Rural round-up

18/01/2020

Disease’s cost killed meat firm – Jacob McSweeny:

Meat production at a 100-year-old Dunedin company has ceased and 13 staff have been made redundant but the owner of The Craft Meat Company says the business will live on.

The decision came after meat producers’ profits were cut by rising costs due to a global shortage of protein triggered by the African swine fever epidemic, owner Grant Howie said.

‘‘[It was] the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do,’’ Mr Howie said of the decision to axe staff. . . 

Sage softens lease land changes – Neal Wallace:

The Government appears to have softened the sharpest edges of proposed changes to the management of pastoral lease land while confirming farming will continue in the South Island high country.

The bill detailing changes to the Crown Pastoral Lands Act appears to back down on initial proposals that included greater political oversight of the activities of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, traditionally an independent position.

It seems also to accept submissions from farming sectors that lessees have legal rights to pasturage and quiet enjoyment of their land, which would have been compromised by the original recommendations. . . 

Fonterra pioneer expects much better:

One of the architects of Fonterra says he’s very disappointed with the co-op’s performance over the years.

Tirau farmer, Tony Wilding says farmers expected better when they formed the co-op in 2001. “It’s not the performance we had in mind when we formed Fonterra,” he told Rural News.

Wilding received a New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list for his contribution to the dairy sector and community. . .

New chief executive for Meat Industry Association – Sudesh Kissun:

The Meat Industry Association has appointed Sirma Karapeeva as its new chief executive.

Karapeeva, who is currently the Meat Industry Association’s (MIA) trade and economic manager, has been with the trade association since 2015. She replaces Tim Ritchie who is retiring after 12 years in the role.

Karapeeva, who takes over in April, held a variety of trade, policy and regulatory roles in Government before joining MIA.

Kiwifruit prices hit record high:

Kiwifruit prices were at an all-time high in December 2019, with prices for seasonal fruit and vegetables also up, Stats NZ said today.

“Kiwifruit prices rose 32 percent in December to a weighted average price of $8.27 per kilo, an all-time high,” acting consumer prices manager James Griffin said.

“This compares with $4.24 in December last year.” . . 

Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award nominations open:

Nominations to a national award that recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainable dairying and who are ambassadors for the industry open January 15th.

The Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award was introduced by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards to recognise those dairy farmers who are respected by their farming peers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. Entry for this award is by nomination only via dairyindustryawards.co.nz. . . 


Rural round-up

21/12/2019

 Australian farmers receive sick letters telling them to ‘use a bullet on themselves – Karen Ruiz:

Farmers across NSW have become the targets of abusive letters urging them to ‘use a bullet’ on themselves if they ‘can’t handle’ the drought. 

Several residents in Dubbo, Walgett and Peak Hill in the state’s western region reported receiving the disturbing notes last month, police said.  

One of the letters, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, had been typed in a large font on white paper and is believed to have been hand delivered.   . . 

Profit shortfall from regenerative grazing spelt out – Shan Goodwin:

ANALYSIS has shown running a livestock operation under regenerative agriculture principles over a period of ten years sets profit back to the tune of $2.46m.

The work by prominent farm business consultants Holmes Sackett found farms not classified as RA systems generated operating returns of 4.22 per cent, compared to those who were classified RA returning only 1.66pc.

Holmes Sackett director John Francis said the analysis was not a criticism of the philosophy of RA but an analysis of the financial performance of these systems relative to other farm management practices. .

Farmers’ tips for staying well :

How do other farmers look after themselves and their teams? Check out the advice below, including some great ideas from Farmstrong.

Farmstrong’s top tips

Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing initiative that helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming. Here are some of its suggestions for keeping well.

    • Stay connected – Surround yourself with a network of people you can reach out to. It can be as simple as having a conversation in the pub or over the fence.
    • Keep active – Biking, walking, hunting, team sport – whatever appeals. It keeps you ‘farm fit’, boosts your mood and gets you off-farm.
    • Enjoy the small stuff – When you’re working, take a moment to stop and enjoy the view or the nature. Not a bad office, is it?
    • Eat well – Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to keep your energy levels up.
    • Look after yourself, look after your team – People are the most important part of the dairy sector. . .

Sheep milk more easily digested than cow milk – study:

Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.

Anecdotally, evidence from consumers already suggests that sheep milk may be better tolerated than cow milk by some people.

This is believed to be the first human study in the world to investigate how differences in the composition of New Zealand sheep milk affect ease of digestion, digestive comfort, and the body’s ability to make use of milk protein. . . 

Fonterra to streamline Chilean operations:

Fonterra has purchased the minority interest in Prolesur, held by Fundación Isabel Aninat (the Fundación), as the Co-op looks to streamline its operations in Chile.

The Fundación has sold its 13.6% shareholding for $29.3 million NZD, which takes Fonterra’s ownership of Prolesur from 86.2% to 99.9%.

Prolesur is a milk processor in southern Chile which sells most of its production to Soprole. Soprole is a leading consumer branded dairy company in Chile and is 99.9% owned by Fonterra. . . 

Strong start to dairy export season:

Dairy led the rise in goods exports in November 2019 as milk powder exports reached $1.1 billion, Stats NZ said today.

This is the highest value of milk powder exports for a November month since dairy exports peaked in 2013.

The value of dairy exports (milk powder, butter, and cheese) increased $348 million in November 2019. Dairy was the main contributor to total goods exports reaching $5.2 billion, up $371 million from the same month last year. . . 

Big effort to deliver sustainable premium for NZ food:

Much has been made about New Zealand’s status as “100% Pure” and how much, or how little, needs to be done to keep that claim valid.

While that debate rumbles on, the primary sector has been doing much to deliver on Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s promise to the United Nations in September 2019 that New Zealand will be “the most sustainable food producing country in the world.”

As overseas consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and demand to know where their food has been sourced from, all parts of the New Zealand primary sector have been working to ensure the “paddock to plate” story is more than just a story.  . . 


Rural round-up

03/12/2019

On the policy change cycle – Paul Burt:

It was the winter of 1978. My brother and I had contracted to fence a native bush development block that had been felled the previous year and burnt that autumn. The boss had mentioned that the manager’s house was temporarily free but, “He knew what boys were like” and directed us to camp in the woolshed instead.

“When you need a wash,” He continued, (we had visions of going to the big house for a hot shower and a sit-down meal) “the soda springs is just 10km down the road”.
At least the woolshed was dry but we shared it with rats every night and hundreds of snotty ewes on the couple of nights they were penned for shearing. . . .

A celebration of farming excellence – Sally Rae:

From small beginnings, Strath Taieri farmers Andrew and Lynnore Templeton have developed a business model to be economically sound, allowing for successful succession.

That was one of the comments of the judges of this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Mr and Mrs Templeton, who farm The Rocks Station, a 2952ha sheep and beef property near Middlemarch, with their daughter, Ellie, won the supreme award, along with awards for innovation, agribusiness management and livestock.

The Templetons hosted a field day on their property last Thursday and facilitator Pete Young described it as a celebration of farming excellence. . . 

I thought I knew my pork – Elbow Deep:

I thought I knew a lot about pork: I know it’s a red meat, I know how to get perfect crackling on a pork roast and I know the destruction of three barbecues due to fat induced conflagration mean I should never be trusted with a pork chop again.

I’ve bought pork from a butcher, I’ve raised my own pork and I’ve eaten wild pork. I’ve had so much pork delivered to my house in a single day I seriously thought I’d need to buy a third freezer. I know my pork, or at least I thought I did.

I recently walked into a restaurant in Austin, Texas, and ordered a pork chop. It’s a meal I don’t cook often due to the high risk of catastrophic barbecue loss and it was a dish where I felt confident I knew what I’d be getting: a large pale slab of firm meat, possibly slightly greasy but delicious and filling. . .

Uruguayan farmer on wool learning curve – Yvonne O’Hara:

Ricardo Barcia is passionate about wool and the wool industry, and wants to learn more about fleece preparation before he returns home to Uruguay in March.

Mr Barcia (24) is from Salto, in Uruguay, and arrived in New Zealand in August to work on Andrew and Tracy Paterson’s property, Matakanui Station, near Omakau.

He had also spent time in several Otago woolsheds and was interested to see how woolhandlers and wool classers prepared the fleeces before they went into into fadges, something that did not happen at home.

Mr Barcia said he would like to introduce the practices to woolsheds in Uruguay as he could see significant benefits and added value for farmers there. . .

Export prices riding high on meat and dairy:

Export lamb and beef prices reached new highs in the September 2019 quarter, while forestry products fell sharply, Stats NZ said today.

“Both meat and dairy product export prices were up in the September quarter, following similar rises in the June quarter,” business price manager Bryan Downes said.

“In contrast, forestry product export prices, mainly logs, had the largest quarterly fall in over 10 years.” . .

Beef and Dairy Network wins gold at Podcast Awards:

The spoof magazine show is described as “the number one podcast for those involved or just interested in the production of beef animals and dairy herds.”

Created in 2015 by comedian Benjamin Partridge, the format is presented to listeners as a serious podcast about the meat and dairy industries, produced as a companion to a website and trade magazine of the same name. In fact, the podcast is peppered with comic dialogue, surreal discussions, spoof adverts, and fictional interviews with characters that are played by other comedians.

The show has now also transferred to Radio 4, with the BBC having repeated select episodes across two series. . . 

You can listen to the podcasts at Beef and Dairy Network


Rural round-up

28/11/2019

Government is losing the forestry debate with rural New Zealand – Keith Woodford:

The response of Government Ministers to rural concerns about forestry policy is polarising the debate. Describing rural perspectives as ‘fiction’, and upset rural protesters as ‘rednecks’, is counter-productive.

The combination of the Zero Carbon Act and forthcoming Emission Trading Scheme legislation will transform the New Zealand landscape. The Government has done a poor job of educating New Zealanders as to what it will mean. The Government is now on the defensive.

In this article, the focus is on multi-rotation production forestry. The associated story of permanent forests must wait for another article.

The starting point is that New Zealand has a policy goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. That means, among other things, that either New Zealand has to find new energy sources to replace fossil fuels, or else it has to offset those emission in other ways. The offsetting has to start right now. . . 

Government waterways proposal to move fences could cost millions – farmers – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers who have paid millions of dollars to put fences alongside waterways fear having to pay millions more to move them.

This worry has arisen from the government’s proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, which was released in September.

This plan called for fences to be set back at least five metres from a creek that runs through a farm, to stop nutrients leaking into the water.

Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said many creeks had already been fenced off, and those fences might have to be shifted under the proposed new rules.

“If we have put up fences to exclude stock, the last thing we want, now the goalposts have moved, is to do the whole job all over again,” Mr Allen said. . . 

Debate rages over report findings about meat, health – Brent Melville:

Whether you prefer burgers or beans, it is clear that international lobbying against red meat continues to gain momentum.

The latest volley comes from a recent joint survey by researchers at Oxford University and University of Minnesota.

Their report, “Multiple health and environmental impacts of food”, went further than just the health benefits or otherwise of different foods, linking ingredients associated with improved adult health to lower environmental impacts. And vice-versa.

The researchers picked 15 foods, measuring their impact if they were added to what an average Western adult would eat on a daily basis. . . 

Milk could be carbon-neutral now, says new study – Eloise Gibson:

By boosting how much maize cows eat, modestly reducing stock numbers, shrinking fertiliser use and buying carbon offsets, New Zealand milk could be carbon neutral today, according to a new study modelling changes to a typical Waikato dairy farm.

Researchers at AgResearch have calculated that a typical Waikato dairy farm could go carbon neutral now and still make a profit.

As a bonus, a farm that adopted the changes could also reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 42 percent, improving water quality.

Crucially, the farms profit could also increase, by 15 percent, after factoring in a premium paid by climate-conscious consumers. . . 

More farmers feeling bank pressure, Feds survey finds:

In the last six months farmers’ satisfaction with their banks has continued to erode and the number who feel under pressure from banks has risen from 16% to 23%, the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey shows.

“While most farmers remain ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their banks, the number giving those ratings have slipped from 71% in May this year to 68% in our November survey,” Feds economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. That’s the lowest since we began the twice-a-year surveys in August 2015.

“This is disappointing but not at all surprising given what we have been hearing over the past several months of banks getting tougher and changing conditions as they seek to contain or even reduce their exposure to agriculture, and also as they respond – prematurely – to the Reserve Bank’s proposals on bank capital,” Andrew says. . . 

 

Dairy, beef, and lamb exports rise in October:

Exports of dairy products, beef, and lamb, particularly to China, increased in value in October 2019, Stats NZ said today.

However, the rises were partly offset by falls in logs and kiwifruit.

In October 2019, the value of total goods exports rose $206 million (4.3 percent) from October 2018 to reach $5.0 billion.

The rise in exports was led by milk powder, up $194 million (32 percent) from October 2018. The rise was quantity-led, but unit values were also up. . .


Rural round-up

12/10/2019

Flawed policies will bite future growth, Federated Farmers warns:

Before giving thought to splurging funds from the surplus, Finance Minister Grant Robertson should check on the effects some of his colleagues’ policies are having on the economy, Federated Farmers says.

“The warning signs are there as growth in provincial economies slows – predominantly because of a significant drop in farmer confidence, not any fall in product prices.  As any economist knows, a drop in provincial growth will flow through to hit national growth,” Feds commerce and trade spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been media reports that the sharp fall in log prices is hitting employment in regions such as Northland and the East Coast and sentiment in key dairy regions such as the Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatu and Southland is fragile due to concerns about government policy. . . 

Farmers welcome trade envoy appointment:

Farmers are welcoming the appointment of Tararua farmer Mel Poulton to the position of Special Agricultural Trade Envoy for New Zealand.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says Poulton will be “a great representative of New Zealand farming”.

“She has a very good appreciation of the importance of trade to New Zealand and to the primary sector.

“Mel can also handle a dog around a hillside better than any man I’ve ever watched, which should be an indication of the patience and skill she will bring to wrangling with international free trade agreements and getting good deals for New Zealand.” . . 

Banking on gumboot move :

It’s a change of scenery, customer and supply chain for Skellerup’s incoming agri division head, Hayley Gourley.

The high profile former chief of Rabobank’s New Zealand operations has been with Skellerup, the owner of the iconic Red Band gumboot, for just under a month.

The Christchurch company was an instant switch for Gourley (nee Moynihan), whose presence at Rabobank gave the Dutch owned, global bank a Kiwi identity and voice in the agri industry.

At Skellerup she is managing a range of products and people, enjoying the initial feel of working for a national “household name,” she says. . . 

Scholarships address need for farming apprentices:

Scholarships address need for farming and horticulture apprentices

Primary ITO is responding to the urgent need for skilled workers in agriculture and horticulture by launching a scholarship programme for apprentice fees.

Applications for the scholarships are open for October and November and will cover fees for the whole duration of the apprenticeship programmes, which generally take 2-3 years. . . 

Carrot prices down to seven year low:

Carrots are the cheapest they have been in seven years, while prices for capsicums, tomatoes, and cucumbers are falling sharply as spring arrives, Stats NZ said today.

This has been partly offset by a spike in courgette and broccoli prices, leaving overall fruit and vegetable prices down just 1.9 percent in September.

“Fruit and vegetable prices typically fall in September as the warmer weather arrives and more stock begins to hit the shelves,” consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson said. . .

French farmers blockade roads in protest against ‘agri bashing’:

Angry French farmers blockaded major roads in the country yesterday over fears that ‘agri bashing’ is increasingly becoming the norm.

Protests occurred on Tuesday (8 October) as farmers become more and more concerned with the media’s representation of the industry.

Unions FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers), which organised the blockades, called on members to use tractors to bring traffic to a standstill. . . 

 


Rural round-up

03/09/2019

FMA looking into Fonterra’s asset write downs and financial performance following complaint – John Anthony:

The Financial Markets Authority is seeking information from Fonterra after receiving a complaint expressing concerns about the dairy cooperative’s expected record annual loss and asset write downs.

In early August Fonterra said it expected to make a loss for the 2019 financial year of between $590 million and $675m due to asset write downs of up to $860m.

A Financial Markets Authority (FMA) spokesman said it recently received a complaint about Fonterra’s financial reporting, and its audited financial statements over the last few years.

The complaint came from shareholder Colin Armer, who said he and his wife owned 10 million shares. . . 

Passion for sheep runs deep – Sally Rae:

She is known simply as “Sheepish Sophie”.

In the world of social media, Sophie Barnes – who has a strong following – is more well-known by that moniker.

Most recently, the young English shepherd and lamb-rearing specialist has been documenting her travels around the South Island with partner Dorrien Neeson and six dogs, working on various stations and farms.

At present stationed in the Waitaki Valley, Ms Barnes (27) admitted she had tried to find other hobbies apart from sheep farming and genetics but for her they did not exist . . 

The battle for trust – Peter Burke:

With distrust growing in consumers, even for science, gaining their trust is now more valuable to win than ever.

Tim Hunt, the head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness in Australasia, says trust is becoming more complex to succeed in and more valuable to win because of what is happening in New Zealand’s markets.

He says in emerging markets, such as China and Southeast Asia, consumers are placing enormous value on the safety of products, whereas in western markets they increasingly value sustainability, animal welfare, fairness and provenance.

Five years of Water Accord show dairy farmers doing their bit to improve water quality:

One of New Zealand’s biggest hands-on environmental efforts has created a wave of change on dairy farms across the country and is contributing to progress in improving water quality.

Today, the Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord farmers and partners announced their achievements to date, including:

  • fencing off dairy cattle from 24,249km (98.3%) of significant dairy accord waterways (waterways which are more than one metre wide and more than 30cm deep). That’s the equivalent of nearly 12 road trips from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Excluding stock from waterways is one of the most beneficial ways to improve water quality
  • installing bridges and culverts on 100% of stock crossing points dairy cows use
  • preparing 10,396 nutrient budgets – up from 6,400 budgets in the first year of the Accord. Nutrient budgets allow farmers to carefully plan nutrient applications and manage nutrient losses
  • assessing 100% of Accord farms for effluent management practices – this process checks that farms have appropriate infrastructure and systems in place to manage effluent
  • developing riparian management plans to protect water quality on 52% of Accord farms with waterways. . . 

Taking the bad with the good in dairy industry report:

Federated Farmers congratulates the dairy industry on another robust environmental report, which shows there are some good things to celebrate and some things that need further work.  

Today’s release of the now five year’s running Sustainable Dairy: Water Accord report shows there are still areas that need work, but overall dairy farmers should be proud of what they’ve achieved in a very short timeframe.

Amongst those matters that need further work are the 6.15% of significant non-compliance with effluent management requirements.

But overall Federated Farmers wants to give a big positive shout-out to what hard working farmers have achieved for the environment in the last 12 months. . .

Lamb export prices spring to a new high :

Export prices for lamb reached their highest point in the June 2019 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

This level is the highest since the series began in 1982, and follows steady increases from the second half of 2016.

“Both lamb and beef prices rose this quarter, up 4.7 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, on the back of strong overseas demand,” overseas trade statistics manager Darren Allan said. . . 

Burgers and climate: the real beef

I have two burgers. One is a beef burger from McDonald’s on the left and the other on the right is a Beyond Meat, plant-protein burger from A&W.

You’ve been told by companies, groups and the media to choose; to eat less meat because one is better for the environment, and we’ve been led to believe that by picking one over the other, we’re doing our part in climate change and being more environmentally-friendly.

What if I told you that both burgers are doing their part and all agriculture is part of the solution, not the problem? What if I told you it’s not one versus the other when it comes to climate change? What if I told you there is more to the story than these companies are sharing? . . 


Rural round-up

21/08/2019

Output record delights new manager – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group recently marked the 2019 season at its Mataura plant in Southland by breaking a beef processing record. Business and Rural Editor Sally Rae talks to plant manager Melonie Nagel about breaking records — and life in New Zealand.

When cattle beast number 150,216 went through the Mataura plant last week, a photograph was taken to record the occasion.

The vibe in the factory – having beaten the previous record by more than 8000 – was “wonderful”, plant manager Melonie Nagel said.

It was an opportunity for staff to gather and also recognition that without a team effort – involving both Mataura employees and the farmers supplying the stock – it never would have happened, Ms Nagel said. . .

Banks want farm billions back – Nigel Stirling:

Floating farm mortgage rates and some fixed rates fell after the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate but not all farmers are benefiting.

The country’s largest rural lender, ANZ, said it will cut its agri variable base rate by 40 basis points from today and its fixed base rates by between 20 and 30 basis points.

Other banks also signalled cuts to rural lending rates after the Reserve Bank moved to head off a slowing economy by lopping 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate to a record low 1%. . .

Farmers furious at Australian animal rights activists publishing addresses and location on map – Gerald Piddock:

Federated Farmers are furious that an Australian animal rights group have begun listing descriptions and addresses of Southland farms on a website map, claiming it could encourage illegal activity by activists on farms.

The map, created by activist group Aussie Farms lists 150-200 farms, both drystock and dairy across the Southland region.

National president Katie Milne said it was hugely worrying that it could be the start of a more extreme form of animal activism in New Zealand, which in Australia and Europe had seen people break into farms, releasing and stealing stock and chain themselves to farm machinery. . . 

Making a difference:

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.” . .

Dairy product prices for manufacturers up 8.7 percent :

Prices received by manufacturers of butter, cheese, and milk powder rose 8.7 percent in the June 2019 quarter compared with the March 2019 quarter, after falls in the previous two quarters, Stats NZ said today.

Dairy product manufacturers received higher prices for products such as butter, cheese, and milk powder in the June 2019 quarter. Together, output prices for this group of products increased 8.7 percent from the previous quarter, the biggest rise in over two years. Prices rose by 16 percent in the March 2017 quarter. . . 

Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse – Matt McGrath:

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures.

However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances.

Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. . . 


Rural round-up

14/08/2019

Mainland venison marketer calls China home – Sally Rae:

When Hunter McGregor established a business in China four years ago, it was pioneering stuff.

Mr McGregor runs a Shanghai-based venison importing and distribution business, working with specialist New Zealand venison producer Mountain River Venison.

There was no market for venison in China and so it had been about creating both interest and demand for the product – “because it doesn’t sell itself”.

What he has also found is that running a business in China is getting harder. And that, quite simply, was “because it’s China”. “It’s the way things are,” he said. . . 

Looming 6A plan deadline pushed out – Sally Rae:

A significant milestone looms for rural landowners in April next year when new obligations are scheduled to come in to play to comply with the Otago Regional Council’s 6A plan change for rural water quality. But if a proposal from staff, headed to a council meeting this month, gets approval from councillors, that date will be pushed out to April 2023, as rural editor Sally Rae reports.

In a nutshell, Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner says parts of the much-discussed 6A are working really well – but other parts are not.

And with the deadline just months away, the council did not believe it could enforce what was due to come into effect.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times ahead of the council meeting, Ms Gardner stressed the ORC was “absolutely not” walking away from its responsibilities around water quality, which remained its number one priority. . . 

Fonterra’s losses provide more questions than answers – Keith Woodford:

The forthcoming asset write downs of more than $800 million announced on 12 August by Chairman John Monaghan are clearly damaging to Fonterra’s balance sheet. It also means that Fonterra will now make a loss for the year of around $600 million. However, the implications go much further than that.

The losses mean that Fonterra will need to sell more assets to bring its ‘debt to asset ratio’ under control. The losses also ping back to the balance sheets of its farmer members, where the Fonterra shares are assets against which these farmer members have their own debts. Many dairy farmers are already struggling with their balance sheets, with banks now requiring debt repayments on loans that used to be interest-only.

If these write downs are the full story, then Fonterra will survive. The big question is whether these are all of the write downs, both for now and the foreseeable future. . . 

Farmers are getting more milk from each cow – they deserve a much better performance from Fonterra  –  Point of Order:

This   is the second  chapter  in the  woes  of  Fonterra, and  behind  it   the  dairy industry,  on  which the  New Zealand  economy is  so  dependent.

Point of Order   listed  some of those  woes    last  week.  Now, in the  wake  of  the latest  revelation,  Fonterra  will  have to absorb a loss of between $590m and $675m for the current financial year.

Critics   of the industry have  sprung  to the attack:  Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones is calling Fonterra’s management “corporate eunuchs” and labels Fonterra’s board as “grossly inept”. . . 

Meat prices drive increase in overall food price index:

Rising meat prices drove food prices up in July 2019, Stats NZ said today.

Meat and poultry prices rose 2.8 percent, with higher prices for chicken, lamb, and beef, partly offset by falling pork prices.

Chicken pieces were a big driver of the monthly price rise, up 7.0 percent. The weighted average price in July was $8.61 per kilogram compared to June ($8.05 per kilo). As well as being a big contributor to the monthly change, chicken pieces were up 8.8 percent annually. In July 2018, the weighted average price for chicken pieces was $7.91 per kilogram.

Lamb chop prices reached an all-time high in July, up 1.7 percent. The weighted average price was $17.70 per kilogram compared with $17.41 in June and $16.33 a year ago. . . 

Finding the Will to Live

When Elle Perriam’s partner ended his own life in 2017, she set about changing the lives of others, embarking on a national tour in June to encourage farmers to ‘Speak Up’

New Zealand is in what can only be called a mental health crisis. Around 500 New Zealanders per year die by suicide, and we have some of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. The statistics are even worse in the rural demographic, where suicide rates are 20–50 per cent higher than in urban areas. The pressures of agriculture, coupled with the typical stoic, silent culture that permeates rural New Zealand can mean that those who are struggling often find it difficult to seek help, or to talk about their private battles. Geographical isolation can also be a factor, with some farm workers employed on remote high-country stations for months at a time with limited off-farm contact.

In December 2017, 21-year-old North Otago farm worker Will Gregory tragically ended his life, leaving his family, friends and girlfriend Elle Perriam devastated. Following Will’s death, Elle, a Lincoln University student, looked for a way to create positive change in the rural mental health sector, and the idea for the ‘Will to Live Speak Up Tour’ was born. Elle, with the help of her sister Sarah, launched the tour at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival in October 2018, with Will’s black Huntaway Jess as mascot. . . 

It’s a tough time being a farmer these days – Kate Hawkesby:

It’s a tough time to be a farmer these days. I really feel for them. Sure, they’ve been through lots of good and bad times, that’s the nature of farming, but it feels like this current climate is really tough.

Farming seems under fire from the government in a changing climate of new taxes, regulations, rules. it costs more to be on a farm these days. And that’s before we even get to Fonterra.

After massive write-downs of its assets, Fonterra’s forecasting a huge loss this financial year of around $675 million. That’s the second biggest loss since it began 20 years ago. No dividends will be paid to shareholders this financial year. . .


Census debacle claims Stats NZ’s head’s head

14/08/2019

The Government Statistician and Chief Executive of Stats NZ, Liz MacPherson has resigned after the release of the report reviewing last year’s census debacle.

“As leader of this organisation, I take full responsibility for the shortfalls identified in the report,” said Ms MacPherson.

“We were too optimistic, placed too much emphasis on the online census, and did not have robust contingency plans in place for when things started to go wrong. When that happened, problems were not escalated to a higher level. We also failed our Treaty partners because we did not convert engagement with Māori into actual census responses.

“Put simply, we didn’t make it easy enough for everyone to take part and that will be a key focus for the next census.

“As the reviewers say, we got some things wrong at a time of great change during the switch to a more digitally-focused data collection approach. I accept the findings. We let ourselves and New Zealand down. . .

This is a commendable display of accountability.

Accepting responsibility is appropriate and appreciated by Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke:

This is sad but the right thing to do in the circumstances. There has to be accountability in the public sector, especially in the case of a chief exec that earns over $400,000. Today we see an example of that.”

“Running a census every five years is Stats NZ’s largest responsibility. Taxpayers will expect the next chief exec to focus on this core service, which should mean directing resources away from the department’s more wishy-washy work like measuring ‘spiritual health’.”

There was little option by the head’s resignation when the report says:

. . .It is our view that weaknesses in overall governance and strategic leadership at the programme level led to a series of decisions, some influenced by the North Canterbury earthquake, that when taken together ultimately compromised the achievement of the investment objectives and several important key performance indicators. It is also our view that some elements of the programme design introduced unnecessary complexity that made it difficult to execute and for citizens to respond. . .

But shouldn’t the Stats Minister be accountable too?

Statistics Minister James Shaw needs to take responsibility for his part in the abysmal handling of the Census 2018 debacle, National’s Statistics spokesperson Dr Jian Yang says.

“The resignation of Chief Statistician Liz MacPherson is appropriate given how badly Census 2018 was botched. But she should not be a scapegoat for James Shaw whose failure to show leadership played a significant part in this mess.

“The Minister needed to be more involved in his department. He should have asked more questions of his Statistics NZ leadership team and demanded better results from them.

“But he chose to be a hands-off Minister instead. He was missing in action when things were going wrong – off on a Pacific Island junket while his officials were left to clean things up.

“He let things spiral out of control to the point where much of the data may no longer be useful. That creates enormous problems for the billions of dollars in funding for health, education, police and other vital services that depend on reliable Census numbers.

“This failure also has massive implications for the next election with reliable data required to draw accurate electoral boundaries and decide the number of seats in Parliament.

“James Shaw was too relaxed about the problem. He brushed off any criticism as ‘scaremongering’, but today’s damning report shows there were very real issues he wasn’t across.”

When a department is carrying out its major undertaking, and doing it differently, the Minister ought to take a much closer interest than he appeared to have done.

It would also have been better had Stats NZ taken a more cautious approach to expecting people to respond on-line.

We were in the area chosen for a trial of the on-line census in 2013.

Officially it went well but locals involved told me there were big holes, not least in central Oamaru where most of the large Tongan population went uncounted.

There ought to have been enough warning signs from that to have a lot more staff on the ground with paper forms and to ensure that at the very least households which didn’t return forms received personal visits.

Not everyone has access to a computer; some people who do, use them for little more than emails; others are loathe to use them for anything involving personal data.

The first nation-wide  on-line census would have been better had people been given a choice between filling in paper forms or doing it on-line.

It wasn’t and so we’ve got huge holes in information and more than a year’s delay in the first release of data which includes the population numbers required for the updating of electoral boundaries.

That means that parties either wait to do candidate selection or risk having to re-do some close to the election when, as inevitable, at least one new electorate is created and others undergo major boundary changes.

Worse still, funding for health, education and social services are being compromised with no reliable population data.

This has been a very sorry saga the only good from which will be if lessons learned bring changes that ensure the next census results in a much better response rate and better data sooner.


Rural round-up

02/07/2019

Still no certainty over future of Telford -Richard Davison:

South Otago advocates for farm institute Telford have given mixed reactions to reports its long-term future remains undecided.

Reports surfaced this week that new Telford operator the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) had not received confirmation from the Ministry of Education about its future beyond the end of the year.

Doubts that annual ministry funding of $1.8 million would extend beyond December 31 had led SIT to freeze recruitment of international students and rendered longer-term planning for the 55-year-old institute near Balclutha ”difficult”, the reports said. . . . 

Definition of ‘rural’ vital for healthcare :

The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network welcomed the Health Research Council’s decision to fund a research proposal to develop a consistent definition of ‘rural’.

NZRGPN represents almost every rural medical practice in the country, as well as the Rural Hospital Network and Rural Nurses.

“Securing funding for this research proposal, which will be led by respected clinician and University of Otago academic Dr Garry Nixon, is an important development for all of New Zealand,” said NZRGPN Chief Executive, Dalton Kelly.

“Generating a clear and consistent definition of what we mean by ‘rural’ sounds mundane and, frankly, boring. But the lack of a consistent definition is leading to inefficient and poorly designed policy and the inability to accurately measure rural outcomes.” . . 

Kiwi search brings more birds into the fold:

One of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation programmes in the country has a raft of new birds to add to its work after a successful ‘prospecting’ exercise in May. Ten volunteers identified eight new breeding pairs, two breeding pairs that were already known about and five new male birds that can now be tagged and added to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project operated by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust in the mountainous forests of inland Hawke’s Bay.

The Trust recently released back into the wild its 300th kiwi reared over 11 seasons as part of the nationwide Operation Nest Egg initiative. This is where eggs are retrieved from nests, incubated and hatched under specialist care, and the resulting chicks reared in predator-proof areas to a size where they can safely be released back into the forests from where their eggs were taken. . . 

Agriculture profits grow:

Operating profit for the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries combined increased $1.0 billion (up 22.1 percent) to $5.6 billion in the 2018 financial year, Stats NZ said today.

Food product manufacturing, and grocery, liquor, and tobacco product wholesaling, which are related to the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries, also had increased profits.

Growth in the primary industries reflects favourable seasonal factors and export prices over this period, as seen by increased exports of beef, lamb, dairy products, logs, and kiwifruit. . . 

 

Genesis invests in McGrath Nurseries:

McGrath Nurseries Ltd, one of New Zealand’s largest and most successful fruit tree nurseries, has been sold to New Zealand investors.

New Zealand based Genesis Private Equity has purchased the nursery business, which is a major supplier of apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, apricot and cherry trees to commercial growers all around the country. McGrath Nurseries is the dominant supplier in the New Zealand summerfruit industry, growing more than 90 per cent of cherry trees and more than 75 per cent of apricot trees planted here; and is one of two major New Zealand apple tree nurseries, growing a significant proportion of this country’s apple trees. . . 

 

Female butchers are slicing through the meat world’s glass ceiling – Leoneda Inge:

Kari Underly is slicing through half a hog as if it were as soft as an avocado … until she hits a bone.

“So what I’m doing now is I’m taking out the femur bone,” she explains to a roomful of about 30 women watching as she carves the animal. “The ham is a little bit of a drag, if you will, ’cause we have to make money, and not everybody wants a big ham.”

Underly is a fit, 46-year-old master butcher from Chicago. Her father and grandmothers were butchers. She put herself through college cutting meat. These days, she encourages other women to enter the business. . . 


Rural round-up

22/06/2019

Making a bigger boom – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Jacqueline Rowarth contemplates the best way to create the next big noise, whether revolutionary or disruptive, in the agricultural sector.

Before the iPod, there were boomboxes. ‘Cool’ people held large-speaker music machines on their shoulders polluting the environment with their choice of music noise as they rocked past.

A man named Jonathan Ive changed all that. His ear buds and compact devices revolutionised the music experience. Jonathan Ive also invented the iMac, iPhone and iPad.

He had a team of about 15 people working with him, but he is the design genius. And he says that to truly make a difference, you have to think about the problem, identify how to make the experience better, and then be prepared to pour money into it. . . 

Iwi land makes strong income -Richard Rennie:

Maori business investment through iwi ownership is playing an increasing role in the primary sector.

Statistics New Zealand said Maori authority businesses generated a record surplus before tax of $720 million in 2017. 

Iwi assets have grown on average 7% a year between 2012 and 2017 to total $20 billion. 

Maori agricultural assets comprise 13% or $2.6 billion with the bulk held as land. 

Iwi agricultural assets generated income of $337m in 2017 with a surplus before tax of $56m, up from $42m in 2012. . . 

Institute member for 50 years honoured – Toni Williams:

After a lifetime of helping others in her community, and beyond, Mid Canterbury Federation of Women’s Institutes president Mavis Wilkins has been awarded the highest honour in the Women’s Institute (WI), a Gold Honours Badge.

Mrs Wilkins, a member of Lowcliffe WI, was one of just five women around the country to be awarded the national badge this year. The others were from the West Coast, Buller, Manawatu and Papamoa Beach.

The award, nominated by Netherby WI president Denise Clark and former-Mid Canterbury Federation president Jude Vaughan, acknowledged Mrs Wilkins’ 52 years of active service with WI, including work with Rural Support Trust, Civil Defence Emergency Management Canterbury, on the Suffrage 125 Steering Group, 20 years with ACWW Pacific Region Projects group and her WI Good Service Badge, presented in 1990. . . 

Pāmu commits to wool insulation in housing stock:

Pāmu has committed to upgrading the insulation in its South Island farmhouses and all new house stock with insulation produced with recycled wool.

Pāmu has over 500 houses on farms across New Zealand, housing its workers and their families, and Chief Executive Steve Carden says it is important that all homes are well insulated.

“As landlords, we are committed to ensuring our staff accommodation is well insulated against the extreme weather many of our farm housing experiences.” . . 

Congratulations to George Bunnett from Craggy Range – Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2019:

George Bunnett from Craggy Range became the Bayer Wairarapa Young Viticulturist of the Year 2019 on 20 June following the competition held at Te Kairanga in Martinborough.

Congratulations also to Hilary Forster from Matahiwi for being Runner Up.

It was a bright, frosty start but lovely blue skies for the contestants to compete amongst the vines as they rotated around a range of practical and theoretical challenges as well as going head to head in the BioStart Hortisports race at lunchtime. This race included viticultural challenges such as pruning, netting and putting together some irrigation, but also included some fun elements such as bread & cheese tasting as well as creating a bunch of grapes from play dough. . . 

Argentina to authorize a new GMO stacked cotton

AgroIndustry secretariat opened the public hearings before to release new GMO cotton. In this occasion, it treats about the SYN IR 102-7 trait that confers to the crop insect resistance via VIPCot technology and the stacking of this trait with other four that confers cotton resistance to glyphosate and glufosinate herbicides, and insects (lepidopters) via three action-modes.

The public hearings (non-binding) will be open until May 25th. Since the first GMO cotton released in 1998 (MON 1445 or insect resistance), in 2009 Argentine Government authorized the stack MON 531 x MON 1445 or glyphosate and insect resistance, in 2015 the BCS-GHØØ2-5 x ACS-GHØØ1-3 GHB614xLLCotton25 (glufosinate, glyphosate and insect resistance by Bayer), and in 2019 the HPD and glyphosate herbicide-resistant cotton (solicited by BASF).

“This means that biotechnology companies have confidence in the future of the cotton production in the country”, a http://www.eFarmNewsAr.com source told after knew the public hearing. “We are expecting the soon commercial launching of this necessary technologies”, they added. . .


They’ll know where we are

19/06/2019

Stats NZ  is going to be working with phone companies to track our movements every hour:

The population density programme will launch next month and Statistics Minister James Shaw said he was aware there would be perception issues around every step being recorded.

Mr Shaw said cellphone companies and credit companies already held that level of detail, but for the first time Stats NZ was able to act as a data broker to identify trends and patterns with the anonymised information.

I find this a wee bit creepy.

Phone and credit card companies aren’t the government and we have a choice about whether or not we use them.

He told MPs at a select committee today, there would be concerns about people being able to hack into the system and get hold of people’s private details.

“It is very rigourous and we’ve had criticism in the past of people saying it’s really difficult to get access to that information to be able to use it for research purposes – well that’s because it’s under lock and key,” he told RNZ following the committee.

It was supposedly difficult to get Budget information last month.

However, Mr Shaw said the security of the information would require increasing attention over time.

The programme has been assessed by the Privacy Commissioner and a data ethics panel is being set up to keep watch.

Mr Shaw said the Census already asked New Zealanders where they were on a particular night and the tracking just an extension of that using information that was already collected.

I don’t go anywhere that would cause me any concern should the government know about it, but that’s not the point.

Filling in a census form once every six years is very different from tracking our movements every hour.

We’re required to fill in the forms, but are phone companies required to give this information and whether or not they are, shouldn’t they be telling us what they’re doing with any information they hold on us.

Are they going to ask us for our permission to share our information and can we say no?

 

 

 


Rural round-up

14/06/2019

Progress persists amidst disruption – Hugh Stringleman:

The growing focus on food as medicine is driving massive change in the agri-food industry, KPMG agri-food senior manager Emma Wheeler says.

Writing in the 2019 Agribusiness Agenda she said the health and wellness decade has begun and is bringing disruption through innovation and technological transformation.

Consumer needs and demands underpin the pace of change. . .

‘Hyper farm’ to aid land decision-making:

Agresearch has teamed up with Dunedin tech company Animation Research Ltd to help farmers see the future.

The partnership is part of a research programme – the New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age (NZBIDA) – which has been designed to enable transformational change to the country’s agricultural sector and supply chains.

As one strand of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded programme, Dr Seth Laurenson and Dr Remy Lasseur are designing a “hyper farm” using ARL’s world-renowned visualisation technology.

It helped landowners to see what their properties would look like as a result of any changes as well as understand how changes would affect water quality, finances, carbon sequestration and biodiversity among other factors. . .

Feds finds useful policy ideas in National’s paper:

Federated Farmers is heartened that workforce issues are identified as a hot topic in the National Party’s ‘Primary Sector Discussion Document’, released today.

National is proposing better promotion of primary sector careers and increased vocational training opportunities. It is also floating the idea of an Agriculture Visa for migrant workers and nine-month dairy farm placements under an expanded RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme.

“Picking up on serious and persistent sector concerns, National also says it wants feedback on how to make Immigration NZ more responsive and accessible to employers facing labour shortages,” Federated Farmers Dairy chair and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says. . . 

Fonterra and farm leaders gripe at O’Connor’s DIRA decision – Greenpeace is even more grouchy – Point of Order:

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor didn’t win too many new friends  (and may have lost some) with his  decision  on the review of  the  Dairy Industry Restructuring  Act, the  2001  legislation  which set up  Fonterra  supposedly to   become  a  “ national  champion”.   

We  all know  how  that  has turned out.

So   what were the reactions to  O’Connor’s  latest  move to improve the  legislation  which initially had the  objective of  “promoting  the efficiency  of  NZ  dairy markets”?. .. 

New appointed director for Horticulture New Zealand Board:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board has appointed Dr Bruce Campbell, of Tai Tokerau Northland, as an appointed director.

Dr Campbell is experienced in governance, innovation, talent development and the future development of a wide range of horticulture sectors and was, until 2018, the Chief Operating Officer at Plant & Food Research. He has a particular interest in building partnerships with Māori to create new food businesses and also in growing career pathways to get talented people into horticulture. . .

Large rise in meat and dairy manufacturing:

The largest rise for five years in volumes of meat and dairy products drove manufacturing up for the second quarter in a row, Stats NZ said.

After adjusting for seasonal effects, the volume of total manufacturing sales rose 2.0 percent in the March 2019 quarter, after a 2.4 percent rise in the December 2018 quarter. It was led by a strong 11 percent rise in meat and dairy products manufacturing. . .

Helping New Zealand farmers take care of our land:

New Zealand’s green reputation is one of this country’s strongest selling points, but how to manage the relationship between farming and the environment is complex and controversial.

How do we support New Zealand farmers transition to a more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable future?

The clamour to act urgently on climate change is adding pressure on farmers to manage environmental sustainability, but farmers often have to make trade-offs between what they want to develop and what’s affordable. . .

 


Rural round-up

05/06/2019

Climate change burden, benefits must be spread fairly – Gavin Evans:

 (BusinessDesk) – Setting stringent climate change targets without understanding their cost or feasibility risks placing an unfair burden on some sectors, climate change professor David Frame says.

Moving New Zealand to a net-zero carbon economy will have benefits but also real costs and it is important both are shared across the community. That will probably require creative approaches from region to region and from sector to sector, he said at the New Zealand Minerals Forum in Dunedin last week.

Policymakers need to focus on emissions – rather than the resources they come from – and find a way to broaden the discussion beyond electorally-easy targets like heavy industry and coal. Agriculture also receives a lot of pressure that “isn’t really justified,” he said. . . 

New way to work out who’s who in the paddock – Sally Rae:

How do ewe tell one sheep from another?

Greg Peyroux and Benoit Auvray, the co-founders of Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, might well have the answer.

They have been working on sheep facial recognition to cheaply re-identify sheep, potentially removing the need for ear-tags while also solving other farm management and broader issues.

While facial recognition had been developed for cattle in the United States and pigs in China, the pair were not aware of anybody doing it for sheep.

Sheep face images were collected and fed into a machine-learning model. . . 

 

Danone cleared to indirectly hold up to 65% of Yashili NZ –  Rebecca Howard:

June 4 (BusinessDesk) – Danone SA can indirectly hold up to 65 percent of Yashili New Zealand Dairy Co after its Danone Asia Pacific unit got a green light from the Overseas Investment Office to purchase up to 49 percent of the local dairy processor.

“The applicant has satisfied the OIO that the individuals who will control the investment have the relevant business experience and acumen and are of good character. The applicant has also demonstrated financial commitment to the investment,” the OIO said in a statement. . . 

Cherry exporter announces major Cromwell investment:

New Zealand Cherry Corp is expanding its operations and investment in Cromwell.

NZ Cherry Corp is a long established, locally owned Cromwell business. Its 32ha cherry block is the largest netted orchard in New Zealand. During cherry season it employs up to 500 staff and harvests up to 800 tonnes of cherries. It exports to 10 countries.

Director Paul Croft says following the recent purchase of a 244ha block of farmland adjacent to its existing orchard, NZ Cherry Corp is doubling the size of its orchard and turning 4ha into worker accommodation. . . 

 

Dairy export volumes advance to new record:

Dairy export volumes hit a new high after rising 19 percent in the March 2019 quarter, adjusted for seasonal effects, Stats NZ said today.

While dairy volumes were strong in the quarter, actual dairy prices fell 7.5 percent. That means dairy values rose only 9.5 percent, seasonally adjusted.

Dairy products are New Zealand’s top goods export, accounting for more than a quarter of the value of all goods exported in the March quarter. . . 

Shareholders back Primary Wool Co-Operative, providing strong support for the organisation’s future:

Primary Wool Co-Operative (PWC) shareholders have placed their organisation on an extremely strong footing for the future, providing overwhelming support for two key resolutions at the co-operative’s 44th annual general meeting.

Farmer shareholders voted in favour of maintaining PWC’s 50% shareholding in CP Wool, as well as over 98% supporting a constitutional change enabling a capital raise to back CP Wool’s five year strategic plan at the meeting in Dannevirke on May 23. . . 

Caring for stock in wild winter weather:

With winter now starting to bite, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is reminding pastoral livestock farmers of their animal welfare responsibilities, whether animals are kept at home or sent off-farm to graze.

“This time of year can be challenging for farmers, with wet and muddy conditions increasing risks to the welfare of their livestock,” says Kate Littin, Manager Animal Welfare.

“Many farmers, particularly in Southland and Otago, choose to break feed stock on crop over the winter months. It’s a great way to provide food for animals and protect pastures, but does require careful planning and good stockmanship to avoid welfare risks that wet weather can bring. . . 

Rural credit squeeze putting pressure on farmers:

Rural credit squeeze putting pressure on farmers access to capital.

Dairy farmers who are currently facing the two major challenges of falling land prices alongside increasingly restrictive access to capital are being encouraged to focus on a robust budgeting process and get on the front foot with their bank manager.

Findex Head of Agribusiness Hayden Dillon said “access to funding is becoming more of an issue, despite the good payout and this is putting some farmers under pressure” . . 


What’s she hiding?

09/04/2019

Government Statistician Liz MacPherson is facing a contempt of parliament charge after refusing a select committee request for information on last year’s census:

In an unusual move, a select committee invoked a standing order compelling Statistics NZ chief executive to produce the number of partial responses were received in Census 2018.

This is not a partisan request, the whole committee is seeking an answer.

National state services spokesman Dr Nick Smith said the committee unanimously decided such an extraordinary measure was required after MacPherson again refused to answer on the basis it would require “extensive contextual information”. 

“It is the first time ever that I have seen a select committee having to use its powers to require a public servant to provide an answer to a basic question.

“I can only draw the conclusion that Stats NZ has something to hide.”

This is public information. The refusal to supply it begs the question: what is she trying to hide and why?

Last year’s census was a shambles and the failure to provide parliament with the information requested does nothing to improve confidence in it.

 


CGT based on dodgy stats

05/04/2019

Assertions about the impact of the proposed capital gains tax are based on dodgy numbers.

Troy Bowker writes:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) used an unreliable survey by the Department of Statistics as the basis for its argument that the majority of the proposed capital gains tax (CGT) will be paid by the top 20 per cent of households measured by wealth.

Repeatedly, since the final report was published, Sir Michael Cullen has quoted the “statistic” to the media that 82 per cent of the assets that will be subject to CGT are owned by the top 20 per cent of New Zealand households measured by net worth.

He goes on to state (as factual) the second 20 per cent of wealthy households will be responsible for another 11 per cent , then only 4 per cent for “middle” New Zealand.

In reality, this information is based on what most reasonable people would describe as little more than guess work.

It has been used for political purposes to argue that the majority of the public have nothing to worry about, and it will be mostly the “rich” that will pay CGT.

If it is correct (which it isn’t), it’s a very good argument for Labour and the Greens who desperately want to see a comprehensive CGT implemented.

The problem for those wanting CGT is that the data is completely unreliable and should never have been used. We need to know why public officials used it in the first place when they knew, or ought to have known, it was dodgy statistics. . . 

The stats came from the annual Household Economic Survey (HES) carried out by Statistics NZ.

It was done by conducting interviews of 8000 households, out of approximately 1.7 million households, in New Zealand. That’s only 0.47 per cent of households — s a ridiculously low sample size.

The other reason it is unreliable is most of the information provided is unverifiable. The Department of Statistics asks all sorts of questions about the assets and liabilities of each household and records the answers given. People can guess, underestimate or overestimate or not even volunteer information.

As you can imagine, it’s an extremely invasive and intrusive process that attempts to delve into the most personal financial information of New Zealand homes.

By the Department of Statistics own admission, it contains data that is so unreliable they cautioned against its use. . . 

In spite of the caution Treasury used them in its report to the TWG.

It beggars belief that Treasury decided to use this information in its report to the TWG.

Senior Treasury officials who wrote this report to the TWG obviously knew the information couldn’t be safely relied upon.

Hidden in the fine print of the Treasury report, it states “care should be taken when interpreting wealth estimates because the confidence intervals around any point estimates vary widely”.

In layman’s terms, this is like Treasury saying to the TWG: “You probably shouldn’t be using this information as we really don’t know if it’s accurate and some of it’s completely unreliable.”

This raises some very serious questions about the probity of the process that need answering by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and the TWG chair Michael Cullen (who is still on the Government pay roll). Hopefully he’s still being paid to answer the question of why the TWG used this data.

Did the TWG specifically request Treasury to dig up statistics to support the political argument that only the top households would pay CGT? Did the TWG know the data they were using was largely unreliable? Treasury obviously had concerns about using it and told the TWG in its report. So why did the TWG use that data? Does the Finance Minister now accept this data is unreliable and shouldn’t have been used for political purposes to justify Labour’s proposed CGT?

These are very serious questions that need to be answered and answered publicly.

The reality is, we don’t have enough reliable information to draw any conclusions at all about which households will pay the most from the proposed CGT.

We do know, however, that there are hundreds of thousands of farmers, business owners, lifestyle block owners, bach owners and sharemarket investors who will pay a lot more tax if Labour are successful in implementing CGT.

There are an awful lot of hardworking ordinary Kiwis who don’t consider themselves wealthy who will pay CGT if Labour are successful in convincing Winston Peters to support it.

For Labour to use these dodgy statistics to mislead the public would be to underestimate the intelligence of the voting public of New Zealand.

The CGT debate has a long way to go. But Labour need to come clean and be honest about the many hundreds of thousands of middle income Kiwis who will pay CGT. They also need to answer some serious questions about how, and why, the HES was used to support the main argument on fairness by the TWG.

This proposal is the most significant tax reform in many years in New Zealand and we deserve better than public officials using dubious and unreliable data to support a preconceived political agenda.

Significant tax reform should not be based on dodgy stats for both ethical and practical reasons.

Ethical because it’s wrong to base assertions on wrong numbers, and practical because if the stats are dodgy there can be no certainty about the outcomes.

It’s not just who would pay how much that matters, but how much tax a CGT would raise.

If the stats on which the assertions of who would pay what are dodgy the conclusions on how much that would raise are also completely unreliable.

The TGW was told any proposals must be revenue neutral – that is, the amount raised by any new tax would be offset by cuts to old ones.

There can be absolutely no certainty about how much it would raise and therefore how much other taxes could be lowered if the whole proposal is based on numbers based on guesswork.

Almost all those favouring a CGT do so based on an ideological and political idea about fairness. 

There is nothing fair about assertions based on dodgy numbers and a tax full of loopholes that would disincentivise investment and sabotage the economy.

 


Rural round-up

29/03/2019

Agricultural sector productivity growth – Michael Reddell:

In the last few weeks, presumably simply by coincidence, I’ve had various comments and emails about productivity growth in the agricultural sector.    The most recent one finally prompted me to dig out the official data and check that my impressions were still supported by the data.  They were.    Agricultural sector productivity growth was very strong, but has been much more subdued for some time now.

There are two main measures of agricultural sector productivity: labour productivity (in effect, output per hour of labour input) and multi-factor productivity (in effect, the residual after what can be attributed to growth in labour and capital inputs has been deducted). In principle, MFP is superior.  In practice, estimates rely more heavily on the assumptions used in the calculation (although –  diverting briefly –  to the various readers who have sent me a recent piece by GMO on TFP/MFP, I reckon there is less to that critique than the authors claim). . . 

No trade wobbles in China for Fonterra – Paul McBeth:

 (BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group hasn’t faced any issues getting its products into China, where its business hit some speed wobbles when the butter market slowed.

The world’s biggest dairy exporter counts China as one of its most important markets and has been a beneficiary of a burgeoning middle class in the world’s most populous nation. . . 

Lamb exports climb to record levels:

Lamb exports reached record levels in February 2019, bumping up overall meat exports to a new monthly high, Stats NZ said today.

Lamb exports were $391 million in February 2019, a new record for any month. The previous high was in May 2018 ($367 million).

This month’s rise was driven by higher prices, as quantity was little changed from May last year. . . 

Apiculture New Zealand supports Minister’s call for unity:

Apiculture New Zealand supports the Minister for Agriculture’s plea for greater unity to address existing challenges around bee welfare and biosecurity, food safety and export regulations, and welcomes the Minister’s commitment to supporting the industry.

This follows a meeting by Apiculture New Zealand with the Minister late last week on the commodity levy results.

“As we advised the Minister a ‘no vote’ for the commodity levy means we do not have the investment fund needed, nor the collective focus that is characteristic of other primary industries in identifying, deciding and actioning priorities,” says Bruce Wills Chair of Apiculture New Zealand. . . 

First charter ship carrying Zespri Kiwifruit sets sail for China and Japan:

The first charter vessel carrying Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit is heading to China and Japan following this season’s early start to harvest.

The Southampton Star departed from Tauranga Harbour yesterday evening carrying approximately 3,000 pallets of Bay of Plenty-grown SunGold Kiwifruit bound for Shanghai and Kobe. The vessel had earlier berthed in Gisborne where it picked up 1,600 pallets of SunGold Kiwifruit, marking the start of what promises to be another bumper crop. . . 

Dates set for the 2019 NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year:

The Bayer NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year Competition is now in its fourteenth year and to take out the coveted title has become a key goal for many young viticulturists in New Zealand.

The programme aims to grow the wine industry’s future leaders, by stretching them, putting them out of their comfort zone and creating new relationships. It is a fantastic opportunity for Young Vits (30 yrs or under) to upskill, grow in confidence, widen their network and start making a name for themselves within the industry. . . 


Rural round-up

13/03/2019

Tax recommendations threaten future prosperity:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Government to reject the majority of the raft of new taxes proposed by the Tax Working Group.

“Small business would pay the costs, large business would spend thousands avoiding the costs and tax advisors and valuers would have a field day,” Federated Farmers Vice-President Andrew Hoggard says.

“There is possibly an argument for a Capital Gains Tax aimed at rental properties if there was some sound evidence it would dampen investor speculation, and reduce price pressure and first home buyers being out-bid. But even with that, we haven’t given the tougher ‘bright line’ test rules a chance to really kick in. . .

Despite rising prices farmers are feeling oppressed from all sides and confidence is low. FIckle urban voters are driving a flood of rules and imposing costs that make little sense to the business of farming – Guy Trafford:

The results of the January Federated Farmers farmer survey have recently been published and makes fairly sober reading – especially in the context that prices for most commodities are reasonably sound.

Only 5.1% of respondents expected economic conditions to improve and but nearly 46% expect economic conditions to worsen, this is the worse result since July 2009.

Given the recent rises in milk prices and solid returns coming for sheep and beef farmers this level of pessimism is somewhat surprising and perhaps is a reflection of where farmers heads are at rather than a measure of what the ‘true’ economic conditions are. . . 

Looking to Generation Z for the future of  food – Sarah Perriam:

The rural sector is rapidly changing.

Consumer demand and global trends means New Zealand farmers need to embrace innovation to be able to compete and thrive in this new and exciting environment.

The next generation is vital for success. . . 

Greenpeace billboard ruled misleading  :

Federated Farmers is pleased the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Greenpeace billboard aimed at fertilizer companies and the dairy industry is misleading and takes advocacy a step too far.

“Federated Farmers believes everyone has the right to express strong views but as the ASA Complaints Board ruling underlines, over-simplification of issues and targeting of two farmer-owned companies is misleading and overly provocative,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says. . .

Zespri. Appoints Bruce Cameron as chairman – Luke Chivers:

While the kiwifruit industry is having its day in the sun it is not short of challenges. Luke Chivers spoke to new Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron about the future.

New Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron is taking over at a time of strong continuity and volume in kiwifruit exports.

He replaces Te Puna grower Peter McBride who has stood down to pursue other primary industry interests, including a Fonterra directorship. . .

Butter prices go into meltdown :

Butter prices fell 10 percent in February 2019 to a 19-month low, Stats NZ said today.

The average price for a 500g block of butter fell to $5.20 in February 2019, down from a record high of $5.79 in January 2019.

“In January we saw milk prices fall to a 19-month low. This price fall now looks to be flowing on to other dairy products,” consumer prices manager Gael Price said. . . 


Rural round-up

18/01/2019

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

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

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

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

Dairy cattle numbers dip again:

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

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

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

Nursery owner finds use for problem baleage – Elena McPhee:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$36 million investment approved to tackle regional erosion:

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

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

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

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

A win for Win and the Buller show:

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

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

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

Could Wagyu beef protect against heart disease?:

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

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

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


Rural round-up

16/01/2019

SIT plans takeover of Telford – Giordano Stolley:

The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) will submit a proposal to Education Minister Chris Hipkins to take over operations of the troubled Telford agricultural training campus in Balclutha.

A statement from the Clutha District Council yesterday afternoon quoted SIT chairman Peter Heenan as saying that he was “encouraged by the support from all parties at the meeting for SIT to pull together a proposal for the minister’s consideration”.

Mr Heenan made the comments at a meeting at the district council offices.

While the statement provided no details of the the proposal, Clutha Southland National Party MP Hamish Walker, said: “They [SIT] are looking to take over operations at Telford.” . . 

Funding call for Telford training farm campus staff:

The Clutha community is trying to raise funds for staff at a financially troubled rural training campus, mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Dozens of staff at Telford agricultural training campus near Balclutha are stuck without pay while their employer’s future is decided.

The Telford training farm in South Otago is part of the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, which was placed in interim liquidation late last year.

More than 30 tutors and support staff at Telford had their wages suspended on Friday. . .

Synlait plant registration renewed – Sally Rae:

Synlait has successfully renewed the registration of its Dunsandel plant, allowing it to continue exporting canned infant formula to China.

The registration was issued by the General Administration of Customers of the Peoples’ Republic of China (GACC).

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said GACC had strict criteria that overseas manufacturers must meet to maintain registration.

New pasture legume hard to fault – Jill Griffiths:

THE PERENNIAL forage legume tedera is on track for commercial release in 2019. Dr Daniel Real, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said difficult seasonal conditions in Western Australia this year had provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the potential value of tedera.

“Rain at the end of February created a false break,” Daniel said. “All the annuals germinated but then died, and the dry autumn left nothing in the paddocks. The annuals were non-existent but the tedera was looking good.”

Tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var. albomarginata) is native to the Canary Islands and was brought to Australia in 2006 through research conducted under the auspices of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. . . . 

Deliberate food contamination needs harsher penalties:

A recent member’s bill which seeks to introduce harsher penalties and offences is good to see, but any action from it will have to be funded and resourced adequately to have any real impact, says Federated Farmers.

The bill is from National’s Nathan Guy and it comes in the wake of last year’s Australian strawberry needle scare which triggered copycat offences here and back over the ditch, says Feds Food Safety spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Thousands of strawberries had to be destroyed as needles started showing up in the fruit across stores. The needle scares crushed spirits and trust. . .

How one innovative company is using bees to protect crops from disease – Nicole Rasul:

Billed as an “elegant solution to a complex problem,” Bee Vectoring Technology, or BVT, is a Toronto-based startup that is using commercially reared bees to provide a targeted, natural disease management tool to a range of agricultural crops.

The bumblebee, one of nature’s hardest workers, is the star of the BVT method. Hives that contain trays of powdered Clonostachys rosea CR-7, which the company describes as “an organic strain of a natural occurring endophytic fungus… commonly found in a large diversity of plants and soils all around the world,” are placed near a fledgling field. . .

Cheaper to get your 5+ a day at the end of 2018:

Avocados and lettuces were much cheaper than the previous summer, but egg prices hit a record high in December 2018, Stats NZ said today.

“Overall, getting your five-plus (5+) a day servings of fruit and vegetables was cheaper in 2018,” consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said. Fruit prices were 3.8 percent lower in December 2018 than in December 2017, while vegetable prices were 7.5 percent lower.

“Bad weather in 2017 reduced the supply of many vegetables, pushing up their prices,” Ms Duoba said. “Growing conditions were mostly more favourable during 2018, boosting supply and lowering prices.” . .


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