The Northern Territory has a plan to make cotton king if the lucrative onshore gas industry fails.
The NT government's wants to allow its cattle barons to crop their vast stations which are held in pastoral leases and not freehold ownership.
Laws will need to be changed to allow clearing for broadacre cropping.
The government this week released an agribusiness strategy for the Territory which sets a target of 100,000 hectares of broadacre cropping by 2030.
Although the Territory covers one sixth of the Australian continental landmass, only 43 per cent is used for agriculture which has historically been cattle grazing or horticultural crops like mangoes.
The government has the support of farmers and pastoralists who have already invested heavily in cotton, even building their own cotton gin at Katherine.
More than 8000ha of the NT was cropped for cotton last year after plantings began in 2019.
The first commercial cotton crops of around 200ha were grown in the 2018-19 season, with 800ha the following year and 4200ha in 2020-21.
Almost all the cotton is grown using wet season rains and not irrigation and with the start of the gin this year, dryland cotton has been identified as a high-value broadacre cropping option for expanding agriculture.
The Katherine gin will have a processing capacity of more than 150,000 bales over its six-month ginning period.
Until then, they are transported to Queensland for processing.
The cash-poor government is hoping agriculture will help increase its wealth and provide jobs while it remains reliant on Commonwealth (68 per cent) for its revenue.
The government has pushed ahead with development of shale gas reserves in the remote Beetaloo Basin but it may come too late to meet the nation's energy needs.
It has this week set a target of agriculture and aquaculture providing $2 billion to its economy by 2030 from $1.3 billion in 2021.
But like the gas development, the government faces fierce opposition to any tinkering with the laws around pastoral leases.
The agribusiness strategy wants to cut approval times for land clearing and making decisions on water licences.
It also wants more cotton gins built to drive the cotton industry onwards.
NT Farmers chief executive Paul Burke said the government's strategy "provides a clear focus on how we can responsibly develop the NT to generate long term economic opportunities for all Territorians".
"We look forward to working with the government to fully implement the strategy and to grow the size of agriculture in the NT," he said.
Environmental groups have long protested the expansion of broadacre cotton.
They claim land clearing laws are already being flouted by pastoralists and they fear the impact on water resources if more irrigated crops are developed.
The Environment Centre NT has already called on federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to intervene.
Ms Plibersek's department is already investigating claims of illegal land clearing for cotton growing.
"The NT Government have finally put in writing what we've long suspected - that they have a long-term plan to actively support a huge expansion of large-scale cotton production," the centre's executive director Kirsty Howey said.
"Big cotton devastated the Murray Darling Basin - we don't want to make the same mistakes here," she said.