Artificial-food debate needs science, not science fiction

In recent months I have received many emails asking if I have seen the RethinkX report  demonstrating how in ten years’ time animal proteins will have been largely replaced by artificial foods. By 2030, demand for cattle products will supposedly have fallen by 70%. At that time the global grasslands can be returned to nature.

Then this last week the emailers have been asking if I have seen George Monbiot’s report  in The Guardian on how artificial foods will replace both plant and animal foods, thereby saving the planet. According to Monbiot, this food of the future will be made in big laboratory-like factories in which the energy to drive bacterial growth-processes comes from hydrogen separated out from within water molecules.

My response to both the RethinkX and Monbiot reports is that we need more science and less science fiction when shaping the path ahead. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Land and water, Meat Industry | 9 Comments

Declining dairy farm values are likely to continue

Dairy farm values have been declining now for well over a year and there is no sign they will stabilise. The key issue is a lack of buyers with the necessary finance. The implications are starting to get serious.

There are multiple reasons why there is a lack of buyers. The biggest one is a change in bank lending policies. Those policies are set in Melbourne and Sydney where the big banks are headquartered.  Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Fonterra resolves Chilean dispute with buy-out

Fonterra’s announcement that it is purchasing the minority shareholding interests in Chilean dairy company Prolesur solves an acrimonious relationship between Fonterra and the Fundación Isabel Aninat. This may prove to be an early step in the rationalisation and eventual divestment of Fonterra’s Chilean operations.

Fonterra’s Chilean operations are managed under a complex structure. The major asset is the almost wholly-owned Soprole, which in turn owns 70.5 percent of Prolesur. Fonterra also owns additional shares in Prolesur through another structure, giving it a total Prolesur holding of 86.2 percent. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Chile, Dairy, Fonterra, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Carbon neutrality requires permanent forests not production forests

In recent months I have been writing about land-use transformation that will be driven increasingly by carbon trading. If New Zealand is to approach net-zero carbon, then it can only be achieved by a combination of modified lifestyles plus new technologies that either don’t yet exist or are yet to be commercialised. Even with all of these things, it will still require lots of forest plantings to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere in the economy.

A key point underlying the recent articles I have written is that the implications for rural-landscape change have been under-estimated and poorly communicated. A key thrust of this current article is that it is only by permanent forests rather than multiple-rotations of production forests that the march of the pine trees across the landscape can be managed. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry, greenhouse gases, Meat Industry | 17 Comments

Government is losing the forestry debate with rural New Zealand

The response of Government Ministers to rural concerns about forestry policy is polarising the debate. Describing rural perspectives as ‘fiction’, and upset rural protesters as ‘rednecks’, is counter-productive.

The combination of the Zero Carbon Act and forthcoming Emission Trading Scheme legislation will transform the New Zealand landscape. The Government has done a poor job of educating New Zealanders as to what it will mean. The Government is now on the defensive. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry, greenhouse gases, Meat Industry | 38 Comments

Conversion of farms to forestry is now ramping up

Earlier this year I wrote two articles, archived here and here, about the likely impact and consequences of policies that encourage conversion of pastoral land to forestry. I was particularly concerned about the actions and power of foreign investors, and the associated transformation of better-quality land.

My concern was not because of any fundamental objection to foreign investment to deal with shortages of investment capital in our economy. My concern was because of the sheer scale and power of overseas investors under current policies to change irrevocably the New Zealand landscape.

The responses I received indicated that I had indeed struck on a chord of concern and unease as to what we were doing to ourselves.

I also had both oral and email conversations with one person who has influence in the Wellington corridors of power. This person is listened to very carefully by Government when it comes to issues of forestry, the environment, climate and natural resources. This person told me I was wrong. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, carbon farming, forestry, Meat Industry | 10 Comments

Mycoplasma bovis eradication assessed as still feasible but with major caveats

The Mycoplasma bovis Technical Advisory Group (TAG), in its latest report released today (30 October 2019), has made a judgement that eradication of the disease remains feasible. As such, the national eradication program will undoubtedly continue.

However, within its report the TAG adds major caveats as to whether or not ‘biological freedom’ from the organism will indeed be achieved. The caveats are “that the number of undetected infected herds is not large, infection has not established and spread within the non-dairy sector, and that the rate of transmission to new herds is reduced via continued shortening in the intervals from infection to application of movement controls”.

The report also acknowledges that bulk-milk testing has been finding infections outside the prior tracing network. This highlights concern that tracing networks are incomplete, and the consequent uncertainty that exists around the number of undetected infected herds. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, Dairy, Mycoplasma bovis | Leave a comment