Warm oceans fuel late end to big wet season
Warmer-than-normal oceans have contributed to a late end to a big wet season, according to Weatherzone. Much of the surface of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans have been running one-to-three degrees above average, leading to extra moisture and instability. For northern Australia, this has meant not only a wetter-than-normal wet season but a late end to the season.
In Australia, flooding has been most serious due to the impacts of tropical lows and cyclones, particularly in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but also on Queensland’s central coasts and ranges. Some of the tropics have seen more than 150 percent of their seasonal average rainfall. Parts of the Northern Territory Top End are likely to end up with their second wettest wet season on record, second only to 2010/11 when some places amassed more than 3000mm. Darwin should end up with about 2500mm for the season with help from a nearby developing tropical low during the next few days.
Conagra buys meat snack business
Chicago-based Conagra Brands, a leading North American branded food company, has completed the purchase of meat-based snacking businesses Thanasi Foods LLC, maker of Duke’s meat snacks, and BIGS seeds. Financial terms have not been disclosed. Duke’s is a fast-growing premium meat snack brand, with products including Duke’s Smoked Shorty Sausages and Duke’s Steak Strips and Brisket Strips. Duke’s says it is committed to making products in small batches with real, whole ingredients, fresh never-frozen pork and chicken, 100pc grassfed beef, and authentic hardwood smoke pairings. BIGS produces a line of premium, USA-grown seed snacks, including jumbo, fire-roasted in-shell sunflower seeds, sunflower seed kernels, and homestyle-roasted pumpkin seeds. “The addition of Duke’s and BIGS is another move to reshape Conagra’s portfolio to be more premium and modern,” said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Conagra Brands.
Changes to 457 visa program must consider red meat impacts
The Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheep Meat Council of Australia have called on the Federal Government for a considered approach to its proposal to abolish the 457 visa program to mitigate the potentially detrimental flow-on effects to Australia’s red meat industry. Cattle Council of Australia President, Howard Smith said that as Australia’s largest food manufacturer and significant employer in rural and regional areas, the meat processing sector, which directly employs more than 200,000 Australians, it is imperative for the industry to be able to overcome skill set shortages in the domestic labour market with access to international workers. “Industry has struggled to find domestic workers willing to undertake the processor related roles and has previously managed the skills shortage by accessing additional labour using the 457 visa program,” he said. “Through effective labour market policies, the Red Meat Industry Strategic Plan outlines that by 2030, from productivity benefits alone, the red meat industry can deliver an additional $2.11 billion to the Australian economy” said Mr Smith. Sheepmeat Council of Australia President, Jeff Murray, stated that “For the sustainability of the entire red meat industry, with a processing sector that is already struggling with record energy prices and regulatory costs, it is crucial that the Federal Government carefully considers any labour market changes and the potential impact on the industries international competitiveness”.
3D Food Printing Conference to be held next week
The opportunities for the Australian red meat industry from 3D printing technology will be a key focus of the upcoming 3D Food Printing Conference Asia-Pacific, to be held at Monash University, Melbourne, next Tuesday, 2 May. The conference, supported by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), will feature a host of prominent local and international speakers to discuss the opportunities currently available and where the technology may assist the industry. Topics being discussed include custom nutrition, food design, food components, hardware and software developments and business models. The conference will also include demonstrations of 3D printed technology, including a cooking demonstration of 3D printed red meat. MLA’s Michael Lee, who is speaking at the conference, said 3D food printing represented an exciting opportunity to add value to the red meat industry by utilising secondary cuts, trim and by products that are currently not utilised fully. “These products can be used in areas such as the aged care sector, where red meat that is high in protein and nutrition can be presented in a form that is easy to chew and appetizing,” Mr Lee said. For further information or to register, visit www.3dfoodprintingconference.asia
NSW biochar research internationally recognised
Cutting-edge research from NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) has been published in the international Nature Climate Change Journal, presenting for the first time the results of 10 years’ research that shows the accumulation of carbon in soil following a single application of biochar. NSW DPI senior principal research scientist, Adjunct Professor Southern Cross University and project leader, Dr Lukas Van Zwieten said the research was conducted on the state’s north coast where biochar derived from eucalypt residues was applied in 2006 into a pasture soil managed for intensive dairy production. “We immediately saw an increase in soil carbon from the biochar, as expected, but what we didn’t expect was that soil carbon content continued to increase,” Dr Van Zwieten said. “This research demonstrates the ongoing benefits of biochar in farming systems to improve pastures and grasslands and increase farmers production and profitability.” Biochar is produced through a process known as pyrolysis which makes the organic carbon more stable to degradation. The researchers found that biochar enhanced the below-ground recovery of new root-derived carbon by 20 per cent – that is, more of the carbon photosynthesised by plants was retained in the biochar-amended soil. Importantly, the biochar also slowed down the natural breakdown of native soil organic carbon by over 5 per cent,” The research paper can be found on the Nature Climate Change website http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncli mate3276
VFF lauds $4 million insurance savings for farmers
Victoria’s peak farm lobby has praised a State Government commitment to scrap insurance duties on agricultural products for insurance against flood, fire and other accidental provisions The measure, expected to save farmers up to $4 million a year when insuring against damage to crops, livestock and equipment, will be formally unveiled when the State Budget is handed down next Tuesday “Insurance duty is a pain in the neck for farmers who are also paying GST on their premiums because we’re being forced to pay a tax on a tax,” Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said. “The VFF has opposed the duty for years and it’s great to see the State Government listening to the concerns of farmers because getting rid of insurance duties will relieve an unnecessary financial burden on our primary producers.” Mr Jochinke said the rising premiums and tight budgets had led some farmers to cut back their insurance policies, but that the new Budget measure would encourage a greater take-up in insurance while saving farmers money to spend on growing their businesses.
Applications open for Young Food Innovators program
Young producers and supporting professionals looking to develop new high value opportunities or introduce disruptive technologies are encouraged to apply for round two of the Food Value Chain Innovators: Young Food Innovators program. The Young Food Innovators (YFI) program is a 12-month intensive, accelerated development program for young people working in the red meat, horticulture, seafood and dairy primary producer sectors. For participants in the red meat industry, the program is supported by funding from MLA Donor Company (MDC) and the Federal Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit Programme. The first round of the program commenced in mid-2016 and applications are now open for the second round. Drawing on market and consumer insights and using real-life industry case studies, participants in round two of the YFI program will learn how to use the latest innovation tools in a practical way. They will also undertake a major project as well as develop a new business opportunity that is not standard ‘business-as-usual’. To apply or for more information contact Stuart Quigley, Program Manager on 0419 773 007 or email: email@example.com
Qld farmers encouraged to join new electricity tariff trials
Farmers in regional Queensland have less than a fortnight left to apply to be part of a trial of off-peak and demand-based electricity tariffs. Wholesale Channels Manager Brian Elmer said Ergon Energy was recruiting up to 200 farmers to participate in three separate trials that would help in developing future tariffs for primary producers. “We aim to achieve a diverse and representative selection in each trial group to assist us better understand the potential for offering controlled load and seasonal demand tariffs as an alternative to the current transitional agricultural tariffs that expire in 2020,” he said. Mr Elmer said the first trial would involve the use of a controlled load tariff to supply key farm loads, including irrigation pumps and ancillary farm equipment. “The aim is to understand the implications for farms in switching from tariffs with power available 24/7 to a controlled load tariff with limited hours of supply at a lower price,” he said. “For the purposes of this trial, participants will be placed on Tariff 33, an economy tariff used by many households for hot water systems, pool pumps and other equipment that does not need continuous power.” Mr Elmer said the second group would trial the use of Tariff 24, a new seasonal time of use demand tariff. Mr Elmer said the first two trials would run until June next year and the third trial until June 2019. “All participants will receive a free digital meter and, at completion of the trial, they can choose to receive detailed analysis to help them transition to the most suitable tariff option,” he said. Further information about the trials is available from agriculture industry bodies, Ergon or online at ergon.com.au/agtarifftrial. Application forms are available from the same website and should be submitted by May 2, an extended deadline due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie on some farming areas.