Wemen horticulturist Andrew Young has enlisted in an army of 7000 producers – and growing – driving a grassroots campaign to hammer home the climate change message in their districts.
A campaign Farmers for Climate Action chief executive Fiona Davis says is just part of the group’s strategy to influence Australia to adopt strong, economy-wide climate policies and realise a prosperous and sustainable future.
A strategy she says will see farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to not just “champion ambitious action but to also connect farmers with each other and support them to advocate for and enact climate solutions both on and off farm”
“We might want to see a rural Australia full of opportunity for farmers and farming communities, but more importantly we want to see a country, led by a proactive Federal government, address this significant issue with the commitment it demands,” Fiona says.
“A government, and all Australians, prepared to realise, and accept, that whatever the solution is, it will come at a cost,” she says.
“It’s just the cost will be so much more, and so much more damaging, if we don’t take up the challenge now.”
Harnessing political power to back the claims, Fiona had Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh in the studio for one of the group’s regular podcasts, used across its digital platforms.
“As a former farmer, and former Minister for both Agriculture and Water, Peter has been, and still is, part of those grass roots,” Fiona added.
“But I was still surprised at what point in his life he really started to embrace the risks the whole world is facing as things in our climate do change – it was a case of being able to stand back and see the big picture that delivered him the full message,” she says.
Peter agreed, telling the podcast it wasn’t until he was Water Minister, and started to get all the data showing how much the yield of the Southern Basin catchment had been reduced, that he realised the full extent of the potential calamity.
He says as a former largescale tomato producer in northern Victoria, he felt he had been on top of the water issues surrounding his business – and he was.
“But what I had not fully grasped was a measured understanding of what was happening right across the country, let alone the world,” Peter explained.
“The 20-year yield for that catchment area is 50 per cent down on the 100-year average – that’s a massive figure,” he says.
“When I was given the Water portfolio in the Baillieu/Napthine government, and then given access to all the data from the length of breadth of all our water catchment areas, I realised something had to be done, and done soon,” he says.
“And one of the first problems, and I think for many people it is still a problem, was being able to convey the true impact of the changing flow and volume of water in Australia.
“It’s one thing to stand anywhere along the Murray – say between Echuca or Swan Hill in my electorate of Murray Plains and Mildura, near the South Australian border – and point at the river and say if all this water is going right past my farm, or my house, or my town why can’t I get more, there’s so much of it, you would be wrong.
“Water is not a local issue in that sense, it is a whole of country challenge and trying to drive change through multiple layers of Federal and State governments is almost as big a challenge as the water itself.
“That’s why everyone, not just the politicians, needs to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look over the horizon – where there are people with the same problems and same questions – a national approach can address that.”
Andrew Young says he can’t remember what first got him thinking about climate change, since it has been an important issue for such a long time.
But he says he got “particularly climate-minded following disappointment” about a carbon tax under the Abbott Government.
“We are neutral and are aiming to create a genuine reduction in emissions. I have also purchased climate credits to acknowledge my own contribution to problem,” Andrew says.
“While I feel pain for emissions, out of it comes positive action,” he says.
“We are investigating soil use and rotations and are also looking to electrify tractors. We also have solar power on our property, which produces 30 kilowatts of energy. This has reduced our carbon output, as well as our costs.”
You can have a listen here https://farmersforclimateaction.org.au/farmers/resources/podcasts/ and check out the movement at https://farmersforclimateaction.org.au/