The Australian Ricegrower_Aug23

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The Australian VOL — Aug23

Front cover: Tom Hatty, 2022 Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship recipient and Tiarna Burke, 2022 Peter Connor Book Award recipient.

Image by: Emma Jane Industry.

This second volume of the Australian Ricegrower’ was produced by the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA). The RGA thank and acknowledge all article contributors to this industry magazine.

2 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine CONTENTS— About the Australian rice industry 4 A letter from the RGA President 10 Firm foundations position the SunRice Group to realise new opportunities 12 Empowering rice growers for over 93 years 18 Your RGA 20 It’s all about the plan, man 24 Productivity and Industry Affairs 26 Environmental sustainability 29 History of the Bitterns Project 32 Stubble Burning App 37 Landcare & the RGA 38 Building Capacity in the Australian rice industry 40 Mud map of the RGA 46 Sitting down with rice growers - Garry and Marg Knagge: Feeling Supported in Good Times and Bad 48 - The Small Family 52 - A Tribute to the Original Environmental Champion: Maree Ryan, Berrigan 54 Harvest 2019, a rice farming poem 57 Supporting the next generation of the rice industry 58 Celebrating Excellence 62 Embarking on a Transformative Journey 66 Rice Breeding Australia celebrates first year 68 Big year for the Rice Marketing Board 70 AgriFutures Rice Program 72 Australian fertiliser demand on the other side of the see-saw 78 Goodbye 3G 79 Your partners in farming 80 2023 Australian Rice Growers’ Conference Sponsors 83
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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.

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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MURRAY VALLEY IRRIGATION AREA Murrumbidgee River Deniliquin
Murray River
Leeton Australian Rice Growing Regions Rice Mills RRAPLOld Coree, Jerilderie

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.

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SunRice Group

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, the SunRice Group 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, it has grown into one of the largest rice food companies in the world, comprising multiple businesses, assets and operations across Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, the United States, the Pacific Islands and Asia.

For over 70 years, the SunRice Group 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 its much-loved rice foods, the SunRice Group offers a diverse portfolio of

gourmet, ‘free from’ food products and animal feeds and nutrition.

The SunRice Group’s 35 major brands are sold in 50+ global markets and it holds leading brand positions in 14 countries.

The SunRice Group’s 2,000+ employees around the world have a strong focus on delivering value and are passionate about making a difference to places and lives everywhere through its 1,500+ nourishing and delicious products.

The SunRice Group is a major employer in the Riverina, operating three processing mills in Deniliquin and Leeton, and 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 predominantly funded by the Australian Government and industry levies, 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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Approximately twelve months ago, I was inspired after attending the annual Ricegrowers Conference and Awards night to put up my hand for the role of President of the RGA. I remain in awe of what the Ricegrowers Association (RGA) stands for and achieves with the limited resources at its disposal and continues to punch above its weight, propelling the rice industry forward.

One of the most significant accomplishments has been our strategic approach to water policy. We have been at the forefront of engaging and collaborating with the many organisations and groups across the Murray Darling Basin, in particular the southern Basin, ensuring water reform does not negatively impact on our industry and wider communities. Your association has been actively engaged in constructive dialogues with government agencies, water management authorities, and environmental organisations, ensuring that the policies formulated align with the needs of both the rice industry and the environment.

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To remain at the forefront of the ever-evolving agricultural landscape, we have placed a strong emphasis on research and innovation. This is being achieved through ongoing collaboration between the RGA, SunRice and AgriFutures to ensure improved Research, Development and Extension outcomes. The RGA is an equal partner and member of the Rice R&D Management Committee and managing the Rice Industry Feedback and Engagement Program, known as ‘The Voice of the Levy Payer Project’, which is funded by AgriFutures Australia. This program provides a mechanism for all growers to have input into research needs faced on their farm or industry. As a member of the newly formed Rice Breeding Australia entity, the RGA can represent the interests of rice levy payers. Together with the input from the RGA and the knowledge gained through these initiatives, it will enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the Australian rice industry.

The RGA understands the significance of community engagement and actively seeks to build strong relationships within our local communities and the broader agricultural sector. This engagement has resulted to the ongoing funding of free training courses for farmers through the AgSkilled Program, the retention of fuel tax credits as a member of the Fuel Tax Credit Alliance, and participation in the Ag Education Forum to seek improved curriculum outcomes in schools. We celebrate these collective achievements and express our deepest gratitude to all those who have contributed to our success.

With more resources, I would love to see our industry increase its efforts to educate the public about the wonderful story of Australian Rice. By increasing the awareness of our achievements, we can bolster support for our

industry, and remain committed to fostering a positive perception of rice farming and ensuring our practices align with the highest standards of environmental stewardship.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the dedication and hard work of my fellow Board members, Central Executive Delegates, and the RGA staff, who have poured their hearts into making our association thrive. Their commitment, expertise, and passion have been instrumental in driving our success. Moreover, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to our valued members, whose support has been the bedrock of our achievements. Thanks also to our partners, SunRice, Telstra and to Rabobank who we welcome back. Their support assists us to be more effective and help build a resilient and thriving rice industry in Australia.

Celebrating the first year of my tenure as President of the RGA, I am filled with immense pride and gratitude for what we have accomplished. We have witnessed growth, influenced water policy, advanced agricultural research, and fostered community connections. As our journey continues I am confident that with our collective vision and unwavering determination, we will continue to forge a bright future for rice growers in Australia. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the industry, the environment, and the communities we serve.

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Although this performance has indeed been strengthened by three solid crop years (CY21CY23), following some challenging drought years, the SunRice Group continues to forge a business model that positions it to take advantage of emerging opportunities for the Australian Rice industry, whilst being able to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

A strong financial performance

It was pleasing to report in June that the SunRice Group has posted a strong financial performance for the Financial Year 2023, including the highest overall group revenue in the company’s 70+ year history of $1.64 billion.

The company achieved the highest naturally determined paddy price for our A Class shareholders and Riverina rice growers (at $461 per tonne for medium grain Reiziq, up from $428 per tonne in Financial Year 2022) for the second consecutive year and delivered a record fully franked dividend of 50 cents per B Class Share was paid to our B Class Shareholders (up from 40 cents in Financial Year 2022).

Once again, I believe this performance firmly validates our rice pool model which, although subject to commodity price fluctuations, can adapt to market conditions to maximise returns for both classes of shareholders.

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As we begin to plan for our next rice crop, it would be all too easy to let the opportunity pass to reflect on several strong years for the Australian rice industry and the SunRice Group.

Capitalising on international market opportunities

A key factor in the FY2023 financial performance is the continued development of the company’s multiorigin, multi-market business model and strategy including the further development of end markets for the SunRice Group’s products. The company currently sells products in over 50 countries with leading market positions in 14 of those markets. The ability to place value-added Australian rice products in premium markets enables us to deliver solid returns to our growers. We will continue to work to strengthen Australia as the supply source of choice for premium rice markets.

Given the abundant Australian rice crop in recent years1, our Global Rice Business has been able to successfully realise opportunities in drought affected markets in the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, drought conditions provided the opportunity in the past year to supplement U.S. markets with Australian rice, benefiting both classes of shareholders and ensuring continued supply to our U.S. customers. We also were able to supply into drought affected markets in Europe and re-enter premium rice tender markets in Asia, including Japan.

This year also saw our strongest Ramadan campaign in the Middle East in the last three years by showcasing the versatility of the Australian Sunwhite brand in traditional dishes. The Sunwhite Ramadan campaign comprised TV, YouTube content, in-store activations and a Ramadan 30-day recipe calendar. It also included a “Share to Care” initiative which fed 10,000 people in need. The Group was able to expand its portfolio in the region with the successful launch of SunWhite Family rice into the Jordan market. In the Middle East we have a leading market share position in four markets.

The Australian-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) also represents another exciting market opportunity for our premium Australian rice products. The team was delighted to work with the Australian Government to help achieve unrestricted access for short and medium grain varieties under the agreement, which is one of the most significant market access outcomes for Australian rice exports in recent times.

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¹ The CY22 crop of 688,000 paddy tonnes was our largest crop in five years and 65% larger than the CY21 crop of 417,000 paddy tonnes. The CY23 crop was approximately 500,000 paddy tonnes.

But as rice is one the more highly protected commodities globally there remains work to be done in gaining further access to new and expanded markets for Australian rice products such as Europe where we can only export 1,000 milled tonnes before the application of tariffs. During recent AustraliaEuropean Union FTA negotiations, I wrote to the Commonwealth Trade Minister and Agriculture Minister encouraging them to prioritise Australian agricultural interests (and the development of export markets for those interests) rather than accept a trade agreement that fails to strike the right balance for Australian farmers, including our rice growers.

We will continue to draw on our global intelligence and customer insights to access/expand new markets and to meet evolving global food trends with our innovative products including our unique low GI rice, healthy snacking products and convenience product range.

Strong foundations forged through adversity

Although some say we live in ‘the lucky country’, our recent performance has been anything but luck and has been forged through adversity and the need to adapt given our changing climate.

While many of our growers were affected by flooding and wet conditions at the end of last year, the relentless march of inequitable water reform remains a key challenge and front of mind. Managing fluctuations in water market prices is one of the largest long term risks to rice growers and our business, as we have seen in previous droughts.

The SunRice Group, working with the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA), will continue to work on solutions with the State and Federal Government to seek outcomes that will benefit the Australian economy, regional communities and the environment. The inherent resilience of the SunRice Group business and our industry is based on our people and partners; some of the world’s most skilled rice growers, our dedicated and innovative employees, and our business partners, locally and around the world. The SunRice management team, ably led by Group CEO Rob Gordon, has continued to further diversify our source markets to act as a hedge against climate and market variability, whilst growing new global destination markets for our products.

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Recognition of significant contributions to the rice industry

After eleven years of service, Rob Gordon retires as Group CEO of the SunRice Group at the conclusion of our 2023 Annual General Meeting in late August.

During Rob’s tenure, the business has further grown into a global food group and one of Australia’s leading branded food exporters, despite the challenges of drought, floods, record low crops, and a pandemic.

Rob was instrumental in listing the company on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2019 and overseeing the development of a resilient business model, moving from largely selling an Australian rice crop to a truly multi-origin, multi-market food business which sources from 12 different countries. Rob also oversaw the diversification of the Group’s earnings through the acquisition of several complementary businesses, acquisition of our Lap Vo Mill in Vietnam and new market expansions, including more recently under the Australia-United Kingdom FTA.

We also farewell Dr Leigh Vial as a Grower Director of the SunRice Group at the conclusion of our 2023 Annual General Meeting, who has decided not to seek re-election to the SunRice Board. Leigh has served as a Grower Director on the Board since 2015, and made a strong contribution not only to SunRice, but the broader Australian rice industry including through his research work on a number of Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) projects.

Finally, I want to acknowledge former SunRice director Noel Graham and congratulate him on being awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the King’s Birthday 2023 Honours List for his significant service to agriculture through the rice growing industry. Noel served on the board of SunRice for over 15 years until 2017 and was deputy chairman from 2013 to 2015.

The Next Chapter in the SunRice Story

Paul Serra will commence as our new Group CEO and Managing Director on 23 August 2023 at the conclusion of our Annual General Meeting. Paul brings a wealth of experience from previous global food manufacturing businesses, and we look forward to having someone of Paul’s capability and expertise join the SunRice Group at this time of strong momentum and to continue to build on the SunRice Group’s growth strategy.

As we look forward to plantings which will commence in October 2023, seasonal conditions, water availability and water pricing once again remain favourable which should provide for strong plantings. There are many reasons for optimism in the years ahead for the Australian rice industry.

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For over 70 years, the SunRice Group 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.

2000+ employees, 1500+ products, 50+ markets and ~35 brands.

Together, we’re the SunRice Group.

// August 2023 17 i t uka i t uka


For over 93 years, the Rice Growers Association of Australia (RGA) has been the driving force behind the success of rice growers and the industry. Born out of the challenges faced by rice growers in the 1930s, the RGA has evolved into a powerhouse of advocacy, leadership, and community building, ensuring a vibrant future for Australian rice farming.

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A Rich History of Success: In 1930, 251 visionary rice growers united to establish the MIA Ricegrowers' Association, which eventually transformed into the RGA. Their united efforts were fuelled by challenges posed by the Millers Association and the Rice Marketing Board at the time. This steadfast resolve led to the establishment of Rice Growers Cooperative Limited, now known as SunRice. The remarkable journey of the RGA is brilliantly chronicled in the book, "An Illustrated History of the Riverina Rice Industry" by Gary Lewis.

Addressing Modern Challenges: While the challenges faced by rice growers have evolved over time, the RGA remains steadfast in its commitment to finding innovative solutions. With a legacy of a "solution-oriented" approach, the RGA actively tackles the contemporary issues impacting the rice industry. From water reform, climate change and sustainable farming practices to market fluctuations and regulatory changes, the RGA is at the forefront of finding strategies to overcome these challenges.

Delivering Tangible Benefits: Through its unwavering dedication, the RGA has achieved significant benefits for its members and the industry. By engaging with politicians and government agencies, the RGA has influenced policy decisions, advocated for improved research and development outcomes, and better trade practices. Members can see the direct impact of their support through improved market access, greater sustainability initiatives, and a stronger collective voice.

Empowering the Rice Industry: The RGA has set its sights on ambitious goals to ensure Australian rice growers are global leaders in every aspect of the industry. By fostering a highly influential agricultural advocacy group, the RGA amplifies the voices of its members and

effectively shapes agricultural policies at local, state, and federal levels. The RGA also strives to cultivate capable and respected leaders within the rice industry and communities, ensuring a strong and sustainable future.

Membership, a Key to Success: At the heart of the RGA's achievements lie its dedicated members. Active engagement, paying membership fees, sharing success stories, and participating in events and conferences strengthen the RGA's ability to deliver tangible results. By joining the RGA, members gain access to a vast network of like-minded individuals, valuable resources, and unparalleled support. Together, members and the RGA form an unstoppable force that propels the Australian rice industry to new heights.

The Ricegrowers' Association of Australia has played a pivotal role in the growth and prosperity of Australian rice farming for over 93 years. Through its rich history, unwavering commitment, and forward-thinking approach, the RGA continues to champion the interests of rice growers, the industry, and their communities. As we look to the future, the importance of membership cannot be overstated. By joining the RGA, rice growers become part of a thriving community that propels Australian rice production to new frontiers, empowering generations to come.

I feel honoured to serve the RGA and support the group of leaders on the RGA Board and Central Executive. I am also lucky to work with such a dedicated and professional team of staff who are so committed to delivering outcomes for members and building on the legacy of past leaders.

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Written submissions provided to NSW & Federal Departments submissions provided 15 Letters written to NSW and Federal Members of Parliament (MPs) letters written 9 Meetings with Ministerial Staff & Departments meetings attended 34 Attendance at Peak Group meetings meetings attended 19
of the interaction RGA has had with government and peak body group in the past year.


Your association is structured to provide you with representation across all areas of your rice farming business.

RGA Board

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 representatives.

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Peter Herrmann RGA President Yanco Branch Angela Urquhart RGA Vice President Berriquin Branch Chris Morshead RGA Vice President Mirrool Branch Scott Williams Yanco Branch Kellie Crossley Deniliquin Branch Justin Sutherland Coleambally Branch Monica Morona Hay Branch Robin Buckham Non-Executive Independent Director

Your 2023/24 Branch and Central Executive Representatives

Berriquin Branch

Angela Urquhart President and CE Delegate

Stephen Ball Vice President

Annabel Arnold CE Delegate

Coleambally Branch

Justin Sutherland President and CE Delegate

Alex Fraser Vice President

Maddy Dunbar Secretary and CE Delegate

Deniliquin Branch

Antony Vagg President and CE Delegate

Josh Small Vice President

Kellie Crossley CE Delegate

Hay Branch

Monica Morona President and CE Delegate

Diane Morona Vice President

Darryl Gibbs Secretary

Mirrool Branch

Darrell Fiddler President and CE Delegate

Drew Braithwaite Vice President

David Dissenga Secretary

Chris Morshead CE Delegate

Wakool Branch

Michael Chalmers President and CE Delegate

Jonathan Alexander Vice President and CE Delegate

Charleton Glenn Secretary

Yanco Branch

Scott Williams President and CE Delegate

Garry Knagge Vice President and CE Delegate

Matt Robertson Secretary

Victoria Branch

Martin Van Der Sluys President, Secretary and CE Delegate

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RGA Team

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.

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Our dedicated team of staff and voluntary elected member representatives on the RGA Board and Central Executive are instrumental in delivering the activities of the RGA all year round and are well regarded in the rice industry for their expertise.
Carmel Cristofaro Office Manager Ainsley Massina Leadership and Events Manager Janet Manzin Local Landcare Coordinator Erika Heffer Project Officer Neil Bull Policy and Project Manager Graeme Kruger Executive Director Linda Christesen Water Policy Manager
to find out more about our team.
Pip Connolly Communications Manager

The RGA wins Small Association of the Year

In November 2022 the RGA was awarded Small Association of the Year at the 2022 Association Awards™.

The RGA’s Executive Director Graeme Kruger accepted the award on behalf of the RGA.

“The calibre of nominees was extremely high; it is an incredible honour for the RGA to receive this award and to be recognised on a national platform.” said Mr Kruger.

“The RGA has had a successful few years, facing many challenges such as drought, COVID-19 and more recently flooding. Our nimble association has adapted and tackled these head on to ensure the RGA remains fit for

purpose, providing value to members and the Australian rice industry.”

“This award reflects the hard work and dedication of our staff, board. presidents past and present, and of course our members who are the lifeblood of the RGA,” added Mr Kruger

The Association Awards™, organised by the Association Forum, recognises excellence and accomplishment by associations on national level. The Associations Forum is the leading organisation assisting associations and charities in governance, operations, membership, and finances. Established in 2004, Associations Forum is a commercial, member-based network of 600 associations, charities, clubs, societies and other not-for-profit organisations.

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The state and federal water policy landscapes have changed significantly over the past 12 – 14 months. As a result, the RGA’s advocacy style has had to adapt and be flexible in order to deliver for our members, and help support the ongoing productivity of the Riverina’s rice industry. Our strong governance structure, and our good connections across the Riverina have helped inform and support our continued success.

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Change of Government

Most significantly for the RGA’s advocacy work, our federal government changed from the Coalition to Labor in May of last year. The first priority was to understand who would be responsible for water, and who would be supporting them – within their Ministerial Office, and in relevant government agencies.

While establishing new relationships with Minister Plibersek’s office and agencies was a smooth process – learning the new Minister’s ways of doing business, and her priorities proved to be a much harder task.

In terms of working style, Plibersek is someone who, while keeping her distance from the nutsand-bolts of water has an obvious preference for respectful relationships and strong networks. Information about her preferences and intentions tends to primarily be conveyed through these relationships and networks.

In terms of Labor’s priorities, the original message was loud and clear: The Basin Plan will be delivered on-time and in-full. For Basin irrigators this immediately brought back the threat of large volumes of water recovery and purchase. However, 14 months in, this threat has not materialised in a significant way.

In further explaining Labor’s original message, Plibersek also said that she wanted to deliver the Plan in ‘innovative’ ways, with that delivery informed by community ideas and advice. The closing date for communities to provide their ideas and advice was 3 July 2023, with a public reporting process in August.

This all means that while the threat we’re facing is undeniably scary and stark, there’s additional talk of opportunities that could substantially improve outcomes for our members.

It was also clear early on that the way the RGA could mitigate risks and deliver benefits was through its good relationships and networks. This has been our focus for collecting the information we need to clarify our response to the Basin Plan.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan and a Big Next 12 Months

The next 12 months will be huge for MurrayDarling Basin Plan implementation. Under current legislation, all tasks need to be completed by 30 June 2024, including any remaining water recovery. However, as outlined above, additional Labor messaging suggests that more could be possible. The key frustration is that formal alternatives have not yet been articulated by government, so they can’t be properly assessed.

What the RGA can do – and has done – in the interim is to clarify what it will and will not accept, and through its Water Committee formalise what it thinks can be done to finish the job in a ‘least harm’ way.

The RGA does not support buy-backs. We don’t support any more licences being removed from the irrigation allocation pool – including those water volumes connected by markets. We also believe that the benefits of water recovery efforts should be shared across users. Critically, we also have the evidence to prove that there are still projects available that meet Labor’s Basin Plan position, while also adhering to the RGA’s position. We have been in discussions with Plibersek’s advisors and departmental staff on our comprehensive project list since late in the 2022 calendar year.

Other Facts and Stats: June 2022 – June 2023.

In addition to our firm Basin Plan focus, the RGA has also maintained its customary ‘business-as-usual’ of responding to other state and federal policy matters as they arise, and providing written submissions as required. In addition, we remain strongly active within our peak water groups – the National Farmers’ Federation, National Irrigators’ Council and NSW Irrigators’ Council:

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Written submissions provided to NSW & Federal Departments submissions provided 14 Letters written to NSW and Federal Members of Parliament (MPs) letters written 7 Meetings with Ministerial Staff & Departments meetings attended 27 Attendance at Peak Group meetings meetings attended 12


The PIA committee has been dealing with a range of interesting and challenging issues throughout the year providing comment on emerging issues, providing feedback into the 'Voice of the Levy Payer Project' and providing input into yet another submission on rice vesting.

The Objectives of the committee are:

• To ensure government and industry investment and regulations aim to maximise the net profitability of growers, and

• 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 & other grower Inputs

• Business management & training

• Farm Safety and Grower Welfare

• Industry Leadership, SunRice Grower and Shareholder Governance including diversity.

• Trade and vesting

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The committee is chaired by RGA VicePresident Angela Urquhart with committee members including; Denise Kelly, Linda Fawns, Diane Morona, Alison Glenn, Charleton Glenn, Darrell Fidler, Rob Massina, Antony Vagg and a The Rice Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales (RMB) representative.

The committee has been supported by a range of RGA staff throughout the year, with Industry leadership managed by Ainsley Massina with the RGA’s Executive Director having significant input into all areas of the committee’s activities.

Graeme Kruger and past President Rob Massina have continued contributing to the development and management of the Rice Industry’s RD&E program. Both Rob and Graeme are members of the Agrifutures Rice Management Committee

Key outcomes

• Rice Biosecurity Plan; RGA staff and committee have been involved in the development of a new “Industry Biosecurity Plan for the Rice Industry”. This plan was developed in conjunction with Plant Health Australia and all industry stakeholders.

• Rice Research, Development and Extension; after what some believe was a slow start, all elements of the new Rice Industry RD&E Plan are in place.

• The 'Voice of the Levy Payer Project'; this RGA managed project has just completed it’s first year of activities. The opportunities this project provides to stakeholders has been well received. To date a total of

52 individual feedback responses have been received. The majority relating to industry RD&E needs. With the balance being comments on and suggestions to improve the operation of the RD&E Program. Of the research needs feedback, all were categorised and communicated to Agrifutures and the Rice Management Committee. This feedback was used to guide development of the research themes Agrifutures used for the recent Open Call for rice research projects. The PIA Committee will continue to provide feedback to and oversight of the 'Voice of the Levy Payer Project' to ensure it supports levy-payer grower engagement and input to the Rice RD&E Program.

• Supporting engagement with growers for the ABARES review of rice vesting; The PIA Committee were the first ricegrowers to engage with the ABARES vesting review team. This first meeting provided advice to ABARES on appropriate consultation with growers for the review, noting the frustration growers feel over yet another review of rice vesting.


• Rice Vesting; this Submission was for the ABARES review of the NSW DPI 2022 review of rice vesting. This review again required a significant contribution from RGA staff and the PIA Committee.

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Environmental Sustainability

Over the last twelve months the Environmental Sustainability Committee and the RGA Environment team were very active refining policy, responding to emerging issues and delivering activities.

The highlight was the Bringing Back the Bunyip Bird: Australasian Bittern Summit held in Leeton NSW. One hundred and twenty participants from all states of Australia and New Zealand attended this remarkable event. The conference delivered presentations on Bittern habitat restoration projects across Australia and New Zealand along with population and bird behavior studies. The majority of the attendees were hardened and passionate bird watchers, AKA birdos or twitches. With most not having seen a Bittern and others remembering how difficult it was to find the ones they have seen. This mindset led to a gob smacking moment for

all on arrival at a Willibriggie rice crop where Bitterns performed. Six in one crop no less, with one curious as to what a mob of humans were doing standing next to the crop, flying in close to check them out and pose for the audience. The conference and rice crop tour opened the minds to the habitat benefits that rice crops provide to range of wetland species including the threatened Australasian Bittern.

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 in Deniliquin check out the lagoons and look for the threatened fish species, and;

• regional producer groups.

A highlight event was the Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage Day at RGA member, Andrew Hermiston’s property East Wandook held in partnership with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

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Environmental Sustainability Committee Representatives Committee Chair – Scott Williams Paul Martin, Scott Williams, Martin van der Sluys, Kellie Crossley, Garry Knagge and Annabel Arnold.

Environmental Sustainability Committee

RGA Environment Policy objective


Scott Williams continued as chair with the committee comprising; Annabel Arnold, Kellie Crossley, Gary Knagge, Martin van der Sluys and Paul Martin. Committee members are always interested to receive RGA member feedback and to discuss committee involvement.

The key issues discussed and responded to by the Environmental Sustainability Committee included:

• Stubble burning; this year new EPA staff in Griffith advised they would be monitoring the impacts of stubble fires more closely this autumn. In response we implemented a comprehensive communications program including promoting the use of the stubble burning App.

• Native game bird management; again in January an activist group posted inaccurate posts on social media of native game bird management in rice crops. The committee reviewed our policy position to clearly describe how ducks are managed on rice farms. The RGA continues to work with the NSW Native Game Bird Management Unit have access to strictly controlled program that allows for the protection of rice crops.

• Spray drift; the committee has continued to work in partnership with the Productivity and Industry Affairs Committee on this issue. It is clear that best practice can avoid impacts of spray drift. Unfortunately, it only takes a small number of spray operators to cause expensive crop losses and reputational damage for agriculture. The RGA continues to work with a range of industry stakeholders including; Rice Extension, Stop Off Target Spraying Riverina Valleys and the Agskilled Program to promote training and compliance with best management spray application.

• Sustainability reporting; the committee continued to participate in the development of the “Ricegrowers’ Promise”. This year sees the end of the Local Land Services component of the framework’s development. SunRice will continue to drive the development of this industry initiative.

• Net Zero Emissions; the committee continues to monitor opportunities and threats to growers as we head towards a Net Zero by 2050 national goal. The RGA, with guidance from the committee will be investigating opportunities to communicate accurate and practical information to growers over the next year. The committee’s current position is to promote “insetting” of carbon credits. If as a grower you are able to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units or other carbon credits keep them as you may need them to offset your own emissions.

// August 2023 31
“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.”


The Bitterns in Rice Project began after Mayrung rice grower John Hand photographed a pair of bitterns in his Murray Valley rice crop in December 2009. He was interested in learning more about these unique birds as he knew little about them at the time.

32 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

At the same time as John sent the photograph to Birds Australia (now called Birdlife Australia), they were working on a national survey of the Australasian Bittern. This was to establish if the number of Bitterns were sufficiently low enough to justify an application to list the species as endangered under the federal EPBC Act. This listing has now been registered. It was John’s communication with Birdlife Australia that has led to the RGA’s ongoing association with this organisation.

Through this collaboration Birdlife Australia agreed to develop a project proposal to study the relationship these birds have with Riverina rice crops. Birdlife Australia proposed a multi-year project and applied for an $80,000 grant that was that was unsuccessful.

In 2011 the RGA applied to Murrumbidgee CMA for a small grant. The CMA at the time would not fund an industry organisation. In response the RGA displayed it’s “make it happen” approach by suggesting Birdlife Australia hold the contract and they pay the RGA to complete the work. This was agreed and the Bittern in Rice Project was born. A steering committee was formed with representatives from

RGA, Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club, Landcare, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Murray and Murrumbidgee CMA, Murray Wildlife and all three irrigation companies. All members were very excited about the project however it was still some $75,000 short of the full project funding target. Again, the RGA was able to make it happen and consulted a range of long-term partners to secure support for the project.

Over several months the RGA secured funds from RIRDC (now known as AgriFutures Australia), the Wettenhall Environment Trust, Coleambally Irrigation, Coleambally Landcare Group, Murray CMA and the RGA. Though still $40,000 short of the original target but with much in-kind support from Murray Irrigation, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Coleambally Irrigation, The Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club, regional farmers and the RGA team, we had sufficient resources to engage Matt Herring from Murray Wildlife to survey rice crops across the region and confirm if Bitterns nested in our rice crops.

This project is unique in so many ways when compared to other environmental projects.

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34 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
The first Bittern nest found at Coleambally in January 2014

Below is a brief summary of the outcomes and activities of the project since 2009.

• December 2009; Rice farmer John Hand emails his Australasian Bittern photo to Birdlife Australia.

• January 2010; Birdlife Australia makes contact with the RGA to discuss collaboration.

• March 2010; RGA sends an initial Bittern Sighting survey to rice growers.

• November 2010; Birdlife Australia prepares a detailed funding proposal and applies for government funding.

• 2011; Funding sought from a range of agencies.

• December 2011; Murray CMA funds a survey of Murray rice crops and nearby wetlands.

• 2012; Murrumbidgee CMA and other organisational funding secured and the Bitterns in Rice Project is born.

• November 2013; Matt Herring begins surveys in Murrumbidgee rice crops

• January 2014; First Bittern nest found in a Coleambally rice crop

• November 2014-March 2015; Riverina LLS NLP funded detailed surveys in MIA and CIA, 8 nests found.

• September 2014; Landcare NSW initiated Crowd Funding Campaign launched.

• March 2015; Robbie the Bittern fitted with a satellite tracker.

• April 2015; Robbie leaves Coleambally and flies 587 kilometres to Pick Swamp, South Australia. This is the beginning of the international recognition for the Bitterns in Rice Project.

• October 2015; Matt Herring presents the Bitterns in Rice Project at the inaugural Global Food Security Conference in Ithaca, New York state.

• 2015-16; Bittern prey survey in rice crops.

• March 2016; Threatened Species Commissioner inspects a Bittern nest at Coleambally.

• June 2016; Matt Herring begins his PHD; “Integrated water management: the ecology and economics of bittern-friendly rice farming”, with Charles Darwin University.

• January 2017; MILO, the last of ten Bitterns caught in the Murray Valley, fitted with a tracker. In April Milo disperses to Coomonderry Swamp, near Berry NSW, and later returns to a Mayrung rice crop in December.

• 2017-18; Riverina LLS- NLP funding of surveys in CIA and the MIA.

• 2018; Small Murray LLS-NLP funded survey and field days in the Murray Valley.

• 2018; Birdlife Australia Twitchathon funds, SunRice, Riverina LLS and Bird Observer Club donations enables the purchase of a thermal camera equipped drone.

• 2019-20; Murray LLS-NLP funded drone surveys of the Millewa Forest-Central Murray

• 2022; Dr Matt Herring completes his PHD.

• 2019-23; Murrumbidgee-NLP Boosting Bunyip Bird Yields Project.

// August 2023 35

The Murrumbidgee-NLP Boosting Bunyip Bird Yields Project provided incentives to rice growers to grow Bittern friendly rice. Growers had to meet certain criteria to qualify for the incentives. Critical was a long ponding period (150 days preferred), grassy banks and feral animal control. Additional farm habitat was also encouraged.

Over the 4 years of the program, 3670 ha of Bittern friendly rice has been grown with 17 nests recorded. It is estimated that 82% of nests would have allowed chicks to fledge prior to harvest. This is significant as population estimates indicate that only 1300 birds remain.

What’s next for the Bitterns in Rice Project?

The RGA and the Bitterns in Rice team have received encouraging feedback from a couple of potential supporters and are hopeful future funding will be available for the coming 2023/2024 season. The team is keen to build on the incentive program and to investigate opportunities into expanding additional farm habitat.


The are two people who have driven the success of the Bitterns in Rice Project, Anna Wilson from Riverina Local Land Services and Matt Herring from Murray Wildlife. Mark Robb, Inka Veltheim and Birdlife Australia staff Chris Purnell and Andrew Silcocks have also been invaluable. There are numerous Field

Naturalist and Bird Observer groups, farmers and individuals who have supported the project, too many to name here.

Riverina Local Land Services (LLS) through the National Landcare Program has been the largest financial supporter of the Bitterns in Rice Project to date. The Bitterns in Rice team and the RGA acknowledges their significant contribution.

The Crowd Funding campaign generated the second largest contribution to the project, with other significant contributions coming from the RGA, the Wettenhall Environment Trust, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (now known as AgriFutures Australia), Coleambally Irrigation, SunRice, Murray CMA, Murray LLS, Murray Irrigation Ltd, Coleambally Landcare, Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club, Charles Darwin University, the Threatened Species Hub and several anonymous donors. In addition, significant in-kind support has been received from Birdlife Australia, Landcare NSW, the Landcare Facilitators in the Murray and Murrumbidgee, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) and the many Ricegrowers and their families.

This wonderful support for our project has enabled Matt Herring and the team to deliver amazing results with enormous public recognition.

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Mark Robb, Matt Herring and Neil Bull at the Global Food Security Conference Ithaca, New York Robbie the Bittern with Minnie Mouse in Times Square


Stubble burning is so important for rice growers to enable a timely removal of crop residue to enable winter crop planting. Unfortunately burning stubble in the autumn months increases the risk of local air pollution.

The NSW EPA and the RGA work together in range of ways to mitigate the impact of stubble smoke. After several days of poor air quality in 2017 the NSW EPA agreed to provide the RGA with a grant to develop a weather App. After chasing several dead ends the RGA

received a positive response from the Bureau of Meteorology to provide some support. This led to partnering with the CSIRO and engaging Square V design to develop the Stubble Burning App. The App receives modeled weather data from the CSIRO and provides weather data including mixing height sometimes referred to as (inversion layers), wind strength and direction for your location. Any rice grower can download this App for free from the App stores. When growers use the App to guide their stubble burning they are minimising the risk of third party impacts from smoke and demonstrating responsible behavior to the EPA and the broader community.

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In September Andrew Hermiston hosted an “Increasing Biodiversity on Farm” field day at his property near Deniliquin. The day was made possible through the Partnering in Private Land Conservation Project in conjunction with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT). Attendees took a tour of different native vegetation sites on the property learning about the history of the area, the plant and animal communities and the types of agreements that are available through the BCT. Murray Local Land Services was also on hand to discuss direct native vegetation seeding and explain how the seeds are collected, graded and stored and the type of services they offer to landholders. Thank you to Andrew for hosting the day.

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What a year it has been! Landcare in Deniliquin has gone from strength to strength with various field days being held, education programs with primary and secondary school students continuing, collaborations with non-government and government organisations and even the release of a threatened species back into the Edward/ Wakool River system.

Another successful collaboration this year has been between the CSIRO, Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council (YACTAC) and the RGA. This saw the release of a biocontrol agent for the control of African Boxthorn. Due to the flooding in spring the demonstration day and release could not be held until December. This resulted in a poor uptake of the rust on the Boxthorn. It is hoped that this project will continue with another rollout towards October this year as there is plenty of landholder interest across the region. This pilot project also showed the effectiveness of grassroots organisations to get messaging out quickly and to apply local knowledge to roll out a project of state and federal significance.

For the last two years the RGA and Sunrice have been involved with a Paddock to Plate Program with the Mayrung Public School. In April, 25 students from kindergarten to year 6 learnt about the rice plant, the growing stages and the different stages of milling that take place to create the rice and rice products they see on the supermarket shelves. They also learnt about the different species that can be found in a rice crop including the elusive Australasian Bittern. After a lunch of sushi we travelled to the Barker family farm to see rice being harvested and to look at the rice plant more closely. All the students were very engaged in the paddock and classroom sessions and asked lots of great questions. Thank you to Stephen Ball and the Barker family for organising and hosting the day.

The Deniliquin Kolety Lagoons Landcare Group held the inaugural Edward Kolety Fishing Challenge at Memorial Park, Deniliquin in February 2023. The purpose of the event was to raise money to restock the Edward River with native fish. The response and support from the

local and wider community was amazing. There were around 400 participants who enjoyed a weekend of fishing, raffles, great food and yabby races.

The money raised from this event has allowed the Group to purchase and release over 250 mature Eel-Tailed Catfish into the Edward River and hundreds of smaller catfish into the Pollack Swamp and Swan Lagoon in the Koondrook Perricoota Forest, Eagle Creek at Barham and Murrabit Creek at Wakool. 15 years in the making, this release was made possible through the tenacity and dedication of members of the Group. A fantastic result all round!

If you have any questions about Landcare, ideas for a project, interested in connecting your group to Landcare or forming a new group please call Janet Manzin on 0438 719 628.

Regional Roundup Magazine

Celebrating Agriculture and Landcare across the Murray Region

An online magazine to showcase the valuable activities and projects conducted by various groups across the Murray region in the fields of agriculture and Landcare.

// August 2023 39


Ricegrowers Association of Australia through the support of AgriFutures Australia, Rice Marketing Board of NSW and SunRice Group have again collaborated to deliver a project that will focus on the rice industries most important assets... our people.

40 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

The Australian rice industry is working towards a transformational challenge over the next 5 years. This change requires both industry and growers to be adaptable. Our industry needs to be ready and willing to take on the change. This partnership aims to establish a cohort of rice industry leaders who are diverse in knowledge, skills and experience to support the future of the rice industry.


A series of programs, workshops and events will be delivered to our growers, industry experts and our researchers to build capacity in, leadership, corporate governance and board readiness, innovation and change, on farm business skills and fostering internal knowledge sharing. The project will also see the rejuvenation of the Rice Industry Graduate Program, with two Agricultural graduates employed within the Rice Industry for a 12 month period.

// August 2023 41
Rice Industry Forums FosteringInternal Knowledge Change+Innovati on MasterCl asses GrowerAd a pti on +Readiness
Industry Capacity Leadership NextGenerationLeaders +Establish

What has happened and what to look out for:

challenges and opportunities facing agriculture and gaining exposure to the industry and associated organisations.

Women in Rice

The first event delivered as part of the Building Capacity in the Rice Industry was aligned with International Women’s Day, a Women’s Forum to help empower female leadership within our industry.

The event was held in Melbourne on 9-10 March 2023, which saw a cohort of female rice growers, industry professionals and current leaders come together to learn about leadership in the Australian rice industry and beyond.

The industry was incredibly pleased with the success of the event, which focused on bringing our female growers together to network, connect and learn from each other, and gain insights into what it means to step into directorship roles in our industry and across our communities.

The event included presentations from Women on Boards, SunRice Directors and executive staff from AgriFutures Australia and SunRice. The participants also had the opportunity to enjoy a sushi marking demonstration and a visit to PACT Group to gain an understanding of another industry.

The group will again come together for a networking event at the Australian Rice Growers Conference.

Introduction to the Rice Industry

An exciting program designed for new and/or inexperienced people with a passion and interest in the rice industry, supporting industries/communities or running your own business. This program will engage the next generation of leaders with the

This is a two stage program with stage one being held in Deniliquin from the 5th – 8th of September 2023. This four-day interactive residential program will focus on industry leadership development in RD&E, policy, advocacy, and sustainability of the Rice Industry. Giving participants exposure to expert speakers and key industry leaders to build their networks and leadership skills.

As part of stage two, four participants will be selected from Stage one to attend a two-day workshop in Canberra, to meet with leaders in organisations such as Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, The National Farmers’ Federation, The National Irrigators’ Council, and parliament. They will also develop the networking and advocacy skills learnt in stage one.

Established Leaders Program

This program is for those who are looking to take a step up into more senior leadership roles within in our industry. The program will run over a 12 month period, with the opportunity to work with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, SunRice Group Executive Team and an international trip to gain exposure to the SunRice Group’s international business. Applications will open late in 2023.


Two graduates will be commencing in the industry in 2024.

Other upcoming forums – Safety and labour in your business and Farm financials.

All programs are fully funded thanks to AgriFutures Australian, Rice Marketing Board of NSW and The SunRice Group.

42 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
44 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
// August 2023 45
Join us Become a member of the RGA today.
The RGA is the peak body representing Australian rice growers. Filled with a rich history and a prosperous future, we are committed to representing, advocating for and informing our growers and communities.
46 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia Representing members, communities and industry PARTNERS SunRice Group Telstra Port of Melbourne Rabobank Member + Staff Representatives RICE INDUSTRY PILLARS (close collaborations) SunRice Group RGA Rice Marketing Board AgriFutures Australia Levy Payer Feedback Program Policy Committees Water Environment Sustainability Productivity + Industry Affairs - Organisational Strategy - Governance - Membership Strategy - Partnerships - Projects + Programs - Financial Oversight - Members Value Proposition Professional Bodies Associations Forum RGA Board RGA CENTRAL EXECUTIVE RGA MEMBERS YANCO MIRROOL BERRIQUIN V I C T RO I A DLQ + O T H E R COLEAMBALLY WAKOOL HAY DENILIQUIN RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT & EXTENSION Rice R&D Management Committee Rice Extension Capacity Building Agronomy Rice Breeding Australia


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Activities ⚫ Member Engagement ⚫ Branch Meetings ⚫ Advocacy - Water Matters
- Environmental Matters ⚫ Australian Rice Growers’ Conference ⚫ Policy Committee Meetings ⚫ Communication
Member Updates
Public Relations and Media ⚫ Projects
Leadership - Levy payer input into RD&E programs
NSW Landcare Program
Bitterns in Rice
Rice Sustainability Framework Advocacy + Engagement Direct engagement and advocacy with local + state + federal politicians and government agencies: - Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Department of Primary Industry and Environment
Murray-Darling Basin Authority - WaterNSW - Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Irrigation Companies Direct engagement and advocacy with: - Murrumbidgee Irrigation - Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited - Murray Irrigation Limited National + State Peak Bodies Regional + Local Engagement National Farmers’ Federation National Irrigators’ Council Plant Health Australia NSW Irrigators’ Council Murray Landcare Collective Regional Network for Landcare & Producer Groups Murray Regional Strategy Group Murray Valley Advocacy Coordination Irrigation Research Extension Committee Cross commodity irrigation R,D&E Murray SocioEconomic Activation Taskforce Regional network Ag. Skilled 2.0 Free Training Courses
- Industry Matters


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.

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Copywriter Garry and Marg Knagge

Garry and Marg Knagge: Feeling Supported in Good Times and Bad

The Property

Garry Knagge is a third-generation rice farmer. Growing up he always wanted to farm, but never thought he’d get the chance. Instead opting for a career in Engineering and travelling overseas before returning to work in Albury for 15 years.

“My grandfather originated from the Lismore area. In the 1930s, he along with his brothers, travelled on horseback looking for opportunity.

“Farm 1706 ‘Bimbel’ came up in a land ballot and my grandfather and his brothers jumped at the chance to start their own farm,” Garry said. Over time, half of the family farm was sold out of the family.

“My parents, Thomas and Janet Knagge, bought the remaining part of the farm from my grandfather in 1973. Dad started working the on the property in 1977. They have only recently retired to Leeton – Dad is 89, and Mum 87,” Garry said.

It was in the early 2000s that Garry had a calling to return to the family farm in which he grew up. Fond childhood memories of riding motorbikes, spending endless summers with cousins, and driving tractors, enticed him to return to his childhood home.

“Marg and I bought back the parcel of land that was sold off out of the family in 2017. At the time, we farmed with no water (we had to buy water). We grew a couple of rice crops, but more importantly we had a home for our sheep,” Garry said.

Two years ago, Garry and Marg bought the final ‘piece’ of the family farm and has now completed the property to its original size.

“We’ve put it back together, just as it once was,” Garry said.

Today, Bimbel owned and operated by Garry and wife Marg, and is a mixed farming business used for winter cropping (seed production), sheep and growing commercial rice crops and partnering with Rice Breeding Australia with rice trials.

Environmental Champions

When Garry returned to the family farm in the early 2000s, he said he wanted to learn more about better farming practices and was inspired by Ricegrowers Association of Australia’s (RGA) Environmental Champions Program.

“To be honest, when I came back to the farm, I wanted to know more. I had been working around Albury as a Fitter and Turner, and I wanted to know how to be a better rice farmer.

“The program allowed us to set a best practice standard which allowed us to continually improve and better ourselves as rice farmers,” Garry said.

When Bad Things Happen

Garry and Marg Knagge have experienced the highs and lows of farming over the past 20 years together. But it’s not until the unexpected happens that you know who you can count on in times of need.

In August 2020, Garry was involved in a motorbike accident.

“I was on uneven ground with a full tank of water on the back. It (the quadbike) just tipped, and I was underneath. I later learned that I had broken my back,” Garry said.

// August 2023 49
“Around 2004, RGA were looking to standardise their Environmental Champions Program and started the program in the Gogeldrie and Coleambally areas. This program really opened my eyes to the potential on our farm and what it is capable of producing.

An ambulance was called, and Garry was taken to Griffith Hospital, then airlifted to St George Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Then almost 12 months to the date, in August 2021, Garry was involved in another near-death experience when he was caught in a rice stubble fire.

“I was again on my quadbike riding past the flames, when suddenly the wind changes and encircled all around me. The radiating heat burned my arms, face, and neck,” Garry said.

While not immediately realising the severity of his injuries, Marg insisted Garry get checked at the local hospital.

“I realised I needed to seek medical attention, but at the time did not gauge the extent of the burn injury,” Garry said.

Upon arriving in hospital, Garry was placed in an induced coma as the heat from the fire was still gnawing away at his skin.

“I woke up in Concord Hospital in Sydney two days later. I then realised I had third-degree burns on my arms and superficial burns to my face and neck,” Garry said. In both instances, Garry and Marg said it was the support of the community that helped the couple survive in the toughest of times.

“When Garry was in hospital both times, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming support we received.

“We had neighbours, family, friends, and people from nearby communities who all pitched in to support us where needed. There were people on tractors, people arrived with food deliveries, and even the local contractors pitched in. I could do the sheep but needed help with the rice,” Marg said.

“We even had the support from Mark Groat (Grower Services) and Laurie Arthur (Director of SunRice) who said they were only a phone call away if we needed anything. This was very humbling. We felt part of a bigger family. A family who banded together in times of need. We feel extremely proud to be part of this community,” Garry and Marg said.

Today, nearly 18 months on from his catastrophic burn accident, Garry is excited for the future.

“You must have a passion for farming. In agriculture, there are many challenges – usually on a daily basis –but we’ve got to think about the bigger picture and how our efforts are impacting the work that is going on in the wider (rice) industry.

“It’s never about growing rice for the sake of growing rice – it’s about bettering ourselves and our way of farming now and into the future,” Garry said.

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“There are exciting opportunities in the rice industry. It’s all about understanding how we farm and how we can make continuous improvements, together.”
and Garry Knagge
// August 2023 51

The Small Family

The Small family have been farming ‘Billinudgel’ for three generations, and the success of their farming business may come down to three key areas – dedication, teamwork, and a strong female influence, writes Amy Batten.

The late Jim Small was a dedicated farmer and a passionate advocate for the rice industry in the Deniliquin and surrounding area. He was a firm believer in research and development and had a vision to create sustainable farming practices for future generations.

Jim and his wife Judy relocated from Grafton in the 1950s and began farming rice and cattle on Billinudgel.

“Dad started growing rice in 1956 before being elected to Parliament in 1985. He was heavily involved in establishing the CSIRO Rice Research Station for research into growing rice crops as well as advancing farming equipment.

“He was an active member on the Rice Marketing Board from 1977 to 1985. He attended the World Food Conference in Rome in 1980 as a representative of the Rice Board.

“He was always seeking new ways for improvement,” said Jim’s son, Geoff Small. It is that same desire for continuous improvement that also drives Geoff, and son Josh, to advance their farming practices.

“I always wanted to be a farmer. I grew up on this farm (Billinudgel) and always had a passion for farming. When Dad stood for Parliament, I was 21. He was away quite a lot, so that’s when I started running the farm,” Geoff said.

Geoff operated the farm using the same farming practices instilled in him by his father. However, like with most businesses, challenges arise.

“The start of the millennium drought was tough on everyone. We almost didn’t get through. I had to rely on my wife Leanne for emotional and financial support. She had a successful career working in town and she is the reason we survived.

“My wife is a pillar of strength,” Geoff said. Today it is Josh Small, third generation farmer,

and grandson to Jim, who is running Billinudgel alongside wife Emily, and their two children –Charlie, 5, and Elsie, 3.

“Grandad created this beautiful farm. It’s a testament to him. He’s protected the natural gullies, established tree lines, and ensured native birds and animals have a safe environment.

“I guess similarly to Grandad, we have an environmentally sustainable focus on our farming practices. We ensure we are using the land as efficiently as possible.

“We use precision farming. We’re strict on rotation and soil sustainability. We’re always thinking of the long-term health and future of the farm,” Josh said.

Josh added that initially he wasn’t sure if he wanted a career on the farm.

“Mum and Dad were always encouraging us (Josh and his siblings – Kate, Lachlan, and Simon) to go and get something behind us like a trade, a qualification or travel and see the world before making any decisions involving the farm.

“I am completely grateful that there was no pressure to take on the farm from a young age,” said Josh.

Josh’s wife Emily is undertaking further studies in the Australian Institute of Company Directors through AgriFutures Australia and says there’s plenty of opportunities for women to be actively involved in the industry.

“Geoff and Leanne are a power force and work so well together. They are great examples to us as leaders and business mentors.

“I never imagined living on a farm, but I wouldn’t change anything. I love the lifestyle and the flexibility and lucky to have family so close by,” Emily said.

Billinudgel is a 1800Ha mixed farming business that averages 250Ha of rice annually.

Jim Small left a lasting legacy both on his family and the wider Deniliquin community. When he retired from parliament at the age of 65, he rode his bike 13,500km around Australia raising money for cancer research. He passed away 29 October 2021 following health complications, aged 88.

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// August 2023 53
“We are so lucky to have so many young families in the area. There are incredible women in this area who have amazing skillsets, who are all an asset to their farming businesses and the wider industry.”
Emily, Josh, Elsie and Geoff Small

A Tribute to the Original Environmental Champion: Maree Ryan, Berrigan

Maree Ryan was a passionate advocate for the environment. She was the original eco-warrior, championing for regenerative agriculture before it was even a ‘term’.

She was enthusiastic about planting trees and looking after the natural environment. Her passion for the environment inspired others including community groups, school children and her own family.

A few years ago, Mark and Maree participated in the Environmental Champions Program (ECP) run by the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA).

“Our focus was on sustainable production. We experimented with re-using rice straw in the pig ecosheds, instead of burning it.

“We also conducted a great deal of tree planting on farm. Everything we did, was to ensure it was for the long-term health of the environment. Maree was very passionate about the environment,” Mark said.

The purpose of the ECP was to help rice growers improve both the environmental and economic performance of their farms, which is also reflected in the social fabric of the local communities.

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Mark and Maree Ryan farmed ‘Equity Park,’ a 1200-hectare mixed farming business located 5km outside Berrigan which farms cereal crops, pigs, rice, sheep, cattle, and hay. Em Ryan.

Ever since Maree Ryan was a teenager, she wanted to improve the native environment. From an early age she understood the need to care for the world around her.

“Maree was an active member of the of the Berigan Tidy Towns Group, she was influential in establishing the Government Tank Paddock and she set up a Seed Bank at the (then) Murray Catchment Management Authority.

“She was driven to encourage and teach future generations to replant seeds in our local area to ensure environmental sustainability,” Mark said.

Sadly, on 22 April 2021 Maree passed away after a short battle with cancer, aged 63.

Today, Equity Park is run by Mark Ryan and daughter Em, who is the youngest of their five children.

“I definitely have Mum’s passion for the environment flowing within me. I can still hear her instructing us (on the farm) not to cut down any trees,” Em said.

Equity Park is operated with an ‘environment first’ farming practice, utilising its natural resources wherever possible.

“We have four regenerative areas on Equity Park. Mum made us kids plant trees with her. We’d plant trees all over the farm. Then we’d have to go and water them. I remember a time when she got the local school children out (to the farm) planting trees as well,” Em said.

Currently, the property homes 4,800 pigs living in eco-shelters which uses rice straw produced onfarm as bedding.

“The pigs use the rice straw as bedding. When the pigs have left, the rice straw is then collected, composted, windrowed, and spread on paddocks as natural fertiliser full of nutrients and organic matter going back into the soil.

“Looking after the soil is very important. It’s a living thing. We are very focused on regenerative agriculture, and we farm with an environmental conscience,” Em said.

Maree’s environmental legacy is felt all over Equity Park.

“Everywhere we look Mum’s influence is there, whether it be in the native trees lining the paddocks or growing in random places, or looking at her vast collection of seeds, or ensuring that native birds and wildlife have homes – there she is.

She has left a lasting legacy that we all can enjoy and remember her,” Em said.

At Maree’s funeral it was noted: “her love is yours forever, may its lasting beauty comfort your heart today and always.”

This sentiment also describes the beautiful environment in which she created.

Maree is survived by her husband Mark, her five children (Sally, Rob, Amy, Jessica, and Em) and eleven grandchildren.

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“I definitely have Mum’s passion for the environment flowing within me. I can still hear her instructing us (on the farm) not to cut down any trees,” Em said.
The late Maree Ryan. Em Ryan at Equity Park farm.
56 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

Harvest 2019

Bays packed like hessian bags of streaming stalk wing and grain; undulating shallows of sunlit rice rustling remarks in swampy heat; of luck, watchful growth, fortune and coddled clay;

The squiggly bridge hook-turn onto slumping channel bank we enter rice paddocks on Harvest Week, finding humpy soil laneways hidden from the highways, bringing us to the river’s end:

Sun and rice-mist, humming machines, back and forth travail of tractor and bin for offload, high pace ferry; charged with no delay, for moisture-content and looming weather change.

We ride second-hand John Deere header beneath the brooding skies, where once CASE lumbered, faded-yellow giant, with share of breakdowns, irrigation antique, but harvest-ready for 50 years.

Mechanics strip a dense crop while hands are on the wheel, Farmer’s galleon on the gourmet sea, rice-brush, gather, flurry and churn, reel and spiral, retractable knives slicing stems, volumes of loose grains amassed, rice-dunes in truck and grit; Swathering Autumn heat, we swim through smoky, grainy mist sweeping wide paddocks; the augur – spitting grain gold – food for thousands levelled from Australian soils;

The firm-eyed farmer, eager in grains, pleased in product, dawn till dusk, farming his island, tending this earth, as kids scramble up the header, whirring, windowed cubby, to watch and join an old captain sailing on grains over years.

// August 2023 57


58 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
Archie Triggs with Johnny & Lawrence Favero at Bontoc.

The Australian Rice Industry continues to foster and support 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

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.

The Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship was introduced in 2001 to assist a university student in their second or year of study, The scholarship, valued at $10,000 is open to a 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 an Australian tertiary institution.

The 2023 Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Archie Triggs of Griffith, who is his second year of a Bachelor or Agriculture at University of New England. Archie felt honoured to be nominated for the scholarship by his employers Lawrence & Johnny Favero.

“The Favero family have provided me with incredible opportunities, allowing me to be involved in the rice industry from a young age and imparting their invaluable knowledge, skills and rice growing principles beyond that of a textbook. They were also a great influence in me pursuing the study of agriculture at university” said Archie.

“I am extremely thankful for the support provided by the Ricegrowers’ Association which has already allowed me to expand my network within the industry, broaden my knowledge base and the financial assistance will allow me to complete my degree.”

// August 2023 59

Peter Connor Book Award

The Peter Connor Book Award was introduced at the same time; in conjunction with the Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship.

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.

Olivia Mauger of Jerilderie (pictured below) was awarded the Peter Connor Book Award this year. Olivia is in her third year of a Bachelor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at Deakin University.

Olivia Is incredibly passionate about the rice industry and enjoys teaching children about growing rice and other aspects of farm life. Upon completing her degree, Olivia is looking forward to teaching in rural and remote communities.

Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship

In its ninth year, the SunRice Group’s 2023 Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship was awarded to joint recipients Tiarna Burke from Coree, NSW, and Lily Delves, from Hanwood, NSW.

The scholarship of up to $10,000 per year for each student will support Tiarna and Lily in their studies. Tiarna is pursuing a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at Charles Sturt University in Albury, and Lily is in her second year of Bachelor of Engineering/ Bachelor of Science double degree, majoring in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Agriculture, at the Australian National University. On receiving the Award, Tiarna Burke said she is focused on removing stigmas and helping people in farming communities to access quality health care.

“Growing up on a cropping farm, I am aware of how tough farming is on one’s body and the multitude of accidents that can occur, including injuries, chronic conditions, or mental health issues. Often though, physical and mental health and wellbeing can be neglected or there are stigmas around healthcare, but providing quality services can change that.

“As an Occupational Therapist, I will be able to help individuals to function in their own environment by addressing impacts that may affect their daily life, through introducing assistive technologies, strategies and education.

“The Jan Cathcart Scholarship will allow me to continue my studies including placements in rural and remote locations, so I can get a greater understanding of the challenges and barriers, and bring that knowledge and expertise to the community I grew up in.”

Lily Delves said the scholarship will not only support her continued education, but also allow her to join

60 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
SunRice Group Chairman Mr Laurie Arthur, Ms Lily Delves, Ms Tiarna Burke and Mr Steve Cathcart (Jan Cathcart’s brother).

an illustrious group of women who have received the honour in the past.

“I am interested in developing farming techniques and infrastructure that will continue to improve water efficiencies on rice farms, plant breeding programmes to better the resilience of rice varieties, and research projects to enhance biodiversity in farming regions.

“It’s important to me to return my roots in the country and use my knowledge and experience within the industry to implement sustainable farm practices, which is a real passion of mine.

“I heard about the Jan Cathcart Scholarship through a network of women in agriculture and talking to past winners, so I am also excited to contribute to the culture within the agriculture industry and work with fellow women to support each other and tackle gender stereotypes, paving the way for future generations of women, to help continue Jan’s legacy.”

The SunRice Group launched the Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship in 2014 to honour the memory of long-term employee Jan Cathcart. It recognises her principles and commitment to the Australian rice industry, which spanned over 43 years and helped pave the way for women in her field.

The Jan Cathcart Memorial Scholarship is designed to provide Tiarna, Lily and all recipients with financial support and hands-on industry experience to assist them in achieving their career goals. The scholarship is open to female shareholders, growers and employees and their extended families.

Since its inception, the SunRice Group has awarded a total of $200,000 through the scholarship to support, encourage and create pathways for the next generation of female leaders in our communities.

Greg Graham Memorial Scholarship Recipients

⚫ 2023: Archie Riggs // Mirool Branch

⚫ 2022: Thomas Hatty // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2021: Tom Mannes // Coleambally Branch

⚫ 2020: George Payne from Coleambally Branch

⚫ 2019: Dominic Morona // Deniliquin Branch

⚫ 2018: Benjamin Seamer from Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2017: Allister Clarke // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2016: Jackson Byrnes // Hay Branch

⚫ 2015: Charleton Glenn // Wakool Branch

Peter Connor Book Award Recipients

⚫ 2023: Olivia Mauger // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2022: Tiarna Burke // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2021: James McCaw // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2020: Nicholas O’Connor // Deniliquin Branch

⚫ 2019: Annabel Arnold // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2018: Dominic Morona // Deniliquin Branch

⚫ 2017: Benjamin Seamer // Berriquin Branch

⚫ 2016: Jack Hogan // Coleambally Branch

⚫ 2015: Daniel Andreazza // Mirrool Branch

Jan Cathcart Scholarship Recipients

⚫ 2023: Tiarna Burke, Coree, and Lily Delves, Hanwood

⚫ 2022: Rebecca Groat, Myall Park

⚫ 2021: Charlie Reilly, Leeton

⚫ 2020: Alexandra Morona, Deniliquin

⚫ 2019: Emily Fasham, Wakool

⚫ 2018: Annabel Arnold, Berrigan

⚫ 2017: Sarah Cudmore, Benerembah

⚫ 2016: Millie Mertz, Moulamein, and Elise Wilson, Coleambally

⚫ 2015: Samantha Glenn, Moulamein, and Zoe Reynoldson, Berrigan.

// August 2023 61


SunRice Grower of the Year Award

Criteria for Selection

The SunRice Grower of the Year Award selection process is rigorous and comprehensive. Nominees are evaluated on various criteria, including yield performance, quality control, environmental sustainability, and their engagement with the local community. The independent judging panel consists of industry experts, agronomists, and growers ensuring a fair and transparent assessment of each nominee's accomplishments.

Beyond the Fields: Sustainable Farming Practices

The SunRice Group is proud to present the SunRice Grower of the Year Award, honouring exceptional growers for their commitment to innovation, sustainability, and extraordinary farming practices. This prestigious award celebrates the achievements of individuals who go above and beyond, setting the standard for excellence in the field.

Recognising Excellence

The SunRice Grower of the Year Award is a testament to the commitment and passion exhibited by rice growers within the SunRice Group network. It acknowledges their tireless efforts, expertise, and contributions to the industry. Each year, a deserving grower is selected based on their exceptional performance, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and commitment to sustainable farming practices.

The SunRice Group believes in sustainable farming practices that protect and preserve the environment for future generations. The SunRice Grower of the Year Award highlights those growers who exemplify these principles. From implementing waterefficient irrigation systems to adopting cutting-edge technology for pest control, the awardees serve as beacons of inspiration for the industry

Community Engagement and Social Impact

The SunRice Grower of the Year Award recognises agricultural excellence and the significant impact growers make on their local communities. Nominees are evaluated based on their active involvement in community initiatives, education programs, and partnerships that support the wellbeing and development of the areas in which they operate. The award acknowledges the important role growers play as stewards of the land and contributors to the social fabric of their communities.

62 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
In the realm of agriculture, where dedication and hard work shape the landscape, it is essential to recognise outstanding individuals who exemplify excellence.

Celebrating Achievements

The SunRice Grower of the Year Award celebrates the remarkable achievements of growers who epitomise the spirit of innovation, sustainability, and dedication. The recipient of this prestigious award becomes a role model, inspiring fellow growers and the wider agricultural community to strive for excellence. Their success story serves as a source of motivation, demonstrating what can be achieved through passion, hard work, and a deep understanding of the agricultural ecosystem.

The SunRice Grower of the Year Award shines a spotlight on the exceptional individuals within the rice industry who embody the values of innovation, sustainability, and community engagement. By recognising their achievements, the SunRice Group honours their dedication and hard work and motivates others to strive for excellence. These growers serve as beacons of inspiration, guiding the industry towards a more sustainable and prosperous future and inspiring generations to come.

// August 2023 63
CY22 SunRice Grower of the Year, Neville and Brooke Hollins, Woorak Ag, Burraboi

Australian Rice Industry Awards

The rice industry plays a vital role in feeding communities worldwide, and the dedication and hard work of individuals within this sector deserve recognition.

Each year, prestigious awards are bestowed upon outstanding contributors who have excelled in various aspects of rice production.

These awards celebrate achievements such as the SunRice Grower of the Year, Highest Yield Award, Highest Average Yield Award, Excellence in Extension, Research and Advisory Award, and Grower Industry Contribution Award. Let us delve into the significance of these accolades and the remarkable individuals who have earned them.

64 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

Highest Yield: Pushing the Boundaries of Productivity

The Highest Yield Award recognises rice growers who have achieved exceptional crop yields within specific geographic regions. These individuals employ innovative techniques, precision farming, and advanced technology to maximise their productivity. Their dedication and expertise set new benchmarks, inspiring others to push the boundaries of what is possible in rice production. These growers demonstrate the potential for increased yields and sustainable farming by optimising cultivation practices and implementing cutting-edge methodologies.

Specialty Grain Yield: Collaborative Success

The Specialty Grain Yield Award celebrates the unparalleled success of farmers in achieving exceptional grain yields for specialty crops across the region. This prestigious accolade recognises those remarkable growers who have consistently displayed excellence and resilience in their rice production of specialty crops. Their unwavering commitment to sustainable practices and their ability to maintain high yields continuously serve as an inspiration to the entire agricultural community.

Excellence in Extension, Research and Advisory Award: Advancing the Science of Rice

Excellence in Extension, Research and Advisory Award recognise agronomists, advisors and researchers who have significantly contributed to advancing rice production. Their ground-breaking research, innovative techniques, and insights drive the industry forward. From developing new varieties with enhanced disease resistance to improving irrigation methods and pest control strategies, these researchers play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability and profitability of rice farming. Their work gives growers the tools and knowledge to overcome challenges and optimise their yields.

Grower Industry Contribution: Nurturing the Industry

The Grower Industry Contribution Award acknowledges individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the rice industry beyond their farming operations. These growers actively engage in industry associations, community initiatives, and knowledge-sharing platforms. They serve as ambassadors, sharing their experiences and expertise to support and uplift fellow growers.

Often these growers provide access to their farms to allow research and industry progression with little compensation. Their contributions may include mentoring programs, leadership roles within industry organisations, or advocating for the interests of rice growers at regional and national levels.

SunRice Grower of the Year: Excellence in All Aspects

The SunRice Grower of the Year award is one of the most prestigious honours in the rice industry. It recognises an exceptional individual who exemplifies excellence across multiple facets of rice production. The recipient of this award demonstrates outstanding performance in yield, quality control, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and adoption of sustainable farming practices. Their unwavering commitment to innovation and their contributions to the industry make them an inspiration for fellow growers.

The Australian Rice Industry Awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals who have made significant contributions to the field. From achieving the highest yields and demonstrating excellence in all aspects of rice production to driving research advancements and nurturing the industry, these awardees inspire and motivate others to strive for excellence. Their dedication, innovation, and collaborative spirit contribute to the rice industry's growth and sustainability, ensuring this essential staple's availability for generations to come. As we celebrate their achievements, let us recognise and appreciate the remarkable individuals who shape the future of rice production.

// August 2023 65
66 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

Embarking on a Transformative Journey: Optimised Best Managed Practice (BMP) Initiative in Agriculture

We are excited to extend a warm invitation to growers, stakeholders and enthusiasts to join us on a thrilling journey towards enhanced sustainability and innovation in agriculture.

Our Optimised Best Managed Practice (BMP) initiative is geared towards showcasing the potential of collaboration and technology in optimising agricultural operations, with a particular focus on grower outcomes. This innovative endeavour will challenge conventional thinking within the rice industry, with four grower sites serving as hubs for practice change and redefining collaboration in Rice Extension.

Unveiling the Vision

At each BMP site, cutting-edge research and trial outcomes will be implemented within commercial settings. The primary purpose of this initiative is to bring together a broader cross-section of the industry to challenge our current practices and strive towards the industry’s aspirational target of 1.5 t/ml for Australian rice by the end of 2027.

Establishing Reference Groups

To engage and collaborate effectively within the regions and to steer this initiative with a grower focus on water productivity, a reference group will be established for each site.

These groups will comprise the grower and their advisor, growers representing a cross- section of farming practices within the region and industry researchers. The Reference Group will provide oversight and expertise to challenge the status quo while keeping commercial reality in front of mind.

Involving the Industry and Growers:

Through this initiative, Rice Extension aims to provide a platform for growers and stakeholders to engage at field walks and in the digital online environment. As Rice Extension and the Reference group progress through the rice season, we will share our implementation journey and provide real-time feedback about our practices and decision-making process.

A Collective Effort for a Sustainable Future:

We strongly believe in involving growers and the wider rice industry in our journey towards the industry’s aspirational target of 1.5t/ML of irrigated water for Australian rice by the end of 2027. The BMP initiative is not solely about our success as an organisation; it is about the collective efforts of the rice industry. By combining the best practices, leveraging technology, and working together, we can create a sustainable future and strive for the rice industry's ambitious goal of 1.5 t/ml.


We are excited about tackling practice change to ensure our industry remains competitive and a world leader in innovation while farming sustainably.

Join Rice Extension as we look to improve our farming system to benefit our local communities. To learn more, please visit or contact us directly at

// August 2023 67
SunRice AgriFutures RGA Powere d by


68 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

RiceBreedingAustraliaLimited (RBA)wasestablishedinJune 2022todevelopanddeliver newimprovedricevarietiesfor AustralianRiceGrowers.

RBAisajointventurebetweenAgriFutures Australia,SunRiceandtheRicegrowers' AssociationofAustralia(RGA).RBAaimstodrive ricebreedingintothefuturethroughapplyinga commercialfocus.

RBAhaskickedoffitsfirstyearfacingthesame challengesthatricegrowersdidwithavery wetstartwhichbroughtdelaysandtheneedto quicklydevelopandadoptnewplans.Despitethis, RBAhasbeenabletocompletefieldtrialsand breedingnurseriesacrosstheregionandbeginto accelerateratesofgeneticgainforAustralianrice growers.Greaterratesofgeneticgainmeanrice growerscanexpectbetterperformingvarieties fasterandmoreoften. Inparticular,RBAwillfocus onimprovingratesofgeneticgainforwater productivitywhichhasbeenidentifiedascritical forthelong-termviabilityoftheAustralianrice industry.Thismeanswewillbeconcentratingon coldtolerance,yield,lodgingandmaturitytobring newvarietiestoricegrowersthatmeettheirneeds andfarmingsystems.

RBAisexcitedtohaveestablishedanoperational baseatBradyWayinLeetonwhereouroffices, seedstorageandprocessingfacilityarelocated. RBAisalsoworkingcloselywiththeKnaggefamily havingestablishedahomesiteforfieldtrialsand breedingnurseriesthatwillprovidethebreeding

teamwitheasyaccesstoallthepotentialfuture varietiesinthebreedingprogram.Thebreeding teamwillbeabletocloselymonitortheprogress ofnewpotentialvarietiesatthishomesite.

ThiscomingyearRBAisexcitedtobeundertaking morefieldtrialsacrosstheregion. Thisnotonly providesthebreedingprogramwithastrong base toidentifythebestperformingpotentialnew varietiesbutalsoprovidesricegrowerswiththe abilitytoseetheperformanceofthenewpotential varietiescomingthroughtheprogramintheirown farmingsystems.

Thisseason,RBAhasalsokickedoffalarge glasshouseprogramdoublingtheprevious capacityandemployingnewtechnologiestocycle 3generationsthroughtheglasshouseinoneyear. Thisisequivalenttorunningthreefullricegrowing seasonsinoneyear. Thiswillbeanimportant contributortoreducingthetimeittakestodevelop anewvarietyandincreaseratesofgeneticgain.

Alloftheseadvanceswouldonlybepossible with adedicatedteam.RBAhasemployed7staff since itcommenced,andtheyareexcitedtobe partof transformingthericeindustryandensure the industryhasasustainableandviablefuture. These includeCEO-DrGeorginaPengilley,Senior Rice Breeder-DrChrisProud,CFO/AdministratorCarmelCristofaro(RGA)andtechnicalstaff-Esther vanMeeuwen,NathanDoss,GregNapier,Kylie ElliottandWahPaw.

// August 2023 69


70 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

At the time of writing, we don’t know the outcome of the ABARES review of vesting arrangements, but like many of you, the RMB prepared a submission again highlighting what we see as the benefits, including independently verified export price premiums, economies of scale delivered through a cohesive approach to rice marketing and the ability for NSW rice growers to compete in an opaque and closed, global rice market.

Noting these benefits, the RMB acknowledges that vesting is a NSW government policy and is not issued in perpetuity. As the statutory authority responsible for implementing vesting, the RMB has been focused on responding to criticisms made by the NSW Department of Primary Industries in the 2021 vesting review. We were also pleased to meet the new Minister for Agriculture, Hon Tara Moriarty MLC, to discuss vesting policy and other rice industry matters.

The RMB signed a new SEEL with SunRice in 2023, which also serves to address some of the criticisms raised in the 2021 vesting review around access to seed, buyer of last resort and crop marketing. We thank SunRice for their cooperation

in delivering a SEEL that balances commercial imperatives with a greater need for transparency in operations. You can read the SEEL on the RMB website.

Finally, it was great to be able to see some rice again, and to introduce our two newest Board members, Donna Rygate and Rowan McMonnies, to the paddy-to-plate experience. Donna and Rowan were appointed to the Board by the previous Minister for Agriculture in August 2022. Donna has a wealth of experience as a government board member and as a former senior executive in the NSW public sector. She is a partner in a Canowindra farming and grazing property that has been in her family for more than 130 years. Rowan is the Managing Director of Australian Eggs, the research and development corporation for the egg industry, and also has connections to agriculture through family farming enterprises in the Riverina. Rowan has a legal and compliance background with a focus on advising agriculture businesses and peak bodies on competition and regulation issues. Both are making a significant contribution to RMB.

If you have any questions about the RMB, please visit our website or call the Board Secretary, Nyree Dunn on 02 6953 3200.

// August 2023 71
It’s been another busy year for the Rice Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales (RMB), with a new Minister, a new Sole and Exclusive Export Licence (SEEL) negotiated with SunRice and another review of rice vesting.


The AgriFutures Rice Program invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) for the Australian rice industry.

The total Program budget comprises the R&D levy allocation, Australian Government matching funding and any applicable thirdparty contributions. All investment under the Program is guided by the Rice Program Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026) which was developed in consultation with industry.

The RD&E Plan is based on an overarching goal of increasing the Australian rice industry’s water productivity to an average of 1.5 t/ML by 2026. This target is ambitious, relying on whole-of-industry collaboration and increased investment to achieve it. The Plan identifies four priorities for RD&::

⚫ Optimised genetic improvement

⚫ Agronomy and farming systems

⚫ Coordinated industry extension

⚫ Strengthened industry capacity.

For more information scan the QR code or visit rural-industries/rice/

72 The Australian

Recent progress

RD&E Plan launched

'21 '22 '23 '24-26

First Open Call run with 14 projects contracted worth $6M

Second Open Call run. Proposals currently being assessed*. Combined with the 2022 projects, this will bring the RD&E investment to a total of $10M. Target investment value of $30M. '26

RD&E goalincrease the Australian rice industry’s water productivity to an average of 1.5 t/ML.

The Program currently has more than 14 projects underway addressing the RD&E Plan objectives as well as the overarching priorities in the AgriFutures Australia Research and Innovation Strategic Plan (2022-2027). As well as these projects, the program funds several scholarship top-ups and supports rice research by investing in the purchase of capital equipment.

More projects will commence throughout 2023 as a result of the second Rice Program Open Call which ran from 29 March 2023 to 1 May 2023. 36 submissions are currently being assessed with plans to commence projects for the upcoming rice season. Submissions were spread across the four priorities of the Rice RD&E Plan and covered a diverse range of research areas that address current and future rice industry challenges.

// August 2023 73


Project title Research organisation

Pre-breeding for cold tolerance and intermittent irrigation adaptation and improved agronomy for high water productivity rice

Screening water efficient and climate-resilient rice parental lines for the Australian rice industry

Rice Breeding Australia Interim Agreement

Fall armyworm control rice residue trials

Rice weed management in Australia

Review of the Biosecurity Plan for the rice industry

Development of an Integrated pest management program for the NSW rice industry


The University of Queensland | Dr Jaquie Mitchell

Swinburne University of Technology | Dr Vito Butardo

Rice Breeding Australia Limited | Dr Georgina Pengilley

SunRice Group | Chris Quirk

Agropraisals Pty Ltd | Malcolm Taylor

Plant Health Australia Ltd | Stuart Kearns

The Crown in right of the State of NSW acting through the Department of Primary Industries within Regional NSW | Mark Stevens

Project title Research organisation

Quick and easy precision agriculture tools to increase rice yield and water use efficiency (WUE)

Real-time remote-sensing based monitoring for the rice industry

Advancing automation and smart sensing irrigation technologies in the rice industry

Baseline greenhouse gas emissions from conventional flood and more water efficient Australian rice production systems


Data Farming Pty Ltd | Tim Neale

University of New England | James Brinkhoff

Deakin University | John Hornbuckle

Deakin University | Wendy Quayle

Project title Research organisation

Australian rice industry feedback and engagement project

Rice Extension Program


Ricegrowers' Association of Australia | Neil Bull

SunRice Group | Peter McDonnell

Project title Research organisation

Building capacity in the Australian rice industry

Ricegrowers' Association of Australia | Ainsley Massina

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AgriFutures Rice Program inve stment framewor k

The AgriFutures Rice Program is managed and guided in its investments by a newly devised framework centred around the Rice Program Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026):

Rice Management Committee (RMC)

Members from RGA, SunRice, RBA and AgriFutures are the custodians of the Plan with oversight of the projects within the program, the RMC is guided by industry priorities and additional input received from the Voice of the levy payer project (PRO-016161).

Voice of the levy payer project – Collects and collates feedback from levy payers and industry stakeholders as guidance of current industry priorities and RD&E needs to inform investment calls.

Investment calls are developed by the AgriFutures team following RMC, levy payer and other stakeholder RD&E recommendations.

These calls and their applications are assessed by Technical Assessment Network (TAN) members.

Technical Assessment Network members are recruited independent experts from rice and other industries who stand alone from the RMC and current projects. The TAN assess applications on project merit against the investment call priorities. Applications endorsed by the TAN are cross-checked to previous research and the current program.

The AgriFutures team manage endorsed, successful projects with regular reporting back to the RMC and communication out to industry. Industry feedback on current projects is available via direct contact with the AgriFutures team and/or the Voice of the levy payer project.

// August 2023 75
AgriFutures Australia AgriFutures Rice Program investment framework Learn more www.agrifutures Voice of the levy payer project Industry stakeholder feedback Rice Management Committee Provides recommendations for RD&E investments based on industry priorities & the Voice of the levy payer project Complete compliance checklist Synthesise into investment call AgriFutures Rice Program Program management, investment calls project procurement / management Technical Assessment Network Assess results of investment calls Levy payer priorities Other stakeholder priorities Endorsed projects Investment calls RD&E Plan / Rice Program priorities Contracted projects reported into Rice Management Committee

serving rice growers since 1930

76 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine

Helping the RGA support Australian Rice Growers

Corporate partners

// August 2023 77

As the majority of paddocks have now been sown and the bulk of farm inputs have been purchased – the cost structures for the 2023/24 crop are looking very different from the last season – especially for fertiliser.

“But what about the macro figures,” Rabobank analyst Vitor Pistoia said. “How much have the price hikes from last year prompted Australian farmers to cut application rates, and can it bounce back now? Based on preliminary data the message is quite clear – a lot and very likely.”

Looking at the year-on-year numbers, Mr Pistoia said, Australian paddocks in 2022 received 20.5 per cent less fertiliser application than the previous year, 6.32 million tonnes versus 7.94 million tonnes for 2021. “It is important to note that fertiliser application in 2021 was particularly high – well above average,” he said.

“In 2021 fertiliser application rates grew by 29.2 per cent compared to the previous year, and at the same time, the winter cropping area shrank by three per cent. Evidence of how optimistic grain growers were feeling at the time,” he said.

Mr Pistoia said looking at the current applications, on a nutrient basis, 2022 saw phosphate leading the way with a 36 per cent decline, followed by potash and sulphur with a drop of 25 per cent. “Nitrogen is the one input that did not suffer as much, posing an 14 per cent reduction. In the same period the Australian winter crop area, a good proxy for fertiliser demand, was reduced by 3.2 per cent, from 24.2 million hectares in 2021 to 23.4 million hectares in 2022.”

The Rabobank analyst said the Black Sea conflict was a major factor in driving the price hikes that began in

Australian fertiliser demand on the other side of the see-saw

late 2021. “And farmers decided to use the “application investments” from previous seasons, which some call “soil mining”, to carry them over. However, this strategy of relying on previous year’s applications is a shortterm solution, and fortunately for farmers, fertiliser affordability is see-sawing back in their favour allowing them to feed the soil a bit more this year,” he said.

Mr Pistoia said based on the forecasts for growth in the recently released Rabobank Winter Crop Outlook report, it will not be surprising that the Australian demand for fertiliser is expected to increase by two per cent or more, putting the overall demand at the 6.5 million tonnes mark. He said this is a good indication that application rates will rebuild, as the cropping area increase is expected to be only 0.3 per cent.

However, Mr Pistoia said the “soil mining” strategy might continue for particular inputs, such as phosphate, which remains one of the most costly nutrients for farmers, with its expected applications rate growing by only 0.8 per cent. “Curiously, liquid fertiliser increased its share from 14.4 to 15.1 per cent in total demand and a similar trend is expected to take place again for the 2023/24 season,” he said.

The first half of 2023/24 saw successive fertiliser price reductions locally and especially globally, Mr Pistoia said. “Further price and supply structure modifications should reach Oceania and sustain the affordability gains in the coming months, despite the corrections farming outputs are exhibiting as well. Since January of 2023, the nitrogen, phosphate and potash global references saw 35 per cent, 33 per cent and 40 per cent in price reductions respectively.”

To find out more about other Rabobank research, contact your local Rabobank branch on 1300 303 033 or subscribe to RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness Australia & New Zealand on your podcast app.

78 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 38 countries, servicing the needs of more than nine million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 90 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand. Vítor Caçula Pistóia, Analyst RaboResearch.

Goodbye 3G. Hello to a better network experience.

We’re evolving our mobile network to ensure you always have the best possible experience. This means that on 30 June 2024, we’re switching off our 3G network. Our 4G and 5G networks will be available instead and offer an improved experience.

Some of your devices – including handsets, medical devices, and EFTPOS machines – may need to be updated or replaced ahead of next year’s closure to ensure ongoing service.

We’re here to help you with the change and answer any questions you may have.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the 3G Closure:

Why is Telstra closing their 3G network?

We are not closing our network until the 30th June 2024. When 3G launched in 2006 we used our mobile phones for calls, texting and accessing basic information online. Today, demand for mobile data is growing by around 30 percent each year. As our technology and use cases change, you need a network that’s fit for today and the future.

Once we have closed the 3G network, we will repurpose the spectrum so that we can use it to expand our 5G network. By making this change, our customers will enjoy a much better overall experience.

We started talking to our customers about saying goodbye to 3G back in October 2019, almost five years ago, to make sure that they had enough time to understand what changes they need to make.

We are upgrading areas that only have 3G coverage to ensure these areas have the same or better 4G coverage available by 30th June 2024.

What will happen to my NGWL service?

Several thousand active Next G Wireless Link Service (NGWL) services use 3G technology and will be migrated to a 4G solution before June 2024. Telstra expects most of these customers will migrate to a 4G fixed wireless solution using the third generation of our Smart Modem (with an antennae port for connections to an external aerial). We plan to start migrating NGWL customers this year and customers who already have an external antenna will most likely be able to use it with their new 4G FW solution.

Will you match your existing 3G coverage with 4G before you switch off 3G?

Yes, we are working hard to upgrade areas to ensure that you will have the same or better 4G coverage before the 3G network is switched off.

Will my network experience go backwards from 3G when it moves to 4G coverage?

Your network experience should improve, and in most cases, you’ll notice a substantial improvement in speeds when you move from 3G only coverage to 4G coverage. Our 4G

service accesses greater bandwidths and is more efficient than 3G, leading to higher end user speeds.

The speed you experience is determined by a range of factors including how close you are to a tower, how much traffic the site is carrying, if there’s any obstructions impeding the network (i.e. buildings, hills, vegetation etc.) and what sort of device you’re using. If you have any questions or require assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask a team member at your local Telstra store, or Telstra dealer or contact us.

After 30th June 2024, can you guarantee I will have 4G coverage in a location that currently only has a 3G signal?

If you currently only receive 3G coverage, we’re committed to providing you with 4G coverage prior to the closure of the 3G network. More commonly asked questions can be found on / mobiles-devices/3g-closure

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As one of the longest operating Co-operatives in Australia, Yenda Prods has a focus on supporting and servicing its members to ensure that they maximise a return on their investment whilst ensuring that sustainability is a key focus of their decision making. This is encompassed in the Co-op’s mission which is to promote a co-operative approach by providing specialised services and advice to our members and to deliver them in a safe and sustainable manner.

Yenda Prods is a proud long-term supporter within the rice industry. Our involvement with the rice industry covers advisory services through our team of tertiary qualified agronomists, on farm services including spreading, sowing and cartage of rice and support towards field days. Our agronomists, and the Co-op, embraces new technology within its practices to ensure that our members are at the forefront of decision making for their farming enterprises.

Yenda Prods looks forward to continuing their support of the rice industry in years to come and is proud to be a key supporter of this year’s rice conference which is held in the heart of the rice growing area of Australia.

Yenda Producers Co-operative Society Ltd

80 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine
YENDA 59–61 Mirrool Ave, Yenda | 02 6961 3300 LEETON 2 Canal St, Leeton | 02 6953 9000 GRIFFITH 577 Kidman Way, Tharbogang | 02 6966 8900 FRUIT & CASE 31-34 Yenda Pl, Yenda | 02 6968 1268 BARANDUDA 43 Muller St, Baranduda | 02 6020 9709 WANGARATTA 4 Mason St, Wangaratta | 03 5720 0445
Yenda Producers Co-operative Society Ltd, also known as Yenda Prods, has been operating since 1925. Focussing on primary production, Yenda Prods operates from six locations within the MIA and North Eastern Victoria.
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82 The Australian Ricegrower Magazine






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