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TAS Country : January 5th 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012 Tasmanian Country 5 News Banks fail to pass on full rate cuts THE National Farmers Federation says only one financial institution has reduced its farm loan rates by the full 0.50 per cent in the past two months. The NFF has released its latest Agribusiness Loan Monitor, which tracks rates from banks lending in the farming sector. Suncorp Agribusiness reduced its term loan rate by 0.25 per cent in Novem- ber and another 0.25 per cent in December, match- ing the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) interest rate cuts. Four other banks -- ANZ Agribusiness, Banana- coast Community Credit Union, Bendigo Bank and Westpac Agribusiness -- also reduced their term loan or overdraft rates in December by between 0.03 per cent and 0.25 per cent. However, of the four, only ANZ also reduced its rates in the other month. The RBA has made two rate cuts since November, bringing the official cash rate to 4.25 per cent. The NFF Agribusiness Loan Monitor for December shows which banks have made corresponding re- ductions in their rates and only one has passed on both rate cuts in full, NFF Economics Committee chair John McKillop said. ''We of course appreciate that unstable financial markets continue to domi- nate headlines, and that the economic turmoil in Europe is having an im- pact on credit markets both at home and abroad,'' he said. ''However, the NFF is keen to ensure that far- mers are getting the best possible deal from their financial lenders, and that these lenders are compet- ing aggressively for their agribusiness customers. ''That's why we created the Agribusiness Loan Monitor to provide trans- parency for farmers on how the banks are adjust- ing agribusiness loan rates and to help them make informed decisions about their finances.'' SAFETY FIRST: The fruit industry has released workplace safety DVDs for casual workers. Picture: RICHARD JUPE. Timely safety warning for itinerant workers AN accident involving six Chinese students who fell from a picking platform on a Richmond apricot or- chard last week is a timely reminder of farm safety. The fruit industry late last year released workplace safety DVDs for the estimated 5000 casual workers in or- chards and packhouses this season. Farmers are urged to get a copy of the DVDs for itinerant harvest workers. The DVDs are subtitled in five languages, Spanish, French, Japanese, South Korean and Mandarin, and can be obtained through Fruit Growers Tasmania. In the Richmond farm incident, the University of Tasmania students were thrown more than 2m to the ground from a picking platform as the tractor towing it went around a corner at Pegasus Orchards, which grows 350 tonnes of apricots. The students were treated for shock before being taken to the Richmond Medical Centre for further treatment. One student had an X-ray for a sore rib, and five were released with no injuries. Orchard manager David Cowle said the platform overbalanced as the tractor turned a corner. ''We followed all the protocols and looked after their health,'' Mr Cowle said. The majority of the 30 pickers employed on the farm are Chinese. Pegasus Orchards director Phil Alex- ander said the firm took every effort to look after staff. Workplace Standards was notified of the accident. Farmers lose hearing FARMERS are at greater risk of hearing loss than other Australians, a new study shows. The study by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety found two-thirds of farmers were living with hearing levels 10 to 15 years worse than the rest of the population. It found that while one in six Australians suffered hearing loss, the rate in rural areas was greater than 60 per cent. Noise from agricultural machinery, tools and animals at feeding times was mostly blamed. ACAHS director Professor Tony Lower said that despite the imbalance in hearing between farmers and their city counterparts, overall rates of hearing loss were starting to improve among farmers, with more using protection devices. The report also found: LONG-TERM exposure to sounds over 85 decibels or instant trauma associated with noise levels over 140 decibels could cause hearing damage. A DIESEL irrigation pump had an average noise level of 100 decibels --- equivalent to the sound produced by a Boeing 707 2km before landing. PIG farmers could be exposed to prolonged noise levels above 110 decibels --- similar to a clap of thunder. ''Things have improved in the last 10 to 15 years. Now between 25 and 50 per cent of farmers recognise a perceived risk from noise and take steps to wear protection,'' Prof Lower said. ''The younger generation is more mindful of these issues.'' Claws out on stalled cat control laws WILD: Farmers cannot kill cats FARMERS fear they will never legally be able to destroy cats because of the failure to enact cat management laws passed more than two years ago. Wildlife groups said the law would help address increasing concern over the parasite disease toxoplasmosis, of which cats are the major host. The State Government said funding to support implementation of the Cat Management Act 2009 would be recon- sidered in the 2012-13 Budget. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graz- iers Association said not only did toxoplasmosis cause abortion of un- born lambs but a strong cat could kill a newborn lamb. Chief executive officer Jan Davis said she believed the law had been ''parked''. The legislation requires cats to be microchipped and desexed. It would also allow cats to be trapped and humanely killed on reserves and farms. ''Cats are a problem for farmers for a couple of reasons. They do spread disease and a large feral cat can kill a newborn lamb,'' Ms Davis said. This week the TFGA called for urgent work on monitoring and re- search into toxoplasmosis. Tasmanian Conservation Trust di- rector Peter McGlone said farmers could kill dogs but not cats. ''The legislation could have been started up with about $100,000. There are few costs for the State Govern- ment,'' he said. ''I know a lot of farmers are con- cerned about cats and I'm sure some shoot them, but the law is not on their side.'' Farm sales threat grows STEVE LEWIS FOREIGN investment in key farm industries has reached worrying levels as overseas investors and governments target Australia's strong track record in food production. Amid warnings that Australia's food security could be ''compromised'', a report commissioned by the Gillard Government has found high levels of foreign ownership in a few prime agricultural industries. These include sugar, which has recently been tar- geted by the Chinese, and grain hand- ling and marketing. Offshore investors have also sunk massive sums into Australia's meat processing and wheat sectors in recent years while a $610 million Spanish takeover of Australia's dominant rice producer, Sunrice, was narrowly de- feated last June. Some of the country's best farms are also being snapped up by overseas investors who mask their identity with complex corporate structures. It is understood senior government ministers are drawing up plans to ensure foreign investment in prime farming assets is made more trans- parent. A report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, expected to be released later this month, is likely to find the level of foreign ownership is low despite com- munity concerns over recent invest- ments by the Chinese and other sover- eign investors. But a Senate inquiry is expected to reach quite different conclusions when it reports around mid-year. It is likely to find Australia's ability to control food supplies will be under- mined unless changes are made to foreign investment guidelines. Courier Mail
December 22nd 2011
January 13th 2012