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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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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
Nanjing Night Net

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.”

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

Time for a change says CBH board nominee

Coorow grower and nominee for the CBH Board of Directors Michael O’Callaghan said the CBH co-operative was the envy of the east coast but needed to be the envy of the world.MIDLANDS grower Michael O’Callaghan has big plans for his appointment to the CBH Board of Directors if voted in at this year’s shareholder election.
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Mr O’Callaghan was the only newcomer to the election race this year despite huge grower interest in the structure and direction of the CBH co-operative.

He will run against current director Clancy Michael.

Citing the idea that CBH needed to work harder for its growers, Coorow farmer Mr O’Callaghan told Farm Weekly that the CBH co-operative was the envy of the east coast but should be the envy of the world.

“When CBH is redesigned it has just got to be bulletproof,” he said.

He compared the potential of CBH to New Zealand dairy company Fonterra and said its members were privileged to be part of an expanding and growing company that worked hard for its producers.

Mr O’Callaghan said the CBH co-operative had been lazy and he wanted to see CBH working harder.

“If we’re talking a billion dollar business, then it’s not assisting farmers to its full capacity,” he said.

“I really want to see this business doing more for growers.

“The CBH Group should be giving WA farmers a huge advantage.

“There are also things that I see as basics but they’re still not happening and it’s frustrating.”

Mr O’Callaghan wanted to see executive bonuses linked directly to lower costs and higher grain prices for farmers.

“It’s a co-operative that should have one priority to look after and that is the active graingrower,” he said.

“I want to see the $100 million of growers’ money in the flour mills come back onto farmers’ balance sheets.

“And maybe we have to use the flour mills and other value adding ventures to set up funding to reward retiring growers.”

Further to that Mr O’Callaghan, raised questions about on-farm sampling sites at harvest.

“We need to make sure that’s very equal across the board – a completely fair and transparent system,” he said.

“Yet on the contrary, community sampling is a wonderful idea and I think there should be more of it.”

He was also disappointed with CBH’s harvest finance package and said the company’s scale could always provide more monetary value for loyal growers.

“CBH Grain isn’t offering the best harvest finance around,” he said.

“With their $250 million of reserves CBH should be leveraging off that and giving growers best interest margins in Australia.

“CBH doesn’t have to be the biggest in the grain game to assist WA growers, just constantly offer the best deals to us.

“If other grain giants want to compete, let them.

“CBH just has to set a benchmark year in year out.

“It will be good if other businesses make better offers, because they won’t do it all year.

“If CBH was in WA offering harvest finance at half a per cent lower than anybody else could even think about, if it was offering a really cut-to-the-bone daily grain price linked to futures and currency and giving us five or 10 dollars better than everybody else, it doesn’t have to be the biggest to be the best for WA growers.

“CBH will drag the interest rates down, the grain prices up and drive other companies to want to compete.”

It was the support of other farmers which prompted Mr O’Callaghan to campaign this year, but he also wanted to unite the board and help send the co-op in one singular direction.

“CBH has been in limbo and it just needs to come out of the doldrums as such,” he said.

“There are so many good strong co-operatives around the world that we can model this group on.

“When you see what has happened to other organisations, whether they be storage and handling organisations on the east coast or the AWB, I just want no chance of that happening to us.”

Mr O’Callaghan promised not to be vague about what the members should get from CBH.

“There’s one direction that growers will get from me and I’ve supported the co-operative structure vocally and publicly for over a decade,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to change; it only has to have one master as such.

“A recent survey of 1000 growers has proven that over 80 per cent of growers want a co-operative structure.

“So all growers should understand there is neither the desire or need to float this business.

“I just think there are no grey areas and the combination of myself getting on the board and the existing directors will allow the business to be driven a lot further.”

He said he chose this year to run because it was time for a change.

“It has been too static,” he said.

Existing board member Wally Newman said he was disappointed that there wasn’t more players within the election race this year and Mr O’Callaghan agreed.

“Wally Newman and Vern Dempster are both very well credentialed with firm co-operative views and it would have been very hard for anyone to go up against them,” he said.

“The other thing we shouldn’t discount is the affect of the drought, it does knock farmers around and there are a lot of things that you don’t do when you’re in that kind of mindset, there are other things to worry about at home, because you don’t get on the board and take it lightly, it’s a big job.”

The election poll will close at 10am on Thursday, February 24, 2011 and the results will be announced following the vote count on the same day.

Information on Clancy Michael’s campaign to follow in next week’s edition of Farm Weekly.

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

Beefy bet pays at Cumnock

Cumnock farmer, Mal McCalman.AS MANY graziers and farmers try to edge their toe back into sheep and lambs to take advantage of the recent price booms, Cumnock operators, Mal McCalman, and son, Andrew, are sticking to beef.
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The partnership, which operates as Burrawong Graziers, runs the 1012-hectare “Mayfield” and 1417ha “Burrawong” at Cumnock.

The pair have been working together since about 1995, when Andrew returned from ag college and playing rugby union for Eastern Suburbs in Sydney.

“We used to run crossbred ewes and Merinos and always had a few cattle,” Mal McCalman said.

“We found we had too many enterprises, so when Andrew came home we decided to focus on the cattle.”

The partnership runs more than 500 breeding cows, of which 90 per cent are Shorthorn and the balance are Red Angus/Shorthorn.

The partnership also takes part in some opportunity lamb trading, but “not much”, according to Mr McCalman.

“Nearly 40pc of the operation is farming, and most of the rest of it is cattle.”

And it’s easy to see why they rely on the bovine business.

Steers are finished to sell at 18 to 20 months of age – they sell more than 200 a year – and are usually sold direct to Cargill.

The steers are professionally assessed by Dibbs Livestock before sale.

The prices they achieve are consistent.

A draft of 48 head which sold to Cargill in the first week of January averaged $3.40 a kilogram.

The average hot dressed carcase weight (HDCW) of the group was 315kg, and they averaged $1070 a head.

This was on the back of a larger draft of steers which averaged $3.44/kg in October, and 29 cull heifers sold to Primo at Scone which averaged $3.19/kg and topped at $3.30/kg in November.

If the season was a bit tough, Mr McCalman said they would occasionally sell steers to a feedlot or backgrounder.

He said he found the cull cows also returned a tidy sum when they were sent to Throsby’s at Singleton. In October, they sold from $2.85/kg to $2.95/kg.

“We try not to sell anything through the saleyards,” he said.

“They stress less when they go straight from here to the abattoir.

“If you go through the saleyards, they’re yarded here, trucked to the saleyards, stand in the yards for a day or so, then onto another truck, before they’re finally killed.”

The “Burrawong” Shorthorn herd was initially based on Claremont bloodlines from Lee and Company at Larras Lee, but these days mainly consists of local Moombi genetics, also at Cumnock. The McCalmans have two joinings and calves drop in autumn and spring.

“We find we can get more work out of the bulls that way,” he said.

The bulls are joined at a ratio of one bull to 40 cows, and there are never more than two bulls in a mob.

An average conception and calving rate of 85 per cent is achieved.

Currently, the McCalmans have seven Shorthorn bulls from the Moombi stud, and two Red Angus sires from Tullatoola stud, Molong.

Heifers calve at about 30 months and are joined three weeks before the cows.

“That gives them time to catch up for the next joining,” he said.

About 120 heifers are kept back each year, and these are classed by Lester Job from Moombi Shorthorns, who also assists in selecting suitable bulls.

Red Angus bulls were introduced to use over the heifers about five years ago after a spate of calving

problems.

“We’ve had improved calving with our heifers and we’re a bit more vigilant now,” he said.

“Anything that has trouble or is assisted goes, and if she has a heifer calf, that will go too.”

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

Damage to NSW winter crop exceeds $850 million

RUINED and downgraded winter crops across NSW have resulted in farmers pocketing at least $850 million less for their 2010 harvest, minister for primary industries, Steve Whan, said today.
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Minister Whan will today visit Moree in the State’s north-west to visit a farming property affected by flooding.

“Industry & 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,” he 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.”

The official State Government January Conditions Report shows all of NSW remains satisfactory.

Minister Whan said pulse crops had 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 & 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.

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

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

Axed green schemes divide lobbies

THE federal government’s axing of several green programs was welcomed by the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, who backed the flood levy yesterday.
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”If we are going to have a market-based mechanism, we don’t need them,” she said. ”They are very, very expensive.”

But the chief executive of the Climate Institute, John Connor, said putting a price on carbon would not replace the need for investment in clean energy technology.

”No one is shedding a tear for the demise of the cash-for-clunkers program, but slashing investment in utility-scale solar or carbon capture and storage technologies, let alone solar hot water programs, is extremely short-sighted,” Mr Connor said.

The president of the ACTU, Ged Kearney, said ending the green car innovation fund would hurt investment and cost jobs.

The national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Dave Oliver, protested to the Minister for Industry, Kim Carr.

”The manufacturing industry is under significant pressure at the moment with the high Australian dollar, and cutting any program that has potential to attract investment is the wrong way to go,” Mr Oliver said.

Business groups’ opinions were split on the flood rebuilding plan.

The president of the Business Council of Australia, Graham Bradley, said the government was ”putting the cart before the horse with a flood levy when the full cost of rebuilding after the floods is not yet known” and urged the government to go further with spending cuts instead.

But Mrs Ridout said ”we can live with it”. The government’s changed spending priorities were sensible, she said.

”We have made the point very strongly that we want more accountability and oversight and transparency in how the money is spent and it is vital the government provides that.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry opposed the levy, fearing it would adversely hit small business and retailers by reducing consumer spending.

Its chief executive, Greg Evans, said: ”Tax increases, whether temporary or otherwise, have an economic impact and are likely to place continuing pressure on already anaemic levels of consumer spending.”

Homelessness and social service groups criticised the $264 million cut to spending on affordable housing, which means 15,000 fewer rental dwellings will be built by 2014.

The chairman of the National Affordable Housing Summit, Julian Disney, said: ”Unaffordable housing is already a massive national problem and will become worse because of the floods.”

The National Farmers Federation described the plan as ”a substantial commitment that will give comfort to all affected that they won’t be forgotten”.

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

Harvesting contractors face year of huge loss

Dalby harvesting contractor Cliff WeierFARMERS across the Eastern States have keenly felt the loss of bumper crops, but harvesting contractors share their pain.
Nanjing Night Net

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.”

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