Rural round-up

November 2, 2019

Ringing up in tears’ : Canterbury farmers doing it tough – Jo Moir:

Canterbury farmers say they’re at breaking point. A recent Ministry of Health report presented to MPs showed suicide was up 20 percent in rural areas compared to a drop of 10 percent in cities and towns.

Droughts, floods, earthquakes, farm debt, M bovis, looming water quality reforms and climate change legislation have Canterbury farmers feeling under the pump.

Ashburton farmer and Federated Farmers’ board member, Chris Allen, said nothing brought home just how many farmers were battling depression than a funeral. . .

Researchers did deeper in fight against climate change – Rebecca Black:

Researchers have found deep soil holds potential to off-set greenhouse gas emissions and improve production for farmers.

Dr Mike Beare and his colleagues at Plant and Food Research have been studying how soils differ in their potential to store carbon, and the risk for carbon loss.

Beare said many of New Zealand’s long-term pasture top soils are approaching saturation and don’t have the potential to store carbon near the surface.

Many continuous pasture soils in New Zealand are stratified, with carbon levels declining rapidly with depth. “Where there is much greater potential to store additional carbon is below the surface soil,” Beare said. . . .

Give farmers the tools and they will respond – Todd Muller:

The Government should let farmers focus on continuing to produce world class food, not trying to negotiate complex tax systems, writes National’s spokesman for Primary Industries, Todd Muller.

Last week the Government announced a broad agreement had been reached with the agriculture sector on how to approach the very complex challenge of reducing our emissions from sheep and cattle animals in New Zealand.

Unlike our CO2 emissions, which we’re all exposed to whether we’re a farmer or city dweller via the carbon price, natural emissions from belching and urinating cows and sheep currently sit outside a pricing regime. . .

Biosecurity business pledge signed by 50 companies:

A group of 50 New Zealand companies have signed a first-of-its-kind pledge to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The Biosecurity Business Pledge – which includes some of New Zealand’s biggest businesses, including Fonterra, Auckland Airport, Goodman Fielder, Countdown and Mainfreight – was launched today by participating businesses and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor. . .

Feds urges going the extra mile with biosecurity pledge :

Businesses which sign up to the Biosecurity Pledge 2019 are underlining a commitment to go the extra mile to protect our environment and economy from diseases, pests and hazardous organisms. 

“It’s one thing to tick all the boxes in terms of meeting all the regulatory requirements.  That should by now be standard practice,” Federated Farmers biosecurity spokesperson Karen Williams says.

“The Pledge campaign, supported by Federated Farmers and 10 other farmer and grower organisations, is about businesses actively looking for ways to cut out potential risks to protect not just their own interests, but those of their peers, the wider community and our little slice of paradise at the bottom of the world. . .

 

Filipino farmer grows new life in New Zealand after rough beginning – Emma Dangerfield:

Bob Bolanos had a good life in the Philippines but political corruption prompted him to move his young family to New Zealand and start at the bottom again. Emma Dangerfield reports.

When a Philippines Government official offered Bob Bolanos a top electrical contract, he knew he had to leave.

The farmer was well connected, so he and his young family were well looked after, and he was regularly awarded good contracts because of who he knew. But it did not sit well.

Something about it made me sick to my stomach,” he says. “I didn’t want my children being brought up in that environment.” . .


Rural round-up

October 18, 2019

Don’t blame the messenger:

It appears the only people surprised by plummeting levels of rural confidence are the Government and Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

For months we have seen an endless stream of reports – from Rabobank, BNZ, ANZ, NZIER – all depicting a growing lack of confidence and concern in rural New Zealand.

Only last month, an open letter was written to the Government by an agricultural consultancy head, Chris Garland, outlining why farmer morale is at an all-time low. Garland, of Baker Ag, called for more consideration for the rural sector’s lot in the face of ever more onerous regulation. . . 

Marlborough’s Francis Maher vows to strengthen relationship between farmers and council – Chloe Ranford:

A Marlborough farmer returning to the council chamber after a tight vote says he hopes to strengthen the relationship between rural residents and the region’s decision-makers.

Francis Maher will once again represent the Wairau-Awatere ward after beating nearest rival Scott Adams by just 13 votes.

The seat was “too close to call” after Saturday’s preliminary count, but updated results on Sunday revealed Maher would join incumbents Gerald Hope and Cynthia Brooks in the rural ward. . . 

Moffat to lead Deer Industry team :

Innes Moffat has been appointed chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). He has been with the organisation for 14 years.

DINZ chair Ian Walker says the DINZ board ran an external recruitment process that attracted some very strong candidates from both inside and outside the deer farming industry. After considering all applicants the board made the unanimous decision that Moffat was the best candidate for the job.

Moffat, who was born and raised on a South Otago sheep and cattle farm, joined DINZ in 2005 as venison marketing services manager. This followed several years with the former Meat and Wool New Zealand, including a four-year stint in Brussels as market manager continental Europe. More recently, he has been manager of the deer industry’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, Passion 2 Profit. . . 

Wagyu study stirs up academics :

An academic stoush is brewing over research from Liggins Institute indicating middle-aged men can confidently eat Wagyu beef three times a week without damaging their health.

The research was done as part of a high-value nutrition national science challenge led by AgResearch and co-funded by First Light Wagyu beef company. 

Its 50 participants were put on diets consisting of either 500g a week of Wagyu beef, conventional beef or soy protein spread over three portions a week for eight weeks. At the end of the trial all three groups had reduced their cholesterol. 

The outcome prompted study leader Professor David Cameron-Smith to conclude eating New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu with its high level of fat does not affect heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels. . . 

Is technology a threat to dairy? – Daniel Appleton:

The New Zealand dairy industry is facing major disruption from synthetic dairy, similar to the synthetic fibres that triggered the decline of the wool industry in the 1980s.

Technology companies are now making real dairy products, without cows. 

Their aim is to make real dairy products far cheaper than traditional farming can within the next 10 to 15 years.

The reason I’m talking about this is out of genuine concern. 

I’m concerned this very real risk to the dairy industry isn’t being shared and openly discussed with those who could be affected most – farmers and rural communities. . . 

From billies to bottles to unbreakables: milk through the decades – Rebecca Black:

Lois Puklowski remembers when milk was delivered by horse and cart, she used to watch in delight as the milkman ladled it into her billy.

It was the mid-1930s and Puklowski would join other children from her neighbourhood in Aramoho, Whanganui, excitedly awaiting the milk cart.

“He’d only stop a couple of places in the street and everyone used to queue up with their billies,” she says.

New Zealand has Australian cows to thank for its earliest milk production. Samuel Marsden brought the cows to New Zealand in the early 1800s. They were a gift from New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie. . . 

 


Rural round-up

October 11, 2019

Anger at slow compensation process –  Sally Rae:

”I think I would rather have cancer than Mycoplasma bovis.”

That was the hard-hitting opening line in a letter from North Otago farmer Kerry Dwyer, to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last month.

Mr Dwyer and his wife Rosie were among the first farmers affected by Mycoplasma bovis when their property was confirmed as having the bacterial cattle disease in August 2017.

It was in March last year that Mr Dwyer first publicly expressed fears over the compensation process.

Now, more than two years after having all their cattle slaughtered due to the disease, and a year after lodging their last compensation claim, they were still waiting for settlement.

But after the Otago Daily Times contacted MPI yesterday, a spokesman said director-general Ray Smith had requested an urgent review of the Dwyers’ claims and MPI would pay what was owing by the end of the week. . . 

Hurunui mayor blames public opinion for ‘unattainable’ water targets – Emma Dangerfield:

An outgoing North Canterbury mayor says “public opinion and impatience” are driving proposed water quality targets that will be impossible to meet.

Environment Minister David Parker last week released the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management and the Government’s rewritten National Policy Statement, which aims to improve New Zealand’s waterways, crack down on farming practices and increase regulation. The plan includes a mandate for councils to have freshwater plans in place by 2025.

In a statement published on the Hurunui District Council’s website, mayor and farmer Winton Dalley said the Government was responding to the “huge pressure of public opinion and impatience with what in their view is … [a] lack of progress to return all water to a quality, which – in many cases – is unattainable.”

Water quality issues in the district were not only caused by rural and urban pollution, he said. . . 

Irrigation achievement celebrated:

The prosperity of the Mid Canterbury district stems from the 67km-long Rangitata diversion race (RDR), which started from humble beginnings with workers using picks, shovels and wooden wheelbarrows in its development at Klondyke, Mid Canterbury in 1937.

It has gone on to supply water to the district’s plains and helping to generate social and economic benefits to Mid Cantabrians, from the people on the land, to those in its towns and villages.

The engineering feat required for its development was celebrated with new signage provided by the Mid Canterbury RDR community and those connected to the system.

They included farmer and RDR Management Ltd (RDRML) chairman Richard Wilson, irrigation scheme representatives, members of the engineering fraternity and other invited guests such as ”RDR Kid” Viv Barrett (87), who, at age 5, lived with his family in the RDR camp at Ealing as his father Jim was the first RDR raceman. . . 

Teenager creates company to get high-speed network to rural communities – Rebecca Black:

A Whanganui teenager has big plans to get fibre internet speeds to rural customers.

Alex Stewart, 14, says rural communities are paying fibre prices for copper speeds and face a huge bill to get access to faster internet.

Stewart was staying at Turakina Beach, 20 minutes south of Whanganui, when he got talking to frustrated locals who had been in touch with a telecommunications company about getting cell phone coverage and better internet. . . 

Painting cows like zebras keep flies at bay – study – Angie Skerrett:

A new study suggests painting cows with zebra stripes could be the answer to the age-old problem of fly attacks on livestock, and bring economic and environmental benefits.

Biting flies are serious pests for livestock, which cause economic losses in animal production. 

However a new study by Japanese researchers and published in PLOS One found that black cows painted with zebra stripes are nearly 50 percent less likely to suffer from the bites.

Researchers used six Japanese Black cows with different paint designs in the study. . . 

African Swine Flu just a stone’s throw from Australia :

The deadly virus which has claimed one quarter of the world’s pig population is now perilously close to our northern border.

A disease that has wreaked havoc and caused mass devastation to the global pig population, has now spread from China to other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and now Timor-Leste.

Outbreaks of African Swine Fever also continue to be reported in eastern Europe as the deadly spread shows no signs of slowing. ASF is reported to have already wiped out a quarter of the world’s pigs, and the risk of it infecting pigs in other countries in Asia and elsewhere remains a serious threat. The disease is known to kill about 80 percent of animals which become infected. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 18, 2019

If we undermine farming we undermine our entire economic fabric – Barbara Kuriger:

Like my family before me, and following after me, I’ve always taken great pride in being a dairy farmer, and in the reputation of the New Zealand dairy industry internationally.

My husband and I grew up in a generation where we had the opportunity to buy a farm and build our livelihoods on the land as our family had before us. It has been a privilege to forge an incredible career as a dairy farmer. My husband, Louis, and I are both award-winning dairy farmers and we’re proud of the mark we’ve made on the industry. 

Sadly, the outlook for New Zealand’s primary sector is the worst that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I don’t make this strong statement lightly, nor to scaremonger – but rather to reflect the policy settings under a virtue-signalling government which is setting the dairy industry up for failure. As a rural MP, but more importantly as a farmer, I won’t sit back and allow the ladder to be pulled up behind future generations of New Zealanders wanting to pave their way in the farming sector.   . . 

Dannevirke shearing legend Koro Mullins passes away:

Tributes are flowing in from around the world in memory of Dannevirke shearing identity Koropiko Tumatahi (Koro) Mullins, who died suddenly on Monday at the age of 65.

Mr Mullins was known across all aspects for the shearing industry and sports, from shearer and shearing contractor to a frontman commentating role shearing great Sir David Fagan says set the standard on a global scale.

Born and raised in the Rotorua area, and of Te Arawa stock, he met the-then Mavis Paewai when he was a woolpressing teenager working for her brothers and father in Southern Hawke’s Bay.

It sparked what Fagan says was a unique family involvement and commitment to the shearing and wool industry, becoming the basis of Maori Television series Shear Bro which first aired in July last year. . . 

“Don’t lose hope’ – Pam Tipa:

Farming families and communities keen to do the right thing on water should not lose hope and confidence in the consultation process, says a Canterbury dairy farmer and industry leader.

The Government’s proposed nitrogen target for mid Canterbury isn’t attainable, says Colin Glass.

But that is no reason to give up on the consultation process, he says. “It looks as though there is nothing we could do today that would even come close to achieving that target. It simply means that if that target is not amended, farming as we know it today is not possible. Any form of farming.

“The key thing is that farmers are doing the right thing. Everyone is moving in the right direction. Now is not the time for people to lose faith or confidence in the process. . . 

Radiata pine plantations a band aid to nowhere – Di Lucas:

Climate change policies, the Billion Tree initiative and recent news promote the establishment of extensive pine plantations to benefit Aotearoa New Zealand’s climate change response by sinking carbon. Others have questioned the benefit of short-rotation plantation pines compared to natural regeneration of native forests. Whilst afforestation has an important role in New Zealand’s climate change response, we need to be clear about future implications.

There are both native and introduced tree species that grow fast and others that grow more slowly. Consider along with the speed of sequestration, the total carbon stocks that can be accumulated, and how long sequestration rates can be sustained. These rates depend on whether the forest is permanent and allowed to grow to maturity (i.e. not harvested) or harvested.  

Fast-growing trees such as pines or eucalypts in harvested plantations reach their maximum carbon storage capacity in about 20 years. Landowners then lose most of those carbon stocks when the forest is harvested; NZ loses most of the embedded carbon when logs are exported; furthermore, the globe loses most of those stocks back into the atmosphere as the products decay, as well as through associated emissions from forest management, transport and processing. Thus to store more carbon actually requires another forest to be planted on new land that is not already forested, while also continuing to replant and maintain the previous area in forest to recover the lost carbon stocks. That is, plantation areas will need to be doubled in size with every crop. . . 

Here are three farmers who are taking action on climate change – Rebecca Black:

Waikato dairy farmer Christopher Falconer is parked up on his farm looking out over the wetlands as he talks about mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I don’t make climate change-based decisions for what we do on-farm. I don’t. But as it happens, there’s a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate, and what is good for all sorts of other things.”

Take riparian planting, the practice of growing plants alongside waterways. The goal is to mitigate nutrient loss and subsidence and stream bank erosion, but it’s also an effective carbon capture.

With nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under scrutiny and some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. But by making climate change action part of their everyday work, three farmers says the rewards speak for themselves. . . 

Fonterra’s capital structure is no longer fit for purpose – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s delay in announcing its results, driven by Fonterra’s need for discussions with its auditors about appropriate asset values, provides an opportunity to reflect on Fonterra’s capital structure and whether it is still fit for purpose. The simple answer is that it is not.

The value destruction that has occurred and which is now coming to light means that inherent conflicts between the interests of farmer shareholders and investor unitholders have become too great to be papered over. Co-operatives do not survive long-term unless everyone’s interests align.

Two former directors of Fonterra, Colin Armer and Nicola Shadbolt, have both come out recently and said that reworking Fonterra’s capital structure is not the immediate priority. I agree with them. The immediate and urgent priority is to sell assets and create a new slimmed-down and financially-efficient organisational structure, with many fewer high-paid executives. . . 

Physicist Sam Hitchman wins top meat science talent award:

Attracting the best and brightest minds is and remains one of the international meat industry’s top priorities and for Sam Hitchman – a physicist in an industry dominated by biological researchers – the quest to attract new talent has paid off.

The AgResearch scientist recently won the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Prize for Young Talent in Meat Science and Technology at the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) near Berlin, Germany.

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Sam Hitchman, who is a postdoctoral research fellow in AgResearch’s Meat Quality team, says he was thrilled with the recognition, while adding he didn’t feel “young” – as his award would suggest – upon his return to New Zealand. . . 

Why going meat-free could damage your health – Luke Mintz:

It was just a few months ago that experts were declaring the end of meat. Earlier this year, consultancy firm AT Kearney predicted that by 2040, animal products will have become so socially and environmentally unacceptable that most “meat” eaten across the globe will come in the form of plant-based or lab-grown substitutes.

But a major study released this week just might put the brakes on the rapidly accelerating plant-based trend. According to Oxford University research, published in the British Medical Journal, vegetarians and vegans have a 20 per cent higher risk of stroke than those who regularly tuck into a plate of bacon and sausages.

The authors of the study, which tracked almost 50,000 Britons for 18 years, said this might be because veggies did not have enough cholesterol in their blood. The finding flies in the face of much conventional wisdom, which says that vegetarianism is a healthy alternative to a carnivorous lifestyle.

But nutritionists say the increased risk of stroke is just one of the many health risks that any would-be vegetarian should be made aware of before they take the plunge. . . 


Rural round-up

September 2, 2019

Government policy, rule changes are hitting farmers in the pocket – Hayden Dillon:

A capital crunch is starting to impact farmers as the banks get more cagey about lending to dairy and the sheep and beef sectors, writes Hayden Dillon, head of agribusiness and a managing partner at Findex.

Things are looking okay externally. The big picture for our safe, efficiently produced protein is still strong, as shown by good commodity prices. But three domestic drivers have converged to cause difficulties for farmers, particularly those with a lot of debt or wanting capital to grow.

Firstly, changes imposed by the Overseas Investment Office have affected the value of and demand for land. We no longer have the same foreign capital coming in for our biggest farming sector – sheep, beef and dairy and our productive assets there. . .

More farmland goes into trees – Pam Tipa:

A large foreign-financed but New Zealand owned investment company has brought a big station in the Wairarapa for forestry development.

Social, employment and environmental sustainability issues will be included in plans to ensure a stable local rural community, it claims.

Kauri Forestry LP, a forestry business built, managed and governed by Craigmore Sustainables, has purchased Lagoon Hills Station in Wairarapa. . .

Could India be the next big thing for New Zealand sheep meat? – Jamie Gray:

Hopes are running high that India could be the next big thing for New Zealand sheep meat exports if the two countries form closer economic ties.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involves 16 countries – the 10 members of ASEAN, plus the six countries with which ASEAN has free trade agreements—Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.

The meat industry has expectations that RCEP will form a platform that will allow New Zealand access to India, which at the moment imposes high tariffs on imported goods.

“My personal view is that India is the next big prize,” Tim Ritchie, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said. . .

 

Online training platform Tahi Ngātahi: A ‘game-changer’ for wool harvesting industry:

Shearing stalwart Jock Martin is the driving force behind online training platform, Tahi Ngātahi, which is revolutionising the way the wool harvesting industry trains its workforce.

Martin has been part of Otago and Southland’s wool harvesting scene for over 30 years and is a second generation shearer.

Passionate about improving skills and safety, he believed new e-learning platform Tahi Ngātahi was the ‘game-changer’ the industry has been waiting for.

Keeping workers injury-free in a physically demanding occupation is a big issue for the wool harvesting industry. . .

From vegan interns to visiting preschoolers, all are welcome at the ECO School – Rebecca Black:

“Do you mind goat’s milk in your tea?” Dani Lebo is a considerate host, though she quickly admits goat’s milk is really the only option because there are no other milking animals on her farm.

So goat’s milk it is, fresh and delicious.

The goats, like everything on five-hectare Kaitiaki Farm, are a deliberate choice. They’re lighter on the steep clay-heavy hills than cattle or sheep. . .

Time to move the ‘meat vs plant’ debate beyond crude headlines – Joanna Blythman,:

After all those months of BBC News regurgitating the bandwagon ‘reduce red meat to save the planet’ script, what a refreshing change it was to hear a thoughtful discussion on the Today programme with Patrick Holden, director of the Sustainable Food Trust, arguing convincingly for more, not less, red meat consumption.

While Vicki Hird from Sustain stuck to the ‘less but better meat’ mantra, Holden moved on this stale and overcooked debate. He argued persuasively that every country should align its diet to the productive capacity of its land. In other words, what’s on our plates should reflect the ecology of the country we live in. Two-thirds of UK land is grass, so red meat and dairy should form a significant proportion of our diets. When these foods come from fully pasture-fed animals, we can eat them, as Holden put it, sustainably, and with a clear conscience. In terms of climate effects, any methane produced by livestock is short-lived and offset by the benefit of the carbon that is sequestered in the permanent pastures they graze. . . 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

Fact check: Are our farm systems any better for the climate? – Esther Taunton:

Kiwi farmers love to claim their meat and dairy products come from farms with some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, they were quick to defend their systems after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Report on Climate Change and Land on Thursday.

Federated Farmers led the charge, saying it was concerned New Zealanders “simply don’t understand how much better we are at low-emissions farming than other countries“. . .

Kiwi farmers defend meat after report calls for more plant-based food – Rebecca Black:

We should be eating plenty of plants, South Taranaki dairy farmer Matthew Herbert says, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce our animal-based protein production.

A new IPCC report into climate change makes the recommendation that we alter our diets from being high in meat and dairy to include more plant-based food choices.

The report indicates that more efficient farming methods could dramatically increase food output while keeping emissions in check. . .

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio has merged with a North Island-based plant breeding company.

Rotorua-based Gemnetics did similar work to AbacusBio but in plants, not animals, and it was a very complementary skill set, AbacusBio managing director Anna Campbell said.

Plant and animal breeding methodologies were converging with the growth in genomics and big data tools and technologies.

The merger would allow the company – retaining the name AbacusBio for operations and Gemnetics for specific plant-breeding software – to offer clients access to leading-edge genetic and system services, software and data management products, she said. . .

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

Two young Dunedin entrepreneurs are tapping into the nation’s coffee culture.

Jo Mohan and Luka Licul have co-founded Spout Alternatives, with Nick Jackson, of Christchurch, to put milk into kegs and reduce the number of plastic milk containers used in cafes.

The trio are preparing to launch their permanent dispensing system, which is similar to the way beer is available on tap in bars. . .

Let people eat as much red meat as they want Norway’s health minister says :

Norway’s new head of health has criticised the ‘moral police’ and said people should be allowed to eat as much red meat as they want.

In her first days as the country’s new health minister, Sylvi Listhaug implied that Norwegians shouldn’t be told what to do when it comes to health.

The comments come as part of an interview with Ms Listhaug conducted by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. . .

Can the Prairie Generation save rural America? – Laurent Belsie :

Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers.

That will be a milestone. It will also be when she finishes her last year of college.

Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. . . 

 


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