Confidence to grow: could foreign ownership be a godsend?

Farmers are a little enigmatic.

On one hand, we must be the most optimistic people on earth: we don’t give up easily because a great season could be just around the corner. On the other hand, we’re not typically the type that goes out and buy lots of stuff in the good times: we know another bad season could be just around the corner.

One thing of which you can be certain is that we know how to pull our horns in and refuse to open the cheque book when times look a little shaky. This seems to be just one of those times. The bank tells me that business is “quiet”, dozens of farms are for sale but not selling and one rural financial counsellor noted that she’s seeing more and more depressed farmers.

The market for dairy farms is now so quiet that I can’t tell you how much our own farm is really worth because there’s simply no benchmark. This in itself leads to a lack of confidence and, so, a vicious cycle ensues.

It was with all this in mind that I read Jonathan Dyer’s (@dyerjonathan on Twitter) blog post on foreign ownership of Australian farmland this morning. Referring to the purchase of farmland near his own property by a Qatari corporation, Jonathan remarks:

“Perhaps because we don’t know just how amazing our natural wealth is we aren’t appreciative of it and are happy for it to be sold off. We don’t value it and look after it like we should. If that is the case, if we don’t value what we have and aren’t willing to develop it, then maybe it’s good that others who do value and need quality food production are getting a chance here in Australia.”

I couldn’t agree more. What I am hoping though, is that the interest of foreigners in our natural wealth will encourage Australians to reconsider the way we view our amazing land. If we are to remain one of the world’s leading food bowls, we must have the confidence to grow.

You’re better off playing two-up than believing the weatherman

Grazing in March

An amazingly good pasture for March


If you tossed a coin to issue the next three monthly outlook, you’d be more accurate than the weather gurus at the Bureau of Meteorology. I am not being cheeky either – it’s a fact reported by the Bureau itself.

The seasonal outlook below shows a relatively dry winter is expected in our part of Australia (a good thing).

National Rainfall Outlook

What we're supposed to be getting

But when you dig a little deeper, you find this matching map (not a good thing):

Seasonal Climate Outlook Assessment

The pink says "We get it wrong more often than we get it right"

We are in one of the pink zones. If I understand it correctly, this means the Bureau’s outlook is right 45-50% of the time. In other words, “If we say it’s going to be dry, it’s more likely to be wet”.

Don’t think I’m suggesting the weather forecasters are dummies. Absolutely not! Just as no dairy farmer would suggest she has a handle on all the natural systems that make a farm tick, weather is notoriously, ridiculously complex and difficult to predict. I take my hat off to those who get it kinda right most of the time.

What I don’t understand is that if the Bureau’s learned fellows are so honest as to say: “We think we have a 45% chance of getting this right”, why issue a forecast at all? Maybe they just love to use their colourful highlighters? 😉