A NEW Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows the number of farmers in Australia fell by 40 per cent in the past 30 years.And the number has dropped by 11 per cent in the past five years.
According to the ABS statistics, released today, Australia lost 100,000 farmers between 1981 and 2011.
The new figures show that in 2011, there were just 157,000 farmers in Australia.
Around half of these were mixed crop and livestock farmers (22 per cent), beef cattle farmers (20 per cent) or dairy farmers (8 per cent).
According to the ABS report, the number of farmers in Australia has been declining for many decades as small farmers sell up to large-scale farming operations, and fewer young people take over family farms.
In fact, there were 19,700 fewer farmers in Australia in 2011 than in 2006, a fall of 11 per cent over five years.
The report also shows farmers work longer hours than many in the workforce.
It shows that 50 per cent of all farmers worked 49 hours or more a week, whereas only 17 per cent of other workers put in such long hours in other industries.
Farmers now average an age of 53 years. This median age of farmers has increased by nine years between 1981 and 2011, while the median age of other workers increased by just six years.
According to the ABS statistics, despite working such long hours, the average weekly disposable income of farmers in 2009-10 ($568) was considerably lower than that of people working in other occupations ($921).
However, the average equivalised net worth, taking into account both assets and liabilities, of farming households in 2009-10 was $1.3 million, much higher than the average across other households, at $393,000.
But, according to ABS, such high levels of wealth are not enjoyed by all farming households.
In fact, 10 per cent of farming households could be classified as having relatively low levels of wealth and being in the lowest 40 per cent of the wealth distribution.
However, 71 per cent of farming households were in the top 20 per cent of the wealth distribution.
The high levels of wealth explain why, despite relatively low income, only a fraction, five per cent, of farming households are classified as having low economic resources, compared with a fifth of other households.