Rural round-up

December 7, 2018

Maize crops sick, seeds failing:

 A major seed supplier is urgently investigating reports from farmers that some of their maize crops aren’t growing properly.

Genetic Technologies Limited is the New Zealand producer and distributor of the Pioneer seeds brand and sells more than 20 hybrid maize varieties.

The crop is grown in New Zealand for the production of animal feed, either in the form of grain maize or as maize silage.

This season some farmers say up to 30 percent of their maize seeds from Pioneer have failed and other seeds that have struck are looking sick.

A tale of two milk companies – one of them is being suckled by taxpayers – Point of Order:

The contrasting fortunes of Synlait Milk and Westland Milk Products were thrown into sharp relief last week. On the one hand Synlait won applause at its annual meeting from shareholders, impressed by its performance in virtually doubling profit ($74.6m against $39.4m) in its tenth year of operations. On the other hand Westland had the begging bowl out for a Provincial Growth Fund loan of $9.9m which will help the co-op in funding a $22m manufacturing plant aimed at converting milk to higher-value products.

The Westland dairy exporter, discussing a capital restructure in its 2018 annual report, said it had relatively high debt and limited financial flexibility. . . 

Sheep needed on hill country – Alan Williams:

Waikato farmer Alastair Reeves has taken umbrage at the Productivity Commission’s suggestion sheep should be cast aside to make way for trees. He reckons sheep have a great future if they are not threatened by people making decisions in isolation and ignoring the ramifications of being wrong. He’s even got a plan for wool involving the Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle.

Sheep should be at the forefront of sustainable farming on hill country rather than being tossed aside for massive tree-planting programmes, Waikato hill farmer Alastair Reeves says.

It is a disgrace for the Productivity Commission to suggest up to 2.8 million hectares of new forestry be planted as a means of achieving a low carbon-emissions economy.  . . 

Water storage essential for future resilience – as experts cite drought as a major risk to NZ:

IrrigationNZ says a recent expert discussion document on drought and climate change highlights that future national planning to improve water storage and look at a range of options to mitigate the effects of the more severe droughts forecast is urgently needed.

“More frequent droughts and more variable rainfall will affect both urban and rural communities and will mean that we will need to rethink how we manage water in the future.
For example with less rainfall forecast over summer in western areas of New Zealand, there will be more demand for water storage from both councils and farmers to provide a reliable water supply,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis. . . 

Elitism of another kind – Clive Bibby:

I grew up on a farm just outside the small Central Hawkes Bay town of Waipawa.

My forebears had owned sizeable tracts of farming land that had been hacked out of the bush and scrub under the Ruahine Ranges.

I am very proud to be a descendant of such pioneering folk who understood what it means to build a business from nothing and see it grow into something that makes a reasonable contribution to the local economy. They also built the first trading general store in CHB. The building still stands.

It is perhaps ironic that much of the farm land in question was in the near vicinity of the catchment area for the now defunct Ruataniwha Fresh Water Dam proposal. . . 

New tool helps farmers gauge carbon footprint:

Meridian Energy and Westpac NZ are proud to support a new carbon calculator that gives farmers a guide to the size of their carbon footprint

The tool has been developed by Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU) and Agrilink NZ, with financial assistance from Meridian Energy and Westpac NZ.

It is available at http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/carboncalculator. . . 

Horticulture growth retains momentum:

Horticulture growth retained momentum with a seven percent growth in export earnings since 2016, according to an updated report, with tariffs on exported produce down by 12 percent since 2012.

The New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority (HEA) and Horticulture New Zealand commission the report New Zealand Horticulture – Barriers to Our Export Trade every two years, with funding support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, and industry. . . 

International Boma NZ summit to help Aotearoa’s food:

A future-thinking agriculture summit will bring together global and local experts on future farming trends, exponential change, and new business models and product pathways. The summit, called Grow 2019, is designed to help Aotearoa’s food and fibre sector be more innovative, collaborative, sustainable and profitable now and into the future.

Organiser Kaila Colbin says the two-day summit is an opportunity to learn about the future trends that are impacting the agriculture sector, and what to do about them, in a practical way, from people on the ground. Grow 2019 will also connect groups of like-minded individuals and organisations so that together we can understand, adapt and grow in a future that looks nothing like today. . . 


Sustainability stool wobbly

November 15, 2018

Environmental gains from reducing carbon emissions will come at a high financial and social cost:

Becoming a net zero carbon economy by 2050 could result in a 16% drop in production from sheep and beef farms as livestock is replaced by trees to sequester carbon.

The Productivity Commission’s report, Low Emissions Economy, said up to 17% of sheep and beef farmland Otago, Canterbury and Manawatu-Wanganui will convert to forestry as part of plans to plant the 2.8 million hectares of new forestry needed for New Zealand to be carbon neutral.

A shift to horticulture and forestry could reduce the dairy area in Taranaki by between 35% and 57% and Waikato by 8% and 22%.

Commission chairman Murray Sherwin acknowledged such a change will affect rural communities. . . 

The financial and social impacts will be huge.

While some jobs will be created, more will be lost and people who work on sheep and beef farms and in businesses which service and supply them may not be willing, or able, to work in horticulture and forestry.

Sherwin said that degree of land use change up to 2050 is comparable to the shift to dairying since the 1990s and the Government will have to manage the social and financial fallout.

“It is a shift in land use, a shift in the nature of rural communities and a shift in the workforce.”

The report is designed to shape thought on the issue rather than be a prescriptive tool.

“It is in a form to shape your thinking rather than anything you could say was a highly accurate, predictive tool.”

That aside, he acknowledged such a reduction in sheep and beef productivity is not to be sneezed at but, as has previously occurred, productivity improvements could temper any decline and returns can be improved by better marketing. . . 

The impact could be as drastic as that of the ag-sag of the 80s when subsidies were cut over night.

The result is a much stronger farming sector but getting there came at a significant cost in both financial and social terms.

Beef + Lamb NZ’s chief insight officer Jeremy Baker says farmers are rightly questioning the commission’s tree planting proposal.

“A lot has been done already and I don’t know if there is much of this so-called unproductive land left.

“I’m not sure how they came up with that figure. It’s a lot of land.”

Baker said farmers feet they are not given credit for reductions in greenhouse gases, which have declined much quicker than other sectors.

Methane emissions are 30% below 1990 levels, achieved while growing production and returns. They also own 1.4m hectares of regenerating native bush and 180,000ha of plantation forest.

“The sheep and beef sector has done its bit and will play its part again but it has to be economically rational and environmentally sensible and everyone else has to come along too.”

National’s agricultural spokesman Nathan Guy says rural people have been forgotten in the commission’s report and the NZ First billion-tree policy, which risks gutting rural communities of people, jobs and services.

He described maps he has seen of proposed tree planting in Rangitikei District as bloody scary.

“Effectively there would be a whole lot of sheep and beef production gone.

“The Government seems hell bent on being carbon neutral by 2050 at all costs and I am concerned at the on-farm production losses and losing our competition edge.”

Guy said farmers will plant more trees if the sequestering value of riparian planting, shelter belts and native bush is counted.

He is confident the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium will discover a methane reducing bolus but that is only part of the solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Science will play a part. It could play an even bigger part if the illogical opposition to genetic modification could be overcome.

But politics and emotion too often trump science.

In this case politics dictates that New Zealand should reduce stock numbers without taking into account of what will replace the food that we don’t produce if sheep and cattle are replaced by trees.

Most of that meat is exported and if beef and lamb no longer produced here are replaced by meat from less efficient producers elsewhere the global environmental cost will be added to the local financial and social costs.

Sustainability is supposed to be like a stool with three evenly balanced legs – environmental, social and financial.

Failing to take all the consequences of radical changes to primary production into account will make all the legs unstable.

That will make the sustainability stool very wobbly with high environmental, social and financial costs.

 


Local regulation improvements needed

May 14, 2013

A report into local government by the New Zealand Productivity Commission says regulations need improvements.

In releasing the inquiry report, Commission Chair Murray Sherwin said, “Local councils have a big influence on the success of communities and local economies. A large and diverse set of regulations is managed by councils. They cover things like urban development, building safety and standards for air quality, right through to dog control and food safety. It is critical to community wellbeing, and New Zealand’s overall performance, that these local regulatory systems perform well.

“Most of the regulation undertaken by councils has its origins in legislation passed by Government. Having central and local government jointly thinking about what regulation is necessary, to what purpose and how best it can be implemented, enforced and monitored is critical for getting good results. This inquiry shows that we are well short of that ideal.

“At the council level, there is a need for greater attention to quality management processes to lessen the inconsistency in regulatory decisions that we see between different councils and even within individual councils. That would reduce much of the frustration reported by businesses in their interaction with councils.

“Our work has resulted in 29 recommendations for improvements in how regulation is designed, implemented, evaluated and governed. Both councils and Government need to lift their game on regulation, and work together more effectively to produce better outcomes for the community.

“Amongst the Commission’s recommendations for improving regulation are:
•                    a tool for helping to decide what regulations, and which parts of implementing regulation, are best performed by Government or councils;
•                    use of standardised formats and increased transparency to better demonstrate how key council regulatory decisions have been made;
•                    more focus by government departments, when preparing new regulation intended to be implemented by councils, on the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation, where those costs and benefits will fall, whether or not councils have the capability and capacity required to effectively implement the new regulation, and the likely costs of building that capability and capacity where it does not exist;
•                    the development of a ‘Partners in Regulation’ protocol to better guide Government/council engagement;
•                    the development of new or enhanced joint Government/council forums for overseeing improvements; and
•                    greater use of risk-based approaches to monitoring and enforcement of regulation by councils, together with enabling greater use of infringement notices to support regulations in place of more costly formal prosecutions.

“The Productivity Commission has taken a ‘whole of system’ approach to its review of council regulation. What is clear is that improvements will require both central and local government to be well connected to achieve improvements.”

The public service is more efficient and productive than it was before National came to power.

Local government has in general done little to improve its efficiency and productivity.

A review of regulations and how they are managed is a good place to start.

 


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