu; and the delay between its representatives on the board discovering there was a problem with melamine poisoning in the milk and the public recall indicates major deficiencies in its procedures for dealing with serious quality issues.

Inquiring Mind comments on and links to the NBR article here.


Embedded water new hurdle

02/08/2008

First it was food miles, now it’s the carbon footprint and soon it might be embedded water.

The NZ Farmers Weekly (not on line) warns that virtual or embedded water – the amount used to produce food – could be the next hurdle primary producers have to leap over for export markets.

…this is a natural extension of carbon footprint analysis, only more specific to New Zealand’s pasture and irrigation-based farming systems.

If we thought we were in trouble on our carbon footprint, consider what the bean-counters might make of our water use. It’s questionable how well placed New Zealand would be, for instance, if European Union food officials started routinely asking for an audit of our water use from farm to shipment or flight.

The push for livestock traceability would pale in comparison.

Fortunately judging by a Crop and Food Research project announced last week, agricultural scientists seem to have seen the threat coming. The Crown Reserach Institute aims to develop plants with much-imporved root systems that require less water, pesticides and fertiliser, enabling New Zealand to compete strongly in overseas markets where consumers are increasingly demanding “green” food products.

This project tagged “roots for sustainability” seems a natural response to farmer demands for cheaper and longer-lasting plant growth – and better profitability. But like so many forms of farming innovation, it can also be seen as a response to changing political and social trends.

Mainstream awareness of embedded water is unlikely to be far away and NZ would be in the spotlight because of its growing dependence on man-made irrigation schemes.

When the world is short of food there will be something amiss if we are penalised for using innovative techniques which boost production providing we use them efficiently and sustainably.

Hopefully Crop and Food research is correct in asserting that its project … will see more effective water, nutrient and pesticide use, with reduced nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions.

All of which have environmental and economic benefits.

To alternatively do little is to allow the concept of embedded water to leak into people’s way of thinking and for farmers’ reputations to again take a battering. If this latest environmental concept indeed sticks between people’s ears, agriculture will need to come up with quick answers and real solutions.

Pointing out that putting unnecessary hurdles in the way of producers inevitably leads to higher costs for consumers won’t do it. We need to be prepared to counter both the facts and the emotion this notion will generate.


PGW SFF deal demutualisation by stealth?

21/07/2008

The proposed joint venture between PGG Wrigthson and Silver Fern Farms is demutualisation in sheep’s clothing according to Alan Robb.

He is an adjunct professor in the co-operatives programme at St Mary’s Unviersity, Canada, and an independent financail analyst and commentator based in New Zealand.

Writing in The NZ Farmers Weekly (not yet on line) he says:

In return for its $220 million, PGW will receive shares giving 50% of the voting equity. It will also have the right to appoint half of the board of directors. The share issue is likely to prevent SFF continuing as a co-operative.

The Co-operative Companies Act 1996 requires that not less than 60% of the voting rights are held by transacting shareholders. As PGW will hold Capital Shares with 50% of the voting equity and the transacting shareholders will have Supplier Shares it seems clear that SFF will no longer qualify as a co-operative.

Farmers who are considering the proposal should be aware of this defect. Will SFF cease to be a co-operative?

…If the board cannot see a future for SFF as a co-operative it has a duty to resign and allow those who are committed to co-operative principles and values to work with other co-operatives in the meat industry.

I spoke to SFF chair Eion Garden a couple of weeks ago about whether the company would be able to retain its co-operative status if the deal with PGW went ahead. He said that PGW will be transacting shareholders. Chief executive Keith Cooper told the ODT  the same thing:

PGG-Wrightson would be a transacting shareholder, supplying goods and services to the meat processor and marketer.

“The most important thing is to preserve all the characteristics of a co-operative, with a rebate structure, ownership and governance structure.”

But what does this mean? That PGW is a transacting shareholder by dint of its contract to procure stock of SFF’s behalf?  Wouldn’t that make PGW a third-party trader? I don’t have a problem with third parties, but PPCS, as SFF was known until its recent rebranding, has been adamant that it didn’t use third parties.

If this is the case it raises another question: why would PGW be allowed to own 50% of the company’s shares when all other transacting shareholders have their shareholdings capped at a much lower level?


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