Some farmers ‘just had enough'
GYMPIE dairy farmer, real estate agent and auctioneer John Cochrane fears the recent wide spread floods will hasten the already rapid decline in farmer numbers, especially in the dairy industry.
Mr Cochrane said that even before flood waters receded he had calls from producers wanting to sell off their herd.
“They have basically just had enough,” he said.
“They are often in the older age bracket and are finding it too tough to continue with the constant work and worry.”
Mr Cochrane said that there are a number of other factors including low prices at the farm gate and increasing regulations for health, safety and labour.
“The majority of the urban population does not respect food production.
They want an increasing variety of produce at a lower cost.”
“Farmers are caught in a situation where they want to sell but no one wants to buy, especially any land with any suggestion of needing hard work to make a living from it.”
Mr Cochrane said that a new approach to finance to let people with the ability, experience and work ethic to be able to buy a viable property is needed.
“If we can't come up with something I worry about our future food sustainability.
“Many institutions tend to be farm shy in their lending approach.
In his role as real estate agent Mr Cochrane has negotiated ‘sales' using both vendor finance and lease purchase agreements.
He said that the former gives the purchaser the opportunity to make improvements to assets and build equity for themselves while the vendor is able to sell a productive property.
Lease purchase agreements may be used as a way to utilize the accumulated tax losses incurred by the farm.
Mr Cochrane said that the increasing number of costly to report and implement regulations that have been applied to primary producers in recent years cannot be passed on to consumers.
“Urban residents have to realize that farmers cannot demand an increase in returns and that all increased costs have to come from what in many cases are minimal or non existent margins.”
However, even with Mr Cochrane's concerns over the future of farming, he still believes that the dairy industry offers great opportunities for young people to rapidly build their equity levels.
“The best way to increase equity is to improve the cows in the herd.
“Quality cows are always in demand and fetch good prices.”
Mr Cochrane said that in many of his dairy clearing sales (24 in 2010) cows are purchased sight unseen based on production figures, by farmers as far away as Western Australia.
‘There are many ways for young people to enter the industry and work to increase their equity, especially if they can own a few cows.”
Mr Cochrane said that farmers in general need to be better educated in financial matters that relate to the running of their business.
“I can see a clear road ahead for young people in farming provided they have a plan to improve nett worth and that they get information from the right source.”