Rural round-up

February 17, 2016

Urban ideals quash rural spirit – Craig Wiggins:

Over the last few years I have stood in front of many, commentating rural sports in many rural communities in three different countries and feel it’s time to put some perspective into the emotive protests for and against rural activities.  

We have just witnessed the SAFE campaign against the dairy industry and through the summer the anti-rodeo campaign gaining media coverage.  As in the case of the SAFE coverage, it’s easy fodder for urban-based journalists to get consumer buy-in and notoriety for their own careers.  

I pat on the back anyone who is passionate about what they believe in or against and stand up for it.

I am, however, against sensationalising facts and issues in the pursuit of self-promotion and a win over others at all costs, whether it be the truth or not.  

To win an argument one should be more knowledgeable about the facts the opposing side is arguing than they are. . . 

Landcorp scraps Shanghai Pengxin deal – Neal Wallace:

Landcorp will not renew its sharemilking contract with Chinese corporate dairy farmers Shanghai Pengxin when it expires at the end of next season.  

This brings to an end an arrangement that started in November 2012 when Shanghai Pengxin bought 16 Central North Island dairy farms that belonged to the Crafar family. . . 

Alliance enforces shareholding commitment to match supply – Allan Barber:

After many years competing for livestock without compelling suppliers to invest in the full number of shares required in principle, Alliance Group has seized the opportunity offered by Silver Fern Farms’ likely shareholding change to review its capital base.

The uncharitable observer would presume this action is necessary to raise more capital for balance sheet or investment purposes. However Alliance chairman Murray Taggart is adamant this move is all about correcting the imbalance between those suppliers who are fully shared up and those who have made a lesser commitment. The adjustment will take place gradually in line with the rate of supply with deductions of 50 cents per lamb, sheep or calf, $2 per deer and $6 per head of cattle. . . 

Has our dairy industry gone too far? – Julian Lee:

We all know the importance of our dairy industry and its existence to our country.

It’s our number one industry — we get that.

But has dairy gone too far in the beautiful Mackenzie Country?

The Mackenzie Basin is a stunning piece of landscape in the South Island — a desert spotted with electric blue lakes surrounded by mountains.

It is the last place you would think you would want to put cows. . . 

Open Country Dairy posts record annual profit in 2015 – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Open Country Dairy, the dairy manufacturer controlled by Talley’s Group, posted a record annual profit last year even as revenue fell.

Profit increased 16 percent to $34.4 million in the year ended Sept. 30, 2015, according to the Auckland-based company’s annual report. Revenue slid 24 percent to $688 million while the cost of sales sank 28 percent to $620.5 million, according to the accounts.

The company didn’t pay a dividend and has previously said it was investing in infrastructure for future growth. . . 

Weaknesses in industry cohesion and international marketing are costing kiwi farmers:

Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre Chair Rick Powdrell is calling for action to be taken to address issues in the marketing of kiwi lamb overseas – particularly in the UK – to prevent our sheep farmers continuing to face low returns.

Speaking at Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Council in Wellington today, Mr Powdrell said meals featuring lamb had fallen 7% in the UK, while lamb consumption in the US was rising at 10% per year.

Mr Powdrell has just returned from the American Sheep Industry Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had seen first-hand some of the initiatives that are underpinning this growth. . . 


Rural round-up

November 6, 2015

Lochinver Station sells to New Zealand buyer:

One of New Zealand’s largest farms, Lochinver Station in the central North Island, will remain in New Zealand ownership following its sale for an undisclosed sum to privately owned New Zealand farming group Rimanui Farms Ltd.

It will take over the ownership of the 13,843 hectare sheep and beef station, upon settlement of the sale in March next year, from one of New Zealand’s largest private companies, Stevenson Group Limited, which has owned it for more than half a century.

Bayleys Real Estate recommenced marketing the property last month after the Government announced it had turned down an Overseas Investment Office application from Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s subsidiary Pure 100 to buy the property. . . 

IrrigationNZ calls for 350,000ha more land to be irrigated – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – IrrigationNZ is calling for a dramatic escalation in irrigation, saying New Zealand could bring water to an additional 350,000 hectares by 2025, boosting agricultural production and providing a buffer against weather events such as El Nino-induced drought.

The lobby group wants a 50 percent increase in irrigated land in the next 10 years, according to its industry snapshot released today. New Zealand currently has about 720,000 hectares of irrigated land, and IrrigationNZ has produced a map showing where irrigation could be expanded, pushing total watered land to more than 1 million hectares.

Chief executive Andrew Curtis said New Zealand’s primary production growth is being hampered by a lack of a reliable water supply, which ultimately holds back economic growth. . . 

No jobs?  move to the regions, urges govt:

Unemployed people are being urged to look to the regions for work by the government, after the unemployment rate broke the 6 percent mark yesterday.

The rate is now at its highest point in two years and economists have predicted that it is likely to rise further.

Listen to more on Morning Report ( 4 min 32 sec )

But Steven Joyce, Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment told Morning Report it was a “multi-regional story”, with lot of shifts around the country.

He said that in some regions such as Otago and Northland, there were shortages of people applying for jobs, and unemployed people should consider moving if they could. . . 

Forestry joins GIA biosecurity agreement:

The forestry industry has become the sixth industry group to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership, Primary Industries Ministers Nathan Guy and Jo Goodhew have announced today.

“It’s great to have the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) onboard, working with the Ministry for Primary Industries to manage and respond to the most important biosecurity risks,” says Mr Guy.

“A growing number of industries have now signed up to work together with the Government through the GIA.” . . 

Forest defence bolstered by agreement with government:

The Forest Owners Association says having a biosecurity agreement with the government is a vital part of the forest industry’s defence system.

FOA chief executive David Rhodes and primary industries minister Nathan Guy today signed what is known as a Government-Industry Agreement at Parliament. The agreement defines where responsibilities and costs will fall in the event of an outbreak of a serious forest pest or disease.

“For 50 years we have had a forest health surveillance scheme that is seen by overseas experts as one of the best in the world. But being ‘best’ is not good enough, we need it to be as near to perfect as we can make it,” says Mr Rhodes. . . 

FMG's photo.


Rural round-up

October 15, 2015

Farmer saved seed to be retained:

The recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks have created disappointing doomsayer discourse.

Some misinformed commentators have a view that farmers will be stopped from saving some seed from their crops.

NZ Plant Breeding and Research Association (PBRA) President Tom Bruynel says there is no intent at all by the seed industry to get rid of farmer saved seed.

He says the Association and the Arable Industry Group of Federated Farmers have been jointly saying that the right to save seed needs to be part of any updated plants legislation and there is agreement in principle that there be a fair and simple system of royalty collection for seed that has been kept back for sowing. . . .

Judicial review sought of Lochinver decision:

Pure 100 Farm Limited (Pure 100), a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin, is seeking a judicial review of the Government’s decision to decline its application to purchase Lochinver Station.

Announcing the decision, Terry Lee, Director of Milk New Zealand (a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin) said the aim of the review is to obtain clarity on the ‘counterfactual’ to be used when assessing sales of non-urban land of greater than 5 hectares to overseas investors.

“To assess the benefits of an investment in such land, the regulator assesses the application against 21 factors which are laid out in the Overseas Investment Act and the Overseas Investment Regulations. These benefits are assessed relative to what would have occurred if this particular investment was not to occur i.e. ‘the counterfactual’. . . 

Ploughing the perfect well-turned furrow – Kate Taylor:

The drawcard of ploughing competitions for Tirau farmer Angela Taylor are the challenge and the camaraderie.

“There’s a lot of technique to it and you need a lot of concentration,” she says.

“There’s the satisfaction of achieving and improving, and the pride when you look at the straight furrows afterwards.” . . .

Innovation key to food security – Daniel Kruithoff:

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has put innovation at the heart of the government’s efforts to improve the country’s global competitiveness.

The government’s renewed focus on the pivotal role innovation plays in helping us overcome complex challenges is welcome.

And I can think of no more complex challenge than sustainably producing enough food to meet rapidly rising global demand.

It is hard to not be alarmed by the looming collision of a rapidly growing population and a changing, more volatile climate. . . 

Organic GMOs Could Be The Future of Food — If We Let Them – Ferris Jabr:

Two years ago, I traveled to Woodland, California, to meet scientists who were developing tastier and more nutritious fruits and vegetables. On the way to the research center, my taxi driver asked what had brought me to town. “Well,” I started, “I’m a journalist and I’m here to visit Monsanto.” “Monsanto? They do all that unnatural GMO stuff, right?” “They do make a lot of GMOs,” I replied, “but the scientists I’m visiting do not use genetic engineering.” Instead, they perform marker-assisted breeding. They chip off tiny bits of seeds and young plants and analyze their genes in search of desirable traits. Then they use that information to decide which seeds to plant and, later, cross-pollinate and which ones to reject, speeding up the traditional plant breeding process. “And that’s not GMO?” my driver asked. “Since they are just reading the DNA, not changing it, it’s technically not a form of genetic engineering,” I answered.

I was about to go on, but I caught myself. In part because I worried that I was on the verge of subjecting another human to an unexpected seminar on plant genetics. But, more fundamentally, because I realized that what I had just said was wrong. Of course the breeders at Monsanto were changing the plants’ DNA. That is what breeders everywhere have done for centuries, regardless of their tools. That is what the pioneers of agriculture started doing at least 10,000 years ago. That is what sex itself does: it shakes up DNA. In that moment, I realized just how meaningless the term GMO is, and how obfuscating it is, too. . . 


Ministers say no to Lochinver sale

September 17, 2015

Ministers have declined an application by a foreign company to buy Lochinver Station:

An overseas company’s application to purchase Lochinver Station has been declined because the benefits to New Zealand are not substantial and identifiable, Ministers Paula Bennett and Louise Upston say.

Pure 100 Farm Ltd, a subsidiary of China-based Shanghai Pengxin, applied to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) last year to buy the 13,800 ha farm near Taupo for $88 million.

“Because Lochinver Station is classified by law as sensitive land, Ministers must consider whether the application meets the requirements set out in the Overseas Investment Act,” Associate Finance Minister Paula Bennett says.

“While we recognise and support the importance of overseas investment, the Overseas Investment Act states it is a privilege for overseas people to own sensitive New Zealand assets and therefore requires such investments to meet statutory criteria for consent.

“After detailed and careful individual consideration, we are not satisfied there will be, or is likely to be, a substantial benefit to New Zealand – a key requirement for applications of sensitive land of this size.”

While the OIO said the question of whether the benefits of the potential investment to New Zealand are or could be substantial and identifiable was finely balanced, it recommended approving the application.

“We agreed parts of the proposed investment could benefit New Zealand but in our judgement on the overall balance of evidence, the benefits are not likely to be substantial and identifiable,” Land Information Minister Louise Upston says.

“This proposed sale didn’t pass a test we are required to exercise Ministerial judgement on.

“This is an example of our system working well.  The OIO conducted a thorough investigation before making a finely balanced recommendation.  Ministers carefully assessed the evidence and ultimately came to different view.”

A summary of the reasons for the Ministers’ decision can be found here.

This decision shows the bar for overseas ownership of farm land is set very high.

It is very difficult for a would-be foreign buyer to prove that it would provide more benefits than a local one, even if the local is hypothetical.

 


Rural round-up

July 24, 2015

Certainty underpins healthy community :

Federated Farmers have placed an emphasis the importance of certainty within the primary sector as a key component of a thriving economy.

Speaking at the Local Government New Zealand conference, Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston told councils the number one issue facing the primary sector needs was certainty, and with certainty came the ability to make investment decisions that underpinned a thriving economy. 

Rolleston also spoke about the Resource Management Act (RMA), and heavy burden it placed on the rural sector.  . .

Shanghai Pengxin puts all its farms up for sale – Gerard Hutching:

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s total farm assets in New Zealand are up for sale, including 16 farms and a conditional agreement to buy Lochinver Station – but they are unlikely to be sold.

Because the company wants to restructure, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) requires it to offer its assets for sale to New Zealanders.

The 16 dairy farms totalling 7885 hectares are the former Crafar family farms, bought controversially for $200 million in 2012.

They were listed for sale on Trade Me on Sunday on a “price by negotiation” basis and by Tuesday had been viewed 657 times. . .

Paraparaumu farmer is looking to give away his best friend to a loving home – Jessy Edwards:

Brian Arnopp is being eaten out of house and home by his best mate, and it’s finally got too much for him.

So now Mr Bull is going free to a good home.

Arnopp, of Paraparaumu, has looked after Mr Bull since he was left at the 77-year-old’s farm four years ago. . .

Pipfruit industry on track:

The New Zealand pipfruit industry recently regained its position as the world’s most competitive pipfruit industry, making this year’s conference time to reflect, says Pipfruit NZ.

The pipfruit industry, which is due to hold its annual conference in Wellington in August, is one of the fastest growing primary sectors in the country. Exports have increased in value from $340m in 2012 to $536m in 2014. The industry is well on track to reach its $1bn export target by 2022.

Pipfruit NZ says the annual conference will be an important networking and educational event for the industry. . .

Time to show your true nature:

Farmers are being urged to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, which now include the Auckland region.

Entries open on August 1.

Facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust, the awards promote best-practice land management by showcasing the work of people farming in a way that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. . .

Farmers need government to heed ’10 point’ local government plan:

Federated Farmers want the government to give immediate attention to the Local Government New Zealand’s ’10 point plan’ for rates reform.

Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson Katie Milne says the disastrous dairy payout prices in particular mean farmers want urgent action on inequities in the rates they pay to their local bodies.

“We farmers can’t control international prices. Neither can the government. But the government can legislate rates reform. It all helps, and the sooner the better,” Katie Milne says. . .

Te Karaka student awarded scholarship:

A Te Karaka student has been awarded the Mangatu Blocks and Ravensdown Scholarship, providing three years study at Auckland University.

Roland Taupara Brown completed his secondary schooling at Gisborne Boys High School where in his final year he was named Dux for 2014.

Brown says the scholarship provides him with a unique opportunity to focus on his studies in science and commerce at Auckland University. His Bachelor of Science degree will focus on green chemistry and his Bachelor of Commerce will provide the business disciplines to ensure a balance between environmental and commercial considerations. . .


Chinese-NZ partnership wins

May 9, 2015

The company which bought the former Crafar farms has won an award for turning the business around using New Zealand management, labour and skills.

Milk New Zealand, owned by Shanghai Pengxin, was last night named supreme winner at the 2015 HSBC New Zealand China Trade Association Business Awards in Auckland.

Shanghai Pengxin bought Crafar Farms in 2012 for more than $200 million.

Gary Romano, chief executive of Pengxin International, said the award was recognition for how they had run the farms.

Shanghai Pengxin’s purchase of the farms was controversial – but Mr Romano believed it had been good for New Zealand.

“Look, as a New Zealander, I did think to myself, am I doing something that’s good for New Zealand as well as my company?

“After speaking to a number of economists and thinking clearly through this I’ve come to the view that there is absolutely no downside to foreign investment.

“I think some of the things that the Overseas Investment Office does are very correct.

“So, things like making sure there’s been no money laundering, the right amount of taxes have been paid, people of good character, and that we’ve paid a fair price for the assets in a contestable process – all those things are very, very useful for New Zealand.”

He said once those tests had been passed, such investment provided oxygen for the economy. . .

The combination of foreign investment and local skills has been a winning one which shows the benefits that can result from allowing overseas ownership of some land.


Foreign ownership boosts wages:

September 5, 2014

Trans Tasman on foreign ownership:

The proposed sale of the 13,800ha Lochinver Station, near Taupo to Shanghai Pengxin, which bought the Crafar Farms in a joint venture with Landcorp, reignited the political debate about foreign investment and purchases of Kiwi land. Labour has promised to block the sale if it is not approved before the September 20 election and stop land sales over 5ha except in rare circumstances. Finance spokesman David Parker says land sales to foreigners do not increase output and do not release capital to be reinvested by the NZ owner to create new jobs. Finance Minister Bill English, however, reckons the Govt has struck the right balance between attracting foreign investment and tightening the rules for overseas investment in sensitive land.
Public Disquiet. Chinese investors have been making other investments in the farm sector: they have a minority stake in Blue Sky Meats and the Overseas Investment Office is considering an application to buy Prime Range Meats. Farm leaders have become disquieted. Federated Farmers supports positive overseas investment in NZ’s farming system but is concerned there would be little benefit to NZ if the Lochinver deal is clinched. President William Rolleston says “NZ absolutely needs foreign investment” but only if it benefits the local and national economy. He wants a “substantial and identifiable” benefit test incorporated in overseas investment eligibility criteria. Public opinion survey results this week suggest a majority of voters similarly approve of farm sales to foreigners only when it brings a significant advantage over an NZ buyer such as jobs. Almost 33% want farm sales to foreigners banned.

National raised the already high hurdle foreign buyers have to jump before a purchase is approved and benefits above and beyond those sales to domestic buyers would provide is one of the criteria.

 Better For Workers. An upcoming working paper by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research economists throws some light on the economics by examining how employment in foreign-owned firms affects NZ workers’ earnings. Using data from Statistics NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure, which tracks workers as they move between firms, the researchers found workers in foreign firms tend to receive, on average, around 14% higher monthly starting earnings than workers in domestically-owned firms. Compositional differences are the main explanation: foreign firms tend to be bigger and employ workers who would have received relatively high wages regardless of where they worked. The authors also found under-25 year olds get greater gains from joining a foreign firm and smaller losses on exit than older groups, while more highly skilled workers attract a stronger wage premium while working in the foreign-firm sector. In short, foreign firms not only tend to hire more highly skilled workers; they also remunerate these workers more generously.

A very small percentage of land  – around 2% – is in foreign ownership now.

The problem is one of perception based on emotion taking no account of the facts and benefits which include better wages for staff employed by foreign owners.


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