Water and Wine

Last week’s column piece on the ‘water’ situation was a call for action. The final paragraph suggested ‘we have an opportunity to harness the heightened community awareness and find ways to make some bold decisions etc…

The rains over the weekend were mighty welcome, albeit too late for our dryland farming community. Our local Mallee farmers and neighbours have just come through the third very dry year on the trot. The flow-on impact of their ‘dried-up’ farmgate income will hurt our regional economy and community as well as those with dust on their boots and headers in the shed.

Based on ‘the talk around the place’ since last week, it’s clear that those at the sharp-end have not found relief; still spending less time sleeping and more time going over and over in their minds what options there may be to reduce the impact of very high temporary water prices.

The editorial piece in The Loxton News (October 30) was interesting but disappointing; noting that some nameless irrigators are sledging some who accepted inducements to relinquish water to the environment and took the risk on leasing future water requirements. That sort of righteousness is not helpful. If community can’t pull together to reduce the overall burden, the flow-on impact on jobs, services and regional infrastructures next year will be akin to what’s happening in communities across in the east. They are just 12 months ahead of where this community will be if we can’t find ways to be bold and generous. When primary producers can’t produce and spend most of their income in the local community, it makes life difficult for every ratepayer and every pensioner as well as the risk-takers.

Some growers with ample water are weighing up the option to continue growing this year’s crop or to ‘mothball’ and ‘lease-out’ much of their entitlement to those in greatest need, thereby securing a certain income with lower inputs and simultaneously supporting neighbours. The fact that winegrowers don’t yet have indicative prices a is confounding the situation further.

Last week’s letter to Minister Littleproud is yet to draw a response. There’s an awful lot going on in Canberra and undoubtedly the focus is still on the dry land farming communities to the east of the Riverland and SA Mallee. We know the Minister will respond soon but, in the meantime, we must continue to look and listen for ‘constructive’ ideas that may reduce the impact of substantially less income and increasing debt for vineyards and orchards across our region.

Predictably enough, regarding the suggestion of releasing some CEWH water to the water market, most voices are backing the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Jody Swirepik in her assertion to Senate Estimates that she could not legally ‘give or lend water’ for the environment to irrigators. Environmental water is her responsibility and in listening to some of the local feedback, that’s the way it should be. For every irrigator who may benefit from release of environmental water to the temporary market, there are others who will object on the basis that their water assets would be adversely be impacted.

Even little thing can help. Read what some of the entrepreneurs in the east are doing to help each other with the Buy from the Bush hashtag.

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