Too much weather

December 3, 2014

Southern contractors are struggling in wet and cold weather:

The dreadfully wet season being experienced in the southern part of the country is leaving many rural contractors and farmers under huge pressure and stress, claims Rural Contractors NZ.

 RCNZ vice president and Southland-based contractor David Kean says there are reports of contractors not being able to get work done, struggling with their finances and some having to lay staff off.

“Many contractors are really feeling it and the stress is starting to tell on both them and their businesses. Our advice is simple: ask for help and talk to the appropriate agencies before things get out of hand,” he explains.

Meanwhile, there’s the opposite problem in Canterbury – which has had lots of strong, cold Norwest winds and very little rain over the past couple of months – meaning there is very little work to do now after a busy start to the season. 

Mr Kean says if rural contractors are struggling to pay bills and/or staff they should be in contact with both Work and Income NZ and the IRD for assistance and advice.

“It is far better for people to be proactive; admit they have issues to deal with and seek the appropriate help – rather than just bottling it up or letting any problems get out of hand.

“Both IRD and WINZ are there to provide help in these kinds of situations and they have the people and expertise to offer advice and assistance.”

Mr Kean says Rural Contractors NZ is also there to help members and to act as support network for contractors who are feeling under pressure.

“However, we are not experts in financial matters or if people are coming under mental duress,” he adds.

“We are telling people they should be talking with their accountants and financial advisors about their business and with their families and medical professionals if they are under pressure themselves.”

The chair of the Rural Health Alliance Aoteoroa NZ (RHAANZ) Dr Jo Scott-Jones agrees.

“We know rural people tend to delay seeking help until they can no longer work, but it is true that a ‘stitch in time saves nine’”, Dr Scott-Jones says.  “Talking to a GP or practice nurse about stress seems to cause people difficulty. But anyone in this situation should know it is never as hard as you think and the benefits that flow from sharing some of the burden and talking through the way you feel can be enormous.”  

 Mr Kean adds that talking with professionals, as well as family and friends is an important step in getting the proper advice and help – when and where it is needed.

“Farmers also need to be aware of the pressure contractors are under and have to be realistic about getting work done,” he adds. “The last couple of months have been so wet that even if the weather cleared today it is going to take a long time to clear the back log of work and get everyone caught up again.”

Further north it was too wet in winter and now it’s too dry:

Weeks of persistent wind with little rain are putting farmers on edge in eastern areas of the country, from Gisborne to Canterbury.

Federated Farmers Gisborne Wairoa president Sandra Faulkner said soil moisture levels in that region were well down on normal for the time of year. . .

We didn’t really have a summer last year then had a very wet start to winter but we’ve had little significant rain since July and there’s all the signs of a looming drought.

That doesn’t mean we’re having good weather, it’s still cold which is slowing pasture growth and potato crops.

In contrast, a wet winter, less sunlight and cooler temperatures are being blamed for hampering potato crops and creating a shortage of the vegetable.

Potatoes New Zealand said there was more demand than growers could supply and that was having a flow on effect on companies such as potato chip processors.

Chief executive Champak Mehta said none of the previous season’s crops were left in storage and the new season’s potatoes were taking longer to hit the shelves. . .

North Otago is justly famed for its new potatoes but picking started only a week or so ago.

We didn’t plant ours in the garden until after labour weekend and they’re still a good couple of weeks ago from giving us anything to pick.

But I bought a box of Rare Earth  Jersey Bennes at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market on Sunday – they were delicious.


Rural round-up

January 19, 2014

Farmers move to prepare properties for fire – Sophie Malcolm:

Farmers near the Grampians in Western Victoria have been moving stock and preparing their properties as a bushfire burns in the area.

Some farmers say the fire has already damaged their properties, with fencing and some pasture lost.

Green Lake farmer Glenn Mibus has been working at this brother’s farm since late Thursday night.

“A few hours sleep and I was back out here at half past five this morning, just the same stuff, blacking out and trying to get some edges done, so it doesn’t flare up again,” Mr Mibus said on Friday morning. . .

Rural contractors want school leavers:

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) is taking the task of recruiting school leavers into their own hands.

The group that represents the interests of rural contractors is looking at the possibility of establishing several three-day or four-day training courses throughout the country this winter.

This would enable more local people to develop the necessary skills to work in the contracting industry and meet contractors’ staffing needs.

This comes after Southland RCNZ members held a field day near Invercargill last year, which attracted over 100 people. . .

Nature’s free irrigation helps – Andrew Ashton:

Farmers using North Otago irrigation schemes are well placed to work through any future dry spells this year, after some parts of the region received almost double the usual amount of rain last month.

In December, 114mm was recorded at Kauru, 22% above average for the month, Waikoura, near Duntroon, received 111.2mm, 91% above average, while the 111.2mm recorded in Oamaru was 102% above average.

Waitaki Irrigators Collective policy manager Elizabeth Soal said the wet start to the summer had resulted in irrigation schemes across North Otago and lower South Canterbury reporting a reduced demand for water. . .

A youthful lift for the face of Saskatchewan farming –  Morgan Modjeski:

The face of Saskatchewan farming could be getting younger.

Organizers of the Western Canadian Crop Production Show say they’ve seen more young people at the 2014 event than in the past, and believe it’s a result of a changing climate in agriculture.

“Agriculture is thriving in Saskatchewan and family farms are getting larger,” said trade show manager Lori Cates, who has been with the Saskatoon event for 10 years. . .

Youth in Agriculture:

And from Grammarly:

>Hay! Now that’s punny!


Foreign workers vital for rural contractors

December 11, 2013

Why are we letting immigrants work when there are so many unemployed New Zealanders?

It’s a simple question with a  several answers:

There isn’t always a match between the skills and attitude of the unemployed and the available jobs.

People looking for full time, permanent work aren’t always willing to accept part time or temporary positions.

The people without work don’t necessarily live where the work is and are unable or unwilling to move.

That’s why the Rural Contractors NZ says foreign workers are vital for the industry.

RCNZ president Steve Levet was commenting on recent claims made by Labour leader David Cunliffe about foreign labour being used in the horticulture sector at the expense of local workers.

“Any similar claim made about rural contracting is neither accurate nor fair,” he explains. “Nobody I know turns away a Kiwi who is willing to work.”

But Mr Levet admits there is a gap between rural contractors’ needs for trained agricultural machinery operators and unemployed New Zealanders who could do that work. Part of this shortfall is met by bringing in skilled operators from overseas.

“Contracting is a seasonal business and one that uses sophisticated machinery that requires technical skill to operate productively. Many contractors would like to employ New Zealanders but by the time they have trained them, the season is over.

“In many cases, the operator does not return the next year so the contractor has lost the investment they have made in training.”

Mr Levet says political parties of all persuasions need to understand that a dire shortage of suitable agricultural machinery operators means rural contractors rely on employing skilled people from overseas on a temporary basis each season and have done so for many years.

He adds that many of the applicants Work and Income NZ (WINZ) tries to fill these vacancies with; either do not have the right skill-set and/or attitude to be successful.

“We are talking about operating highly technical and very expensive pieces machinery. It is unrealistic, unsafe and impractical to expect unemployed people to walk off the street and successfully take up these positions.”

However, contractors are looking at better ways to work with WINZ to better source and train operators here. He adds that a recent open day held by Rural Contractors NZ members in Southland offers a good model on how this could be done.

Mr Levet says the seasonal nature of rural contracting means workers with the right skills are needed for only 3-4 months each year and, understandably, this kind of short-term employment does not often suit locals who are looking for fulltime work.

“The rules around employing temporary, skilled people from overseas prepared to work for 3-4 months each year need to be simplified as do the regulations restricting people who have previously worked here in past seasons coming back to New Zealand to work,” Mr Levet adds. “This is vital to ensure that the primary sector continues to be the economic driver for New Zealand”

Lots of young New Zealanders head overseas for work in other countries and usually find it easy to get work for the same reason contractors and farmers welcome foreign workers here – they’re usually keen, skilled and reliable.

Even jobs which take little or no skill require the right attitude and ability to turn up on time and do what’s required to the standard required.

But many rural contracting job require experienced staff and would be dangerous for the unskilled.

The time and effort it takes to employ foreign staff is a hand brake on productivity.

It can also be costly in industries like horticulture when fruit and vegetables have to be harvested when they’re ready.

Simplifying the rules and processes and accepting that sometimes overseas workers are often more suited to seasonal work than locals would help.

 


Rural round-up

October 14, 2013

Low wool supply puzzles exporters:

Wool industry representatives are trying to unravel the mystery of an unexpected drop in the amount of wool coming forward for auction.

Thursday’s South Island sale had fewer than 8000 bales on offer, which was about 40% below the amount which had been anticipated, while the amount of wool for next week’s North Island sale is 25% lower than what had been rostered.

That’s even more of a surprise, as recent North Island sales have been offering more than the amount forecast. . .

Garden stepping down at SFF – Alan Williams:

Silver Fern Farms will be looking for a new chairman, after Eoin Garden retires from the board at the annual meeting in December.

Garden, a Central Otago farmer, has been chairman of New Zealand’s biggest meat processor and exporter since early 2008.

He was elected to the board in 1998 and is the longest-serving of the current directors. . .

Cricketers to front Indian venutre – Annette Scott:

An exclusive supply contract with meat processor and exporter Alliance Group has set the wheels in motion for fledgling company QualityNZ to build a meat trade with India.

QualityNZ has spent the past three years “under the radar” devising strategy to set up a market for New Zealand sheep meat in India.

Building around NZ and India’s sporting relationships, cricketing stars Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming, and Daniel Vettori will play a big part in the marketing and profile of the new meat trade.

All three cricketers have a shareholding in QualityNZ alongside the two major shareholders, former NZ fast bowler Geoff Allott and NZ Cricket Board member and Geoff Thin. . .

Keep it clean:

RURAL CONTRACTORS are being reminded to make sure their machinery is cleaned between jobs to ensure that plant pests and weeds are not spread around on dirty gear.

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) president Steve Levet says dirty machines carry soil, seeds, and organic matter, which could dislodge when it’s next used and spread contamination to new sites.

“Soil-borne pests and diseases can be transferred in wet soil attached to wheels, tracks or parts of the machine that work in the ground. While some pests and disease can also be transferred in dust that can accumulate on many parts of the machine – engine bay, cabins and air intakes,” Levet explains. . .

NZ merino a winner during America’s Cup – Tim Cronshaw:

New Zealand may have lost the America’s Cup, but some consolation can be taken from 5500 meals of merino-branded lamb being served up at a pop-up restaurant on the San Francisco waterfront to diners including film actor Tom Cruise.

The branded lamb meat, Silere alpine origin merino, was a winner among supporters of the race won last month by the United States Oracle team led by Kiwi Sir Russell Coutts and bankrolled by billionaire Larry Ellison.

More than 1.4 tonnes of merino lamb was dished up during the 12 weeks of the America’s Cup at the Waiheke Island Yacht Club pop-up restaurant at the Embarcadero in San Francisco which will remain open until the end of the year. . .

Dairy man jumps on asparagus bandwagon:

THIRTY FIVE years ago Geoff Lewis left his parent’s small dairy farm to seek his fortune in the sheep and cattle industry.

Today Lewis has added a dairy farm to his business, but asparagus growing has propelled him to prominence as a highly regarded grower using technology for maximum profit.

“When Liz and I got married, I went and managed a coastal sheep and beef farm and forestry block north of Foxton. My employer there was keen to diversify. In the late 1970’s the catchcry was ‘diversify’ and there were goats, deer, kiwifruit – all embryonic. 

“MAF had an advisory office supporting diversification by farmers so we investigated and decided perhaps asparagus was a good option for the free-draining sands of the west coast.” . . .


Rural round-up

September 23, 2013

Rural contractors ready to help:

Farmers around the country hit by devastating storms last week are being reminded that rural contractors are available to help them with any clean-up work.

“Canterbury was hit by its worst wind storm in 40 years, which has caused major damage on farms throughout the province,” says Steve Levet, president of Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ). “There are also reports of a fair bit of destruction in the North Island as well.

“This has been a tough time for landowners with many needing to carry out big clean-up jobs on their properties. If the farmers don’t have the time or the resources to clear up storm damage; they should contact their local rural contractor and ask for help.” . . .

Northland farmer Parsons named B+LNZ chair-elect – Hugh Stringleman:

New Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair-elect James Parsons, of Northland, has left on his first market access and trade relations trip to Southeast Asia and Europe.

He has accompanied chairman Mike Petersen to Japan, South Korea, and Europe for a meeting of the sheep-meat forum.

Parsons has been appointed by fellow directors for six months as chair-elect before Petersen retires in March.

Rather than have deputy chairmen, in recent times primary sector organisations like Fonterra, Alliance, Ballance, and now B+LNZ, have used a nominated heir approach to transition. . .

New chair for Awards trust:

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust has a new chair- Mid-Canterbury dairy farmer and DairyNZ director Alister Body.

Body says a key focus of the Trust under his leadership will be to ensure the awards and its three contests – the New Zealand Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Farm Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year – retain relevancy and competitor interest.

“The competitions are improving and evolving and that’s really important. They also provide a great showcase of the dairy industry and give tremendous promotion of the value and benefits to be gained by participating in the dairy industry,” he says. . .

End of drought boosts prospects of NZ land prices – Agrimoney:

The ending of New Zealand’s drought has handed the country’s farmland market a “strong platform” for the important spring season, real estate professionals said, amid bright hopes for the important dairy sector too.

Economic data on Thursday highlighted the impact to New Zealand agriculture from one of the worst droughts on record, with the sector seen shrinking 4.8% in the April-to-June period from the previous quarter, thanks largely to the impact on dairy farms of poor pasture conditions.

“Dairy production was the biggest contributor to the fall, while sheep and cattle farming also fell,” the official statistics office in New Zealand, the top milk exporting country, said. . .

Golden harvest puts industry back on track:

THE WINE industry is seeing the first signs of renewed interest in new vineyard development, showing there is new optimism in the industry, says New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steven Green.

Five years ago the New Zealand wine industry suffered a supply imbalance as producers made more wine than they could sell. Grape prices slumped and vines were ripped out.

But a record 345,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested this year producing 250 million litres of wine. The 2013 crop is up 28% on the small 2012 harvest but up only 5% on 2011. . .

My father’s succession strategy worked a treat – Stephen Carr:

My great farming hero, the late Hampshire farmer writer and broadcaster John Cherrington, used to maintain that if you wished your son or daughter to follow you into dairying you should “break them in” before they knew any better.

To delay an introduction to the mind-numbing routine of the milking parlour beyond the age of 12 was to run the risk that the adolescent will discover there are easier ways of earning a living than being tied to the tail of a dairy cow 365 days a year from 4am each morning.

My own father inducted me into farming with ruthless single-mindedness. We didn’t have dairy cows, but he introduced me to the delights of beef, sheep and arable farming without me realising that a subtle brainwashing was in progress. . .


Rural round-up

August 9, 2013

Fonterra welcomes New Zealand Government’s confirmation of safety of New Zealand dairy products

Fonterra today welcomed the New Zealand Government’s confirmation that the quality issue involving whey protein concentrate is confined to the products made from three batches of WPC80 and no other New Zealand dairy products are affected.

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings said: “Public safety is Fonterra’s number one priority. When we informed our customers and the Ministry for Primary Industries of the quality issue, we advised them that it was limited to three batches of whey protein concentrate.

“We appreciate the New Zealand Government confirming this to be the case and reiterating the safety of all other New Zealand dairy products, including Whole Milk Powder (WMP) and Skim Milk Powder (SMP), butter and cheese. . .

Surprised by the biosecurity issue – Bill Kaye-Blake:

The issue with botulism bacteria in Fonterra’s whey powder has been in the news all week. There’s been lots of talk of milk prices, exchange rates, marketing images and damage to brands. Most of it is fairly simple. A lot of it, at least over the weekend, was speculation about what could or might happen — filler more than news.

I have one small note to add. I have been working in agricultural economics in New Zealand for the last ten years, all across the sector. Dairy, sheep/beef, apple, kiwifruit, potatoes, forestry, wine, lettuce — lots of different products. I’ve also worked on many different issues: trade, technology, consumer trends, productivity. One area in particular has been biosecurity, which in New Zealand refers to keeping bugs out (in other countries, it refers to biological terrorism, which led to some confusion once when I visited the OECD). . .

Fonterra says no sign yet of losss of business, too soon to count cost:

Fonterra Cooperative Group hasn’t seen any signs of customers reducing their business and says it is too soon to say whether the costs of dealing with the contamination will result in a charge against earnings.

Chief executive Theo Spierings told a conference call today that with listed units on the NZX, Fonterra has obligations to disclose any significant financial impact. Major customers hadn’t signalled as yet any change in demand, he said.

On the conference call chairman John Wilson fronted the media for the first time since the crisis emerged last weekend and defended why it took him this long to appear in public on the issue, saying “in reality this is an operational matter” and he had faith in Spierings’ management team to handle it. . .

North Canterbury will boom on back of water storage

IrrigationNZ says North Canterbury will be revitalised on the back of the Waitohi Irrigation and Hydro Scheme, which was granted resource consent this week.

“Hurunui District, like many other rural areas, has experienced gradual population decline and subsequent school and local service closures over the past 20 years. The announcement that Hurunui Water Project’s Waitohi Irrigation and Hydro Scheme can now proceed has the potential to completely reverse North Canterbury’s fortunes,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“The supply of reliable water will create certainty which will encourage greater investment in a range of land use options. With North Canterbury’s unique climate allowing a wide range of crops to be grown, the district is well placed to experience an economic boom,” says Mr Curtis.

Mr Curtis says environmental concerns around intensive farming and increased irrigation would be taken care of through audited farm plans. . . .

Rural Contractors welcome new workplace safety reforms:

Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) says it welcomes the government’s newly announced workplace health and safety reforms.

“Both employers and employees have an important part to play in improving safety in the workplace,” says RCNZ president Steve Levet.

“Unfortunately, the attitude towards ensuring workplace safety is not universal in the agricultural scene and it can be a battle to get safety seen as a priority by every individual.”

He says rural contractors and their staff need to be as vigilant with maintaining their own safety in the workplace, as they are with maintaining their machinery. . .

Local yarn’s luxury fibre reaches US Vogue Knitters:

With the resurgence in hand knitting and all things handcrafted, a local yarn company is spinning a name for itself with its luxury natural fibre yarn product especially for hand knitting.

Wellington company, Woolyarns New Zealand, produces an exclusive range of luxury yarn brands for both the textile manufacturing and hand knitting markets internationally.

It is Woolyarns Zealana hand knitting yarn, that has now attracted the attention of Vogue Knitting USA magazine’s Chief Editor. . .


Contractors want immigration rules eased

July 19, 2013

Rural contractors are calling on Immigration New Zealand to make it easier for skilled foreign workers to come back into the country each season to help with harvest.

Rural Contractors New Zealand president Steve Levet says about 3000 skilled drivers and machinery operators, who are typically from Ireland and England, come here to help with harvest each year.

Mr Levet says rural contractors struggle to find suitable staff in the domestic labour pool – partly due to the seasonal nature of the work which can last for just two months and also because of the highly specialised nature of the farm machinery being used.

But he says Immigration New Zealand is making contractors jump through too many hoops to bring back their skilled drivers from abroad. . .

Contractors don’t usually have problems getting someone the first time, but have difficulty if they want to employ the same people again.

. . . Mr Levet says rural contractors are finding it harder and harder to bring back contractors who have built up valuable local knowledge.

It’s not only contractors who want immigration rules eased.

Dairy farmers would also like it to be easier to employ staff from overseas and to rehire people who have worked for them before.

Just as young New Zealanders are valued for their attitude and skills when they work in other countries, foreign workers who come here are often better workers than some locals.


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