The cotton season is well underway, and the turn of the year is an opportune time to reflect on the issues Cotton Australia has championed over behalf of growers in the past 12 months, and the challenges that lie ahead in 2016. Here’s an update from Cotton Australia CEO, Adam Kay.
Cotton Australia has worked extremely hard on behalf of growers in the past year in its primary role as advocate for the industry, and I’m very proud to say that we have secured a number of wins in critical areas, all of which have produced benefits for growers.
These wins – outlined below – are made possible only with the volunteer levies contributed by cotton growers. The levies fund our organisation’s ability to continue crucial work and advocacy to advance the interests of growers.
Significant investment is required to defend our industry and advance its causes. Growers investing in Cotton Australia receive a fantastic return on investment, with independent research demonstrating a $10 benefit to growers for every voluntary levy $1 invested.
Here’s an outline of the key achievements Cotton Australia has been able to secure in the past 12 months, not just on the policy and advocacy front, but also in securing access to future markets:
- Electricity pricing: Cotton Australia successfully halted the trend of rampant electricity pricing increases, effectively lobbying the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to stop more than a decade of year-on-year price rises, which was reflected in the AER’s April (NSW) and October (Qld) determinations
- International promotion: our Cotton to Market program has made great strides in future-proofing our industry, taking the story of Australian cotton directly to retailers, brands and throughout the supply chain. This program has been pursued cost-effectively, and with the support of the Federal Government’s Export Market Development Grant. Our participation in the Cotton LEADS™ program, of which we are a founding member, also continues to strengthen our access to global markets and demand for our cotton
- myBMP and BCI: Cotton Australia's efforts to increase participation in the myBMP program have paid off, with more growers signing up every week and using the system to improve their efficiency. In the past year we have also secured access to the Better Cotton Initiative program via myBMP – growers with myBMP certification can now take their fibre to Better Cotton’s global market. Encouragingly, some growers have already done so, and have reported useful premiums
While we can look back on these achievements with pride, we know there is still much more than can be done. Here is a glimpse ahead for Cotton Australia’s priorities for 2016 indicate where we’ll be focusing our efforts in order to maximise benefits for growers.
The most important water policy initiative Cotton Australia will address in the coming year is continuing to work on the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP).
Our first opportunity to influence the MDBP is with the Northern Basin Review, which is to be finalised in 2016. Research is currently being conducted into the environmental, economic and social impacts of the MDBP, and the Murray Darling Basin Authority will review this information before finalising the Sustainable Diversion Limits for the Northern Basin Catchments and the Northern Shared Zone.
The second opportunity to influence the MDBP comes from the Southern Basin Review. Work is progressing on assessment of a range of Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects which offer the potential to provide the equivalent of 650Gl’s of water recovery. Cotton Australia will continue to engage with the Government to ensure growers interests are represented in the MDBP process.
In addition to our efforts on the MDBP, Cotton Australia will also address other important water policy areas, including the issue of Local Management Arrangements in Queensland, conversion factors for the Gwydir and Macquarie Valleys, access to On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency funding, and buybacks in the Condamine Alluvium.
Cotton Australia will continue to push for reform that will result in long-term cost reductions for growers, at both state and federal level. In NSW we will challenge tariff structures ahead of the 2017-19 period, and in Queensland we will push for volumetric usage-based tariffs for irrigators. We have also made a submission to the Queensland Government’s own productivity commission, and have urged the commissioners to visit cotton-growing regions to see for themselves the impact high electricity costs have on growers.
International promotion and trade agreements
In 2016 Cotton Australia will continue to roll out its Cotton to Market program, engaging with organisations on the global stage to secure international markets for growers.
Specifically, we will promote Australian cotton to international brands and retailers who are seeking ethical, sustainable cotton, and also encourage retailers, manufacturers and designers to specify Australian cotton.
Following on from our 2015 advocacy program on free trade agreements, Cotton Australia will also continue to work with the Australian Government for advantageous trade terms during trade negotiations with other countries, including China at the three-year review of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Biosecurity and stewardship
Regulations for biosecurity are changing in both NSW and Queensland, and will impact growers in the coming 18 months. The new regulations mean farmers have a legal responsibility to ensure biosecurity risks are prevented, eliminated or minimised. These changes will be in force in Queensland from July 2016 and in NSW from mid-2017. Cotton Australia will keep abreast of the changes and assist growers in meeting their new obligations.
Mining & CSG
In 2015, Cotton Australia was able to achieve several wins for growers affected by resources operations in NSW, strengthening the rights of growers around land access, and delivering better protection for land and water resources through increased transparency and compliance. In Queensland, however, mining & CSG reform had effectively paused following the election at the beginning of the year. Now, there is an expectation that reform will return to the stage in Queensland in 2016, and Cotton Australia will ensure the voice of cotton growers is heard when that process re-starts.
Contributing to Cotton Australia
As we look ahead to a new year, I thank the industry for its support in 2015. Of course, without the backing of our levy paying growers, Cotton Australia would not be able to progress all of this important work, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support.
Cotton Australia is the only organisation with the ability to directly represent the interests of cotton growers to political and regulatory decision markers, the community and other important stakeholders.
For those growers who have been considering contributing the voluntary levy for some, I encourage you to take into account all that Cotton Australia achieves for the growers and the industry. If you are interested in making a contribution, I encourage you to contact your nearest Cotton Australia regional manager (click here for contact details).
A reminder that Cotton Australia's offices in Sydney, Toowoomba, Narrabri and Griffith are closed from Christmas day and re-open on Monday, January 4, 2016. However, our staff remain on-call if issues arise.
I wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday period.
All the best for the season on behalf of Cotton Australia’s Board and staff.
Chief Executive Officer