AUSTRALIAN farmers are pretty savvy.
Given Australia’s erratic and changing climate, they have to be.
But now, for more and more farmers and graziers, climate change is a fact, with the consequences up close and personal.
There is a growing movement of farmers who are no longer content to keep quiet.
Here in Victoria’s northeast where I farm with my family, and in Gippsland where I was raised, we don’t get the rainfall we used to. Fire seasons are growing longer and more dangerous. Even this autumn has started out a strange one, with a string of days over thirty like we’ve never seen.
When the rains do come they’re more intense, punishing the soil and putting people, animals, and property at risk. Last November the tropics came to Victoria and farmers out west had to go at it hammer and tongs, harvesting through the night, or risk losing their crops. More events like these put people under more strain, mental and physical.
When the rains do come, they’re so intense that property, people and animals are at risk. (Pic: News Corp)
There is good evidence now this change is already taking a bite out of agriculture. Indeed, as renowned ANU climate scientist Professor Mark Howden recently told a group of farmers, of which I was one, this country has become less food secure.
All this with ‘just’ one degree of warming so far.
Howden, alongside the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, and many other scientists warn things will get much more difficult. Some more warming is already locked in, they say, and we’ll need to get ready for that. But the worst-case warming scenario — more than two degrees — is not inevitable. Not yet.
We can do a lot on our farms to manage climate risk, but things are getting pretty stretched and we can’t do it alone. Time is running short to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. We badly need policymakers to look at the problem squarely, reach across party lines, and find long-term solutions.
There’s good evidence that climate change is taking a toll on agriculture. (Pic: iStock)
Because the way we used to do agriculture is no longer a good guide to what we do next, we need strong, sustained investment in research and development and support for new farming practices. I’m inspired by a growing passion among farmers, young and old, for practical measures to regenerate healthy soils, restore native vegetation, and manage water more wisely.
More farmers are harvesting the sun and wind for power, driven by the need to save money, diversify, and rebuild self-reliance.
Neighbours are exploring micro-grids, and there is rising interest in smart technologies and battery storage. But politicking and inconsistent policy are holding back the full potential of affordable, clean energy in rural and regional communities.
Australian farmers are wising up.
The world’s best scientists stand ready to help.
Even many big businesses are stepping up.
So, where are our politicians?
It’s way past time the political football game on climate and energy ended.
This is too important.
Nothing short of Australia’s food security and the environment underpinning it are on the line.
We want political leadership.
But if they’re not prepared to lead then, please, stand aside.
Kerri Robson is an Angus beef producer from Warrenbayne in northeastern Victoria and a Farmers for Climate Action Climate-Smart Agriculture Fellow.
Press link for more: Herald Sun