Missed opportunity

November 11, 2019

The New Zealand Initiative says the Zero Carbon Bill fails the climate:

 . . .the Bill is so seriously flawed that it could raise emissions.

The report, Real action, not empty words says New Zealand can reduce global emissions by far more than we contribute by working with whoever can do the most to reduce emissions, wherever they are.

“The Zero Carbon Bill will prevent New Zealanders from accessing the world’s most effective ways to reduce emissions by insisting all emissions are reduced domestically, as far as possible,” says the report’s author Matt Burgess, a Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative.

While there are exciting ways to cut emissions within New Zealand, offshore opportunities appear extraordinary,” says Mr Burgess.

Research commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment suggests forcing emissions to be reduced domestically could add $300 billion to the cost of reducing emissions to net zero, lift carbon prices to $2,000/tonne, and lower national income in 2050 by 6%.

“These huge costs reflect the scale of opportunities offshore. We should be extremely reluctant to close the door given what is possible.”

If climate change is a global problem it is sensible to look globally for solutions.

The Government has said its goal is to reduce emissions by transforming the economy.

 “Transformation is a very expensive way to reduce emissions, and as advice from officials makes clear it is totally unnecessary,” says Mr Burgess.

“The Ministry for the Environment advised the Government could cut far more emissions, at much less cost, and reach net zero earlier than 2050 if it allowed emissions reduction through the most effective channels, including offshore.”

“The Government’s decision to pursue transformation is not only unnecessary, it is contrary to a goal of lower emissions and all-but guarantees failure to achieve our emissions targets.”

The report’s other main concern with the Zero Carbon Bill is the use of central planning to reduce emissions.

Sections 5ZD and 5ZF of the Bill say the Minister for Climate Change must plan how and where emissions are reduced. Plans can cover all parts of the economy, at whatever level of detail the Minister decides, and can be changed any time.

“We have serious concerns with the Bill’s rules around planning, which are so poorly drafted that almost anything could go into the Minister’s plan. History tells us poor legislation can lead to unintended outcomes, in this case higher emissions.”

The New Zealand Initiative recommends three simple changes to fix the Zero Carbon Bill:

  1. Require effective action on emissions by introducing an overarching objective for both the Minister and the Commission that requires exercising their powers for “effective and efficient” emissions reductions and removals.
  2. Remove section 5W to eliminate the domestic preference, allowing emissions reduction through the most effective combination of domestic and offshore mitigation.
  3. Remove sections 5ZD–5ZF to eliminate the requirement that the Minister for Climate Change plan emissions reduction. The Minister will be free to prepare plans, and give effect to them by way of Acts of Parliament, the appropriate level of scrutiny for such far-reaching powers. . .

Federated Farmers says the government missed the opportunity to make the Bill work:

The government failed to take on board common sense suggestions for the improvement of the Zero Carbon Bill yesterday.

“They had a golden opportunity to pass a Bill that was fit for purpose, and could have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change, and could have taken farmers along as well,” Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard says.

Just last Friday the primary sector put a proposal to government which would have achieved the Zero Carbon Bill’s aims and built on the good faith established by the industry-government climate change commitment, He Waka Eke Noa.

“This was a sad day for common sense as our coalition government not only walked away from an important part of our commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which requires all its signatories not to forsake food production for climate goals, but also relinquished the opportunity to be true leaders and adopt targets for methane which truly reflect its actual warming impact.”

Federated Farmers was deeply worried by a comment made during the debate on Wednesday by Labour MP and former head of the Environment Select Committee, Deborah Russell, who questioned the usefulness of New Zealand’s ability to produce food.

She said:

“I’m not sure that we have a responsibility to feed as many people as possible. We certainly want to ensure that we produce food – it’s one of the things that we export – but it’s not clear to me that we need to continue producing food at that level.”

If we don’t continue producing food at the current level, what will replace it that can make the same important contribution to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing?

The Paris Agreement specifically recognises the “fundamental priority of safeguarding food security” and says policies to address climate change should “not threaten food production”.

How many times do we have to say that if food isn’t produced here it will be produced elsewhere by farmers who don’t do it nearly as efficiently as we do? That would come at a huge economic cost to New Zealand and increase global emissions.

A major focus of the United Nations is its Sustainable Development Goals, and whilst climate change is one of those, so too is zero hunger.

“Cutting food production in New Zealand does not stop people eating, it merely hands production and jobs to international competitors, such as the heavily subsidised European Union’s farmers, who will produce the same amount of product, only less efficiently and with higher greenhouse gas emissions,” Andrew says.

The unfit-for-purpose biogenic methane reduction targets outlined in the Bill remain unchanged.

“The 2050 24-47% reduction target for biogenic methane remains eye-wateringly hard for farmers to achieve and correspondingly dire for our economy to withstand,” Andrew says.

With the current tools in the farmer’s tool box, the only way to meet the top end of the target (47%) is to halve the size of our livestock sector. Even if some of those tools become available they are not universally going to fit into all farming systems.

This sector contributes $28 billion in export earnings to our economy.

“New Zealand farmers are proud to be the most carbon efficient farmers in the world. Forcing them to reduce production is not only going to make New Zealand poorer, but will likely increase global emissions, so we will effectively be shooting ourselves in both feet.”

National proposed several amendments that would have made the legislation much better but they were opposed by New Zealand First. That party’s claims to be on the side of rural New Zealand fell victim to petty politicking.

However, National has committed to making several improvements to the legislation should it be in government next year:

“National proposed a series of changes that would have ensured the Bill is in line with National’s climate change principles of taking a pragmatic and science-based approach, but unfortunately the coalition Government voted down all of our amendments.

The changes we proposed were:

    1. That the target for biological methane reduction be recommended by the independent Climate Change Commission.
    2. That the Bill makes clear the stated aim of the Paris Agreement is for greenhouse gas reduction to occur in a manner that does not threaten food production.
    3. To strengthen provisions that consider the level of action being taken by other countries and allow targets to be adjusted to ensure we remain in step with the international community.
    4. To strengthen provisions for the Commission to consider economic impacts when providing advice on targets and emissions reductions.
    5. That the Bill ensures the Commission considers the appropriate use of forestry offsets, and has regard for the carbon sink represented by crops, riparian planting, and other farm biomass.
    6. That emissions budgets be split between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
    7. That the Bill includes a greater commitment to investment in innovation and research and development to find new solutions for reducing emissions.

Investment and innovation are the best ways to make a positive difference to the environment without the high social and economic costs other measures would impose on the country.

“We have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change but we will continue to fight for the changes we think will make the law better.

“Should National earn the right to govern in 2020 we will make these changes in our first 100 days in office. We will ensure the Bill drives the right long-term changes and factors in the wider impacts on New Zealand’s economy, jobs and incomes.”

Economic and social wellbeing must be balanced with environmental gains.

The current legislation is stronger on intention than impact. If National leads the next government it will make much-needed improvements and those should include the ones suggested by the NZ Initiative.


Rural round-up

September 13, 2019

Hey government let’s K.I.S.S. – Rowena Duncum:

The Essential Freshwater Package has Rowena Duncum wishing the Government would stick to the Keep It Simple Stupid method.

Look, I usually steer clear of voicing political opinions, but to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of sleep this past week.

Here we are one week on from the big water policy announcement and I don’t see that abating anytime soon.

In the last seven days, we’ve heard a range of opinions. Some good, balanced and considered. Some in the extreme for opposing sides of the spectrum. . .

Big processors pursuing staged transition – Brent Melville:

Weaning New Zealand’s primary sector off fossil fuels could cost the industry and the agri-sector hundreds of millions of dollars.

Alliance Group, the country’s second-largest meat exporter and largest lamb processor, confirmed it would be ending the use of coal at all of its seven plants within 10 years and was at present examining other fuel options across its network.

It had budgeted capital expenditure of $60 million-$70 million for the transition, it told a select committee hearing on the Zero Carbon Bill in Dunedin yesterday.

David Surveyor, chief executive of Alliance Group, said energy requirements were sourced across a range of fuels. “Levin and Dannevirke operate on natural gas, Nelson utilises diesel, while Smithfield in Timaru, Pukeuri in Oamaru and Mataura and Lorneville in Southland use coal.” . . .

They’re fishing for the future – Neal Wallace:

The desire to remove the ticket-clipping middlemen is not confined to dairy and meat farmers wanting to get closer to their markets and earn higher prices. It is a path being followed by Bluff fisherman Nate Smith but, he tells Neal Wallace, he has another motive for supplying fish direct to customers.

Did I want to go fishing, Nate Smith asked from the wheelhouse of his boat Gravity. 

He was catching only enough blue cod to fill a small order and the at-times turbulent Foveaux Strait was flat, he added reassuringly.

That brief exchange revealed plenty about Smith and his business, Gravity Fishing. . . 

New life-members for North Otago A&P – Sally Brooker:

The North Otago A&P Association has two new life members.

At its recent annual meeting, the association acknowledged the years of service given by John Dodd and Murray Isbister.

Mr Dodd, who farms at Tapui, has been involved with the organisation since the late 1980s. He was its president in 2000 and nowadays is convener of the sheep section.

He said there were still people who were willing to go along to judge the sheep at each A&P show. They seemed to enjoy the camaraderie that went with the role, often meeting up with sheep farming colleagues from across the country who also did the rounds of the shows. . .

 

New Zealand Wood Industry – Zero Carbon – And We Can Prove It:

If New Zealand’s ambition is to be a zero carbon economy by 2050 then it must nurture its wood industry. Many industries claim to be driving towards lower emissions but none have the low carbon profile of the wood sector. The WPMA Chair, Brian Stanley, says; “no other major industry in New Zealand can deliver carbon sequestration, carbon storage and emissions reduction like the wood industry”. Mr Stanley adds, “….and the industry now has independent, third-party certification extending right from the forest to the marketplace to prove that our wood-based packaging and construction products do the right thing by the environment. Our customers in New Zealand and overseas expect no less”.

Last night in Rotorua, WPMA highlighted that both major international certification programmes for forestry: Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification and Forest Stewardship Council guarantee that wood products from New Zealand come from sustainably-managed forests. In addition to this, WPMA has just launched its Environmental Product Declarations for wood products.  . . 

New fungicide approved for use on cereal crops

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved an application to import a new fungicide, Vimoy Iblon, into New Zealand, for use on cereal crops.

The applicant, Bayer, intends to market the fungicide to farmers as a means of controlling a range of diseases including scald and net blotch in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and wheat-rye hybrid triticale, speckled leaf blotch in wheat and stem rust in ryegrass crops.

New Zealand is the first country to approve the use of a new active ingredient contained in Vimoy Iblon – isoflucypram. . . 


Rural round-up

September 5, 2019

Time for a grownup conversation about gene-editing – David Hughes:

 In the late 1990s public scepticism cast genetic modification as “The answer to the question no-one was asking”. Today, the new technology of gene editing is emerging as a real option in facing some of our world’s biggest challenges in food production, medicine, conservation and climate change.

The Institute I lead, Plant & Food Research, has committed our science to helping New Zealand’s agri-food sector deliver the best quality foods from the world’s most sustainable production systems. We believe gene editing can help us meet that commitment. 

Today, Plant & Food Research breeds only 100 per cent GM-free fruit, vegetables and grains. We have never developed GM foods for commercial use and industry does not fund us to do so. Yet our discovery-focused teams routinely use gene technologies to further our knowledge. 

They’ve learned that gene editing can help us achieve our traditional breeding targets around sustainability and nutrition much faster. That means consumers get more healthy whole foods sooner.  . . 

Trees debate ratchets up – Colin Williscroft:

Large swathes of agricultural land need not be planted in trees for New Zealand to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets, NZ’s largest carbon farmer says.

In presenting NZ Carbon Farming’s submission to the Environment Select Committee on the Zero Carbon Bill, company founder and managing director Matt Walsh was questioned by MPs who said they had been told by officials that 30% of NZ’s agricultural land will need to be planted in trees to meet the Bill’s carbon dioxide emissions target of zero by 2050.

Walsh said he has heard the 30% figure before and is puzzled where it came from. He does not believe it is correct.

NZ Carbon Farming has asked officials how they got the number but has not had a definitive answer. . . 

Shear happiness for young women – Yvonne O’Hara:

”Shearing is an art.”

So says Ariana Te Whata, of Mossburn, who was taking part with three other young women in a course run by Elite Shearer Training on the Dowling family’s farm near Gimmerburn last week.

Three of the women, Tatjiana Keefe, of Raupunga, Cheyenne Howden, of Feilding, and Ariana work for Dion Morrell Shearing. They all intend to go shearing full time.

Ariana grew up in a shearing shed and her parents, Vanessa and Mana Te Whata, are shearing contractors and run Shear Tech. Mr Te Whata is a champion competitive shearer.

”I love shearing,” Ariana said.

”I love the art of it and it is beautiful to watch. . . 

Promoting eucalypts– David HIll:

Gary Fleming’s efforts to advocate for the value of eucalyptus trees has been recognised.

The North Canterbury farmer was named South Island Farm Forester of the Year at the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association conference held in Rotorua.

‘‘It’s a good award to get, as it takes a fair bit of dedication,’’ Mr Fleming said.

‘‘There’s a lot of people in the South Island who grow trees and anybody in farm forestry can apply for it.’’

The North Canterbury branch chairman was nominated by his branch committee earlier this year, after missing a meeting due to illness. . . 

Food tourism helps farmers survive – Tim Fulton:

A group of Queensland farmers is making the most of food tourism, proving town and country can work in harness for culinary satisfaction.

Maleny calls itself a hinterland town though, by Australian standards, it’s only a skip from the big smoke.

Perched on the Blackall Range, about 40 minutes from Sunshine Coast beaches, the area catches day trippers on Queensland’s hinterland tourist drive. . . 

 

Love lamb week to encourage better use of carcase :

Yorkshire farmer’s daughter and Great British Menu chef Stephanie Moon is calling on chefs to make better use of the lamb carcase as the country prepares for Love Lamb Week.

The annual campaign, commencing from the 1st of September to the 7th, aims to change perceptions of when to eat lamb.

It highlights that the highest volume of UK product is actually available during the last six months of the year, despite many consumers typically choosing to enjoy lamb around Easter time.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) will be involved in the industry-wide campaign, alongside AHDB Beef & Lamb and other UK levy bodies. . . 

 


Hug a farmer

August 20, 2019

Jill Thorp says farmers have had enough of being told they are to blame for climate change:

If you leave your car running in the garage overnight and sleep next to it, you’ll be dead in the morning. If you put five cows, five sheep and five pigs in the garage overnight and sleep next to them, you will warm and alive. We need to get real about the effects of these gases.

We also need to take the nutrient value into account. Running cars produce no nutrients, raising animals provides nutritious food. Most of New Zealand’s is exported and feeds about 40 million people, nearly 10 times the country’s population.

Not my words, but those of a New Zealand farmer, tired of being continuously blamed for global warming. I also learnt recently that depending on the time of day and year, there are 8,000 to 20,000 planes mid flight at any given moment. Yet the accusatory finger of blame for rising temperatures, extreme weather and flooding seems to be pointed firmly in the direction of farmers.

Producing food is necessary, how many of those flights could be called necessary?

I’m tired of being told we as farmers are responsible for so much damage, that it is us that must cease our environmentally destructive ways. What short memories the general public seem to have. Have we not fed a nation for generations, even during times of crisis?

Without the labours of farmers, the country would have been starved into submission during the First World War, but still the criticism rains down on us.

As hill farmers we are told to re-wet the uplands, block up the drains and gullies to prevent flooding. But when that bucket becomes full, that sponge saturated, where will the water go then? . . 

This is the view of an English farmer and her anger is shared by farmers all over the world, not least in New Zealand. We’re the only country where the government is proposing to tax emissions from farm animals and Politik warns of more to come:

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is warning that dairy farmers may find themselves struggling when they have to meet new Government environmental requirements likely to be unveiled within the next few weeks. . . 

{David} Parker is proposing a National Environmental Standard on freshwater which is essentially a regulation which local Councils must enforce, usually through their planning process.

Speaking in Northland a week ago he said the Government would shortly set clearer and stronger national direction for councils on freshwater standards.

The standard is expected to set nitrate discharge limits for farms.

It is expected these will be expressed in such a way as to make it all but impossible to convert non-dairy land to dairying from now on. . . 

Will these standards apply only to farming? What about the many councils with inferior storm water and sewerage systems that allow regular pollution of waterways?

Federated Farmers asks why are we only talking about farming?

New data from Statistics New Zealand makes it clear every sector of our society, including families, need to lift their game on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s just as we’ve been saying for years on the topic of water quality, we’re all in this together and we’ll solve it by everyone doing their bit,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

Stats NZ’s “Environmental-economic accounts” shows that emissions from households, mainly from their transport use decisions, jumped 19.3% in the decade to 2017, outstripping both growth in the population and emissions by industry.

Farmers produce food, most of which is exported which brings many benefits to New Zealand. I doubt much of the household transport had more than a personal benefit.

The nation’s total emissions decreased by 0.9% between 2007 and 2017, with greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture dropping at a rate of 0.1% each year.  These small reductions came during a decade when agriculture’s contribution to GDP grew at a rate of 1.8%, indicating increased production efficiency.

Growth in dairy emissions was offset by reductions by sheep, beef and grain farming.

“New Zealand has an unusual emissions profile worldwide because we rely so much on our primary industries to earn our living in the world.  However, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, not methane from animals, is the real climate change culprit and instead of expecting farmers to do all the heavy lifting, it’s time for every New Zealander to look at their lifestyles and choices, particularly in terms of transport,” Hoggard says.

“Planting out thousands of hectares of productive farmland with pine trees isn’t a long-term and sustainable answer to the problem.”

The right tree in the right place for the right reason is a good policy.

Subsidising forestry to incentivise planting pines on productive farmland is bad policy with a high economic, environmental and social cost.

Climate alarmists and other critics of farming are quick to criticise. They conveniently overlook the positive contribution farmers make to the environment, for example nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s native vegetation is on sheep and beef farms:

A report from the University of Canterbury has revealed that 24 per cent of New Zealand’s native vegetation cover (approximately 2.8 million hectares) is estimated to be on sheep and beef farms. This is the largest amount of native vegetation present outside of public conservation land.

The report also estimates that 1.4 million hectares of New Zealand’s native forest is on sheep and beef farms and is likely playing a vital, but often unheralded role in supporting biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) CEO Sam McIvor says, “This is a great acknowledgement for our farmers and the work they’re doing as stewards of the land. I hear sheep and beef farmers talking every day about what they’re doing on farm to support biodiversity and it’s great we now have evidence to back up their passionate voices”.

The report, commissioned by B+LNZ, was undertaken by Professor David Norton from the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. Supported by Auckland University of Technology staff, the report used satellite imagery to assess the amount of native vegetation, focusing on native forest, occurring on sheep and beef farms in New Zealand.

“The 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation on sheep and beef farms are critical for biodiversity conservation on farms and for landscape-level biodiversity outcomes,” says Professor Norton.

This finding is particularly important in places where there is little native cover remaining, like those in lower altitudes, on more gentle slopes, and in drier regions,” says Professor Norton.

B+LNZ’s Sam McIvor says, “The environment is a cornerstone for our sector and underpins everything that we do at Beef + Lamb New Zealand. This report helps highlight not only the role sheep and beef farms currently play in contributing to New Zealand’s biodiversity, but will also help us identify opportunities to build on this as a sector”.

The report is also relevant to the proposed zero carbon legislation. While further research is needed, the 1.4 million hectares of native forest will be sequestering carbon and most of this is unlikely to be counted in the current Emissions Trading Scheme. Further research is now being undertaken to measure the potential of this native forest to sequester carbon, and this work will help inform B+LNZ’s and farmers’ input into the Zero Carbon Bill.

Along with surveying the extent of native vegetation, the report highlights that New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is potentially unique globally in terms of the amount of native forest on its land.

The release of this report is one of the first steps for B+LNZ in implementing its environment strategy, which aims for clean freshwater around farms, for the sector to be carbon neutral by 2050, for sheep and beef farms to provide habitats that support thriving biodiversity, and to support healthy productive soils.

New Zealand farmers are recognised around the world as the most efficient producers of food but like prophets are too often not appreciated at home.

National’s Primary Industry spokesman Todd Muller is leading the charge to move from condemning farmers to celebrating them.

It is time to call out the deliberate narrative, being fuelled by this Government that our agriculture sector, and the farming families that underpin it, are climate and environmental villains.

It started over a decade ago with the dirty dairying campaign and has now widened to include all our animal food producing sectors.

These voices are no longer at the extreme of our community debate but rather at the centre of our government.

At the core of their belief is that our future world cannot sustain animal food production and we should start weaning ourselves off the animal protein diet in order to improve our health and environment. . . 

We need to move the conversation from condemnation to celebration.

The fact is that New Zealand’s farming systems are extremely efficient, and we lead the way in producing high quality products within a low emissions profile.

And we do it without subsidies.

Our environmental footprint is improving as technology is matched by our farmers’ ever willingness to adapt, change and innovate.

Our primary sector understands our reputation as a safe producer of food must be underpinned by sustainable farming practices.

They accept change is a constant, in fact global leadership in food production demands it, but surely it is reasonable to ask that the society in which we produce it to quietly applaud our efforts, rather than rushing to find an example of failure in one of our 23,000 farms and dressing it up as typical.

Tarring all farmers with the dirty brush a very few deserve is unfair and unjustified.

Of course, too much meat can be detrimental, and clearly plant-based foods are essential for a balanced diet. But the health benefits of including meat and dairy in your diet are well documented and a balanced diet must be encouraged.

A recent briefing from MPI’s Chief Science Advisor into the EAT-Lancet Commission report showed that many of the reports condemning meat and dairy production are using generalisations regarding the environmental footprint of farming, and are not taking New Zealand’s superior farming systems into consideration.

Globally, the concerns around red meat production stems from the intensive feedlot industry that can house tens of thousands of animals at each site, and require excessive amounts of water and grain to maintain their systems.

New Zealand farms are overwhelmingly pasture based. Our farming systems are not comparable in the least to a feedlot system.

It’s neither fair, nor accurate,to paint us with the brush that tars far less efficient producers in other countries.

It’s telling that we can produce enough food to feed 40 million people globally and are still the most carbon efficient producer in the world based on output of food compared to emissions produced.

A glass of New Zealand milk can be shipped to the next most efficient country (Ireland) to be consumed there, and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

This shows how ahead of the curve we really are. The UK Guardian responded to the recent climate change report by declaring – ‘Eat more NZ Lamb’. This seems to be lost in the ninth floor of the Beehive. . . 

New Zealand is at the forefront of efficient food production, and therefore if we’re to lower our global emissions we should be leading the way, not constraining ourselves and diminishing our output.

The world needs more food produced efficiently as we do it, not less.

One final reality check – 56 per cent of New Zealand’s exports are food.

New Zealand is a little country at the bottom of the world that needs to produce stuff to survive.

Every time we buy pharmaceuticals, cars or computers from the rest of the world we need to pay for it by selling them something. As a country with a small population but a large natural resource base, this tends to be food and materials, minerals or tourism.

This is a very important point that those who pull farming down miss. Farming isn’t something farmers do for their own sakes. They do it to produce the food the world wants and pays for which in turn pays for the imports we don’t, and often can’t, produce ourselves.

This Government has already shown a recklessness when it comes to our oil, gas and mining sectors.

Let’s not allow them to take the same approach to our farmers. Our standard of living depends on it.

A Labour government led us into the ag-sag of the 1980s. Some might argue about the way forcing us to face the real world without subsidies was done, but no good farmer wants them back because farming, and New Zealand are better without them.

That can’t be said about the current poor policies.  Farmers are deeply afraid that the anti-farming policies of this Labour-led government will create another ag-sag, the effects of which will be harsher and far longer-lasting than last century’s.

Anyone who thinks that’s okay should remember that most farmers managed to hang onto their farms during the ag-sag, it was the businesses which serviced and supplied them where jobs were lost and which often failed. The impact of that moved from the country to towns and then cities.

Farming is a handy scapegoat for people taking a political and bureaucratic response to environmental challenges rather than a scientific one but it’s still a major contributor to New Zealand’s economic and social fabric.

That’s why Proud To Be A Farmer was set up a few years ago:

[It]is a campaign aimed at raising the positive profile of agriculture, raising the morale of Farmers and reminding the rural community and the agriculture sector, and indeed New Zealand as a whole, that we have much to be proud of in the Farming industry. We tell the good stories of New Zealand Agriculture, providing much needed balance, and inspiring people to take Pride in their Farms and Farmers.

More recently, Ag Proud NZ was set up on Facebook to focus on good farming practices and the mental health of farmers.

Yesterday Jesse Mulligan interviewed the managing director of AGFIRST, James Allen, on the rising costs of farming .

In response to a question on what people could do to help, he said hug a farmer.

The vast majority of New Zealanders probably don’t know any farmers well enough to hug them, but all should look behind the emotion and false claims that are damning the industry and as Muller says, move from condemnation to celebration.

 

 


Rural round-up

August 10, 2019

New research shows negative impact of mass forestry planting on productive sheep and beef land:

Large scale conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry as a result of the Zero Carbon Bill will have a significant negative impact on rural New Zealand, according to research released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand. 

An analysis of Wairoa, where 8,486 hectares of sheep and beef farmland has, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry, shows forestry provides fewer jobs in rural communities than sheep and beef farms.

Rural consultancy BakerAg was commissioned by B+LNZ to compare the economic and employment effects of the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry.

The report, Social-economic impacts of large scale afforestation on rural communities in the Wairoa District, found that if all the sheep and beef farms in Wairoa were converted to forestry, then Wairoa would see a net loss of nearly 700 local jobs (the equivalent of one in five jobs in Wairoa) and net $23.5 million less spent in the local economy when compared to blanket forestry (excluding harvest year). . . 

Fonterra’s financial wellbeing and global auction prices are among the dairy sector’s challenges – Point of Order:

It’s shaping   up as a  tough  season  for  New Zealand’s  dairy farmers,  who  once  proudly  wore  the  label  of  the  “backbone of the  NZ  economy” , earning  by far the  largest  share of the country’s  export income.

So  what  are  the  problems  confronting  the industry?

Uncertainty in markets, for starters.   Prices  at the latest  Global Dairy  Trade  auction this  week slid  downward for  the fifth  time in  six  auctions.

The  Chinese  economy is under pressure   as  Trump steps up  his tariff  war.  Brexit  is a  threat which  could disrupt  NZ’s  dairy trade to  both the UK and EU markets. . .

Big tick for farmers – Neal Wallace:

The red meat industry hopes to ramp up its Taste Pure Nature brand campaign on the back of the latest international climate change report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is being welcomed by New Zealand farming leaders as an endorsement of our low impact systems and the importance of maintaining food production.

The IPCC says land on which we rely for food, water, energy, health and wellbeing is already under pressure and climate change will exacerbate that through desertification and land degradation potentially affecting food security.

The report’s advocacy of a balanced diet including animal protein sourced from resilient, sustainable, low greenhouse gas systems is an endorsement for NZ, Beef + Lamb chief insight officer Jeremy Baker says. . . 

FARMSTRONG: Maintaining fun is the secret:

Tangaroa Walker was the inaugural winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer Award in 2012 and has gone on to a successful career as a contract milker. Now he’s helping Farmstrong raise awareness of the importance of living well to farm well.

Tangaroa Walker remembers the moment he decided to go farming. 

“I was 11 years old and this guy drove up the driveway of our school in this flash car with his beautiful wife and hopped out.

“He was there to help set up a cross country course. I said ‘Hey man, what do you do?’ He said ‘I’m a farmer’. That was it. I ended up helping him out on his dairy farm when I was 13 and just cracked into it from there.”  . .

The secret to a carbon friendly environment may surprise you – Nicolette Hahn Niman:

I won’t keep you in suspense. The key to carbon-friendly diets lies just beneath your feet: the soil. We are so used to looking skyward when thinking about climate, this is a bit counter-intuitive.

An unlikely combination of building soils and practicing responsible grazing could help mitigate climate change. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Carbon in soils represents both a problem and an opportunity. On the one hand, soil’s degradation is truly alarming. According to the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, at the current erosion rate the earth “would literally run out of topsoil in little more than a century.” And soil is the source of one-tenth of the earth’s human-caused carbon losses since 1850. . . 

Cow virtual fence trials encouraging: Pamu – Jono Edwards:

A company trialling virtual fencing for cows in Otago using electronic collars says tests show encouraging results.

Pamu Farms, which is the brand name for state-owned enterprise Landcorp Farming Ltd, earlier this year trialled “e-Shepherd” cattle collars at Waipori Station, which it owns.

It took 100 Angus steers equipped with solar-powered collars that show their location through GPS.

When the animals moved near digitally set forbidden zones they were dissuaded with a buzzing noise which gradually grew louder. . .

 

Left behind – Annie Gowen:

The feed chopper was the only machine Bob Krocak ever bought new, back when he was starting out as an ambitious young dairy farmer.

He used it to chop acres of alfalfa and corn to feed his herd of Holstein dairy cattle, which repaid him with some of the creamiest milk in Le Sueur County. The chopper and its fearsome blades lasted through four decades of cold winters, muddy springs and grueling harvests.

Now, on a chilly Saturday morning, Krocak, 64, was standing next to the chopper in the parking lot of Fahey Sales Auctioneers and Appraisers, trying to sell what he had always prized. The 128 Holsteins were already gone, sold last year when his family quit the dairy business after three unprofitable years. . .


Rural round-up

August 4, 2019

Science and fairness asked for by farmers – Corina Jordan:

Climate change is a hefty challenge, and sheep and beef farmers feel its effects in more frequent floods and extreme droughts.

This is why Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) backs the objectives of the Zero Carbon Bill and why – as a sector – we’ve already announced a target to be net carbon neutral by 2050.

BLNZ backs the Government’s targets of net zero by 2050 for the long lived gases CO2 and N2O. Getting CO2 under control is critically important because fossil fuel emissions will ultimately affect whether or not the world succeeds in combating climate change. . . 

Let them eat bark – Mike Chapman:

New Zealand faces several climate change challenges, thanks to being an island nation and having an economy that relies on primary production. 

One solution to our country’s challenges being touted at the moment is the planting of even more pine trees as forest sinks to offset our carbon emissions. 

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton has raised questions about this approach, saying that ‘our open-ended use of forests to license further carbon emissions will needlessly delay the critical transition to eliminating carbon altogether’ (New Zealand Listener, 6 July 2019). 

Native forest currently covers 7.8 billion hectares while pine forest covers 1.7 billion.  . . 

More trade is best way to sustainably feed humanity – expert – Pam Tipa:

Globalisation is the only way to feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 with a healthy diet on a healthy planet, says a global food expert.

And there is no vegetarian wave moving across the planet, he says. 

Some regions, such as Southeast Asia, need more red meat and eggs, says Australian doctor Sandro Demaio, chief executive of the global foundation EAT, in Norway.

EAT tackles human malnutrition and planetary challenges such as climate change. . . 

No deal will shut export gate – Annette Scott:

New Zealand’s export gateway to Europe via Britain will close with a no-deal Brexit, Kiwi red meat sector Brexit representative Jeff Grant says.

NZ sees Britain as a natural entry point for trade with the European Union, especially for small businesses that can’t afford to have a foot in both markets.

But if there is no deal by October 31 that gateway will be jeopardised.    

The odds are it will be a no-deal Brexit, Grant said.

“And that will have serious implications, particularly for the red meat industry.

“Commercial risk management is going to be very important to negotiate trade deals with the United Kingdom in years to come,” Grant told the Red Meat Sector conference. . . 

Beware the Risk 5G Poses to Rural Internet Users:

Despite the hype surrounding Vodafone’s launch of the next cellphone technology, it risks a serious downside to thousands of rural broadband users, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA.NZ).

“Vodafone and its competitors are putting huge pressure on Government to reallocate radio spectrum so they can run 5G more cost-effectively,” WISPA Chairman Mike Smith says.

“However, some of the spectrum the mobile companies are trying to claim is already used commercially by about 30 regional WISPs, who collectively service many tens of thousands of rural customers. These customers are farms who use the Internet for business management, rural kids who use it for study, and rural people who depend on it for social inclusion. Most can’t get Internet any other way. . . 

Children’s book wins big – Robyn Bristow:

A children’s book by a North Canterbury author has been a winner far beyond its target audience.

The quirky farm tale, Uncle Allan’s Stinky Leg, has taken two first places in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature.

It is the fifth title written by Jennifer Somervell, of Oxford, co-authored with her sister Margery Fern and designed by Margery’s daughter Ezra Andre, to have won first place at the awards.

It took the top prize in the humour section and for interior design. . . 

 


Rural round-up

June 20, 2019

Resilient farmer moves on to new fields:

Doug Avery, author of The Resilient Farmer, has launched a new workshop to help farmers improve their mental health and their businesses.

Avery is changing direction in his life, hitting the third age with a new venture.

Over two decades, Avery took his family farm – Bonavaree, near Lake Grassmere in southern Marlborough – from a 206ha struggle to a 2600ha multi-million venture thanks to “God’s own plant” lucerne. . . 

Fully automated milking several decades away – Dairy NZ – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Industry body Dairy NZ sees fully automated milking as a major opportunity to lift on-farm productivity, but doesn’t expect it to be commonplace for several decades.

About 44 percent of the country’s dairy herd are milked in more efficient rotary dairy sheds, despite the style accounting for just over a quarter of the nation’s sheds. About 72 percent of the country’s dairy sheds are the less efficient herringbone style.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the impact of technology on the future of work, Dairy NZ said rotary dairy sheds have the highest uptake of automation, with 77 percent using automated technology. However, out of New Zealand’s 12,000 or so dairy farmers, there are just 25 fully robotic dairy sheds. . .

More sheep with facial eczema amid prolonged Autumn conditions:

Prolonged, mild weather in Autumn appears to have caused high rates of facial eczema in sheep in some parts of the North Island.

The disease is caused by toxin in a fungus that grows in grass. The toxin affects cattle, sheep, goats and deer and can result in liver and skin damage and weight loss, which can stop animals from falling pregnant and in some cases result in death.

It is estimated that production losses caused by the disease are around $200 million annually in New Zealand. . .

Awards call for biosecurity champions:

Entries are now open for the 2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards. These Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions to protecting our country against pests and diseases.

The Awards acknowledge people and organisations across New Zealand who are contributing to biosecurity – in our communities, businesses, iwi and hapū, government, in the bush, our oceans and waterways, and in our backyards.

“Some New Zealander’s don’t understand that the work they’re doing is part of our biosecurity system – from trapping, to pest and disease management in our forests, rivers and oceans, these are all biosecurity actions,” Roger Smith, Head of Biosecurity New Zealand said. . .

Primary ITO gains fresh recognition:

Primary ITO has received the Minister of Education’s seal of approval to continue its work as an industry training organisation.

Under the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Act, ITOs apply for “recognition” every five years, undergoing a thorough check by central agencies and requiring them to seek indications of support from relevant sectors.

“It is great news that the Minister has approved Primary ITO’s ongoing coverage of our agriculture, horticulture, processing and services sectors,” says Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons. . . .

Pastoral sector poised to cope with gas limits:

As the government’s rules on managing green-house gases becomes clearer, New Zealand’s pastoral sector is well positioned to handle the changes that the rules will bring to it.

Announced in early May, the Zero Carbon Bill aims to differentiate between carbon dioxide release and methane losses from livestock, and has set separate targets for each.

Farmers are required to reduce methane losses from livestock by 10% by 2030 and 24-47% by 2050, while the economy’s entire carbon dioxide emissions have to drop to zero by 2050. . .

Land O’Lakes CEO: Farmers are in crisis—and America isn’t paying attention – Beth Ford:

Imagine, if you can, a computer virus that cut the productivity of AppleGoogle, and Facebook in half. Or try to imagine Wall Street’s investment bankers seeing a season’s worth of deals washed away. Such calamities would dominate our nation’s news and drive swift political action. Yet that is precisely what America’s farmers face right now. And, as a country, we aren’t paying nearly enough attention.

Farmers are generally too proud and humble to speak out, but the truth is we are living through an extremely difficult period of market turmoil and natural disasters. Due largely to sustained low commodity prices, average farm income in 2017 was $43,000, while the median farm income for 2018 was negative$1,500. In 2018, Chapter 12 bankruptcies in the farm states across the Midwest that are responsible for nearly half of all sales of U.S farm products rose to the highest level in a decade. . . 


Rural round-up

June 8, 2019

New machine to help export traceability:

AgResearch is developing a method of giving New Zealand exports a “unique fingerprint” that scientifically proves their provenance and could be used to deter supply-chain fraud.

The technology is so accurate that it can differentiate New Zealand, English and Welsh lamb using a measurement that only takes a few seconds. It can also detect what feed – such as grain, grass or chicory – a carcass was reared on, an increasingly important trait driving consumer spending. . . 

Click here for more: https://vimeo.com/340251207/7367c5e18b

Dr Alastair Ross said the new rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometer (REIMS) machine being used at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus detects the “molecular phenotype” of a sample, a unique “fingerprint” made up of molecules resulting from the interaction of genes and the environment. This measurement, which previously took over an hour of lab work, can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine. . . 

Farmer submissions encouraged on ZCB:

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle is encouraging dairy farmers to speak up and make a submission on the Government’s proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

“DairyNZ welcomes the opportunity to engage constructively and share our perspective on this Bill and are encouraging dairy farmers right across New Zealand to do the same” says Dr Mackle.

“The potential implications of this legislation, in particular the targets for methane reduction, are huge for our sector. That’s why farmer engagement is so important. . .

New Zealand women’s meat industry group launched – Angie Skerrett:

A group for women working in the meat industry in New Zealand has been launched, in an effort to attract more women into the sector.

The New Zealand launch of Meat Business Women (MBW) is the latest in a rapid expansion of the organisation which was started in the UK.

The group held its inaugural meeting in Napier, to outline their vision for a positive future for the sector. . .

Farmer satisfaction with banks continues to slide:

Farmers’ overall satisfaction with their banks remains strong but it is declining steadily, the Federated Farmers 11th biennial banking survey shows.

Satisfaction rates are at their lowest since the survey began in August 2015.

“More than 1300 of our farmer members responded to the survey we commissioned from Research First and overall satisfaction with banks has dropped over the last six months from 74% to 71%,” Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. . . 

Proceed with caution on speed limit changes:

Safety of people on our roads is a top priority but any move to reduce speed limits should not be an excuse to skimp on road maintenance and upgrading, Federated Farmers says.

“There are some rural roads which are too windy, narrow and bumpy to drive on safely at 100 km/hr,” Feds transport spokesperson Karen Williams says. “It may indeed be wise to post a lower speed limit on such routes, though the overriding rule ‘drive to the conditions’ springs to mind.”

However, the blanket and widespread speed limit reductions being suggested in the wake of data from a new NZTA mapping tool could cause far more harm than good. . .

Comvita CEO to step down, Hewlett to lead strategic review Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita’s chief executive for the past four years, Scott Coulter, is stepping down in September and, while it searches for a replacement, former CEO Brett Hewlett is taking on a temporary executive role to review the company’s underperforming assets.

Coulter will retain a governance role in the manuka honey products company’s business in China business.

“Scott’s commitment to Comvita since joining the company in 2003 has been outstanding,” says chair Neil Craig. . .


Rural round-up

June 2, 2019

National’s support ends if methane targets don’t change – Simon Edwards:

National will not support the Zero Carbon Bill passing into law if “ridiculous” methane targets are not wound back, the party’s climate change spokesperson Todd Muller said.

“I totally reject the view that when there is no ability to mitigate (methane emissions), you just push on regardless,” he told the Federated Farmers Taranaki agm in Stratford on May 24.

Farmers had some tough questions for him on why National had supported the bill in its first reading.  Muller said he achieved “about eight of the ten things I wanted” in terms of the framework for a new Climate Change Commission, and it was “better to be in there wrestling for something sensible” than throwing rocks from the outside . .

Pig catastrophe in China opens opportunities for NZ meat exporters – Point of Order:

Many New  Zealanders may  be unaware that China, home to  half the world’s pigs, is suffering  a  catastrophic outbreak of African swine fever.  According  to  one  authoritative estimate, the disease may have  wiped out one-third of the population  of 500m  pigs.

The  London  “Economist”  says  that for as long  as it takes  China’s pig industry  to recover —which may be   years—farmers  elsewhere  may have  cause to  celebrate.  Yet  foreign producers cannot  make up  the vast amount of production  which  will be  lost —and American pig farmers have tariffs imposed on them as part of the ongoing trade  war  with China.

So, as  Point of Order sees it,  a big opportunity is opened for  NZ  food  producers, particularly  meat exporters,  to  be  diverting  as  much of their product  as  they can to  China. . . 

The value of meaningful protest – Gavin Forrest:

I value the right to protest. Without protest and people standing up for a better society or against threats to their current way of life many of my friends would not be able to exist in the way they do today.

Farming wouldn’t  be the way it is today if it were not for the actions of those who came before us.  

While still in shock farmers protested in the streets of Wellington against a background of having subsides ripped from them with little to no consultation and at breakneck speed in the 1980s. . .

Woman makes history at dog trial championships – Sally Rae:

Sheer grit helped former Otago woman Steph Tweed make history as the first woman to win a New Zealand dog trial championship.

Miss Tweed (27) won both the North Island and New Zealand championship straight hunt at the New Zealand championships in Northland this week with Grit, whom she describes as a “once-in-a-lifetime” dog.

It was an all-male final, apart from Miss Tweed, who topped the first round with 97 points to clinch the North Island title, and then won the run-off with 95.5 points to secure the national title. . .

Women set to drive change in New Zealand’s meat industry :

Woman working in the meat industry have gathered for an inaugural meeting of the New Zealand chapter of Meat Business Women (MBW) in Napier this week, to outline their vision for a positive future for the sector.

Ashley Gray, General Manager of Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Chair of MBW New Zealand has been instrumental in launching the professional networking initiative here in Aotearoa and says there is plenty the group can achieve once underway.

“Once I began on this journey, the interactions I had with women working in the supply chain, were for me – revolutionary. Women in our sector are incredibly passionate. They are forward thinkers, conversation starters, game changers, shakers and movers and I believe, collectively, have a huge role to play in shaping how the meat industry is perceived and operates in years to come. . . 

Appropriate rural midwifery resourcing must be addressed:

The College of Midwives is calling on health officials and the Minister to urgently address the shortage of midwives and facilities in the Southland DHB region.

The College’s Chief Executive, Alison Eddy, says contrary to the DHB CEO, an ambulance is not an entirely appropriate place to have a baby – something that happened earlier this week between Lumsden and Invercargill.

“I’m not going to repeat the issues related to having a baby on the side of a road in an ambulance however this is something that underlines significant ongoing issues in this area of New Zealand,” she says. . . 

Jersey cows star in new single-breed milk launch:

Lewis Road Creamery today launched a new range of milk sourced solely from Jersey cows, as it unveiled the first single-breed standard milk to go on sale in supermarkets nationwide.

“The Jersey cow is rightly famous for her milk. It is richer, creamier, with higher butterfat and a more velvety texture,“ said Peter Cullinane. “A single-breed milk really lets those qualities shine.”

Mr Cullinane said as a dairy producing nation, New Zealanders deserved to have access to the best possible drinking milk, free from PKE and permeate. . . 

New directors elected to Horticulture New Zealand Board:

Horticulture New Zealand’s Board welcomes re-elected directors Barry O’Neil and Hugh Ritchie, as well as new director Kathryn de Bruin, after four candidates contested three vacant Director roles.

Kathryn de Bruin joins the Board with a wealth of experience in the vegetable sector. Based in Dargaville, she splits her time between an accountancy practice focused on the primary sector, and growing 40ha of kumara with her husband Andre.

Katikati kiwifruit grower and Chair of Tomatoes NZ, Barry O’Neil offered himself for re-election, and has served as Board President since the departure of former President Julian Raine at the end of last year. . . 


Subsidies ignore science

May 29, 2019

The Carbon Zero Bill isn’t being led by science when it comes to methane:

Farmers should be able to use forests to offset methane and nitrous oxide emissions, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton says.

And he says fossil fuel emitters should not be allowed to use forest to offset their gas.

That will lead to better quality land use change.

Upton was responding to farmers’ concern the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill will lead to wholesale afforestation with inevitable land use change in response to climate change.

But the shape of that land use change can be better managed by farmers working together and taking a landscape approach to establishing forests rather than blanket planting by those seeking to simply offset their emissions, Upton said.

“That’s the bit I think needs to be thought about a bit harder.” . . 

Farmers are more than concerned about this.

We’re all exhorted to follow the science on climate change but the government is going against the science in allowing fossil fuel emitters to offset their gas with forests.

It’s doubling the damage by not allowing farmers to offset methane emissions with trees.

It’s also going against the Paris Accord which said emissions mitigation shouldn’t come at the expense of food production.

The sale of productive farmland for forestry is already having a negative impact or rural communities:

Subsidies for forestry are distorting the market for farmland, killing jobs and the science says it won’t work to offset fossil fuel emissions.

Politics, bureaucracy and emotion trump science and facts again and farmers and rural communities will pay the cost.


Rural round-up

May 21, 2019

Farmers are right to ask questions – Bryan Gibson:

Last week Regional Development Minister Shane Jones called farmers a bunch of moaners for voicing concerns about the billion trees policy and the Zero Carbon Bill.

We’ll put aside the fact that it’s not a great way to engage with a large and important constituency for now. But Jones must realise his policies have consequences that are going to alter rural New Zealand forever.

In last week’s editorial I urged farmers to get on board with the Zero Carbon Bill as a concept because it provides a path to sustainability and can ensure our customers continue to be happy to hear our farming story. That means they’ll also be happy to keep buying our food. The details of it, which are not yet set in stone, can be challenged but the concept is sound. . .

Merit award acknowledges shepherd’s class:

Nic Blanchard’s happy place is running around the hills with her team of dogs.

Ms Blanchard is a shepherd at Long Gully Station, at Tarras, where she also classes the property’s hogget clip.

Earlier this month, her classing prowess was acknowledged when she was presented with a merit award for the mid micron category at the New Zealand Wool Classers Association’s annual awards.

It was PGG Wrightson Wool Central Otago representative Graeme Bell who thought the clip was worthy of nomination for the awards and put it forward. . .

Dairy can protect water gain – TIm Fulton:

Water carried Graeme Sutton’s forebears to a life of freedom in New Zealand and it keeps doing the same for them on land. Tim Fultonreports.

Five generations ago, in 1842 Graeme Sutton’s English family landed in Nelson. 

It was the start of a family partnership that has endured and expanded into several irrigated dairy ventures.

“The reason they came out, I understand, is that New Zealand gave them an opportunity for land ownership. They never had that in England. They just worked for a Lord,” Graeme says. . . .

Exciting journey to Grand Final – Sally Rae:

As Georgie Lindsay prepares for the grand final of the FMG Young Farmer Contest in July, she admits it had been an exciting yet unplanned journey.

Ms Lindsay (24) has been working as a shepherd in North Canterbury. When she “tagged along” with a couple of members of her local Young Farmers Club who were competing in the district final, she never dreamed she would reach the pinnacle of the event.

In the past, she had been playing a lot of sport and she never had a spare weekend to have a crack at the competition. This year was the first time that she could do it justice and she decided to give it a go. . .

Regional population surge puts pressure on rural GPs:

Medical practices around Northland are closing their doors to new patients – as they struggle with a shortage of GPs and a surge in population growth.

It’s a perfect storm of sorts – with many GPs reaching patient capacity just as a wave of retirees cash in on house prices in cities like Auckland – and move north.

In the Far North, medical centres in Kaitaia and Coopers Beach – a popular retirement location – are no longer accepting new patients, and in Whangarei, only two GP practices are taking new enrolments. . .

Warning predator free goal faces ‘conflicts’ and uncertainty – Kate

The goal of becoming predator free in 30 years could be hampered by conflicts, inadequate planning and uncertainty, a report warns

Predator Free 2050 aims for a coordinated, nationwide eradication of New Zealand’s most damaging introduced predators – rats, stoats and possums – compared to the current piecemeal controlling of limited areas.

A just released report from the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge looks at the predator free target as a large social movement, but said there were gaps that need to be addressed on social, cultural and ethical issues . .


Rural round-up

May 20, 2019

Focused on fixing the Zero Carbon Bill – Sam McIvor:

Sheep and beef farmers are on the frontline in dealing with the impacts of climate change and we’ve been ahead of the ball in responding to it.

That’s why we’ve publicly said the government’s Zero Carbon Bill is far from perfect, and we’ve been telling the government that things need to change in order to ensure that the bill treats all sectors of the economy equitably and justly in responding to climate change.

We’ve put together a comprehensive factsheet on the Zero Carbon Bill that I encourage you to read, as it’s vital that farmers understand why getting this bill fixed is so important for our sector.
There’s elements of the Zero Carbon Bill we do support, as they’re sensible and based in sound science:  . . .

Farmers air frustrations over climate change blame – Abbey Palmer:

Tension lay heavy in a room full of farmers this week, many of them feeling as though the whole country had been pointing the finger at them.

Climate change initiated an emotive response at the Southland Federated Farmers annual meeting at the Invercargill Working Men’s Club on Wednesday.

An attendee said he could no longer turn on the TV or radio without facing backlash from the public for being a farmer.

Federated Farmers member Stuart Collie said it seemed Parliament was encouraging the public to “attack” the farming and agricultural industries for the state of the environment. . .

More notices issued in Southland in relation to bovis – Blair Jackson:

The Ministry of Primary Industries say 22 Southland farms have been given notices of direction relating to Mycoplasma bovis in the past two weeks.

MPI regional recovery manager Richard McPhail said 22 more farmers now had restricted movement of cattle from their properties.

The news was announced at the Federated Farmers Southland AGM in Invercargill on Wednesday. . . 

Dairy with a delicate touch – Gerhard Uys:

The business of milking sheep is all about happy, skipping and jumping sheep for Felicity Cameron and at her Waikato dairy the welfare of her sheep seems to be paying off. Gerhard Uys reports.

If ever there was a Jill of all trades who ended up master of one, Felicity Cameron is it.

Cameron grew up in a Hawke’s Bay farming family. From a young age she took every opportunity to gain farming experience from family members and friends who also made a living from the land.

At 17 she began dairy farming full time. . .

Summerfruit NZ plans big spend for industry growth – Yvonne O’Hara:

Summerfruit New Zealand (SNZ) is planning to spend nearly $17 million during the next seven years to grow the summerfruit industry.

SNZ board chairman Tim Jones, of Cromwell, said the strategy was designed to move the industry forward as well as make money.

Two consultation meetings with growers and other industry stakeholders were held in Alexandra and Napier last week to outline its Sensational Summerfruit:A bold plan for growth programme and ask for feedback. . .

Bay of Plenty animal feed company Fiber Fresh Feeds in receivership:

A Bay of Plenty animal feed company which employs about 45 people has gone into receivership.

Fiber Fresh Feeds is based in Reporoa and has developed high-performance animal feed formulas, predominantly for horse and calf feed.

The company has more than 30 years’ experience in the field, receivers from financial advisory firm KordaMentha said in a statement.

It sells both within New Zealand, and to Japan, Australia and the Middle East. . .

Farm launches therapeutic horse meditation sessions

A Cumbrian hill farm has launched workshops that offer visitors meditation and therapy sessions with horses.

According to the farm, visitors can ‘escape for the day’ to an environment where the ‘stresses of the modern world are stripped away’.

Each retreat begins with a session of yoga, followed by meditation with the horses. . .


Rural round-up

May 14, 2019

Zero Carbon Bill is just the start for agriculture’s greenhouse gas adaptation – Keith Woodford:

The Zero Carbon Bill introduced to Parliament this week answers some questions but raises many others.  There are big challenges ahead for everyone, but particularly for farmers and their leaders.

As always, the devil will be in the details. These details have yet to be spelled out. More importantly, it is apparent that many of the details have yet to be determined.

If rural leaders wish to have some influence on these details, they will need to be much better skilled-up than in the past.  The next few months will be crucial as the Bill works its way through the committee stages for enactment. . . 

Brit chefs tell good lamb tales – Neal Wallace:

Kiwi lamb is once again featuring on British restaurant menus, earning its place because of its provenance and quality.

Six chefs from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Singapore and four from New Zealand have spent the last week touring South Island farms as guests of Alliance.

The visitors said price had forced the lamb off some UK restaurant menus.

It is returning because of its provenance, consistent quality and portion size. . . 

Celebrating farming mothers – Trish Rankin:

Mums all around New Zealand should be celebrating another year of being superheroes on Mother’s Day. 

Early in May I was awarded the Fonterra NZ Dairy Woman of the Year title, totally unexpected and overwhelming. In my borrowed ‘new to me’ dress from my sis-in-law and awesome pink ‘borrowed’ shoes from my sister, my hair pinned up by me and my own make-up, I attended the Dairy Women’s Network Gala Dinner to award the Dairy Woman of the Year award. 

Mums all around New Zealand should be celebrating another year of being superheroes on Mother’s Day. 

Early in May I was awarded the Fonterra NZ Dairy Woman of the Year title, totally unexpected and overwhelming. In my borrowed ‘new to me’ dress from my sis-in-law and awesome pink ‘borrowed’ shoes from my sister, my hair pinned up by me and my own make-up, I attended the Dairy Women’s Network Gala Dinner to award the Dairy Woman of the Year award. 

I did not think I had a chance of winning. The other women were outstanding and I probably suffered from ‘imposter’ syndrome – not believing I deserved the title. . . 

Saffron a growing business – Gus Patterson:

Often regarded as the world’s most expensive spice, saffron is now being grown in the Waitaki Valley.

Kurow Saffron is a venture run by sisters Sarah Hines and Joanna Towler, who planted their first bulbs in January 2017.

The bulbs multiply over time, and this year had been more than twice as productive as last year, Mrs Hines said.

Saffron comes from the threads of the flower of Crocus sativus

It is a labour-intensive process, as about 100 flowers are needed to produce 1g of the spice. . . 

Third Time Lucky for 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Award Winners:

The 2019 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards winners are a smart, humble and practical couple who are doing very well at dairy farming on a challenging property in Northland.

In front of a capacity audience of 580 people at Wellington’s TSB Arena last night, Colin and Isabella Beazley from Northland were named the 2019 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Canterbury’s Matt Redmond became the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Nicola Blowey, also from Canterbury was announced the 2019 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes worth over $210,000.

Share Farmer head judge Kevin McKinley, from DairyNZ, says the Beazley’s impressed the judges with their resilience, team work and attention-to-detail. “They are such a great team and complement each other with their roles on farm.” . . 

New Zealand Olive Oils score in New York:

Results announced today show four New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oils were among the top winning oils in the world as judged at the 2019 New York International Olive Oil Competition

Loopline Picholene, which was Best in Show at the New Zealand 2018 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, won Gold.

Juno Picual, which was Best Boutique at the New Zealand 2018 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards, won Silver. . . 

Why NZ ag needs many stories rather than just one – St John Craner:

Telling the same story over and over again gets boring. It becomes tiresome for the listener and then they stop listening. That’s the concern I have with all the talk I keep hearing about one NZ Ag Story when I attended this week’s fantastic ASB AgriFood Week (run by the very competent CEDA team).

Don’t get me wrong. A platform is great. Just look at the diversity of New Zealand wine brands who are prospering under the NZ banner. All the successful vineyard brands carve out a unique story that folds in the NZ narrative but they do it in a differentiated way, not a homogenous one. Stories can get stale with a limited shelf life just like our food.

This is why NZ wine are able to claim some of the highest price points around the world. The story they wrap around their product makes them brands that more people want to pay more for. . . 

Egg prices crack $4.43 a dozen:

The price of eggs reached a record high of $4.43 a dozen in April 2019, after rising for the past nine months, Stats NZ said today.

A national egg shortage may be one of the reasons for the rise in retail egg prices. Industry reports suggest that farmers are switching away from caged hens to more expensive free-range egg production, meaning that egg supply is down as hen flock sizes are reduced.

As a result, the weighted average price of both caged and  . . 


More to sustainability than environment

May 14, 2019

Adam at the Inquiring Mind shares my concerns about the Carbon Zero Bill:

. . . Then consider what it means for the economy in terms of:

    • Jobs
    • Taxes
    • Investment
    • Choice
    • Quality of life
    • Healthcare
    • Wellbeing
    • Welfare
    • Pensions
    • Savings

Who pays?

Who suffers?

This causes me to worry about whether Ardern and Shaw have any real understanding of the economic damage they are likely to do and the very negative impact that will have on this country.

Too many deeply green people talk about sustainability but focus only on the environment without taking into account the economic and social impact of their policies.

Worse, much of their policy is virtue signaling that won’t help the environment either.

If sustainability is a three legged-stool they’ve cut off the economic and social legs and the environmental one is full of borer.


Asking too much of ag

May 9, 2019

The announcement that methane will be treated differently from other gases under the Zero Carbon Bill ought to be good news for farmers, but it isn’t:

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is deeply concerned over the proposed treatment of methane and targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and is calling for critical changes to the bill.

The proposed methane reduction targets of between 24-47 percent by 2050 significantly exceed both New Zealand and global scientific advice and the government is asking more of agriculture than fossil fuel emitters elsewhere in the economy.

The government wants to turn productive farm land into forests and it’s also asking too much of farmers in its methane target.

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is committed to playing its part in addressing climate change and acknowledges that in some areas the government has followed scientific advice, such as the split gas approach and proposed ambitious net zero target for nitrous oxide.

“Sheep and beef emissions have already reduced by 30 percent since 1990, helping meet New Zealand’s climate change challenge and we accept we still have work to do,” says Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Chairman and Southland sheep and beef farmer Andrew Morrison.

“New Zealand needs a robust science-based and fair approach when setting targets for an issue which will affect future generations.

“It’s unreasonable to ask farmers to be cooling the climate, as the government’s proposed targets would do, without expecting the rest of the economy to also do the same.

It’s also unfair to expect farmers to follow the science on the need to reduce emissions while ruling out genetic modification which could be an affordable and effective tool for doing so.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is calling for a fair approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. An equitable approach requires carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide to go to net zero, and methane to be reduced and stabilised by between 10-22 percent. This is consistent with the advice from the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who identified this range as meaning methane would be contributing no additional warming. Any target above a 10-22 percent reduction is therefore asking methane to cool the planet.

“In addition to our 30 percent reduction in emissions, sheep and beef farmers have also conserved 1.4 million hectares of native forest, an area the size of Hawke’s Bay, which is capturing significant quantities of carbon and cooling the planet, which when combined with our free range, naturally-raised farming systems enables our farmers to produce beef and lamb at a lower carbon footprint than many other countries.

“Not allowing trees to offset biological methane, as is allowed for fossil fuel emitters, exacerbates the unequal playing field, and is completely counter to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

It’s even more galling when a lot of those trees are planted on farmland.

As a sector which set a goal of being net carbon neutral by 2050, the ability for farmers to offset biological methane on farm through tree planting is a key tool that farmers should be allowed to access.”

The sheep and beef sector is also urgently calling on the government to be transparent and release all the advice on which they based its decision.

“The government’s decision appears to fly in the face of international scientific evidence, which supports reducing and stabilising methane by 10-22 percent as equivalent to net carbon zero.

“As the Zero Carbon Bill currently stands, it will have a dramatic impact on New Zealand’s regional communities and the entire economy, and the knock-on effect will be felt by every Kiwi.”

New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector is worth approximately $10.4 billion, is the country’s largest manufacturing sector, the second largest export earner, and supports 80,000 jobs across the country, both directly and indirectly.

New Zealand’s emissions are around 0.17% of the global total.

If anything we do was going to make a significant difference the economic sacrifice might – just might – be justified. But when anything we do is insignificant on a global scale there is no justification for economic sabotage.

These jobs form the heart of hundreds of regional communities. The social and economic impacts of these potential changes will reverberate beyond the farm gate and hollow out the many regional communities who rely heavily on our sector,” says Mr Morrison.

“Beef + Lamb New Zealand will continue supporting research into greenhouse gas mitigations, as well as its ongoing work with farmers to help them further reduce the methane emissions from their livestock.”

DairyNZ has similar concerns about the methane target:

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has reconfirmed the dairy sector’s commitment to play its part to reduce its biological emissions, and supports the intent of the direction of the Zero Carbon Bill.

“Our farmers are committed to sustainable farming practices, and need long-term certainty to make business decisions based on reduction targets. We are pleased the Government has listened to the science regarding the short-lived nature of methane, recognising it has a different impact on the environment,” says Dr Mackle.

“DairyNZ supports a science-based approach, where each gas is reduced based on its warming impact. We have not yet seen the Government’s analysis behind the 2050 target range. The 2050 target, of reducing methane by 24 to 47 per cent, is based on global scenarios that are not grounded in the New Zealand context. This range for methane, combined with reducing nitrous oxide to net zero, goes beyond expert scientific advice for what is necessary for New Zealand agriculture to limit global warming to no more than at 1.5° C.

“It is very important to get the range right. If we get this wrong it will have significant impacts on not just the dairy sector, but the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand. 

“While we can support much of what is in the Zero Carbon legislation, we will be pushing for the range to be reviewed and aligned with the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, of 10-22 per cent reduction in methane. When combined with our commitment on nitrous oxide to net zero, this is an equitable, yet ambitious and challenging target, that is grounded in robust science.

“We know our farmers will be concerned by the 47 per cent and what that might mean for their livelihoods. It is not set in stone, and the Bill includes a number of criteria for review including availability of mitigation options, what other countries are doing, and reduction efforts by other sectors. 

“New Zealand is already one of the lowest emissions producers of dairy nutrition in the world per kilogram of milksolids and we want to build on that advantage. Climate change is a global issue and it is good for the world if dairy production stays in New Zealand where we have low emissions for the amount we produce. We believe our premium, grass-based, high nutrition dairy will continue to be in demand well into the future, alongside a range of other options consumers may have.

Sabotaging dairying here will increase global emissions as production from less efficient producers elsewhere is increased to make up the shortfall.

“The 2030 reduction target is the first step, which we know will be very challenging. But there is action that farmers can take, and are already taking, to reduce on-farm emissions. The first step is to understand their emissions and where they come from. As part of our pan-sector Dairy Tomorrow strategy, over the next 5 years each farm will have a farm-specific plan to manage and reduce these emissions.

“DairyNZ remains focused on researching and developing tools to help farmers make choices for how to reduce emissions – through farm systems changes and new technologies. It will take time for some of these tools to develop. We will continue working closely with government to ensure all efforts on farm are recognised, and expert advice and training is made available. This support is a vital part of a fair transition.

Federated Farmers says the methane target will change the country not the climate:

Targets released today for farming’s methane emissions are going to send the message to farmers that New Zealand is prepared to give up on pastoral farming.

“This decision is frustratingly cruel, because there is nothing I can do on my farm today that will give me confidence I can ever achieve these targets”, Federated Farmers vice president and Climate Change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

New Zealand farmers are already playing their part in tackling global warming, and are willing to do more.

“But hearing the government setting arbitrary targets based on a random selection of reports and incomplete data will leave some farmers wondering; ‘what is the point’?

“The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030 gives us a deadline for going beyond net zero more than 20 years earlier than for any other sector of New Zealand. It is unheard of anywhere else on the planet,” Andrew says.

The targets are significantly higher than what is necessary to be equivalent to net-zero carbon dioxide.

The announced methane reduction target for 2050 of 24-50%, when coupled with the target of net zero for nitrous oxide, requires the New Zealand agriculture sector to reduce its emissions by 43-60%.

“Let’s be clear, the only way to achieve reductions of that level, is to reduce production.  There are no magic technologies out there waiting for us to implement.

“At this point in time we have no idea how to achieve reductions of this level, without culling significant stock numbers.

“All Kiwis need to ask themselves one simple question: ‘if we cut our agricultural production by up to 50% over the next 30 years, what is the country going to do for jobs, taxes and community investment, in the future?”

There is no practical, sustainable or viable answer to that question.

 In complete contradiction to the most recent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report, New Zealand farmers will also not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees.

“Large fossil carbon dioxide polluters can offset their emissions by continuing to buy up land and putting it into forestry, but farmers will not be able to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

“Basically pastoral farming is being used to buy the rest of New Zealand time to deal with the fundamental driver of climate change – increased carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the greenhouse gas the government obviously finds too politically hot to handle.”

This government keeps talking about fairness then introducing policies that are anything but fair.

Q: Isn’t a split gas target what the agricultural sector wanted?
A: A split gas target for long and short-lived greenhouse gases is required in order to reflect the dramatically different reduction needed in order to have each gas no longer contribute to additional warming of the atmosphere. The reduction targets announced by the Government go above and beyond what is required for methane to reach net zero carbon dioxide equivalent. We welcome a split gas target but the target for methane itself is not viable.

Q: Who said biological methane doesn’t need to reduce to net zero by 2050, like the other greenhouse gases?
A: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission and most recently the Climate Change Commission in the UK.

Most prominently, the internationally recognised climate scientists from Oxford (including Professor Myles Allen) and Victoria University of Wellington (including Prof. Dave Frame) have published research identifying a 0.3% year-on-year reduction in biological methane would ensure that the gas had no additional warming impact. This equates to a 10% reduction by 2050 (not 2020 as proposed by Government). These scientists have been lead authors in chapters of IPCC reports.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, in his 29 March 2019 report ‘Farms, forests and fossil fuels’ (pg. 80) said if New Zealand wished to stabilise the contribution of livestock methane to global warming at its 2016 level, it would need to reduce these emissions by 10-22% by 2050. He said: “Unless large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are achieved, efforts to reduce methane and nitrous oxide will be of limited long-term value.”

Q: If farmers aren’t required to get methane emissions down to net zero by 2050, as with the other greenhouse gases, isn’t that letting agriculture ‘off the hook’?
A: No. Methane emissions need to only slightly reduce to have no additional warming effect (equivalent to zero gross carbon dioxide emissions). This is because methane is a relatively short-lived gas in the atmosphere.

Under the Zero Carbon Bill targets farmers are being required to reduce another biological emission, nitrous oxide, to net zero by 2050.  Farmers (and processors) are also big users of transport and electricity to harvest/process/get their goods to market, so like other New Zealanders and industry sectors they will bear the costs of reducing carbon dioxide to net zero by 2050.

Q: What’s wrong with the tougher methane reduction targets and deadlines?
A: The announced targets disregard the core principal of all gases being reduced equally in order to have the same impact in reducing global warming. The 10% reduction target for methane by 2030, goes beyond what is needed to achieve no further contribution to warming from methane. This target is expecting farmers to reduce methane 3 times greater than required for methane to no longer contribute to additional global warming.

Essentially this means the 10% methane target is required to be achieved two decades before the target for all other gases.

Apart from the obvious significant economic impacts this is also likely to have the counterproductive impact of increasing global warming, as no other agricultural exporting country is setting such tough methane targets.  Less efficient trade competitors will fill the market gap created by the reduced food production in New Zealand. This concept is known as “emissions leakage”.

Q: Where does the figure of ‘27% – 47%’ reduction for methane by 2050 come from?
A: Good question. There are no Government reports outlining the reasoning for the figures. The Government cannot provide any analysis of how they arrive at the 24%- 47% figure. The numbers are from the 2018 IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  Note these are ‘scenarios’, one of which includes a nuclear power option and another allows for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions.

Q: But can’t farmers just plant trees to offset methane?
A:  No, the Government has specifically prevented farmers from offsetting methane emissions. A coal power station will be allowed to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by buying up farms and planting pines trees but a farmer will not be allowed to offset their methane emissions by planting trees on their own land.

This is contradictory to the recent recommendations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who recommended a landscape approach to forestry offsets. Under the PCE’s landscape approach the use of forestry offsets would be limited to biological methane, and offsetting nitrous oxide would be limited to native vegetation, and fossil carbon dioxide would not be offset at all by planting trees.

The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill announcement makes no distinction between fossil and biological greenhouse gases and operates in a reality where a carbon dioxide molecule is as theoretically stable in a pine tree in Nelson as one in solid coal a kilometre under the ground.

Q: How can farmers reduce their emissions in order to reach the methane target?
A:  Currently the only way farmers can reduce methane emissions is to feed less dry matter to livestock. The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG) commissioned work that shows in order to significantly reduce livestock methane emissions in the future without cutting production many currently unavailable and uncertain technologies will need to be developed and commercialized, including genetically modified ryegrass crops.

This is yet another aspirational policy from the government without a plan and without a scientific basis.

It’s also another example of a policy that won’t make a measurable environmental difference but will come at a high social and economic cost.


Rural round-up

July 28, 2018

Ag sector backs gas reductions – Hugh Stringleman:

The primary sector has put forward a harmonious position in more than 14,000 submissions on the proposed Zero Carbon Bill and New Zealand’s 2050 targets, policies and budgets.

All agricultural and horticultural bodies have supported option two for emissions reductions for long-lived greenhouse gases and stabilisation for short-lived gases like methane.

The six-week public consultation, Our Climate Our Say, began in early June and has now closed so the Ministry for the Environment can collate the responses. . .

Nitrogen is necessary for food production – Jacqueline Rowarth:

In a world of 7.64 billion human mouths the food production system cannot cope without the use of nitrogen fertiliser.

It is estimated the Haber-Bosch process, which is fundamental in the production of ammonia (the precursor to the making of nitrogenous fertiliser), feeds 50% of the global population. 

Though some sectors of the world are now overweight because food is both available and cheap, in other parts of the world food security and malnourishment are still problems. 

Remove nitrogen fertiliser from the equation and the problems will increase. . . 

Tegel Foods calls for hearings on Kaipara’s mega chicken farm plans to be suspended – Annette Lambly:

A controversial application to farm nine million chickens a year on a proposed free range poultry farm in Northland has been suspended.

Applicant Tegel Foods said it needed more time to respond to issues raised by Northland Regional Council and Kaipara District Council ahead of a hearing planned for August 8.

Thousands of people have opposed the plans over concerns about the smell the farm, near Dargaville, could cause. . .

Chiefs prop turns award winning farmer – Esther Taunton:

Former Chiefs prop Shane Cleaver talks about the day his promising rugby career ended in blunt terms.

“I walked off the field and chucked the boots in the bin,” he says. “I knew I was done after that.”

Plagued by concussion throughout his six-year professional career, Cleaver was playing for Taranaki against Southland in 2013 when yet another knock to the head left him out cold.  

“Before that game I was already struggling.  I’d had a knock the week before and I was in the toilet trying not to spew pre-game, I was dizzy, I was really battling,” he says. . .

Turning the dirt on carbon farming:

With growing knowledge and new tools, carbon farming is emerging as a major consideration for agriculture in its effort to combat climate change.

The USA lead the world in exploring the sequestering of carbon in soil. Californian Jeff Creque, who has a PhD in rangeland ecology, has been to the fore since the early 2000s, co-founding the Marin Carbon Project (MCP), a consortium of university researchers, county and federal agencies, non-profits and a science advisory task force.

“Most folks don’t understand soil and its potential as a carbon sink,” Creque told Fonterra. “And most (of) agriculture does not understand or engage with that process either. Carbon has been missing from our agricultural curricula for a very long time and we see it finally coming back into the conversation today.” . .

Kenyan Farmer: on cusp of a biotech revolution, Africa faces resistance from Europe and anti-GMO activists – Bilbert arap Bor:

Farmers have good years and bad years. Here in Kenya, however, the good years never seemed quite as good as they could have been and the bad years have felt worse than necessary.

Why?

It’s because we can’t take advantage of tools that farmers in much of the developed world take for granted: genetically engineered crops, often referred to as GMOs. In many countries, they’ve transformed farming, helping farmers contend with weeds, pests and drought. In my country, Kenya, we’re still languishing in the 20thcentury, waiting for the arrival of this 21st-century technology. . .

 


Rural round-up

July 14, 2018

Good times are here – Annette Scott:

It’s been a long time coming but sheep farming is where it should be, Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Miles Anderson says.

With winter schedules knocking on the door of $8, global markets largely continuing to track along at the solid pace of recent months and global inventories remaining low it’s a good time to be a sheep farmer, he said.

Confidence at the farmgate in sheep is strongest since 2011. . .

Get picky when buying stock – Glenys Christian:

More than 150 farmers at a Mycoplasma bovis meeting in Dargaville were told to choose their breeder rather than their bull.

“You need to ask some very strong questions,” Chris Biddles, who established Te Atarangi Angus stud on the nearby Pouto Peninsula over 30 years ago, said.

Firstly, farmers looking for service bulls for their herds should choose a breeder with a registered herd. . .

Tractor sales could reach record high :

Tractor and machinery sales could hit a record high by the end of the year, even though rural customers are exercising caution, says an industry body.

Sales of tractors are up more than 25 per cent on this time last year and all sectors are showing buoyancy, said new NZ Tractor and Machinery Association president John Tulloch.

Year-to-date figures to the end of June showed a total of 1876 sales across all HP categories compared with 1448 in 2017: a total increase of 26.1 per cent. . .

Mycoplasma bovis: supposed facts don’t add up – Keith Woodford:

[With the re-organisation of the New Zealand rural media and the demise of NZ Farmer for which I previously wrote, this is the first of a new series of fortnightly articles I will be writing for Farmers Weekly and also published at http://www.interest.co.nz. Whereas my articles in Stuff  (online and in their hardcopy newspapers ) are about rural issues, but largely for an urban audience, the Farmers Weekly articles are primarily for farmers and those more directly involved in rural matters.]

A key message from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has been “generally prolonged or repeated contact with infected animals is required for the disease to be transmitted” (MPI website). Another key message has been that the disease has only been here since the end of 2015. . . .

One week left to influence emissions bill:

Farmers have just one week left to submit their opinions on the Zero Carbon Bill. Climate change ambassadors for the dairy sector are urging farmers to have their say on the new 2050 emissions target the bill will set in place.

The government is asking for public feedback on three possible 2050 emission reduction targets.

DairyNZ and many other primary sector organisations are supportive of a new target which will reduce carbon emissions to net zero, and stabilise methane emissions. This is an option dairy farmers can support by submitting online. . .

Motor Industry Association calls for new safety rules for ATV operators – Olivia Fairhusrt:

The Motor Industry Association (MIA) is calling for mandatory safety rules for the use of quad bikes and small utility vehicles in the workplace, after several coronial inquests.

The inquests revealed new rules would reduce serious injuries and fatalities, which prompted the call to the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety for compulsory regulations.

The association called for helmets to be made compulsory, children under 16 to be forbidden from riding adult size quad bikes and passengers to be banned from single seat bikes.

Association chief executive David Crawford said the safe use of small vehicles, farm bikes, ATV (All-Terrain Vehicles) and side-by-side vehicles is “of paramount importance to manufacturers, distributors, dealerships and their customers“. . .

Fixating on the milk price is distracting the dairy industry from its own decline, expert says – Margot Kelly:

A leading dairy figure is warning the Australian industry needs to address underlying issues affecting farm profitability, rather than fixating on milk prices.

Farmgate milk prices have been in the spotlight since major processors suddenly and retrospectively cut prices in 2016.

The man who has headed up some of the largest dairy companies in the southern hemisphere said the trend of decreasing farm profitability in Australia had been emerging well before the dairy crisis. . . 

 

Lab meat: more hype than substance – Post Veganism:

If you believe all the headlines, in a few short years or even less time, the way meat is grown will radically change. Brewing like tanks full of dividing  cells will replace farms and factory farms raising livestock, thus no more animals will be slaughtered, all environmental issues- including climate change and water scarcity- will be resolved, world hunger will no longer exist, and deforestation will no longer be necessary. Plus best of all there will be meat a plenty that even die-hard vegans can consume with a clear conscience.

Okay, maybe this representation is a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. A lot of hyped up marketing spin is involved and has been expended to “position” lab meat, including re-branding it as “clean meat” (in vitro meat, cell meat, and cultured meat also didn’t do so good in the marketing surveys). That hype involves creating a market for a product line that might otherwise only have a very limited audience and appeal. To build a market, consumers have to be dissuaded from consuming real meat. So to build an audience a whole litany of out of context statistics are repeated about water footprints, land use, feed efficiency, deforestation, greenhouse gases, health concerns, and animal welfare. . . 


Agriculture convenient scapegoat

June 7, 2018

Should farmers be worried about the Zero Carbon Bill’s impact?

An agricultural leader says his sector has “some trepidation” that taking steps to protect the environment may have an unnecessary impact on the farming community.

Federated Farmers dairy sector chair Andrew Hoggard is keeping a close eye on the Zero Carbon Bill, with public consultations opening on Thursday.

The proposed legislation would put climate change targets into law, in line with the goal of the country becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

“The key thing most farmers want to see with the Zero Carbon Bill is that it recognises the difference between methane and carbon dioxide,” Mr Hoggard told The AM Show.

“Methane is 75 percent of the gases that come from agriculture but it is a short-lived gas, unlike carbon dioxide – so it basically recycles.”

Mr Hoggard says the two are often confused, but if methane emissions remain “static”, have no greater impact. He says dropping methane levels by “4 or 5 percent” would bring them back to 1990 levels.

He added it “wouldn’t make any sense” if the Government considers cutting back on farming as a solution.

“New Zealand feeds about 40 million people in the world, so if we reduce our agricultural production by 20 percent to supposedly reduce emissions by 20 percent, there is effectively 8 million people that will be looking for food elsewhere and it probably won’t be done as well as what it is in New Zealand.” . . 

There is a danger with this Bill that politicians will act locally without thinking globally.

The ban on oil exploration here is an example of that. It is expected to increase global emissions by replacing New Zealand gas with coal gas from China.

There is a similar danger with the Carbon Zero Bill.

Any policies which increase the cost of food production and reduce the amount produced in New Zealand will provide the opportunity for increased production in other countries with much less efficient and environmentally sustainable farming systems.

Derek Daniell, one of this country’s leading farmers, sheep breeders and thinkers, says NZ agriculture makes a convenient scapegoat.

New Zealand’s environmental profile has been shafted by the one-sided, false accounting analysis of the Kyoto Accord.

Consider:

Why was New Zealand the only country to have agriculture emissions specifically included in Kyoto? Because the blame could be shifted to methane emissions from ruminants, even though the methane percentage in the atmosphere has been constant over the past 25 years. And ruminants have been around for 90 million years. Their methane emissions had a balance in the earth’s atmosphere long before the world became overstocked with humans, who are using up billions of years of stored energy as oil, coal and gas in a short binge.

No credit is given for the buildup of top soil and organic matter under our pastoral farming system, under the “single entry” accounting approach. This is a much more virtuous farming system than monoculture cropping, using herbicides and pesticides to kill competing plants and animals, and continually depleting the organic matter in the soil. How long is monoculture cropping around the world going to be sustainable?

Tourism is touted as a great industry for New Zealand, with recent growth to 3.7 million visitors. But no one talks about the 2.9 million Kiwis travelling OUT of the country, and spending more than $10 billion in the process. This is another example of “single entry accounting”. And no one talks about the continual increase in GHG caused by this two way travel.

The energy industry is another sector under attack from the current government, and environmental lobby groups. The local oil, gas and coal industry supplies the equivalent of 78 percent of domestic requirements, but reducing. We will become more and more dependent on an oil tanker sailing into the Whangarei refinery every six days. This is another example of “single entry” accounting. If the government restricts this sector, it will simply reduce the living standards of New Zealanders, because we will import more energy. And be less self sufficient. . . 

Derek’s column is worth reading in full which you can do if you click on the link above.


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