Rural round-up

November 12, 2019

‘Huge gaps” in environmental data – Colin Williscroft:

Shortcomings in New Zealand’s environmental reporting system undermine rules designed to protect the environment, a new report says.

A review of the reporting system Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton identifies huge gaps in data and knowledge and calls for concerted action to improve the system.

He says the data gaps, along with inconsistent data collection and analysis, make it hard to construct a clear national picture of the state of the environment – and whether it is getting better or worse. . . 

Fonterra confident of making progress – Sally Rae:

While there are more big strategic decisions ahead for Fonterra this year, chairman John Monaghan is “very confident” in the progress the co-operative is making.

Addressing yesterday’s annual meeting, Mr Monaghan said the 2019 financial year was a year of significant challenges and change within the co-operative, as it continued to fundamentally change its culture and strategy.

It was another tough year of significant change for farmers which included the Government’s policy announcements on climate change and freshwater, the effect the Reserve Bank’s proposal to tighten capital reserve rules had on banks’ willingness to lend, and the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

Fonterra’s decision not to pay a dividend and significantly impair a number of assets was a surprise to many farmer shareholders. . . 

Underpass creates safer stock route – Alice Scott:

In 1930, Jim MacDonald’s father was one of many stock drovers on what is now State Highway 87 to take sheep through from Waipori to the Waipiata saleyards; he would pick up different station mobs on horseback with a couple of heading dogs.

These days the MacDonald family require three staff, high-visibility vests for people and dogs and flashing hazard lights on the top of their utes, and that is just to get the stock across the road.

This year Mr MacDonald said the time had come to install a stock underpass as it was no longer safe to cross stock over State Highway 87.

“We’ve had a few dogs go under the wheel of a vehicle and the logistics have just become very difficult. The road just seems to get busier and busier. . . 

Seized fruit tree cutting imports stoush: Nursery owners meet with MPI – Eric Frykberg:

Nursery owners are meeting officials of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in Wellington to try to resolve a continuing stand off over seized cuttings of new varieties of fruit trees.

They have said the Ministry overstated the case when it said progress was being made to resolve the matter, and many claims were still outstanding.

The problem began 16 months ago with the dramatic seizure of 48,000 fruit tree cuttings by officials from MPI. . . 

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations:

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements are critical to the ongoing success of export industries like horticulture. 

‘Last year, New Zealand exported more than $3.6 billion to 128 different export markets,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘This year, that figure is expected to grow by a further 3.8 percent.  Such high levels of growth can only be achieved if export trading conditions are supportive, and barriers to entry are reduced constantly.’  . . 

Successful conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations welcomed by Onions New Zealand:

Onions New Zealand welcomes the successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations, saying trade agreements like these underpin the success of the New Zealand onion sector.

‘The RCEP covers trade among New Zealand and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, except India.  That is, half the world’s population,’ says Onions New Zealand Chief Executive, James Kuperus.

‘Without reduced tariffs and clear trading arrangements, it is extremely difficult to export from the bottom of the world to larger economies like Asia and Australia. 

‘Agreements like these mean more onions can be exported with the higher returns going directly back into regional New Zealand communities. . . 


Rural round-up

August 4, 2019

Science and fairness asked for by farmers – Corina Jordan:

Climate change is a hefty challenge, and sheep and beef farmers feel its effects in more frequent floods and extreme droughts.

This is why Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) backs the objectives of the Zero Carbon Bill and why – as a sector – we’ve already announced a target to be net carbon neutral by 2050.

BLNZ backs the Government’s targets of net zero by 2050 for the long lived gases CO2 and N2O. Getting CO2 under control is critically important because fossil fuel emissions will ultimately affect whether or not the world succeeds in combating climate change. . . 

Let them eat bark – Mike Chapman:

New Zealand faces several climate change challenges, thanks to being an island nation and having an economy that relies on primary production. 

One solution to our country’s challenges being touted at the moment is the planting of even more pine trees as forest sinks to offset our carbon emissions. 

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton has raised questions about this approach, saying that ‘our open-ended use of forests to license further carbon emissions will needlessly delay the critical transition to eliminating carbon altogether’ (New Zealand Listener, 6 July 2019). 

Native forest currently covers 7.8 billion hectares while pine forest covers 1.7 billion.  . . 

More trade is best way to sustainably feed humanity – expert – Pam Tipa:

Globalisation is the only way to feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 with a healthy diet on a healthy planet, says a global food expert.

And there is no vegetarian wave moving across the planet, he says. 

Some regions, such as Southeast Asia, need more red meat and eggs, says Australian doctor Sandro Demaio, chief executive of the global foundation EAT, in Norway.

EAT tackles human malnutrition and planetary challenges such as climate change. . . 

No deal will shut export gate – Annette Scott:

New Zealand’s export gateway to Europe via Britain will close with a no-deal Brexit, Kiwi red meat sector Brexit representative Jeff Grant says.

NZ sees Britain as a natural entry point for trade with the European Union, especially for small businesses that can’t afford to have a foot in both markets.

But if there is no deal by October 31 that gateway will be jeopardised.    

The odds are it will be a no-deal Brexit, Grant said.

“And that will have serious implications, particularly for the red meat industry.

“Commercial risk management is going to be very important to negotiate trade deals with the United Kingdom in years to come,” Grant told the Red Meat Sector conference. . . 

Beware the Risk 5G Poses to Rural Internet Users:

Despite the hype surrounding Vodafone’s launch of the next cellphone technology, it risks a serious downside to thousands of rural broadband users, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA.NZ).

“Vodafone and its competitors are putting huge pressure on Government to reallocate radio spectrum so they can run 5G more cost-effectively,” WISPA Chairman Mike Smith says.

“However, some of the spectrum the mobile companies are trying to claim is already used commercially by about 30 regional WISPs, who collectively service many tens of thousands of rural customers. These customers are farms who use the Internet for business management, rural kids who use it for study, and rural people who depend on it for social inclusion. Most can’t get Internet any other way. . . 

Children’s book wins big – Robyn Bristow:

A children’s book by a North Canterbury author has been a winner far beyond its target audience.

The quirky farm tale, Uncle Allan’s Stinky Leg, has taken two first places in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature.

It is the fifth title written by Jennifer Somervell, of Oxford, co-authored with her sister Margery Fern and designed by Margery’s daughter Ezra Andre, to have won first place at the awards.

It took the top prize in the humour section and for interior design. . . 

 


Submit on Carbon Zero Bill

July 15, 2019

Submissions on the Carbon Zero Bill close tomorrow.

The Bill as it stands is deeply flawed.

It will impose enormous economic costs on the country; severely decrease New Zealand’s export income and GDP; and destroy rural communities.

It will at best have a tiny impact on global emissions and at worst will increase them as food production losses here are replaced by increases from  less efficient producers in other countries.

The more submissions pointing our flaws and suggesting better alternatives, the better the chance of effecting change.

You can make submissions here.

Federated Farmers’ submission is here.

Alliance Group’s submission is here.

Mine follows, you’re welcome to use any or all of it in making your own one.

Comments on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Bill

  • 1. If we accept the science on climate change we must apply the best science in response to it.

Forestry is a short-term band aid on fossil fuel emissions.

Pine trees are not a long-term solution to meeting our emissions targets. Allowing pine forests to be used as carbon sinks will not encourage the behaviour change required to reduce emissions

Forestry should be used to offset biological emissions not fossil fuels.

Farmers should be able to claim full offsets for all available carbon sinks.

The point of obligation has to be on-farm to achieve behaviour change

Allowing farmers to off-set biological emissions with trees provides them with the incentive plant more.

The Methane targets in the Bill are impractical, without serious reductions to stocking rates (and damaging the NZ GDP). There currently exist no technologies that can meet these reductions as alternatives to reducing stocking rate.

Gene editing should be permitted in New Zealand as a tool to reduce methane emissions and genetic modification should be researched to determine if it has a place in reducing emissions.

  • 2.  If we are following the Paris Accord in reducing our emissions we must follow the Paris Accord in ensuring that carbon sinks do not come at the expense of food production.

Subsidies for planting trees and lower hurdles for foreigners buying farmland to convert to forestry than those who would continue farming are turning productive farmland into forests.

The right tree in the right place is not forests on farmland well suited to raising stock or crops.

If our response is to be sustainable it must be sustainable in the full sense – not just environmentally but economically and socially too.

Turning productive farmland into forestry is already reducing jobs in, and taking people from, rural communities. It is neither economically nor socially sustainable.

Nor is it environmentally beneficial: Environment Commissioner Simon Upton’s report Farms, Forests and Fossil Fuels, found that forests could be used to offset biological emissions but not carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

  • 3. If we are thinking globally and acting locally we must take into account the impact of anything we do not just on New Zealand’s emissions but global emissions.

Food insecurity is one of the possible impacts of climate change.

New Zealand feeds 40 million people and leads the world in doing it efficiently.

Even DEFRA (the UK’s equivalent of MPI) says that it is better for the environment for people there to eat imported lamb from New Zealand than local produce: 

Policies which lead to less food being produced here might lower New Zealand’s emissions but will increase global emissions as less efficient food production is increased in other countries.

Policies which incentivise forestry over farming are in direct contradiction to the Paris Accord. That includes lower hurdles for foreigners seeking to buy farmland for forestry than those who would farm it.

The One Billion Trees programme has not thought past the first 30 years, when high harvesting costs and high carbon prices will be a disincentive to harvest. That will leave a “Green Elephant” – many thousands of hectares of trees that  return no harvest value and no carbon value for their owners, and no economic benefit to New Zealand.

Replacing pastoral land with exotic forests in the name of reducing net emissions risks severely impacting this country’s GDP.

Allowing the carbon price to “drift” upward from $25/tonne will create severe distortions in investment markets. The carbon price as it relates to forest sinks should be capped/regulated to prevent these distortions in the market.

The forest harvesting business should have the same environmental standards imposed on it as pastoral farming does.

The right tree in the right place, off setting emissions in the right way is forestry on land not best-suited to farming and off setting biological emissions not fossil fuel emissions.

  • 5. If we are to take climate change seriously we need the knowledge to make the right choices.

Recycling is promoted as better for the environment, but if the environmental impact of transporting and processing is taken into account, is it really better than sending waste to landfills?

Running electric cars emit no emissions and hybrid cars emit lower ones than petrol and diesel vehicles. But if the entire life cycle of the vehicles and their components including mining the lithium and other minerals for batteries and then disposing of them are taken into account, which is better?

Recommendations:

  1. New Zealand’s response to climate change must be based on the best science.
  2. The Carbon Zero Bill must follow the Paris Accord’s recognition that climate change mitigation is not at the expense of food production.
  3. All impacts of the Carbon Zero BIll must be sustainable in the full sense – environmentally, economically and socially.
  4. The definition in the Bill of “net emissions” only allows for land-use change and forestry. The definition of net emissions in the Bill should be amended to allow for “other forms of sequestration” including regeneration of native bush, smaller scale permanent plantings or soil sequestration.”.
  5. Forestry must not be used to offset fossil fuel emissions.
  6. Farmers must be permitted to offset biological emissions with forestry.
  7. There should be no tax on biological emissions
  8. Gene editing should be permitted in New Zealand as a tool to reduce methane emissions and research into genetic modification should be permitted to determine if it has a place in reducing emissions.

Rural round-up

June 12, 2019

Dairy law changes spur dissent – Sally Rae:

Changes to dairy industry legislation will bring some improvements to the sector but also represent “a missed opportunity”, both Fonterra and Federated Farmers say.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday announced changes to be made to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 (DIRA) and the Dairy Industry Restructuring Raw Milk Regulations 2012.

The changes include allowing Fonterra to refuse milk supply from new conversions and from farmers who did not comply with its supply standards. . . 

Crush protection for quad bikes very worthwhile option – Feds:

Federated Farmers is on board with WorkSafe’s decision to “strongly recommend” installation of a crush protection device (CPD) on quad bikes used for work purposes.

“We support WorkSafe’s policy clarification.  For some time Federated Farmers has been saying CPDs, or roll over protection as it used to be called, can be a very useful injury prevention option in many – but not all – farm settings,” Feds President Katie Milne says.

“There is still some debate about CPDs, including from quad bike manufacturers who say they are unsafe, and those who say the device itself can cause injury in some circumstances.  But like WorkSafe, Federated Farmers believes there is now enough evidence from credible sources to say that farmers should at least be considering Crush Protection Devices. . . 

Forest awards apprentices of the year a chip of the old block – Sally Rae:

Paige Harland was born to be in the bush.

Miss Harland (21) comes from a Southland family who have sap in their blood over three generations.

Named apprentice of the year at the recent 2019 Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards, she works for Harland Brothers Logging.

The business was established by her grandfather and great-uncle, later taken over by her uncle Peter and is now run by her cousins Jesse and Corrie Harland. . . 

Deer farmers set example:

Central Hawke’s Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter have won the premier Elworthy Award in the deer industry’s 2019 environmental awards.

The Potters were praised by the award judges for their work in enhancing the environmental performance of their property.

They have owned the 640ha Waipapa Station for 20 years.

A bush clad gully on their Elsthorpe farm is a highly visible and attractive aspect of the Potters’ contribution. . . 

 

Decision to not front Lumsden meeting ’embarrassing’, MP says:

The Ministry of Health and Southern District Health Board decision not to meet with Southland midwives today has been described as a slap in the face.

The meeting was called to help midwives practice safely in the area after the former Lumsden Maternity Centre was downgraded.

It was cancelled after both organisations decided not to front up to midwives this afternoon.

National’s Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was embarrassing that neither were prepared to meet with midwives for the good of the rural communities. . . 

Meet the midwives at Fieldays:

For this first time this year, midwives will have a stand at Fieldays at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

Midwives play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of rural communities throughout New Zealand and the thousands of people who flock to the country’s premier agricultural show, will have an opportunity find out more about their work.

Out of New Zealand’s total population of 4.8 million, approximately 576,000* people live in rural areas. Around 55,000 women give birth annually in New Zealand; nearly a third of whom live in rural areas. . . 


Reject blanket afforestation of farmland

June 10, 2019

Government policy which subsidises forestry is a bigger threat to food production, rural communities and the New Zealand economy than the ag-sag of the 1980s.

North Otago was particularly hard-hit by the stripping of subsidies that coincided with high interest rates and soaring inflation.

Many farms were too small to be economic and the district was plagued by recurring droughts.

Predictions that farmers would be driven off the land in great numbers proved to be an exaggeration. But many jobs on farm and in businesses that serviced and supplied them were lost and very few of the farmers’ adult children who left the district for education or work returned.

Farmers gradually adjusted to life without subsidies and are stronger for it. Inflation and interest rates returned to manageable levels, irrigation provided protection from droughts and created jobs on and off farm.

There will be no recovery and resurgence of rural communities when productive farmland is replaced by forests.

Subsidising forestry and making it easier for foreign buyers to buy land for forestry than farming is already killing on-farm jobs.

50 Shades of Green paints the local picture:

  • 100,000 stock units sold to forestry in the Wairarapa these last twelve months
  • Economic impact on Wairarapa community? Direct spend at $125/stock unit: $12.5m. Plus four times multiplier effect.
  • — 1,000 hectares sheep/beef farm creates seven jobs.
  • 1,000 hectares plantation forestry creates one job.
  • Tree planting by temporary immigrants… most of the wages are sent home.
  • — Rural communities will be decimated.
  • — Farm land prices have been pushed up by these taxpayer
    subsidies
    .

It’s not just in the Wairarapa and it’s not just farming jobs that are lost. Fewer people on farms means fewer children in schools, fewer people buying locally and fewer work opportunities servicing and supplying farms and farmers.

It  means less food produced for the local market and export and less export income.

It is also counter to the Paris Climate Accord which states that climate mitigation should not be at the expense of food production.

This is the motivation for the petition asking that legislation which incentivises the blanket afforestation of farmland be rejected:

. . .There has never been such an imminent threat to food production in New Zealand as that which looms over us in the form of current government policies which align across multiple government portfolios designed to meet specific policy agendas.  These agendas combined, create a massive assault on the viability of rural businesses, on sustainable land use, on infrastructure and ultimately on the lives of those living the experience of this assault.

We need your support as we fight to provide a voice for the industries and communities rendered defenceless in the face of ill-conceived afforestation incentives which are already leading to unemployment, displacement and declining standards of living for those left behind.

The tension between competing land uses has long existed between forestry and pastoral farming; however never before has a government provided the mechanisms for one to obliterate the other to the extent that this potential now exists.

It is this case that we ask your support in defending.

Not that forestry should be maligned, but that the Government of today and Governments going forward must be made to see that crippling small towns through distorted market incentives is morally wrong, economically foolish and will impact vulnerable individuals and communities for generations to come.

It’s not just morally wrong and economically foolish, it’s socially destructive, it’s not backed up by science and will do more harm than good to the environment.

The government ignored advice from Environment Commissioner Simon Upton who said the science shows trees could off-set methane emissions but would not offset fossil fuel emissions.

If New Zealand produces less food, it will be replaced by meat and milk from other countries whose farmers are far less efficient than ours.

We have already picked up the torch of environmental restoration and we willingly carry it as the legacy we leave for those who come after us; in this we are already united, but a crippled community can restore nothing, and an empty community will not care.

We ask you to join your name to our petition and stand alongside us as we defend our common right to live and work on the land, growing food for our country sustainably, ethically and for the benefit of all New Zealand. 

Some areas should never have been cleared and should be replanted in trees.

But there is no economic, environmental or scientific justification for turning productive farmland into forests.

 

 


Subsidies ignore science

May 29, 2019

The Carbon Zero Bill isn’t being led by science when it comes to methane:

Farmers should be able to use forests to offset methane and nitrous oxide emissions, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton says.

And he says fossil fuel emitters should not be allowed to use forest to offset their gas.

That will lead to better quality land use change.

Upton was responding to farmers’ concern the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill will lead to wholesale afforestation with inevitable land use change in response to climate change.

But the shape of that land use change can be better managed by farmers working together and taking a landscape approach to establishing forests rather than blanket planting by those seeking to simply offset their emissions, Upton said.

“That’s the bit I think needs to be thought about a bit harder.” . . 

Farmers are more than concerned about this.

We’re all exhorted to follow the science on climate change but the government is going against the science in allowing fossil fuel emitters to offset their gas with forests.

It’s doubling the damage by not allowing farmers to offset methane emissions with trees.

It’s also going against the Paris Accord which said emissions mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production.

The sale of productive farmland for forestry is already having a negative impact or rural communities:

Subsidies for forestry are distorting the market for farmland, killing jobs and the science says it won’t work to offset fossil fuel emissions.

Politics, bureaucracy and emotion trump science and facts again and farmers and rural communities will pay the cost.


OIO favours forestry over farming

May 23, 2019

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

NZ won’t survive without agriculture.

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

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

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

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

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

So, why are we planting a billion trees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply, the subsidy didn’t work.

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

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

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

He needs to change advisers.

Let’s look at the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will that do to provincial NZ?

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

What will that do to the provinces?

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

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

What will that loss achieve for the provinces?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The madness needs to stop.

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


Food or forests

May 14, 2019

Current government policy favours forests rather than food production and disregards the science:

Professor Derrick Moot writes:

I recently provided peer review for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environments report on “Farms, forestry and fossil fuels: The next great landscape transformation?“. It rightly points out that the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions is from turning fossil carbon (oil and coal) into atmospheric carbon dioxide. The report concludes that only biological emissions (from e.g. farm animals) should be able to be offset by forestry (a biological sink). I believe this is sound science and would make sound policy in NZ and globally.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, supports this too.

However, the NZ Govt. have dismissed this idea with little acknowledgement of the distortions their current policy settings will create. The lack of action against fossil fuels means the New Zealand rural sector will be disadvantaged by a global problem that is the result of fossil fuel burning. In my opinion it is absurd that NZ is targeting short lived biological emissions from sheep and cows and largely ignoring the fossil fuel industry that the rest of the world recognises as the main cause of greenhouse emissions. Short term expediency may allow individual farmers to benefit from planting trees, and in a best case scenario see the conversion of marginal grazing land to forestry. However, the subsidy to forestry will make it almost impossible for sheep and beef farmers to compete in land purchases in the medium and long term. Importantly, we are already seeing high value sheep and beef farm land close to main roads being sold for forestry. This is not the more marginal that potentially could be targeted through appropriate policy. . . 

Farmers Dave Read and Judy Bogaard have started a petition seeking action on this:

“We have spent the last year doing research on GHG policy. Our driver was to save sheep & beef farms from conversion to forestry. Locally we have seen a wave of farm sales to forestry. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the environment, Simon Upton, has modelled current policies and predicts 5.4 M ha of grassland will be planted by 2075. We are talking about almost half the total area of the north island here. There is only 5.3M ha of non-dairy, non-tussock grassland in NZ, so that is the end of sheep and beef farming in NZ. We are all familiar with the spiral of bad things that happen if our industry shrinks: Overcapacity in the freezing industry; rural depopulation and the loss of services; and increasing difficulty in attracting staff.

If the projected conversion from pastoral farming to forestry continues there will be a repeat of the ag-sag of the 1980s with far worse on-going consequences.

Back then, farmers adapted to the real world without subsidies, farming became stronger and jobs for those who service and support them at least partially recovered.

There will be no recovery from turning productive farmland into forests. Rural communities will die and the country will lose too much of the export income we need to maintain first world status.

The prime mover for afforestation is the anticipation of a rising price for carbon. This is a consequence of the political fear of tackling our driving habits.

As a consequence of our work we have come to the conclusion that the sheep and beef sector and rural communities will bear the brunt of meeting New Zealand’s Paris obligations.

To save our industry and community the following must happen:

    • Forestry must not receive incentives that allow it to outbid farmers for land purchases.
    • The demand for carbon credits must be reduced.
    • The Government must be offered a viable alternative to off-setting
    • The only alternative that we can see is regulation of the transport sector.

To have the courage to take this step, the government will need a demonstration of widespread support for it. For this reason we are asking you to support our petition (Take action to reduce global warming).

It is fortunate that our interests actually coincide with anyone who seriously wants to reduce global warming. The sheep and beef industry actually produces less warming today than it did in 1990. Mass afforestation is a risky and flawed strategy which only postpones the action on fossil fuel use that we need to take eventually.

Because we need a lot of signatures we have also written a covering letter for non-farmers. We can supply it if you wish to forward the petition to a wider audience. For anyone wanting to check up on our facts, we have supporting data and scientific references. We can send you these on request. (bogaardread@outlook.com).

Some land which ought to have been left in trees was cleared and should be replanted.

But turning productive farmland into forests will be an economic and social disaster which will more than outweigh any environmental benefit.

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Rural round-up

December 28, 2018

Loss of agricultural training campuses ‘will leave massive hole’ – Piers Fuller:

Carrying $23 million in debt, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was forecast to continue hemorrhaging money.

The Wairarapa based organisation which has campuses all over New Zealand including Telford Farm Training Institute in South Otago, went into interim liquidation on Wednesday.

National Party agricultural spokesman Nathan Guy said the loss of Taratahi and Telford would leave a massive hole and he questioned why the Government couldn’t have done more to save it. . . 

Conservation order is rife with uncertainties – Rhea Dasent:

The Ngaruroro Water Conservation Order brings uncertainties that point to an untenable proposal, writes Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Rhea Dasent.

Federated Farmers opposes the Ngaruroro Water Conservation Order because of the uncertainty it brings.

The order is uncertain in three ways: it dumps limits on the community with an accompanying regime to be worked out by someone else later; inconsistent units; and inconsistent timeframes. . . 

People are the cherry on top – Neal Wallace:

It soon became obvious the interview with Harry and Joan Roberts was near the pointy end of the stone fruit season.

The long-time Central Otago fruit growers were amicable and generous with their time to accommodate an early December interview but the season was obviously ramping up, evident by the succession of staff requiring a piece of their time with inquiries.

They were diverse requests: questions about labelling details for the first pick of new season cherries, confirmation of exactly which block of fruit tree needed spraying and there was a constant stream of young people, many foreign backpackers, looking for work. . .

Environment Canterbury happy to make changes to farm-management system– Paul Gorman:

Environment Canterbury (ECan) says it already knows about the pitfalls of Overseer, following a critical report on the farm-management system by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

It says it is prepared to make any changes that may be recommended as a result.

In his report earlier this month, Upton said the Overseer model needed to be more transparent if the public were to trust in it as a way of regulating pollution from farms. . . 

Breeder says goats need scale – Alan Williams:

Owen Booth has trophies and ribbons highlighting the quality of his Boer goat herd but says there’s one major drawback for the industry.

There’s just not enough of the breed in New Zealand to provide the scale to ensure good earnings for farmers producing them for their meat.

It’s hard to build markets and get dedicated processing space at meat plants, he says.

Of the 130,000 or so goats killed in NZ each year only 5% to 10% are Boer goats, a specialist meat breed introduced here from South Africa. . . 

US farmers fear lucrative Japanese exports will wither – Jacob M. Schlesinger:

After seeing exports to China tumble, U.S. farmers and ranchers are now bracing for more losses in their next-biggest Asian market: Japan.

On Dec. 30, Tokyo will begin cutting tariffs and easing quotas on products sold by some of American agriculture’s biggest competitors—including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Chile—as part of the new 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. . .


Rural round-up

September 18, 2018

Old values and new practices – Glenys Christian:

Richard Cookson and his wife Louise Cullen studied at Lincoln University but then went overseas for work at scientists rather than heading for the farm. However, 12 years ago they answered a call to return home and now run a cow and goat dairy unit.

They not only enjoy it but are proud of what they are doing and want all New Zealanders to be proud of farmers as the keepers of Kiwi values. They are leading by example, not just on the farm but also by giving back to the sector and community and setting environmental standards. . .

Lamb prices pushing the limit – Annette Scott:

Lamb prices are not aligned with global market fundamentals, prompting a warning of a looming correction.

Procurement prices as high as $8.70 a kilogram are out of whack from a global perspective but reflect the limited number of lambs in the market, Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Heather Stacy said.

While the weaker New Zealand dollar is playing a key role in keeping lamb prices up, a push-back is imminent. . .

Better understanding of nutrient movement – Pam Tipa:

We need a better understanding of nutrient transport across catchments, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Simon Upton.

And he says we also need better understanding of what nutrient models can and can’t do to assist in building a picture and better communication of what is happening to water quality. . .

Young Farmers’ Next 50 message: move with he times or wither – Simon Edwards:

There were some blunt words on glyphosate, fake meat burgers and farmers who won’t embrace change at the Wellington Young Farmers Club’s 2018 Industry Function.

During a panel discussion The Next 50: Future of Farming the conversation roved from 3D conferencing and holograms to Maori business models, and from disruptive technologies to milking sheep.

Dr Linda Sissons, of the Primary ITO, agreed with other speakers that increasing numbers of people will need to re-train every 10 or 15 years, if not more frequently.  Her organisation was introducing a suite of ‘Micro-credentials’ – short and sharp courses that farmers and others in the primary sectors could study in between other commitments. . .

German investment company to sell central North Island farms in Taihape and Waikaha – Sam Kilmister:

German company is offloading two central North Island farms, totalling about 1150 hectares.

Aquilla Capital, an asset management and investment company, bought the two sheep and beef blocks in 2012, but the Taihape and Waikaha properties are being offered for sale within the next month. 

The European company bought the farms on a fixed-term investment, requiring them to be sold by a specific date.

MyFarm, a Feilding-based investment service, oversaw on-farm operations. Its sheep and beef director Tom Duncan said the two properties were much better than when they were bought six years ago. . .

Cricketers’ company spins NZ lamb onto airlines’ menus:

Premium airline travellers departing India are now being served Pure South lamb from New Zealand.

Lamb is on the menu for first-class and business class passengers flying Air Canada, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines and Air France after QualityNZ, Alliance Meat Co-op’s India partner, signed an agreement with two airline catering companies in India.

QualityNZ, whose shareholders include cricketing legends Sir Richard Hadlee, Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum, is also celebrating success in the foodservice sector with Pure South lamb now available at more than 300 five-star hotels in India. . .

 

 


Rural round-up

September 10, 2018

Tasman District Council U-turn on Waimea dam draws mixed reaction –  Cherie Sivignon:

The Tasman District Council decision on Thursday to revoke its earlier in-principle agreement to effectively end the Waimea dam project has received a mixed reaction.

Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith welcomed the 9-5 vote to proceed with the $102 million project after a new funding model was presented to councillors, calling it the right decision for the region’s future.

“The big gains from this project are environmental and economic,” Smith said. “It will enable the minimum flows in summer in the Waimea River to be lifted five-fold and fully meet the national standards for water quality. It will also enable another 1200ha of horticulture, creating more wealth and jobs.” . .

Tough job to get staff – Neal Wallace:

Labour hungry farmers and primary industry employers face stiff competition for school leavers with regional unemployment below 5%, secondary school teachers are warning.

Mid Canterbury’s unemployment rate is 2%, creating a competitive job market with school leavers having multiple offers and attractive wages and employment conditions, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said.

So the days of farmers offering youth rates or minimum wages and expecting them to work 50-hour weeks are gone. . .

Better understanding of nutrient movement – Pam Tipa:

We need a better understanding of nutrient transport across catchments, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Simon Upton.

And he says we also need better understanding of what nutrient models can and can’t do to assist in building a picture and better communication of what is happening to water quality. Upton highlighted several gaps and faults in this information to a recent Environmental Defence Society conference.

The PCE is analysing Overseer as a tool for measuring water pollution from agricultural sources. Upton told the conference he is not yet in a position to preview findings on his Overseer report.

But the need for better understanding of nutrient transport, models and communication were among aspects which so far stand out to him in his findings. . .

Inquiry after lambs killed –  Tim Miller:

Mosgiel man Roy Nimmo says the killing of three of his two-week-old lambs is abhorrent and whoever is responsible should take a long hard look at themselves.

The three lambs were being kept in a paddock next to his home in Cemetery Rd, beside the East Taieri Church, with about 15 other lambs and ewes.

A ewe was also shot in the head but at this stage was still alive, Mr Nimmo said. . .

Agritech deal opens door to US markets – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s agritech innovators will have better access to the massive United States market through two new partnerships.

Agritech New Zealand, which represents some of the country’s top tech companies, has signed an agreement with California-based Western Growers, a trade organisation whose members provide more than half the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables.

Signed last week, the deal will open doors for Kiwi agritech companies to enter the US market via the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology in California and for US-based agritech startups to access the New Zealand market, Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton said. . .

Shortfall of tractor drivers a concern – Yvonne O’Hara:

Although a new apprenticeship scheme will address future labour needs in the horticultural industry nationally, there is also a shortage of skilled tractor drivers and irrigation technicians to work on Central Otago vineyards that needs to be addressed.

The three-year programme provides on the job training and support for 100 new horticulture and viticulture apprentices, and was launched last month.

It is supported by New Zealand Winegrowers, Primary ITO, the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) . .

Don’t take our dairy industry fro granted :

The current drought is showing the detrimental impact that the $1/litre milk and the discounting of dairy products has had on the profitability of dairy farmers across NSW.

Retailers’ behavior to discount dairy products had deteriorated farmers’ economic resilience and the prolonged drought is highlighting the reduced profits of farmers. 

Preparing for drought requires that during good years farmers from across all commodities have extra cash that they reinvest back into their farm to prepare for the lean times. . .


Rural round-up

March 12, 2018

Thousands of trees hide the scars of Cyclone Bola on Mangaroa Station at Tokomaru Bay – Kate Taylor:

‘It was like a bloody atomic bomb had gone off.’ An East Coast farmer looks back at Cyclone Bola. Kate Taylor continues her series marking the storm’s 30th anniversary.

Sam Reeves loves farming Mangaroa Station today but can only imagine its devastation at the hands of Cyclone Bola.

At age 27, he wasn’t born when the historic storm hit the East Coast of the North Island in 1988.

But he is the same age previous owner Graeme Williams was when Cyclone Bola dumped more than 900mm of rain on the Tokomaru Bay farm in just two days.

“When I went to bed on the night of the 7th it was pouring down with rain,” Williams says. . .

More weight for ag emissions tax – Neal Wallace:

Another unequivocal message has been delivered that agriculture needs to shoulder a greater share of the efforts and costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In January Climate Change Minister James Shaw signalled agriculture could be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme and this week the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said climate change policy cannot ignore agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

New Zealand has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 but Upton said climate change policies lack bite for fear they would compromise competitiveness. . . 

Rabobank New Zealand Agribusiness Monthly March 2018:

The Agribusiness Monthly provides timely information and analysis on agricultural conditions, commodity price updates and commentary on the latest sectoral trends and developments.

Key Highlights:

Dairy
Can the price rally survive the EU Spring peak?

Beef
Is there potential for near term price falls? . . .

Industrialised meat backlash to favour NZ sheep and beef farmers – Bill Wright:

The planets seem to be aligning for sheep and beef farmers this season.

We have had that rare combination of excellent growing conditions and strong prices for both beef and lamb – prime and store.

Adding to what has been a positive start to the year was the release of a Beef + Lamb New Zealand- commissioned report on alternative proteins.

The research showed that despite the emergence of alternative proteins, the future for this country’s grass-fed red meat is healthy. Internationally, consumers are seeking red meat produced without hormones or antibiotics and to the highest standards of animal welfare – and NZ farm systems tick all of these boxes. . . 

Kansas City’s agriculture roots run deep: Cowtown turned animal health & technology centre:

At the bend in the Missouri River on grass covered flats if you listen close you might hear echoes of the past; hoofbeats, whistling, spurs jangling, the slap of leather and the high pitched zzzzzz of a lariat. Cowboys, dust covered and bone tired, riding weary cowponies barely heard over the bawling of thousands of Texas steers, “Hold’em here boys, the drives bout over.”

Kansas City sprouted from its agricultural heritage as a Cowtown. The transition to a center for animal health, education, and technology seems only natural for a town that for hundreds of years has had millions of animals pass through this gateway to the west. . .

 


MP at 20

September 10, 2010

Most of the news in New Zealand about the Australian election focussed on who would form the government.

There are a lot of other stories:

Twenty-year-old Wyatt Roy won Longman, a seat taking in suburbs north of Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, by a slim margin for the Liberal Party at the August 21 election, which also produced other political “firsts”.

WA Liberal MP Ken Wyatt is Australia’s first Indigenous member of the lower house.  There is also a Greens MP elected at a federal election for the first time – Melbourne’s Adam Bandt.

The Australian  reports:

Mr Roy spent his first official day in Parliament yesterday sitting next to the longest serving MP, Philip Ruddock, 67, who took him under his wing.

Mr Ruddock was elected in 1973, 17 years before Mr Roy was born.

He sounds like he’s enjoying the experience, but some things will take a bit of getting used to:

The country’s youngest federal MP, Wyatt Roy, says he is uncomfortable with the formality of some at Parliament House.

“I would much rather they call me Wyatt. I was talking to some of the parliamentary staff today and I said, ‘oh no, call me Wyatt’,” he said.

“They have to call me Mr Roy, and I said, ‘well in the military you salute the rank’, and I suppose here it is about the position and not the person.”

We were in Australia on election day and saw Roy interviewed on television.

He was articulate and came across as mature for his age and very grounded. He’ll need to be because being Australia’s youngest MP will mean he is likely to get more attention than most other new MPs.

His profile is here.

Google tells me that New Zealand’s youngest MP was Marilyn Waring who was 22 when she elected. If memory serves me correctly Simon Upton was the next youngest at 23.


If there’s a global problem it needs a global solution

May 6, 2008

 

Which country does most to protect and least to damage the environment? I wouldn’t put Russia high on my list but under the Kyoto Protocol countries like ours will have to pay Russia if we don’t meet our carbon emission targets.

 

And will paying millions, maybe even billions, of dollars actually do anything to improve the environment? No. The money would be far better spent on research and development into practices and products which protect and enhance the environment without ruining the economy.

 

Simon Upton writes about the challenge of halving global emissions while the world’s population doubles. It is worth reading in full and concludes:

 

As many have observed, even if rich countries eliminated all their emissions, there would still be a problem. So developing countries have to be a big part of any solution.

Lord Stern proposes that all countries should have limitation targets by 2020. But as he observes, it seems unreasonable to expect this “unless developed countries can demonstrate that they can deliver reductions cost-effectively and without threatening growth”.

Developed countries are far from being able to demonstrate that. Some of their policy interventions – like support for biofuels or the continuation of subsidies to fossil fuels – go in the opposite direction. If rich countries can’t cooperate to introduce the least costly policies, why would any other countries consider being saddled with them?

 

They wouldn’t which is one of the things wrong with current attempts to reduce emissions, including the Kyoto Protocol.

 

If there is a problem with emissions it’s a global one which needs a global solution, not the piecemeal approach we’ve got now which will cause serious economic damage while doing little to improve the environment and may well damage it more.


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