AUSTRALIAN farmer concern about the impact of government policy has doubled nationally, but increased by almost six times in Western Australia, according to a Roy Morgan survey.
The Roy Morgan Survey of Australian farmers found that the biggest challenge currently facing 49 percent of the farmers surveyed was economic uncertainty, including global economic conditions, and the rising cost of doing business.
Several other issues which were widely mentioned by the farmers including the weather (20pc), staffing issues (13pc), government policy (12pc), rising interest rates (10pc), business/financial viability (9pc), climate change (8pc), natural disasters (5pc) and biosecurity (5pc).
However, Western Australian farmers stood out in contrast to those in other states, where they said their largest challenge was government policy. This was mentioned by 41pc of farmers in WA, up from 7pc in 2022.
The issue of greatest concern was the Western Australian government’s recently repealed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act. Live export bans, the Voice to Parliament and issues around land use were also key concerns.
Other farmers around the country also expressed concerns about live export bans, the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum and issues around land use, but they were less concerned about biosecurity.
The changes in concern nationally around the other challenges included: economic conditions/costs (up from 35pc to 49pc), weather (steady), staffing (steady), interest rates (up from 2pc to 10pc), business/financial viability (up from 6pc to 9pc), climate change (steady), natural disasters (steady) and biosecurity (down from 9pc to 5pc).
The results in the Roy Morgan Farmer Agribusiness Survey are based on 1002 detailed online interviews with Australian farmers during June and July 2023. Farmers were asked to list (open-ended) the biggest farming challenges they currently face.
Farmers from a range of farm types and sizes were included in the survey. Farmers on mid-sized farms of 1000-2,499 hectares were most likely to cite economic conditions and costs as a major challenge (69pc vs 49pc of all farmers surveyed).
Dairy farmers were the most likely group to state they had no challenges (13pc vs 4pc of all farmers) and the least likely to cite economic conditions and costs as a major challenge (30pc vs 49pc of all farmers).
The survey was conducted prior to the Western Australian government’s backflip on the contentious Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, but it showed that the policy was seen as one of the greatest challenges facing farmers in that state.
Some sample comments from farmers about this included:
“Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act is shambolic and is undermining our confidence going forward.”
“Implementation of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act by an incompetent government who has not adequately consulted or prepared stakeholders.”
“New laws about not being able to disturb the ground. Basically, being over governed by the minority which will see the industry go backwards.”
Another farmer said: “Government restrictions, costs and the upcoming uncertainty of the implications of The Voice and what it will cost. The restrictions and issues in our farming and everyday life, a divided society and living in a country when apartheid is created.”
“Labor government red tape; they don’t care about farming agriculture and want to shut down live export,” a farmer said.
Another farmer highlighted the challenge of protecting farm viability and environment from new projects e.g., high voltage power lines, wind turbines, solar farms on productive land.
Roy Morgan chief executive officer Michele Levine said the past 12 months has been a challenging time across the economy, and the agribusiness sector has not been immune from these challenges.
“Farmers are struggling with the increased cost of doing business, stemming from supply chain issues and interest rate increases.
“2023 has also seen increased regulation in the industry, with uncertainty around how policies will affect farmers driving concern in this space,” he said.
Survey results echo a collapse in WA farmer confidence – NFF
National Farmers Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said the Roy Morgan survey findings are consistent with other data released recently by Rabobank, Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia, that all echo a collapse in WA farmer confidence.
“Farmers don’t know where they stand, with unclear and costly policies being thrown their way with pitiful consultation behind them.
“Our policy makers must listen to farmers and include them in these conversations about changes that will have monumental impacts on food and fibre production and the future of their farming businesses,” he said.
“It was a credit to WA farmers their voices were heard on the cultural heritage laws and the government has withdrawn this legislation, and we stand with them in the fight to get the Federal Government to back down on banning live sheep exports.”
In June and July 2023, 1002 Australian farmers also completed Roy Morgan’s Farmer Agribusiness Brand Trust 2023 survey, providing insight into farmers’ perceptions of, and experiences with key agribusiness brands including trust and distrust. Farmers from a range of farms participated in the survey – beef, cropping, sheep (meat), sheep (wool), horticulture, dairy and other farm types, small farms to those over 25,000 hectares, annual revenue from under $100,000 to over $5 million.
The Farmer Agribusiness Brand Trust Report 2023 details insights into farmer perceptions of key agribusiness brands including which brands are trusted and why.
Source – Roy Morgan.