2013 - a challenging year in review
As the year draws to a close, Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay reviews the past 12 months' challenges and the achievements of the industry and the organisation that works hard to represent grower interests.
What a year 2013 has been, not just for cotton but for agriculture across Australia.
Ask any grower and they will tell you straight - the past 12 months have been pretty challenging. However, this year has also been rewarding in many ways.
As cotton begins its new season, I have been reflecting on everything we have achieved as an industry in the past 12 months, and it gives me reason to be proud.
Here are some of the highlights from Cotton Australia’s perspective.
New government, new opportunities – Cotton Australia worked before the Federal election to put the industry’s case forward to key political stakeholders, and followed through immediately after the change of government. High on our list of priorities was securing a guarantee that the commitment to research and development, a cornerstone of our industry’s success, would be delivered – and we achieved that. We also began negotiations to improve transport infrastructure to accommodate large crop sizes into the future, participated behind-the-scenes on crucial trade agreements, and worked to bolster rural and agricultural education programs. Cotton Australia has also engaged with the Australian Government on securing access to land and water, an area we are also working on with mining and coal seam gas explorers and operators (more on this topic below).
A year of research and stewardship wins – cotton farmers in many areas were recently given an extension to plant Bollgard II, a significant benefit for growers struggling with patchy or no rain. Cotton Australia, which convenes the Transgenic and Insect Management Strategies (TIMS) Committee, worked with industry, Monsanto and the regulator (APVMA) to achieve the extension, which is the first since 2009. But our industry is not sitting back – we will oversee the development of the essential Bollgard III Resistance Management Plan over the next 12 months. When approved, this will be an exciting leap ahead for cotton production efficiency in Australia. Cotton Australia advisory panels have also worked to help the Cotton Research & Development Corporation (CRDC) consider more than 120 research proposals worth nearly $20 million – a critical enabler for our industry, ensuring that the R&D effort is focused on grower needs.
Securing access to land and water - earlier this year Cotton Australia launched a report that showed mine subsidence to be an inevitable consequence of underground mining, and detailed the risks and likely impacts to cotton farming from mining and coal seam gas operations. The report achieved significant media attention, and put our agenda on the table of key political and mining stakeholders. Since then we have engaged leaders in the political, mining and coal seam gas sectors – they now know how important these issues are to our industry, and we are working with them to secure outcomes that work for growers. Although we have had some setbacks regarding planning legislation in NSW and Queensland, we understand that the campaign to bolster rights for growers is a marathon, not a sprint, and this issue will be a long time in playing out. This will be an area to watch in 2014.
Mining and CSG are not the only areas of concern for water and land security. Immediately after the Federal election, Cotton Australia began engaging the new Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Simon Birmingham, to address issues including the need for integrated approaches to water, delivering on promises guaranteeing grower input at the local level and promoting efficiency programs over buyback. Over 2013 we also provided significant support to the Local Management Arrangement process for SunWater schemes in Queensland, and continued to coordinate the NSW Northern Valley Group which is engaged intensively with the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
Electricity pricing: the year we fought to stop gouging – 2013 was the year we declared “enough!” for ever-increasing energy price hikes. In partnership with our allies, Cotton Australia fought to put a lid on rampant electricity price rises. We put the issue on the radar of political leaders and energy suppliers by gathering a forum of allies in Queensland to create an action plan for long-term solutions to price hikes. This is an issue that will continue to play out into 2014. We’ve also been active in NSW, working in partnership with the NSW Irrigators Council to negotiate directly with energy providers to secure aggregate contracts to reduce price increases. In November we finalised stage one of a trial to determine baseline data that we will use to negotiate better deals for growers directly with energy suppliers. We have also called on the NSW Government to offer a range of farm business-specific tariffs that align with the needs of growers.
International marketing initiative: taking Australian cotton to the world - in partnership with global allies Cotton Australia launched Cotton LEADS, a multi-national marketing initiative designed to satisfy global demand for responsibly produced cotton. Cotton Australia will combine Cotton LEADS with other programs, including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and myBMP, to market Australian cotton's strengths to the world. This program, the first of its kind for Australia’s cotton industry, has the potential to make a huge impact on a sector which relies on export trade for its success. This initiative will gather steam in 2014, so more on this later.
Education and training: skilling our workforce while engaging with tomorrow’s communities – 2013 was a big year for education our industry. As part of our ongoing community relations program, we launched a new, comprehensive and interactive Education Kit to help senior secondary teachers and students understand Australia's cotton industry. Already hundreds of kits have been downloaded by teachers, who will take our industry's tremendous story to the next generation of leaders. Cotton Australia secured funding for the Cotton Industry Skills Development Project through the National Workforce Development Fund, delivering individually tailored training to 60 new and existing industry participants. Programs such as these are crucial in promoting cotton in Australia, and they also ensure a pipeline of skilled, smart and educated young people join our industry.
There are many other highlights from this year that have been covered in previous editions of Cotton Matters - issues like this year’s spray drift campaign, which has already mapped more than 403,000ha of fields via the www.CottonMap.com.au tool; essential workshops on workplace health & safety and spray drift, which brought growers and contractors up to speed on the latest techniques and regulations; and the 2013 Australian Cotton Industry Awards, which attracted a sell-out crowd to the gala event in Narrabri to celebrate our industry’s high achievers.
It’s been a big year, with many great achievements – none of which would be possible without the support of the industry.
So on behalf of the Cotton Australia Board, members and staff, I would like to thank the industry - and in particular our growers - for their support in 2013.
I wish you and your families all the best for a safe and happy holiday period, and I look forward to meeting you in 2014. It’s going to be an exciting season, and an exciting year ahead for cotton in Australia.
Cotton Australia appoints agriculture, policy experts
Cotton Australia has strengthened its team with the appointment of two specialists to its Toowoomba and Sydney offices.
Click here for more information.
Best wishes for the holiday season
This edition of Cotton Matters is the last for 2013. On behalf of Cotton Australia's Board and staff I'd like to wish our growers and industry allies all the best for a safe and happy holiday season. Thanks for your support in 2013 - we look forward to working with you in 2014 to advance Australian cotton even further.
Cotton growers, contractors urged to get transport permits early
Following discussions with The Queensland and NSW Transport Departments, Cotton Australia strongly advise growers and picking contractors who intend to move JD 7760 pickers in NSW (either “walking” or “floating”) during the coming season that they apply early for their NSW Permits.
On February 10, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will be responsible for issuing these permits.
While it is not envisaged that the nature of the permits issued will change, it is expected that, simply due to the commencement of the new body, significant delays may occur. Therefore, to avoid stress, please apply well before February 10, through the usual Roads and Maritime process.
It is important to note that both “walking” and “floating” permits can now be for 12 months, so applying now will not result in the permit requiring renewal during the season.
More details and useful links:
- Conditional registration is required.
- The "Class 1 Special Purpose Vehicle or Agricultural Vehicle Permit" application must be completed and sent to the Special Permits Unit. This can be downloaded at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/publicationsstatisticsforms/downloads/45071380.pdf
- Oversize and overmass must be ticked on the permit application form.
- "JD7760" must be recorded under "make and model" at section 5.
- Compliance with the Class 1 Agricultural Vehicles Notice 2012 is required.
- The "Class 1 Load Carrying Permit" application must be completed and sent to the Special Permits Unit. This can be downloaded at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/publicationsstatisticsforms/downloads/45071379.pdf
- Oversize and overmass must be ticked.
- "JD7760" must be recorded under "make and model" at section 5.
- Compliance with the Class 1 Load Carrying Vehicles Notice 2012 is required.
- The “walking” permit - John Deere 7760 Cotton Harvesters – over size and over mass concession can be downloaded here, and will remain available on the Queensland Department’s website after February 10.
- For floating of pickers in Queensland the appropriate forms - Form 4 and Form 11 - can be found here
Legislation aims to strengthen RDCs
Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce has announced the passing of several legislative amendments aimed to assist Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) deliver improved services to levy payers and to reduce the red tape burden on industry.
The bills ensure greater consistency of governance across the 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations (five statutory and ten industry-owned) and provide mechanisms for all RDCs to access government matching funding for voluntary contributions made by businesses to an RDC.
The Cotton Research & Development Corporation (CRDC) is a statutory RDC that operates under the PIERD Act (1989). Cotton Australia is the representative organisation under the Act responsible for providing advice on industry research priorities for the investment of the cotton research levy (at $2.25 / bale).
The amendments were triggered by a Productivity Commission report in 2011 which proposed:
- Introduction of Statutory Funding Agreements 9SFAs) for statutory RDCs
- Allowing statutory RDCs to undertake marketing activities
- Removal of the requirement for statutory RDCs to submit their annual operating plans to the minister
- Removal of product specific maximum levy rates
- Allowing government matching funding for voluntary contributions to RDCs
- Changes to the process for selection of statutory RDC board directors
CRDC has recently reported for 2012/13 a grower levy income of $11.801 million and an investment of $15.632 million in RD&E activities.
During 2012/13 CRDC invested in 178 projects under management on behalf of the industry and Australian Government.
Cotton Australia advisory panels exist to review current and proposed projects in the CRDC programs for: Farmers, Industry, Customers, People and Performance.
The panels meet several times during the year to review projects and proposals in light of the CRDC strategic plan and emerging industry needs.
The panels met recently to provide advice to CRDC on the Full Research Proposals under consideration for the Corporations 2014/15 budget.
Click here for more information.
QCA determination to force Qld energy prices up
A draft determination has been made on electricity prices for Queensland energy users for 2014-2015 which will ratchet up the pressure on the costs of production for primary producers, according to the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and Cotton Australia.
QFF CEO Dan Galligan says the Queensland Competition Authority’s (QCA) draft determination will push many of the tariffs used by farmers up by about 15 percent next financial year. Cotton Australia is a member of the QFF.
“This follows a 10% rise for this financial year. Although the State Government capped this financial year’s rise at 10% from the original proposal of 20%, these consecutive large rises will greatly reduce the profitability and competitiveness for many farmers under the QFF membership,” Mr Galligan says.
“Some farmers have faced a 350% increase in electricity costs since 2000, and further rises will exert extreme pressure on the State’s agricultural industries, which already operate in a very high cost environment with small and volatile profit margins."
“The dry spring and summer has meant farmers have been heavily reliant on electricity for irrigation, and electricity bills in the tens of thousands of dollars are arriving in their mailboxes. The thought of another 15% rise on top of those bills would be a serious threat to farm profitability.”
Mr Galligan says the QCA’s draft determination would also grant farmers a tariff reprieve if the carbon tax was abolished, with the predicted rises to drop to 10%.
The QFF and its members are working with the State Government, the QCA, and Ergon on mitigating the impacts of rising electricity costs.
Cotton Australia will also be providing a full response to the QCA's draft determination, and is working with Ergon to ensure growers have access to appropriate structures.
Michael Murray, Cotton Australia's Policy Manager for Queensland and Water, says the organisation will continue to lobby both the Federal and State Governments for electricity market report, and recently joined the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) to strengthen its policy and lobbying capacity in the energy sector. It is also supporting a number of growers seeking Federal Government assistance to trial alternative energy sources.
CHCGIA, Cotton Australia offer scholarships
The Central Highlands Cotton Growers & Irrigators Association (CHCGIA) and Cotton Australia are offering two $10,000 scholarships for students who intend to enrol in the four-block Intensive Production Graduate Program at Emerald Agricultural College.
Click here for more information.
Archibull Awards a success
The efforts of cotton schools were highlighted at the recent winners ceremony for the Archibull Awards, Art4Agriculture's program to engage secondary and primary school students in agricultural and environmental awareness through art, design, creativity and teamwork.
Schools recognised at the awards included:
- Trangie Central School Best Blog (program B) and Best Overall Blog. Best Cotton Blog (Sponsored by Auscott), Best Cotton Artwork (Sponsored by Auscott). Best Overall Artwork. Best Overall Blog. Reserve Grand Champion
- Northlakes High School – People’s Choice
- Chifley Primary School Best Cotton Multimedia presentation (Primary) (Sponsored by Auscott)
- Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Berkley Vale - Best Archibull Artwork – Program B 3rd place
- Matraville Sports High School Best Archibull Artwork – Program B 3rd place
- Caroline Chisholm College (Selected in the top 12 artworks)
Cotton Australia also commends the schools that missed out on an award but deserve praise nonetheless, including Arndell Anglican College, Gunnedah High School, Vincentia High School, Theodore State School and Theodore Primary School.
The ArchiBull prize inevitably involves urban students connecting to people involved in producing their food and fibre - it’s success lies in the community getting involved.
Cotton Australia would like to thank the following in helping make this year's Archibull Prize a success:
- All the students and teachers who participated
- Cotton's Young Farming Champions - Richard Quigley, Liz Lobsey and Tamsin Quirk - for inspiring this year’s students and teachers, plus upcoming Champions Ben Egan, Martin Murray, Kirsty McCormack for their efforts throughout the year
- Auscott for sponsoring two new awards
- The Macquarie Cotton Growers Association, Macquarie 2100, Sally Quigley and Quigley Farms, Rob Tuck, Stu Crawford, Chesterfield Australia Warren and Dubbo branches, Sally and Robert St Clair, Julie Wise, Sandy Young and Bronwyn Christensen from Cotton Australia, Namoi Cotton, Ken Hillder Transport, Agriland, The Gale family, Jaye Milgate, The Barclay family, The Seymour Family, The Rae Family, The McKinnon Family, Anne Barwick, Rachel Halloway (Upper Naomi Cotton Growers Association), AgVantage, Gunnedah Library, Gunnedah Civic Centre, Boggabri arts & craft exhibition, the Field to Fabric Course organisers and the businesses and parents who supported the schools.
- Special thanks to Lynne Strong, Kirsty Johns and the Art4Ag team
Teach The Teacher comes to Goondiwindi
The Macintyre Valley Cotton Growers Association will host an industry bus tour for teachers and their families to kick off what is sure to mark another year of successful collaboration between the Association and the local schools.
Buses will leave the schools at 3.30pm Friday the 24th of January and return to town after a barbecue and drinks under the stars.
The tour is an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn about the cotton industry which supports the Goondiwindi community, and also network with fellow teachers.
Highlights of the event will include a tour of a local gin and cotton farm, and discussions with local growers and industry representatives who will help make the connections between issues that concern the local industry and the curriculum in their classrooms.
Interested in attending this event? Contact Cotton Australia Macintyre Valley Regional Manager Bec Fing on 0427 107 234 or firstname.lastname@example.org
CottonInfo Southern Plains Farm Tour
Cotton Australia Regional Manager Sandy Young was on deck for the recent CottonInfo Southern Plains Farm Tour, visiting 'Yarrabah' and 'Berwicks' in the Upper Namoi.
Attendees heard from CSIRO's Mike Bange on cool climate cotton management, Rose Brodrick on cotton row spacing, and also Paul Brady from Monsanto.
AGCAP meet and greet, Wee Waa
The AGCAP program recently held an event at Wee Waa High School, attracting 13 Year 10 students from Wee Waa and Narrabi High Schools seeking work in the agricultural sector while completing senior school studies.
Cotton Australia supports the AGCAP program, which engages agricultural cadets in years 11 and 12, providing them with experience and mentoring to set them on the path to a successful career in the industry.
The gathering heard from James Kahl about his successful AGCAP experience with AGCAP trainee Geoffrey Johnson, who recently graduated and is now a full-time permanent member of James' team.
Do you know a grower, industry representative or student interested in the AGCAP program? Click here to learn more.
More women take up farming
The ABC has an interesting video story on the increasing number of women taking up farming, despite having no family background in agriculture.