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Building ag’s adaptability to an increasingly volatile climate

by Dennis Ward, Avigrain managing director and Farmers for Climate Action member, 17 October 2018

Dennis Ward, managing director of specialist birdseed manufacturer, Avigrain, and Farmers for Climate Action member, discusses the impact of increasing climate variability on grain production and the supply chain, and the way forward for agriculture.

BUYING grain for a birdseed manufacturer, we have to follow many different grain markets, have a good understanding of the seasons from Colac to Clermont and be connected directly with growers.

Over the past 30 years the volatility of the Australian grain market has increased.

For the past decade, our business has accepted the science, assumed increasing climatic variability as a fact of life and have changed how we manage grain supply to mitigate this risk.

Dennis Ward

We are as prepared as we can be but this year is the worst we have ever seen in Eastern Australia.

There are parts of Australia where it’s practically unheard of not to grow a winter crop – North Star, Quirindi, Grenfell. These are the key supply areas that Australian agribusiness relies on for feed grain year in year out.

Scientists have been telling us for years that our collective failure to tackle climate change will lead to increasingly severe events such as the current dry spell.

We need to confront reality. Climate change is going to make droughts floods and frosts across southern Australia more frequent and more severe.

Get the discussion moving

To deal with this, we need to get organised. That’s why I’m backing Farmers for Climate Actions call for a National Strategy on Climate Change and Agriculture.

When you talk to farmers and rural businesses you find they have great ideas which could make their enterprises more resilient and adaptable. Let’s have a discussion and build those ideas into a plan for the future.

A starting point could be to focus on discussion in three key areas: information, infrastructure and intervention.

“‘Information’ on grain and fodder stocks and climate smart agriculture research, development and extension; ‘infrastructure’ to boost efficiencies for water, transport, storage and energy; ‘intervention’ considering strategic reserves of feed and fodder to ensure we can maintain a critical mass of livestock nationally and being crystal clear when rural enterprises will and won’t get government support.

Work together

Australian agriculture needs to change its thinking and become more collaborative, working together to achieve national outcomes rather than continuing the adversarial, each to their own, mentality that currently dominates.

It’s time to stand together as representatives of the food and fibre value chains to demand better from our politicians, and from each other.

Let’s grapple with the reality of an increasingly volatile climate and work together towards a resilient, adaptable, productive and profitable rural Australia.

 

Dennis Ward is Avigrain managing director and a member of Farmers for Climate Action.

 

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