Report Synopsis

Land Use and Development Farming viability in a changing landscape

Bernadette Mortensen

The aim of this study was to investigate agribusiness viability in a changing landscape in the context of land use and development. The key areas of investigation were the challenge of urban sensibilities on rural development and practice, and the effect of urban sprawl on existing land uses as well as the use of policy and legislation in shaping agribusiness growth. The countries visited are developed countries with comfortable, largely urbanised populations, similar to an Australian demographic. The key findings are that the world faces a resource management challenge which will require a renewed approach to communication, flexibility and understanding in planning and farm diversification, in order for farmers to remain financially viable and feed our growing global population.

Agribusiness has a public relations issue which should be taken seriously by the industry as a whole. A discerning population is looking for choice, with a nostalgic image of farming which can no longer feed them, based on technological advances they do not understand or trust. An anti-agribusiness movement has arisen which feeds consumers misleading information, and there is a mainstream media that celebrates shortcomings and hardships rather than achievements and successes. Confidence and trust in agribusiness is needed and this can only be achieved through improved communication.

For farmers, a fair financial return on investment in a volatile market environment can be an issue, with many seeking expansion and scale to ensure viability. Technology is available to improve the utilisation of resources. However, these are poorly understood by a non-farming population, including planners, who often believe that scale and intensification is unnatural and leads to poor environmental, quality of life and animal welfare outcomes. Investment researching the outcomes of technologies to support agribusinesses need for expansion and technology adoption through industry, research and government collaboration would be a step in establishing confidence or “social licence” in change.

Management of land in terms of policy and legislation was investigated to address the question “can the tide of urban populations be stopped, diverted or taught to live in harmony with their rural cousins?” Incentivising the use of land for agricultural purposes thorough taxation, securing land through trusts and specific planning designations plus policy and 4 legislative objectives which focus on key areas of agricultural development were investigated.

This report makes planning recommendations for Australia, based on research in other countries. These recommendations centre around improving the outcomes of agribusiness expansion and intensification through more effective engagement with the media and the general public. Government and agribusiness cooperation is needed to compile data on existing developments and create a database of approved technologies. The aim being to give planners added confidence in approving intensive farming developments, when such developments compete with the needs of urban expansion. Efforts to retain agricultural land in production through taxation and marketing intensive urban living as a desirable and environmentally friendly option, would ease the pressure on land release and reverse sensitivity by maintaining critical mass of both agribusiness and housing.

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