In a recent water use efficiency inquiry, Cotton Australia has sent a clear message that the Federal Government should focus on water use efficiency (WUE) measures and investment in research, to help boost the overall productive performance of Australian agriculture, rather than a tool to recover water for the environment. Cotton Australia accompanied the Inquiry’s visit to Darling Downs property 'Leigh-Haven', Gwydir Valley property ‘Keytah’ and the Australian Cotton Research Institute in the Namoi Valley to discuss the cotton industry's intense focus on water use efficiency, which means Australian growers produce 'more crop per drop' than anywhere in the world. Cotton Australia also formally presented to the Inquiry’s Toowoomba hearing.
In a written submission lodged to the House of Representatives Inquiry into Water Use Efficiency in Australian Agriculture, Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray made the case for a number of recommendations. Importantly, Cotton Australia presented the Australian cotton industry’s story of positive change driven by WUE research and development, and the need to retain the current Research and Development Corporation (RDC) funding model.
In short, Cotton Australia has continued its calls for the Federal Government to support and fund WUE programs that are driven by achieving efficiency that can be retained by the irrigator, with the resulting economic activity being shared by rural and regional Australia.
Cotton Australia’s recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: That the Federal Government commits to the long-term maintenance of the RDC funding model, and extends and expands the Rural R&D for Profit program.
- Recommendation 2: That the Federal Government recognises that when environmental water recovery is deemed absolutely necessary, then the generally preferred way is through well-designed and well-funded on- and off-farm irrigation efficiency programs. However, it must also be recognised that many environmental outcomes can be best achieved through actions other than water acquisition, such as the implementation of complementary measures.
- Recommendation 3: That the Federal Government recognises the need for well-funded and designed WUE programs whose primary aim is improvement in WUE, where the gains are fully retained by productive agriculture, and the benefits flow through rural and regional communities. These schemes should be made available throughout Australia and not restricted to the Murray Darling Basin.
- Recommendation 4: That the Federal Government immediately suspends the implementation of the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency Program (COFIE), and all the focus shift from water entitlement acquisition to environmental gains achieved through the adoption of complementary measures.
- Recommendation 5: That the Federal Government establish new projects in line with Recommendation 3, with a base level of subsidisation of 25% of total costs.
- Recommendation 6: That Commonwealth-funded WUE programs allow the inclusion of energy efficiency or generation components as eligible components.