Rural round-up

02/09/2020

Locals only will not ‘cut the mustard’ – Sudesh Kissun:

An estimated 28 million tonnes of crop worth $110 million will be at risk if overseas machinery operators are not allowed into the country, according to a new survey.

Rural Contractors of NZ says the survey conducted earlier this month of members found that 57 members, who provide harvesting services for 8200 farmer clients, need skilled agricultural machinery operators from overseas.

RCNZ executive director Roger Parton says 206 operators is the “the absolute minimum number” required for the contractors to service their clients.

These overseas workers will supplement the numbers of New Zealanders employed in these specialised, skilled roles. . .

Meeting worker expectations – Anne Lee:

Organisation is a colourful affair at Jared and Victoria Clarke’s 2000-cow Canterbury sharemilking job.

That’s because the couple have embraced a Kanban system to manage a lot of the non-routine tasks on the two-farm, two 50-aside herringbone dairy operation.

It allows team members to choose what jobs they do and when they do them – all within reason of course.

The system is more typically used in tech-style corporate businesses and fits into what’s called an Agile management system. . . 

Bright prospects for avocado:

Kiwifruit has long deserved its poll position as New Zealand’s premier earning horticultural crop, generating almost 50 percent of the six billion dollars earned by the fruit and produce sector last year.

However, avocados are a crop moving up in the ranks and bringing some valuable land use changes to a region keen for increased investment and employment opportunities.

Last year the sector generated $150 million in sales from 6.4 million trays of fruit with two thirds of that being export income. The industry has high hopes for expansion with a target of $1.0 billion worth of sales set for 2040. . . 

The topic of rural connectivity too important to give up on:

With the reemergence of Alert Level 2 restrictions in New Zealand, TUANZ has reimagined the annual Rural Connectivity Symposium format, and pushed the date out slightly, to allow the event and surrounding conversations to proceed.

The Rural Connectivity Symposium will now be held on September 16 and 17 with a hybrid online and in-person format.

TUANZ CEO Craig Young says, “The topic of the future of rural connectivity is too important to give up on. Cancellation was never an option on the table. What we’re learning this year is the importance of a Plan B, C, and even D.” . . 

Beyond meat and its rivals depend on Chinese ingredients opening food safety debate in the Covid-19 era – Mikhal Weiner:

While America’s biggest beef and pork producers were nearly laid low in April by COVID-19 cases in their workforce, sales of what detractors call “fake meat” boomed. But the pandemic may in time affect sales of plant-based protein, too, as U.S. consumers become more wary of all things China—which supplies a majority of the products’ ingredients.

The market research firm Nielsen said nationwide sales of meat alternatives rose 224 percent in the week ending April 25, compared to the same period in 2019. During the last eight weeks, the gain over last year was more than 269 percent.

China’s food-processing factories provide most of what goes into vegan burger patties and other meat replacements made by market leaders Beyond Meat and Impossible foods—an arrangement that could damage their standing among consumers in the coronavirus age. . .


Rural round-up

31/08/2020

Millions of tonnes of food at risk without foreign contractors farmers say – Bonnie Flaws:

Farmers stand to lose $110 million if and 27 million tonnes of food could go to waste if the Government does not allow at least 200 skilled heavy machine operators into the country, a new survey from rural contractors shows.

Contracting firms were desperate to get border exemptions for hundreds of heavy machine operators from overseas to carry out harvesting, hay baling and slurry removal, Rural Contractors chief executive Roger Parton said.

“There are huge implications for the farmers concerned and resulting shortages of feed for animals, especially if climatic events occur,” Parton said.

The survey showed 8200 farmers and 57 contracting firms around the country relied on foreign seasonal labour between October and March. Workers were usually recruited from the Britan and Ireland. . . 

Meat industry continues to do superb job – Allan Barber:

The return of community transmission underlines the excellent performance of the whole meat industry since Covid 19 reached New Zealand nearly six months ago in March. Farmers, transport and logistics operators, sale yards, exporters and domestic processors have all combined to ensure the health and safety of participants, while meeting the demands of customers, with only a minimal number of temporary plant closures. This contrasts markedly with experience overseas in countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Germany with admittedly a much higher incidence of coronavirus outbreaks in the rest of the world than here.

In April seven major American meat facilities shut down with cold storage inventories of beef, pork and poultry equivalent to two weeks of total production and almost half of Canada’s beef processing capacity was halted after Cargill’s closure and a slowdown by JBS in Alberta. A feature of the interruption to processing in the USA was the great difficulty for farmers to get their stock processed, accompanied by a surge in retail pricing which reflected positively in processor margins, while livestock prices plummeted. . . 

A glimmer of hope for New Zealand strong wool – David Anderson:

A Lincoln-based wool products company believes it offers a glimmer of hope against the increasing negativity currently saturating New Zealand’s strong wool industry.

Keraplast Manufacturing processes strong wool into natural keratin proteins for the booming global nutraceuticals market. Keratin is an essential component of hair, finger and toenails, and skin. The company sells its keratin products as an ingredient for use in health (wound treatment), and skin, hair and nail beauty products world-wide.

Keraplast general manager Paul Sapsford says a recent innovation involves a bioactive keratin product that’s taken in tablet or drink form to “supercharge” the body’s production of collagen, promoting wrinkle reduction and supporting hair follicle and nail strength. . . 

RMPP Action Network extended:

The Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Action Network programme has been extended until early next year.

The RMPP Action Network is an initiative to support farmers to develop the confidence to turn ideas into action on-farm. It’s made up of farmer action groups of seven to nine farm businesses. 

Action groups are farmer-led and supported by trained facilitators to guide a group and help identify experts who can share new knowledge and ideas needed to achieve their goals . .

Autogrow releases public API to empower growers:

Autogrow has released a public API (Application Programming Interface) allowing connectivity between their Folium sensor network and other farm sensor data.

“Growers currently feel frustrated by not having systems that speak to each other. And the truth is that, until other large industry players also provide public APIs, growers are always going to be constrained in what they can do with their data. But we’re leading the charge,” explains Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Morgan.

“We know that many growers use CSV exports like Microsoft Excel, which can be slow, labour-intensive and requires a lot of manipulation to get benefit. . . 

Biochar and zinc application can improve wheat grown in certain soils:

Researchers from The University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture and Sultan Qaboos University in Oman have found that the combined application of biochar and zinc can mitigate stress in wheat caused by the heavy metal cadmium.

Cadmium reduces the growth, yield, and zinc concentration in wheat grain due to oxidative stress. Its accumulation in soil can cause significant health risks to humans if it is introduced into the food chain via crops. 

The study, published in Chemosphere, is the first to show that the combined application of biochar and zinc to cadmium-contaminated soil improved both yield and grain zinc concentration, and reduced cadmium concentrations in grain. . . 


Rural round-up

02/07/2020

Contractors need staff pronto – Annette Scott:

Without skilled operators rural contractors risk having millions of dollars of essential agricultural machinery sitting idle this spring. 

After an urgent meeting with Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, Rural Contractors is surveying members amid rising concern over the pending labour shortage.

Results so far reveal up to 1000 skilled machinery operators will be needed for the spring and summer.     

Many will need to be brought into NZ, Rural Contractors president David Kean said. . . 

Worker shortage worries pig farmers :

Pork producers are calling on the Government to urgently review its policies on skilled migrant workers as severe staff shortages hit. 

Pig farmers rely on experienced workers from overseas to meet a shortfall in staff with the necessary skills required to work with the country’s herd.

However, they are concerned skilled migrants already working on farms might not have their visas renewed or existing workers trying to return from overseas will be blocked, leaving many farmers with significant staffing shortages.

“The sector’s strong preference would be to have a pool of available skilled and unskilled New Zealand workers,” New Zealand Pork chief executive David Baines said.  . . 

Aerial top-dressing, deer among highlights of past century – Richard Davison:

In common with a record 70 families set to receive their Century Farm awards in Lawrence last month, the Mackies, of South Otago, were unable to share their story when Covid-19 intervened. Here they take the opportunity to do so, looking back over the Copland and Mackie families’ 100 years of farming the same land, with reporter Richard Davison.

Given the ups and downs of farming, it’s no mean feat to stay put on the same land for a century and more.

Every year, though, the Century Farms event in Lawrence marks a swag of families from across New Zealand achieving just that, and last month a record 70 families were due to pick up 100- and 150-year awards.

We all know what happened next, but many of those families’ stories still deserve to be told, helping paint a picture of the gambles, innovations, hard work and lighter-hearted moments of New Zealand farming down the years. . . 

Growing native plants creating legacy – Keri Waterworth:

The quality of water entering lakes, rivers and streams from farms in the Upper Clutha catchment is improving due to the thousands of natives planted around waterways on those farms. One of the nurseries supplying the plants is Wanaka’s Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery. Kerrie Waterworth reports.

Nestled in the shelter of an extensive QE11 convenanted kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka, the Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust nursery is at the end of an easy walk through the QEII Covenant Kanuka forest beside Lake Wanaka.

On the Tuesday afternoon I visited, it was one of the two nursery volunteer afternoons held each week during winter, and only the second since the nursery reopened following the Covid-19 lockdown/restriction periods. . . 

Wine worker launches petition to ease visa conditions as concerns grow for next harvest – Maia Hart:

A petition has been launched calling for the Government to ease temporary work visa conditions for international winery workers impacted by Covid-19.

The petition, started by Cait Guyette, is calling for the Government to allow grape harvest workers already in New Zealand to stay until vintage 2021.

Guyette, who is from the United States but had a permanent job at a winery in Marlborough, said she felt disheartened there had been no leniency to allow harvest workers to continue working in New Zealand’s wine industry. . . 

NSW buys outback station in state’s largest single property purchase for a national park – Saskia Mabin:

It’s the vast embodiment of outback beauty and heartbreak — a sweeping western NSW cattle station that is, by turns, arid no-man’s land and lush waterbird haven, home to ancient Indigenous artefacts, the ghostly trail of Burke and Wills and now the nation’s newest national park.

“It can be very good and then it can be vile,” said Bill O’Connor, 84, owner of Narriearra station, which has just become the largest block of private land bought for a national park in the state’s history.

With nearby Sturt National Park, Narriearra will create a conservation area of close to half a million hectares, or twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

The 153,415-hectare station sits in the north-west corner of the state, with the dog-proof fence of the NSW-Queensland border forming its northern boundary. . . 


Rural round-up

27/06/2020

Heavy machinery driver shortage leads to plea for overseas workers to be allowed :

A government backed course aimed at giving heavy machinery training to people made redundant by Covid-19 is attracting a large number of immigrants on work visas.

The organisation Rural Contractors New Zealand say they will be short of 1000 skilled tractor and heavy machinery drivers this summer and it is calling on the Minister of Agriculture to allow overseas workers in under the essential worker category.

Minister Damien O’Connor said he realised there were skills shortages and that may require looking at how to bring some people safely back into the country to plug those gaps. . .

Feds say plan change unworkable – Gerald Piddock:

Waikato’s Health Rivers plan change 1 is confusing, poorly worded and unworkable farmers at a meeting near Lake Karapiro said.

While the intent of some rules is right the way they are written goes against the intention to improve water quality in the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, Federated Farmers’ regional policy manager Paul Le Miere told about 30 farmers.

The meeting was one of several seeking farmer feedback before the federation lodges its appeal to the Environment Court.

“They’re trying to do the right thing but the way it’s written it doesn’t really work.” . . 

Federated Farmers’ first female president steps down

The first woman president in Federated Farmers’ 118 year history is ending her three year term today.

Katie Milne stepped down at the organisation’s AGM on Friday. She became the first women president when she was elected in 2017.

Milne said it had been a privilege to serve in the role and it was a mixed bags of emotions to see her term come to an end.

“I’m really pleased with the great succession coming up behind me and the amount of young people that are coming through the organisation,” she said. . . 

New Federated Farmers’ board mixes experience with new blood :

Federated Farmers Chief Executive Terry Copeland is confident the newly-elected national board encompasses the depth of experience and expertise needed to maintain the organisation’s role as an effective voice for all farmers.

“Feds has been a grass roots-driven organisation for all of its 120 years and the elected leaders of our 24 provinces and our six industry groups have chosen high-calibre and committed people to sit at our top table,” Copeland says.

Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard was confirmed as the new President at the national AGM today. As Vice-President for the three-year term just ending, Andrew has proved himself as an energetic and able representative, especially in his roles as spokesperson on climate change, commerce and connectivity, Copeland says.

Wairarapa farmer Karen Williams, who has a background in resource management and environmental planning, finishes her term as Arable Industry Group Chair and takes on the Vice-President role. The new Arable Chair is South Canterbury’s Colin Hurst, the 2019 ‘Arable Farmer of the Year’. . .

New educational tools for beekeepers :

Ecrotek, New Zealand’s largest beekeeping supply company, has developed new education tools for beekeepers. With hive numbers growing from 300,000 to over 1 million, the beekeeping industry has seen significant expansion over the past 10 years.

Many beekeepers now have less than 5 years’ experience. Although not a given, lower experience levels can be detrimental to the industry, resulting in higher rates of disease and starvation, lower honey yields and decreased operational efficiency.

In order to address this issue, Ecrotek, in partnership with Dr Mark Goodwin, a world-leading beekeeping scientist and Sarah Cross a Plant and Food Research Associate have produced a new book, Best Practice Beekeeping, that covers the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’ of beekeeping in a simple easy to read format. . . 

Think Big” industrial hemp can help New Zealand’s economic recovery post Covid-19:

Now is a great time to introduce a new raw material for industry, allowing the new normal to be sustainable and regenerative

Aotearoa/New Zealand needs to think big and pay attention to market trends if they want to be operating at scale in global markets.

NZHIA welcomes the government’s support for creating jobs and promoting the wellbeing of current and future generations of New Zealanders. The 2020 Budget has allocated a lot of funding to support primary production, building homes, rebuilding infrastructure and support for positive health and family outcomes – and we want to help them achieve this. . .


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