There’s More than One Type of Farmer: Acknowledging Farmers’ Diversity – An Australian Perspective

By Geoff Kuehne, Henning Bjornlund and Brian Cheers.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Farmers are heterogeneous, but policy makers are often accused of treating them as a homogenous group. Very different factors influence their decision making and their responses to new policy instruments.
The re-allocation of water among competing uses has become increasingly necessary. Demands are now being placed on the irrigation sector to provide water for urban, recreational, and environmental purposes, making it more important to ensure effective communication between policymakers and irrigators. The shortcoming of the current one-size-fits-all approach to water management and planning is that it can only really be effective for some. This creates the potential for avoidable conflicts between users, sub-optimal outcomes and significant social and community impacts.
Irrigators in Australia’s Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area are facing significant reductions in water allocation due to government rehabilitation and restructuring program as well as drought. An assumption behind the government policy is that irrigators are a homogenous group who will respond to these reductions in an economically rational fashion. Irrigators, however, have indicated that they do not intend to behave in this way.
This research explores the non-economic factors influencing farmers’ decision-making and behaviors and determines whether they can be classified into a typology. Our findings suggest three groups - Custodians, Investors & Lifestyler, with farmers’ positions being determined by their values, attitudes and goals concerning family, land, water, profit and community.
Benefits of this research are that policy makers and service providers will be better placed to communicate with farmers by employing more targeted and better informed approaches. Consequently, the management responses of irrigators are more likely to be in line with policy expectations minimizing the economic, social, environmental, and political impacts of the water reforms.

Keywords: Classification of Farmers, Farmers’ Typology, Water Policy

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.179-186. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 610.439KB).

Dr Geoff Kuehne

PhD Student, Centre for Regulation and Market Analysis, School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Geoff has had a twenty-five year career as a wheat and sheep farmer in South Australia. After selling his farming interests he embarked on an MBA with the University of South Australia. He is the recipient of a PhD scholarship with the purpose of researching irrigators management response to reduced water entitlements. His research interests are in the areas of identifying and exploring the values and attitudes of farmers and how this influences their decison making behaviour; also how these values and attitudes are formed, how entrenched they are and how they can be changed.

Henning Bjornlund

University of South Australia and University of Lethbridge, Australia

Prof. Brian Cheers

Professor of Community Development, Centre for Rural Health and Community Development, University of South Australia, Australia


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