Local farms becoming Ground Zero

By Sophie Baldwin

ROZ Berryman is worried about the future of irrigated agriculture.

She has watched the Southern Riverina, which produces 40 per cent of Australia’s food, battle through a zero allocation in 2018 and she very much fears this will continue into future years.

Roz, her husband Steve, and two sons Ross and Hugh have been farming at Thyra for generations, in fact her sons are the sixth generation of the family to do so.

The introduction of the Water Act in 2007 and the introduction of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) a few years later, is killing irrigation in rural Australia, of that Roz has no doubt.

Their family business has always been a mix of first cross ewes and cropping.

The loss of irrigation water has forced them into selling their entire flock because they can no longer grow pasture to support a March lambing program and they no longer have security over irrigated cropping.

The family, like many others across the country, has invested heavily in upgrading their irrigation infrastructure. They have an up-to-date and efficient irrigation system and yet it remains idle, as precious water is wasted flooding the bush or sent out to sea in South Australia.

“The MDBP is not working and that is why it should be paused and a Royal Commission should be established,” Roz said.

Unable to pre-irrigate their crops, they will be relying solely on rainfall to get them out of the ground this year.

“This will definitely affect our yields and will be repeated across farms in the Riverina this year.”

Roz said the loss of Australian grown food is a tragedy and she fears if it continues into the future, our country will be forced into eating imported food.

“Our dairy industry is reaching the point of no return, where will our fresh milk, cheese and yoghurt come from?

“The fact is so much water is wasted trying to force it through the river system and down to South Australia – water that could have been used by southern basin irrigators to grow food and support their families and local communities.

“Forward thinking governments of the past set up a drought proofing irrigation system to feed and safeguard the nation from drought and that appears to have been lost with the introduction of this plan.”

Roz is urging everyone to think about their vote in the up and coming election.

“Our seat of Farrer needs a strong independent voice that will sit on the cross bench and not adhere to a party line and support agriculture once again. The current member has been in for 18 years and has not supported the electorate on any water issues and will not if re-elected,” she said.

She said the Moama, Bunnaloo, Caldwell and Mathoura areas of the Riverina have an unusually high number of enthusiastic young farmers, who need to be supported.

“The failing MDBP is seriously undermining the future of the next generation of our farmers and that is something everyone in Australia should be deeply concerned about.”