Socio-economic constraints to agricultural production

The Agricultural Land Audit (the Audit), released in May 2013, identified gaps between current and potential agricultural land across Queensland. The Audit found many examples where current land use did not appear to take full advantage of the resources available, based on soil and climate data. While infrastructure deficiencies were identified as a large factor in this, at the time there was limited investigation into the socio-economic factors which influence production decisions.

To better understand factors influencing primary producer decisions, two further studies were undertaken— a qualitative social analysis conducted by the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (DSITI) and an economic analysis conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).

Social analysis

A social analysis was undertaken to find the personal factors which influence decisions made by primary producers. A total of 73 interviews, conducted by DSITI, found that the major personal influences included:

  • Love of existing farming practice
  • Personal finances
  • Succession plan and stage of life of the producer
  • Young people leaving agriculture
  • Mental health
  • Knowledge, information and skills
  • Environmental attitude
  • Time for relaxation
  • Other work commitment

Economic analysis

The economic analysis used an econometric model to identify which social factors influence production system decisions. The econometric model included a number of variables presumed to increase or decrease the likelihood of a producer being involved in a certain type of farming enterprise. The model showed no statistically significant results.

The economic analysis explored the common perception of increased profitability of grazing systems through the introduction of leucaena. In many cases, factors such as soil nitrogen depletion and improved pastures meant that changing to a more intensive farming enterprise did not necessarily prove more profitable. This analysis could explain the observed discrepancy between current and potential agricultural land use across Queensland, as identified in the Audit.

Conclusion

The personal, financial and operational considerations behind producers' land use decisions and maximising land use potential are highly complex. The combined social and economic analyses suggest producers are already using the land to the maximum potential. The perceived discrepancy between current and potential land use (identified by the Audit) can be explained by particular economic and social constraints that landholders face.

Advances in farming techniques including the added value from improved pastures, combined with the buffering effects of off-farms incomes and external pressures (including stress and life-style preferences) means the original assumption that cropping is a higher value enterprise than grazing is no longer, in some instances, a valid premise.

To request a copy of either report please contact DAF land audit.

Last updated 25 June 2015