A new series of stories showing how a range of Australian farmers are responding to climate change has been launched the National Farmers Federation (NFF).
The ‘Australian Farms: Where REAL climate action happens’ campaign aims to better connect all Australians with how their food and fibre is produced.
It follows research commissioned by the NFF involving a survey of 1000 people from a range of demographics and geographic spread across the country, which measured community sentiment towards agriculture, climate change and sustainability.
Of those surveyed, 21 per cent strongly believed farmers were committed to improving their environmental performance and adapting to a warmer, drier climate, while 44pc somewhat agreed, 17pc were neutral and 18pc disagreed.
NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the survey results indicated the community recognised farmers were on the frontline of the climate solution and wanted to learn more about what action they were taking.
“The numbers of “somewhat agree” and “neutral” respondents indicate to us that people need more information to jump over to the “strongly agree” camp. This campaign is aimed at giving them more information,” he said.
“We’re telling the stories of farmers who take seriously their responsibility as environmental stewards of 51 per cent of the Australian landscape.
“The good news is through research, innovation and on-farm management, our farmers are world leaders in carbon abatement. In fact, agriculture is one large carbon cycle: generating emissions but also taking a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
“Now mainstream practices such as rotational grazing, zero soil disruption when planting a crop and the conversion of livestock effluent to renewable energy have seen Australian agriculture reduce its direct greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent between 2004-05 and 2016-17.
“Farmers are on a journey and there is more work to do. Through new science and technologies, like feed additives that drastically reduce livestock emissions, agriculture is poised to continue being part of the climate solution.”
Bridging the gap
GrainGrowers chair Brett Hosking said the survey reflected a disconnect between the community and what was taking place on farms.
“Most of our growers will tell you that caring for the environment, caring for the health of their soil, getting more efficiency out of using water are first and foremost in their farming businesses,” he said.
“Particularly family farmers, they understand that if they are on the farm for the rest of their lives and possibly their kids will carry on, as a grower they need to make sure the farm is productive and sustainable. They have their lives invested in making sure the farm improves every day.
“But the numbers tell us there is a disconnect between some of the community and they don’t have an experience of what farmers are doing to improve the environment their livelihoods depend on.”
Mr Hosking said farmers needed to get on the front foot and tell their story to the wider community.
“Farmers often don’t talk about what they do. We farm more efficiently, we use the latest technology and science to build healthier soils whilst also being productive at the same time. We are using things like minimum till that we know improve the health of our soils and the efficiency of our water use,” he said.
“We just don’t talk about it because to us it is just “business as usual”. We have to get better at telling our story.”
Mr Hosking said the NFF campaign was taking a step in the right direction towards getting the message out.
“But it is also up to individual farmers to talk about what they are doing, particularly those using social media platforms,” he said.
“We see a number of farmers on all sorts of platforms, even TikTok which are just a bit of fun, but we also see growers sharing their everyday activities and helping the community get a better understanding of what farmers do. All those sorts of things are really useful and something we need to get better at.”
Spreading the good news
The ‘Australian Farms: Where REAL climate action happens campaign’ is part of a the Telling Our Story project, which is led by the NFF and supported by Meat and Livestock Australia, Nutrien Ag Solutions and Woolworths.
It features the stories of farmers from a range of agricultural enterprises.
Farmers like Dan Fox and his family, who operate a broadacre cropping business at Marrar in southern New South Wales, are improving the sustainability of their farm for future generations through reduced soil disruption and more fuel-efficient machinery.
“The legacy I’d like to leave for my children is a farm on which the soils are functioning better than when we started,” Mr Fox said.
“We’re custodians of the land, we should leave the land better than when we received it.”
In northern NSW, the Wilmot Cattle Company managed by Stuart Austin runs an operation that is “‘massively climate positive”.
“Through soil carbon sequestration, we’re taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than we are emitting each year, all the while producing nutrient dense beef,” Mr Austin said.
“I can put my hand on my heart and, backed by an enormous amount of data, say that we are improving the ecological health of this farm.”
In the past three years, the Wilmot Team has planted 25,000 trees across their Ebor property.
Video: Farmer story, Dan Fox, broadacre cropping, Marrar, NSW.
Video: Farmer story, Stuart Austin, beef cattle manager, Ebor, NSW.
As part of the campaign farmers are asked to share what they are doing on their property and in their own business to respond to climate change, by posting a short video on social media and using the hashtag #RealClimateAction
To find out more about the climate action happening on Australians farms everyday day visit www.farmers.org.au/realclimateaction