National Farmers' Federation

Science, infrastructure & productivity top NFF’s MDB agenda

IN A high level ministerial meeting headed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard overnight, National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Jock Laurie pressed the government on its pledge to “support landholders” in the Murray- Darling Basin, recommit to on-farm “infrastructure investment” and ensure “regional communities have confidence in the science that will underpin the eventual Plan”.
“That’s the undertaking we got from the meeting,” he said today. “The eventual Murray-Darling Basin Plan is going to be years in the making and at each juncture we need to make sure the government is accountable.”
The meeting, which included Water Minister Tony Burke, Regional Development Minister Simon Crean and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, was the first opportunity for the new NFF President to emphasise the importance he places on getting water reform right.
“It’s not just about the environment,” Mr Laurie explained. “The environment is one of many factors that must be taken into account. We need to ensure that the productivity of farms in the Basin isn’t adversely affected and that communities can flourish.
“That means that any water cuts can only be considered in conjunction with investment in effective water-saving infrastructure on farms. We expect analysis of the productivity impacts on farms and regional communities that flow from any proposed changes to be upfront and crystal clear.
“The science underpinning the new Plan must be laid bare for all to see well in advance. We cannot tolerate another episode like the release of the Guide to the Plan, which was hatched within the bureaucracy over 18 months and left farmers and entire communities in the dark until after its release.
“The people who live and work in the Basin are entitled to respect and deserve a significant say over the changes that will undoubtedly impact on their livelihoods and quality of life.”
In a move that underscores the priority these issues have within the NFF’s membership, in addition to President, Mr Laurie has taken over as Chair of the NFF’s Water Committee.

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