Nationals Senator Ron Boswell recently dissed CSIRO for cutting funding to rural industry research by 5%.
(On a petty note, I’m wondering what the difference between the “livestock and wool industry”. Aren’t sheep livestock? But that’s not really the point…)
I agree with him that there should be more research funding, not less, dedicated to renewable resources. But I feel it’s a little incongruous to call for more research into agriculture as it currently exists in Australia at the same time as preaching about renewable resources. There aren’t many crops in Australia that are actually suitable to our arid climate. Cattle and sheep die in the drought; farms require subsidies for water and nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers to be economically viable; and many crops grown in Australia (such as cotton and rice) are extremely water-thirsty.
As mentioned in a post last year, Professor Michael Archer (Dean of Science, UNSW) is a fan of harnessing native flora and fauna for economic gain, rather than continuing to pound our unique environment with European crops. He goes into great detail in his book Going Native (co-written with Bob Beale, ISBN 0733615228). From kangaroo meat (despite some unresolved issues) to native grains as crops (kurrajong and several wattle species are just a few examples), agriculture in Australia needs to change.
So maybe Boswell is right and agriculture does need more research funding. It just shouldn’t focus on maintaining the status quo — we need an agricultural revolution.