Since I live at a rural address I receive — and look forward to — all the free publications aimed at NZ farmers and rural businesses. Pubs like Farmers Weekly, Straight Furrow, Rural News and Country-Wide.

The adverts alone are engrossing … everything on offer from the latest drenches and herbicides to prize bulls, milk bars to baleage tippers, farm management software to “Pastoral Partners” … to products whose use I’d be afraid to ask about! Plus charts and graphs on lamb prices, beef kills, export trends, whole milk powder prices and more.

But for my purposes, the main attraction is that the biggest issues related to the nation’s rural sector are presented in these pages, generally — but certainly not always — from the perspective of farmers. For example, much is written these days about water, making very clear that water supply and quality issues have skyrocketed in salience, not just in Hawke’s Bay, but all around the country.

Here are some examples of issue coverage in the pubs I’ve received this week:

  • Starting with a Hawke’s Bay business, a report on the rapid growth of 3R Group’s Agrecovery, a nation-wide rural recycling programme that collects agrichemical and animal health plastic containers … 75,000kg of material collected in the second year, over 50,000kg more than year one. And from 16 brands participating to 39, and growing.
  • The High Court rules against ERMA for accepting a blanket application to widen AgResearch’s research into genetically modified cows and other species.
  • The New Zealand wine industry set to hit $1 billion in exports this year, with Hawke’s Bay production returning to normal levels after frost and other factors adversely affected vintage 2008.
  • Massey University’s Center for Public Health Research releases a study indicating that cancer risks were significantly higher for men working in the horticultural field (1.8 times greater than the general population) … and higher still (3.4 times greater than the general population) for women working in the field.
  • Environment Minister Nick Smith announces his water reform plans, with Agriculture Minister David Carter singing from the same songbook. Says Carter: “The focus of the new direction will be on water quality, water quantity, allocation, and infrastucture, including water storage.” That sounds like our HB Regional Council’s water agenda.

Big issues, with ample quality coverage. Hats off to the rural press.

Tom Belford

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