Nuffield scholar tackles cotton careers (16 September 2016)

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Cotton grower Daniel Kahl from Wee Waa is cotton’s next Nuffield scholar, having been announced as the CRDC and Cotton Australia supported scholar for 2017.

Through his scholarship, Daniel will investigate where the next generation of farm managers will come from, and how quality candidates can be attracted to a career in farming.

Daniel is employed as the business manager of the Kahl family’s company, Merced Farming, which covers 7,500 hectares, 3,500 hectares of which is developed for irrigation. In a full production year, the company produces 20,000 bales of cotton in addition to other rotation crops.

Having returned to the farm in 2014, Daniel is concerned about a lack of available skilled managers.

“We can readily access labour to operate machinery and carry out cropping activities. But it is the roles at middle management level such as farm supervisors, those who can manage a team of plant operators or irrigation across a whole farm, that we struggle to fill,” Daniel said.

“The challenge of attracting skilled labour is present across the wider agricultural industry. Is the answer to develop staff and help them to acquire the necessary skills to step-up and fill that role? Or is it to provide a more attractive opportunity to those who have gone away to further education and encourage them to return?”

This is a real and imminent challenge for Merced Farming. Having recently doubled in size through the purchase of additional property, the business is currently in a consolidation phase.

“We are readying ourselves and our team for when full production is upon us. It is only with a good team in place that full production can be a reality,” Daniel said.

Daniel plans to travel to Europe, North America and New Zealand and study the human resources practises of corporate and family farming operations as well as what programs may be in place at an industry level to develop a skilled agricultural workforce.

Daniel’s focus on workforce capacity is timely, given CRDC and Cotton Australia’s collaboration on the industry’s first Workforce Development Strategy, which was launched at the Cotton Conference in August.