Business not Minister’s business

June 14, 2018

NZ First MP Shane Jones has stomped with his clod hoppers where he has no business to be again:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has climbed into the leadership of dairy giant Fonterra, calling for chairman John Wilson to follow chief executive Theo Spierings out the door.

Jones said he told the company it should stop being political and instead focus on its business.

Says the Minister who uses personal attacks instead of polite discourse and ought to be focusing on politics not meddling in business.

They should focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money they’ve lost overseas. I believe that they have become disconnected from the farming community.”

Jones said he had suggested to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor whether it was time to restructure the dairy co-op, and singled out Wilson for special mention.

Doesn’t he know that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), under which Fonterra was created, is under review already?

The leadership of Fonterra, I believe, starting with the chairman, is full of its own importance and has become disconnected.”

He said there was an absolute absence of accountability for the “enormous amounts of dough” that the current chairman had presided over.

This sounds very like a minister full of his own importance presiding over a billion dollar slush fund with little accountability.

The CEO has gone, well that’s only one party of the double-Dutch we’ve had to put up with in Fonterra over the last nine years. I thoroughly believe this … that as the CEO leaves Fonterra, the chairman should in quick order catch the next cab out of town.

Double-Dutch? Is this a xenophobic reference to the retiring CEO Theo Spierings and past chair Sir Henry van der Heyden who stepped down nearly a decade ago?

“I’ve been bloody disappointed that Fonterra, in my view, the leadership has not accepted that there’s a new Government and there is a new narrative and I’ve had a gutsful of them believing they are bigger then what they really are.” . .

Believing they’re bigger than they are? That’s rich coming from the party with far more power – and voter money – than its voter support at the election entitle it to.

This sort of tirade does nothing to reassure  businesses which are already very wary of the policies and directions of the government.:

The time has come for the Prime Minister to step in and discipline her Regional Economic Development Minister who repeatedly seeks publicity by attacking business leaders, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said today.

“Business confidence in New Zealand is plummeting and the reasons for that are mounting.

“The Government’s low growth policies like higher taxes and stronger unions are causing businesses to hire fewer people and invest less in growth and it has them concerned about the future of New Zealand and who can blame them?

“Because on top of that you have a loudmouth Regional Economic Development Minister who’s putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.

“Shane Jones’ attacks on Fonterra’s leadership are the latest burp from a man who is fast losing any respect he once had.

“He says Fonterra’s leadership is ‘full of their own importance’.  That sounds like a more apt description of himself.

“He even added he’s ‘worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterrra chairman has presided over’.

“This is startling hypocrisy from the same man who defended his own region getting the lion’s share of funding from his billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund by stating ‘to the winner goes the booty’.

“Well it’s not his booty and it’s clear Shane Jones has no idea what accountability means.

“This Government has decided to spend $3 billion over the next three years on regional economic development, including roundabouts and church restorations. It’s critical the responsible is up to the job and focused on doing his job well.

“At the moment, all he seems good for is attacking business leaders whenever a few days have gone by without some of the media coverage for which he craves.

A friend who was at the KPMG breakfast at which Jones launched his tirade said it was entirely inappropriate, and a very poor reflection on the MP and the government.

Fonterra is a co-operative. The performance of the company and its chair are the business of its shareholders not an MP.

There is some dissatisfaction and there are concerns but this season’s  milk price is the third highest since the company was formed.

Shareholders could well be more concerned about the MP who has no business interfering in their business than the chair’s performance.

So Jones’s loose lips could well strengthen the position of Wilson who is up for re-election this year.

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Rural round-up

June 10, 2018

Lots of challenges for chief executive :

Terry Copeland says he is looking forward to his new challenge.

The New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) chief executive is set to take over as Federated Farmers’ new boss next month and admits dealing with the ongoing impact of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak will be a ”baptism of fire”.

”I’ve got a real passion for wellness and mental health and I plan to bring that to my new role.

”Through the fallout from Mycoplasma bovis there will be a lot of communities in severe crisis, so making sure communities are supported will be hugely important . .

Waitotara Valley farmer Roger Pearce aims for more diversity – Laurel Stowell:

A farmer way up the Waitōtara Valley plans to get carbon credits from his poplars and is planting mānuka and using cattle to open up the ground for regenerating native bush.

Diversifying appeals to Roger Pearce, who has been farming in Makakaho Rd for four years. His land is becoming a patchwork of bush, closely planted poplars, mānuka, pasture and green feed crops.

“I like the idea, and the overall picture, where it’s going for the long term – not just intensively farming livestock,” he said . .

Hawkes Bay farmers warned of impact of synthetic meat

Farmers are being warned the meat industry they could go the same way as the wool industry if they ignore the threat of synthetic proteins.

The warning comes in the Hawke’s Bay Farming Benchmarking Review by accounting and advisory firm Crowe Horwath which saids repeated failure of the wool industry to respond to the threat of synthetic fibres was a “clear and serious warning” of potential problems in the red-meat sector. . .

Spierings’ Fonterra has created two new food categories :

Fonterra’s performance since formation in 2001, especially since listing in late 2012, has been the subject of much discussion around farm house kitchen tables, in supplier meetings in country halls, among Wellington regulators and in the media.

More than 10,000 supplying shareholders and several hundred investors in the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund (FSF) have views on the giant’s performance ranging from laudatory to sceptical to dismissive.

Farmers Weekly has printed a range of views in a series called Fonterra’s Scorecard preparatory to the Government’s review of the dairy industry by the Ministry for Primary Industries this year.

Some conclusions are summarised here under subject headings and the report card is mixed. . .

 

Dreaded drought descends on paradise – Mal Peters:

The drought has its claws into the Peters farm after a run of good seasons but that does not make it any easier to manage while keeping yourself on top in the head department. In the last few years we had started on some long overdue capital improvements that now will have to be put on hold but the shock has been the rapid onset and time of year that has made the impact so severe.

My farm includes part of Wallangra Station that has some 120 years of rainfall records so it is interesting to look back on that admittedly short history to see what has happened. When looking at the November to April rainfall there are five standout crook times: 1902, 1919, 1965, 2007 and now this year. . . 

Drought is part of Australia’s DNA – John Carter:

Eastern Australia is in another major drought and the cattle industry is in big trouble. Mal Peters’ outstanding May column was a poignant description of what most cattlemen are enduring – very expensive or no feed, declining or no water and big price falls.

The stress is exacerbated by Indian and American inroads into our export markets and chicken into our domestic market. Drought is part of Australia’s DNA. No-one can predict when it will come to an area or when it will break. Talk of more money for weather forecasters to tell farmers when to plant their crops is Disneyland stuff-the next fortnight is all they can predict with any accuracy. . .

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Rural round-up

June 3, 2018

Already-stressed farmers will need to use all resources available to cope with the added impact of mycoplasma bovis. Their personal resilience faces a severe test – Daniel Tisch:

The mycoplasma bovis eradication programme underway will challenge farmer resilience. Resilience addresses the return to normal after a shock.

The shock felt by farmers from culling their herds has been widely reported. From what we know about resilience, this initial impact will be followed by a recovery period, in which the mental and emotional state of farmers will be affected for years.

The incidence of depression, suicide and other mental health conditions will rise.

An average of one farmer every other week commits suicide in New Zealand and this rate increases during stressful times such as a drought. International studies of farmers highlight their vulnerability. Many countries have programmes to support farmer resilience.  For example, US-lawmakers are currently discussing The Stress Act for farmers.  . . 

Just get on with it farmer says – Neal Wallace:

Leo and Maite Bensegues aren’t really interested in how Mycoplasma bovis arrived on their South Canterbury farm last August.

It meant the destruction of 950 cows and 222 yearlings but the Morven sharemilkers do not dwell on those dark days.

Instead the Argentinian who arrived in New Zealand in 2005 with $728 to his name focuses on the future and a day in late June when his farm will be declared free of the disease and he can start preparing for the calving of his recently bought 700-cow herd. . .

MPI answers questions:

When did Mycoplasma bovis arrive in New Zealand?

All the evidence we have is that Mycoplasma bovis arrived in New Zealand in late 2015 to early 2016. Investigations are ongoing.

Why do you think this?

We have two lots of evidence. A genetic clock and our tracking and tracing activity where we identify and test animals on farms that have received cattle or other risk items from Mycoplasma bovis positive farms, like milk for feeding calves.

What’s a genetic clock?

Since we discovered Mycoplasma bovis in NZ in July 2017 we have been gene sequencing the disease to identify its genetic fingerprint. . . 

Leisurely trip with cows allows rubbish pick-up – Jono Edwards:

Dairy farmers across the country braved the cold yesterday to embark on a yearly stock pilgrimage.

In some areas, they were concerned about the travel and mixing of stock that came with Gypsy Day in the era of Mycoplasma bovis.

Taieri dairy farmer Philip Wilson was not too worried about the  threat of the infection yesterday as he moved a small herd just 3km down the road. . . 

Wilson, Spierings argue valid comparisons, value-add – Hugh Stringleman:

For the Fonterra Scorecard series Farmers Weekly sought an interview with chairman John Wilson and chief executive Theo Spierings, now in his last year at the top of the world’s second-largest dairy processor and trader.

Aspects of Fonterra’s historical performance, Spiering’s strategies, the dairy industry review and Fonterra’s most-recent downgrade in earnings and dividends were discussed. It was their only joint interview with rural media during the past seven years. Hugh Stringleman reports. 

Fonterra’s performance

New Zealand dairy farmers who supply Fonterra now receive better payouts than their counterparts almost everywhere in the world, chairman John Wilson and chief executive Theo Spierings say. . .

New directors elected to Horticulture NZ board:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board welcomes new director Bernadine Guilleux and re-elected director Mike Smith, after four well-qualified candidates contested two vacant roles on the Board.

Horticulture New Zealand’s President Julian Raine was advised of the results by Electionz, which ran an independent voting process for the Board.

Welcome Bay kiwifruit grower Mike Smith offered himself for re-election and Bernadine Guilleux, marketing manager at Balle Bros in Auckland, is a first-time candidate. . . 

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Rural round-up

April 2, 2018

Action call over any found to have illegally brought in ‘M.bovis’ – Sally Rae:

Consequences are needed if any farmers have put other farmers, animals and livelihoods at risk, let alone the New Zealand economy, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says.

Dr Mackle was responding to an announcement by the Ministry for Primary Industries yesterday that it had simultaneously executed search warrants at three locations as part of the Mycoplasma bovis investigation.

The New Zealand Herald reported there was growing speculation the bacterial cattle disease was introduced to New Zealand through illegally imported livestock drugs, and sources suggested Tuesday’s simultaneous searches were in Auckland and Southland. . .

Fonterra negotiating ‘roadblocks’ in China – Fran O’Sullivan:

Fonterra’s news that it was writing down its $774 million investment in Chinese infant formula company Beingmate by $405m inevitably dominated news headlines after the dairy co-operative announced its 2018 interim result to the NZX.

But that was eclipsed when chairman John Wilson announced the seven-year reign of his chief executive Theo Spierings was in its final phase.

It was a brutal press conference. . .

Food for thought: How to secure New Zealand’s food supply in the face of a changing climate – Tess Nicholl:

We take for granted the bounty on offer at our supermarkets, but destructive cyclones and the hottest month in 150 years are turning attention to how long New Zealand can provide fresh food for its growing population. Tess Nichol investigates.

On the outskirts of Dargaville, Andre de Bruin has been growing kumara for the past two decades.

He produces 40 hectares of the purple tuber annually, but last year his yield was halved thanks to what de Bruin calls a “perfect storm” — drought followed by unseasonal amounts of rain right before harvest.

“We had drought drought drought, then bam, floods,” he recalls. . .

Get the basics right – Sam Whitelock:

I come from a farming background and once I complete my rugby career I’ll be taking the lessons I’ve learnt from professional sport and applying them back on the farm. (Sam Whitelock, Farmstrong Ambassador)

Rugby has certainly taught me heaps about how to look after myself and handle pressure.

I reckon rugby and farming are really similar that way – there’s always targets to meet and results to achieve.

So how can you prepare for the ups and downs of it all? . .

Merino stud tour held in conjunction with awards – Yvonne O’Hara:

About 170 people took part in a two-day self-drive tour visiting eight merino studs in Central Otago earlier this month.

The tour was held in conjunction with the Otago Merino Association Awards, which were announced at a formal dinner in Alexandra on March 16.

The studs on the tour were Nine Mile Station, Malvern Downs, Earnscleugh Station, Matangi Station, Little Valley Station, Matarae Station, Stonehenge Station and Armidale Merino Stud.

Lunch was at Earnscleugh Station’s woolshed . .

 Art Basel Hong Kong 2018: Loro Piana’s cloud-like “The Gift of Kings” exhibition 590 panels of the world’s finest wool make for a jubilant immersive experience   – Alessandro De Toni:

In conjunction with Art Basel Hong Kong, Loro Piana—one of the world’s most prestigious cashmere and luxury fabric manufacturers—pays homage to its most renowned material known as The Gift of Kings.

It’s quite a bold name but it represents an incredibly fine, feather-light and rare wool sourced by Loro Piana through a 30-year-long collaboration with a selection of Merino sheep breeders in Australia and New Zealand. This material, measuring only 12 microns (one thousandth of a millimeter), is far finer than cashmere and only available in very limited quantities, meaning it’s quite extraordinary that it was used as the principal source material for this installation.


Rural round-up

March 23, 2018

Gore couple win top sharemilking award :

Gore couple Simon and Hilary Vallely have been named share farmers of the year in the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards.
The awards function was held last night at Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill.

Mr and Mrs Vallely, both 31, are 50:50 sharemilking 475 cows on David and Valerie Stafford’s 160ha farm.

They believed strong relationships with all people they dealt with were the key to their successful business. . .

Departing Fonterra chief executive has taken the company forward – Christine McKay:

Fonterra’s departing chief executive Theo Spierings has been a strong leader, Tararua Federated Farmer’s president Neil Filer says.

Mr Filer, who is also the Tararua group’s dairy spokesman, told the Dannevirke News Spierings had moved Fonterra to a value-added space, which was good for dairy farmers.

“He’s done a good job since he began,” Filer said.

Spierings has not named a date for his departure after seven years, but Fonterra board chairman John Wilson said he had made an “extraordinary” contribution while in the job. . . 

Kiwi butchers finish second on world stage:

New Zealand’s butchery team, The Pure South Sharp Blacks, just missed out on being crowned world champions yesterday after finishing runners up at the World Butchers’ Challenge in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Team Ireland, the host nation took the top spot in a tense battle of the butchers with the Aussies – the Australian Steelers – finishing third… to the delight of many this side of the ditch.

Website to find workers praised:

Demand for horticulture workers is higher than the number of people available, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

He applauded the Work The Seasons website launched on Friday by the Ministry of Social Development. It gave growers access to more workers and gave people looking for work the chance to see what great opportunities existed in horticulture, ”not only for seasonal work, but also for permanent work and a lasting career”, Mr Chapman said. . 

 

Telemedicine – keeping Kiwis well closer to home:

Dr Ben Wheeler is running remote diabetes clinics for rural Otago families, saving them the long trip to Dunedin.

Type one diabetes is the second most common chronic condition in children, after asthma. In my region, from South Canterbury to Stewart Island, there are up to 200 children and young people with diabetes. Being a kid with diabetes is no fun. You have to be careful about what you eat, put up with finger prick blood tests and injections every day, and often wear a bulky insulin pump under your clothes. When I first started working here, children with diabetes in Otago had to make the trip to Dunedin every three months, sometimes more often, to see me for their clinic. For some families that meant a round trip of up to nine hours. It meant mum and dad having to take a day off work – sometimes two days, if they had to stay overnight. Often brothers and sisters would need to come too, with everyone missing school – all this for a half-hour consultation. . . 

When the death of a family farm leads to suicide -Corey Kilgannon:

Fred Morgan was already deep in debt from rebuilding his milking barn after a fire when milk prices plunged in 2015, setting off an economic drought that is now entering its fourth year — the worst in recent memory for dairy farmers in New York State.

Mr. Morgan, 50, saw no way to save the dairy farm in central New York State that he took over as a teenager from his ailing father and ran with his wife, Judy, and their son, Cody.

With the farm operating at a loss and facing foreclosure, Mr. Morgan believed his only solution was his $150,000 life insurance policy. He said he planned on killing himself so his family could receive the payout.

“I’d sacrifice my life so my family could keep the farm,” Mr. Morgan said. His wife persuaded him otherwise. . .

Those who work ina cares not hours and those who feed others before themselves . . .thank you. #NationalAgDay


Was he pushed?

March 21, 2018

Fonterra has a strangely worded media release announcing it’s seeking a new CEO:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited (Fonterra) today announced that, as part of a planned CEO succession process, the Fonterra Board and its CEO Theo Spierings have agreed that Mr Spierings will leave his role later this year.

Fonterra says its Board and Mr Spierings had formally commenced succession discussions last year. As a result of that, the Fonterra Board initiated international searches in November last year to identify potential candidates and was now shortlisting candidates.

Fonterra Chairman John Wilson says the Board was taking the decision to bring forward the announcement, which the Board was expecting to make in April, to avoid speculation.

“It is not yet clear exactly when any appointment for Theo’s replacement will be made, but it is absolutely clear that Theo will continue in the meantime to drive the Co-operative’s strategy and business, with special emphasis on China.

“The Board and Theo are committed to a high-quality transition to a new CEO and when we have more information in regards to timing we will let our farmers and the wider market know. Until then it is business as usual with the focus on driving returns to our farmers and unitholders.

“We envisage that even after the announcement of our new CEO, Theo will be involved in an advisory role so that we make best use of his knowledge and expertise during the transition,” says Mr Wilson.

Mr Spierings says that he has been proud to have led Fonterra as CEO for seven years as the Co-operative has established a strong demand-led strategy and oriented itself to become innovative and sustainable.

“It is now time for a new CEO who can lead the Co-operative through this next phase. The time is right for the Co-operative and that is important to me and to the Board.

“It is also the right time for me personally. I look forward to new challenges, but right now my focus is on Fonterra. That will be the case until I finish with the Co-operative.”

The usual wording would be that a CEO was resigning and a replacement was being sought.

The convoluted wording makes it sound like he was pushed.

Whether or not he was, I hope that the new CEO brings a culture change with better communication, including a willingness to front the media.

Last week Duncan Garner on the AM Show complained that no-one from Fonterra would come on the show.

It’s the second time I’ve heard Garner make that complaint and I can’t understand why Fonterra wouldn’t take up the opportunity to tell its story.


Front up Fonterra

December 14, 2017

On the AM Show this morning Duncan Garner criticised Fonterra for not fronting up.

The company had been asked to come on the show to talk about the price of butter.

No-one would.

I don’t understand why.

Explaining the high price of butter is simple.

After years of being advised to eat less fat in general and less butter in particular, the advice has changed. Butter is no longer the bad diet bogey it was, people are discovering, or rediscovering, the joy of it and demand has risen faster than supply.

How hard would it have been for someone from the company to explain that?

This isn’t the first time Fonterra wouldn’t front the media. If the company doesn’t want all the good its advertising campaign is doing to be undone it must be the last.

Chief executive Theo Spierings is paid an eye watering amount to run the company.

I don’t have a problem with that but I do have a problem if he isn’t doing his job properly. Part of a CE’s job is to front the media or, if he’s not the right person to do so, to find that person and make sure s/he does.

Fonterra is running a very good advertising campaign which shows the interconnections between everyone who contributes to making the company work and work well and the economic and social benefits of that.

It’s not just about converting grass to milk and processing and selling it. It’s about all the people who use the milk and the ones who do the work between the paddock and plate, glass or cup who enable them to do so.

It’s a really good story but there is a huge risk that good will be undone if the company turns down requests to front the media.


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