(1) Pastoral land tenure needs clarification
(2) Irrigators' conference says public needs educating
(3) Agriculture in the Classroom
(4) Earth Summit comment
(5) NSW Threatened Species Act undergoes change
(6) Money available for native title negotiations
(7) Dam covering trial
(8) Bioprospecting & Property rights looked at
(9) VIc Farmers improving on salinity
(10) Margaret House on City landscapes
(11) 30% of Melbornes water used watering gardens
(12) Ian Mott comments on water and environmental flows    
(14) Dr Richard Eckard & Leon Ashby discuss greenhouse etc
(15) Compartmentalism vs Integration - Keith McLaughlin (Leucaena Network)


(1) Pastoral land tenure needs clarification


ustralian rangelands have a defined land tenure regime at present, mainly in the form of pastoral leasehold. But discussion has taken place at the Australian Rangeland Society Conference  in Kalgoorlie  about the need to renew land tenure and property rights to accommodate other land use interests. Pastoralists are concerned their lease tenure is too narrow, and does not allow enough versatility in the use of the land. Tourism ventures were cited as one current difficulty raising questions about land access, and the responsibility of insurance when tourists come onto the lease.

* Some Leasehold arrangements cause problems with aquaculture, forestry, rabbit farming and a few other diversification options as well.


(2) Griffith Irrigators' conference says public needs educating

"The biggest issue that's come to light at the conference so far has been the fact that the water debate is held back because we've got so many governments with their own jurisdiction on interests and it's very hard to get to move to a single position. Water access rights are very different in each state and it's very difficult to move toward environmental flows until we can get past those barriers. The community at large needs to see the relationship between irrigation, which is often not seen in the best light, and it`s relationship with growing food."


(3) Agriculture in the Classroom


housands of kids in Australian cities now have the opportunity to add farming to their list of studies. It follows the launch of "Taking Agriculture to the Classroom", a program developed by the not for profit organisation the Kondinin Group. The aim is to teach city kids, 80 percent of whom have never been on a farm, how important it is to the economy. It's being launched by the Federal Minister for Agriculture Mr Warren Truss.


(4) Earth Summit comment

The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg  attracted about 65

thousand people from all over the world to debate issues like sustainable agriculture, subsidies and of course the Kyoto Protocol. David Brand, is the Director of Carbon Programs with the world's largest institutional forestry investor, Hancock Natural Resource Group. He says in the future Australia will be forced to sign the Kyoto Protocol to continue carbon credit trading with places like China.


NSW Threatened Species Act undergoes change

The Threatened Species Act is back on the State Government's agenda with plans to extend the legislation. If passed, the proposed amendments would see a new category of species created, called "vulnerable ecological communities". The new category aims to protect animals in danger of becoming threatened. Farmers are outraged by the proposal and claim they will become the threatened species if the bill becomes law. From the NSW Farmers Association, Rob Anderson, says farmers are loosing control over their freehold land. Western Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Terry Corn, says these changes will have little impact on the farming community.

* This proposal will force landholders into more  "public good" conservation without considering who should foot the costs.


(6) Money available for native title negotiations

The slow and costly process of negotiating native title agreements is set to improve for indigenous groups and landholders.The Commonwealth will come to the rescue for those unable to fund the process, provided that all parties work through the Native Title Practioners Panel.Panel member, Dr Lisa Lombardi, says the current process is frustrating for landholders, miners and indigenous claimants, mainly due to a lack of knowledge. Dr. Lombardi says there's a "bucket of money" available for pastoralists and indigenous groups to explore their rights


Dam covering trial
Geoff Moon is an irrigator at St George and he's just successfully covered one of his dams completely with a plastic dam cover, the Evap-Cap, invented by Warwick Hill from Meandarra. It's been a long process to put the cover in place with problems encountered with securing it, but this time the cover has been buried into the ground

(8) Bioprospecting & Property rights looked at

Kathryn Varrica (CLEG, NSW - near Taree) has sent us a Copy Australian Property Intitute (API) report on bioprospecting & property rights in the light of potential regional industry development

One comment was that "the institute (API) is aware of suggestions that the use of Biota such as genetic botanicals may have to be not only regulated but also recognised as "Property if they are to be conserved, and sustainably utilised. The Institute notes that it has been argued that the creation of such property rights would act as an economic incentive to sustainably utilise these natural resources

To summarise, the API, says should Biota be seen as a property right and be separated from the "bundle of rights" that are contained in land tenure rights (and become tradable, and / or collateral for a morgaged based loan), then they have to meet a defensible test

Carbon and water rights have begun being separated from the "bundle of rights" and become tradable, so perhaps biota could be also.

If it is, then there will most definitely be claims for compensation if those property rights are removed.

* The way I read it is that freehold landholders could possibly claim biota property rights compensation if they were not allowed to use certain biota that exist on their property.  

This may also have implications to any Govt (e.g.Qld) that has sold  bioprospecting / biota property rights without any consent from the properrty right holder.- Leon

(9) VIc Farmers improving on salinity

Salinity is a massive environmental problem but this week they're taking a glass half full rather than half empty approach at the Salinity Summit in Bendigo. The summit will focus on the evolution of salinity management over the past few decades and give itself a pat on the back. Steven Mills, Chairman of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority says a lot of good work has been done to adress the problem and a minor revolution has taken place during the last 20 years. He says farmers have embraced new technology and while the problem has not been stopped it has slowed dramatically. He hopes farmers receive better recognition for the good progress which has been made.

(10) Margaret House -  City landscapes

A few comments about city ecology.

In the cities people have a monoculture of non native lawn grass which they water week in week out, all year round.  The grass is kept constantly green with constant water, fertilizer, cutting, never allowed to grow very tall, never allowed to seed, die off etc.   
The grass is kept actively growing for years and years, never allowed to rest.  The soil is never allowed to rest.  As it runs out of nutrients more are artificially added.  The grass is never allowed to mature, seed and then die back and rest in survival mode for a few months of the year as happens everywhere else in nature.   There is a total monoculture as every native weed that pokes its head up is immediately removed.  All other trees and plants are usually non native, and even if they are native to Australia, are not native to that particular area.
Most of the environmental, salinity and bio diversity debate is centred around farmers.

Lets move it to the cities!

 (Lets have DEAD BROWN lawns in every back yard full of healthy native WEEDS that aren't allowed to be removed or even mowed without a PERMIT !!!!!!)

After all cities cover very large areas of very fertile areas in Aust and much more in the US and Europe and Asia.

Margaret House
Aramac, Qld

(11) 30% of Melbornes water used watering gardens

In a dry winter such as this one, you might shake your head to hear that 30 per cent of Melbourne's water consumption is spent watering gardens but there is some hope: a new botanic garden is opening in Geelong, hoping to show people how water savvy plants can be grown.
The idea for the water saving gardens came about when Geelong was in drought in 1994.

(12) Ian Mott comments on water and environmental flows    

I was doing some more thinking on this environmental water flow business and am even more convinced that it is an outrageous con. It implies that water volume is a synonym for river health. Yet, the Snowy River is no less healthy than it was 100 years ago, it is just smaller. To use the greens logic, the Yarra must be healthier than the Snowy because the former has more water.

If 20% of the normal flow is required to maintain a river's health then why does it need to be a continuous flow? Surely a monthly flush is all that is needed to replace stagnant water and rejuvenate water quality?

And why cant we continually recycle the same water? Why cant we divide a river system into, say, 100km stretches with a comparatively small storage at either end and flush down 10 megalitres every fortnight?  This could be collect at the bottom and pumped slowly back to the top storage again for continual re-use.

Most of our rivers have a very small gradient.

The actual flush may only take two days so the return pumping process can take twelve days, using a comparatively small pipe and a standard farm pump. Obviously, the storage at the bottom of one section could also be the top storage for the section down stream.

The total cost of this option would be only a small fraction of the cost of lost production from a 20% reduction in farm output.

The economics of this option are obviously diminished on the lowest river stretches where water flows are greatest but if water flows are still so great as to negate this option then, clearly, there will not be a need for dedicated environmental flows.

In fact, the portion of all river flows that is most amenable to recycling is the environmental flows. They can be added at any convenient point and extracted at any convenient point. The only "wastage" would be from evaporation.

I note that along the Condamine from St George to Warwick the river rises from 200m to 500m HD, travels 500km in a big curve but is only 325km as the Crows fly.

I would like to get some detailed water pumping costings before we get into serious number crunching but I bet it will be cheaper than the long term adverse economic impact of closing Cubby Station.

Once again, the "earth scientists", with their demand for a major slice of the pie, have been shown to have come up with the most expensive, least efficient and most complicated solution to a rather simple problem.

Ian Mott .


The Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, has
conceded that landholders face uncertainties about the application of the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act,
particularly in relation to threatened species, and has agreed to to consult
with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) before any new species of
plants or animals are listed under the Act as vulnerable or endangered.
Dr Kemp has also agreed to a Commonwealth-funded position assigned to
the NFF specifically to assist the agricultural sector with the impacts
arising from the EPBC Act.
The NFF's Chief Executive, Anna Cronin, said that while the new
arrangements were welcome, the EPBC Act posed "serious and
compounding problems" for agriculture and needed to be substantially
amended. She said that the Act was fundamentally flawed in the way it
was structured, that key elements were poorly defined and that it placed
unfair and onerous costs on individual farmers.

(14) Dr Richard Eckard & Leon Ashby discuss greenhouse etc

Here are some excerpts from 5 emails between Richard & Leon from a dairy email discussion group

Dr Eckard (leader of various greenhouse research) writes - Onto the question of methane and the argument that agriculture should be in carbon balance – this argument is fine if all the products stay in
the same form of carbon. The main problem is that a ruminant ingests
carbon from a plant (call this 1 CO2 equivalent) and then converts this
carbon into methane (CH4) which has a global warming potential of 21 CO2
equivalents – CH4 absorbs infra red radiation 21 time more than CO2) –
in other words, if all we did was put an after-burner onto our cows we
could end up carbon neutral – unfortunately only 2% comes out the back,
so we would have to have fire-breathing cows.

Our take on the issue is that CH4 is a very high form of energy and thus
represents a significant loss of energy and efficiency from a ruminant
production system. We see real opportunity here to not only reduce
methane loss (greenhouse abatement), but to use the current impetus
(hype to some) to explore some serious efficiency gains in ruminant
digestion. Our studies at Ellinbank have shown that redirecting just 20%
of the methane could lead to another 1.5 litres of milk per cow at peak

Another take on this is, why not turn the hype to our benefit? In a
short while we will be able to trade any reductions in greenhouse gasses
on a world trading market (see http://www.co2e.com/ ) and land managers
will be extremely well placed to capture these trades. In other words,
if we come up with an anti methanogen that dairy farmers can feed their
cows daily, they should produce up to 1.5 Litres more per cow per day in
peak lactation, and they could potentially sell the methane reduction

(20% of 100 kg per cow per year = 0.5 t/cow/yr x $20 Carbon Credit – for
100 cows = $1,000/year to pay for feeding the ‘silver bullet’ of more)
to some poor sucker who is facing a carbon tax to increase emissions
from a cement factory or power station – I would call that a win-win
opportunity! “

Rich Eckard
Leon sent a rundown on why Kyoto will only delay GW by 6 years and then asked Richard a series of Questions

Leon 1. "Is reducing methane emissions going to eradicate certain
micro-organisms in ruminants?"

Richard : Simple answer is yes! Methane is produced by a group of micro-organisms
called methanogens – these microbes use hydrogen and carbon dioxide in
the rumen to produce methane, while other groups use the same basic
elements and produce acetate and propionate etc. It is well known that,
without these microbes the rumen is more efficient and they are not
present in equal proportions in all rumen and hind-gut digestion
processes (i.e. the kangaroo does not produce methane – maybe we should
be farming roos? – Australian farming systems for Australia?)

Leon 2. ”Surely it is not very environmentally friendly to eradicate these
species when we are supposed to be keeping as much biological diversity
as possible."

Richard: We already manipulate these with the ionophores (i.e. Rumensin) we use
and by grain feeding (makes the rumen too acid for them to proliferate).

Leon: 3. While I understand your "GO WITH THE FLOW" sentiment on
Kyoto, I would like to know what sort of paper work and extra
unnecessary hassle we farmers are going to encounter with Kyoto.” - The Australian Farm Journal indicates farmers will pay $90 per cow.

Richard: The figure of $90 per cow (used in the Australian Farm journal) is totally unfounded – this assumes:
1. That farmers will actually have to pay a carbon tax – there is no
evidence that this will occur
2. It assumes that the trading price of carbon will be somewhere around
$40 per tonne of CO2e, when most markets are trading between $5 and $15
already (best price recently quoted is US$5).
3. It assumes that farmers will have to pay for 100% of methane
emissions, when the protocol limits Australia to 108% of 1990 emissions.
At worst we should be working on our increase above 8% since 1990.
4. Let’s take an actual scenario: you have 200 cows in 1990. At roughly
100 kg methane of 2.1 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents per cow per year
this makes 420 tonnes carbon dioxide from the herd per year.

After 1990
you add another 50 milking cows resulting in an increase of 105 tonnes
carbon dioxide per year. Kyoto allows an 8% increase (total 454 tonnes
CO2e from the farm), leaving 72 t as the Kyoto excess. At US $5 (roughly
AU$10) per tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent this would make $714
potential carbon debit or $14 per cow per year BUT ONLY FOR 50 EXCESS
COWS ABOVE 1990, and not the whole herd as implied in the Australian
Farm journal. But now feeding more grain and using an Ionophore on all
these cows – there may actually be a carbon credit rebate claimable, not
a payment due. I still reiterate, there is no evidence that farmers will
have to pay for this – and believe me I have asked most of the right

5. I know – I can hear you saying MORE PAPER WORK. That is one I cannot
answer, as I too can see an administrative nightmare, or, more likely,
thousands of consultants buzzing around charging farmers a percentage of
the claimable carbon credit rebate for doing the paperwork – a whole new
industry emerges based on ethereal hot air?.

6. The concept of planting trees is a bit of a furphy as far as I am
concerned. Yes it is part of a large-scale strategy, but our
calculations show that you would need 25% of your farm to offset all
your emissions. If you just wanted to offset excess emissions since
1990, an average dairy farmer would need to plant about 6% of the farm
to trees (in a high rainfall zone). This may not sound too bad, but
these trees, like the three-leaf grazing concept, have a lifespan of 20
to 30 years. After that you cannot touch them (no timber value – or you
lose at least 2/3 of the carbon credit) and you will need to plant a new
6% to continue to abate excess emissions. This too may be OK if we were
just dealing with the dairy industry. But we now include beef, sheep,
and then the power industry and cement plants – where does that leave
enough land for agriculture? Trees are part of the solution, but are
very much short-term thinking if we just plant them for carbon offsets

Just some of my thoughts on the subject and not necessarily the OFFICIAL
view of the Australian Government.

Rich Eckard

Leon: Thanks for the info,

Your explanation is the first one I have heard, that puts farmers in a possible win option, everyone else (e.g. Dr John Rolfe CQU) that I have talked to / read their info, has farmers paying out money unless we plant trees or get paid for natural tree growth, basically because all methane emissions are assumed to be taxed - not just the amount above 108% of 1990 levels.(Australia`s target)

Even if Kyoto was a good idea and it was not going to just delay Global Warming by a mere 6 years, I cannot see how anyone can truly devise arrangements which are going to be fair - That would require each individual farm enterprise having a 1990 baseline and in many instances that will be difficult to decide often due to farm ownership / management changes since then and it may even send some farmers to the wall - consider these situations.

1. If someone expanded their dairy operation from 500 cows on 1,000 acres in 1990 to 1500 cows on 2,000 acres in 2005, how would Kyoto decide their emissions - per acre or per cow, and what would the result be? (2.1 tonnes x 1,000 extra cows x $10 AUS =$21,000 AUS? )

2.  What happens if you didn`t have a farm in 1990. How do the calculations get worked out as to your farm`s 1990 levels for Kyoto? - Do you get the previous owners details? - What if he has died and had a complex business setup so the details are lost?

3. Or what if you had a 2000 ewe (sheep) property in 1990 , and converted it to a 200 cow dairy in 2000 - wouldn`t that put you in a paying position?

4 You say that "anyone who manages or owns large areas of
land is exceptionally well placed to capitalise on this new emerging
market in “hot air”." Can you specify how many ways this is supposably achieved (i.e. is it only by emissions less than 108% of 1990 levels)

5 Now if Kyoto gives land managers a few dollars for a few years, but then Kyoto MK II comes in which has emissions targets of below 1990, (some are calling for 60 - 80% below 1990 levels) then won`t that reduce these benefits you are talking about. Surely at some stage (Kyoto Mk?) farmers are going to be payers and not receivers   

5 Kangaroo (sustainable?) farming - As a former Roo shooter and someone who knows of a property that tried Kangaroo farming decades ago, roo farming is not an option - The property that tried to farm Kangaroos in a similar way to livestock found  the fencing costs were enormous - 8 ft tall fences were needed - in these areas electric fences can not be kept hot due to roos getting tangled, especially when dingoes chase the roos.
Emus also get tangled, while wild pigs bust holes in netting fences.

Supplying current markets, roo farming returns are very small (35 - 70 cents / kg for a carcass), and the control of grazing (resting growing grasses) is very difficult to achieve. To be viable roo returns would need to be at least $3-4 /kg for a carcass  ($80 a large 4yr old roo) - (Roos eat about the same as a sheep).

On top of this Roos lose condition and die when they cannot move off properties and find better grazing (green pick). During one dry year, I had roos dying around our lake because they could not survive on purely dry grass, whereas the ruminants (sheep & cattle) were able to survive fairly well (because they could utelise urea (nitrogen) to help digest the dry grasses).

No business (including roo farming) can be sustainable without being profitable.

I reckon anyone who publicly suggests an idea like roo farming should be made to invest their life savings into a trial venture and be one of the decision makers trying to make it work. It might reduce some of the "hot air" floating around.


Leon Ashby

* Richard hasn`t yet replied to this email

(15) Compartmentalism vs Integration - Keith McLaughlin (Leucaena Network)

Dear Leon
I enjoy reading your newsletter. It has full marks for content variety!!
The land; the environment and people...
I believe that not one of us is on track unless we are concerned with and actively promoting the causes of all three.
About thirty years ago, I stood on the bank of one of our creeks at Thangool and watched the "banker" running red from topsoil that was being lost from some crazy clearing of heavy scrubby slopes further upstream.
I was devastated with the knowledge that my sons would never see that soil again.
Later, we went to the beach, 200km away, and I saw an inlet that was too deep to be able to dive and touch the bottom when I was a young boy. I would have broken my neck if I had done the same dive at this later date..

I love my Country, and I love the real Australia that works hard, laughs a lot and is loaded with commonsense.
It is some of the most fertile ground in the world for good ideas and there is enormous potential at this time for us to develop, socially, economically, morally and spiritually.

We are the victims of political and corporate manipulation. Our independent spirit has the potential to become our enemy. Dozens of greedy entities are gleefully watching the principle of "divide and conquer" working magically!

Mate, we need to fight "compartmentalisation".
We have got to stop being our own centre of the world that we can see. We need to rediscover the art of being transparent.
Not that long ago, if we had nothing to hide we told our neighbour we were riding into town for supplies. We asked if there was anything we could get for them. Now we say "I'm going somewhere sometime next week to see someone" and treat that as a magnificent piece of shared information! No wonder the dividers are conquering!
The anthises (opposite) of compartmenisation, according to M.Scott Peck ("Further Along the Road Less Travelled") is
To me the process of integrated action and ideas and stance has nothing to do with the loss of individual rights.
Integration, however, does imply communication that lowers levels of imaginations and false fears.

We are becoming victims of specialists who demand of us that we live compartmentalised lives.

What you say at the Board meeting has nothing to do with your family, or your Church or your friends. Because you are not expected to be the same person on Friday night with the staff as you are with your husband/wife and kids for the rest of the week.

Because the tie that you put on to go to Church on Sunday is the same one that you put on to go to work on Monday, where it's OK that you direct that toxic wastes be poured into the local waterway!

Peck says an amazing thing. He points out that the Latin root for "Integration" is the same as that used for "integrity".
So a person of integrity is a decompartmentalised person!! Who you see is who you get!

Keith McLaughlin
Executive Officer.
The Leucaena Network

* G`Day Keith - Some good  comments there -

A few years ago I was doing a future profit (DNR planning course)  and one diagram that was used had a wagon wheel  depicting peoples different aspects to their lives, with the different sections of the wheel being work, social, family, spirititual etc.
What the landholders I was with all agreed, was that our work life was also mostly our social life, a fair bit of family life and so on. We didn`t have clear distinctions between them as the person giving the session expected.

Thats all for now