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’. . . 


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