The federal government has been inundated with applications for their Water for Fodder initiative, the program oversubscribed to within 24 hours of it opening on Wednesday morning.
There was a total of 4185 applications received for the 800 individual lots of water available in the first round of the program, meaning only 19 per cent of applicants were successful.
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The majority of the applications were from Victoria (2554), then NSW (1574), while there were only 57 applications from South Australia submitted.
Minister Littleproud said as so many applications were received, the allocation of the first 40GL was done through a ballot, run by an independent consultant. Applicants have already begun to be notified via email if they were successful or not.
"The strong interest shows the severe impact the drought is having on the entire nation and the value of this initiative to farmers in the southern basin to produce fodder for farmers around the country and at home," Minister Littleproud said.
The Water for Fodder program is the result of a $98 million deal the federal government made with the South Australian government to supply 100 gigalitres of cheap water for southern Murray Darling Basin irrigators to grow up to 120,000 tonnes of pasture and fodder for livestock.
In return the federal government committed to revive Adelaide's desalination plant.
Farmers were able to apply for up to two 50 megalitre parcels of water for $100/ML, a price heavily discounted with water currently selling on the NSW Murray Above Choke for around $633/ML.
The 100GL total has been split across two water years, 40GL to be delivered by April 2020 and the remaining 60GL to be delivered after July 2020, following an evaluation of the program.
Applications for the remaining 60GL will be open next year.
When the program was first announced it was suggested farmers would only be able to apply for one 25ML parcel of water, however, irrigators expressed concern that this would not be enough to make sowing a crop economically viable.
There were also questions raised on how the government would ensure the water was being used to grow fodder or pasture and not high-value crops.
The Department of Agriculture website now indicates that audits will be conducted to police the program, including on-farm visits.
They also confirmed the water cannot be used to produce fodder as a by product and the water must be used to grow fodder or pasture in the water year it is allocated.