Newsletter

April: 2007

Now supported by the Poola Foundation

Annual General Meeting

The inaugural AGM was held at Tom and Sarah Guthrie's property "Thermopylae" Mafeking on Sunday March 18 th . The setting was very pleasant under a shady, very old oak tree adjacent to their house. The Guthries generously provided a bbq lunch   and tastings of their Grampians Estate Wines.

Thirteen members attended with apologies from another six members from near and as far away as the ACT. It was noted that members require a greater gap between meeting notification and time to enable attendance.

Chairman John Pettigrew in his report stated that we have recently seen an example of the impact a farmers group such as ours can have on an environmental issue with the removal of cattle from the Barmah Wetlands. The fact that a farmers' Group was advocating change and offering an alternative view caught the media's attention and gave DSE some comfort to take action. This is a positive example of what we envisaged possible when we first met to consider the formation of the Environmental Farmers Network.

Election of Office Bearers was conducted by guest Robin Merrick Chairperson is John Pettigrew, Vice Chair Tom Guthrie, Secretary/ Treasurer and Public Officer Peter Forster, Web site Manager Tom Guthrie with assistance from David Cummings and Media Spokesperson Chair or nominee. Executive Committee: above Officers plus three members viz Andrew Bradey, Mairi-Anne Mackenzie and John Ives.

Poola Foundation: Secretary advised meeting that the Poola Foundation has generously forwarded a grant of $5 000.00 to assist with establishment of the Group following submission of a budget. Secretary outlined current situation viz some progress made with brochures printed, one phone conference conducted, brochures distributed at International Landcare Conference and Wimmera Field Days and some positive media releases including one on Cattle grazing in the Barmah Forest which received much publicity. Submission also made to Productivity Commission.

Policies: Meeting noted that four policies have been completed and loaded on the web site. Policies under development are Farm Forestry, Farm Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Wind Farms. It was agreed to refine the policy format to include Principles. Policies, Background and Case Studies. Members agreed to contact Secretary with suggestions on policies being developed. Note: Final draft of Farm Forestry Policy has been emailed to members for comment.

Policy gaps were identified viz Biofuels, Biodiversity and relationship to land capability.

Website Review: It was also agreed that the website needed reviewing and upgrading and that Tom Guthrie and David Cummings would attend to this matter.

Membership Drive: Brochures were distributed and it was noted that Secretarial assistance will improve service delivery to members. David Cummings agreed to assist in this matter.

Next   Executive Meeting: Teleconference in about two months time.

The Chair thanked Tom and Sarah for their hospitality and the meeting closed at 3.00 pm in time for some members to catch the train!

Other Member News
Congratulations to John McDougal a member from Tatyoon, Victoria on his appointment as Chair of Southern Farming Systems. This organisation has had a major impact on farming in higher rainfall areas of Victoria since its inception in 1995. SFS conducts "real world" research which affects the whole farm operation including integrated pest management, cereal disease management, controlled traffic cropping, precision agriculture, stubble retention and grazing programs. John is keen to involve younger farmers and farm managers in the Groups activities by making SFS events more appealing and punchier! We wish him well with his new responsibilities.

Julian Cribb: .World food shortage: Julian predicts that with rising standards of living that by 2050 the 9.3 billion estimated world population will be eating enough food to feed 13 billion at todays nutritional levels. This will not be sustainable as surface and ground water resources are already diminishing as is farmland, world wild fish stocks, soils and nutrients. In addition competition from biofuels will be increasing and droughts are expected to increase in severity and area. Meanwhile agricultural research expenditure is decreasing. Source ABC Radio National 5 March 2007. Julian is Adjunct Professor of Science Communication, University of Technology, Sydney

Editors Note: One of the challenges in sustainable farming is to incorporate production and biodiversity on farm, reduce inputs and generate enough outputs to be profitable. Perhaps we need more research into sustainable farming systems that are not high input, fossil fuel/oil based and intellectual property dependent.

Lake Bolac Eel Festival: The Third Lake Bolac Eel Festival was held in late March. It successfully incorporates entertainment with live music, arts, environmental and cultural heritage awareness and social wellbeing. Lake Bolac is a small town in the western district of Victoria beside a large wetland which has had its outlet raised to provide a more "permanent" water resource for farmers, eel farming and recreation. Like many lakes and wetlands in Southeast Australia it has been steadily drying out in the last 10 years. This has impacted on farmers, commercial fishing operations, local service businesses and recreational users. The Environmental Forums have been a very effective vehicle to increase general public understandings of issues such as climate change, land use impact on surface and ground water and natural wetland cycles.

Web Sites to check:
www.rurallaw.org.au
www.greenhouse.unimelb.edu.au
www.carbonsmart.com.au/index
www.carboncoalition.com.au  

Blog Site http://au.360.yahoo.com/swsustainability
has a link to Environmental Farmers Network.         

Global Warming /Climate Change

EFN members are well aware that farmers are being heavily impacted by climate change associated with global warming.    Our policy development themes reflect this concern.   Final Farm Forestry and Wind Farm policies are about to be posted on our web site and we are working on other Climate Change related Policies; viz Climate Change and Farming, Farm Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Biofuels and Biodiversity.        

Farm Greenhouse Gas Emission Facts:

The Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) completes an annual audit of Australia's total net greenhouse gas emissions, the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, (NGGI). The latest audit (2004) attributes nearly 17% of Australia's total emissions to agriculture. This figure only represents emissions from biological processes on farm. Emissions from energy (fuel and electricity) are recorded in the transport and energy sectors.

The main gases emitted from agriculture are methane and nitrous oxide. Both are powerful greenhouse gases with 21 and 310 time the global warming potential of carbon dioxide respectively. Agriculture is the dominant national source of both methane at 60% and nitrous oxide at 86%, (AGO 2006).  

Emissions sources from agriculture include;

  • Rumen fermentation and manure management in livestock producing methane,  
  • Agricultural soils - from the nitrogen cycle including fertiliser application, animal wastes and nitrogen fixing plants, producing nitrous oxide,
  • Prescribed burning of savannas: tropical savannas and grasslands,
  • Field burning of residues: crop stubble, and
  • Rice cultivation- anaerobic process when flooded.

Methane emissions from rumen fermentation in livestock account for over 60% of agriculture's total emissions. The process is natural and essential for livestock maintenance.   The methane is produced by microbes in the rumen (methanogens) who use surplus hydrogen in the rumen with the methane belched or breathed out. Only small amounts are emitted via the rear end flatulence contrary to many media reports. (source: Traci Griffin, DPI Vic)

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