Rural round-up

24/03/2021

Govt ‘naivety’ cause of crisis – Peter Burke:

Johnny Appleseed is one of the largest apple growers in New Zealand; director Paul Paynter says the current worker shortage crisis in the sector can be sheeted home to Government naivety.

He says when Covid-19 first hit the country – with many people losing their jobs and overseas workers stopped from coming to NZ – the Government was quick to claim it would provide an opportunity for Kiwis to take up jobs in the ag and hort sectors. However, he says while there has been some uptake, the reality has fallen well short of the enthusiastic expectations.

“It was just naïve optimism on the part of Government,” Paynter told Rural News.

He says people are not coming to the Hawkes Bay to pick apples for a number of reasons, the major one being the lack of accommodation. Paynter says there is a housing crisis in the region.

Drinking (milk) to economic recovery – The Detail:

When the price of milk surged 15 percent on the global dairy market earlier this month, even the boss of Fonterra was shocked.

“It was extraordinary,” says Jarden’s head of dairy derivatives, Mike McIntyre. “I’ve been following these auctions now for the better part of 10 years and I’ve seen it previously, but only in the past where we’ve been constrained.”

That was 2013 when the whole country was in drought and very little milk was being produced.

This time, says McIntyre, it is being driven by China’s thirst for milk.

“Last year, the Chinese government came out and essentially issued a directive to the public to say, to ward off the ill effects of Covid they should be consuming more than a glass of milk a day.” . . 

Covid-19 vaccine: Concerns over future uptake in rural areas – Riley Kennedy;

The government is being encouraged to think outside the box when rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine into rural communities.

Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to deliver the vaccine to the wider public.

From May, priority populations will be able to get the vaccine and from July, the remainder of the population will be able to get it.

There have been concerns from some health professionals that the uptake among people living in rural New Zealand could be slow – given some have to travel a long way to see their GP and therefore don’t always bother. . . 

Investing in consumers’ trust – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are using the Taste Pure Nature brand alongside their own brands as they target environmentally-conscious foodie consumers.

Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) market development manager Nick Beeby told the organisation’s annual meeting that this demographic cares where their food comes from and are heavily influenced by digital channels such as food websites and bloggers who focus on natural foods.

They are considered a significant opportunity for NZ red meat sales, and Beeby says during the covid-19 pandemic consumers were increasingly discerning with their purchases, which was underpinned by the message associated with the B+LNZ developed taste pure nature brand.

“Consumers chose meat products that are better tasting, nutritious and satisfy environmental concerns,” Beeby said. . . 

A platform for red meat’s story – Neal Wallace:

A new website selling the virtues of red meat and dispelling some of its myths is being launched.

An initiative of Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), the Making Meat Better website will tell the sector’s story, and provide information and data, while reinforcing the merits of red meat.

The 150 people who attended the B+LNZ annual meeting in Invercargill this week were told the site will provide data and statistics about the red meat sector, sell the virtues of being grass-raised, its nutritional attributes, while also extolling the environmental stewardship of farmers.

Data on the site will provide a balance to some of the criticism about red meat and farming by providing information on farming’s carbon footprint, action being taken on climate change and provide infographic resources that can be used.  . . 

 

Showgirls, rural achievers shine the way for ag :

The bush has a wealth of young talent who are turning their fantastic ideas and aspirations into reality.

You only have to look at the pages in last week’s Land to find young people who are ready to act or are acting on their projects.

And they are motivated – either by issues that some members of older generations might not want to confront such as climate change – or value adding to the great contributions of previous generations.

They are doing this despite the enforced isolation of the last year from the pandemic. . . 


Rural round-up

20/03/2021

NZ apple volumes fall: millions will be lost in exports:

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), the industry association representing all apple, pear and nashi growers in New Zealand, has released an updated crop estimate for 2021.

In January, the industry was forecasting a gross national crop of 558,672 metric tonnes, 5% down on the 2020 harvest. The export share of the gross crop was forecast to be 374,751 metric tonnes (20.8 million cartons), 7% down on 2020, reflecting a shortage of available labour and significant hail events in the Nelson and Central Otago regions.

“As we near peak harvest, it has become increasingly clear that we will not achieve those initial forecasts”, NZAPI CEO Alan Pollard said. . .

Hort industry wants workers not workshops :

“What a slap in the face to the horticulture and viticulture sectors today’s $350,000 ‘wellbeing support package’ is as they face losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” says ACT Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron and Immigration spokesperson James McDowall.

“These people don’t need workshops, they need workers,” says Mr Cameron.

“To get this pitiful news in a week when it’s become clear that Hawke’s Bay is short of thousands of workers and estimates its apple losses alone will run to between $100 and $200 million this year is just sickening.

“The Government doesn’t seem to understand the lifecycle of plants, having rationalised that a sector that had ‘had it good’ for a number of years could suck up one rotten harvest. . . 

Immigration NZ overturns decision on sheep scanners’ work visas – Riley Kennedy:

Immigration New Zealand has given the green light to 11 foreign sheep scanners to help New Zealand farmers.

Sheep scanning happens around April and May and is the pregnancy test for ewes due to give birth this coming spring.

It comes after the scanners’ applications for critical worker visas were previously denied, however, an Immigration NZ spokesperson said it recently received new information about the availability of sheep scanners in New Zealand.

The department then informed employers who had applied for workers and had been declined, that their requests would be reconsidered. . .

Make sureyou have a grazing contract in time for winter:

The Winter Grazing Action Group (WGAG) is stressing to farmers the importance of having grazing contracts in place for the coming season.

The group was set up by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor last year in response to a report from the Winter Grazing Taskforce, which made 11 recommendations to help ensure that animal welfare became a key part of all winter grazing decisions in the pastoral supply chain.

He said the action group’s job was to recommend ways to improve animal welfare following what he called “a lot of concern about managing winter grazing for cattle, sheep, and deer across the country”. The group’s 15 members represent industry organisations, government, vets, farmers, and other rural professionals. It is supported in its work by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

WGAG Chair, Lindsay Burton said the group was keen to emphasise the need for grazing contracts for livestock when grazed off farm to make sure health, nutrition and welfare needs are understood and managed especially during periods of greater risk like winter. . . 

MPI seeks feedback on new organic regime:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is seeking feedback on proposed regulations for organic primary sector products.

“The proposals set out the details of the proposed regime for organic food, beverages, and plant and animal products,” said Fiona Duncan, director of food skills and science policy.

The proposals outline the processes that would apply to businesses marketing organic products. Producers and processors of organic primary products, as well as importers, exporters and domestic-focused businesses, will be interested in how these proposals could apply to them.

“With these proposals, consumers would be better able to tell which products are organic and make more informed choices about what they buy,” said Ms Duncan. . . 

 

Harness the power of earthworms – Paul Reed Hepperly:

When moist, practically all soils from tundra to lowland tropics support the activity of earthworms. Largely unseen, earthworms are a diverse, powerful workforce with the capacity to transform soil into fertile ground.

Found in 27 families, more than 700 genera and greater than 7,000 species, earthworms vary from about 1 inch to 2 yards long. Their living mass outweighs all other animal life forms in global soils. Although we may view earthworms as being both prolific and productive, do we fully appreciate our human capability to favor their beneficial efforts as allies allowing farms and gardens to flourish? I think not.

Earthworms’ powerful activities include promoting favorable soil structure, increasing biological diversity, improving soil function, balancing nutrients needed by plants and animals and optimizing living soil. . . 


Rural round-up

13/03/2021

More scientific proof needed – David Anderson:

A new report has joined the chorus within the agricultural sector calling for proper scientific testing of the claims being made by regenerative agriculture practitioners and proponents.

Some of the claims made by regenerative agriculture advocates currently include that it can improve waterways, reduce topsoil losses, offer drought resilience, add value to primary exports and improve the ‘well-being crisis’ among rural farming communities.

However, a new white paper on regenerative agriculture, recently released by Our Land and Water, says there is an urgent need for clarity about what regenerative agriculture is in New Zealand and for accurate scientific testing of its claimed benefits.

The research was funded by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, the NEXT Foundation and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. . . 

Pork industry demands law change for imported products to be labelled– Riley Kennedy:

The pork industry has slammed the government for refusing to make labelling country of origin mandatory on all imported pork.

Laws designed to give people clarity on where their food comes from were passed in 2018. However, last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said there would be a 12-month delay in the new rules coming into effect due to Covid-19.

As part of this, imported pork will need to be labelled with its country of origin, however, the pork industry says a loophole has been left unadvised.

This means pork that is imported and then further processed in New Zealand, including bacon and ham, will not be required to have such labelling. . . 

MPI lost touch – Peter Burke:

MPI boss Ray Smith says with the advent of the climate change proposals and the new essential fresh water regulations, MPI is gearing itself up to help farmers deal with these matters by getting more staff out into the field.

He believes that climate change is the biggest challenge of this generation.

“When I first started it was obvious to me that MPI had lost its outreach and in a sense it had lost some key relationships,” Smith told Rural News. “So we have built an agricultural investment service that has started to put that back and we have more people now based regionally. They have tended to deal with adverse events and things like that, which is good. But I am keen to build that service even further so we can stand alongside farmers and be an independent voice.”

He says the aim is get back some of what was lost many years ago with the demise of the Farm Advisory officers. . .

Automation a mixed blessing for fruit sector – Richard Rennie:

Burgeoning crop volumes have prompted the horticultural sector to lift pay rates as it competes on a tight labour market. The shortage and the cost increases put automation and robotics under the spotlight to help ease labour pressures. Richard Rennie looks at whether robots will replace humans on orchards sooner than later.

Last week’s announcement the kiwifruit sector would be paying a living wage of $22.10 an hour for packhouse work has the sector hoping higher wages will help fill a yawning labour shortage this year.

Filling that gap has only grown more challenging with the exponential growth in kiwifruit volumes over the past five years. The 23,000 workers estimated to be needed by 2027 are needed this year, and the 190 million trays expected to be achieved by then is now likely next season.

Further south the apple sector is grappling with similar issues, requiring at least 10,000 pickers and packhouse staff this season, drawing off locals, a national shared pool of 7000 Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) staff and any remaining backpackers. . . 

Feijoa harvest in full tilt a month early in Gisborne – Hugo Cameron:

Feijoas are expected to hit the shelves this week as good growing conditions have seen harvesting of this season’s crop kick off a month earlier than usual.

Kaiaponi Farms has been growing feijoas in Gisborne for the past 20 years and sells the fruit through its Joa brand for both the local and export markets.

Spokesperson David Hansen said the first fruit would normally be picked at the start March but the harvest got under way last month and was now in full swing, with decent volumes coming through.

The farm had seen sunny conditions which was great for the crops, along with a decent dose of water, Hansen said. . . 

 

Now is the time to talk to consumers – Charlie Beaty:

There has never been a bigger gap between the people producing food and the people consuming it.

Most people knew a farmer or were even related to one 70 years ago. Today, there are children who have never seen a real sheep.

They have no idea that bread is made from a wheat crop that grows in the fields. It’s a threat to our industry, there’s no doubt.

But it’s also an opportunity to step in, share the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of our industry. So let’s seize it. . . 


Rural round-up

14/02/2021

Stoush brews between Environment Minister and farmers over freshwater rules – Rachael Kelly:

A stoush is brewing between Southland farmers and Environment Minister David Parker over the Government’s new freshwater rules.

About 94 per cent of farmers that registered to attend a meeting hosted by farming advocate group Groundswell to discuss the freshwater regulations indicated they would not pay their Environment Southland rates in protest against the new freshwater rules introduced by the Government last year.

The group also polled farmers on holding more tractor protests and not applying for resource consents, and which has prompted Parker to again remind Southland farmers that ‘’no one is above the law’’. . . 

Almost half vehicle related deaths on farms could be avoided if seatbelts were used :

WorkSafe is advising farmers to buckle up after an analysis of vehicle-related fatalities found that nearly half those that occur on farm could have been avoided if a seatbelt was being used.

The data analysis, completed by WorkSafe New Zealand, revealed that not wearing seatbelts while on the job was the largest single factor contributing to fatal work-related accidents.

The data analysis coincides with the launch of a new side-by-side vehicle simulator which will spend the next six months travelling New Zealand’s agricultural Fieldays and featuring in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. . . 

Rural contractors say red tape obstructing access to overseas workers – Sally Round and Riley Kennedy:

The rural contracting industry says red tape means they can’t make the most of some overseas workers who’ve been allowed into the country.

Last year, with borders restricted due to Covid-19, the government granted more than 200 critical worker visas to machinery operators to help with the summer harvest.

Rural Contractors New Zealand chief executive Roger Parton said just under 200 came in and the season had progressed reasonably well.

However he said there had been some bureaucratic issues which meant some workers had not been allowed to move to another employer. . .

New Zealand Merino Company launches apparel industry’s first 100% regenerative wool platform:

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and global Merino wool apparel and footwear brands Allbirds®, icebreaker®, and Smartwool® announced they are working collectively with 167 sheep growers to create the world’s first regenerative wool platform that represents 2.4 million acres (more than one million hectares) in New Zealand. They are doing their part to tackle the impact of the global fashion industry, which is responsible for 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

“We are on a journey of continuous improvement that recognises and celebrates progress over perfection. Through our industry-leading carbon footprint work with our leading brand partners, and with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries, we know on-farm emissions represent approximately 60% of the emissions associated with woollen products and are our biggest opportunity to lower our impacts,” says John Brakenridge, NZM CEO. “ZQRX is an important and necessary evolution of our ethical wool program, ZQ. Through the adoption of regenerative practices that both store more carbon and emit less, we could reduce our on-farm emissions down to zero.” . . 

Small steps boost biodiversity vision:

Farmers discovered that there are many ways to protect and enhance mahinga kai and biodiversity values while visiting Waimak Farm in Eyreton last week.

The 612-hectare farm includes the largest remaining kanuka stand in North Canterbury and due to its important biodiversity values this area is being protected by farm managers Richard and Susan Pearse.

Richard says the kanuka stand provides an important seed source and seedlings have been taken from the area to try and recreate a similar ecosystem in other dryland areas. He is aiming to plant approximately 1000 native trees per year throughout the entire farm. . . 

Farm environment plans optimised on digital platform:

The government’s fresh-water regulations are close to being fully in place, and most in the primary sector acknowledge regardless of which government is in power, the rules will by and large remain in play. Included within them is the need for all farms to complete a farm environment plan (FEP), identifying the farm business’s land management units and how environmental risk within them will be managed and mitigated.

Ideally, farmers want to take ownership of their FEP. They know their farm best, they know its limitations and challenges, and how to work sustainably within them. More often than not, it is simply a case they hold this in their heads, rather than on any formal plan template.

But FEPs have to be more than a compliance driven “box ticking” exercise, and need to deliver real benefits not only to the environment, but to farmers’ profitability, given the time and commitment required to complete them. . . 

 


Rural round-up

03/01/2021

Biosecurity rules add up to $1200 a year to everyone’s shopping bill: Economist – Bonnie Flaws:

Kiwis pay twice as much for fresh chicken as consumers in the United Kingdom or United States would, and around three times as much as someone in Brazil – and it is probably due in part to this country’s biosecurity rules, one economist and supermarket expert says.

New Zealand’s strict biosecurity laws, which are particularly tough for poultry, add an estimated $600 to $1200 a year to the grocery bill of every person, Coriolis director Tim Morris said.

The UK was a good comparison for food prices, given its value added tax (VAT) of 20 per cent on food products, which is similar to GST.

A quick scan of UK supermarket websites show a large (1.9 kilogram) whole fresh chicken costs £3.90 (NZ$7.40) at Sainsbury’s and £3.75 at Aldi. US supermarket H.E.B sells the same for US$5.28 (NZ$7.50). . . 

Freshwater reforms and farmers: two sides of the same coin – Amber Allott:

Canterbury dairy farmer Chris Ford estimates he will have to get rid of around a hundred cows from his 980-strong herd.

But even worse, he fears he will have to make one of his farmworkers unemployed, driving them and their family out of their home.

All to meet the Government’s new freshwater reforms.

The national policy statement for freshwater management – designed to improve freshwater quality by controlling certain farm practices – came into force in September. . .

Lake goers told to keep it clean: ‘One poo can close the lake’ – Riley Kennedy:

Visitors to the Waitaki district are being told they risk losing access to the local lakes if they continue polluting the water.

The regional council Environment Canterbury, along side the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, launched a campaign saying ‘one poo can close the lake’.

Committee chair Simon Cameron said it will be even more important that everyone does their bit to protect water quality this summer, as Covid-19 international travel restrictions are set to boost lake-side camping and tourism.

“We’ve heard that campgrounds are already fully-booked, so we know there will be a large number of people visiting and being active in and around our lakes. . .

NZ Veterans get a taste of farming at Taratahi :

Partnering with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), Universal College of Learning (UCOL) staff at Taratahi hosted New Zealand veterans on a week-long taster workshop.

Each day offered the veterans insights into what could be their next career option.

Simon Bailey, UCOL team leader – primary industires, says the group included veterans from the Navy, Army, and Air Force.

The veteran group started off at the training centre, where their first few days were filled with a range of farming activities – from milking cattle to fixing fences.

 

New trial’s charms come with caveat – Mark Price:

It has been years in the planning and millions of dollars in the making, but the cycle trail through the Cromwell Gorge is finally nearing completion.

Otago Daily Times chief photographer. Stephen Jaquiery and Wanaka reporter Mark Price took a look recently at what is shaping up to be New Zealand’s most spectacular cycle trail accessible to all.

Cyclists using the new Cromwell Gorge cycle trail will have to be careful not to get the wobbles.

They will be tempted to look up at the spectacular rock faces towering over the track – and risk a dip in Lake Dunstan. . .

United Nations using Aussie soil science to change the world – Jamieson Murphy:

The United Nations has cited the work of Australian scientists in an extensive report about the importance of healthy soils for agriculture and human civilization as a whole.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation compiled the findings of more than 300 researchers into a report, titled the State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity.

It found soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, remediating pollution and combating climate change. . .


Rural round-up

01/10/2020

Time for a change?

This year has been a difficult and challenging time not just for farmers, but for all New Zealanders.

For the farming industry, changing regulations, uncertainties about staffing and a difficult financial outlook top the list. Add to that changing weather patterns and high levels of debt: all these factors impact their mental health and wellbeing.

Last week, the country marked Mental Health Awareness Week. Dairy industry stakeholders called on politicians to make rural mental health a priority.

DairyNZ’s report, The view from the Cowshed, released last month paints a sad picture. . . 

IrrigationNZ launches innovative way to learn about water quality:

IrrigationNZ believes it is important Kiwis get up-to-date information about freshwater in their local catchments and have created a new way to do it.

‘Know Your Catchment’ is an online platform which showcases water monitoring data and different ways freshwater supports wellbeing.

IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal says the platform is a step in the right direction to better inform the public about freshwater and help track the effects of farming practice change on water quality over time.

“This platform will engage and educate both rural and urban communities about the commitment farmers and growers have made to maintaining and improving water quality with information about water quality, irrigation, recreation, wetlands and more.” . . 

Candidates debate rural health priorities – Riley Kennedy:

Candidates from across the political spectrum went head-to-head in a debate to talk about their rural health priorities on Tuesday night.

The debate was organised in partnership with Mobile health and New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (NZRGPN).

In an election manifesto released by NZRGPN ahead of the debate, it noted three areas of concern, such as, long wait times for appointments to see health professionals, struggle to afford the costs of time and travel to manage their health and little to no access to specialist mental health and addiction services.

Its chief executive, Dr Grant Davidson, started off the debate by saying that rural health was in a crisis and it needs to be addressed. . . 

Decarbonisation is one option for Fonterra bosses to consider as they strive to make the co-op a national champion – Point of Order:

Rabobank’s  latest   survey    of farmer   confidence found dairy farmers more upbeat about the fortunes of the agricultural economy  than meat and wool  producers.  Dairy farmer net confidence rose to -29% (-33% previously).

Improving demand is the key reason for optimism among  dairy farmers. That’s  largely  because global demand for dairy has held up well during the course of Covid-19 with many consumers opting for simple, familiar, stable food products such as dairy during the pandemic.  And   since the last survey,  Fonterra has  lifted  the lower bound of its farmgate milk price pay-out range for the 20/21 season.

Then there is  Fonterra’s  performance  under   the  stewardship of  Fonterra chief executive Miles  Hurrell,    who  has succeeded  in  turning  the  co-op’s fortunes  around   after  two   grim  years. . . 

Ospri and LIC join forces :

OSPRI and the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) are urging farmers to play their part in improving animal traceability at a critical time on farm.

As the management agency for the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system, OSPRI has been working closely with LIC to ensure livestock data recorded in its livestock management system MINDA LIVE, is more easily transferable and can be captured real-time in NAIT.

“The recent upgrades mean a seamless transfer of livestock movements between both systems within two hours instead of just once daily,” says OSPRI chief executive Steve Stuart.  . . 

Tasmanian shearers left in limbo due to border restrictions – Caitlin Jarvis:

Tasmanian shearers are facing financial limbo as the state’s border control measures force them to stay in the state or face lengthy and expensive quarantine.

Not classed as essential workers, shearers are not able to gain exemptions to enter Tasmania, and the state was left without its injection of New Zealand and interstate shearers it relies on for a speedy season.

As the Tasmanian season begins to wind up, Tasmanian shearers and interstate shearers who were in the state before the pandemic face financial uncertainty and the inability to find future work once the season finishes up in the state. . .

 


Rural round-up

25/01/2020

Innovation for the future – Samantha Tennent:

When the call of the land became too strong Mat Hocken answered by swapping his business suit for overalls and gumboots to champion the agricultural sector and agricultural innovation. Samantha Tennent reports.

Manawatu farmer and Nuffield Scholar Mat Hocken believes innovation will help the agricultural sector unlock some of the issues and concerns it faces.

So when he received a Nuffield Scholarship in 2017 he chose agri-innovation as his research project.

The scholarship is a prestigious rural leadership programme with a global focus, designed to fast-track the development of emerging leaders in the agri-food sector. Each year up to five scholarships are awarded to people who are expected to assume positions of greater influence in their field in the future. . . 

Scientist says methane from farming should be treated differently to CO2 – Kevin O’Sullivan:

It does not make sense that Ireland is regarded as producing more greenhouse gases than Los Angeles, a city of 13 million people, a US scientist has told a conference on climate action in agriculture.

Prof Frank Mitloehner from the University of California, Davis, told the Irish Farmers’ Association event in Dublin that the case for methane arising from farming being treated differently to long-lived greenhouse gases, such as CO2, was undeniable.

He said that methane, the main greenhouse gas in livestock production, only lasts in the atmosphere for 10 years, whereas CO2 persists for up to 1,000 years, he said. Methane was short-lived but carbon from fossil fuels was “a one-way street” to rising emissions. . .

Central Otago farmer comes up with simple idea to help firefighters in an emergency – John McKenzie:

It’s a simple idea that could save both lives and property across Central Otago.

Otago farmer and regional councillor Gary Kelliher has started fitting fire hose fittings to his farms irrigation scheme, in hopes other farmers will follow suit.

“My goal is right across certainly Otago, but even further afield across New Zealand where it’s dry and where we have irrigation schemes,” he said.

The fittings are quick and easy to install, costing just a few hundred dollars. . . 

Marlborough dairy farmer fears logging operation will destroy property – Tracy Neal:

A recently widowed Marlborough dairy farmer says a logging operation that has sprung up on a neighbouring property is likely to destroy her farm.

Lone Sorensen, who farms in a valley between Havelock and Blenheim, is enraged that a paper road through her property could become a major transport route for trucks and heavy vehicles.

The Marlborough District Council said it was doing what it could to smooth the pathway for all. . . 

Valley of the Whales –  Bill Morris:

The North Otago limestone country holds one of the world’s most important fossil cetacean records, a coherent story of how whales and dolphins evolved in the Southern Ocean. It’s a story that one small rural community has embraced as its own.

BURNS POLLOCK AND I stand in the Valley of the Whales, a deep gulch cut by the Awamoko Stream through the North Otago limestone. Formed on the floor of an ancient sea, this terrain is now far from the ocean, its thin skin of agriculture desiccated by drought.

I’ve often been fascinated by the dramatic contours when travelling through this valley. But it also holds narratives, bound into the cliffs and sculpted recesses—Waitaha rock art hundreds of years old, and the story of evolution embodied in the stone itself. I’ve brought Pollock here because I want to see the place through the eyes of someone who knows it as well as he does. He grew up in this district and has farmed here all his life. He is also a noted artist and his work—sere vistas cradling broken fragments of human endeavour—is unmistakably rooted in this landscape. . . 

Eight young Fruit Growers vie for title

• Emily Crum, Orchard Manager, Total Orchard Management Services, Whangarei
• Bryce Morrison, Technical Services and Innovation, Fruition, Tauranga
• Aurora McGee-Thomas, Trainee Orchard Manager, Strathmurray Farms, Tauranga
• Melissa van den Heuvel, Industry Systems Associate, NZ Avocado, Tauranga
• Katherine Bell, Avocado Grower Representative, Trevelyans, Katikati
• Megan Fox, Orchard Technical Advisor, Southern Cross Horticulture, Tauranga
• William Milsom, Machinery Operations Manager, Oropi Management Services, Oropi
• Harry Singh, Orchard Manager, Prospa Total Orchard Management, Opotiki . . 


Rural round-up

10/12/2019

New approach called for on lending – Nigel Malthus:

Banks need to take a different approach to lending to farmers, according to new Lincoln University research.

Banks usually look at historic business statistics and equity levels, but the research suggests that a better indicator of a farmer’s credit worthiness is his or her skills, attitudes and knowledge in running a farm.

Honorary Associate Professor Peter Nuthall said the study emphasised the fact that the world runs on individuals and their skills.

While a lender might form a subjective impression about a would-be borrower…“they rely on those records, credit ratings and so on to make those decisions rather than their personal feelings,” he said. . . 

A2 Milk boss Jayne Hrdlicka exits job suddenly – Jamie Gray:

Shares in alternative milk company a2 Milk had recovered some ground but were still weak after the surprise announcement that managing director and chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka would step down, having spent less than 18 months in the job.

By 12.30 pm the stock was trading at $14.69, down 48c or 3.1 per cent from Friday’s close. The stock had opened sharply weaker at $14.00.

Former chief executive Geoff Babidge has stepped in as interim CEO commencing immediately, a2 Milk said. . . 

Getting the best out of people – Colin Williscroft:

Helping rural women connect with each other and realise their potential has become a source of inspiration for Sandra Matthews, as Colin Williscroft discovered.

Successful farming partnerships are built around a connection between the land and those who work it and for Sandra Matthews that means ensuring women know they belong on farms and have important roles to play.

Sandra farms with her husband Ian inland from Gisborne in a partnership that can be traced back to their meeting 30 years ago at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, when they were on OE.

At the end of their travels they returned to their homes, Sandra to Australia and Ian to Te Kopae Station, the 536ha family farm that borders the Rere Falls, about 50km northwest of Gisborne, where the couple live today. . .

Winner wants to make difference – Riley Kennedy:

The horticulture sector has always been in Simon Gourley’s blood and he is now working hard to make a name for himself in the wine industry. He spoke to Riley Kennedy.

Growing up in Invercargill Simon Gourley spent his school holidays and weekends on his grandparents’ berry orchard in Central Otago, which he believes is what inspired him to work in horticulture.

“I spent a lot of time in the school holidays and weekends up there and I knew it was the path I wanted to take,” he said. . . 

Seasonal workers’ important NZ role – John Gibson:

It’s time to start giving credit to the seasonal pickers, packers and pruners for the role they play in our economy, writes the University of Waikato’s John Gibson

The Government recently announced increases in the cap for visas under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. After the second increase, the scheme will allow up to 16,000 workers to come in the 2020/21 season. These seasonal workers are mainly from the Pacific, and come to pick and pack fruit, to prune, and to carry out other labour-intensive tasks in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

This increase comes as the kiwifruit industry faces the possibility of fruit rotting on the vines if there are not enough workers to pick it. And they aren’t the only export industry facing a shortage. . . 

India shows why the global shift to plant-based diets is dangerousSylvia KarpagamFrédéric Leroy and Martin Cohen:

Vegetarians, much less vegans, would prefer not to be compelled to eat meat. Yet the reverse compulsion is what lurks in the growing proposals for a new plant-based “planetary diet.” Nowhere is this more visible than in India.

The subcontinent is often stereotyped by the West as a vegetarian utopia, where transcendental wisdom, longevity and asceticism go hand in hand. 

Earlier this year, the EAT-Lancet Commission released its global report on nutrition and called for a global shift to a more plant-based diet and for “substantially reducing consumption of animal source foods.” In countries like India, that call could become a tool to aggravate an already fraught political situation and stress already undernourished populations. . . 

New Zealand wool showcased in planes, offices, shops and homes around the globe:

The global marketing efforts of Carrfields Primary Wool (CP Wool) mean the humble-looking sheep in your nearest paddock could be producing wool that is destined for some very high places around the world.

Through its subsidiary NZ Yarn, which spins wool yarn for use in carpets and rugs, national wool company CP Wool has supplied wool that is gracing the floors of the first class cabins on Emirates airliners.

Closer to the ground, CP Wool’s efforts are seeing New Zealand wool showcased on the world stage in several corporate headquarters in New York; including carpets in the Wells Fargo, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, Time Warner and Chaincode Labs head offices. The London Stock Exchange’s New York outpost also features New Zealand wool soft flooring. . . 


Rural round-up

07/12/2019

Action needed now:

Houston – or more correctly Wellington – we have a problem.

And that problem is a shortage of workers right across New Zealand’s primary sector.

The latest example is the apple sector (click here for the story), which is facing a potential $80 million loss in the coming season because of a looming labour shortage.

Apples and Pears NZ chief executive Alan Pollard told Rural News that the main reason for this is the Government’s decision not to allow the numbers of overseas workers required under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme to meet the needs.  . . 

Analysis of regenerative ag needed – Jacqueline Rowarth:

The groundswell supporting the restoring powers of regenerative agriculture is mostly based on examples from overseas.

The big question should be, do the examples stack up in New Zealand? If yes, no problem. If no, what might happen? Would there be any unintended consequences?

Answering these and similar questions is the goal of scientific research.

The foundation for advancing knowledge is laid by identifying the problem and then analysing what has gone before . . .

Setting up for the future:

Key changes made by Waikato dairy farmers Sam and Jacqui Owen have laid their on-farm groundwork for 2020 and beyond. They’re also focused on growing dairying’s next generation.

The Owens stepped up to 50:50 sharemilking in the 2014/15 season at Walton – then the milk price more than halved. That’s when Sam became chair for MP3, a DairyNZ-supported three-year project focusing on ‘profit, planet and people’, starting with 35 Matamata-Piako farms.

“I wanted to help others make their way through that price drop. MP3 also enabled us to grow our budgeting and financial skills to work out that doing that would be profitable for us. . .

Hail limits summer fruit supply – Riley Kennedy:

Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.

The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers. . . 

Production of red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit is under way:

Zespri expects it will take two years before it can meet demand for its new red, berry-flavoured kiwifruit. 

The company has been trialling the fruit in New Zealand and Singapore, and chief executive Dan Matheson said it had sold well even when priced at 25 percent above green and gold varieties. 

“The response has been quite exciting. We’ve had incredible feedback from our consumers who have been buying the fruit at the supermarket shelf.

“In fact we’ve just had letters coming in from consumers both here in New Zealand and Singapore asking for more of that and ‘why it was only available on the shelf for such short period of time’.” . . 

Imported insect predator to help bees and willow trees to thrive – Eric Frykberg:

Beekeepers are keenly awaiting the arrival of a tiny insect from California which preys on the giant willow aphid.

They say it will help willow trees survive and provide essential food for bees.

Their response follows approval of the parasitoid insect Pauesia nigrovaria by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Scion entomologist Stephanie Sopow said the insect was an an effective control agent. . . 


Rural round-up

02/09/2019

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. . . 


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