Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

Fear­ful for the dairy

in­dus­try’s fu­ture After 55 years of dairy farm­ing in the Goul­burn Val­ley, I am truly con­cerned for the re­main­der of the in­dus­try.

For 40 years we were able to utilise the plen­ti­ful water sup­ply from the amaz­ing man-made dams and water re­serves.

It isn’t too of­ten that chal­lenges con­tinue along such a detri­men­tal path for more than a few sea­sons, or a few years, but for the past 15 years the over­whelm­ing chal­lenges have left many un­able to cope.

Far from ac­cept­able milk prices, an­other dis­as­ter; many gen­er­a­tional farm­ers have left their lives on the land and many have lost their life.

The ‘suc­ces­sion plan­ning’ that has been em­pha­sised and en­cour­aged in the past decade, has re­ally be­come just a use­less term.

The water that was once for our sol­dier set­tlers and the at­trac­tion which al­lowed our food bowl to flour­ish, has vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared, due to the as­set be­ing traded as a com­mod­ity.

In­di­vid­u­als and groups who have no phys­i­cal need for water trad­ing, other than to boost their wealth, have com­pletely out­priced the as­set to the ex­tent that farm­ers can­not pos­si­bly af­ford to farm in a prof­itable man­ner.

The con­se­quences ex­tend into all coun­try towns.

Pop­u­la­tion suf­fers, schools and small busi­nesses suf­fer and close their doors. Many farm­ers can­not re­turn a net profit, while they are keep­ing up with in­flated debts.

The farms forced to sell have pos­si­bly sold off land to neigh­bours, some able to re­tain their home and some not.

The sale of live­stock that may help re­duce some debt ini­tially, has then seen con­se­quences — caus­ing un­pro­duc­tive land to go to ruin, be­cause there is no fur­ther in­come to spray and main­tain the land, as it was in­tended.

Farm­ers pay for the water and in­fra­struc­ture levies, re­gard­less of whether they even get the water to use, or not.

Those who have been con­vinced they could sur­vive on the tem­po­rary water sys­tem are also vul­ner­a­ble to the avail­abil­ity and fluc­tu­at­ing mar­ket val­ues, which also varies around four to five times its usual value.

Tem­po­rary water should not ex­ceed $100/Ml.

Ad­e­quate and af­ford­able water avail­abil­ity in spring could have saved many crops from fail­ing.

In this year of drought, au­tumn ir­ri­gation will be im­per­a­tive and, if not, will most cer­tainly see the end for many more farm­ers. — Ron Baker

Nu­murkah Water man­age­ment is

ru­in­ing farm­ers I have lis­tened to the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the mighty Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity, Phillip Glyde, speak on ABC ra­dio about the mar­vel­lous job they are un­der­tak­ing in the man­age­ment of the Mur­ray River in our lo­cal re­gion. Does he think we are all stupid? He told us there was not much water in the sys­tem for this year but for­tu­nately I have a daugh­ter who can read the MDBA web­site, which in­forms us there is still 78 per cent in Dart­mouth, 80 per cent in Lake Vic­to­ria and 44 per cent in Hume — which rep­re­sents nearly five mil­lion me­gal­itres of water.

Mr Glyde went on to in­form us we needed to make tough de­ci­sions about whether to plant a crop or not — it makes it so much eas­ier as a ‘poor dumb’ farmer to be told we should stop what we are do­ing, put the crop back in the shed, sell our stock and pull our trees out.

We can agree on the one fact: when he told us the poor farm­ers who have gen­eral se­cu­rity water al­lo­ca­tions on the NSW side of the Mur­ray are still on zero.

When asked why there was such a dif­fer­ence be­tween the states of Vic­to­ria at 89 per cent, South Aus­tralia at 100 per cent while NSW was on zero, Mr Glyde did his best work to con­vince us poor farm­ers that this was the way the rain­wa­ter fell into the catch­ments. I am sure the water shar­ing plan says a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to that.

When asked why the MDBA was not be­ing more trans­par­ent he as­sured us it was a very com­plex mat­ter and de­pended on a lot of sce­nar­ios, was sub­ject to state water rules and the dis­tri­bu­tion of a shared re­source — clearly too dif­fi­cult to work out for us poor farm­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately for you Mr Glyde, we can see the river is very full, so full in fact your peo­ple are tak­ing no no­tice of the nat­u­ral con­straints, which is a re­quire­ment of the same MDBA rules you keep be­rat­ing us about.

For nearly a month now you have been push­ing about 15 000 Ml/day through the Yar­ra­wonga Weir and you have 10 300 Ml/day try­ing to go through the Barmah Choke which has a max­i­mum limit of 8500 Ml.

So nearly 2000 Ml/day are spilling into the for­est to water it for the fourth time this year.

Your river op­er­a­tion is killing the red gum trees, poi­son­ing fish, flood­ing peo­ple’s pri­vate land, drown­ing kan­ga­roos and koalas and so far this year the mis­man­age­ment of this vi­tal re­source has starved at least 50 brumbies to death in the Barmah For­est.

I saw them with my own eyes, and I feel for them, be­cause we are the same ‘col­lat­eral dam­age’ merely in the way of the MDBA’s grand plans to fill the lower lakes with fresh water.

This dis­grace­ful eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter is be­ing car­ried out by the MDBA un­der the guise of ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal flows’ and is be­ing done to fill Lake Vic­to­ria, which is that full that 1500 Ml/day are run­ning out the back of it and back into the Mur­ray.

All the time there are at least three gates open at the bar­rages run­ning this pre­cious com­mod­ity out into the sea.

The mis­man­age­ment of our water is a de­spi­ca­ble eco­nomic catas­tro­phe and will be­come a po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment.

The whole con­cept was drafted on lies from South Aus­tralia and flawed science which has since been to­tally dis­cred­ited.

To ex­pect the good peo­ple up­stream of South Aus­tralia to be fi­nan­cially ru­ined is nei­ther right nor fair and it is about time we all stood up to­gether and marched in uni­son against this de­ba­cle that is the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan. — Bart Doohan


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