Cotton Australia General Meeting highlights advocacy initiatives; focuses on research priorities
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.
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.
United voice to preserve the R&DE levy system
Cotton Australia has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into research and development levies in the agricultural sector, calling for the current system to be preserved and enhanced. There is considerable justification for the collective effort in agricultural RD&E and the maintenance of the current model. It provides an important driver for attaining engagement and governance for industry and government. In addition to our submission, Cotton Australia supports the submissions made by the CRDC, the National Farmers’ Federation and that put forward by the Australian Farm Institute on behalf of the collective ‘cross agricultural group’.
Growers with unmapped fields reminded to use CottonMap
With planting and some areas of replanting completed, growers have now mapped more than 90% of the estimated cotton area for the season. Two recent spray drift events has highlighted the importance of getting your full cotton crop entered into the CottonMap website – www.CottonMap.com.au – to help prevent spray drift. For more information on spray drift and what you can do to prevent it, click the link below.
Energy efficiency initiatives in NSW
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has released an Energy Efficiency and Renewables Finance Guide for businesses considering energy efficient upgrades or installing renewable energy to help offset rising electricity prices. The guide provides information on how traditional finance options, such as bank loans and lease agreements work, as well as more innovative types of finance such as Environmental Upgrade Agreements. A copy of the guide is available here. The NSW OEH has also initiated the Growing Community Energy grants program. Grants of up to $70,000 to finance early-stage development of community-owned energy projects are available. More information is available here.
Applications now open for Horizon Scholarship
Students entering their first year of an agriculture-related university degree in 2015 are encouraged to apply for the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation’s (RIRDC) Horizon Scholarship. In affiliation with a number of industry sponsors, RIRDC will offer students $5000 per annum for the duration of their degree.
The Horizon Scholarship was developed with the aim of supporting agricultural undergraduates throughout their chosen degree, and offers school-leavers a wide range of opportunities in the industry. As well as the annual $5000 payment, first-year tertiary students will also be provided with:
- professional development workshops and mentoring
- annual industry work placements that give students first-hand exposure to modern agricultural practices
- opportunities to network and gain knowledge at a range of industry events
The scholarship is designed for young Australians who are passionate about farming and are dedicated to developing new skills, expanding their professional networks and acting as ambassadors for the future of Australia’s agricultural sector.
In order to be eligible for a 2015 Horizon Scholarship, applicants must be entering their first year of a university degree (maximum two year gap between secondary and tertiary study) related to agriculture such as agricultural science, agribusiness, animal/vet science, agricultural economics, plant science etc. Recipients will be awarded according to their devotion to a career in primary industries and their capacity for leadership, as well as a sound academic record throughout high school.
Applications close on January 30 2015. The scholarship winners are announced at the end of February.
Click here to download the application form.
Last chance to apply for Monsanto grants in recognition of myBMP excellence
In an effort to acknowledge all cotton farmers who undertake an audit and complete their myBMP certification, Monsanto Australia has introduced the ‘Better Farming Brighter Future’ grants. The grants are valued at $2000 (exc. GST). All growers who undertake an audit and complete myBMP certification of their operation by 31 December 2014 are eligible to apply.
Concessional loans target farm businesses in need of drought assistance
The Australian Government is in the process of finalising delivery arrangements for the Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Scheme. The scheme, valued at $100 million, aims to provide assistance to farm businesses suffering financial hardship as a result of drought conditions in QLD and NSW and will address planting and/or restocking activities and associated expenses. Farmers may be eligible for loans of up to $1 million for a term of up to 10 years.
CSIRO’s biosecurity report outlines major challenges in Australia’s future
Australia’s Biosecurity Future, a new report released by CSIRO on November 24 2014, has warned of twelve major biosecurity threats which experts say could devastate the nation’s agricultural industries, economy and environment if not adequately prepared for. According to the report, a human disease pandemic, the wipe-out of European honey bee colonies and the invasion of a ruthless wheat disease are just a few of the numerous biosecurity challenges Australia can expect to face in the future.
Government introduces Biosecurity Bill 2014
Following a series of major reviews of Australia’s biosecurity system, the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting legislation was introduced by the Australian Government on November 27, 2014. This legislation has been developed through discussion with industry bodies, state and territory governments, environmental groups and the public. The Biosecurity Bill was designed as a regulatory framework in which to address key issues and risks in Australia’s biosecurity system. The legislation will place emphasis on three key categories – daily biosecurity business, specialised biosecurity situations and a framework for the effective administration of the biosecurity system. If passed, the Biosecurity Bill, as well as its supporting legislation, will replace the Quarantine Act 1908.
Click here for more information.
Nominations open for 2015 NSW Women of the Year Awards
The NSW Women of the Year Awards acknowledge the exceptional contributions of NSW’s most outstanding women, and is a celebration of all their individual achievements throughout the year. The Rex Airlines’ Regional Woman of the Year Award will be offered for the first time in 2015, and is open to regional women who have made significant contributions to rural NSW communities. Nominations are also open for A.H Beard’s Community Hero, Harvey Norman’s Young Woman of the Year and The Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year. Nominations close December 18, 2014.
Farm safety research and resources available for farm managers
The RIRDC’s Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership is an initiative focused on the mental and physical health of farmers and their families and safe working environments for all farm employees. CRDC is one of a number RDC funding partners. To hear more about the project, the value of adequate WHS procedures for whole-of-farm safety and the ability for safe work practices to lift farm productivity, click here. To access more information and resources for employers and farm managers, click here.