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North Canterbury will be years in recovery from the drought gripping the area, and the extension of this into the winter has really caught some farmers out. While the affected region is roughly from Amberley in the south up to Conway Flat in the north, rain that comes in from the south seems to move out to sea before it gets to the struggling areas. An estimated 100,000 sheep are out of the area on grazing due to a complete lack of feed, and farmers are facing decisions on whether to bring stock home or even share-farm some. Hay and baleage is all but gone and prices are at a premium for anything left. But positives come in the form of support from outside the region with nearly 500 bales of baleage from as far afield as south of Ashburton, says North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Doug Archbold.

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The Veterinary Association’s goal to be no longer reliant on antibiotics by 2030 is unrealistic, says AgCarm. The major agricultural chemical and veterinary medicine manufacturers expressed surprise at the 2030 goal, and felt that it had come completely out of the blue. AgCarm chief executive Mark Ross said that the company shared the Association’s concern around growing levels of antibiotic resistance, but that the 2030 goal was unrealistic and without much context. The organization is getting together a working group and looking at what can be done from a New Zealand perspective, and are hoping to agree on a way forward to combat what is a definite problem. New Zealand is already the third lowest user of animal antibiotics in the world, but Veterinary Association’s president Steve Merchant says the goal will take considerable commitment and collaboration from all sectors.

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Forestry workers have been issued a warning about not having accident cover. The Council of Trade Unions has said that some employers have been getting out of paying their ACC levies by considering their workers as independent contractors, a fact that may be sliding past many employees. Union ACC lawyer Hazel Armstrong believes the practice is widespread, and that there is a major issue around the shifting of responsibility from employer to employee. A comparison between how many people are on the ground in forestry and how many levies are actually paid could indicate the size of this issue, and potentially alert many workers about the necessity of accident cover.

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The mental health of farmers was focused on at a rural professionals meeting in Amberley over the weekend. Canterbury’s drought combined with plummeting dairy prices has many farmers more than concerned, and as one speaker put it, standing on a precipice. Federated Farmers local meat and fibre chairman Dan Hodgen said that the drought was having a very real impact on him as a farmer, though no-one seemed to want to exaggerate it. The trust’s volunteers had identified one or two very serious mental health problems during their visits to 530 dryland farms, and was quite nervous that this was ‘just the start’. Mindful of these stresses the trust is lobbying for the Minister of Primary Industries to grant some tax relief. Farm consultant Gary Walton said North Canterbury had been through droughts like this before, and suggested that people be on the look-out for farmers who had ‘lost their usual spark’.

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Health and Safety regulation changes should encourage farmers as they are now allowed recreational access to their properties without worrying unduly about liability. The change is exactly what farmers had asked for and has clarified what a workplace is, including farm buildings and structures necessary to the operating of the farm in its definition, and excluding other parts where work is not carried out. Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne said the change was sensible, and had taken down the road block in front of a decade’s worth of work making sure access to farms was available. Opposition parties and the Council of Trade Unions have accused the Government of gutting the Bill, saying the latest version of the legislation fails to deliver what the Government promised.

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Kiwifruit marketer Zespri is looking forward to a good season with golden kiwifruit, increasing their latest price forecasts and reporting a big lift in sales at its general meeting in Tauranga recently. Chief executive Lain Jager said that gold returns would be almost $1 per tray more than forecasted in May, though the forecast for the green variety has fallen slightly. Both forecasts are less than 2014, but Jager pronounced last year an extraordinary year, with severe frosts in Chile causing a global shortage in kiwifruit. Before the PSA vine disease impacted 2011 saw the last record year and Zespri are expecting this year to top even that with more than 118 million trays forecasted for sale.

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Marketing to the Rural Sector Conference

Marketing to the Rural Sector Conference

Crowne Plaza  (Auckland)

The Marketing to the Rural Sector Conference is back again. Last year this event attracted well over 100 delegates and is gaining a reputation of being a must-attend event for marketers marketing to the rural sector. Some of the highly rated past speakers are back and we have Kim Skidum-Reid from Australia, to speak on sponsorship as a marketing strategy; brought to you by NZX Agri. Attend this conference to get some fresh insights and hear case studies from industry leaders with stories worth sharing.

More info: