ON THE other side of the world five weeks is a long time without rain, in fact it’s declared a drought.
It’s a concept that might be hard to imagine in Australia, where many producers are heading into their fifth year of drought.
But dry spells for farmers are relative.
And a recent trip to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress in the Netherlands showed that no matter where you live, farmers across the world faced the same degree of challenges.
For farmers in the Netherlands, who are experiencing the second worst drought on record (the worst in 50 years), the dry conditions are pushing them to breaking point.
The news of Australia’s prolonged drought came as a shock to many Dutch farmers who couldn’t fathom how Australian farmers were surviving, especially without subsidies.
But with the benefit of dialogue, Australian journalists could explain the challenges and the resilience of farmers back home to shine a light on the issue.
It prompted the question put to Dutch farmers and international agricultural journalists: What does the rest of the world know about Australian farming?
While some were unaware about the drought, like our city counterparts, many like Markus Habisch, the deputy director of the Styrian Farmers’ Association in Austria, knew exactly the challenges farmers were facing in Australia.
“I’ve heard a lot about agriculture in Australia, you are dominated by beef cattle farms,” Mr Habisch said.
“You are in a bad drought at the moment so I hope you get enough water falling from the heavens in the near future.
“Farmers want to make a living for themselves and their families, they want to get a good appreciation from society for what they do.
“They are indispensable for every single person in the whole world as they produce our food and create clothing.”
This comes as the National Farmers Union (NFU) - the voice for British farmers - is calling for a drought summit to address the crippling impact of the dry, hot weather on farms across the country.
Many parts of England and Wales haven’t seen any significant rain since the end of May resulting in tinderbox conditions, severely reduced grass growth and depleted yields for some crops.
“There could be serious concerns for many farmers if this extended spell of warmer, drier weather continues as the long-range forecast suggests,” NFU president Minette Batters said in a statement.
“This unprecedented spell of weather really should be a wake-up call for us all. It’s a timely reminder that we shouldn’t take food production for granted.
“Farming is one of the most affected industries when it comes to managing volatility.
“Farmers have been fantastic advocates for change and are constantly adapting their businesses to deal with the challenges they face every day such as the weather.
“We need government policies that invest in our sector and to support the vital work of farmers as food producers.”
Chris McCullough from Northern Ireland, who has lived in Australia and has been a agriculture journalist for 16 years, said: “What I know about Australian farming is that you have a drought there.”
“We all know you have a drought there and it’s terrible to deal with but you are dealing with it,” Mr McCullough said.
“Our farmers here, some of them have never had a drought and they don’t know how to deal with it.
“But in Australia you have better opportunities than we have in Europe of what crops to grow and what crops not to grow.”
Japanese journalist Satoru Mizuguchi echoed Mr McCullough’s sentiments saying he knew of the “water stressed situation” in Australia.
“You can be a showcase for the rest of the world how to make good transitions from one stage to another,” Mr Mizuguchi said.
Big, bigger, biggest was the unanimous response to the question about Australian farming. Dutch agriculture specialist Dirk-Jan Kloet agreed that everything was bigger in Australia, including cattle and sugar cane farms.
For dairy farmer Gerben Smeenk, who milks 125 cows on 72ha in the Netherlands, one of the issues he believed Australia also faced on top of drought was the lack of young people interested in farming.
”What I know about Australian dairy farming is that in Australia it can be very dry, of course the milking season is different to here,” Mr Smeenk said.
“Another problem is the follow-up of farmers, there (are) not enough young farmers interested in farming as its hard work with milk price up and down.”
Back home in Australia farmers probably won't take much comfort that agricultural journalists overseas have more sympathy for them and a better understanding of the challenges they are facing than our largely city-based politicians.
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