Rural round-up

April 26, 2016

Safety change generational – Sally Rae:

Lynn Carty reckons Health and Safety is a little bit like the old seatbelt campaigns.

Nobody wanted to adhere at the start, then it became a generational change; advertisements targeted children, who quickly began to “click” and encouraged their parents to do the same.

“I think this is similar. It’ll be a generational change as well,” the WorkSafe Otago health and safety inspector said. . . 

App saves H&S paperwork:

Onside has launched an online health and safety app for farmers to make compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 easier.

It enabled farmers to develop their own health and safety plan by working through a pre-populated list of risks overlaid on a satellite map of their farm, chief executive Ryan Higgs said.

Contractors and visitors who entered the farm would be prompted to sign in on a smartphone as they crossed a virtual “geo-fence”. . . 

Industry calls for Kiwi farmers to be allowed to grow cannabis – Charlie Mitchell:

It’s green, environmentally-friendly and growing in popularity around the world but some say a roaring cannabis market is about to pass New Zealand by.

Growers and farmers are taking a keen interest in cannabis, as countries around the world legalise its cultivation for medicinal purposes.

Some are looking at the plant’s potential in light of falling dairy prices and restrictions around importing seeds, most recently due to an outbreak of the invasive weed velvetleaf. . . 

Deer farmers focus on meat in the box – Kate Taylor:

Tim Aitken breaks into a smile when asked why he’s a deer farmer.

“A lot of people think deer are hard to farm but they’re not. You just have to get the basics right. We love every minute of it.”

Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe have been farming deer since the late 1980s. The continual improvement is one of the aspects they love about their business… alongside a simple love of farming deer. . . 

This one’s for you Dad‘ – Kate Taylor:

Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year Grant Charteris saluted his father Bruce, who died on the Tikokino farm three years ago, as he and wife Sally celebrated their win.

The couple have a mix of deer, cattle and sheep on their 320ha farm with an economic farm surplus (EFS) of $941/ha and a 9.6 per cent return on capital. They will host a winner’s field day on May 12.

“It was awesome to be able to pull it off and we’re pretty blown away, to be fair,” Grant said.

After thanking people such as vets, bankers, contractors and staff who had helped make their business successful, he also thanked Sally, who had been “the glue that makes our family stick” while looking after a “two-year-old boy who is very active and a seven-month-old girl who’s nocturnal.” . . 

Successful trip to China concludes:

Primary Industries Nathan Guy has concluded a successful trip to China as part of a delegation led by Prime Minister John Key with Trade Minister Todd McClay and New Zealand businesses.

“This visit has reinforced the strong and growing agricultural ties between our countries. Not only is China our biggest export market, there is now a depth of two-way investment and cooperation between our primary industry sectors,” says Mr Guy.

“We have made great progress on an updated meat protocol that includes chilled meat access which will be significant for exporters and farmers. This will help put premium chilled meat cuts on the tables of high end restaurants.

“A new Halal Arrangement will recognise New Zealand’s halal standards and will provide our producers with a first mover advantage in this culturally diverse market that takes 33 percent of our total halal certified exports. . . 

Pacific farmers using web tools for market updates:

Young farmers in the Pacific are being taught web and social media skills to help them earn more, and to share information with other farmers in the region.

The workshop, by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community, or POETCom, began in Niue last week, and will move to the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands.

POETCom’s coordinator, Karen Mapusua, says farming is often just seen as manual labour by young people, but social media and internet skills can be useful in the agriculture sector. . . 

Peterson Farm Bros's photo.


Rural round-up

June 24, 2014

Optimistic over farming sector’s future – Sally Rae:

Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills stands down next month after three years in the role. He talks to agribusiness reporter Sally Rae about his tenure and his optimism for the agricultural industry’s future.

His desk might have been cleared in Wellington but New Zealand’s farming community can be assured they have not seen the last of Bruce Wills.

After three years at the governance helm of Federated Farmers and a prior three-year tenure as meat and fibre chairman, his involvement, following the organisation’s annual meeting on July 4, will only be as a ”very loyal” member. . .

Why a carbon tax is udderly useless to us – William Rolleston:

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity, including agriculture, plays a significant role in climate change.

Yet the Green Party’s proposal to tax biological emissions is bad policy for climate change and the economy.

Along with every other New Zealander, farmers already pay for their carbon-dioxide emissions in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. The issue, the Greens argue, boils down to biological emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide.

Methane is a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas generated by bacteria in the stomach of farm animals. It lasts around seven years before being converted back to carbon dioxide which is taken up by plants. The methane cycle is complete when animals eat those plants in turn. Methane is measured as kilograms of carbon dioxide based on a 100-year time frame.

This time frame has been chosen by international agreement but any period could have been chosen. . .

Harriet takes on shepherds challenge – Sally Rae:

Harriet Gardner admits she might not be the ”fastest in the world” at it – but she can shear a sheep.

That skill will be crucial when Miss Gardner (20) takes part in the preliminary round of competition at the World Young Shepherds Challenge at Lincoln from July 3-5.

The competition will be held alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand final events. It will consist of shearing, condition scoring, a quad bike obstacle course, identifying sheep breeds, feet trimming, drenching, counting sheep and demonstrating knowledge ofthe sheep industry. . .

$75m for NZ-Singapore ‘Foods for Health’ projects:

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government will invest NZ$1.75 million to fund New Zealand-Singapore collaborative research projects on the development of food products with validated health benefits. 

New Zealand’s investment will be matched by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), bringing the total investment amount to approximately NZ$3.5 million over two years.

“One of the goals of the Business Growth Agenda is to grow exports from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. Continuing to develop our innovation in the food science and technology industry will be a key contributor to achieving this,” Mr Joyce says. . . .

A champion for farming :

Fiona Hancox’s father was Colin Richardson, a man who started life as a townie, before eventually owning 12 West Otago farms as well as being extensively involved in farming politics.

Although the son of a tailor, he decided at an early age he wanted to be a farmer.

His first agricultural job was on a property at Crookston, before moving to Gimmerburn to work for the Paterson family and to be a fencing contractor.

Jim Paterson helped him into his first farm – Avalon – at Heriot, when he was 24. . .

Former chair appointed to deer board:

Clive Jermy OMNZ, a well-known red deer stud breeder, has been appointed to the board of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) for a three-year term. He is one of four producer board members, replacing Tim Aitken, Hawkes Bay.

Mr Jermy is a former board chair, standing down in 2007. Before that he was chair of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association.

NZDFA selection and appointments panel chair David Stevens said the panel had interviewed three skilled and talented candidates and the decision process was extremely challenging. The unsuccessful candidates were Tim Aitken, who stood for re-election and Otago-based businessman and deer farmer Grant Cochrane. . .

 


We don’t know how lucky we are

November 24, 2012

Fred Dagg reckoned we don’t know how lucky we are.

Federated Farmers’ president Bruce Wills  expresses has similar thoughts in a speech entitled the real ‘lucky country’:

In recent days the International Herald Tribune has penned an expose supposedly blowing the lid on New Zealand’s ‘clean green 100% Pure’ brand’.

I wish to recap what I told the journalist.

I said to him New Zealanders don’t do moderation very well. As a people, we tend to be most critical of ourselves. It means we often see ourselves as the very best at something, or the very worst.

International visitors I meet are confounded by the level of self-criticism they read or see.

We call it a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome, but when visitors look at our countryside and our waterways, they are struck by how pristine and clear they are.

I said to the journalist, can we do better? Yes of course we can. But, I strongly believe when you look at what we do and how we do it, we are way up there in terms of environmental performance. . .

Quite.

I must note the coverage of this far exceeds Dr Jeremy Hill becoming the first New Zealander to head the International Dairy Federation in 109 years or indeed the limited coverage of Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe being named Marks & Spencer’s number one farm supplier on earth.

It is an unhealthy part of our psyche that we delight in the negative and ignore the genuinely positive.

Sad but true, bad news sells.

So how do we grow in this self-imposed fishbowl?

New Zealand exports are more likely to grow if successive governments target a population of 15 million by 2060. It is that simple.

That is not my idea but highlights a fundamental discussion we are not having about how big we ought to be and by when. It comes in a recent thought-provoking paper prepared for Business New Zealand by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

If we want to grow New Zealand into an agricultural superpower we need a larger domestic market to create and exploit the opportunities we create.

This report also recommends considering tax incentives or grants to encourage large, successful New Zealand companies to remain based here, instead of targeting all assistance to companies just starting out as exporters.

I am a little nervous about incentives because that is about picking winners.

I second that.

Yet it does feel as if we are becoming a branch economy. Lion Nathan, which can draw on a lineage back to 1840 is now a Japanese company.

Fisher & Paykel that iconic staple of New Zealand kitchens is to be owned by the Chinese.

Interestingly enough, given the CraFarm saga occupied some of our time at June’s National Conference, Fisher & Paykel’s sale has passed without too much of a whimper. There was no ‘Save our Stoves’ campaign, no petitions, no marches and few editorials.

Fisher & Paykel joins NavMan and a host of successful starts that have left these shores. The biggest arguably being Joseph Nathan’s Glaxo – founded in the Manawatu.

So the NZIER is right to ask questions about how we maintain the economic benefit from New Zealand companies, either bought by foreign investors or moved closer to foreign markets.

Icebreaker is an example of a company which has managed it. Ownership, design and marketing are based here, manufacturing takes place in China.

Can I suggest the immediate answer lies with what we do.

I can confidently say, that in terms of value and in terms of productivity, New Zealand farming is the star turn. Globally New Zealand agriculture is Hollywood and Wellywood all rolled into one.

We are the hot house, the benchmark and the Wall Street of global farming. I must ask why that being the case, some Kiwis delight telling overseas conferences or media what we get wrong, whereas I like to focus on what we get right.

I believe we get more things right than we get wrong and farmers do deserve positive accolades for this.

Bad news stories lead, good ones tend to get lost on the farming pages and rural reports.

One area we lose out is a lack of integration within our meat and wool sector. That, to me, is the hallmark of dairy industries success. If we take Fonterra, it is a global ingredients company rather than a processor of milk.

New Zealand’s core competitive advantage is food and instead of armchair experts thinking finished products, we need to be thinking ingredients. Meshing our ingredients within global supply chains so that it becomes “NZ Inside”.

It works for companies like Intel and Gore-Tex, why not Fonterra?

McDonald’s NZ being a fine example of what I mean, given the value of primary exports it sends is only one third lower than the total export returns from the film and television industry.

ANZ’s latest Insight paper states “strong international demand combined with growing supply constraints are driving an enormous opportunity for agricultural trade.”

Between 2012 and 2050, ANZ expects New Zealand to capture an additional $500 billion to $1.3 trillion in agricultural exports. This is an immense opportunity and the banks are beefing up their agricultural skills as they know this is the once and future secret of New Zealand’s success.

So what is holding us back?

Capital constraint is a major one. Something more Kiwi savings would help with as that lessens our reliance on Belgian dentists and Japanese housewives.

We can also add a poor skills match between those leaving tertiary institutions with what employers actually need. While we have growing urban unemployment we cannot fill vacancies on-farm.

So we have people with the wrong skills in the wrong locations,

We also face land use conflicts.

We have reason to fear councils rushing blindly into setting limits based on flimsy analysis. I must make mention of Horizons One Plan and urge the Council to invite Landcare Research to present its findings.

Agriculture needs land and while it is a finite commodity, we are no where near maximising the full potential of New Zealand’s millions of hectares of pasture.

The only thing we have to fear is our own nagging self-doubt. The market determines best land-use because New Zealand was built by those who believe in the word, can.

We must guard against becoming the country that can’t.

Water is a flashpoint but it is an area where there is too often ignorance with even harsher words spoken about farming.

At least the positives of the Land & Water Forum are that it points towards a better future. We are on the same page and are engaged.

Yet if we have problems with the RMA in trying to generate wealth, while environmentalists complain about the RMA too, maybe we need to have a closer look. We need to ask if the RMA remains the best policy instrument for New Zealand in the 21st century.

The NZIER is in no doubt that it represents a blockage.

We must also question the pantheon of industry good bodies and organisations through to government programmes purporting to assist exporters.

There seems to be a lot of duplication when exporters face similar market and logistical challenges. We need to ask if we, on the industry side, ought to be mirroring the way the Ministry for Primary Industries has consolidated itself. This is flowing through into what the Industry Training Organisations are currently doing as well.

Maybe fewer but better equipped and resourced voices could be a good thing, taking a leaf from Business NZ to form a Primary New Zealand body.

The one thing we know is that the world is going to demand 60 percent more agricultural output than what globally was produced in 2007.

Are we the country of can? I believe we are.

Titled “Scale Up or Die“, that recent NZIER report argues successful exporting nations are not only closer to their markets, but have large home markets as well. It is this that helps to create the scale needed for export success. So how do we shape up?

§ In 1900 New Zealand’s population was just under a million

§ In 1980 New Zealand’s population was just under 3.2 million

§ In 2012 we have just broken the 4.4 million mark.

By anyone’s book our growth has been rapid but not rapid enough. The NZIER argues for 15 million Kiwis by 2060.

The report’s authors, economists John Stephenson and John Ballingal, argue:

“If New Zealand’s biggest impediment to better economic performance is an absence of scale, there is only one way to overcome this over the long term and that is to grow the population through more migrants.”

What the NZIER suggests is the biggest human growth-phase we have ever seen. Statistics NZ projections, even at the most extreme end of migration, places New Zealand with around seven million souls by 2061.

So what the NZIER wants is double Statistics NZ most optimistic projections.

That of course poses a question of where they will live given the recent debate about affordable housing. Not to mention the land this will take.

We know from Landcare Research that we are eating our farmland up at a worrying rate. Current building techniques threaten to eat up the land that creates the basis for future economic prosperity.

If we are to increase our population it demands a move to high-rise, high density housing. It demands the use of brownfield land first and greenfield last; a hierarchy for land use.

Reading the NZIER report it is hard to disagree when the report’s authors suggest New Zealander’s have a low level of financial literacy. We bemoan foreign investment but queue for 30-months interest free terms funded by someone else’s savings.

Some farmers complain about losing on swaps while others have little issue with them.

I don’t believe swaps is the big issue facing farming that some may make it out to be. If we bail people out for poor choices, it just means those who made good choices pay more.

There are plenty of examples of that in the past when governments used to subsidise farmers and give all sorts of drought relief. The good ones made decisions early and survived on their own merits, the bad ones waited for the government to step in and got by on taxpayer largesse.

The big issue is our relationship with the environment.

If we overbalance on economic development, we destroy the environment and that costs us all.

Yet if we overbalance on the environment, we destroy the economy and that equally costs us.

Striking the right balance is important. With good management and good science we can do both, we can continue to improve how we interact with the environment, and we can grow the economy. We can grow more jobs with a lighter footprint.

The solution is not complicated.

It is to trust Kiwis to make their own spending decisions. Government just needs to spend less. It is about focussing on outcomes rather than process. It is about trusting the collective wisdom of a community rather than views of a distant judge.

We produce safe, quality food in a world that is crying out for more.

We have great water nestled among some of the best scenery on earth.

We are an educated and innovative people with an exciting future.

We are the ‘lucky’ country.

It’s more than time we realised how lucky we are and celebrated it.

Let the tall poppies bloom and appreciate the land that lets them.

We could start here with an antidote to negativity:

The prestigious British supermarket chain, Marks & Spencer, has provided the perfect antidote for those feeling downbeat about New Zealand farming. A Kiwi farming couple are in the spotlight as Marks & Spencer’s most sustainable farming supplier on earth.

“Good things take time but Marks & Spencer have recently updated their sustainability pages to reflect the fantastic achievements of Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe,” says Bruce Wills, President of Federated Farmers.

“Although we announced this last month, I think we need to take stock of what Marks & Spencer have said of Tim and Lucy and by extension, the New Zealand farm system,” Mr Wills added.

Farming for the future winner 2012

WINNERS
Tim Aitken & Lucy Robertshawe
Congratulations to Tim Aitken & Lucy Robertshawe who were voted by you as the overall winners of M&S‚ Farming for the Future Awards 2012.

Tim and Lucy farm in the Central Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand and won our International Farming for the Future award this year. They have around 600 breeding hinds on their deer farm and rear the offspring for venison meat, which is sold to M&S.

Farming together since 1994 they have developed their property to provide their livestock with the ideal environment. Native trees and bush have been protected and shelterbelts have been planted. They have developed wetlands for birdlife and to improve the quality of water leaving the farm. They are at the forefront of the venison industry in New Zealand, involved in research and innovation to improve deer farming for New Zealand farmers and deer welfare. Tim and Lucy are actively involved in the farming community, from hosting field days for farmers from all over New Zealand to local schools agricultural classes.

Federated Farmers President, Bruce Wills, feels Tim and Lucy were excellent examples of Kiwi farmers leading the way in sustainable farming.

“The Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future award recognises farmers for how well they treat their livestock, their technical excellence as farmers and their overall environmental performance,” Bruce Wills continued.

“Winning the overall award ahead of the four British finalists is a huge endorsement of Tim and Lucy’s farming system and the esteem New Zealand agriculture is held in overseas.

“Federated Farmers is proud to have this couple as members. We do lead the world in innovative animal welfare and environmental management and sometimes, it takes positive overseas recognition for us to be reminded of this,” Mr Wills concluded.

Anyone want to take a wager on how many people know about the Herald Tribune’s story criticising our environmental record and how many know about Tim and Lucy?

 


Hawke’s Bay deer farmers M&S sustainability champions

October 15, 2012

Hawke’s Bay deer farmers and Federated Farmers members, Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe, are Marks & Spencer 2012 Farming for the Future Champion of Champions.

“Marks & Spencer is a globally recognised brand which epitomises quality and environmental sustainability. This is huge for us, for the FirstLight Foods group which sells our product to Marks & Spencer, our industry and for New Zealand agriculture.

“Having been judged by the company and its customers as the most sustainable farm of five finalists, representing Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England is a huge endorsement of the farming systems and philosophies we have developed over the years.

“Our on-farm environmental activities started in 1995 when we fenced off and covenanted a seven hectare block of native trees. Since then we have fenced off around five percent of our farm, including protecting and enhancing three wetland areas, planting thousands of native plants and trees along the way.

“The judges were impressed with our animal health management, which uses nutrition where possible to minimise drench and vaccine use.

“The Aitken Weaning Technique is a development we are especially proud of, which has been taken up throughout the deer industry.

“This works with the animals’ instincts to wait for their mother, allowing them to process the separation quietly rather than injuring themselves and cutting up pasture. Since we discovered this, the industry is estimated to have saved about $1.2 million a year in losses and damage at weaning time.

“Lucy and I were already very proud of what we have achieved on our farm, but receiving this level of recognition from British consumers is a huge confidence boost,” Mr Aitken concluded.

Federated Farmers President Bruce Wills said Tim and Lucy were excellent examples of Kiwi farmers leading the way on sustainable farming.

“The Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future award recognises farmers for how well they treat their livestock, their technical excellence as farmers and their overall environmental performance. Winning the overall award ahead of the four British finalists is a huge endorsement of Tim and Lucy’s farming systems and of the esteem New Zealand agriculture is held in internationally,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Tim and Lucy had already won the title of Marks & Spencer’s best international supplier against more than 50 entries.

“Having the technical aspects of their business being judged was one thing, but winning the champion of champions award showed these people and their business really won the hearts and minds of a discerning British public who supported them in the popular vote.

“Federated Farmers is proud to have this couple as members and we encourage all New Zealand farmers to follow their example, lead the world in innovative animal welfare and environmental management and to enter into awards to let the world see the great work we are doing,” Mr Wills concluded.

To win the international category in competition with more than 50 suppliers from all around the world was an achievement in itself.

To win the overall champion’s title when competing against UK section winners English farmer Bill Cowperthwaite, Scottish farmer Gary Jamieson, Nigel McMullen from Ireland and Welsh farmer David Phillips; in a popular vote is even more notable.

Jon Morgan writes about the win here.


Vote for Kiwi farmers

October 1, 2012

A Hawkes Bay farming couple need our votes to help them win Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future Champion of Champions.

“New Zealand is up against Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England making this the Grand Slam of farming,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Whatever happens, Hawke’s Bay deer farmers, Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe, are winners already. They got into the 2012 Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future final by taking out the International award.

“We are extremely proud of them because that award is significant in its own right. Lucy and Tim’s deer farm was judged by Marks & Spencer to be their best international supplier.

“They could now become Champion of Champions but as this comes down to a popular vote, they are up against the more populous home nations. New Zealand’s got farming talent and Federated Farmers is asking all Kiwis to back Lucy and Tim. . . 

“Lucy and Tim are helping to put New Zealand’s primary industries on the biggest of big stages and it is great. Marks & Spencer is a prestigious brand selling New Zealand sourced food and showcases just how good Kiwi agriculture is.

“Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future recognises farmers for how well they treat their livestock, their technical excellence as farmers and their overall environmental performance.

“The Award also takes into account pesticide usage, payment schemes and even the use of sustainable raw materials.

“Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe are not just a good farming story, they are a great farming story,” Mr Wills concluded.

You can vote here – and you can vote more than once.

Voting closes tomorrow, October 2nd, at midnight (I think UK time which is 13 hours behind NZ),


NZ needs your vote

September 17, 2012

Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe from Tikokino in Central Hawkes Bay have won the  international section of the Marks & Spencer’s Farming for the Future Award.

Tim and Lucy farm in the Central Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand and won our International Farming for the Future award this year. They have around 600 breeding hinds on their deer farm and rear the offspring for venison meat, which is sold to M&S.

They purchased the farm in 1994 and since then have spent a lot of time and effort improving the fertility of the soil to improve productivity. They have also planted shelterbelts and enhanced wetlands on the farm. In addition, they are at the forefront of the venison industry in NZ, getting involved in research and innovation to improve farm efficiency and product quality. Tim and Lucy are actively involved in the local farming community, hosting farm visits for other farmers as well as the local secondary school.

The international section is open to any suppliers outside the UK and winning it is an achievement in itself. But they could do even better with our help.

Winning that section puts them in the running for the Champion of Champions Award which is decided by public vote.

They explain in an email:

“To us this is our chance to represent New Zealand. Our tilt at the World Cup. Our Olympic campaign if you will. We would love to put on a great challenge. GO THE GUMBOOTS!”

They’re up against the UK section winners –  English farmer Bill Cowperthwaite, Scottish farmer Gary Jamieson, Nigel McMullen from Ireland and Welsh farmer David Phillips.

They’ve got the local advantage and population numbers are on their side but you could help them.

Please pop over here and vote for Tim and Lucy – and New Zealand.

 


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