Water Act Review Progresses but more still to be done

Dec 21, 2015

The Coalition’s response to the independent review of the Water Act 2007 was released in December 2015. The Government’s decision to adopt all of the recommendations, some wholly and others partially, including to provide greater trading flexibility for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), is positive new for Australian dairy farmers.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has lobbied hard for increased flexibility for the CEWH in optimising environmental outcomes in ways that ensure dairy producers have better access to water supplies. Dairy has proved a flexible and responsible user of water. We have adapted our practices to be more water-efficient. However, reduced access to water resources is already putting pressure on dairy’s productivity and profitability. This CEWH flexibility is key to helping our industry remain viable. It will also ensure a balanced approach to achieving environmental outcomes in the Murray Darling Basin.

The Government’s stated commitment to continue to work towards achieving a total 650GL supply offset is also positive. Achieving the full amount through environmental works means more water stays in the irrigation pools.

Chair of the ADIC’s Basin Taskforce, Daryl Hoey described the response as a positive first step but highlighted greater improvements in the implementation of the Act and the Murray Darling Basin Plan are still required.

“That the Government didn’t agree with the submissions of many to amend the Act to unambiguously state a triple-bottom-line objective or to strengthen the current implementation of the legislation is of concern. Such an approach is critical,” Mr Hoey said.

“It’s good to see the Government amend timelines to some evaluations and reviews under the Act. We now need such revisions to be applied to all elements of the Act.

“In particular, there is a need for a robust evaluation of environmental, economic and social impacts before considering an additional 450 gigalitres (GL) of water being taken from agriculture.”

To see the ADIC submission to the Water Amendment Bill 2015 click here.


Climate variability drives on farm innovation

Nov 23, 2015

A concerted effort to reduce power costs and dairy’s environmental footprint is seeing increasing numbers of Australian producers implement more efficient, ‘green’ on farm practices.

In Athlone, Gippsland former mechanical engineer and seventh generation dairy farmer, Lindsay Anderson is harnessing solar energy to the benefit of reduced on-farm costs. Converting all his large single-phase motors to three-phase motors using variable speed drives as phase converters, Mr Anderson has implemented renewable technology throughout his business. He devised a 5 kilo-watt grid-connected solar system which supplies power to his automatic milking system, his workshop and farm house.

This system provides enough power to feedback through the grid for a payment each quarter – providing some additional income for Mr Anderson.

“This system can save me between 15 to 33% of electricity consumption,” Mr Anderson said. 

It also means there is even less diesel used on the property so the environment will also be better off.

According to dairy’s 2014 Sustainability Framework Progress Report, Mr Anderson is one of many dairy farmers adopting energy efficient procedures on farm. Since 2012 40% of farms have installed some form of renewable energy installation.

Chair of the Sustainability Framework Steering Committee, Chris Griffin said that dairy producers have always been stewards of the land, and are constantly getting smarter about energy efficiency on farm.

“Dairy farmers have a real commitment to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting natural resources for future generations. They are constantly reviewing their practices in response to seasonal conditions and a changing climate,” said Mr Griffin.

“As a bonus, many farmers are finding that these measures are cost effective.”

Working with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia, the ADIC has lobbied hard to secure Government funding to support uptake of energy efficient technology on farm. Combined with industry investment, Federal and state programs have assisted farmers and manufacturers with the upfront capital costs in energy efficient or renewable energy technology, and therefore increased uptake.

The dairy industry has seen the benefit of such co-funded initiatives through Dairy Australia and the Federal Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Program. These nationwide assessments have already helped 1,400 farms. Guidelines have also been developed to complement these assessments and provide information about where energy is used in dairies, as well as identify where greater efficiency can be found.

In two years since the Sustainability Framework was implemented, manufacturers’ use of fuel and electricity has reduced by 14.5%. Together, the whole value chain is vigorously pursuing its target of reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.

“We will continue with programs and projects that are guiding the industry toward improved returns, while minimising our environmental footprint and improving the wellbeing of our people and animals,” Mr Griffin explained.

“There is still work to be done, but we are most definitely headed in the right direction.”

Earlier this year, ADF shifted its climate change policy, calling for joint industry and government investment in adopting energy efficient technologies on farm. Chair of the ADF Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group, Daryl Hoey said the revised policy highlights to Parliament, consumers and the broader community that the industry remains actively engaged in reducing its environmental impact.

“The scientific evidence, international policy, and public interest in increased climate variability justify industry action. Our whole value chain strives to continually reduce its environmental footprint, through uptake of new technologies, improved management and adoption of farming systems to suit climate variability,”

“The Australian Government can promote the industry’s effective response to climate variability through sustained investment in agriculture R, D&E and the uptake of energy efficient technologies on farm.”

This includes new solutions that both reduce emissions and improve profitability, international research collaboration, and methodologies that support a whole-farm-systems approach in reducing emissions.

“The Australian dairy industry is keenly observing the Government’s response to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris this December,” Mr Hoey said.

“We are aware the outcomes of this event may impact the Australian Government’s approach to emissions reduction policy. We want to ensure any policy initiatives do not undermine our trade exposed industry, but instead support dairy farmers’ ability to manage risk, innovate and adapt to climate variability.”

For more information on ADF's policy on carbon emissions and climate change click here

Pressing pause on the Basin Plan

Nov 01, 2015

The Australian Dairy Industry Council’s (ADIC) has expressed concern in a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, regarding the impact of the Basin Plan on dairy business viability.

In the submission the ADIC states its support for a plan with clear and appropriate targets to recover water for the environment provided farms remain viable. So far, more than 1160GL of a possible 1500GL transferred from irrigation to the environment through buybacks.
 
Dairy farmer and Chair of the ADIC Water Taskforce, Daryl Hoey said in its current form the Basin Plan isn’t achieving the right balance, setting unrealistic timelines as well as a lack of planned transition and structural adjustment.

“A significant pain of adjustment is already being felt in the dairy industry, even if no more water is transferred from the irrigation pool across to the environment,” Mr Hoey explained.

“We can clearly see the impacts on dairy farming systems through exposure to higher water prices, a more volatile temporary water market; reduced viability of some irrigation districts; and overall, difficulty in growing our milk production.”

Dairy Australia analysis indicates that, based on conservative estimates, the 120GL of high reliability water entitlements dairy farmers in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District sold to the Commonwealth as buybacks, could have resulted in the production of an additional 289 million litres of milk if those entitlements were still owned. That 289 million litres of milk would be worth approximately $144 million at the Farmgate.
Farmers in the same district are now sourcing around 275 GL a year from the temporary market to meet their needs (due to reduced ownership of entitlements) have added a cost impost of $41million at $150/ML. On 12 October 2015 temporary water was trading at $300/ML.

The ADIC is calling for Government to “press pause” on the Basin Plan to ensure it can achieve the right balance, and therefore achieve genuine outcomes.

“To get the Basin Plan back on track we need more realistic timelines and a clearer picture of socio-economic and environmental effects before more water is taken from the irrigation pool,” Mr Hoey said.

“This includes a clearer understanding of the water market and more appropriate approach to the 450GL “upwater”. We are also seeking greater flexibility to trade environmental water and an appropriate sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism.”

The ADIC has welcomed the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s decision to sell 20 GL of temporary water in the Goulburn system, which will enable more trading of temporary water. However, the ADIC said it is vital producers in the region benefit from the availability of this water through a fair process to trading the water.

Representatives from the dairy industry are seeking to attend the Murray Darling Basin Plan Senate Inquiry hearings scheduled in November. To see the full recommendations from the ADIC submission see http://www.australiandairyfarmers.com.au/submissions

Are you prepared for el niño?

Aug 11, 2015

With the Bureau of Metrology declaring that the 2015 El Niño is strengthening, farmers are expecting lower rainfall and temperature extremes. While El Niño cannot be guaranteed, it may be useful to put some back up plans into place.

  • To ensure you are prepared for the climatic changes the El Niño may bring, it is important to sit down with someone in your family or staff to plan for potential drought and resource shortages, including:

 

  • A feed budget and alternative options if fodder becomes less available
  • Alternative sources of fibre to fill a shortfall in your region; and
  • How a warm and dry spring could affect your operations in the longer term.


For more information about El Nino preparedness, see Dairy Australia’s Preparing for Drought and El Niño conditions webpage.


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