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Whan blasted for “sneaky” Moree visit

INDEPENDENT MP for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, has slammed the NSW Government for “sneaking into” country towns to visit without letting relevant officials know, as Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan and Premier Kristina Keneally hit the election trail.
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Mr Whan announced a belated $6 million to clean up an asbestos mine at Barraba while Ms Keneally announced a $10 million emergency unit at Maitland Hospital.

Mr Humphries said it was unacceptable for the Primary Industries Minister to land in Moree during a time of natural disaster without letting anyone know.

“Apparently common courtesy is a thing of the past,” Mr Humphries said.

“This is the second time that Mr Whan has arrived unannounced without communicating with the locals, which is simply unacceptable, especially during such a hard time.”

He said Moree Council had no idea about the visit, which was “nothing but a last minute press junket tour, with no real value for the local community”.

Touring Moree, Mr Whan said ruined and downgraded winter crops across NSW have slashed the value of the 2010 harvest by at least $850 million.

“Industry and Investment NSW estimates that almost half the 2.8 million hectare wheat crop was downgraded to feed quality because of weather damage caused by rain and flooding,” Mr Whan said.

“And in some places harvest is stalled because paddocks are still too wet. But the good news is feed grain prices are holding up. As a result many crops have been salvaged.

“The estimated average wheat yield across NSW is 3.13 tonnes a hectare producing 8.8 million tonnes state-wide. This compares to 2009 when 2.77 million hectares were harvested yielding about 4.43 million tonnes.

“A significant proportion of barley and oats are also being downgraded.”

Pulse crops have suffered from the wet too, with wet conditions causing increased disease, crop lodging and shot-and-sprung grain in chickpea, faba bean, field pea and lupin crops.

“It appears that lupin crops have tolerated the wet conditions better than other pulse crops in terms of yield and grain quality,” he said.

“Despite wet conditions disrupting summer crop sowing, Industry and Investment NSW forecasts more than 600,000 hectares is sown, excluding rice, which is well up on the estimated 240,000 ha harvested last season.

“More typical summer weather has followed a very wet December across many parts of the State,” he said.

“Sorghum sowings of 164,000 ha are down on earlier forecasts as a result of paddocks staying too wet to sow.

“Mungbean and sunflower plantings will continue until the end of January,” he said.

“The wet and humid summer has also led to an increase in insect pressure on summer crops, leading to significantly higher production costs.”

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Bumper harvest may not mean strong sales

SALE TIME: Reg Keatley will be one vendor holding a clearing sale in the February selling season this year. Reg’s sale will be at his property, 15 kilometres south of Jamestown. He will be selling part of his 190 hectares and will lease 108ha of that to his neighbour. A hay contractor for 22 years, Reg says he will sell some hay machinery as well as headers, tractors, airseeders and a combine. CLEARING sales across the State will crank-up in the coming weeks but the bumper harvest may mean that farmers will be more keen to pay-off debt rather than purchase machinery, according to some rural agents.
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So far, 20 clearing sales have been advertised for February, which is slightly down on last year’s numbers.

Elders Loxton’s Cameron Cooney said the good cropping season meant that farmers were keen to pay-off debt before looking to upgrade their machinery.

“Because of the tightness of the past few years, the good returns this year would certainly help to reduce a bit of debt,” he said.

“That’s probably going to be the foremost on a lot of people’s minds and then people would look at upgrading machinery.

“What the season has done is give a lot of people the chance to repay debt. I think if people look ahead and see another season like what we’ve just had then they probably don’t want to sell.”

Mr Cooney said a sale at Bugle Hut via Loxton was attracting interest from New South Wales and Victoria with the vendor offering the usual farming plant as well as a few rare gems.

“The vendor has got quite a few old John Deere tractors up for sale that he’s collected over the years, one of which is one of only two in Australia which should attract a fair bit of interest,” he said.

Landmark Wudinna’s Bill Sargent agreed, saying sales on Eyre Peninusla also seemed to be not as common as last year.

“It certainly is a little bit on the quieter side. On the EP it doesn’t seem like the run of sales that we normally have, it just seems a little bit thin on the ground this year,” Mr Sargent said.

“The good season is obviously helping people right across the board to consolidate their position in the business so that’s got to be a big plus toward the industry going ahead as normal.

“Compared to last year sales are definitely down. On the EP as a whole there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of sales advertised at the moment.”

But Mr Sargent said that despite the low numbers of sales, enquiries for sales that were scheduled have been looking positive.

“The enquiries on the sales we have got have been very promising. We’re getting calls regarding the big items right down to the small items so hopefully that can translate into some good bidding on the day.”

*Full report in Stock Journal, January 27.

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Wilmington turns on fun

GOOD TIMES: Danny Rowlett, Marrabel, Georgia Rockliff, Marrabel and Teighlor Rockliff, Yunta.
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A CROWD of 2000 turned out to witness the thrills and spills of the 45th annual Wilmington Rodeo on Saturday, January 22.

Click the image below to see our full gallery from the event.

Wilmington turns on fun TRIP NORTH: Skye Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW and Andrew White, Melrose.

HERE’S TROUBLE: Will Bennett, Pelina, Ryan Oates, Poonunda via Burra, Nick Pearce, Hilltown, and Thomas Quinn, Kingswell via Burra.

THREE MATES: Mick Noble, Jamestown, Nigel Turnball, Cleve, and Michael Siviour, Cowell.

PARTY TIME: Emma Niemann, Whyalla, Amanda Geye, Lobethal, and Nicole Yendall, Whyalla.

CUTE KIDS: Maddison McArthy and Chloe England, Port Augusta.

PORT AUGUSTA: (back) Jordyn Harvey, Madeline Johnston, Ricky Ellery, (front) Emily Johnston, Ruby Rabig and Alesha Johnston, all from Port Augusta.

NIGHT OUT: Casey and Bridie Lukich, Chris Struck and Maddison Pascoe, all from Port Augusta.

HORSING AROUND: Ray Hassan, Shea-Oak Log and Cas Heuritsch, Mount Pleasant.

BAR FLIES: Martin Luke, Willowie, Jim Oversby, Albany, WA, and Katie Thom, Canada.

ROCK ON: Tim Williams, Hamilton Vic, Cam Williams and Kirsty Scammell, Carrieton.

BIRTHDAY GIRL: Jamie and Prue Bury, Tara Fulward, celebrating Prue’s birthday.

TWO MORE: Nathan Stoffels, Adelaide, and Ben Arthur, Wilcannia, NSW.

SISTER ACT: Courtney and Beccy Williams, Burra.

HAPPY DAYS: Emily Hine, Stansbury and Larissa Elder, Murray Bridge.

RODEO CROWD: Member for Sturt Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Wilmingtno, Tom Bruce, Peterborough, and ABC’s Peter Goers, Adelaide.

GOOD TIMES: Danny Rowlett, Marrabel, Georgia Rockliff, Marrabel and Teighlor Rockliff, Yunta.

ROXBY BOYS: Heath Mynhart, Rowan Carrell and Daniel Sorokin, Roxby Downs.

CATCH UP: Paul Mason, Quorn, and Matt Williams, Nilpinna Station.

GIRL’S NIGHT OUT: Hanna Reichstein, Wirrabara, Riannon Bottral, Caltowie, Melissa King, England, and Sharlenn Baird, Scotland.

GOOD NIGHT: Adam Martin, Wilmington, Ben Reschke, Blinman, and Klay Reschke, Stirling North.

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Food security focus for NFF chief Linnegar

Matt Linnegar.A LOOMING food security crisis will be exacerbated unless the Murray Darling Basin debate is reframed to protect Australia’s vital agricultural base, according to newly-appointed National Farmers Federation chief executive Matt Linnegar.
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A new Institute of Labor Studies report states that Australia will be a net importer of key staples including dairy, lamb, fruit and vegetables by 2050 with the loss of productive land slashing agricultural output if current immigration levels are sustained.

Mr Linnegar said that scenario would be worsened unless the Federal Government threw out the Murray Darling Basin Plan in its current form and looked at new alternatives for water reform that supported regional communities.

“If you add these predictions on to the impact of cutbacks proposed in the basin plan, then that equation could be much worse,” Mr Linnegar told The Land.

“The issues of food security and a growing population – the broader issue is really about understanding the place of farmers and the rural sector and where it stands in Australian society,” he said.

“I very much see the NFF, and my role within the NFF, as being to improve the standing of farmers and rural communities in terms of the psyche of Australian society. That’s the headline stuff for me, and then there’s a set of sub-issues extending from that.”

Mr Linnegar agreed his appointment, which takes effect on March 14, came at a critical time for agriculture.

“With the issues on the table at the moment, you can only see this time as a critical juncture in agriculture, and NFF history as well,” he said.

Mr Linnegar said it was important for the Government to demonstrate that farmers could have faith in the Windsor inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin impacts, set up in the wake of a series of angry protests in Basin communities.

Last December, Opposition Water spokesman Barnaby Joyce foreshadowed farmers marching on Parliament to protest the botched water reforms.

“I think if farmers believe that the basin plan and government handling of it are moving in the right direction, and continue to move in the right direction, by bringing balance into the debate, the question is – will there be a need for that action? If farmers believe it is not moving in right direction, this action might be something they’ll consider,” Mr Linnegar said.

Mr Linnegar, 40, has 17 years representing agriculture, most recently as Corporate and Customer Operations general manager with Murrumbidgee Irrigation.

His resume includes stints as Ricegrowers’ Association executive director, and Marketing Co-ordinator for the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation (now Meat and Livestock Australia).

“My previous roles have given me a good understanding of not just the agriculture and farming sector but of the broader regional community and agribusiness more broadly, while I have direct experience in meat, rice and irrigation,” he said.

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Merriman the Merino trendsetter

Wal Merriman with a picture of his grandfather, Sir Walter.
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WOOL industry icon, the late Sir Walter Merriman, was a trendsetter in a boomtime for Merinos.

Wool was king and many of rural Australia’s great pastoral names were building their empires.

His own stud, Merryville, was established in 1904 with ewes he bought from his father’s Ravensworth stud at Yass.

He set up on a block he bought from his father, part of the original “Ravensworth” holding, and by 1930 was winning major prizes at the Sydney Sheep Show.

At a time when most breeders were chasing the Vermont type – popular because the extra folds of skin were considered to grow an increased volume of wool – Sir Walter and his father were travelling to Mudgee, Tasmania and Queensland’s Darling Downs to secure Saxon-type sheep.

His grandson and current co-principal of Merryville, Wal Merriman, said the stud’s famous Ringmaster family traced directly to those sheep.

Sir Walter also began a fine/medium line with the introduction of a ram from the famous Falkiner family’s Wanganella flock in the Riverina.

This ram – a Peppin type -was called Sir Francis, now another famous sire line in the Merryville stud, and was bought as a five-year-old in 1917 for 1000 guineas.

“He successfully blended the two types,” Mr Merriman said.

This line was developed to grow his market into the western areas where he could see people were after bigger sheep, “so he bred bigger fine wool sheep”.

Mr Merriman said his grandfather came through an era when many of the big names, such as Bundemar, Haddon Rig, Boonoke/Wanganella and Uardry, were building their empires – and he came through with them.

“And Merryville has since gone on to be a major parent stud in the industry,” he said.

He was knighted in 1954 for his service to the industry.

“He didn’t hang around – he walked in, got knighted and had to head home – he was shearing or something,” Mr Merriman said.

*Read more about some of the century’s most influential studmasters in The Land’s 100-page centenary liftout – free inside this week’s paper.

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Roads take hit to fund damage bill

ROAD upgrades have become a casualty of Queensland’s floods with the government delaying $1 billion worth of infrastructure spending to help cover its damages bill.
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Rebuilding infrastructure will take the lion’s share of the $5.6 billion damage bill, prompting the government to put off projects it had previously pledged to fund.

Yesterday the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said she had found $325 million by delaying six road projects in Queensland, and would redirect another $675 million after talking to other states in the coming days.

Rural areas will also feel the pinch: $350 million will be reallocated from the $800 million priority regional infrastructure program. The scheme, announced when Ms Gillard secured the support of key rural independents, funds local projects identified by communities.

Another $100 million will be redirected from the Building Better Regional Cities program, a scheme to help local councils provide infrastructure for housing developments.

Describing the decision to delay such spending as ”difficult”, Ms Gillard said: ”It’s never a happy thing to go to someone who’s expecting their road to be upgraded and say, ‘Well, actually I’m going to put that back in time, sorry about that.’ But that’s what I’m doing, and I’m doing it deliberately because of the capacity constraints and value-for-money questions.”

Apart from six projects in Queensland and one in South Australia, the government has not revealed which will be delayed or abandoned.

However, the range of project deferrals sparked a mixed response from business groups.

The chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Brendan Lyon, said the shift in priorities was understandable, but urged the government not to lose sight of long-term projects.

”While we accept and endorse the need to get Queensland back on its feet quickly, business is looking to the federal budget to provide leadership about how the Commonwealth will get the next round of nationally significant infrastructure projects … out of the ground,” Mr Lyon said.

The Urban Taskforce, representing property developers, criticised the decision to redirect half the funding of the $200 million Building Better Regional Cities program. The scheme pays for sewerage, road connections and infrastructure for new housing.

Its chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said: ”This scheme was supposed to see up to 15,000 more affordable homes in regional cities over three years, but we can expect that this number will now be halved.”

The president of the Business Council of Australia, Graham Bradley, asked the government to go further in its changes and cuts by targeting projects that had not been subjected to a cost-benefit analysis.

High on this list would be the $36 billion national broadband network, which the opposition has also targeted in its call for deeper spending cuts.

The government will be under pressure to ensure the $5.6 billion in public spending does not lead to rorting, as seen under its home insulation program.

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, called for more scrutiny and regular reports on flood reconstruction spending.

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Light lambs av 616c/kg

Central West stock agent, Greg Knaggs.ROBUST trade and heavy lamb prices have catapulted light lambs to new highs in the saleyards.
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Light lambs are traditionally the domain of the restockers, but a shortfall in supply coupled with insatiable demand means this category is averaging well in excess of 610 cents a kilogram (carcase weight).

During the drought, restocker lambs were plentiful as producers sold stock early – now there’s plenty of green feed about, buyers are finding it much harder to source the light lambs they require.

Although demand was building at the end of last year, in just the past few weeks the average prices for light lambs has skyrocketed.

On Tuesday, The Land’s restocker lamb indicator sat at 616c/kg. This was a rise of 21c/kg since the start of sales for 2011.

The remarkably high prices become more pronounced when compared to what restocker lambs were making just 12 months earlier – a difference of 122c/kg.

National Livestock Reporting Service analyst, Rob Millner, said restocker and feeder demand for store lambs had started the year on a very strong note, as eastern States farmers tried to make the most of the consistent summer rain.

“Additionally, the favourable outlook for lamb prices has contributed to the robust demand,” he said.

He said the very good seasonal conditions had resulted in more producers electing to hold onto store lambs, choosing to only sell prime lambs or even retain ewe lambs.

“Hence, the number of lambs purchased by feeders and restockers for the year to date declined three per cent year-on-year.”

The low numbers and robust demand caused the national restocker lamb indicator to lift $7.50 a head since the first week of January, to settle on $98.50 a head last Friday.

Ray White Emms Mooney director, Ben Emms, Blayney, said the restocker market in the Central Tablelands had been solid and there were still good supplies being offered.

He said although the prices were high, many restockers were buying with confidence that the lamb market, generally, would remain buoyant.

“In some cases, because of the strong rates, we are seeing producers selling their lambs in the wool rather than sending them in shorn.”

Mr Emms said much of the restocker lamb supply had been local, however, there have been runs of lambs from the Crookwell and Goulburn areas also being sold at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange, Carcoar.

Meanwhile, Australian lamb exports reached 155,496 tonnes (shipped weight) in 2010, back six per cent on the record set in 2009 (165,000t).

Despite the decline, 2010 was still the third-highest year on record – characterised by a reduced supply of lambs, record-high saleyard prices, the Australian dollar hitting parity, and resilient demand from the Middle East and South East Asia.

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Canadians buy Great Southern land

A Canadian pension fund has emerged as the largest private owner of forestry land in Australia after paying $415 million for 252,000 hectares of timber land formerly owned by the collapsed managed investment scheme operator, Great Southern.
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Nearly two years after the failure of Australia’s biggest MIS operator, its lenders will recoup only 60 per cent of the land’s valuation of three years ago, according to The Australian Financial Review.

The sale of the timber assets is the largest disposal in the near-defunct MIS sector since legislative changes triggered the collapse of the industry and the two largest players, Timbercorp and Great Southern, failed within a month of each other in 2009, crippled by too much debt.

The chief executive of Alberta Investment Management Corp (AIMCo), Australian-born Leo de Bever, said the group had been working on the deal for more than a year.

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Roads take hit to fund damage bill

ROAD upgrades have become a casualty of Queensland’s floods with the government delaying $1 billion worth of infrastructure spending to help cover its damages bill.
Nanjing Night Net

Rebuilding infrastructure will take the lion’s share of the $5.6 billion damage bill, prompting the government to put off projects it had previously pledged to fund.

Yesterday the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said she had found $325 million by delaying six road projects in Queensland, and would redirect another $675 million after talking to other states in the coming days.

Rural areas will also feel the pinch: $350 million will be reallocated from the $800 million priority regional infrastructure program. The scheme, announced when Ms Gillard secured the support of key rural independents, funds local projects identified by communities.

Another $100 million will be redirected from the Building Better Regional Cities program, a scheme to help local councils provide infrastructure for housing developments.

Describing the decision to delay such spending as ”difficult”, Ms Gillard said: ”It’s never a happy thing to go to someone who’s expecting their road to be upgraded and say, ‘Well, actually I’m going to put that back in time, sorry about that.’ But that’s what I’m doing, and I’m doing it deliberately because of the capacity constraints and value-for-money questions.”

Apart from six projects in Queensland and one in South Australia, the government has not revealed which will be delayed or abandoned.

However, the range of project deferrals sparked a mixed response from business groups.

The chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Brendan Lyon, said the shift in priorities was understandable, but urged the government not to lose sight of long-term projects.

”While we accept and endorse the need to get Queensland back on its feet quickly, business is looking to the federal budget to provide leadership about how the Commonwealth will get the next round of nationally significant infrastructure projects … out of the ground,” Mr Lyon said.

The Urban Taskforce, representing property developers, criticised the decision to redirect half the funding of the $200 million Building Better Regional Cities program. The scheme pays for sewerage, road connections and infrastructure for new housing.

Its chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said: ”This scheme was supposed to see up to 15,000 more affordable homes in regional cities over three years, but we can expect that this number will now be halved.”

The president of the Business Council of Australia, Graham Bradley, asked the government to go further in its changes and cuts by targeting projects that had not been subjected to a cost-benefit analysis.

High on this list would be the $36 billion national broadband network, which the opposition has also targeted in its call for deeper spending cuts.

The government will be under pressure to ensure the $5.6 billion in public spending does not lead to rorting, as seen under its home insulation program.

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, called for more scrutiny and regular reports on flood reconstruction spending.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Harvesting contractors face year of huge loss

Dalby contractor Cliff Weier
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FARMERS across the Eastern States have keenly felt the loss of bumper crops, but harvesting contractors share their pain.

Dalby contractor Cliff Weier said by this point in the season, he’d have hoped that his header driver would have clocked up 400 hours. So far, he’s done 130, most of them complicated.

“We’ve harvested enough to make some payments on the gear, but this season will be a huge loss for us,” Mr Weier said.

Watching the conditions come together for an outstanding crop during 2010, Mr Weier pencilled in some long-term Queensland clients but decided not to take on extra work further afield. “I didn’t think we’d cope,” he said.

That proved a good move, but not for the reasons he expected.

The stripping of paddock after paddock was delayed by rain and moisture, and the undone jobs snowballed.

“That’s the hardest thing about this harvesting game: maintaining your credibility,” Mr Weier said. “Everyone’s crop is the most important one, and it’s not easy to say you can’t get there to get it off.”

Every sector has its horror stories of the season, and harvesting contractors are no exception.

One colleague of Mr Weier’s started harvesting on a property in Warren, NSW, in November, and only was able to finish last week.

Another, who had just bought a new header, found his gear stranded on one property in central western NSW for 13 weeks—seven of which he spent in a caravan, watching the rain.

Mr Weier had a header motor blow up, and spent three clear days repairing it. Then the rain returned. Weeks later, he’s only just managed to finish up at that property because of those lost days.

“The worst thing about this harvest was how cool it was,” he said. “Sometimes the moisture would stay in the grain for three days after rain.”

Now Mr Weier is putting the blighted past behind him, and looking to the future.

On his own country—800 ha “Fairview” near Dalby and 250 ha of leased land nearby—the sorghum is looking phenomenal.

“The worst of our sorghum will at this stage go 7t/ha, and it’s all up from there.”

Like everyone with the ability to grow a summer crop, Mr Weier is hoping this particular harvest will go some way toward making up for the recent nightmare.

“I just hope that the blokes we work for pull this one out the hat,” Mr Weier said. “Everyone needs it.”

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