By JO SHEPPARD | OPINION
AN EL NINO weather pattern has been officially declared confirming what many were expecting, but not hoping for – a dry season ahead.
For farmers, the weather is a key economic driver and generally at the centre of almost every business and personal decision they make.
The ability to make decisions and plan early is often key and farmers today use every bit of information available to them to help make informed decisions when it comes to managing weather risks.
With much of Queensland coming in off the back of favourable seasons and in some cases flood conditions, farmers are well into preparations for a potentially high-risk fire season but are now also preparing for an expected dry season.
We are hearing from farmers who have already begun to store grain, lighten off stocking numbers, plan for which crops they are going to put in the ground and when.
Many farmers have invested over a long period of time into important drought resilient infrastructure on farm including tanks, water pipes and troughs, water conserving infrastructure and storage, mixing and feeding out equipment for grain, fodder, molasses and other supplements as well as grain storage and equipment.
Farmers across Queensland have been steadily building their resilience and ability to respond to and withstand various weather events, but often it is the variability that is most challenging and difficult to plan for.
A review of the Future Drought Fund, set up to support farmers and communities build drought resilience, has shone a spotlight on its potential as well as practical challenges.
Approximately $420 million has been allocated to drought resilience initiatives through the fund since June 2020 and a Productivity Commission report indicates that these schemes are generally working as intended, but there is room for improvement.
Last week, a national drought forum was held in Rockhampton, hosted by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and National Farmers’ Federation bringing together farmers, peak agricultural bodies, researchers, and community leaders to focus on better preparing Australia for future droughts.
The impact of extreme weather events, including the pending drought forecast, is a whole of community challenge. Regional communities are strongly linked with the agricultural sector.
When farmers are prospering, their regional communities prosper, and the opposite is also true.
We rely on our farmers to produce the food and fibre which as Queenslanders, we have all come to enjoy and expect. We rely on farmers to manage much of the Queensland landscape, and they are doing us proud, leading the world in best practice, water efficiency and sustainability.
Farmers need ongoing support to continue to build their preparedness and manage climate risk to not only ensure a strong agricultural sector, but to also preserve food and fibre production and healthy, productive landscapes for future generations.
We need the best science, data, technology, and forecasting tools that are available to us to be able to collectively make informed decisions to manage drought and other weather impacts from a short-, medium- and long-term perspective.
Federal Treasurer, Dr Chalmers, told the drought forum that farmers and regional Australians need support to not only “respond and prepare”, but also to “find opportunities within the challenge”.
QFF is working across our peak body membership to ensure Queensland agriculture is at the table and actively contributing to the collective shoulder to the wheel that is needed to tackle the challenges ahead.
*Jo Sheppard is the CEO of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation.