Grounding the financialization of farmland: perspectives on financial actors as new land owners in rural Australia
- 660 Downloads
Sparked by the conjunction of food, fuel, and financial crises, there has been an increasing awareness in recent years of the scarce and finite character of natural resources. Productive resources such as agricultural land have been touted by financial actors—such as merchant banks, pension funds, and investment companies—as providing the basis for a range of new “alternative” financial asset classes and products. While the drivers, motives, and rationales behind the increasing interest of turning farmland into a financial asset class have been traced by a number of scholars, the interpretations of, and interactions with, financial actors at the community level have received less attention. Based on qualitative research in rural Australia, this paper reveals the grounds on which finance-backed investments have been accepted and accommodated by communities in rural Australia and delineates the reasons that have led to feelings of unease or refusal. The paper thereby demonstrates that the financialization of farmland is neither abstract nor one-sided but rather a multidimensional process that not only includes financial actors but also the impacted rural populations in various ways. Positioning the activities of financial actors in Australia within the emerging research on the financialization of farmland, the paper endorses context-sensitive analyses to better interpret these recent transformations of the agri-food system.
KeywordsFinancialization of farmland Rural landownership change Community perspectives Australia
We thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editor of this journal for their constructive comments and helpful suggestions. The research presented in this paper was part-funded by the Australian Research Council (Project Nos. DP 110102299 and DP 160101318). The fieldwork was part-funded by an LDPI small grant Dr. Sarah Ruth Sippel received from the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Emeritus Professor Lawrence was part-funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2010-330-00159) and the Norwegian Research Council (FORFOOD Project No 220691).
- ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). 2012. Australian farming and farmers. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Dec+2012. Accessed 7 April 2016.
- Arrighi, G. 1994. The long twentieth century: Money, power, and the origins of our times. London/New York: Verso.Google Scholar
- Broadbent, J., and B. Pritchard. 2011. Is farmland “up for grabs”? Patterns of land ownership in rural NSW. Farm Policy Journal 8(2): 11–19.Google Scholar
- Brunson, M.W. 1993. “Socially acceptable” forestry: What does it imply for ecosystem management? Western Journal of Applied Forestry 8(4): 116–119.Google Scholar
- CEWO (Commonwealth Environmental Water Office). 2015. Macquarie catchment. http://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/catchment/macquarie. Accessed 5 November 2015.
- Clyde Agriculture. 2011–2012. Home: The sale of Clyde agriculture. http://clydeag.com.au/index.shtml. Accessed 2 March 2012.
- DIPNR (Department of Infrastructure, Planning, and Natural Resources). 2004. A guide to the water sharing plan for the Macquarie and Cudgegong regulated rivers water source. Sydney.Google Scholar
- Ducastel, A., and W. Anseeuw. 2016. Agriculture as an asset class: Reshaping the South African farming sector. Agriculture and Human Values (published online 18 January 2016). doi: 10.1007/s10460-016-9683-6.
- Epstein, G. 2005. Introduction: Financialization and the world economy. In Financialization and the world economy, ed. G. Epstein, 3–16. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
- Eves, C., and M. Painter. 2008. A comparison of farmland returns in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and United States. Australian and New Zealand Property Journal 1(7): 588–598.Google Scholar
- Gertel, J., and S.R. Sippel. 2016. The financialization of agriculture and food. In International handbook of rural studies, ed. M. Shucksmith, and D.L. Brown, 215–226. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Gray, I., and G. Lawrence. 2001. A future for regional Australia: escaping global misfortune. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Hassad Australia. 2015. Properties and production focus. http://www.hassad.com.au/Properties.aspx. Accessed 16 October 2015.
- Hassad Food. 2011. Inspired for success. Annual report 2010. Doha.Google Scholar
- Hassad Food. n.d. Investors. http://www.hassad.com/Aboutus/invstors/tabid/187/language/en-US/Default.aspx. Accessed 30 July 2014.
- Hersperger, A.M., M.-P. Gennaio, P.H. Verburg, and M. Bürgi. 2010. Linking land change with driving forces and actors: Four conceptual models. Ecology and Society 15(4): Art. 1. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art1/. Accessed 1 April 2016.
- HighQuest Partners. 2010. Private financial sector investment in farmland and agricultural infrastructure. OECD Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Working Papers 33, OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
- Jepps, L. 2015. Revision to the foreign investment regime in Australia. http://www.ah.com.au/_uploads/documents/Revision%20to%20the%20Foreign%20Investment%20Regime%20in%20Australia.pdf. Accessed 28 March 2016.
- John Swire & Sons Ltd. 2012. About Swire headquarters. http://www.swire.com/eng/about/headquarters.htm. Accessed 2 March 2012.
- Keogh, M. 2014a. Optimizing Australian agriculture’s comparative advantage. Farm Policy Journal 11: 1–7.Google Scholar
- Keogh, M., and Tomlinson, A. 2014. Australia has an open door for foreign investment, but voters hold the keys. http://www.farminstitute.org.au/newsletter/2014/February_2014/February_2014_featurearticle.html. Accessed 22 February 2016.
- Kitney, D. 2013. Twynam hangs urban hopes on hybrid house. The Australian Business Review. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/property/twynam-hangs-urban-hopes-on-hybrid-house/story-fn9656lz-1226594300648. Accessed 30 July 2015.
- Krippner, G.R. 2011. Capitalizing on crisis: The political origins of the rise of finance. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Lang, T., and M. Heasman. 2015. Food wars: The global battle for mouths, minds, and markets, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Lawrence, G., and H. Campbell. 2014. Neoliberalism in the antipodes: Understanding the influence and limits of the neoliberal political project. In The neoliberal regime in the agri-food sector: Crisis, resilience, and restructuring, ed. S.A. Wolf, and A. Bonanno, 263–283. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Luyt, I., N. Santos, and A. Carita. 2013. Emerging investment trends in primary agriculture: A review of equity funds and other foreign-led investments in the CEE and CIS Region. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Google Scholar
- Martin, R. 2002. Financialization of daily life. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
- McKenzie, F. 2014. Trajectories of change in rural landscapes: The end of the mixed farm? In Rural change in Australia: population, economy, environment, ed. R. Dufty-Jones, and J. Connell, 151–167. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
- McManus, P., J. Walmsley, N. Argent, S. Baum, L. Bourke, J. Martin, B. Pritchard, and T. Sorensen. 2012. Rural community and rural resilience: What is important to farmers in keeping their country towns alive? Journal of Rural Studies 28(1): 20–29. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mercer, A., K. de Rijke, and W. Dressler. 2014. Silences in the boom: Coal seam gas, neoliberalizing discourse, and the future of regional Australia. Journal of Political Ecology 21: 279–302.Google Scholar
- Murphy, S., D. Burch, and J. Clapp. 2012. Cereal secrets: The world’s largest grain traders and global agriculture. Oxfam: Oxfam Research Report.Google Scholar
- MDBA (Murray-Darling Basin Authority). 2010. Guide to the proposed Basin Plan. http://www.mdba.gov.au/kid/guide/. Accessed 15 October 2015.
- Painter, M., and C. Eves. 2008. The financial gains from adding farmland to an international investment portfolio. Journal of Real Estate Portfolio Management 14(1): 63–73.Google Scholar
- Paraway Pastoral. 2016. http://www.parawaypastoral.com/about/. Accessed 1 April 2016.
- Plunkett, B. 2015. PrimeAg Australia 2007–13: A suitable structure for long term investment in agriculture? Australasian Agribusiness Review 23: 26–35.Google Scholar
- PRD Nationwide. 2012. Foreign ownership of primary production land in NSW. First Quarter 2012.Google Scholar
- Pritchard, B., M. Neave, D. Hickey, and L. Troy. 2012a. Rural land in Australia: A framework for the measurement and analysis of nationwide patterns of ownership change, aggregation, and fragmentation. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication No. 12/038.Google Scholar
- Pritchard, B., M. Neave, D. Hickey, and L. Troy. 2012b. Rural land in New South Wales: spatial patterns of ownership change, aggregation, and fragmentation. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication No. 12/128.Google Scholar
- Russi, L. 2013. Hungry capital: The financialization of food. Winchester/Washington: Zero Books.Google Scholar
- Sanyal, K. 2014. Foreign investment in Australian agriculture. http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/library/prspub/3006295/upload_binary/3006295.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf. Accessed 22 February 2016.
- Savills Research. 2012. International farmland: Focus 2012. London: Savills.Google Scholar
- Schweinsberg, S.C., S.L. Wearing, and S. Darcy. 2012. Understanding communities’ views of nature in rural industry renewal: the transition from forestry to nature-based tourism in Eden, Australia. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 20(2): 195–213. doi: 10.1080/09669582.2011.596278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sippel, S.R., G. Lawrence, and D. Burch. forthcoming 2016. The financialization of farming: The Hancock company of Canada and its embedding in rural Australia. In Rural change and global processes, ed. M. Miele, V. Higgins, H. Bjørkhaug, and M. Truninger. Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
- The Treasury. 2015. Government tightens rules on foreign purchases of agricultural land. Media Release, 11 February 2015. http://jbh.ministers.treasury.gov.au/media-release/005-2015/. Accessed 15 October 2015.
- TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America–College Retirement Equities Fund). 2015. Responsible investment in farmland. 2015 report on ethical conduct and responsible stewardship of the environment. https://www.tiaa.org/public/pdf/C26304_2015_Farmland_Report.pdf. Accessed 1 April 2016.
- WAAM (Westchester Agriculture Asset Management). 2016. Company profile. http://www.wgimglobal.com/company-profile. Accessed 2 March 2016.
- WAAM (Westchester Agriculture Asset Management). 2014. Global Thoughts: 4(2), Champaign.Google Scholar
- WAAM (Westchester Agriculture Asset Management). 2011. Global Thoughts: 1(2), Champaign.Google Scholar
- WSC (Warren Shire Council). 2015. Warren Shire Council, Community Profile. http://www.communityprofile.com.au/warren/. Accessed 15 October 2015.