A year of feast and famine

Countryman - - YEAR IN REVIEW -

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.

FE­BRU­ARY

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.

MARCH

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.

APRIL

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.

MAY

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.

JUNE

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.

JULY

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.

AU­GUST

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.

SEPTEM­BER

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.

OC­TO­BER

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.

NOVEM­BER

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.

DE­CEM­BER

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

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

PGA pres­i­dent Tony Seabrook with lambs that would nor­mally be bound for live ex­port.

Pic­ture: Ian Munro

Wa­gin Foot­ball Club play­ers in their new jumpers.

Pic­ture: Nic El­lis

The Perth Royal Show supreme cham­pion fleece.

Pic­ture: Ian Munro

Moora Col­lege protests.

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