If you’re like most Australians, you might be surprised at how well you are doing.
But if you’re trying to turn around your family farm or sell it, there’s one thing you need to know: it’s a very difficult task.
“There are no shortcuts, you can’t be an idiot and make a million dollars in two years,” says Julie Lillis, the chief executive of family farm and tourism company Travis Family Farm in New South Wales.
“You’ve got to be absolutely relentless.”
A new report by the Australian Financial Group (AFG) reveals the family farms industry in Australia has been in a downturn for the past six years.
Its report, Family Farm: The Biggest Business In The World, says the industry is facing a severe shortage of trained and experienced farmers and it’s becoming harder to recruit.
The report also reveals many farmers are struggling to keep their businesses running.
“We’ve lost more than 30 per cent of our farm-related jobs over the past two years, but we’re only getting ahead of ourselves,” says Lillies husband, Craig, the owner of Travis Farm.
The loss of farm jobs is not just an economic disaster for the family farmers industry, but also for the broader economy.
“The fact that we’re seeing such a large number of people who are not in the workforce right now means the economy as a whole is actually being dragged down by a loss of skills and talent,” says Mr Lillys.
Mr Lills family farm employs more than 800 people, mostly on his 40-acre property.
The company operates more than 70 farms in NSW and Queensland, with a combined annual turnover of $2.3 billion.
But there’s a problem: the majority of the workforce are out of work.
Many are now in temporary or part-time jobs and have little to no experience of farming.
“It’s a real concern for our staff, they’re struggling to get on and that’s really unfortunate,” says Craig.
The main problem is the high cost of the land and training required to get the job done.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sceptical at the time that we were going to get through it,” says Ms Lillises husband, Mr Lopes.
“But it’s very hard work.
We’ve had to hire new staff, we’ve had new managers.
It’s really challenging.”
The family farm is not alone in this problem.
Many farmers are also facing difficulties finding workers, which is a problem for the industry as a business as well.
According to the AFG, family farms have seen a drop in new entrants to the industry in the past four years.
This is due to the economic downturn, a shortage of skilled farm workers and increased competition from other businesses.
In a recent report by research firm Gartner, more than one in three family farms were struggling to retain new staff in 2015.
“Our current crop of workers in the industry are either currently looking for full-time work or looking to take a break from family farming to get more income from the business,” the AFD report says.
“A large number are also in employment for less than a year.
The report found the Australian family farm sector was a “vulnerable sector” due to its high number of vacancies and the need to hire more staff. “
Family farms have also suffered from a lack of skilled and experienced staff.”
The report found the Australian family farm sector was a “vulnerable sector” due to its high number of vacancies and the need to hire more staff.
“Unskilled farm labour is an increasing concern across the industry, as it is increasingly the most cost-effective and efficient way to produce the food for local markets,” the report says, adding that “the industry has seen significant reductions in workforce in recent years, particularly in rural and regional areas.”
The AFG’s report comes after the Federal Government announced a plan last year to support family farms by creating an industry-wide support fund.
However, the funding was later scaled back to only cover training and job placement.
“For the first time in history, the Federal government is not investing in the community, and family farms are not receiving the same support,” says Julia Cawley, CEO of the Australian Farm Industry Association (AFIA).
“The Federal Government needs to ensure it spends its resources in a way that is aligned with the interests of farmers and their families.”
This is a stark contrast to the Government’s previous policy of providing up to $2 billion to support the sector.
“Farming is not the same as a service industry, so it is really important that we make sure we are investing in these industries in the best way possible,” says Cawleys husband, Bill.
“If we don’t do that, we’ll end up with a community that is going to be devastated by the loss of jobs and the economic disruption that will result.”