Drought's drastic demands

Much of the farming community would prefer to think of climate change as the past repeating

DROUGHT is demanding some hard questions of producers in the northern half of Australia, and it’s going to throw some hard questions at Canberra.

The “Coalition” suggests one entity, but when it comes to economic policy, the new government’s incumbents range from market-centric, small government economic “dries” to agrarian socialists – the “wets”.

Out of this philosophical gradient, the Coalition has to shape policy to deal with drought and exceptional circumstances.

The National Drought Reform Package introduced at the start of this financial year seeks to strike a balance, at least on paper.

The dries should be content with the package’s emphasis on drought preparedness.

The real “reform” in the reform package, this introduces measures to ensure producers can build fiscal haystacks against hard times.

The wets should approve of the package’s support measures: $100 million towards the Farm Household Allowance to help farm families in hardship; a more integrated approach to the Rural Financial Counselling Service.

But is it enough? Or is it good enough?

About 20 years ago, climate scientists began warning that increasing the heat-trapping effectiveness of Earth’s greenhouse gas blanket by burning fossil fuels would make Australia’s highly variable climate even more variable: more extreme droughts, more extreme floods.

Events of the 21st Century have done nothing to disprove this hypothesis.

Prominent members of the government, and much of the farming community, would prefer to think of climate change as the past repeating.

Tumbling climate records and the apolitical physics of global warming suggest otherwise: the operating environment of the past 10,000 years is history, and that globally, agriculture is moving into new territory.

If the hot, dry, wet extremes of the past decade continue to develop along the same trendline for the next decade, drought policy – and all agricultural policy – will also be in new territory.

One of the first governments in a long while to show genuine zeal for boosting Australian agriculture may also find dealing with productivity-crippling climatic extremes is as important as proactively lifting productivity.

In doing so, the Coalition will have to find whether old principles adhered to by dries and wets can deliver something new for exceptionally new circumstances.

TheLand
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

qlander
29/10/2013 5:24:12 AM

Check the records for the beginning of last century. The first half was a LOT drier then the second half. If the farm family as trouble feeding themselves, the farm business is passed the point of no return. The government MUST make a clear statement about their vision for the future of Ag -corporate or family, and back it up with real action. Paying lip service and handing out welfare, while allowing the under lying trading and market faults to continue is just plain wrong. If they really want corporate, then say it so we can all just sell out and move on with our lives
Chick Olsson
29/10/2013 7:14:46 AM

Agree with slander.. are we serious about farming or do are we taken for granted. There is no doubt that a new political party purely supporting all farming would be successful.
drpage
29/10/2013 7:55:59 AM

"Events of the 21st Century have done nothing to disprove this hypothesis" Do you realise that the global temperature has not increased for 15 years?
Holy Moly
29/10/2013 9:39:51 AM

Well chick why dont you start this new party and I bet it wouldnt last 5 minutes.
nico
5/11/2013 6:47:41 AM

Please check your facts, drpage. A very little research will tell you that global temperatures have continued to rise. There has been a dip in surface temperatures, but this is consistent with natural variability. For more information, see (for example) http://www.sciencedaily.com/relea ses/2013/02/130206141250.htm As Matt Cawood says, agriculture is moving into new territory. Farmers of all people should be paying attention to what the scientists are trying to tell them.
John Deere
5/11/2013 7:48:06 AM

Yes drpage unfortunately what tiny little bit of warming we did have seems to have stopped and the cagw idiots want to hope and prey the climate does not start cooling. Serious cooling would be a huge challenge and would wipe life off planet earth very quickly . Pray to God it stays warm .
nico
5/11/2013 8:39:57 AM

There is no evidence that global warming has stopped, J Deere. Please check your facts. For starters, see: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence
John Deere
7/11/2013 12:38:33 PM

And I say again Nico , thank God we live on a warm world as that is what makes life possible and pray it does not start cooling as the cold will kill you far quicker.
nico
7/11/2013 2:21:46 PM

Look up the Holocene, J Deere. It is a period of relative climatic stability which allowed for the development of human civilisation. Not too hot, not too cold. But this is changing, which can be observed from satellites, buoys, radiosondes, thermometers, phenological studies, ice cores. Have a look at the sciencedaily reference which I gave to drpage.
John Deere
8/11/2013 9:09:07 AM

Yes Nico indeed it is changing , it is always changing , in the future it may get a lot colder as the Holocene ends as all interglacials do and we go into the next iceage . I only hope your in fact correct and it warms a little more which is good not bad as the warming we have had since the end of the last great glaciation has been entirely beneficial to us all and is what has made your existence possible.
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A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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