Cotton Matters - 20 December 2012

Thursday, 20th December 2012 // Breaking News // Comments (0)

COTTON TRANSPORT UPDATE

Cotton Australia continues to work closely with both the NSW and Queensland Governments to address a range of cotton transport issues.
With the 2012/13 harvest approaching Namoi Regional Manager Geoff Hunter reports that in NSW Cotton Australia has been assured that there will be seasonal permits available to “float” round bale pickers and at present individual trip based permits are needed to “walk “ the machines.

“For “floating” the conditions will be the same as those for last season’s single journey permit, and the “walking” permits will not allow the crossing of timber bridges,” Mr Hunter said.
“Local council approval is also part of the permit conditions,” he said.

With regards to transporting round modules Mr Hunter said that any extensions to trailers must be approved by a certified engineer, and they must meet all of the RMS dimension requirements.
“The critical measurements are 12.3m from Kingpin to the further most part of the load and 1.9m from the Kingpin to the front of the load, in an arc from the kingpin as the centre,” he said.

There must also be no more than 3.7m or 60% of the wheelbase from the centre of the last axle group to the furthest most part of the load.
Generally, these rules apply in their entirety. They cannot be taken in isolation. Geoff Hunter has further details, advice and a Facts Sheet with diagrams at: geoffh@cotton.org.au

Queensland Policy Manager Michael Murray said Cotton Australia was still in discussion with the QLD Department, but was confident that the Government would give approval to what has become known as the “Jamie Grant” restraint system, which relies on a single 100mm strap along the length of the load, with a single 50mm strap across the load to provide tension,” Mr Murray said.
“Queensland is looking at it as a total load restraint system, and it is hoped the approval will include an allowance for trailer extension,” he said.

With regards to “walking” pickers, Mr Murray said while last year Queensland was prepared to issue permits, there value was extremely limited as the permits did not allow the crossing of any bridge or culvert.
It is hoped this season this requirement will be relaxed, and replaced with a map system that identifies individual bridges and culverts that cannot be crosses because of weight limits.Cotton Australia will be again meeting with the Queensland Department mid-January.

Information pertaining to NSW based rules and regulations can be accessed here: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/heavyvehicles/
Rules and regulations for Queensland can be found here:
http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Business-industry/Heavy-vehicles

Further information is on the Cotton Australia website:

https://cottonaustralia.com.au/cotton-growers/transport

 

PLANTED AREA CONFIRMED

This week Monsanto provided data to Cotton Australia from their recently completed planting audits that validated Cotton Australia’s previous planting estimates.
Cotton Australia had estimated the current crop at 445,000 green hectares and the audited Monsanto data had 444,000 hectares planted. With average yields we are on track for a crop of around 4 million bales. The breakdown has the irrigated hectares at 416,000  and the dryland green hectares 28,000.

The Gwydir valley has the largest planted area with 78,000 hectares in this season. The Lachlan and Murrumbidgee have around 40,000 hectares planted this year.

 

COTTON ON THE COAST

The next Art4griculture cotton school to be featured as part of the ArchiBull competition is Wyong High School, a school of 816 students near Gosford.

When coordinating teachers Mr Uger (Primary Industries) and Ms Connally (Careers Advisor and VET Coordinator) realised the Archibull was not just an art competition, they called on the skill sets and expertise of the whole school community to complete their Archibull entries.
Here’s what the school said about the Archibull in their school newsletter: “The Archibull Prize, which brings farmers, community, educators and businesses together for a sustainable future, has been engaging and challenging project for students and staff.  We have all learnt a great deal about sustainable farming, in particular, the cotton industry which was our theme.”
Seventy students ranging from year 11 to year 7 across geography, maths, primary industries, metal work, textiles, music, visual arts, technology and agriculture have been involved in this amazing project over the last three months.


The top 3 highlights of the Wyong entry are the: Blog particularly the ‘The Cotton Debate’ post and the post about how the program evolved to include so many skilled and clever kids
Video – about innovation in the cotton industry enhanced by animation and ag student acting                                 
                                                  
 

ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT CARD IN

CRDC’s General Manager Research Investment, Bruce Pyke, and an industry steering committee oversaw the third industry-wide environmental assessment undertaken by the cotton industry since 1991, carried out independently by the Canberra-based consultancy firm Inovact.
“The assessment is an excellent ‘report card’ for the industry as it showed that most of the recommendations made in 2003 have been adopted at a high level, particularly in critical areas such as the management of water, chemicals and natural resources,” Bruce Pyke said.

When asked about important environmental priorities for cotton growing over the next three to five years, industry and external stakeholders ranked water use efficiency greenhouse emissions and soil health as the top three priorities.
Major gains have also been made in water use efficiency (three to four percent per year) over the past 10 years, by taking up research and development, such as more water efficient varieties, evaporation mitigation, reducing leakage from channels and storages, capturing and recycling irrigation tailwater, managing stormwater and improving on-farm water quality.

The assessment showed that cotton growers have improved soil management, riparian areas and native vegetation, hence contributing to increased biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services.
The report praised the development of an integrated research, development and extension system, the Development and Delivery Program, that delivers priority research and development, extended to growers through myBMP and the activities of the industry’s key organisations, such as CRDC, Cotton Australia, CSD and the commercial sector.

While evidence shows some improvements in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change, the cotton industry is in an early development phase regarding
improved practices and management in these areas.
Improvements in the fuel efficiency of farm machinery and innovations to reduce traffic
(eg round module harvesters and improved farming systems) will continue to be drivers for increased energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on cotton farms.

Cotton Australia Policy Manger Angela Bradburn and cotton grower John Watson, “Kilmarnock”
Boggabri sat on the industry steering committee guiding the assessment and subsequent
delivery of the final report to industry.
They were joined by committee members Bruce Pyke (CRDC), consultant Rachel Holloway, grower representative Nigel Corish, Ken Flower (myBMP), consultant Guy Roth and Jane Trindall, CRDC.

 

CLIMATE CHAMPIONS WANTED
The cotton industry is looking for two climate-savvy cotton growers to join the national Climate Champion program. Climate Champion farmers are improving their community’s understanding of climate variability and its impacts by sharing with other farmers their successful on-farm management practices.

The program involves 37 farmers from different regions and enterprises across Australia working  with scientists to bring climate research to the paddock, and tell researchers what farmers need for the future.
The Cotton Research and Development Corporation has agreed to support two Climate Champion growers, to better link growers with researchers. Closing date for nominations is January 18, 2013.

"Our Climate Champion growers could bring learning from different industries and regions to a wider group of cotton growers,” says Allan Williams, program manager at CRDC.
CRDC believes that participation by cotton growers in the Climate Champion program will also help to generate ideas for further R&D investment in managing climate variability that are tailored to the needs of cotton growers.

Climate Champion farmers have access to the latest weather forecasting tools, and are supported through training, resource kits and a small quarterly payment.
Applicants must exhibit leadership qualities, and understand and practice management activities relevant to climate variability and managing climate risk, and have good regional networks and communication skills.

For more information about the Climate Champion program: http://www.climatekelpie.com.au/ask-a-farmer/climate-champion-program

 

STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF FARMING

The number of Australian farmers has fallen by over 100,000 in the three decades since 1981, yet the value of Australian agricultural exports in this time has grown from $8.2 to $32.5 billion, new statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have revealed.

The National Farmers’ Federation says the sector has changed dramatically and while the number of farmers has fallen, agricultural productivity has grown at an average rate of three percent a year over the past 25 years.

“At the same time, our industry has become more technology-savvy, more innovative, more efficient and ultimately more productive at what we do: growing food and fibre,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“The ABS data reinforces what we already know, that the agricultural labour force is ageing, that there are fewer young people entering agriculture, and that drought and other competing industries have had a significant impact on the amount of labour available. Yet the career opportunities available in agriculture are enormous, and there is a surplus of jobs available.

“For Australian agriculture to reach its potential, we must invest in our most valuable resource: our people. That’s why the NFF has convened a National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce – bringing together the sector to work collaboratively towards solutions that will build a strong and resilient agricultural workforce,” Mr Laurie said.

The 2010-11 abs Agricultural Census found that there were 135,000 farm businesses across Australia. The majority of these were involved in specialised beef cattle farming (28%), mixed grain-sheep or grain-beef cattle farming (9%), other grain growing (9%) or specialised sheep farming (8%).

In all, the value of agricultural production across both large and small farms in Australia in 2010-11 was $46 billion, with the value added by the agriculture industry accounting for 2.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The total area of agricultural land in 2011 amounted to 410 million hectares or just over half (53%) of the nation’s landmass.

There were 19,700 fewer farmers in Australia in 2011 than in 2006, a fall of 11% over five years. Over the 30 years to 2011, the number of farmers declined by 106,200 (40%), equating to an average of 294 fewer farmers every month over that period.

Australia’s farmers tend to be considerably older than other workers. In 2011, the median age of farmers was 53 years, compared with 40 years for people in other occupations.

In 2011, almost a quarter (23%) of farmers were aged 65 years or over, compared with just 3% of people in other occupations. See more details at the website below.

http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Dec+2012

 

BIOTECHNOLOGY COUNCIL MEETS

Cotton Australia was represented when the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) held its first meeting, agreeing to a vision, mission and various objectives.

The Council wants to encourage informed debate on biotechnology - or genetically modified (GM) crops - through the provision of credible, balanced, science-based information.

The ABCA is a joint initiative of AusBiotech, CropLife Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).

ABCA’s mission is to ensure that public awareness, public policy and the regulatory environment is guided by scientifically credible and factually correct information regarding the full benefits that agricultural biotechnology offers to Australian farming.

In discussing opportunities and challenges for the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector, the Council members agreed the following issues were of strategic importance:

• Development of an effective, evidence-based communications approach focussed on public awareness, public policy and the regulatory environment

• Identifying the value and benefits of the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector

• Supporting coexistence between agricultural production systems in Australia.

The Ag Institute of Australia, AusBiotech, Australian Oilseeds Federation, Australian Seed Federation, Cotton Australia, CropLife Australia, Grain Trade Australia, GRDC, NFF and Science and Technology Australia were represented at the meeting.

 

40 BIG ONES FOR ACRI

CSIRO is celebrating the 40th anniversary of cotton research at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) at Narrabri.

The Unit was established in 1972 when CSIRO cotton scientists from WA, the ACT and Griffith, moved to Narrabri at the heart of the cotton growing industry. Core staff included three experienced scientists in breeding, entomology and agronomy.

Forty years on and research by the CSIRO team has justified the expectations of those early years: cotton production has grown into one of Australia's premier agricultural industries and CSIRO-bred varieties now comprise the entire Australian market with improved yield, disease resistance and fibre quality.

Variety development is complemented by research in crop management in pests and agronomy as well as delivery of research information in decision support packages. An anniversary lunch, followed by a presentation of "A Life in Cotton" film, featured in the celebrations.

 

NEW WORKERS COURSE

 

A three-day course for workers new to the industry or overseas backpackers on work visas seeking seasonal work in the cropping industry will be offered through Moree TAFE Agricultural Skills Centre (4 kms north of Moree on Newell Highway) in 2013.

The course offers:
• Skills in safely operating a range of farm machinery, pre-start checks, routine servicing and basic fault finding; and cropping and irrigation operations
• Skills relevant to grain and cotton sowing and harvesting, and irrigation, varied for seasonal labour demand
• Two way radio protocols, strategies for coping with the western environmental conditions, and meeting employer expectations

Three course dates are available in 2013 at a cost of $700 per person (GST free). The first is from January 30 to February 1, the second from March 20-22 and the third from June 19-21.

Dates and further information can be found in the course flyer:  (http://www.newengland.tafensw.edu.au/~/media/files/TAFETradesShortCourses/FarmReadyMoree.ashx) or by contacting Milton Curkpatrick on 02 6752 0354.


GLOBAL COTTON SITUATION REVIEW

The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) has issued a review of the world cotton situation.

The Secretariat projects global cotton area to contract by 9% to 31.5 million hectares and production to decrease by 11% to 23.2 million tons. This would be the second consecutive season of decline in cotton production and the smallest output in four years.

Cotton production in 2013/14 is expected to fall sharply in the United States (-25%) and Turkey (-30%), where competition with grains and soybeans is strong. Smaller crops are also forecast in China (-11%), Pakistan (-9%), Central Asia (-13%) and Francophone Africa (-10%).

Production is projected only slightly down in India, assuming a recovery in the average yield after two years of decline. Australian production could decrease by 14% if dryness returns. At this stage,
only small reductions in production are expected in other southern hemisphere countries as they will plant cotton six month later than northern hemisphere countries and may be seeing stronger cotton prices at that time.

Planting intentions for 2013/14 will likely change over the next few months, depending on final farmers’ returns from the 2012/13 crop and evolving commodity price relationships.

Global cotton mill use is expected to continue growing slowly in 2013/14, on the basis of a timid recovery in global economic growth. However, a small gain in cotton prices could constrain the increase in demand for cotton.

The Secretariat forecasts global cotton mill use to rise by 3% in 2013/14 to 24.2 million tons, driven by South Asia. Cotton mill use in China, the largest consumer, is projected down by 2% to 8.4 million tons.

In contrast, cotton mill use in India and Pakistan could grow significantly, driven by ample supply of cotton in the region and lower yarn production costs.

World cotton trade could remain almost stable at 7.8 million tons in 2013/14, as an expected further drop in Chinese imports could be offset by increased demand from the rest of the world.

The Secretariat assumes that China will import less cotton in 2013/14 than needed to fill the gap between consumption and production, and that the national reserve will contract slightly to make up for this difference. Import demand from Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan is expected to grow significantly.

After three consecutive years of increase, global stocks could shrink a little in 2013/14. The Secretariat expects them to contract by 6% from the record level of 16.6 million tons expected in July 2013, to 15.6 million tons in July 2014. Most of this reduction in stocks is expected to take place outside of China.

Inside China, stocks are expected to decrease only slightly to 6.9 million tons. The global stocks-to-use ratio could decline from 71% to 64%, which would remain much higher than average.

One major source of uncertainty regarding short-term global cotton supply and use projections stems from China. The Chinese government has accumulated a national reserve of over 7 million tons in the last 14 months by buying domestic cotton from the last two crops and by purchasing foreign cotton.

The cotton market knows that the China National Cotton Reserve Corporation (CNCRC) will continue buying Chinese cotton until the end of March 2013, no matter the expenses involved.

However, the cotton market does not know how the CNCRC will manage the national reserve after
that point. In addition, it is not clear whether and when import quotas will be opened in 2013, outside of the usual annual 894,000 tons quota linked to a 1% duty.

Cotton prices, after falling sharply in 2011/12, have remained 20% lower in the first four months of 2012/13 than over the same period last year.

In contrast, prices of competing crops (grains and soybeans mainly), are higher than in the previous year, further reducing the attractiveness of cotton to farmers, despite the existence of government support in some countries.

The Secretariat expects global cotton area to contract by 9% to 31.5 million hectares in 2012/13 and global production to decrease by 11% to 23.2 million tons, the smallest since 2009/10.

Planting decisions in the southern hemisphere will be made during the second semester of 2013 and will respond to commodity prices and weather conditions prevailing at that time.

After reaching record levels in 2011/12, cotton area and production fell in 2012/13 due to the drop in cotton prices. At this stage, cotton area in southern hemisphere countries other than Australia is projected down by 7% to 2.9 million hectares in 2013/14.

Overall, production in the southern hemisphere is expected to decrease by 8% to 2.8 million tons in 2013/14. The share of the southern hemisphere in world cotton production could
remain at 12% in 2013/14.

 

SIPHON IRRIGATION COURSE

Cotton Australia, with the help of an advisory group of growers, irrigators and DAFF QLD, have developed a short course that can be used for seasonal labour to introduce them to furrow irrigation. It includes a presentation, content and a list of suggested practical activities.

It also covers basic OH&S, navigating around the farm, irrigation troubleshooting and basic communication. The course was recently piloted by Mitch Abbo from Clyde Agriculture in Bourke. Based on the feedback we will update it with a view to making it available to growers and CGAs to implement either independently or as a group.


ELECTRICITY CHARGES SHOCK

Some Queensland irrigators are facing electricity price escalations in excess of 300%, unless a current inquiry recommends significant changes to tariff structures and transitional arrangements.

According to Cotton Australia’s Queensland Policy Manager, Michael Murray, the QCA completely revamped both the method for determining regulated electricity price, and the structure of tariffs last year, and for some users this has meant massive price increases are beginning to flow through.

Cotton Australia is currently preparing its submission to the Queensland Competition Authority’s Regulated Retail Electricity 2013-14 inquiry, with the submission window closing on January 7.

“In general those irrigator users that are being most affected are those that use more the 100Megawatts of electricity per year through any one meter, and those who have invested in irrigation systems with the specific aim of primarily accessing off-peak electricity,” Mr Murray said.

“When the QCA came up with their recommendation last year, they did introduce some transitional arrangements for 12 months, but with that time expiring at the end of June 2013, the full impact of these increase will be felt next financial year, unless we can successful negotiate changes,’ Mr Murray said.

“To strengthen our submission I need specific examples case examples, and while I have been able to identify a number of users in the 100MW plus category, I do need hear from users who have set up their irrigation systems to utilise off-peak,” Mr Murray said.

Last year’s Determination significantly narrowed the gap between off-peak and peak to as little as 2 cents/kw, providing no incentive to utilise off-peak, and most importantly no opportunity for irrigators to recoup any additional expenditure they incurred installing irrigation systems with the capacity to operate primarily on off-peak.

Mr Murray said for larger users (greater than 100MW per annum) the introduction of demand charges based on the peak demand incurred during any month as measured in a 30 minute period means they are facing huge increases, primarily on the basis that there electricity usage can be peaky, and not consistent over a month.

“For example, Tariff 44 is probably not bad if you use a steady supply of electricity every day of the month, but if you are an irrigator who may get three days river pumping one month, nothing for the next three, and a week one month it is a disaster,” Mr Murray said.

Any growers who believe they will be affected by these changes should contact Michael Murray on 0427 707868 or michaelm@cotton.org.au as soon as possible.

                                                   

CALGARY STAMPEDE

Bayer CropScience and the Future Farmers Network (FFN) have partnered to provide Australia’s agricultural youth the opportunity to participate in the Youth Ag Summit hosted by 4-H Canada, a rural youth organisation, from August 19 to 25, 2013 in Calgary, Canada.

Bayer and FFN encourage young Australians to apply for the chance to join young adults from around the world “at the table” to share ideas and develop a plan of action on how to feed a hungry planet.
“The Youth Ag Summit is a unique way to stimulate interest in Australian agriculture as a career of global importance,” Mr Dickmann, Head of New Business Development at Bayer CropScience, said.

From now until 31 January 2013, Australians between the ages of 18-25 can submit a 2,000 word essay or film a seven minute video about the challenges and opportunities of feeding a hungry planet. Two successful applicants from Australia will receive an expenses paid trip to the global Youth Ag Summit with 120 youth from 20 countries. They’ll participate in a week-long event where ideas will be shared and opportunities will be explored with other young people, business leaders and scientists about this global agricultural challenge.

For more information, including selection criteria, visit http://www.youthagsummit.com or contact admin@futurefarmers.com.au.