THE public needs to put its money where its mouth is, or farming will continue to suffer, writes KATE DOWLER
The Australian public needs to put its money where its mouth is, or stop demanding cheap, high-quality food, healthy environments and ever-more out of over-worked farmers.
The public's over-worked mouth could do with the rest.
It has made itself heard on the live export debate.
It has had lots to say on how it wants food produced.
It has chomped into food bought from supermarkets determined to drive prices down.
And it has had plenty to say on how water is used in the Murray-Darling Basin.
But those building public expectations are creating the perfect storm.
We need to step back and have a look at the impact public pressure and policies have.
We need to acknowledge that we all live off the land, even those safely clustered away from nature's elements in cities. Farmers are the conduit enabling us to live urban lives and be well-fed.
Australians cannot continue leaning on farmers to meet lofty expectations on behalf of everyone, while governments cut agricultural support to the lowest level of any developed nation.
Something has to give and increasingly it is the equity and morale of family farm businesses, as they put increasingly more of their slim profits towards matching these demands.
A recent ANZ report, and this week another from the Centre for Policy Development, highlight the global opportunities for farming but stress the community and policies need to get behind farmers so they can be taken up.
The CPD wants a massive R&D re-investment and more recognition of the reality of farming and of farmers' hard-earned knowledge and their stewardship caring for the land.
The report draws on a Wentworth Group paper which says thousands of farmers want to restore damaged rivers and landscapes and boost sustainability, but they are held back by a lack of resources and scientific advice and disempowered by bureaucrats.
The report calls for a greater investment in farming by the general population and willingness to pay for the preservation of healthy landscapes and thriving farm communities.
Let's hope we can start listening.
- Kate Dowler is The Weekly Times' state political reporter