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Farming and Politics

I’m sure everyone back in Vermont is closely following the recent news down here in Australia, but in case you missed it, I’ll bring you up to speed. The biggest news story recently is that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released the guide to the Basin Plan. (Not a draft Basin Plan, just a guide, which will then be followed by a draft, and supposedly a final product, though I’ll believe that when I see it.)

The Basin Plan is supposed to determine the amount of water that can sustainably be extracted from the Murray Darling system. As you can probably guess, the river is currently suffering from over-extraction, which means that someone is going to have to start extracting less water than they have been. That someone is, for the large part, irrigators.

Obviously, the plan was going to be controversial. But, I suppose what’s most disappointing is that the main response from irrigators has just been to complain loudly about how bad the plan is going to be for them. I guess they’re thinking, the more we complain, the less likely it is for this plan to move forward, and we’ll just get to keep doing what we’re doing. I realize that there are going to be negative social impacts, but rather than exaggerate and make a big stink in the media, why not talk about things?

Maybe I’m too idealistic, but it just seems so sad that people can’t sit down and have reasonable conversations. Or, maybe I’m wrong, and this is the sign of a healthy democracy. (Sometimes you wonder if an environmentally-friendly dictator wouldn’t be better!) I’m just kidding, but it seems to me that actual negotiations and discussions would be so much more productive than loud whining and complaining.

I was happy to see that at least one irrigator is responding in a reasonable manner. These farmers, living in South Australia, have been in the farming business for something like 165 years (their family has been, that is). They said that they’re planning to sell their water to the government (to be used as environmental flows), because they’ve seen the negative impacts of over-extraction, and they know it’s time for a change. I’m not suggesting that all irrigators should do this, but it was refreshing to hear someone responding reasonably.

I guess it will be interesting to see what happens as things move forward. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!


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