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Grazing and overgrazing (1)

Grazing and overgrazing (1)

Most of us have no idea how destructive Australian grazing practices really are. Enormous areas of Australia are set aside for grazing — essentially all the parts that can possibly support sheep or cattle and are not fertile enough to crop. The natural assumption we make when we glance at a map is that this massive amount of land produces an equally massive contributon to our agricultural output. In fact, nearly all of our farm produce comes from relatively fertile areas like Gippsland, New England, and the Riverina.

The vast semi-arid rangelands generally do not produce enough to pay for all the inputs to them. A good year can be profitable, but there are more bad years than good and most landholders work very long hours for less than the basic wage. Take away the various government subsidies (ranging from diesel fuel rebate to satellite internet) and the reaity is that land like this operates at a loss: if it was a factory, it would have been be closed down years ago.

Meanwhile, the struggling farmer does whatever it takes to make a quid and keep the bank at bay for one more year. Far too often, this means running more stock than the country can sustain.