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Water for fodder to flow from next week under $100 million deal with South Australia

By national rural reporter Kath Sullivan, Monday December 2, 2019 - 06:20 EDT

Farmers who have had no access to irrigation water in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin could be eligible for cheap water from next week.

Irrigators can apply for allocations of 50 megalitres of water that will be made available from the South Australian Government at $100/megalitre.

Water is currently trading in some parts of the basin at close to $900/megalitre.

The Federal Government has released the details of its Water for Fodder program, following a to ramp up output at its desalination plant.

Under the deal, , freeing up 40 gigalitres for irrigators from December 9.

A subsequent 60 gigalitres will be delivered to irrigators after April 1, pending a review of the program.

Water must be used for fodder, pasture

Water and Drought Minister David Littleproud said the water must be used to grow fodder or pasture.

"This keeps farmers doing what they do best and provides hope in tough times," Mr Littleproud said.

Under the guidelines, farmers who "have had more than 1 gigalitre available for delivery in the current water year — through carryover or allocations — in the allocation account" are not eligible.

Only Australian registered businesses can apply and they must be in the southern connected system.

According to the guidelines, a range of compliance and enforcement activities will ensure the water is used for growing fodder and pasture.

Anyone found not complying would be excluded from participating in future rounds of the program.

"These could be: remote sensoring, onsite visits, audit of evidence such as metering records, allocation account statements for the Allocation Account and any other water allocation accounts held by the Applicant, invoices, photographs and farm surveys," the guidelines said.

For own herds and as income stimulus

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said farmers could apply for 50 megalitres per access licence, with a maximum of two applications.

When the proposal was first announced, farmers were to have access to 25 megalitres each. This has since been revised.

"This water must be used to produce fodder or pasture. Fodder cannot be a by-product," Ms Ley said.

"Dairy farmers, for instance, could use it to feed their own herds, but for many farms this will be a stimulus to drive income while supplying fodder to drought ravaged areas."

The Government expects the deal to produce up to 120,000 tonnes of fodder for livestock.

Agricultural consultant and fodder market analyst Colin Peace has told the ABC that is the equivalent of 2.5 per cent of the demand for fodder on Australia's east coast in 2019-20.

Mr Peace said the water would be meaningful to those who received it, but unlikely to impact the hay market.



© ABC 2020

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