Jane Weatherley, MLA R&D Communication and Adoption Manager
By all accounts, people are leaving agriculture. They’re leaving the land. It’s a steady decline that’s putting pressure on the important people that are left in our precious industry.
Many thousands of livestock producers across Australia are working to continue our proud farming traditions in face of the massive challenges – and choices – presented by modern day life.
They’re leaving the schools and universities
Looking towards the future, who’s going to deliver the new scientific innovations and technologies? Over the past decade student enrolments in agriculture-related courses have tracked a steady decline, falling from 4,500 in 2001 to 2,500 in 2011.
With students offered a myriad of courses seen as exciting or rewarding, agriculture faces stiff competition.
But industry is grasping the nettle by working with universities and attracting students to these areas critical for our future.
And there’s a flicker of hope – in 2012 Charles Sturt University welcomed 80 first year ag students compared to 60 in 2011.
They’re leaving the state departments
Historically, state departments of agriculture have been the major providers of agricultural extension services to producers.
However, as the funding pressures of state governments escalated, the budgets of agricultural departments have been tightened and so has their ability to carry out extension and activities that generate public benefit (like environmental initiatives) rather than production benefit.
As public provision of extension activities declined, industry organisations like MLA and the private sector are looking at ways to collaborate and fill the gap.
What do you think are some of the main challenges that agriculture faces? And what are some of the ways that we can bring people back and help those who carry on the tradition?