Rice rules stripped

July 21, 2017

Restrictions on rice growing in the Murray Valley have been reduced, with Murray Irrigation Limited’s decision to remove its Rice Growing Rules and an associated Rice Growers Charge.

The historic rules limit the area that can be sown to rice based primarily on early soil type research and potential impacts on the water table.

Ricegrowers Association of Australia president Jeremy Morton said new knowledge and research and development has shown that some excluded soil types can be just as productive without impacting on the environment.

He said removing the rules allows growers to make decisions based on economics, rather than outdated formulas.

‘‘Rice is historically a ponded crop and it possibly did contribute to high water tables in certain areas,’’ Mr Morton said.

‘‘But we just don’t have the water table concerns we did in the 1970s and 1980s and earlier, with it mostly under control now.

‘‘The rules say clay depth must be at least three metres, and that with clay depth to two and a half metres you could only grow rice one in every four years.

‘‘If you look at some of the data now, you can grow a rice crop with as little as one metre of clay and have a low water use paddock.

‘‘With the rules gone, it’s now up to the individuals — no one is going to grow a crop in a high use paddock because it is not economically viable.’’

Mr Morton said taking away the impediment of crop placement could potentially result in more rice sown in the Murray Irrigation area overall.

He said it would not be a ‘‘free-for-all’’ however, with guidelines to be prepared to ensure best management practice environmental standards are still being met.

‘‘Since the start of the year, the RGA and its Murray Valley representatives have been working with Murray Irrigation to seek the removal of these rules, while implementing a framework that not only ensures the current water table levels are maintained but also encourages increased rice production and water use across the system,’’ he said.

‘‘We consider this announcement a significant win for the RGA and Murray Irrigation ricegrowers.

‘‘Murray Irrigation, together with other irrigation companies, plays an important role in monitoring rice water use on farm, with this data being a useful source of information for the rice research and development program.’’

Mr Morton said RGA applauds Murray Irrigation for its commitment to the collection of water use data across all crop types, including rice.

‘‘The RGA also thanks Murray Irrigation for its forward thinking and collaborative approach to decision making,’’ he said.

‘‘As the most significant water user within the Murray Irrigation system, the RGA is confident that the industry and Murray Irrigation will continue to work closely together to implement strategies that encourage the production of rice within the MIL system.’’

Mr Morton said the RGA was also pleased to see Murray Irrigation remove the Rice Growers Charge, which is levied at $220 per landholding that is growing rice.

‘‘The removal of the rice growers’ charge represents a significant cost saving for our growers, as many growers own or operate multiple landholdings,’’ Mr Morton said.

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