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.