Monday, 25 July 2011

The Global Dairy Trade Event and the Dollar

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Global Dairy Trade Event and the Dollar.

Ouch! Like two ugly sisters waiting in the wings to derail a fairytale ending to a Cinderella dairy season, the latest GDTE (down 5.1%) and the NZ dollar (ensconced in the mid US80c range) are conspiring to be real party poopers.

The bad news is dairy farmers should enjoy the current $8 payout while it lasts because the opening forecast payout for the 2011/12 season of $7-15 to $7-25 increasingly looks like it could start with a six rather than a seven. The good news is the 1.33 billion Chinese and the 1.17 billion Indians are not going away overnight. But overnight some of them are becoming middle-class and are craving westernized protein. They will make us a rich country - not overnight - but within two decades.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The folly of Labour’s tax proposal.

Likeable bloke or not, the latest political polls show Phil Goff is a dead man walking. And so he should be after what can only be described as another cynical attack on farming. One third of the tax collected from his proposed capital gains tax will be gathered from farmers.

Fearless Phil needs to realize that broadening the tax base is not about killing the goose that lays the golden egg. All that does is encourage the goose to fly to Australia. The facts speak for themselves, the most damning of all being 97% of the net taxation is paid by 17% of households (those earning a combined $120,000 or more). A majority of New Zealanders pay little or no income tax. Farmers, the productive sector and the highly productive entrepreneurs who drive the economy should not be asked to carry the can for the country. Sure, let’s get stuck into property speculators but for the vast majority, especially farmers, capital gains are accrued over a long period of time and are the reward for having the balls to take a risk.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Steve Hansen goes to Charm School.

Is it just me or is Steve on a charm offensive? Gone are the days of the disinterested grunt, replaced instead by engaging discourse.

If we win the Rugby World Cup, Hansen will be the next All Blacks coach barring Graham Henry deciding to do a Sir Alex Ferguson. If we fall short of the final hurdle it’s game on. Henry will emigrate to Scott Base for a warmer reception. Robbie Deans and Warren Gatland are already committed. Ian Foster has hardly covered himself in glory at the Chiefs. But will the charm offensive count for ought if Richie and Dan don’t do the business?

# Brickbat: Close Up heads off Hone again!

After having a bitch about Close Up last week, I felt sure Hone Harawira would take the brickbat back this week for his obnoxious grandstanding at his parliamentary swearing in as the leader of the Mana Party. But sorry Hone, try as you might, you have a way to go to get the gong.

Television has always been a scripted business but it would appear the art of ad-libbing is lost at TVNZ. Close Up went a bridge too far recently with its word-for-word plagiaristic rip-off of an item from one of its American affiliates. Mark Sainsbury’s equally scripted apology had all the dynamism of a dead cat. The state broadcaster must rue the day it red-carded Paul Henry.

# Bouquet: Darren Clarke.

It was so refreshing to see an overweight, greying, middle-aged man win one of the world’s greatest sporting trophies, the Claret Jug, at the recent British Golf Open. The jovial 42 year old Irishman, who tragically lost his first wife to cancer five years ago, then proceeded to celebrate with an all-nighter on the Guinness. Although he turned up the next morning slightly the worse-for-wear at the winner’s press conference, there was none of the usual PC tut-tutting we hear around sportsmen over-imbibing. It was a victory for the ages and a victory for the aged.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Weather

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Weather.

When old timers on the West Coast say it’s the worst spell of July weather in living memory, you know Mother Nature is being a cow! Throw in tornadoes, thunder, flooding, gales and a polar blast of snow and all but the ski fields are down in the dumps about what’s been dumped upon us.

The good news is it’s better to take a battering now than in the August or September. The bad news is Ken Ring reckons we’re headed for another snow storm in early October to rival last year’s September shocker. Mind you, the Moon Man also predicted the Kawarau River (which drains Lake Wakatipu) would run dry a few years ago and I didn’t rush out to buy a gold pan.

# Big Political Story of the Week: Phil’s tax package, John’s refusal to budge and Don shows his true colours.

Politically accident-prone Phil Goff released his party’s new tax policy to all the fanfare of a Davis Cup tie in Hawera. John Key, the great pragmatist, still stubbornly refuses to accept the inevitability and necessity of having to raise the age of entitlement for national superannuation. And former Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson threw his hat into the Act election ring. Wow! Didn’t see that one coming!

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Davis Cup Tennis in Hawera..

I could have chosen double defeat to the Aussies in the Super 15 Final and World Netball Champs or the naming of the All Blacks or the British Golf Open but I’ve gone with Davis Cup Tennis in Hawera.

This is by no means a slight on the Taranaki town which, by all accounts, did a splendid job hosting the tie against whoever it was we were playing. It is however an indictment on the state of New Zealand tennis. Firstly, that I can’t remember who we were playing and secondly, that we can fit everyone interested into a venue holding 1000 people. As a sporting nation we box well above our weight but our tennis is terminal. Oh for an Anthony Wilding or the halcyon Davis Cup days of Onny Parun and Brian Fairlie or Chris Lewis and Russell Simpson.

# Brickbat: Current Affairs Television.

There’s no nice way to say this. Close Up is crap. What happened to good old fashioned current affairs? The 7pm current affairs slot on both channels is now info-tainment, at best. The misguided penguin got far too much air time but that was serious stuff compared to the recent cliffhanger, inflicted upon us over two nights, of the rich-list Auckland fashion designer who lost her two precious pooches. One was found running aimlessly in a park (sounds like one of the Blues at Eden Park?) in episode one. We had to wait for a thrilling next installment the following evening to find the other hapless hound had been flogged by some South Auckland bogan, no doubt with a view to making a quick buck by way of ransoming the rich-lister. Or, worse still, having a dodgy dog casserole!

If Close Up wants to take its cameras to South Auckland, maybe it should film some of the kids going to school with no lunch, having had no breakfast. Or the tinny houses they’re raised in with the P addicts. But I guess that’s not very palatable dinner-time viewing compared to a feel-good, junk food telly on Close Up’s menu.

# Bouquet: Hawera.

Home to one of the world’s largest dairy factories, Hawera can lay claim to being perhaps New Zealand’s dairying capital? There can be no arguing, however, the Taranaki town is now the tennis capital of New Zealand, having hosted two Davis Cup ties in two years. With a population of just 11,000 it’s a credit 10% of the population turned up to watch the tennis. The Auckland equivalent would be 150,000 fronting up at Stanley Street. Hats off to Hawera!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Cloak of Knowledge has a new owner

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Cloak of Knowledge has a new owner.

Will Grayling, the 25 year old Prince Harry lookalike, was crowned the 2011 National Bank Young Farmer of the Year. Will, who has a Masters of Applied Science from Lincoln University, is obviously no fool plus he proved he’s no mug when it comes to the basics of farming with a pretty smart effort in the practical and technical segments of the contest. Will, an Ashburton cow cocky, is walking proof that the young, intelligent and articulate are choosing farming as a career. And the regal comparisons do not end with Will. His fiancée Kimberly True has a Kate Middleton look about her. I’m sure they’ll do a right-royal job as farming ambassadors over the next 12 months.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Feds have a new Prez!

There was plenty of politicking going on in Rotorua recently when Federated Farmers elected a new president, Bruce Wills, to replace the retiring Don Nicolson. The amiable Hawkes Bay sheep and beef farmer reputedly headed off a strong challenge from Lachlan McKenzie in what conspiracy theorists would claim to be a head-to-head battle between sheep/beef v dairy. In something akin to a papal conclave, when white smoke bellows from the Vatican when a new Pope is elected, the Feds were quick to send smoke signals that Wills was their man. For my money Nicolson did a good job raising the profile of the Feds during his three year term. Wills promises a more “collaborative approach to advocacy”. I would urge him and his new vice president, the equally amiable Dr William Rolleston, not to be shrinking violets. Any good watchdog needs a bit of bite!

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Courageous Crusaders and their former coach.

At the time of writing I can only hope the Crusaders have had a fairytale finish to their year on the road. The result of the Super 15 final has huge ramifications for the Rugby World Cup. If, as I expect, the Crusaders smash the Reds up front, then well and good. If, however, Quade Cooper and Will Genia have weaved their magic, then Graham Henry might have some problems.

Ever since Robbie Deans was overlooked for the All Blacks coaching job in 2007 following the Cardiff capitulation, I have repeatedly awoken, drenched in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, visualizing Deans holding aloft the Webb Ellis Cup with a “told you so” smirk on his face. I have no doubt the All Blacks are the best team in the world. I also concede Henry has done an admirable job since the hatchet job that was his reappointment. The only fly in the ointment is the irony of New Zealand’s best rugby coach winning the RWC for Australia.

# Brickbat: The Double Jeopardy Law.

I don’t know who killed the Kahui twins. Logic would suggest one of a dastardly duo is responsible. The release of perennial conspiracy theorist Ian Wishart’s book Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case will allegedly point the finger of blame squarely at Chris Kahui. But because he has been tried before and found not guilty he cannot be convicted of the killings even if subsequent evidence should prove otherwise. The law is an ass. Almost as big an ass as the PC system that allowed the Kahui clan to close ranks at the time of the killings, while police were forced to handle the case with kid gloves.

# Bouquet: John Hartnell and the Farmy Army.

These real troopers were awarded the “Agricultural Personality of the Year” at Federated Farmers Annual Awards evening. This accolade was richly deserved because in the past 12 months no one person or group has done more to enhance the reputation of farmers or reinforce the message that cockies are generally giving and good buggers!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from his Radio Network studio in Dunedin.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Forget the Six Million Dollar Man, it’s the 310 dollar sheep!

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Forget the Six Million Dollar Man, it’s the 310 dollar sheep!

It wasn’t that long ago I thought Federated Farmers was dreaming with its campaign for the $150 lamb. Well that lofty aspiration was doubled when two-tooth ewes burst through the $300 barrier recently at the Stortford sale yards. While it seems an outlandish sum to pay for a sheep, once you do the maths you realize the purchaser was far from fleeced. Scanned in-lamb at 163%, the payback, in lamb income alone, is less than two years. Throw in vastly improved wool returns and a residual value of more than $100 for the mutton carcass, and $200-300 could be the new norm for good breeding ewes.

# Big Political Story of the Week: A new president for Federated Farmers.

Whoever that might be? As this magnificent publication rolled off the printer’s press, a new president was elected at the Feds’ AGM in Rotorua. With four candidates in the first contested election since the early 1990s, I expect a contest of papal proportions. The Vatican conclave expels white smoke when a new Pope is elected but in these enlightened and environmentally-aware times I’m sure the Feds won’t have risked the carbon footprint a needless fire leaves behind. God Speed successful candidate.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Roger Federer loses at Wimbledon.

The Swiss maestro could not get home on the green grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. I hope the Crusaders have fared better in Capetown and maybe earned themselves a “home” final in Wellington, providing the Blues did the business in Brisbane. Win, lose or draw in South Africa, the Crusaders have been inspirational rugby nomads in 2011.

Federer, like the Crusaders, oozes class, despite his shock loss. World sport needs more of him and Rory McIlroy and less of the likes of Le Bron James, Wayne Rooney and Tiger Woods (for his on-course antics).

# Brickbat: The dopey Dom Post and the dopey penguin.

Both could be accused of heading in the wrong direction, totally losing their way, getting in over their heads, floundering and then beaching in a desperate bid to save face. The penguin swallowed sand, the paper deserved to have sand kicked in its face!

The Dom Post story of May 18 attacking dairy farmers for not paying enough tax was an appalling piece of sensationalist journalism from a publication that should know better. A publication, no less, whose agri-business editor Jon Morgan was recently named the agricultural communicator of the year! An apology was eventually forthcoming on June 24. C’mon Dom Post, the rest of us could see your flawed financial logic after five minutes, let alone the taxing five weeks it took you!

As for Happy Feet, sure emperor penguins are cute and an absolute rarity on our shores. However, it never ceases to amaze me how much we fawn over animals when there is so much more we should doing for humans. I don’t lose sleep over an errant emperor penguin imprisoned thousands of miles from home but I do anguish over the Kahui twins’ murderer roaming free.

# Bouquet: The Wellers and the Mad Butcher.

Last weekend in Hastings, Southland farmers Grant and Bernadette Weller were crowned the inaugural winners of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The country’s most sustainably profitable farmers epitomize team work and hard work. I’m so proud they hail from my home town of Riversdale even if my old stablemate Steve Wyn-Harris played bridesmaid again. At least he exacted some consolation in taking $60 (every single one a prisoner) from Grant on the golf course the next day!

And a bouquet to Sir Peter Leitch for being what most of us aspire to be. A good bugger who makes the world a better place!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from his Radio Network studio in Dunedin.