Farmers plead for water
A small allocation for local farmers is desperately needed, when the latest general security announcement for NSW Murray is made this Friday.
Speak Up Campaign deputy chair Lachlan Marshall yesterday pleaded with water authorities to help regional food producers and communities, even if the allocation is only small.
‘‘We have to get something, regardless of how small. Those with rice crops are being forced to buy water at more than $500 a megalitre or let the crops die,’’ he said.
‘‘In my family’s situation we have a dairy farm and it’s costing a small fortune to buy water so we can grow forage crops for the cows. ‘‘We don’t have a choice.’’ On the Marshalls’ Blighty dairy farm they are milking 900 cows three times a day and produce about 12 million litres of milk a year.
‘‘I like to think that we’re not only running a business, but also making a significant contribution to our nation by helping to put milk on supermarket shelves.
‘‘Plus, we employ about 20 people which is good for our local economy.
‘‘My family knows that drought is a part of farming — we’ve been in the industry a long time and understand it’s part and parcel of what we do.
‘‘But what has happened this season is hard to swallow. At a time when our water allocation remains on zero, we’ve watched unnatural flooding of forests because of water mismanagement. Quite simply, the authorities bungled the amount they could push down the Murray River to South Australia.’’
Mr Marshall is also frustrated that water which was sent to South Australia was not used for environmental purposes, despite farmers being given assurances that water had to be recovered for the environment.
‘‘Much of the water that did make it to the end of the system — we lost billions of litres along the way — wasn’t used to benefit the environment. It kept the Lower Lakes full for boating and other recreation, filled up the channels of luxury housing developments, and huge quantities were poured out to sea.
‘‘That hurts. Especially as my family is being forced to pay more than $400,000 a month for water so we can feed the cows. We have to grin and bear it, but quite obviously it’s not sustainable.
‘‘I’m not sure what the future holds for our farming communities. I originally had faith that our politicians would see the lunacy and fix it. Now I’m not too sure.
‘‘But for the sake of food producers across the region I would strongly encourage them to provide us with a water allocation on Friday.’’
The Speak Up Campaign is producing a video to highlight the impacts of zero water allocation, which can be viewed today on the Speak Up Facebook page.