Newspaper article shows: It’s not all gloom at the farm gate…

Saffron Howden rural reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald has a great article in today’s paper I’d like to share (their words – pictures sourced by me.)

THOUSANDS of Australia’s agriculture workers have packed up their tools and walked off the land during the past two years.

The average age of the modern farmer is 52 and climbing, and there are fewer farm businesses than there were four years ago.

But the men and women who work the land and produce 93 per cent of the country’s domestic food supply insist there is little doom and gloom in their sector.

Farm export earnings were up marginally in the past financial year to $32.5 billion, as was the gross value of Australian production at the farm gate, according to the Farm Facts: 2012 report from the National Farmers’ Federation, due to be released today.

”Certainly not doom and gloom at all,” said the federation president, Jock Laurie.

”We’re seeing continuing uptake of new technology [and] that reduces the number of staff required to do the jobs. That’s why we have fewer people working in the field. [But] the production capacity is continuing to grow with less people.”

Mr Laurie’s state counterpart, the president of the NSW Farmers’ Association, Fiona Simson, has seen the changes firsthand at the family property on the Liverpool Plains in the state’s north-west.

”With mechanisation, we’ve seen a lot of people leaving rural and regional Australia,” she said.

”Here on [our] farm, for example, we have auto-steering machines. So we have a header and a crop sprayer and tractors that actually steer themselves according to the satellites with very precision technology.”

But the recent 10-year drought that gripped much of the nation’s food bowl was also reflected in the most recent farming snapshot.

”We do see cycles. Through that pretty tough period a lot of kids went off the farm,” Mr Laurie said.

The report found the largest age group among farmers – more than 30,000 – was 65 and over. Beef cattle farmers represented the biggest group, followed by mixed crop and livestock.

Australia had about 134,000 farm businesses based on the latest available figures and 99 per cent were family owned and run.

The highest number of farms, 32 per cent, was in NSW where the most people were also employed on the land out of any state or territory.

But the federation also concluded the size of those farms was decreasing and 11 per cent of Australian agricultural land was now foreign owned.

Mr Laurie said there was a bright future for the sector as consistent wet seasons boosted harvests.

”People have found new ways to do things,” he said. ”With good seasons come extra things that you’ve got to do: you’ve got to deal with pests; you’ve got to deal with weeds.

”A couple of good seasons more … you’ll start to see more jobs. The industry’s really getting back into gear again.”

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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