Time series data on farm profitability for Australia and South Australia from ABARE’s farm surveys, shows a minority of businesses consistently profitable and a majority not. The paper finds evidence of prevalent and persistent negative farm profit in both available long-run data (1990-2007) and more recent data (2006-09). Trends in several structural change elements, productivity, farm size and age of operators, are also examined to aid the interpretation of farm economic performance in agri-food. The paper concludes with several contemporary examples of public policy distorting the structure and performance of the farm sector and spoiling the usefulness of profitability as an indicator of sectoral performance. Policies on hobby farming tax benefits, drought, and agribusiness managed investment schemes policy are discussed in this context


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