Queensland Gov confirms irrigation discounts for farmers

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The Queensland Government has confirmed irrigation water pricing discounts for farmers across the state, with horticulture growers set to benefit most

Farmers in Queensland will receive an automatic 15 per cent discount on water irrigation bills from July 1, while horticulture growers could also receive a further 35 per cent rebate as well - Credit: Elenathewise/ Adobe Stock

All farmers who purchase water from Queensland’s state-owned irrigation schemes - Seqwater and Sunwater – will receive an automatic 15 per cent saving on their water bill.

The price relief is set to take place at the beginning of the new financial year; July 1.

Horticulture farmers, however, will be eligible for a 50 per cent discount on horticulture crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and turf operations following the economic growth created within the sector.

The 50 per cent discount for horticulture growers will be delivered in the form of a 35 per cent rebate which farmers will need to apply for through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).

Broadacre crops such as grains, cotton and sugar cane will not be eligible for the rebate, however.

The Palaszczuk administration promised irrigation savings to the state’s agricultural industry in the lead up to last year’s state election and has now followed through on the $50 million commitment.

Queensland Minister for Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water Glenn Butcher says the discounts aim to be as simple as possible and available for as many farmers as possible.

 "The Palaszczuk Government knows that Queensland’s agriculture industry is critical to delivering Queensland’s plan for economic recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic," Butcher says.

"From 1 July, when we begin the new financial year, every irrigator who buys water from Queensland’s state-owned irrigation schemes will automatically see 15 per cent cut from their water bill. That’s all there is to it."

The Queensland Government is still working on how to best estimate water usage for eligible horticulture growers, something Butcher says will be ironed out with QRIDA over the coming months.

"Our objective is to ensure that it’s simple and straightforward for horticulture growers to claim their additional discount," Butcher says.

"That’s why I’ve written to the Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner seeking the QRIDA to help design and deliver a rebate scheme that’s simple to understand, easy to use, and won’t mean any extra measurement or complicated bookkeeping for irrigators.

"QRIDA has been helping farmers take care of their bottom lines for more than 25 years, and that makes them the perfect people to deliver a rebate scheme that puts money back in the pockets of our horticultural growers."

The Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF), who had long been an advocate for the discounts, welcomed the announcement, but QFF chief executive Dr Georgina Davis did hold reservations for the initiative.

"Further details are required regarding the facilitation of this process, and QFF is consulting with the government and QRIDA to ensure irrigators applying for the rebate do not face any additional administrative burden," Davis says.

"Further, the state government has delayed expected irrigation water price increases following the end of their 2019/20 price freeze on 30 June 2021, which would have left many irrigators no better off even if they qualified for the 50 per cent discount.

"The government has recognised how expensive irrigation water is in the state, and instead of facing a two-year jump in water prices on 1 July, irrigators will see some price relief and only pay the 2020/21 prices."

Other industry experts, such as Australian Sugar Milling Council chief executive David Pietsch say the decision could inject as much as $100 million back into the Queensland economy.

"This reduction reverses a decades-long trend of increased regulated water charges. This will make water more affordable for the two-thirds of the state’s cane growers who rely on irrigation," says Pietsch.

"More affordable water provides growers with greater incentive to take full advantage of their water allocations.

"The Queensland sugar industry generates more than $4 billion in economic activity in Queensland each year and supports more than 23,000 jobs, so this is an important development for our industry and our State."

Discounts for growers across the state who purchase water with prices not set by the Queensland Government, such as water supplied by Local Management Arrangement (LMA) entities, will be a matter for each individual water supplier.

The overall commitment from the Queensland Government is set to provide $81.6 million in support for irrigators over the next three years.

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