Gas expansion will impact farmers’ mental health with dire consequences

Australian farmers, and the communities where they live, face negative environmental, economic and social consequences if the Federal Government’s plans for a ‘gas-led recovery’ go ahead.
Farmers are gathering pace in their opposition to gas production and a farming mix because agriculture always comes out last in this combination

The claims are made in a new analysis commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action. 

The briefing paper, written by the Australian Farm Institute, found that gas expansion could worsen climate change and deplete or contaminate groundwater.

And worse still, harm farmers’ mental health, while a ‘renewables-led’ recovery would have win-win outcomes for farmers and the economy.  

Farmers for Climate Action chair Charlie Prell said, “We are already feeling the impacts of climate change out here. 

“Gas is a fossil fuel. Extracting and burning more gas will only make climate change much worse. Worrying about the impact of gas expansion on our groundwater, land, income, and the future of farming keeps us awake at night. 

“Farming is hard enough already and climate change is adding to the difficulty of running sustainable farms.

“Instead of greenlighting projects like Santos’ Narrabri project and wasting taxpayers’ money on gas, the Federal Government should back a renewables-led recovery that creates jobs and growth without wrecking farming livelihoods,” Mr Prell said. 

Meg and Peter Nielsen mixed farmers Bentley WA have first-hand experiences opposing a coal seam gas development and has worries for other farm land

Bentley mixed farmer Meg Nielsen, who together with her husband Peter were part of a community that successfully fought a proposed coal seam gas development in the Northern Rivers a few years ago.

Meg went on to say, “Climate change and water scarcity are existential threats for farmers, and gas expansion increases the risk of both.

“Farmers are on the front line of climate change and any increase in temperature is madness. The science says that we need to cap temperature rise at well below 2°C to have a safe hospitable climate. To do that, we can’t have new gas.

Her husband Peter added, “Australia is dealing with the major threat of Covid-19 by listening to the science and experts.

“COVID-19 was a major threat to Australians, and we dealt with it by listening to the science and experts.

Climate change and the gas industry are major threats to farmers, and here too governments must heed the science and expert recommendations for a renewables-led recovery to protect our livelihoods too.”

Briefing paper author and AFI executive director Richard Heath said, “The co-existence of gas production and farming comes at a compromise to agriculture.

“Above-ground impacts can range from minimal to severe, but the potential below-ground impacts to aquifers is very difficult to measure and could be catastrophic. 

“Any decision that poses such a great risk to water security must be based on robust evidence.

“When it comes to gas production and agriculture, we just don’t have that assurance that modelling is accurate, that water – and the farmers who rely on it – will be safe.

“Rather than expanding gas production, we should be erring on the side of caution to protect our farm sector, especially when alternative renewable energy sources that carry much less risk for farming communities are rapidly maturing.”

Full briefing paper here.

There are many farmers and academics against gas production expansion within the farm sector.

Research Authors

Richard Heath, Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute and Katie McRobert, General Manager, Australian Farm Institute led the research into the briefing paper’s findings, and go into detail about the various risks that a ‘gas-led recovery’ poses to Australian farmers—as well as the many ways in which a renewables-led recovery will benefit farmers and rural communities.

Farmers against gas expansion

NSW

Charlie Prell, Chair of Farmers for Climate Action and Crookwell farmer, explains why climate change and new gas projects present an existential threat for farmers across Australia, and why investing in renewable energy can supercharge economic growth for farmers and rural communities.

Meg Nielsen, mixed farmer, Bentley, has first-hand experiences opposing a coal seam gas development and has worries about the future.

David Quince, livestock producer, Tambar Springs, has led a long opposition to gas developments in his region, and also opposed the Narrabri ga project.

David Chadwick, Primary producer, stock agent and feedlot operator near Coonamble NSW explained how his farm relies on the Great Artesian Basin as its only water source, and how contamination or depletion of the aquifer would be devastating for his business, and many others in the region. David also has experience with extensive use of solar power on his property. 

Peter Wills, mixed farmer, Breeza NSW, knows the economic risks associated with allowing gas pipelines and exploration on farming properties, and why between the track record of gas companies that have been charged with contaminating aquifers and the impacts on climate change, no landholder in the local communities supports new gas projects or infrastructure.

Kate Mildner, mixed farmer from Warren NSW, warns why the proposed Western Slopes gas pipeline would likely pollute local waterways, and the danger of laying high-pressure gas pipelines across vertisol (soils that shrink and swell with water content). Kate, whose farm is powered by a 10KW solar system and solar pumps, has also seen severe climate impacts on her farm, destocking entirely at one point, and watching the local river go dry for the first time in 60 years. 

VIC

Fergus O’Connor, beef farmer, Berrys Creek, has outlined his concerns about the potential for gas developments in Victoria’s highly productive Gippsland region. 

Karrinjeet Singh-Mahil, dairy farmer, Crossley, knows the risks of gas expansion in western Victoria and the importance of Australia shifting its emissions trajectory

WA

Dale Park, Badgingarra beef farmer and Farmers for Climate Action board member, understands Western Australia’s growing emissions problem and the dangers of gas expansion in his state.

Energy Experts 

John Tough, former coal seam gas worker, former Narrabri councillor and long-time Narrabri resident has harrowing first-hand encounters with the deadly impact of CSG on Pilliga wildlife, and how the Narrabri Gas project has divided the town and stressed farmers, despite a majority of the community opposing the project. 

Dr Madeline Taylor, Energy law and policy expert, University of Sydney explains why gas is in decline, the link between the Narrabri Gas Project and Morrison’s so called “gas-led recovery” and the risk of taxpayers being burdened with a stranded asset and why investment into new renewable energy zones is the fastest option to achieve our needed energy transition and meet our Paris Agreement targets.

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