Rural round-up

March 2, 2020

Global study to benchmark farms – Annette Scott:

A global study of regenerative agriculture is under way to identify chances to extract more value from sheep and beef exports.

Beef + Lamb is doing the study to understand the similarities and difference of regenerative agriculture to NZ farming practices.

The study will look at the opportunities for farmers and include a global consumer perspective to understand what potential there is for red meat exports.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said with increasing interest in regenerative agriculture here and abroad, sheep and beef farmers want to lead in that space.  . . 

The wool industry is still facing challenges – Pam Tipa:

The wool industry continues to face challenges with depressed wool prices for a third year in a row, says Primary Wool Cooperative chair Janette Osborne. 

“Combined with increased shearing and associated costs this now means a net loss on wool for many farmers,” she says in the co-op’s annual report

“We are also seeing an overall gradual decline in total wool volumes with both lambs and ewes going to the works woolly and lower grade oddments including dags being used on farm for environmental work.” . . 

Meat Businesswomen to address World Meat Conference:

Global networking group, Meat Business Women are stepping onto the world stage as they accept an invitation to speak at the World Meat Congress (WMC) in Cancun, Mexico on June 12. 

Touted as the most influential and informative event on the global meat industry calendar, the WMC brings together approximately 1,000 international delegates to discuss issues and trends affecting meat and livestock organisation which are fundamental for sector outlook. 

Meat Business Women Chair, Laura Ryan says she’s delighted with the opportunity to speak directly about the group’s goals to an audience that can instigate change.  . . 

History has a habit of repeating itself – St John Craner:

NZ Ag yet again faces a number of fronts. Plant-based food, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, coronavirus, commodity cycles and climate. Yet we have options. We can diversify our markets.

China’s coronavirus is highlighting the need for us to ensure we’re not over-reliant on one market. Maybe China is the easy option? Either way they say: “when you choose easy life can be hard, when you choose hard life can be easy”.

There are many other countries in South East Asia (49 to be precise) who want our world-class produce like India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar. These countries’ economies are predicted to grow faster than China due to their own growing middle class who are earning higher incomes.  . . 

Farm societies have common issues – Ben Hancock:

This is the fifth and final in a series of articles written by the latest crop of Nuffield Scholars. This week Beef + Lamb insight and strategy analyst Ben Hancock looks at the possibility of farmers generating energy while combating climate change and being easier on the environment.

Farming the world over, as much as the context, production and scale vary, shows, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After nearly six months on the road of my Nuffield journey I was struck by the similarities across continents and farming systems. 

So many of the issues we face in New Zealand can be translated to our counterparts around the world.  . . 

Elderly UK farmers should be paid to retire, says Minister :

UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice has an unusual solution to improving the environment: paying farmers to retire.

Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union’s 2020 Conference this week, Eustice said that some veteran farmers are ‘standing in the way of change’, reports The Telegraph.

He said that paying veteran farmers a lump sum would enable them to ‘retire with dignity’. . .


Rural round-up

December 24, 2019

Pappinbarra dairy farming couple pours 4,000l of milk down the drain after NSW bushfires cut electricity: – Michael Cavanagh and Tim Fookes:

A dairy farming couple on the NSW mid-north coast have been forced to drain nearly 4,000 litres of milk after bushfires left their property without electricity for four days.

For Mary and Peter Reynolds, watching thousands of litres of milk being poured down the drain was heartbreaking as it has cost them thousands of dollars.

As the dairy farming couple watched as a series of fires approached their Pappinbarra property, near Port Macquarie, the electricity went off and remained off for four days. . .

Wool News: Wellington start up taking innovative new coarse wool concept to the world:

NZ coarse wool innovation on-track to disrupt 78 billion USD global hygiene market.

A Wellington-based start up company, founded by a mother and daughter with a multi generation background in farming, has found a new way to add value to coarse wool that could revive the sector and promises to create fresh revenue opportunities for New Zealand wool growers.

Derelee Potroz Smith is CEO and founder of Woolchemy, which she established in partnership with her mother Angela Potroz. Derelee, whose professional background is in engineering and whose family has farmed in Taranaki since 1876, says the company has developed patented technology to use wool to replace petroleum-derived textiles in hygiene consumer products.

“Legislative and consumer pressure worldwide is bearing down on manufacturers to use sustainable resources and take responsibility for the full lifecycle of their products. Disposable personal hygiene products, which include nappies, feminine hygiene pads and incontinence pads, are hugely problematic in this respect. These products account for a global market valued at $US78 billion per annum. . . 

Green light for irrigation scheme :

North Canterbury’s Amuri Irrigation Company (AIC) is pressing ahead with plans for a new irrigation scheme for the Hawarden/Waikari area, following a positive response from potential users.

The company issued a product disclosure statement (PDS) last month for shares to fund a revised Hurunui Irrigation Scheme. The PDS closed on November 28 and AIC says it received sufficient interest to advance to the next stage of design and development.

The proposal is for a 2000ha to 3000ha piped irrigation scheme to supply farms near the North Canterbury towns of Hawarden and Waikari. It is a smaller alternative to a scheme proposed by AIC earlier in the year, which did not proceed due to insufficient support. . . 

An update on the Mycoplasma bovis Programme: –  Sam McIvor:

M. bovis is one of the greatest biosecurity challenges we have faced in New Zealand and 2019 has been a challenging year for the eradication effort, especially for our farmers who have been affected.

Over the past few months, we have seen improvements in the Programme and we and our partners, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ, remain committed to achieving eradication so that we can farm free from this disease.

It is important that we keep up this momentum in 2020 so that we catch and stop the disease quickly, and prevent as many farmers as we can from being affected. . . 

Marlborough author Tony Orman goes back down a country road – Sophie Trigger:

From an unhygienic farmer with an artificial leg to Rai Valley’s “livestock psychologist”,Tony Orman brings to life New Zealand’s country characters. 

Following the success of his 2018 book Down a Country Road, which sold out in six weeks, the Marlborough writer felt he had more stories to tell. 

This year’s sequel, Down a Country Road II was released last week, featuring “spillover” stories from the first book and more from Orman’s years working as journalist in the area.  . . 

Nowt But a Fleeting Thing: the reality of farming – Lindsay Poulton:

Our latest Guardian documentary, Nowt But a Fleeting Thing, has just launched: a father and son story about the challenges of farming and a changing world in the north of England. It’s a beautiful film directed by Dom Bush and made with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

We talked with Dom about his experiences making a film about a subject that is really close to his heart.

What was it like making a film about a subject and a community that you’re so close to?

I’m born and bred in the hills here in Cumbria so the story is really personal to me. I grew up on a smallholding in north Cumbria and we were surrounded by farms so I understood early on the intrinsic connection between people and animals.

I worked a little on farms as I got older so I saw what was going on behind the scenes to some extent. I knew there were solid reasons why people would choose to rear animals and work the land, but I could also see that life could be hard and livelihoods hung in the balance at times. Pride and purpose were mixed with some deep-set social and economic problems. . . 


Rural round-up

November 26, 2019

Security for Otago farmers unclear amid water plans – Jono Edwards:

Some Otago farmers could be left with “unbankable” irrigation schemes as the Government recommends an overhaul of the Otago Regional Council’s planning processes.

Environment Minister David Parker yesterday released a raft of recommendations for the council after an investigation into its management of freshwater.

It said the council was not equipped to transfer hundreds of century-old water rights into resource consents by 2021, and regardless it should not do so because they would be processed under its current “inadequate” water plan.

On top of the rewriting of council plans already in progress, it recommended an interim plan change to transfer the permits into consents in the meantime.

They would be for a maximum of five years, which some farmers say is too short to ensure future security. . . 

Food bowl or toilet bowl? – John Jackson:

New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. 

By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 5New Zealand shouldn’t become a ‘toilet bowl’ of trees for other countries’ carbon dioxide commitments, explains John Jackson. OPINION: By the time this is published, a group representing everything good about provincial NZ will have marched on Parliament under the 50 Shades of Green banner. I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. banner.

I’ve never had much interest in trees. I have always enjoyed their ‘fruit’ – whether a physical product I could eat, a picture of might or magnificence in a singular or landscape perspective, or simply shade or shelter. . .

 

No slacking for M Bovis effort – Annette Scott:

There’s no time to slacken off over the next year if the , programme is to limit the disease, M bovis governance group chairman Kelvan Smith says.

The M bovis governance group, made up of Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Ray Smith, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle,  Beef + Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor and independently chaired by Smith, meets monthly to discuss and review the eradication programme.

Smith said the group is focused on strategic planning to ensure the programme builds on progress made to date and continues towards eradication.

“To date the programme has found 207 infected properties, stopping further spread of the disease and clearing the infection from these properties,” he said.  . . 

Beef + Lamb puts money where its mouth is- Nigel Malthus:

A ‘model’ sheep and beef farm in North Canterbury is away and running, its founders say.

The North Canterbury Future Farm, set up by Beef + Lamb NZ in partnership with local famers, has had an “OK” first full year of operation, said the organisers of its 2019 Open Day.

BLNZ’s partner is Lanercost Farming Ltd, formed by the landowner, Julia Whelan, with locals Simon Lee and Carl Forrester. . .

A natural blend of grains firms – Tim Fulton:

Two New Zealand-based, foreign-owned seed companies marked a milestone merger in October.

PGG Wrightson Seeds chief executive John McKenzie has seen a good number of mergers and acquisitions over 45 years in the grain and seed trade.

Some deals went well and good and others were distinctly disappointing. The lastest was a natural blend, he said.

The sale of PGG Wrightson’s former grain and seed division has put McKenzie in charge of an Oceania business unit in a global business, DLF Seeds. . .

Pet day a national school tradition :

Dogs of every shape and size, miniature ponies, cats, lambs and guinea pigs put aside their differences and got together for Fairton School’s annual pet day last week.

Fairton School principal Mike Hill said, ”We are a little country school and pet days are a national tradition, and a lot of fun.”

The majority of the pupils had pets at home, so it was good to recognise the way they cared for their animals, he said.

It was also a great chance for parents, and visiting preschoolers from Stepping Stones @ Braebrook, to come to the school and be involved. . . 


Rural round-up

October 6, 2019

Know what’s true about farms? – Sam McIvor:

There’s a consistent theme running through my conversations with farmers – they’re experiencing some of the best returns in living memory but there is a sense of pessimism in the face of what feels like an endless tirade of accusations about environmental vandalism.

I can understand how sheep, beef and dairy farmers feel.

For three years as chief executive at New Zealand Pork dealing with animal welfare issues I had daily accusations that questioned my breeding, my heritage, my integrity and my morals. 

I was threatened and to this day my home phone number isn’t listed.

So what is my response and my advice to farmers right now? 

It is to remember what is true. . . 

Look to today’s young talented people for tomorrow’s solutions – Mark Townshend:

Farmer and former Fonterra board member Mark Townshend explains ten things that may help transition farmers through to the next generation of successful dairying and food production. 1. Find the right people aged 30-45 to lead the dairy industry for the next 20 years.

  1. In my early farming years, the key names were Graham, Spring, McKenzie, Young, Storey, Calvert, Frampton, Fraser and Gibson — all capably leading NZ dairy. The founding of Fonterra brought a complete changing of the guard. The old man of the team was John Roadley (age mid 50s) and the team of van der Heyden, Bayliss, Rattray, Gent and van der Poel were all early-mid 40s. Do not look to yesterday’s people to solve tomorrow’s issues.

2. Work hard to attract the best human talent we can to the industry. We can have the best milk, produced more efficiently than anywhere in the world and produced in a more environmentally and animal friendly manner. But all of our challenges will be solved not by cows, weather or milk, but by smart people. Dairying in NZ needs to attract top quality people to the industry to meet the inevitable challenges. Encourage good people into farming and direct poor people out of farming. . . 

Forestry and silt in candidates’ sights at Havelock election meeting – Chloe Ranford:

Marlborough’s mayoral and Sounds ward candidates put their greenest foot forward at a pre-election debate as environmental issues dominated.

The candidate meeting at the Havelock Town Hall on Wednesday, hosted by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the Marlborough Express, drew an audience of about 50.

Current ward councillor David Oddie said the forestry industry needed to take a “serious look at itself” after an audience member questioned why the Marlborough District Council hadn’t taken action against the practice of planting trees on roadside strips in the Sounds.

“It just gets back to the endless encouragement from central government to plant forestry. That has got to change … but it’s been a slow road,” he said. . . 

NZ’s big pest bust: how do we kill the last survivors? – Jamie Morton:

Scientists have begun investigating how to wipe out the last surviving pests in New Zealand’s bold bid to rid itself of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

A new $7.5 million programme, led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientists, aims to overcome what’s long been a headache for predator-busting efforts – how to eliminate that final 5 per cent which manage to hang on.

The Government’s ambitious Predator Free 2050 initiative required scientific breakthroughs that could lift the kill rate to 100 per cent – a much more expensive prospect than just knocking out most of a population. . . 

US craft brewers chase unique Kiwi hop flavours – Rebecca Black:

New Zealand hops are in demand in the United States as craft beer brewers compete to achieve a point of difference.

The Tasman District produces distinct flavours that can not be replicated, according to Jason Judkins, chief executive of Nelson’s Hop Revolution, and US brewers are keen to use New Zealand hops to stand out among competitors.

Judkins visited 50 breweries on a recent trip the the US. . . 

 

Ag secretary: No guarantee small dairy farms will survive – Todd Richmond:

President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary said Tuesday during a stop in Wisconsin that he doesn’t know if the family dairy farm can survive as the industry moves toward a factory farm model.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it’s getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Mr. Perdue said. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” . . 


Hug a farmer

August 20, 2019

Jill Thorp says farmers have had enough of being told they are to blame for climate change:

If you leave your car running in the garage overnight and sleep next to it, you’ll be dead in the morning. If you put five cows, five sheep and five pigs in the garage overnight and sleep next to them, you will warm and alive. We need to get real about the effects of these gases.

We also need to take the nutrient value into account. Running cars produce no nutrients, raising animals provides nutritious food. Most of New Zealand’s is exported and feeds about 40 million people, nearly 10 times the country’s population.

Not my words, but those of a New Zealand farmer, tired of being continuously blamed for global warming. I also learnt recently that depending on the time of day and year, there are 8,000 to 20,000 planes mid flight at any given moment. Yet the accusatory finger of blame for rising temperatures, extreme weather and flooding seems to be pointed firmly in the direction of farmers.

Producing food is necessary, how many of those flights could be called necessary?

I’m tired of being told we as farmers are responsible for so much damage, that it is us that must cease our environmentally destructive ways. What short memories the general public seem to have. Have we not fed a nation for generations, even during times of crisis?

Without the labours of farmers, the country would have been starved into submission during the First World War, but still the criticism rains down on us.

As hill farmers we are told to re-wet the uplands, block up the drains and gullies to prevent flooding. But when that bucket becomes full, that sponge saturated, where will the water go then? . . 

This is the view of an English farmer and her anger is shared by farmers all over the world, not least in New Zealand. We’re the only country where the government is proposing to tax emissions from farm animals and Politik warns of more to come:

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is warning that dairy farmers may find themselves struggling when they have to meet new Government environmental requirements likely to be unveiled within the next few weeks. . . 

{David} Parker is proposing a National Environmental Standard on freshwater which is essentially a regulation which local Councils must enforce, usually through their planning process.

Speaking in Northland a week ago he said the Government would shortly set clearer and stronger national direction for councils on freshwater standards.

The standard is expected to set nitrate discharge limits for farms.

It is expected these will be expressed in such a way as to make it all but impossible to convert non-dairy land to dairying from now on. . . 

Will these standards apply only to farming? What about the many councils with inferior storm water and sewerage systems that allow regular pollution of waterways?

Federated Farmers asks why are we only talking about farming?

New data from Statistics New Zealand makes it clear every sector of our society, including families, need to lift their game on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s just as we’ve been saying for years on the topic of water quality, we’re all in this together and we’ll solve it by everyone doing their bit,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

Stats NZ’s “Environmental-economic accounts” shows that emissions from households, mainly from their transport use decisions, jumped 19.3% in the decade to 2017, outstripping both growth in the population and emissions by industry.

Farmers produce food, most of which is exported which brings many benefits to New Zealand. I doubt much of the household transport had more than a personal benefit.

The nation’s total emissions decreased by 0.9% between 2007 and 2017, with greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture dropping at a rate of 0.1% each year.  These small reductions came during a decade when agriculture’s contribution to GDP grew at a rate of 1.8%, indicating increased production efficiency.

Growth in dairy emissions was offset by reductions by sheep, beef and grain farming.

“New Zealand has an unusual emissions profile worldwide because we rely so much on our primary industries to earn our living in the world.  However, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, not methane from animals, is the real climate change culprit and instead of expecting farmers to do all the heavy lifting, it’s time for every New Zealander to look at their lifestyles and choices, particularly in terms of transport,” Hoggard says.

“Planting out thousands of hectares of productive farmland with pine trees isn’t a long-term and sustainable answer to the problem.”

The right tree in the right place for the right reason is a good policy.

Subsidising forestry to incentivise planting pines on productive farmland is bad policy with a high economic, environmental and social cost.

Climate alarmists and other critics of farming are quick to criticise. They conveniently overlook the positive contribution farmers make to the environment, for example nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s native vegetation is on sheep and beef farms:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation cover (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land.

The report also estimates that 1.4 million hectares of New Zealand’s native forest is on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) CEO Sam McIvor says, “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we now have evidence to back up their passionate voices”.

The report, commissioned by B+LNZ, was undertaken by Professor David Norton from the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. Supported by Auckland University of Technology staff, the report used satellite imagery to assess the amount of native vegetation, focusing on native forest, occurring on sheep and beef farms in New Zealand.

“The 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation on sheep and beef farms are critical for biodiversity conservation on farms and for landscape-level biodiversity outcomes,” says Professor Norton.

This finding is particularly important in places where there is little native cover remaining, like those in lower altitudes, on more gentle slopes, and in drier regions,” says Professor Norton.

B+LNZ’s Sam McIvor says, “The environment is a cornerstone for our sector and underpins everything that we do at Beef + Lamb New Zealand. This report helps highlight not only the role sheep and beef farms currently play in contributing to New Zealand’s biodiversity, but will also help us identify opportunities to build on this as a sector”.

The report is also relevant to the proposed zero carbon legislation. While further research is needed, the 1.4 million hectares of native forest will be sequestering carbon and most of this is unlikely to be counted in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. Further research is now being undertaken to measure the potential of this native forest to sequester carbon, and this work will help inform B+LNZ’s and farmers’ input into the Zero Carbon Bill.

Along with surveying the extent of native vegetation, the report highlights that New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is potentially unique globally in terms of the amount of native forest on its land.

The release of this report is one of the first steps for B+LNZ in implementing its environment strategy, which aims for clean freshwater around farms, for the sector to be carbon neutral by 2050, for sheep and beef farms to provide habitats that support thriving biodiversity, and to support healthy productive soils.

New Zealand farmers are recognised around the world as the most efficient producers of food but like prophets are too often not appreciated at home.

National’s Primary Industry spokesman Todd Muller is leading the charge to move from condemning farmers to celebrating them.

It is time to call out the deliberate narrative, being fuelled by this Government that our agriculture sector, and the farming families that underpin it, are climate and environmental villains.

It started over a decade ago with the dirty dairying campaign and has now widened to include all our animal food producing sectors.

These voices are no longer at the extreme of our community debate but rather at the centre of our government.

At the core of their belief is that our future world cannot sustain animal food production and we should start weaning ourselves off the animal protein diet in order to improve our health and environment. . . 

We need to move the conversation from condemnation to celebration.

The fact is that New Zealand’s farming systems are extremely efficient, and we lead the way in producing high quality products within a low emissions profile.

And we do it without subsidies.

Our environmental footprint is improving as technology is matched by our farmers’ ever willingness to adapt, change and innovate.

Our primary sector understands our reputation as a safe producer of food must be underpinned by sustainable farming practices.

They accept change is a constant, in fact global leadership in food production demands it, but surely it is reasonable to ask that the society in which we produce it to quietly applaud our efforts, rather than rushing to find an example of failure in one of our 23,000 farms and dressing it up as typical.

Tarring all farmers with the dirty brush a very few deserve is unfair and unjustified.

Of course, too much meat can be detrimental, and clearly plant-based foods are essential for a balanced diet. But the health benefits of including meat and dairy in your diet are well documented and a balanced diet must be encouraged.

A recent briefing from MPI’s Chief Science Advisor into the EAT-Lancet Commission report showed that many of the reports condemning meat and dairy production are using generalisations regarding the environmental footprint of farming, and are not taking New Zealand’s superior farming systems into consideration.

Globally, the concerns around red meat production stems from the intensive feedlot industry that can house tens of thousands of animals at each site, and require excessive amounts of water and grain to maintain their systems.

New Zealand farms are overwhelmingly pasture based. Our farming systems are not comparable in the least to a feedlot system.

It’s neither fair, nor accurate,to paint us with the brush that tars far less efficient producers in other countries.

It’s telling that we can produce enough food to feed 40 million people globally and are still the most carbon efficient producer in the world based on output of food compared to emissions produced.

A glass of New Zealand milk can be shipped to the next most efficient country (Ireland) to be consumed there, and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

This shows how ahead of the curve we really are. The UK Guardian responded to the recent climate change report by declaring – ‘Eat more NZ Lamb’. This seems to be lost in the ninth floor of the Beehive. . . 

New Zealand is at the forefront of efficient food production, and therefore if we’re to lower our global emissions we should be leading the way, not constraining ourselves and diminishing our output.

The world needs more food produced efficiently as we do it, not less.

One final reality check – 56 per cent of New Zealand’s exports are food.

New Zealand is a little country at the bottom of the world that needs to produce stuff to survive.

Every time we buy pharmaceuticals, cars or computers from the rest of the world we need to pay for it by selling them something. As a country with a small population but a large natural resource base, this tends to be food and materials, minerals or tourism.

This is a very important point that those who pull farming down miss. Farming isn’t something farmers do for their own sakes. They do it to produce the food the world wants and pays for which in turn pays for the imports we don’t, and often can’t, produce ourselves.

This Government has already shown a recklessness when it comes to our oil, gas and mining sectors.

Let’s not allow them to take the same approach to our farmers. Our standard of living depends on it.

A Labour government led us into the ag-sag of the 1980s. Some might argue about the way forcing us to face the real world without subsidies was done, but no good farmer wants them back because farming, and New Zealand are better without them.

That can’t be said about the current poor policies.  Farmers are deeply afraid that the anti-farming policies of this Labour-led government will create another ag-sag, the effects of which will be harsher and far longer-lasting than last century’s.

Anyone who thinks that’s okay should remember that most farmers managed to hang onto their farms during the ag-sag, it was the businesses which serviced and supplied them where jobs were lost and which often failed. The impact of that moved from the country to towns and then cities.

Farming is a handy scapegoat for people taking a political and bureaucratic response to environmental challenges rather than a scientific one but it’s still a major contributor to New Zealand’s economic and social fabric.

That’s why Proud To Be A Farmer was set up a few years ago:

[It]is a campaign aimed at raising the positive profile of agriculture, raising the morale of Farmers and reminding the rural community and the agriculture sector, and indeed New Zealand as a whole, that we have much to be proud of in the Farming industry. We tell the good stories of New Zealand Agriculture, providing much needed balance, and inspiring people to take Pride in their Farms and Farmers.

More recently, Ag Proud NZ was set up on Facebook to focus on good farming practices and the mental health of farmers.

Yesterday Jesse Mulligan interviewed the managing director of AGFIRST, James Allen, on the rising costs of farming .

In response to a question on what people could do to help, he said hug a farmer.

The vast majority of New Zealanders probably don’t know any farmers well enough to hug them, but all should look behind the emotion and false claims that are damning the industry and as Muller says, move from condemnation to celebration.

 

 


Science when it suits again

August 16, 2019

The government is ignoring its own scientific advice over setting methane reduction targets:

Advice to the Government from MPI’s officials shows that the Government’s proposed methane reduction targets go well beyond the science of what is needed for New Zealand to meet its 1.5⁰C Paris Agreement commitments and was purely a political decision made in Cabinet.

“Official’s advice validates the arguments we have been making that methane does not need to reduce by the amount proposed by the Government in the Zero Carbon Bill in order to limit warming to no more than 1.5⁰C,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s CEO Sam McIvor.

Mr McIvor’s comments are also echoed by DairyNZ’s CEO Dr Tim Mackle.

“The agricultural sector has consistently said that the Government is asking farmers to do more than what’s required, and more than what’s being asked by other sectors of the economy, and this has been confirmed by the Government’s own advice”, says Dr Mackle.

“We are willing to play our part to address climate change and want to have a transparent and science based discussion about what that should be.”

The government can’t ask us to accept the science on climate change then ignore it in responding.

While the Government referenced the IPCC report, in applying the target for a global reduction in methane emissions to New Zealand, they have conveniently omitted the IPCC’s caveat that makes clear these global targets shouldn’t simply be slapped on individual countries.

It is also ignoring the Paris Accord which stipulates that cliamte change mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

“The combined effect of the excessive methane targets and net zero target for nitrous oxide, which even go beyond the IPCC’s advice for this gas, means that New Zealand is effectively aiming to go below 1.5 degrees and by doing so, letting other countries off the hook,” says Mr McIvor.

The Government is even being inconsistent in its own statements in saying it has relied on IPCC advice, with parliamentary written questions showing it did not seek any specific advice from the IPCC in doing this.  Instead the Government has cherry picked the numbers it wanted and gone with the highest ranges it could find for methane, as well as going beyond what the IPCC recommended for nitrous oxide.

Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard says that the advice from MPI vindicates the sector’s position that the Government has opted for a political target on methane rather than a scientific one.

“When the IPCC explicitly states their global methane reduction targets shouldn’t be used as national targets, and Article 2 of the Paris Agreement requires countries to set targets in a manner that doesn’t threaten food production and to take into account different national circumstances, it’s disappointing that the Government has opted to pursue a political target agreed at Cabinet to make it feel good on the world stage regardless of its lack of scientific backing or the disastrous consequences it could have on New Zealand’s food producers,” says Mr Hoggard.

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, and Federated Farmers, while all having made individual submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, are united in their view that the proposed 24-47 percent target is too high and are encouraging the Government to take a science-based approach that reflects the fact that methane only needs to reduce by a small amount each year in order to contribute no additional warming.

The government is proposing unrealistic targets. Even trying to meet them will come at a high cost, in both economic and social terms, with no environmental gain.

In doing so it is using only the science that suits it again.

There is a better way – setting realistic targets and working with agricultural groups to drive real behaviour change on farm:

Sector organisations have put forward an alternative Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment – He Waka Eke Noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework to help the rural sector reduce its footprint.

“We want to play our part and take action. That’s why we have put forward a credible five-year work plan with clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes” Dr Mackle says.  

“Our proposed plan is a collective initiative across multiple agricultural sectors, and includes rolling out Farm Environment Plans for all farms by 2025 to ensure every farmer knows their emissions footprint, where on farm those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them”.

Having reliable data is important so that a farmer can make decisions and trade-offs factoring in resilience, profitability, and all the business decisions that need to be weighed up.

“We are asking the Government to partner with the agricultural sector to develop and deliver targeted programmes of action and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. We strongly believe that working in partnership is the best approach to deliver real change” Dr Mackle added.

“DairyNZ does not support a levy on farmers in the ETS at processor level because it won’t drive the behaviour change to reduce emissions.

“It will take money out of farmers pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.

“Safeguarding the environment and maintaining a sustainable and competitive dairy sector is very important to our farmers, customers, and consumers. 

“Farmers care about the environment and are continuously refining their farm systems to improve environmental outcomes.“The dairy sector is committed to playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions alongside the rest of the New Zealand, but policy responses need to be fair and they need to drive the right behaviours” Dr Mackle concluded.

DairyNZ’s submission on Action on agricultural emissions can be found here.

The government has a choice – it can set realistic targets for methane reduction and work with the primary sector to achieve sustainable on-farm changes; or it can ignore the science and impose unrealistic targets providing neither the tools nor incentives farmers need to make a positive difference to their practices and the environment.


Rural round-up

May 20, 2019

Focused on fixing the Zero Carbon Bill – Sam McIvor:

Sheep and beef farmers are on the frontline in dealing with the impacts of climate change and we’ve been ahead of the ball in responding to it.

That’s why we’ve publicly said the government’s Zero Carbon Bill is far from perfect, and we’ve been telling the government that things need to change in order to ensure that the bill treats all sectors of the economy equitably and justly in responding to climate change.

We’ve put together a comprehensive factsheet on the Zero Carbon Bill that I encourage you to read, as it’s vital that farmers understand why getting this bill fixed is so important for our sector.
There’s elements of the Zero Carbon Bill we do support, as they’re sensible and based in sound science:  . . .

Farmers air frustrations over climate change blame – Abbey Palmer:

Tension lay heavy in a room full of farmers this week, many of them feeling as though the whole country had been pointing the finger at them.

Climate change initiated an emotive response at the Southland Federated Farmers annual meeting at the Invercargill Working Men’s Club on Wednesday.

An attendee said he could no longer turn on the TV or radio without facing backlash from the public for being a farmer.

Federated Farmers member Stuart Collie said it seemed Parliament was encouraging the public to “attack” the farming and agricultural industries for the state of the environment. . .

More notices issued in Southland in relation to bovis – Blair Jackson:

The Ministry of Primary Industries say 22 Southland farms have been given notices of direction relating to Mycoplasma bovis in the past two weeks.

MPI regional recovery manager Richard McPhail said 22 more farmers now had restricted movement of cattle from their properties.

The news was announced at the Federated Farmers Southland AGM in Invercargill on Wednesday. . . 

Dairy with a delicate touch – Gerhard Uys:

The business of milking sheep is all about happy, skipping and jumping sheep for Felicity Cameron and at her Waikato dairy the welfare of her sheep seems to be paying off. Gerhard Uys reports.

If ever there was a Jill of all trades who ended up master of one, Felicity Cameron is it.

Cameron grew up in a Hawke’s Bay farming family. From a young age she took every opportunity to gain farming experience from family members and friends who also made a living from the land.

At 17 she began dairy farming full time. . .

Summerfruit NZ plans big spend for industry growth – Yvonne O’Hara:

Summerfruit New Zealand (SNZ) is planning to spend nearly $17 million during the next seven years to grow the summerfruit industry.

SNZ board chairman Tim Jones, of Cromwell, said the strategy was designed to move the industry forward as well as make money.

Two consultation meetings with growers and other industry stakeholders were held in Alexandra and Napier last week to outline its Sensational Summerfruit:A bold plan for growth programme and ask for feedback. . .

Bay of Plenty animal feed company Fiber Fresh Feeds in receivership:

A Bay of Plenty animal feed company which employs about 45 people has gone into receivership.

Fiber Fresh Feeds is based in Reporoa and has developed high-performance animal feed formulas, predominantly for horse and calf feed.

The company has more than 30 years’ experience in the field, receivers from financial advisory firm KordaMentha said in a statement.

It sells both within New Zealand, and to Japan, Australia and the Middle East. . .

Farm launches therapeutic horse meditation sessions

A Cumbrian hill farm has launched workshops that offer visitors meditation and therapy sessions with horses.

According to the farm, visitors can ‘escape for the day’ to an environment where the ‘stresses of the modern world are stripped away’.

Each retreat begins with a session of yoga, followed by meditation with the horses. . .


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