Rural round-up

May 12, 2018

Time to rebuild respect for agriculture – Tom McDougall:

For Federated Farmers leader Katie Milne, the biggest problem facing agriculture today is disconnection.

New Zealanders are now separated from the land by four generations, and the value of agriculture in the minds of the public has, according to Milne, been lost somewhere along the way:

“Food has been cheapened, both in a monetary sense and in a sense of appreciation/respect. If food is undervalued, if it is plentiful and the respect for it drops, then the people and families involved in the production chain that brings that food to your table lose the respect and recognition that they once had and deserve. That’s why I’m vocal in raising the fact that we (farmers) are producing food for the nation here, and that without agriculture, New Zealanders would lose so many of the luxuries they currently take for granted.”

Similar thoughts have been echoed overseas in the past, perhaps most notably by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who remarked in 2014 that 98% of Americans were several generations removed from direct farming, and voiced his concern over the lack of appreciation afforded to agriculture by the current generation. . . 

Eketahuna cheese festival a culmination of decade-long struggle against red tape – Illya McLellan:

Biddy Fraser-Davies loves making cheese and has fought bureaucracy for almost a decade to make it easier for all small producers.

During that time she has been recognised at British Guild of Fine Foods World Cheese Awards as one of the world’s elite cheese makers. 

On May 14 she and husband Colin will host the inaugural Great Eketahuna Cheese Festival which is a celebration, but also a continuation of  the couple’s campaign to convince the government fees for smaller producers are too high.. . .

Maintaining trade rules essential – Mike Chapman:

New Zealand relies on trade for its economic survival. Without trade New Zealand would be a very different and a much poorer country. Successive New Zealand Governments have successfully worked to open up trading opportunities throughout the world and this continues today, with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in the final lap before coming into force. 

Today, Horticulture New Zealand made its submission in support of the CPTPP to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee at Parliament. For horticulture, the CPTPP does some great things. It opens up four new markets to tariff reductions and improved entry conditions: Canada, Japan, Mexico and Peru. Tariff reduction, particularly into Japan, but also across all of the CPTPP nations, will result in a massive $48 million a year in reduced tariffs. There are also other countries looking to join the CPTPP.  What a deal!.  . . 

 

Keytone Dairy Corp launches prospectus to raise A$15M, list on ASX – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Keytone Dairy Corp, which owns a dairy factory in Christchurch, has launched a prospectus to raise up to A$15 million and list on the Australian Securities Exchange via an initial public offering.

It is aiming to raise A$12 million or up to A$15 million with oversubscriptions to facilitate a listing on the ASX through the issue of 60 million (up to 75 million with oversubscriptions) shares at an issue price of 20 Australian cents apiece, with the offer due to close on June 1. Peloton Capital is the lead manager for the sale. . . .

Budget reaction from farm groups :

Farm organisations have praised this year’s Federal Budget.

Australia’s biosecurity is set to benefit to the tune of $121.6 million and ag export growth to  $51.5m in new initiative big spends. The Roads of Strategic Importance program received $3.5b for upgrades to key regional freight corridors. The Bruce Highway in Queensland gets $3.3b for upgrades.

A third round of the Building Better Regions fund got $200m to fund local governments and not-for-profit organisations to develop ner commercial enterprises. More than $260m for new satellite technology to enhance GPS applications such as smart farming . .


Rural round-up

January 2, 2018

Ethical sustainable agriculture: Who sets the parameters? – Bob Freebairn:

Farmers increasingly are subjected to various heads of companies, pressure groups, media and others demanding we must produce our food and fibre “ethically”, “sustainably” and various other buzz word that have connotations of grandeur and purity. Commonly these people/groups, including city based multi-national company heads, have no idea of what they are talking about but they may aim to direct our way of farming via their authority.

The challenge I believe is who sets these standards. Are they to be based on science, or someone’s misguided perception on what is pure, natural and ethical. Like most farmers we aim to run a profitable and better than sustainable (sustainable definition is “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”) business. We aim to improve aspects such as soil quality, soil health, good biodiversity (including adding strategic clumps of trees), clean water runoff into dams and creeks, control weeds and invasive pasts and prevent soil erosion.  . . 

Capital gains tax proposal sends nervous tension through farming – Gerard Hutching:

A capital gains tax (CGT) will not go down well with farmers, but it might also not earn a lot of revenue, a tax specialist says.

Tax advisory partner for Crowe Horwath, Tony Marshall, said most farmers made more out of their farms when they sold them than they earned from operating them

In Australia where there has been a capital gains tax for the last 30 years, it accounts for about 2 per cent of tax revenue. . .

NAIT responsibility – the buck stops with farmers – Chris Irons:

 Let’s be frank – the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme is not working as well as it should, and the blame lies with farmers.

Yes, NAIT could be easier to use but that’s not an excuse for not keeping animal tracking data up to date.

There are a lot of farmers who say NAIT is waste of time and money. If you have that view then I’m sorry, but I don’t think you care about the farming industry and are probably guilty of not being compliant. . . 

Why we should celebrate farmers

Year in Review: “Every one of us that’s not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers.”

Fomer Secretary of Agriculture for the US, Tom Vilsack’s impassioned speech about farming went viral on The Country’s Facebook page this year, reaching more than 2 million people.

You can watch former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s speech in the video below: Tom Vilsack served as United States Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 until 2017. . . 

Mucking around with perfect maure fork – Rachel Wise:

Well it’s happened again.

Barely months after my search for – and discovery of – the perfect manure fork for mucking out my horse paddocks, tragedy has struck.

It had been coming for a while, I must admit. My initially perfect manure fork had, in the past few weeks, lost one of its tines and it was dropping the odd wee clod as we travelled. I could see the end of our happy partnership looming and I had started thinking, in a casual sort of way, about starting to search for a replacement. . . 


Vision based on science and experience

September 11, 2017

David Clark writes:

I also have a Vision…
…of where NZ is going to be taken.

When I was a young fella growing up, all I wanted to do was go farming, just like my Dad, my grandfather before him and my great grandfather who had jumped ship in Thames as an orphan in the early 1870’s. I knew that there was something very special about being able to farm the land and grow food.

Then along came the 1980s and the brutal recession brought on by the changes made the Lange Labour Government. As a teenager I still vividly remember watching Television News coverage of a farmer by the name of Dan Dufty being escorted off his North Waikato farm like so many other families were at the time. I remember the tears running down his face and the anguish in his voice.

I remember worrying about whether that would happen to us, things where pretty tight on our family’s small South Auckland Town Supply dairy farm during this time.

When I left school I was very fortunate to be employed by a family at Orere on their large Sheep and Cattle farm. They demonstrated to me that there was a future in farming if you worked hard and this set me on my course.

I wanted to get ahead and found that by starting a small contracting business, initially as a fencer, with a lot of determination, late nights and early starts I would be on a path to make my own way. There was no O.Es, no leering up. In 1994 my parents and I each sold up our assets in Clevedon and set off for the South Island to take up arable and stock farming in Mid Canterbury.

We started contracting out of necessity to help us fund the development of irrigation on the then dryland farm and in 2010 sold that Contracting run to then fund the installation of Centre Pivot Irrigators that were much more water efficient and resulted in less leaching than the earlier machines.

My wife Jayne and I farm here with our three young sons and my parents still live here on farm. This is our Turangawaewae.

But I sit here, thirty years on from that farmer being dragged off his farm and I wonder, no, I fear we are heading back to those very grim days. In my view we are standing in 1984.

Since I wrote my last article, I have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback who buy into the idea that poor water quality has many causes, urban, rural and industrial. Those many causes have many solutions best worked through on a catchment by catchment, community by community basis.

But sadly I have also seen the hatred and vitriol, and I’ve paid a lot of attention to the policies being proposed or hinted at by Labour and the Greens. I have come to the view that these policies, not in isolation, as a compounding effect will likely result in the biggest drop in agricultural economic confidence since the ‘80s.

A Water Tax levied on irrigation, primarily on the East Coast of the South Island to fund a payment of Koha to Iwi and then pay for waterway restoration across the Nation is inequitable and will be ineffective. There is no correlation between areas of poor water quality and areas of intensive irrigation; in fact quite the reverse applies. The tax will exempt all other farming systems and all urban and industrial takes from municipal supply even though it is very clear that poor water quality is also caused by other activities.

The Greens Nitrogen Tax intends to levy Dairy Farmers initially and other farming types soon after for Nitrate discharge even though other land forms leak Nitrogen, as does the DoC estate, Plantation Forestry and of course the discharges of treated and untreated human effluent and storm water, all of which will be untaxed. The cost of compliance with an Audit Quality Overseer assessment required on every farm, every year would be enormous. The suggestion that funding be used in part to coach farmers on Organics is nonsense.

Overseer was never designed to be used to levy tax and it is not reliable – up to 30% margin of error.

I fully understand that the agricultural sector must work to address water quality issues and I believe that we are already making very good progress with riparian fencing and plantings, upgrading of older irrigators to precision application of water, more targeted fertiliser usage and a major rebuild of farm effluent systems in the last 15 years. We have reduced our calculated Nitrogen loss here by 25% in the last six years. Progress is being made, largely voluntarily, however nationally and certainly in Canterbury, Regional Plans have been introduced to put significant onus on land owners to demonstrate a measurable reduction in agricultural externalities.

Farming under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan will, is, delivering results for the environment, but it is expensive to make the changes required in our faming systems, taxing more money out of our business will slow the progress that we can make on farm due to cashflow restriction.

An inclusion of all agricultural emissions into an ETS will see us as farmers compete in the International Marketplace with another layer of cost as we compete against produce that is largely directly or indirectly subsidised and will see farmers struggling to compete with the same overseas product in our domestic market. An ETS on Agriculture in NZ will simply move food growing to a less efficient producer elsewhere in the world.

I hear people regularly saying we all must pay our dues to fight climate change, but I note that International Air Travel is excluded from the Kyoto Protocol because of the damage it would do to global tourism. Research and Development is the way to reduce livestock emissions, not Tax.

A Land Tax with an annualised charge levied over the value of an asset is just simply a new tax, not based on productivity or profit, just a tax and in my view a tax of envy. Farms have high asset values and low profitability, the affordability of an annualised charge will further undermine farming, especially in the sheep and beef sectors.

A Capital Gains Tax and its’ necessary partners, Death and Gift Duties will threaten the very core of New Zealand Agriculture, but not only Agriculture, but intergenerational ownership of all types of businesses across New Zealand and will result in more land and productive assets being lost to long-term corporate and offshore ownership.

Many families struggle to meet the cash flow and capital raising requirements of family succession at the time of the intergenerational transaction, which is done at or near to market values. The new generation of farmer invests their own capital and relies on either internal family or external borrowings to then buy out non-farming siblings; help expand the business to accommodate multiple siblings and provide money to buy a house for parents or otherwise fund their care and welfare.

If Government put their hand out for a Capital Gains Tax on the lifetime growth in the value of the asset, then that cash removed by way of a tax would be the very cash that was so badly needed to complete the intergeneration handover. I certainly understand the extreme difficulties caused by Death Duties in years gone by in New Zealand. They were abolished for very good reason.

Capital Gains Tax and Death Duties will make continued family ownership of the farms and businesses, on which New Zealand is built, extremely difficult.

In Argentina death and gift duties stall farms sales. People hold onto land and lease it rather than selling.

In Australia, CTG stalls farm succession and sales.

In my view the most significant policy of this election is Labour’s Employment Relations Policy which hands total control of workplace pay, conditions and terms across all sectors and all skills and puts the Unions in a centre role of negotiation and “Remove the ability for employers to deduct pay from workers taking low level protest action during an industrial dispute” . I would argue that most New Zealanders have a relationship with their employer built on mutual trust and respect and I don’t believe that most Kiwis wish to return to the ‘70s and ‘80s were the Ferries went on strike at the start of the school holidays, the works went out just as the lambs came on in January or Unions went out in sympathy for a workplace scrap going on at the other end of the country.

In my opinion, this election has got nothing whatsoever to do with the House Prices or Swimming in rivers, this election and the campaign of Labour is a desperate attempt by the Trade Unions to seize control of the New Zealand workplace.

At present we are living with an asset bubble, certainly in house prices in the upper North Island and arguably in farmland, this is no different to most Western economies that have binged on cheap and plentiful credit generated by the madness of Quantitative Easing. Arguably it is not the Government’s fault that we have “traded up” our family home, put a boat or overseas holiday or new car “on the house”, or generally lived beyond our means and racked up massive private sector debt secured against the family home.

We are enjoying interest rates well below the recent long run average and a credible statistical correction could easily see cost of borrowing lift from 5% to 8-9%, I’m not convinced that many home owners would not find their financial situation severely compromised by a near doubling of interest rates, nor do I think many farming businesses could stand such a shock.

I fully support the need for our society to have a robust and compassionate Social Welfare system to provide an outstretched helping hand to our fellow man as they go through a vulnerable time, but this must be a based on the principle of a hand up, not a hand out, and for us to be able to provide that compassion, we need to have a robust and stable economy in the first instance.

It is a culmination of all of these policies, not just one in isolation that I believe has the very real potential to create a collapse in economic confidence not seen in New Zealand since the 1980s.

The brutal and stark reality is that even with our business, which is very sound and holds only a very modest level of debt, there is simply not the money to pay these taxes and increased costs. The cumulative total of these taxes will far outweigh the taxable profit of our farm and will leave us cash flow negative and therefore un-bankable.

I don’t know where the Labour Party think the cash will come from, I can assure you it is not under the pillow in a cake tin.

I can very accurately tell you where the money for these taxes and charges will come from. These costs will come straight out of the till of the businesses in our local town that supply us with goods and services. I fear for the future of those business and the families employed by them, I really do. The ‘80s was very tough for service industries as well.

Land and CTG taxes will hit businesses big and small including health professionals like doctors and physiotherapists, shops, hair dressers, and trades people.

Will the people who think these new taxes are a good idea also think paying more for the goods and services these businesses provide is a good idea?

We have already suspended all none urgent expenditure pending the election outcome.

I and many other New Zealand farmers today are proud to have grown the grain for your cereal or toast; multiplied the seeds that were planted by other farmers to grow your vegetables and spuds; raised your tender meat; clipped wool for your warm clothes; produced the milk for your coffee and supported a multitude of local businesses along the way.

The words that resonate with me are those of retired US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack…

“Every one of us that’s not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a relatively small percentage of this country… so the rest of us can be lawyers or doctors… or all the other occupations because we never have to think – Do I actually have to grow the food for my family? No, I go to the grocery store and buy it.”

I am proud to be a farmer, doing what’s right, we are not in the ‘80s, please don’t let us go back…

If you support what I have said, please stand together with me and I would really appreciate you sharing this post.

This vision is built on experience, science and facts not political theory.

A lurch to the left under a Labour-led government would undo much of the good that National’s careful economic management has achieved.


Farmers grow food so others don’t have to

April 13, 2017

Former US Secretary of AgricultureTom Vilsack:

Every one of us that’s not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a relatively small percentage of this country…”


Rural round-up

August 30, 2016

Pet theories don’t make water safer:

Federated Farmers urges the public to apply some good old-fashioned common sense and scrutinice the statements of activists as they push their anti-farming agendas in the wake of the Havelock North water-borne gastrointestinal disease outbreak.

Top of the list would be Dr Mike Joy’s statements on The Nation last Sunday where he said:

“’Central and local government had allowed massive intensification [of dairying] that had caused the problem’ when in fact the closest dairy farm we can find is some 40 kilometres away”, Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston says.

Or his statement that “animals have to come out of agriculture”.

“The sanity of this statement for New Zealand can stand on its own merits.

“In the context of this bacterial episode he said that ‘over time you find it deeper and deeper and deeper [in the groundwater]’ when it is known that as water penetrates the ground, bacteria are progressively filtered out and their survival diminishes.” . . .

GoodYarn mental health scheme award winner – Sally Rae:

A rural mental health initiative developed by WellSouth has received international recognition.

WellSouth’s health promotion team was named joint winner of best mental health promotion/mental illness prevention at the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Services Conference in Auckland for its GoodYarn programme.

GoodYarn was developed specifically for farming communities to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of stress and mental illness, to give people the confidence to talk with someone when they were concerned, and to know where to get help. . . 

Farmers: we will fight for livelihoods – Tim Miller:

Farmers in Tarras are prepared to go all the way to the Environment Court to protect their livelihoods.

Members of the Lindis Catchment Group voted at a meeting in Tarras last night to  appeal the Otago Regional Council’s decision to set a minimum flow rate for the Lindis River catchment at 900 litres per second from October 1 to May 31 every year.

Committee member and local farmer Bruce Jolly said 26 members of the catchment group voted unanimously in favour of appealing the decision. . . 

 

Cattle theft would’ve need 10 trucks – Federated farmers:

A possible theft of 500 dairy cows from a Canterbury farm has stumped police investigating their disappearance.

Pennie Ormsby-Saunders told Newshub she has a herd of 1300 cows but last week noticed more than a third of them were missing.

Rick Powdrell from Federated Farmers says stock thefts are a concerning trend.

“In recent times there’ve been a number of thefts in that area. Now whether these are connected, we don’t know. . . 

Stand built for world champs – Sally Rae:

Four South Otago men will have little time to admire their handiwork when the world’s best shearers and woolhandlers converge on Invercargill next year.

Since May, Otago Shears committee members Bruce Walker, Ken Payne, Neville Leslie and Geoff Finch have spent 130 hours preparing the shearing stand for the Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling championships.

About 4500 sheep will be shorn by competitors from about 30 countries at ILT Stadium Southland from February 9 to 11. . . 

US ag exports expected to rise by $6 billion in 2017:

US agricultural exports are expected to rise in 2017 from 2016 levels, largely due to higher exports of oilseeds and products, horticultural products, cotton, and livestock, dairy, and poultry.

According to the latest Outlook for US Agricultural Trade Report from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, agricultural exports in fiscal year 2017 are projected at $133.0 billion, up $6.0 billion from the revised fiscal 2016 forecast of $127.0 billion.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “These numbers once again demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of US farmers and ranchers in the face of continued challenges. . . 


WTO rules aainst USA CoOL on meat

May 20, 2015

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that labels on red meat in the United States that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered will have to be dropped or revised.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the WTO has rejected a final U.S. appeal, deciding that the U.S. “country of origin” labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage.

The Obama administration had previously revised labels to try to comply with WTO obligations. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that if the WTO ruled against the final U.S. appeal, Congress will have to weigh in to avoid retaliation – such as extra tariffs – from the two neighbour countries. . .

Though the ruling went against the U.S., it’s a victory for the U.S. meat industry, which has said the labels are burdensome. Meat processors quickly called for repeal of the labelling laws after the WTO decision.

Canada and Mexico issued a joint statement calling on the United States to repeal the labelling rules and saying they will seek authorization from the WTO to take retaliatory measures against U.S. exports.

The joint statement of Canadian and Mexican agriculture and trade officials said the rules cause Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat to be segregated from those of U.S. origin. The labeling is “damaging to North America’s supply chain and is harmful to producers and processors in all three countries,” the officials said. . .

I don’t support compulsory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) but I don’t understand why labels which give consumers information on which they might want to base their purchases has been disallowed.


But they did it first

May 23, 2009

The USA is reintroducing export subsidies for dairy products in a tit for tat response to the EU which reintroduced subsidies earlier in the year.

But they did it first is no way to win an argument, but that’s the excuse they’re using.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the move is in direct response to the European Union’s introduction earlier this year of export subsidies. It will allow American exporters to compete fairly, he says.

His idea of fair isn’t quite the same as mine.

At the same time, Mr Vilsack says the Obama administration remains strongly committed to a pledge at the recent G20 summit to refrain from protectionism.

He says every attempt will be made to minimise the impact on countries that do not subsidise their dairy producers.

If he wants to give up his day job he could find another writing ads for Tui.

Trade Minister Tim Groser isn’t impressed.

Dairy farmers the world over are under pressure, but this is a short-sighted response when the international dairy market has recently been showing signs of stabilising. The decision is a setback, and will be damaging to world markets.

“Export subsidy assistance will have a relatively small effect on income for US dairy farmers, and may even prove counterproductive by creating uncertainty and depressing international dairy market prices. Unsubsidised producers, like those from New Zealand, will bear the cost of these trade-distorting measures.

“I am disappointed that the United States should have followed the poor example set by the European Union when it reintroduced export subsidies in January.

“While the US and the EU may consider they are both acting within their current WTO commitments, this sends a very negative signal to other WTO members. . .

Groser says it’s not whether these measures are legal but the bad example the EU and USA are setting.

 “The long term solution is clear: we need to complete the WTO Doha Round in order to secure the elimination of agricultural export subsidies. In the meantime, restraint is needed, not a resumption of retaliatory subsidisation.

The recession will provide excuses for increased protectionism which will do little, if anything, to help producers, increase costs for taxpayers and consumers and hamper the eventual recovery.


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