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Stud warms up for Big Country Sale

Brian Kirkwood with Somerview Kakadu, Somerview Bentley, Somerview Hamish and Somerview Rebel, which will be offered at Big Country next month.BRIAN and Glenda Kirkwood of Somerview Red Brahman Stud have been consistent supporters of the Big Country Sale at Charters Towers and are currently making the final preparations to their draft of 11 bulls in readiness for the sale on February 7.
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The Somerview draft has been catalogued from lot 10 to 16 and lot 49 to 52, and features five polled bulls. Eight of the bulls have been sired by Palm-vale Brooklyn which has been a leading sire in the Somerview Stud program since he was purchased at the Rockhampton Brahman Week sales in 2007.

“Brooklyn has been invaluable in our operation,” Mr Kirkwood said. “A polled bull, he has a wonderful nature and is hard to fault in type.”

Three of the bulls have been sired by Kandoona Vantage, another great polled sire at Somerview.

The draft will kick off with lot 10, Somerview Bentley, a bull Mr Kirkwood is confident will attract the attention of discerning buyers.

“Bentley is a really impressive red sire of good, even colour with excellent length and muscling pattern,” he said. “He stands on the same good bone exhibited by his sire, Palmvale Brooklyn, making him a bull that would be hard to dismiss.”

Mr Kirkwood is also looking forward to offering lot 14, Somerview Commodore.

“Commodore shows ideal natural muscling, heavy bone, depth of body and smoothness of finish,” he said.

For more information, please contact Brian or Glenda Kirkwood on (07) 4788 5525.

“He is an attractive Red bull and features a masculine, broad head.”

“Upon semen testing our bulls recently we were thrilled to discover the outstanding semen counts exhibited by the bulls.”

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New Muresk courses kick into gear

CY O’Connor Institute’s managing director John Scott.
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AGRICULTURAL students will be able to study vocational and short courses offered by CY O’Connor Institute (CYOC) at its new Centre for Agribusiness and Farm Technology (CAFT) at the Muresk campus near Northam for the first time this year.

The courses on offer are the first step in the move towards Muresk becoming a multi-use facility offering agricultural higher education qualifications, TAFE qualifications, short-term industry training and farm-based research, following a recommendation in the Cowan report to Education Minister Liz Constable last year.

CYOC managing director John Scott said they would be relocating their agribusiness courses to Muresk which would give them the opportunity to expand the courses offered in future.

Vocational qualifications would encompass all agriculture-related programs within the institute and a broad range of short courses would be delivered on a commercial basis according to market demand.

“The strength of this year’s programs is that they are grounded in real farm skills,” CAFT director Peter McGlew said.

Mr Scott said the agricultural industry wanted graduates to be farm ready, which was an important factor influencing their approach to agribusiness training.

“There are more than 6000 graduate jobs vacancies in Australian agribusiness with starting salaries over $60,000, so there is an enormous shortfall in the capacity of Australian universities to produce people qualified in agribusiness,” he said.

Mr Scott said the move to Muresk would allow CYOC to fully develop pathways from the schooling sector into both vocational and higher education training.

Mr McGlew said he was keen to explore pathways for students from the metropolitan area to find work in rural areas.

“Having a facility like Muresk allows us to give them a range of hands-on skills to make them farm-ready to get work,” he said.

CYOC is also developing an Associate Degree in Agribusiness and expects it to be accredited this calendar year ready for 2012.

“The first year of the associate degree is a higher education Diploma of Agribusiness which provides an exit point for first year students into employment, then rolls into the Associate degree in the second year,” Mr Scott said.

Because the degree has not been accredited yet, CYOC is offering a Certificate III and Certificate IV program this year which Mr Scott hopes to repackage into a Year 13 program in future to allow students to progress directly to university upon completion.

Mr Scott said the model for delivery of higher education was a residentially-based course to preserve the benefits of a practical farm-based environment.

“These are the lessons we’ve learnt from the past when Muresk was a very strong institution,” he said.

To make sure CYOC is positioned well as a tertiary education provider, Mr Scott said he had commissioned a consultancy to write a tertiary education plan.

He is in the process of establishing a steering committee and hoped to attract high calibre people for this task.

After signing a MOU between Murdoch University and CYOC last October, Mr Scott said he had last week started discussing pathways from their proposed Associate Degree of Agribusiness into Murdoch’s Animal Science and Environmental Science bachelor degrees.

He expected to complete the same exercise with Curtin University with their Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Commerce degrees.

Mr Scott said the courses would have strong international appeal.

“We would expect to receive international students, particularly from the Middle East market, because Muresk has a history of supporting people from such places,” he said.

Mr Scott said recent work experience in the Middle East market had showed him that the Middle East culture viewed Australian training very favourably.

Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls has invited CYOC to submit its funding requirements for next year’s programs, specifically the higher education programs, which Mr Scott anticipated being available in March.

A Muresk Advisory Committee chaired by a former director of the Muresk Institute, Dr Ian Fairnie, has also been established to oversee the development of the higher education program in agribusiness.

Dr Fairnie is also the president of the Muresk Old Collegian’s Association.

Courses this year start on February 7 with 16 people already having expressed interest in enrolments.

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School’s out for good for teacher Don

MOTIVATING CAREER: Bordertown High School agriculture teacher Don Walter says educating students about where their food comes from has been a highly rewarding career. He has spent his entire 37 years in the workforce teaching at the school.THE look of enlightenment on the faces of students when they grasp a new concept has kept Bordertown High School teacher Don Walter motivated at the front of the classroom and out in the ag plots for the past 37 years.
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And through his influence, the upper South East school’s agriculture curriculum has broadened from just a few chooks, sheep and cows to include olives, apples and wine grapes, vegetable production, rearing meat birds and replacement pullets, pigs and growing out turkeys.

Many of the thousands of students he has taught have forged successful careers in farming or agribusiness, but equally as important he says all of his former students have a greater understanding of how their food is produced and the role of farmers in a rapidly expanding global population.

“People have got to be fed somehow and the community needs to know what is happening on the land,” he said.

“If they need assistance at least there is some empathy for farmers, but if people have no background they will not be as willing to help.”

Don was born and raised on a mixed cropping and dairy farm at Melrose and Monteith before graduating from Roseworthy College and completing a year at Teacher’s College in Adelaide.

He admits he never dreamed of spending his entire career at the same school but the strong support of the local community, particularly stud sheep and cattle breeders, has seen many projects he wanted to complete come to fruition.

A number of stud breeders have continually donated steers for the Royal Adelaide Show led steer competition which the school has been involved with since 1982, and the school has received strong support in the 25 years it has entered the annual Mundulla Hogget Competition.

“We could never do what we have done without that much parental support, not only in ag but other areas of the school as well,” he said.

Bordertown High School comprises a three hectare farm, with numerous livestock paddocks, shiraz grape vines, a small olive grove, and vegetable plots for the Year 9 students to grow vegetables to sell to their family and friends, gaining small business experience.

For the past 15 years the school has also leased 80 hectares from the Tatiara District Council on the edge of the town where they run 100 Merino ewes, 40 first-cross ewes and undertake a small amount of cropping.

Don believes students have largely remained the same over the years, although fewer now come from a farming background.

Technological advances have altered teaching methods and textbooks have largely been replaced by the internet as learning resources, and students are now able to receive more industry focused practical training by completing the Certificate III in Ag through TAFE while at school.

Don – who has been involved in the Ag Teachers Association of SA for the past couple of decades – says the shortage of ag teachers is not new, but of even greater importance now with a number of his fellow teachers also nearing retirement.

He says more university graduates need to be encouraged to enter the profession, but passion and enthusiasm for agriculture are the grounding needed for being a good educator.

“You have to love the topic and if you love the topic it is infectious to the students and you become a good teacher.”

Don says it is highly rewarding watching students starting with bare ground and ending up with a full crop of vegetables, or increasing their confidence working with livestock.

“One of the times I really enjoy is early spring, when we have had lesson after lesson inside but I can finally take the students out to check the sheep or show them something.”

Among the highlights of his career are the numerous champion and reserve champion carcase awards from the led steer competitions at Adelaide and Mount Gambier, and wins by the school’s led goat teams with wethers in 2002 and 2004.

Don is also thrilled over the years two former Year 12 students have received full marks for agriculture.

Being a ‘frustrated farmer’, Don says his teaching career, along with owning a 4ha hobby farm, have substituted well for a life on the land.

“We have been there for 15 years and it is treated as another school paddock – we put ewes and lambs there to keep the weeds down,” he said.

Don has just commenced long service leave until the middle of next year after which he intends to retire and start the next chapter of his life, but with his wife Sue the assistant principal, he will still have a close involvement with Bordertown High School.

*Full story in Stock Journal, January 27 issue, 2011.

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Muchea sizzles for Gascoyne flood cause

p Cooking the sizzling sausages on Monday morning at the Muchea Livestock Centre was WAMIA compliance officer John Donaldson (left), with Bindoon producers Olive Young and Colin Glover.IF you walked into the Muchea Livestock Centre on Monday morning you would have smelt a nice aroma floating around the yards.
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And it wasn’t the usual cattle aroma, but the smell of a sausage sizzle held on the auctioneers’ verandah to raise money for flood affected victims in the Gascoyne region.

Hosted by the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA), the barbecue cranked up before the commencement of the cattle sale and buyers, sellers and agents from around WA lined up with their gold coin donations.

The sausages for the event were kindly donated by Kevin and Wendy Armstrong, The Beef Shop, Maddington.

With producers giving generously, the morning was a success and in total $900 was raised from the big cook up.

But the fundraising didn’t stop there with all livestock agencies also offering a helping hand.

Primaries donated $200, as did Leeds Agencies, while WAMIA chief executive Renata Paliskis put forward the earnings from the sale of a Murray Grey-Gelbvieh cross steer.

The steer weighed 266kg and was purchased by LSS at 250c/kg or $665.

Another vendor in the Primaries offering, Sandy Bagshaw, Bridgetown, donated all the proceeds from the sale of a Brahman cross cow to the flood victims.

The 346kg cow was purchased by an interstate buyer at 126c/kg or $436.

Elders and FarmWorks donated their commission from the sale of a pen of steers each, while Landmark directly donated to the Gascoyne Catchment Group.

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Take a breather

TOP-UP SELECTION: Saffin Ker Bowen & Wilson agent Jim Oliver, Warrnambool, Victoria, and Margaret Patterson, Drysdale, Ballangeich, Vic, were looking to top-up heifer numbers at the Mount Gambier store cattle sale on Friday, after buying heifers at the Naracoorte sales held on the same day. “FROM chocolates to boiled lollies” was how one vendor described this week’s lamb sale at Dublin.
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After the exhilarating highs of last week, where lambs rocketed into the stratosphere with one pen making $202, this week was understandably pedestrian with prices coming back into the more realistic region with the top price only a lowly $178.

Perception is a marvellous thing and a mystical price like $200 has raised producers” expectations beyond any reasonable level.

Feeder buyers lifted prices on store crossbred lambs to heights on Tuesday that left most reasonably-conservative onlookers gasping for breath.

Most part-time feeders would look at a $40 to $50 a head margin on a crossbred lamb as a comfortable way to make a few dollars.

The work and cost involved in shearing, drenching and feeding is not inconsiderable and the selling cost at the other end is another burden that is often forgotten when budgeting.

So to purchase crossbred lambs for a reasonable $90 to $100 and resell them for $140-$150 is good business.

When people start paying $115-$125 in the hope of returning $160-$170, the gambling really begins.

Anyone who has fed lambs will know that there is always a percentage of lambs that will not fatten at the required rate, despite all of the pampering you can provide.

Then one will die, or the flies will get a few, and broken skins will hurt your returns.

The whole exercise is fraught with pitfalls and many astute sheepmen have not made the returns that market forces so richly promised.

Then, of course there is that thing called supply-and-demand. At the moment, demand is going along, seemingly unimpeded, by the strength of the $A and the ongoing price rises, but if a major processor throws-in the towel then things could change rapidly.

Last year we saw Victorian-based processor Castricum Bros do just that, and suspend operations.

The industry cannot afford that to happen to any more of the processor sector, or the ramifications will be disastrous for those with dear lambs and a big investment in ewes at record high prices.

Noone should be too disappointed with the lamb prices this week.

It is only January and there are many months before numbers are likely to escalate.

Heavyweight lambs at $150-$170 should not be too difficult for anybody to stomach for a while.

Store cattle are attracting the same sort of attention as store lambs, with demand going through the roof.

There appears to be a different agenda for buyers of cattle, with weaner sales recording unprecedented returns for breeders.

I, for one, cannot see how steers at $800-$1000, plus freight, can be a profitable investment.

I hate talking-down the market but there seems to be a premise that export cattle prices will lift.

*Full story in Stock Journal, January 27 issue, 2011.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Kalbar sweet corn proves irrepressible

SPECIALIST sweet corn and other fresh produce grower Ed Windley considers he is more fortunate then many other farmers hit by the flood deluge – at least he will have a crop to market from his Kengoon property, Kalbar.
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Ed grows sweet corn on a rolling basis to supply the fresh food business Mulgowie Farming, with plantings spaced from September to January so that new cobs keep coming off, most going to Woolworths and a few other smaller retailers.

He currently has about 20 hectares of Pacific Seeds H5 sweet corn, which was planted on December 12 and has already been submerged three times since Christmas – on Boxing day, the day after that and the more recent big flood when nearby Warrill Creek went over its levy twice and combined with the floodwater of swollen Kent’s Lagoon.

“We have since fertilised the crop and although it won’t yield as well as normal, it is worth persisting with,” said Ed, a son of John and Edwina Windley and grandson of the late noted Hereford and Poll Hereford breeder Wally King who was Edwina’s father.

Ed explained that growing sweet corn for the fresh food market was a highly specialised business. It required planting on a basis to fit in with the overall roster of Mulgowie Farming, which had contract suppliers over large areas of southern and central Queensland.

Various farmers who supplied the company had to plant five to six days a week to assure the continuity from sweet corn, which took about 70 days from planting to picking.

Ed said he had planted one Kengoon crop in mid September, then the start of October, missed November and then the present crop on December 12.

The corn is mechanically harvested with a machine that pulls the whole cobs down without bursting the wrapping and delivers them to a hopper for loading into trucks. Minimal damage is necessary to present a pristine cob of unmarked sweet corn to the customer.

While reluctant to discuss specific on-farm prices for the corn, Ed said he was paid on a per-cob basis, but nowhere near the price that customers would pay from supermarket shelves.

With up to 90ha of the property farmed, he has been growing sweet corn for about five years and also supplies green beans and red and brown onions to Mulgowie Farming.

To assure irrigation when floods aren’t about, Windleys built a 300 megalitre capacity ring tank in 2005 to be filled from the permanent Kent’s lagoon as well as licensed flood flow collection. “This year we simply filled it from water that ran off the paddock,” Ed said.

Ed and his wife Genevieve run the fresh food farming business, having pulled down all fences on the Kengoon flat country. In higher undulating paddocks on the other side of the total 300ha property, his parents John and Edwina run their Kengoon Droughtmaster Stud cattle.

“Dad doesn’t like farming and I don’t like cows, but it’s important to have some good beef to eat with the vegetables,” he quipped.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Smart sire acquisitions sees Burdekin reaping rewards

The Brownson family of the Burdekin Brahman Stud at Charters Towers will offer nine top-quality grey bulls at Big Country in February.THE strategic acquisition of key sires by the Burdekin Brahman Stud has begun to pay dividends for the Charters Towers-based operation.
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Stud principals, the Brownson family, have been breeding Brahmans since 1960, and have invested heavily in new sires to boost their breeding program over the past few years.

The fruits of these investments will be on display at Big Country next month when the Burdekin Brahman Stud offers nine top-quality grey bulls.

Catalogued from lot 217 to lot 225, the draft includes eight horned bulls and one polled bull, all aged 21 to 22 months.

John Brownson said the draft features two select sires (lot 217 and lot 218) by the JDH Gardner son, Ngamba Mr Universal, which was purchased as a calf for $18,000.

“Lot 217, Burdekin Soldier, is a very long, stylish bull, and lot 218, Burdekin Sir Guardsman, has a faultless temperament and is a very easy- going bull,” he said.

The Brownsons will also offer six herd bulls (lot 220 to 225) by the JDH Western son, PBF Heineken.

“His calves have been very quiet and have shown great weight for age,” Mr Brownson said.

“Lot 224 is a polled bull and lot 219 is by the very fertile $20,000 sire in Lanes Creek Palestine.”

For more information or a pre-sale inspection, please contact John Brownson on 0428 636 494.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Calls for flood mapping data

In Queensland, more than 90 percent of catchments� flood-mapping data is still being sourced for the NFID.THE Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has reiterated its call to local governments in Queensland to release detailed flood-mapping data.
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This would allow more insurers to develop insurance products for the Queensland market.

“If more widespread mapping and data were available for Queensland, more insurers would be able to price the risk, leading to more flood products being offered to the Queensland community,” ICA CEO Rob Whelan said.

The additional community benefit will help more Queenslanders understand the risks relating to their property, while raising awareness.

The general insurance industry has been working in partnership with all Australian state governments to develop the multimillion dollar National Flood Information Database (NFID).

This database, which is funded by the general insurance industry, is used to determine the flood risk to individual properties.

Unfortunately, not every flood-prone area in Australia is covered by the NFID, as some local governments and floodplain management authorities responsible for this information have yet to release adequate flood mapping for their jurisdictions.

“Insurers have demonstrated that where the risk can be properly understood, they will develop the product. There is far greater flood coverage in states like NSW, WA and SA because flood mapping and data have been made available to the industry,” Mr Whelan said.

In Queensland, over 90 per cent of catchments’ flood-mapping data is still being sourced for the NFID. The ICA is continuing to work with local govern-ments for the release of this crucial data.

“Queensland has been affected by severe flooding many times in the past and we know similar events are inevitable in the future. There must be action to provide this data immediately,” Mr Whelan said.

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QR National network continues to open up

All four of QR National�s coal networks through Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura are open.QR NATIONAL recently re-opened parts of the flood-impacted Blackwater coal rail network.
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Managing director and CEO Lance Hockridge said the first loaded coal trains began heading to the port of Gladstone soon after 6pm on Wednesday, January 19.

“As soon as our track gangs completed the repairs at Dawson River, we had coal trains rolling through the area,” he said.

“Our crews have done an extraordinary job in recovering track across the coal network in the aftermath of unprecedented floods across Queensland.

“In general, the network has endured well through these incredible floods. The majority of recovery work has been con-fined to stabilising the formation on which the rail sits, realigning the track in some locations and replacing ballast that has been scoured by the floodwaters.

“Our continuing focus will be on working closely with our mining customers and with all players across the supply chain to maximise coal tonnages in com-ing days, weeks and months.”

The Blackwater track is now available for mines from Burn-grove (near Blackwater) east to Gladstone port.

The remaining link on the Blackwater network, the 110km spur to Xstrata’s Rolleston mine, is being assessed in detail following the receding of floodwaters.

The reopening date is yet to be confirmed.

QR National has established a project team with Xstrata to manage this recovery work.

With the reopening of the Blackwater line, this means that all four of QR National’s coal networks (Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura) are open.

“We’re pleased to have re-started most operations across Queensland for our customers, and look forward to ramping up services and system capacity over coming weeks,” Mr Hock-ridge said.

QR National also operates a smaller number of general freight and coal services across other rail infrastructure owned by government-owned corporation Queensland Rail.

General freight services along the North Coast line to locations beyond Gladstone to Cairns have also recommenced following the repair of track damaged by floodwaters at Rockhampton.

In southern Queensland, QR National is unable to operate coal, grain and general freight services west of Brisbane.

Because of flooding and damage to the rail line on the Toowoomba Range following a landslide on January 10.

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Cotton pushes south

WHEN you think of Australia’s cotton industry, thoughts are very much centred on its heartlands through areas such as the Namoi irrigation district in northern NSW and St George in Queensland.
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However, gradual improvements in varieties have meant cotton is now being produced at Jerilderie, within striking distance of the Victorian border and just over 300 kilometres from Melbourne.

Cotton Seed Distributors agronomist for central and southern NSW Bob Ford said there had been an explosion in the amount of plantings in cotton’s southern bastion.

“In 2009-10 there were 3500 hectares planted in the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee growing areas, that figure has grown to 22,000ha this season.”

He said there were a number of contributing factors as to why farmers were turning to cotton in increasing numbers, but said varietal advances were crucial.

“The main variety grown through that area now, Sicot 71 BRF, could be a one in 20 year variety.“

He said its package of disease and insect management traits allowed growers to concentrate on the other agronomic management necessary to successfully grow cotton in southern areas.

“It is a bit harder to grow a crop in the south, as the season is certainly shorter and there are less of the heat units required to grow the crop, but with good management it can be done.

“Target yields are lower than in the northern zones, but at current pricing, it is still an attractive option.”

He said growers in the south were targeting around nine bales a hectare.

“Transgenic varieties, and advances such as Bollgard, along with new varieties from CSIRO have made it possible for cotton to come this far south,” he said.

Mr Ford said the record pricing for the fibre crop, coupled with a stagnant market for traditional summer crops through southern NSW, such as rice and corn, meant growers were prepared to experiment with cotton.

“There have been consistent results over the past five years in terms of both yields and quality, which has led to the increase in acreage.”

He said the crop’s water use efficiency was also good, giving irrigators good value for money.

One Riverina family growing the crops are the Roratos, Sergio and Silvia and children Glen, Allen and Sandra.

The family has previously focused on growing tomatos, but this year they have branched out into producing cotton at Jerilderie and Narrandera.

Brett Hay an agronomist in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area said the Rorato family saw cotton as another potential summer crop that can use in rotation with tomatoes.

He said this initial season it was a matter of simply observing how it goes.

It will not only be the the Rorato family watching on with interest, but also other farmers in their area, who may decide to also branch into cotton production.

One key facet of the production will be ensuring that quality is maintained through the extremes of weather that occur in the Riverina, and the overall lower temperature range during the crucial fibre development stage.

“So far, the crop looks good standing at around 18 nodes and 75cm, with a good fruit load,” Mr Hay said.

“The rows have closed in and cut-out will occur next week. It looks promising, but we will see what happens once we have the cotton in modules and off to the gin.”

Mr Ford said he did not expect the crop to progress too much further south, saying that its need for a longer growing season than other summer crops meant it would struggle in the Murray irrigation zone and further south.

However, in the Murrumbidgee, he said cotton could get big, especially with that region’s relatively stable water allocations.

“The Murrumbidgee has the most reliable allocations in the state, you could see more cotton here than in the Gwydir River area.”

“If this season goes well, there could be 35,000ha of cotton in the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee areas next year.

“Already we have 60 growers in the area, and a lot of them are new.”

“It’s certainly not going to replace rice in the Murrumbidgee, but it will give the growers there the opportunity to have a broadleaf crop like cotton in the rotation.

“There will be the opportunity to make decisions based on the market at the time.”

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