2014 in review: achievements and challenges

Friday, 19th December 2014 // Cotton Matters, Featured // Comments (0)

Cotton Australia’s core business is to champion the interests of growers and the industry to powerful politicians, regulators and policy makers. Our team has worked tirelessly on behalf of growers over the course of 2014 to advance our critical policy and advocacy initiatives. Cotton Australia has also continued our work in the areas of research direction, stewardship, grower services and community, education and workforce capacity campaigns. Here are the key wins and achievements secured by Cotton Australia in 2014.

Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay discussing the organisation's major achievements at the General Meeting in Brisbane, November 2014

Here are the key wins and achievements secured by Cotton Australia in 2014:

Policy and advocacy

Electricity pricing: Challenging and arresting rising production costs is a key focus for Cotton Australia. We’re committed to ensuring growers and irrigators get a fair go when it comes to electricity pricing and tariff arrangements.
This year we marshalled allied agricultural groups against electricity price gouging and energy reform. We made the concerns of Queensland farmers know with the Queensland Competition Authority to ensure the full savings following the Carbon Tax repeal were passed on to growers.
Representing a positive development for cotton and other agricultural industries in Queensland, we recently welcomed the establishment of the Agricultural Energy Council. The Council brings together Queensland’s agricultural representatives and the Queensland Government to tackle high electricity costs and ensure the cost of production issue remains on the political agenda. The collaborative approach of agricultural bodies alongside government gives our industry a seat at the table – via the QFF – as the state’s electricity policy is reformed.
In NSW, Cotton Australia is working on practical measures to help growers reduce energy costs. We have partnered with the NSW Irrigators Council (NSWIC) and NSW Office of Environment & Heritage on projects to gather baseline data and conduct technical auditing of farm equipment. These projects are ongoing, and we have confidence they will identify significant cost savings for growers that can be shared with the broader cotton industry.

Water management and licence wins: Cotton Australia has been heavily involved in a number of important water security initiatives over the past year. In Queensland, Cotton Australia worked to help establish the interim boards for each of the Local Management Arrangement (LMA) bodies of SunWater’s channel irrigation schemes in cotton-growing regions. In mid-December the Queensland Government announced that farmers are to be handed control of the state’s eight channel irrigation schemes in a move that will benefit growers and the communities which depend on it.
In a win for NSW growers, the Water Management Act 2000 Amendment Bill 2014 was passed through NSW Parliament in September. Introduced with the intention of reforming the system for issuing licenses and making it more streamlined and flexible, it allows for the issue of supplementary licenses in perpetuity, which had previously been an anomaly. Cotton growers had been calling for this legislation for more than a decade, and this Bill's passage through Parliament was welcomed by growers and other irrigators in NSW.
Land protection, mining and CSG: Cotton Australia’s mining and CSG policies seek to protect the sustainability of aquifers and surface waters, protect our soils and land capability and enhance landowner rights, to ensure fair access regimes. Cotton Australia has successfully advocated for a number of key wins for growers:

  • a Memorandum of Understanding with gas companies Santos and AGL on Land Access in NSW, March 2014
  • the Queensland Regional Planning Interests Act limits impacts by mining and gas to less than 2% of agricultural land, June 2014
  • more compensation and fairer access from NSW Arbitration Review (August 2014)
  • NSW Chief Scientist report and Gas Plan put our policy into action (November 2014)

Cotton Australia will continue to:

  • monitor the implementation and rollout of the Regional Planning Interests Act/Regulations in Queensland and the Gas Plan in NSW   
  • ensure compliance and enforcement is occurring in NSW and Queensland
  • monitor resource developments in cotton growing areas and support growers. Current projects include the Arrow gas proposal, Darling Downs, the Bandanna underground coal mine project, Central Highlands and the Santos Gas Project, Narrabri
     

Research direction

A key responsibility for Cotton Australia is advising the CRDC on industry research and development priorities as the representative organisation designated by the PIERD Act 1989. Cotton Australia’s grower advisory panels have been providing advice on the CRDC’s 2015-16 research, development and extension procurement since August. Cotton Australia’s final General Meeting for the year held in Brisbane in November ensured growers – via their nominated member representatives – had direct input into the industry’s research and development priorities. Growers scrutinised the proposals to guarantee that the research effort is focused on grower needs.
 

Stewardship

The industry’s TIMS Committee worked with Bollgard II licence holder (Monsanto) and the regulator (the APVMA) to secure a planting window extension on behalf of growers. The extension gave growers much greater flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing weather conditions and the potential to help better improve yield and reduce losses. The Transgenic and Insect Management (TIMS) Committee continues to work on the Bollgard III resistance management plan, and is examining how refuges are impacted during dry times.
Additionally, Cotton Australia led a ‘keep it clean’ campaign promoting the take-up of ChemClear and DrumMUSTER to the industry.
Grower services: Every year Cotton Australia serves the industry directly by providing crucial, unique services directly to growers. These services cover areas critical for the safe and efficient operation of cotton farming enterprises, and cover pre-harvest preparation, transport of cotton machinery and produce, work health and safety and contractor assistance. Additionally, Cotton Australia is currently leading a campaign across all agricultural industries to reduce off-target spray drift damage to cotton crops by promoting the use of the CottonMap web tool available at www.CottonMap.com.au


Education, training and workforce development

Cotton Australia is working hard to engage primary and secondary school audiences through multiple programs, promoting positive messages about the industry and strengthening our social licence. We are creating and distributing teaching resources through the online Cotton Classroom, state and federal online resource hubs reaching students from foundation years to year twelve. Cotton Australia has been engaging with school audiences through the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), education events and teacher associations to ensure our resources have maximum impact.
The Cotton Classroom website has received 41,000 views since the beginning of 2014, education videos have reached as estimated 16,000 students, and 10,000 seed packs have been sent to students. The Education Kit has been accessed 8,000 times since last year. The estimated reach of our combined education activities to students and teachers is over 150,000.
On workforce capacity, we are working with agencies in the training sector to increase the relevance of training to industry needs. We also have been active in driving training projects including the Cotton Industry Skills Development Project, which aims to deliver subsidised training to staff on cotton farms and fully funded myBMP Farm Manager accreditation.
Cotton Australia also sponsors a number of key scholarships to support grower development, including the Future Cotton Leaders program, Australian Rural Leadership Program, Nuffield, and Peter Cullen Trust.
 

Australian Cotton Conference brings together the largest crowd on record

The 17th Australian Cotton Conference was held this year at the Gold Coast from August 5 – 7, 2014. More than 1800 delegates attended, the biggest on record in the event’s 34-year history. Growers attended from all cotton growing areas – from Emerald in Central Queensland to the expanding regions in southern NSW and northern Victoria. We thank the industry for their enormous support of the event. We’re already looking forward to 2016 which will see the Australian Cotton Conference return to the Gold Coast. The biennial conference is a joint initiative of Cotton Australia and the Australian Cotton Shippers Association.
 

Refocusing our efforts in 2015

Climatically, we recognise that the 2013-2014 season was a much tougher season than previous years. Unfortunately, growers in many regions were hit with harsh weather, so it is testament to the skill of our growers and perseverance of our industry that we were able to produce such a crop size for the last season. 2014 has been a challenging year, and the 2014/15 crop is estimated at half the size of last year’s. We're looking at about 200,000 to 220,000 hectares to produce a two million-bale crop. Despite this, Cotton Australia’s work will continue to ensure cotton growers are represented by a strong, united voice. This work is achieved only through the support of levy paying growers who we thank for their continued support.
While 2015 is not a ‘Cotton Conference year’, our industry will continue to come together and collaborate at key points throughout the year, including Cotton Australia’s General Meetings. Our General Meetings are crucial for growers to have direct input into the policies, priorities and plans for the organisation. In the meantime we encourage you to keep in contact with your Cotton Australia regional manager, who works tirelessly to support your valley.
On behalf of the Cotton Australia Board and staff, I would like to wish you all the very best for the holiday season. I look forward to meeting you and speaking with you throughout the course of 2015.

Adam Kay
CEO, Cotton Australia

On behalf of the Cotton Australia Board and staff