Rural round-up

December 17, 2018

Climate change debate is heating up – Andrew Hoggard:

Science and practicality should underpin the climate change discussion but sometimes that’s de-railed by politics writes Federated Farmers dairy chairperson, Andrew Hoggard.

Debate about how New Zealand will honour the commitments we gave under the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming and climate change is – if you’ll excuse the pun – heating up.

In the last few months a series of weighty reports on options and forecasts have been published, notably from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission (a whopper, at 620 pages), and earlier this month from BERG (the Biological Emissions Reference Group). . . 

Tararua dairy farmers out to curb nitrate leaching and negative whispers – Sam Kilmister:

Tararua dairy farmers are turning over a new leaf to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Plantain, a common weed, is being injected into pastures to help reduce nitrogen leaching into the district’s waterways. 

The fibrous plant holds less nitrogen, meaning less passes through a cow’s system after they eat it. It also causes them to pass urine more frequently, resulting in less concentrated urine patches in a paddock.  . . 

 

More stories from on-farm :

For the last edition of Farmers Weekly we went back to some of the farmers featured in On Farm Story this year and asked them to look back on the year that’s been, and ahead to what’s in store for New Zealand agriculture.

Morrison Farming

Will Morrison is looking forward to having time to enjoy the farm scenery and healthy livestock.

What has 2018 been like for your farming business?

Seasonality for Morrison Farming feels like an increasing challenge. The consistent, well spread 1000-1200mm annual rainfall and summer-safe tag for western Rangitikei no longer feel so consistent or safe. However, prices were fantastic and financially 2018 has been one of Morrison Farming’s strongest. . . 

Richard Thompson steps down from Landcare Trust

The long-time chairman of NZ Landcare Trust and Whanganui man, Richard Thompson, has retired after 22 years on the board.

And in his place the trust has chosen its first woman chair in Fiona Gower, who is also Rural Women New Zealand national president.

Landcare Trust is an independent NGO that attempts to bring together various stakeholders to work on sustainable water and land quality. . . 

From dust bowl to productive farmland: Farmers visit Nebraska – Pat Deavoll:

A party of 25 farmers and irrigation experts has returned from Nebraska, United States, with some fresh ideas about how to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

“Nebraska was one of the states which were devastated by the dust bowl storms during the depression and farming families had to leave the land,” outgoing IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said, who was part of the group.

“By 1932, 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of farmland had been abandoned in Nebraska due to soil erosion and dust storms. . . 

 

There’s Hope for wool in art show :

Dunedin artist Hope Duncan says a wolf-shaped rug made from crossbred wool is the perfect analogy for the state of the carpet fibre industry.

The Dunedin School of Art graduate loves wool but despairs about the state of the crossbred wool sector so for her end-of-year exhibition she chose a two-piece item with a wool carpet in the shape of a wolf as an eye-catching element in a none too subtle dig at how synthetic carpet manufacturers have laid claim to wool’s natural attributes.

Duncan hopes it will provoke conversation about the attributes of wool and issues with synthetic fibres. . . 

 


Rural round-up

November 7, 2018

Farmers re-elect dissident ex-director Leonie Guiney to Fonterra board – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group shareholders have effectively delivered a rebuke to the sitting board by voting to elect outspoken former director Leonie Guiney to the board while failing to support two of three board nominations.

Zespri chairman Peter McBride was also elected to the cooperative’s governance team, but board-backed Maori commercial leader Jamie Tuuta and an incumbent director, Ashleigh Waugh, both failed to gain the 50 percent support required for election to the board, as did self-nominated candidate John Nicholls, leaving one board seat unfilled ahead of Thursday’s annual meeting in Lichfield. . .

Early testing indicates Mycoplasma bovis eradication still possible – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Early results from nationwide bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis suggests eradication remains possible, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.

To date, more than 51,000 of approximately 70,000 tests have been completed and only three farms have been confirmed to have the cattle disease.

Testing to date reinforces the theory the country is facing a single strain of the bacterial infection that affects cows. . .

 

Renewed FTA deal unlikely to bear more benefits for dairy industry – Craig McCulloch:

New Zealand looks highly unlikely to secure a better deal for dairy exporters as part of an improved free trade agreement with China. 

Under the current agreement, New Zealand’s dairy products are hit with higher tariffs once they reach a certain amount.

Those limits automatically expire by 2022 and 2024, but the dairy industry had hoped to bring those dates forward as part of negotiations to upgrade the overall deal. . .

Feds optimistic about local government review:

The thoroughness of an issues paper released today on local government funding and financing is cause for optimism, Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.

“The Productivity Commission’s paper sets out key topics as it investigates what drives local government costs now and into the foreseeable future, and invites people to comment on the shortcomings of current systems, as well as suggest alternatives. . .

Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year 2019 nominations now open:

As Dairy Women’s Network nears the end of its 20th anniversary, it’s launching into its next celebration by announcing the opening of nominations for the 2019 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

Next year will mark the eighth year for the prestigious award which celebrates women who have made outstanding contributions to New Zealand’s dairy industry.

Dairy Women’s Network CEO Jules Benton says with 2019 her first Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year Awards as CEO, she’s looking forward to celebrating the leadership and diversity of women in the dairy industry.

Research forum helps build New Zealand’s primary sector workforce:

The Primary Industry Capability Alliance (PICA) is set to host a one-day research forum for organisations, businesses and government agencies interested in building the human capability of New Zealand’s primary sectors.

Delegates will be updated with the latest analysis, research and various initiatives relating to the sector’s workforce. “For our primary sectors to continue leading the world,” PICA’s CEO Michelle Glogau says, “we need to attract and retain a diverse range of people with different talents in a diverse range of roles. Robotics engineers, geneticists, farm managers…We need 50,000 more people to join the sector by 2025.” . . 


Rural round-up

September 6, 2018

Daunting report puts trees first – RIchard Rennie:

A landscape full of daunting challenges for the primary sector as New Zealand transitions to a zero carbon economy has been painted in a Productivity Commission report of Biblical proportions.

While by no means confined to agriculture the Low Emissions Economy report studying steps to zero carbon by 2050 puts agriculture at the sharp end of main policy shifts its authors cover.

It calls for major land use change to increase forestry and horticulture.  . .

Kiwi agri women lead the way – Annette Scott;

New Zealand is leading the way when it comes to including women in agricultural businesses, Agri Women’s Development Trust executive director Lindy Nelson says.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment as the sole NZ representative at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) 2018 in Papua New Guinea, Nelson was inspired by what she had to offer.

She was presenting as part of the agriculture and fisheries dialogue that had member economies addressing the importance of including women in the agribusiness value chain.

The focus of discussions was exploring practical ways of doing that. . . 

Fonterra split must be debated – Hugh Stringleman:

Further evolution of Fonterra’s capital structure needs discussion by farmer-shareholders, 2018 Kellogg scholar and dairy farmer James Courtman says.

Shareholders first need to settle on the direction of travel and whether the co-operative should be a strong player in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market.

“Or are our values and risk appetite more aligned to producing high-value base products to sell to multinationals who already have strong consumer brands,” Courtman wrote in his Kellogg report.

“Neither option is right or wrong but doing one option poorly due to a lack of capital or misaligned strategy is not a good option for the business.” . . 

Apple and stonefruit industry members disappointed with revised MPI directions:

With one minute before the 5:00pm deadline set by the High Court, MPI has issued revised directions to the affected apple and stonefruit industry members, under s122 of the Biosecurity Act.

The directions appear to be as wide as the previous order, referring to the tens of thousands of apple (Malus) and stonefruit (Prunus) plants previously seized by MPI under s116 of the Biosecurity Act, which was deemed unlawful following a High Court judicial review. . .

Zespri forecasts jump in annual profit as it seeks to maintain value in ‘challenging’ market – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri Group, the country’s kiwifruit export marketing body, expects profit to surge higher in the coming year as it grows volumes and seeks to maintain values in “challenging” markets with higher volumes of low-priced fruit.

The Mount Maunganui-based company reaffirmed its forecast for net profit of between $175 million and $180 million in the year ending March 31, 2019, up from $101.8 million last financial year. It expects to pay a dividend per share of $1.35-to-$1.40, up from 76 cents per share last season. . .

Genetic solutions to pest control – Neil Gemmell:

New Zealand stunned the world in 2016 announcing a goal to eradicate mammalian predators by 2050. The key targets are possums, rats and stoats; species that cause enormous damage to our flora and fauna and in some cases are an economic burden to our productive sectors.

As all of these species were introduced to New Zealand from elsewhere there is little sympathy nationally for any of them and their control and eradication has been a key component of conservation and animal health management in this country for decades. Thanks to the work of many we can control and even eradicate many of these species at increasingly large scales. The success of these programs has seen a variety of ‘pest-free’ offshore sanctuaries formed, such as Kapiti Island and the Orokonui mainland sanctuary where many native species, including kiwi, kōkako, and kākā now have a realistic chance for population persistence and recovery. . .

MPI joins forces with forest industry on biosecurity readiness:

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) are joining forces under the GIA (Government Industry Agreement) to improve forest biosecurity preparedness.

The first jointly-funded initiative under this partnership will be a forest biosecurity surveillance programme designed to detect unwanted forest pests and pathogens in high-risk places.

FOA and MPI recently signed the Commercial Plantation Forestry Sector Operational Agreement for Readiness under the GIA. This agreement establishes a new way of working in partnership between the two organisations and will see a doubling of efforts to improve forest biosecurity readiness, says Andrew Spelman, MPI’s Acting Director, Biosecurity Readiness. . .

EPA: Views sought on new fungicide to protect arable crops:

The EPA is calling for submissions on an application by Bayer New Zealand Limited to approve a fungicide called Vimoy Iblon for use in New Zealand to protect cereal crops.

The fungicide’s active ingredient isoflucypram, has not yet been approved in any country.

Bayer is intending to market its use to control scald, net blotch, Ramularia leaf spot in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and triticale, and speckled leaf blotch in wheat. . .


Better results not ideological obsessions

April 30, 2015

A new funding system for people with disabilities was the subject of this exchange at question time yesterday:

CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister of Finance: Is the Productivity Commission report released yesterday indicative of a Government agenda to privatise the welfare system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No. It is indicative of a Government agenda to get better results for people who really need them. We are happy to debate the kind of toolset that the Productivity Commission has laid out, but I would like to signal to that member and to the Labour Party that we are focused more on getting better results and less on their ideological obsessions. What we are doing is building a system that allows Governments to invest upfront in personalised interventions for the child, the individual, or the family for a long-term impact, and to track the results of that investment. The Productivity Commission has produced a framework that gives the Government a wider range of tools. It has been heavily consulted on with the social service sector to a draft form, and now it will be further consulted on before it gives us a final report. But I expect at the end of that that the Labour Party will be out of step with pretty much everybody by sticking to its 1970s models.

Carmel Sepuloni: Does the Minister intend to establish a voucher system for social services in New Zealand?29 Apr 2015 Oral Questions Page 11 of 15 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. We are under way in establishing a voucher system particularly for people with disabilities. It is called Enabling Good Lives. It has been broadly welcomed by the disability sector. I suspect that the mass adoption of it by the Australian Government in the form of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is going to put a lot of pressure on New Zealand to further develop a sophisticated voucher system for people with disabilities. The reason why is that it gives them some choices rather than being subject to a system where the Labour Party tells the providers—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Jami-Lee Ross: What progress has the Government made in delivering better outcomes from social services?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have made considerable progress in focusing on our customers—that is, getting to know much better the circumstances and prospects of those most vulnerable New Zealanders. For instance, a child under the age of 5 who is known to Child, Youth and Family, whose parents are supported by a benefit, and where either parent is in contact with the Department of Corrections—and there are a lot of those families; around 470 of them in Rotorua, for instance—is around five times more likely to end up on a long-term benefit and seven times more likely than the average to get to be in prison before the age of 21. In the light of that information, we feel a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal one, to act now to reduce the long-term costs, and we are not—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree with the findings of the draft Productivity Commission’s report he commissioned that the Government faces incentives to underfund contracts with NGOs for the delivery of social services, with probably adverse consequences for service provision; if so, does he agree that greater contracting out could harm service provision?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree with the first one but not the second one. The Government often does deliberately, as a result of Government policy, actually, pay less than the full cost of services, and often the users of those services need a higher level of more sophisticated service that what we currently offer them. There is no evidence at all that contracting out, as the member calls it, will reduce service provision. Sometimes that is the right way to do it. For instance, the Government owns no elderly care beds in New Zealand. It is all contracted out. That has been a bipartisan approach for many years with a highly vulnerable population. There are other areas where there are benefits from competition and also benefits from cooperation.

Jami-Lee Ross: What results has he seen from investment in Better Public Services?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the first results we are seeing from taking an investment approach to public services is a much better understanding of our customers. The reports, now published 6-monthly, into the welfare liability have lifted the lid on a very complex ecosystem of dependency. Now we are starting to take initiatives in order to change the way that system works. For instance, around 70 percent of the people who sign up for a benefit in any given month have been on a benefit before. They are long-term regular and returning customers. In the past we have thought that because we found them a job once, that was the end of it. In fact, they need sustained support and employment, and we expect to be taking more measures in order to back up that initiative. But there will be hundreds of others that will involve contracting out, will involve competition, will involve the private sector, and will involve better results. . .

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree with the finding of the report, which he commissioned, that “Problems with contracting out are often symptoms of deeper causes such as the desire to exert top-down control to limit political risk.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes.

Carmel Sepuloni: Does he agree that the Government needs to take responsibility for system stewardship and for making considered decisions that shape the system, including taking the overarching responsibility for monitoring, planning, and managing resources in such a way as to maintain and improve system performance?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, the Government can do a better job of what the Government does. We are still unravelling the damage done by the previous Labour Government to our social services delivery, where that Government turned it into what I would call a dumb funding system. Communities and families have an important role as well as Governments—in fact, a more important role. In fact, one of the programmes that the commission refers to is Whānau Ora, which is designed around the radical proposition that a lot of our most dysfunctional families can actually heal some of their own problems and improve some of their own aspirations. . .

This exchange shows a stark difference between National and Labour.

National is determined to improve the delivery of social services, give people with disabilities more choices and reduce dependence.

Labour which is still ideologically opposed to private provision of services even if that gives better results.

And it’s not just Labour which has the wrong idea of welfare and the government’s role in services.

Lindsay Mitchell writes on Green MP Jan Logie’s contention that social problems aren’t solved one individual at a time:

If problems aren’t solved “one individual at a time”, when it is individuals who abuse or neglect each other, when it is individuals who successfully resolve to change their behaviour, what hope? And why have role models eg Norm Hewitt to show what individuals can achieve? Why have organisations like AA who focus on each individual owning and addressing their problem; in living one day at a time to break their addiction?

Logie believes in deterministic explanations for human behaviour. Causes are outside of the control of the individual. For instance, colonisation and capitalism cause social chaos to entire groups. Therefore the largest representative collective – government – must play the major remedial role.

And she has the gall to talk about private service providers securing an “ongoing need for [their] services”.

When for the past forty odd years  government policy has been creating and increasing social problems through the welfare state.

This reinforces this morning’s quote from Thomas Sowell: Although the big word on the left is ‘compassion,’ the big agenda on the left is dependency.


Productivity Commission seeks topics for inquiry

December 6, 2013

The Productivity Commission is seeking ideas for topics for two new inquiries to be conducted next year.

The Commission is currently conducting inquiries into boosting productivity in the services sector, and the design and operation of regulatory regimes, which are due for completion in April and June 2014 respectively. The two new inquiries will commence after the current inquiries are completed.

The Commission has a broad mandate to improve productivity in a way that supports the overall wellbeing of New Zealanders. On referral from Ministers, the Commission holds inquiries and reports on productivity related matters.

Potential inquiry topics will be selected based on the degree to which they:

• use the Commission’s unique position as an independent agency with high quality analytical ability and a focus on public engagement

• have the potential to deliver practical policy recommendations to improve productivity and support the overall well-being of New Zealanders; and

• require a substantial degree of analysis to resolve a complex set of issues.

Potential inquiry topics that meet these criteria should be submitted to inquirytopics@treasury.govt.nz together with any relevant supporting information by Friday 13 December 2013. The Treasury is the department responsible for the Productivity Commission, and manages the process for suggesting potential inquiry topics to responsible ministers.

Inquiries already undertaken are:


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