Farm Finance

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 9

Financial Decisions & Drought: Examining the Role of Farm Advisors

Our research, coupled with farmer consultations has identified the importance of building strong farm businesses, in ensuring drought resilience and drought preparedness.

Specifically, the role of farm advisors (such as bank managers, accountants, agronomists, rural suppliers etc) has been highlighted as a key factor in this and therefore, is being examined by the Vic Hub.

Read our blog on farm advisors, or watch our Webinar on Financial Decisions and Drought:


Highlights from the research on Farm Finance

The Issue: Siloed Information

Multiple sources have raised the problem of siloed information from farm advisors (Pottinger 2020; Vic Hub, 2022; Halabi, et. al, 2015), meaning it is difficult for farmers to get holistic and tailored advice which reflects their financial position and the management of their farm.

The interplay of what options are available to farmers (i.e. what crops to grow, stock rates etc), the expected seasonal conditions and the financial position of a farming business is critical to being able to make good decisions on production.

However, farm advisors are often experts in their field, with the bank manager understanding lending but not agronomics or the accountant understanding tax but not seed types.

For instance, one study (Halabi et al, 2015) interviewed farm accountants and found farmers, especially the smaller businesses, mainly use an accountant for tax compliance purposes and therefore held little decision-making value.


A lack of independent information

There is solid evidence that the role of farm advisors is increasing.

Publicly provided extension services have diminished in Australia and as such the private sector has stepped in (Nettle, 2019).

Many farm advisers are not fully independent but are employed by a company.

For example, consultants on seed and feed are often employed by a company which supplies a specific set of products.

This has raised concerns about a lack of independent information, with a report commissioned by the National Farmers Federation (Pottinger 2020, p.7) finding “there is not a national body that farmers trust as an independent source on financial and risk matters, or which provides comprehensive national data or benchmarking on relevant metrics”.


Farms are getting more complex

As farms in Australia become larger and more complex, often with significant capital investment, farmers are increasingly turning to farm advisors (Newsome et. al. 2018; Kingwell 2011) and often forming long standing, productive relationships (Nettle 2019).

Farm organisation has shifted too, from being mainly owner-operator to farmers employing staff and managing complex enterprises (Dockes et. al, 2018).

This has brought increased scope for farm advisors, who traditionally provided agronomic or technical advice, but now also occupy spaces around labour, health and safety, regulations, finance and sustainability (Dockes et. al, 2018).

Increasing consumer demands is also leading to the expansion of value chains, an increased focus on natural resource management and social licence, again, leading to an increased need for agribusiness expertise (Bassett et. al, 2022).


Where to now?

The Vic Hub held a Webinar (above) and Think Tank in July 2022 to identify tangible outcomes to help improve knowledge sharing amongst farm advisors and farmer business acumen to ultimately improve farm businesses.

To do this, we will be utilising our network of universities and farming groups to come up with and test ideas and outcomes addressing this issue.

We will update this space with further resources and outcomes derived from the Think Tank as they are developed.  So stay tuned!

ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics) 2022, “Farm performance: broadacre and dairy farms 2019-20 to 2021-2022”, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, viewed July 3 2022, https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/research-topics/surveys/farm-performance

Bassett K, Newsome L, Sheridan A & Azeem, M.M 2022, “Characterizing the Changing Profile of employment in Australian Agriculture,” Journal of Rural Studies, vol.89, pp. 316-327

Dockes A.C, Chauvat, S, Correa, P, Turlot, A & Nettle, R 2018, "Advice and Advisory Roles about work on farms," Agronomy for Sustainable Development, vol. 39, viewed June 30 2022 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-018-0547-x

Halabi, Abdel & Carroll, Brendan, 2015), “Increasing the usefulness of farm financial information and management,” Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal. 10. 227-242. 10.1108/QROM-07-2014-1240.

Kingwell, R 2011, ‘Managing complexity in modern farming’, Australian Journal of Agricultural & Resource Economics, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 12–34, viewed 4 July 2022, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=56943539&site=eds-live&scope=site

Kingwell, RD & Xayavong, V 2017, ‘How drought affects the financial characteristics of Australian farm businesses,’ Australian Journal of Agricultural & Resource Economics, vol. 61, no.3, pp.344-33

Pottinger 2020, On-farm financial risk management project: Sub-project: Education and Awareness, National Farmers Federation, accessed April 30, 2022, https://nff.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Sub-project-4-Education-and-awareness.pdf

Rural Bank 2022, ‘Australian Agriculture Outlook 2022’, Rural Bank, viewed 2 July 2022, https://www.ruralbank.com.au/siteassets/_documents/publications/ag-outlook/2022-outlook-report.pdf

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Projects

Farm Finances and Drought: Examining the role of farm advisors

Aim: To bring all Hub partners together, plus key industry and researcher guests to come up with ways to improve linkages and the overall role of farm advisors, to enhance the resilience of farm businesses.
Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 9