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AgLife: Mighty Murray or mighty mess

country today with libby price

Driving the 100-kilometre journey from Moulamein to Deniliquin in the New South Wales Riverina is a treacherous affair.
There’s kangaroo road-kill at least every 20 metres.
Even though I was travelling in broad daylight, I had to stop to make way for a mob of thirsty roos to slowly make their way across the highway and into the dusty saltbush plains, not a blade of grass in sight.
Locals tell me driving at night is extremely dangerous. Most slow down to less than 50kmh.
I made the road trip a few weeks ago to find out what impact the Murray Darling Basin Plan is having on the Riverina.
Farmers are feeling pretty much like a ‘roo caught in the headlights’. Each day they watch the water in the Murray and Edward rivers and the many tributaries flow on the long journey south.
It’s a cruel taunt, with allocations for water for irrigation at zero percent.
Only a few who have some carry-
over entitlement are even considering sowing a rice crop. It will be the lowest harvest in many years.
Rice processor SunRice has already laid off 100 workers with more cuts likely.
Of course it doesn’t stop there. The local farm machinery dealer, Taskers, isn’t replacing workers who leave and won’t be able to afford to employ apprentices.
Income is down at least 30 percent, but they think they’ve got it pretty good compared with their farmer customers.
As for the farmers, they’re convinced there will be zero allocation for water again next year
It’s hard to imagine that just two years ago they were dealing with floods, which one farmer described as not unlike coping with bush fires. ‘It’s not just the day of the fire or floods: it’s the years of recovery’.
They’re still spraying to control Bathurst burr that arrived in the floodwaters.
It’s just about all that’s growing on the Burge’s dryland pastures at ‘Prairie Home’ just out of Deniliquin.
Louise and Andrew Burge share the farm duties. She’s drenching merino sheep while he’s spraying weeds.
Over a cuppa, they both admit they don’t sleep well, worrying about the impact of the basin plan and what future there is for farmers and their children.
They’re both convinced too much water is being used in the northern basin, and too much is going to South Australia, leaving them caught in the middle with nothing.
It’s not for a lack of trying. The Burge’s attend meeting after meeting, Royal Commission hearings, senate inquiries, indeed anything to do with the Murray Darling Basin Plan – they’re there and have written scores of submissions arguing for a redistribution of the precious water allocations.
Andrew put it most succinctly when he met former Water Minister Barnaby Joyce: “I didn’t ask for this shit to be piled on my head. You politicians created it, now you fix it!”
With the Federal Election only months away, that’s not going to happen.
Riverina irrigators and dryland farmers are going to have to start all over again. They’re terrified their pleas will fall on deaf Labor ears.

The entire January 30, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire January 30, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Jan 30 2019

Posted by on Jan 30 2019. Filed under Agriculture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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