Lack of irrigation water cost Deniliquin cropper Bert Schultz $160,000 in lost production from rice alone.
Under normal circumstances Mr Schultz said he would grow around 120 hectaresof rice, butthe lack of productive water and high temporary prices meant he was only able to plant 40halast season.
“If we work on gross margins, not taking into account having to purchase temporary water, it works out with a 10t yield at $400/tyou would be achieving a gross margin of $2000/ha,” he said.
He said sincepurchasing his first property 30 years ago rice has been the backbone of the mixed farming business, which now consistedof a total of 1300 ha over threefarms.
The dry spring finish to the winter cereals and canola, coupled with the lack of available irrigation water to finish the crops off, meant that the small rice crop wouldhave an even greater impact to income this year.
Mr Shultz said despite completing irrigation efficiency projects, to ensurethe limited amount of water resulted inmaximum production, there wasnot enough to irrigate the whole farm.
“I will never have enough to irrigate everything, so I concentrate on the crops which provide the best gross margins,” Mr Schultz said.
To diversify and ensure that he wasspreading his risk Mr Schultz said he had gone back to including sheep in his business.
He said he wasrunning 450 Merinos ewes, with Poll Dorset rams, for prime lamb production.
“I have gone back into livestock, as I saw in the big drought, people who had stock got out of it a lot better than I did,” he said.
The very dry autumn has meant that Mr Schultz had to water pasture. to produce feed for the sheep.
“With a very hot and dry autumn, I had to kick some pasture into gear – which took two megalitres (of water) per hectare. At $250 per megalitre for temporary water this has come at a cost of $500 a hectare,” he said.
Mr Schultz said that the cost of water to produce the feed meant that the income from his new enterprise would be significantly reduced.
“I am not making money on my sheep this year, it has just blown out.”
Mr Schultz said that the lack of affordable water wasa serious problem, with irrigated crops providing asafety net to the overall business.
“It provides the big gross margins to cover our overhead expenses and to compliment other enterprises that rely entirely on rainfall,” Mr Schultz said.
“Because we can’t all be growing high value crops. we need affordable water to sustain the broader agricultural community.”
Family farms werethe basis of rural communities and neededwater for production, not speculation,he said.
OPERATIONAL CHANGES: Deniliquin mixed farmer Bert Schultz went back into livestock, as a way of providing additional cash flow to his cropping enterprise.
IRRIGATION ROLE: Farmer Bert Schultz in an irrigated paddock.
The Denliquin-based Speak Up lobby group, which wants greatrecognition of Australia’s food producers, said reliability and accessibility of affordable water, to produce the staples for Australian families, neededto be urgently addressed.
“Whichever party is in government after July 2 must make further amendments to the Water Act that will bring an indisputable balance to the Basin Plan,” spokeswoman Karen Macdonald said
“This will ensure that social and economic impacts of the plan are given equal weight to the environmental ones.”
Mrs Macdonald said it wasimportant to support farmers who produced staple foods, including milk, rather than having water going to the highest bidder.
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