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Food bowl or food quarry ?

By Charles Nason - posted Monday, 22 April 2013

The articles in The Australian (18-4-13) summarising papers to be presented to the global food forum should be read with great concern by all farmers and Australians.

They display a very concerning level of “ ignorance” ( the ultimate rural putdown ) about the current agricultural situation in Australia.

On Monday (15-4-13) 1000 wheat farmers met at Merredin in WA to show their concern about their future and to ask Governments to address the unsustainable financial position of the WA wheat industry. The Premier ( Colin Barnett ) replied by saying some must go. How many more farmers does Australia wish to go ?


The beef market seems to be in free fall and the beef industry will probably be facing the same issues in the near future.

Other industries such as dairy and veg seem to be in a similar precarious position.

The global food forum articles portray a very rosy future for agriculture, one even suggesting Australia could feed 200M people.

The Australian's editorial heading was “Australia has a comparative advantage in agriculture”. Maybe, but why are so many farmers in such dire financial positions? The remaining farmers have been the survivors of the most rigid Darwinian selection process possible. A generation of a purist philosophic pursuit of free trade has selected out the toughest of the toughest. The survivors must be on the very extremes of the bell curve and should be awarded a PhD of hard knocks.

The pursuit of economies of scale or the “ get bigger or get out “ philosophy should have resulted in a lean mean profitable corporatized agricultural sector. I see little evidence of this rather I suggest the family farm is probably in a marginally better position.

Too many are saying our present farming systems are unsustainable. On any of the 5 criteria of sustainability (productive, financial, environmental, social and cultural ), agriculture fails dramatically.


Rising rural debt, degrading soils and an aging rural population alone suggest that agriculture requires urgent remedial attention, yet no one seems to address these strategic issues.

The repeated claim that Australian farmers are the most efficient in the world seems hard to believe on the above evidence.

The aim of the Queensland Government to open up Cape York seems to suggest the unsustainable shifting agriculture system of primitive societies may be our last resort. This is avoiding the issue not solving it!

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About the Author

Charles Nason is a Queensland farmer.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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