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rice returns to the Ord River Valley. On Landline today, the ability for us Anyone who has doubted grow in northern Australia to have an agricultural industry to the Ord River, and look at this. should come to Kununurra, another big morale boost The flooding rains bring to Birdsville Track beef producers.

we actually are now able For the first time in years with optimism to genuinely make a decision rather than just survival. and future planning in place, at the station. And the shears click again the machines and it's quite noisy. Normal shearing, you've got all Here you can hear the click, Click Go the Shears Boys just like in the song

People had tears in their eyes. to see that. It was an emotional thing

Welcome to the program. Hello, I'm Anne Kruger. It's only taken about 40 years or so, the Ord River Scheme is underway. but finally, the second stage of of irrigated farmland It will increase the total amount by just over half to 22,000 hectares, architects had imagined. much less than the original

And as Chris Clarke reports, with the return of a crop the expansion coincides as a natural fit for the region. that decades ago, was widely seen, but still in his comfort zone. Laurie Arthur is a long way from home

more prominent rice growers. He is one of Australia's Association, still a director A former president of the Growers highly successful Sunrise company. of the grower-owned and but this winter, His home is the Riverina whizzing around he is spending a alot of time of the East Kimberley, above the Ord River floodplains inspecting his latest rice crop. a commercial planting of rice We are trying to see if we can do

probably not over all of it. that will have reasonable yields, I think we're gonna learn a lot, sort of a cropping system here but we're hoping we will get some a commercial result. that will produce

Ord is not difficult to fathom. Laurie Arthur's interest in the because of this, Lake Argyle. The Ord attracts people fresh water storage, It's the country's largest

of Sydney Harbour. roughly 20 times the volume is we've got Argyle dam Well, I think the key issue 11 million megalitres. and Argyle holds about and they use 3% of it. It is the biggest storage highest security water in Australia So, I think that it's the and back in the Murray Valley I'm at the bottom of the pile there, as general security irrigator availability of water in the south. so I'm concerned about the I think we all are. in Lake Argyle. There's plenty of water used for irrigated agriculture. What's scarcer is land that can be Ord Stage 2 is happening. Now, after years of talk and delay, should be available Next year another 8,000 hectares interest as well. and that's piqued Laurie Arthur's irrigation country there I think the 8,000 hectares of

of the area improves the critical mass to really get moving. and I think it needs Stage 3 and 4 But I think it's a positive step

Stage 2 will be successful and I have little doubt some profitable farms out there and I think there is going to be and I suppose involved in it as well. I'd like to potentially be about expanding the Ord, After so many years of talk last month Stage 2 officially kicked off outside Kununurra. with a little ceremony Miriwoong and Gajirrawoong people, The traditional owners, the went through their welcoming ritual coming to work the land. offering protection to those The politicians marked the occasion chrome spades. by handing out some highly prized

mystical practice of ribbon-cutting. And then indulged in the ancient

For practicality's sake turned the first sod. a bit of modern mechanical effort Kimberley is open for business. It is a signal that the East in the first 8,000 hectares. The Government is involved the community infrastructure right, Most importantly, we are getting of handling cargo planes, making sure the airport is capable is capable of handling containers making sure the Wyndham Port in and out. infrastructure right. So we're getting the basic is a taste of what is on offer. The 8,000 hectares, I suppose, We know the opportunity is there. another 8,000 hectares in 22 lots, So from next year, there will be irrigated area, spreading out from the existing by more than half. increasing the available land and an irrigation channel There will be a new road beyond Stage 2. big enough to cope with demand which most recently grazed cattle, And this country, will be ready for cropping. the same sorts of things? So you'll be able to grow Yes, virtually identical. all transformed It is difficult to imagine it irrigated land at the moment. into that regular pattern of very long. It's amazing but it doesn't take For Ord stalwarts like Robert Boshammer who's been here for more than a quarter of a century, it's a important marker. There will be a lot of interest. The critical thing will be getting people on board and doing things. What we do not want is people going in there, getting the land, and sitting on it in the hope that land values go up, and not use it. We have to develop the whole area. Our problem at the moment is scale. Really, this 8,000 hectares will be great, and enable us to have a real chia and rice industry, I hope, but we need all of it being grown. That the Ord is not the new northern agricultural giant its early fans predicted, is history. The old sugar mill, closed and rusting away, is one of the more recent reminders of failed ambition. Down at the Ord Growers' co-op they have what amounts to a small museum cataloguing what was and what might have been. There's the Cotton gym. Cotton was abandoned in the mid '70s because of pests.

Rice lasted a little longer, and this is where it was milled. Well, this was the last place where they milled rice so that last little crop in 1983 was milled here. And it was run by the Public Works Department. Rice is a good place to start if you want to appreciate both the opportunities and challenges of the Ord.

And to do that it's worth going to the Riverina, the heart of Australia's rice industry. It is where Laurie Arthur has been growing rice for 30 years. And this is the crop Laurie Arthur harvested this year in southern NSW. It's probably been one of the best seasons we've ever had. We have had good temperatures, the yields would be, probably, I'd say, a world record this year. The bad news is he had only enough water to plant 10 per cent of what he wanted. By world standards, Australia is a tiny rice producer but a very successful exporter. Careful marketing and a reputation for high quality have delivered good returns to growers over the years. The key is in the yield and much of that is due to factors outside Laurie Arthur's control. We have brilliant sunlight, length of sunlight,

we've got good temperatures, the soils are fantastic, the water quality is great and it is probably one of the best places in the world to grow rice. And the big limitation? Big limitation now is the water. Growing conditions were just about perfect for this latest crop so Laurie Arthur, like many other growers, got about 10 or 11 tonnes to the hectare. It is not just the weather that determines yield.

Decades of effort has gone into breeding rice varieties that make the best of this climate. Now, 15, did you say, 15 tonnes to the hectare, you've got off this particular plot? Exactly. 15 tonnes, and that's over the whole field, so far. Russell Ford runs the rice industry's research farm. This trial variety, which should be on the market next season is cold tolerant. It yielded 15 tonnes the hectare, half as much, again, as the industry standard. Cold tolerance in rice sounds counter-intuitive but it is one reason why growing rice in northern Australia is harder than you might imagine. They're hot and sunny and you think, yes, rice production would be perfect in the north, but we have been looking at it for a few years now, and yes, it's been grown in the north before.

The issues they had before were to do with, you know, pests were one of the biggest problems. Magpie geese is a big issue. But also, they've got the quality production problems to do with the heat. Heat stress is a big thing in rice production and when you want quality you would like to see a cooling climate towards harvest and that is also an issue so we are obviously looking at different varieties, different styles of rice that you grow, between the north and the south. So, back to the north and this latest attempt to degree a commercial crop in the Ord. Yeah, here we have some birds. These are a bit of a pest. I've got some re-sown stuff that I've put in so they're having a bit of a go at it. So we've got a scare gun up here to scare them away. Birds with were a big problem when rice was grown here more than 30 years ago.

They generally come in first thing in the morning and then stay for two or three hours so you have to turn this gas gun on and scare them off, and then they will come in later in the afternoon about 3:30 'till it's dark so we use a gun here to scare them away. Laurie Arthur and his business partner, Nick Lowing, are growing a bit over 200 hectares of a southern medium-grain rice, the sort of rice they grow in the Riverina. And they are experimenting with different sowing times and methods. So, tell me what you've got there, Nick. Well, have some aerial-sown rice that's been in for about five weeks. What sort of condition is it in? How's it doing? This is very healthy rice. It's doing what it should be. It tillered properly. And yeah, there's no issues with this rice. It's good. On the other side of the bank, though, another crop sown at a different time and direct-drilled at a lower seeding rate, isn't giving much joy. Well, we're a little concerned about this one. It's sort of dodged the vegetative stage and so it's gone straight into and put up quite an impressive head, which I'll show you now. This'll be in to head in about another week or so. And what concerns you about it? Well, normally we would like to see it in a vegetative stage and I'd like to see more tillers. So, this is a variety that's bred for the Murray Valley,

where it's cooler. So in effect, it's just going through the processes too quickly? I think it is. That is a reservation I've got. Just as with any crop, yield is critical to profitability, but particularly in the Ord because it costs more to grow a crop here than it does in the Riverina. Because we know our system so well in the south we can pencil in every cost. We're still finding what those are here because we haven't really nailed down the agronomic system we'll use but my suspicion is it will be about 20 per cent dearer to grow rice here. Nick Lowing and Laurie Arthur think the best of their current crop

might give eight tonnes a hectare. That's 20 per cent less than they'd expect back home. But certainly, the future here will be having specially bred varieties that are suited to this climate here. Do you think, in your mind, you will continue to grow rice in southern Australia? Yes, certainly if the allocation is adequate there. The water allocation? The water allocation. I hope to grow a crop in our summer and then a crop in our winter here. If rice is grown here again

it'll be competing for land and capital with a variety of other crops. Sandalwood is one and Tim Croot is a director of Tropical Forestry Services. Is Ord stage-two going to give people the critical mass that's obviously been lacking up here? Well, I think it's a good start. Things like chia and other crops have got half an opportunity.

With sandalwood, we've already got the critical mass, so we can just get the country as it becomes available. Their sandalwood is still three or four years away from harvest, but they already have an eye on land in stage-two. Well, I guess we've got about 2,500 hectares in the ground now. And what we'll sell into the future

will be about 1,000 hectares a year. From nursery to harvest, Sanlwood's a longterm project - 15 years,

and Tim Croot sees it as part of the evolution of the Ord. I guess we tend to, in the north here, try and grow southern crops in the north. We are now starting to find northern crops that grow in the north and sandalwood is a great example of this,

chia is another. Tim Croot's optimism about chia deserves clarification. He's also a director of the Chia Company. You will recall chia from Landline last year, and Kerry Staight's report on the revival of this almost long-lost seed. KERRY STAIGHT: This lavender look-alike is a ebb member of the mint family. While it's new to many Australians, it's origins are hardly modern. It was an important part of Aztecs' diet and culture. It's an ancient Aztec crop that they used to grow for their priests and warriors. But when the Conquistadors moved into Central America they wanted to destroy the civilisation, and they actually burnt their high-value crops, which were their chia and their quinoa But chia virtually disappeared

and hadn't been heard of until the early '80s, '90s,

when the USCA were doing work and looking at alternative crops. The chia story continues, and it's an instructive tale since it shows the impact of an integrated approach to production and marketing particularly in somewhere like the Ord with its higher costs and distance to market. It's been a really critical supply partnership for us to expand the production of chia. A big step for the chia company is a supply contract with a large bakery franchise. And the Ord, as proof of providence, is an important part of guaranteeing the product's integrity to buyers. The Ord's a very unique place. It can grow any crop really. The key is the market for that product, and the supply chain, to get it there cost effectively. So, I'm very bullish on the growth of the Ord and northern Australia. I think it's a huge opportunity. Huge opportunity for chia as well as a range of other crops and seeds that can be grown in that region. But certainly, people want to make sure that they've got a well developed market for their product. Certainly if the Chia Company's plans are to be realised,

they'll need a lot more land in the Ord. We've been growing the business 100 per cent year on year for the last five years. Been increasing production in the Ord, and that's been critical for the success of the business. Stage-two fits neatly into our growth plan. We have been increasing that area. We're looking for additional area as we go forward, so when that land's ready to go, we'll be ready for chia crops on it. Robert Boshammer is also one of the owners and directors of the Chia Company, as well as being a chia grower. We've got about 400 hectares of chia at the moment, and we're planting this farm, which is 1,000 hectares. He is committed to chia but he's keeping a close eye on the the rice crop too. If the rice crop that's in at the moment is a success might you become a rice grower? Certainly. We really would want a rotation crop with chia. We're desperate for two crops. We can't possibly grow chia after chia - we believe you cause problems. But chia and rice could be a very good rotation So I'm looking forward to it.

I'm around there every week, or 2 or 3 times a week to have a look at it, just to learn about it. If this season's rice crop succeeds it might close the circle for this still youthful Ord old-timer. The year before I came up, we talked to the agri-economist and he said the only field crop that he thought was economically viable was rice, and the rice mill shut up at the end of that year, so there was no commercial rice here in the time I have been here. They say birds, magpie geese, did for rice in the Ord before. But that's really just another way of saying rice didn't pay. We have been told by many people that magpie geese and other northern birds may be a problem growing rice so I suppose in a way it's a bit of a pre-emptive thing.

And if we do start to have trouble with the birds, they don't like the big purple birds, so we will use that to keep them away. We've got cockies here that are pretty smart.

They've learnt pretty quickly that if you dip your feet in about a centimetre of water they can still pick at the rice. The delay in getting more irrigated land up and running in the Ord

has certainly helped the project's long-standing critics, but stage-two and the first rice crop in nearly three decades

is providing a lot of interest. Interest from the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett,

who followed up his successful ribbon-cutting by going to have a look at Laurie Arthur's crop. Laurie knows there is a long way to go

before we are talking about a rice industry in the Ord but he is also an optimist. Potentially you could grow two crops a year here. OK. Can you get two in in the Murray? No, you can't. For West Australian taxpayers, Ord Stage-two is a $220 million investment. I think this is what all Australians want to see -

in this case a beautiful crop, rice, rugged hills in the background and this is the image of agricultural production in the north of Australia.

Anyone who has doubted the ability to have an agricultural industry grow in northern Australia should simply come to Kununurra, to the Ord River, and look at this. This is about 8,000 hectares. What is not in doubt is the desire by many to see this latest experiment with rice succeed. Providing there is no catastrophe in the next month or two I would say in a month's time we will see it heading well and truly and we will be confident and Sunrice will be confident it can grow the crops. Then we will look at the industry costs or industry figures and what we have to do, the infrastructure to make it work. Laurie Arthur can do those calculations easily enough.

He has already got the co-op's old bins lined up

to store this season's crop. How much storage do you need?

Somewhere between 1,500 and a couple of thousand tonnes. If all goes well would this be enough storage for next year? Probably not. There is talk of some of the locals wanting to put in a considerable amount providing we are successful, and it could be up to 10,000 tonnes.

But that is all dependent on something happening. Laurie Arthur is acutely aware of how closely this crop is being watched in the Ord and southern Australia by other rice farmers who do not have enough water. If we fail here that will be the end of it. If we can show some potential I think people will have a look at it in a more receptive sense.

We are just at couple of southerners

that have come up here to grow a little bit of rice, we've suggested we might be successful, but we haven't done it yet. And very much, I think, government, industry and locals are looking forward to seeing what is happening here.

Coming up - we go back in time. 72 blade shearers all working together in one very impressive shed.

This is just a magnificent thing to see the stands lined up

and the length of the board and I take pride in doing this and seeing this because there are kids around Australia that will never get to see it. Tuppal Station re-living its early 20th century heyday. How things change. Just before Christmas, much of outback Australia was being belted by dust storms, now it is bursting to life. Widespread summer rain set the rivers flowing and they are still moving across vast floodplains to Lake Eyre for only the second time in 20 years. For the resilient cattle producers in the region, it has been another great confidence booster. Paul Lockyer reports.

Tranquility. Sunset in the middle of Lake Eyre. The images are dramatic at any time of the day.

As the light catches the swirling water

spreading across the vast salt pan,

there is much more to come and the birds know it.

Seagulls have flown in from the coast to breed on the islands in Lake Eyre. They're an intriguing barometer in a flood year.

When they nest in big numbers like this,

a plentiful season is on the cards. And that is how it is shaping up

on the floodplains surrounding Lake Eyre. Those cattle that made it through the long drought are surrounded by water and abundant pasture -

desert country turned into wetlands. The desert has its best dress on right now, it looks fantastic. It is a land of extreme variability and is certainly a land of boom-bust cycles. Unfortunately the bust had gone on for such a long time you truly forgot what the boom looked like. Sharon Oldfield brought her cattle home to Cowrie Station just north of Lake Eyre last year.

After, a run in the river finally offered some relief from the long drought. They had been on agistment in Cunnamulla in Queensland. At first, there were concerns the big dry would set in again on Cowrie, but then came the rain. Widespread heavy summer falls that transformed the country and the people. When you are walking around, there is nothing on the ground, you cannot see any seeds, it rained and there it was - it was just amazing. It was very exciting and in the whole region

everyone you speak to you can hear optimism in people's voices. Just above Cowrie, flood waters have spread wide across this lagoon where the Diamantina river and the Eyre creek

empty into a huge network of channels.

Wildflowers and wildlife abound. Dingos, usually little more than skin and bone here, are sleek and well-fed. Kites fill sky, waiting to sweep down on their prey. Seldom does this region look so lush.

From here, the water is channelled down the Warburton Creek through Cowrie Station and onto Lake Eyre. This has been fantastic. Not just the local community but the wider community, our friends and relations and associates that do not live in the region. They are genuinely happy and are celebrating and experiencing this joy with us again, so it is great. All too often some landholders miss out on the rain. Not this time. East of Lake Eyre the Cooper Creek has spread wide

through outback Queensland and South Australia. Along the way, the Cooper has filled up lakes and water holes that have long been empty - triggering massive bird-breeding events. The scientists still do not know how the birds sense that the great outback rivers are flowing again,

but they have made huge journeys to nest near water sources brimming with food. Even those born and bred in this country are astounded by the scale of the flood event in the Cooper system

and the dramatic change it has brought to one of the most arid areas on earth. Christmas Day we had 130 points and then from there on it just started to rain and it got better and better. On Epsilon Station in the south-west corner of Queensland, Graham Betts has been tredding a regular path to the rain gauge. By the end of March it was fully covered with feed. Like from nothing to fully covered, yeah, really good. Like it was running in places there that I thought it would never run.

Graham and Sharon were running out of options for their drought-affected cattle when the rain arrived. Very depressing at times, but when you see the rain everything changes. We have been sending cattle away all the time. The numbers were sort of getting down. Then we just started sending cows and calfs away. We had to sing like a mad goanna to keep them alive.

Even the Gibber Plains in the north-east corner of SA have been softened by the bountiful season. The pasture and grass is knee-high compared to last year when we were shifting cattle off to the other properties to make use of the floods. We do not have to do that this year. Anthony Brooke takes to the air and the muster is under way

on Cordillo Downs. As he spots the stock from above, Janet Brooke and 4-year-old Megan help make up the party on the ground. It is terrific, it's a joy coming out to muster. It lifts your spirit when you see so much good cover on the ground.

It's about a once in a 25-year rain event. And they typically follow prolonged drought

and that is exactly what has happened this time. Just months ago dust storms ravaged this region. Last spring, one spread all the way to the east coast. If they reckon they had it bad in Brisbane and Sydney, you should have been here that week.

We ended up having four dust storms that week, one after the other. Back at the house I used a wheel barrow and a shovel to get rid of the sand over the verandahs. It was not a fun time at all. Looks more optimistic than before Christmas. You bet. Heart was just about out of it before Christmas.

So severe was the drought near Innamincka that Jason Barnes was forced to sell all the cattle.

Now he is re-stocking on a property surrounded by flood waters from the Cooper. Almost a lunar environment paradise now, unreal.

After marking the new cattle from the Northern Territory they had to be taken to an island of feed which turned out to be

a tricky exercise for the stock and the Barnes family. If they stayed on the road it would have been alright. They deviated, and took the long way around, the boggy way. Cattle were eventually coaxed to high ground. They will form the core of the new herd. It is hard to buy cattle back, buy good cattle back.

But luckily we have a good starting block and should be alright. The flood front coming down the Cooper Creek is still inching its way towards Lake Eyre, filling up every crevice and depression on the wide floodplain before it moves on.

It has already swamped the Birdsville Track just east of Lake Eyre and water is expected to flow for months to come. A 40-year-old punt gathering dust in the desert has been pressed back into service to ferry traffic across the Cooper. The last time it operated was in 1990 but locals complained it had well and truly out-lived its usefulness by then.

It'll only hold a 10-tonne limit and it is only 8m long so it will not handle a stock transport at all. Sharon Oldfield says she will face financial losses because she will not be able to cart her cattle to markets in the south. And fuel and other supplies from the south will be more expensive because they have to be carted an extra 700km.

It is the only sour note in this remarkable story of outback renewal. Must be due for a good run now. Had 7 or 8 average to bad seasons. For the first time in years we are able to genuinely make a decision

with optimism and future planning in place rather than just survival. The country will not get much better than what it is now.

To our news summary - talks are continuing over the future of Australia's largest cotton farm, Cubbie Station.

The Cubbie Group based in south-west Queensland went into administration last October with debts of $320 million. It was put up for sale. While negotiations continue with two potential foreign buyers, the local MP, Barnaby Joyce, has urged the Federal Government to buy some of Cubbie's vast water entitlements. I would like to see Penny Wong be more open and transparent. She has basically removed herself from the field of play. The minister says politicians need to stay out of the water licence process. First it was fireblight from New Zealand, now Australian fruit-growers are asking the Federal Government

to step in following a decision to allow Chinese apples into the country. You are the people that are supposed to keep this country free from pests and diseases. The system, for want of a better word, is totally broken down in this case, it is an illogical position, go back and have a look at it. The local industry is worried the quarantine measures that are being proposed are not strict enough

and do not take into account some pests, such as Chinese fruit fly.

We know that in all the literature we see, apples are referred to as a "host" for it as well as peaches, apricots and nectarines. So it's not just our industry that this is an issue for. The decision comes as the apple harvest in Victoria is in full swing. Meantime, agricultural scientists warn Victoria is facing its worst locust plague in nearly 40 years.

The focus and the way we go forward must be military-style it must be involving everyone, including the department,

including farmers. The State Government is providing more than $40 million to help farmers combat the problem. Locusts this year in late spring and early into summer could be in such proportions they would destroy something like $2 billion worth of agricultural activity and production

in our state. Tasmania will lead the country in banning sow stalls in piggeries

by 2017. The decision is monumental and is something we have been working hard for. But pork producers are seething, claiming the decision has been made without consultation. Science clearly shows that sows housed in stalls for the first five weeks after being mated

have lower stress levels than those housed in group housing. The first stage of restrictions on sow stalls start in 2014. A huge pile of food was dumped in Melbourne this week designed to illustrate how much good produce goes to waste every day. Every 15 minutes in Victoria, 20 tonnes of food goes to landfill

If we can just capture a small portion of that good quality food that's going to landfill, then we can ensure no one goes hungry. They're seeking to raise more money for charities that store and distribute food that would otherwise end up in landfill.

We have half a dozen agencies every day coming in to gratefully pick up what we can reclaim to get food to Melbourne family tables.

They claim supermarkets and other businesses throw out close to 3 billion tonnes of food around Australia every year.

South Australia's shark fishing industry fears its catch could be cut by 20% under proposed new restrictions to protect endangered sea lions. Implementing 7,000 sq km closures around all 48 sea lion enclosures around the South Australian coastline includes enclosures up to 18km in radius

off the most at-risk colonies. We think this is very effective in reducing sea lion mortality risk.

The State's Research and Development Institute estimates about 370 sea lions die in shark nets each breeding season, a figure hotly disputed by fishing groups. We believe 100 observer diairies are nowhere good enough to make such public comment on such a critical point.

The shark catch worth $6 million a year ends up in fish and chip shops. Finally Rural Doctors Association has paid tribute to pioneering Flying Doctor Jim Baker who died this week at his property near Roma. He is credited with bringing obstetric and gynacological services to women scattered across Western Queensland.

It is almost 10 years since the ABC joined the popular medico on his rounds just before he retired. REPORTER: Jim Baker is Queensland's only flying obstetrician and gynacologist. While the service is run by the State's Health Department, it is very much Dr Baker's baby. He established it back in 1988 after a stint in bush hospitals. DR BAKER: I was horrified by what I saw as a decrease in standards

throughout the bush. Colleagues said he would be remembered as much for his sense of humour and warmth as his skills as a surgeon.

If you had the choice of winning lotto or finding 10,000 lambs in your back paddock, these days you would probably take the lambs. Lamb has been on the most extraordinary bull run.

In January last year trade lambs were selling for less than $4 a kilo, carcass weight. Here is a graph of how the price has rocketed. Prices usually peak around July, but last week a pen sold at Forbes and Ballarat in Victoria for $193 a head.

There are several reasons for the price boom including the good season and consumer demand, but chief impetus comes from numbers. The national flock is now close to its lowest in nearly 100 years and mutton has kept pace. Here is the mutton price over the past 18 months or so - up and up it goes. We are now paying more for mutton than we paid for lamb in January 2009. Last week the National Livestock Reporting Service put the lamb indicator price at $5.38 a kilogram - a lift of 4 cents - while demand for mutton was also very firm. Now to grains where recent events proved the expression, "A week is a long time in the futures markets." One major weather event for one of the big exporters, Canada, and it bounces across the markets. Big grain across Canada, far too much, and a lot more on the way, has put the skids under the Canadian planting program and the markets reacted accordingly. Look what happened to canola in Winnipeg and Chicago. Wheat was sucked into the backwash, despite the world surplus of wheat. Corn went up as well after China decided to buy another 300,000 tonnes of American corn and soybeans were steady. In New York, some strong export sales put strength into cotton prices

while there's some hard to understand bullish sentiment in the sugar market. Cotton lifted nicely over the week, as did sugar.

The further-out contracts are slightly weaker. Back home, the lift in the Aussie Dollar to around 86 cents took the gloss off some of the price hikes. Wheat lifted a fraction and canola went up in reaction to the Canadian wet weather news. Local futures continue to perform well.

The ASX reports January contracts lifted on both sides of the continent. ASX has also advised they have traded 1 million contracts since they started business back in May of 2003. Dairy prices remain firm. Dairy Australia has announced a study to find the carbon footprint of the average Australian dairy. And wool had a handy week. The indicator was down in Aussie currency terms, but rose 15 cents against the US Dollar. The Eastern Market Indicator lost the smallest fraction to close at 899 cents a kilo. Finally to the cattle market where national numbers were down because of the shorter week and low prices from the previous week would have discouraged many sellers. They were spot on.

Most indicators fell as buyers kept their hands in their pockets. Quality was also an issue. The live trade is still struggling.

A few boats left last week and they carried only feeder cattle. Permits are as rare as hens' teeth.

Once again, there's no quote for cows. I'm told there's a mini-flood of cows heading south, south-west and south-east, even as far as Victoria. Finally, back to Brisbane where Rugby League legend Darren Lockyer had a very important job last Thursday.

Who is hungry?

After captaining his state to a flogging of NSW on Wednesday night the Broncos, Queensland and the Australian 5/8 turned up at a supermarket do called, wait for it, "Steak of Origin." A State of Origin great and a Queensland steak - it does not get much better. That is the Landline check on prices. There was a time early last century when Tupple Station in the NSW Riverina boosted an enormous Merino flock, and one of the biggest and best shearing sheds in the country. But as sheep numbers dwindled there was no need for an industrial-scale shearing complex and the magnificent shed more or less went into moth balls, that is, until a couple of weeks back when Tupple's 72-stand shed stirred to life again for an event that drew many of Australia's top-laid shearers with thousands of visitors. The water across the road and that has been pretty deep. Getting sheep to go through 3 feet of water is hard. No-one said mustering 3,500 sheep over 60km in 3 days would be easy, but when the skies opened up the task was made ridiculously difficult. This is River Murray country on the NSW-Victoria border. It is shearing time and the Merinos are being moved as they would have been a century ago, from Finley to North Tuppal Station near Tocumwal. Moving them is a handful of horseriding volunteers led by a family of dinky-di drovers, men who grew up on the stock route. It was a marvellous life.

All my kids were born on the stock routes. I was born in hay and grew up on the roads and loved it all the time. The sheep are destined for this sodden wool shed to be the stars of an event that will re-live the wool business boom time. What a difference a week makes. Yes, the rain.

Last weekend we were driving the sheep from the other property to here. It rained the whole time we were driving the sheep. By Sunday we were about to just give it away, thinking, "This is just pointless." Anyway, the rain went away Monday morning.

The sheep are perfectly dry here and in very good order. Bruce Atkinson owns North Tuppal Station. Today is the day his sleepy shearing shed will come to life. The combination of nerves and being overwhelmed, just overwhelmed with the support that the event has had, I just can't believe that so many people are interested to come and have a look at the shed. What the media and the public have come to see is this. More than 70 blade shearers in one very large

and very impressive century-old shed. When they fired up and got the blades out there was deathly silence on the board - you could hear a pin drop

because normal shearing you have all the machines and it is quite noisy.

Here you could just hear the click, like in the song Click Go the Shears Boys. People had tears in their eyes. It was quite an emotional thing to see that and very proud to be here. This is the first time George Falkiner has seen the shearing shed of his family folklore. It was his grandfather, Francis Brereton Sadlier Falkiner, or Bert as he was known, who commissioned the building of the biggest and best shearing shed in the nation back in 1900. The architectural drawings alone cost ?350.

The T-shaped building with its 72 shearing stands set Falkiner back an astounding ?4,000. I think it would be the equivalent of putting up a skyscraper in Collins Street or O'Connell Street.

You could design something with architectural merit, that is functional and is going to last and you would not leave it up to a bush carpenter to construct a shed of this size, so they put a lot of thought into it and did it properly. Sadly, drought, The Great Depression and a carving up of the once mighty Tuppal Station meant that it operated at full capacity for just a decade until 1910. By the time the Atkinson family bought North Tuppal in the 1920s there were just five mechanical shearing stands in use. It has been in the family since 1928. I have grown up with it as my father did and we have simply taken it for granted. It has not taken a lot of requirement or input so we have never focused much on it. It was a year ago when Bruce Atkinson was approached by the Sportshear Australia team. These blokes, along with a couple of female wool-handlers, needed to raise the funds to get to the International Golden Shears competition. Their plan was to ask people to pay to take a look through the wool shed in full flight, but first they had to return the Murray pine and tin structure

to its former glory. For its age it is in pretty good shape. It is really well built, but there is a fair bit of re-stumping we had to do,

and that's taken a lot of time. We had a couple of blokes working on that for the last 6 months. Some of the shed had been pulled down for various reasons so we had to re-put boards back up and overhead planks for the machines. Obviously some of the floors were simply worn out so we replaced that. The shed had been modernised, for want of a better term, for a small 4-stand shed it is being used for, 4 or 5 stands have been used the last few years. When they approached me, I was amused somebody would want to do something here and when I saw the interest in the amount of people interested I thought, "Gee, this is quite something." Where has Anthony gone? Inside. Take your coat off, mate. It was Peter Artridge's idea to get the station up and running again. Leo, you are Leo?

And it was his plan to recreate the old Tom Roberts painting, Shearing of the Rams. The media interest was intense but it was the public interest that astounded the team, who treat shearing as their sport. We're hoping to get 5,000 people through the gate to make it all work and to fund a team across to Wales and we are certainly going to exceed that. We had more than that by 9 o'clock this morning. It is very humbling because I have been involved since the beginning and to see so many people involved now is wonderful because the first few years we were really struggling financially and this is wonderful, yeah. In Australia, shearing isn't classified as a sport so it does not get much in the way of government funding. This was only ever meant to be a way of raising money to send the Sportshear Australia team to Wales for an international competition, but what it seems to have done is tap into a real public yearning to be a part of a unique slice of Australian history.

It is absolutely amazing. We have a queue of cars 25km long. We expect the people with a strong rural connection, the local farmers and those sorts of people, to turn up. The fact that people are coming a long way

to see a group of shearers get sweaty over a sheep surprises us a bit and there are a lot of people coming from the towns. It is an historic event. Australia was brought up on the sheep's back so I had to be here. Greg Drew, a shearer for 23 years, bought his two sons along to join the shearers on the board. They came from Morawa in Western Australia. It is just at magnificent thing to see all the stands lined up and the length of the board is something that will never be seen again and something that I myself take pride and joy to see because kids around Australia will never get to see it. Jill Angus Burney is a former shearer and journalist who is now a barrister in her native New Zealand. A world women's record holder in the '80s, she shears in her holidays. It is my birthday this weekend and it's my birthday treat. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something that is so historic. It's sort of exceeded any expectations because I did not know what it would be like, but to actually see 72 shearers working at once... And the logistics of that, the wool-handlers, the organisation behind it, the wool room, there are 8 wool tables.

And even in a big shed, which is the biggest I have ever seen before is 16 stands, that might have two tables. John Read travelled from Winchelsea near Geelong to see the action. He worked here once in 1962. There was only 8 shearers in '62 crew but it was great to say I had shorn here and it was really good and it was a great experience. A lot of people think it is hard work but shearing is not hard work if you like it, no work is hard if you like it and I found shearing was a wonderful life. I have worked in shearing sheds for probably nearly on 50 years over in the Mallee and, yeah, I was very interested because I have never been in a shed as big as this. It is pretty cool how they like chop the wool off the sheep and stuff.

I've come from over 200km away and I came because I have been a wool classer all my life and I have never been in a shed this big and very seldom I have seen anyone shear with a blade.

# Those were the days my friend # We thought they'd never end # We'd sing and dance # For ever and a day # We'd live the life we choose... # As the shearing slowed and the last of the sheep made their way into the paddocks, it was apparent Sportshear Australia had raised more than enough to get to Wales. As many as 13,000 people had filed through the shed. Almost all the 7,000 sheep had been shorn in two days and for the owners, Bruce and Shane Atkinson, who do not actually live on the property is what overwhelming. Everybody has been blown away.

We had no idea there would be so many people but it highlights people are interested in their heritage and history and I think the wool industry. It's particularly emotional for me because my father just lived for sheep, lived for this property, just lived for the whole industry and it would have been an enormous gratification for him to see this. Not such a bad week for some areas rainfall-wise and for a change the west had some good falls, but first the Southern Oscillation Index. Here is the graph - and you can see how the SOI is slowly but surely heading south. Nothing to worry about yet, but it would be best heading the other way - the 30-day moving average is now plus 4.9.

Last week saw handy rain in the south, most of it in high country.

Tassie was very damp as well and that rain in the corner of Western Australia was very handy. Queensland needs a good drink. Texas - 3mm. Forbes in NSW - 9mm. Rosebud - 22mm.

Ross - 27mm. Angaston - 5mm. Not much in the Teritory, but Gove Airport had 2mm. Exmouth Gulf was the wettest place in Australia last week, recording 102mm. And that's the Landline check on rainfall. That's about all we have for now. Next week Kerry Staight goes offshore for a story on fresh water crayfish. I'm on Kangaroo Island in South Australia where Marron is something of a signature dish, but behind the scenes many farmers say the crustacean it is not all it's cracked up to be.

People think that the industry is a licence to print money. I assure you it is not. The highs and lows of marron farming.

One of our stories when Landline returns next week. I hope you can join us then. Bye for now. Closed Captions by CSI