Guest essay by Eric Worrall

You need to read down to the fifth paragraph to learn what the government are actually reporting is good news, farm productivity is up.

ABARES says changing climate is costing every farm, on average, $30,000 every year

ABC Rural / 

By national rural reporter Kath Sullivan

Australian farms have lost on average almost $30,000 each a year in profits over the past 20 years due to climate change, relative to earnings in the latter part of last century, says the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Key points:

  • Farmers have been losing, on average, $29,200 per farm, every year due to changing climate conditions
  • ABARES’ latest report says growers are adapting to weather, growing more from less
  • It predicts the average farm size could increase as farmers meet the challenges of climate change

In its latest report, ABARES finds that the decline in rainfall from 2001 to 2021, compared to 1950-2000, saw farm profits reduced, on average, by 23 per cent, or $29,200, as the risk doubled of farmers receiving very low returns due to climate variability.

But it also found that Australian farm productivity had significantly increased, with broadacre farmers producing almost 30 per cent more than they did in 1989.

ABARES’ executive director Jared Greenville said the research had shown that, over the same period, despite the weather challenges, grain growers had increased productivity by 68 per cent.

“New technologies and practices mean that farmers are able to grow crops under lower rainfall conditions than they could in the past,” Dr Greenville said.

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2021-07-29/abares-climate-change-costs-30k-per-farm-/100331680

Even if you assume the decline in rainfall was due to climate change, the fossil fuel powered technological improvements are obviously more than compensating for the rainfall deficit.

ABARES themselves admit there is a lot of uncertainty about long term climate trends.

Climate change impacts and adaptation on Australian farms

Authors: Neal Hughes and Peter Gooday

Introduction

In recent decades, Australia has seen a shift towards higher temperatures and lower winter rainfall, which has had significant effects on many farmers. Despite these trends there remains much uncertainty over the long-run effects of climate change on farm businesses. This article presents ABARES latest modelling, examining the effects of recent and possible future changes in climate on the profitability of Australian farms. Productivity trends are also presented, showing how farm adaptation has helped to offset the effects of hotter and drier conditions to date.

Read more: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/products/insights/climate-change-impacts-and-adaptation

In my opinion, the Aussie ABC attempt to frame this as a call to climate action is absurd.

The only solid evidence is that fossil fuel powered technology is supporting rising farm profits productivity. Rainfall has dropped over the last 20 years, but that could be natural variation – Australia’s paleo-climate history is a patchwork of natural mega droughts and random long term climate shifts.

What we need to do to ensure continued improvement in farm productivity and profitability is support and protect the technology which is making rising productivity possible. We need to ensure farmers have access to affordable fossil fuel, and make sure interfering climate obsessed bureaucrats are forced to give farmers the space to do what they do best – farm the land.

Of course some more water infrastructure projects might also help, to help maintain productivity during droughts, instead of frittering ever increasing amounts of taxpayer’s money on useless renewables.

Correction (EW): The original version of this story said “profits” are up rather than productivity, apologies for the senior moment.

Update (EW): The following is an ABERES comparison of farm costs, 2013-14 -> 2017-18. Some costs have risen sharply. The full document is well worth reading if you want to delve into Australian farming conditions.

Figure 9 Farm costs as share of total, ABARES farm survey and ABS, 2013–14 to 2017–18. Source Australian Department of Agriculture Farmers Terms of Trade 2020

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July 29, 2021