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Time to appreciate the value of southern farmers

Rebuilding trust will be a key plank of a new organisation representing 13 food producer groups and their communities across three southern states.

Murrumbidgee Industry and Agriculture Communities Chair Paul Pierotti, a member of Southern Connected Irrigators and Communities (SCIC) said the organisation has been formed to maximise food production in the region and return the significant contribution it once made to the nation’s GDP.

Mr Pierotti said it was interesting that ‘Building Trust’ is a pillar of high priority in the National Farmers’ Federation’s road map to increasing agricultural production at the farmgate to $100 billion by 2030.

“The Southern Connected System of the Murray-Darling Basin will be key to realising this dream, however food production across these prime agricultural areas has plummeted in the last two years due to appalling water management.

“Due to poor policy decisions and their implementation our trust has been eroded; in politicians, bureaucracies and even peak farming advocacy groups. But we are prepared to put the past behind us and work towards rebuilding agriculture across the Southern Connected System,” he said.

Mr Pierotti said the latest ABARE figures (2017-2018) show more than 40 per cent of Australia’s farmgate production comes from the Murray-Darling Basin, with nearly 15 per cent coming from irrigated agriculture. A significant proportion of this is from northern Victoria and the Murray Valley and Murrumbidgee regions of NSW.

“Since then we have had two years of zero or extremely low allocations in southern NSW and unaffordable temporary prices in northern Victoria, resulting a looming dairy crisis, and concerns with rice and wheat shortages,” he said.

He stated irrigation plays a crucial role in Australia’s food security and national prosperity, with a common sense approach to water management the Southern Basin can help protect both.

“As we transform our economy out of the pandemic crisis we need to prevent the wastage of huge quantities of water, like we are at present, while food producers sit idle. Sending all our water to high value crops is also not the answer.

“We need to be diverse and flexible in our food production, making sure water is available for the staple foods which Australians want each day or week on their kitchen tables.

“We look forward to working on solutions so our Southern Basin farmers can again be major contributors to our nation’s food supply and prosperity,” Mr Pierotti said.

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