Farmers quit in droves | My Machinery
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Farmers quit in droves

Almost 300 farmers have left the land each month in the past 30 years, ­resulting in a 40 per cent drop in their number as some small landholders sold to bigger producers and drought forced others to quit. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report, released yesterday, says there were 157,000 farmers left in the industry in 2011 – 106,200 fewer than in 1981 – partly because young people have been reluctant to take over the family farm. Farmers still working the land are getting older, with the median age about 53, up from 44 in 1981, and compared with 40 for other workers. “In 2011, almost a quarter of farmers were aged 65 years or over, compared with just 3 per cent of people in other occupations,” the report says. The data, drawn from its agricultural census, shows farmers tend to have more children than other people. In other findings, farmers work longer hours than other workers, with half saying they toiled for 49 hours or more a week. Their average weekly disposable income was $568, lower than $921 available on average to other workers, although there are tax breaks and wealth tied up in other assets. The exodus – averaging 294 farmers a month since 1981 – had been sped by shocks such as the so-called millennium drought in the first decade of this century. As the drought spread and worsened in 2002-03, the number of farmers dropped 15 per cent in that year alone. Despite the trend towards consolidation and the emergence of large-scale corporate farming, the ABS says the majority of farms are still comparatively small. About 55 per cent had agricultural operations with an estimated value of less than $100,000 a year. Only 6 per cent of farms, about 7700, had agricultural operations worth more than $1 million. The value of agricultural exports rose on average by 5 per cent a year in the previous three decades, to $32.5 billion, with those exports helping to feed about 40 million people. “A sharp increase in global food prices in recent years has focused attention on the adequacy and affordability of global food supplies,” the ABS says. On Tuesday ABARES lifted its forecast for earning

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