Agriculture's biggest issue

Where would the government's money be best spent on when it comes to agriculture?

WHAT is the biggest issue facing agriculture at the moment? Is it drought?

If you were the government and listening to Australia's peak farm bodies, drought would certainly be right up there with the big agricultural problems.

There's no doubt that drought is impacting many producers at the moment, but it must also be said the membership of peak farm bodies is rapidly declining.

So are the peak farm bodies truly representative of the issues that Australian farmers face? The answer to this question might well be no.

Many good farmers have already invested their own money into drought-proofing their farms, so is drought assistance just perpetuating the problem? This was an issue that surfaced in the media this week, with one agribusiness consultant telling ABC's Radio Australia that drought handouts should not be given to bad farmers.

This comment leads to another big question. Where would the government's money be best spent on when it comes to agriculture?

Perhaps, instead of giving money to farmers to prop them up during droughts, should the government be putting more money towards R&D aimed at drought-proofing agricultural operations? Or does the issue go much deeper than that?

At the moment, farmers are getting older, and the industry has been left wondering where the next generation will come from.

Young people are constantly hearing that life on the land is hard. Firstly there's drought, and then we've all heard farmers are still getting paid the same for the livestock as they were 20 years ago. Why bother with career in agriculture? Right?

How can we fix this problem?

Well I believe the biggest issue facing farmers is simple. They are price-takers.

During the 10 years I have been covering agriculture, some of the most exciting stories I've written are the ones where farmers have ditched that label - the ones who have transformed themselves into "price-makers".

If more farmers were able to shift that balance in power and take control over their returns, many of the problems in agriculture might be fixed.

Younger farmers would see there is a positive future, and older farmers would be able to sell their farms.

This is where the government needs to be investing money: enabling producers to set up economically viable operations.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts. What do you think is the biggest issue facing agriculture at the moment?

FarmOnline
Louise Preece

Louise Preece

is a journalist for Stock & Land
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

JoYohana
30/05/2015 6:55:54 PM

The production of the primary sector has cycled over the century because of the rainfall. Increasing the water available to plants is the greatest issue, with drought the extreme expression of the impact on farmers, suppliers, retailers and exporters. It will be the greatest limiting factor on world performance over the next decade, as witnessed by California, the 9th biggest "economy", currently falling apart with huge impacts for agriculture.
Chick Olsson
30/05/2015 3:34:05 AM

Great article Louise. Bringing water down from the North via the original Bradfield scheme would allow mass irrigation in many dry land areas
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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