Long-term plan for farming and climate change

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My name is Jody Brown and I'm a grazier from Longreach in Central West QLD. I’m responsible for roughly 2000 ewes and their lambs, 550 cows and their calves, plus about 80 maiden heifers and 20 horses. There are many small challenges we face every day as graziers: a cow with calving issues, a busted water pipe, or a bull that’s jumped out of his paddock. 

But by far, the biggest challenge we face in the long term is damage to our climate. Climate change has already warmed the planet one degree and makes droughts like our current one longer and hotter. 

Our region is now in its 6th consecutive year of drought, and it’s not an isolated incident. We have been dealing with ongoing droughts of increasing severity and duration for the better part of the last two decades.

That's why, along with thousands of other farmers, I’m part of Farmers for Climate Action. We’re calling for a national plan on farming and climate change. We have already seen some progress on this at the last meeting of state and federal agriculture Ministers. Now it's time to prioritise, implement and fund it. 

This plan will guide our federal and state governments through what they need to do to reduce emissions and help farmers manage the changes that are already predicted in a warming world. We need a plan to manage what we can't avoid, and avoid what we can't manage. 

The national plan on farming and climate change should include:

  • Comprehensive research on the direct and indirect risks climate change poses to Australian agri-food systems, including risks to primary production, biosecurity, food processing, food safety, farmer health, key infrastructure, equity, animal welfare, export markets, and farm inputs;
  • Short-, medium-, and long-term targets for adapting Aussie farming to climate change including a ‘just transition’ for regions that will no longer be viable for agriculture;
  • Support for farmers to transition to ‘climate-smart’ agricultural practices that build resilience and reduce emissions, including funding for research, development, education, training and extension in this area;
  • A long-term plan to promote clean energy in farming communities, including community-owned renewables projects that can provide sustainable, alternative income for farmers during drought;
  • A strong commitment to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy, in a way that maximises benefits to farmers and rural communities, and investigating all options for supporting farmers to capture and maintain carbon in our soils and vegetation;
  • A commitment to stopping new coal and gas mines. Fossil fuel mines use water that we as farmers desperately need, and make climate change worse.

Climate change is not a future problem. This drought is not business as usual. For farmers, climate change is here now. And our politicians need a long-term plan to deal with it, for the sake of Aussie food and farming.