Serving govt not ratepayers

June 15, 2020

Troubles at the Otago Regional Council are coming to a head:

Council chairwoman Marian Hobbs said yesterday that since New Zealand entered a Covid-19 lockdown on March 26 — and seven councillors called for a 12-month re-evaluation of the council’s policy and finances, including the withdrawal and suspension of plan changes in progress and a review of its Regional Policy Statement — the council had been divided.

“It has been war,” Ms Hobbs said yesterday, confirming she believed some councillors wanted her out as chairwoman at the council.

“If I sound angry, I am. And I’m really not speaking as a chair — I’m speaking as a human being. Because watch this space, love, I’m liable to lose my position as the chair,” she said. . . 

The March 26 letter to Ms Hobbs was signed by Crs Michael Laws, Hilary Calvert, Carmen Hope, Gary Kelliher, Kevin Malcolm, Andrew Noone and Kate Wilson.

Several days later Ms Hobbs wrote to Environment Minister David Parker about issues arising from the letter.

When her communication was discovered through an Official Information Act request, what she wrote raised the ire of Federated Farmers, which responded. . . 

I was worried when she was elected chair and my worries have increased since then.

She appears to be acting on behalf of the government rather than ratepayers, many of whom agree with the seven councillors who have called for a 12-month pause.

Federated Farmers’ national body took issue in a statement this week with the council’s consultation process, saying the “actions taken by [the regional council] over the lockdown period were at best an inept attempt to ‘tick off’ to the minister that they had sufficiently completed appropriate public consultation on its proposed plan changes”.

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies expressed “real concern” with the content of the letter and said the organisation was “assessing our options”.

There was a lack of governance at the council at present, he said, which was problematic.

“It’s not the ‘staff’ giving direction or strategy, it’s the governance. And the governance needs to be strong about that, and at the same time that strategy needs to be Otago focused and driven — not other people’s,” he said. . . 

The Council must carry out its statutory roles but councillors are elected to represent the people, not the government.

Cr Calvert yesterday said she was concerned that Ms Hobbs was substituting her interpretation of the views of the Government “for the views of our Otago ratepayers”.

“She is prepared to attempt to overthrow the representation of the people of Otago by asking whether the minister would consider putting in a commissioner if the vote doesn’t go her way.

“Those who elected us deserve better than that.”

Asked to comment on Ms Hobbs’ assertion there were councillors who wanted her out as chairwoman, Cr Calvert said the “crucial question” was how many councillors that was.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t retain the confidence of the majority of your fellow councillors, it’s time for somebody else to take a crack at being the chair.”

Some former MPs can make the transition to local body office and put partisan politics aside.

From what has been reported, Hobbs has not and it would be better for the council, and the region, if councilors succeed in replacing her.

 

 


Rural round-up

May 14, 2020

COVID-19: Farming continues while pollution falls – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Dr Jacqueline Rowarth on how the agriculture and horticulture sectors are supporting New Zealand through the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPINION: New Zealanders have been urged to order food from outlets that don’t use Uber, and to be extremely careful using Tinder.

The first is because of expenditure (Uber apparently takes 35% of the bill). The second is because of COVID-19 and potential to transmit the virus. (NRL players have been forbidden to use the app and the difficulty of maintaining 2m distance must be acknowledged.)

It is probable that rural dwellers will find it easier to comply with these requests than those who live in urban districts. It is possible that rural dwellers have never used either of the two services. It is also possible that rural dwellers are wondering about how much money is evaporated on services that make it easier to spend more money on services.  . . 

Court grants farmers appeal extension :

The Environment Court has granted extra time to allow appeals on the Waikato Regional Council’s plan change 1.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn said individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from May 11 to file appeals.

Industry groups including Federated Farmers have a shorter deadline of 50 working days from April 28 to file their appeals. . . 

Water users frustrated as ORC torpedoes local decision-making:

As if there wasn’t already enough stress and economic hurdles facing the region, the Otago Regional Council has added to the uncertainty. 

The submission period closed on the ORC’s Proposed Plan Change 7 on water permits on Monday.  However, because Council notified the plan change, and then asked the government to call it in, there’ll be another whole round of submissions once the Environmental Protection Authority renotifies it, which is frustrating to impacted resource users.

Federated Farmers – like most, if not all, other rural representatives – has opposed PC7.  

“We said in our submission that it fails on tests of cost-effectiveness, fairness, adequate consultation, and consistency with existing policies,” Federated Farmers Otago President Simon Davies says. . .

Pride regained telling people we are farmers – Mike Cranstone:

It is great to be a farmer; it certainly has not been an easy autumn, but we are lucky to be still in charge of our businesses. And a farm is a perfect backyard for kids to be in throughout lockdown. Our consideration must go to those people with uncertain job prospects, and the many local small business owners who provide an invaluable service to the farming sector. I encourage farmers to think of what work, whether servicing or projects that we can bring forward to help these businesses get back on their feet.

This season was always shaping up to be memorable. In December it was shaping up to be one of the best, with good feed levels matched with an $8 floor to the lamb schedule, mid $7 and $6 for dairy and beef, respectively.

If we were feeling comfortable, the impact of Covid-19 and a lingering widespread drought put pay to that. For farmers, the drought is having a more immediate financial impact. There is plenty of uncertainty looking forward, with how the looming global recession will impact demand and prices for meat and dairy.

The drought has put significant pressure on farmers, with stock water being a real issue and now with low feed covers going into late autumn. Getting killing space for all stock classes has been difficult since December, with prime cattle being terribly slow. Farmers’ loyalty to their meat company has generally been well rewarded, but I am interested where that often-discussed meat industry overcapacity is hiding. It could be a long tough winter with low feed covers, please keep an eye on our fellow farmers’ welfare along with that of our animals. . . 

Feds wins time for Waikato farmers and growers:

The Environment Court’s decision to allow more time for the filing of appeals on Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change 1 has Federated Farmers breathing a sigh of relief.

All three of the Federated Farmers provinces affected by this plan change are delighted and somewhat relieved with this decision.

Federated Farmers Waikato president Jacqui Hahn says this means individual farmers and growers have 70 working days from 11 May to file appeals. . . 

Covid-19 could revive single-use plastics – agribusiness head – Eric Frykberg:

The Covid-19 crisis could be a big setback to progress on eliminating plastics, a rural expert has warned.

Ian Proudfoot, global head of agribusiness for KPMG, told a webinar the desire for health and hygiene could easily trump environmental worries about plastics.

His comments follow a steady pushback against plastics overseas and in New Zealand, where it led to a ban on single use plastic bags in many parts of the economy with the aim of reducing pollution and reliance on fossil fuels, which are a raw ingredient for many plastics.

Proudfoot warned however that people could easily come to view plastic-packaged foodstuffs as clean and safe and could start to insist on it, leading to a revival in the use of plastics. . .


Rural round-up

January 8, 2020

When aspirations trip up the export/import balance – Simon Davies:

As a country if we don’t want to lose half our shirt we need to ensure we are earning at least what we are spending, writes Otago Federated Farmers President Simon Davies.

I’ve heard several people of late, including a current labour MP, question the need for our farmers to produce more food than New Zealand needs for its own consumption.

It got me thinking …

When I was at high school, which was more than a couple of decades ago, one of my elective courses was economics. . . 

Declining dairy farm values are likely to continue – Keith Woodford:

Dairy farm values have been declining now for well over a year and there is no sign they will stabilise. The key issue is a lack of buyers with the necessary finance. The implications are starting to get serious.

There are multiple reasons why there is a lack of buyers. The biggest one is a change in bank lending policies. Those policies are set in Melbourne and Sydney where the big banks are headquartered. 

None of the Big Four banks are interested in new dairy lending unless the investor has high equity.  The related policy is that all banks now want repayments of principal whereas interest-only loans were the norm for many years. At least two of the Big Four banks are actively trying to reduce their exposure to New Zealand dairying. . .

Taranaki in 2050: Technology and diverse land use twin futures of farming – Deena Coster:

When Hamish and Kate Dunlop first floated the idea of using their land to grow quinoa, they raised more than a few eyebrows within the farming fraternity.

The Taranaki couple, who have four children, wanted to diversify the way they were using their 400 hectare Ararata Rd farm, and initially looked at growing hemp.

However, after some more research, they decided to go with the South American edible seed instead. . . 

From Taranaki hives to US shelves: Journey of Bees and Trees mānuka honey – Alyssa Smith:

When someone from the US puts honey on their toast in the morning, there is a good chance that honey has come from Taranaki.

To get it from Taranaki to the US, American businessman Mike Everly commutes between his home town of Atlanta, Georgia to Taranaki three to four times a year.

It’s a route he knows well. He has been doing it for 10 years now, and he says he doesn’t plan to stop.

Mike is the founder of Bees and Trees honey, a company which sells authentic Taranaki honey in the United States. . .

Is NZ on the cusp of a hemp revolution? – Amy Ridout:

In the 20 years since Pam Coleman has been on her 80-hectare rural property near Ngatimoti, north-west of Nelson, she has let the land take over.

The golden hay meadows buzz with life, and kanuka and manuka have overtaken the gorse. The couple raise rare-breed sheep, grow olives and make cheese. 

When the law changed a year ago to add hemp seeds to the list of allowable food products in New Zealand, Coleman began reading up.

“I thought, that’s it, that’s the way to go,” she said. . . 

Marijuana licensing rules to create route – Brent Melville:

It will cost about $12,500 a year to possess, manufacture and supply medicinal cannabis products.

New licensing rules for the legal manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis will create a route to market for dozens of companies that have, to date, been limited to research.

Announcing the new quality and licensing regime last week, Minister of Health David Clark said the regulations would help ease the pain of thousands of people. . . 

Red meat plays vital role in diets, claims expert in fightback against veganism – James Tapper:

Advocates of red meat will begin a fightback against the growth of veganism this week at the UK’s biggest farming conference, with claims that eating lamb and beef is vital because some plants and fish are being drained of their nutrition.

In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, Alice Stanton will tell ministers, farmers and environmentalists that key nutrients in some fruits, vegetables and grains have dropped by up to 50% over 50 years.

Stanton, professor of cardiovascular pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said nutrition levels had dropped because farmers were trying to meet a demand for cheap food. “For plant-based foods, there’s been drops in vitamins and key electrolytes by up to 50% over the past 50 years because of the genetic selection for large volume and uniformity of shape and appearance, so the things look good on the shelves. There hasn’t been selection for nutrient content,” she told the Observer. . . 


Rural round-up

September 21, 2019

New water policies will hobble farmers – Simon Davies:

Farmers are being hamstrung by well-meaning but poorly targeted regulation, writes Simon Davies of Otago Federated Farmers.

Today, while crutching my breeding rams, I was considering the latest policy package from central government.

To be fair there was not a lot of constructive thought undertaken, as this task is a fairly intense activity as those of you who have done it know. For those of you who have not, crutching rams (removing the wool around the tail and between the legs for hygiene purposes) is a bit like wrestling 80 to 100kg sacks of potatoes that fight back.

As I was struggling with a sore back, the term hamstrung came to mind. . .

How did farmers become public enemy number one? – Rachael Kelly:

Last November, Southland dairy farmer Jason Herrick contemplated taking his own life.

A wet spring had turned his farm to mud, his family was “going through some stuff” and anti-farming messages on social media all affected his self-worth.

They’re our number one export producers, an industry that was once seen as the proud back-bone of the nation.

But farmers are almost becoming ashamed of what they do because they’re being attacked from all fronts, Herrick says. . . .

No quick change to farm systems – Pam Tipa::

People don’t appreciate how difficult it is to change farm systems quickly, says Pāmu chief executive Steven Carden.

“They are difficult biological systems and people who are not in farming expect you to be able to switch on the new system overnight,” he told Dairy News.

“It takes a long time to get those changes right, to embed the new technologies in farm systems to make them work effectively. Farmers fundamentally are small business people who can’t risk their entire business with a big shift in how they operate one year to the next. . .

They like you – Luke Chivers:

Public perceptions of farming are more positive than farmers think, a survey shows.

“The strong theme we have heard from farmers in the past is that they do not feel well-liked by their urban counterparts. However, when you poll the general population, this is simply not true,” UMR research executive director Marc Elliot says.

UMR surveyed more than 1000 people last month and found the response at odds with the view held by many in primary industries. 

New Zealanders are almost five times as likely to hold a positive view of sheep and beef farming than a negative one, the research showed. . .

Tractor protest on Saturday – Hugh Stringleman:

Northland farmers have been asked to join a tractor protest over the costs and effects of Government regulations.

Protest organiser and dairy farmer Mark Dawson said the event will be on the southern side of Ruawai township in the Kaipara District between 11am and 1pm on Saturday.

It will be a symbolic protest aimed at what he believes will be the horrendous effects on farming of the proposed freshwater legislation.

Northland MP Matt King, National, has promised support along with Kaipara mayor and beef farmer Jason Smith. . .

ORC candidates quizzed on future of farming :

How do candidates standing for the Otago Regional Council see the future of farming in Otago? That question and others has been posed to all candidates by Southern Rural Life ahead of next month’s local body election. It is shaping up to be an interesting election, with 28 people vying for 12 positions.

All candidates were asked by Southern Rural Life to respond to the following questions and their responses are below (responses were not received from Matt Kraemer, Andrew Noone, Gail May-Sherman and Gordon Dickson)

Question 1
Why are you standing for council?

Question 2
How do you see the future of farming in Otago?

Question 3
Good management practice and improvements to some farming activities will be needed if Otago’s water aspirations are to be achieved. What approach to regulation and rules do you support and where do you think partnerships,  incentives and industry support might fit in (if at all)?

Question 4
Do you think there should be discretion for regional councils to determine local solutions for local issues or should a centralized response always apply instead? . . .

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Cleaner water priority for councils

July 9, 2019

Otago Federated Farmers’ chair Simon Davies wants councils to be held to the same standards as farmers when it comes to water quality:

Across the country, more and more catchment groups and other farmer-led environment-focused groups are getting stuck in.

In my own neck of the woods, the recently launched Tokomairiro Water Catchment Group is made up of farmers who are trying to do their bit to improve the water in the local river.

So I was appalled to discover the local district council has applied for resource consent to continue to discharge untreated wastewater (a nice way of saying raw sewage) and stormwater into the same river during high rainfall.

For some time now the agricultural sector has been being dragged through the mud over its environmental footprint. Farmers are now lifting their efforts, and spending a lot of money, to improve farm practices and the quality of the water leaving their properties.

They’re upgrading effluent systems and other infrastructure, excluding stock from waterways, running nutrient budgets and increasing riparian planting, to name just some of the initiatives.

Most farmers are aware that activities on their land can affect water quality. They’re seeing the benefits of changes they’re making and it is now an accepted part of being a good farmer.

It’s not hard to understand why we get grumpy when we put in the time, effort and resources to improve our sustainability but the same cannot be said for urban councils . . 

Dealing with wastewater is one of the core responsibilities of district and city councils.

Yet too many get distracted by other projects at the expense of the infrastructure and practices needed to  gain and maintain the required standards.

Farmers can be prosecuted for effluent spills that could reach a waterway. Time after time councils get away with actually spilling wastewater into streams, rivers and the sea.

Councils should be held to the same standard as farmers and other businesses and ensure best practice wastewater management is a top priority.


Rural round-up

June 1, 2019

Treedom in Taranaki – Peter Burke:

Dairy industry critics – in fact every Kiwi – should look at the dairy farm run by Damian and Jane Roper on a small rural road near Patea, Taranaki.

There, with their children Jack, Harriet and Adelaide, the Ropers have created a model dairy farm — a haven for themselves and for their livestock, native birds and other creatures. Peter Burke reports on this remarkable yet unassuming family.

A few weeks ago Damian and Jane Roper won the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award and received the John Wilson Memorial Trophy.  . . 

Support group wanted – Yvonne O’Hara:

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies would like to see a support and advocacy group, similar to that established in Ashburton last month, rolled out for Otago and Southland and other regions affected by Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).

A group of representatives from the Ashburton District Council, agricultural industries and health industries has been formed to help address potential and ongoing concerns about the disease in the district to improve communication between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and relevant organisations. . . 

Fashioning a future for NZ’s natural fibres – Anna Campbell:

I have always found the fashion industry somewhat intimidating – fabulously creative designers, models who seem to walk on air and daunting trends which only emphasise how very un-funky I am.

As with many industries, the sustainability of the fashion industry is increasingly being called into question.

Designers and fashion houses are rated annually by TearFund according to their “ethics”, which incorporate environmental practices and how workers are treated (often in parts of Asia where labour is cheap).

The industry is also coming under criticism for synthetic fibres hitting our oceans via washing machine waste and the fact the average garment is worn a mere seven times (if you are a British female). . . 

Keeping an open mind – Dan Burdett:

Dan Burdett is back from his recent travels to the USA with an update on his Nuffield experience so far..

As I sit here in early May, my time in the USA seems like a world away. Looking out of the window I see green trees, glowing sunshine and the familiar black and white cows making the most of the verdant grass on offer at this time of year. For much of my time in Iowa and Nebraska all I could see as far as the eye could see was snow, grey skies and seemingly eternal miles of the great nothing that is the Midwest in winter. Even now on social media I’m seeing pictures of corn being planted as the snow falls once again.

Like all farmers across the globe, farmers in the mid west are suffering from extremes of climate that are stretching them to an occasional breaking point. After a late harvest in 2018, they had a very wet autumn followed by a much longer winter than normal. With margins being so tight there is little room for error during the farming year. . . 

Mush ado: Gore farmer swaps sheep for huskies in frozen Canada:

Six Alaskan huskies pant excitedly as they haul a red sled carrying Russell MacKay across a vast frozen lake in Canada.

The dogs’ paw prints dent fresh white snow coating two foot of ice. Their breath rises into the frigid minus 20 degree air.

The jagged, ice-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains tower above the lake, their slopes hidden beneath pine trees.

MacKay stands, steering the sled – while an excited tourist sits in front of him, shielded from the elements by a canvas cover. . . 

YFOTY: Formalising health and safety processes at Eilean Donan:

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists in the 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. 

During the next seven weeks we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work from managing a dairy farming to veterinary practice.

Brothers Matt and Joe McRae are in the process of formalising the health and safety processes for their family farm, Eilean Donan, in the Redan Valley in Southland and they’re finding they’ve already been doing a lot of what is required.  . . 


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. . . 

 


Rural round-up

May 7, 2019

Research needed before tree-planting – Sally Rae:

Landowners considering planting trees need to question whether the benefits to their overall farming business are greater with the land in trees or in its existing use, RaboResearch sustainability analyst Blake Holgate says.

Government policy changes in forestry and climate change would make forestry a more appealing land-use option for some landowners. However, they should carefully consider a range of financial, strategic and environmental issues to ensure they made informed decisions, a new report by Rabobank said.

Mr Holgate, the report’s author, said there was “no one-size-fits-all” approach when deciding whether to plant trees.

It was important landowners gathered the appropriate information and sought expert advice to ensure the long-term implications of planting were well understood and any planting was done in the right place, with the right species for the right purpose. . . 

Farmers want clarity – Guy – Pam Tipa:

Farmers want policy certainty and are petrified about “kneejerk popular politics” similar to what the Government did with the oil and gas industry, says National agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy.

“The agriculture community is very concerned that they could be next,” Guy told Rural News at the Rabobank Farm2Fork seminar in Sydney. “I am picking up at this conference, talking to Kiwi farmers, that there are already headwinds.

So while prices are looking quite good for our farmers, there are very strong headwinds coming at them, to do with water quality, biological emissions, biodiversity and, importantly, capital gains tax and environmental taxes. . . 

First year a ‘learning curve’ for president – Sally Rae:

Simon Davies describes his first year as president of Otago Federated Farmers as a “learning curve”.

Mr Davies, a Toko Mouth sheep and beef farmer, took over from Phill Hunt last May. Now, he is preparing for his first provincial annual meeting in the top job.

It will be held on Friday at the function room at Centennial Court Motel in Alexandra from 4pm.

Part of that learning curve had been the diverse range of topics that he had been asked to comment on.

“It seems like an endless quantity of things that come along,” he said. . . 

Sound study makes water music – Richard Rennie:

Some avid gardeners swear playing music to plants helps accelerate their growth. Now researchers in Canterbury have found directing sound signals at soil could ultimately help improve its health, reduce nutrient losses and save farmers money. 

AgResearch senior scientist Dr Val Snow and Auckland University acoustics physicist Professor Stuart Bradley and have been leading work into better understanding the link between sound, water and run-off. They told Richard Rennie about their work.

A joint research project between AgResearch and Auckland University scientists at the leading edge of technology is using sound waves to determine optimal irrigation levels.

Known as the Surface Water Assessment and Mitigation for Irrigation (SWAMI), the technology is being used to define a relationship between how sound waves bounce off the soil surface and controlling irrigation applications. . . 

Health claims will sell goods – Richard Rennie:

Promoting New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture sectors as low-input, extensive, often grass-fed sources of food has become a leverage point for the industry, particularly red meat and dairy. But Nuffield scholar and business development manager Andy Elliot challenges it as an aspirational Aotearoa story. He wants to look harder at how products can earn more value through understanding consumers’ dietary and nutritional needs. He spoke to Richard Rennie.

As admirable as New Zealand’s extensive grass-fed farming system might be it’s not enough of a selling point to continue improving margins in an increasingly competitive international market, Nuffield scholar Andy Elliot says.

A year spent examining NZ’s path to markets has left him convinced a better approach is to re-evaluate why people eat, what they hope to get from food and what NZ products offer that others don’t. . . 

$5.7m loyalty payments to top shareholders:

Meat co-op Alliance Group has distributed $5.7 million in loyalty payments to key shareholders.

The quarterly payments have been made to the co-op’s Platinum and Gold shareholders who supply 100% per cent of their livestock to the company. Farmers are paid an additional 10c/kg for each lamb, 6c/kg for a sheep, 8.5c/kg for cattle and 10c/kg for deer.

The payments cover the period January-March 2019. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 26, 2019

Industry confronts big issues – Luke Chivers:

How to grow primary industries sustainably, changing consumer expectations, technological transformation of growing and selling we issues confronted at the BOMA Grow 2019 Agri-Summit in Christchurch.

More than 600 people ranging from farmers, producers and researchers to educators and students and those working in government and finance met to discuss ways the food and fibre sector can be more innovative, collaborative, sustainable and profitable now and in future.

Event organiser Kaila Colbin said the two-day summit was a chance to learn about future trends affecting the agriculture sector and what to do about them, in a practical way, from people on the ground. . . .

Food and agri sector’s leap into the future

An agricultural revolution is taking place in Australia as the food and agri sector explores innovative ways to feed a growing global population using more sustainable methods.

It’s a revolution that kicked into even higher gear at Rabobank’s Farm2Fork Summit at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island on March 28, when cutting-edge ideas were unveiled, probed and prodded by producers, food and agri entrepreneurs, and industry trailblazers from around the world.

They left no stone unturned as they delved into everything from robotics and ag tech to sustainable farming methods, food waste reduction and alternative foods. . .

Give me the local government I deserve – Jim Galloway:

If you have ever wanted to make your mark in a positive and constructive way, please consider standing in the local body elections writes Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay provincial president Jim Galloway.

When I cast a vote, I have never felt as though doves are released – that I’m taking part in anything extra special.

But I know that it is an important right and privilege of being part of a democratic society – we can have input into how we are governed.

This October we all get to cast votes for our local and regional councils. . .

Pre-lamb shearing necessary in certain circumstances – Simon Davies:

Pre-lamb shearing is necessary in certain circumstances, but it must be carried out using best practice writes Federated Farmers spokesperson Simon Davies.

Pre-lamb shearing has its place in farming.

It is a necessary activity in certain situations and locations.

From a shearing industry point of view it is a necessity, as it allows shearing to be spread over almost 12 months of the year. . .

Course aims for future leaders :

Northland student Devlin Gurr wants to land a coveted cadetship at Smedley Station in Hawke’s Bay.

“It’s quite prestigious. They accept only 11 cadets each year so it’s really hard to get into,” Gurr said.

The 16-year-old has spent the start of the school holidays honing skills he’ll need to help land the two-year cadetship. . .

Zespri signals upside for grower payments  in 2020 – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Kiwifruit marketer Zespri is forecasting a potential lift of up to 6 percent in payments to growers this season.

The firm, which markets kiwifruit on behalf of 2,500 New Zealand growers and another 1,200 in Italy, Japan, Korea and France, is expecting total fruit and service payments of $1.775 billion to $1.875 billion in the year ending March 2020.

Zespri is yet to publish its March 2019 year results but in February forecast a total payment of almost $1.77 billion for that year. . .


Rural round-up

February 4, 2019

Running Dry – Can NZ thrive without irrigation? – Eric Frykberg:

The government has pulled its backing for big irrigation projects, but smaller ones are still getting financial support. For Insight rural reporter, Eric Frykberg explores whether this middle path will be enough to keep farmers and growers in business and improve the quality of water in streams and rivers?

Stu Wright’s family is part of the fabric of Selwyn district, inland from Christchurch. They’ve worked the land near Sheffield for 125 years.  

The murky drizzle hanging over the furrows of his farm in the foothills of the Southern Alps, near Sheffield are at odds with his on-going struggle to keep his crops well hydrated.

Here he grows seed potatoes, garlic, radishes and rye.

But the way his family have farmed for over a century is no longer working. . . 

Virus has mixed results – Neal Wallace:

The new rabbit-killing K5 haemorrhagic virus has achieved an average kill rate of 47% of rabbits in Otago but rates on individual farms vary from very low to 80%, leading to farmer scepticism about its effectiveness.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead says while the 47% average is higher than forecast in the import application for the RHDV K5 virus, high immunity levels in parts of the province reduced its effectiveness.

Otago Federated Farmers president Simon Davies has had reports from farmers saying they have not seen any evidence the new strain is working. . . 

 

Woolhandler aiming to go ‘all out’ at champs – Richard Davison:

A Milton woolhandler plans to go “all out” for honours in the Otago champs.

The two-day Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are taking place in Balclutha on February 8 and 9, and competitors will be vying for both podium places on the day and cumulative points towards circuit titles – and ultimately a better shot at nationals.

For Milton woolhandler Cheri Peterson, who started in the shed professionally in 2007 aged 21, this season’s circuit began as simply another opportunity to hone her skills at the table, but has acquired a sharper competitive edge as it progresses. . . 

 

Eight southern tracks to go in NZTR plan – Steve Hepburn:

Gore may get a reprieve but even more galloping courses may be under threat.

Following on from last year’s Messara report, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing produced a report yesterday calling for the reduction of courses around the country. And it is looking to close more courses than Australian John Messara proposed, with Waikouaiti and Riverton fingered for closure among 23 venues.

NZTR said in a release it wanted to drop to 27 venues across the country by 2030. The would leave just nine tracks in the South Island. Eight tracks south of Timaru would close.

The plan was not in reaction to the Government-commissioned Messara report, which proposed a widespread reduction in tracks throughout the country, NZTR said. . . 

New Zealand 2019 apple and pear crop forecast released :

The New Zealand apple and pear industry is forecasting a modest increase in the gross crop for 2019, according to the annual crop estimate just released. A forecast gross crop of 604,500 metric tonnes is 2.5% up on 2018 production.

New Zealand Apples & Pears Chief Executive, Alan Pollard, says that “Notwithstanding some hail in Central Otago, growing conditions across the rest of New Zealand this season have been very good. Adequate rainfall means that all regions have good quantities of irrigation water, and sunlight and warmth are at some of the best levels that we have seen”. . .

U.S. Dairy Farmers Say Billions of Exports at Risk – Lydia Mulvany:

The U.S. dairy industry stands to lose billions of dollars over the next two decades if trade agreements with Japan, one of the biggest buyers, don’t materialize, according to a U.S. Dairy Export Council report released Wednesday.

The Japanese are gobbling up more cheesy pizzas and proteins like whey, at the same time that its own dairy industry is seeing a decline. Exporters are aggressively competing to supply that growing demand, and the European Union has a leg up on the U.S. due to a trade agreement that went into affect at the end of last year. Other major exporting countries are set to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact from which the U.S. withdrew. . . 

 


Rural round-up

January 18, 2019

‘M. Bovis’ effects study welcomed to help with impact on farmers – John Gibb:

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies has welcomed a planned University of Otago study on the human impact of Mycoplasma bovis on farmers and their communities in Otago and Southland.

At the human level, some Otago farmers and their families at infected farms had taken a ”massive strike”, and there could be serious long-term effects, including on business viability, in some parts of the country, he said.

Some people who had received ”notices of direction” from MPI, but were later ultimately cleared of infection, had in some cases also experienced stressful disruption to normal farming activities over several months. . . 

Dairy cattle numbers dip again:

The number of dairy cattle has dipped for the second year, while beef cattle numbers increased strongly in 2018, Stats NZ said today.

Provisional figures from the 2018 agricultural production census showed dairy cattle numbers fell 1 percent, to 6.4 million in June 2018.

“This followed a similar small dip in 2017, though overall dairy cattle numbers have been relatively steady since 2012,” agricultural production statistics manager Stuart Pitts said. . . 

Nursery owner finds use for problem baleage – Elena McPhee:

In a win-win situation for both the council and a local nursery owner, baleage swept along by November’s flood and strewn over a rural road for months is being turned into compost.

Trees of the World nursery owner Rodney Hogg said the baleage had been on Riverside Rd, near Allanton on the outskirts of Dunedin, for about two months.

It was ”extremely dangerous” driving along the road, particularly at night, Mr Hogg said . . 

Brexit: Theresa May survives no-confidence vote but what does that mean for NZ trade?:

Market access under a hard Brexit is the major implication New Zealand must watch for after the failure of Theresa May’s deal and the vote against her, former NZ trade negotiation Charles Finny says.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has won a no-confidence vote against it today, called by UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with 325 votes to 306.

It may come as some solace to Mrs May after MPs crushed her proposed exit deal with the EU by a 230-vote majority yesterday, the biggest defeat the UK government has faced in the House of Commons since the 1920s. 

Former New Zealand trade deal negotiator Charles Finny however says the no-confidence vote has ultimately been a bit of a distraction: it’s the next steps regarding Brexit that are important. . . 

$36 million investment approved to tackle regional erosion:

Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) has announced funding of almost $36 million through the Hill Country Erosion Fund (HCEF) to enable much-needed erosion control in the regions.

The HCEF supports proposals to protect our most vulnerable hill country landscapes, where the main treatment is tree planting.

“We’re pleased by the level of interest from councils, with 12 applications received in this latest round – four of which were from regions that had not previously applied,” says Julie Collins, Deputy Director-General Forestry and Head of Te Uru Rākau.

“It shows the importance they are placing on sustainable land management and treating erosion in their regions.” . . 

A win for Win and the Buller show:

When veteran West Coast shearer Sam Win won his latest competition, at the age of 63, it helped solve a little mystery of the whereabouts of the trophy.

“I think I’ve got it at home,” he said.

Thus Saturday’s win at the Buller A and P Show at Patterson Park in Westport was followed by Sunday polishing the trophy, his name engraved as the last winner – in 1997. . . 

Could Wagyu beef protect against heart disease?:

As barbeque season gets into full swing, New Zealand researchers are investigating whether certain kinds of red meat could actually protect against heart disease.

Researchers have recruited men aged 35-55 willing to eat free meat three times a week for eight weeks in the name of science. Participants are supplied with either grass-fed Wagyu beef, grain-finished beef or soy-based meat alternative (they can’t choose which).

The study is looking at how the complex lipids (fats) in high quality, unprocessed red meat affect heart health, using the vegetarian protein group as a control. It follows earlier evidence that eating Wagyu beef in moderation may help protect against heart disease. The beef, from specially bred and fed cows, is rich in a fat called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, and several other so-called ‘good fats’. . . 


Rural round-up

December 3, 2018

Owners of East Coast forests charged over debris damage:

The owners of six East Coast forests are to be prosecuted over damage to farms from flood-borne logging debris in June.

Farmers are still feeling the effects of the Queen’s Birthday man-made floods, when forestry debris washed down and blocked rivers, damaging farms during two bouts of heavy rain in the region.

They put the cost of the damage in the millions of dollars. . . 

Another record high lambing percentage for New Zealand sheep farmers:

Sheep and beef farmers achieved another record high lambing percentage this spring, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Lamb Crop 2018 report

B+LNZ’s Economic Service estimates the number of lambs tailed in spring 2018 was 23.5 million head, down 0.7 per cent (163,000 head) on the previous spring, with the small decline being due to the higher lambing percentage not offsetting the 2.1 per cent decline in breeding ewes.

The average ewe lambing percentage for 2018 was 129.0 per cent, up 1.7 percentage points on last year and up nearly 8 percentage points on the average for the previous 10 years (2008-09 to 2017-18) of 121.4 per cent. . . 

Green light for controversial Waimea dam:

Tasman District Council has approved the $105 million Waimea dam project after a marathon meeting.

Tasman councillors have this afternoon voted nine votes in favour to five against after an almost seven-hour meeting to determine the fate of the Waimea Community Dam.

The decision came after a tense and at times vocal hour-long public forum in the council chamber, that was being monitored by tight security.

Opponents resent supporting a project they say will benefit a few.

However, supporters say the regional economy will be placed at great risk without a secure water supply. . . 

Members may not be prepared for disaster – Yvonne O’Hara:

When the earth moves, are farmers going to be prepared? The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management sent an emergency mobile alert last Sunday as part of its preparedness plans.

While phones rang all over the country that evening, did it encourage farmers to think about their readiness for earthquakes and other adverse events? SRL reporter Yvonne O’Hara investigates.

Federated Farmers provincial presidents, Otago’s Simon Davies and Southland’s Geoffrey Young, are concerned that many of the region’s farmers are not prepared for significant adverse events, such as earthquakes, snow, and flooding.

Mr Young, a sheep and beef farmer of Cattle Flat, said an earthquake in the region could be catastrophic. . . 

Entries close for 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards:

The Canterbury-North Otago region has received the highest number of entries in the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

Fifty-nine entries have been received in the Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards including 17 in the Share Farmer of the Year, 30 in the Dairy Manager of the Year and 12 in the Dairy Trainee of the Year competition.

NZDIA General Manager Chris Keeping said a total of 393 entries were received for the Awards, an increase of 29 from last year. . . 

We need a bigger rain gague in New Zealand – Patrick Horgan:

November is the last month of spring in New Zealand but there’s no sign of summer around the corner.

After four months placement on a dairy farm in Canterbury, I drove five hours south to see another side of New Zealand dairy farming. I arrived in West Otago in a pair of shorts on 14 October. On 15 October, I ditched the shorts for waterproofs and a rain jacket.

In the past week of bad weather, diversification into water buffalo and water cress farming has been discussed during milking on my new farm while the rain pounded off the tin sheets above our heads. . .

Welsh meat lobby to fight vegan ‘fake food news’ on social media

Hybu Cig Cymru fears too many ‘sensationalist and misleading’ claims are being put forward by critics of meat-based diets.

Wales’s red meat sector is pledging to fight the scourge of “fake food news” on social media that denigrates the likes of Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the meat levy body for Wales, said it will deliver a “fact-based fightback” that champions meat’s nutritional values and environmental credentials.

This will begin today with the launch by HCC of a new healthy eating lamb campaign fronted by Wales rugby legend Shane Williams. . .


Rural round-up

August 28, 2018

The dam that divides a dry district – David Williams:

A South Island council faces a stark choice – build an expensive dam with considerable financial risks or immediately impose water restrictions that will cripple some businesses. David Williams reports.

It was during the summer of 2000-2001 that the effects of over-allocation of water from the Waimea River, at the top of the South Island, became abundantly clear.

With only a sprinkling of rain over five months, the river dried up. Unprecedented water restrictions came in for the Tasman district and neighbouring Nelson. Commercial growers on the Waimea Plains couldn’t irrigate to grow and ripen their produce. Economic losses were thought to be in the millions of dollars. . .

Water plan fan gives ORC a peek – Sally Rae:

Simon Davies has always thought a little outside the square.

With a background outside of the farming industry, the Otago Federated Farmers president acknowledged he might have a different approach from some farmers.

Last week, Otago Regional Council staff from policy, compliance, science and communications visited the Toko Mouth property Mr Davies farms with his wife Joanna.

It had been something he had been wanting to do since taking over the role earlier this year, he said — to get ORC staff on farm to see first hand the practical steps he was taking around water quality. . .

Multi-talented with attitude – Glenys Christian:

Lisa Kendall reckons she does a little bit of everything when it comes to hiring out her skills for farm work. But she’s also a competitor, scholar, researcher and consultant and is a passionate champion of animal welfare who wants to work toward farm ownership. And though she’s starting with a small sheep milk venture she already has ideas about diversification into cheese and a cafe. She told Glenys Christian about her life. 

Lisa Kendall’s two sisters say she’s crazy. 

But both of them have already expressed their strong interest in getting involved in the sheep-milking farm with attached cheese-making and cafe facilities the 26-year-old is planning in the near future. . . 

From Darfield to Dongguan – Fonterra dials up value add:

Fonterra’s new cream cheese plant in Canterbury has started production and is set to manufacture up to 24,000 metric tonnes of cream cheese annually, bound for China.

China’s changing demographics have driven a surge in popularity for Western foods. The 20kg blocks of cream cheese from Darfield will meet growing demand for bakery goods, like cheese cakes and cheese tarts.

Susan Cassidy, General Manager Marketing, Global Foodservice, Fonterra, says growth in China’s middle class, rapid urbanisation and changing consumer tastes have contributed to explosive growth in the number of consumers wanting New Zealand dairy. . . 

Dr Tom: giving hope to Aussie farmers – Dr Tom Mullholland:

They call Australia the lucky country, but I’m not sure how the global warming dice is rolling for them at the moment. All of New South Wales – that’s 100 per cent – is officially gripped in a drought, which for some regions has been going on for six years.

Apparently, they have hit 99 per cent before but this is the first time they have cracked the ton. It’s not a record you would wish on anybody. I wonder, when does a six-year drought become the local weather?

I was pleased to be invited to speak to a couple of communities in the Outback on my Healthy Thinking strategies on how to manage the top paddock between the ears. As a doctor, I also speak on how to look after your physical, mental and social health. . . 

If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer – Isabelle Tree:

Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million– 5% of our population – today. Influential documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What the Health have thrown a spotlight on the intensive meat and dairy industry, exposing the impacts on animal and human health and the wider environment.

But calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. . .


Rural round-up

March 31, 2017

Success follows life turnaround – Sally Brooker:

A young man who went into dairy farming after ”falling in with the wrong crowd” at school is earning accolades.

Jack Raharuhi (24) has been named the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year.

He was presented with $4680 in prizes at the recent New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards regional awards dinner in Shantytown.

Mr Raharuhi, who manages a 482ha Landcorp property in Westport with 1150 cows, began milking through a Gateway programme at Buller High School nine years ago.

”Dad pulled me out of school and into full-time employment as a farm assistant for Landcorp. I’ve been with them ever since.”

He has worked his way up the industry, now overseeing a second-in-charge programme that involves training and mentoring others in the Landcorp cluster. . . 

Ahuwhenua Trophy finalists – models of Māori innovation:

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have congratulated this year’s Ahuwhenua Trophy competition sheep and beef farming finalists, celebrating excellence in Māori farming.

Announced today at a Parliamentary event, the three finalists are Omapere Rangihamama Trust (Kaikohe), RA & JG King Partnership, Puketawa Station (Eketahuna) and Pukepoto Farm Trust (Ongarue).

“These beef and sheep farming stations are shining examples of the commitment Māori farmers have to sustainably developing their land for future generations. I’m proud to acknowledge and celebrate the key role Māori play in New Zealand’s primary industries,” says Mr Guy.

“The asset base of the Māori economy is worth over $42 billion, most of which is strongly focussed on the primary industries. Māori collectively own 40% of forestry land, 38% of fishing quota, and 30% of lamb production, to name just a few examples. . . 

From Seychelles to farming at Toko Mouth – Sally Rae:

It’s a long way from the Seychelles to Toko Mouth.

The path to farm ownership for coastal South Otago farmer Simon Davies has been an interesting one, including working in the seafood industry both in New Zealand and abroad.

Mr Davies (45) and his wife Joanna, with their two young daughters Georgina (3) and 7-month-old Juliette, farm Coombe Hay, a 750ha sheep and beef property boasting spectacular sea views.

Toko Mouth, 50km south of Dunedin and 15km southeast of Milton, is at the mouth of the Tokomairiro River and has about 70 holiday homes. . . 

New drought measurement index launched:

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has welcomed the launch of a new tool to monitor drought in New Zealand’s regions.

Developed by NIWA with the support of the Ministry for Primary Industries, the New Zealand Drought Index uses the best scientific information available to determine the status of drought across the country. It is a tool to acknowledge the onset, duration and intensity of drought conditions.

“Until now there hasn’t been one definitive definition of a drought,” says Mr Guy.

“Applying the latest scientific knowledge and technology like this index does, helps us to know exactly what is happening and can better inform producers, agri-businesses, councils and the Government to make the right decisions at the right time.” . . 

New Beef + Lamb New Zealand Farmer Council National Chairman:

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand Farmer Council has elected Marton farmer, William Morrison as its next national chairman.

Morrison replaces retiring King Country farmer, Martin Coup who has been the chairman since 2012.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand Farmer Councils are aligned to the organisation’s geographic electorates and they were established in 2010 as a network for guiding and advising Beef + Lamb New Zealand in identifying farmers’ extension and research and development needs. . . 

Prominent Southland station up for sale:

One of Southland’s largest farming stations is on the market for the first time in 40 years.

Strong interest is expected in the sale of Glenlapa Station, a significant property encompassing 5271 hectares of prime pastureland in Northern Southland. The expansive station has a tremendous capacity of more than 20,000 stock units, making it one of the largest and most successful farms in the region.

New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty sales associate Russell Reddell says it’s uncommon for a property of this magnitude to be up for public sale. . . 

DairyNZ research on show at Farmers’ Forums:

The latest DairyNZ science and innovation will be revealed at Farmers’ Forum events across the country in May.

A selection of science topics will feature at the regional forums, free to farmers, with DairyNZ staff summarising key research.

Session one, ‘Are you making money from milk or milk from money?’, will look at the results of DairyNZ’s farm systems research into the profitability of marginal milk (the milk produced after fixed costs are paid). In response to debate around which farming system is most profitable, DairyNZ has assessed the cost of marginal milk from data analyses and farm systems research. The findings will be presented to help farmers consider marginal milk in their decision making. . . 

Use the natural resource in your own backyard says Australian developer:

New Zealand is missing a prime opportunity to combine its sustainable timber resources with an innovative manufacturing system to build faster and more efficiently.

Daryl Patterson, Head of Operational Excellence at Lend Lease Australia, states Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) is that missing link.

CLT is an engineered wood system made from several layers of dimensional lumber boards, stacked crossways and bonded together.

Speaking at the Wood Processors & Manufacturers Association of New Zealand (WPMA) and Property Council New Zealand Tall Timber Buildings seminar last week, Mr Patterson questioned why, given New Zealand’s ample timber resources, there is not greater use of CLT in our construction sector. . . 


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