Farm incomes sink

September 13, 1995

By Chris Spindler
Average farm cash incomes have fallen by an estimated 17% in 1994-95. Those farms affected by the drought in the past year have had cash incomes 50% below farms not affected. Those affected by drought for two years have incomes only about one sixth of those on farms not affected. According to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, since mid-1989 farmers have been paying more for their inputs, while for most of the period prices received for their produce have declined. Farmers' "terms of trade" today are nearly 20% worse than they were six years ago.
The result of increasing costs for all farmers and falling incomes for the majority has been increasing numbers of farmers leaving the industry.
This is the government's stated aim for the smallest farmers. Its refusal to give financial aid to any farm it claims is "unviable" aids large rural companies to gain access to cheap properties as small and family farmers are pushed from the land.
This process is set to escalate as the drought accentuates the uneven terms on which small farmers compete.
The drought has pushed prices up through the scarcity of some produce but at the same time many small farmers haven't sufficient produce to take advantage of the high prices.

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