From rainfall to farm incomes-transforming advice for Australian drought policy. II. Forecasting farm incomes
Nelson, R and Kokic, P and Meinke, HB, From rainfall to farm incomes-transforming advice for Australian drought policy. II. Forecasting farm incomes, Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 58, (10) pp. 1004-1012. ISSN 0004-9409 (2007) [Refereed Article]
Australian drought policy is focussed on providing relief from the immediate effects of drought on farm incomes, while enhancing the longer term resilience of rural livelihoods. Despite the socioeconomic nature of these objectives, the information systems created to support the policy have focussed almost exclusively on biophysical measures of climate variability and its effects on agricultural production. In this paper, we demonstrate the ability of bioeconomic modelling to overcome the moral hazard and timing issues that have led to the dominance of these biophysical measures. The Agricultural Farm Income Risk Model (AgFIRM), developed and tested in a companion paper, is used to provide objective, model-based forecasts of annual farm incomes at the beginning of the financial year (July-June). The model was then used to relate climate- induced income variability to the diversity of farm income sources, a practical measure of adaptive capacity that can be positively influenced by policy. Three timeless philosophical arguments are used to discuss the policy relevance of the bioeconomic modelling. These arguments are used to compare the value to decision makers of relatively imprecise, integrative information, with relatively precise, reductionist measures. We conclude that the evolution of bioeconomic modelling systems provides an opportunity to refocus the analytical support for Australian drought policy towards the rural livelihood effects that matter most to governments and rural communities.