As questions continue to pour in on the 100 gigalitres being given to Murray irrigators to grow fodder, answers from the government on details of the scheme are drying up.
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Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack and Agricultural Minister, Bridget McKenzie visited The Rock on Saturday to announce Lockhart Shire was one of the six extra councils to be given $1 million as part of the Drought Communities Funding.
The announcement also gave the National Party leaders the opportunity to take questions on other aspects of the latest $700 million drought relief package, including the 100GL negotiated with the South Australian government to produce an estimated 120,000 tonnes of fodder.
Senator McKenzie said the government was prioritising fodder production at this stage because the national herd was at a 25-year low.
"We are at a grave risk of losing critical breeding stock, growing this fodder is absolutely essential to make sure that very quickly, within two to three years, we can ramp up and get back to our usual herd levels," she said.
"We don't want farmers to have to make that very hard decision to get rid of genetics they've been developing over many generations."
Will 25ML per irrigator be enough to grow fodder on?
Despite the good intentions, irrigators have raised concerns over some details of the scheme, including the potential that irrigators will only be able to access 25 megalitres each, an amount that may be too little to economically grow a crop with, even with water priced at $100/ML.
But Mr McCormack said it was a good start.
"Farmers have told us that that (25ML) is enough water to grow fodder, of course it won't suit every circumstance but it will certainly help in keeping our breeding stock alive, it's a good decision," Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack admitted that the government was still working out parts of the scheme, like a tender process and how they would make sure irrigators signing up were actually growing fodder.
"There will be the rule of thumb on how we allocate the water, where it's allocated, how much is allocated and what it is going to grow, it will be monitored and we're working through that at the moment," Mr McCormack said.
"The South Australia cabinet only made their decision on Thursday and we announced it a few hours later, so we are still working through that, but the fact is that we have the 100GL and the fact is that South Australian premier, Steven Marshall has shown great national leadership."
Fodder grown on subsidised water not to be price capped
Another question has been whether the price of fodder grown on subsidised water would be capped. Senator McKenzie said she did not believe this would be the case.
"My understanding is it will be released onto the market, obviously this will increase supply of fodder available to all farmers, not just drought-affected farmers, which will be of benefit all across our primary production network," she said.
"Dairy farmers are feeling the pinch of input prices going through the roof, we need to get more fodder into the system en masse, I think it's an incredibly creative way to solve what has been an intractable problem."
Senator McKenzie also said she believed fodder producers in other parts of the state who may be negatively impacted by the scheme would still be able to make a decent living.
"Anyone that's producing fodder right now is getting a very good price for it," Sentator McKenzie said.
"I know any farmer, whether they're a fodder producer or purchasing fodder, doesn't want to be making money out of someone else's misery.
"We need to all work hard to keep breeding stock alive to ensure fodder producers are still making an income.
"Farmers will be helping farmers when growing fodder."
The story Government still 'working through' details of 100GL first appeared on The Land.