Broadacre farmers in the Murray Valley region have the advantage of flexibility when it comes to responding to varying climate conditions.
According to Southern Riverina Irrigators’ chair Gabrielle Coupland, recent reports of increased irrigator confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin due to booming commodity prices and increased export demand bodes well for farm businesses that have the ability to respond to seasonal changes as long as it is accompanied by policy stability.
‘‘The basin plan is just the most recent in a long list of water reform programs that predate the millennium drought,’’ Mrs Coupland said.
‘‘What we need now is policy stability so that our farmers can plan their business programs and cropping programs to best suit their individual situations.
‘‘One result of the ongoing reform is that people are looking at how to ensure they get the best value out of their water and utilising the water market as part of their business,’’ Mrs Coupland said.
‘‘We are in the middle of the southern connected water market so our farmers can hold a portfolio of different water products to suit their cropping needs and can respond to the different seasons by either buying or selling allocation.
‘‘For example, a rice grower can adjust the size of their crop dependent on how much water they have available. If it is dry they may choose not to plant rice and either sell their available water to get an income or irrigate winter crops to maximise the yield from costs already incurred.
‘‘On the other hand, someone with an almond crop, that uses similar volumes of water to rice, needs water every year regardless of climate and can access the market to make up the difference in a year of low allocations.’’
Mrs Coupland said knowing the final water recovery targets and the outcomes of the SDL adjustment mechanism would give farmers some certainty.
‘‘The basin plan is there and we have to live with that, but continuous uncertainty about the final recovery targets is undermining confidence in our regions at a time we should be enjoying the favourable agricultural conditions.’’