Rural round-up

August 21, 2019

Output record delights new manager – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group recently marked the 2019 season at its Mataura plant in Southland by breaking a beef processing record. Business and Rural Editor Sally Rae talks to plant manager Melonie Nagel about breaking records — and life in New Zealand.

When cattle beast number 150,216 went through the Mataura plant last week, a photograph was taken to record the occasion.

The vibe in the factory – having beaten the previous record by more than 8000 – was “wonderful”, plant manager Melonie Nagel said.

It was an opportunity for staff to gather and also recognition that without a team effort – involving both Mataura employees and the farmers supplying the stock – it never would have happened, Ms Nagel said. . .

Banks want farm billions back – Nigel Stirling:

Floating farm mortgage rates and some fixed rates fell after the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate but not all farmers are benefiting.

The country’s largest rural lender, ANZ, said it will cut its agri variable base rate by 40 basis points from today and its fixed base rates by between 20 and 30 basis points.

Other banks also signalled cuts to rural lending rates after the Reserve Bank moved to head off a slowing economy by lopping 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate to a record low 1%. . .

Farmers furious at Australian animal rights activists publishing addresses and location on map – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are furious that an Australian animal rights group have begun listing descriptions and addresses of Southland farms on a website map, claiming it could encourage illegal activity by activists on farms.

The map, created by activist group Aussie Farms lists 150-200 farms, both drystock and dairy across the Southland region.

National president Katie Milne said it was hugely worrying that it could be the start of a more extreme form of animal activism in New Zealand, which in Australia and Europe had seen people break into farms, releasing and stealing stock and chain themselves to farm machinery. . . 

Making a difference:

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.” . .

Dairy product prices for manufacturers up 8.7 percent :

Prices received by manufacturers of butter, cheese, and milk powder rose 8.7 percent in the June 2019 quarter compared with the March 2019 quarter, after falls in the previous two quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Dairy product manufacturers received higher prices for products such as butter, cheese, and milk powder in the June 2019 quarter. Together, output prices for this group of products increased 8.7 percent from the previous quarter, the biggest rise in over two years. Prices rose by 16 percent in the March 2017 quarter. . . 

Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse – Matt McGrath:

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures.

However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances.

Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. . . 


Rural round-up

August 14, 2019

Mainland venison marketer calls China home – Sally Rae:

When Hunter McGregor established a business in China four years ago, it was pioneering stuff.

Mr McGregor runs a Shanghai-based venison importing and distribution business, working with specialist New Zealand venison producer Mountain River Venison.

There was no market for venison in China and so it had been about creating both interest and demand for the product – “because it doesn’t sell itself”.

What he has also found is that running a business in China is getting harder. And that, quite simply, was “because it’s China”. “It’s the way things are,” he said. . . 

Looming 6A plan deadline pushed out – Sally Rae:

A significant milestone looms for rural landowners in April next year when new obligations are scheduled to come in to play to comply with the Otago Regional Council’s 6A plan change for rural water quality. But if a proposal from staff, headed to a council meeting this month, gets approval from councillors, that date will be pushed out to April 2023, as rural editor Sally Rae reports.

In a nutshell, Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner says parts of the much-discussed 6A are working really well – but other parts are not.

And with the deadline just months away, the council did not believe it could enforce what was due to come into effect.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times ahead of the council meeting, Ms Gardner stressed the ORC was “absolutely not” walking away from its responsibilities around water quality, which remained its number one priority. . . 

Fonterra’s losses provide more questions than answers – Keith Woodford:

The forthcoming asset write downs of more than $800 million announced on 12 August by Chairman John Monaghan are clearly damaging to Fonterra’s balance sheet. It also means that Fonterra will now make a loss for the year of around $600 million. However, the implications go much further than that.

The losses mean that Fonterra will need to sell more assets to bring its ‘debt to asset ratio’ under control. The losses also ping back to the balance sheets of its farmer members, where the Fonterra shares are assets against which these farmer members have their own debts. Many dairy farmers are already struggling with their balance sheets, with banks now requiring debt repayments on loans that used to be interest-only.

If these write downs are the full story, then Fonterra will survive. The big question is whether these are all of the write downs, both for now and the foreseeable future. . . 

Farmers are getting more milk from each cow – they deserve a much better performance from Fonterra  –  Point of Order:

This   is the second  chapter  in the  woes  of  Fonterra, and  behind  it   the  dairy industry,  on  which the  New Zealand  economy is  so  dependent.

Point of Order   listed  some of those  woes    last  week.  Now, in the  wake  of  the latest  revelation,  Fonterra  will  have to absorb a loss of between $590m and $675m for the current financial year.

Critics   of the industry have  sprung  to the attack:  Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones is calling Fonterra’s management “corporate eunuchs” and labels Fonterra’s board as “grossly inept”. . . 

Meat prices drive increase in overall food price index:

Rising meat prices drove food prices up in July 2019, Stats NZ said today.

Meat and poultry prices rose 2.8 percent, with higher prices for chicken, lamb, and beef, partly offset by falling pork prices.

Chicken pieces were a big driver of the monthly price rise, up 7.0 percent. The weighted average price in July was $8.61 per kilogram compared to June ($8.05 per kilo). As well as being a big contributor to the monthly change, chicken pieces were up 8.8 percent annually. In July 2018, the weighted average price for chicken pieces was $7.91 per kilogram.

Lamb chop prices reached an all-time high in July, up 1.7 percent. The weighted average price was $17.70 per kilogram compared with $17.41 in June and $16.33 a year ago. . . 

Finding the Will to Live

When Elle Perriam’s partner ended his own life in 2017, she set about changing the lives of others, embarking on a national tour in June to encourage farmers to ‘Speak Up’

New Zealand is in what can only be called a mental health crisis. Around 500 New Zealanders per year die by suicide, and we have some of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. The statistics are even worse in the rural demographic, where suicide rates are 20–50 per cent higher than in urban areas. The pressures of agriculture, coupled with the typical stoic, silent culture that permeates rural New Zealand can mean that those who are struggling often find it difficult to seek help, or to talk about their private battles. Geographical isolation can also be a factor, with some farm workers employed on remote high-country stations for months at a time with limited off-farm contact.

In December 2017, 21-year-old North Otago farm worker Will Gregory tragically ended his life, leaving his family, friends and girlfriend Elle Perriam devastated. Following Will’s death, Elle, a Lincoln University student, looked for a way to create positive change in the rural mental health sector, and the idea for the ‘Will to Live Speak Up Tour’ was born. Elle, with the help of her sister Sarah, launched the tour at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival in October 2018, with Will’s black Huntaway Jess as mascot. . . 

It’s a tough time being a farmer these days – Kate Hawkesby:

It’s a tough time to be a farmer these days. I really feel for them. Sure, they’ve been through lots of good and bad times, that’s the nature of farming, but it feels like this current climate is really tough.

Farming seems under fire from the government in a changing climate of new taxes, regulations, rules. it costs more to be on a farm these days. And that’s before we even get to Fonterra.

After massive write-downs of its assets, Fonterra’s forecasting a huge loss this financial year of around $675 million. That’s the second biggest loss since it began 20 years ago. No dividends will be paid to shareholders this financial year. . .


Rural round-up

August 13, 2019

Ground-breaking milestone for Waimea Community Dam project – Tim O’Connell:

There was excitement in spades for backers of the Waimea Community Dam with Friday’s ground-breaking ceremony signalling the start of excavation on the controversial $104.4 million project.

It will take twice as long as initially expected and cost four times as much to construct, but for those who travelled to the Lee Valley site, about 36 kilometres south-east of Nelson, there was a sense of relief and determination to see a successful outcome for the future of Tasman. 

The $104 million Waimea Dam project was rubber-stamped in November after a lively six-hour meeting where Tasman district councillors voted 9-5 to proceed. . .

Gums swallow up prime land – Terry Brosnahan:

Forestry has ripped the heart out of a small Southland community.

In the mid-1990s Waimahaka near Wyndham was one of a number of areas where farms were sold and planted out in eucalypt trees.

It was good money for those selling but the three-teacher school was the heart of a thriving community both of which were devastated.

Waimahaka school had a roll of 70 and three teachers before the trees came. When the farms sold the families left the district. It had only four pupils by the time it closed in 2013. . .

Community or carbon? – Rebecca Harper:

Like many small rural communities in New Zealand, Tiraumea has been declining for years. De-population has been exacerbated by farm amalgamations and technology, and concerned locals fear the recent flurry of farm sales to
forestry may prove the final nail in the coffin. Rebecca Harper reports.

Blink and you might miss it. There’s not much left in Tiraumea, located on Highway 52 between Alfredton and Pongaroa, in the Tararua District. Once a thriving rural community, mostly sheep and beef farmers and their families, numbers are dwindling.

The school closed in 2012, though the lone 100-year oak stands proudly in what used to be the school grounds. The hall is still there, along with the rural fire service shed and domain, but that’s about it.

In the last year a number of farms have been sold, either to forestry or manuka, with no new families moving in to replace those lost, and those left are concerned about the impact of mass pine tree plantings. . . 

Deer role challenging and rewarding – Sally Rae:

Challenging and rewarding – “probably in that order” – is how Dan Coup describes his tenure at Deer Industry New Zealand.

Mr Coup is leaving DINZ in October, after just over six years in the role, to become chief executive of the QEII National Trust.

When he joined the organisation, confidence among producers was generally low and farmers were leaving the industry, frustrated at the state of profitability.

Looking at the state of the industry now, it was “definitely better” and that was due to several factors. . .

Hawke’s Bay apple industry invests in accommodation for seasonal workers

The Hawke’s Bay apple industry says investing tens of millions of dollars in housing for staff will also help the hundreds of people in the region needing emergency accommodation.

It’s aiming to have 1592 new beds ready for next year by extensively renovating existing dwellings and building new accommodation.

The region needs enough places to house the 5400 seasonal workers it needs from the Pacific to work in next year’s harvest.

Gary Jones from the Hawke’s Bay Seasonal Labour Group said the industry was spending nearly $40 million at $25,000 a bed to house all its workers. . . 

Are cattle in the US causing a rise in global warming? – Alan Rotz & Alex Hristov:

Over the past decade, we have seen the media place blame for our changing climate on cattle. Scientific evidence does not support this claim though for cattle in the United States.  

Cattle produce a lot of methane gas, primarily through enteric fermentation and fermentation of their manure. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that, along with nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and some other compounds in the atmosphere, create a blanket around our planet. This is good; without this atmospheric blanket, the earth would be too cold for us to survive. The current problem is that concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere are increasing, which is thickening our blanket. . . 

 


Rural round-up

August 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AbacusBio merges with plant breeder – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

Milking it: Tapping into coffee culture – Sally Rae:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Rural round-up

August 7, 2019

Plant milk’s worse for the environment than cow milk:  Fonterra  – Gerard Hutching:

If you are drinking plant-based “milks” because you think they are better for the environment, think again says a Fonterra scientist.

Nielsen Scantrack data shows sales of alternative milks have taken off in the past two years, with 25 per cent of total market share of all milk categories. In 2017 Kiwis spent $52 million on them, but that has risen to $144m in the last 12 months, with almond milk the most popular, followed by soya.

The value of the alternative milk market is growing at 7.6 per cent a year, while cow milk value is flat. . .

Speak Up experience transforming – Sally Rae:

If she was to look back at the person she was nearly two years ago, Elle Perriam reckons she would not recognise herself.

Miss Perriam is the very public face of rural mental health awareness campaign Will to Live, which was launched following the death of her boyfriend, Will Gregory, in December 2017.

Speaking during a Speak Up tour – events were held in Balclutha, Winton and Hawea last week and more were planned for Kurow on August 15 and Middlemarch on August 16 – she said it was rewarding and motivating. . .

Contemplating the big numbers in exports and imports – Joyce Wyllie:

 Whenever you sit in the car and turn the key in the ignition you simply expect the engine to start. No thoughts to carburettors, sparks, fuel, explosions, pistons, drive shaft, moving parts, wheels going round and how it all happens. Just taken for granted that one small movement of the hand initiates amazing mechanics causing movement in the machine.

Occasionally it doesn’t work which creates concern and limits immediate travel choices. Also when going places in the car not much thought is given to the place where that vehicle came from to where it’s now being used. Supply, imports, transport, trade, money going round and the privilege of ownership are, generally, all taken for granted.

After seeing the last of our season’s lambs mustered, drafted, weighed, loaded on trucks and driven away from the farm I wondered where they may have ended up. Our meat company provided some interesting information on markets and destination from the Nelson plant.  . . 

No scheme to manage hundreds of dams, but regulations concern farmers – Phil Pennington:

New Zealand lacks any scheme to monitor and maintain the structural integrity of hundreds of dams nationwide, but is now playing catch up trying to bring in controversial safety regulations.

The risks are illustrated at the town of Whaley Bridge in the UK, where thousands of people have been evacuated because an old clay dam holding a billion litres of water is cracking.

“Dams are still failing in highly developed countries in this day and age, and the Whaley Bridge example – it’s still happening,” vice chair of the New Zealand Society on Large Dams, Dan Forster, said. . .

Real characters at indoor dog trials – Sally Rae:

It could well be worth a trip to this week’s Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial at Waimumu just to meet Jack and Mack.

In a sport which is littered with characters, 80-year-old Jack Condon could only be described as one out of the box.

Mr Condon is making the trip from Bruce Bay in South Westland, where he has been staying recently, towing a caravan in case he could not find accommodation in Gore.

After only taking up dog trialling in his 70s, he was bringing Mack – his “champion dog”, he laughed – whom he described as a “nice fella“. . .

2019 Plate to Pasture youth scholarships:

Silver Fern Farms has presented six young people from around New Zealand with Plate to Pasture Youth Scholarships as recognition for their ideas to further the sustainability of the red meat sector.

Each recipient received $5000 to go toward their careers in the red meat sector. Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says this year’s applicants were asked to explore the issues of sustainability in the red meat sector and present their solutions for farms, processing and in-market. . .


Rural round-up

July 30, 2019

Leading the world and saving it, too – but let’s brace for a drop in our standard of living (and wellbeing) – Point of Order:

So  how  “transformational”  will  the   zero  carbon  legislation  prove to be?

Many  New Zealanders  have come to believe  global  warming  poses  a  real danger  to  their lives – but will the new legislation remove, or even lessen, the danger?

Under the legislation, agriculture   for the first time is brought into the emissions trading  scheme.  That’s won  support from Green lobbyists, but many  say it’s too little, too late –  “a  weak-ass  carbon  reform”.

On  the  other side,  the  criticism is  just as pointed.  There are  no tools to  measure  on-farm emissions and what  the  government proposes   could   shrivel  NZ’s growth rate  by  up to  $50bn   a year. . . .

Planting a billion trees by 2028:

What’s not to love about a billion trees?

Plenty, if you farm in rural New Zealand. For a start, trees require land.

And it’s the fear that farmland will be turned into pine forest that has some worried about the government’s ambitious target of getting a billion trees in the ground by 2028. . . .

Warning of green desert of trees – Tim Fulton:

Incentives for tree-planting credit schemes could create a great, green desert of radiata pine and trample native bush, officials have heard.

The Government proposes taxing farm livestock emissions and fertiliser emissions from 2025.

A Primary Industries Ministry public consultation meeting in Christchurch debated the policy linked to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), a closed, government-managed carbon credit market that’s changing agricultural land use. . . 

Small gains mount up – Colin Williscroft:

Taking small but simple steps on farms can help cut greenhouse gas emissions without biting too deeply into the bottom line, Tirau farmer Adrian Ball says.

With Parliament’s Environment Select Committee hearing views on the viability and fairness of agricultural greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and debate building on how best to move towards on-farm emission charging, what’s been missed is the work already done by farmers.

However, Ball and others are making incremental changes to reduce their emissions while keeping their eye on the bottom line. . .

Reduction of Johne’s disease possible – Sally Rae:

A case study involving Otago-based DRL Ltd has demonstrated that effective reduction in the prevalence of Johne’s disease is possible for New Zealand dairy farmers.

The study has been completed, in collaboration with Temuka veterinarian Andrew Bates, and a paper accepted for publication in the journal BMC Veterinary Research.

It described the control of Johne’s disease – a chronic wasting disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis – on a large South Canterbury dairy farm with an ongoing Johne’s problem. The farmer was culling between 80 and 100 cows a year on the 1200-cow farm. . . .

Outlook remains for sheepmeat producers -Sally Rae:

Sheepmeat prices are expected to stay at elevated levels over the remainder of this season and into the next, Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate says.

Pricing levels out to the end of the season in October were expected to be at least as high as the mid $8 mark per kg seen last year and there could even be some “upside potential” on top of that.

Sheep meat supply from both New Zealand and Australia – the key exporters of sheepmeat to international markets – was expected to remain tight over the coming year.

New Zealand had limited capacity to lift domestic production, given where ewe numbers were at. . .

Women of the Irish food industry- Susanna Crampton, farmer and educator  – Katia Valadeau:

I first met Suzanna Crampton, at her farm, in leafy Kilkenny, a couple of years ago.  She was one of the first small food producers I visited when I started branching out from recipes. She welcomed me at her home and I was lucky enough to meet Bodacious, the wonderful Cat Shepherd and Ovenmitt, the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met. I wrote all about my visit to the zwartbles farm at the time. The hour at Suzanna’s kitchen table is an hour I often think about when I try to explain why I’m so passionate about small food producers in Ireland. 

I am still just learning about the many aspects of life of a farm, the sacrifices, the hard work, the rewards and the glorious food. The conversations I had that day with Julie of Highbank Orchardsand with Suzanna Crampton have stayed with me and I think of them as the true start of my education in all things Irish food. Before, food writing was a hobby. It has since become a full blown passion and has gone into all sorts of directions.  . .

 


Rural round-up

July 23, 2019

Pine trees cast shadow of death over NZ native plants and animals – Mike Cranstone:

NEW Zealand has always been challenged to move from commodity mass production to targeting higher value, whether it be in agriculture, tourism or our manufacturing businesses.

In this country’s frantic race to deliver on a throw-away election comment of 1 billion trees, we seem to be chasing numbers and not quality.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of productive farmland is being removed from livestock production by investors chasing a potential windfall from a speculated rising carbon price. . .

Share sale last chance – Sally Rae:

A share offer for the last 14% of the North Otago Irrigation Company shares issued but not taken up at the time of the scheme expansion in 2014 now represent the last chance for farmers in the scheme area to secure water. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae finds out how the scheme has benefited North Otago.

Agriculture has plenty of challenges and the list is building by the day.

But North Otago Irrigation Company chairman Matt Ross reckons if people went for a drive around rural North Otago and saw some of the businesses operating, they would say, “isn’t that amazing?”. . .

Mel and Janelle – the city slickers turned Tauranga dairy farm superstars – Jean Bell:

After trading in the corporate life in downtown Auckland’s grey streets for the luscious green pastures of a Ōhauiti dairy farm, Janelle Nee and Mel McEntyre aren’t looking back.

The couple took over Nee’s family farm in 2016 and they’ve taken to farming like ducks take to the water, picking up a Fonterra farming award and getting the farm out of a deficit along the way.

“Three years ago if someone had said to me, ‘oh you’re gonna love your cows,’ I would’ve been like, ‘oh whatever’,” McEntyre says, with a flick of the hand and a roll of the eye. . .

Love meat not plastic – Kit Arkwright:

It’s Plastic Free July – did you know? For those that don’t, this global movement helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities, writes Kit Arkwright from New Zealand’s domestic meat promotion body.

Plastic is an issue close to many Kiwi’s hearts. The recent ‘Better Futures’ study by Colmar Brunton ranks plastic waste as the number one issue for New Zealanders. It featured above issues like the cost of living, protection of children and suicide rates. To say now is the time for the meat industry to take a long, hard look at how it reduces its impact on plastic waste is an understatement.

The issue of plastic packaging for meat is not a simple situation. Plastic packaging offers the most effective solution to ensuring meat has a viable shelf-life and it also offers a safe option for ensuring the high standards of food safety we have come to expect as a given here in New Zealand. . . 

 

Grace winds down now he’s 93 – Annette Scott:

At 93 Ashburton farmer Keith Grice has decided it’s time to hang up his hat on sheep farming but the true dinkum landlubber is not ready yet to leave his land. He talked to Annette Scott about his 70 years as a sheep farmer.

When the trucks rolled out from Keith Grice’s sheep yards, loaded with his capital stock ewes bound for the annual in-lamb ewe fair at Temuka on July 10, they marked the end of a very long era.

After 70 years farming sheep and at the ripe old age of 93 Grice has decided it’s time to put away his shepherd’s crook.

We need an all hands on deck effort to help farmers in crisis – Margaret Krome:

A friend once described the most traumatic experience of her life. It wasn’t an assault, an accident or even any physical injury. As a child, her father was laid off as an air traffic controller at O’Hare International Airport in a labor standoff that President Ronald Reagan sought to make into labor’s Waterloo. Her whole family had deeply identified with her father’s service and never really recovered, she said. A sense of alarm and despair pervaded her childhood ever after.

Similar trauma is being relived horribly in farm country right now. Farming is deeply personal; I know no farmer for whom it’s just an occupation. Over the years, I’ve sadly witnessed the catastrophes of farm families for whom farm foreclosures, traumatic in themselves, resulted in divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse and other tragedies, including the worst — suicide.

In my experience, although farm foreclosures feel altogether personal, they rarely reflect a farmer’s competence. The terrible wave of farm losses in the 1980s and the current crisis in the farm community were both a long time brewing — a consequence of federal policies that favor agricultural and market concentration, and of disparate policies related to trade, agricultural markets, research, credit, water, immigration and more. . .

 


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