Where is our water?
I exited the dairy industry three years ago.
It was heartbreaking selling my herd, but at least it was a decision made by my family and I at the time.
Today I just shake my head in frustration.
Every day I talk to farmers across all commodities. Many are exiting, some are forced to sell, others are simply hanging in there worried about what the future holds for their business and their family.
And don’t get me started on where our food is going to come from in the future.
If nothing changes and things stay the way they are, it certainly won’t be grown here in Australia.
Or maybe it might be, but the odds are tipping more and more in favour of foreign ownership.
Drought, water, rising costs, little or no financial margins — our agricultural industry is in crisis.
And increasing financial pressure is severely impacting on the mental health of the farming community.
Rural towns are feeling the pinch as bills go unpaid and financial pressure filters into small business. No-one is buying new machinery or cars, people can’t afford to have a meal at the local pub any more and you can forget about getting your hair done until it rains again. Drought affects everyone. It is not new to Australia, but the flawed water policy our farmers now have to deal with is.
From the moment water was taken from land and turned into a tradeable commodity, the death knell for agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin has been sounding.
The introduction of the Water Act in 2007 along with the flawed implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has done nothing but decimate agriculture and farming communities from Queensland through to South Australia.
Farmers are a wonderfully strong, resilient bunch. They can do many things with ingenuity and willpower — but they can’t grow food without water.
Why do we have a water policy that is decimating the only manufacturing industry we have left in the country?
How can it be possible that cotton farmers at the top of the Darling can pump the river dry and use government funds to build dams to prevent water travelling its natural course, while here in Victoria we watch water flood the bush or head out to sea to keep the Murray mouth open in South Australia.
Northern Victorian farmers are left shaking their heads as temporary water prices head north of $350 and water runs past their farms to flood the bush for the second time in three years.
Temporary water at high prices benefits no-one but water traders and sellers.
And if farmers can not afford to irrigate, where is the hay, grain and silage going to come from this year?
It won’t be from NSW or Queensland.
All of NSW is drought declared, 57.4 per cent of Queensland is, and here in Victoria it is only a matter of time with a dry spring and hot summer forecast for 2018-19.
Spring is normally the time when the majority of fodder is grown and conserved.
Did I mention the government, in all its wisdom, is right now flooding the bush again for the second time in three years?
Again I ask, where is all the fodder going to come from?
NSW irrigators currently have zero allocation. They won’t be growing rice this year and their crops that are struggling in the ground are just mere weeks away from failing.
Sheep are already eating off the poorer crops and croppers are anxiously praying for rain on the others.
Here in northern Victoria we have the perfect climate and soil type to grow anything — crops, dairy, beef, horticulture — but once again we can’t do it without water.
I love farming. I always have.
There is nothing more rewarding then breeding a herd of dairy cows from a newborn heifer.
You can’t beat the smell of freshly-baled hay or a pit of silage cooking in the sun, or the sight of water slowly making its way across a dry paddock, the birds flocking in to eat the bugs that come out of the dry ground.
Is this going to be something we just reminisce about in the future?
Farmers are more in tune with the environment than anyone — after all, they don’t have a business if they don’t have a healthy one.
There has to be consideration for the environment, noone is disputing that, but the unfair grab of water away from agriculture can not continue.
We can’t drought-proof our country without an industry worthy of investment.
What is the point of upgrading irrigation infrastructure to help drought-proof our country if no-one can afford to pay for the water to put through it in the first place?
❝Farmers are a wonderfully strong, resilient bunch. They can do many things with ingenuity and willpower — but they can’t grow food without water.❞
Wrong way: Fodder is now running low in Victoria as much-needed water runs past farms to flood the bush.