Rural round-up

April 6, 2019

FARMSTRONG: Putting people first comes first

A thriving Canterbury dairy farmer puts as much thought into looking after his staff as he does stock and pasture. 

Duncan Rutherford manages an operation with 14 staff, 2300 cows and some sheep and beef on a 3300-hectare property. 

He and his family are still dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. 

“It was a reasonable challenge all right. A couple of houses got fairly damaged and one is still being repaired.  . . 

Exporters’ Brexit concerns grow – Peter Burke:

New Zealand primary produce exporters’ concerns continue rising about the confusion in the British parliament over Brexit.

NZ’s agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says given the possibility of a no-deal, exporters are making contingency plans for such an event.

But they also still hope a deal will be agreed so they won’t have to trigger plans for a no-deal. The whole thing is a terrible mess, Petersen told Rural News last week. . . 

Young farming couple applauded for farm sustainability – Angie Skerret:

A farming couple applauded for their commitment to farming sustainability have a simple message for other farmers – make a plan and make a start.

Simon and Trudy Hales, of Kereru Farms, are one of eleven regional winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards – taking out the Horizons regional award.

The Hales are the fourth generation to farm the land, and have worked hard to make positive changes on their 970ha sheep and beef farm near Weber. . .

A2 Milk says lift in dairy prices may impact in FY2020 – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Company said recent increases in dairy pricing will have an impact on gross margin percentages in the 2020 financial year but it doesn’t anticipate any significant impact this year.

Dairy product prices rose for the ninth straight time in the overnight Global Dairy Trade auction. The GDT price index added 0.8 percent from the previous auction two weeks ago and average prices are now up 28 percent since the auction on Nov 20.

“We do not anticipate any significant impact to gross margin percentage during FY19 as a result of recent increases in dairy pricing as reflected in Global Dairy Trade Indices. . . 

Dairy industry tells EU ‘hard cheese’ – Nigel Stirling:

The dairy industry is digging its heels in over the European Union’s attempts to seize dozens of cheese names for the exclusive use of its own producers.

The EU has long sought to use its free-trade agreements to extend its system of Geographical Indications (GIs) and its trade talks with NZ have been no exception.

As part of the talks the European Commission has given NZ negotiators a list of 179 food names and hundreds more wine and spirit names linked to European places it says should be given legal protection over and above that provided by this country’s own system of GIs protecting names of wines and spirits introduced several years ago. . . 

Scott and Laura Simpson’s focus on data collection pays off in Inverell drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

SOME of the toughest decisions are made during unfavourable seasons but for Inverell’s Scott and Laura Simpson their efforts during the good times are making their management easier. 

The couple are into their fifth year of ownership of the 1700 hectare property Glennon, which was previously run by Mr Simpson’s parents. 

At the time they had a herd of Brangus content types so the pair moved to incorporate more Angus genetics and breed more moderate females.  . . 


Landcorp pays ERG $1500/day

March 6, 2019

An OIO response to questions from Rural News shows that members of Landcorp’s environmental reference group are earning $1500 a day :

Landcorp is paying members of its contentious environmental reference group (ERG) $1500 a day each – far more than other government body payments.

This has been revealed in answers to an Official Information Act (OIA) request by Rural News to the Government-owned farmer (trading as Pāmu Farms).

“Each ERG member and the chairman is paid a flat fee of $1500 per day they attend the ERG meeting,” Landcorp’s OIA response says.

“In addition, the chair is paid an hourly rate for meeting preparation.”

During the 2017-2018 year, the state farmer also paid $2740.11 in travel costs and another $2451.43 in accommodating out-of-town ERG members for the four meetings it held in Wellington. . .

Meanwhile, it looks like members of Landcorp’s ERG are on a pretty good wicket at $1500-a-day, compared with other Government-paid bodies. Members of the Primary Sector Council are paid $500 a day, with chair Lain Jager earning $800 a day. The Tax Working Group members earned $800 a day and chair Sir Michael Cullen earned $1000 a day.

Are members of the ERG worth three times as much as members of the Primary Sector Council, nearly twice as much as members of the Tax Working Group and half as much again as its chair?

What does the group do and what has it achieved?

Is Landcorp getting value for money from what looks like significant over payments, and given we own the company what’s the value to taxpayers?


Rural round-up

January 2, 2019

The good, the bad, and the ugly — 2018 year in review – Rural News editorial team:

As we bid farewell to another year it’s time for the annual review of 2018 in the primary sector as seen by the Rural News editorial team.

The good:

The great start award: to outgoing Zespri chairman Peter McBride for his level-headed, down-to-earth approach on taking up Fonterra directorship. An independent thinker and experienced hand. Is he the next Fonterra chair in waiting?

Straight talking award: kumara grower and Vegetables NZ chairman Andre De Bruin for honest opinion on drugs and employment issues – rather than the usual PR massaged ‘never say anything controversial’ comment that does not face issues head-on. . . 

Sodden, mouldy fruit dumped after rainfall destroys Canterbury harvests – Maddison Northcott:

Southern berry growers are feeling the squeeze as hundreds of kilograms of sodden, mouldy fruits are thrown away after the most devastating season in decades.

Paul Tapper, from Tai Tapu’s Tram Road Fruit Farm, said the unseasonably heavy rain throughout November and December destroyed crops and caused up to 300kg of strawberries to go mouldy before they could be collected. . . 

Japanese farmers set to face-off against NZ imports :

Japanese farmers are set to compete with cheaper agricultural products imported from New Zealand and Australia as the first tariff cuts under the re-jigged Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal take effect tomorrow.

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that tomorrow Japan will axe tariffs on kiwfruit, grapes and melons, and cut tariffs on imported beef from the current 38.5 percent to 27.5.

It reports the number of stores selling New Zealand beef are likely to increase and a big company – Itoham Foods – is planning to sell more beef from its New Zealand subsidiary. . .

Fonterra strives for better year in 2019 – Samesh Mohanlal:

South Canterbury’s dairy industry has experienced a turbulent year with an increasingly “impaired” public perception adding to its woes, but Fonterra’s head of Farm Source for Canterbury, Marlborough and Tasman, Charles Fergusson plans to take the bull by the horns and clear the air in 2019.

The biggest hurdle of the year, the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis proved devastating for individual farmers, businesses and the wider community, and Fonterra posting its the first ever loss this year has also kept Fergusson busy.

“The year 2018 has been a tough one for the co-operative,” Fergusson says. . .

Extra production does not necessarily mean extra dollars – Pam Tipa:

The extra and hidden costs of bringing in feed can often mean increased milk production, but not increased operating profit.

In fact, sometimes producing the extra milk can cost money, DairyNZ research scientist Dr Jane Kay told a Northland Dairy Development Trust field day at Wellsford. . .

NFU brings industry together to discuss no deal Brexit:

The NFU brought more than 70 representatives from the agri-food supply chain together in London in December to discuss the impacts of the UK leaving the EU without a deal in place.

The NFU has been clear that the UK leaving the EU without a deal would be ‘catastrophic’ and is ‘not an option’ for UK agriculture.

The whole supply chain was represented – from seed to shop shelf – representing from pre and post farm gate. . .


Let some knowledge flourish?

August 6, 2018

Then-vice chancellor of Massey Chris Kelly provoked outrage after making comments about women vets:

Kelly told Rural News that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students were women and in the first year when there was a high ‘cull’, it was the female students who continued because the work was largely academic.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass,” he told Rural News. “Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.” . . 

When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by women. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a fulltime equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we’re graduating a lot of vets, we’re getting a high fallout rate later on.” . . 

Shortly after the outrage, he stepped down.

He apologised yesterday and said the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

He told the university today that he intended to step down from his position, effective immediately.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said his decision followed media coverage of his comments.

“Having had time to carefully consider the views of many staff, students and stakeholders, I believe that it is in the interests of the university that I step aside,” he said. . .

Martin van Beynen wrote at the time that the chancellor’s point was lost in the silly vet sexism fracas:

 . . But there is a wider problem with jumping from a great height on a man like Kelly.

Kelly spoke his mind giving a view which was not hateful or disrespectful. Essentially he was saying the taxpayer gets more bang for their buck by training male vets because of the nature of the job and the fact women, due to an unfortunate quirk of biology, have babies and want to spend some time with them.

It sounds like a defendable view which should prompt some debate. There might actually be a problem brewing away in vet education due to the dominance of female graduates. That won’t be talked about now because no-one will be brave enough to raise it.

The danger is that due to the sensitivity of the issue and possible ramifications of expressing a view, the wrong decisions will be made, not because people don’t know the facts or what to do, but just because to raise the difficult matters is a career wrecker.

The last and important point is that it’s quite healthy for people to shoot their mouths off now and again. It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think.

Exactly. It is far better to know what people think than to have their views and opinions, whether they be right or wrong, silenced.

The importance of free speech is not something the current Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas appears to believe in:

The right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society. This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.

History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.

So far so good but then she writes:

Freedom of expression is one thing, but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance, hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference. . .

But not all religions are equal when it comes to criticism. I’ve yet to read or hear anyone attacking Christianity accused of hate speech.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. . .

She’s right that hate speech, however, it’s defined, isn’t free speech.

But the point that free speech would permit people to indulge in hate speech appears to have escaped her.

. . . Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Universities support our staff and students to push boundaries, test the evidence that is put to them and challenge societal norms, including examining controversial and unpopular ideas.

This also obliges our institutions to support staff if and when they are attacked for engaging in such debates.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

And as I regularly remind our graduates, with rights come responsibilities.

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

All of that is reasonable.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

While I have concerns about what exactly hate speech is, I can’t argue against countering it with reason and compassion.

But then she concludes:

Hate speech has no place at a university. My university values our commitment to ideas and scholarship and free expression. . .

Spot the contradiction: a commitment to free expression and the exlusion of hate speech.

A university of all places ought to be able to counter the misguided, misinformed and mistaken by reasoned and reasonable debate, not by shutting them up and shutting down their right to express their views, however wrong or revolting those views are.

Karl du Fresne writes we should be very suspicious about claims of “hate speech”:

. . . My first concern is that much of what is emotively described as hate speech isn’t hateful at all. Too often it simply means opinions and ideas that some people find distasteful or offensive. But merely being offended is no justification for stifling expressions of opinion in a liberal, open democracy that depends on the contest of ideas. 

More worryingly, accusations of “hate speech” can be used to intimidate people into silence and put discussion of certain issues and ideas off-limits. In fact I believe that’s the over-arching aim.

Anyway, who defines hate speech? The term is bandied around as if there’s some agreed definition. But there’s not, and freedom of expression is too precious to leave it to an aggrieved minority or an academic elite to define it and therefore determine what the rest of us may say.

It’s also an infinitely elastic term. In Britain, where police have the power to prosecute for hate speech, there have been some frightening cases of overkill and heavy-handedness. 

Better to set the legal bar high to allow plenty of space for free speech, as the courts have tended to do in New Zealand. By all means, draw the line at harmful acts, direct threats to people’s safety or incitements to violence against minorities. But the law already allows for criminal prosecution in such cases.

We have far more to fear from people who want to suppress speech than we do from those who say things that others find objectionable. The real issue here is language control – because if you can control the language people are allowed to use in political discourse, you can control the range of ideas people are permitted to articulate and explore. . .

No, language is the latest battleground in what is known as the culture wars. The mounting clamour for tougher laws against so-called hate speech is an outgrowth of identity politics, in which minority groups are encouraged to see themselves as oppressed or disadvantaged because of their colour, ethnicity, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation. 

Hate speech makes some colours, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations more equal than others.

This has generated a demand for protection from comments that might be seen as critical or belittling – hence the frequency with which we hear people being accused of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny.

No one likes to have these labels pinned on them, so people keep their heads down. Accusing someone of hate speech has the same effect. It’s a quick way to shut down debate. . .

It’s so much easier to accuse someone of hate speech than it is to debate and counter what they say with facts and reason.

Journalists, of all people, should be ardent advocates of free speech because they have the most to fear if it’s abolished. In totalitarian regimes, journalists are often the first people to be imprisoned (as in Turkey) and even risk being murdered (as in Putin’s Russia).

But the most illiberal pronouncement I have read on the supposed dangers of free speech came from a university vice-chancellor who clearly thought that ordinary New Zealanders can’t be trusted to form their own sensible conclusions about contentious issues.

This pompous academic thought we needed guidance to keep us on the right path. And where from? Why, from universities.

We can infer from this that universities see themselves as having taken over the Churches’ role as moral arbiters. God help us all.

That the academic is vice chancellor of the same university the former-chancellor resigned from for saying something which got the crowd baying intrigues and concerns me.

Kelly wasn’t criticised for saying young men mature later and drink too much. He didn’t say that women don’t make good vets. He did say women work shorter hours than men.

He got his numbers wrong – saying women vets worked two-fifths of the time men did when younger vets work similar hours and after 30 women vets work an average of 37 hours a week and men an average of 45.

He might also be accused of not wording what he said better.

But over-egging the numbers and wording what he said somewhat clumsily ought to be a minor transgression.

A vice chancellor of a university, which is supposed to be a bastion of free speech, declaring that hers won’t  be ought to be a major one.

Kelly’s comments provoked an outrage, lots of media coverage and led to his resignation. All I’ve come across in response to Thomas’s declaration that Massey won’t uphold free speech are a very few well reasoned opinion pieces arguing against her.

Liam Hehir didn’t refer to Thomas’s remarks but he highlights the value of free speech and the danger in silencing it:

. . . New Zealand has developed a similar free-speech culture.

And the value of that culture isn’t that it protects racists and crackpots. It’s that it protects the humane and decent, who will not always hold the reins of power. The re-emergence of authoritarianism in continental Europe, where free-speech rights are less embedded, may well provide a warning here.

So should we accord liberal free speech rights to those with deplorable views? Yes. But it’s not to protect them from us. It’s to protect us from them.

Kelly stood down as chancellor for speaking freely, if what turned out to be unwisely in these politically-correct times. Vice chancellor Thomas declared Massey a free speech-free university and hardly raised an eye brow.

The uiniversity’s motto is floreat scientia – let knowledge flourish.

It isn’t qualified as some knowledge but if free speech can’t flourish there, can all knowledge?


Rural round-up

April 18, 2015

Criteria “too tough” on migrant workers – Federated Farmers – Tess McClure:

Farmers facing labour shortages say immigration criteria is “too tough” for migrant workers plugging the gap.

High numbers of farmers had approached Federated Farmers Southland with concerns about visas for their migrant worker employees, regional president Russell Macpherson said.

He said many workers were having trouble getting residency visas, despite calls from farmers to help keep their employees in-country.
 
“For some reason the people at immigration don’t think these jobs are important enough to grant them residency,” he said. “They’re doing work that New Zealanders clearly don’t want to do, so why are we making it so hard?”
 
While many migrant workers coming to New Zealand on work visas have high hopes of staying in the country and bringing their families over, less than a third are granted the chance of residency. . .

Shearing community mourns woolhandler:

The shearing community is mourning the loss of New Zealand woolhandling legend, Joanne Kumeroa, who has died after a three year battle with cancer.

The 45-year old had been living in Australia but returned home to Whanganui just before Christmas, and died yesterday.

Ms Kumeroa was regarded in shearing circles as a New Zealand icon, winning more World, Golden Shears and national wool-handling titles than any other competitor in her 24 year career.

Friends said she used her battle with cancer to raise women’s awareness of the disease. . .

Project to future-proof our biosecurity system:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has launched a new project which will further strengthen and future-proof New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

The project, Biosecurity 2025, will update and replace the founding document of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, the 2003 Biosecurity Strategy, with broad input from stakeholders, iwi and the New Zealand public.

“Government and industry have set a goal of doubling the value of our exports by 2025, and an effective biosecurity system is fundamental to achieving this,” says Mr Guy. . .

 

Peta’s mutilated lamb campaign sparks backlash (graphic content) – Rosanna Price:

The picture above has been captioned by PETA with: THIS is what most sheep used for wool look like after “shearing”.

But many people, including animal-activists and sheep shearers, disagree.

The image of an Australian musician holding the explicity graphic and mutilated body of a lamb was animal rights group PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’) way of advertising their latest expose on sheep shearing. . .

Outstanding in her field:

Dairy Woman of the Year 2015 Katie Milne hopes to use her new profile for the wider good of New Zealand farming. 

Katie Milne hopes winning the Dairy Woman of the Year title will be a good platform to push messages about farming as “the rest of New Zealand do not understand us well”.

 “They need to understand us better so we can be allowed to grow our industry, and to do that New Zealand has got to back us,” Milne told Rural News. . .

Questions for Fonterra – Andrew Hoggard:

A lot of shareholders were disappointed with the interim results Fonterra announced last week.  Many feel they are not seeing a return on their investment.

I think we might be asking the wrong question.  It shouldn’t be about where’s the return on our investment, but rather where do we see the value of being part of a co-op.

At the moment the milk price we are paid is based on the Global Dairy Trade result.  It is averaged across the season – less manufacturing costs – in a very crude simplistic sense.  The reality is that all the other companies should be achieving this anyway with their products. . .

Field day for Waipā catchment:

An event organised by DairyNZ aims to advise famers and landowners on how best to manage their property in an environmentally sustainable way.

People in the Waipā River catchment are being encouraged attend the Kaniwhaniwha Stream field day, which will offer information on funding sources for environmental initiatives along with other resources.

Hosts Denis and Felicity Ahlers have worked with industry body DairyNZ to develop an environment-focused sustainable milk plan. They have also identified work that can qualify for council and Waikato River Authority funding. . .


PKE brings biosecutiry risk

November 4, 2009

Federated Farmers has been questioning the biosecurity risk from imports of Palm Kernel Extract  for some time and Rural News reports that risk has now been officially recognised.

Foot and mouth disease could reach New Zealand in palm kernel but steps are finally being taken to close down the pathway, says Federated Farmers.

Biosecurity spokesman John Hartnell says he understands Biosecurity NZ is working with its Australian counterpart to tackle what it now admits is a gap in the current import health standard.

‘There is a big hole in the process and that’s the time the product sits on the ground between when it leaves the crusher and when it is loaded on the boat.

Greenpeace has been campaigning against PKE imports on environmental grounds. The biosecuirty risk is far more serious.

The current import health standard relies on heating during oil extraction, rendering the meal sterile, but meal is often stored before shipment, sometimes on bare earth.

That provides a window for insect infestation and, worse still, contamination with potential foot and mouth disease bearing material such as soil or animal remains, says Hartnell.

That risk might be small but it is not something we can afford to ignore.

The detection of atypical scrapie (also known as Nor 98) in a single sheep’s brain last week almost went unnoticed. MAF was upfront about it, explained how it was detected and the implications of the find, including most importantly that it doesn’t change our scrapie-free status.

Even a false alarm about Foot & Mouth disease would be far more serious. The hoax letter sent in 2005 which said the disease was on Waiheke Island, caused a dip in the dollar and threatened exports.

No matter how cheap PKE is, unless it can be guaranteed foot and mouth free it is too expensive.


ETS costs too high for agriculture

July 25, 2008

The costs from the proposed emissions trading scheme   will erode any improvement in red meat schedules and dairy payout.

This and other adverse impacts have prompted industry groups to call for more time to voice their concerns about the ETS amid widespread fears it will crush competitiveness for no environmental benefit.

There is absolutely no point in imposing costs on primary industry, or any other sector, if there is not going to be a measurable environmental benefit.

As the first country to include agriculture in such a scheme, the sector says its concerns have not been taken into account, prompting a pan-industry letter sent to Parliament calling for another chance to make submissions.The latest independent analysis of the scheme in its current form shows sheep, beef and deer farmers will be ‘hit hard’ by the ETS – much more so than their dairy counterparts.
Detailing a range of indicative costs for 2030 – the year when agriculture will pay full carbon emissions expenses – National Bank rural economist Kevin Wilson shows the cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per kilogram of product sold would be 38c for meat producers compared with 21c for dairy.
Given the dairy payout is historically higher per kilogram of milksolids than a kilogram of meat, it means sheep, beef and deer farmers would pay a higher proportion of income into offsetting emissions than dairy farmers.

The cost of emissions per hectare would equate to $185 for dairy and $84 for sheep and beef. Dairy also has a higher GHG cost per stock unit at $74, compared with $8.40 for sheep and beef.

Wilson told Rural News many variables will determine the ultimate costs, but the fundamental question is why New Zealand has agriculture in its ETS plans when no other countries do.
 
There is no satisfactory answer to this question, especially when New Zealand’s extensive grazing systems put us among the most productive producers of protein with the lowest carbon emissions in the world. 

He says 2018 – when agriculture would enter the scheme – is actually a lot closer that it seems given the changes that would need to be implemented: ‘Now is the time to start preparing potential management options.’Meat & Wool NZ chairman Mike Petersen is not surprised to hear the ETS costs to dairy farmers are lower because they generally sell more product and at a higher price.
But his major and immediate reason in pushing for change to the scheme is that New Zealand is the only country in the world to put agriculture in an ETS. ‘It’s a real concern to us,’ he says.
‘That’s why we are arguing there needs to be some recognition of the competitive factors that New Zealand agriculture will face as a result of being the only country in the world to do so.’

MWNZ was one of 14 industry groups calling for the chance to provide further submissions to the Climate Change Bill recently amended by the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Petersen is concerned the ETS goes beyond meeting the nation’s international obligations, and warns carbon neutrality is not a sustainable long-term goal for New Zealand’s sheep and beef industry.

Another worry is ‘trade-offs’ being made in Parliament to pass the bill before the election, says Petersen.

Keeping Stock wonders if Helen Clark’s support of Winston Peters this week is because she needs his support fot the bill.

Wilson’s calculations are based on a conservative carbon cost of $25/tonne, plus stocking rates of 2.5 cows/ha for dairy and 10 stock units/ha for sheep and beef. It takes fertiliser application of 500kg/ha for dairy and 50kg/ha for sheep/beef, production of 875kg of milksolids/ha and 220kg of meat and fibre/ha, along with 7.4t of CO2 equivalent per square hectare emitted for dairy and 3.4/ha for sheep and beef.
 
No-one knows what the cost will be, it is unlikely to be lower but it could be much higher.

 


%d bloggers like this: