Grounding the financialization of farmland: perspectives on financial actors as new land owners in rural Australia
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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).
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