Our Policies :

Members and friends are invited to study these policies and provide advice on improvements and additions.

Land management in lengthy dry periods
(February 2016)

Historically farming in most of the agricultural and pastoral areas of Australia has been characterized by frequent crippling droughts. These droughts have been unpredictable and, despite advances in meteorology, remain substantially so. A prime requirement for farming in Australia is the ability to cope with these variable seasons.

Australia is recognized as having a highly variable climate by world standards. This irregularity combined with poor (old, shallow, low carbon) soil resources and with low rainfall and high evaporation makes many areas marginal for agriculture. This situation is compounded with the mostly detrimental effects of climate change. “Industrial” farming with higher stocking rates exacerbates the impacts of droughts against this backdrop. Higher temperatures, more extreme weather events, and both higher rainfall intensities and fewer rainfall events are some of the consequences of climate change for some regions. Farming in Australia is destined to become more challenging as the years progress.

EFN is concerned that poor management during periods of low rainfall (commonly referred to as drought) will damage our environmental base and reduce the resilience and productivity of our farming lands. Exposure of soil because of poor land management practices during a dry period results in soil damage and depletion. Consequent reclamation, if possible, is fraught.

EFN is also concerned that poor farming methods will contribute to further decline in farm soils and vegetation as carbon sinks, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions and further affecting our climate. A less intensive, more self-sufficient (lower input) farming system will probably be required to bolster resilience and enhance sustainability.

EFN will lobby the Federal Government, the State Government, and peak industry groups to provide strong leadership to:

1. Champion the readiness of land managers to cope with climate change and seasonal variability;
2. Commission work to improve management practices to both strategically and tactically deal with seasonal variability and climate change. (For example: define sustainable stocking rates with careful reference to historic and projected carrying capacities; set aside 10% of farmland as an ecological reserve; and, consider products not dependent on contemporary rainfall such as solar and wind power, timber, and firewood).
3. Determine protection standards for land such that its resilience is not compromised (especially with respect to soil disturbance and levels of vegetative cover) and align with work commissioned under point 2;
4. Facilitate changes in land use as a part of restructuring where climate change renders previous uses unsustainable;
5. Promote the education of farmers in the use of destocking programs, off-site agistment arrangements for core breeding stock, and stable (and sustainable) stock containment areas. Concurrently encourage local experimentation as an essential part of adaptation to climate change;
6. Support industry/social welfare payments being available to farmers and farming communities who have yet to adapt their farming methods to cope with a variable climate. Payments should be conditional upon participation in training and education about climate variability and alternatives practices; and,
7. Vigorously pursue curtailment of greenhouse gas emissions by for example pricing.

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