Northern Victorian irrigators, seeking on-farm modernisation projects, say they’re disappointed by the outcome of last week’s meeting of state and Federal water ministers.
Last week’s Water Minister’s council meeting agreed to off-farm projects to secure a further 450 gigalitres of environmental water by 2024, ruling out any more Victorian on-farm works.
But Roslynmead farmer David Johnson said he felt it was hypocritical irrigators complaining about the loss of irrigation water had already gained from on-farm works.
“I wasn’t able to do on-farm works before, because I wasn’t connected,” Mr Johnson said.
“I’d like to do some lasering work, but without those incentives, I can’t undertake those works.”
He said he was prepared to give up 20megalitres of his entitlement, in return for on-farm efficiency projects.
“I would be able to water my crops, rather than seeing them pretty much destined to fail, because of the season we are having,” Mr Johnson said.
He said he was growing cereals and canola on an 80 hectare property.
“If I had my crop irrigated, I would be guaranteed to have a harvest come October or November, as opposed to looking at my paddock now, which is dirt.”
He said it was unfair that he had missed out on funding under the Victorian Farm Modernisation Project, which was suspended last year.
It provided grants to irrigators to improve infrastructure, with half the water savings going back to the Federal Government.
“I may as well sell my water rights,” Mr Johnson said.
“I’m happy to sell water to the highest bidder, and I don’t care if it goes to South Australia.”
improved on-farm efficiencies, if the money was available.
“Sprinkler systems, rather than flood irrigation, makes it more efficient,” Mr Sims said
He has a cereal, legume, and oil seed cropping operation, based on a zero-till, controlled traffic system.
“It’s a lot better for soil health, it’s chalk and cheese, what it does to the soil.”
Drip irrigation would open up avenues to high value crops, such as vegetables and even industrial hemp.
The property was currently under an open channel, flood irrigation system.
Cohuna dairy farmer Stuart Palmer said he also wanted to “have a crack” at modernisation, having missed out on initial on-farm works, as his property was deemed not to be on a backbone.
“My farm is only a third developed and I would like to make it more efficient,” Mr Palmer said.
“80 hectares doesn’t see a drop of water, because it’s not developed.”
Mr Palmer said he could probably add another 40 cows to his 220 strong herd, with efficient irrigation.
“All the irrigation system on my farm put in during the late 1980’s and I’d like to update it, if I could,” he said.
“There is no other way we could upgrade, unless there is an on-farm efficiency program.”