Rural round-up

August 22, 2019

600 farmers in big water project

Large-scale initiative in Southland expected to have big effect on water quality:

You could say it’s “ace” that more than 600 farmers and multiple agencies are working together to improve water quality in the Aparima catchment area in the deep south.

ACE – otherwise known as the Aparima Community Environment (ACE) project – is a farmer-led initiative in Southland aimed at over 600 farms spread over 207,000 hectares – with 81 per cent of that area developed. It has multi-agency participation with DairyNZ, Beef & Lamb and Environment Southland involved.

The ace thing about ACE, says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for responsible dairying, Dr David Burger, is its enormous scale and the intent to support all land managers in good farming practice. It will also track what happens on every single farm in the six Aparima catchment groups – Pourakino, Lower Aparima, Orepuki, Mid Aparima, Upper Aparima and Waimatuku – and relate this to water quality downstream. . . 

Federated Farmers hails court ruling as a win for Rotorua community:

The voices of farmers in Rotorua, led by Federated Farmers, have been instrumental in the Environment Court’s rejection of Land Use Capability (LUC) as a tool for nitrogen allocation.

Federated Farmers, along with the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective, has been fighting a proposal by Rotorua Lakes Council, forestry and others seeking to allocate nitrogen discharges using LUC methodology.  With evidence from member farmers in the catchment, as well as by engaging experts and consultants, Federated Farmers demonstrated the LUC proposal would fail farm businesses and their communities to the point of potential ruin, Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.

“It would also have had a more uncertain environmental outcome than the original proposal  by Bay of Plenty Regional Council in Plan Change 10,” he said.

“We’re pleased the Court comprehensively rejected the LUC proposal that would have required nitrogen discharge reductions of 80% by dairy farmers and 40% by drystock farmers.  In contrast, the allocation for forestry would have increased six fold. This would have meant that most farmers would have had to lease back nitrogen (that had been transferred to forestry) in order to continue farming.” . . 

Forget about another share trading review – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Fonterra director Nicola Shadbolt says the recent collapse of a few dairy cooperatives should be blamed on their strategy, not their co-op structure.

She says the collapse of Australia’s biggest dairy co-op Murray Goulburn and the demise of Westland Milk co-op on the West Coast is not about their structure.

“It is governance, it is strategy. I mean for every two co-ops that fail there are about a thousand corporates… nobody says of the corporates that it’s their business model. But with co-ops it’s always their business model that is blamed.”

Shadbolt, a fierce proponent of the cooperative model, is aware of moves by some farmers and a few directors to return capital structure to the table. . .

Is there a future for OZ Fonterra as Fonterra’s finances unravel – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s announcement that it expects a loss of around $600 million or more for the year ended 31 July 2019 has big ramifications for Oz Fonterra.  With overseas-milk pools now lying outside the central focus of Fonterra’s new strategy, and with Fonterra seriously short of capital, the Australian-milk pool and associated processing assets look increasingly burdensome.

If Fonterra were to divest its Australian operations, then it would demonstrate that Fonterra really is retreating to be a New Zealand producer of New Zealand dairy ingredients. It would also reinforce the notion that consumer-branded products are now largely beyond its reach.

This strategic position is close to where Fonterra was in around 2006, when it decided that it was 50 years too late to take on the likes of Nestlé.  It did have both Australian and Chilean operations at that time but they were smaller than now. It also took on an initial shareholding in Chinese San Lu at that time, but essentially Fonterra saw itself as a New Zealand-based co-operative. . .

Agriculture fears it will be milked by EU free trade deal – Mike Foley:

Australia risks trading away hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural earnings if it doesn’t negotiate significant concessions from the European Union.

That’s according to industry groups Australian Dairy Farmers and the National Farmers’ Federation, which warned Trade Minister Simon Birmingham the EU will have to reduce its onerous tariffs and import barriers to make a free trade agreement (FTA).

“There would be no point in doing the deal for Australian farmers if we can’t see a realistic and positive outcome from this FTA,” NFF president Tony Mahar said. . . 

Want to protect the planet? Eat more beef, not less – Patrick Holden:

If students and staff at Goldsmiths University really want to help the environment, they should end their ban on selling beef on campus. Far from being the bogeymen portrayed by environmental campaigners, sustainably farmed beef and dairy cattle are integral to maintaining our green and pleasant land, keeping our waterways free of chemicals and feeding our population in the most efficient manner possible.

Two thirds of UK farmland is under grass and in most cases cannot be used for other crops. The only responsible way to convert this into food is to feed it to cattle, which are capable of deriving 100 per cent of their nutrition from grass and therefore are more efficient on such land than chickens or pigs. Even on grassland where crops could be grown, ploughing it up to create arable farms would release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and require the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser, all of which can devastate biodiversity.

Cattle farming does not just help to maintain grassland – it also works to improve the sustainability of existing cropland.  . . 


Rural round-up

July 17, 2019

New Zealand’s future food for thought :

Dr Jocelyn Eason, General Manager of Science and Food Innovation at Plant & Food Research, believes the future is green. And probably crunchy. But most definitely packed with nutrients.

Eason, who manages 140 scientists in the Food Innovation Portfolio at Plant & Food Research, believes the future of food lies in plants – and that New Zealand has both the scientific capability and growing expertise to be globally competitive in a plant-based food market. That means optimising plant genetics, developing future growing systems and capturing an eco-premium for new food products.

“The goal for us is to add value at each step of our food value chain. What does the market want?” That, she says, means looking at the consumption of the consumers of the future: Teenagers (GenZ). . .

Living in fear of farmageddon – Brian Fallow:

Will Farmageddon flow from the Reserve Bank’s plans to require some seismic strengthening of banks’ balance sheets?

Some of the submissions it has received in its review of bank capital requirements make sobering reading, especially about the impact on the dairy sector.

So first, some numbers. Bank lending to the agricultural sector has climbed from $12 billion in 2000 to $63b now — two-thirds of it to the dairy sector. It works out at $8300 per cow. . .

Scientists confident well-bred cows won’t burp – Michelle Dickinson:

Meat and dairy are New Zealand’s biggest earners when it comes to exports, however, they are also our largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As we try to balance our economy with our commitment to the Paris climate agreement new research out this week thinks the secret to reducing climate change could be through breeding less burpy cows.

Methane emissions from ruminants including sheep and cows account for about a third of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and are by far the largest single contributor. Although methane stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon, as a gas it is much more effective at trapping heat – acting as a blanket over our planet and playing a significant role when it comes to climate change. . .

You can’t blame Westland’s farmers for selling out – Mike O’Donnell:

Lee Iacocca died last week. One of the original rock stars of the car industry, Iacocca is credited with being the father of the Ford Mustang in 1964, considered the most iconic muscle car in automotive history.

The Mustang become immortalised in books, songs and movies – including Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds.

After being dumped by Ford, 15 years later Iacocca was credited as the man who saved Chrysler from going under by securing a US$1.5 billion government loan and paying it back within three years. . .

Farmers willing to pay big money for the best working dogs – Esther Taunton:

Heading dog Jack wrote himself into the history books on Thursday when he sold for a record $10,000 at an auction in Canterbury.

While it was a price fit to make townie eyes water, New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association president Pat Coogan said a good dog would be worth every dollar.

“The price farmers are willing to pay for a good dog has increased dramatically over the last 10 years,” he said. . .

FAST FIVE: Detroit Ririnui

Detroit Ririnui grew up in Welcome Bay in Tauranga where his family are in the kiwifruit industry but it wasn’t something he enjoyed very much. 

However, growing up in a rural environment instilled a love of the land so after a few years of working in the family business he made the decision to switch to dairying and says it was something he had always wanted to try.

He asked a relative if he knew of any dairy farm work and he told him he would give him a job in Invercargill. He made the move south where he is a farm hand on a 350-cow farm about a year ago and says he loves it.  . .


Rural round-up

July 7, 2019

Group think clears the waters – Neal Wallace:

The message to those attending the recent South Island Dairy Event in Invercargill was unequivocal: If farmers create an environmental issue they need to take control of the solution. Neal Wallace reports on how farmers are resolving water quality issues in Southland and Otago.

Farmers  are the only people who can reverse the declining quality of Otago’s Pomahaka River, farmer Lloyd McCall says.

The Pomahaka Water Care Group was formed in 2014 because the Otago Regional Council and the Landcare Trust were not going to improve the river’s water quality.

“It’s got to be by farmers,” McCall says.

“You couldn’t fix it by rules.” . . .

Wairarapa shepherd bucks trend of youth rejecting farming careers -Gerard Hutching & Jessica Long:

As fewer young people are signing up for primary sector vocational courses, Wairarapa shepherd Ashley Greer is one swimming against the tide.

Every since she was a teen Greer wanted to work on a farm, although she never had the opportunity when she was young.

“I grew up in Bulls, my dad was a farm worker but we left the farm when I hit high school. I never got all the hands-on experience like other kids did because it wasn’t our farm,” she says . .

Yili’s gain on the West Coast brings a $500,000 windfall to farmers – but local leaders lament sale to foreigners – Point of Order:

Westland  Milk  Products  farmer-shareholders  voted overwhelming in the past week to accept  the  $558m  takeover bid   by   Chinese  giant  Yili  for the   co-op’s  milk processing  operation.

For  individual  farmer shareholders, the  bid  means an injection of  around  $500,000 each  into their  bank accounts,  plus better  returns for their milk  over  the  next  10 years.

No wonder  94%  of the  96% eligible shareholders  cast their votes in   favour.  West Coast farmer and Federated Farmer president Katie Milne, who is also a WMP director, said it was an “absolutely stunning” result for West Coast farmers. . . .

Positive event encourages future farmers – Yvonne O’Hara:

”If we don’t have young people who are passionate and who see a future in the sector coming through, we won’t have a future.”

South Island Dairy Event organising committee chairman Simon Topham was speaking at the end of a BrightSide session in Invercargill last week.

About 120 people, mostly young farm workers, attended the session devoted to finances and career progression.

Mr Topham said the positive response to BrightSide, proved there was a demand for similar sessions in future events. . .

Wool courses target pressing need – Luke Chivers:

New qualifications will help solve a critical need to train shearers and wool handlers, Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons says.

Dr Sissons launched three micro-credentials – ‘Introduction to the Woolshed’, ‘Learner Wool Handler’, and ‘Learner Shearer’ – at the Primary Industries Summit in Wellington on Monday afternoon.

The courses are bite-sized pieces of learning, aimed at recognising or teaching specific workplace skills on the job in a short time.. .

Colin Hurst named Arable Farmer of the Year:

His “immense contribution” to Federated Farmers, related industry bodies and across the nation’s arable sector saw Colin Hurst named Arable Farmer of the Year last night.

Federated Farmers Arable Industry Group Chairperson Karen Williams said it was difficult to know where to start with Colin’s contribution to farming. The South Canterbury farmer has served Feds at national, regional and branch level and has also put in countless hours for the South Canterbury Rural Support Trust, the Arable Industry Group’s Herbage Seedgrowers Subsection, United Wheatgrowers and the Foundation for Arable Research. . .

Lighter wines :

This programme is the largest research and development effort ever undertaken by New Zealand’s wine industry. Lighter Wines (formerly Lifestyle Wines) is designed to position New Zealand as number 1 in the world for high quality, lower alcohol and lower calorie ‘lighter’ wines. It aims to capitalise on the domestic and international market demand for these wines.

The challenge

The challenge is not just producing high quality lighter wines but producing them naturally, giving New Zealand a point of difference and making New Zealand the “go to” country for high quality, lighter wines.

The solution

This programme aims to capitalise on market-led opportunities domestically and internationally, using applied research and development to provide innovative solutions. . . 

Hey farmer: you are not the farm – Uptown Sheep:

Hey Farmer,

I need you to hear something right now. I need you to hear this loud and clear – I’m so sorry for everything this year has thrown at you. I’m so sorry for all the things you cannot control that put so much weight on you. But hear me – YOU are not defined by this year’s crop. Or this year’s income. Or this year’s “success”.

You are not the farm. You are more than the farm.

I saw you leave again this morning, smiling, but still carrying the stress. I know the first thing you did was drive down by the creek to see how much the water has receded. After you do chores in flooded pastures, you’ll sit with your Dad to try and figure out what fields might dry out the fastest and what, if anything, can be done while you wait. . . .


Westland shareholders vote to sell

July 4, 2019

Westland Milk shareholders have backed their board’s recommendation to sell the company:

Westland shareholders have voted overwhelmingly in favour of selling the 150-year-old co-operative to Yili.

The Hongkong Jingang Trade Holding Co. Limited (Jingang), a wholly owned subsidiary of Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co. Ltd, offered shareholders $3.41 per share.

More than 93% of votes cast were in support of the deal, with just under 90% of votes able to be cast in support. 

At least 75% of votes actually cast and 50% or more of the total number of votes able to be cast were needed for the proposal to succeed.

Chairman Pete Morrison said shareholders had shown strong support for the proposal.  

“When the board initiated the strategic review process, we did so with the full understanding that all Westland farming families needed to have a competitive milk payout. We know this has been, and is, a driving need for all shareholders. . .

Some might have voted reluctantly but there was no viable alternative.

 


Rural round-up

June 28, 2019

More good farmland lost forever:

News that two large New Zealand farms have been sold off-shore, largely for forestry is depressing according to 50 Shades of Green spokesman Mike Butterick. The same owner has purchased both properties.

One farm is 734,700 hectares at Eketahuna that sold for $3.35 million. The other is 1037,000 hectares in Wairoa sold for $6 million.

“It’s bad enough having the land sold to foreigners but having good productive farmland sold for forestry and subdivision is criminal,” Mike Butterick said. . .

Decision time at Westland for Yili bid – Keith Woodford:

The time has come when Westland’s dairy farmers must make their decision. Do they want to take the money and go with Chinese mega-company Yili, or do they wish to struggle on as a co-operative?  We will know the answer after the July 4 vote.

If farmers vote to take the money, it will then be up to the Government to agree or refuse to accept Yili as the new owner. I will be surprised if they disallow the sale under the relevant OIO provisions. The ramifications of that would be severe.

Also important is whether or not the approval from Government is quick or drawn out. It is in no-one’s interest that it be drawn out, but OIO approvals can be remarkably slow.  Yili could step away if approval is not forthcoming by 31 October. . . 

NZ First is not alone in worrying at the implications of a Westland Milk sale to Yili – Point of Order:

Is   Westland  Milk   one of  NZ’s  “key  strategic assets”?

NZ  First  is adamant  it is and believes the government  should be a  applying a  “national interest test”   to the proposed  sale of the company  to the Chinese  dairy giant Yili.

Those  who  see  heavily indebted  companies  like Westland Milk struggling to  make a profit and  not  even  matching  Fonterra’s payout  to its suppliers might take a  cooler view  to  the proposed  sale. . . 

Minister heaps more costs on farmers:

The Minister of Agriculture has confirmed he hasn’t bothered asking his officials the costs farmers will face as a result of the high methane target the Government is imposing, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“When questioned in Primary Production Select Committee Damien O’Connor scrambled to confirm he’d seen no specific advice for costs per farm, nor has he even asked for any.

“Cabinet have blindly cooked up a methane reduction target of 24-47 per cent, despite scientific evidence suggesting this is too high and without knowing the costs per average farm and the impact it will have on rural communities. . .

Downsizing opens gate to A2/A2 farm:

He’s a dairy farmer with a passion for breeding, striving to be “at the front of the game.” She’s a converted city-girl who fell in love with the dairy farmer, despite her aversion to typical milk.

It doesn’t agree too well with my system,” Stacey White says.

“I used to have soy and almond milk and I’ve tried both them and rice milk; nothing’s really appealed in terms of taste, and baking with those substitutes doesn’t really work either.” 

So when Stacey became aware of A2/A2 milk 18 months ago, she tried it out and found it tasty, creamy, and, crucially, easily digestible.*  . . 

LIC migrates to NZX’s Main Board:

Herd improvement and agritech co-operative LIC will move to the Main Board of the NZX (NZSX) next month, transferring from the Alternative Board.

This comes as NZX announced it will move to a single equities board from July 1 and close the NZAX and NXT.

Of the companies migrating, LIC is the largest by market capitalisation, at approximately $109 million.

There are around 14 agritech companies featured on the NZX Main Board and only one other farmer-owned co-operative (Fonterra). . . 

How NZ farming is like a Steinway piano – Glen Herud:

I wonder if we rely too much on our pasture-based farming or our beautiful scenery or our clean image.

What if the things we think are our strengths are actually weaknesses?

Steinway and Sons had been the leading maker of grand pianos since 1853 when their business was crippled by Yamaha.

Professor Howard Yu explains how Steinway held on to their main strength for far too long and it eventually became a weakness. . .

 


Rural round-up

June 24, 2019

The race to future-proof our farms – Tracy Watkins, Paul Mitchell and Piers Fuller:

Fielding farmer Ian Strahan was at the dairy buying milk when he picked up the Sunday Star Times and read about Hollywood heavyweight James Cameron calling for a meatless future to save the environment.

A frustrated Strahan felt like once again farmers were being used as the whipping boys.

Cameron told TVNZ’s Sunday programme we weren’t living up to our image as clean, green New Zealand and had harsh words for our reliance on meat and diary.

Strahan got angry, then he decided to take action. He wrote to the Star Times and asked why no one had bothered to investigate the huge change and innovation already well underway in the agriculture sector. . . 

Veteran environmentalist tells farmers to brace themselves for change – Gerald Piddock:

Change is coming and farmers can either take it by the hand or it will grab them by the throat.

The magnitude of this change meant farmers have to begin planning to avoid future pain, environmentalist Guy Salmon told dairy farmers at the Waikato Small Milk and Supply Herds group conference at Lake Karapiro.

“If we don’t, it’s going to be much more difficult to make those changes.” . . 

Machinery sales steady, challenges loom

Sales of tractors and farm machinery so far in 2019 are steady versus 2018 but challenges loom, says Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president John Tulloch.

TAMA’s year to date figures to April 30 show 1104 sales across all sectors vs 1111 in 2018. North Island sales fell by 4.7% to 713 (2018 – 748). South Island sales rose by 7.4% to 390 units delivered (2018 – 363). April 2019 sales figures are down 11.7% on April 2018, says Tulloch.

This is partly due to 10% fewer sales of smaller (20 – 50hp) machines typically used by small commercial operators and lifestyle block owners. . .

 

Dealing with the on-going complexities of wool – Brent Mountfort:

Wool has so much potential yet we do not seem to be making any progress, writes Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty Meat & Wool Chairman Brent Mountfort.

Many of the issues farmers in the Bay were facing last year are still exactly the same a year on.

Wool is still in the doldrums. Beef and lamb/mutton returns in the main are still good.

Plenty of regulations and uncertainty surrounding these different regulations are ongoing. Most meat and wool farmers will most probably agree this past season has had its challenges due to the lack of rain at different stages of the year. . . 

Strong plea to Westland farmers – Hugh Stringleman:

Westland dairy farmers have been urged to very carefully consider the costs as well as the benefits of selling the co-operative.

Shareholders will vote on July 4 on a proposal to sell to the Chinese Government-owned Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group for $588 million.

A group of shareholders extremely disappointed at the lack of any viable alternative to Yili’s purchase read a powerful statement to six pre-vote meetings of Westland farmers.

The meetings followed distribution to all shareholders of the notice of meeting, scheme booklet and an independent evaluation by Grant Samuel.

Westland chairman Pete Morrison said the documents will not be made public. . . 

Why I ditched manicures for life with Thrusty the randy ram! Farmer’s wife who left an office job to live on her husband’s farm reveals what a year in rural Britain is really like – Helen Brown:

When Sally Urwin married a farmer, she had visions of ‘harvest picnics in our stubble fields in lovely sunshine, with apple-cheeked children wearing tasteful Boden clothes . . . eating wholesome homemade sausage rolls with lashings of ginger beer’.

When an August picnic eventually materialises, she realises that ‘the fields are prickly, the kids are arguing over who last went on the iPad and they hate my homemade sandwiches’. 

Urwin’s account of a year on High House Farm, with its mix of arable land and 200 sheep in windswept Northumbria, is no rural idyll. But it’s full of passion for the realities of life lived knee-deep in the countryside. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 18, 2019

Leading is itself a challenge – Annette Scott:

South Canterbury farmer and newly elected Beef + Lamb director Nicky Hyslop is committed to sheep and beef farming, admitting her real affinity with the land and rural people is what gets her out of bed in the morning. She talked to Annette Scott

NICKY Hyslop grew up on a high country station and she’s passionate about contributing to the life and industry she’s always known.

Last month she was elected as the central South Island director on the Beef + Lamb board.

“I have a real affinity with the land and rural people because it’s been woven into my life. . .

New effort to attract youngsters – Luke Chivers:

A programme to promote primary industry careers has been launched by Rabobank, Young Farmers and Lincoln University.

The programme, Rabobank FoodX, is a series of events to expose young people to animals, food production and marketing, agribusiness and science.

Rabobank NZ general manager Hayley Gourley said the programme addresses the shortage of young people in the primary sector. . .

Bacteria turns crusty pond into fert – whatever! – Sudesh Kissun:

Tokoroa farmer Marcel Korsten operates a closed farm system: what doesn’t get out the front gate as milk has to go back onto the farm.

On his 260ha farm, Korsten hasn’t used nitrogen to fertilise paddocks for seven years; instead the whole farm is fertilised with effluent.

Milking about 670 Friesian cows and having a feedpad means a lot of nutrients are added to their diet. About 45% of feed is imported — mostly soyabean, tapioca, straw, maize sileage and some PKE. . . 

Guy Trafford looks at how the meat processing industry structures affect what producers receive and what consumers pay – Guy Trafford:

recent article by John Maudlin prompted me to look at some of the background data he quoted regarding competition within agriculture in the USA where 85% of the steer kill resides with four companies.

While there are over 60 companies existing in the US they are decreasing at a reasonably rapid rate as the big buy up the small. The latest being Harris Ranch Beef being acquired by Central Valley Holding Co. making it seventh in size of US beef packers.

While some may say these amalgamations into larger and larger companies creates more processing efficiencies and are a natural part of competition within a capitalist system there is a growing risk that both producers and consumers miss out as competition moves into monopolies. Despite this, the evidence is that there has not been an obvious reduction in cattle farmer profits and while not hugely profitable farmers have been making reasonable livings. That said, the last two seasons have trended downwards. . . 

Where to for Chiwi agrifood – Keith Woodford:

The current plan for Chinese Yili to buy Westland Co-operative Dairy has brought renewed discussion about the role of China within New Zealand agrifood industries. Of course, the Westland issue is just one part of a much greater issue about the trading and political relationships linking our two countries.

There is a need for ongoing debate because the issues are profound. There is also a need for the debate to be informed.  I hope that what follows here will contribute to an informed debate.

The starting point is to recognise that China is easily New Zealand’s biggest agrifood destination. And every year it continues to grow. . . 

Ensuring the safety of pesticides within New Zealand – Mark Ross

A culture of trepidation about consuming foods which have been exposed to pesticides is misleading and has sparked much confusion of late.

To abate the concerns, a breakdown of the process for getting products to market can reassure consumers that our most nutritious foods of fruits, vegetables and grains are safe to eat. This is reflected in the decade-long process which includes 11 years of research and hundreds of millions of dollars.

At the start of the process, chemicals are tested for their effects on people and the environment. . .


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