NSW Farmers delegates have called on Federal Government to reverse cuts to CSIRO’s climate research efforts.
But farmer support for the move was far from unanimous during a heated debate at the Association’s annual conference in Sydney last week.
Earlier this year it was revealed CSIRO would axe 275 jobs – including 75 in the Oceans and Atmosphere divison – on the back of $114 million cuts to the agency in the 2014 Federal budget.
Critics lashed out at subsequent plans for a climate change centre with 40 scientists to be placed in Hobart – labelling it an effort to distract from the cuts.
At the time, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said it was important for the research agency to divert resources towards adaptation and mitigation instead of climate monitoring and modelling.
But NSW Farmers’ Cootamundra branch delegates said it was crucial to producers for scientists to understand the impacts of climate change.
“Our understanding of the universe has changed a lot since Gallileo put down his telescope,” delegate Peter McClintock said.
“We as farmers have relied on the CSIRO for most of our productivity and gains over the past 50 years.
“Any advances in research should be weclomed by farmers, and we should be concerned about funding being taken away.”
Delegate opposition to the motion did not dispute climate change – rather questioning where funding should be directed.
Coonabarabran delegate Angus Atkinson argued that CSIRO funding would be better directed towards on-farm adaptation.
“From a farmers point of view, they can spend as much money trying to convince people who don’t believe that climate change is real - or we can use the money we’ve got to get on with it,” Mr Atkinson said.
“We should be spending money on things that are going to benefit us at a farm level - adapting to an increasingly variable climate.”
Mr McClintock said people should not tell CSIRO how to run their business.
“We should not be trying to direct their science in one way or another,” Mr McCLintock said.
“The funding of scientists is something we should support.”