Struggling dairy farmers are a major concern for  ASB Bank’s loans .    The Australian-owned bank’s  posted a record $913 million profit up 6 per cent on last year with CEO Barbara Chapman saying  the dairy sector has weighed heavily on the bank’s loans, and the bank increasing  its bad  loans provision by nearly 50%  on the previous year to $130m.     ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman says  the bank reviews all of its loans annually and looks at cash flows for every farm before giving each one a credit rating and setting a provision.    She says more farmers are looking at downgrades in their credit cycles which was  not unexpected.     ASB has $8 billion in agricultural lending , mostly  to dairy and  says over the past 10 years it  has written off less than $40m in impaired loans to dairy farmers.    On the positive side she says it’s an area of our business that is very used to commodity price fluctuations and farmers are very good at adjusting their seasonal costs as they go through these cycles.    ASB economists are expecting milk prices to increase to about $6 a kilogram by May 2017 with the current price is $4.25 per kilogram of milksolids
 
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Farmers at Rangitaiki are describing the weekend snow storm that devastated the area as  a beautiful disaster.    The snow dump shut highways, cut power supplies for days and wrought havoc to farm buildings and fence lines and threatening stock.    The extent of the damage caused by the heaviest dump of snow in the area since local weather records started 54 years ago, left around 200 homes at Rangitaiki without power.    Locals say it’s difficult to describe the extent of the damage and most people outside the area have no idea of the devastation.     At Landcorp’s  Lochinver Station on the Napier Taupo road they’re using helicopters to take staff out to check on stock stranded in remote parts of the station and to carve out trails in the snow and drop off feed.   The manager of neighbouring 1790ha Taharua Station, Paul O’Hagan, says cows are now being  milked again and  says the storm hit right at the start of calving and couldn’t have come at a worse time with calves being born in a howling snow storm.
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Jacqueline Rowarth​ is  the new chief scientist at the Environmental Protection Authority.   She will resign as Waikato University’s professor of agribusiness and start the newly created position at the end of October.    Professor Rowarth says  her academic background will serve her well in the new position designed to help New Zealanders understand the science behind EPA decisions.   Jacqueline Rowarth says the new role will be a considerable change from teaching but  she thinks here experience will provide a foundation for what has to be done for New Zealand through the EPA.    She has a degree in Agricultural Science with honours in Environmental Agriculture, PhD in Soil Science and research in carbon, nitrogen, food and economics.    Jacqueline Rowarth says  her appointment to an organisation centred on environmental protection will raise eyebrows among the environmental lobby, given her role as an agricultural commentator and her dairy farming interests in Waikato,   but she says her opinions have always been based on scientific evidence, not emotion.    EPA chief executive Dr Allan Freeth says Prof Rowarth has a depth and breadth of experience that covers agricultural science, the environment and agribusiness, and has  established herself as a good communicator and trusted voice for science.
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Last week the US opened its market to chilled and frozen Brazilian beef for the first time since 2003. While the move could be significant given the volumes of beef Brazil produces, it appears that the short to medium term impact is likely to be minimal.    Unlike New Zealand,  Brazil does not have its own quota for beef exports to the US.   So it has to share the “other country” quota of 64,805 tonnes with 4 other countries; Meanwhile NZ’s quota limit is 213,402 tonnes.      It is possible for Brazil to export outside of this limit, but if it does the rate of duty lifts from 4.4 cents per kilo to 26.4 %.   These current tariffs are scheduled to change in 2020, and Brazil may be offered a higher quota limit but to date there are no Brazilian plants with export approval to ship to the US.   Even once export accreditation has been gained, food safety will remain a large concern for end-users.    Food safety is paramount for consumers and large-scale end-users will not be willing to  risk reputations on product that has not been proven to meet consumer food safety requirements.
A small yarding of store cattle sold to a mainly local bench of buyers.     Specially advertised R2 heifers were the main feature and were well presented cattle.   South Devon,at  451kg, topped the section at $1300, but it was the lighter Ang & A/H, and Char/Here x, that cracked $3/kg, to sell for $3.08-$3.11/kg.     Hereford x were from the Chatham’s  and were the only line on offer in the R2 pens, though they sold well enough at $1240 for $3.08/kg.     R1 Ang & A/H steers, weighing 220-258kg stayed local and sold for $890-$950, with the lighter line up to $4.05/kg.      A bigger store cattle sale is calendared for next Wednesday, with good numbers of R2 steers already penciled in.      In the lamb pens the store lamb yarding featured nearly 6,000  with  Lambs from the  Chathams and Wairoa.      There was a wide range on offer, and many were presented in full wool with the longer term lambs tending  to sell at discounted levels to the shorn lines.   Ewe and male, 30kg and under, were still selling in excess of $3/kg, while 32-34kg lines were steady with ewes making $71-$100 at $2.88/kg, and males $96-$98 at $2.92/kg.     Heavier lambs were discounted, with 35-37kg ewe lambs dropping to $2.65/kg, and males $2.74/kg.    Ewes with LAF numbers continued to climb, and good MA in full wool, with forward black face lambs, made $70-$71.50, with other lines at $64.50-$69.50 all counted.