Farming action needed to avoid major profit decline

Farmer in the field. | Newsreel
Farmers have been warned they face major profit declines without innovation. | Photo: pixdeluxe (iStock)

The Australian farming industry has been warned that it requires urgent action to avoid a 50 percent decline in profitability over the next 30 years.

The CSIRO’s Ag2050 Scenarios Report, released today, said agricultural innovation would need to be accelerated to achieve productive, resilient and sustainable farming systems by 2050.

CSIRO Futures’ Agriculture and Food Lead Dr Katherine Wynn said the report should serve as a call to action for the agricultural sector.

“The decline in farm profitability over the last two decades is a stark warning sign, with projections indicating decline by up to 50 percent in some areas by 2050,” Dr Wynn said.

“However, our research offers an optimistic outlook, and indicates Australia can achieve productive, sustainable and resilient farming systems if we act now to facilitate long-term transformative change in agricultural innovation.”

The CSIRO report was created with more than 100 industry stakeholders. It explores “a range of significant trends, risks, opportunities and actions needed to support Australian farming systems into the future.”

“While Australian farming – including forestry and fisheries – has seen several years of high yield as of early 2024, some key challenges threaten ongoing prosperity,” the report says.

“The challenges already impacting farming systems include climate change, emissions reduction needs, supply chain disruptions, workforce access, changing consumer preferences, maintaining market access, and long innovation timelines.”

The report outlines four future scenarios for Australian farming systems by 2050:

  • Regional Ag capitals – a consolidated and technologically advanced sector, thriving and prioritising food and fibre security.
  • Landscape stewardship – a forward-thinking sector embracing new opportunities and novel technologies, allowing the environment to flourish.
  • Climate survival – a sector focused on climate adaptation and incremental changes allowing it to survive.
  • System decline – a sector failing to address growing challenges and at a tipping point.

“The four scenarios are designed to prompt collaborative conversations among industry, researchers, and other stakeholders to envision, deliberate, and plan strategic actions for the future of farming we aspire to achieve,” Dr Wynn said.

The Ag2050 Scenarios Report is the first phase of CSIRO’s Ag2050 program aimed at “identifying interventions, innovations, and support necessary for a productive, resilient, and sustainable future for Australian agriculture”.

The full report is on the CSIRO website.