Welcome to another News & views,
                                                   As BushFires rage again, there have been many calling for a change to the way our society considers conservation - making it fire responsible as well. Unfortunately many don`t realise the cruelty of nature without some sort of human intervention, until it invades their comfort zone. Despite the tradgedies, it`s good to hear some facts about fires getting  publicity. Cinders can start fires many kilometres ahead of the front, e.g a large Bushfire that burnt out the Southeast of SA in 1959 sent cinders into Tasmania the next day.

A number of Green groups are quickly putting out media statements about how park management is not a problem. Perhaps there should be a campaign for everyone drawing up conservation plans to have a hundred hours of frontline firefighting experience before they can be a part of the planning. Inexperienced theorists are a danger to our society.

(1) Discussions begin about merging various "rural / whole thinking" environmental groups
(2) Cottonworld articles - Water
(3) GM plantings skyrocket
(4) Lower Murray Irrigation wants fairer treatment
(5) Roo quotas to be reduced due to drought
(6) Adidas targeted by Animal libbers
(7) East Timor's farmers battle drought, low prices and insecure land tenure
(8) Rainfall figures broken in the Territory
(9) WWF report stirs up Drought debate
(10) Lobby group to promote irrigated agriculture  
(11) Are some trees in the wrong places?
(12) NSW Opposition promises to change water sharing plans if need be
(13) The great water revolution - article from G`Day G`Day Magazine
(14) Land & Water Australia announces "leading edge thinking" on property rights
(15) Limiting food supply - "Costing Clerk thinking" - Ian Mott
(16) REAP WHAT YE SOW - article
(17) Judith McGeorge & Leon reply

(1) Discussions begin about merging various "rural / whole thinking" environmental groups

Leon Ashby, Ian Mott, John Burnett, Gordon Rickertt, & Paul Fordyce & others have begun discussing the idea of forming a more formal body for the work that Resource Managers Group, the Landholders email network, the Landholders web site, & the landholders institute are doing.
The idea is to have an Australia wide rural environmental body that is incorporated
This body would be open to primary producers who have our objectives of furthering research, understanding, and publicity on sustainable production, sustainable conservation, while defending our rights.

Membership cost would probably be minimal
It would allow individual members or group members to apply for environmental funding under our "environmental banner"  
It would be to further our cause in a variety of ways e.g.
On farm research, furthering the email network, improving the web site, writing articles, speaking at conferences, producing environmental programs for airing on BushVision,  
& other ways to publicise our information.

The discussions have only begun, so if anyone wants to join in & make a comment on the proposal, please drop a line to us soon.  

(2) Cottonworld articles - Water

20c in the dollar for water losses
WHO is eligible for assistance?
Mr Aquilina...secure access click below to read more

Irrigators boycott water tax
ROBERTSON: Reforms must reflect value
PLUS...Cullen supports Balonne science
QUEENSLAND Cabinet announcement

(3) GM plantings skyrocket

With a decision on the introduction of genetically modified canola in Australia looming, a new report shows adoption of GM crops world-wide is skyrocketing. The report by biotechnology industry group, ISAAA, shows plantings of GM canola, cotton, corn and soy have grown twelve per cent, while the number of farmers growing GM crops has increased by over a million, to nearly six million. But, anti-biotechnology campaigners have canned the report, labelling it propaganda. The GeneEthics Network says rather than booming, the biotechnology industry is going bust, because of the slow adoption of GM crops in countries outside the United States and Canada.


(4) Lower Murray Irrigation wants fairer treatment

The group which represents lower Murray dairy farmers is concerned the state government may be treating them unfairly. The SA government's planned contribution to reform irrigation practices in the region appears to be dropping.

Discussions are continuing and the final figure on what the contribution

will be is expected to be decided in coming weeks. In the meantime dairy farmers in the lower Murray have just signed an agreement with the SA government to self-manage irrigation in the area for 12 months. Terry Lee says this is a step in the right direction. "The next step clearly is about the rehabilitation, but we are now in charge of our destiny as it were.

 The farmers have set up an organisation called Lower Murray Irrigation,

which runs the day to day water delivery, drainage, repairs and maintenance and makes sure the job runs efficiently. We believe that we can reduce the current cost of that by 30 per cent by doing it ourselves . Already the rates, which were some $262 last year, we've reduced to $209 - so already we're seeing the benefits of this process. We produce some $102 million worth of dairy products within this region and we mustn't put that at risk.

Environment Minister, John Hill says the amount of public funding proposed as a contribution is based on the level of public benefit from the project. The government's offering funding for the preparation of business plans for the farms so they can assess their future options.


(5) Roo quotas to be reduced due to drought

The head of Australia's Kangaroo Industry Association says the drought is slowly starting to have an impact on kangaroo numbers but only in isolated areas. John Kelly says National Parks authorities will increase their monitoring of kangaroo numbers this year and as a result cull quotas may be progressively reduced.  In New South Wales the industry almost invariably utilises full quota, but in states like South Australia and Queensland we significantly under-utilise the quota.


(6) Animal Liberationists target ADIDAS

"In the USA and the UK, activists will hold protests outside malls and stores which stock Adidas soccer cleats and urge shoppers to boycott all Adidas products as long as they use kangaroo skin. Events will also take place in Australia, Poland and other European countries.

Their publicity states
"It is vital to the survival of kangaroos that we stop the trade in their skins, especially for the manufacturing of soccer cleats. According to Australia’s leading tanners of kangaroo leather, Parker Tanning, manufacturers prefer to use the largest skins to make athletic footwear. These skins come from the large red males who take 10 years to reach alpha status and are being continually massacred so few survive to pass on their superior genes to the next generation. This means that smaller, weaker and younger males are left to breed with the females, producing offspring who are less likely to survive a major drought or other natural disasters. We must reverse this trend before a major disaster strikes and Australian kangaroos are wiped out! It is frightening that leather suppliers are complaining that there are few large red males left in Australia. Skins are getting smaller and smaller as they now shoot juveniles."

* The propaganda put out by animal libbers claiming extinctions, weaker genetic pool and more, must annoy everyone in the industry. The industry has to consider a communications strategy involving promotional campaigns by the people who know the facts, otherwise another sensible and responsible industry will disappear and the inland will be overrun with even more roos.


(7) East Timor's farmers battle drought, low prices and insecure land tenure

Freelance reporter, Anthony Funnell, recently visited the world's newest nation to see how farmers are coping. He says a recent drought hit farmers hard, and the Government was even considering emergency food aid in December. Since then, there's been good rain, however Coffee is one of East Timor's few exports and the value of the commodity is falling away and farmers are now receiving just 20 cents US a kilogram.   Representatives of the East Timorese Government, admit there is a lot more work required to develop industry in East Timor, although this cannot not be achieved without continuing international support. There is concern no one is prepared to invest in agriculture as there is so much uncertainty over land tenure.

* I wonder if the East Timorese govt recognises secure property rights as the first step to build a strong economy upon.

(8) Rainfall figures broken in the Territory

In the Territory rainfall records are being broken. Redbank Mine, 340 kilometres from Borroloola towards the Queensland border, has already broken its monthly rainfall figures having received 1199.6 millimetres or 48 inches so far this month, their previous high was 378mm.


(9) WWF report stirs up Drought debate

A WWF report on the drought claims humans have magnified its serverity.The study by some of the nation's leading weather experts, claims human-induced global warming has increased levels of evaporation in water catchments and dried out farming land much quicker than normal. The World Wide Fund For Nature, report states Australia's temperature on average was one degree higher than normal last year, and that increased the impact of the drought.


*The WWF has a history of publishing inaccurate reports, see http://www.ipa.org.au/pubs/ngounit/wwffs.html , an article by the institute of public affairs written about Great Barrier Reef issues.

As we have stated before, determining an exact human induced factor into the Global warming debate is still guesswork.
Global warming studies need to factor in the static - i.e.  the fluctuations of the worlds climate pre 1950, before greenhouse gas emissions took off.
The static includes the "great drought" of 100 years ago (was there an increased temperature of 1 degree then?)  
Another bit of contradictory evidence to GW includes a recent New scientist magazine report (1/6/02) showing an increase in the amount of ice in the Southern Ocean around Antartica over the last 20 years.
That report used satellite pictures and showed over 200,000 square km of extra ice today than 20 years ago.
Of course some are so convinced of GW, they argue that this increased ice cover is a symptom of GW.

We believe that the best way to progress complex environmental debates is for all the available evidence ( both for & against) to be presented to the public. This should be done before any govt decides to commit dollars or write laws on that issue.

Part of the BushVision plan is to allow groups to come together and do just that via satellite tv and other supporting telecommunications linkups.


(10) Lobby group to promote irrigated agriculture

Victorian irrigators say they're sick and tired of being called environmental vandals. They want to form a state wide lobby group to promote the positives of irrigated agriculture. Peter Schwarz Chair of the Victorian Irrigated Cropping Council says the importance of irrigation has been lost in the environmental debate and in the process, people are forgetting about where there food comes from. He says a united voice is needed for all types of irrigators to put a positive spin on the industry :


(11) Are some trees in the wrong places?

Well the trees are in the ground, the timber plantations established but are Victoria's plantations in the wrong areas? Ongoing studies by the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology suggests that while some water catchments are better than others to grow trees those trees could actually be drying up catchments and doing more harm than good.

Professor Rob Vertessy Director of the C-R-C for Catchment Hydrology

says we should be trying to target the lower rainfall areas of 500-800mm a year rather than the upper, higher rainfall catchments which provide most of the water for our river systems. He says the dilemma is that trees are easier to establish in high rainfall areas and there is more infrastructure in those areas to support plantations. He says tax relief and government regulation are required. He says otherwise water security could be compromised for downstream users.


(12) NSW Opposition promises to change water sharing plans if need be

The Water Sharing Plans, which aim to allocate water between irrigators and the environment, have been a major reform pushed through by the Carr Government. While the plans have been "gazetted", the process has enfuriated farming communites, which claim the reforms will strip jobs and money from the regional economies. In a bid to shore-up the rural vote, the Opposition has today launched its Water Management Policy promising a new era, one that will be more inclusive, equitable and scientifically rigorous. Don Page is going to put more money into gathering the appropriate scientific information so the decision are well-founded and understood. He will also restructure water committees to better reflect the communities he says "bureaucracy will be on tap, not on top". He says he is prepared to de-gazette the plans that don't have community support. The Coalition says they are fair dinkum about introducing "property rights" with full compensation if those rights are eroded by policy changes.

(13) The great water revolution - article from G`Day G`Day Magazine

Water rights and property rights have been taken for granted for a long time by most Australians. This is changing and the rate of change is set to escalate dramatically.
Rural Australia will see pressure from many fronts to vary the legal rights of ownership and use of water and property. Many groups within the community have already reacted to the latest drought in a knee-jerk manner while helping set off sections of the community on radical unproductive and in some instances hazardous directions.
Rural Australia must show leadership and take advantage of this opportunity to convince people that long-term sustainability is as much about commercial returns as it is about the environment.
Things are not good in the water scene, for the first time some underground water supplies have dried up all together.  The idea of bigger pumps and more irrigation as the way to increased returns is dead. The future is all about more productivity using less resources (including water) more effectively while at the same time having produce priced to identify the real production costs.  
The current buzz from the scientific community is about having the true cost of water reflected in the price of produce, this is surely an opportunity for the rural community to insist that the pricing formula must not just focus on environmental issues but include social and commercial factors as well.
The rural community has been managing the environment by the nationally recognised standards they have been handed by state departments, the CSIRO and other bodies since such standards existed, without any direct consideration of the cost of land management.
Rural Australia must unite for this debate. Those special interest groups which have most to lose from a changed playing field will have to put self-interest aside to ensure that rural Australia is united for what will be the most critical issue to ever impact on agriculture in this country.
This debate has the potential to deliver outcomes that will see major changes to the volatile nature of agriculture with the creation of a more sustainable approach to the environmental and commercial realities. Widespread community support for increased returns back to producers can be achieved.
When the average Australian can see and understand that what is happening on farms around the nation will have a direct effect on their own day-to-day lifestyle they will become very interested indeed, and public support for recent drought relief campaigns shows that the city people are genuinely interested in the well-being of their country counterparts.
It is now up to rural Australia to show leadership.

Kevin C. Kiepe
Publisher G'day G'day

(14) Land & Water Australia announces "leading edge thinking" on property rights

In an effort to encourage and inform debate about the rights and responsibilities of property owners in managing land and water, Land & Water Australia has released a new report Property: rights and responsibilities, current Australian thinking.
This collection of eight research papers represents the leading edge of Australian thinking on property rights.
Land & Water Australia Chair Ms Bobbie Brazil said that improving understanding of property rights among communities, industries and policy makers is critical in moving forward on some of the most intractable environmental challenges in Australia.
'This is a complex issue, and rarely is this sort of information presented in a comprehensive and accessible way. We have a responsibility to find appropriate and workable solutions, to make sure that we get it right,' she said.

* I checked out the web site http://www.lwa.gov.au/downloads//PR020440.pdf
 which has over 150 pages from the 8 papers. I read most of it, and some papers are hopeless (the first one) and some are a bit hopeful (Tony Gleesons)
Most papers barely get to grips with the nitty gritty though.

Ian Mott might make some detailed comments next edition, but if anyone else wants to have a say, It will be welcome.


(15) Limiting food supply - "Costing Clerk thinking" - Ian Mott

Dear Leon,

In respect of the arguments on limiting food supply to limit population growth (sent in by Bev Courtney last edition) and, supposedly, to save the environment, one can only say that this view exhibits the strategic vision of a "costing clerk".

Cost clerks play a necessary role but, as this crap demonstrates, they are an absolute disaster if promoted to the Board of Directors. Anyone who can seriously distil the whole splendid sum of human existence down to a simple supply/demand equation for food gives credence to the old Chinese saying that, "my most dangerous enemy is a foolish ally".

The most appalling departure from reality is the assumption that mankind will all reduce their calorie intake equally when we know that some (more) will starve and some will gain weight.

The current situation from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe makes it clear that it is bad government, maladministration, and, indeed, an excess of government that produces both starvation and ecological decline, not overpopulation, not an excess of property rights, not insufficient regulation and certainly not an under supply of spivocrats.

I take this opportunity to challenge Ms Courtney, and all her quoted referees, to accept a $1 fee for the sum of her "professional advice" to any small third world community. But in accepting the fee she must also accept full legal liability for the adverse consequences of following that advice.

Ian Mott
(16) REAP WHAT YE SOW - The Australian Financial Review   Thursday 2 January 2003

Sally Black sent in a copy of this article. Here are some excerpts

Kerry -Anne Walsh reports.

This time, it's the drought that is crippling farmers.  Two years ago, it was the floods.  Six years before that, it was a drought and a decade before that, another drought.

It there is one certainty in Australia's agricultural history, it's the predictability cycles of tempest in the wide brown land.

Another certainty it that every time a catastrophe hits, farmers wring their hands - and then extend them for government help.  Propping up Australia's elite farming community has become a ritual.

In the past six months the Federal Government has released three separate assistance packages for drought-affected farmers, totalling nearly $1 billion.  A repeat performance in the future is as predictable as another cloudless day.

The CSIRO forecasts a 10-year dry cycle, and a depressing litany of man-made environmental problems is catching up with our primary producers.  Excessive land clearing, overplanting, soil degradation, poor farming practices and bad management have all helped reduce Australia's agricultural economy to a carcass.

In the 1950's, the agricultural sector contributed 75 per cent of Australia's total exports, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Now, it's 25 per cent.  Forty years ago, 20 per cent of our GDP came from the sector.  Today, it contributes less than 3 per cent.

Job-wise, it's poor also.  Fewer than 5 pre cent of Australia's work in rural businesses, compared with 35 per cent around 1900.
Even with the drought, many farm businesses are only just surviving.  Gross farm debt rose 8 per cent in 2001, to $26.2 billion - an average debt per farm of $252,000.

A worrying statistic for the long-term viability of Australia's agricultural industry is that half of all national farm turnover comes from just 12 per cent of farm businesses.  Most of the rest turn over less than $50,000 a year.  

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and resource Economics predicts average farm income losses in 2002 of $54,000 - the most in a decade: and a summer crop production drop of 80 per cent - the worst slump on record.

Very few in positions of power and influence are prepared to call it like it is.

That is, that the country that has sustained 200 years of bounty is exhausted, depleted, and betrayed.  Five million hectares is salinity - affected, or at risk.  Dryland salinity, acidification and soil erosion impose costs of nearly $2 billion a year on the economy, from lost productivity and repairing lands and waterways.

Land clearing- a major impediment to restoring a healthy land - is galloping ahead at a rate of more than half a million hectares a year.  State governments regulate land clearing but appear to turn a blind eye to excessive clearing.  There were more than 600 breaches of land clearing regulations in NSW between 1197 and 2000, but no prosecutions according to research by the Federal Parliamentary library.

Sandral says some of the top-earning farmers are embracing new practices, learning new skills and keeping up to date with current thinking on mixed plantings, crop rotations and the introduction of new species to stabilise the land.  But the high average age of farmers - 50 plus - makes them more conservative about taking on new technologies, he adds.

A powerful encouragement , though may be for governments to tag subsidies to outcomes.

(17) Judith McGeorge replies

   Hi Leon Jane et al-

It is the very audacity of inaccurate claims that causes much angst

The cost of urban bushfire- storm damage etc- impacts on all of Oz- they "wring their hands" get goverment assistance immediately and rebuild in the same places and undertake the restoration of the very things that caused the damage- on an annual basis and the occurances are many per year-  with no productivity involved!

There is certainly no mutual obligation here-

Urban Australians fill swamps and gullies build housing( a consumption industry) suffer flooding- "wring their hands" get goverment assistance and continue to build houses in creeks and gullies to continue the cycle-
The severity of the storms has also been blamed on agriculture- that historically typhoons, cyclones ,hurricanes and blizzards have been documented throughout history is ignored- the 80% "greenhouse emissions" from the comparatively small landmass occupied by the greatest percentage of population apparently is not an impact.

Urban Australia apparently does not realise that their housing iinterest rates are subsidised by the productive industries in this country.This does not include the supporting infrastructure costs of delivery of water, sewerage and power- and leisure facilities- paid from the public purse at a small cost to the householder.

Goverment handouts to industry (MultiNational Companies with off shore profit takers-untaxed) to maintain employment- are apparently de riguer- however if these same Corporate Giants  have a problem with their bottom line- they will ship their production off shore with no recompense for the massive expenditure injections from Australian taxpayers- remember they do not pay taxes on their profits - that goes direct to the parent company off shore!

Employment figures - some 8 million plus Australians are in paid employment- 1million of whom owe their employment to agriculture- many of these jobs are city based  and apparently they are unaware of the dependance on agricultural production for their employment- a small engine retailer told me he had put off 4 of his staff (80%)in urban Sydney as the greatest proportion of his sales are west of "The Great Divide"- the fact that 12.5% of the workforce  owe their employment to agriculture is lost on the psuedo intellectuals.

If land management by the intelligentia - National Parks- is better than agriculture- the experience of most wildfires escaping from these areas to impact on urban and rural Australia , causing massive damage is ok- after all they are qualified university trained theorists. Amazingly the loss of flora and fauna in these "hot burns" is ignored- it can all be explained in a theoretical  paper penned by a "qualified" person.,The fact that these "disasters" are occuring from the same parks every year should really call into question management or  rather "non- management"

It all reflects that education today teaches social engineering to the exclusion of factual geography , history and the interdependence of all sectors- it reminds me of a mushroom- the thin productive stem sustaining a ballooning service sector- the end result the stem collapses as the service sector expands.Without production service is not required!

The author is using agriculture to gain an income for her literary effort that is short on fact- she should have studied the OECD figures on world agricultural production which acknowledges Australian and New Zealand agricultural production is undertaken on a free trade basis- the only 2 countries in the world  to do so.

Judith McGeorge

* Thanks Judith, I will add a few more points

#  Kerry Anne Walsh cleverly quotes percentages rather than actual production figures as a way to imply that farm production is in decline, when in fact total production is continually increasing.(e.g. The dairy industry continually increases production per cow and per ha and in total)

# Aussie farmers do not receive subsidies. The diesel rebate is often called a subsidy, but it`s to pay back a fuel road tax for diesel not used "on the road".

# The reasons for Aussie farm incomes often being so low is due to a mix of variable and uncertain factors which include.
 (a) Variable International prices
 (b) Variable Valuations of the $AUST
 (c) Variable Cost of Finance and
 (d) Seasonal cost variations (e.g. when crops have to be planted twice)
 (e) No protection

# When discussing viability, Walsh has no comprehension of how the same farm can be unviable one day and viable the next. For example, the dairy farm I am on was viable last year when the price of milk was 33 cents a litre. This year we are getting 20 cents a litre and we are unviable. Our cost of production was 24 c/litre last year and 26 c/litre this year. Walsh says unviability is due to bad management , but the reality is prices, costs, and rainfall have bigger impacts than management.

#The article also does not consider the effect of supply & demand which pushes prices down constantly. This system is is good for consumers, but not so good for leaving enough money for farmers to do everything that they would like to do to improve the farm.
Despite all this, the Australian Farmer still steadily improves productivity  within the confines of what modest income he gets. -

# The author of the article also has no understanding that true wealth comes from harnessing the sun and producing useful plants. Alan Savory`s writings explains that wealth is more than money. He explains the difference between paper dollars, mineral dollars and solar dollars.
In short he says it`s primarily the income and produce generated from the sun that not only feeds the world, it also feeds wealth generation.

I like to think of a country`s wealth  in terms of an air compressor filling a tyre tube. Primary production is the air going into the country`s economy (the tube) When it stops, the air can still move around inside the tube, but it doesn`t  make the tube any bigger, i.e. the total wealth stops increasing.

cheers for now