MD John Casella says the cuts will affect the farmers who depend on water from the rivers

MD John Casella says the cuts will affect the farmers who depend on water from the rivers

The managing director of Casella Wines has joined farmers and grape growers to protest about a 43% cut to water supplies in the Murray Darling Basin in south-eastern Australia.

The Federal Government has proposed cuts to many farmers within the basin, which John Casella says will affect the farmers who depend on water from the rivers to irrigate their land.

"This plan would cripple a rural city like Griffith," Casella said today (23 November). "Many of its residents depend on water from the Murray Darling basin to irrigate crops - whether it's rice, canola, citrus or grapes. Rivers are the lifeblood of regional business and the livelihood of its inhabitants.

He added: "Today I am joining with my business partners - the local grape growers - to protest the plan that would see a 43% cut to water that would decimate farms, businesses and towns in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and will result in less produce not just locally but across the region."

Casella Wines, which produces the [yellow tail] wine brand, is one of the largest employers in the Riverina region with around 500 local people working for the family winery in Yenda, outside Griffith, New South Wales.

The company crushes around 180,000 tonnes of fruit and produces around 12m cases of wine - almost 10% of Australia's total wine production each year, it claims.

Casella said he fears that with the proposed changes, business owners like himself "could be one of the first to collapse".

However, while he opposes the cuts, Casella said he also believes in a "healthy river system".

"I am the last person who wants to see our inland rivers dry up," he said. "These rivers are our livelihood and their health is critical. But cutting or buying back water allocations is not the answer. What will regional families do if their businesses fail in a drought? Depression and suicide is already rife throughout regional Australia.

"It is in Australia's interest to protect its farmers. We need to work with the government to find a sustainable solution that will not ruin the food bowl of Australia," Casella added.

He is prompting anyone also opposing the plan to visit www.yellowtailwines.com to sign a petition.