Rural round-up

April 3, 2019

Westland Co-operative Dairy demise is self-inflicted – Keith Woodford:

The approaching demise of Westland Co-operative Dairy (trading as Westland Milk Products) has come as a surprise to many people.  It should not have done so.  At the very least, either a partial sale or major joint venture has been inevitable for some years. Survival as a co-operative is now impossible.

Most of the people I talk to think the sale to Chinese company Yili is a very bad idea. West Coasters do not like it. Even Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is of that opinion. And if a sale really is necessary, then the common perspective seems to be that it should be a local company.

In response, I say ‘dream on’. . . 

Taratahi owes creditors $31 million – Neal Wallace:

Employees will get what they are owed but nearly 1200 unsecured creditors will have to wait to see if they will be paid any of the $15.8 million they are owed following December’s collapse of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.

An interim report by liquidators Grant Thornton says the sale of livestock will cover preferential creditors, employees, who are owed $2m, and Inland Revenue, owed $655,000, but there is no indication on the fate of other creditors.

Taratahi’s 518ha Mangarata farm is being readied for sale, over which Westpac has a secured mortgage, along stock, plant and shares. . . 

Crop work went like clockwork – Alan Williams:

Cropping demonstrations across cultivation, drilling, harvesting, balage and silage proceeded without a hitch at the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in Canterbury.

Twelve or so hectares can sound like a lot of land area but with several different crops being grown on adjacent strips and some machinery being 10 metres wide there’s not a lot of margin for error.

It helps that each crop and activity is worked at separate times but there’s still a lot of planning and a lot of people to organise. . . 

Forestry sales at record high – reports – Eric Frykberg:

New evidence is emerging of a booming forestry sector.

It follows last month’s report from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) showing 2018 forestry sales at a record high.

Since then, the Seattle based think tank Wood Resource Quarterly has highlighted New Zealand’s role in growing imports of logs by China.

Wood Resource Quarterly said the Chinese took a total of 40 million cubic metres of lumber through their ports last year.

That was over a third more than just three years earlier. . .

Cushing family’s H&G to buy 2.2% Wrightson stake from Agria – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – The Cushing family’s H&G vehicle has agreed to buy a 2.2 percent stake in rural services firm PGG Wrightson from Agria Corp. for $8.3 million.

H&G has agreed to pay 49 cents a share for 17 million Wrightson shares, matching Friday’s closing price. Agria owns 351.6 million shares, or 46.6 percent of the rural services firm, having divested a 7.2 percent holding in December when Ngāi Tahu Capital withdrew from a seven-year pooling arrangement with Agria and Chinese agribusiness New Hope International. . . 

Record number of beekeepers have their say in latest check:

Almost a half of the country’s registered beekeepers have taken part in an annual survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

More than 3,600 beekeepers completed the 2018 Colony Loss Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

“The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 per cent of New Zealand’s registered beekeepers and 42 per cent of registered colonies,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor. . . 

Miscanthus – a carbon negative crop:

Most annually harvested crops require a lot of activity to get them established, grown and harvested. They need cultivation of the soil, weed control, planting, fertiliser, harvesting, sometimes waste disposal, packing and loading on a truck. Most of them need all that every year. In many cases, there is further cultivation, planting and cutting of a cover crop during the off season as well. Again, every year!

Miscanthus on the other hand needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards. There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases.  . . 


Fears for training of future farmers

February 7, 2019

The government is throwing millions at fee-free tertiary education but there’s no cash to spare for training future farmers:

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis said the liquidation of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre a month ago was the latest sign that the government needed to overhaul certificate-level tertiary education for staff in the primary industries.

“This has been an issue for a long, long time. A lot of providers have come into the industry and set up training but a lot of them have left or have struggled and at the end of the day it comes back down to it’s not financially viable to run training for young farm staff because they don’t get enough funding from the government.”

Mr Lewis said there was a shortage of trained farm staff and some courses did not provide the skills that farmers needed in their workers.

Craig Musson from the National Trade Academy said few tertiary institutions were still offering certificates in skills for land-based industries and those that were, were struggling.

He said too few students were enrolling and government funding was inadequate for the costs involved.

“In our sector it’s not a classroom, white board and a teacher. You have to have tractors, motorbikes, quads. You’ve got to have fencing, you’ve got to have stock and with all that comes repairs and maintenance and replacement of equipment and a normal business doesn’t have those same costs,” he said.

Mr Musson said the government paid about $10,000 for each full-time agriculture student studying a certificate course and institutions received a further $3000 to $4000 in fees.

That was not enough given the small class sizes and high overheads for courses in farming skills and it was especially hard if students dropped out and could not be replaced, he said.

Mr Musson said more education providers would go out of business unless things improved.

“It’s obviously just getting more and more difficult for the providers that are left and eventually it becomes that it’s not financially viable to do the training any more,” he said.

“You only have to have a bad year as far as feed costs and then you’ve got fuel costs because we have to travel to farms to do the milkings, we have to do field visits and that’s a massive cost that most providers would not have either.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said changes would be made as part of wider reform of the vocational education and training system and the government was aware there was urgent need in the agriculture sector.

“We’re looking very closely at the agricultural sector given its importance to the New Zealand economy, the desperate need for more skilled labour in that area, but actually the problems facing agriculture are the same as problems facing many other industries around the country so we’re looking very closely at vocational education generally,” he said. . . 

Neal Wallace says a new training model is needed:

. . .By its very nature educating primary sector students is more expensive and intensive than other vocational courses.

It requires students to live on working farms, to be given a student-centric education – you can’t teach fencing on a blackboard – and it comes with high compliance and pastoral care costs. Taratahi had a ratio of one staff member to 10 students. 

But it appears to have finally succumbed to the millennial factor.

Fewer young people are choosing farming as a career, while numbers of potential students have shrunk because of successive years of low unemployment allowing those who would normally seek training to go directly in to work.

Telford and Taratahi have struggled to grow their rolls in recent years and are required to repay the Tertiary Education Commission $10 million for being funded for more students than were enrolled.

Not dismissing the obvious distress to students and staff, collapsing on the eve of Taratahi’s centenary adds to the misery.

But its centennial legacy, from what can best be described as an educational train wreck, is that Government and education officials can no longer ignore the essential issue of creating a sustainable sub-degree funding and administrative model for primary sector education.

Tina Nixon also notes two fundamental problems with the future success of primary sector vocational training:

The government: The present government [and those of the past] has never really understood the sector, the cost of training or really got to grips with the woeful performance of the Tertiary Education Commission [TEC], the body that decides what will be funded and how.

This became patently evident when I first became involved with Taratahi.

I suggested that it got into training beekeepers, which, as it turns out, has been lucrative.

The process for actually delivering beekeeping courses took months –  TEC should be geared up alongside NZQA to get ahead of industry demand but it doesn’t – they lag  at least a year, sometimes a lot longer.

TEC is without a doubt one of the most bureaucratic organisations I have ever interacted with, and I have worked with a few.

It has not served the country and its governments well. I applaud the current government for looking to overhaul the tertiary sector, but I condemn it for the short-sightedness about how best that overhaul is carried out.

If the TEC and its current administration survive the next year, then this government will have failed the sector.

The government’s decision not to fund Taratahi was based on advice from TEC —  behind closed doors with no chance for Taratahi to talk directly to the ministers involved.

So, Taratahi doesn’t even know what was presented – but the $30m touted by some as what was required for the organisation to continue  is wrong. What they needed was $5 million – pretty much the same amount it had repaid of the previous administration’s legacy debt. . . 

A request for just $5 million was turned down when the Provincial Growth Fund showers much more on far less worthy projects.

So what of the future?

If the community leaders consign all that has been learned and achieved by Taratahi in 2-1/2 years into the dustbin, then they will be condemned to creating yet another failure and snub some of the best educationists in the industry.

What we need  to see is Taratahi rise again in the next few months – underpinned by all the good systems and knowledge built up in the past two years, within a newly-framed tertiary education sector with the required funding levels. With all that in place, it will become an enduring engine room for primary sector talent development.

The primary sector can do some on-the-job training but that is no substitute for what can be done in dedicated training institutes like Taratahi and Telford if they are properly funded.

 


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


Rural round-up

February 3, 2019

January ‘hottest month’ on record but farmers say growing season ‘extraordinary‘ – Matt Brown:

January in Marlborough has matched the record for the region’s hottest month since records began in 1932.

The month also smashed the record for days above 30C, with 10 sweltering days compared to the previous record of six in 1990.

But hotter days and cooler nights saw the month tie with January 2018 and February 1998 for the title of ‘hottest ever month’ in Marlborough with the mean temperature of 20.7 degrees Celsius, Plant and Food Research scientist Rob Agnew said. . .

 Up to 75 jobs from new North Waikato chicken hatchery – Gerald Piddock:

The opening of a multimillion dollar chicken hatchery in Waikato’s north has bought with it between 50 and 75 jobs and economic benefits to the entire region, say locals and iwi leaders.

Owned by American poultry giant Cobb Vantress, the $70 million hatchery in Rangiriri West, north of Huntly, currently employs 50 staff. That will expand to between 70-75 people once it is fully operational later this year.

For locals Stephen Pearce and Phillip Lorimer, employment at the hatchery was too good of an opportunity for locals to pass up. . . 

Rural sector scares off trainees :

Using Landcorp farms in a restructured vocational education training system for the primary industry is one option being considered by the Government.

Farming leaders have called on the Government to buy Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre’s Masterton campus from the liquidators to secure future vocational farm training, saying once gone it will be difficult and costly to replace.

“It is crucial that facility in Masterton remains available to agricultural training,” Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland says. . .

Plantain research a game-changer for farmers :

Game-changing new research into how plantain crops can reduce nitrogen loss from dairy farms will put upper Manawatu farmers at the forefront of dairy science.

Dairy farmers in the Tararua catchment face reducing nitrogen loss from pastures by an average of 60% to meet the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council’s One Plan targets.

To achieve them farmers are adopting a range of on-farm changes and the region’s new plantain research could be a key component. . .

Farmers sick of being treated as rates ‘mugs’:

Farmers are out of patience with councils that treat them as cash cows, with a new Federated Farmers survey showing less than 4% believe they get good value for money from their rates.

“It’s local government election year and those chasing our votes can expect some very pointy questions on why average council rates in New Zealand jumped 79.7% between June 2007 and June 2017 when inflation (CPI) for the same period was only 23.1%,” Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says. . . 

Navajo shepherds cling to centuries-old tradition in a land where it refuses to rain – David Kelly:

More than a hundred rowdy sheep pressed up against the gates of the corral as Irene Bennalley drew near. Dogs yipped, rams snorted.

Just after 7:30 a.m., she flung open the pen and the woolly mob charged out in a cloud of dust. Well-trained dogs struggled to keep order as the flock moved across the bone-dry earth searching for stray bits of grass or leaves.

“Back! Back!” the 62-year-old Bennalley shouted at the stragglers separating from the flock — ripe pickings for coyotes or packs of wild dogs. . . 

Photos reveal Queensland cotton farms full of water while Darling River runs dry

These photos were taken by the Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick from a light plane over southern Queensland near Goondiwindi, on Wednesday.

They show rivers such as the Condamine relatively full, and storages on cotton farms holding thousands of megalitres of water.

Yet three hours away in north-west New South Wales, the Barwon and Darling rivers are a series of muddy pools. . . 


Rural round-up

January 23, 2019

Small actions add up in reducing emissions – Ken Muir:

Farmers can undertake immediate practical steps to begin reducing emissions from their farms, DairyNZ climate change ambassador Dean Alexander says.

”It’s important to realise that there’s no great silver bullet and there are some basic things farmers can do now,”

Mr Alexander, who farms a herd of 1100 cows near Winton, said. He said it was important for farmers to develop an understanding of their systems.

”Once you have some idea of your emission status, you can begin to evaluate your options.” . . 

Benefactors’hopesaredashed – Neal Wallace:

For 99 years graduates of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre and, for 54 years, from Telford in south Otago have worked on and progressed to owning farms. But all of that potentially came to an end before Christmas when a liquidator was appointed to resolve financial problems with the business. Neal Wallace profiles Taratahi.

The Taratahi and Telford farm training campuses have similar genesis. The formation of the not-for-profit private vocational farm training educators was made possible through generous bequests of land and industry and community support.

In 1918 Sir William Perry gave his Wairarapa farm to the Government to provide a training ground for servicemen returning from World War I. . .

It’s green but maybe not for long – Neal Wallace:

It might be the middle of summer but most of the country is still under an open fire season though Fire and Emergency is warning abundant vegetation growth could very quickly become potential fire fuel.

Usually, by mid-January dry conditions mean most of the country has fire controls, Fire and Emergency rural operations manager John Rasmussen said.

This year half the country can still light fires in the open without a permit because regular rain has kept vegetation green.

But Rasmussen said those conditions can change very quickly as summer gets drier.

Export lamb prices come off peak but Outlook strong despite Brexit – Heather Chalmers:

Export lamb prices remain at historically high levels, despite uncertainty over Brexit which coincides with the key Easter lamb trade.

Alliance Group livestock and shareholder services general manager Heather Stacy said Brexit could impact on the amount stock held in Britain and exchange rates, depending on what was agreed.

“It could be disruptive. It will affect customers in the UK, rather than New Zealand.” . . 

Cleaning up with goat milk – Yvonne O’Hara:

 Malcolm Gawn and wife Tracy Tooley decided they did not like Auckland traffic or the long commutes, so they moved to Balclutha and now they make soap from goat milk.

Mr Gawn said when they met about 10 years ago he was a corporate sales manager in Auckland and Ms Tooley was an anaesthetic technician there.

‘It got to the point we did not want to tolerate traffic, traffic lights and road works,” Mr Gawn said.

”We moved to an 8ha block near Balclutha with about 30 Saanen dairy goats and with no traffic lights, no roundabouts and no queues.”

Rural jobs fund runs out – Basant Kumar Mohanty:

The rural job guarantee scheme has run out of funds for this financial year, with activists fearing the implementing agencies will now hesitate to take up new projects, thereby denying paid work to the people.

According to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act website, the net balance is now Rs 1,719 crore in deficit. This means the rural development ministry has exhausted the entire funds of Rs 59,567 crore released towards the programme for the 2018-19 financial year.

The scheme guarantees paid, unskilled work for up to 100 days a year to every rural household.

Social activist Nikhil Dey said the scheme would be crippled for the two-and-a-half months left in this financial year, adding to the rural distress, unless more funds are released. . . 

https://twitter.com/HumanProgress/status/1086883280224505856

 


Rural round-up

January 15, 2019

Bid to save Telford – Neal Wallace:

Invercargill’s Southern Institute of Technology is preparing a lifeline for the Telford campus of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, which was put into liquidation before Christmas.

At a meeting at the South Otago campus today SIT agreed to prepare a proposal for Education Minister Chris Hipkins, in which it will become the education provider.

Telford Farm Board chairman Richard Farquhar hopes a deal can be secured in time for this academic year.

Information is being sought from Taratahi’s liquidator for a proposal to Hipkins, who, if he supports it, will then seek Cabinet approval. . . 

Helping others succeed – Tim Fulton:

Leadership starts with self for the 2018 Dairy Woman of the Year Loshni Manikam. Tim Fulton reports.

After 20 years of life in rural New Zealand Loshni Manikam has a real insight of the Kiwi agricultural psyche.

“I believe there’s this huge gap,” Manikam says.

“I feel like farming people know how to care about land, stock, neighbours – everything except themselves and I want to help change this.” . . 

Sharemilkers ready for competitions – Sally Rae:

Southland herd-owning sharemilker Luke Templeton jokes he has had a couple of moments of weakness lately.

Mr Templeton (30) signed up for both the FMG Young Farmer of the Year and the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards.

Next month, he will compete in the Otago-Southland regional final of the Young Farmer of the Year.

The practical and theoretical modules of the event will be held at the Tokomairiro A&P showgrounds in Milton on February 16, followed by an agri-knowledge quiz at the Milton Coronation Hall at night. . . 

Pair to attend congress in US :

Tyla Bishop hopes a trip to the United States in July will broaden her understanding of global food production.

Tyla (17), a year 13 pupil at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru, is one of six TeenAg members from throughout New Zealand chosen to attend the 4-H Congress in Bozeman, Montana

She lives on a 700-cow dairy farm in the Waitaki Valley and is working on another dairy farm during the summer holidays to help pay for the trip. . .

Stricter penalties proposed for contaminated food:

National’s Food Safety spokesperson Nathan Guy is backing calls from the food and grocery sector for tougher penalties for those who intentionally contaminate our food or threaten to do so.

“My Member’s Bill seeks to achieve what Damien O’Connor appears unwilling to do – protect New Zealanders from those that would threaten our food safety, be they reckless pranksters or people intent on nothing less than economic sabotage.

“Recent events here in New Zealand and across the Tasman, such as the strawberry needle scares, have identified the need for greater sanctions to prevent these sorts of idiotic behaviours. The food and grocery sector has been ignored in its calls for tougher laws. . . 

Horticulture supports harsher penalties for food contamination:

Horticulture New Zealand supports a Member’s Bill, announced today, that will introduce harsher penalties for people who intentionally contaminate food, or threaten to do so.

“Recently, we have seen some incidents of intentional contamination of fruit in both Australia and New Zealand and people need to understand the full and serious implications of such sabotage,” Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says. . . 


Rural round-up

January 13, 2019

No rescue for Taratahi :

A rescue package for the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was rejected by the Government last year, which left the national training provider no option but to face liquidation.

The Farmers Weekly has been told the package consisted of cost savings, a restructured business and courses, the planned sale of the 518ha Mangarata farm in the Wairarapa, a $6 million working capital cash injection and moratorium on refunding over payments to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

Last year the Government spent nearly $100m bailing out Unitec, Whitireia and Tai Poutini polytechnics. . .

The vegans are coming, so Kiwi farmers need to give us something to believe in – Daniel Eb:

Environmental limits, changing tastes and a redefined social licence are driving consumers away from animal proteins. In part two of a series on the rise of veganism, Daniel Eb looks at what New Zealand must do to get on board.

There is a sense of impending transformation ahead for agriculture in New Zealand. The world’s richest consumers – New Zealand’s target market – want products that speak to their identity. They are increasingly perceiving value in terms of experience, and are less willing to tolerate our production-first model. In short, they want something to believe in. In the second part of this series on veganism I outline a way forward, an opportunity to re-imagine our value as food producers and our impact on the world. . .

Postive start for wool sales – Alan Williams:

The calendar 2019 wool sales season in the South Island started brightly, with indications of business being written in China, and helped by lower volumes.

Crossbred prices remain at depressed levels and there are still issues to be faced, but the positive start was refreshing, with finer crossbred wools up to 6% dearer at Christchurch on Thursday, and strong wools up to 2% better, PGG Wrightson’s South Island sales manager Dave Burridge said.

The small volumes of new season’s lambs’ wool were keenly sought after, with prices well ahead.  . .

Meet the couple at No.1 State Highway, Far(thest) North – David Fisher:

At the point in the road where there is little left of State Highway 1, you’ll find Herb and Colleen Subritzky.

In the evenings they sit on the deck of their home, overlooking the road – New Zealand’s longest road stretching more than 2000km from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south – nursing cold beers and listening to birds filling the silence of the Far North.

All day, buses and cars race by their home to cover those final few kilometres to Cape Reinga. At 6pm, the main parking area shuts and the flow reverses, dwindles then stops. From then until morning, it must be one of the quietest stretches of road in the country. . . 

Eight vie for Otago/Southland FMG Young Farmer title – Sudesh Kissun:

Two former workmates at the iconic Mount Linton Station are set to clash in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest.

Jacob Mackie and Allen Gregory, who are both 25, will go head to head in the Otago/Southland regional final in Milton next month.

“I can’t wait. I really enjoy the challenge of competing. It pushes your boundaries and makes you work on your weaknesses,” said Allen. . . 

Farmer credits his dog with fighting off attacking steer – Kristin Edge:

Johnny Bell reckons his little dog, Jade, saved his life by fighting off a steer that bowled the veteran farmer and was attacking him on the ground.

The canine companion then ran along the road to get help for her wounded master who had been knocked unconscious. Bell’s front teeth had been smashed out, his right eye severely bruised as was his ribs and legs.

What was not immediately evident was the Northland farmer was suffering a brain bleed. . .


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