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Water for Fodder's second round of funding abandoned by Federal Government

By national rural reporters Clint Jasper and Kath Sullivan, Friday August 7, 2020 - 13:56 EST
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The deal saw the Commonwealth pay SA to fire up its desalination plant. - ABC licensed

The Federal Government has walked away from plans to deliver 100 gigalitres (GL) of water to farmers to grow feed for their livestock, indefinitely deferring a decision about the future of its Water for Fodder program.

The was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former water minister David Littleproud last November.

"There'll be 100GL of water delivered by April 30 and we will repay that through the use of the desalination plant," Mr Littleproud said at the time.

But just 40GL has been delivered, and Mr Littleproud's successor Keith Pitt will not say if or when a decision about the remaining 60GL will be made available.

It is also not clear how much of the $100 million the South Australian Government has received.

Under the deal, the Commonwealth was to provide , freeing up 100GL of water upstream to be sold at a heavily reduced rate to farmers to grow crops for fodder.

The South Australian Government said it had only agreed to provide 40GL and wanted a review before committing the remaining 60GL.

The review was expected before the new water year commenced on July 1, but was only released by the Federal Government today.

It warned "South Australia does not have sufficient water security to enable round two of the Water for Fodder program to proceed as planned at this time".

But the review also said "as the water year progresses and water availability changes, circumstances may become apparent that enable the Water for Fodder program to run either in full or split across water years".

Mr Pitt said he wanted to see how winter flows through the system affected South Australia's water supply.

"I intend to work closely with South Australia on the future of the program," Mr Pitt said.

South Australia's Water Minister David Speirs heralded the program a great success.

"As we have always said we would review the program before commencing the second round to assess water availability across the Murray-Darling Basin, the impacts of different water dependent industries, and to protect South Australia's water security," Mr Speirs said.

and many farmers missed out on the subsidised water, while some suggested it was made available too late to be of practical assistance.

In a statement from Mr Pitt and Mr Speirs, both governments said the round one review showed more than 80 per cent of those that received the water would apply again, given the opportunity.

South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said her party would move to disallow the Water for Fodder program when Parliament resumes.

"South Australia's water supply needs to be protected and we cannot afford to lose 60GL more so upstream farmers can get some water," Senator Hanson-Young said.

"It puts the whole river system in jeopardy and will cost taxpayers an absolute fortune."


© ABC 2020

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