Drought, climate change hotter temperatures and extreme weather to confront farmers

ADVICE: Steven Crimp and Richard Heath were key speakers at the Risks and Rewards of Farming in a Changing Climate conference. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
ADVICE: Steven Crimp and Richard Heath were key speakers at the Risks and Rewards of Farming in a Changing Climate conference. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

A co-ordinated national plan for farmers to deal with climate change is needed, a major conference has been told.

About 160 farmers and agriculture industry workers attended the Risks and Rewards of Farming in a Changing Climate conference in Orange on Tuesday.

Keynote speaker Richard Heath the executive director of the Australian Farm Institute said the country lacked a "coherent, whole of agriculture, national strategy" on dealing with climate change.

"The strategy should be based on minimising risk to Australian agriculture, but also minimising the risk that Australian agriculture places on the climate," he said.

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He said research and understanding of the affects of climate change were vital.

"A transition to clean energy remains important throughout for the whole economy and particularly for agriculture," he said.

DROUGHT: Orange district farmers are continuing to battle the big dry.

DROUGHT: Orange district farmers are continuing to battle the big dry.

Mr Heath said while the drought was dominating discussion the climate was a wider issue.

"Water is only a small part of the general economic change. The extreme weather events, there will be more droughts, but there will also be more frosts, more heatwaves, it is the entire climate, not just drought," he said.

Mr Heath said making change need not be a cost for farmers.

"Not if we get it right. If we get the settings right and if we start getting some of the schemes that have been talked about up and going that will help in the transition," he said.

The extreme weather events, there will be more droughts, but there will also be more frosts, more heatwaves.

Richard Heath, Australian Farm Institute

Steven Crimp, a scientist with the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, said farmers needed a "strategic and long term" drought plan that they should keep using and reviewing.

"Adaptation and building resilience to climate involves looking at management of your land, your stock, your crops, even your off-farm income and basically how you are connected to the community," he said.

Mr Crimp said farmers needed to be resourceful.

"It's using those resources more efficiently. How do we reduce the amount of water that gets evaporated off farm dams, how do we reduce the amount of diesel that we are using in terms of our tractors, how do we manage to get the live weight gain in our animals and also maintain cover at the same time?" he said.

Mr Crimp said building more dams was not the key solution to gain from the years of good rainfall.

"It's about making those dams you have more effective, it maybe having more active watering points or mobile watering points for stocks, it maybe improving the ability for soil to capture that rain as it occurs in these heavier rainfall events," he said.