Rural round-up

May 27, 2019

Lobby group 50 Shades of Green calls for pause on blanket forestry – Heather Chalmers:

The Government needs to hit the pause button on policies which have led to thousands of hectares of hill country farmland being converted to blanket forestry in the last year, a newly-formed lobby group says. 

50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick said significant land use change was happening and its speed and scale had caught everyone by surprise.  

“It has snowballed so quickly that we need to hit the pause button and ask whether this is what we intended to happen.  . . 

Too much regulation can bring unintended consequences – Simon Davies:

Although you may not think some regulations apply to your farming business you’d be wrong, writes Federated Farmers Otago provincial president Simon Davies.

Regulation is part of life.

But the thing is I really did not appreciate how much of my life, and more importantly my farming business, was captured by legislation and regulations.

This can’t be highlighted better than since the last election. . .

Farmers own’t forget Jones’ outburst – Steve Wyn-Harris:

So now Shane Jones has decided to put the boot into farmers.

I thought he was touting and self-styling himself as the champion of the regions.

There’s his party doing everything it can over the last few years to portray itself as a reinvented country party and even getting grudging respect from the rural rump as the handbrake on the potential excesses of a centre-left government.

Then. in one manic outburst, he ensured not many farmers or rural folk will consider voting for him or his party next year. . . 

Tough times ahead :

Dairy farmers will be under pressure from the low start to Fonterra’s new season advance rates, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says.

“Cash is king for farmers because of seasonal conditions, demands for debt repayment from the banks and the rising tide of on-farm costs,” he said.

The forecast of the fourth $6-plus season in a row is welcome but farm working expenses have gone up 50c a kilogram of milksolids over the past couple of years and margins are tight. . . 

From potatoes to coffee, plant breeders are changing crops to adapt to an uncertain climate future – Sam Bloch:

We tend to view the effects of climate change through the lens of the worst and most dramatic disasters, from hurricanes and floods to forest fires. But farmers have a more mundane fear: that as weather becomes more extreme and varied, their land will no longer support the crops they grow. We’ve grown accustomed to living in a world where salad greens thrive in California, and Iowa is the land of corn. But even in the absence of a single, catastrophic event, conventional wisdom about what grows best where may no longer apply.

“People who depend on the weather and hawk its signs every day know it’s getting wetter, warmer, and weirder, and have recognized it for some time,” Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Storm Lake Times, a twice-weekly Iowa newspaper, wrote for us in December. “The climate assessment predicts more of it and worse. Ag productivity will be set back to 1980s levels unless there is some unforeseen breakthrough in seed and chemical technology.” . . 

Industry urged to seize opportunities to communicate with public:

People working in every part of the Scottish red meat industry were today (Friday 24th May) urged by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to support forth-coming campaigns and seize every opportunity to communicate the industry’s positive messages.

Speaking at a briefing to announce QMS’s ambitious activity plans for the year ahead, Kate Rowell, QMS Chair, emphasised a key focus of the organisation’s activity for the 2019/20 year will be to upweight the important work it does to protect, as well as promote, the industry.

“The work we do to protect and enhance the reputation of the industry has never been more important,” said Mrs Rowell. . . 

 


OIO favours forestry over farming

May 23, 2019

A newsletter from 50 Shades of Green points out that Overseas Investment Office rules favour forestry over farming:

The unfair advantage.
Did you know, the threshold for farm sales approval is different for farms selling to farmers than it is for farms selling to forestry investors?Forestry doesn’t have to meet the jobs criteria.  Double whammy again, taking out valuable land and jobs at the same time, impacting local communities and displacing jobs.  Sheep + Beef estimate 7  jobs are displaced for 1 forestry job.
We  don’t think the general public is aware of the indications of 5 million hectares of pine trees, what that looks like in 40, 50 years time, and much of  it, with sink initiatives,  not likely to be harvested

 

It is ironic that Shane Jones the self-proclaimed savior of the regions who has the $3 billion provincial slush fund to throw around to create jobs, is also the Minister promoting the billion trees policy which will kill them.

The Paris Accord states that climate change policy should not conflict with food production but Alan Emerson writes that trees are being planted at the expense of food:

Every now and then we hear some idiot describing agriculture as being a sunset industry despite the fact we contribute 79.3% of the country’s wealth.

What we should be discussing is New Zealand becoming a sunset economy because it will be if the Government’s ad hoc response to climate change continues along the line it’s going.

For the record, I accept the climate is changing, human activity has done it and we need to do something to fix it.

What I don’t accept is all the Wellington centric crazy fixes that are, in the main, anti-farmer and without the benefit of solid science and economic calculations grounded in reality.

NZ won’t survive without agriculture.

It is still agriculture which earns most of our export income.

Its carbon footprint per kilogram of product is one of the lowest in the world and we’re producing a lot more with less input than we’ve ever done.

If you take nutrient density into account New Zealand farm produce stacks up even better.

In addition, as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said, pines are fine for mitigating methane emissions but not for carbon dioxide.

The people who criticize anyone who won’t accept the science on climate change won’t accept this science, nor will they accept the science on gene-editing that could help us reduce methane emissions.

So, why are we planting a billion trees?

Another question is where are we planting them? In Wairarapa we’ve recently lost seven good farms to forestry and that is a major issue.

At Pongaroa they’ve lost between 6000 and 8000 hectares to forestry.

It was interesting to read in last week’s Farmers Weekly Rabobank believes farm forestry will become more appealing. Sustainability analyst Blake Holgate said Government incentives make forestry a more appealing land use option at the cost of food production.

He also said forestry provides opportunity to generate income from area that has been unproductive.

I agree with both statements but was somewhat amazed by comments from Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir who claimed millions of hectares of land for forestry isn’t available. He suggested very little land is being bought for forestry, which I disagree with.

Simply put, my position is there is a lot of marginal land that could go into trees and provide extra income for farmers. That’s good.

Good, productive land and entire farms going into forestry at the expense of food production is bad.

The discussion takes me back to the Muldoon government in the 1970s with its Land Development Encouragement Loans.

Money was available to farmers to clear native bush with the aim of improving NZ Inc’s performance.

So 940,000 hectares were cleared and a massive amount of biodiversity was lost but much of it has since reverted and some has been planted in pines.

Some areas should never have been cleared in the first place and it makes both environmental and financial sense to replant them in trees.

But planting trees on land best suited to producing food will come at a high economic and social cost for no real environmental gain.

Simply, the subsidy didn’t work.

Now we have a subsidy to plant trees, millions of them.

Subsidies are an evil from the past and distort the market. They have no future in a modern economy.

While I applaud Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ aim of revitalising the regions I believe his forestry initiative will achieve exactly the opposite.

He needs to change advisers.

Let’s look at the facts.

According to the NZ Forestry Bulletin Jones’ billion trees mean 50,000 hectares a year is taken out of production.

To achieve the Productivity Commission’s goals, however, would require 100,000 hectares to be taken out of production each and every year for three decades – a total of three million hectares.

That’s almost a third of our total farmland and it won’t be marginal but productive, food-producing country.

Wairarapa farmer and ram breeder Derek Daniell has done his sums.

For a start every thousand hectares of sheep and beef farms employs seven people each and every year. The same amount of forestry supports one.

That is six jobs lost for every farm that is converted to forestry.

What will that do to provincial NZ?

One retired meat company director told me the removal of stock for trees on the North Island’s east coast would mean the closure of one meat processing works.

What will that do to the provinces?

An economist suggested the value to the country of a hectare of sheep and beef is about $55,000.

At Pongaroa, taking the lowest figure of land out of production, that would mean a loss to their economy of $330m.

What will that loss achieve for the provinces?

Then we have trees harvested every 25-30 years. That’s a long time to wait for a pay cheque.

The money in the interim will be from carbon farming but according Upton that isn’t sustainable.

Further, what is to stop some political party changing the ETS, as has happened.

Relying on political whim for your pay cheque doesn’t spin my wheels.

When it comes to pollution and carbon footprints Daniell points to the cities and not the provinces

The problem is that even with the best of intentions from Jones that instead of forestry boosting the provincial economy it will destroy it.

The madness needs to stop.

You can read more from 50 Shades of Green and subscribe to their newsletter here.


Rural round-up

May 18, 2019

‘A recipe for disaster’: Rural lobby group launched to oppose billion trees policy – Angie Skerrett:

A lobby group has been formed as concern grows about the impact of the Government’s billion trees policy on rural communities.

The group, named 50 Shades of Green, aims to convince politicians and decision makers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces, and ultimately the New Zealand economy.

Spokesperson Andy Scott said converting whole farms to trees, often by foreign companies was a recipe for disaster.

“In the Wairarapa there have been seven farms moved from production, in Pongaroa there has been between 6000 and 8000 hectares planted in trees,” he said . .

Group targets tree policy – Colin Williscroft:

The Government’s goal of planting a billion trees will destroy the provincial heartland and the New Zealand economy, a new lobby group says.

The group, 50 Shades of Green, has grown out of concerns held by Wairarapa farmers and businesspeople but spokesman Mike Butterick is confident people from around the country will jump on board.

Productive farmland is at risk from the tree-planting policy, Butterick says.

“It’s essential that as a country we stop and think about the long-term impact that will have.” . .

Ag sacrifice – Annette Scott:

The Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic and unfair and there’s little sense in sacrificing New Zealand’s economic backbone in the Zero Carbon Bill, Deer Industry NZ chairman Ian Walker says.

The deer industry is disappointed by the Government’s agricultural emissions reduction targets that will result in significant reductions in stock numbers. 

Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in future the level of reduction will effectively mean the agriculture sector is being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming but also offset the contribution of other sectors. . .

Forestry ‘gold rush’ underway in Wairoa :

Warnings a modern day gold rush is underway as productive farm land is sold to make room for lucrative forestry. Farmers and community leaders in Wairoa have become the latest group to raise concerns, estimating around ten-thousand hectares of the region’s most productive land has recently been sold to out-of-town investors wanting to plant trees for harvest and carbon credits. They’re worried thousands of jobs could be lost from the area, and communities seriously affected, if it continues. The government’s one billion trees programme continues – this week, Shane Jones, the Minister in charge of the programme announced a further $ 58 million for forestry to help Forestry NZ increase its regional presence.  . .

Living under the Zero Carbon Act – Andrew Hoggard:

I have been a farmer for the majority of my working life. Like any farmer, I always look at what I can do to make the farm better, to improve production, or just make life easier. I don’t know whether my girls will want to go farming or do something else, but at the back of my mind when I think about what we do on farm there is always that long term view, of making it better for the next generation.

With the Zero Carbon Act announcement some are saying that it’s far away, what are you worried about? But it is not far away, it’s just the next generation away. For me I don’t look at those targets and think about what the right PR spin thing to say now is, to improve the corporate brand, and who cares if the farmers can’t achieve it? . .

Sheep farming is not to blame for climate change – Gordon Davidson:

SHEEP INDUSTRY leaders have hit back at the ‘fashionable’ argument that UK consumers can help reduce climate change by eating less red meat, and argued instead that UK sheepmeat should be the ‘environmentally conscious person’s meat of choice’.

Responding to the Committee for Climate Change and the UN’s nature report, National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said that some of the recommendations being made to consumers were ‘unbalanced, based on inadequate science, and understood little about the UK sheep industry’.

“It is really frustrating to yet again see our extensive livestock sectors caught up within criticisms of agriculture and their impact on climate change and biodiversity, and little mention of other damaging activities, that may be less popular to criticise,” said Mr Stocker. “It is seemingly OK to offset emissions from flying around the world through carbon sequestering actions such as tree planting and peatland management, but not OK for a farm to do its own internal offsetting. . .

 


Rural round-up

May 17, 2019

Time for agricultural industry to lead the way – Anna Campbell:

It seems a long time ago that National MP Shane Ardern rode ”Myrtle”, his elderly tractor, up the parliamentary steps in protest at the proposed ”fart tax”.

That was back in 2003 and there have been many iterations of carbon reduction schemes since then with agriculture sliding along relatively unscathed. One did feel that it was only a matter of time before the grace period was over. Climate change has not gone away, a raft of regulations are on their way, but they do look a little different from what we were expecting.

The biggest difference to the current scheme versus previous schemes is the split gas regime, where methane is treated separately due to its shorter lifespan in the atmosphere – the target is a 10% reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, with a provisional reduction of 24% to 47% by 2050. . . 

‘Major reset’ for honey industry – Yvone O’Hara:

There has been strong growth by the honey industry during the past few years but with demand and prices dropping by as much as 50% compared to the previous season, there will be belt tightening and rationalisation, Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says.

She said the strong growth and good returns in the past few years had attracted a lot of new entrants to the industry.

However, the domestic and international markets have been ”a bit sluggish”. . . 

Katie Milne responds to Shane Jones’ claim that farmers are ‘moaners‘:

Farmers have come under fire this week from MP Shane Jones, who says they need to stop “bitching and moaning”. Jones launched into farmers while talking to host Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday. But what do farmers say in response? Mackay catches up with one of Jones’ targets, Federated Farmers president Katie Milne, who says the urban/rural divide has damaged people’s opinions of farmers.

“I don’t like the term ‘whingeing’,” says Katie Milne. “But we do like to highlight and try to talk to the issues that do affect us that people do have control over.”

The Federated Farmers president is responding to claims from the Minister of Forestry and Regional Economic Development Shane Jones that farmers are moaners. . . 

Facts ‘overrated’ in farming’s fight for social licence – Glen Herud:

There’s the “thing” and there’s the perception of the “thing” and they are not the same thing.

You could say, there’s the “dairy farm” and there’s the perception of the “dairy farm” and they are not the same thing.

You can change the thing but that doesn’t necessarily change the perception of the thing. . . 

FarmStrong: Shearer’s look after top paddock :

An initiative in the wool harvesting industry is changing traditional attitudes to injury prevention and wellbeing and it’s not just shearing crews who are benefiting.  

Times are changing in the woolshed, Shearing Contractors’ Association spokesman Mark Barrowcliffe says.

He’s been running his King Country business for nearly 20 years, employing up to 50 staff at peak season. . .

Busby takes the feijoa for New Zealand’s oldest sheep – Tracey Neal:

Busby’s genetic roots might lie in the blustery North Sea island of Texel, but the owners of what was possibly New Zealand’s oldest sheep said he has thrived on a more gentle lifestyle.

The Texel-Romney cross wether is estimated by Lynley and Barry Bird to be 24-years-old, measured against the ages of their now-adult children who rescued him as a lamb. . .


Reason to moan

May 16, 2019

Jamie McKay challenged Shane Jones on The Country yesterday and got this response:

“I grew up on a farm, my dad was a farmer, I know what farmers are like and if they’re not milking cows or chasing cows, they’re moaning.”

I don’t agree with that, but there is good reason for farmers to moan under the current government.

The Labour and Green parties don’t pretend to like farmers or farming but New Zealand First likes to call itself the champion of the provinces.

How can it champion the provinces when this is how it’s second most prominent MP regards farmers?

You can listen to the interview and the response from Don Nicolson and Craig Wiggins here.

 


If water storage is good . . .?

April 10, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $18.5 million in water storage to unlock land use potential in the Mid North, Regional Economic Development.

“Up to $18.5 million will be invested to help investigate and, if feasible, construct community-scale water storage and use options in Kaipara and Mid North,” Shane Jones said.

“This project is the largest PGF investment to date in water storage. Regional Economic Development Ministers backed the proposal because of the real opportunities that ensuring a more reliable water supply could bring to the region – up to $150m in increased horticulture earnings per year and up to 1150 jobs created.

“The region is vulnerable to droughts and floods, so better access to water will give landowners greater options to utilise their land, develop new markets and maintain and grow a skilled workforce.

“This project is relatively small in scale, compared to proposed water projects in the past, and enjoys wide support from local government. It will alleviate pressure on surface and groundwater resources, and will reduce sedimentation, a key water quality issue for the region, as land use shifts towards horticulture.

“It will also mean better access to water for use on Māori-owned land – the development of which is a key objective for the PGF.” . . 

New Zealand has plenty of water, the problem is it doesn’t fall and flow evenly or conveniently where and when it’s needed.

Those of a very dark green persuasion say that’s nature’s way and we have to accept it.

Those with more moderate views say that water storage is the most environmentally friendly way to harness nature’s bounty – storing water when there’s more than enough, to use when there’s too little.

The economic and social benefits of this are clear – a reliable water supply provides insurance against the financial and human costs of droughts. There are also environmental benefits – the ability to maintain minimum flows in waterways which improves their health and that of the flora and fauna that live in them.

This is why the previous government provided funding for water storage. This government stopped that but is using the PGF to do it instead.

While supporting water storage, I have reservations about this funding.

Successful irrigation projects are driven from the water-users up, not the government down.

I also have a question – if water storage is good in Northland, why isn’t it good in other parts of the country which would have received government help under the previous government but won’t under this one?


Rural round-up

March 20, 2019

Trees pose big risk to farmland – Richard Rennie:

While a canopy of brick and tile subdivisions threatens farmland in flatter areas near the country’s major cities it is a canopy of trees that represents a greater threat to the sheep and beef industry’s capacity over coming years.

Land Squeeze Dinkus 1

The Government’s bold 50,000ha a year tree-planting policy for a low-carbon economy is the second part of the pincer that has pastoral New Zealand squeezed between urban land demand on the flats and forestry expectations on the hill country.

While farmers and growers on flatter country might face the challenge of urban sprawl, Beef + Lamb NZ policy-makers are more preoccupied with the impact millions of hectares of extra forest planting could have on the sector’s capacity, its insight manager Jeremy Baker says.

B+LNZ has welcomed Forestry Minister Shane Jones’ billion trees initiative, if done the right way with the right trees.  . . 

Migrant workers the backbone of the dairy industry, doing the work Kiwis won’t – Pat Deavoll:

Navdeep Singh has worked on dairy farms in New Zealand since 2007. Originally from India, he came to New Zealand in 2006 to study tourism at Lincoln University but gave away the course to go dairying.

“I started at the bottom and worked my way up to become a contract milker,” he says.

“I don’t want to go back to India where you can work, but you won’t get anywhere.” . . 

Another milestone looms for Roland Smith

Shearing giant Rowland Smith moved to the brink of a 150th open final win when he claimed the Waimarino Shears title for an 8th time in nine years on Saturday.

It was win number 149 for the 32-year-old Hawke’s Bay shearer who is in his 13th season of open-class shearing and who, after a successful breeze through the lowers grades, had his first open victory in January 2008 at Kaikohe.

He has had 14 wins in a row since starting the new year with a win at Wairoa on January 19, including gaining a place in this year’s World Championships by winning a 6th Golden Shears open title. . .

Action group think is paying dividends:

Like-minded farmers working together to improve their businesses’ productivity and profitability is paying dividends, Southland sheep farmer Pete Thomson, who’s part of a Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Group, says.

He is one of nine Southland farm businesses that have got together under the RMPP Action Network, a proven model for supporting small groups of farmers to turn ideas into on-farm action.

“It can get lonely out there as a farmer and this opportunity is exciting. . .

The Nelson family business that’s turning feijoas into a year-round treat – Amy Ridout:

When feijoa season begins, and trees buckle under the weight of the green fruit, the country grabs a spoon and feasts. And then, the feijoas are gone, and we’re left waiting for the next season.

Unless you can track down a packet of Little Beauties, that is. With his two sons, Ian Wastney’s Moutere operation dries and packages feijoa, kiwifruit and boysenberries, so we can enjoy the fruit year round.

The small factory is set in the heart of a 10 hectare feijoa orchard in Tasman, the largest in the South Island, Wastney says.  . . 

Ag’s $100b goal will work, but it needs more than farmers – Andrew Marshall:

Despite the odds, farmers can easily achieve Australia’s lofty ambition of reaching a $100 billion agricultural production goal by 2030.

However, big changes are needed within their regional communities to make it really happen.

Modern farms can’t survive, let alone flourish, without supportive, well serviced, well populated and digitally connected rural towns backing them up, last week’s Outlook 2019 conference was told – repeatedly. . . 


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