Free Trade made simple

February 19, 2013

Immeasurable amounts of time, effort and money go into free trade negotiations but Tim Worstall shows it doesn’t have to be difficult:

Exports are simply the dreary drudge work we do in order to be able to afford those lovely imports. So, for the EU to “negotiate” a free trade area with the US is very simple. Just stop taxing EU citizens who purchase American goods by imposing tariffs upon them. Similarly, for the US to have free trade with the EU just means lifting those portions of the US Customs code that tax imports from Europe. There, all done. Extraordinarily simple, easy to achieve and yes, it would make us all richer to boot.

Sadly, the economically deluded, the protectionists and others who make money from trade barriers won’t take the simple solution.


Progress best prescription for people plague

January 23, 2013

Gareth Morgan has got the fur flying and alienated all cat owners with his cats to go campaign which declares the felines animalia non-grata.

David Attenborough has gone further by declaring that people are a plague on earth.

The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.

He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.

“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.

I won’t go as far as Not PC who says you first David  because as Tim Worstall points out there is a far better way than death to manage population growth:

. . . we do in fact know how to manage this process of curtailing growth in the number of humans.

Get rich.

Everywhere it has happened, everywhere this species of ours has gone from rural and Malthusian destitution to a bourgeois urban middle classness, the population growth rate has fallen like a stone. Indeed, so much so that it becomes the population contraction rate. It doesn’t actually need you and Jonny Porritt demanding full body condoms for all. It only requires that people know they can eat three times a day, have a roof over their heads and that there’s a decent chance that all the children they do have will survive into adulthood. Absent immigration there just isn’t any population growth in the rich world. Far from it, there’s contraction (to be absolutely accurate you have to adjust for it taking until the second generation of immigrants to reduce childbirth down to the rate of the indigenes). . .

Yes, those of the deep, dark, anti-progress, anti-people persuasion might not like it but the best prescription for the people population plague is progress of the economic kind.

I’m not sure what affect it will have on the cat population though.


Free range but not organic

January 7, 2013

Organic farmers reckon the British countryside could be restored by cattle herds grazing like the bison of the American plains.

Graham Harvey, a farmer who used to advise the BBC on agricultural storylines in The Archers, said the countryside is being destroyed by industrial scale farms that concentrate on monoculture fields of wheat and animals in massive sheds.

Organic matter in soils has been reduced by continuous use of fertilisers and pesticides.

Instead he said that more of Britain could return to grazing animals as this returns fertility to grassland and retains the countryside.

He suggested a US method ‘mob grazing’, based on how wild bison graze the American plains, is the best way to ensure productivity.

Using electric fences, farmers split their pastures into a large number of small paddocks. Putting their cattle into each paddock in turn, they graze it off quickly before moving the herd to the next. . .

That sounds like rotational grazing which is common practice in New Zealand.

Free-range is the norm for sheep, beef, dairy and deer here.

But farms don’t have to be organic to look after the soil and they’re better if they’re not organic if you want improved productivity.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall.


Are we near peak farmland?

January 5, 2013

The spectre of a peak in the supply of a necessary resource is generally reason for concern.

This might not be the case for peak farmland:

The amount of land needed to grow crops worldwide is at a peak, and a geographical area more than twice the size of France will be able to return to its natural state by 2060 as a result of rising yields and slower population growth, a group of experts said on Monday.

Their report, conflicting with United Nations studies that say more cropland will be needed in coming decades to avert hunger and price spikes as the world population rises above 7 billion, said humanity had reached what it called “Peak Farmland”.

More crops for use as biofuels and increased meat consumption in emerging economies such as China and India, demanding more cropland to feed livestock, would not offset a fall from the peak driven by improved yields, it calculated.

If the report is accurate, the land freed up from crop farming would be some 10 percent of what is currently in use – equivalent to 2.5 times the size of France, Europe’s biggest country bar Russia, or more than all the arable land now utilized in China.

“We believe that humanity has reached Peak Farmland, and that a large net global restoration of land to nature is ready to begin,” said Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University in New York.

“Happily, the cause is not exhaustion of arable land, as many had feared, but rather moderation of population and tastes and ingenuity of farmers,” he wrote in a speech about the study he led in the journal Population and Development Review. . .

Improved yields are usually the result of improvements in management, breeding and weed and pest control, and the mitigation of climatic challenges such as drought or flood.

These include genetic modification and irrigation and usually means intensification which aren’t universally popular.

. . . Gary Blumenthal, head of Washington-based agricultural consultancy World Perspectives, said the report’s conclusions were not surprising as technology already exists to dramatically boost crop production. But achieving “peak farmland” would depend on the technology being made available globally, he added.

“If we could just get yields in the rest of the world at levels that they are in the U.S. or Europe, we would have substantially more food,” Blumenthal said. “Just using existing farmland more efficiently, would substantially increase supplies. Yields are rising.” . . .

It’s not as simple as transferring methods from one country to another.

There are often political, financial and practical challenges to overcome before what works well in one place can be applied in another.

. . . Ausubel’s study admits to making many assumptions – rising crop yields, slowing population growth, a relatively slow rise in the use of crops to produce biofuels, moderate rises in meat consumption – that could all skew the outcome, if not accurate.

It also does not factor in any disruptions from significant climate change that U.N. studies say could affect farm output with rising temperatures, less predictable rainfall, more floods or droughts, desertification and heatwaves.

Still, it points out that both China and India have already spared vast tracts of land in recent decades.

In India, for instance, wheat farmers would now be using an extra 65 million hectares – an area the size of France – if yields had stagnated at 1961 levels. China had similarly spared 120 million hectares by the same benchmark. . .

Just as cities can go up rather than out, so can production.

Crops could soon be grown in greenhouses the size of skyscrapers in city centres across the country, it has been claimed.

Birds Eye and other food producers are investigating building ‘plantscrapers’, which could accommodate hundreds of storeys worth of crops, in a bid to make farming more economical, sustainable and meet increasing demand.

The ‘vertical farms’ would use an innovative feeding system which nourishes plants with enriched water, therefore cancelling out the need for soil – and the need for food to be grown  and harvested in the countryside. . .

Then there’s hydroponics using sea water:

The seawater greenhouse developed by UK-based Seawater Greenhouse is a low-cost solution for year-round crop production in some of the world’s hottest and driest regions. It does this using seawater and sunlight. The technology imitates natural processes, helping to restore the environment while significantly reducing the operating costs of greenhouse horticulture.

The first project was in Tererife, Spain, in 1992 where a prototype was built in England and shipped to Spain. This was a pilot project, which validated the concept and demonstrated the potential for other arid regions.

In 2000 another greenhouse was built in Abu Dhabi to try out the concept in a different climate, where humidity is higher than in Spain. Again, this was a success. The greenhouse provides a cooler climate that enables crops to be grown year-round, even in the extreme heat of the summer months. It also allows for the reclamation of salt-infected land by not relying, at all, on groundwater resources. It is a major benefit to local agriculture.

Seawater Greenhouse is now nearing completion of a new greenhouse to tame the harsh Australian outback. The greenhouse uses a natural distillation process to turn seawater, pumped from the nearby Spencer Gulf by solar powered pumps, to grow tomatoes hydroponically. The 2500m² greenhouse is capable of producing 100% of the energy needed, but also has a back-up power system in case of malfunction. The first crop will be ready to harvest in October. . .

More food can be produced from less land but the real test is whether it can be done sustainably.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall at the Adam Smith Institute.


Bureaucracy and suspicion of science

January 3, 2013

Quote of the day:

A “rational optimist” like me thinks the world will go on getting better for most people at a record rate, not because I have a temperamental or ideological bent to good cheer but because of the data. Poverty, hunger, population growth rates, inequality, and mortality from violence, disease and weather — all continue to plummet on a global scale.

But a global optimist can still be a regional pessimist. When asked what I am pessimistic about, I usually reply: bureaucracy and superstition. Using those two tools, we Europeans seem intent on making our future as bad as we can. Like mandarins at the court of the Ming emperors or viziers at the court of Abbasid caliphs, our masters seem determined to turn relative into absolute decline. It is entirely possible that ten years from now the world as a whole will be 50 per cent richer, but Europeans will be 50 per cent poorer. . .  Matt Ridley.

He goes on to talk about the costs of bureaucracy:

As the Ming empire found out, the more government you buy, the less economic activity you get. A Fujian travelling salesman in 1400 was enmeshed in such a tangled bureaucracy that he could neither travel nor sell without bribes and permits, and he had to submit a monthly inventory of his stocks to the emperor.

Sound familiar? Every small businessman I talk to these days has a horror story to tell about the delays and costs that have been visited upon him by planners, inspectors, officials and consultees. Using the excuse of “cuts”, the bureaucracy is taking even longer to make decisions than five years ago. In the time it has taken Britain’s Government to decide whether to allow a fifth exploratory shale gas well to be drilled in Lancashire, and from the same standing start, the same investors have drilled 72 producing wells in Argentina. That the country of Watt and Stephenson should look a potential cheap-energy gift horse in the mouth in this way is staggering to this jaded optimist.

From ancient Egypt to modern North Korea, always and everywhere, economic planning and control have caused stagnation; . . .

There is a need for some rules but the more involved governments are in business the more difficult, and costly, it is for businesses to start, to operate and to grow.

. . . A growth-preventing bureaucracy is not the only thing suppressing enterprise in Europe. Superstition is also playing a part, as it has done in past episodes of economic decline. The great flowering of Arab prosperity and culture under the Abbasids was brought to an end with the burning of books, the shutting down of inquiry and a mistrust of novelty.

Again there are echoes. Many of the ideas that led to the genetic modification of plants — which has boosted yields, cut insecticide use, saved fuel and soil, and helped the poorest farmers — were pioneered in this country. Yet today there is almost none of this work done in Britain and none of its boons are permitted to farmers and their customers. The labs are ghostly quiet. Why? Entirely because of neophobic superstition that has animated reactionary elites into opposing change on the basis of myths peddled by green mystics. . .

Those myths promoted by green mystics are getting in the way of science and productivity improvements here too.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


There is something in trade

November 12, 2012

Tim Worstall says there seems to be something in this trade idea:

I can’t say that I’ve ever really understood this idea that we must all eat only the things that have been grown in our own region. “Region” of course is a variable thing. It seems to depend on how deep the green of the fool recommending it is. Something from “the nation” to “your back yard” is the spectrum. But as I say, I’ve never really understood the point.

For we know what happens when food supplies are indeed restricted to just the region one is actually in. We’ve been there before, back before we had decent roads. And what used to happen is that when the local crops failed then everyone died of starvation: even if 30 miles away there was a bumper crop. Quite why anyone wants to recreate the bad parts of the Middle Ages I’m really not quite sure. . .

Localists and proponents of yokelnomics – the policies which would take us back to peasant economies of the distant past – pose the greatest danger to food security.

There are good points about buying local but not at the expense of free trade which is an essential part of addressing world hunger.


Politics ‘too complicated’

November 3, 2012

More than a third of British graduates admit that politics and government are too complicated.

Regardless of what sort of degree they’ve undertaken, graduates are supposed to have learned to research, reason, enquire and think.

If people with those skills can’t apply them to politics there’s little hope for the rest of the voting public.

. . . 36 per cent of people educated to degree level agreed with the statement that “politics and government seem so complicated that a person like me cannot really understand what is going on”. Among those who left school at 16 the rate was 65 per cent.

People in some countries are still dying for democracy and yet these people in Britain with centuries of democratic tradition can’t be bothered to do the little required to understand what’s what with the people who run the country and spend so much of their money.

But is it any better here?

When asked to list things which they liked least about Britain’s political system, 53 per cent cited “the quality of our politicians”. . .

That’s with a First Past the Post electoral system where the candidates have to win the support of voters.That doesn’t guarantee their quality or ability but it does mean they have to campaign on their own merits.

While MMP has brought in some very able politicians through party lists, I’m sure we could all come up with a little list of others who wouldn’t stand a chance if they were elected directly by voters.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


Higher company taxes hit wages

August 6, 2012

The left generally favours higher taxes and some of the left also show an anti-business streak.

That combination can lead to policies which tax businesses more.

But Tim Worstall asks who pays for that:

 The only three groups possible are the shareholders of that company, the customers of it or the workers. At  which point we have an interesting new paper on what that incidence is in the European example:

A stylised model is provided to show how the direct effect of corporate income tax on wages can be identified in a bargaining framework using cross-company variation in tax liabilities, conditional on value added per employee. Using data on 55,082 companies located in nine European countries over the period 1996–2003, we estimate the long run elasticity of the wage bill with respect to taxation to be −0.093. Evaluated at the mean, this implies that an exogenous rise of $1 in tax would reduce the wage bill by 49 cents.

As we can see, the workers are paying 50% of that corporation tax bill. Meaning that anyone (and everyone) shouting that companies must pay more in taxes is in fact saying that they want to reduce the wages of the workers.

The law of unintended consequences at work again – higher company taxes hit wages.


It’s the market that matters

July 15, 2012

Quote of the day:

. . . It’s not the market’s job to consume milk as and when the farmer produces it. It’s the farmer’s job to produce milk when the market needs it. . . Dr Jon Hauser

In New Zealand, as in Australia about which Dr Hauser writes, milk supply is mostly seasonal.

That is less of a problem here when most of our milk is turned into milk powder, butter or cheese and exported. In most other countries most milk is consumed domestically in fresh liquid form and demand is relatively constant regardless of any peaks or troughs in production.

But regardless of what happens to the milk, the underlying principle is the same – it is up to producers to meet the market in terms of quantity, quality and price.

This is a concept which European and British farmers who have been protected from the market by subsidies are struggling to grasp:

Up to 2,000 dairy farmers are expected in Westminster today to protest at cuts to the price they’re paid for their milk. Last year, dairy farmers received a little under 29p for every litre they sold: this is set to fall to less than 25p. Since it costs about 30p to produce a litre of milk, the cuts constitute yet another catastrophe for a benighted domestic industry, and may put many thousands of dairy farmers out of business. “There has been an unprecedented outcry of anger and frustration among farmers,” says the National Farmers’ Union. “We are united in our demand for an immediate reversal” of the cuts.

Prices for farmers have stalled over the last 15 years: in 1997 they were receiving 25p for a litre of milk, while feed costs alone have doubled since 2010. Half of Britain’s dairy farmers went out of business between 2000 and 2010. Like the pig farmers who only save themselves from going out of business by growing their own feed, dairy farmers will likely attempt to make up the shortfall by reducing staff, which will of course have corollary impact. . .

Welcome to the real world, where, as Tim Worstall observes supply and demand rule:

. . . We’re in a rigged market because of the EU. That’s one cause.

But far more importantly, we’ve the standard interaction of supply and demand. Dairy farming is becoming more efficient: as farming has been doing since the Neolithic. That rising food production is what has enabled civilisation to develop. More milk is being produced from less land with fewer cows. It really is not a surprise that prices paid to producers are falling in real terms.

The effect of this is to bankrupt some producers and force them out of production. Which is, harsh though it may sound, exactly what needs to happen. Production is becoming more efficient thus we need fewer producers. . .

A Yorkshire farmer we visited last month said that message was the one good thing to come out of the foot and mouth epidemic.

All his cows were killed and before he replaced his herd he went through the figures. He realised that dairying didn’t stack up for him and rather than buying more cows he increased the amount of crop he grows.

The market matters. Rather than wasting their energy on protesting to politicians, farmers should be working out how to meet it.


More gain from more green?

June 13, 2012

Would New Zealand gain more from being greener?

“New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race” , a report by the business group Pure Advantage is certain it would:

. . . The report explains how green growth is a path to improved economic performance, better paying jobs, the protection of our environment, and improved health outcomes for New Zealand.

The report highlights that what has been missing from the discussion over the change to a green economy, is the many benefits of green growth. Much of the debate in New Zealand to date has focused on the downside, the various costs and obligations. But rather than a burden, green growth can be an economic pathway to create sustainable wealth and promises a revolution in how we structure our economy and society . . .

But what exactly is green growth?

The report defines it:

Green growth is the aggregated economic benefit that comes from minimising waste and the inefficient use of energy, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing natural resources and biodiversity. it is an economic progression driven by a series of interrelated and unprecedented global commercial imperatives, including the geopolitical drive for domestic energy security, exploding population growth, changing social demographics, mounting climate obligations, rapid decarbonisation of economies towards renewable energy and initiatives to conserve natural resources, particularly water. rather than a burden, green growth is an economic pathway to sustainable wealth.

Global green growth is potentially worth NZ$6 trillion a year. to date much of the green debate in New Zealand has focused on the downside: costs and enforced obligations. Pure advantage has been formed to focus on the economic upside of being green and to catalyse the implementation of green growth economic strategies in New Zealand. we believe that enhancing New Zealand’s environment represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand to improve our international competitive position. 

But what exactly does that mean in practice? Presumably it means more green jobs, but what are they?

Tim Worstall found the US Labor statistics’ definition:

Green jobs are either:
A. Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
B. Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

What this means is that absolutely everyone who works at an oil refinery has a green job. For everyone who does work at an oil refinery is trying to “use fewer natural resources”. In fact, everyone who works in anything at all of a capitalist or market nature now has a green job. For all of us are, always, attempting to reduce the resources we use in order to produce our output.

There is more to a green economy than green jobs and there is little doubt that  green is a powerful brand for the upper and middle income people to whom we want to sell our produce.

We could gain from being greener, if we could agree on what that meant, if that definition and the practices built on it were science-based, and balanced environmental, economic and social concerns and was not just greenwash.


Bigger markets fairer

March 20, 2012

Localists and others attempting to close borders keep trying to persuade us that  big is bad and smaller markets are better.

But that isn’t necessarily so:

. . . fairness isn’t something innate, it’s something societally drummed into us by the responses of others to unfairness. And for large scale exchange societies to work we need more of that drumming into us and thus a greater appreciation of and desire for fairness. They just don’t work without that so in those that do work we see more, not less, fairness.

All of which means, of course, that those promoting this idea of small scale society promoting fairness will immediately change tack and promote global markets as the way to increase fairness in society. Won’t they? Anyone?

The absence of their doing so in the face of changed facts could be taken to mean that they never actually believed their own argument in the first place. Tim Worstall


Quotas beat bureaucrats

February 15, 2012

Europe is concerned about a dwindling supply of fish and over-fishing.

The quota system used in New Zealand could solve the problem but as Tim Worstall points out the prescription being suggested is more of what caused the problem:

Their solution? More bureaucrats and politicians.

They fail to note that those places which have solved this problem have done so by insisting upon private ownership of the right to fish a particular stock. Essentially, moving fishing from being a form of hunting to being a form of farming.

It’s a classic Commons Problem one solved by, as Hardin said they could be, allocation of private property rights. But this being the nef they’d never actually say that because, well, you know, property is theft, innit?

The problem from the bureaucrats point of view,  with the obvious solution is that it requires little if any input from them and therefore puts their jobs at risk.


Feed to protein ratio

January 15, 2012

Quote of the day:

It is true that if you grow a cow on a feed lot then you get that 8:1 ratio.

However, if you grow a cow on pasture then you get a ratio more like 0:1.

And there’s an awful lot of pasture out there that cannot be ploughed up to grow grain but is just great at growing grass for cows to eat. Tim Worstall.

This is why we don’t all have to go vegetarian or vegan to save the world.

We can carry on producing food as we mostly do in New Zealand – taking the stock to the feed not the feed to the stock.


Remediation must be measured

December 21, 2011

Quote of the day:

It’s just fine to measure the wealth gap, or incomes, or disposable incomes, in fact measure anything you like, raw. It’s also just fine to measure such things after whatever is done to remediate what is considered to be unacceptable.

But it isn’t fine to use the raw measures to argue that more remediation must be done. You must measure after the remediation that is already done so that you can decide whether further is needed or desirable. Tim Worstall.

 

 


Rural round-up

November 9, 2011

NZ”s grass-fed livestock a missed marketing opportunity:

Leading British ruminant nutritionist Dr Cliff Lister says that “you are what you eat” is as true for livestock as it as for humans.

For New Zealand’s sheep, beef and dairy industries, he says that translates to meat and milk with a higher omega-3 content, thanks to a grass-based diet, and a “missed marketing opportunity.”

“Grass-based diets encourage lean muscle development rather than fat, meaning that grass-fed beef and lamb is typically leaner than meat produced from silage or grain-fed stock and contains a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids.”

Lincoln Universtiy Foundation Sth Island farmer of the Year:

Innovative South Canterbury farmers win the 2011 Lincoln University Foundation South Island Farmer of the Year competition

Last night Ray and Adrianne Bowan of South Canterbury won the Lincoln University Foundation’s showcase event – the South Island Farmer of the Year.

“We are incredibly humbled and overwhelmed by the win, especially as all the finalists were of high calibre. It is quite a surprise,” says Mr Bowan.

Lincoln University Foundation chairman Neil Taylor congratulated the Bowans. “Their commitment to innovation is ongoing –year after year. They are exceptional managers and are environmentally aware, as are all of the finalists.” . . .

Nuffield farming scholarship winners named:

Three farmers who are all involved in highly diversified operations have won this year’s Nuffield Farming Scholarships.

Sandra Faulkner from Gisborne . . . Richard Fitzgerald from Methven . . . Michael Tayler from Temuka . . .

Kiwifruit vine disease clouds export outlook –  Doug Steele:

The ongoing European debt saga continues to dominate financial market headlines and movements. Uncertainty is high.

For New Zealand agriculture, any impact will partly depend on how the European issues affect growth in China, Asia, and wider emerging markets as important factors in determining what price we can achieve for our exports.

While prices are obviously very important, so too is how much produce we have to sell. . .

Indian milk production – multiply three times ten – Dr Jon Hauser:

I am ever on the lookout for a good discussion topic on the global dairy industry, especially when it involves the fundamental numbers like milk production and price. I therefore couldn’t resist the temptation to delve into the Indian dairy industry when the following article appeared on the news services: India, the milk bowl of the world, Rahul Akkara, fnbnews.com, October 31, 2011.

Mr Akkara provides a glowing account of the indian dairy industry and its growth opportunities. The headline and sentence that particularly caught my eye was this:

Triple production

In the next 10 years, India’s dairy sector is expected to triple its production in view of expanding potential for export to Europe and the West.” . . .

Grass fed Rose Veau what an exciting meat experience – Pasture to Profit:

This week I was fortunate this week to be present at the launch of this exciting new beef product which can be a byproduct from the pasture based dairy farms in theUK. Many influential people who would have been keen to be present sadly were not able to attend this low key launch.

Grassfed Rose Veau (pronounced Vo) is an opportunity for every pasture based dairy farmer in the UK. No farmer likes to dispose of male calves at birth. What a shameful waste of protein the world simply can not tolerate. In the UK we have a fantastic opportunity to take these animals thru to 7-8 months & produce a wonderful “low fat, high Omega 3” high quality meat . . .
 
Oh Joy – Tim Worstall:
Honey is a miraculous food. Properly stored, it can last for ever. Jars of the stuff, thousands of years old and still edible, have been found in the tombs of the Pharoahs and in the detritus of the Roman Empire. And one thing that honey has always contained is pollen, because foraging bees bring it back to the hive. It has never crossed the mind of beekeepers to list pollen as an ingredient in honey because, as one apiarist pointed out, it is “like saying peanuts contain nuts”.  . .
 

Spot the link

September 2, 2011

Could there be a link between this:

Biofuels regain momentum:

Global biofuel production increased by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters.1 (See Figure 1.) The increase exceeded the 10 percent growth experienced in 2009, when production was at 90 billion liters.2 Biofuels provided 2.7 percent of all global fuel for road transportation—an increase from 2 percent in 2009.3

And this:

Price of breakfast soars:

The average cost of feeding a family breakfast is 11.7 per cent higher today   than it was one year ago, with the price of some staple items rising by over   40 per cent. Official figures last week put overall inflation in the UK at   4.4 per cent . . .  

The rising prices of basic commodities such as wheat, sugar, coffee and   vegetable oil – which form the basis of many breakfast foods – have been   blamed for the inflation-busting increases.

Tim Worstall thinks so. He says breakfast is getting more expensive and biofuels are to blame:

You’ll note that three of the four are items that are used to make biofuels. . .

The price of eggs is largely determined by the price of corn which is….yes,
another crop that is used to make biofuels. I think I’m right in saying that
some 40% of the entire American crop is currently turned into ethanol.

This is, quite sadly, simply evidence of the quite lunatic idea that we
should be putting food into cars rather than people. The idea itself is bad
enough but we then have the governmental insistence (on both sides of the
Atlantic, the US and the EU) that such fuels must be used. There is no choice in
the matter, we are not allowed to avoid starving people.

An increase in renewable fuels, particularly if they are cleaner burning, is a worthy aim but feeding people is more important than heating and moving them.

Crops for food should always take precedence over crops for fuel.


Rural round-up

July 31, 2011

Owen Glenn: use science to be innovative:

In the second of a series leading up to the election, Owen Glenn says exporters’ form matters even more than the All Blacks’.

Every four years, rugby puts New Zealand on the world stage. Our exporters do the same every day.

Unlike the All Blacks, when exporters aren’t playing to their full potential, the whole country loses.

With two out of three jobs dependent on it and $4 of every $10 our economy produces generated by it, exporting matters. . .

Lonely bull still waiting for rescue – Kathy Marks:

When Victoria was hit by catastrophic floods in January, a bull named Bernard sought refuge on an island in the middle of a lake.

Six months later, he’s still stranded and his owner is appealing for help to reunite the increasingly bad-tempered animal with his herd. . .

8% rise in lamb numbers forecast – Sally Rae:

Reasonable conditions this lambing should see a rise in the total number of lambs by 2 million – up 8% – pushing export lamb production back towards 20.5 million head in 2011-12.

Export lamb production in 2010-11 was expected to finish at about 19 million head, down 11% on the previous season, according to the ANZ Agri-Focus report for July . . .

Researcher seeks tonic in pasture – Sally Rae:

It is a long way from managing a farm in the UK to being a research fellow in Dunedin – but Dr Marion Johnson has led an interesting life.

Dr Johnson, who grew up in Zambia, the UK and New Zealand, initially studied agriculture at Massey University.

She worked as a shepherd around the Wairarapa before shepherding on hill farms in Wales and Scotland . . .

Feeding out made easier – Sally Rae:

Dave McCabe, a North Otago contractor and farmer, has devised a method of pulling strings from bales on feed-out wagons that saves time and machinery.

Previously, he used a loader to pull out the strings. . .

Collaboration succeeding – John Aspinall:

Prior to 1987, most Crown-owned land in New Zealand was managed by the Lands and Survey Department (L&S).

In 1987, L&S was restructured into the Department of Conservation (Doc), Landcorp and Forestcorp. Most of the commercial-minded senior management people went to Landcorp and Forestcorp.

Doc gained practical hands-on field staff, but many of their management people took a very idealistic view that they would save the environment and could do it alone . . .

Farmers’ web portal winner:

AG-HUB, an agriculture web portal for farmers, has been awarded the Telecommunications Users’ Association of New Zealand (Tuanz) “best of the best” prize at its 2011 innovations awards.

Ag-Hub captured information from on-farm recording devices such as feed readers, effluent irrigators, moisture tapes and weather stations. . .

Fascinating new pastures for dairy cows thanks to innovative farmers – Pasture to Profit:

Many pasture based dairy farmers in both France & the UK are experimenting with mixed pasture swards. These “New Pastures” always include an abundance of clovers & increasingly include herbs such as Chicory & Plantain. The inclusion of the deep rooting herbs adds a completely new dimension to pastures for grazing dairy cows.

These pastures are very different from conventional pastures in many ways. Nitrogen fed pastures tend to be monocultures of ryegrasses. Well managed ryegrass clover pastures are highly productive. The clover content is related to the grazing intensity & the amount of nitrogen used. The mixed pastures offer considerable biodiversity, interesting possible changes to the cows diet, generally higher protein levels but more complex grazing properties. In mixed species pastures some plants are grazed out & its difficult to graze according to every plant’s requirements. However these new pastures might well enhance the health benefits of grass fed milk . . .

Alpaca breeders get serious about business – Jon Morgan:

Peter McKay gives a demonstration of the mating ritual of the alpaca. It’s not what you think. The Hawke’s Bay farmer tilts back his head, opens his throat and goes “orgleorgleorgleorgle”.

This rumbling gargle is the male alpaca’s foreplay. It starts the female ovulating. Mr McKay and wife Tessa have 160 alpacas on their 235-hectare sheep and beef farm at Maraekakaho.

Mrs McKay tells what happens next. “They mate sitting down. It’s called a cush,” she says. “Then we wait two weeks to see if she is pregnant. If she goes into the cush for him, it didn’t work the first time. If she spits at him, it did.” . . .

Wine moguls thrive in hard year – Michael Berry:

Most Marlborough-linked wine magnates listed in this year’s National Business Review Rich List managed to increase their wealth in a tough year for the wine industry.

Siblings Jim and Rosmari Delegat, owners of Oyster Bay Vineyards Marlborough and who own much of the NZX-listed Delegat’s Wine Estate dropped to 39th this year, while increasing their net worth by $35 million to $150m . . .

Record rebate for Ballance Farmers:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients will pay shareholders a record rebate and dividend of $50.29 per tonne after achieving an $85.9 million operating profit for the 2010/11 financial year, more than four times the $20.7 million achieved in the prior year.

The total average payment to shareholders of $50.29 per tonne includes a rebate of $46 per tonne on fertiliser purchased and an imputed dividend of $0.10 per share, resulting in a total distribution to shareholders of $49 million. Ballance’s rebate payment is calculated based on both the quantity and the value of the product purchased. This means that farmers who have purchased higher-value products such as DAP, triple superphosphate or potash will receive a rebate and dividend in excess of $62 per tonne, with urea returning a rebate of over $54 per tonne. . .

Sheep: barnyard brainiacs

It turns out that sheep are far more intelligent than their reputation for barnyard slowness would lead one to believe. In recent research published in PLoS ONE1, Professor Jenny Morton of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge and her colleague Laura Avanzo reported that domestic sheep can perform extremely well on tests of designed to measure cognitive abilities, possibly as well as any animal other than primates.

Professor Morton, who had been studying Huntington’s disease, wanted to find out whether transgenic sheep with a specific genetic defect might be useful in preclinical research regarding potential treatments for this neurodegenerative disease. Because Huntington’s is characterized by cognitive deterioration, Morton was particularly interested in seeing how well sheep would perform cognitively, since suitable research subjects for neurologic disorders like Huntington’s inevitably must undergo systematic cognitive testing relevant to the disease. . .

Hat Tip: Tim Worstall


Foreign investment brings benefits

July 6, 2011

Mention foreign investment and opponents will talk about exporting profits.

They rarely if ever mention the benefits:

. . . when foreign companies were investing in the country they were bringing with them the new and interesting ways of doing things, those higher productivity ways, which increase the wealth of the country. Note that these new ways only have to be a few percentage points more efficient than the local ways to more than cover the dividends and profits flowing out again.

Tim Worstall is writing about Venezuela but his point is universal.

Providing foreign investors obey our laws, meet our standards and pay our taxes we’re better off with their money, expertise and technology than without it.


Rural round-up

July 5, 2011

Young Farmer contest #5 Will Grayling – RivettingKate Taylor:

Photos make the world go around…. here’s a selection of photos of Will in action at the 2011 National Bank Young Farmer Contest in Masterton over the past week – Wednesday’s welcome at the Masterton Town Hall where Will’s likeness to Prince Harry was first mentioned; Thursday’s technical day at the historic Brancepeth homestead and the speech back at the Solway Copthorne; Friday’s practical challenges, head to head (s) and agrisports at the Solway Showgrounds and finally the evening show at the new Wairarapa College auditorium. . .

Politicos turn to the land – Sally Rae:

Everyone, it seems, is the farmer’s friend – after all, it is election year.

Act New Zealand leader Don Brash probably summed it up best at Federated Farmers national conference in Rotorua when he said those attending would be “enduring a procession of politicians”. . .

Fonterra to pour $250m into Darfield – Tim Cronshaw:

Dairy giant Fonterra wants to pour another $250 million into trebling milk production at its Darfield site with a new dryer vying to be the largest in New Zealand.

The co-operative entered talks about stage two of the project with neighbours at a community meeting yesterday and is about to begin the consent process. The plan is to have the second dryer built by 2015 as the $200m site, still being constructed, is expected to be at full capacity by then.

 German investors pay $33m for farm – Collette Devlin:

A German investment management company is now possibly the largest player in rural land in Southland after it spent $33million to buy a dairy farm at Dipton.

Aquila AgrarINVEST Investitions Gmbh was granted approval under the Overseas Investment Act to secure the acquisition of rights or interests in up to 100 per cent of the units of Glencairn Ltd Partnership, which owns or controls a freehold interest in 1401ha of an existing dairy farm. . .

Following role models could double NZ food production:

Following role models could double NZ food production

New Zealand could produce enough food to feed around 40 million people if every farm performed at the same level as the most profitable, said Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chairman, David Graham.

He was speaking at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards annual showcase held in the Hawke’s Bay on 25 June.

“New Zealand currently produces enough food to feed approximately 20 million people. We know our most profitable farms achieve an economic farming surplus of $3,500 per hectare, yet the average farm achieves just over $2,000 and about half of all farms are operating below this.

“To double the amount of people we can feed we must lift our production by working on assisting the bottom half of this bell curve to lift its game.” . . .

My word, look – speculation works – Tim Worstall:

This followed a report on Thursday that showed US farmers had planted more corn than analysts had expected and that stocks of the grain were higher than forecast across the US.

Corn futures fell more than 6pc on Friday, bringing the fall since a US report was issued to about 10pc. . .

The Great corn con – Steven Rattner:

FEELING the need for an example of government policy run amok? Look no further than the box of cornflakes on your kitchen shelf. In its myriad corn-related interventions, Washington has managed simultaneously to help drive up food prices and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit, while arguably increasing energy use and harming the environment.

Even in a crowd of rising food and commodity costs, corn stands out, its price having doubled in less than a year to a record $7.87 per bushel in early June. Booming global demand has overtaken stagnant supply. . .

Hat tip:  Anti-Dismal


If law doesn’t say we can’t we can

June 22, 2011

A reason to be grateful for our British heritage in this quote of the week from Tim Worstall:

. . .  this is a very basic point about the freedoms and liberties of the English. We do not need to ask politicians for permission to do what we desire to do. We only have to be careful not to do what our elected representatives have decided we should not do.

 Since most of our law is based on British law, we too are at liberty do what we will without seeking permission from our law makers.

Providing there isn’t a law saying we can’t, we can.


%d bloggers like this: