CLIMATE AND ECONOMIC FACTORS DRIVING FARMERS FROM THE LAND
The number of farmers has been decreasing in many parts of the world, including Australia, but the causes of this concerning decline are not well known. ARC-supported researchers have now conducted one of the most comprehensive analyses of farmer exit across the world to date. Led by ARC Future Fellow Professor Sarah Wheeler, Professor of Water Economics of The University of Adelaide’s Centre for Global Food and Resources and the Environment Institute, the research team has found that in the Murray-Darling Basin, the causes may not be what many suspect. The researchers found that the Murray-Darling Basin has faced considerable change in the form of increased temperatures and drought severity, reduced irrigation water diversions, declining real agricultural commodity prices and declining rural community services. Sourcing data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics population and agricultural censuses at the statistical local area from 1991 to 2011, the research team matched it with datasets including a variety of climate risk measures, rainfall, temperature, water diversions, location, agricultural commodity prices, unemployment and urbanisation factors to model how farmer numbers (including both dryland and irrigators) changed over time. Their analysis showed that for the period of 1991-2011, the most important drivers of farmer exit were climate— increased drought risk and higher temperatures— and economic factors, such as commodity prices, unemployment and urbanisation. There was no significant association between decreasing farmer numbers and measured water extraction in the Basin—this contrasts with the popular view that decreased access to water is the main reason for the decline of farmers in the Basin.
STRIVING FOR CULTURAL AND SOCIAL OUTCOMES
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