Food and fibre fund open for agribusiness

The value of New Zealand’s food and fibre sectors is set to grow as a primary sector investment fund opens for business, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said at the Ashburton A&P show today.

Proposals for the $40 million a year Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund must demonstrate they will deliver benefits beyond the applicants to wider New Zealand, such as creating new high-value jobs in rural communities, he said.

“SFF Futures provides a single gateway for farmers, growers and organisations to seek investment in projects that help our economic engine move from volume to value.

“The projects will grow important industries, deliver environmental and sustainability benefits, foster collaboration, build capability, create new products, services and jobs, and importantly retain the benefits in New Zealand.

“This fits in with the work of the Primary Sector Council, which is taking a good look into the future of our primary sectors to help direct a strategic path forward for each sector.”

Together SFF Futures and the Primary Sector Council will help farmers and growers run their operations sustainably and profitably, driving a strong economy that helps raise the living standards of all New Zealanders, Mr O’Connor said.

Applications for funding can be made at www.mpi.govt.nz/funding.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture 

Tauranga Moana launches biosecurity collective

National and international biosecurity experts will gather in Tauranga this week for a series of biosecurity-related events and the launch of a new initiative.

Local and national government, iwi, businesses and other organisations have banded together to form Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital (TMBC) to tackle the threat of invasive pests and diseases. It is the first group of its kind in New Zealand.

The partnership, which launches tomorrow, will promote and coordinate biosecurity actions across Tauranga Moana.

“In practice, that means increasing local awareness about why biosecurity matters deeply to all of us who live here and just what would be lost if exotic pests enter or establish here,” says TMBC programme director Andrew Harrison.

“It’s about a pretty powerful, knowledgeable group standing shoulder to shoulder and saying it’s absolutely essential we pool our expertise and resources for the sake of the environment, our taonga, our economy.”

Mr Harrison says immediate TMBC priorities include overseeing a week of biosecurity-related activities, starting today. These activities include industry training days and public events, conferences and information sessions involving forestry and kiwifruit industries, iwi, Port of Tauranga, school children and more.

The group will host a one-day symposium at Tauranga Yacht Club tomorrow, where Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor will launch TMBC. Speakers and delegates will be treated to a demonstration by detector dogs.

The Minister says TMBC is the first collective of its kind in New Zealand and an exemplar for other regions.

“The concept shows leadership by local people who are working together to protect their region,” Mr O’Connor says. “It’d be great to see more of the same spring up.”

Mr Harrison says several high-profile biosecurity incursions – Psa in kiwifruit, myrtle rust, Mysoplasma bovis, marine pests affecting our harbours – serve as a reminder of what is at stake.

“Here, we value the fruit produced by a local orchard or in our back yard, having a bbq outdoors, enjoying a tramp in our local bush. And a devastating pest like brown marmorated stink bug can swarm our region and take all of these away, as has happened offshore and must not happen here.

“Of course biosecurity also affects everyone earning a living and operating a business in the Bay of Plenty, where our economy is so dependent on the natural environment.”

TMBC supports the national Ko Tatou This Is Us campaign, unveiled last late last month, which focusses on the personal and cultural impacts of a biosecurity breach and asks all New Zealanders to help create ‘a biosecurity team of 4.7 million’.

Source: Tauranga Moana

Recovery package unveiled for farmers getting back to business after Mycoplasma bovis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today set out a recovery package to help farmers get back to business more quickly after being cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

The recovery package, rolled out by the Ministry for Primary Industries and response partners DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ, includes:

  • DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ Compensation Assistance Team
    • DairyNZ and Beef + LambNZ have put together a team of rural professionals who understand both farming and the compensation process who can sit down and work with farmers on their claims. The $400,000 cost is funded through the response.
  • Improved compensation form and guide
    • Set to be released this week, the simplified form will be easier to follow and the supporting guide will make clear what documents need to be submitted to ensure prompt payment of compensation claims.
  • Online milk production losses calculation tool
    • An online tool for farmers to easily estimate their milk production losses, to speed up compensation claims, will shortly be released.
  • Rural Support Trust boost
    • MPI has now completed training 80 Rural Support Trust members to provide crucial welfare support.
  • Regional Recovery Managers, in addition to the Acute Recovery Team
    • The Regional Centres in Invercargill, Oamaru, Ashburton and Hamilton will each have a regional recovery manager. They are being nominated and seconded by DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ and will help farmers develop a tailor-made recovery plan.

Ms Ardern and Mr O’Connor made the announcement on Bryce and Julie Stevenson’s beef farm in Wairarapa as the couple restock after eradicating Mycoplasma bovis.

Mr O’Connor said the response is making good progress in its world-first eradication attempt.

It was important to remember that confirmation of newly identified properties did not mean the disease was spreading, he said.

“It means we are tracing historically infected cattle and milk movements, many of which occurred before the disease had been discovered.

“Working closely with our farming industry partners, the Government remains confident eradication is on-track and we have a good chance of success. I thank all farmers who have helped get us to this point,” Damien O’Connor said.

Of New Zealand’s 24,000 farms, 74 have been infected to date with 36 subsequently destocked and cleared of Mycoplasma bovis.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Govt boost for vet graduates

Thirty graduate vets will receive a financial boost to help develop their careers through the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

The Ministry for Primary Industries Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians is designed to support and boost the number of graduate vets in our regions who are working with production animals such as cows, sheep and horses.

This year’s successful applicants will receive $55,000 each over five years — a total of $1.65 million.

“Our regions are desperate for skilled workers, including vets, so it’s important we give them every encouragement to pursue their veterinary careers in the primary industries, which support our rural communities, regions and economy,” Mr O’Connor said.

Find out more about the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians HERE.

Source: Minister of Agriculture

O’Connor’s speech on NZ agriculture, food production and GHG overlooked Sir Peter’s advice on GM

The Point of Order blog credited Agriculture  Minister  Damian  O’Connor  with delivering a good speech to the International Conference on Agricultural GHG Emissions and Food Security  this week.

He  told   his audience the global community needs more food of a higher quality and with less environmental impact than ever before, and New Zealand, with its low population density and a temperate climate, is ideal for agricultural production. He said: 

Through innovation and impressive productivity gains, helped by the removal of agricultural subsidies and tariffs in the 1980s, NZ can produce more food, more efficiently than ever before.

“We are not a large agricultural producer in global terms; our low population means we export a high proportion of our production. We’re the number 1 dairy exporter in the world, but produce only 3% of the world’s milk. We’re the number 6 beef exporter in the world, but  produce only 6% of the world’s beef.

“We live in the South-West Pacific, where our winters coincide with the North’s summers. This means NZ is in a position to supply food to the 90% of the global population who live in the Northern Hemisphere, outside of the North’s growing season”.

In the  drive to  reduce  agricultural  emissions, NZ is making a significant investment in research and development. Mr O’Connor drew attention to this:

“In the livestock sector we’ve found promising leads. Working with others, we’ve measured thousands of animals and have been able to identify some that emit lower levels of methane.

“We’ve screened hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds and isolated a handful that have large potential to reduce emissions. We’re undertaking world-leading research to try to develop a vaccine to reduce methane from livestock”.

The Minister continued by noting that the  Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change research programme was established

  • To help NZ meet international greenhouse gas reduction goals,
  • Maintain profitable and sustainable agriculture and forestry sectors, and
  • Address the lack of information on the impacts, implications and adaptations needed in the face of a changing climate.

In  the decade since its inception more than 150 projects have been funded with $50m from government– some with returns 10 times the original public investment.

But another 2.3 billion people will join the world’s human population by 2050. Feeding them means more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years than in the past 500.

If  NZ is to play its part  in boosting food production, Point of Order thought it was strange that Mr O’Connor omitted  from his speech any reference  to  the advice Sir Peter  Gluckman has been  giving the government.

In his final report as the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Sir  Peter contended NZ must revise its moratorium on genetic modification to access the most promising innovations to reduce agricultural emissions.

The July paper to the PM says farmers can take  immediate steps to start reducing agricultural emissions – but for NZ to make meaningful steps it will need to embrace technological innovations.

And  the most promising technologies rely on genetic engineering.

Those technologies include transgenic forage plants which reduce livestock emissions, transgenic endophytes which inhibit nitrogen, and GE forestry to accelerate tree growth for afforestation.

The  report noted social licence for these technologies does not exist in NZ.

“However, given the progression of science on one hand and a broader understanding of the crisis of climate change on the other, not having a further discussion of these technologies at some point may limit our options.”

A big political question is raised by this:  will the Labour-led  coalition  ignore the advice  of  someone as eminent as  Sir Peter  Gluckman  and sidestep the use of  GM  technologies,  when  clearly  they would  be the  most effective instruments to  reduce  agricultural emissions  while at the same  time expanding  production of  the  food the  world  so  urgently  will need?