Wimmera farmers 'resilient' despite decline

Wimmera farmers 'resilient' despite decline


Cropping
David Jochinke.

David Jochinke.

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VICTORIAN Farmers Federation vice-president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke believes Wimmera agriculture is still strong despite a sharp decline in the number of Australian farmers.

Aa

VICTORIAN Farmers Federation vice-president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke believes Wimmera agriculture is still strong despite a sharp decline in the number of Australian farmers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of Australian farmers has dropped by 40 per cent during the past three decades.

The statistics show the number of farmers fell by more than 100,000 to 157,000 between 1981 and 2011.

The bureau believes major weather events are a primary cause, with a 15 per cent decrease in farmers nationwide during the 2002-03 drought year.

Mr Jochinke said Wimmera farmers had successfully withstood droughts, floods and bushfires.

"As a report card, the Wimmera's farmers are quite resilient and have been able to manage and adapt to the difficult conditions during the past few decades," he said.

"We have lost a farm or two due to retirement but as a general rule I have not heard of too many stories where farmers have been forced off their land.

"About the same amount of land is being farmed but just by a smaller number of farmers."

Mr Jochinke said while the number of farmers had fallen, the agriculture service industry had boomed.

He said the service industry included agronomists, veterinarians, cropping wholesalers and agribusiness specialists.

"We might have fewer farmers on the ground doing the work but the service industry that is secondary to farming has grown dramatically," he said.

"The number of different types of services that are provided to the agricultural industry has widened and has become very important."

With nearly one in four farmers aged 65 or over, Mr Jochinke said a primary concern for agriculture was attracting younger farmers.

He said it was 'the nut that nobody has been able to crack'.

"We need to get fresh blood into farming and all those secondary service industries," he said.

"We also have to make sure that agriculture is quite vibrant and we can afford to pay decent money for the best of the best."

Brimpaen sheep, cattle and cropping farmer Gerard Matthews said improved job security would attract more people to farming.

"You can work a whole year but you are not really guaranteed anything at the end of it," he said.

"When I was younger we were just a merino farm and we could get a big fat wool cheque at the end of the year.

"Now that does not cover it so we have had to diversify and try to make our money in a lot of different areas of farming."

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