Monday, 29 August 2011

The kiwifruit calamity and cow cocky Sir Michael Fay

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The kiwifruit calamity and cow cocky Sir Michael Fay.

I hope I’ve got a bum steer here but my sources tell me the spread of the dreaded psa disease is rife in the Bay of Plenty. The doomsday merchants are saying the industry will not exist in five years and the Gold variety is “history” in the greater Te Puke area, possibly within this growing season. The good news is kiwifruit farmers have already shown themselves to be a resilient lot in fighting the disease thus far and there seems to be a consensus that the industry response to the outbreak has been superb. Fingers are crossed for this billion dollar industry.

Having just invested in a dairy farm, I take some personal comfort when the likes of Sir Michael Fay start sniffing around the Crafar farms. However, it’s a bit rich of the rich-lister to be preaching the virtues of local ownership with his track record of flogging off New Zealand assets.

# Big Political Story of the Week: Phil Goff is not that bad!

Having just returned from a week across the ditch, it would be fear to say Fearless Phil’s problems are miniscule compared to those of his Labour counterpart, and Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. By contrast John Key’s popularity is at record levels heading into the November 26 election. While he might not be the most popular man in New Zealand (that accolade will surely belong to Richie McCaw should he get the business done on October 23), Key will need to be run over by a bus or embroiled in a Craig Thomson-like scandal to lose the election. Unless, of course, Winston gets past five percent…

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The All Blacks RWC Squad.

My only issue with a pretty good squad is the lack of a specialist No. 7 to back up Richie McCaw, even though the said opensider could spend the entire tournament riding the pine. John Hart made the salient point that in 1987, the only time we’ve won the RWC, Mark Brooke-Cowden was picked specifically to play just one game to cover Michael Jones who was unavailable for a Sunday semi-final. Hosea Gear must be the unluckiest player, the victim of Israel Dagg’s brilliance and three wise men’s decision to go for work rate and aerial skills ahead of size and power, while John Afoa and Corey Flynn could perhaps buy a Lotto ticket.

# Brickbat: The Green Party.

It’s one thing to be a vigilant watchdog for the environment but it’s another matter to be a dog in the manger! Central Otago District Mayor Tony Lepper was quite right to be up-in-arms over the proposed Greens’ policy to charge for irrigation water at a rate of 10 cents per 1,000 litres. The term Luddite sits easily alongside the Greens’ economic policies.

# Bouquet: The Ranfurly Shield.

October 22, 2009, was the greatest day of my life. After a lifetime plus, in my case, another 38 days of waiting, my beloved Southland Stags won the Log of Wood against Canterbury. They’ve since lost and regained it from Canterbury and succumbed to Taranaki. Who knows, by the time you read this, it could reside in Napier. My point is if Southland was to lose the Shield, I’m glad it’s going to one of the great farming provinces where it will be cherished, whether it be Taranaki or Hawkes Bay, both of which have proud Shield heritages. Keep it in the provinces!

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

Monday, 15 August 2011

This week’s Fonterra Global Dairy Trade Event

# Big Farming Story of the Week: This week’s Fonterra Global Dairy Trade Event.

By Wednesday morning we’ll have some idea just how much the latest ructions on the economic front will hurt us as a nation dependent on exporting food. There are two schools of thought as to how the latest financial crisis will play out for New Zealand farmers. The first is that commodity prices across the board will (further) fall. That’s the bad news scenario. The second, more positive, scenario is that we will be relatively insulated from the fallout as food is a much less volatile commodity than, say, oil. Add to that this is a crisis of the western world. Asia, and China in particular, is still going gang-busters by comparison. Our future fortunes lie east not west.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The power and the pointlessness of social media.

Twitter-fuelled rampaging youths in the streets of London, Manchester and Birmingham have only strengthened my resolve to ignore, nay dislike, the social media. I reluctantly admit it’s the way of the future but I’m glad I’m a dinosaur from the past.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Dan the Man and Steve the Bag Man.

Dan Carter must look back on the second test against the Lions in 2005 with some regret. He performed to such heavenly heights on that occasion, he’s subsequently lived in the shadow of his own brilliance, forever being compared to the near-perfect standard he set himself. If his performance against the Aussies at Eden Park wasn’t perfect, it was damn close to it. His timing could not be better, less than a month out from the World Cup.

While Carter lets his magical left boot do his talking, Kiwi caddy Steve Williams put his right foot right in his mouth! Tiger Woods’ former bag man took great pleasure in bagging his former boss but in the process had the verbal equivalent of an air shot - a swing and a miss. Some sports books (see below) are garbage. When Williams writes his, it should be a cracker!

# Brickbat: Sean Fitzpatrick.

I don’t, for a moment, wish to detract from the on-field record of this country’s greatest ever rugby union hooker. While I would not quite rate him in the captaincy stakes alongside such luminaries as Sir Wilson Whineray or Sir Brian Lochore or the soon-to-be knighted Sir Richard McCaw, there can be no denying his deeds once he stepped across the white line.

My gripe with Fitzpatrick is off the paddock. With the exception of former coach John Mitchell, has there ever been a more clichéd campaigner than Fitzy? His oft-uttered “full credit” in his after-match captain’s comments was bad enough but it pales in comparison to some of the clichéd claptrap in his latest book, Winning Matters. If you don’t believe me, try getting your head around “Getting what you want starts with knowing what you want …it is only by being absolutely clear on what is important to you and what you want that you are able to move towards it”. Or my particular favourite, “Structure and planning need to sit alongside insight and spontaneity, not on top of them”.

I much prefer the earthy logic of Sir Coiln Meads. “Those South Africans were dirty barrrstards”.

# Bouquet: The Farmy Army (again).

While more than a few have packed up and given up on the earthquake-ravaged Garden City, that could not be said of the Farmy Army’s latest efforts in Christchurch. Last Friday’s effort in providing 600 ‘Sunday Roast Packs’ to the eastern suburbs’ most needy families is yet another sterling example of the country quite literally going to town to help out. Each pack contained frozen meat donated by the Alliance Group, alongside vegetables given freely by Mid Canterbury farmers.
At a time when many townies are putting the boot into farmers and Fonterra over the price of milk, perhaps a momentary reflection on the contribution made by farmers and farmer cooperatives would not go astray.

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

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Dollar!

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Dollar!
Who needs to go to a Gold Coast theme park. If you want a really good rollercoaster ride just start following the ups and downs of the New Zealand dollar. Lately there’s been a hell of a lot more ups than downs, with $NZ now firmly ensconced in the high US80 cent range. There’s even talk of a doomsday scenario of reaching parity! But before farmers start jumping from the nearest tall building, be it milking or woolshed, it’s worth taking a trip down memory lane.

Back on July 10, 1967, when New Zealand moved to decimal currency we initially pegged our dollar at $US1-39. By 1971 the New Zealand dollar was worth $US1-21. By 1985 when we floated our exchange rate, our currency had depreciated to US44 cents. Since then we’ve gone as low as US39 cents and as high as the recent US88 cents.

There’s no denying a high dollar makes farming hard work. But we’ve been there and done that before, albeit back in 1967 nearly all of our exports were sent to Mother England and paid for in British pounds. Let’s also not forget we’re still very competitive compared to the Aussie dollar on the world stage. So chin up, all is not lost!

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Commerce Commission decision on milk pricing.

I’m glad there was a sane and sensible response to claims of price gouging by Fonterra. Quite simply, the price is set by the international commodity price. Milk is a staple of our diet but so are bread, meat, fruit and vegetables. In percentage terms nearly all of the aforementioned have increased more in price than milk.

I’ve met a few hard-up cockies in my time but never a hard-up supermarket owner! You want cheaper milk? Well either the government subsidizes it (and we all pay) or the supermarkets take a loss-leader leaf out of their Aussie counterparts’ book.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The “Second-Stringboks”.

I’ve been religiously following All Blacks v Springboks tests since 1970 when my father got me up in the middle of the night to huddle around the wireless radio to hear how my favourite All Blacks Brian Lochore, Colin Meads, Ian Kirkpatrick, Earle Kirton and Bryan Williams were faring against the evil foe . And it wasn’t only the referee they had to worry about! There was also the Springboks. So in 41 years of this epic rugby rivalry I can say, without wanting to detract from an excellent All Blacks effort, I’ve never seen a weaker South African side than that witnessed in Wellington.

# Brickbat: Dickheads at the Cake Tin!

And that’s not a dig at Peter de Villiers or the Springboks. Along with some farming mates from Riversdale, I paid top dollar for a seat, only to have my view obstructed by flag-waving morons in front of us who mistakenly thought they were at a Robbie Williams concert. Don’t start me on the drunken drongos behind us and their inane utterances! Why do people pay good money for a sporting event when they have no appreciation of the game or little respect for those around them?

# Bouquet: The IHC Calf Scheme and Andrew Hore.

At the risk of repeating myself, I must say how buoyed I was by the response to last week’s plea for farmers to contribute to the IHC calf scheme. To that end we’re launching a campaign on the Farming Show and with a little help from my friends at FMG we’re kicking it off with a generous donation.
Like the New Zealand dollar, All Black Andrew Hore has certainly had his ups and downs in 2011. After a horror Hurricanes season the likably laconic cocky from Central Otago played arguably his finest test match against the ‘Boks in Wellington. It was a case of Richie McCaw eat-your-heart-out with Hore absolutely outstanding at the breakdown. I wonder how much of that he attributes to honing his skills with a few games in the loose forwards for his beloved Maniototo Maggots club side in Ranfurly?

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

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Polar Blast

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Polar Blast.

July 1939. The world was on the brink of a second world war, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh starred in Gone With The Wind, Southland held the Ranfurly Shield and Auckland had its last recorded snowfall.

Snow didn’t quite settle in the city of sails last week but it got close. While Mother Nature’s latest reminder she can’t make up her mind up about global warming was nothing more than nuisance value for most farmers, for some it was the first real experience of snow in their farming careers. Snow in July is to be encouraged, especially if it spares us in September.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Americans playing Russian Roulette with the World Economy.

Call it brinkmanship, one-upmanship or political chicken. The Democrats and the Republicans are taking the US debt crisis debate right to the wire. Barrack Obama wants to pay for the increased debt ceiling by taxing the rich. The good old boys of the Grand Old Party want spending cuts. The ultimate solution is a bit of both. You’ve got to go back 50 years to the Cuban Missile Crisis for a Mexican stand-off of this proportion. Meanwhile the world waits with baited breath and our dollar breathlessly surges to daily post-float highs.

Austerity is the new buzz word post the Global Financial Crisis and it’s here to stay. Hopefully the high dollar isn’t.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Stags win the Ranfurly Shield (again!)

After waiting a lifetime (50 years in my case) for the big one in 2009, I only had to wait nine months for the gestation of another glorious Southland Ranfurly Shield reign.

Just like the Otago side of the 1990s that featured the likes of Jeff Wilson, Marc Ellis, Josh Kronfeld and Taine Randell, the Southland Stags have a cult following from their fanatical fans. It’s sexy to be a Stags fan and it’s not because they’re the most glamourous side in the ITM Cup. Far from it. The Stags have a down-on-the-farm charm. They’re battlers who quite literally only win games by going into battle. Led by their larger than life (and rather large in real life) captain Jamie Mackintosh, they ooze earthy honestly with their delightful southern burr.

# Brickbat: Nutters taking their guns to town Nutters leaving their guns at home!

The shooting massacre in Norway was yet another tragic reminder that for some deluded nut-cases the only real solution is one of their own bullets. Insane or otherwise, all Anders Breivik’s trial will do is give a crazed mass-murderer a platform for his extremist views. He is a walking advertisement for summary capital punishment.

On a lighter note Peter de Villiers, the Springboks coach, also has one wheel in the gravel. He’s totally bonkers, barking mad in fact, but in a nice harmless sort of way. While it’s disappointing the Springboks have left their guns at home, we should be thankful for small mercies in the form of the diminutive de Villiers. Sir Brian Lochore summed it up best when he said the most worrying thing about the Springboks heading into the World Cup was the prospect they might have dumped their coach!

# Bouquet: The IHC Calf Scheme.

Launched in 1984, the scheme now sees more than 5500 calves donated annually raising in excess of one million dollars for, arguably, the most endearing of all charitable causes. With Sir Colin Meads as patron saint, alongside wonderful sponsorship from PGG Wrightson and Allflex, the IHC Calf Scheme is a well-oiled machine. Initially aimed at dairy farmers, the scheme also encourages sheep and beef farmers to contribute the part of the proceeds from the sale of their livestock.

The IHC is a charity near and dear to my heart. I will be donating the equivalent of a weaned calf. I’d urge all farmers, not already donating and rearing a calf, to do likewise. Most cockies have enjoyed a bountiful season. It’s time to share your good fortune. To contribute phone 0800 746 444.

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