Cotton Matters 15 December 2011

Thursday, 15th December 2011 // Breaking News // Comments (0)

Darling Downs Day Out Wrap Up

More than 100 cotton growers across the Darling Downs turned out for the Cotton Australia/Darling Downs CGA ‘roadshow’ last week.

DDCGA President Stuart Armitage says the event held in four separate locations over two days went very well with many issues raised and discussed.

Some of the common issues included:

• CottonMap, both the benefits from using the system as well as some of the challenges growers had experienced.
• Seed issues raised included pricing and availability.
• Coal Seam Gas,  particularly water (Chinchilla specifically dealing with Sunwater) and the wide-spread impact on ‘good’ agricultural land.
• Transport concerns at Brookestead.
• Continued interest in myBMP.

Growers were very appreciative to have both the CGA and Cotton Australia ‘making the rounds’.  It was a great opportunity to reinforce the purpose of the CGA and Cotton Australia’s role within the industry. 

Gwydir Flood Recovery Commences

With flood waters in the Gwydir valley moving downstream inundating new areas, cotton fields in the Moree and surrounding district are slowly emerging from the waters and initial assessments of crop damage have been made.

Current indications are that around 5 per cent of irrigated and around 30 per cent of dryland crops may be damaged. This estimate equates to about 18,000 hectares of cotton that could be totally lost or otherwise have a drastically reduced yield potential.

Responding to the urgent need by growers for information on crop management strategies following flooding, special flood recovery grower meetings are scheduled to be held at various farm and other locations in the Gwydir valley. The first of these meetings was held yesterday morning and attracted a large number of local growers and crop consultants.

Organised by the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA) and supported by Cotton Australia and Cotton CRC, the grower meeting discussed crop nutrition and other important agronomic management considerations with CSIRO researchers Dr Michael Bange and Ian Rochester. James Quinn, CSD was able to provide case study reports from flood affected cotton recovery during last season in Central Queensland.

Among the issues discussed were the need to promote biomass so that the plant might support a lot of fruit later in the season, the importance of trace elements and not just nitrogen, and protecting root development.

Cotton Australia will work closely with the Gwydir Valley CGA to better determine the nature, extent and cost of crop and on-farm infrastructure damage and continue to support further flood recovery efforts.

For further information on the Gwydir Valley flood recovery grower meetings, contact:
Sally Dickinson, Regional Landcare Facilitator Moree, GVIA, 0427 521 498

Get Set for Nationally Uniform Work Health & Safety Laws

From the 1st January 2012, most workers in Australia will be protected by nationally uniform work health and safety (WHS) laws. This includes employees, contractors, sub-contractors, outworkers, apprentices and trainees, work experience students, volunteers and employers.

Queensland and New South Wales are amongst the earliest jurisdictions to enact the new model WHS legislation and by the start of 2013 all other States and Territories are expected to have started implementing the new model WHS legislation.

Commencing early in 2012, Cotton Australia will under its flagship WHS program ‘CottonSafe’ be providing growers, their workers and cotton farm businesses with regular plain English explanations on the new model WHS regulations and practical guidance to help  all relevant parties understand and comply with their WHS responsibilities and maintain records to support a due diligence defence.

More importantly, over the next 12 months Cotton Australia will be working closely with the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety to develop a suite of practical tailored WHS resources for on-farm use in managing health and safety risks on cotton farms. Among these WHS resources will include, but not limited to:

• Cotton farm hazard checklists, risk assessments and risk management guides;
• Worker and Contractor WHS induction templates;
• Outlines of WHS roles and responsibilities for inclusion in job descriptions;
• WHS record templates for documenting your safety ‘toolbox’ talks;
• WHS record templates for documenting safety inductions and worker training;
• Guidance on how to prepare and templates for Safe Operating Procedures, as well as written samples of SOPs  for known high risk work activities on cotton farms; and
• WHS case studies to help demonstrate the importance of effective and pro-active WHS risk management for your cotton farm enterprise.

The harmonisation of work health and safety laws is part of the Council of Australian Governments’ National Reform Agenda aiming to reduce regulatory burdens and create a seamless national economy.

The regulatory burden and the cost to business and the wider economy in managing and complying with different systems has been estimated at $16B per year. This is a primary driver behind the Federal Government’s decision in 2008 to set harmonisation of WHS laws and industrial relations laws as a key priority.

It is anticipated that similar WHS laws in each State and Territory will provide the following benefits for business.

• A consistent level of safety for all workers in Australia with maintenance of our existing standards
• Reduced compliance and regulatory burdens for businesses operating across state and territory boundaries
• Easier to do business – no matter where you do business or work in Australia the same laws will apply
• A larger resource of health and safety information, which will help deliver clear and consistent information to all Australians
 
For cotton growers and other employers and owners of small to medium size businesses the legal requirements to demonstrate due diligence in managing health and safety risks in the workplace will not change substantially.

That legal responsibility or duty of care will continue after the 1st January 2012 as will a range of WHS legal responsibilities for all others who are involved in work-related activities including visitors your farm.

Remember- “Safety Is Both an Individual and Shared Responsibility

Planting the Seeds for Tomorrow’s Cotton Leaders

Cotton Australia has begun the search for the next crop of industry leaders, opening the doors for applications to the 2012 class of the third annual Australian Future Cotton Leaders program.

Program Chair, Jo Grainger says by carefully selecting young people, working in cotton, with drive and determination, then exposing them to existing and experienced industry leaders establishes a clear pathway for the industry’s future.

“One of the many challenges for young people working in primary industry is accessing the expertise and opportunities to further develop their leadership skills. The Australian Future Cotton Leaders program already has helped guide inspirational young cotton growers and researchers and is now making this opportunity available again.”

The Australian Future Cotton Leaders program includes the MentorMatch program, which connects emerging Cotton leaders with established current leaders as well as an integrated individual industry leadership project, group teleseminars, one on one sessions with a facilitator and online email discussion forums.

Ms Grainger says only 15 candidates will be selected and judging from previous courses, there will be great interest in applications.

“The only advice I can give is that those people who recognise the value in this rare opportunity should submit their applications as soon as they can, or risk missing out. The closing date is 12 January 2012,” Ms Grainger said.

The Future Cotton Leaders program will run from February to September 2012.

For further information and to receive an Information and Application Kit, please contact Jo Eady, phone (03)56 822 811 or email jo@ruralscope.com

Carbon investments scoped

As part of the Government’s carbon tax announcement, a series of funding programs will invest in the land sector over six years.  A $1.7 billion Land Sector Package includes funding for industries and land managers to help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing soil carbon. 

Cotton Australia has followed the development of these new funding programs to understand what opportunities might exist for the industry’s organisations and cotton growers, and last week met with CRDC and CRC staff to look at this in more detail.

This discussion followed a Science Review Forum facilitated by the CRC, which looked at soil health and crop nutrition science outcomes achieved by the latest CRC.  This included work on nitrogen use efficiency and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as soil carbon, therefore provided a good basis for considering the new programs which are also focused on these areas of research, development and extension.

Cotton Australia has also, as part of their work with the NFF Carbon Taskforce, been involved in recent discussions with Government to understand the detail, intent and implementation of these new carbon funding programs.  This has assisted the industry’s consideration of programs and potential projects. 

Initial thinking around potential project concepts is to be further developed in detail in collaboration with relevant industry researchers, and this will be progress over the coming weeks.

As part of delivering the Land Sector Package, the government has also now announced the Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Advisory Board, which includes David Crombie, ex NFF President.  The Board will play an overarching governance role and provide advice on implementation of the Land Sector Package measures. 

The Government has so far opened two programs under the Land Sector Package: the $201 million Filling the Research Gap program, and the $99 million Action on the Ground program.  These programs together will support research, trials and demonstrations into technologies and practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide, increase soil carbon and enhance sustainable agricultural practices. Funding under further programs, including for extension and outreach and biodiversity and natural resource management activities are soon to be announced as well.

These initial discussions highlighted that for cotton, at this stage there are potential opportunities to enhance R&D efforts in relation to understanding and reducing nitrous oxide emissions on cotton farms (e.g. through optimising nitrogen use efficiency), and possibly enhancing our understanding of carbon in cotton soils and response to management practices.  There is also the potential for further developing and assessing the myBMP Energy and Input Efficiency module for effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions.  Solutions that maintain or enhance production and decrease input costs would be key to any project concepts.  New research and information generated would be delivered to growers through the industry’s extension networks and myBMP. 

Government opens Carbon Farming Initiative for business and first tender of Biodiversity Fund

Last week, the Gillard Government officially ‘opened’ the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) for business, and also announced the first tender of the Biodiversity Fund open – another program of the Land Sector Package, announced under the carbon tax policy. 

Under the CFI, interested parties can now put projects proposals up to government, under approved methodologies.  The CFI has been developed to provide opportunities for farmers and other landholders to participate in carbon markets; gaining credits through implementing activities that reduce emissions or store soil carbon.  The CFI also aims to support productivity developments and innovation.

The Government is now looking to deliver support for potential participants in the CFI.  Interested parties are being encouraged to contact Regional Landcare Facilitators in their region for more information. Cotton Australia has through existing relationships with NRM organisations in some cotton growing regions, been looking to stay informed of potential opportunities and information available through these channels. 

A more detailed description of the CFI and what it means for cotton is compiled in Cotton Australia’s Background Briefing on the CFI, available on our homepage.  The Gillard Government’s media release also provides further information and can be found here http://www.climatechange.gov.au/en/minister/greg-combet/2011/media-releases/December/mr20111208.aspx)

The final design of the CFI seeks to include provisions for protections against adverse impacts of the CFI on water resources, biodiversity and local communities; which takes into account some of the concerns regarding unintended outcomes that Cotton Australia, along with the NFF and other stakeholders, had highlighted through consultation.

At this early stage, approved CFI methodologies exist for some niche activities (e.g. managing emissions from piggeries and landfill).  However, the development of other activities and methodologies available for farmers and other landholders is continuing, providing possible opportunities through activities such as revegetation, managing for soil carbon and reducing nitrous oxide emissions through managing fertiliser use. 

The economic viability of engaging in the CFI will ultimately be a key factor for many in considering the concept.  This is somewhat uncertain and open to change at this point in time, however many will continue to be making determinations on this as carbon markets evolve, and this is something that Cotton Australia will continue to stay abreast of. 

The Biodiversity Fund will invest almost $1billion over six years.  It is designed to provide funding to build connectivity and resilience in the landscape by promoting biodiverse carbon plantings and revegetation, management of existing biodiverse carbon stores and managing pests in a connected landscape.

It is one part of the broad suite of measures that the government is funding under the Land Sector Package, with the view that a healthy environment and managing to storing carbon in the landscape go hand in hand. 

Applications for the first round will close 31 January 2012, and further information is available at http://www.environment.gov.au/cleanenergyfuture/

Cotton Australia will look to understand the detail in the funding guidelines, to gain an understanding of what opportunities might exist for organisations within the cotton community and for growers themselves.  CA is also working with the NFF to understand how this funding stream might connect with the other Carbon Farming Futures programs. 

Cotton Australia Staff profile: Geoff Hunter 

Geoff Hunter has been involved with Cotton ever since he can remember. In a familiar entry path to the industry, Geoff began cotton chipping whilst still in school and later started work with a local cotton farmer.

From those early cotton days, Geoff has broadened his agricultural experience in different sectors before recently returning to cotton, and now Geoff currently works for Cotton Australia as the Regional Manager for NSW.

This role involves Geoff acting as a link between growers and Cotton Australia, communicating the organisations activities directly to growers and taking feedback from cotton growers about industry concerns, issues and activities in general.

Geoff covers all areas in the Namoi valley and says his favourite part of his job is talking to growers and listening to their stories. He describes the cotton industry as an innovative and dynamic group of growers who embrace change.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in the cotton industry would be the massive decrease in spraying and use of herbicides, along with that shift in focus away from addressing community concerns to a more political and production oriented focus.”
 
He believes that young people are vital in progressing the industry through new ideas, young energy and enthusiasm.

“We can continue to make cotton an attractive career choice for young people, by offering consistant and clearly indicated career paths, which will encourage young people to naturally choose to be a part of.cotton.

In his spare time, Geoff likes riding his stock horses, enjoying a game of polo crosse and pushing his cows around on his lucerne farm.

Change of Date for GVIA’s Annual Irrigation Field Day

The GVIA Innovation in Irrigation Field Day has been postponed until Thursday, 19th January 2012.

The field day was scheduled for the 15 December 2011.

The agenda will be similar, while allowing the GVIA to present more detailed information on the irrigation system comparison trial progress and include a field inspection, which would not be possible at the moment.

The GVIA apologises for any inconvenience that the change in date may cause but feel that due to recent flooding and wet weather forecasted, it was best to re-schedule earlier.

For more information contact Zara Lowien on 02 67521399 or 0427 521399