Rural round-up

April 8, 2020

It’s okay to not be okay – Jamie Mackay:

 A recent personal tragedy has made The Country host Jamie Mackay reconsider his stance on mental health.

I’m ashamed to admit it, especially as there is a history of mental illness in my own family, but until relatively recently I was a bit blasé about mental health.

Back when my grandmother was a young mother under considerable stress raising six kids, she had what was at that time called ‘a breakdown’. She was sent off to a mental institution (as they were known then) three hour’s drive away.

We were often packed into the car when my father went to visit her, but we were never able to see her. She lived until I was 16 years of age, but I never met her. As a family we never talked about her, other than to acknowledge that she was institutionalised. . . 

Rural sector vital to recovery, despite confidence dip – David Anderson:

COVID-19 is negatively impacting New Zealand’s rural sector confidence.

The declining confidence comes as the country’s primary industries prepare to shoulder some of the heavy lifting for economic and social recovery, claims specialist rural bank Rabobank.

New Zealand chief executive Todd Charteris says the bank’s latest rural confidence survey shines a light on the psyche of farmers at a critical time for the nation.

“The food and agri sectors will be crucial in helping to rebuild the New Zealand economy and Rabobank continues to have a strong positive long-term view of the sector outlook,” he says.  . .

Fruit, wine industries respond to coronavirus with vintage Kiwi adaptability – Georgia-May Gilbertson:

Kiwis are stepping in to cover a shortage of backpackers and overseas seasonal workers in the fruit and wine industries.  

For the last few years the kiwifruit industry has experienced a labour shortage when it comes to harvest, but New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) president Nikki Johnson says covid-19 has changed that. 

“The way that our labour situation is laid out is that about 50 per cent are New Zealanders,  25 per cent are working holidays visa workers or backpackers, then 20 per cent are RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers,” Johnson said.  . . 

COVID-19: Growing interest in NZ sheepmeat in China – Peter Burke:

Chinese consumers are increasingly positive about New Zealand-produced beef, lamb and mutton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a social media analysis by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

B+LNZ’s market development team says it is monitoring Chinese consumers’ perceptions of the protein market, the perception of protein origin, and the changes in retail channel choice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red meat grower organisation has published a report summarizing the latest findings, which can be found here:

Click here to view the full report. . . 

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown. . . 

‘Massive disconnect’: Helen Skelton urges public to respect farmers:

Television presenter Helen Skelton has said there is a ‘massive disconnect’ between food producers and the British public.

The BBC presenter, who currently hosts Springtime On The Farm, urged consumers to have greater respect for farmers.

The 36-year-old grew up on a farm herself, and has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for those who produce the nation’s food.

“Now I live on the edge of the city, and there’s a massive disconnect between food producers and the rest of the country,” she said. . . 

 


Rural round-up

March 1, 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

February 28, 2020

Farming needs policy certainty – SImon Bridges:

Our reputation as a producer of quality agricultural products is well known around the world and the sector contributes close to $48 billion in export revenue to our economy. The primary sector provides an economic shot in the arm to New Zealand, and we want to see it continue to grow.

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from the many farmers I’ve spoken to over the past couple of years, it’s that they want certainty. Farmers and growers already have enough variables to deal with such as the weather, interest rates, disease and international markets. There needs to be a clearly sign-posted direction of travel from the Government that allows everyone to get on board without adverse effects. . .

Former National MP Shane Ardern builds New Zealand’s ‘fastest’ cow shed – Catherine

A former politician has built what could be New Zealand’s fastest dairy shed – able to milk 600 cows an hour.

Two 40-bail rotary platforms turn like giant clockwork dials side by side, and the cows choose the one they prefer to be milked on.

Shane Ardern, who farms at Te Kiri, South Taranaki, with his wife Cathy, is still remembered for driving a tractor named Myrtle up the steps of Parliament in 2003 to protest the Labour Government’s plans to impose a ‘fart tax’ on farmers.

Ardern returned to farming in 2014 after 16 years as National’s Taranaki King Country MP. . .

Southern peas please big producers  :

The Maw family, of Mid Canterbury, has been been farming at Barrhill for four generations, dating back to 1925.

They rotate a broad range of crops including cereals, grass and clovers for grazing and seed production, vegetable seed crops and peas, which are currently being harvested for produce giant, Wattie’s.

Colin Maw has been supplying Wattie’s for over 20 years.

Wattie’s farmers had vast experience in growing the very best peas with knowledge handed down and nurtured between generations, he said. . .

 

The importance of the humble blueberry – Dr David Chagné:

New Zealand is involved in a US$12.8 million USDA grant to improve the quality of blueberry and cranberry.

The four-year project, led by North Carolina State University, is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which funds multi-year, multi-institutional collaborative projects.

Genomics Aotearoa and Plant and Food Research Ltd have just become part of this project, and we’re very excited about what that offers – for blueberry producers here, for the New Zealand economy, the consumer and for other genomics researchers.

But what does this actually mean for us? . .

Robotics Plus a THRIVE Top 50 agtech company:

Robotics Plus, a world-leading robotics and automation company developing innovation to unlock new levels of productivity in agriculture, has been named in the THRIVE Top 50, an annual ranking of leading global AgTech companies exemplifying the best in agriculture innovation. Robotics Plus, the only New Zealand company to make the 2020 Top 50 ranking, was just one of five companies featured in the Robotics & Automation category.

Robotics Plus CEO Dr Matt Glenn says it’s a huge honour to receive a coveted spot on THRIVE’s Top 50 global list. “We’re thrilled to be showcased in such a prestigious list alongside exceptional AgTech companies from around the world who are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. . . 

Don’t mess with farmers – Peter Burke:

Policymakers in Ireland have learned the lesson about demonising farmers – just don’t do it.

That’s the word from a leading Irish scientist, Dr Karl Richards from Teagasc, that country’s semi-state organisation that is responsible for R&D, training and advisory services to farmers.

Richards told Rural News, at recent seminar at Massey University, that policy makers in Ireland have realised that farmers will react badly to being constantly demonised and are less likely to react positively to improving the environment. . .

 


Rural round-up

January 26, 2020

New policy might limit farming – Neal Wallace:

Farmers fear new biodiversity policy could force councils to make them restore areas of indigenous flora and fauna on their land.

The Government has released its proposed draft National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which leans heavily on councils to identify, monitor and manage areas with significant indigenous biodiversity.

Within five years councils will have to identify and map significant natural areas using standard national criteria, manage any adverse effects on those areas and survey native wildlife in and outside the areas to determine if they are threatened or affected by land use activities. . .

Sarah’s Country: Are we fit for a better world? – Sarah Perriam:

Sarah’s Country’s debut episode focuses on the key elements of this vision for New Zealand that includes a swing towards regenerative agriculture, capturing the value of the billion-dollar plant protein trend and offsetting our carbon emissions with environmental integrity, not ‘thin air fake’ credits.

Sarah Perriam, the host of Sarah’s Country, is this week joined by guest co-host Kate Scott. Kate is a director of LandPro and a 2018 Nuffield Scholar living in Central Otago. . .

Farm sales start to look up:

Farm sales were down 21.6% for the three months ended December 2019 versus the year prior ­— but sales look to be lifting.

Data released today by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows that farm sales increased by 22.3% in the three months ended December 2019 compared to the three months ended November 2019, with 345 and 282 sales respectively. . .

$8 payout possible – Peter Burke:

The guessing game has begun to predict what dairy farmers will get for their milk this season.

The consensus in the sector is that the price will be positive: numbers ranging from $7.15/kgMS to $7.50/kgMS, although ASB rural economist Nathan Penny is sticking his neck out and suggesting it could reach $8/kgMS.

Fonterra says its forecast is in the range of $7.00 to $7.60 with the midpoint being $7.30.

Dr. Mitloehner issues warning on increasing herd sizes – Charles O’Donnell:

While there is not necessarily a need to cut herd sizes for the purpose of climate change mitigation, increasing numbers is also not the way to go, according to Dr. Frank Mitloehner.

Dr. Mitloehner, a well-known professor and air quality specialist, was speaking at an event called ‘Climate Action in Agriculture: A Balanced Approach’ in Dublin today, Tuesday, January 21, which was organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The German-born Californian-based professor spoke out against the perceived necessity to cut herd sizes. However, when asked about the growing numbers of animals in the dairy industry, he warned that going in the opposite direction by increasing numbers would pose a climate issue. . . 

Government urged to block high carbon food imports :

Britain cannot risk importing food with a higher carbon footprint than food which has been produced in the UK, a new report says.

Released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), it says British farming produces some of the most sustainable food in the world and that emissions from UK beef is half that of the global average.

Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK presents a detailed range of options to drive emissions reductions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. . . 

 


Rural round-up

December 1, 2019

Hocken wins Rabobank Emerging Leader award:

Manawatu dairy farmer Mat Hocken is the winner of the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award for 2019.

Hocken is director and owner of family business Grassmere Dairy, a 1000-cow dairy operation on the banks of the Oroua River in the Manawatu.

He becomes the first Kiwi to win the award since its introduction in 2013. The awards ceremony was held in Auckland last night. . . 

New Zealand arable farmers face unfair competition from imported grain – Gerard Hutching:

Arable farmers have appealed to their dairy farmer colleagues to buy their grain rather than importing it from overseas.

Federated Farmers arable spokeswoman Karen Williams complained about the lack of a level playing field over grain sales.

She was commenting on the Feds’ latest banking survey showing 30 per cent of the arable farmers surveyed felt under pressure and they also had the lowest percentage feeling very satisfied or satisfied (60 per cent). . . 

Boomer year for OAD farmers – Peter Burke:

A leading once a day (OAD) farmer says her farm is set to have a record year thanks to a combination of favourable circumstances – especially the weather.

Christine Finnigan who farms near Rongotea, Manawatu says the warm winter has seen good pasture growth into spring and her 220 Kiwi cross cows are in good condition.

She says the original target for this season was 78,000kgMS, but says if conditions stay favourable the record of 82,500kgMS could be reached. . .

Alliance pays out $15.2m:

Alliance Group says it has paid farmer shareholders a further $1.67 million in loyalty payments.

This brings the total bonuses it has distributed for the season to $15.2m.

The latest quarterly payments were made to the co-operative’s ‘platinum’ and ‘gold’ shareholders who supply 100% of their livestock to Alliance. The latest payments cover the July to September period. . . 

Last of Zespri’s 2019 New Zealand kiwifruit crop heading to markets:

The last of New Zealand’s successful 2019 kiwifruit crop has been shipped, with four containers of Zespri Green leaving Tauranga for North Asia, unloading in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Around 70 tonnes of the Bay of Plenty-grown kiwifruit was loaded onto the APL Denver this week which is expected to reach the first port in 15 days.

Blair Hamill, Zespri’s Chief Global Supply Officer, says 147 million trays of kiwifruit were shipped offshore this season to more than 50 countries, with record numbers of consumers creating unprecedented levels of demand.

“Our premium Zespri SunGold and Green Kiwifruit are more popular than ever, and over the course of the season we’ve moved 44 full charter shiploads and 17,160 containers, or more than 500,000 tonnes in total, to our markets,” Mr Hamill says. . . 

Women in Scottish farming ‘downplayed’ and ‘unseen’

A ‘fundamental cultural change’ is needed to ensure that women in the Scottish farming industry are valued more, a new report has revealed.

Women’s contribution to the sector can be ‘undervalued, downplayed, or simply unseen’, it explained.

The findings are included in a Women in Agriculture Taskforce report which was commissioned by the Scottish government. Taskforce co-chair Joyce Campbell said the the report has shone light into the ‘very dark corners of Scottish agriculture.’ . .

 


Rural round-up

November 1, 2019

Why low morale in a good season? – Peter Burke:

Low morale and uncertainty in the dairy industry appear to be overshadowing the positive outlook for the sector.

The latest ANZ Agri Focus reports a huge range of positives for the sector, yet the bank’s agricultural economist, Susan Kilsby, says dairy farmer confidence is the lowest they have seen in more than 20 years.

The biggest thing impacting farmer confidence is the uncertainty about Government regulations on environmental legislation, she says.  . .

Good farmers must change too -Annette Scott:

Freshwater and climate will be the big drivers of change in balancing competing interests and farmers are not the bad ones in the equation, Ecologic Foundation chief executive Guy Salmon says.

The problem is not that farmers are bad, Salmon told the Agricultural and Horticultural Science Institute forum at Lincoln University.

“It is the institutes and incentives they face that are not the right ones.

“Yes, we need to find new ways of using land, water and greenhouse gas.

“My core argument here is farmers are grounded in this type of thing, they have always had values and bottom lines. They could be a model in the new way of NZ we are trying to form.” . .

Rules to add costs to councils – Neal Wallace:

Regional councils face higher costs, increased staffing needs and delays in implementing water plans because of the Government’s Essential Freshwater policy proposals, they warn.

While there is uncertainty about the effects until the proposed national policy statement freshwater standards are finalised, some councils say the new standard should be incorporated as plans are reviewed but others face long and involved processes.

Six regional councils approached said they face significant costs to plans and need more staff. . .

Carbon absorption on your farm :

New Zealand farmers can now estimate how much carbon their tree blocks are sequestering.

This follows a new addition to OverseerFM. The carbon stock tool in OverseerFM uses data from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Carbon Look-up Tables to estimate the carbon sequestration potential for existing and future tree blocks on a farm.

The new tool adds to OverseerFM’s existing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions analysis tool, which models the farm’s biological emissions (methane, nitrous oxide) and carbon dioxide as well asproduct footprint. . .

Cubbie Station tours Murray-Darling councillors through its controversial cotton holding to show there’s no water – Lydia Burton and Nathan Morris :

A controversial Queensland cotton producer has opened its gates to Murray-Darling Basin councils in an attempt to turnaround its poor reputation among drought-ravaged communities.

Cubbie Station — Australia’s largest cotton farm based in south-west Queensland — has come under pressure in recent years over its water use and impacts downstream.

Cubbie CEO Paul Brimblecombe said the tour allowed local government representatives from all Basin states to see the station and the drought for themselves.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to get out on the ground and put the full story in front of them,” he said. . .

Only a small % of what cattle eat is grain, 86% comes from materials humans don’t eat – Lauren Stine:

The plant-based industry wants you to believe that crops, like soy, corn, and barley, are mostly being fed to livestock, but according to the United Nations FAO, grain makes up only 13% of global livestock feed.

Only 13% of global animal feed (all animals for food, including chickens, pigs and cattle) is comprised of grain crops, according to United Nations FAO research, and only 32% of overall global grain production in 2010 was used to feed livestock.

A staggering 86% of global livestock feed consists of materials that we cannot digest as humans, like crop residues including stover and sugarcane tops. Pigs and chickens are also monogastrics (like humans) and cannot digest these products either. However, ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and goats can safely consume these materials and turn them into nutrient-dense protein for humans.  . .


Rural round-up

September 3, 2019

FMA looking into Fonterra’s asset write downs and financial performance following complaint – John Anthony:

The Financial Markets Authority is seeking information from Fonterra after receiving a complaint expressing concerns about the dairy cooperative’s expected record annual loss and asset write downs.

In early August Fonterra said it expected to make a loss for the 2019 financial year of between $590 million and $675m due to asset write downs of up to $860m.

A Financial Markets Authority (FMA) spokesman said it recently received a complaint about Fonterra’s financial reporting, and its audited financial statements over the last few years.

The complaint came from shareholder Colin Armer, who said he and his wife owned 10 million shares. . . 

Passion for sheep runs deep – Sally Rae:

She is known simply as “Sheepish Sophie”.

In the world of social media, Sophie Barnes – who has a strong following – is more well-known by that moniker.

Most recently, the young English shepherd and lamb-rearing specialist has been documenting her travels around the South Island with partner Dorrien Neeson and six dogs, working on various stations and farms.

At present stationed in the Waitaki Valley, Ms Barnes (27) admitted she had tried to find other hobbies apart from sheep farming and genetics but for her they did not exist . . 

The battle for trust – Peter Burke:

With distrust growing in consumers, even for science, gaining their trust is now more valuable to win than ever.

Tim Hunt, the head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness in Australasia, says trust is becoming more complex to succeed in and more valuable to win because of what is happening in New Zealand’s markets.

He says in emerging markets, such as China and Southeast Asia, consumers are placing enormous value on the safety of products, whereas in western markets they increasingly value sustainability, animal welfare, fairness and provenance.

Five years of Water Accord show dairy farmers doing their bit to improve water quality:

One of New Zealand’s biggest hands-on environmental efforts has created a wave of change on dairy farms across the country and is contributing to progress in improving water quality.

Today, the Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord farmers and partners announced their achievements to date, including:

  • fencing off dairy cattle from 24,249km (98.3%) of significant dairy accord waterways (waterways which are more than one metre wide and more than 30cm deep). That’s the equivalent of nearly 12 road trips from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Excluding stock from waterways is one of the most beneficial ways to improve water quality
  • installing bridges and culverts on 100% of stock crossing points dairy cows use
  • preparing 10,396 nutrient budgets – up from 6,400 budgets in the first year of the Accord. Nutrient budgets allow farmers to carefully plan nutrient applications and manage nutrient losses
  • assessing 100% of Accord farms for effluent management practices – this process checks that farms have appropriate infrastructure and systems in place to manage effluent
  • developing riparian management plans to protect water quality on 52% of Accord farms with waterways. . . 

Taking the bad with the good in dairy industry report:

Federated Farmers congratulates the dairy industry on another robust environmental report, which shows there are some good things to celebrate and some things that need further work.  

Today’s release of the now five year’s running Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord report shows there are still areas that need work, but overall dairy farmers should be proud of what they’ve achieved in a very short timeframe.

Amongst those matters that need further work are the 6.15% of significant non-compliance with effluent management requirements.

But overall Federated Farmers wants to give a big positive shout-out to what hard working farmers have achieved for the environment in the last 12 months. . .

Lamb export prices spring to a new high :

Export prices for lamb reached their highest point in the June 2019 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

This level is the highest since the series began in 1982, and follows steady increases from the second half of 2016.

“Both lamb and beef prices rose this quarter, up 4.7 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, on the back of strong overseas demand,” overseas trade statistics manager Darren Allan said. . . 

Burgers and climate: the real beef

I have two burgers. One is a beef burger from McDonald’s on the left and the other on the right is a Beyond Meat, plant-protein burger from A&W.

You’ve been told by companies, groups and the media to choose; to eat less meat because one is better for the environment, and we’ve been led to believe that by picking one over the other, we’re doing our part in climate change and being more environmentally-friendly.

What if I told you that both burgers are doing their part and all agriculture is part of the solution, not the problem? What if I told you it’s not one versus the other when it comes to climate change? What if I told you there is more to the story than these companies are sharing? . . 


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