A year of feast and famine
A fight by farmers to keep the WA live export industry in action was one of the biggest issues of 2018 while, on a more positive front, grain growers largely enjoyed good seasonal conditions. Grain prices recovered this year, with barley being among the star performers. Wool growers had a wonderful year, with the wool price posting high returns, including a highest-ever price. Ann Rawlings, Zach Relph and Cally Dupe report on the year that was. JANUARY
In a turnaround from its midyear projections, the Grain Industry Association of WA’s final forecast for the 2017-18 crop, including seed retained on farms, stood at 14 million tonnes.
Rural lobby groups joined forces to tackle McGowan Government cuts to regional education, including a decision to close the School of the Air. Their rally echoed a groundswell of local support.
It was a wet start to the year for pastoralists in the Kimberley and Pilbara, with many stations copping a soaking from the remnants of Cyclone Joyce. The ex-tropical system then headed south, causing havoc in the Central Wheatbelt.
Wellard chief executive Mauro Balzarini sold his privately owned 16,500ha property at Dongara for $32 million.
Rural and metropolitan West Australians locked arms in protest against a State Government move to close Moora Residential College.
Lactanz Dairy was dealt a blow after Parmalat-owned Harvey Fresh revealed it would not renew its contract to process more than 20 million litres of milk a year.
CBH revealed plans to slash a rumoured $100 million from its budget, sparking fears of widespread job losses. Meanwhile, Kondinin grower Natalie Browning became the first woman, and one of the youngest at 35 years of age, elected to the CBH board.
The State Government set the wheels in motion for an investigation into a 2016 Emanuel Exports voyage in which almost 2500 sheep died of heat stress.
Rallies over the closure of Moora Residential College continued, with protesters joined by a convoy of more than 20 trucks in a march to Parliament House. WA Education Minister Sue Ellery remained firm on the Government’s stance, despite mounting pressure.
Growers weighed into the debate surrounding the parliamentary inquiry into a compensation scheme for farms contaminated by GM canola.
WA’s agricultural colleges tallied up a combined record intake for the 2018 schooling year, with female students accounting for 34 per cent of the total 641 students.
Australian Wool Innovation unveiled the first phase of the $3 million portal WoolQ, after a threeyear design process.
Cotton returned to the Ord in the form of a new variety designed to better withstand wet conditions.
Graziers, agronomists and stock groups gathered at the Katanning stockyards to discuss a united front against stock theft.
A Jaru cattlewoman from Halls Creek, Darrilyn Gordon, won the WA component of the national Rural Women’s Award initiative.
WA pastoralists delivered a 7000strong petition via horseback to WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan about rangelands use.
Seeding set off, with growers choosing barley, canola and pasture over wheat in the face of low prices for the grain and surging demand for sheepmeat and wool.
WA’s live sheep export industry was left reeling when shocking footage of sheep suffering aboard the Awassi Express aired on 60 Minutes. Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced a review into the northern summer live sheep export trade.
Live exporters agreed to a 17.5 per cent reduction in stocking densities of sheep on voyages during the northern summer months. Exporters also endorsed a Federal Government plan to place an independent observer on summer shipments to the Arabian Gulf.
May’s Federal Budget included a more than $50 million commitment across four years from 2018-19 to improve agricultural exports through marketing initiatives.
The State’s biggest broadacre farmer, John Nicoletti, revealed he was selling his 200,000ha Wheatbelt portfolio for a cool $85 million.
Australia’s biggest live sheep customer, Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company, confirmed it had started looking for its supply elsewhere amid the country’s increasing live trade turmoil.
Scaddan farmer Tom Curnow was awarded the WAFarmers and Rural Bank Agricultural Award at the 2018 WA Young Achiever Awards in Perth.
The season’s first major cold front brought joy and disappointment to WA’s farmers, with rainfalls from 173mm to 1mm in WA.
Wagin Football Club became the first in Australia to wear new woolsynthetic blend jumpers.
Wool prices skyrocketed to new highs and the eastern market indicator broke through $20 a kilogram for the first time, fuelled by insatiable demand from China and constrained supply from low sheep numbers.
Growing-season rains finally spread across most of the WA grain belt, bringing new hope to farmers facing dry conditions near Esperance and Albany. Spirits were dampened when high winds caused a devastating loss of topsoil across the Great Southern.
Drought-like conditions which forced Gascoyne pastoralists to offload cattle and buy-in feed ended with a joyous 100mm recorded at some stations. It was the first decent rainfall in three years at Eudamullah Station, 120km northeast of Carnarvon, and the most for five years.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan revealed the State would call for proposals for potential investors to establish a new saleyard in the South West.
Australian Wool Innovation was issued a long to-do list to sort out its corporate governance. The independent review concluded there was firm support from woolgrowers for marketing and research and development investments, but strong opinions about how best to invest the funds.
Russian Government officials issued a strong warning to WA grain growers during the first day of CBH’s international study tour.
Live export boss Graham Daws quit the board of the sheep export companies he founded as the drama following the Awassi Express leak continued.
Livestock and Rural Transport Association WA president Andy Jacob sounded the alarm of the live sheep export halt’s downstream impacts on other industries.
Trent Kensett-Smith resigned from WAFarmers’ chief executive post, effective immediately, after 11 months in the role.
The landmark decision in a US court case, ruling a former school gardener developed terminal cancer from exposure to glyphosate, caused a stir through Australia’s agricultural industry.
Australian Crop Forecasters’ figures found more than 80,000 tonnes of WA wheat was shipped to Brisbane Port in July to aid Queensland and New South Wales’ respective drought recuperations.
Livestock Shipping Services signalled it was paving the way to restart live sheep exports by sounding out livestock agents about sheep supply.
Regional Livestock Exchanges sounded its interest to replace the existing Boyanup saleyards and take over the Muchea Livestock Centre lease.
The Country Women’s Association penned an open letter to the McGowan Government, warning it would not give up its fight to help reverse State Budget decisions severely affecting WA families and communities.
Nine months of hard battling paid off for those campaigning to keep Moora Residential College open.
WA farmers revealed plans to send huge convoys of road trains loaded with hay to help drought-hit farmers in the Eastern States.
Former Queensland Police deputy Brett Pointing was appointed chief executive of Australian Live Exporters Council.
The King family, of Darkan, took out their first supreme champion title in the wool section at the IGA Perth Royal Show for a fleece with 12 months growth from a Poll Merino ram, by a homebred sire.
CBH chief executive Jimmy Wilson handed down the co-operative’s second-highest rebate in the scheme’s history, but told growers they should not come to expect a rebate of more than $10 a tonne.
The small town of Meckering held a big commemoration, marking 50 years since a magnitude-6.9 earthquake decimated the town.
The McGowan Government announced $800 to curb the mounting wild dog threat decimating WA’s wool industry.
The live export regulator cleared its workers of wrongdoing amid claims officials were leaking sensitive industry information to animal activists in an effort to compromise the trade.
Rain across WA’s south and south-east coastal regions helped recover some yield potential in cereal crops ravaged by early spring frosts and dry conditions.
Carbon Market Institute general manager Brad Kerin told Countryman the State was in an strong position to claim a major slice of Australia’s rapidly developing $24 billion carbon farming industry.
WA Labor continued to slash jobs at the State’s agriculture and food department but managed to claw more funds out of industry for co-investment in research, development and extension. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s annual report showed 131 staff were cut during the year.
The Australian Wool Innovation levy was in limbo in mid-November after the vote on the options was too close to call.
The State’s farmers were staring down the barrel of a 30 per cent hike in diesel costs during the peak harvest usage period.
New animal welfare legislation that puts WA into line with national standards was passed in State Parliament.
Horizon Power issued an unusual plea to grain farmers, calling on them to stop running into powerlines and risking lives, crops and power outages.
Kwinana port zone reeled in what CBH expected would be the area’s biggest-ever crop, driven by seasonal conditions and barley plantings.
The McGowan Government kept quiet on the two private investors competing to take control of the touted South West saleyard development ahead of overhauling Boyanup’s existing facility.
Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon repeated Labor’s stance to end the live sheep industry within five years, if elected, despite exporters agreeing to a three-month moratorium to the Middle East
PGA president Tony Seabrook with lambs that would normally be bound for live export.
Wagin Football Club players in their new jumpers.
The Perth Royal Show supreme champion fleece.
Moora College protests.