UDV says basin plan is hurting Victorian dairy

By Country News

New research shows Victorian irrigators are being hardest hit by the loss of water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the UDV says.

Figures produced by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority show the loss of agricultural jobs between 2001 and 2016, and the UDV is blaming the basin plan for a large percentage of the loss.

The UDV says analysis of the MDBA community profiles reveals Victoria has lost about 2220 more full-time agricultural jobs than any other state in the southern connected system. The data shows Victoria has lost 5116 full-time agricultural roles compared to NSW with 2877 and South Australia’s 2287.

‘‘We have long suspected that Victoria was the hardest hit, now we have hard evidence based on the MDBA’s own work,’’ VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said.

‘‘The basin plan effects on Victorian communities are real. Victoria has prepared endless reports highlighting the socio-economic impacts of the plan — it’s high time that Canberra started to take notice,’’ Mr Anderson said.

He acknowledged the plan was not the only cause of the job losses.

‘‘We understand that commodity prices, drought and seasonal conditions also play a role, but the authority has also conceded that the plan is having a big impact.’’

While an analysis of the MDBA’s community profiles has revealed the jobs hit, Mr Anderson said the MDBA had not grouped or compared these community profiles so discrepancies between states were not easily identified.

UDV vice-president Paul Mumford said dairy farmers believed the job losses are also reflected in the decline in milk production.

When considering socio-economic impacts in 2016, RM Consulting Group found the basin plan had already reduced milk production by 440million litres.

This reflected a $200million loss at the farm gate and a $360million loss in dairy processing.

‘‘These job losses cannot continue and we cannot allow the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to hide the true story of the impacts of the basin plan on our dairy communities,’’ Mr Mumford said.

Dairy is a major industry in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, with 1200 farms producing two billion litres of milk a year worth $850million at the farm gate — a third of the total milk produced in Victoria and more than 20 per cent of Australia’s milk.

More than 6600 local people are employed on dairy farms and in eight major dairy processing factories.

‘‘The northern Victorian dairy industry makes up over 85 per cent of dairy production in the southern basin system,’’ Mr Mumford said.

‘‘Canberra cannot continue to ignore the impact on such a critical and major employer in the region.’’