Earth Science News  





. Grim harvest for Australian farmers

by Staff Writers
Grenfell, Australia (AFP) Dec 12, 2007
Ask Stephen Lander what is helping Australian farmers survive the worst drought in living memory and he smiles before revealing the secret: "An understanding bank manager."

"You will find that 80 to 90 percent of farmers are all living on borrowed money," he explains at the hot and dusty property he has worked for decades in the baking dry central west of New South Wales.

As the worst drought in a century grips much of the country, the nation's 130,000 farmers are bearing the brunt of the impact as their hopes for an income again die as their crops fail.

"There's a lot of emotion," says the National Farmers Association's Geoff Knight. "These people haven't had an income for two years."

Lander said it has been seven years since farmers in the region -- who have battled frost, locusts and plant disease as well as the drought -- have made a good living from wheat.

"It's been very difficult the last few years, there's no two ways about it," he said. "I've never seen two years like this in a row."

Lander has given up hope of selling any grain this year other than what has been baled for fodder but he wants to harvest enough seed for replanting.

"We will be down 90 percent on our wheat income," he said.

"A little bit of our stuff we've got for hay but at this stage won't cover the costs of production so we're still gambling whether we will get any income out of it."

It's a cruel outcome for farmers who just months ago were hopeful of a bumper crop on the back of good autumn rains during a time of high commodity prices.

In June, rain fell on much of the thirsty country, turning some farms along the east coast from drought to flood zones within hours.

"We were optimistic in July as was most of eastern Australia," says Lander's son, Duncan.

"We had a good start to the cropping season, grain prices were progressing, everything was looking in the right direction. And then it all stopped.

"We were probably losing about 50,000 dollars a week by mid-August.

"By mid-September we knew the game was up because we had been six weeks without rain."

Wheat is a hardy plant. But without essential follow-up rains the crops were devastated. The country's official forecaster has now slashed the year's wheat production from the 22.5 million tonnes projected in June to 12.7 million tonnes.

In a further blow to farmers, the optimistic start to the season meant many sold their projected wheat crops on the futures market for the security of a fixed price.

When the crops failed, they were left without the means to pay back the advance. To make matters worse, they have to repay it based on the current wheat price, which has skyrocketed given global shortages.

"There are blokes that owe a million bucks and they've got no crops," Duncan Lander said.

Grain and merino farmer Paul Rout will not say how much he has to repay for forward marketing his wheat crop, but said he had been encouraged by the low commodity prices of 2005 to accept the deal.

"To know that you've got these good prices and just to miss out like that -- it's a bitter blow," he said from his 3,000 acre (1,214 hectare) farm near Grenfell.

"It's certainly one of those things that you can think about it and it could start to eat away at you.

"I was talking to a guy not long ago, he had had sleepless nights for weeks thinking about these contracts he had to wash out of. I can imagine some people, it would really occupy their thinking all the time."

Local shire councillor Graham Falconer, who lobbies government on behalf of farmers, said depression was an issue in rural communities which are struggling under the weight of enduring drought.

"There's a lot of emotional problems," he said.

"Farmers are a pretty tough lot but it's basic depression and it's not just depression in farmers, it's depression in the community."

He says the drought has forced people out of country towns and into cities, discouraged young people from becoming farmers and begun to erode the social fabric of small, rural communities.

"It's a very difficult time," he said. "It's very, very disappointing to see that most of the crops here have failed.

"No one alive today would know of anything worse than the past five or six years.

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
Researchers Build New Model Of Bio-Exploration In Central Asia
Champaign IL (SPX) Dec 12, 2007
Two land-grant universities have developed a new approach to global bio-exploration, one that returns most of the fruits of discovery to the countries that provide the raw materials on which the research depends. The Global Institute for Bio-Exploration, a joint initiative of the University of Illinois and Rutgers University, has become a model of sustainable, non-exploitive research in the developing world.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Malaysian flood death toll rises, thousands more evacuated
  • Flood damage in northwest US may run into billions: governor
  • Massive landslide threatening homes in central Austria: authorities
  • More deaths as storms exit the Philippines

  • After centuries of keeping water out, the Dutch now letting it in
  • NASA Satellites Help Lift Cloud Of Uncertainty On Climate Change
  • New Study Increases Concerns About Climate Model Reliability
  • New Tibetan Ice Cores Missing A-Bomb Blast Markers Suggests Himalayan Ice Fields Haven't Grown In Last 50 Years

  • Outside View: Russia's new sats -- Part 2
  • Use Space Technology And IT For Rural Development
  • Ministerial Summit On Global Earth Observation System Of Systems
  • China, Brazil give Africa free satellite land images

  • Fuel Cells Help Make Noisy, Hot Generators A Thing Of The Past
  • Making Gas Out Of Crude Oil
  • Wind Power Explored Off California's Coast
  • Wind Turbines Produce Green Energy - And Airflow Mysteries

  • Most Ancient Case Of Tuberculosis Found In 500,000-Year-Old Human; Points To Modern Health Issues
  • China says no bird flu outbreak after father-son cases
  • New China bird flu case raises human-to-human fear
  • Scientists Strike Blow In Superbugs Struggle

  • Massive Dinosaur Discovered In Antarctica Sheds Light On Life, Distribution Of Sauropodomorphs
  • Threatened Birds May Be Rarer Than Geographic Range Maps Suggest
  • World's Most Endangered Gorilla Fights Back
  • New, Rare And Threatened Species Discovered In Ghana

  • Interstate Power And Light's Generation Proposal To Lower System-Wide Emissions In 2013
  • Envisat Captures South Korea's Crude Oil Leak
  • Waterborne Carbon Increases Threat Of Environmental Mercury
  • SKorea's worst oil spill spreads along coast

  • Walking Tall To Protect The Species
  • Researcher Breaks New Ground With Study On Human Responses To Climate Change
  • Scientists Develop New Measure Of Socioclimactic Risk
  • Subliminal Smells Bias Perception About A Person's Likeability

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement