First it was electricity, next is your food bill

August 5, 2018

While Australians continue to grapple with massive increases to their electricity bills, a warning has been issued about the next price hike they will have to face.

“You had better brace for a significant increase in the cost of food staples,” is the warning from Wakool farmer Darcy Hare.

Poor energy policy has led to a ‘perfect storm’, thus creating huge cost pressures on families struggling to pay for electricity.

Now we have a similar situation with more than a decade of poor policy set to hit our supermarket shelves.

“Make no mistake, higher food costs are on the way. And we have nothing to blame but politicians who make bad decisions, with no understanding of the consequences,” Mr Hare said.

“I suggest our city cousins should start preparing to pay more for clean, green Aussie food or accept imported food, with little knowledge of the conditions under which it has been grown.

“We have been warning for several years about the danger of price increases as a direct result of poor water policy under the Murray Darling Basin Plan as it will not just affect farm budgets but will also impact on city ones.”

 Mr Hare said he appreciates that water policy is complex and can be difficult to understand but you can’t take the volume of water out of agriculture  as the Federal Government has done under the Basin Plan and not expect a detrimental impact on food production.

This has all come about because our water policy, just like energy, has suffered over the past decade from decision-making based on politics instead of common-sense.

For example, a third of the volume of Hume Dam, or nearly two Sydney Harbours, will evaporate from the Lower Lakes alone each year but the Basin Plan prioritises protection of the Lower Lakes above all else.

It is even more incredible when politicians are refusing to look at alternatives and more sustainable solutions than using precious fresh water from the Murray River mountain storages to keep the Murray Mouth open.

“The situation is even more ridiculous when you consider the Lower Lakes was once an estuarine system.

“Perhaps when food prices go through the roof more people, especially those living in our cities, will wake up to the mess our politicians have created,” Mr Hare said.

He said farmers understand that dry years and droughts are a natural phenomenon that we have to deal with but this year there are multiple risks with little feed for livestock remaining, dying cereal crops and temporary  water  at unsustainable prices.

 He supports calls for New South Wales and Victorian Premiers, as well as their Water Ministers, to negotiate with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder so that water can be made available for food and fibre production.

“This could have multiple benefits. Importantly it would finish off winter cereal crops that can put food on tables. It could also allow farmers to produce fodder for starving stock in drought-ridden regions that do not have the benefit of irrigation infrastructure, and it could prevent the financial ruin of cereal growers, horticulture and dairy farmers.

“How can we have a situation where the biggest Murray River storage, Dartmouth Dam, is at almost 90 per cent capacity and Hume Dam is at 42 per cent, yet there is a zero allocation of water for NSW Murray farmers to grow food?

 “All these food producers can do is watch more than 5,000 megalitres a day flow down the river and out to sea.

“While financial support from various drought relief appeals is welcomed and supported, it is the water sitting idle in dams that could provide real relief and bring significant benefits,” Mr Hare concluded.

Caption – Darcy Hare and son Theo in his barley crop. Many Southern NSW farmers need water to finish off winter crops, and could also grow fodder to feed starving stock in drought-stricken regions.

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