45 million euros in damage

Extreme weather leaves Styrian farmers in despair

09.07.2024 06:00

Millions in damage, personal tragedies and worries about the future: how Styria is to remain the great fruit and wine region despite the storms - and how farmers are being prevented from giving up.

Sigi Wels can hardly find a moment's peace at the moment: "When clouds roll in, you start to think: Yessss, I hope nothing comes." Anxious glances at the sky when it's humid and humid. Or when he has to go to a funeral, like yesterday. And constantly thinks: "I hope nothing happens at home in the meantime!" "The fear," says the down-to-earth Styrian farmer, "doesn't go away when the storm is over. It stays for months."

"Just tidying up for a month"
Especially when you've been hit as badly as the organic farmer, who keeps 120 dairy cows and manages ten hectares. "We spent a month just cleaning up," he explains. The narrow Lungitzbach stream became "as wide as the Danube", burst its banks and swept everything away, including valuable humus soil. A hay cut was lost, pastures were silted up.

Head of the Chamber of Agriculture Franz Titschenbacher, Provincial Councillor Simone Schmiedtbauer, farmer Sigi Wels and Josef Kurz from the hail insurance company (from left) (Bild: Hagelversicherung)
Head of the Chamber of Agriculture Franz Titschenbacher, Provincial Councillor Simone Schmiedtbauer, farmer Sigi Wels and Josef Kurz from the hail insurance company (from left)

In two years, Wels wants to hand over the farm to his son: "Farming is in our blood, the farm has been around since the 15th century. You don't just throw in the towel and leave."

"There are no more normal years"
However, many other Styrian farmers are thinking of giving up - and you can't blame them, because "there are no more normal years", according to the experts who visited Sigi Wels yesterday for an on-site inspection. The hail insurance company has already reported 45 million euros in damage, just for Styria, just for this year, which is far from over. So far, only the horror year of 2016 has been worse.

Storms caused major damage (Bild: BFV Fürstenfeld)
Storms caused major damage

What to do? Franz Titschenbacher, head of the Styrian Chamber of Agriculture, believes there is no alternative to phasing out fossil fuels and is also focusing on frost irrigation and better access to water. Simone Schmiedtbauer, State Councillor for Agriculture, understands the farmers' concerns, "you can't bring in a harvest but still have the costs, that can't work". The "brightest minds in the country have now been commissioned to look into the future".

Joanneum Research will conduct a study to determine which areas are most affected by the capricious weather. We need to react to this. In addition, 55 million would go towards investments such as the construction and maintenance of new dams and reservoirs.

And, according to Schmiedtbauer: "This is an issue that concerns us all, so everyone has to take it on board. So buy products from Styria to give something back to the farmers."

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

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