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Autumn 2016

Cotton On and On RowAg Farming

The Incitec Pivot Fertilisers Service to the Cotton Industry Award looks for individuals who have provided exceptional service and shown significant commitment to the Australian Cotton Industry, achieved a positive impact on the Australian Cotton Industry, and contributed a legacy for the industry’s ‘greater good’. This is a unique category among the Australian Cotton Industry Awards in that people are secretly nominated by a third party and the Recipient is selected by a judging panel. Finalists are not announced; instead, the Recipient is invited to the Cotton Awards Dinner not knowing that he or she has been nominated, let alone chosen, and the announcement comes as a surprise. The surprised, but well-deserving, Recipient of the 2015 award was Cleave Rogan, of RowAg Farming in the St George irrigation area of Queensland.

Cleave belongs to a family that has strong connections with and has made numerous valuable contributions to the cotton industry. His parents owned Benelong, a ballot block that became available once Beardmore Dam was built, where they planted their first cotton crop in 1978. Cleave joined the operation in a full-time capacity in 1981, and he and his siblings worked alongside their father in the development of the infrastructure, seeing their operation grow over many years of work. Cleave and his wife Johnelle took over their own farm, Bookamerrie, in 2005.

Over the three and a half decades that he has been involved with the cotton industry, Cleave has witnessed many changes, with technological advances being possibly the common factor. According to Cleave: ‘Significant improvements in the cotton industry have been facilitated by the world-leading research that has been at the forefront of the modern Australian cotton industry. There have been improvements to the plant varieties and this translates to enormous positive changes in farm management, notably, improvements in nutrition, energy and water use and efficiency and in insect, weed and disease management. These changes have resulted in improvements in the downstream process that culminates with the final cotton product’. But that’s not all: ‘This innovation within the industry, facilitated by its world-leading research, also encourages young people to join in. There is something contagious in seeing the passion of others, and this is a very open industry, where ideas are shared freely, ready to be incorporated into everyone’s operation’.

Cleave has served the cotton industry in many different ways over the years. He has been a member and key driver of the Fusarium Working Group and the Rural Water Users Efficiency Regional Committee and was an instigator of a local Area Wide Management Group. In addition, Cleave was a long term member and executive member of the Australian Cotton Growers Research Association (ACGRA), and was actively involved in the historic merging of the ACGRA and Cotton Australia in November 2008, moving onto the new Cotton Australia board with a mandate to provide advice and direction on research, policy and best practice on behalf of Australia’s cotton growers. Cleave played an important role within the exciting new period for the cotton growing industry that was ushered by the merge, and he served on the Cotton Australia board until 2011. During this period he was also the Chair of the TIMS Herbicide Technical Panel where he reviewed and discussed the proposed and existing resistance management plans, and he was the chair of a hugely successful Australian Cotton conference in 2010. In 2011 Cleave took the opportunity to further his passion for Research and Development, becoming a Director of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). He has for a long time acted in an advisory role to CRDC, working on research projects related to biosecurity, insects, weeds, diseases, cotton fibre processing and quality enhancement. He has also been a long term co-operator with Cotton Seed Distributors in their cotton seed variety trials and selflessly offered his farms, his time and resources for countless fertiliser, chemical and irrigation trials and research projects all aimed at improving the sustain- ability and viability of cotton production.

But Cleave has experienced many other satisfying moments in his career. From a farm-level grower perspective, for instance, he aims at ‘being sustainable and profitable’, and finds it stimulating that ‘the bar seems able to keep on getting higher when it comes to yield’. Cleave also feels proud of team successes like RowAg Farming being the recipient of the St George Cotton Growers’ Association Farm Hygiene Award for five years in a row, and of playing a role in facilitating and optimising extension of research within the cotton industry, whereby growers consider, and may adopt, positive changes to their practices. From a broader perspective, Cleave has felt rewarded every time he has sought election and become a representative of an industry organisation, and regardless of the level of representation he has ‘always wanted to have growers at the forefront of any decisions’. For Cleave, being actively involved in the industry comes naturally, and he finds his involvement with ‘such high-level research- ers, growers and professional people’ in the cotton industry ‘truly invigorating’. Cleave sees the Service Award as a ‘fantastic highlight’ in his career, and acknowledges that he was ‘extremely humbled’ by it. He goes on to say that without the ‘massive amount of support’ provided by his wife, Johnelle, no achievement would have been possible. He also recognises that numerous people have had a significant impact on his career so far, including the late Ian Thomas from St George, a fellow Cotton Industry Awardee who, early in Cleave’s dealings with the industry, was on several boards and took the time and interest to give Cleave insights into issues such as representation and board etiquette and encourage- ment. There has also been support from other types of business that support the industry, including from Vanderfield St George, with whom Cleave has ‘an extremely long relationship, from back in the days when they operated from a farm shed in St George. Their support, from a sales’ perspective through to all aspects of maintenance, is fantastic for a rural area. The technical advancements in all their machinery and the support dedicated by Vanderfield staff with all that technology is magnificent’, says Cleave.

Nominations to the 2016 Cotton Industry Awards close on 1st April 2016. Cleave will keep drawing on his well-honed time management skills as he adds taking part in the judging panel for the Services to the Industry category to his many other, carefully chosen commitments, including managing his own operation, spending time with his family, participating in field days, promoting the cotton industry, and mentoring younger growers. Through it all, in the good times as well as in the more challenging ones, Cleave is proud to be part of the cotton industry and the St George community.

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