Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Questions without Notice

Murray-Darling Basin

2:37 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Agriculture) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Davey. You know better than anyone in this place, as an irrigator yourself, just how hard it is out there at the moment. The Nationals and Liberals in government are acting to help drought affected farmers to ensure access to water to grow fodder and to help farmers elsewhere suffering from drought to keep their breeding stock alive and protect the years they've invested in developing their genetics.

As part of our government's last round of support for drought affected farmers, Commonwealth and South Australian governments have struck a deal to secure 100 gigalitres of water so that farmers can grow fodder, silage and pasture at a discounted rate. By ramping up production, the South Australian government has agreed to sell up to 100 gigalitres of water allocations from the metropolitan account drawn from the River Murray to drought affected farmers. This means that water provided to farmers under the Water for Fodder program will be completely replaced by water produced by the Adelaide Desalination Plant. That is great for farmers up and down the river. It will mean an extra 120,000 tonnes more feed will be available than if we'd not worked with the South Australian government to deliver this program.

As a condition of applying for the program, irrigators will need to agree that they will not on-sell the water and will only grow fodder and pasture with the water they receive. Applicants will be required to provide evidence that they've grown the fodder where they said they would. At $100 a megalitre, this water is incredibly heavily discounted. Farmers can apply from the second week of December, and water will start to flow before Christmas. This water must be used to produce fodder or pasture. Farmers can buy water in up to 50-megalitre lots, with a maximum purchase of 100 megalitres.

The Water for Fodder program will make a meaningful difference for farmers in need and will help improve fodder production for drought affected stock throughout the country. For those who decided to agist their breeding stock in areas less affected by the drought, there's $1 billion worth of loans available to them and small businesses, interest- and repayment-free for at least two years.

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