Constructing reform: economic expertise and the governing of agricultural change in Australia
Higgins, V, Constructing reform: economic expertise and the governing of agricultural change in Australia, Nova Science Publishers, United States, pp. 170. ISBN 1590336046 (2002) [Authored Research Book]
The productivity and efficiency of farmers in both Australia and other Western nations has assumed increasing significance on the formal political agenda since the 1960s. Economic changes at both the international and national level have raised questions among economists, farm organizations and state agencies concerning the capacity of some farmers to be able to earn an adequate income, and thereby contribute to national agricultural output and efficiency. While these concerns have contributed to policies of farm subsidization in Europe, Britain and the United States, Australia has taken a somewhat different path. Farm reconstruction and adjustment programs were created from the early-1970s that sought to ‘restructure’ the farm sector by encouraging so-called ‘unviable’ farmers to exit the industry while providing incentives for remaining producers to improve their productivity.
Economists in both the public service and academic institutions have welcomed such policies arguing that intervention in assisting processes of ‘adjustment’ makes agricultural resources available for those farmers who will use them in the most efficient manner, while ensuring also that the welfare needs of unviable farmers are met (eg. Standen and Musgrave, 1969; Harris, 1970; Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1973, 1974; Kingma and Samuel, 1977; Musgrave, 1990; Gow, 1996; Malcolm, Davidson and Vandenburg, 2000). According to this perspective, restructuring of the farm sector is an inevitable consequence of market-driven processes that needs to be theorized and studied so that both governments and farmers can be informed on how to manage it efficiently. Agricultural economists are accorded a central role in ‘discovering’ the causes of viability problems, and in diagnosing solutions that smooth seemingly inevitable, and external, processes of change. The broad aim of this book is to explore the events, techniques and forms of calculation through which economic expertise in Australia has come to assume increased authority on matters of agricultural change, and the consequences of this for how strategies of ‘restructuring’ are assembled as objects of knowledge.