Monday, December 11, 2006

A Simplistic View

I know that Stuart always likes a good debate (see comments on my previous posting) but to suggest that farmers should relocate to areas where there is plenty of water is no solution at all. The whole situation is far too complex to deal with in a blog, and I certainly don't have the answers, but a few points worth considering are:

1. The areas most affected by this drought - large areas of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland - 'normally' have sufficient rain for most of the agriculture undertaken in these area, ie. crops, beef, dairy, wool, etc.

2. The majority of this land is highly productive land - it is definitely NOT the Sahara.

3. Areas where there is ample water at present are mainly in tropical regions, unsuitable for the staple agricultural crops grown in the south.

4. Farming is not 'just a job' where you can move from place to place with little disruption. Farming is a 'way of life' which incorporates the entire family, and in many cases, has done for several generations.

5. A country like Australia needs its Primary Industry - we cannot compete with many other countries in the fields of manufacturing and technology, and service industries are not income generators in themselves.

Having said that, I personally feel that many farming methods over the past 200 years have unwittingly created many of today's problems, such as:

1. Wholesale clearing of timber for farming has resulted in salinity, erosion of topsoil from wind and water, and created larger, drier areas with decreased rainfall.

2. European methods of farming are in many cases unsuitable for the drier, hotter climate of Australia. Multiple cultivation of the soil exacerbates these problems.

3. Some of our crop choices are dubious, eg. rice and cotton. Although I have read that more water is required to produce a kilo of beef than a kilo of rice (usually quoted by non-meat eaters). Perhaps that is true.

4. We used to be able to produce most of our Primary Industries without relying so heavily upon irrigation. What's changed?

These are just a few of my random thoughts on the subject. No doubt I'll go away and think "I should or shouldn't have said that, etc." But I would be interested to read what others think on the subject, even though I know that I won't always agree with what I read.


Marlene Depler said...

Just catching up on my favorite blogs! I'm sorry that you are having such a drought. We have experienced some years like this as well here in Colorado. We have always irrigated in this area, but typically we have plenty of snowfall in the mountains in the winter to make this possible. If we have several years of inadequate snow pack, then we have watering restrictions for everyone.

You made some very valid points in your post. I agree that most farmers farm where there is adequate moisture. The problem comes when for some reason or another that changes.

I shall pray for rain for your country!

Merry Christmas!

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I'm praying for rain in your area Alice. Relocation is sometimes not an option and it's one that I wouldn't want to do if I owned a farm that had been in my family for generations. I think I would just have to wait out the drought.

meggie said...

The skill & experience for farming, of any type, cannot be easily transferred to another 'life'. These farmers hang in there, because they have been born into the life, & often it is all they know- & love. I feel so sorry for them, when nature seems to refuse to give them a break.
I agree that the methods have probably contributed to the problem, in that the salinity has increased, among other things.
I would never dare to critcise though- I dont know enough about it all!
Nice post Alice, & good to provoke thought for our agricultural & rural brothers & sisters.

Stuart said...

"...always likes a debate..." - they make the blogosphere so much more interactive!

I appreciate the complexities of the problem (although I also have a limited understanding of them), however, just because they're complex doesn't make them insurmountable.

People, including farmers, have the ability to make wise cognitive decisions - it's the thing that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. No-one is cast into a lifestyle that they can't remove themselves from - certainly not in our democratic nation anyway.

So, farmers have the choice to stay, move elsewhere or find another industry. Those that stay need to live with the ups and downs. Record highs are usually accompanied by record lows.

In a country such as Australia that is noted by Heather MacKellar as;

A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains

(a poem written nearly 100 hundred years ago)we are not ignorant that climates change from season to season. We take the good with the bad.

The shame is that all we hear about is the "poor farmers" who are suffering this drought. They weren't poor when they were racking up millions from record commodity prices.

I think it’s time for the farming industry to get real about the Australian climate or find something else to do.

Alice said...

Spoken like a true city-slicker, Stuart.

tlawwife said...

Farming is not nor ever was an easy life and everyone who farms knows that. I like to say that it is impossible to please a farmer, there is always too much or too little rain. That said all people are lucky that there are people out there (and here) who are willing to gamble every year that after they have worked incredibly hard hours they will make some kind of income. There is no hourly wage or guaranteed income. What I think that people also don't realize is that if the farmer doesn't make any money all of the people who make their living working for the farmer don't make money either. However we have to hold on for dear life in the off years so we can be there in the plentiful years. It is easy for all of us to critisize the way farming is done but today many more people are fed on much less farm land. Some of the best land to grow crops has been cemented over to make nice tall buildings for people to live and work in.

This is a good post and your country is in our prayers.

Stuart said...

I may be a "city-slicker" but I have many friends and relatives who are in the farming industry or who are sustained by it so I'm not completely devoid of understanding.

In fact, many of those friends would agree with my sentiments and have expressed similar opinions.

I feel empthatic towards farmers who are struggling because of this drought and I look forward to and hope that the rain comes sooner rather than later.

But let's not say that we didn't expect that such a time would come.

Alice said...

Stuart - I think we would both agree that our opinions on some areas of this subject will continue to differ, which is fine.

One thing I'm sure we would agree on is that, when referring to people and their lifestyles, employment, etc. whether they live in the city or the country, we cannot generalise as there are almost as many different situations as there are people in them.

I thank you for taking the time to express your points of view.

Kerri said...

A very interesting and thought-provoking post Alice. Being farmers ourselves I can understand the desire to stay on one's land. Relocating is very expensive and probably cost prohibitive for some who have very little, or no income at the moment, due to the drought conditions.
There's much more I could say but I'm trying to keep this comment short.
I hope and pray relief in the form of rain comes soon!
You've made some very good points.

Stuart said...

Fair comment Alice. As always a worthwhile discussion...

Tanya said...

I was going to comment but the angst I was feeling was just too much. I think everything has been said from both sides, so I'll keep my opinion on my side of the Internet. Has been interesting reading.

DellaB said...

I don't have a comment to add, knowing only what I read and hear on the subject, so I can be swayed by argument for and against, but that has raised a question in my mind about the sustainability of some of the crops being grown these days... Cotton? and Rice?

Don't they both take huge amounts of water? and if so, is it water that was used previously for more traditional farming? I watched 'two men in a tinnie' - the situation looks very grim.

Loved your drought pictures, Alice - what a great eye you have for a photo...


Val said...

Just stopped by to wish you a happy and serene Christmas. From a lapsed blogger.

Are you too a lapsed blogger, or should I be reading your other blog now? Just saw it mentioned in your blogger profile.