Farming is the future, so let’s be smart and give it support | OPINION

MY conversion to being pro-farmer was a gradual thing.

It involved breaking down a lot of pre-conceived notions.

Until I became one of the reporters for Country Mail, which appears in the Saturday edition of The Border Mail, I was one of those who ignorantly believed the stereotype that most farmers were “whingeing cockies”.

And like a lot of people who do not work in agricultural, I reckoned they were always complaining there was not enough rain or too much; it seemed they were never happy.

Then you had the other stereo-types, such as all farmers got massive tax breaks, drove luxury motor vehicles and sent their kids off to expensive boarding schools for no real reason.

How wrong can you be when you speak out of ignorance?

And it was not like I was living in the city.

I was in the bush, surrounded by farmers and the industry they work in.

So, unlike the city slickers, I had no excuse.

But I have learnt my lesson.

Agriculture, particularly farming, is a tough game to make a living in.

A mate of mine, who was a very successful farmer for 40 years before he retired, once told me all the soldiers never did line up in any one season — you might sow your crop but then it doesn’t come up because there is no rain.

Or you get a great crop up and then a frost strikes or your crops gets flooded on the day you were going to start harvest.

Or when you get the perfect crop the price for your product drops through the floor.

Livestock and horticulture producers face similar challenges.

And that is before the farmers try to untangle themselves from an enormous amount of red tape, and the restrictions they face have to be seen to be believed.

So is it any wonder producers and their families are under enormous stress, with mental health issues a major concern in the agricultural sector?

It’s easy to say, “Too bad; you’ve got a great lifestyle and if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.

But selling a property, machinery and livestock is not like putting a suburban block up for auction.

People usually often act out of self-interest, when they think there is something in it for them.

Well, I would suggest you get in on the act and start supporting Australian farmers in a big way.

Because farming is the future of this country and not just with producing crops or livestock, but across a whole range of sectors.

I was recently a guest in Albury of Rabobank, which I am told is the oldest and biggest rural bank of its type in the world.

The main speaker was group executive for country banking Australia, Peter Knoblanche, who I had interviewed earlier in the day for Country Mail.

According to him, and I have heard these sort of figures before, the world population is expected to be nine billion by 2050 and there will need to be more food produced in the next few decades than has been produced during the past 10,000 years combined.

Despite what some might say, we can never be the food bowl of Asia; we just don’t have the soil or climate to produce enough food for that many people.

But we can feed from 130 to 200 million people if we gear up, work together and achieve maximum production.

With the industry crying out for graduates with degrees in agriculture, the industry should attract people of all ages across the whole sector.

When people are hungry they won’t be looking for bits of iron ore to eat.

So we have a great opportunity and if we are smart the future will be rosy.

But we can’t expect the city residents, politicians and media to understand and support our farmers when those of us living in the bush are just as ignorant and perhaps even more cynical.