‘New Zealand will have less cows and produce less milk in the future'
Farmers in New Zealand are facing increased regulations and Ian Proudfoot of KPMG believes the industry will see a reduction in cow numbers and milk production.

New Zealand’s dairy farmers are facing an uncertain future as their government seeks to embrace a low carbon movement. Speaking at the ASA conference on Friday Ian Proudfoot, global head of agribusiness for KPMG New Zealand, said the new coalition government would pursue a different policy on agriculture than previous ones.

At the end of October last year, New Zealand’s Labour party entered a confidence and supply agreement with the country’s Green party. Their leader James Shaw now holds the position of Climate Change Minister and has indicated his intent to introduce regulations on waterway pollution and emissions.

Ian explained that dairy farming would be one of the areas facing major reforms and said it was likely cow numbers would be reduced in the future. While the Green party has previously stated it had no plans to cap dairy cow numbers, it has been suggested it may seek to regulate nitrate use resulting in a reduction of cows.

“New Zealand will have less cows and produce less milk in the future,” Ian stated.

He said that parts of the government saw no need for dairy giant Fonterra and that it was unlikely another mega-dryer for milk powder would be built in the country. Instead, he said there was likely to be a shift towards value-added products rather than commodity based production.

Speaking about Ireland he said: “Believe me, as a country [Ireland] that’s growing your dairy production you’ve got some big challenges coming in front of you, we’re living them in New Zealand today.”

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The farmer's daily wrap: co-op merger, road protest and Teagasc waiting lists
Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and weather outlook for Wednesday.

Weather forecast

Met Éireann expects mist and fog to lift on Wednesday morning, giving way to a mainly dry and couldy day with some sunny periods. Patches of light rain or drizzle may drift on to northern and northwestern coasts. Highest temperatures of 11°C to 14°C are forecast in moderate west to northwest breezes.

In the news

  • LacPatrick and Lakeland shareholders have approved a merger between their two co-ops.
  • Co Wexford farmers in dispute with the builders of the M11 motorway extension have set up a second roadblock – watch and listen.
  • The owner of a meat factory has bought a Co Mayo farm for just over €3,000/ac.
  • Odile Evans reports on the Irish presence at the global SIAL food show in Paris – watch the videos.
  • Teagasc's new chair Liam Herlihy has warned that students are on waiting lists for some courses as the agency faces finance and recruitment bottlenecks.
  • Coming up this Wednesday

  • Soil health, sheep farmers and global food business on our weekly podcast.
  • MEPs take legislation on fairness in the food chain to the next step.
  • Tullamore Farm update.
    Students on waiting lists as Teagasc faces finance and recruitment bottlenecks
    Liam Herlihy has made his first public appearance as Teagasc chair before the Oireachtas and highlighted funding, staffing and climate change priorities.

    The new chair of the Teagasc authority, Liam Herlihy, told the Oireachtas agriculture committee this Tuesday that rules on the agency's access to finance and difficulties in recruiting staff are affecting its ability to deliver agricultural education and research.

    Teagasc is not allowed to take out loans or run an overdraft and has been dependent on land sales or once-off Government grants for major investments in the past.

    "Not having the capacity to borrow money is an impediment to the development of agriculture and the delivery of our objective," Herlihy said. "We cannot keep selling fields forever."

    We're facing challenges in recruiting and retaining top calibre staff

    This has been compounded by staffing issues. "We're facing challenges in recruiting and retaining top-calibre staff," he said, highlighting the particularly low salaries Teagasc is obliged to offer to young qualified researchers.

    In recent years, its education section has relied on short-term lecturers to keep courses going and this needs to be renewed, the new chair said.

    "We have a difficulty in accommodating the number of students who are on a waiting list for both part-time and distance learning courses unless we are able to continue to recruit contract teaching staff," he warned.

    Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard said this raised concerns as the age profile of Teagasc staff was likely to increase.

    Trees on dairy farms

    This comes at a time when Teagasc's research effort is increasingly turning to climate change issues. Its economic studies will now focus on establishing the cost of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and Brexit.

    Herlihy said a key area of development would be sustainable forestry.

    "It is particularly important where we include native woodlands, on dairy farms in particular, as we deal with the growth of dairy farms within the context of climate change," he said. This answered concerns from Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill who said: "We have to be careful with expansion that we don't lose our green image."

    Herlihy also highlighted the consequences of climate change for farmers, saying that this year's extreme weather events may happen again.

    The target we had to increase milk production by 50% up to the year 2020 is likely to be met this year

    Yet "despite the very difficult year we've had in 2018, the Food Harvest target we had to increase milk production by 50% up to the year 2020 is likely to be met this year and I think this is something to be seen as very positive," he added.

    He was more cautious about the drystock sector, saying: "The level of profitability in beef farming is a concern."

    In crop research, Herlihy said Teagasc would be redoubling its efforts to develop more resistant varieties "as various agrochemicals will be withdrawn".

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    Herlihy becomes Teagasc chair

    Teagasc get first farmer chair for 30 years

    Incentives needed for climate-friendly spreading – Teagasc

    Watch and listen: second motorway roadblock by Wexford farmers
    The stand-off between M11 motorway builders BAM and Wexford landowners is coming to a head as work is halted at a crucial stage. Pat O'Toole reports from the construction site.

    Wexford landowners set up a second blockade of the M11 extension works this Tuesday. At 10am, a procession of farm machinery crossed on to the motorway at Oulartard, two deep, completely blocking construction equipment.

    With a line of lorries transporting road material from a temporary cement plant a few kilometres to the south, work quickly ground to a halt.

    This is the latest in a series of daily escalations in the dispute between landowners and contractors BAM. It means the M11 extension is now blocked at two points, with the Deacon family roadblock still in place about 10km to the north.

    IFA south Leinster chair Tom Short meets representatives of BAM construction at the site of the M11 in Tinnacross, Co Wexford. \ Pat O'Toole

    IFA South Leinster chair Tom Short led discussions with senior BAM representatives on behalf of the landowners. They want a meeting involving all stakeholders – BAM, Dragados, the other main contractors, the national roads and rail infrastructure authority Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Wexford County Council.

    Plant machinery at a standstill during a farmers' protest at the construction site of the M11 in Tinnacross, Co Wexford. \ Pat O'Toole

    For its part, the BAM representatives wanted the roadblock cleared so work could resume.

    The response when that was relayed back to the farmers was swift and clear.

    The roadblock would be remaining in place until talks were arranged, and landowners wanted to see a clear change in attitude to dealing with the issues they are presenting.

    Listen to Norman Kearney, one of the farmers affected, in our podcast below:

    A list of itemised problems with over 20 landowners has been collated by the ad-hoc committee set up following last Saturday's meeting. This dispute may escalate further before it is resolved.

    Read more

    Farmers blockade motorway constructors

    Progress on harvest access around M11 bypass

    Wexford farmers blockade motorway construction

    Road contractors BAM pushing Wexford landowners to the brink