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.


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