Farmers call for climate resources

Jo FullwoodThe West Australian
FCA board member Christie Kingston, of Goomalling, and chief executive Verity Morgan-Schmidt, at Dowerin.
Camera IconFCA board member Christie Kingston, of Goomalling, and chief executive Verity Morgan-Schmidt, at Dowerin.

With Australia suffering its second driest June on record, and with more than 100 records smashed throughout the month across the country for lowest rainfall recordings, a group of farmers is calling on the Government to commit greater resources to arrest climate change.

Farmers for Climate Action chief executive Verity Morgan-Schmidt, who grew up on a family farm in Beacon, said the recently released national June and July rainfall and temperature recordings were frightening.

Statistics specific to WA also paint a bleak picture, with the State recording its 11th driest winter since records began.

Other statistics released by the Bureau of Meteorology for the 2017 winter show the mean maximum temperature for WA was 2C above average, being the warmest winter on record, which was 0.4C higher than the previous record in winter 2002.

According to the bureau, daytime temperatures were 2C-3C warmer than normal in the northern and eastern part, and a number of sites either had their warmest winter days on record or warmest for 21 years.

In contrast, and despite being a short-term weather recording, a record low winter maximum of 7.3C at Rocky Gully on August 9 was WA’s lowest maximum temperature for 27 years, since 7C at Mt Barker on July 23, 1990.

From June 1 to August 31, 2017, rainfall decile rankings for much of the Great Southern, and the northern, central and eastern Wheatbelt were between one and three, according to the bureau.

A Farmers for Climate Action survey of 1300 farmers across Australia, followed by one-on-one discussions with growers at the recent Dowerin Field Days, clearly demonstrated farmers were concerned about the impact of climate change, Ms Morgan-Schmidt said. “Farmers are worried about the impact on their businesses — they have told me they are seeing more extended droughts, more frequent and severe heatwaves, increased evaporation rates and changing and increasing frost windows,” she said.

“Growers are telling me they are also seeing a decline in growing season rainfall, and an increase in summer rainfall.”

Ms Morgan-Schmidt called for governments to commit greater resources into research projects that would equip farmers to better handle climate variability.

“We believe the government, through the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development, should be supporting farmers with programs to aid adaptation and resilience, coupled with strong policies in place to support an emissions reduction program,” she said.

“There needs to be an urgent transition away from fossil fuel dependency, at the same time as encouraging farmers to pull some of that carbon back from the environment, sequestering it into their soils.”

Ms Morgan-Schmidt said with research predictions of a warming climate trajectory in the longer term, farmers could play a major role in arresting this change.

“Australian farmers are custodians of over 50 per cent of Australia’s landmass, so we need to look at adaptive change strategies, and assist farmers to implement ways to better withstand this changing and variable climate,” she said.

“If we make changes now, we can alter that trajectory so we don’t exacerbate this change going forward.”

She said farmers were encouraged to participate in the climate change survey by visiting wa.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails