The NSW government announcement that farmers along its east coast can now harvest 30 per cent of the rain that falls on their properties is groundbreaking news.
Currently, farmers can only access10 per cent. The water can only be used for stock and domestic and broad irrigation. Horticulture is not allowed.
The move demonstrates that Queenslanders on the eastern side of the Great Divide would be none too happy to have their rivers plundered and the water sent inland as is proposed in the Bradfield scheme.
Water volumes in most regions have been capped, and the fight for farmers is to ensure water currently being used for agriculture is not grabbed by the environmental lobby that exists within and out of government.
In the Murray Darling Basin, the amount of water flowing to South Australia is historic and came about as late as the construction of Dartmouth, the largest storage in Victoria.
South Australia contended they required water, apart from irrigation and town supply, to control salinity and sediment levels. It would be a fair bet that those from Victoria and NSW who signed that document, did not foresee the current situation. Currently, around 20,000 megalitres a day is spilling through 60 barrage gates into the Southern Ocean. This is enough water to service a city like Melbourne for 18 days.
HELP AT HAND
The federal government has been asked to make farmers more resilient in facing the trauma of drought and natural disasters by providing professional mental health advice.
In pastoral country, destocking is a way of life.- David Everist
On the surface, admirable, but how do we afford a service that would lay idle in the good times? Outsourcing would clearly be the only way to head and professionals readily available in a crisis would fill the need. However, the elephant in the room is how do farmers prepare for drought and how do they rebound? The answer surely is risk management and top of the list has to be programmed destocking.
In pastoral country, destocking is a way of life. Highly emotional. However, get rid of stock and meet the market before they lose condition. Very tough to do; however, supplementary feeding for extended periods just does not work as the price of bought in feed escalates.
Government can certainly assist with on farm water supply projects, however, dams and bores run dry in extreme conditions.
The drum must be beaten on containment areas where handfeeding of stock conserves animals' energy and gives pastures, improved and natural, the chance to grow.
Nothing is more galling than the sight of a farmer feeding out hay or grain and being chased by a mob of cattle or sheep. May look good for the media, but clouds of dust do nothing for the environment.
Government-run Farm Management Deposits provide a prudent way of having money on hand when disaster strikes. The limit of a maximum $800,000 on deposit would be challenging for large operators.
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