It is interesting to note that concerns about a loss of farmland are not confined to Australia, with this topic the subject of discussion in many nations, including developing nations.
The issue has emerged in India, for example, where recent reports indicate that official statistics on available agricultural land show a decline, due to encroaching urbanisation. The issue is important as Indian governments have long been sensitive to the problems that can arise if food prices get too high, due to reduced production. Interestingly, as is the case in Australia, landuse policies in India are the responsibility of State governments rather than the national government.
From an Australian perspective, the reported loss of farmland in India does not seem significant. In the years since 1970, almost 100 million hectares of Australian farmland has been converted to conservation areas (some 20% of all farm land and 11% of the total land area ), and an unknown amount has disappeared under housing developments close to major urban centres. Much of the land concerted to national parks was of low agricultural value, but the same does not apply for land close to urban centres or in locations such as the Liverpool Plains, where mining interests are competing with farmers for land.
Whether Australia needs a national policy to preserve agricultural land is the subject of a forthcoming two day conference and associated field trip being convened by the Australian Farm Institute. For details click here.