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Farmers call for recognition of agricultural water savings

15 December 2011

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is calling for the Australian Government to fully acknowledge the contributions farmers have already made to the water saving effort, and to do more to ensure communities are not negatively affected by the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

NFF estimates show that should the proposed Basin Plan go ahead, farmers will have committed around 6,000 gigalitres of water to the environment since water reform began in the 1980s - a vast increase on the 959 gigalitres that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority currently attributes to the agricultural sector in the proposed Plan.

"Farmers and rural communities have already done an enormous amount of work in returning water to the environment throughout the water reform process, and are now being asked to do more," NFF President Jock Laurie said.

"Importantly, farmers and irrigators were among those driving for water reform as early as the 1970s, as they recognised that the poor policy decision-making of the time had over-allocated the water resource, which would eventually lead to reductions in agricultural water entitlements.

"But the critical role that farmers have played in driving reform for a healthy river system, plus the effort that the agricultural sector has made over time in returning water to the environment has gone largely unacknowledged," Mr Laurie said.

“We are calling on the Government to recognise the contribution that agricultural has already made, and to reduce the negative social and economic impacts on farmers and rural communities under the proposed Basin Plan.

“We have said repeatedly that Minister Burke and the Government must balance the needs of the environment, with our ability to produce food and fibre and the jobs and communities in regional Australia that the Basin sustains.

“The solution is to invest now in infrastructure and water efficiency measures to ensure that the water in the system is used most efficiently; to commit funds to increase research, development and extension to give farmers the knowledge and tools they need to grow more food and fibre with less water; and to engage with local communities.

“Only smart solutions will deliver the balanced outcome of a healthy environment, vibrant communities and prosperous regional economies. We are calling on Minister Burke to deliver these solutions, and this balance,” Mr Laurie said.

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