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Corporate farming means opportunities

By: Thanh-Loan Nguyen
30 June, 2010

Feature of the week: While Australian farmers have adopted state of the art machinery, equipment and technology, to remain economically competitive in the global markets, family farms could not have prepared themselves for the increase of corporate farming in rural areas that threatens the existence of small farms in Australia.

Yet Chief Executive Officer of Growth Farms Australia, David Sackett, disagrees with the notion that the corporate agribusiness is 'stealing' businesses from fellow family farms, and actually works with them to help them achieve their goals.

"The company has been in existence for over 10 years. The business is now managing $300 million worth of farms. There is a mix of farms and larger investors as well that are involved in the production. We employ managers for those farms, and they are responsible for making big strategic decisions that traditional farms lack."

However, some farmers still seem to distrust their corporate farming enterprises. In 2007, a dairy farm in the outer west of Bathurst was forced to close down because of continuing pressures from other corporate competitors and cost price fees.

"It is very disappointing that our corporate competitors are driving us out of business. I've been managing this dairy farm for over 15 years, and to see it close down is heartbreaking. They (corporate farms) just come and build their big businesses here, and how can you compete when they are subsidising their employees?

"We've got no control over our costs, like chemicals, fertilisers or fuel. If our costs go up, we can't get any more for our product," said the ex-owner of the dairy farm.

However, Sackett, claims that corporate agriculture should just simply be considered as an opportunity for farmers.

"There are opportunities for increasing scale which family farms find it difficult to do. We see that there are opportunities for qualified people to come in and make strategic decisions, and do them better than traditional farmers. It's really about management."

Sackett maintains that most corporate farming enterprises are misunderstood by the local community, and especially by farmers.

"One of the things we do is back our own performance. We're focused on the farm being really productive and profitable. Part of our remuneration for managing farm businesses is to have a share of the profits.

"We want control, and take opportunities as they arise," he said.

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Marian Macdonald | Tuesday, July 6, 2010, 10:21 AM
The only "opportunites" I can glean from the Growth Farms Australia web site is to sell your farm and become an employee or relinquish control but hold the asset (ie: no responsibility but all accountability). The last sentence of your story says it all.