Head down, bum up….get on with it

Some people are going to find this blog confronting. For too long in agriculture we have shied away from the hard facts and the hard decisions. I’ve been one of them. I fought wheat deregulation in 2007/2008. Now it’s gone I don’t miss it and wouldn’t want it back. Too often we fight change and then wonder what the fuss was all about after we made change.

With the advent of smart phones, social media and a little time the world is a far smaller place. So when I had 5 minutes to spare I watched the twitter feed streaming from the NFF’s Congress.

After 5 minutes I wondered why I did. Coles tell us food prices are high compared to the rest of the world, Sefton
and Associates told us we were losing the fight to Animal Activists and from plenty of people’s comments it appears we have a dearth of young leaders.

It made me wonder why I am in agriculture. I have been as guilty as any one; endless conversations about why we farmers are screwed over and how there’s no margin in it. It becomes a tiresome talkfest where you end up finishing where you start.

That got me thinking, what’s the solution?? Then I recall some words may father would say to me when I was on SAFF’s Grains
Council and a member of my local Council: “put your head down, arse up and get on with the job…no point in talking about it

Agricultures the best at talking itself down, looking for excuses and as long as we can blame someone else we run with it. My dad’s words have never been more relevant. Free of external commitments I have put my head down and arse up, and the rewards are evident. They weren’t when I was attending every meeting in creation.

Plenty of tweets from the NFF Congress talk about future leaders. One can argue leaders are born, not made, but that’s a whole different story. One thing a leader does need is a cause, or an industry. Let’s get the industry working and the leaders will emerge. Until the industry is working (profitably) there won’t be many attractions to participate. More so future leaders will remain that, future leaders.

Remember, we all generally choose to farm. Rarely are we forced to do it. We are a capital intensive industry so if one chooses to exit there would be equity left for the next phase of life. Unfortunately two of the biggest factors in choosing not to exit are emotion and fear. History or emotion, many businesses are long term family businesses and one doesn’t want to be seen to be ending the dynasty. Fear, what will I do, will I be employable?

If the emotion and fear could be removed agriculture would be better for it, and families would be better for it.

Recently I tweeted “agriculture doesn’t have a responsibility to provide food and fibre for the world and the world doesn’t have an obligation to pay more for it”. Consumers and farmers have a conflict of interest; consumers want to pay less, farmers want to be paid more. Currently consumers hold the upper hand in market power stakes. The only way to shift this is to shift the supply and demand equation. Until we farmers stop complaining about skinny margins, and start to shift the supply and demand equation we don’t have a leg to stand on.

Farmers exiting and selling to a more profitable neighbour who can work with smaller margins is one way we can achieve this. Many will be concerned about small communities, and their survival. In a factual and logical and commercial debate this is a non issue, we are talking profitability and survival. In an emotional debate this is the issue. Unfortunately what I talk of now will be a reality in 50 years time, smaller rural communities. The solution won’t happen overnight, the industry needs time to adjust, but it can and must do it.

While agriculture sits and talks about it it won’t happen. When agriculture does it there will be no need for talking.

6 thoughts on “Head down, bum up….get on with it

  1. It is always good to get one’s own house in order. As a consumer I also recognise a responsibility to pay for all I get – or want- from food production. Thus, for example, we have to think about environmental values and the costs they add to production. Thus your call to shift the supply-demand equation is timely.

    A very good contribution Corey

  2. Corey I decided that I wanted out of the family farm two years ago and left the day to day running of the farm to my brother 5 years ago. As at the end of November I will no longer be a director or involved. This is a decision I found rather easy, I decided more than 5 years ago I wanted to do something else. I found it very hard to grow our farm business, i wanted to be in a business that I could reach so many more people.

    I now run my own online business http://www.farmtender.com.au and am still involved in Agriculture. I now really enjoy what I do every day, I could not really say that towards the end of my farming days.

    But its each to their own and I respect that but I do believe that its a tough gig to try and install change within the Agriculture industry, more so in the livestock game.

    Anyway that’s a bit of a “me” story, I would be interested to hear what others think.

    Good job Corey, I enjoy your tweets

  3. Well said Cory.

    I believe leaders are made by the industry. Education and mentoring are the two biggest drivers but it’s the opportunity to lead that lets so many of our future leaders down.
    For too long the old establishment has protected the top spots from the young well educated and those that have made it havent been supported.
    It’s time for a change it the way agriculture is lead, to include the whole supply chain not just the farmers

    Cheers Rob

  4. Great comments Corey
    Agreed that we as farmers need to accept the practical realities of our industry and get on with it, but this will require a mindset change which will take time. Ultimately corporate farms will overtake the traditional family farms as youth and leadership is unlikely to keep up to the level that has traditionally been required.
    The hard thing for govts and communities to balance is the ongoing need for services and amenities in the towns that will make working and living in these communities actractive to the workers and families that will still be needed. No services ultimately leads to reduction in population which in turn leads to further reduction in services and businesses in those communities.
    Prices that farmers receive will always be subject to the demands put on the goods, but at least we should be trying to make the communities livable for those that do choose to stay and fight the good fight.
    Paul

  5. Especially pleased to see you make the point about it being a ‘choice’ to work on the land, Corey. I would add that everyone should have at least 5 if not 10 years working elsewhere, preferably in another industry, before moving home to a family farm. You can’t beat broad experience and knowing what it’s like to be an employee, to be a good employer; etc. Many of the best – and most uncomplaining – farmers that I’ve seen, are people who’ve spent years working in the city before farming. 2nd point – unfortunately some on the land are under the mistaken view that others in business don’t work as hard; which is a fallacy. Most small business people work very long hours.

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