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NFF slams blinkered group on Murray-Darling water cuts

2 June 2010

FRUSTRATIONS came to a head today as the National Farmers’ Federations’ (NFF’s) slammed a Wentworth Group report that calls for the devastation of agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin, the communities depending on it and sound environmental management.

“We are heavily invested in maximising water-use efficiency in the Murray-Darling Basin so more water can be returned to environmental flows,” NFF President David Crombie said. “In fact, that is the very basis of the Federal Government’s water reform agenda and the Water Act 2007.

“So it’s breathtaking that the Wentworth Group would be so cavalier as to throw a hand grenade from the sidelines and try to scuttle the work we’re doing with the Federal Government, especially Water Minister Penny Wong.

“The Wentworth Group’s suggestions would kill off Australia’s food bowl as the Murray-Darling Basin accounts for 40% of Australia’s food production. It appears the Wentworth Group, seemingly blinded by dogma, can’t see the forest for the trees.

“All farmers are extremely conscious of the consequences the draft Basin Plan (to be released next month) poses. As such, the NFF is talking directly with the Water Minister, other Federal Government Ministers and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to ensure that our world renowned clean, green and efficient farmers are supported, not sacrificed.

“Today’s report is flawed. Firstly, it pits community against community and irrigator against irrigator as it tries to dictate who the winners and losers will be. It’s not a smart way to get workable results and the Government’s goal must be to ensure collective ownership so all in the Basin can move forward with confidence.

“Secondly, the data used in the report is badly dated (from 2000-01) and the methodology to identify so-called “low value” regions ignores modern agricultural practices. Further, the Wentworth Group has not bothered to consider smart and technologically savvy ways to achieve the Basin’s environmental needs beyond simple river flows.

“Farmers, irrigators and entire regional communities have more at stake in healthy rivers systems and environmental flows than any section of the community, so to be dismissed by the Wentworth Group is indicative of a lack of knowledge and engagement on the Group’s part.

“In fact, over 94% of Australian farmers practice natural resource management as a matter-of-course. They are invested every day in getting more crop per drop and enhancing farm sustainably to be world leaders in high value, low input food and fibre production.

“As custodians of 55% of Australia’s landmass, sensible environmental management must work with farmers, not against them. A reality recognised by successive federal governments under the highly successful Environmental Stewardship flagship.

“Today’s report lacks that awareness, making its credibility or claim to balance highly questionable. No-one needs sound scientific analysis more than farmers. The Wentworth Group should use its expertise to work with farmers, not rail against them.”

[ENDS]

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