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2015: The year the 'worm turned' for Australian agriculture

- Monday, December 21, 2015

When Shakespeare first used the expression “the worm has turned” in his play Henry VI he was referring to a situation where a person or group of people who have been treated badly for a long time suddenly experience a change in fortune and become forceful and assert themselves. This seems to be a very apt phrase to describe the events of the past year for Australian agriculture, especially in relation to commodity prices, supermarket power, and native vegetation policy. View the rest of the post here

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Are annual live cattle quotas for Indonesia enough?

- Thursday, December 10, 2015

Food Security and political stability have always walked hand in hand. Every political regime lives by this fact. From Marie Antoinette to Mao, the ironclad rule for a successful political regime has always been to ensure that the masses have adequate food. Rarely is an ideological sentiment so unifying, nor a violation of ethics so egregious that its revolutionary clout exceeds that of a steep rise in grain prices.  View the rest of the post here

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Are productivity and premiumisation mutually exclusive?

- Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The 2015 John Ralph Essay Competition asked participants whether Australian agriculture should focus more on premium markets, and lower the priority of the pursuit of productivity – something which has been a singular focus for decades. Inherent in this question is the notion that the two are mutually exclusive, but is that necessarily the case? View the rest of the post here

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Will computers replace farmers?

- Monday, November 23, 2015

There has been a lot of discussion about the potential impact of "Big Data" on Australian agriculture over recent times, with views ranging from "They'll never replace farmers" to "Its the end of agriculture as we know it, and farmers will soon be redundant." Exactly where advances in computer technology and digital information will take the agriculture sector over the next few decades is as yet uncertain, but what is already clear is that it is likely to result in pretty significant change. View the rest of the post here

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If you don't feed cows, they don't produce milk.

- Friday, November 13, 2015

There is delicious irony in the current scramble by Australia's major supermarkets to secure supplies of premium baby milk powder for their Australian customers, in response to shortages caused by booming overseas demand for these products. Hopefully the lesson being learnt by those who thought that the $1 per litre milk promotion was such a brilliant campaign is that, in Australia, unlike the situation in heavily subsidised European agriculture, if you send farmers a negative market signal they will respond by reducing production, or finding alternative markets. View the rest of the post here

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Would Sir Sidney be worried about a sale to overseas investors?

- Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The imminent sale of S Kidman and Co, one of Australia's largest beef cattle farming operations, and the likelihood that the successful buyer will be an overseas investor, will probably result in claims that Australia is selling off its productive assets to overseas buyers, and that Australians risk becoming landless peasants in their own country. While such sentiments no doubt have popular appeal, they fly in the face of reality, and probably are contrary to the attitude Sir Sidney Kidman himself might have had to the prospect of such a sale. View the rest of the post here

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Could farming become just another industrialised business?

- Monday, November 02, 2015

In many sectors of modern economies, there has been a transition from businesses that were reliant on the individual craft skills of the business owner/operator, to the industraliased model perfected by Henry Ford where replication, mechanization and specialisation have displaced the need for highly skilled workers, and enabled the business model to be endlessly replicated or franchised. Is it possible that in the future farming will take this same path, and family farming will become a quaint relic of a bygone era? View the rest of the post here

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Is the EU having a two-way bet on agricultural technology?

- Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The emergence of new technologies in agriculture often presents policymakers with a dilemma, in that while consumers may prefer to retain their bucolic and traditional perceptions of farming, the reality is that the current and future affordability of food depends heavily on the widespread adoption of new technologies by farmers to improve agricultural productivity. This dilemma is evident in some recent publications and announcements from the EU. View the rest of the post here

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Is a meat-free diet morally superior?

- Tuesday, October 20, 2015

There is an evangelical fervour starting to emerge in debates about farm animal welfare and meat-free diets. The argument that a diet that is free of meat is somehow morally superior is frequently used by opponents of livestock farming, but exactly why this would be the case is not supported by either evidence or logic. View the rest of the post here

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Brand Australia making slow progress amid misconceptions.

- Tuesday, October 13, 2015

While the subject of a lot of discussion, it seems any real progress on the development of a single unified national image for Australian agricultural products is still a long way off. Perhaps part of the reason is some misconceptions about what a national 'brand' might consist of, and another part of the reason is that no one group or organisation has the will and resources to make it happen.  View the rest of the post here

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