More than 50 growers and industry leaders attended the General Meeting held in Brisbane at the end of November. The meeting provided an opportunity for growers and industry representatives to gather to discuss how Cotton Australia has been working on the industry’s behalf, and hear the thoughts of growers on our future direction. Additionally, Cotton Australia’s grower advisory panels guarantee that the CRDC’s research and development effort is focused on grower needs.
Full house at the General Meeting in Brisbane
The Cotton Australia team has worked tirelessly over the course of 2014 to advance our policy and advocacy campaigns on behalf of growers. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we were able to tell the General Meeting:
- Electricity: amid ongoing campaigns on electricity pricing and energy efficiency, Cotton Australia has a rare opportunity to secure wins for the industry. We have been putting in a lot of work, liaising with the Australian Energy Regulator and linking with allies such as the Energy Users Association of Australia and other commodity groups to stop escalating prices. We’ve also been conducting on-the-ground projects to investigate techniques to help growers make efficiency gains, and will be making a submission to the Federal Senate inquiry into energy pricing and charges
- Mining & CSG: Cotton Australia’s recent achievements in this space include limiting mining and resources exploration and operations on agricultural land through changes to regional planning legislation in Queensland; an arbitration review which has led to more compensation and a fairer access regime in NSW; and a win for growers with the NSW Government’s adoption of the NSW Chief Scientist’s report and the NSW Gas Plan, which introduce recommendations made by Cotton Australia. We are now pushing for an upgrade to the Aquifer Interference Policy to better protect water resources in NSW
- TIMS Committee: the industry’s TIMS Committee continues to work on the Bollgard III resistance management plan, and is examining how refuges are impacted during dry times
- Education & workforce capacity: 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 have worked with the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA) to create a suite of teaching units K-10 that will help teachers provide positive learning experiences about the industry. On workforce capacity, we are managing the Cotton Industry Skills Development Project, which is delivering subsidised training to staff on cotton farms, we are working with agencies in the training sector to improve training provision, and are also working with the CRDC and stakeholders to progress the Cotton Industry Workforce Development Strategy.
The General Meeting also heard updates from the CRDC about its new Board and the research & development pipeline, as well as a presentation from Cotton Breeding Australia - a joint venture initiative between Cotton Seed Distributors and CSIRO created in 2007 to deliver superior varieties by funding cotton breeding and research.
However, perhaps of most importance to attendees of the General Meeting was the launch of the Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report tracking the industry’s social, economic and environmental footprint. The report, launched jointly by Cotton Australia and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), provides a snapshot of how the industry is performing against 45 sustainability indicators - from crop yield and quality, water use and riparian land management to education levels, employment, health and social capital.