5 things to know about Aussie farmers

19th February 2021 | Australian Farmers

You know that Australian farmers grow food and raise livestock, but have you ever wondered exactly how much food our farmers produce each year, how much water and land they use or how our farmers are dealing with greenhouse gas emissions? We revealed five things you most likely didn’t know about Australian agriculture.

Farmers like Natalie Sommerville and her family care for a collective 51% of the Australian landscape.

1. Farmers manage more than half of Australia’s land mass

Australia has a land mass spanning more than 769.2 million hectares. Farmers manage over half of this – 51 percent, to be exact. From managing the soil, natural vegetation and waterways, everyday farmers are taking care of Australia for us and for the generations to come, all while producing the food and fibre we rely on.

Many farmers are combining renewable energy production with traditional farming.

2. Farmers are leading Australia’s emissions reduction efforts

From 1996 to 2016, Australian farmers reduced their greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 63 percent. Agriculture is in a unique position – while some agricultural practices do generate emissions, there are many ways in which farmers also sequester carbon, through pasture, tree planting and crop rotation. Australia’s red meat industry has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, which if achieved will be world-leading, and Australia’s farm sector has committed to an economy-wide net carbon zero target by 2050.

It’s a big, dry country, but our farmers know how to make the most of the water they have.

3. Farmers are experts at water management

Australia is the second-driest continent in the world (Antarctica is the driest), with an average annual rainfall of than 600mm across 80 percent of the country. Our farmers are therefore experts at growing food and fibre with very little water.

As an example, Australian cotton growers are among the most water efficient in the world thanks to advancements in irrigation systems and plant breeding. Australian cotton growers have improved their water use efficiency by 48 percent since 1992.

Cotton farmers like Amanda Thomas have cut the amount of water needed to produce one bale of cotton by half.

Similarly, Australian rice growers use 50 percent less water than the global average. Over the past 10 years, Australian rice growers have improved their water use efficiency by 60 percent while also increasing the amount of rice they grow.

Australia’s most popular crop, grain, is also leading the way in water efficiency, with Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre data from 1982 to 2012 showing that many wheat-growing regions have improved water efficiency by between 50 to 100 percent.

The average Aussie farmer is 58, so this little dude has a way to go yet.

4. 99 percent of Australian farms are family-owned

According to 2016 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there are about 85,690 farm businesses in Australia, 99 percent of which are owned and operated by Australian families. ABS data from 2018/19 shows that the average age of an Aussie farmer is 58 years of age, and 77 percent of all our farmers are male.

We live in a food-secure nation that can feed our country and many others.

5. Each farmer grows enough food to feed 600 people

Each Australian farmer produces enough food each year to feed, on average, 600 people – 150 at home and 450 overseas. Australian farms produce around 93 percent of the total volume of food consumed in Australia, and two thirds of what our farmers produce each year is exported for the world to enjoy. Unlike in other countries, Australians’ access to home-grown, quality, safe food is extremely secure.

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