Latest water allocation announcements have farmers questioning whether governments are serious about rebuilding the economy and regional prosperity.
The NSW Government has been slammed for its obstinate refusal to support the farming community, at a time when it is desperately needed.
Young Barooga farmers Tom and Carly Marriott say the frustration of those wanting to produce food and fibre is palpable because inconceivable government interference is thwarting productivity when it is most needed.
Mrs Marriott has echoed the concerns of various farming groups who cannot understand why water is not being made available to grow food.
This week the NSW Government increased the general security water allocation for the NSW Murray by a meagre 1%, and for the Murrumbidgee only 2%. Murray food producers have only 3% of their allocation, despite a significant increase in water storage levels.
“New South Wales farmers are in a prime position to grow bumper crops during the pandemic, while they abide by social distancing and COVID-Safe operations.
“They are set up to employ staff, buy inputs from local businesses and contribute to helping the national economy bounce back. They will also put food on supermarket shelves at a time when there are increasing concerns about shortages, including staple products such as rice and dairy.
“But they are missing two key ingredients – water and confidence, the latter being further eroded by disappointing allocation announcements from a State Government that does not seem to be interested in helping our rural communities, or the nation as a whole,” Mrs Marriott said.
She said with storages at the bottom of the system being full, farmers have been shocked by the allocations.
“As other industry groups have pointed out, we have been fortunate to see storage volumes rise considerably in recent weeks. So why can’t the Government do the right thing by our farmers and make water available for production? It makes no sense.”
Mrs Marriott said the recent rains have provided “a good drink” to most areas of the Murray and Murrumbidgee, with benefits to river flows, crop establishment and native vegetation. If spring is dry, allocating water which is readily available for food production will be essential to ensuring these winter crops are turned into a bumper harvest. Equally important, these allocations are essential for farmers who are planning summer crops.
“In our region this includes rice; a good crop is needed because Australia is about to run out of domestically grown rice, and at present we have limited access to international supplies. The water is also important for our dairy farmers and vegetable growers.
“With the COVID crisis far from over we must ensure our farmers are growing the staple foods we need, but this can only happen if they have their most previous resource,” Mrs Marriott said.