THERE’S an “economic storm” brewing in the rural sector said Chair of the Rural Business Lewis Clifton on Wednesday night.

At the Farmers Week Reception hosted by the Governor Alison Blake, Mr Clifton gave a speech and spoke to Penguin News about the problems farmers are facing because of climate change and other economic factors.

He told guests, “Climate change is not new. Just now everybody recognises I think that it’s very much embedded across the landscape. We are in the here and now situation. Do something or rurally we will face lots of economic hardship. There is in my view quite a big economic storm brewing, and we can no longer afford to wait for that to arrive.”

Mr Clifton explained he had decided not to take a lobbying effort on this subject to Members of Legislative Assembly because he felt it was important to have MLAs “in the room with those we could assemble for the meetings this week, so everybody can hear firsthand in one room so hopefully, there will be none of what Ronald Reagan said in terms of the Sandinista inquiry. I don’t remember. I don’t know. I can’t recall. Everybody has heard those messages this week loudly and strongly…”

He said it was now up to “MLAs to begin to grip those issues.”

Short term problems

As part of a broader interview with Penguin News afterwards, Mr Clifton said “if we say the gross national wool income is valued at about £12 million – my view at the moment is that it is down to about 50%. This year, of course I think it’s even less because wool prices have been lower and something like 65% of the wool is unsold.

“That’s creating some hardship because folks begin to start to live from hand to mouth and if there are farms and dependents out there who were hoping to survive on let’s say £30,000 pounds a year how do they do it for the winter?

“How do they provide for their forward expenditure to meet the next spring and the next summer prices?

“And running alongside of that is the whole set of climate change issues.” (Full interview with Mr Clifton next week.)

Farmer Paul Robertson of Port Stephens told Penguin News while wool sales had started early and well for them, “there hasn’t been anything since.”

He said however they were in a better position than some farmers, “younger farmers who have got big mortgages and a high cost of living because they may have young families – I think they are struggling.

“Even if they sell their wool tomorrow it’s going to be months before they see any money.

“So it’s the question, how do you bridge between now and then. And we’ve obviously been through this before and if we don’t do anything we haven’t learned anything from the past so it would be good to think everybody’s becoming aware and moves are being made to try and alleviate it – whatever form that takes.”