Nuffield scholar: Damian Murphy

Damian Murphy, from Dumbalk North in Victoria, received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

“It’s clear there is a need for people to progress through agriculture; living and bringing up their family in the country, while contributing to the economic growth of Australia. If we don't have this progression, who will have the combination of skills, knowledge and assets to feed the world and provide food security for Australia?”

Research to address the future of farming

Damian's report ‘Young Farmer Finance Schemes’ gained quite a lot of media attention – addressing the well-documented concerns of an ageing industry with significant barriers to entry for young people.

His report’s executive summary reads “There is a lot of discussion about the image of agriculture and how it can be improved. One of the ways this can be assisted is by providing a financial pathway for the next generation where as an industry there is support, encouragement and an understanding that there is a need to be more inclusive.”

With an ageing Australian farming population reaching retirement years, the agriculture industry is due for dramatic change. However, financing to get started in farming is a massive hurdle and makes it extremely difficult for young enthusiastic farmers to enter the sector.

Financing farms a major barrier for the next generation

Damian embarked on his Nuffield scholarship year with the aim to investigate different finance models and schemes around the world for young farmers building their agriculture assets.

While there is a Young Farmer Finance Scheme in Victoria, Damian would like to see a more dynamic program, saying “I hope my study will allow me to design a scheme that covers the finance needs of young entrants to agriculture right through to the possibilities of equity partnerships and farm ownership.”

“Finance is relevant to nearly every farmer no matter what commodity they produce. For the next generation of farmers the amount of equity needed to be in a position to purchase a farm can be quite daunting – of course this does not mean it can’t be done but is becoming harder” Damian says.

An inter-generationa solution was developed

Damian left his northernVictoria dairy farm and travelled through Europe, the US, South America and New Zealand for his research.

While on his Nuffield travels Mr Murphy discovered a promising loan program in Canada called Transition Loans, which had real advantages for start-up farmers, greatly helping with cashflow.

Referencing the Canadian model, Damian proposed a scheme to help young farmers get into the agriculture industry here in Australia. His ‘future farmers fund’ would be established with money held by older farmers in Farm Management Deposits. These farmers would could choose to invest a percentage of their funds into the FFF, maybe even treating the account similar to a superannuation fund. Mr Murphy believed that older farmers would be happy to lend their savings to help sustain the next generation of farmers.

Watch Damian’s presentation of his report on Vimeo.

Watch a video report from the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Age article: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/future-fund-urged-to-give-young-farmers-a-legup-on-the-land-20140518-38hyk.html

And read Damian's full report here.