Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A good day for NZ pigs

The use of sow stalls on New Zealand pig farms will be banned by the end of 2015.

Today I released the Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010. The practice of sow stalls is now limited to four weeks after mating in 2012, and prohibited by the end of 2015.

The growing unease of many New Zealanders about the use of sow stalls made it clear that change was necessary.

Worldwide there’s increasing opposition to highly intensive systems of pig farming.

Sow stalls are currently used in most countries, including USA, Canada and most of the European Union. The Australian pork industry is voluntarily phasing out sow stalls by 2017.

A five-year time frame on phasing out sow stalls will allow New Zealand farmers to change their production systems and train staff in new management skills so that the long-term sustainability of our pig industry is not put at risk.

The new code also places new limits on the use of farrowing crates.

While the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee believes that the use of farrowing crates should also be phased out, it recognises this can only happen when alternative management systems are in place.

These must take the welfare of sows and piglets into account, and must also allow our pork producers to remain competitive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


New Zealand kiwifruit growers are facing challenging times as some battle with the kiwifruit vine disease, Psa.

It is a very serious situation for New Zealand’s billion dollar kiwifruit industry as we know Psa has devastated crops overseas, especially in Italy.

A programme of aggressive containment is the immediate action and the key to this is a collaborative approach between Government and industry.

I’ve been in the Bay of Plenty in recent weeks with the MAF Biosecurity response team and Zespri who are working very closely with growers on the issue.

The Government is fully committed to working with industry and all necessary resources are being made available to fight the disease.

The response is likely to require a significant financial commitment from both Government and industry, and we stand ready to deliver this commitment as needed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Right royal rendezvous

Prince Charles and I have a meeting at Balmoral Estate in Scotland next week where we’ll discuss wool.

The Prince is a champion of the efforts of Commonwealth farmers to grow wool and restore profitability to the sector.

His “Wool Project” mirrors New Zealand’s campaign to get our strong wool industry back on track.

I look forward to discussing with the Prince how to increase demand for wool as a naturally renewable and sustainable product.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pocket money

National’s 1 October tax cuts will support our rural communities, local businesses, and the economic recovery.

The tax package is designed to enhance economic growth. It seeks to rebalance the economy towards earnings, savings, and investing, and away from the unsustainable borrowing, consumption, and over-investment in housing of the past decade.

The tax cuts on 1 October will leave the vast majority of people better off even after the GST rise. Most sole traders – such as farmers, agricultural contractors, and the vital small businesses that support our primary sector – will have more money in their pockets.

It’s important to remember they are also about providing the right incentives. They are the next step in National’s programme to encourage exports and investment.

Together – with the upcoming reduction in company tax – the tax cuts will allow rural enterprises to reduce debt, invest in their staff and plant, and support growth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Canterbury Earthquake

One thing the devastating Canterbury earthquake has shown us is that in the worst of times, you see the best of New Zealand. I have spent as much time as possible in the area since the earthquake hit, and the generosity of people pitching in to help their neighbours has been overwhelming.

In true Kiwi spirit, Canterbury farmers have not only been dealing with damage to their own properties, but also helping out their mates. Within hours of the quake, dairy farms were sharing generators to get cows milked and I heard of one shed designed for 400 cows milking 2000 over 24 hours.

There is a lot to do before life is back to normal for many Cantabrians, but they are not alone - the whole of New Zealand is behind them. Special legislation has been passed giving the Government powers to get the region back on its feet as soon as possible. In rural Canterbury, we have appointed an experienced rural emergency coordinator to oversee recovery efforts on farm properties, working with the newly-established Regional Rural Recovery Group.

It will take a long time to work through the damage caused by the earthquake. But everyone involved in the emergency response is doing a fantastic job. The Government is committed to rebuilding Canterbury and we will get the job done.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green light for growth

Great news yesterday with the announcement of two Primary Growth Partnership projects totalling $321 million dollars that will boost productivity and new products for the dairy and red meat sectors.

The Government's PGP fund is injecting $144 million into the partnerships, with industry funding $177 million. These follow on from programmes already approved for the arable, forestry and fine wool sectors.

The programmes will take primary sector innovation to a whole new level and deliver directly on our economic growth plan. It is the biggest investment in primary sector innovation in decades and really shows how serious the Government is about boosting economic growth through business innovation.

The two new partnerships involve a DairyNZ/Fonterra-led
programme and a Silver Fern Farms, PGG Wrightson and
Landcorp Farming programme.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meat matters

Action is needed to revive our flagging meat industry.

Lamb returns in the UK market are at their highest, but our sheep and beef farmers are struggling.

The announcement by the Meat Industry Association and Beef + Lamb New Zealand for a joint strategy to lift the industry’s performance is exactly the sort of action needed.

The Government has thrown its support behind the initiative because we are committed to restoring profitability to the meat sector.

It is only with concerted co-operation from everyone involved that we will see results.

New Zealand’s meat sector represents nearly $6 billion in export receipts and supports thousands of jobs.

Our farmers are efficient and innovative producers of high value products and the world is demanding more.

But with more and more land being converted to dairying and forestry, farmers must be convinced that there is a future in sheep and beef farming.

This new partnership is an obvious link to the future profitability of the sector.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Success at Fieldays

Two words to sum up the biggest event on our farming calendar – ‘fantastic Fieldays’.

The four-day rural showcase was a triumph for the organisers, with more than 120,000 people going through the gates of Mystery Creek, up from 117,000 last year.

The growing international connection was particularly notable with trade exhibitors from China, France, Italy, Argentina, Chile and the UK amongst those on show. This was really great to see.

The good relationship between farmers and the Government was clearly evident on the day the Prime Minister and I visited Mystery Creek. Sure, a small number of farmers wanted to voice their concerns about the Emissions Trading Scheme but this gave me a chance to debate the facts and give some realistic costs of the scheme, not the blatantly wrong figures some have been using.

As the largest agricultural showcase in the Southern Hemisphere, Fieldays shows how New Zealand agriculture is leading the world, and the important role rural communities play in our prosperity.

The theme of this year’s Fieldays was innovation and this was evident on many of the stands with organisers reporting new products and smart ideas driving good sales growth. It will be interesting to see the final sales results when they come through.

A highlight for me was the opportunity to officially announce next year’s theme – ‘Breaking Barriers to Productivity’. This is all about coming up with solutions to obstacles that stifle productivity in the primary sector.

As Minister of Agriculture, I am working hard to help deliver exactly these solutions.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How much carbon with your lamb chop?

New Zealand lamb is shipped to supermarkets around the world. I saw this first hand at a supermarket in China recently.

The distance from New Zealand to export markets has in the past stirred up the food mile debate, so I was pleased to see the lamb industry’s new carbon footprint study which largely debunks the argument.

The report measured greenhouse gas emissions involved in the production, processing, transportation and consumption of exported lamb.

The study found transportation of lamb from New Zealand to the world is a minor percentage of emissions. And in fact, British shoppers create more emissions between picking up their lamb from the supermarket and serving it for Sunday lunch.

Now we have a real measure the next step is management and reduction.

View the lamb footprinting study

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Centre stage

The Government's commitment to responding sensibly to climate change and encouraging science and innovation was underlined recently when the Prime Minister and I opened the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in Palmerston North.

This centre marks a new era for agricultural emissions research.

It will support New Zealand in taking a significant leap forward in meeting the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture while increasing productivity.

New Zealand must meet its international commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and it must support farmers and growers to achieve this through new technologies.
As a country we have the need, we have the expertise and now we have the channel through which we will meet our commitments and lead the world in pastoral livestock research.

The centre, established as part of the Government’s Primary Growth Partnership initiative, will receive $5 million of direct government funding each year for the next 10 years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dairy cow care

Animal welfare is high on the public’s agenda.

The public expects animals under our care to be well looked after and not to suffer unnecessarily. There is nothing complicated about these expectations.

Globally New Zealand has good standing when it comes to animal welfare and I am determined to safeguard that reputation.

In fact, I am committed to raising standards.

The new Animal Welfare Code for Dairy Cattle provides immediate animal welfare gains for the majority of dairy cattle in New Zealand.

It provides clear guidelines about the handling and management of dairy cattle and leaves farmers in no doubt about the standards of welfare they should meet.

It covers all areas of dairy cattle management from handling and husbandry practices, to food, water, shelter and health.

The dairy industry, with its involvement in developing this code, has taken a positive and proactive approach to animal welfare. Its continued leadership will be vital in ensuring that the standards in this code are met and even exceeded.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New chapter for wool

As Winston Churchill once said: “If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

And it is the future 35 wool sector leaders focused on, when they agreed to adopt the recommendations of the Wool Taskforce report Restoring Profitability to the Strong Wool Sector.

It is an encouraging step forward for the New Zealand wool industry and I’m hopeful it marks the beginning of a new chapter.

There has been robust discussion about the report, but everyone agrees that forming a ‘single voice’ to act on behalf of the industry is a vital first step in ensuring the sector’s future.

The answer doesn’t lie with any of the existing organisations, but rather with a clean slate approach.

I am now seeking an independent expert to work on forming a single body for the New Zealand wool industry. This convenor will begin the task of unifying an industry that has been fragmented for far too long.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Future-proofing with Tracing Scheme

We have recently given the green light to a livestock tracing scheme which will protect New Zealand’s excellent food safety reputation in international markets and help boost biosecurity.

The National Animal Identification Traceability (NAIT) project is a vital key towards future-proofing New Zealand agriculture.

It is primarily a data recording and collection system which will be compulsory, initially, for cattle farmers, followed a year later by deer farmers. It will start rolling out from October next year.

While NAIT has copped some flak, the decision is really a no-brainer. If we ignore the fact that most of our major trading partners already have animal ID systems in place and we fail to keep up, we will lose precious market share.

There will be a cost to farmers of around $2 more than what they are currently paying for non-electronic ear tags. But the focus is on ensuring that the tracing system is affordable for farmers and the wider industry.
The majority of farmers who I have spoken to agree that NAIT is an important step for New Zealand agriculture and I have been happy to see that many industry organisations also support the Government’s move.

New Zealand punches above its weight when it comes to accessing world markets and meeting the demands of our increasingly discerning consumers. NAIT is a logical step towards ensuring market confidence in our products and providing the best biosecurity protection and response possible.

For more information on the NAIT scheme you can visit the MAF website here or click here for a fact sheet.