Beef Central news briefs 4 April 2014

Beef Central, 04/04/2014

Rural debt surveys needed: Nationals Senator

Nationals senator for Queensland Barry O’Sullivan says more rural debt surveys are needed to inform Australia’s understanding of the depth and breadth of the rural debt situation, and to assess in the formulation of effective public policy. Addressing the Senate, Senator O’Sullivan urged the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences and the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority to engage with the Australian banking sector to undertake state and national rural debt surveys. Senator O’Sullivan said the Queensland Government had traditionally conducted a survey of rural debt in the State every two years since 2000. However, QRAA had confirmed to his office that it did not undertake a survey in 2013, because the major banks declined to be involved in a state-specific survey. “In fairness, the banks had indicated at that time that they would be prepared to consider co-operating with a ‘national’ survey initiative,” he said. “However, if the data to determine the debt profile of beef producers in the northern part of Australia was buried in a national survey, then I respectfully submit that its usefulness to develop policy or make decisions to assist or save stakeholder participants in northern Australia would be lost.” Mr O’Sullivan said recent statements by the Australian Bankers’ Association that there is no crisis in rural debt loads in Australia ignored the alarming trend revealed in the most recent QRAA rural debt survey in 2011, which showed the number of non-viable beef industry borrowers in Queensland increased from less than 1pc to 6.9pc in the previous two years.


MLA reviews creative agencies

Meat & Livestock Australia is currently reviewing its creative agency arrangements, media and marketing industry website Mumbrella reported this week. Mumbrella described the MLA account as one of the highest-profile creative accounts in Australia. The flagship beef and lamb elements of MLA’s creative work have been handled by agency BMF since 1999, when it took over the Campaign Palace. Another agency, Host, currently handles the nutrition-focused red meat component of the account, which it picked up from The Brand Agency in 2010. Mumbrella notes that the decision to review its creative accounts comes almost a year after Michael Edmonds took control of the global marketing department of the MLA, and tips that a multi-national agency could be added in the roster as the agency looks to increase the international sales of Australian meat. BMF’s work has included the successful Australia Day lamb campaigns fronted by Sam Kekovic, the ‘throw another steak on the barbie’ campaign featuring Sydney DJ Merrick Watts and a television commercial featuring two hot air balloons shaped like Tony Abbott and then PM Julia Gillard which floated together to “kiss” above Parliament House.


Denmark bans no-stun religious slaughter

A ban on religious slaughter began last month in Denmark, prompting criticism from both Jewish and Muslim groups. The Jewish Chronicle Online reported that the Danish government now prevents Danish slaughterhouses from applying for exemptions to pre-stunning, a move it said essentially bans religious slaughter in all forms. “The new order is a clear interference in religious freedom and limits the Muslims and the Jews' right to practice their religion in Denmark,” a statement on the website of Danish Halal said. “It is a procedure that is done under the guise of animal welfare, despite the fact that many scientific studies show that the animal suffers less when properly performed ritual slaughter than when it gets a blow to the head with a nail gun.” Danish agriculture and food minister Dan Jorgensen, however, had another perspective. “No slaughter without pre-stunning has been registered in Denmark in the last ten years. It is still permitted to import meat slaughtered without pre-stunning. And a very large amount of Danish meat has been – and will continue to be – halal slaughtered, with the animal stunned right before slaughter,” he said in an Al Jazeera report.


Qld increases stock theft fines

Queensland has introduced tougher laws against stock theft, lifting minimum fines for a range of stock offences from $200 to $1100, or more if the value of the animal is higher. The changes also allow courts to order stock to be returned the they stray onto another person’s land, and the that person has refused to move it. The bill, introduced to Queensland Parliament by Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, was passed on Tuesday night. Up to 4000 head of cattle are reported stolen in Queensland every year.  Speaking on ABC Radio this week, State co-ordinator of the Stock and Rural Crime Investigation Squad, Detective Inspector Mick Dowie, said the changes were long overdue. "There hadn't been an amendment to the penalties I think since the 1980s, so they're well and truly out of touch."


BPI progresses “pink slime” lawsuit against US network ABC

Beef Products Inc. (BPI), and Freezing Machines, Inc., are one step closer to taking US national news network ABC to court two years after it aired a segment attacking the beef industry for its use of lean finally textured beef (LFTB), which it referred to as ‘pink slime’. US news website the Drovers Cattle Network reported this week that the $1.2 billion lawsuit filed back in September 2012 was approved to continue by a South Dakota state judge on March 27, 2014. "The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption," Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court wrote in her Mar 27 judgement. “The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption.” A public outcry that followed several ‘pink slime’ headlined reports by ABC America in March and April of 2012 resulted in major retailers including Wal-Mart and Safeway, the USDA National School Lunch Program and several fast food companies discontinuing their use of ground beef containing the beef trimming product, which in turn resulted in BPI having to close three of its four plants and laying off hundreds of employees. In a statement BPI founder and CEO Eldon Roth said LFTB was a wholesome, safe and nutritious lean beef product. “The blatantly false and disparaging statements made about our lean beef have done more than hurt my family and our companies, they have jeopardized the future of our employees and their families.”


Study: Vegetarians Less Healthy, Lower Quality Of Life Than Meat-Eaters

Vegetarians may have a lower Body Mass Index and drink alcohol sparingly, but vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts, a study by the Medical University of Graz in Austria has found. Reporting on the research this week, US network CBS News said the report found that the vegetarian diet — characterised by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carried elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders. Vegetarians were twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer. The cross-sectional study from Austrian Health Interview Survey data and published in PLos One examined participants dietary habits, demographic characteristics and general lifestyle differences. The most significant dietary habit difference between meat-eaters and vegetarians concerned their BMI and alcohol consumption – with both being higher for those who consume meat.


Nuffield Farming scholarship applications open

Farming scholarships organisation Nuffield Australia is set to offer a record number of scholarships for 2015, with up to 25 to be awarded. The application period for next year’s program opened on April 1 and runs through until 30th June 2014. The scholarships, worth $30,000 each, give primary producers from across Australia the opportunity to travel the world studying a research topic of importance to themselves and their industry.  To find out more about this unique opportunity visit


Coal infrastructure railroads food-producing land

A Queensland Government proposal to build rail infrastructure to transport coal from mines in the Galilee Basin to export ports near Bowen would lead to major flooding and the significant loss of food-producing land in Central Queensland, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance. The alliance commissioned Hydrocology Environmental Consulting to examine the potential impact of the proposed Galilee Basin State Development Area and associated railway developments on surrounding food producing and farming land. The report, Railroaded: Carving up food lands for coal transport in Central Queensland, said the area would affect more than 260,000 hectares of agricultural, pastoral or potential cropping/horticultural land, and raised concerns about the impact of the construction of railway lines across major floodplains on surface water flows and flood patterns. It said that none of the rail projects proposed complied with appropriate State Planning Policy for floods, bushfires and landslides, or recent Australian engineering standards. Only 1 in 20- or 1 in 50-year flood events had been planned for, and not the larger floods which pose the greatest risk to landholders and communities. Spokesman for affected landholders, Clermont grazier John Burnett, said the proposal was “bad news” for Queenslanders. “The State Government says it wants primary producers to double food production by 2040 and yet they’re putting two million hectares of good grazing and cropping country in doubt,” he said. Public comment on the GBSDA closed on Friday March 28.


$750,000 to boost stock routes in Qld

The Queensland Government has announced $750,000 worth of projects to upgrade water facilities across Queensland’s 2.6 million hectare stock route network. Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said the investment was a response to worsening drought conditions. Funds will be allocated to allow councils to undertake additional works to replace troughs and tanks, install water pumps and upgrade windmills along the routes. Mr Cripps said the government had also made an online stock route management system available to councils, so they could access information faster and more easily track the passage of cattle across the state and better manage their stock routes More than 14,000 cattle are currently registered under a permit to either graze or travel across Queensland’s stock route network, spanning ten council areas.



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