While the holiday season brings joy for most Australians, for cotton growers it often means dread for one of the biggest risks in modern-day farming: damage to valuable crops from off-target spray drift.
Unfortunately, this season has proven no different - once again, Cotton Australia is working hard with growers struck by chemical drift.
While not as bad as that experienced two seasons ago (yet!), we have reports of significant damage to cotton in the valleys stretching from Darling Downs in southern Queensland, across Walgett and the Gwydir, and into the Macquarie Valley, also.
The damage to cotton in the Walgett district was so severe that the Walgett Cotton Growers’ Association called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. The situation is particularly galling for those growers facing complete crop loss, and also for the many who have had access to limited irrigation water this season. Cotton Australia was at the meeting to hear the concerns of growers, and feedback from that important meeting has been factored into our advocacy plan.
Growers on the Darling Downs have also been particularly hard hit, with reports that farmers trying hard to recover from the Boxing Day storms must now also deal with chemical damage.
On top of its comprehensive annual spray drift campaign, which has been in effect for many months now, Cotton Australia has worked hard in recent weeks to tackle the problem at the advocacy level. Our staff met with representatives from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, inspecting cotton damaged by spray drift in northern NSW and discussing forward strategies.
In addition, Cotton Australia staff including CEO Adam Kay travelled to Canberra to meet with organisations including the federal regulator, the Australian Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, and the representative group for chemical- and bio-technologies, CropLife, to discuss potential solutions.
We followed up by meeting with the state regulator in NSW, the Environment Protection Authority, highlighting the impacts on NSW growers and encouraging the EPA to take action. These meetings were beneficial, and Cotton Australia will keep growers informed of our strategy as it evolves.
Reports should be made to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. In NSW, call the EPA hotline on 131 555.
I encourage all growers to learn more about spray drift practices and useful tools, and Cotton Australia’s spray drift action plan, at our website: www.cottonaustralia.com.au