Australian farmers produce more than $78 billion worth of farm gate output and this figure is projected to reach $100 billion by 2030.
Agriculture and its full supply chain earn $155 billion a year for a 12 per cent share of Australia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In 2002, there were 372,000 people employed directly in agriculture. But in 2021, that level sat at 265,000.
However, it is estimated that the complete agricultural supply chain provides more than 1.6 million jobs - or nearly 15pc of employment in Australia.
In 1980, there were 120,000 farm businesses operating across Australia. Today that figure is less than 80,000.
Australian farmers manage 290 million hectares of native vegetation on top of 40 million hectares of improved pastures and 20 million hectares of cropping lands.
Despite the economic value and areas managed, Australian farmers are not highly supported by their governments.
In a 2020 assessment of 37 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average level of support for all countries was 11.7pc - compared to Australia at just 2.3pc.
What do all these statistics mean?
Put simply, Australian farmers are producing more with less people and less support on an unlevel playing field across 60pc of the continent which is home to less than 2pc of the voting population.
It is a daunting prospect - even for those who chose to make a living in between drought, floods, fires, famine, fly bite and feral pigs.
The problem isn't that there are less of us to share the work load around, but there are now less votes to help support the policies that we need to continue to grow the greenest, cleanest, highest quality food and fibre in the world.
In the past 30 years, we have seen a slow march of legislation - across all local, state and federal governments - which has been aimed at restricting farmers from managing their land and putting food on the table.
Whether it be animal welfare, live exports, reef run-off, methane emissions, vegetation management, water usage, chemical usage, price wars or market squeezes - the farmer always seems to be the one who draws the short straw.
The Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment collects nearly $1 billion in farm-related levies per year, plus another $1 billion in Commonwealth contributions.
Most of these funds are channeled into industry-controlled research research and development projects, biosecurity, residue testing and marketing.
While there is no doubt that R&D has assisted Australian farmers increase their productivity and improved market access - and our biosecurity system is one of the best in the world - we need to focus our attention more on not only the marketing of our products but our industries themselves.
Efficiency and market access mean little when farmers are being forced out the back gate by government regulation, green ideology and falsely-informed consumer trends.
There is a long line of environmental and animal rights activist groups who are deliberately trying to attack not only Australian agriculture, but agriculture in general.
These groups are well resourced, focused and fanatical.
We can complain about it all we want. But the reality is it will have to be farmers themselves who stand up and fight for their own futures.
We can no longer rely on the old mantra "we feed you" as a defense.
We export nearly 75pc of what we produce, and the average Australian consumer is too disconnected from what they see on their shelf and how it is produced to vote for issues that in many ways only affect farmers.
Its not really their fault - we are the ones who should be selling the story.
We can also no longer rely on our politicians and agricultural groups to do our bidding alone.
As well-intentioned as they may be - it is like holding the tide back with a fork and expecting our elected politicians to protect our livelihoods alone.
There is an old saying that you don't take a knife to a gun fight.
In many respects, farmers have been guilty of turning up to many of the fights in the last 30 years either late or with empty hands.
That must change and we must be pro-active against those who want to close us down.
And this won't be solved by marching in the streets or writing letters to the editor.
It will be by having well-funded and resourced marketing and PR campaigns.
It will be by having targeted political marketing and messaging.
It will be by employing the best and the brightest to help us win a war against an adversary we have little in common with.
And all of this requires money and funding.
While I would like to see more or our current levies being directed to marketing and public relations campaigns - perhaps it is also time to have a set levy across all our farming industries strictly focused on defending our farms, our families and all of our futures.
What is the cost if we don't?
- Tom Marland is an agribusiness lawyer based in Bundaberg, Queensland. He is also the author of the blog, Food for Thought, Thought for Food.
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