Michelle Chicken with pecans at Boyne River Pecans.
Michelle Chicken with pecans at Boyne River Pecans. Philippe Coquerand

Farmers worried about long-term future

THE Boyne River Pecans property is just one of many that will be affected when it is no longer able to access water from Boondooma Dam due to the cut-off rule.

Boyne River Pecans' Michelle Chicken said from a production and income point of view, it was a scary prospect.

"It takes it's toll on the community," she said.

This isn't the first time water has been cut off to the property.

Ms Chicken said she was still seeing the loss of production and the loss of income from when the water was cut off in 2016.

This happened on two occasions for three weeks at a crucial time when the crop needed water.

Ms Chicken said after the water was cut off in 2016, they went into debt to build on-farm water storage that could be filled with rainwater.

"The dam that we put in will never give us an annual supply by any means, we are now looking at the fact that we will probably have to go into more debt again and potentially make that dam bigger," she said.

Ms Chicken said that as for next year, things were looking a little gloomy.

The Pecan trees have a lifespan of 100 years.

"You put them in the ground and then it takes you 20 years to get them to a point where you are getting a commercially viable income from them," she said.

A main concern for Ms Chicken is the pecan trees are not something you can let die and then replant the next year - they are a long-term investment.

"There's the financial stress as well," she said.

"That's our main income source and if you take water out of the picture you lose crop and you don't have any income for a year.

"Potentially a business can maybe absorb it for one year but when you are looking like we are looking now, how many years is it going to go on for?"

The irrigators that rely on the Boyne River only use 5000ML a year, however due to the efficacy of the river system coming out of Boondooma Dam they had to release 10,000 ML of water a year.

Ms Chicken said there was so much lost in the system.

"We have been proposing for a long time that let's get a more efficient system in place and that is building a local weir here," she said.

Ms Chicken said she thought farmers were ever the optimist but it would be tougher this time round.

"I think by early next year if circumstances haven't changed it will be tough," she said.

Another concern for Ms Chicken is the long-term effects of the pecan trees not having any water.

"There tree health and resilience to pest declines," she said.


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