One of the four major banks has predicted Australian agriculture may have reached a peak in the area of land that can grow crops.
However, the good news is that production will continue to grow as farmers use a wide range of tools to increase yields. It is estimated that around 23 million hectares will be utilised for winter crops, and if current favourable seasonal conditions hold, a mammoth 55 million tonnes will be harvested.
Wheat is still the favoured crop. However, over the past 60 years, wheat has declined from 80 per cent to around 50 per cent. Canola, barley and pulses have taken up the slack.
"The total area of land used for cropping fluctuates every year as rainfall, commodity and livestock prices influence farmer's decisions on what do with their land."
There was a prediction that the area sown to crops could rise if livestock prices came off the boil. However, more could be utilised for cropping due to the near prohibitive rates for breeding stock. Also, farmers in high rainfall areas are very adept at handling conditions that previously limited cropping. Also driving up yields are the management practices of farmers in utilising seasons of challenging rainfall. Also on board are plant breeders, switched on agronomists and machinery manufacturers.
Rivers are running bank high, and storages are either spilling or are on the brink. However, irrigators have low allocations caused by a multitude of factors. They scream it is the fault of the National Party and government, the federal government, in particular. But no, the fault lies with state governments, and the one that should be most in the gun is NSW. Where is the discussion about water being borrowed from the Snowy, and where is the discussion of the water that has to be paid back to the Menindee Lakes?
Never forget the top water bureaucrat was sacked because he endeavoured to give farmers the facts. What is not helping the cause of water hungry farmers are some of the ridiculous claims that have been made. Farmers need to be aware that not only do they fight the bureaucracy, but they also have to contend with the influence of lobbyists. There was a claim recently by an activist that: "the Murray River is imploding, the Darling River is dying, and 40 per cent of Australia's food production, a $24 billion industry, is threatened during a global pandemic."
None of this is true. It is purely an opinion and the utterer, whilst well-meaning, runs a grave risk of losing credibility and those that need influencing will switch off. Staying on message is so important. This week a YouTube presentation of the damage being caused to river banks by high flows finished with an attack on the NSW government, with the far-fetched conclusion that it had done a deal with Greens to have PETA inspectors visits farms. What does that have to do with water?
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