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(generated from captions) (Theme music) On the Best Of Landline this week - ANNE KRUGER: farmers coping with climate change, to the test we put extra virgin olive oil to some of the imported varieties, and find that when it comes oils ain't oils. of freedom is eternal vigilance. And foot-and-mouth - the price Welcome to the Best Of Landline, Hello, I'm Anne Kruger. popular stories from the past year. a look back on some of our most reminding that the past decade or so Australian grain-growers need no on record, has been one of the toughest has been the weather. nor that the biggest single factor that Australia continues But it's also the case largest wheat exporters. to be one of the world's How have they managed it? to cope with some of the hottest What have they done differently and driest seasons on record? on the east side of Warracknabeal We're farming predominantly in the Wimmera of Victoria. We farm about 5,500 hectares. all hands on deck CHRIS CLARK: Harvest time means for Cam Penny and his family. our two most predominant crops. We grow wheat and barley, they're we grow a little bit of veg We also grow lentils, and we also run some sheep. and some chickpeas of the operation, though. Sheep are a fairly minor part has changed a lot. NARRATOR: The way they farm this land more emphasis on cropping Fewer sheep means cropping and longer rotation cycles. which in turn means more continuous in a row. So perhaps five or six crops year, as you can see, it's wheat. This was lentils last year and this

using knife points and press wheels. This was sown in a no-till method of the seeder the day it was sown We knocked the weeds down in front a broad-leaf herbicide spray and it was sown, since then it's had to the paddock and we haven't been back until we've harvested it today. it would have had 20 years ago, prior to sowing. maybe six or seven cultivations

can influence. These are things farmers is beyond their control. The most profound change in this part of the world The climate is definitely different 15 years ago certainly. compared to how it was by about 20%, Our annual rainfall has dropped well, that 20%, and as far as cropping goes, of what you can do. that's the cream

Peter Taylor tells a similar story. A bit further south, and shut the gate Dad would sow the crop in June and start harvest. and arrive 1st December is a case in point. His latest winter crop Today, he's sending off some barley. (Engine starts) The season began with some promise, the sort of finish he needed but in the end of what he got. was exactly the opposite in the early part of November We've had a heatwave at the end of November. and we've had 70mm of rain at the start of November Had we have had that 70mm of rain we would have had a bumper year. and the heat in November, unpredictable weather Farmers are used to dealing with a distinct change in the pattern. but many can also point to In my time, which isn't that long, back three weeks, I suppose, but we've brought our sowing date from when I first came home. they have shortened up. We used to get good springs, know from their own observations What grain-growers in this region is backed up by the broader numbers. is down and temperatures are up. Across Southern Australia, rainfall of dry conditions We've seen about 10 to 13 years across most of southern Australia of wet weather like late last year. with small intervening periods senior scientists Mark Howden is one of CSIRO's can adapt to a changing climate. looking at how Australian agriculture looking at precisely that challenge. He's just edited this book in southern Australia, Last year was our hottest year ever according to our instrumental record than the 1960 to 1990 baseline. and that was over a degree warmer where the average has gone up So we've seen a situation around that average, and there's always variation than average, colder than average, we always get years which are hotter those cold years we experience now but because the average has gone up, experienced by our grandparents. are hotter than the hottest years

what do we do with marginal spaces? MAN: The climate's changing, getting on with what they know best, While the country's farmers are are doing the same. the country's scientists going into trying to understand There's a lot of money and effort means for agriculture. what a changing climate the Australian Academy of Science In Melbourne recently, where 60 researchers came together hosted a think tank as much as anything to do just that - think and talk but need to know. about what we don't know for certain on The Economist The Silent Tsunami was the headline just over a year ago. Professor Peter Gregory, The keynote speaker was the Scottish Crop Research Institute, a soil scientist and director of on world cropping. and he offered this analysis is a compression, The end result actually in which cereal crop production a compression of the zone on a global scale. is likely to be possible A lot of this is about intelligence, are happening, being aware that these things look like the past that the future is not going to we don't know how variable because quite simply in the future the climate is going to be which doesn't leave you exposed but to have a business model get through this by standing still but we're certainly not going to or waving our hands and saying, and technology has to offer'. 'there's no more that science what climate change might mean In trying to understand for the world's grain crops, is to ask what it means a good starting point in the atmosphere. to have more carbon dioxide are wrong Even if climate-change models become hotter and dryer, and south-east Australia doesn't atmosphere will affect plant growth. the extra carbon dioxide in the carbon dioxide storage tank, Well, this is a very large inside is a vacuum sleeve, cold temperature under pressure. the carbon dioxide is at a very of Primary Industry, So at the Victorian Department to calculate exactly they're running experiments designed what higher CO2 levels will do to wheat. As it warms, then of course it becomes gas and it then floats through the series of valves and regulators into the pipe and underground. In this experiment, they're trying to create conditions

as they might be decades from now. So through this process and then pumped out to the trial site? Yes, exactly, all underground. Out in the paddock, you can get a better feel for it. A series of pipes pour extra carbon dioxide over a trial plot of wheat. You can hear and feel the gas coming out. So how much are you putting over this area? In the centre of the ring, there is a little sensor, a little cup that maintains that centre concentration at 550 parts per million, which is the concentration we expect in the atmosphere over the whole planet in the year 2050. The experiment's in its third year. CO2 is called a fertiliser, it's a CO2 fertilisation effect, which means that carbon dioxide is a food source for plants if you will, that's the carbon that goes into the bulk of the biomass of the plant. So raising levels of CO2 actually increases that growth, increases the biomass and in agriculture, increases the yield. Given, of course, that there's sufficient water and sufficient nitrogen, and that is what we're seeing here. We have a number of different varieties in this trial and we're seeing overall on average 20% yield increase due to elevated CO2. They're not just measuring how much wheat is grown. An important part of this experiment is temperature, and temperature relates to water use. 28.4. 28.4. More carbon dioxide should increase the plants' water efficiency, but then it gets complicated. If you assume a dryer, hotter future. CO2 can increase water-use efficiency, that sounds pretty good, however there are assumptions there. First of all, the assumption that there's water in the soil profile for the plant to use, in other words, that the rainfall patterns don't change but we know they are changing. Temperature affects the growth of the crop, it affects its ability to deliver yield. And there are further complexities to consider. In another part of the paddock, Glenn Fitzgerald's colleague, Roger Armstrong is studying the influence of different soils. And what we're looking at here is the effect of elevated versus ambient CO2 but with particular emphasis on the effect of different soil types. Soil can have a huge impact on a plant's ability to take up moisture and nutrients. Higher CO2 levels need to be seen as part of a complex system. Some soils give up their moisture and nutrients more readily than others. It's one thing to have the potential for higher yield, higher biomass production and higher water-use efficiency but what effect will these inherent subsoil constraints have on the ability of roots to actually access water? And it doesn't stop there. After three years of looking at wheat, they will be changing the experiments and looking at other crops too. We're going to change the structure of the experiment in the next couple of years and look at a rotation system with field peas so we bring in a whole other component which is the nitrogen fixation, which is the interaction between the soil, carbon and nitrogen, the above ground part of the crop, and try to understand that whole system. Because that's what grain-growers need to understand as well. Nitrogen fertiliser is a critical part of the wheat grower's arsenal. Growers need to match fertiliser to the crop's potential and apply it at the most productive times. We should see the nitrogen treatments pre-drilled really start to senesce now and the later applications show up more green than the pre-drilled treatment. I'm going to run the GreenSeeker over it and see if I can... Peter Taylor's been running wheat trials on his Wimmera property focusing on different fertiliser management. Yes, so 4.5 tonnes here, was it, Peter? Yep. It's really good stubble. The aim is to become more precise in applying fertiliser, to put it on when the plant needs it and maximise growth, which is where this piece of equipment comes in. A farmer can run it over the crop and it will tell him whether it needs nitrogen. This trial that we're standing in front of now is looking at nitrogen rates particularly so we're trying to calibrate this machine to be able to tell me or Peter whether the crop is nitrogen-deficient and how much nitrogen he needs to put on. These trial plots show the differences in the final crops. Three samples - the first with no nitrogen fertiliser. That's the controller, so that's had no nitrogen whatsoever, and this here is 100kg of nitrogen at sowing. The second with all the fertiliser applied at sowing time, a bit more growth, and the third, where fertiliser was added later at a critical growth stage. The result - larger grains and more grains per head of wheat. And do you think out of all of these this would produce the more profitable crop this year around? I'm hoping so, yes. This region is going to get drier, we're going to have to be incredibly smart about how we put our inputs into our crops. If we can put our inputs on and know we're going to get a return on investment, it's going to be a lot better for the farmer. Peter Taylor's technological edge isn't confined to the paddock. He uses a computer program to calculate what sort of harvest he will get for a given amount of fertiliser by comparing rainfall figures over the past century. Back when it used to rain, we used to go and put all our nitrogen upfront before we even sowed the crop and that would be the end of it. The computer can't make it rain but it can help cut the risk. So effectively you have to use this to pick a point along this blue line and say how much fertiliser am I going to put on there and what sort of yield might I expect if I do that? Yep, yep. Exactly. Of course, farmers were adapting to the prolonged dry spell in southern Australia well before the term climate change became commonplace. So it's useful to know exactly what they've been doing to discover what's worked and what hasn't and what might be worth trying. This is a stubble management trial, Chris. It's to demonstrate the different types of stubble management that are used in the district currently. This trial's being run by the Victorian Department of Primary Industry on a real farm scale. One of the big things about this project was to try and get trials up and running which involved farmers in their own paddocks so they can see it firsthand, but also bring them together with the researchers from, in this case, the Department of Primary Industries. The department has also surveyed some Wimmera farmers to quantify what they're doing differently. Over a 14-year period from the mid-'90s, they found a 20% decline in rainfall and a move to less risky crops. Fertiliser use has become more targeted, there's less burning off and more stubble retention. These results come as no surprise to a lot of growers but I guess it's not often that we actually get to validate what is occurring on farm and so that will help with hopefully in the future with policy decisions that are being made and also future research that can be applied on farm, too. Research into new varieties that will be better suited to hotter, dryer conditions with more carbon dioxide. Some farmers who have come up to me and said, 'well, this isn't relevant to me', et cetera. You know, this is long-term research. We're looking forward, we're trying to inform the farming industry, we're trying to inform policymakers, et cetera, to try and understand what will happen in the future. As the CSIRO's Mark Howden explains, it's about being ahead of the game. We're also looking at breeding climate change-ready crops or climate change-ready trees as well. So instead of being breeding for the climate of the last ten years, we're actually looking to breed for the climate of the next 10 or 20 years and so when those crops actually come out, they will actually be suited to the climate and the carbon dioxide concentrations that exist in that time. And while that's happening, growers will do whatever they have to do to keep their businesses profitable - diversifying like Peter Taylor has done by growing hay. We were forced to in the droughts two or three years ago where the crops were failing and we decided to cut them down and try and retrieve something out of what was going to be a lost season and the dairy industry was short of hay and we capitalised on it. It's probably now a third of our business, yeah, and it levels our income out during the year. Cam Penny is in no doubt the climate has changed in Victoria's Wimmera but like many grain-growers, he's an optimist.

We're just gonna have to keep getting smarter, I think. There will be more advances in technology and methods and whatever that'll mean that we can keep tuning up and we'll be able to use what moisture we do get more and more efficiently as time goes on, I'm sure. SEAN MURPHY: At Unicup near Cranbrook in the Great Southern region of WA, Butch Packard is clearing his farm for the second time in 30 years. Only this time, instead of virgin bush, he's removing 337 hectares of second-rotation blue gums. In some respects, I hated putting it to blue gums. It was purely a financial decision. I really hated pulling out all the fences and the work that I'd done to get the farm to where it was but it was difficult to make it pay, so yeah, it was purely a financial decision.

Lured by a generous 24-year lease, the Packard family signed over 415 hectares in 1997 to Timbercorp, the second largest company promoting on-farm forestry funded by tax minimising managed investment schemes. We knew that the yields that they estimated

that these farms would do were highly unlikely. But of course, I guess none of this country had been planted to blue gums before so it was fairly early days, I guess. So I mean, I knew nothing about blue gum plantations so they could've been right but we had a nagging suspicion that they were wrong about the yields. Timbercorp's heroic yield projections were ultimately wrong, and when the company went bankrupt last year, Butch Packard was told his lease would not be taken up by the new owners, Australian Bluegum Plantations or ABP. Yeah, yeah, we've had a number of people come and look at what we're doing. Yes, I'd say that there's quite a few farmers that are quite nervous that they're going to... ..they're going to be doing the same job. In fact, a lot of them are almost certain that they're going to be. But you know, the timber companies haven't given them any forewarning or anything. How long do you reckon, Butch, until you will have it back into full production? Oh, I reckon three to five years before it's back to four to five equivalent. Yep. Cranbrook Shire president Doug Forrest says it's still unclear how many more farmers will have to return their wood lots to farmland. He says neither ABP or Gunns Limited which has taken over assets from the failed Great Southern managed investment schemes have made their intentions clear. At the moment there's so many people that are in limbo, and particularly farmers who have planted all or part of their farm to trees. Their children have gone off to work in some cases within the plantation timber industry, whether it be in Albany as part of the processing or out in the bush driving harvesters, and they're in a state of flux at the moment. They've got mortgages to pay and they're not sure what the future holds for them and how certain and how bright it's going to be. The companies aren't saying much yet, but Timber 2020, the industry's chief lobby group in the West, says rationalisation in more marginal rainfall areas is inevitable. WOMAN: Yes, and that's already happening. Those trees that were planted in the early days in more marginal areas are not getting the yield and so they're not going back into plantations, correct. We're planning out with our industry now. We probably won't get many more plantations in because where the plantations should be growing, in the high rainfall, the price of land is quite high. At Albany, there are signs of a recovery as other companies continue to export shipments, such as this 4.5 million-tonne consignment to Japan. With Timbercorp not coming in, we've lost their production of course, so probably 50% of our production that we would've had in 2008, but the forecast for 2010 looks quite positive, particularly towards the end. When Timbercorp and Great Southern went bankrupt, their contracts were extinguished. But even in a downturn, the Great Southern Development Commission is optimistic about the industry. The plantation timber industry is viable in its own right, it doesn't necessarily need that MIS overload. That was very beneficial in getting the industry up and going but we now know that we've got a solid economic base there. Well, our best reading of the situation is that that downturn has been associated with the so-called global financial crisis and that as things improve internationally, that those markets or the demand will pick back up. So I think we're still confident going forward. Albany's robust economy has weathered the storm from the blue gum industry's problems which the region's small business centre estimates has cost about 80 jobs. A number of small businesses closed their doors completely. And others have been struggling trying to make amends for that huge shortfall in their revenue. What about in terms of money that's owed to small businesses? OK, that's really hard to put a figure on because a lot of it has just gone. If you've ever looked at the bowl of spaghetti that happens when an insolvency occurs and how people get paid, they could be waiting years. So the question we asked them was - what impact did they feel would be on their annual turnover? About 30% said between 80% and 100%, so that's quite large. 40% said between 40% and 60% they felt their income would be impacted. When the industry does pick up again, finding skilled labour may be a problem. Many contractors have folded or let staff go to survive the last 12 months. Going from 26 staff at our peak back down to basically over Christmas, we went back down to four, and that's four operating staff and an office manager as well, and that was the hardest period for me, I reckon. The trees were still there to cut but having to let people go, the ones that were with a family and kids. I even had to let my best friend go. He was one of our first guys we put on. I had to let him go as well. That was the hardest thing for me. Warren Marshall runs a specialised coppicing business, pruning and trimming blue gums in their second rotation. He's found work for his machines from as far away as Victoria. Finding drivers to operate them as the industry picks up in the West will be another challenge. There's no training course for these guys. We have to train them ourselves. You're looking at anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks to get a good guy up and fully operational and then we had to let him go. And to get another guy back like the ones we've got at the moment, that's another cost for us that at the moment we can't afford. Some companies such as the harvest contractor Edenborn have survived the recent crisis by asking their staff to take leave or other work until things pick up. So we asked them if they had trades, if they had other seasonal work they could do, if they went out and got jobs in the interim that we would continue to give them their benefits and pay them for public holidays, et cetera, so they didn't lose any entitlements. So they went and worked elsewhere and then when we needed them, we asked them to come back so that we kept that trained base of people that we required. Although the company is harvesting just over a third of what it was two years ago, it is making money and is confident that the industry will thrive again. Oh, yes, we see it as a good industry, we see it as a solid industry, with the global economic downturn, that's what's happened in this industry and we're waiting for the supply to start to build back up and we will be able to do the same ourselves. Even those hardest hit by the crisis such as nurseryman Bill Hollingworth are talking the industry up. He lost nearly two million seedlings last year worth half a million dollars. What's left of them are now rotting in a pit. And if they were in the ground planted in June, they'd be up above my head now. So quite apart from the financial loss, the emotional toll must have been quite something? Oh, of course, yeah, yeah. These are just like having one of your best crops in the ground and then you need to drive over it or spray it and kill it and get rid of it. So the emotion is the same, exactly the same. Bill Hollingworth has been growing trees since he was 13 years old and he wants to continue doing so for as long as he can. We can survive, yes. It's going to be certainly a very tough battle particularly because we're in the expansion phase as well, but looking to the long term, it's very positive. It's going to turn around. The question is how long and whether we can pull everything together to make it happen. Before those questions are answered, others must also be resolved such as the ownership of the Albany Chip Terminal. It was built in 2005 as a joint venture between Timbercorp and Integrated Tree Cropping, now part of the Elders Group. Australian Bluegum Plantations says even if it fails to win its legal bid for the mill, it's confident it can make its new assets pay in the Great Southern. ABP is a subsidiary of the American timber giant, Global Forest Partners. A spokesman says the company is making good progress in finding new markets. Less is known about the fate of Great Southern's former assets, now in the hands of Gunns Limited. The company is being coy about its plans but has said it won't take on any blue gums planted after 2006. For farmers such as Liz Frusher, that has meant she now owns 50 hectares of blue gums grown by Great Southern on her farm at Chorkerup near Albany. Well, in the short term, we have a major cash-flow crisis. So that's left us in quite a quandary. Long term, we're not absolutely sure what we can do, but at least now we have the option of leasing the trees to somebody else if somebody comes up with a good proposition, or selling the trees to somebody before harvest. With her husband Jim, Liz Frusher runs a successful stockhorse stud and a herd of 200 cattle. She says she would be reluctant to now also become a tree farmer. I think that if I had gone into farming the trees, I might not have gone for a monoculture of blue gums. I might have thought of other sorts of trees that would be, I think, more valid. I'm not sure that growing paper which is going to get shredded when the things that are written on it are no use is a terribly good way of using land that could be producing something more valuable as in furniture-grade timber or high-protein food for the world. Not just monoculture but lack of market diversity is an issue for the industry. The woodchips behind me are worth just over $200 a tonne dry weight and they're destined for the pulp mills of Japan. But there has been a softening of demand for paper products since the global financial crisis, and it highlights the problem the industry has here in relying on just one market. The search is on now to come up with new markets and some value-added products. At the Mount Romance Sandalwood Factory, two tonnes of woodchips are being consumed every hour to fuel a six-megawatt steam-boiler. Renewable energy is a market with hot potential. Woodchips and forestry residue are now being converted into bioenergy pellets on the outskirts of Albany. The Victorian-based Plantation Energy Australia has invested $25 million in Australia's first biomass pellet plant. It has already sent two shipments to Europe where the pellets' renewable energy status is in high demand for the carbon-offset market. And I'm just showing you now the energy of the future. They are accredited renewable energy. They don't give off pollution so they don't give off smoke,

and they combust very slowly. We mustn't rely just on one market. We must spread the risk. And so this is what we are doing right now - starting to develop those added industries which is looking at bioenergy, biodiesel, fuels, oils, right the way through to structural timbers for sawlogs for building materials,

because we're going to need that once we start getting into the carbon industry in a big way. The WA Government-owned Forest Products Commission has been a major player in diversifying farm forestry to higher value species for sawlogs. But now it wants to sell out of its sharefarm arrangements with farmers such as David Preston, who planted about 250 hectares of trees on his Cranbrook farm. I'm not concerned so much for my own personal situation. We've got a lot out of what's been done. But my real concern is for the taxpayers that have funded a project like this. And really it's to point where most of the work in certainly this area we're standing in has been done. So I just think it's ludicrous that you would walk away from it at this stage. I'm advised that that will need $40 million per year for 20 years to get to that level. We haven't got that sort of money to put into it. Once there's a price on carbon, I'm sure there will be some other drivers that may well support it. We've made the decision now to divest ourselves of that particular component. We'd like to think that all those people that put their trust in the government of the day when they signed up to plant these Forest Products trees, and it was a high-value, sawlog-orientated planting, we'd like to think their faith in dealing with the government is going to be backed up by the current government of the day. The fact they're of a different political persuasion to the ones that were in power when it was planted shouldn't matter. The State Government wants the Forest Products Commission

to focus on managing its native harvest. But even without government as a commercial player, the Minister for Forestry says there is a bright future in the Great Southern and he believes there should still be room for managed investment schemes. I would be disappointed to see the MIS schemes lost in its entirety. Sure, I think there needs to be some tweaking around the edges of some of the rules such that we can possibly avoid

what happened over the last 18 months or so, but I think it has been a vehicle to get this investment in place and started. Clearly, the industry in here has been a strong one. I've got confidence it'll be a strong one again. At Unicup, the more immediate concern for the Packard family is finding the funds to get their dirt back to productive farmland. The financial burden is the biggest thing and I guess financial burden can put an emotional strain, but at this stage, we're coping reasonably financially. So hopefully, we'll get it fairly quickly back to reasonable production as far as grazing goes, and I don't expect to be able to crop for probably anything up to ten years to give the stumps time to rot out.

PRUE ADAMS: Late spring and summer are catch-up times in Australia's olive orchards. With a record crop harvested over the cooler months last year, growers are now preparing for season 2010. WOMAN: I think it's a fantastic lifestyle. We're really happy. We've come from a dairy farming background to this.

Quite a long time ago now. Quite a long time ago. But I think it's been a really good lifestyle for us, for our kids. To be out here, yes, it's reasonably isolated but I wouldn't have it any other way. Lisa and Jim Rowntree have 87,000 olive trees. They also manage orchards on behalf of other owners. These are down with the grape harvest. I'm not sure why they're missed, but they're still in good condition. They are, they look really good. I'm quite impressed. Leccinos. She could pick with these. Even if we're a little late. They're still not too bad. Good condition, yeah. This was all dryland farming country, tucked away south-east of Adelaide between the Malley and the Coorong.

When Landline last visited in 1999, the Rowntrees were literally moving mountains to put in one of the region's first large-scale olive orchards. The colour comes on fairly quickly after it starts. Yeah. The growing tip. But even then, this forward-thinking couple didn't have any romantic notions about a cruisy Tuscan lifestyle.

Quite realistic really, I don't think, it wasn't that... I got over my romance of farming when I first met Jim. (Laughs) Back in the late '90s, with Australian olive oil almost non-existent, it was fetching around $6 a litre ex-farm gate. Since then, this global commodity has dropped to around $4 to $5. The initial figures looked like we were going to make a huge killing

on it really but it was... I don't think many people did their budgets on those original numbers. It looked like it was way too good to be true right from the word go. So we expected to come back but it's been a little bit tighter just recently than what we've been expecting. The trouble is when you come into a supermarket these days to buy olive oil, there is an embarrassment of riches. And how do you choose between an extra virgin olive oil,

a pure oil or even something that is labelled extra light? NARRATOR: A simple rule of thumb is that extra virgin is the best - it's the unadulterated juice of the olive without any other refining. If oils are labelled pure or light, then it's more than likely they don't have the flavour or the health benefits of extra virgin. While around 95% of all Australian oils are in fact extra virgin, the same cannot be said about many of the imported oils. Why does that happen? It's because they have so many olive trees in these countries, they can't possibly do everything on time, the fruit oxidises, and they have to refine the product to make it edible. And the Australian Olive Association

says just because oils are labelled extra virgin, there is no guarantee they actually are. And the Spanish, Greek and Italian companies get away with this sort of misrepresentation because Australia hasn't been testing it. The quality of olive oil that's traded around the world is the subject of much discussion around the world

and the markets that get good product are those that do surveillance - like Canada, like northern Europe, like Italy. The other markets get varying degrees of quality depending on what the buyers want. The 7.30 Report has obtained laboratory analysis of olive oils that were scrutinised midyear, using standards set by the International Olive Council. In 2008, The 7.30 Report exposed some astonishing results of testing

at the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga. Many well-known brands of olive oil mostly imported, but some Australian, were passing off their product as something it wasn't. There's one oil that we've found that's been very bad, it's contained both canola oil, refined oil, and also what we call pomace oil. Pomace oil is the waste product which is extracted from the olives after the oil's been extracted, so this is pretty bad-quality product. Even the Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke weighed in to the issue. The tests which have been referred to by industry certainly put some very serious doubts over what people have been purchasing. It had a massive impact,

it's still resonating with consumers today. They're still talking about The 7.30 Report, what is the issue with olive oil quality, how can we be sure what we're buying is good. And then for us, it added a lot of impetus to getting this code of practice up and running and getting the certified Australian Extra Virgin campaign going. As Paul Miller says, the local industry has now embarked on a code of practice.

When growers who've signed up for the code spray their crop, it has to be recorded. The oil producers are required to have product recall processes and abide by stringent food-hygiene standards. If Australian producers sign up for the code, and more than three quarters already have, they pay a levee that funds regular testing of the oil

and administration of the code. For their efforts, their particular brand of oil gets to sport this nice little sticker... consumers know they're getting the good stuff. What we're about is teaching consumers what to look for in a really good, fresh extra virgin olive oil. Lisa Rowntree spent five years helping devise the code of practice. We have a lot of product that's brought into this country that's labelled incorrectly and consumers just don't know the difference, they don't really know what they're getting. So part of the code of practice was being able to offer consumers a guarantee that what they were getting in this particular bottle, if it's got the stand or the sticker on it, meant they were getting an authentic Australian product that was grown here in Australia. MAN: They're both labelled extra virgin olive oil. At agricultural shows and farmers' markets around the country,

the Olive Association is pushing their product by asking show-goers to have a taste. Two olive oils - one's imported, one's Australian, both from the supermarket. It's a blind taste test - passers-by are asked to try two olive oils, both came from bottles labelled extra virgin, both have the same use-by date, but one of them is Australian, the other imported.

WOMAN: That one. The results have been overwhelmingly in favour of the local drop. That symbol is what you look for. We didn't know how this was gonna work when we started this. We did know that our product was measurably better - it has more polyphenols, more antioxidants and that relates to flavour, but we weren't sure how the public would react to that given their taste experiences of the past.

But so far in quite blind tasting, 85% of them are going for the Australian product. And surprisingly, children are more discerning than their parents. If I was ten years old and went to the show, I wouldn't have been dipping bread in oil. But these young kids come along and have a go. It's yeah, very pleasing. They wouldn't know why it tasted better, they just said, 'That one tastes better', and it was over 90% would be that way. Yeah, easy.

So now it's probably my turn to have a try. It's that one, isn't it? Yes, it is. Much fresher taste. That's good. And others will say, 'Oh, that must be light.' Not content to let the novices choose the difference between a good and a not so good oil, the industry has recently employed the know-how of this man - he is German chemist Christian Gertz, and he's developed a definitive test for extra virgin olive oil. I'm very impressed about the willingness in Australia to accept these new criteria and these methods.

Dr Gertz was in Australia late last year to oversee some of the testing at labs in Victoria and New South Wales, and says similar testing in Germany has turned up disturbing results. We analysed about 500 samples of olive oil a year. Officially, about 20% of these samples are adulterated olive oils.

There is sometimes a blend with soybean oil, a blend with rapeseed oil, sometimes also treated, it says they have added refined oil and also very old oil so that the oil is rancid.

There are now 30,000 hectares of olive trees planted across Australia, about 30 times the area of just a decade ago. It's an industry that has grown exponentially. So the question has to be asked... (Device whirrs) all this marketing a ploy to sell an oversupply of olive oil?

No, not all. There is a good market for extra virgin olive oil around the world, we export more than a quarter of what we produce already and there's a reasonably demand for it overseas. Well, globally consumption and demand is increasing and I've in fact been to meetings overseas where we look at each other and say, 'Where are we gonna get the oil from?' So there's no problem in terms of the demand side of the equation. We're very small in the world market, very small, and it wouldn't matter how many trees, I don't think we'd have enough irrigation or water available in Australia to actually make a big dent on the world olive industry, I don't think. And in Australia, we still haven't reached a point yet where we are covering what we import, so I think, if we were to look at what we could supply, at the supply and demand of Australia, if we can increase demand here in our own country, we will have no trouble keeping or supplying in the long term.

Olive oil is one of the few oils that actually doesn't break down at temperatures that we get in the domestic kitchen. The big sell is only just beginning. Supermarkets Aldi and Coles have made a commitment to stock only oil that meets the new Australian standard of freshness and production quality. Regular spot tests by a government laboratory are also fishing out

the less scrupulous operators, and they're not always the overseas labels. The hope for growers like Jim and Lisa Rowntree is the work they put into producing a quality drop is actually recognised at the cash register. Because, while they love being in the olive oil business, it still has to pay its way. It's just a sort of agriculture where you can control a few of the parameters, you know? Agriculture is agriculture. You do have to work at the end of the day.

TIM LEE: We are all too familiar with the harrowing images of death and destruction in the wake of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. FMD is classed as the worst disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as pigs, cows and sheep. Let me start by saying that this is the most infectious

of all the diseases that we know, of man or animals. So believe me, this virus spreads very quickly once it gets into a susceptible and non-immune population. Fortunately for Australia, our only suspected outbreak was way back in 1872. So you may be asking why would Australia be hosting a conference on foot-and-mouth disease

since the country hasn't had foot-and-mouth since 1872? The reason we are holding a conference such as this is to show Australia's commitment to the control of foot-and-mouth disease and also its commitment to become a world leader in terms of foot-and-mouth disease research. Our geographic isolation and rigid quarantine standards have since then kept Australia free of foot-and-mouth.

That status is worth big dollars to the nation's livestock industries. We have not had to grapple with agriculture emergencies affecting other nations like, for example, the United Kingdom. This has given us an important trade advantage and access to premium international markets for our meat and dairy products. (Chicks chirp) NARRATOR: But viruses are readily transmissible.

Like recent flu strains which have swept worldwide within a matter of days, foot-and-mouth could be just a short hop from our shores. It's not so much the proximity of the disease in Asia that's of concern to us but actually the movement of people and livestock and livestock products with those people, particularly these days the movement of an infected product that someone might carry with them on an aeroplane and come back here and then unfortunately discard that infected material to a livestock which then gets the disease. So really, it's a global threat. It's not just the local nature of it. So this conference, the first of its kind held in Australia, stressed the need for global cooperation - a message heard by almost 300 scientists from 26 countries.

As you probably know, foot-and-mouth is a huge threat to Australia. It's estimated that if the disease were to occur in Australia, it could cost anything from Aud$8 to 16 billion in trying to manage the disease out and regain our trade. Not only would it have a terrible impact on productivity but it also in a case like Australia would shut us out of our export markets.

We enjoy about 100 markets worldwide, we trade $120 million a week in beef and sheep meats and to be denied any of those markets would be catastrophic for Australia. As the slaughter and burning of animals continued, the new cases forced more drastic action. Local authorities were given emergency powers to stop people walking in and near farmland. There's the financial issues that people quite rightly highlight

when you have outbreaks of those scales but there's the real personal tragedies that are associated with people who've devoted their lives to lines of pedigree stock and have a real feeling for their livestock, that they're culled. MAN: The complication of how we're testing for FMD,

what we're expecting, whether vaccines will work or not. Some crucial issues got an airing. Surveillance and control measures, the diagnosis and the latest developments in foot-and-mouth. Australia's readiness to effectively respond to an FMD outbreak was tested during a simulated exercise. As you well know, there was a major outbreak in the UK and it didn't seem to get into their wildlife, it didn't sustain itself in their wildlife populations.

So we think the biggest risks are in our domestic livestock and particularly for example, if you took the dairy industry in Victoria here, where to euphemistically describe it as wall-to-wall dairy cattle, it is the reality. And that would be ideal for this virus. So those are the areas we've got the biggest concerns with. From Africa, we did see a rise in reporting. But still, there's a great deal of information that we don't know about what is happening in Africa. Englishman Jef Hammond monitors the spread and prevalence of FMD across the globe, no easy task in some Third World nations in Africa, or war-torn countries such as Afghanistan. Most importantly to us and in Europe, the near neighbours in the Middle East through to Turkey experienced a high increase in FMD outbreaks in 2009.

Animal disease doesn't always get top priority. So in some of the endemic countries, they're more worried about other diseases that are killing people or that are ruining crops or that are actually preventing their animals from being able to work or provide food. So FMD is not always the top priority that it's seen by some of the Westernised countries. If we look at the country that's nearest to us, Indonesia - Indonesia fortunately has been foot-and-mouth free for a number of years now and certainly the Philippines is rapidly moving towards eradication of foot-and-mouth. But perhaps, and I mean no disrespect, our biggest risk comes from China which certainly has periodic outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and a very large country and a lot of trade, a lot of movement between China and Australia. So you see that whilst it's not immediate neighbours, some of our other neighbours do pose a risk to us. Viruses like foot-and-mouth disease are continually on the move, constantly evolving and making vaccines ineffective. It's sort of like an arms race between the scientists and these clever microorganisms. However, a recent breakthrough in the UK may have given scientists a critical leading edge. If an animal is infected by a disease and then recovers, it often gains lifetime immunity from that disease, so why don't vaccines work the same way? The virus is then held in small deposits in the lymph nodes mainly around the head and neck for long periods of time. We think this is promoting the long-duration immunity after vaccination. And so that's a very important finding. So that's helping us guide how we think

new improved vaccines could be made. These findings pave the way for a new generation of vaccines which are far more effective and could provide immunity for twice the length of time as existing vaccines. Getting the exact vaccine right following an outbreak is very, very important and some of the work we're seeing here today coming out of Pirbright in the United Kingdom gives us great confidence that the rapid turnaround in a vaccine development to suit a particular outbreak wherever it might be is a good investment and one that we're pleased to be part of. Meat and Livestock Australia, in partnership with the Federal Government and Animal Health Australia, have today announced a $2-million, Phase-1 program that looks at collaborating with Vietnam, South Africa and Argentina in further vaccine development. The funding is part of a five-year, $5-million program which addresses Australia's preparedness to combat foot-and-mouth. Because the FMD virus is so highly infectious, the live virus can't be brought into Australia, so our scientists will do much of the work overseas. But should Australia's FMD-free livestock industries be so willing to help our trade competitors?

The peak body says we should. It's good news for beef, it's good news for lamb if the world knows that it's free of these diseases, because, as you rightly say, any commentary in the popular or public press that is in any way negative towards any food group reverberates amongst consumers. We've seen for years, the discussions about BSE in North Asia,

and it's having a terrible effect. NARRATOR: For scientists, there are challenges and hopes. Can we move eventually to an effective global control program and even possibly the eradication of foot-and-mouth disease from the globe? Perhaps some way away yet, but something we could aspire to.

That's about all we have time for on today's show. The Best Of Landline continues next week when Tim Lee travels to Victoria's Wimmera district, which has been immortalised in a remarkable poem. TIM LEE: The words flow from the poet's pencil

like the spring breeze that stirs emerging crops as well as the clouds that scatter across the Wimmera sky. Homer's Epic - a tribute to the men and women of the Wimmera when the Best Of Landline returns this time next week. I hope you'll join us. Bye for now. Closed Captions by CSI - Clemence Duprat