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Abstract

Foreign investment can provide a flow of capital into Australian agriculture and has played an important role meeting the shortfalls in domestic savings throughout Australia’s history. Despite the political and media attention on foreign investment in agriculture, there is little knowledge about stakeholders’ perceptions of foreign investment in their community. This study assesses the opinions of farmers about foreign investment in the Wheatbelt. We investigate the economic, social and environmental opportunities and challenges associated with foreign investment. Interviews with agricultural experts identified three main operating structures of foreign investment: own-operate, own-lease and own-sharefarm. Semi-structured interviews with farmers in the WA Wheatbelt revealed that farmers generally have positive attitudes towards foreign investment, although there were clear advantages and disadvantages associated with the different operating structures. Overall, foreign investment was found to offer opportunities for capital injection, natural resource management, employment and community support in the Wheatbelt. This study provides evidence that, contrary to much speculation in the media, foreign investment is not having a detrimental effect on farmers and rural communities in the study locations.

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