The federal government’s green paper on competitiveness in agriculture has listed 27 potential sites for water infrastructure projects.
Some farmers will have to take a hit for the nation if proposed plans to build more dams are approved, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says.
The federal government has identified 27 potential sites for water infrastructure projects in its Agricultural Competitiveness green paper, which was released on Monday.
Six irrigation projects are earmarked for possible federal funding within the year in Tasmania and Victoria, while potential dams and water projects will be considered in Queensland, NSW, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
National Farmers Federation general policy manager Tony Mahar raised concerns over the ultimate cost to farmers in the proposed regions.
“Who’s going to pay for them?” he said.
When asked if some farmers would have to take a hit for the country by selling up to make way for the water projects, Mr Joyce said that was “always the case”.
“If a sacrifice needs to be made to build a dam, generally people are prepared to make it, as long as they get fairly compensated,” Mr Joyce said.
Numerous projects are listed for an accelerated feasibility study in Queensland’s dry north, including the Burdekin Falls dam, the Mitchell River system, the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, the Urannah Dam near Collinsville and the Fitzroy Agricultural Corridor.
The Ord irrigation scheme in WA and the NT, and the Adelaide River Dam in NT have also been listed.
Mr Mahar said dams, pipelines and rail infrastructure were critical to the development of northern Australia.
“Obviously we can’t do much without water,” he said.
The paper also proposes changes to how farmers negotiate prices with supermarket giants.
One suggestion is the introduction of federal laws to make it easier for farmers to run a co-operative to increase their bargaining powers.
However, Australia’s major retailers expressed concern about the potential reform of competition policy.
Australian National Retail Association chief executive Anna McPhee said the government should be concerned about duplication with the Competition Policy Review announced this year.
The proposals will now be considered for the government’s white paper, which is set for completion in 2015.