The NAB's February Agribusiness View contains an interesting article written by Simon Talbot, Chief Executive Office of the National Farmers’ Federation, noting that in 2014/15, farm gate income
increased by 8 per cent to $57 billion, and this is expected to rise to about $105 billion by 2030.
This prompted him to comment: "We need to establish the milestones that will enable agriculture
to double in size over the next 15 years.” He noted, however, that one of the biggest threats to
future growth is the lack of human capital.
“If we don’t attract the best people we’re going to struggle to realise our potential and, to do that,
we must make a shift from a drought mentality. Of course there are people who suffer terribly as a
result of drought and our hearts go out to them. The reality is that the vast majority of professional
farmers are engaged in highly productive, innovative agriculture and making good returns.
“People look at New Zealand and think how lucky they are to have such a benign climate, but one
thing the White Paper didn’t mention is that regarding prime agricultural land, Australia has the
equivalent of three New Zealands. We need to rebrand the industry to reflect that.”
Talbot believes these highly-productive areas should be given priority.“People have concerns about backing winners, but it’s not about supporting one area or another,it’s about thinking of ourselves as an agricultural nation and focusing on the most productive land first.
"At the moment, we’re treating agriculture as if the needs are the same across the country and
they’re clearly not. We’re very fortunate that Australia covers every climatic zone so we can grow
every kind of produce, but the different regions need to be managed in different ways.”
Talbot would like to see a deeper national conversation about Australian agriculture.
“For a long time we’ve been considered the poor cousin of other economic sectors, but that’s no
longer the case. Agriculture has the greatest uplift regarding generating wealth for the country and
I quite openly say we have some of the most productive farmers in the world.
"Now we need to listen to what the next generation of farmers wants and be ready to provide the
education and support they need.”
03 March, 2016
Water is essential for all life, and happily it is abundant on our blue watery planet.
However, salty oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface and contain 97% of Earth’s water. Salt water is great for ocean dwellers but not directly useful for most life on land. Another 2% of Earth’s water is tied up in ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow, leaving just 1% as land-based fresh water.
To sustain life on land, we need to conserve and make good use of this rare and elusive resource.
Luckily, our sun is a powerful nuclear-powered desalinisation plant. Every day, solar energy evaporates huge quantities of fresh water from the oceans. After a stop-off in the atmosphere, most of this water vapour is soon returned to earth as dew, rain, hail and snow – this is the great water cycle. Unfortunately about 70% of this precipitation falls directly back into the oceans and some is captured in frozen wastelands.
Much of the water that falls on land is collected in gullies, creeks and rivers and driven relentlessly by gravity back to the sea by the shortest possible route. Allowing this loss to happen is poor water management. The oceans are not short of water.
Some animals and plants have evolved techniques to maximise conservation of precious fresh water.
Some Australian frogs, on finding their water holes evaporating, will inflate their stomachs with water then bury themselves in a moist mud-walled cocoon to wait for the drought to break. Water buffalo and wild pigs make mud wallows to retain water in their private mud-baths, camels carry their own water supply and beavers build lots of dams.
Some plants have also evolved water saving techniques – bottle trees and desert cacti are filled with water, thirsty humans can even get a drink from the roots and trunks of some eucalypts and many plants produce drought/fire resistant seeds.
Every such natural water conservation or drought-proofing behaviour brings benefits for all surrounding plants and animals.
People have long recognised the importance of conserving fresh water – early settlers built their homes near the best waterholes on the creek and every homestead and shed had its corrugated iron tanks. Graziers built dams and weirs to retain surface water for stock (and fence-crashing wildlife), used contour ripping and good pasture management to retain moisture in soils, and drilled bores to get underground water. And sensible rules have evolved to protect the water rights of down-stream residents.
Rainfall is often a boom and bust affair. Much fresh water is delivered to the land surface suddenly in cyclones, storms and rain depressions. But “The Wet” is always followed by “The Dry”, and droughts and floods are normal climatic events. People who fail to store some of the flood must put up with the drought.
Greens should learn from the beavers. Strings of dams can moderate flood risk, as well as creating drought sanctuaries and secure water for graziers, towns, irrigators and wildlife. Modern cities could not survive without large water storages for drinking water, sanitation, gardens and factories.
Fresh water is also necessary to produce fresh food. We can have fresh milk, butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit; or we can irrigate the oceans and import fresh food from more sensible countries. And without fresh water and fresh food, there will be no local food processing.
Those infected with the green religion believe we should waste our fresh water by allowing it all to return as quickly as possible to the salty seas. They fight to protect beaver dams and natural lakes, but persistently oppose human dams and lakes. Some even want existing dams destroyed, while wasting billions on energy-hungry desalination and sewerage re-treated plants, pumps and pipelines.
They also want to prohibit man’s production of two drought-defying atmospheric gases, both released by the burning of hydrocarbons – carbon dioxide which makes plants more drought tolerant, and water vapour which feeds the clouds and the rain.
Green water policies are un-sustainable, even suicidal.
Humans must copy the beavers and “Build more Dams”. And help the biosphere by burning more hydrocarbons.