The ‘Australian Farmer Climate Survey’ launched this week, encouraging farmers across the country to have our say on climate change and renewable energy.
Climate change is much more than just a hot topic of conversation for farmers - it’s already affecting the way we do business.
On our cattle breeding property in the Murray Valley, we’ve experienced the impacts of rising temperatures in several ways, including a trend towards fewer frosts in winter, and managing the risks of invasive species that could threaten our cattle. These include parasites and weeds.
An example is the microscopic Theileria parasite that began to appear in surrounding districts in 2010. The tick-borne parasite enters the bloodstream of cattle and destroys their red blood cells, eventually killing them. It was previously only seen in sub-tropical and coastal parts of northern Australia. Now, as temperatures rise, it has become endemic in the Murray-Darling region.
Now the ticks can survive over winter and they have done so the past five years. We have a neighbour who lost 10 head of cattle, and although we operate very strict biosecurity, we were incredibly worried.
With increasing summer rainfall and warmer winters, we are seeing a proliferation of weed species that previously were not common. Ink weed, a bright green bush with purple berries appeared in the last half dozen years. A tall brush like plant called fleabane has also appeared in wet summers and a greater incidence of woody weeds such as rose briars.
As farmers, we need to engage with the big issues that affect our land, not just the local ones. After all, agriculture is our most climate-exposed industry, and while Aussie farmers are great at innovation, we have to face reality: there are some physical limits to what we can adapt to.
Current trends show this year will be the hottest ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Australia is the world’s most vulnerable industrialised country to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, heatwaves and spread of pests and invasive species.
Many farmers, like myself and others who are joining Farmers for Climate Action, want to see a sound policy platform that enables Australia and the world move away from coal and gas and towards renewable energy in order to prevent further damage to our climate.
Sometimes it can feel like our voices are too soft, or there aren’t enough of us, to be heard. For too long people have assumed that most farmers refuse to accept the science of climate change, when the opposite is the case. We live on the land and we see it firsthand
That’s why the Farmer Climate Survey is important. The stories and date can be used as the foundation for a real conversation about how climate change is affecting our farms, what support we need to adapt, and what opportunities there are for rural Australia in solutions like renewable energy.
It only takes five minutes. Take the survey now to share how climate change is impacting your farm business, the changes you are making, barriers getting in the way and what action you want taken.
Lucinda Corrigan runs a large, multi-property cattle genetics enterprise with her husband in the Murray Valley east of Albury. Her three children are also employed in rural Australia.
Lucinda is a Director of Meat and Livestock Australia and Chairs the MLA Donor Company, which brings together public and private partnerships investing in innovation. She is the Chair of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, a joint venture between Charles Sturt University and NSW DPI and a member of the NSW Primary Industries Ministerial Advisory Council, which she chaired for the previous Minister. She is a Commissioner of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.