Water will help farmers kick start economy post COVID-19, Deniliquin farmer says

By Rodney Woods

As the impact of COVID-19 tightens its hold on Australia's economy and the Federal Government calls for local business to try and step-up to kick start our stalled economy, Deniliquin irrigator Sharni Hood stands ready.

But all she needs, to do her bit, is water.

Miss Hood farms with her partner Grant Lundie, her parents Warwick and Darryl Strong and relatives Tim and Rebecca Strong, on 1740 ha of irrigated land.

Their mixed cropping business has the potential to produce 4500 tonnes of rice, 4000 tonnes of mixed crop and turnover 4000 lambs annually, generating an income in excess of $3 million into the local community.

But the business model cannot perform if it does not have access to irrigation.

“We aren’t asking to be given water, nor are we requesting a government handout,” Miss Hood said.

“We just want access to affordable water and all of a sudden we are contributing to the economy.

“Multiply that across the entire southern Riverina footprint of 1800 landholders and the economic impact becomes quite significant very quickly.”

Her father said irrigation generated wealth for small country towns and their surrounding communities.

“As crops go in the ground our workload increases and all of a sudden the one person we employed turns into three because we can't keep up to the workload, not to mention the agronomists or contractors who regularly drive through the front gate to look at the performance of our crops, service our machinery or spray the paddocks,” Mr Strong said.

A recent purchase of a $400,000 new header and the upgrading of a GPS system on an existing header are just two examples of how money generated off the back of irrigation flows straight back into the community.

Miss Hood said while drought had been hard, so had dealing with poor water policy and the effects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“We have had to diversify our business as water has moved out of our district and downstream into the deeper financial pockets of the overseas corporate investors,” she said.

“Leave the water here, in the hands of Australian-owned family farms, and watch our economy grow.”