The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
CONTENTS— About the Australian rice industry A letter from the RGA President Welcome to new RGA branding and the Australian Ricegrower magazine
AgriFutures Rice Program sponsors AgriFutures Horizon Scholar 60 AgriFutures Rice Program RD&E Roadmap 64
How the SunRice Group has created value in uncertain times 16
AgriFutures Australia, Manager, Research tasked to drive new research projects for the rice industry 66
Rice Extension finds a new home at RRAPL 68
Leading the RGA with purpose
Serving Australian Rice Growers since 1930 24 Advocating for the Australian Rice Grower: RGA’s three policy areas - Water 27 - Productivity and Industry Affairs 30 - Environmental sustainability 32 The Australian Rice industry – built on grower leaders 38 Sitting down with rice growers - Meet the Gorey Family 45 - David and Tonetta Brain: ‘Coming Home’ 46 - Dissegna Family: Third generation rice growers 50 Local Landcare: getting to know Janet your Local Landcare Coordinator 52 Supporting the next generation of the rice industry 56
2022 Rice Industry Awards
A new look for the Rice Marketing Board Articles of interest
- Contemporising best practice water management: lessons from the Murray-Darling Basin on participatory water management in a mosaiced landscape 74 - Tackling barnyard grass for a water efficient future 75 - A new war on the horizon: the digital food fight 75 - Why farmers need an agritech strategy, not just an agritech purchase 76 - Farm data and doing what’s right by the farmer 78 - Data interoperability and the digital revolution of agriculture 80 82
2022 Conference Sponsors
Front cover: Tom Mannes, Coleambally was the 2021 Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship winner. Tom is in his final year studying an agricultural science degree at CSU in Wagga. Image by: Emma Jane Industry. This first publication of the Australian Ricegrower’ was produced by the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA). Thank you to RGA staff, in particular Matthew Pete and Janet Manzin, for facilitating this edition. The RGA thank and acknowledge all article contributors to this industry magazine.
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ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN RICE INDUSTRY Rice production is one of the most important agricultural activities on the planet – more than half the people in the world eat rice at least once a day.
In Australia we can produce enough rice annually to feed more than 20 million people, 365 days a year. Rice was one of the founding industries for many irrigation towns in southern New South Wales and Northern Victoria. Since its establishment, the industry has employed thousands of people across regional Australia, predominately in the Riverina region of NSW. It now contributes significantly to the economic health of those regions. Today, the Australian rice industry is a world leader in production efficiency, water use efficiency and environmental management.
The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
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The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
AUSTRALIAN RICE GROWING REGION MURRUMBIDGEE IRRIGATION AREA Leeton
COLEAMBALLY IRRIGATION AREA MURRAY VALLEY IRRIGATION AREA
RRAPL Old Coree, Jerilderie Deniliquin
M ur ra y
Ri ve r
Murray River Australian Rice Growing Regions Rice Mills
Most of the rice grown in Australia is concentrated in the Murrumbidgee and Murray Valleys of southern New South Wales. Small areas of rice are also grown in Northern Victoria, Northern New South Wales and Northern Queensland.
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Ricegrowers' Association of Australia Inc.
The Ricegrowers' Association of Australia Inc. (RGA) represents over 1,000 voluntary members and supports growers on issues affecting the viability of their business and communities. The RGA was formed in 1930 during the early years of the rice industry, turning a small group of pioneering rice growers into an effective and cohesive force. Today, the RGA provides a strong, united voice for all growers and the broader Australian rice industry. The RGA represents the interests of rice growers, and provides services to members, to ensure they can provide a legacy for their children, create employment in their districts and grow quality rice. With rice still the mainstay of many Riverina towns, it is important that RGA members have a strong and effective representation in the three key policy areas of Water, Environmental Sustainability and Productivity and Industry Affairs. The RGA is a member of the National Farmers Federation, National Irrigators Council, NSW Irrigators Council, Plant Health Australia, and the Associations Forum.
The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
SunRice Group As a key industry pillar, SunRice has had a long association with Australian agriculture and the land. The SunRice Group is an ASX-listed, global food business and one of Australia’s leading branded food exporters. With roots in Australia’s food bowl, SunRice was formed in 1950 when a group of rice growers pooled their resources in the Riverina region of New South Wales to build a single rice mill. Today, SunRice has grown into one of the largest rice food companies in the world, comprising of multiple businesses, assets and operations across Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, the United States, the Pacific Islands and Asia. For over 70 years, SunRice has been transforming nature’s goodness into healthy, enjoyable and nutritious foods that meet the
needs of discerning consumers around the world. In addition to SunRice’s much-loved rice foods, the company offers a diverse portfolio of gourmet, ‘free from’ food products and animal feeds and nutrition. SunRice’s 35 major brands are sold in 50 global markets and hold leading brand positions in 14 countries. SunRice’s 2,000+ employees around the world have a strong focus on delivering a value for money product and are passionate about making a difference to places and lives everywhere through more than 1,500 nourishing and delicious products. The SunRice Group is a major employer in the Riverina, operating three rice processing mills in Deniliquin and Leeton, a network of more than 70 storage facilities, CopRice animal ruminant facilities and other value-add facilities in Leeton.
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AgriFutures Australia AgriFutures Australia is primarily funded by an annual Australian Government appropriation and is responsible for managing the rice industry levy funds. AgriFutures Australia invests in research, leadership, innovation and learning for the rice industry as well as 11 other industries that do not have their own research and development function. The AgriFutures Rice Program invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) to maintain the industry’s competitiveness and improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the Australian rice industry. With the support of SunRice and the RGA, the AgriFutures Rice Program drives RD&E focused on the production of new rice varieties compatible with a water productivity target of 1.5t/ML by 2026. This is coupled with targeted agronomy and farming system focused activities, extension activities focused on increasing adoption and uptake of technology, and innovation in partnership with industry.
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The Rice Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales The Rice Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales (RMB) was the first commodity marketing board established in New South Wales under the Marketing of Primary Products Act, 1927, and was officially constituted by Proclamation on 9th November 1928. The Board's primary function is to obtain the best possible monetary return to rice growers and operates under the authority of and in accordance with the Rice Marketing Act 1983
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By Rob Massina — President
A LETTER FROM THE RGA PRESIDENT As the President for the RGA for the past three years it has been astonishing to see the resilience and perseverance of fellow rice growers as the industry has bounced back from a period of low water allocations. Off the back of a successful harvest, notwithstanding challenges brought about by weather, the Australian rice industry is thriving again.
It is great that we can start planning for the C23 crop with confidence. Having a full resource at the end of a summer irrigation season will help shape the next two seasons and allow for strong investment in irrigated agriculture within our region, helping our communities prosper. Although in a period of positivity, your RGA needs to continue working hard to make sure the policy settings are right so that the variability we have come to know is flattened as best possible. It is also important that our region is recognised for what we do and how we do it, and that it is a place for private and public investment. We all have a role to play in that. Over the course of my presidency the core focus for me has been to ensure the RGA is fit for purpose. This has involved several reviews into the organisational strategy and structure to ensure the association is sustainable into the future. During this time there has been some changes that have been necessary to ensure we set ourselves up for the next 92 years. The association has a long, rich history and it has been a privilege to lead the team through the rebrand of the RGA to cement the RGA as a pillar of the peak bodies representing growers in Australia. True to our values, we have a vision for:
Our vision The Ricegrowers' Assocation of Australia's vision is for a prosperous and progressive rice industry. We encompass or core values in all that we do.
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Innovation & progression
Equality in collaboration & representation
Membership fees makes up 15% of the association’s total income. Retaining this ratio is made possible by the financial support of our partners: SunRice, Telstra and H2OX. As a peak body, we rely on the support of present and past rice growers, and supporters of our industry to continue to represent you effectively and provide member services. The RGA offers three membership categories: full producer memberships ($552 per annum), additional members to a full producer membership ($124 per annum) and industry supporter memberships ($124 per annum). The latter option is for those with an interest in the rice industry who don’t grow rice. These may include people who work in/or support the rice growing industry such as past growers, agronomists, bankers, students, teachers or people who own businesses in rice growing communities. Your support of the RGA ensures we can continue to support Australian rice growers to remain competitive, innovative and sustainable into the future.
Scan to become a member today. Most recently the pillar of our work in representing Australian rice growing families has been in the recent step-change for RD&E. Two years ago, we saw the approval of a doubling of the levy we pay as growers to RD&E, clearly showing a want and drive by the industry as a whole to move forward with strength and improve what is already best in class. The RGA representatives and staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that the new iteration of Breeding, Research & Development, Extension and Agronomy is going to drive value to your farming business and water use efficiency. This was never going to be achieved with a siloed approach, requiring a whole of industry
approach to all these elements. It will also be essential to have clear communication about the wins and the losses to ensure a sound return on investment for you. I really hope you see this over the coming five years as this takes shape. The highlight for most of us this year, will be celebrating the Australian Rice Growers’ Conference this month. We hope that you find the forum informative, particularly around what I have outlined above. The idea being that you can all walk away from this years’ conference with at least 1-2 ideas to take back to your own businesses with success, and after nearly 3 years since our last conference, it will be a great opportunity to catch up with peers and celebrate all that irrigated agriculture is. For the RGA, a key for the next phase is to understand the levy payer’s needs and how we represent them. There has been considerable work done by the RGA team and industry partners (SunRice and AgriFutures) to review and facilitate change within the industry, which now requires our focus and attention to embed the new structure and practices, which will pave the way for our future. The world now changes at a rapid rate, and events now impact globally, bringing both challenges and opportunities. How we remain world class food producers, adapt and grow through the next five years is about growers and levy payers being at the table and having a voice. This is how the RGA will help shape your industry. Best,
Rob Massina — President
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By Matthew Pete —
WELCOME TO THE NEW RGA BRANDING AND THE AUSTRALIAN RICEGROWER MAGAZINE
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serving rice growers since 1930
serving rice growers since 1930 The RGA is the peak body representing Australian rice growers filled with rich history a prosperous future. We are committed to representing, advocating and educating our growers and communities.
The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) is filled with a rice history and prosperous future. As a not-for-profit organisation, profit must be spent on improving services or retained as equity. Over the past three years of strategy and structural reviews the RGA team has focused its attention on the associations brand to achieve our vision for a prosperous and progressive rice industry in Australia. Joining the RGA team over 12 months ago, it was astonishing to uncover the reach of RGA’s influence and ability to be at the table on many important areas impacting member's businesses amongst stakeholders and government. The RGA brand however was slightly dated, and our communication practices weren’t highlighting the great achievements of the association. Fast forward to today, where months of hard work is brought to life with the new RGA branding.
As we move forward with a more modern and contemporary look and feel, we don’t forget and acknowledge the many decades of history our association has experienced. We leave a legacy in our past logo, now known as the RGA legacy logo. The RGA now has a Brand Book and refreshed suite of collateral that elevates our brand and association among industry peers and stakeholders. We are giving the RGA brand some personality and approachability, which will be seen in an array of collateral and projects rolled out over the coming months. One of these projects is the Australian Ricegrower magazine, which came to life through the organisation’s strategy review. Only a short six months later, the first Australian Ricegrower magazine is complete. This annual print edition replaces the previous summer and winter print editions of Rice Matters. While being funded and produced by the RGA as the peak body for Australian rice growers, the Australian Ricegrower magazine, will have a whole of industry focus, incorporating editorial contributions from industry partners; SunRice, AgriFutures and the RMB. Content will be story based, showcasing, highlighting, and telling the stories of the Australian Rice Industry, its people and the successes and challenges we face. A core objective for this new magazine is to provide value to RGA members, and showcase our industry more broadly, acting as an advocacy tool. With rice still a mainstay in Australian Agriculture, it’s an exciting time to be a part of the rice industry. It has been a pleasure to work on such a rewarding project with the RGA Board and Staff.
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By Laurie Arthur —
SunRice Group Chairman
HOW THE SUNRICE GROUP HAS CREATED VALUE IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
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Most of us are busily preparing our next rice crop. Some are making contingency plans to plant into flood water, deal with flow restrictions in the event of a hot summer and time harvest to avoid receival congestion. SunRice is putting together a sales and operations plan to optimise our paddy price in a world with a Northern Hemisphere ravaged by drought. The Australian rice industry is very much at the pointy end of climate change. This is nothing new for our Riverina growers, where climate variability has always shaped their existence. Water reform is another matter. SunRice and Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia are doing the work now to prepare for the next drought. The Australian rice industry and SunRice truly showed its collective resilience over the past few years. Casting our minds back to the end of 2018 – seasonal conditions and water storages were worsening, and the outlook for the next rice planting was very poor with water prices at very high levels. Of course, as history will show, we ended up only being able to plant 54,000 paddy tonnes – then our second-smallest crop on record and the smallest since the Millennium Drought – a 91% reduction year-on-year.
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SunRice took measures to smooth out the impact on production – carrying over a significant proportion of the crop harvested earlier in 2018 to ensure that some level of processing could continue at its Riverina operations. It also ramped up its international sourcing capability – utilising other sources in our network to ensure that we continued meeting demand for our global products and maintained markets for when Australian rice production rebounded. Unfortunately, conditions continued worsening.
(including dramatic increases to sea freight prices) as the pandemic progressed. A collective effort – from SunRice’s dedicated employees, our small business suppliers across the Riverina, and of course our Australian growers, allowed us to manage what was an extraordinarily difficult period. Thankfully, as we stand here today, we are looking forward to a bright future for the Australian rice industry and SunRice.
And by the time we got to planting of the next crop at the end of 2019, they were even worse than the prior year – leading to a new second-lowest crop on record of 45,000 paddy tonnes.
Production rebounded in 2021 to close to 10 times the size of the drought-affected 2020 crop, and we’ve just finished receiving what was the largest crop in 5 years at approximately 675,000 paddy tonnes.
As a rice grower – I know how tough this period was for many of our growers – a large number of whom did everything they could to still plant a crop and support our industry when the economics of growing rice were getting harder and harder to make sense of due to water pricing.
The resurgence in production volumes has underpinned a significant effort from SunRice – as the processor and marketer of more than 98% of the Australian rice crop, the majority of which is exported in normal years – to resume meeting demand in our most premium markets with Australian rice.
For SunRice, these production challenges were of course exacerbated by COVID-19 – with panicbuying and disruption to global rice trade at the outset of the pandemic.
Our Australian-grown rice is truly sought after in our most premium markets – like the Middle East, Asia, and increasingly in Europe and North America – where customers will pay a premium given the provenance and high quality of the product.
These were followed by operational complexities, impacts to some sales (particularly in food service) and a significant disruption to global shipping
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Our strategy to maintain our position in these markets with alternative sourcing arrangements
As we stand here today, we are looking forward to a bright future for the Australian rice industry and SunRice.
during the low production years has allowed us to now be in a position to quickly start returning our Australian rice products. Our multi-origin sourcing strategy continues apace today, with SunRice continuing to source from up to 11 countries to meet demand at different price points at different markets, with our Californian and Vietnam rice processing mills stand out examples of our investment.
This flexibility has held our growers and our shareholders in good stead. International markets require long-term investment and consistent supply of high-quality product. For our Australian growers, our strategy has enabled them to weather productions downturns and when conditions allow – do what they do best and grow some of the finest paddy in the world. SunRice and key organisations in the industry have invested in research, development and extension over decades – with a large focus on breeding new varieties that are of a high quality, meet the needs of discerning consumers in our key markets, and use less water. And our growers, who not only contribute significant funding to that research effort through the levies they pay, have led the charge in demonstrating a willingness to adopt new farming practices and plant new varieties.
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SunRice, AgriFutures and the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia have recently worked collaboratively to design a roadmap to guide the next five years of that investment – with a clear focus on water productivity.
As we look ahead to the next year, we are incredibly proud of how the industry has managed this difficult period, and are excited about the prospect of having larger Australian crops to market to our customers in end markets.
We’ve set ambitious new goals, which if achieved would enhance Australia’s position as the most water productive rice industry in the world – using 50 per cent less water than the global average.
As other key production areas around the world, including California and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, go into worsening drought – we are in a strong position with Australian rice production having rebounded.
Our Australian rice industry truly represents the best of Australian agriculture. Our growers produce some of the highest-quality rice paddy in the world, and then we process that rice into value-added branded products for sale into some 50 markets around the world – with the manufacturing taking place in our regional facilities across the Riverina. This generates some $400 million in direct economic activity in years of normal production, with SunRice procuring goods and services from more than 400 small and medium businesses and employing more than 500 people in our operations.
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The SunRice team is busily working on new products, promotional and marketing campaigns across all of our key markets – with notable initiatives in Australia, New Zealand, across the Middle East and in the United States. And as we look forwards to planting, which will kick off in October 2022, seasonal conditions, water availability and water pricing remain favorable, which should see healthy plantings.
For over 70 years, SunRice has been a proud and longstanding employer in the NSW Riverina, procuring goods and services from some 400 Riverina businesses, and supporting hundreds of rice growers. We care deeply about our communities and we’ve been there through both the good times and the tough times. We’re proud to be part of this community, supporting the local economy and important events. 2,000 employees, 1,500 products, 50 markets and 35 brands. Together, we’re the SunRice Group. sunrice.com.au t ukai
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By Graeme Kruger — Executive Director
LEADING THE RGA WITH PURPOSE I am often reminded by the words and sayings repeated by my mother, when we faced challenges or obstacles in life. These were always on point and delivered with guidance and understanding about how the world works. I have chosen one of these to reflect on the past 12 months at the RGA. “Don’t be afraid of opposition. Remember a kite rises against the wind” A quote from Hamilton W Mabie.
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From my own experience I have learnt that growth or change can be a product of competition (opposition/challenges), with the outcome entirely dependent on how we respond or whether the playing field is fair. Over the last year and the past, the RGA has risen to many challenges and tackled them head on, much of which has been touched on in the article from Rob Massina above.
The response to these challenges by the leadership and staff of the RGA can be summed up by the following words: collaboration, researched, determined, focussed, and respectful with a clear vision for a prosperous and progressive rice industry in Australia. This also aligns well with the purpose of the RGA: Our purpose 1 Represent and advocate for the interests of all rice growers in Australia and their communities, 2 Add value to members and their businesses, 3 Provide leadership and coordination, and 4 Provide accurate and unbiased information. The team have worked tirelessly with our Industry Partners, Peak bodies (NFF, NIC & NSWIC), Community Groups, Politicians, Government Agencies (State and Federal), Local Government and Irrigation Companies to ensure our members and industry interests remain front and centre. We have adopted the mantra that if you are not at the table then you are on the menu. Some of the activities and highlights over the last 12 months are: • 44 direct engagements with politicians and advisors. • Over 55 letters to politicians across the political spectrum. • $104,609, of free training for rice growers, equating to $1,511 per grower who participated. This through the RGA’s involvement in the AgSkilled 2.0 program, funded by the NSW Government. • The NSW Government extended the rice vesting arrangements for a further 5 years off the back of the collaborative effort and response from growers, the wider community and industry. • The rice research development and extension programs have been revamped to further improve outcomes for growers.
• Improved financial result compared to last year, showing a small surplus instead of a deficit. • The RGA Board, Central Executive and staff participated in a review of the organisation's strategy, facilitated by Zoe Routh to ensure the organisation remains relevant and viable into the future. Five key results for the RGA from this process, which will drive programs and activities are: - The RGA is a highly influential agricultural advocacy group. - Members value their RGA membership. - Australian rice growers are the world leaders in rice production from paddock to plate. - There are capable and well-respected leaders within the rice industry and community. - The RGA has sufficient resources to meet its goals. I wish to acknowledge the contribution from the Board, Central Executive and staff over the last 12 months who have been outstanding to work with. We will continue to rise like a kite against the wind and face the challenges ahead to ensure we achieve the vision and purpose as determined by our members.
A special thanks to Carmel Cristofaro for managing the finance and administrative function of the organisation in such an efficient and accurate manner.
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Ainsley Massina, Matthew Pete, Carmel Cristofaro, Neil Bull, Janet Manzin, Linda Christesen and Graeme Kruger.
SERVING AUSTRALIAN RICE GROWERS SINCE 1930 Your association is structured to provide you with representation across all areas of your rice farming business.
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Our dedicated team of staff and voluntary elected member representatives on the RGA Board and Central Executive (member’s council) are instrumental in delivering the activities of the RGA all year round and are well regarded in the rice industry for their expertise. The RGA Board is elected from the Central Executive committee made of up of over 20 branch delegates. The purpose of the RGA Board is to manage the strategic direction, governance, and operational policy of the organisation. The board currently has seven member elected nonexecutive directors from across the Riverina and one independent non-executive director.
Scan to find out more about our team.
Your 2022/23 Branch and Central Executive Representatives The RGA staff not only focus on the representation and advocacy of our members, but also the delivery of industry projects and events. The RGA team is also the voice of the rice research and development levy payer through communications, public relations and media. The RGA is committed to strengthening the education and capability of members whilst informing the public about our industry. The RGA is serviced by a small team based out of our Leeton and Deniliquin offices. The team consists of the Executive Director, Water Policy Manager, Policy and Project Manager, Communications Manager, Office Manager and Leadership and Events Manager. The Executive Director is also responsible for the management of external projects, including the Local Landcare Coordinator.
Scan to find out more about our representatives.
Berriquin Branch Angela Urquhart Will Robertson Scott Jewell Annabel Arnold
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President Branch Secretary CE Delegate
Coleambally Branch Justin Sutherland Branch President and CE Delegate Denise Kelly Branch Vice President and CE Delegate Madeline Hogan Branch Secretary Deniliquin Branch Antony Vagg Josh Small Lachlan Bull Kellie Crossley
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President Branch Secretary CE Delegate
Hay Branch Diane Morona Daniel Bunyan Darryl Gibbs
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President Branch Secretary
Mirrool Branch Chris Morshead Drew Braithwaite David Dissegna Darrell Fiddler
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President Branch Secretary CE Delegate
Victoria Branch Martin Van Der Sluys Branch President, Secretary and CE Delegate Wakool Branch Michael Chalmers Jonathan Alexander Charleton Glenn
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President and CE Delegate Branch Secretary
Yanco Branch Scott Williams Garry Knagge Vacant
Branch President and CE Delegate Branch Vice President and CE Delegate Branch Secretary
2022/23 RGA Central Executive delegates who attended the June 2022 meeting. // August 2022 25
ADVOCATING FOR THE AUSTRALIAN RICE GROWER: RGA’S THREE POLICY AREAS With rice still the mainstay of many Riverina towns today, it is important that rice growers have strong and effective representation. The RGA fulfils this role by representing and leading growers on issues affecting the viability and sustainability of their businesses, the industry and their regional communities. Here’s your guide to everything policy at the RGA.
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By Linda Christesen — Water Policy Manager
RGA Water Reflecting upon the first 365 days in my role as Water Policy Manager for the RGA it is amazing to see the progress the Water Committee continues to make. As of June, Justin Sutherland has stepped into the role of Chair of the Water Committee. Justin’s enthusiasm for the role and knowledge makes him a fantastic candidate to guide the committee into the future. Outgoing Chair Michael Chalmers will continue on as part of the committee. Michael’s leadership and knowledge built over his time on the committee since 2007, was a great guidance to me coming into the role of Water Policy Manager and I thank him for his time. My personal highlights include: Project 2024 RGA held an internal strategy day in late-May 2022. Related discussions explored options for making RGA’s water policy work more strategically proactive in certain areas. Front of mind for most was how to best position ourselves heading into mid-2024. This is when the current Basin Plan is scheduled to be finished, including any remaining water recovery. The proactive policy task related to this issue has been notionally entitled ‘Project 2024’. In close consultation with RGA’s Water Committee, ‘Project 2024’ is aimed at minimising all potential rice industry impacts that could arise as Basin Plan implementation is finalised.
Skills Impact Training During the second half of the 2021 calendar year, RGA contributed to the development of agricultural training units that are specifically aimed at the skills required to effectively participate in Australia’s water markets. The draft units were available for public consultation from 16 December 2021 – 7 February 2022. Feedback on the drafts was overwhelmingly positive, and primarily aimed at improving clarity as much as possible, given how diverse water markets and their products can be across Australia. With RGA’s noted participation in shaping their content, the units do a great job of filling an identifiable gap in the training market, and in a way that will provide a solid grounding in the fundamentals of market participation. Water Policy in the Media More recently, RGA’s President and staff have been sought out to make public comment about water management issues in the Riverina. In mid-April 2022, RGA was approached by WIN News to comment on the impacts of a recently released NSW water policy document. RGA contributed to the media piece, and was the only industry group included in the final edit. In late-May, RGA’s President was approached by The Daily Telegraph to comment on the Federal election outcome, and the potential implications for rice growers. This was an important, early opportunity to express our concerns with any potential Federal water policy change, and to also stress the industry’s intent to work as constructively as possible with the new Minister.
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Taking a new submission approach The NSW Government has released two particularly significant draft water policies in the first half of the 2022 calendar year. Both policies, if poorly implemented, could pose material risks for RGA members, as well as the broader rice industry. RGA wrote submissions to the NSW Government on both draft policies. This followed extensive discussions by RGA’s Water Committee about how best to present our key issues, and the most strategic way to consult on, and finalise the submissions to ensure they had maximum effect. In both cases, the decision was made to: (i) keep the submissions high-level and focused on the critical issues for the rice industry; and (ii) consult as widely as possible as the submissions were drafted and finalised, to ensure an alignment of views across RGA’s partner agencies. This approach proved very effective as it allowed RGA’s Water Committee to clarify its key priorities early, which also gave us enough time to share our views with our partners in the Riverina as well as our peak-body groups, in particular National Farmers’ Federation and NSW Irrigators’ Council. The latter meant that our views were also being appropriately represented by these key peak-body groups as well.
Your Water Committee Representatives Committee Chair – Justin Sutherland Greg Bonetti, Chris Morshead, John Lolicato, Jeremy Morton, Michael Chalmers, Debbie Buller, Rachel Kelly and Troy Mauger.
Water Advocacy Statistics Number of submissions written between mid-2021 and mid-2022:
Dealing with both state and federal water issues - ranging across water trade, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, new allocation policies, river operations and future water planning under climate change.
Given its demonstrated success, this approach is likely to be adopted in all future RGA water policy submissions going forward.
Number of peak body meetings attended (NFF Water Committee; NSWIC; NIC; MDBA peak groups briefing) between mid-2021 and mid-2022:
Number of advocacy letters written to state and federal MPs and Departments between mid-2021 and mid-2022:
Dealing with issues across water access and better allocation timing, future water planning under climate change and confirmation of the rice industry’s national water priorities.
Water tool kit It is intended to assist growers with their planning decisions including decisions about water ownership and purchasing strategies. The tool kit focusses on water availability in the southern Murray-Darling Basin (Basin) and delivery in the New South Wales (NSW) Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys.
The RGA has released a new and exciting Water Tool Kit updating the 2016 publication. This tool kit has been prepared to provide irrigators with information to improve their knowledge of and access to water information. 28 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
Topics of interest: • Water sharing • Allocations • Trade • Key trends • Management options • Planning schedule, and so much more… The 2022 Water Tool Kit is available to view on the RGA website (rga.org.au). If you’d prefer a hard copy, please contact the RGA office on 02 6953 0433 to purchase a copy.
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By Neil Bull —
Policy and Project Manager
RGA Productivity and Industry Affairs The PIA Committee has been very active recently providing much comment on emerging issues and input into policy and submission development. The objectives of the committee are: 1 To ensure government and industry investment and regulations aim to maximise the net profitability of growers, and 2 Maintain and improve cross-industry collaboration and coordination in the interests of growers and industry participants. The key policy areas covered include: • Research, development & extension (RD&E – AgriFutures) • Telecommunications • Transport (incl. RMS & Grain Harvest Management Scheme) • Chemicals and other grower inputs • Business management and training • Farm Safety and Grower Welfare • Industry Leadership, SunRice Grower and Shareholder Governance including diversity. • Trade and vesting
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The committee has been supported by a range of RGA staff throughout the year. With Charleton Glenn providing overall coordination until August. Charleton did an excellent job, in particular playing a major part in coordinating the RGA response to the vesting review, promoting and assisting with member submissions and laying the groundwork for the RGA Vesting submission. Thank you Charleton! Industry leadership has been ably managed by Ainsley Massina throughout the year. Ainsley has been able to meet funding contract commitments throughout the extensive period of COVID restrictions. In addition to dealing with these challenges Ainsley has secured funding so that the RGA can continue to deliver leadership initiatives that benefit the rice industry. The master of all, the RGA’s Executive Director, Graeme Kruger has had significant input into all areas of the committee’s activities. He and President Rob Massina have worked tirelessly contributing to the development of the industry’s new RD&E program.
Key outcomes • Vesting; after significant effort by the committee and the RGA coordination of rice industry stakeholders the NSW Government approved a 5 year extension of the previous vesting arrangements • Rice Research, Development and Extension; after at times frustrating and protracted negotiations we are now seeing the new extension program in place and the RGA contract in place for the “Voice of the Levy Payer” project. • The APVMA approval for continued access to Molinate for use in aerial seeded rice.
Submissions • Rice Vesting; this was a major piece of work involving much contribution from the PIA committee. • Research Development Corporation Consultation; much of content for RGA’s submission was incorporated in the Agrifutures Guide to Stakeholder Consultation. The guiding principles from this document have been incorporated into the Voice of the Levy Payer Project.
Your Productivity and Industry Affairs Committee Representatives Committee Chair – Angela Urquhart Di Morona, Alison Glenn, Denise Kelly, Linda Fawns, Antony Vagg, Charleton Glenn, Chris Morshead, Darrell Fiddler and RMB Delegate.
// August 2022 31
By Neil Bull —
Policy and Project Manager
RGA Environmental Sustainability COVID-19 again threw up challenges over the last 12 months however, the Environmental Sustainability Committee and the RGA Environment team were very active responding to emerging issues, refining policy and delivering activities. The biggest disappointment was the postponement of the Bitterns Conference. With only 2 weeks to go with COVID again causing disruption across the country we were forced to postpone the event. Fortunately, the major sponsors and funders have allowed Anna Wilson and the Bitterns team to hold all of the funds, allowing us to proceed next February. Our partnership with Landcare NSW continued to support and deliver a range of activities, including: • Supporting local schools; • the amazing work of the Deniliquin Kolety Landcare Lagoons group (if you are Deniliquin based check out the lagoons and look for the threatened fish species, and; • regional producer groups. The highlight event was the Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage day at Old Coree held in partnership with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation trust.
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Bitterns In late 2021 we were contacted by the Petaurus Education Group to ask if we could assist Hay High School students with their podcast on Australasian Bitterns. Scott Williams, bittern friendly rice grower and a RGA Board Member and myself were interviewed for the project.
Scan to listen to the podcast. The RGA maintains a strong involvement with research on Australasian Bitterns. There were two projects across the rice growing regions. The Riverina LLS-National Landcare Funded Boosting Bunyip Birds Yields Project in its third year monitored 1884 hectares of bittern-friendly rice across 12 farms, with an additional 552 hectares of conventional rice across ten farms. Altogether, that’s nearly 2500 hectares! Matt Herring recorded 50 birds and 6 nests across these farms. With the 6 nests all located on Bittern Friendly sites. The results indicated more than twice as many bitterns per hectare at the Bittern Friendly sites, compared to the conventional rice control sites. In the Murray 2 rice crops with long ponded rice with nearby wetlands were monitored under a Murray LLS-National Landcare funded project. This project observed several Bitterns in one Western Murray Valley crop. Unfortunately, they moved on after only a short time. The project also included Southern Bell Frog monitoring, with numerous frogs found in the rice and the adjacent wetlands. This season saw Bitterns turn up in unusual places, including an immature bird flying into the wall of a farmhouse (it survived) at Willbriggie and Coleambally Irrigation’s mounted bittern travelling to Sydney to participate in the Australasian Bittern display at the NSW CWA annual conference.
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RGA Environment Policy objective “To ensure that our growers implement Natural Resource Management practices that protect and enhance the landscapes in which they operate, leaving a legacy of a healthy environment while demonstrating the sustainability of the rice industry.” This year Paul Martin advised he would step down as Chair of the Environmental Sustainability committee due to off-farm business commitments. Paul however remains a committee member, after many years of dedication to environmental sustainability. Scott Williams was elected as the new chair. The key issues discussed and responded to by the Environmental Sustainability Committee included:
1 2 3 4
Stubble burning; this autumn we prepared and implemented a comprehensive communications program including promoting the use of the Stubble Burning App. Only one complaint was received this season with several community members commenting that we had done a good job minimising the impacts from stubble smoke. Native game bird management; in January an activist group posted inaccurate posts on social media regarding the rice industry’s approach to protecting rice crops from native game birds and discouraged their members from purchasing Australian rice. The committee refined our policy position to clearly describe how ducks are managed on rice farms. After communicating our policy to the group they agreed to withdraw the statement and advise their members to purchase Australian rice. Spray drift; this season there have been a couple of incidents of spray drift impacting on rice crop growth. The Environmental Sustainability Committee has been discussing this issue with the PIA committee. The RGA already promotes best practice spray application however the major issue we continue to research and discuss is how to recover lost income if a grower experiences major yield loss. Currently a rice grower cannot insure their crops from drift from aerial spray application. There were of course other ongoing activities. The RGA’s continued contribution to the development of the rice industries sustainability framework the “Growers Promise” and the monitoring of government announcements and evaluating realistic opportunities for members in relation to soil carbon and biodiversity.
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Your Environmental Sustainability Committee Representatives Committee Chair – Scott Williams Paul Martin, Scott Williams, Martin van der Sluys, Kellie Crossley, Garry Knagge and Annabel Arnold.
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“The Australasian Bittern is a rarely seen, poorly known and globally endangered waterbird. We're proud to be a part of the Bitterns in Rice project, focused on farming and wildlife conservation working together.”
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serving rice growers since 1930
// August 2022 37
By Ainsley Massina —
Leadership and Events Manager
THE AUSTRALIAN RICE INDUSTRY — BUILT ON GROWER LEADERS An agricultural leader is one who can inspire, persuade, influence, and motivate positive change. Can we all do it?
38 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
The Rice Marketing Board of NSW, RGA and SunRice have all had a long association with Australian agriculture. With an industry of over 90 years of history and leaders before us paving the way forward.
roles, and support an industry that forms part of his farming operation. Jeremy Morton a past RGA President and current SunRice Director, has developed a keen interest in agriculture advocacy. This has seen him take on the role of Chair of National Irrigators’ Council to be a part of creating and shaping the future of water policy. These are just two recent examples of the many who have paved the way before them.
The turning point was in 1950 when early rice growers pooled funds to establish the Ricegrowers Co-operative and built a rice mill at Leeton in the Riverina. From this point on, we have seen an industry that has been led by grower directors, grower board members and grower committee members, across SunRice, The Rice Marketing Board of NSW and the RGA.
The RGA in partnership with SunRice, RMB and AgriFutures over the past 15 years have provided a series of programs that aims to give our growers the confidence to lead our rice industry.
Growers who take on the responsibility to lead our industry, show a great level of commitment to the Australian Rice Industry. But why do growers, take time away from their own business to do these roles? Rob Massina has been the President of the RGA for the past 3 years. Before farming Rob had a successful agribusiness career, Rob saw the opportunity to take on a leadership role within the Rice Industry as a great way to utilise his skill set learned in his past corporate
Programs vary from short one day workshops through to partnering with the Australian Leadership Foundation for longer residential programs. Effective boards and committees require diversity of skill set, gender, experience and background, with the right support, motivation and the right principles anyone can grow into a great leader. The support provided through the RGA Leadership programs is providing growers with these skills to ensure the rice industry can continue to be grower lead into the future. Keep an eye out for upcoming programs.
// August 2022 39
THE RICE GROWERS’ PROMISE: A SUSTAINABILITY FRAMEWORK FOR THE RIVERINA RICE INDUSTRY
40 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
An ode to the Riverina rice grower By Annabel Arnold The sun shimmers through the gum tree tops as we jump into the ute and drive off in a swirl of dust. We approach the crop, shades of green reflecting off each tiller in the afternoon light. The heat once felt during the hot, late December day is instantly replaced with the cool breeze flowing across the rice bays. Water in the furrows glistens as the last rays of sun bear down for the day. As we go from bay to bay, checking each water depth indicator, we can hear the trickling water move easily over each stop, the lifeline of a rice crop. Ibis and spoonbills perch along the banks after a long day of foraging for insects, frogs and fish amongst the rice. Mud-eyes and damselflies float effortlessly over the crop, seeking the perfect tiller to land on, enjoying the last moments of light on their wings. We move on to the next bay. An alteration required, we jump out of the ute, shovel in tow and skilfully place an extra board in the stop. A great achievement when the task is completed and no swimming was necessary! Crop spiders begin their orb, meticulously calculating their strands of web in between the tillers. As we finish our rounds, dusk becomes heavier and the light fades to reveal colours of pinks and purples displayed across the sky. The air becomes thick and the sweet smell of water and rice fills the nostrils. An orchestra of frogs commence their nightly performance which can be heard even as we pull back into the yard. As we jump out of the ute to trudge home for dinner, we feel the true extent of the flourishing ecosystem that exists right in our own backyard, and we smile.
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Showcasing our passion and pride to build prosperous and safe communities for our children and future generations.
Continuous improvement through industry led innovation and technology
Proudly producing fresh and trusted quality food directly traceable from paddock to plate.
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The Australian Riverina rice industry prides itself on being one of the most sustainable rice growing systems in the world. Our growers use 50% less water than the global average and throughout the course of our rice growing history we have finessed our growing practices to be world leaders in rice growing and production.
These outcomes have occurred through a whole of industry approach, with investment directed towards targeted research, development and extension. Notably, our efforts in developing and breeding high yielding, water efficient, cold tolerant varieties suited to our Australian climate have dramatically increased our efficiencies. Our farming practices have changed and adapted to a more variable climate and increased uncertainty in water allocations. The Rice Growers’ Promise (RGP) – a sustainability framework for the Riverina rice industry was developed in early 2020 by a group of 27 passionate growers, SunRice, the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) and the Murray Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government. The RGP encapsulates the legacy of an industry that has been operating for over 70 years in the heart of the Riverina and the stories that have been told and captured over that period of time. From the hardships and to the successes, but most importantly the tenacity of our growers who ride out those waves year in year out. It is a framework that all Riverina rice growers can be proud of, as it looks to how we can bring the rice industry into the 21st century but looks back stoically from where we have come from. Our improvements in rice growing are owed foremost to our growers, but also to our innovative whole of industry approach at achieving sustainability goals both in the rice paddock and on the wider farm.
The RGP addresses three key pillars, each with their own grower developed priorities and goals; Innovation, Quality and Community. Innovation contains our on the ground efforts from improving water use and soil health targets, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carefully managing our chemical and nutrition inputs. From a whole of industry approach, it looks at how we facilitate practice change and see research make it from the lab and into the paddock. The quality pillar seeks to ensure growers are exposed to the highest possible returns for their rice. Having high quality grain coming into the system is paramount to holding our position in high value markets and aids in further opportunities to enter into new ones. A key component of this pillar is traceability which is achieved through the Pure Seed Program and our robust, vertically integrated supply chain. Community looks at how we value the natural world and all those within it, which includes the health and wellbeing of our rural communities, farm business health and resilience, work health safety on farm and importantly the biodiversity in and around our rice crops which needs to be protected and enhanced. A whole of industry approach will be required to benchmark ourselves against the priorities and goals of each of the pillars but fortunately our growers already have a vast history of achieving sustainability outcomes on farm. Grower’s pride themselves on being stewards of the land and run highly efficient and successful farm business operations. It is a true credit to our growers, highly resilient and adaptive to their circumstances that we have a successful industry that contributes greatly to the local economy and the culture of our small rural communities. The RGP will enable us to continue our legacy and drive sustainable farming practices that we are able to share with our investors, customers, and consumers for future generations of rice growers to come.
Scan to find out more about Rice Growers' Promise.
// August 2022 43
SITTING DOWN WITH RICE GROWERS By Amy Batten — Copywriter
Copywriter, Amy Batten sat down with three Australian Rice farming families recently to get a glimpse into their lives on the land and growing Aussie rice for the world.
Michael, Amy, Belinda and Meg Gorey. 44 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
Meet the Gorey Family Imagine looking out your front window to see endless paddocks as far as the eye can see, only stopping where the sky meets the earth. The golden blaze of the canola crop beams in all its glory against the brilliant blue of the infinite sky. Imagine an uninterrupted view of the horizon and witnessing magical sunrises and sunsets daily. Summer days are spent fishing along your own private river frontage, and scorching summer nights are enjoyed by rolling out the swag and camping under the stars, as the heavens put on a show for your eyes only. This is the reality for Meg and Amy Gorey who are growing up on a 3200Ha property in Dhuragoon, near Moulamein, NSW. Their parents Belinda and Michael Gorey are third generation rice farmers who grow rice, wheat, barley, canola, sheep, and fava beans. Their property expands through the district and includes access to both the Neimur and Edward Rivers. Meg, 13, attends Ballarat Grammar. She boards at the Wendouree campus during the school term and returns to the family farm on school holidays. Meg says it is a wonderful place to call home. ‘When I am at school, I miss the farm. I miss the quietness and the freedom. I also miss Maggie (the family dog), and mum’s home cooking,” she said. Likewise, Amy, who is in Year 6 and attends Moulamein Public School, enjoys the freedom of riding her motorbike. “Mum and I go for rides around the farm. We go up and around the fence lines, often near the irrigators. Riding my motorbike makes me feel free and happy,” she said.
“Our girls enjoy a lot of their freedoms here on the farm, like learning to drive at an early age. They assist with anything that needs to be done like helping with the sheep or checking the water,” Belinda said. This year (C22), the Gorey family harvested over 460Ha of rice. “We had a good season, usually we would average about 300Ha of rice, but this year we yielded more, mostly due to the increased amount of rain we’ve had,” Michael said. The unpredictably high rainfall experienced in many rice producing areas has lengthened harvesting schedules this year.
“Harvest was drawn out this year as the ground continued to stay wet. We couldn’t get the machinery in. We needed to order new tracks for the harvester which were coming from Queensland and that delivery was also delayed. “What would normally take a month (to harvest the rice), extended to around 70 days to complete,” Michael said. Michael’s father, and two uncles are also farmers in the Moulamein area. The family are always available to help each other when needed. Michael plans to deliver 1200Ha of winter crop this season. Belinda and Michael enjoy spending quality time with their girls. Their family time is spent camping, fishing, going for long walks, motor bike riding, and driving around the property. ‘We’re really lucky to be able to enjoy this freedom and this lifestyle together,” Belinda said.
Belinda and Michael said it is an ideal lifestyle for their children to be raised on a farm.
// August 2022 45
David and Tonetta Brain: ‘Coming Home’
The ‘Magic’ Moments David and Tonetta agree there can be some ‘magic’ moments on the farm.
The feeling of ‘coming home’ is often hard to describe. For Coleambally rice farmers David and Tonetta Brain, it is the feeling of belonging that whispers deep into your soul. It is the way the colours transform the landscape with each passing season; the way the wildlife reappears to become familiar friends, and the way your heart is intertwined with the land.
Tonetta said there were moments that you only share with the land.
To David and Tonetta, ‘home’ is many things. It is the magnificent sunrises and sunsets that light up the sky in all its glory; it is that distinctive smell of rice that resonates within your nose; it is the ‘magic’ moments in farming that make your heart fill with joy. Rich Family History Both sides of David’s family have been involved in rice farming. His mother’s father started growing rice in 1927, while his father’s family became interested in growing rice in 1932.
“There’s something special about growing rice – it has its own scent,” David said.
“When you get up first thing in the morning, and the world is still, and you go outside and check the rice crop… it is when you see that first ‘green’ rising from above the ground, and there is a mist floating across the water… you find yourself in a beautiful moment. It is almost spiritual,” she said. As the rice crop continues to grow, David and Tonetta said there is a moving way in which the crop can ‘speak’ to you. “It’s especially gratifying when the rice crop is ‘hanging.’ It is as if the crop is bowing its head as a graceful gesture for a job well done. Then you know it’s going to be a good crop,” Tonetta said. David added that the feeling of satisfaction as a farmer is knowing you are contributing to help others.
David's father Kevin share-farmed around the Murrami-Moulamein-Barham areas before acquiring a farm in a ballot in Coleambally in 1963.
“It feels enormously satisfying to grow an essential product for the world’s population, and to know we are helping to feed people,” David said.
David is the youngest of five children and said it was a natural career choice.
Community Spirit Coleambally was built on the ‘backbone of its volunteers’ according to David.
“You could say it’s in the blood… but I know no different,” laughs David. Farming David and Tonetta own four properties in the Coleambally area. Two located on Kidman Way, and two situated on Four Corners Road, totalling an area of 850Ha where they grow wheat, rice, and canola. David bought his first property when he was 16 years old. He has grown rice consecutively since that time, only missing three years due to drought conditions. In 2021, David was humbled to receive the C21 Ricegrowers Honorary Councillor Award. “I think all farmers should receive an award for their tireless efforts,” he said.
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“We have the most wonderful community spirit and without our volunteers we would have no town,” David said. David is an active member of the Coleambally community and is the current president of the Coleambally Clay Target and Gun Club, vice president of the Riverina Vintage Machinery Club, past president of the Coleambally Lions Club, and is actively involved in both fire brigades. “When my family first came here – there was nothing. As the town has grown, we have all banded together and helped each other when it was needed,” David said.
“It feels enormously satisfying to grow an essential product for the world’s population, and to know we are helping to feed people.”
David Brain. // August 2022 47
Coleambally’s Post Office was officially opened in 1970, and today its population is around 600. Wildlife Along with the many beautiful colours of the rural landscape, some of the most familiar sounds of home include the noises of the natural wildlife that live on the farm. Some of the species regularly seen by David and Tonetta include blue tongue lizards, goannas, superb parrots, pelicans, galahs, owls, brolgas, emus, kangaroos, water birds, frogs, snakes, and the endangered bittern. “It’s usually the kookaburras we hear first in the morning – but it is the booming noise of the bittern that is the most pleasing sound. “Bitterns build their nest in the rice crop, and we would hear them more than we see them,” Tonetta said. Family David and Tonetta raised their two children on the family farm in Coleambally. Daughter Lauren, and son Will. Both Lauren and Will attended Coleambally Central School, (the same school as their father David), before leaving home to embark on their tertiary studies. Lauren graduated from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga with a Bachelor of Primary Education and following soon after was Will with a Bachelor of Agribusiness from Charles Sturt University in Orange, NSW. Lauren is a primary school teacher and lives with her partner Luke, and their two children Artie (turning 4 in August), and Winston, 1, at their home in Griffith. Will is an Agronomist at Nutrien Ag Solutions, and lives with his partner Anna-Lise in Griffith. “There’s so many opportunities available for Lauren and Will in Griffith and we encourage them to pursue their careers,” Tonetta said. David and Tonetta love having their grandchildren out on the farm. They said the two young boys love machinery, tractors, and harvest time. “It feels most like home when we are all together,” Tonetta said.
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Ian Kelly, Perry and Cate Hardy, Denise Kelly, David and Tonetta Brain, Nancy and David Lashbrook celebrating David's Honorary Councillor award in August 2021.
“It’s usually the kookaburras we hear first in the morning – but it is the booming noise of the bittern that is the most pleasing sound. Bitterns build their nest in the rice crop, and we would hear them more than we see them.”
// August 2022 49
“We get huge satisfaction from growing our quality product for SunRice. We have had outstanding yields this season.”
Dissegna Family: Third generation rice growers David Dissegna is a thirdgeneration rice grower. Nestled approximately 20km south-west of Griffith, David owns and operates the family farm ‘Westlands’ in Benerembah, along with his parents Dino and Diana, and with the support of his wife Kellie.
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It was David’s grandfather Luigi who saw an opportunity to settle in the Murrumbidgee area in the 1940s after migrating to Australia from Italy. “Nonno first came to Australia by himself and worked on the sugar cane and railways in Queensland. He then returned to Italy, got married, and came back with Nonna,” David said. Upon their return, David’s grandparents took a chance on becoming farmers after observing a beautiful farming landscape and access to irrigation water in regional New South Wales. “My grandparents were one of the first Italian migrant families to start growing rice. Their first rice harvest was share farmed in 1948, and since that time, our family has continued to grow rice,” David said. ‘Westlands’ grows an average of 200ha of rice annually. This year, David has increased to 250ha.
David also grows 20-40ha of organic rice for SunRice. “I like the challenge of growing produce without chemicals, and the demand is there for organic rice,” he said. The Dissegna family elect to farm rice, sheep, olives, and winter cereals as the opportunity arises. David and his family grow 65ha of olives on an additional family farm in Coleambally. All our planning decisions are based on two fundamental issues – access to labour and best usage of water. “Rice is still the ‘King of Crops’ for us. We can grow rice here with no disease, few pests, and it is the highest yielding rice crop in the world. We can grow rice with relatively low water use compared to some other crops,” David said. Just like his predecessors, David said he relishes in being a farmer. “I cannot imagine not being in Agriculture. It’s quite an exciting industry to be in. I love the freedom of being outdoors and being in the elements,” he said. David’s 82-year-old father Dino still lives on the property with his wife Diana, and says he has no plans to slow down. “There is always something that needs doing (on the farm). I have no plans to retire,” Dino said. David Dissegna and Abby the dog.
“We have had a full rice program for the last two years. We have continued with the program this year, and plan to do the same next year,” he said. All rice grown on Westlands goes to SunRice and David said he is extremely proud of his product.
As to a fourth generation taking over the Dissegna family business, David said his sons John, 2, and Lucas, 1, were too young to consider their future careers. “If that’s what they want to do (be a farmer), I would support it – but the decision would be entirely up to them,” David said.
“Much like the circle of life, as a farmer you sow your crops, you tend to them, watch them grow, while caring for the plant and soil,” he said. “With farming becoming more technical these days, we still tend to the crops and continue to honour our best farming practices, much like my father and grandfather.” David likes a fully integrated system from start to finish for his rice production. “We get huge satisfaction from growing our quality product for SunRice. We have had outstanding yields this season. We have had superb quality crops and we are extremely pleased with our results,” he said. David with dad Dino and two nephews James and Thomas.
// August 2022 51
LOCAL LANDCARE: GETTING TO KNOW JANET YOUR LOCAL LANDCARE COORDINATOR
52 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
The definition of Landcare is often misunderstood. Many hear the term “Landcare” and think it is only about planting a few trees. At the RGA we define Landcare as; management practices that enhance the land and connected water. Landcare activities can be connected with wetland management (including rice fields), soil health, vegetation and natural and productive habitats. Many Landcare projects support farm productivity improvement while providing improved environmental outcomes. The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia has been partnering with Landcare for over 20 years. In the early years this was a partnership linking the Environmental Champions Program with Landcare. In 2008-10 the RGA hosted a federally funded Landcare Facilitator in the Leeton office. Since around 2010 to the present time Landcare in the MIA has been delivered through Murrumbidgee Landcare Inc. (MLI). The RGA team currently collaborates with MLI hosted Landcare Coordinators, Kathy Tennison in the MIA and Coleambally and Jade Auldist in the Hay district. In 2016 the RGA began hosting a NSW Murray Landcare Officer in the Deniliquin office with Erika Heffer hitting the ground running, building relationships with existing LandcareProducer groups in the area, promoting Landcare opportunities to new groups and engaging with local schools. This year while on maternity leave Erika has resigned to focus on her family and their emerging honey supply business. Janet Manzin has taken up the role, using her extensive landholder engagement skills to broaden engagement and maintain the support of existing groups.
// August 2022 53
Q+A Getting to know Janet Manzin
role, I not only get to work with farmers, but also work with some amazing ecologists who are so passionate about teaching others about the ecology of our local environment.
What do you do in your role? My role is quite varied. I work with Landcare groups like the Deniliquin Kolety Lagoons Landcare group to deliver different projects that educate the community and enhance and restore the biodiversity of the lagoon system that runs through Deniliquin.
What do you love most about what you do? Connecting with people from all different parts of the community from farmers to local primary school students. I also love working with the team at RGA. They are an amazing group of people who are so intelligent, knowledgeable and are passionate about the future of the rice and broader agricultural industry. It’s a pleasure to work with them.
I run field days to educate the community on different aspects of what is being done in the areas of biodiversity, wetland watering and enhancing our soils. And of course, how rice is grown and the benefits of the industry to the community and the environment. I also work with the Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator at Local Land Services compiling the Murray Regional Roundup monthly newsletter. I also manage to support the RGA team with organising the Australian Rice Growers’ Conference, and environmental policy and communication projects as part of my hosted Local Landcare role. It’s a great mix. What made you decide to work in this field? I’ve been living and working in the Deniliquin region for a fair while now, so when the opportunity came up last year to apply for the LLC position with RGA I jumped at it. I have always enjoyed working with farmers and in this
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The Harry Pepper coffee shop being within walking distance of our Deni office is also a bonus! What is something surprising about your job? The lack of understanding of Landcare. Landcare is not just planting trees; it’s also learning about sustainable land and water management practices. It can cover such a broad range of topics and projects. From planting vegetation on the banks of the river to learning about soil carbon. What do you love about the rice industry? My husband and I have been growing rice for nearly 30 years and I can say that the thing I love most about the rice industry is the people. They are passionate about growing rice more efficiently and seeing the industry grow.
“The RGA is always happy to be involved with educating students on the importance of rice growing and its benefits to our community.” - Janet Manzin
// August 2022 55
SUPPORTING THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE RICE INDUSTRY
Tom Mannes, 2021 GGMS recipient. 56 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
The Australian Rice Industry has fostered and supported many outstanding young leaders within the rice growing community. Each year, the RGA and SunRice together support tertiary scholarships which is just one of the ways we make a difference within our communities and invest in the future of our industry. The three tertiary scholarships available each year include: Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship The Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship (GGMS) was introduced in 2001 to assist a second-year university student who is the child/ grandchild or nominated employee of an RGA Member, A-Class Shareholder and/or grower who has grown in the last three years, to assist in studying a full-time, agriculturally based and/or industry related course at any Australian tertiary institution. Named after Greg Graham RGA President in 1983, the scholarship honours the great admiration and confidence in the future of young people and commitment and humility of Greg in his role as RGA President in 1983 before passing away suddenly on New Year’s Day.
Thomas Hatty (pictured above) from Tocumwal was awarded the Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship this year. Tom grew up on a rice farm and is halfway through completing a double bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science and Commerce at Latrobe University in Melbourne. On receiving his scholarship and $10,000, Tom said he can now finish his degree without the added financial burden. As a scholarship recipient Tom is keen to give back to the Ricegrowers' Association in the future from either a farming or a business point of view. Mr Hatty said he could see himself returning to his hometown. "If there's the opportunity to take over the farm, I'd love to do that and give back to the local area," he said. Mr Hatty said the scholarship was a great opportunity to focus more on his studies. "It helps me have the knowledge to come back to the farm," he said. "My dad always told me not to stay in my hometown forever, it's always there to come back to, but you can only learn so much and experience so many things staying in that one area.”
// August 2022 57
Peter Connor Book Award The Peter Connor Book Award was introduced at the same time; in conjunction with the Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship, as the runner-up award primarily for the purchase of books. Peter Connor was a leading rice grower in the Coleambally district and served as Vice President of the Coleambally Branch and delegate to the RGA’s Central Executive between 1975 and 1982. Peter was also a Director of the Ricegrowers’ Cooperative Mills Ltd. Jerilderie's Tiarna Burke (pictured below) was awarded the Peter Connor Book Award this year. An occupational therapy student at Charles Sturt University in Albury, growing up on mixedcropping farm herself, she is familiar with the types of injuries farmers could have and would like to return to her area to provide rare, specialist care, making her a worthy recipient. "We only have the hospital and the doctors (in Jerilderie) we don't actually have any physiotherapists OT's or any actual specialists," said Tiarna. "The closest is in Albury or Shepparton, which is an hour and a half at least." Tiarna said winning a rice grower's scholarship will help her complete her studies, so she can return and give back to her community.
Michelle Groat, Rebecca Groat and Laurie Arthur.
Jan Cathcart Scholarship
SunRice launched the Jan Cathcart Scholarship in 2014 to honour the memory of long-term SunRice employee Jan Cathcart. It recognises her high principles, commitment and 43-year contribution to the rice industry, SunRice and our shareholders and growers. Open to female shareholders, growers and employees and their extended families, the scholarship is designed to support women who demonstrate a passion for and commitment to the rice industry and who can contribute to shaping a positive future for our industry. Valued at $10,000 a year for up to three years of tertiary study, to date the scholarship has provided nine recipients with numerous opportunities, from financial support, to work experience and employment placements with SunRice, and professional and personal growth. Successful applicants are chosen on: her commitment to a career in agriculture or agribusiness; her involvement in work experience and community service; leadership potential; and academic achievements.
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Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship Recipients ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫
Now in its eighth year, the 2022 Jan Cathcart Scholarship was awarded to Rebecca Groat from Myall Park near Griffith in the NSW Riverina. Rebecca is undertaking a Bachelor of Environmental Science, majoring in Climate Science and Sustainability at Charles Sturt University.
Peter Connor Book Award Recipients ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫ ⚫
On accepting the Award, Ms Rebecca Groat noted that she is dedicated to creating a sustainable environment for future generations. “Every farmer I know is passionate about the environment and wants to leave their farm better for the next generation. I share the same values and want to make a positive difference in my part of the world.
2021: Tom Mannes from Coleambally Branch 2020: George Payne from Coleambally Branch 2019: Dominic Morona from Deniliquin Branch 2018: Benjamin Seamer from Berriquin Branch 2017: Allister Clarke from Berriquin Branch 2016: Jackson Byrnes from Hay Branch 2015: Charleton Glenn from Wakool Branch 2014: Luke O’Connor from Deniliquin Branch 2013: Amy McAllister from Berriquin Branch
2021: James McCaw from Berriquin Branch 2020: Nicholas O’Connor from Deniliquin Branch 2019: Annabel Arnold from Berriquin Branch 2018: Dominic Morona from Deniliquin Branch 2017: Benjamin Seamer from Berriquin Branch 2016: Jack Hogan from Coleambally Branch 2015: Daniel Andreazza from Mirrool Branch 2013: Sarah Robertson from Wakool Branch 2013: Alexandra Dalton from Mirrool Branch
Jan Cathcart Scholarship Recipients
“My experience of working the rice harvest gave me an appreciation of the dedication and work ethic that goes into every grain of rice. That inspired me to look at different ways that farming and the environment can work together, which the rice industry does so well. It is also what motivated me to apply for the Jan Cathcart Scholarship.
2021: Charlie Reilly, from Leeton
2020: Alexandra Morona, from a rice farm near Deniliquin
2019: Emily Fasham, from a rice farm near Wakool
2018: Annabel Arnold, from a rice farm in Berrigan
2017: Sarah Cudmore, from a mixed farming property at Benerembah
“The Australian rice industry is already a world leader in environment and production working together, so I am grateful to have the opportunity to get some experience and to use the tools and learning I gain at university to further the industry and shape the way my community farms into the future.”
2016: Millie Mertz, from a rice farm in Moulamein and Elise Wilson, from a rice farm in Coleambally
2015: Samantha Glenn, from a rice farm in Moulamein and Zoe Reynoldson, from a rice farm in Berrigan.
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AGRIFUTURES RICE PROGRAM SPONSORS AGRIFUTURES HORIZON SCHOLAR
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Angus Malmo grew up on a dairy farm in north-eastern Victoria, before his family moved to a mixed farming enterprise in Henty, NSW. Sponsored by the AgriFutures Rice Program, the 2021 AgriFutures Horizon Scholar is eager to combine his passion for applied science and agriculture to forge a career in agronomy, with a focus on implementing emerging techniques on-farm to improve the sustainability of Australian agroecosystems. Tell us a bit about your background? Up until I was 10 years old, my family lived on a dairy farm near Katamatite in northern Victoria. I have fond memories of feeding calves and idling behind cows on my PeeWee-50 enroute to the dairy. You are now studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Sydney. What were the driving factors behind your decision to follow this field of study? Once I was in my final years of high school, I let my interest in agriculture and applied science take over. I realised this pathway would give me the greatest opportunity to be able to positively impact as many people as I could; choosing to study agricultural science and pursuing a career in agronomy was a no-brainer. This year you have been awarded an AgriFutures Horizon Scholarship and you’re being sponsored by the AgriFutures Australia Rice Program. What is it about the rice industry, and agriculture more broadly, that excites you? Having not come from a rice background, I’ve taken a keen interest in how unique the crop is, both its paddock-scale agronomic management and at a single plant-scale with its physiological
traits, compared to dryland cereals. What also interests me about the crop is the economic impact that it has on areas like the Riverina and the role it can continue to play in this region’s economy. I really look forward to forging a career in agriculture, I believe it will enable me to make a valuable contribution to the lives of people across Australia and potentially the world by using my interests and skill set, primarily in the food security space. What was it about the Horizon Scholarship that appealed to you, and what have you been up to since starting the program? I applied for a Horizon Scholarship because I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to broaden my skill set and connect with more like-minded people. I’ve just completed a week-long placement at the Centre for Regional and Rural Futures (CeRRF) in Griffith, working with Dr John Hornbuckle’s team, including former Horizon Scholar and PhD candidate, Matt Champness on automated irrigation. During this placement, I learnt a lot about the different irrigation systems in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area as well as some of the potential future issues that John’s team is trying to solve. I got some great exposure to the Internet of Things (IoT) devices they are trialling and how they can be implemented in intensive irrigation systems to improve the water use efficiency of the entire farming operation.
Scan to find out more about the Horizon Scholarship.
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2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner & National Announcement The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner & National Announcement is a celebration of the inspiring women who are contributing to rural and regional communities, businesses and industries, culminating in the announcement of the 2022 National Winner. For tickets visit agrifutures.com.au/rwa
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Tuesday, 6 September 2022 Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra
Helping the RGA support Australian Rice Growers
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AGRIFUTURES RICE PROGRAM RD&E ROADMAP
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At the beginning of this year, AgriFutures Rice Program published a new five-year RD&E Plan with a focus on future proofing the Australian Rice industry by making rice a more competitive summer crop with a higher financial return. The driving force of the plan is the overarching goal of achieving a water productivity target of 1.5 tonnes of rice per megalitre of water by 2026. The Plan aims to achieve this goal by focusing on four priority areas:
Optimising genetic improvement: The establishment of Rice Breeding Australia, an incorporated entity between AgriFutures Australia, SunRice and RGA. This new entity will embed a commercial focus and introduce state of the art breeding technologies to accelerate the development of new varieties with increased water productivity and cold tolerance.
Coordinated industry extension: Increasing the adoption of the outputs from rice research through Rice Extension. In 2022, Rice Extension will transition to a single industry extension team, which brings together Rice Extension and SunRice Grower Services. This team will be overseen by Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd (RRAPL) and will focus on supporting growers to adopt technologies and best practice management to increase rice growers’ profitability now and into the future.
Investments to strengthen the capacity of Australian rice growers to ensure they meet the challenges of the future.
Scan to read the full article.
Targeted agronomy and farming systems: An agronomy and farming systems program with an objective to increase on-farm productivity through investment in agronomy and crop management R&D.
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AGRIFUTURES AUSTRALIA, MANAGER, RESEARCH TASKED TO DRIVE NEW RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR THE RICE INDUSTRY
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Our rice industry is world leading, with a five-year plan underway to further improve water efficiency by 75 per cent within 5 years, the industry is aiming to future-proof this position. Under the recently laid Rice Program Strategic Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan 2021-2026 five new research projects have been contracted underpinning the second priority area of the Plan, aimed at assisting the Australian rice industry to reach a water productivity target of 1.5 tonne per megalitre within five years. To support this strategic priority, Tichaona Pfumayaramba, better known as Tich, has recently joined the AgriFutures team to oversee the portfolio of new research projects focusing on rice agronomy and farming systems.
Scan to read the full article.
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RICE EXTENSION FINDS A NEW HOME AT RRAPL
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This year the Rice Extension program has found a new home at Old Coree in Jerilderie within the Rice Research Australia Pty Ltd business, a subsidiary of the SunRice Group. As part of the recently announced Rice Program Strategic Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) Plan 2021-2026, coordinated industry extension is one of the four key areas. Rice Research has a primary focus to increase adoption of outputs from industry research and grower extension. In February 2022, Rice Extension transitioned to a single industry extension team, bringing together Rice Extension and SunRice Grower Services. Seven months into the new program and the Rice Extension team are hard at work developing and imbedding strategies to best suit the needs of growers for the upcoming CY23 season. Highlights for the team so far include: ⚫
Hosting the C21 SunRice Grower of the Year Field Day at De Bortoli Wines, where we celebrated the success and innovation of the rice industry and growers such as C21 winner Darrell Fiddler, Getting back out into the paddock for drainage field walks in collaboration with SunRice and the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia mid-season updates, Launching the C22 SunRice Grower of the Year Awards which the industry will celebrate at the 2022 Rice Growers’ Conference Gala Dinner and Awards night, Conducting crop data surveys across the Riverina for accurate benchmarking and understanding of crop inputs throughout the different valleys, as well as Getting to work with and support growers across the rice growing regions.
The team’s continued focus is on supporting growers to adopt technologies and best practice management to increase growers’ profitability now and into the future.
SunRice AgriFutures RGA
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Troy Mauger, Chris Quirk, Peter McDonnell, Ben Heaslip, Annabel Arnold, Mark Groat and Matthew Pete.
Meet the team! Peter McDonnell, Program Manager With an extensive career in Australian agriculture, Peter took up the Rice Extension Program Manager role at the beginning of the year moving to Old Coree in Jerilderie. Peter has been with the SunRice Group since 2016, starting as Agronomic and Business Development Manager for North Queensland, and in 2019 assumed the role of Operations Manager for SunRice North Queensland based at Brandon. Peter brings a wealth of experience in precision agriculture, focusing on soil mapping and variable rate technology, as well as client-focused agronomy solutions across multiple industries. Peter’s passion for advancing the Australian rice industry through collaboration and innovation is fundamental to the leadership of the Rice Extension team. Mark Groat, Extension and Agronomy Officer Mark has over 20 years’ experience in irrigation management and has spent the last six years working directly with rice growers to maximise water efficiency for rice-based farming systems. He has a great understanding of the workings of the rice industry and challenges growers face from season to season. Based in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area near Griffith at Myall Park, Mark’s work has taken him around Australia and to many parts of the world
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to continually advance rice farming systems in the Riverina. Coming from an agronomic background, the extension field has been a rewarding and challenging career that has allowed Mark to educate and learn from a range of like-minded people to continually advance rice growing practices. He is both an educator and mentor to the Extension Team and is ‘always inspired' being in the paddock working directly with growers. Annabel Arnold, Extension and Agronomy Officer Annabel has had an immersive experience working within the SunRice Group after being awarded the Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship in 2018. Annabel began work with the Marketing team in the SunRice Sydney Office and then became involved with the Sustainability and Grower Services teams. Annabel’s passion led her back to the land as an Extension and Agronomy Officer in 2021. Having grown up on a rice farm near Jerilderie, Annabel has firsthand experience of the fulfilling livelihood of a mixed farming operation that includes rice growing, inspiring her to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne. Annabel is passionate about ensuring we have a rice industry for future generations to enjoy which is core to the goals of Rice Extension.
2022 Rice Industry Awards Now in their fourth year, the Rice Industry Awards ran by Rice Extension are an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the outstanding growers within the rice industry. The Rice Industry Awards will be hosted as part of the Australian Rice Growers’ Conference in August 2022, where the SunRice Grower of the Year and Port of Melbourne Highest Yield Winners will be named, as well as RGA Honorary Councillor nominations. The SunRice Grower of the Year Winner receives an impressive package of support to help them to develop their business even further including $2500 to be spent on personal or business development and a nomination for the Australian Farmer of the Year Award (Kondinin Group). This year’s finalists for the C22 SunRice Grower of the Year award are:
Troy Mauger, Extension and Agronomy Officer A stalwart of Rice Extension, Troy brings a wealth of extension knowledge to the team. Having previously worked within the Rice Extension team, under the RGA, for over six years and prior to that as Extension Coordinator for Dairy Australia, Troy knows the extension industry well. Troy is also a rice grower in his own right, has a Masters Degree in Agriculture and has completed the Australian Rural Leadership Program. A community minded man, Troy is a councillor on the Murrumbidgee Shire Council and active volunteer within the Jerilderie community. Emily Fasham, Extension and Agronomy Officer The most recent addition to the Extension team, Emily started in mid-2022 after completing her Bachelor of Agriculture degree at University of Melbourne. Like fellow team member Annabel, Emily was awarded the Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship in 2019. A Wakool local, Emily has a passion for rice growing, just like it has been for her family for over 50 years. Emily looks forward to working with rice growers to ensure the economic viability of growing rice in Australia continues into the future.
Campbell Dalton from Wumbulgal Agriculture Campbell operates a 5,000 hectare property near Yenda in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. With 900ha of rice planted and harvested in 2022, Wumbulgal Ag employees 12 full-time staff to manage their irrigated and dryland cropping systems, 400 breeder crows and 1,800 ewes. Campbell was nominated by his Agronomist, James Mann from Yenda Producers.
Neville and Brooke Hollins from Woorak Ag The Hollins family operate a 4,115 hectare property at Burraboi in the Western Murray Valley. Primarily a family affair, Nev and Brooke employ 2.5 full-time staff to assist with their farming operation which includes, 2,150 Merino breeding ewes in addition to their irrigated and dryland cropping rotations. The Hollins family were nominated by their Agronomist, Shaun Krahnert from Elders.
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A NEW LOOK FOR THE RICE MARKETING BOARD
Victoria Taylor and John Culleton. 72 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
The Rice Marketing Board (RMB) is currently undergoing significant change at Board and staff level, preparing for the next five years of vesting. John Culleton will leave the RMB in early August 2022 when he will have served the maximum time permitted by government. John has served on the Audit and Risk Committee, chaired the Authorised Buyers Licensing Committee and in July 2019 he was appointed as Board Chair. John has worked tirelessly for the rice industry during his tenure, in particular taking command of the RMB’s 2021 vesting submission and also steering the Board through the Government Information Public Access Act court case that was reviewed by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2020 and 2021. John has represented the rice industry at many meetings with Ministers, senior DPI management, rice growers and other stakeholders. His clear vision to see the end goal has enabled him to be an excellent leader and the RMB will feel his departure keenly. Two new Board Members will join the RMB in August, replacing John Culleton and Su McCluskey who left the Board in February 2022. NSW legislation prescribes that the Board Chair must be chosen from the nominated members of the Board. Victoria Taylor has
agreed to become the interim Chair upon John’s departure. In accordance with the Board’s normal processes, a new Chair will be elected in November. In light of the many issues facing the RMB at the moment and an increasing workload, the Board has decided to appoint a General Manager. This new position will focus on strengthening stakeholder engagement, increasing awareness of the role of the RMB, identifying opportunities to assist rice industry participants to grow their competitiveness within the Australian market and reviewing wider matters that have the potential to impact on the NSW rice industry. A candidate has been selected and final negotiations are underway. After seven years of exemplary service as the Board Secretary, Carol Chiswell has decided to retire. Carol has been a tireless and utterly professional colleague and the Board wishes her every success in her future endeavours. Her replacement, Nyree Dunn, is a Chartered Accountant who holds degrees in Commerce and Science. Nyree is very familiar with the rice industry, having worked for SunRice for over twenty years. Her interests include raising Santa Gertrudis cattle on her farms at Yanco, rugby union including coaching the Phantoms Junior Rugby Union u15 and u17 girls teams, and she holds community roles as a volunteer treasurer.
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CONTEMPORISING BEST PRACTICE WATER MANAGEMENT:
Lessons from the Murray-Darling Basin on participatory water management in a mosaiced landscape
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is generally applauded globally for ‘best-practice’ water management. The notion of ‘best practice’ is fluid, informed by constant learning from what works and what does not. The Plan’s 10-year anniversary in 2022 provides a pivotal point to reflect on practical lessons learnt throughout its implementation and incorporate those into contemporised ‘best practice’. This paper explores the emerging paradigm of participatory approaches with private landholders in the conservation and biodiversity fields, and its applicability to water
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management ‘best practice’. Through an original framework and case studies, we explore the opportunity that these practical exemplars offer to refine contemporary theoretical notions of best practice. A case is ultimately presented in which a contemporised paradigm – based on co-operation, co-benefit outcomes and participatory partnerships – offers significant potential for future management in the Basin, especially to overcome deeply entrenched trust deficits among communities.
Scan to find out more about this publication.
TACKLING BARNYARD GRASS FOR A WATER EFFICIENT FUTURE Suppressing the growth of one of the world’s most prolific weeds, barnyard grass, with pasture legumes could be a key tool to support the Australian rice industry to improve yield, quality, and water efficiency. Controlling barnyard grass with herbicides is estimated to cost $400-$870 a hectare, eroding farm profit. As an alternative control method, Charles Sturt University PhD graduate, Dr Jhoana Opena observed that some New South Wales Riverina ricegrowers who were using pasture legumes in rotation with drill sown rice were
successfully managing their barnyard grass seedbank. Jhoana found that including at least two rotations of pasture legume species with other weed management tools and strategies gradually depleted the in-field barnyard grass seed bank.
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A NEW WAR ON THE HORIZON: THE DIGITAL FOOD FIGHT In a world where ‘fake news’ is now an oft used phrase, it’s safe to say the deliberate spread of misinformation is here to stay, and agriculture isn’t immune. Increased consumer susceptibility to misinformation and associated decline in trust is fast becoming an accepted norm, and recent experiences in the finance sector are testament to why the food system needs to be on high alert.
Diving into the world of viral misinformation, the AgriFutures Australia report Future forces: a ten-year horizon for Australian agriculture, authored by AgThentic Advisory and Institute for the Future, explores what it means for Australian food and fibre, challenging rural industries to consider the implications and what can be done today, to be ready for tomorrow.
Scan to read the full article.
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WHY FARMERS NEED AN AGRITECH STRATEGY, NOT JUST AN AGRITECH PURCHASE
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Understanding the holistic role of agritech is vital for increasing adoption and ensuring a healthy return on investment for farmers. Australian agritech leader and Founder of Farmbot, Andrew Coppin shares his tips on what producers should be asking before adopting technology.
McKinsey & Company’s research reported in 2020, that smart crop monitoring could raise global GDP by up to $175B, drone farming by $115B, smart livestock monitoring by $90B and autonomous machinery and smart asset management by up to $60B each.
With each passing year, the Australian agricultural industry shows more interest in agritech. The value that technologies like precision agriculture, remote water monitoring, farm management software and robotics can bring to a farm are well demonstrated and increasingly understood.
There is a lot of value on the table and by looking at multiple technologies, each individual farmer is set to reap a high benefit. Here are some examples of homegrown solutions delivering value to Australian farmers:
In fact, the global market for agritech products and services is estimated at $500 billion. It is expected to grow to $730B in the next three years – an annual growth rate of 8%. And with the Federal Government’s recent Technology Investment Boost, for small and medium businesses to receive valuable tax breaks for investing in technology, we’re set to see more farmers dip their toe into the market. But investing in on-farm technology is not like buying a TV, where you buy a product and sit back and reap the rewards. Any investment requires thought around how the technology fits into your broader business strategy. As a producer you should be asking yourself a few questions: - What benefit will this product bring? - How will it help achieve my goals for the short, medium and long term? - Does it fit within my budget and will there be an immediate ROI? However, there’s one critical question that is commonplace in decision making that is often neglected when purchasing technology: ‘How do I extract maximum value from my asset?’ The answer, is to look for ways to integrate different technologies, with your own agricultural processes to create a multiplier effect that should see you extract even more value out of your technology purchase.
Farmbot A remote water monitoring solution to inform farmers on water levels, potential leaks, flow rates and consumption.
Optiweigh An in-paddock walk-over weighing solution to provide farmers with a low-stress, portable system to weigh livestock without the hassle of mustering.
AgriWebb A livestock and farm management software designed to increase efficiencies, profitability and sustainability across the supply chain.
Pairtree A universal dashboard to centralise data sets from across the farm operation and the supply chain, to improve decision-making processes.
Having all this data at your fingertips will enable any producer to make better business decisions based on real data. And can dovetail into a broader technology strategy.
Scan to read the full article.
Words by Andrew Coppin —
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FARM DATA AND DOING WHAT’S RIGHT BY THE FARMER South Australian grape grower, agritech founder and industry leader, Oli Madgett explores the nuances of the Australian Farm Data Code, and how agriculture can harness its value, and empower farmers to share their data safely and promote agritech adoption.
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Enabling farm data to be frictionlessly shared between systems so it can deliver value for farmers without stifling the commercial viability of the agritech ecosystem – is a challenge that’s getting significant attention right now. Projects such as the Australian AgriFood Data Exchange and the work being led in New Zealand around enabling technical data interoperability are key in driving this conversation. With Australian agriculture going along the unmade track towards digital transformation, the Farm Data Code, developed by the National Farmers Federation (NFF) in consultation with industry, has been designed to assist both farmers and technology companies navigate this journey from a data governance perspective. The objective of the code is to outline best practice principles in terms of collecting, using and sharing farm data in a way that can build trust and also drive innovation and deliver value back to farming communities. The seven core principles of the Farm Data Code focus on transparency around how farm data is being collected, used and shared by technology service providers so that everything is upfront and honest, and farmers can therefore make an informed decision on whether they want to use the service. In summary, the principles cover: Transparent, clear and honest collection, use and sharing of farm data ⚫ Fair and equitable use of farm data • Ability to control and access Farm Data ⚫ Documentation and Record Keeping ⚫ Portability of Farm Data ⚫ Keeping Farm Data Secure ⚫ Compliance with National and International Laws ⚫
Andrea Koch, Chair of the NFF Farm Data Code Working Group highlights AgByte as an example of an agritech company that has built trust with its clients so that data can be shared for the good of the community. The South Australian agricultural sensor technology disruptor is sharing private on-farm weather data, either individually owned by primary producers or by community groups, generated from AgByte weather stations, to trigger Harvest Fire Danger Index alerts to help warn harvester drivers about fire risk conditions and deliver overall community safety benefits. Pairtree Intelligence is another agritech leader supporting industry adoption of greater on-farm data stewardship – and are one of the first companies to fully align with the voluntary Farm Data Code. Pairtree CEO, Hamish Munro used the Code as a starting point for their lawyers to develop their data standards and policies’ Terms & Conditions to ensure consistency with the Code. By leveraging the principles of the NFF Farm Data Code, Pairtree has created a simple overview of its data principles for farmers, to clearly articulate what they will not do with farmers’ data. Use the QR Code, to find Pairtree’s simple overview. Data governance is like one of those corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that’s really hard to initially find, but once it’s in place it helps to bring the picture together for everyone. Listen to the evokeAG. Podcast, ‘Farm Data and doing what’s right by the farmer’ via the QR Code, featuring Andrea and Hamish, speaking with Oli Madgett.
Scan to read the full article.
Words by Oli Madgett —
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DATA INTEROPERABILITY AND THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION OF AGRICULTURE Data has become the source of truth for agricultural performance and productivity on-farm. Ensuring its protection and usability is key to maximising its value for farmers and agritech vendors. Here agritech founder and industry expert, Oli Madgett shares his views on building consensus on data specifications and why it’s so important for Australia.
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As a part of the digital revolution of agriculture, advances in digital technology are making it easier to capture and manage data, and importantly, gain insights. Farmers, agronomists, and agritech providers are actively developing and exploring ways to apply new technologies that allow industry stakeholders to make better decisions and improve their operations. But we’re in the early days of this revolution, and people from all sectors of the agricultural community are facing obstacles as they seek to make the most of technological advancements, principally around data sharing. As we approach a junction on this journey, one of the directions we can take is to build community consensus around agreed data specifications and standards, opening the way for the acceleration of innovation in the agritech space and across the supply chain. Andrew Cooke, Founder and Managing Director of agricultural software and digital solutions business, Rezare Systems has worked for more than a decade towards resolving the commonly expressed frustration of moving data between systems and platforms. There can be a number of underlying causes of why systems, “don’t just talk to each other,” including the misaligned business drivers for agritech and data providers; lack of available global standards; and just the practical difficulty and capacity needed to resolve current interoperability challenges. While there are instances where agritech systems appear to be actively designed to stymie cross-platform communication, often in an effort to ensure customer retention ¬– technical problems are a more typical barrier. Each existing system has been developed in relative isolation, so even when agritech providers do want to make it easier to share
data between platforms they can find it difficult in the absence of an established standard. For example, what one platform calls a field the other defines as a paddock, and what another may refer to as a unit another may refer to a sheep. Director of digital and data systems consultancy, More Than Machines, Andrew Skinner has played an integral role in developing the future data systems that support Australia’s red meat traceability system – where compliance relies on multiple players and collaboration ¬– to ensure Australia’s $28 billion livestock industry can ‘stand by what it sells’. Andrew previously led the digital and data programs at Meat & Livestock Australia as its Chief Data Officer, while also working with FrontierSI on developing standards around Agricultural Property Definitions. This work is a great example of both the challenges and opportunities around putting in place the critical building blocks for data interoperability. While it’s often the stick of compliance that drives the development of standards, both Andrew Skinner and Andrew Cooke can see the carrot in terms of production improvements and efficiencies as the biggest longer-term win for the industry from focusing on reaching consensus around what clearly defines data specifications. Listen to their insightful evokeAG. podcast, ‘How we use data and maximise its value for agriculture’ via the QR code.
Scan to read the full article.
Words by Oli Madgett —
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In partnership with
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ASIA PACIFIC’S PREMIER AGRIFOOD TECH EVENT
Bringing together farmers, innovators, researchers, universities, corporates, government and investors to drive impact for farmers and the supply-chain.
21-22 February 2023 Adelaide, South Australia
Producer tickets available
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