The great divide

26 Sep, 2007 09:00 PM
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WAFARMERS president Trevor De Landgrafft has called for an urgent and open debate to restructure farming in the north eastern Wheatbelt as the persistent drought continues to take its toll on the region.

Low rainfall and harsh growing conditions have continued to plague growers in the area for the second consecutive year, stripping farming profits and raising debt to critical levels.

Its a different story in the south of the state where many farmers are indulging in a bumper season and can expect to reap huge profits on the back of sky-rocketing grain prices driven by meagre world supplies.

But in stark contrast to their southern mates, the level of farmers’ debt in the dry north has raised serious concerns over the long term future of farming in that part of WA, with many financial institutions nearing extreme credit limits.

Adding to those problems has been the spectre of possible failed grain contracts facing these farmers this year, and the potential ramifications of wash-outs in light of the current world record high grain prices on offer.

Some farmers will be forced to buy grain back at today’s current high prices, in order to meet the tonnage they contracted on at much lower values earlier in the season, or pay the difference on their hedging position.

Mr De Landgrafft said he was seriously concerned by the vastly different scenarios and was now calling for a change of approach to traditional farming methods as a means of combating some of the problems being experienced in the north.

He said there were some immediate answers but restructuring was a long-term solution.

Mr De Landgrafft visited farms in and around Mingenew and Morawa last week to see first hand what impact the drought was having on agriculture in the area.

He said those farmers were beginning to consider significant changes to their farming methods with restructuring at the forefront of their thinking.

He said if farming was to survive into the future, greater investment and more versatile thinking was needed.

“These farmers are in the trap of relying too heavily on cropping and doing it on a year in and year out basis, but that method presents too much of a risk now in these areas along the north east margins of the Wheatbelt,” he said.

“These farmers need to look at things like carbon trading schemes and mallee plantings as an alternative to what they are doing now.

“They also need to consider farming differently to how it is being done in the higher rainfall areas.”

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