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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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”.

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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.
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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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Threat of more cuts in pipeline

Prime Minister Julia Gillard.JULIA GILLARD has warned she will slash spending further if necessary as she unveiled a $5.6 billion flood plan comprising a $1.8 billion one-off tax rise for middle and high income earners and $3.8 billion in scrapped or deferred greenhouse, industry and road programs.
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The $5.6 billion plan, the first estimate of the infrastructure damage bill from flood-affected Queensland and Victoria, risked blowing out, she said, and any further impost would be met by cutting the budget rather than raising the levy.

The government avoided a temporary increase to the Medicare levy and instead increased income tax levels.

For a year beginning from July 1, income tax on earnings between $50,001 and $100,000 will be increased 0.5 per cent and on earnings over $100,000 by 1 per cent.

About 4.8 million workers will pay the extra tax, while everybody on $50,000 and under, as well as people affected by the floods, will be exempt.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who will visit the flood-ravaged Lockyer Valley today, said the $1.8 billion should have been found by more budget cuts and the Coalition would oppose the levy. He was defied by the West Australian Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, who said ”most West Australians are willing to contribute a little bit more to help Queensland get back to its feet”.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, said she understood ”no one wants to pay more but the people of Queensland didn’t want this disaster either”.

Ms Gillard stressed the levy and budget cuts would pay for infrastructure only, not disaster relief or helping the uninsured.

She revealed the floods would wipe 0.5 of a percentage point off economic growth this year.

The budget cuts include the abolition of the $430 million ”cash for clunkers” election promise, and the $234 million remaining in the Green Car Innovation Fund. Another $500 million in solar energy programs was scrapped and road projects worth $1 billion were deferred between one and three years so the funds and labour could be redirected to flood areas.

Ms Gillard also axed Kevin Rudd’s signature carbon capture and storage program and the global carbon capture and storage institute.

It is understood the Industry Minister, Kim Carr, was angry at the cuts to business, especially the green car fund, and he expressed his anger in cabinet yesterday, arguing manufacturing was a priority area for assistance.

A senior source said the scrapping of the carbon reduction policies was ”a clear message that we are clearing the decks” for a carbon price.

Many of the greenhouse policies had been criticised because they were expensive ways to cut emissions compared with a price on carbon. For example, cash for clunkers would reduce carbon emissions at $400 a tonne.

”The key to these carbon abatement program savings is my determination to deliver a carbon price,” Ms Gillard said.

The legislation for the spending will be introduced when Parliament resumes the week after next. The independents in both houses were all non-committal yesterday, saying they wanted to see more detail and many still wanted a permanent disaster relief fund. The Greens were open to the levy but opposed cutting the greenhouse programs.

To help with the demand for labour during reconstruction, Ms Gillard said the government would fast-track approval for temporary 457 visas to import skilled workers. There would also be relocation assistance for 4000 unemployed people moving to areas where workers were needed.

Of the $5.6 billion, $2 billion will be paid immediately to Queensland. Ms Gillard dismissed concerns money would be wasted like it was with some stimulus spending, saying it would be managed by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. Payments to other states would be made though the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

”I want to get this done, I want to get it done quickly, and I want to get it done right,” she said.

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WAFarmers calls for correct facts in GM debate

THE Western Australian Farmers Federation (Inc.) (WAFarmers) has called for all parties wishing to wade into the discussion on genetically modified (GM) versus organic farming methods, and the implication of each, should ensure that they are well informed and rational in their discussion.
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The call follows a media release issued today from Shadow Agriculture Minister, Mick Murray, which has a number of errors in it including his understanding of who WAFarmers members are and who is eligible to apply to the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund.

WAFarmers President, Mike Norton, noted that GM is a topic that many people are passionate about on both sides of the debate, but this does not negate the need for true facts, reason, and a level-headed discussion.

“While there has been much publicity about the situation in Kojonup, there are many unknowns about the situation particularly to those who are not directly involved.

“WAFarmers, along with some other industry representatives, have been trying to establish the facts around the situation and will continue to do so.

“Obviously a number of parties have their own agenda to push in relation to this situation. This is their right, but let’s not lose sight of the facts, surrounding legislation and the individuals involved.

“Unlike Mr Murray, WAFarmers is well aware of who its members are and is engaging with them,” concluded Mr Norton.

WAFarmers will hold its annual review of its genetically modified organism policy in late February 2011.

All WAFarmers members have the opportunity to have their views heard at this review through their local Zone or Commodity Council.

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Future of $5.6b package in hands of Greens and independents

Bob KatterJULIA GILLARD’S $5.6 billion flood reconstruction package faces a rocky ride through Parliament with the Coalition implacably opposed to the $1.8 billion levy and independents and Greens in both houses all concerned about accountability, the nature of some budget cuts, and the lack of a permanent natural disaster fund.
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The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, supported the $3.8 billion in budget cuts and project deferrals announced by Ms Gillard yesterday but reaffirmed his opposition to the levy.

He said the government should fund the entire $5.6 billion with budget cuts and said the Coalition would announce in the next few days where the extra $1.8 billion could be found.

”I strongly support urgent spending on flood reconstruction in Queensland and Victoria but the Coalition strongly opposes this unnecessary new flood tax,” he said.

The Western Australian Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, defied Mr Abbott and supported the levy while Victoria’s Liberal Premier, Ted Baillieu, agreed the budget should be cut further.

Ms Gillard, who will introduce the legislation when Parliament resumes on February 8, accused Mr Abbott of hypocrisy given he took to the election a $3 billion paid parental leave policy to be funded by a levy on big business.

She said if Mr Abbott considered a levy good enough to fund an election promise, ”how could it not be good enough to fund the reconstruction of Queensland?”

In the lower house, the independent MP Bob Katter railed against the package, saying there should be a permanent disaster relief fund.

Fellow independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie said their minds were open and they wanted more detail. Mr Windsor said he still preferred a natural disaster fund to be funded by a continuing levy, and he needed to be convinced the money from Ms Gillard’s package would be spent wisely and where it was needed.

”I’m undecided,” he said.

In the Senate, Nick Xenophon said he wanted to study the detail and would need to be reassured that the money would be wisely spent. Steve Fielding concurred.

The Greens, who must approve the legislation in both houses, said they were ”open” to the flood levy but opposed to the axing and capping of carbon reduction programs.

”[We] will seek discussions with the government about alternatives, including deferring top-end corporate tax cuts as well as establishing a long-term disaster relief fund to face up to the reality of climate change,” the acting leader, Christine Milne, said.

One of the cuts included redirecting $350 million from the $800 million Priority Regional Infrastructure Program which was established as part of the deal to win the independents.

Mr Oakeshott said he did not consider this a breach of the deal by the government and Mr Windsor was also unperturbed.

The Queensland Labor MP Shayne Neumann, whose seat of Blair was ravaged by the floods, said Mr Abbott was being selfish and was out of touch with the desire of Queenslanders.

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US gives full approval to GM alfalfa

USDA’s decision today to fully approve Roundup Ready alfalfa without conditions was met with immediate praise from the US National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and BIO.
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NCFC president Chuck Conner said, “In deregulating RRA without conditions, USDA has upheld the integrity of regulatory process for biotechnology crops that has existed since the adoption of the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology in 1986.” Conner, who was USDA’s Deputy Secretary during the Bush Administration, called Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision “a victory.”

A statement from NCFC noted “the approval comes just over a month after APHIS issued its environmental impact statement (EIS) concluding that RRA posed no risk under the Plant Protection Act. The EIS was prepared in accordance with a 2007 order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which found procedural problems with APHIS’s initial deregulation of RRA.”

The USDA decision on biotech alfalfa had been closely watched because the final EIS included an option that would have required several conditions for planting biotech varieties – an option that quickly became known as “co-existence.” That option was opposed by those who wanted a science-based decision that recognized the safety of Roundup Ready, but it was supported by organic growers who feared contamination from stray genetically engineered pollen.

Jim Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said in a statement on Jan. 27, “Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s decision is based on sound science and two decades of regulatory precedent…This action also supports President Obama’s pledge to support science-based decision-making and to steer away from policies that create barriers to economic growth.”

Roundup Ready alfalfa was developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics International (FGI). The USDA decision comes in time for spring planting, Monsanto noted. Monsanto, FGI and other alfalfa seed companies have varieties of Genuity Roundup Ready alfalfa seed in stock and ready for sale.

Roundup Ready alfalfa was commercialized in 2005. More than 5000 farmers had planted Roundup Ready alfalfa on over 250,000 acres before a court ruling regarding USDA’s administrative process halted further sales and planting. Today’s announcement authorises resumption of the sale and planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.

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Locust threat rears head again

THE State Government says it will help local councils in the coming weeks to combat significant bands of locust hoppers, and move to curb their threat in autumn.
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Agriculture minister Michael O’Brien said locusts were now particularly prevalent in the Barossa Valley and some areas of the Mallee, Riverland and Mid North.

“Second generation locusts have started to band together in some of these areas, presenting a potential threat to autumn sowing,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Unless we get on top of this second generation of hoppers now, there will be far greater problems in autumn.

“The next few weeks will be critical, as once the locusts are on the wing there will not be a viable treatment option.

“We will be assisting councils where they have identified significant banding of locust hoppers.

“This support will include chemicals and assistance in targeting locusts and, using contractors, treating significant hopper bands on roadsides and public land.”

Mr O’Brien said there would not be any aerial spraying at this stage.

“The locust targets are too dispersed and bands too small for safe or effective aerial treatment,” he said.

“We cannot spray aerially near townships, watercourses, vineyards or fruit blocks.

“If left untreated, locusts can make a meal of ovals, reserves, racecourses, roadside edges and they are even attracted to golf courses.

“While the state’s grain harvest is mostly in the bin and locusts are no threat to current production, they will pose a threat at sowing time if locust populations aren’t kept under control now.”

Biosecurity SA executive director Will Zacharin reminded landholders they have a primary responsibility to treat locusts on their properties.

“Where croppers are undertaking summer weed control after recent rains, they may be able to kill

two birds with one stone,” Mr Zacharin said.

“It’s possible to mix some insecticides with herbicides, so landholders should check the labels for suitability, and if they see locusts banding, consider combining locust control with their summer weed control.”

Mr Zacharin also offered advice to homeowners who find locusts in the garden.

“It’s important to understand that young locusts will munch on anything green and grassy,” he said.

“Home owners need to assess whether they should take action to treat locusts in the garden.

“Your local garden centre will be able to provide advice on the most suitable insecticides, or alternatively see our fact sheets on locusts and home gardens at 梧桐夜网pir.sa.gov419论坛/locust.”

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