As a long-time member of the VFF, Bob Watters has held his fair share of positions.
From being actively involved with the VFF’s Numurkah branch to being on various committees and sitting on the VFF board as its vice-president, Mr Watters has witnessed plenty of change over his time with the organisation.
The Drumanure (east of Wunghnu) farmer has been a part of the VFF for about 40 years and on February 27 he was presented a life membership at the VFF’s annual grain committee dinner.
‘‘I was unaware of the planned award,’’ Mr Watters said.
‘‘After missing a few meetings I thought I had better reconnect with colleagues so I registered three weeks before the event.
‘‘This eliminated any conspiracy to get me there.
‘‘The president of the VFF read out the history of the recipients. It was part way through his delivery that I started expecting (that it was me). It was a really pleasant surprise.’’
Despite being with the organisation for about four decades it wasn’t until the 1990s that Mr Watters stepped up his involvement.
‘‘I became a district councillor on the VFF Grains Council in 1990,’’ he said.
‘‘When my son became more active on the farm, it allowed me to become more active with activities of the VFF.’’
His farm has paid the price for more efficient water delivery as Mr Watters pumped drainage water for irrigation during the 1960s and 1970s.
‘‘The total volume coming into the channel system was dropping and therefore there was less outfalls.’’
More efficient irrigation had also left less water in the drains.
Mr Watters described the biggest challenge of his cropping career as the weather.
‘‘Most of our crop in a dryland environment is at the mercy of the season.
‘‘Every year, our biggest challenge is matching inputs with seasonal conditions which are determined by rainfall.
‘‘If you match in a dry year, you get low product. Get it right in a heavy rainfall year, (you grow) more yield.
‘‘Irrigation allows for getting good yield every year.
‘‘However, this is becoming difficult as it is dependent on how much water there is and how much it costs.’’
As part of Mr Watters’ cropping venture he grew rice during the late 1990s until the drought hit.
He was one of the most southern rice growers in Australia.
Looking into the crystal ball, Mr Watters said he could see farming businesses becoming bigger in the future.
‘‘The size of businesses, because of machinery, are getting bigger and the machinery is becoming more specialised and more applicable for bigger operations.’’
Another reason for bigger operations is the more common need to store crops, in particular grain, on site than was the case when Mr Watters first started growing crops.
‘‘There is a bigger move to on-farm storage of grain produced in the market we have now.
‘‘When I first started in grain production, receiving, storage and transporting of the whole crop was government legislated.’’
This movement to bigger farms has meant the VFF is losing members, but Mr Watters said the organisation had not lost its importance.
‘‘The change in farm size and land tenure has seen a reduction in actual membership but this has reinforced the value of the organisation and its importance on speaking with a united voice on important issues with government.’’
When it comes to the topic of climate change, Mr Watters said constant improvements being made to farming practices through research and experience would help overcome any climate challenges farmers might face.
‘‘We have to wait and react like we always have to the climate.
‘‘The increase in carbon dioxide is a positive for crop production and whatever manifests itself from the carbon dioxide increase, we will adapt and react to as we go.
‘‘Farming practices including minimum tillage and stubble retention are our attempts for best practice to reduce impacts on the climate.’’
Mr Watters, now 78, enjoys slowing down on the farm these days but will always have a life membership to remind him of the great friendships he has made during what seems to be an ongoing alliance with the VFF.