Storing rain water which makes so much sense, the IPCC report included it notes Bruce Wills. NZ pasture farming makes us agriculture's leader

Storing rain water which makes so much sense, the IPCC report included it notes Bruce Wills. NZ pasture farming makes us agriculture's leader

By Bruce Wills*

Not to give you the wrong impression, but I am writing this column from Geneva, where I have co-presented the World Farmers Organisation’s trade policy to the World Trade Organisation.

I am back in Europe thanks to the WTO but it has helped to advance New Zealand’s agricultural diplomacy.  

As a trading nation, we absolutely depend on trade in a world that is utterly dependent upon food.

There are some things which keep me awake at night.

Adverse weather events and biosecuirty being chief among them but there is a third which increasingly gnaws at me. That is a perfect storm of food production not keeping pace with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion stomachs in the year 2050; an amazing 2.3 billion more than today. 

Henk-Jen Brinkman, of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, called food insecurity “a threat multiplier”.

In one column I read, he said it creates a “vicious cycle from violence to food insecurity and from food insecurity to violence that needs to be broken”.

That is a huge role for farmers the world over and especially a key diplomatic role for New Zealand as a world leader in agriculture.

One instructive read is produced by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and is called "Harvesting Peace: Food Security, Conflict, and Cooperation."  It sounds like a prescription for ‘NZ Inc’.

The tangible outcome of being up in Europe was announced on Monday by the Primary Industries Minister, the Hon Nathan Guy.  He announced that the Government will fund a programme for farming leaders to travel to New Zealand on an agri-tech study tour.

This is New Zealand helping to boost global food productivity while helping to reduce global agricultural greenhouse gases.

I can tell you it was welcomed by the World Farmers Organisation for which I am the Oceania Board member. New Zealand is seen as a global leader in pastoral agriculture and as an organisation, Federated Farmers regularly hosts both farmers and journalists as they seek to learn how we do it. 

The study tour concept is a chance to formally fuse scientific, trade and technological knowledge.

The world needs all of its farmers firing on all cylinders so there is plenty of scope for us all as many more humans join us than leave.

The cost of failure will be conflict exasperated by our ever changing climate. While some, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argue the climate is man-made, others either claim it is natural while others seem to be indifferent.

Hopefully, we can all agree that our climate is ever changing and that has been a consistent position by Federated Farmers.

Another theme I took reading the IPCC report in Europe, is that it is sensible to build resilience into our farms, our businesses and our society.

New Zealanders can be very proud that our farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world. Our global leadership can be seen in the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases and the Palmerston North based Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

Our efficiency saw the UK’s right-leaning Daily Mail last year write, "Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet." In May, the UK's left-leaning Observer on Sunday, ran a feature entitled, “Why worrying about food miles is missing the point." In it, New Zealand’s carbon efficiency on diverse products from apples to lamb was lauded.

Now, the IPCC warns us that New Zealand could face a future climate of heavier extreme rainfall, stronger and more extreme winter winds and longer periods of drought.

It seems like trading places, but while farmers and many councils plan for climate change infrastructure, these initiatives are being decried by those who have been loudest in calling for New Zealand to ‘do something about climate change’. The world, after all, wants us to be the most efficient food producer we can be.

So we have two options for adaption.

First of all we can research new crops and pasture varietals in the knowledge that farms will face greater environmental stress. As Dr William Rolleston said last week, this demands an on-going and bipartisan ramp up in both our agricultural research and development spend and science capability.

The second, of course, is the huge opportunity we have to store rain water which makes so much sense, the IPCC’s last report included it.

This constant for water remains irrespective of what current land uses are or what they could be in the future.

In another forty years who knows what the dominant land use may be but what we know is this, crops and pasture generally needs soil, sunlight and water.

As the climate changes so will the pressure on global food resources.

That puts New Zealand front and centre of being a leader.

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Bruce Wills is Federated Farmers President

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So we have two options for adaption.
 
First of all we can research new crops and pasture varietals in the knowledge that farms will face greater environmental stress. As Dr William Rolleston said last week, this demands an on-going and bipartisan ramp up in both our agricultural research and development spend and science capability.
 
The second, of course, is the huge opportunity we have to store rain water which makes so much sense, the IPCC’s last report included it.
 
Is that so Mr Wills?
 
Playing with water is an idea that has been practiced to mutually assured self destruction for both the North and South American continental grain producers. If it wasn't for the GFC related easy money policies of the United States Federal Reserve agricultural product prices would not support any investment re-directing water. Once the flood of printed QE money dries up so will the incentives to load the public with debt to line another's pocket.
 
Since 1992, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been developing plans to expand the network of locks and dams along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is the primary conduit for shipping American soybeans into global commerce-about 35,000 tons a day. The Corps' plan would mean hauling in up to 1.2 million metric tons of concrete to lengthen ten of the locks from 180 meters to 360 meters each, as well as to bolster several major wing dams which narrow the river to keep the soybean barges moving and the sediment from settling. This construction would supplement the existing dredges which are already sucking 85 million cubic meters of sand and mud from the river's bank and bottom each year. Several different levels of "upgrade" for the river have been considered, but the most ambitious of them would purportedly reduce the cost of shipping soybeans by 4 to 8 cents per bushel. Some independent analysts think this is a pipe dream.
 
Around the same time the Mississippi plan was announced, the five governments of South America's La Plata Basin-Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay-announced plans to dredge 13 million cubic meters of sand, mud, and rock from 233 sites along the Paraguay-Paran  River. That would be enough to fill a convoy of dump trucks 10,000 miles long. Here, the plan is to straighten natural river meanders in at least seven places, build dozens of locks, and construct a major port in the heart of the Pantanal-the world's largest wetland. The Paraguay-Paran  flows through the center of Brazil's burgeoning soybean heartland-second only to the United States in production and exports. According to statements from the Brazilian State of Mato Grasso, this "Hidrov¡a" (water highway) will give a further boost to the region's soybean export capacity.
 
Lobbyists for both these projects argue that expanding the barge capacity of these rivers is necessary in order to improve competitiveness, grab world market share, and rescue farmers (either U.S. or Brazilian, depending on whom the lobbyists are addressing) from their worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Chris Brescia, president of the Midwest River Coalition 2000, an alliance of commodity shippers that forms the primary lobbying force for the Mississippi plan, says, "The sooner we provide the waterway infrastructure, the sooner our family farmers will benefit." Some of his fellow lobbyists have even argued that these projects are essential to feeding the world (since the barges can then more easily speed the soybeans to the world's hungry masses) and to saving the environment (since the hungry masses will not have to clear rainforest to scratch out their own subsistence).
 
Probably very few people have had an opportunity to hear both pitches and compare them. But anyone who has may find something amiss with
the argument that U.S. farmers will become more competitive versus their Brazilian counterparts, at the same time that Brazilian farmers will, for the same reasons, become more competitive with their U.S. counterparts. A more likely outcome is that farmers of these two nations will be pitted against each other in a costly race to maximize production, resulting in short-cut practices that essentially strip-mine their soil and throw long-term investments in the land to the wind. Farmers in Iowa will have stronger incentives to plow up land along stream banks, triggering faster erosion of topsoil. Their brethren in Brazil will find themselves needing to cut deeper into the savanna, also accelerating erosion. That will increase the flow of soybeans, all right-both north and south. But it will also further depress prices, so that even as the farmers are shipping more, they're getting less income per ton shipped. And in any case, increasing volume can't help the farmers survive in the long run, because sooner or later they will be swallowed by larger, corporate, farms that can make up for the smaller per-ton margins by producing even larger volumes.

 
So, how can the supporters of these river projects, who profess to be acting in the farmer's best interests, not notice the illogic of this form of competition? One explanation is that from the advocates' (as opposed to the farmers') standpoint, this competition isn't illogical at all-because the lobbyists aren't really representing farmers. They're working for the commodity processing, shipping, and trading firms who want the price of soybeans to fall, because these are the firms that buy the crops from the farmers. In fact, it is the same three agribusiness conglomerates-Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, and Bunge-that are the top soybean processors and traders along both rivers.
Welcome to the global economy. The more brutally the U.S. and Brazilian farmers can batter each-other's prices (and standards of living) down, the greater the margin of profit these three giants gain. Meanwhile, another handful of companies controls the markets for genetically modified seeds, fertilizers, and herbicides used by the farmers-charging oligopolistically high prices both north and south of the equator.

 
In assessing what this proposed digging-up and reconfiguring of two of the world's great river basins really means, keep in mind that these projects will not be the activities of private businesses operating inside their own private property. These are proposed public works, to be undertaken at huge public expense. The motive is neither the plight of the family farmer nor any moral obligation to feed the world, but the opportunity to exploit poorly informed public sentiments about farmers' plights or hungry masses as a means of usurping public policies to benefit private interests. What gets thoroughly Big Muddied, in this usurping process, is that in addition to subjecting farmers to a gladiator-like attrition, these projects will likely bring a cascade of damaging economic, social, and ecological impacts to the very river basins being so expensively remodeled. Read more
 
 

I see you havent changed your tune about being negative towards everything.  How your text above relates to anything we do in New Zealnd with regards to storing water I would love to know.
When I look at the experience of Canterbury and the regional economy esepcially around Ashburton all I see is.....not assured self destruction.
 

... he has been extremely grumpy lately .. .. Any time old Gummy mentions summit good happening in the world , Hulmey comes along and sprays depression all over it ...
 
He may be in love ! ... it affects some guys that way ...
 
... if we're serious about being reliable food producers to the world , we need water storage ... Just look at the USA's corn crop , devastated last year by drought ( 10.8 billion bushel harvest ) , and having a bumper crop this year ( 13.7 billion bushel estimate ) ... that's a monster disparity in annual production ...

Some water storage works economically, and some doesn't.
 
The Ruataniwha scheme is supposed to irrigate twice the area of the Opuha from a water resource that has half the mean annual flow and still be financially viable for farmers at six times the price of water.
 
Federated Farmers and Fonterra support all irrigation so long as it is subsidised heavily enough.
 
Even with those tax and rate payer subsidies, farming without RWSS supplied irrigation water will be more profitable.

What are the figures to back up Ruataniwha is six times the price of Opuha water?

The cost/price of Opuha water is in evidence here. From there I am assuming you can do your own division:
http://www.epa.govt.nz/resource-management/NSP000028/NSP000028_Hawkes_Ba...
 
And if you want the evidence that the water is not there to irrigate 30,000 ha:
http://www.epa.govt.nz/resource-management/NSP000028/NSP000028_Hawkes_Ba...
 
Please let me me your thoughts.
 
Thanks.

gladtobekiwi:
The cost of the Opuha water seems cheaper when comparing cents per cube of water but doesnt take into account that farmers own the Opuha dam so therefore the capital cost is not included in the price.  The Ruataniwha price used in your link is the highest in the estimated range remembering that the price hasnt been set yet and farmers wont own the scheme.
 
I have covered most of this before including that the Opuha scheme had relatively low costs and various LGAs wrote down some of their 'investment':
 
http://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/64546/bruce-wills-says-ruataniwha-d...
 
This Audit Office link will explain:
http://www.oag.govt.nz/2001/opuha-dam/docs/opuha.pdf
 
You are right in that a final price hasn't been set yet. That estimated range is very high, includes subsidies, and is unlikely to come down.
 
The average cost of water actually used is though likely to be much higher than the estimated range because it is to be supplied on a pay regardless basis.  
 
The modelled crop demand averages at least 20% less than the irrigation volume modelled into the advocated economic 'benefits'.

He may be in love ! ... it affects some guys that way ...
 
LOL - did the moderator forget to wipe the dribble from your lips?

Nz isnt stand alone.
"swamped lifeboat" comes to mind.
regards

... weird reply ! ... gladtobekiwi didn't say that NZ was " stand alone " ...
 
It may be a " swamped lifeboat " where you live , steven , but some of us are happily puddling along with our lives , enjoying our wonderful lifestyle here in NZ , and deeply proud of our little country , which ever-so-frequently " punches above it's weight " on the world stage ...
 
... even the CEO , Jolly Kid , got a personal  'phone call from the President of the free world , Barack Obama , thanking him for chairing the TPP meeting ....
 
Doesn't that make you proud to be a Kiwi ?
regards

Ashburton? Just some area following in the footsteps of Sumeria. Unsustainable, bovine, monocultural in so many ways :) and...................doomed. 

Good points SH. And if farmers want water storage (dams) they should pay for them themselves, not squeal for the welfare support of the public purse or seek statutory coercive powers to force the aquisition of others lands. Pay up or wait for it to rain.
Ergophobia

Stephen, it is possible you are actually making a point..in this loooong comment.
Would you be good enough to summarize that I may be enlightened.

I am sure if you try harder it will become clear. The owner of the comment directly above yours claims to have taken something from it.

"There are some things which keep me awake at night."...."....but there is a third which increasingly gnaws at me. That is a perfect storm of food production not keeping pace with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion stomachs in the year 2050; an amazing 2.3 billion more than today."
 
Rest easy. You may have it back to front. I would have thought that human population will move with food availability. Not somehow drastically overshoot it.
And anyway, there's plenty of capacity (i.e. food wastage) still to tap into and optimise.

Hamish - not so. If the folk are born before the shortage, then you have an overshoot.
 
Modern food is essentially fossil fuels, plus draw-down of natural capital. 27 calories of oil to one of meat-based food, 10 calories for one of veggie-based food. This is completely unsustainable, and in the short term at that.
 
The wastage is of fossile fuels, which are currently available. Few folk understand that eliminating current wastage is therefore a temporary measure.

PDK, perhaps the 'overshoot' has already happened?
 I agree, without Nitrogen fert irrigation schemes are usless. Hardly anyone appears to be aware that without extra N and P irrigation gives very little benefit.

Aj - yeah, but there's more to it than that too. The interconnected stuff includes decimating rainforest (the best biodiversities and carbon-sinks on the planet) to temporarily produce palm-oil, and it's so-called 'by-products'. It includes drawing down aquifers everywhere, China, the Middle-East, The USA. It includes erosion, and trace-element draw-down, acidification. It Uses things like 'fish meal' to feed part of another severely-impacted food-web, to something that we then eat - displacement, in other words.
And the tillage, transport, processing and packaging, roads, irrigation-pipes......... all fossil-fuel based (and we're down the barrel as far as fracking and deep-sea, already).
I went to the Rutherford Lecture last night:
http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/276538/critical-period-people-planet
 
He was a bit middle-class-optimistic (didn't get energy too much, nor the need of finance for growth) but wasn't far off in identifying the problems.

When I talk wastage, I'm not talking just about the fish dumped at sea, the graded food stuffs that don't even get to market. Or the food discarded from our supermarkets. Or the wastage from our own homes. I'm talking about fat people. If I had to make a bet on whether in 20 years from now more had succumbed in the preceding two decades from nutrition deficit related illnesses or obesity related...I'd put my money on the fatties taking the biscuit so to speak.

It's the obesity epidemic that is unsustainable.

We use fossil fuels to make the quantity of fod we do, its gone by 2050 and declining with 5 at most 10 years.
So will our population.
Wastage, well organic is 25~35% less efficient/effective and that still using considerable fossil fuels to harvest and tarnsport.
I dont know what the actual output is/will be but I suspect <50% the present one, maybe <25%.
regards

Is " fod " fattening ? .... tell the woman folk that it makes their bottoms look big , and soon half the world's population will be on a diet anyway .... save alot of food ... and fod , too ..

so we should store rainwater even if its uneconomic.  
 
 Why not just increase prices, you know the old fashioned way, pay me more and i will produce more, not the, pay me the same while I bust my gut going no where story, we have had for the last 30 years.
 
 Organistaions like the WTO are hopeless and need bunking, why are we paying for a lot of ex sheep farmers to represent us in Geneva?  
 
as for this
 
 That is a perfect storm of food production not keeping pace with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion stomachs in the year 2050; an amazing 2.3 billion more than today. 
 
Bruce, if we ain't got the food I can assure, you they will not be born.
 
When I read articles like this I lose hope.

ppls ability to pay has been under-estimated.
regards

So we'll trot out the IPCC on "building resilience" in agriculture but not on reducing agricultural emissions.
 
Yep, that works.
 
And does anyone know what the opening line implies;
 
"Not to give you the wrong impression, but I am writing this column from Geneva..."
 
 
 

Um, Geneva know where he'll be next?

On a subsidised junket attempting to manage perceptions of NZ farming saving the world?

We should be putting our best energies into seeing to it the planet's human population does not reach 9 billion and actually begins to reduce slowly from here, there is no other real answer if we want to continue to have a healthy place to live in
Oh and Andrew J there are plenty of places who haven't got the food but people are still being born in too high numbers

"That is a perfect storm of food production not keeping pace with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion stomachs in the year 2050; an amazing 2.3 billion more than today. "

Which means just feeding more of them is just kicking the can futher down the road where the problem won't just be food.

The problem is easiest to solve now.   No matter how big and nasty it looks it is just going to get worse.          You don't cover a septic wound and hope it goes away.
 
Any solution which is going to work in 2050, is going to be needing to start before then.  Any solution started in 2020 is going to be easier to start now.
Some of us have started - when the flip are you "experts" and "meeting" people going to catch up rather than get rich on procrastination and hoping everyone elses work will be enough (as usual).

Perhaps we just ignore it until the starving peasants demand their cake?  (France was the worlds greatest superpower at that time....)
 

"That is a perfect storm of food production not keeping pace with a world population expected to hit 9.3 billion stomachs in the year 2050; an amazing 2.3 billion more than today. "

Which means just feeding more of them is just kicking the can futher down the road where the problem won't just be food.

The problem is easiest to solve now.   No matter how big and nasty it looks it is just going to get worse.          You don't cover a septic wound and hope it goes away.
 
Any solution which is going to work in 2050, is going to be needing to start before then.  Any solution started in 2020 is going to be easier to start now.
Some of us have started - when the flip are you "experts" and "meeting" people going to catch up rather than get rich on procrastination and hoping everyone elses work will be enough (as usual).

Perhaps we just ignore it until the starving peasants demand their cake?  (France was the worlds greatest superpower at that time....)
 

Why the gloom? Satellite-based analyses of net terrestrial primary productivity (NPP) reveal an increase of around 6-13% since the 1980s.
Palm oil is awesome with about tentime the oil yield of any other crop. Imagine in Indonesia alone decided to graze cattle and intercop under their 7.8m ha of palm oil. Or decided to feed PKE to their own cattle. It is criminal to plant any other crop with a 1/10th the yield requiring at least annual cultivation. Support you local oil palm farmer go and give the rape seed and peanut farmer some grief.

A simple alternative to current industrial agriculture which encourages nature to work naturally, store and use water more efficiently.  Really only requires a shift in mindsets.  "the illiterate of the future are not those who can't read or write, they are those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." - Alvin Toffler
 
http://sustainableman.org/infobox/permaculture               

Colin Riden  The cost of the Opuha water seems cheaper when comparing cents per cube of water but doesnt take into account that farmers own the Opuha dam so therefore the capital cost is not included in the price.  The Ruataniwha price used in your link is the highest in the estimated range remembering that the price hasnt been set yet and farmers wont own the scheme. 

I have covered most of this before including that the Opuha scheme had relatively low costs and various LGAs wrote off some of their 'investment':
 
http://www.interest.co.nz/rural-news/64546/bruce-wills-says-ruataniwha-d...
 
This Audit Office link will explain:
http://www.oag.govt.nz/2001/opuha-dam/docs/opuha.pdf