Farm adjustment strategies to water-related challenges in the Murray-Darling Basin

ANU - Huong Dinh, Anne Daly & Ben Freyens

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

Being able to adjust to drought conditions is an important part of resilience when farming - whether you are an irrigator or dryland farmer

What is the problem?

It shows that irrigators and dry land farmers adjust their production processes and business models using a wide range of strategies.

The extent of adjustment depends on farm characteristics.
• Irrigators also generally place more importance on water-related strategies than output and input related strategies.
• Hobby farming, non intensive-farming and perennial cropping units were more likely to adjust than other dryland farms.

This fuels the important debate about developing and targeting adequate policy support for structural adjustment of farming operations in the MDB.

What did the research involve?

The paper uses the 2013 Regional well being Survey covering all rural and regional areas of Australia. This survey addresses multiple topics with the aim of understanding how social, economic and environmental changes influence well-being.

This paper focused on analyzing the data for 568 irrigators and 797 dry land farmer respondents in the MDB.

Irrigators were also asked to report their experience on four water-related challenges:
• Reduced allocation of water for one or more seasons
• Increased fixed charges on permanent water entitlement
• Increases in costs of purchasing temporary water entitlement
• Restrictions on the timing of water trading

What were the key findings?

For purposes of the analysis, the paper groups these activities into six broad types of strategies.
• Water-related strategies
• Investment-related strategies
• Input-related strategies
• Output-related strategies
• Land-related strategies
• Financial help

The survey confirms that irrigators are more affected by water-related challenges than dry land farmers but it also shows that drought affected everyone. Nearly 80% of both irrigators and dry land farmers reported that drought had created difficulties for them.

Final comment

The role of social networks in supporting adaptation and positive outcomes will also be topics of future research.
They will investigate some of the correlations identified here and examine the relationship between key variables including farm characteristics and farmer characteristics and profitability.

The results of the survey show that both natural and man-made water-related factors have affected the operation of farms in the MDB.

2016 - Australia - ANU - Huong Dinh, Anne Daly & Ben Freyens
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