SunRice's decision to cut more jobs has reinforced the need for water policy to change urgently, Can the Plan advocates say, before the demise of industries and communities becomes irreparable.
Speak Up campaigner and former Deniliquin rice farmer Shelley Scoullar said the effects of the drought and the Murray Darling Basin Plan were flowing through farm gates and into factories and main streets.
On Tuesday, SunRice announced 100 jobs would go from their Leeton and Deniliquin operations, citing near-record low harvests due in part to the basin plan and a lack of water allocations.
The next day Murray Irrigation chair Phil Snowden told the company's Annual General Meeting that the zero water allocation for general security irrigators had hit the company's bottom line. The business posted a $500,000 loss for the 2018-19 financial year.
Both announcements came just a week before farmers head to the nation's capital to demand water policy change through the Convoy to Canberra.
Mr Snowden said as the business moves into a new financial year where zero water allocation was again likely, the company would be focusing on reducing overheads and limiting further losses.
The company has recently announced they will sell MILCast and make six positions redundant.
"It's disheartening to have to make these decisions, but they are sadly necessary to limit the losses we will potentially see if conditions don't improve," he said.
Edwards River mayor Norm Brennan said when redundancies occur towns lose a lot more than just jobs as families leave the area, taking children out of schools and money away from shops.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"It has a multiplier effect," he said.
Mrs Scoullar left her Deniliquin farm after her husband was made redundant in the last round of SunRice cuts.
She said the way water policy was looking, she couldn't justify staying on the farm.
Mrs Scoullar said unfortunately she was just one of many farmers leaving the land and taking centuries of inherited knowledge with them.
"We should be encouraging farmers through policy to stay on the land," she said.
"We're losing inter-generational knowledge and it's so important. Farming is part of your soul and knowledge about how to cope in drought or flood gets passed down from one generation to the next, it's so important we protect that."
Mrs Scoullar said the SunRice redundancies showed more people were making the tough decision to step away from the farm.
"There's just no water, so crops aren't being planted," she said. "People are having to make really tough decisions about growing rice, which is such a shame."
Cr Brennan said there was no doubt the basin plan and water allocations were contributed to the current dire conditions.
"We've been through drought before, yet we were able to use water a lot more than in previous history, it's due to the basin plan," he said.
"When the plan was drawn up I don't think anyone in their wildest dreams would have anticipated the situation we've got now.
"Unfortunately the plan and the people managing it aren't adaptable and the plan is not balanced to look after situations like this.
"I don't think anyone envisaged how much it was going to impact on general security water holders."
Cr Brennan said corrective action needs to be taken and he hopes the convoy was a catalyst for change.
Mrs Scoullar helped organise the convoy and said the basin plan was failing to protect the environment and failing irrigators.
"I'm really worried about the future of the country," she said.
"If people want clean, green, safe food we need to protect our food bowl and our food bowl is at risk.
"It doesn't matter how many times we put good evidence in front of politicians, unless we have people power they won't listen...they care about votes."
Mrs Scoullar said a free bus would leave Albury-Wodonga and join the convoy on December 2, with residents invited to touch base with Speak Up to secure a seat or to take their own vehicle.
The convoy hopes to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss their concerns and demand change to water policy.
Member for Farrer and Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she has been contacted by constituents who are attending the rally and looks forward to meeting with them while they are in Canberra.