THE Managing Climate Variability Climate Champion program is an example of investment by industry through the rural research and development corporations (RDCs) in farmers.
It is unique because it has not been done before, but is a wise investment because it concerns the farm business driver that dwarfs all others - the climate.
It is an investment specifically designed to up-skill farmers about weather and climate and take feedback from these farmers back to scientists
It would seem to me that farmers that understand climate, what’s happening with it over time and what is likely to happen are armed with some very valuable information. So why are there some in our industry critical about investment in a program that upskills farmers on this vital aspect of the agriculture industry? We need such skills given the avalanche of climate science information, forecasting tools and worrying predictions and trends that can be confusing and overwhelming to busy growers.
The Climate Champion program sparked my interest in 2010. As a farmer from Corrigin, WA, my investigations had shown what I was facing a strong trend of decreasing growing season rainfall in my area. Since 1980 there has been a 15 per cent reduction in growing season rainfall. If I take the period since 2000 there has been a 20pc reduction in growing season rainfall. This is the elephant in the room for my farming business and farming peers in the WA wheatbelt.
I wanted more information on what was happening to our climate and I wanted to talk to others who were facing similar challenges and who were happy to broach the topic - how can one adapt if the problem is yet to be understood?
So the Climate Champion program to me was and is a great initiative to get farmers talking about a complex and sometimes polarising topic, learning from climate scientists and researchers and forecasters. It is an inclusive program, upskilling interested farmers and letting them communicate and bounce ideas back to their local communities. I admire the farmers involved that have the courage to broach this difficult topic and share with their peers what they have learnt.
For me, the Climate Champion program motivated me to contribute back to my farming community in a number of ways. I provided a case study for climatekelpie.com.au, I provided feedback to the Bureau of Meteorology staff and climate scientists, I spoke at various events as guest speaker, I provided my own farm business gross margin analysis to the Drought Pilot Program along with a video presentation, and I extended my learnings to my agronomy clients and to my farming peers in the Corrigin and broader region. I facilitated a group of Corrigin farmers to visit another climate champion farmer in SA and I organised a group of Corrigin farmers to visit the BOM in Perth.
So the investing by the RDCs in some travel expenses and a nominal quarterly honorarium payment yielded this response from me as a participant. Surely that is a good investment, and this was repeated across the group of farmers from all parts of the Australian agriculture industry.
Simon Wallwork is a farmer from Corrigin, WA. He was a participant in the Managing Climate Variability Climate Champion program from 2010 to 2013 and remains in contact with the program.