Family farms are rural mainstay

By Country News

Large family farms have generated, on average, higher returns than their corporate counterparts, according to ABARES executive director Karen Schneider.

Ms Schneider told the ABARES Outlook conference family farms provided most of the capital underpinning the Australian farm sector.

‘‘We know improving productivity will be critical to the success of Australian agriculture on world markets,’’ Ms Schneider said.

‘‘That’s going to require investment across the board — in land, in technology and in our people.

‘‘And every year, more than $2billion is added to the productive assets of the Australian farm sector.

‘‘Around 60 to 70 per cent of investment is provided directly by the owners of family farms, while investment by the corporate sector is less than 20 per cent when all factors are accounted for.’’

Ms Schneider said one reason for the disparity in investment levels between family and corporate farms might be the difference in investment returns.

However, Ms Schneider said corporate investment wouldn’t challenge family farms in the near future.

‘‘The differences between family farms and corporates are also seen in Canada and the US, so it’s not just an Australian story,’’ Ms Schneider said.

‘‘It’s been this way for a long time — and it’s one of the main reasons that family farms continue to dominate agricultural industries around the world.

‘‘And, it’s the reason that we don’t expect to see corporate agriculture transform the family farm model in Australia any time soon.’’