The NSW Budget does nothing to ensure farmers can sustain food production in the face of Federal Government water buybacks and El Nino driving up the cost of living.
NSW Irrigators Council CEO Claire Miller said federal buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin for another 450 billion litres for South Australia would take at least 17,500 hectares of land out of production.
“At the same time, we were already seeing water prices surge in the Murray-Darling Basin with the prospect of a long, hot, dry summer – and that was before yesterday’s formal El Nino announcement.
“It is economics 101: less water available at higher cost to farmers means less food grown and higher prices at the checkout.
“The NSW Treasurer acknowledged we are in a cost-of-living crisis, but we are still waiting to learn exactly how the NSW Government plans to deter Federal buybacks.
“The $5.5 million announced for a new NSW Agricultural Commissioner to ‘ensure food security’ is laughable when the Federal Government plans to remove nearly half the remaining high security water from the State’s food bowl.”
Irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin grows more than $8 billion worth of rice, cereals, fruit, nuts, citrus, vegetables and fibre. That production feeds the nation, supports thousands of jobs across local economies beyond the farmgate, and keeps small towns alive.
“If the NSW Government is serious about food security and cost of living, it will have to do more than briefly promise to ‘minimise the impacts of Australian Government buybacks’.
“Actions are what matter, and the Budget has no funding or plan on how to protect irrigated agriculture in this State and the communities and towns that depend on it.
“No dollars are attached, no actual projects or options are identified on how the Government plans to minimise the impact of buybacks in NSW, so that federal Government can meet its election promise to South Australia.
“The Government must put tangible options and projects on the table, otherwise it is just words. What we don’t want is to get to a situation where NSW has done too little, too late the Federal Government has open hunting season on NSW