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Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries - Royal Commission - First Report

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1932-3 3-34.






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GEORGE THE FIFTH, by tho Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the :Faith, Emperor of India.

To Our Trusty and Well-beloved:


Sm HERBERT WILLIAM GEPP, Knight, ConsuJt,ant on Development to the Co=onwealth Govermuent ; THOMAS STANLEY CHEADLE, Esquire, Past-oral Company Director;

CHARLES WALTER HARPER, Esquire, Company Director ;

EmvARD PATRICK MICHAEL SHEEDY, Esquire, Pellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Australia), Fellow of the Society of Accountants and Auditors (England) ; and PROFESSOR Sal\!UEL MacMAHON \V ADHAM, M.A., Professor of Agriculture, University of Melbourne.

·wHEREAS by the Constitution of Our Commonwealth of Australia it is provided ('inter alia) that the Parliament of Our said Commonwealth may make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Our sai

AND WHEREAS by the Constitution of Our said Commonwealth the Parliament of Our said Commonwealth has exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order a.nd good government of Our said Commonwealth with respect to bounties on the production or export of goods:

AND 'WHEREAS questions have arisen with respect to the payment of bou11tics for the assistance of wheat-growers and with respect to the effect of tax?.tion under the laws of Our said Commonwealth upon the industries of growing, handling and marketing wheat, manufacturing flour and other commod,itios from wheat and manufacturing, distributing and selling bread:

NOW THEREFORE WE do by these Our Letters P8,tent, issued in Our name bv Our Governor-General in and over Our Commonwealth of Australia, acting tho advice of Our Fmlcral Executive Council, pursuance of the Constitution of Our said Commonwealth, the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1933, aml all other powers him thereunto enabling, e,ppoint you to be Commissioners to constitute a Commission to inquire into and report upon the economic position of the industries of growing, handling and marketing wheat, manufacturing flour and other commodities from wheat, and manufactttriEg, distributing and seHing bread:

AND WE APPOINT YOU the said SIR l-IERBERT WILLIAM GEPP to be the Chairman of Our said Commission:

AND 'VE DIRECT that, any one or each of you Our said Co•nmissioners, together with any other one of you Our

said Commissioners--( a) may, if so directed in writing by the Chairman of Our said Commission after consultation between all of you Our said Commissioners, inquire into and take evidence upon any matter ontrusted to you Our Commissioners by these Our Letters Patont-

{i) either as to the whole or any pMt of that matter; or (ii) in respect of any State or part of the Commonwealth, r.s specified in the said direction;

(b) shall, for all purposes relating to the taking of evidence in pursuance of any such direction, constitute a quorum; and that the Chairman of Our said Commission may, if and when he thinks proper, sit with and take part in the proceedings of any two of you Our said Commissioners when taking evidence in pursuance of any such direction;

Provided that all of yon Our said Commissioners shall report upon each matter entruoted to you by these Our Letters Patent;

AND REQUIRE YOU with as little dcby as possible to report to Our Go ·1ernor-General in a:1d over Our said Commonwealth the result of your inquiries into the matten entrusted to you by these Our Letters Pittent :

IN TESTI'.lONY WHEREOF WE have caused these Our Letters to be made patent and the Heal of Our said Commonwealth to be thereunto ai!ixcd.

WITNESS Our Right Trusty and Well-beloved Counsellor, Sm IsAAC ALFRED lSAACE, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Suint George, Govt'rnor-Gcnera.l and Commander-in-Chief in and over Our Commonwealth of Australia, this Twenty-fifth day of JanuMy in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred and thirty-four, and in the twenty-fourth year of Our Reign.

By His Excellency's Command, ,J. A. LYONS,

Prime MiPistcr.

ISAAC A. ISAACS, Governor-General.

Entered on record by me, in Register of Patents, No. 60, page 136, twenty-fifth day of Ja.m:<>ry, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-four. F. STRAHA__'i.



Introductory .. History of the Australian Wheat Industry Description of the Australian Wheat Belt Costs of Production of Wheat on the Farm Debt Structure of the Wheat Industry .. Assistance rendered to the Industry


Brief Survey of Suggestions submitted in Evidence Methods of Rendering Assistance to the Industry Findings and Recommendations


5 to 9

9 to 12

12 to 21

21 to 27

28 to 31

31 to 32

32 to 33

33 to 35

35 to 37

Fig. 2, showing Average Annual Rainfall Map of Australia IS not available, but will be incorporated m the Commission's Final Report.



To the Right Honorable Sm IsAAc ALFRED IsAAcs, a Member of His Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth of A 'ustralia. MAY IT PLEASE YouR ExcELLENCY :

On 25th January, 1934, by Letters Patent under your hand, this Commission was directed to inquire into and report upon the economic position of the industries of growing, handling, and marketing wheat; manufacturing flour and other commodities from wheat; and manufacturing, distributing, and selling bread.

2. The iJ,scertainment of the position of the industries of growing, handling, and marketing wheat, hereinafter referred to as the wheat industry, seemed to the Commission to be a matter of greater urgency than did the investigation of the industries of manufacturing flour and other commodities from wheat, and manufacturing, distrihuting and selling bread, which are hereinafter referred to as the flour and bread industries. It was decided, therefore, to complete the hearing

of evidence in relation to the wheat industry before entering upon the investigation of the flour and bread industries. The hearing of evidence in relation to the last-named industries has not yet been entered upon, and this Report will refer only to the wheat industry. 3. The jnvestigation entrusted to the Commission extended to all States of the

Commonwealth, and provision was made in the Letters Patent for the appointment of any two Commissioners to inquire into and take evidence as to the whole or part of the matters entrusted to the Commission or in respect of any State or part of the Commonwealth speci£.ed in the said appointment.

4. For the purpose of expedition, advantage was taken of the above provision in the Letters Patent to arrange for simultaneous investigations by two sections of the Commission in separate States or in different parts of the same State. A considerable saving of time was effected by this course.

5. It was realized eiJ,rly in the consideration of the matters referred to us for report that considerable data would have to be obtained and that, without a protracted inquiry, it would not be possible to obtain this data in evidence tendered orally to the Commission. It was thereupon decided to limit the volume of oral evidence and to obtain a large amount of information in documentary form. For this purpose a number of questionnaires was framed in order to

elicit information-A. --From officers of the Commonwealth and State Departments as to­ (i) the extent, nature and efficiency of the wheat industry; (ii) the effect of rainfall and other climatic conditions upon successful

wheat -growing ; (iii) the extent of the financial interest of the Commonwealth and the several States in the industry ; (iv) the relationship of the said industry to other primary and secondary

industries :

(v) the of the said industry to t he economic welfare of the

Commonwealth and the several St at es ; and (vi) the methods of agriculture practised and the varying factors which have influenced the development of such practices; B.-From >vheat-growers as to--

(i) the nature, efficiency, and general economy of the farming operations of individual farmers ; (ii) the extent to which wheat is grown in the C'ourse of mi.'Ced farming operations and its relationship thereto ;


(iii) the nature and value of the plant employed; (iv) the capital invested ; (v) the extent and distribut ion of t he debt structure ; (vi) the costs of producing wheat ; (vii) the effect of interest and other charges upon costs of production; and (viii) the profits or losses from farming operations ; C.-From banking and other finan cial institutions as to--

(i) the present financial position of > vheat-gTo\vers ; and (ii) the effect of the depressed prices of recen t years up on the :financial position of all parties engaged in or dependent on the industry ; D.-From traders who supply goods and farming requisites of all classes as to-

(i) the present debt position of wheat-growers ; and (ii) the effect of the depressed prices of recent years upon the debt position of wheat-growers ; E.-J!'rom State Railway Departments as to-

(i) methods of handling wheat at receiving centres in country districts, at other points of delivery within the States, and at seaports ; and (ii) rail freight rates and other clutrges in respect of wheat, flour and other products manufactured from wheat; F.--From \Vheat Merchants and Farmers' Co-operative Organizations as to­

(i) the procedure of receiving, handling, shipping and marketing wheat ; (ii) mtes of commission, brokerages, and other charges incidental to the receiving, handling and shipping of wheat ; and (iii) the costs to merchants and farmers' organizations of rendering the several

services for which charges are made.

These questionnaires were distributed widely throughout the Commonwealth, and it is desired to record appreciation of the co-operation extended to the Commission by those to whom they were forwarded. A considerable amount of data has been supplied and is now in process of collation. This data will provide the Commission ultimately '1-vith valuable informa.tion concerning all the matters which require careful consideration in such an economic investigation as that with which the Commission has been entrusted.

6. After the form in which the documentary evidence was to be supplied had been settled, and the persons, companies, and organizations who should be asked to supply the information had been determined upon, all of which required numerous conferences ·with Commonwealth and State Departments, Banking and other institutions, traders' and farmers' organizations and others, the Commission proceeded to arrange for the hearing of oral evidence at public sittings.

7. On the 26th February, one section of the Commission commenced the he?..ring of evidence in Sydney, New South Wales, and, on the 27th February, the other section entered upon the taking of evidence in Perth, Western Australia. From that time onward, the two sections of the Commission have conducted, simultaneously, the investigation into the wheat industry. Oral evidence was received, either in public or in private, in the capital cities of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, \Vestern Australia and Queensland, and information has also been obtained from Tasmania.

The Commission also heard evidence at the following country centres:--New Sotdh Berrigan, Wagga Wagga, Temora, Lake Cargelligo,

Parkes and Dubbo. Victoria.- Horsham, Warracknabeal, Wycheproof, Bendigo, Numurkah, Redcli:ffs, Werrimull, Kaniva and Ouyen. South Australia.--Cummins, Poochera, Kimba, Quorn, Booleroo Centre, Brinkworth,

Loxton, Karoonda and Bordertown. Western Australia.- Geraldton, Morawa , Bencubbin, Moorine Rock, Kondinin, Lake Grace, Gnowangerup, Qnairading and Cunderdin. Queensland. - Toowoomba aud Warwick.

The witnesses examined to date have numbered 502. All the principal wheat-growing areas in the Commonwealth were thus visited, and, on these visits, opportunity \Vas taken to make inspections of a large number of farms chosen at random.


8. The services of Mr. J. S. Duncan, Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for New South Wales, and a Barrister-at-Law, were made available by the Commonwealth Government, and Mr. Duncan appeared at its sittings to assist the Commission. In the organization, presentation and subsequent collation of the large volume of evidence submitted to the

Commission, Mr. Duncan was assisted bv Mr. J. JVI. Mills of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor's . ' office. 9. Applications were made and granted by the Commission to allo\v organizations substantially or directly interested to be represented from time to time before the Commission

as follow :--Mr. \V. C. Cambridge, M.L.C., represented the Farmers' and Settlers' Association of New South \Vales, the Primary Producers' Union of New South \:Vales, and the Agricultural Bureaux of New South Wales. Mr. G. McM. Betty represented the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Sailors

and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. Mr. J. Israel represented the Master Bakers' Association of New South Wales. Mr. C. R. Hall represented the Baking Industry Employers' Association of New South Wales, associated with the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales.

Mr. J. L. Raith represented the Automatic Breadmaking Company Limited, of Sydney. Mr. -w. B. Heid represented the Baking Trade Employees' Association of Australasia. Mr. A. C. J elfs represented the Flour Millers' Association of New South Wales. Mr. R. D. Westmore represented the New Wales United Farmers' Defence

Association. Mr. H. V. Howe represented the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales. Mr. J. H. Hill represented the Lake Cargelligo Branch of the New South \Vales Wheat-growers' Union at Lake Cargelligo.

Mr. G. E. Morgan represented the New South Wales Wheat-growers' Union at Parkes. The Hon. A. S. Hodgers represented the Victorian Chamber of Agriculture and the Primary Producers' Restoration League. Mr. R. A. S. Dickinson represented the Victorian Branch of the Returned Sailors

and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. Mr. J. A. Gray, M.L.A., represented the Melbourne Corn Exchange. Mr. J. Gatehouse represented the Victorian Mill Owners' Association. Mr. E. J. Tinkler represented the Victorian Master Bakers' Council.

Mr. A. L. Bussau, M.L.A., represented the Victorian \Vheat-growers' Association and the Australian Wheat-growers' Federation. Mr. P. P. Purves represented the forty-second District Board of Delegates of the Victorian Branch Heturned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia.

Mr. E. Reseigh represented the Victorian Country Party. Mr. R. C. Tilt represented the Victorian Wheat-growers' Corporation. Mr. A. C. Cameron, M.P., represented the South Australian Parliamentary Wheat Committee, the Agricultural Bureaux of South Australia, the Wheat-growers'

Association of South Australia, and Wheat Producers' Freedom League of South Australia, the South Australian Branch of the Heturned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League 0f Australia, the South Australian Co-operative Wheat-growers' and the South Australian Farmers' Union. Mr. T. C. Stott, M.P., represented the Murray Lands Division of the South Australian

\Vheat-growers' Association at Loxton and Karoonda. Mr. E. Heindorfl represented the Master Bakers' Association of Queensland.

10. The various organizations especially interested in the subJect matter of the investigation were enabled to submit comprehensive statements through one or more witnesses. By this means, the Commission received valuable evidence submitted on behalf of the following organizations :--

The Farmers and Settlers' Association of New South Wales. The New South \Vales Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. The Agricultural Bureaux of New South W"'ales.

The New South Wales United Farmers' Defence Association.


The Joint Committee for Tariff Revision on which are represented­ The Sydney Chamber of Commerce, The Graziers' Association of New South Wales, The Farmers and Settlers' Association of New South Wales, The Retail Traders' Association of New South Wales, The New South Wales ·wholesale Softgoods Association. The Federated Tariff Reform Organizations of Australia. The Farmers and Graziers' Association of New South Wales. The Australian Wool and Wheat Stabilization Association,

The 1\Tfieat-growers' Union of New South Wales, The Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, The Victorian Chamber of Agriculture, The Primary Producers' Restoration League, The Jute Section of the Melbourne Corn Exchange, The Australian Wheat-growers' Federation, The Victorian Wheat-growers' Association, The Victorian Country Party, The Victorian Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of

Australia, The forty-second District Council of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia, · The Agricultural Bureaux of South Australia, The Wheat-growers' Association of South Australia. The Wheat Producers' Freedom League of South Australia, The Parliamentary Wheat Committee of the Liberal and Country Parties of South

Australia, The South Australian Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia, The Standards Association of Australia, The Queensland Wheat-growers' Association, The Western Australian Primary Producers' Association, The Wheat-growers' Union of Western Australia, and Wheat Pools of the various States. 11. The number of wheat-growers in Australia may be stated to be approximately 70,000. It was essential, having regard to the fact that it was possible to hear evidence orally from only a limited number of farmers, to ensure that such evidence was truly representative of the great variety of conditions existing in the industry, and to devise means of checlring such evidence

over much wider cross sections of the farming community. Representative organizations adduced evidence orally in the metropolitan and country districts from a large number of witnesses nominated by them. The Commission also enlisted the assistance of Commonwealth and State Departments, financial organizations and traders in the selection of a number of independent

witnesses. The Commission also called a number of witnesses to assist it in ascertaining facts and in reaching conclusions. Information collected in the form of answers to questionnaires from persons located in the principal wheat-gmw:ing districts of the Commonwealth was also used in association with the oral evidence in ascertaining the economic position of the industry. The Commission is satisfied that, by the means adopted, reliable data has been collected.

12. The members of the Commission interviewed wheat-growers on their farms in the course of unannounced inspections, in order to amplify and check evidence received both orally and in documentary form. This procedure proved valuable and inform'ltive. The Commission was impressed by the care and completeness with which evidence tendered orally and in documentary form was submitted.

13. The e'\ridenc.e of Senior Officers of State Departments of Agriculture and of representatives of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was especially helpful and also assisted in giving to the Commission an authenticandcomprehensive indication of the extent of the industry and its present position.

14. Similarly, evidence tendered by Senior Officers of other Commonwealth and State Departments assisted the Commission on important aspects of its inquiry, and it is desired to express appreciation of the services rendered by these officers.


. 15. It was apparent to the Commission at an early stage that the position of the wheat mdustry in Australia was affected greatly by conditions in other wheat-producing and/ or wheat­ consuming countries . It became imperative, therefore, to seek information from overseas. From various sources, a considerable quantity of valuabie data has been gathered which has :Qroved of great help in keeping the Commission in touch with conditions and developments likely to influence the situation in Australia. ·

16. The staff of the Commission ·will be occupied for some time in the examination, dissection, and compilation of the data collected, and it will be imnossible to present a h


compre ensive report on various important aspects of the economic position of the industry until the results of this work are available. In view, however, of the gel.1eral situation disclosed, the Commission has decided to present a first report wh ich will deal with the following matters :-History of the Australian \Vheat Industry;

Description of t he Australian Wheat Belt; Costs of Production of Wheat on the Farm ; Debt Structure of the Wheat Industry; Assistance rendered to the Tndustry;

Brief Survey of Suggestions submitted in E vidence ; Methods of rendering assistance to the Industry ; Findings and Recommendations.



1. During the early period of settlement in Australia the varieties of wheat used were mainly imported from Britain. These varieties were more suited to the latitude, dim?vte and soils of Tasmania than to the conditions obtaining in the coastal areas of New South Wales. Consequently, Tasmania developed an important wheat industry which in many seasons was the chief source of supply for t he mainland.

2. The next phase was the exploitation of good soil areas in the coastal regions of the mainland, particularly that most fertile stretch-the Adelaide Plains. In general, and with the exception of the Adelaide Plains area, the lat er development of the industry has tumed on the expansion of the better inland soil areas constituting t he present wheat belt.

3. The expansion of the wheat industry in Australia since 1850 has fall en into five periods which conform generally to the main phases of the development of the country. Broadly stated, these are-(a) The period about 1860 when the disturbance of the agricultural economy due

to the gold discoveries was over, and rural industries were adjusting themselves to the new situation. (b) The period bet ween 1860 and 1893 when primary production was greatly stimulated by developments in transport, by the growth of population t hrough migration,

::md by the re-distribution of labour tluough the decline of surface mining. This development was interrupted by t he depression due to tbe collapse oi prices after 1890.

(c) During the period between 1893 and 1913 three outstanding developments occurred :-(i) Mechanical equipment suited to soil and surface conditions in Australia became widely employed ;

(ii) The vital significance of superphosphate in overcomin g soil deficiencies was recognized ; and (iii) New varieties of wheat suited to the environmental conditions were evolved and substituted for the varieties grown in the earlier period. As a result of these developments and of Governmental efforts directed towards closer settlement, the wheat industry gradually settled into the region where

optimum conditions obtained.

(d) The war period of 1914-1920, in which emergency expansion of a, and subsequent violent contraction a,ccompanied by rigid marketing control and both transport and labour difficulties figure largely. This period finished with another collapse in prices in 1921.


(e) The period between 1920 and 1930, characterized by expansive governmenta schemes aimed at the settling of returned soldiers and others on the land. In e.ddition the swelling tide of monetary inflation was responsible for stable prices between 4s. 6d. and 6s. a, bushel and for relatively higher prices for

other primary commodities and for wheat-growing equipment. This expansion was mainly responsible for the inflation of land values and for the expansion of acreage. During this period the area under wheat in Western Australia was trebled. Once again the cycle is completed by a disastrous fall in world prices after 1929. Figure I illustrates the changes in wheat acreage by States since 1900.

4. From the viewnoint of the ·wheat industrv each of these neriods calls for more detailed . J treatment.

(a) 1'he Ear.Zy Period.-By about 1860 \Yheat-growing had become an established industry in Australia but was in the main confined to areas near the capital cities which 1vere, of course, the main markets. The 'vvheat area of South Australia was the most important and intensive area of wheat production. It was confined to the central district between the Mount Lofty

Ranges and St. Vincent's Gulf 2.nd to the Fleurieu Peninsula. vVith the exception of South Australia the whole production was, however, scattered and desultory. The coastal districts of New South Wales were the main areas of production in that State, but a start had been made in producing wheo,t on the Western Slopes. In Victoria parts of the Central, North Central,

Northern and Western districts were becoming defined as the main areas of production. At this period Tasmanian production was as important as that of New South \Vales.

In 1861 the total acreage and production in Australia were as under:­ TABLE I.

1-Area. Production.

I Acres. Per Cent. Bushels.


New South Wales

I 128,829 20.01 1,581,600

Victoria 161,252 25.03 3,459,900

Queensland .. I 196 .03 3,140 .. i South Australia I

273,672 42.50 3,.576,600

Western Australia 13,584 2.11 208,300

Tasmania 66,450 10.32 1,415,900

Total ..

I 643,983 100.00 10,245,440


Per Cent.

15.44 33.78 .03 34.91

2.03 13.81


(b) From the Gold Rush to the Nineties.--By 1890 a very great expansion of the industry had taken place. Wheat production was now carried on in a district extending over the whole of the Central and South Western Slopes of New South Wales, but the grea,test concentration was developing in the Riverina. In -victoria a great shift in the area of production had taken place and the region north of the Divi'de, exclusive of the 1\Iallee, had now become the main home of the industry in this State. Production south of the Divide had almost ceased. In South Australia also a great expansion had taken phce in the area sown, and Yorke Peninsula and the Lower North had become important wheat-producing areas. An extension had also been made to Eyre Peninsula and the West Coast. The situation at the beginning of the nineties is shown in the following tables :--



I Production .


I Acres. I Per Cent. Bushels. Per Cent. I I I

New South W'l.lea 333,23'3


10.32 I 3,649,200 13.46 Victoria . . .. i l,l45,Hi3 ! 35.47 12,751,300 47.03 Queensland I 10,290 .32 208,000 .76 .. .. i I South Australia .. I 1,673,573 I 51.84 9,399,400 34.66 Western Australia ! 33,820 I 1.05 467,400 I. 72 I Tasmania .. i 32,452 I 1.00 643,000 2.37 , _______ 1 100.00 27,113,300 100.00 Total I 3,228,531 I


(c) the Crisis of the Nineties to the World War.-The outbreak of the 'vVorld War in 1914 marks the end of a period of experimental development, during 1vhieh new varieties of wheat were selected and bred, superphospht1.te entered largely into use, improved ma,rketing organization was making itself felt, and the mechanization of the industry hnd become pronounced. The

use of harvesting machines, stump JUmp ploughs and other improvcd implements widespread. By this date the wheat industry had settled into a definite belt where the conditions were most favourable, and considerable extensions of acreage had taken place in parts of the Mallee districts of Victoria and South Australia, including the \Vest Coast area in the latter


The greatest concentration of production had now become defined in an area stretching from Yorke Peninsula through the l\Iallee, Wimmera and lhverina areas to the North-\Vestern slopes of New South Wales. Western Australia was now coming into the picture in an increasing degree and both area and production had expanded greatly. The fluctuations in yield accompanying the expansion into the drier areas make any single year's production unreliable

as a true picture of the position. Table III. shows the average acreage ancl production for the four years 1910-11 to 1913-14 :--'l'ABLE III. ----·-------

1 Area. I l'roduction.

! ____ Acres. --P-er Cent. I I -----

' I I

New So,lth Wales Victoria Queensland .. South Australi!1

Western Australia Tasmania.


I 2,486,612 i 31.65 i 30,877,300 I 34.11

. . I 2,3o3,3os


. 29. s2 l 2s,nu,ooo 31.12

II 101,824 1.29 I 1,263,000 I 1.40

2,160,745 I 27.51 20,782,600 I 22 9(\

77l,ooo 1 9.81


___ s_,_18_9_,o_o_o __ l ___ ____ _ . . 1 33,277 . 42 69o,ooo ., I ____ _ I 7,%6,835 100.00 90,517,900 I 100.00


---------------------------'---- --- ---

(d) The War Period.-The Australian wheat acreage during the period 1914--1920 underwent a sudden expansion followed by an equally sudden contraction. The statistics of acreage and production are shown in Table IV.


1914-15 1915-lo 1916 17 1917-18

1918-19 1919-20 ..


Acreage (Thousands of Acre3), \ I

------,-------,-----;------:-:--------------! Total p Total



Acreage. , ,;eduction

New South I South . Western T . 1


OvO B. ushels. Victoria. Queensland. \ asmama \Vales. Australia. Australia. · I









\!--2,-86_4_ 121 -z--

3,680 94 2,739 1,. 1,734 ! 49 I 12,485 179,066

:;,eo6 3,126 22s 2,ns: 1,567 1 28 . n,533 152.42o

3,329 2,690 128 2,356 1,250 I 22 9,775 114,734

2,410 2,214 22 2,186 1,146 II 12 7,990 75,638

1,474 1,918 46 1,927 1,042 12 6,419 45,975


These figures reflect, firstly, the effect of war-time stimulation by a " GTow more 'Wheat" campaign, and, later, the eff.ects of. seasons and rcdistTibution connected with

the exuamion of secondary mdustnes. Ihe greater attractiveness of wool production, owincr to high prices for wool as compared. with wheat, was an important factor. It is interesting note that the acreage under wheat m 1919-20 (6,380,000 acres) ·was about 30 per cent. below the acreage of the last pre-war year 1913-14 (9,287,000 acres).

(e) From the Great War the E'conon_tic steady ,expansion is the chief feature of the industry between 1921 ana 1930. Tlus was 1argely due to tne mfiuencc of land settlement schemes for soldiers, migrants and others, by State Governments. The figures for the last five pre-crisis years are summarized in Tahie V.


TABLE V.-WHEAT ACREAGE. (Thousands of Acres.)



ew South


VIctoria. I Queensland. I South

Wale.. Australia.




2,924 2,514 I 166 2,466

3,354 2.915


57 2,768

3,031 3,064 215 2,941





218 3,446

3,976 3,566 204 3.646

5,136 I 4,600 272 4,181 I 3,684 I

3,566 249 4,071

4,807 3,231 250 4,067

4,528 I

3,053 380 3,822 ! I


Western I Tasmania. Total. Australia. I I 2,112 I

19 10,201

2,571 23 11,688



29 12,279

3,344 23 14,840


3,568 17 14,977

I 3,956 I 19



3,159 I 12 14,74J I 3,389 21 I 15,765 3,183 I 2-3 14,992 I

In 1929-30 the economic crisis occurred and in order to maintain the volume of overseas funds farmers were urged to increase their acreage. The Common wealth Government formulated a scheme for wheat marketing which involved the <:stablishment of a Commonwealth Compulsory Wheat Pool. The scheme provided for a price guarantee of 4s. per bushel at railway sidings, a11d was embodied in a Bill which was not passed by Parliament. The flexible nature of the rotation in many wheat areas enabled farmers to respond to the demand for greater volume and the area under crop expanded by more than 3,000,000 acres. The production rose to 213,000,000 bushels from the average of 141,000,000 of the four preceding years. See Table VI. The Melbourne f.o.b. price fell by about 50 per cent. in the same year.

TABLE VI.-WHEAT PRODUCTION. (Thousands of Bushels.)



Year. New South Victoria. Queensland. I


Wales. Australia.

i .I I



47,374 46,886 379 I 35,559

1927-28 27,042 26,161 3,783 I 2·1,066

1928--29 I 49,257 26,819 2,516 ! 26,826 I 1929-30 34,407 25,413 4,235 23,345 I_


Western Tasmania. Total. Australia.

30,022 I 537 160,762

36,370 I 773 118,200



445 159,679

39,018 376 126,885

-- 1930-31 65,877 53,814 5,108 34,872 1931-32 '. I 54,995 41,956 3,864 43,093 1932-33 78,870 47,843 2,494 42,430 1933-34 55,050 42,613 4,350 35,373 I 53,504 I 392 213,594 41,521 liN 190,612 Uv 41,792 I 433 213,927 I 37,53.3 450 175,370 The debacle of 1930-31 brought notable repercussions in its train, for farmers found themselves with depleted cash resources and also in instances with the system of rotation under which they had been working, seriously deranged. With these unpromising circumstances they began to face the last three years of low prices. Fortunately climatic conditions have been fairly suitable in most districts during the period. DESCRIPTION OF AUSTHALIAN WHEAT BELT. 1. Rainfall is the main controlling factor deciding the distribution of wheat-growing in Australia. In broad terms the crop is cultivated within the zone bounded by the 10-in. and 30-in. annual rainfall isohyets in the southern half of the continent. See Figure 2. Except in South Australia this zone is almost confined to the plains on the margins of the inner slopes of the coastal ranges of hills and mountains. 2. The growing season of the crop is almost invariably the winter and early spring, consequently the rainfall during that period is of more significance to wheat-growers in all districts than the total annual rainfall. The major part of the wheat belt lies in areas in which winter rainfall medominates. In northern New South \Vales and southern Queensland, however, the is C'ultivated in districts which have a maximum of rainfall in the summer. In such regions there is a carry-over of moisture in the soil which enables the crop to grmv well during the autumn and early \Vinter, and if there are moderate falls during winter and spring high yields are obtained. Even in these districts. however, there is a definite correlation between productivity and June rainfall. There are certain small areas where the crop is definitely a crop, being planted in August or September and harvested in January or February. These are, however, very small.


Figure 3 illustrates the average distribution of the rainfall in various parts of the Australian wheat belt, together with the " ideal " rainfall for the wheat crop. 3. The amount of rain necessary for the production of a crop varies. Rough

approximations have been made indicating the number of bushels which may be expected from each inch of rainfall during the growing period. But so much depends on the distribution of the rain during this season that no very accurate correlation can be expected., In addition, it seems clear from experiments and observations made at the Waite Institute, Adelaide, that the

supply of nitrogenous foods to the plant is, in some cases at least, a limiting factor and this supply is influenced by the rainfall of the summer preceding the crop. Occasionally the rainfall may be too high and so tend to depress yields. This depends largely on the soil, and no generalization can be made. There is at present evidence that it occurs in places in the southern part of the Western Australian belt, in southern and north-eastern Victoria .and parts of the Riverina.

4. The reliability of the rainfall from season to season is of great importance in a stable wheat industry. It varies very considerably from district to district as illustrated by the map in Figure 4. H the season to season fiuetuations a:re wide, resultant crop yields vary in similar manner. This causes difficulties in transport and supply; for in years of bounteous crop the

organization becomes overstrained, while in years of dearth railways and silos are relatively idle and the bag market is over-supplied. The chief disability is felt on the farms for not only is income from wheat reduced to small dimensions but the production of animal sidelines is severely handicapped, and further, the recurring disappointments lead to uncertainty and even despondency among wheat-growers. Areas of special note in this respect are (i) the North-west Mallee* in Victoria, and the adjacent northerly portion of the Murray Mallee in South Australia ;

(ii) the West Coast in South Australia; (iii) parts of the Hillston-Lake Cargelligo district in New South ·wales; of lesser importance (iv) the Esperance region in Western Australia; and (v) the Roma district of Queensland. 5. The harvest weather is of great significance. Owing to distance from overseas markets

which necessitates high freights, costs of production must be kept low ; and this necessarily demands the use of labour-saving machinery of the "stripper", "header" and "harvester" type. Such machinery can only work effectively in a dry atmosphere, consequently the extension of the belt into regions of summer rainfall is difficult. Modern mechanical developments have overcome some of the difficulties, but some trouble is to be expected about one year in five in

parts of VictoTia and the Riverina, and more frequently in the northern parts of the belt in New South Wales and Queensland. In most districts hail occurs infrequently over narrow belts during the later stages of the crop. 8. The best Australian wheat soils are of two broad types. The first comprises moderate to light loams overlying permeable clays. These occur in localities in every State. They do not

become waterlogged in wet seasons, nor set hard when dry, consequently they can be cultivated over relatively long periods of the year, and the effective area which can be cropped by one machinery and po-wer unit is large. The second broad type is a dark grey, self-mulching clay containing free calcium carbonate. The latter is typical of the "black" soils of the

\Vimmera, and of parts of the Darling Dovms; it also occurs in scattered patchee through New South Wales, but is not regarded as being the best wheat soil of that State. These latter soils are inherently very fertile and give high average yie1ds i£ the rainfall is suitable and proper cultural methods are adopted. There are probably greater difficulties in growing wheat on this" black" soil type in districts where there is a summer rainfall than where the precipitation is mainly

confined to the winter months. The crop is also grown on soils which have less generous qualities. In these districts the yields are lower ; but there are often compensating factors. Thus the lighter soils such as those of the Mallee type, and the better types of sand plain in Western Australia, are extremely

easily worked, so tbat cultivation costs are low, and, as tbe effect of occasional cropping is to enchance the carrying capacity for sheep very markedly, it is worth the farmer's vvhile to grow a crop even if the yield is only moderate. On soils which are heavier than is usually desirable high yields are obtained when seasonal conditions happen to be favourable, and if wheat prices are reasonably high, cropping may be profitable.

7. There was in more normal times a definite relationship between land pTices and suitability for wheat-growing. Thus inflated prices for land were reached in the \Vimmera, whilst in the lower north and in the central districts of South Australia, and in the better areas of the Riverina and of the South-vvestern slopes of New South \Vales, prices have also reflected

the fertility of these regions as wheat producing areas. • The term" Malice" is one which may lead to eonfusion of thought. It:1 was in connexi:m.with a gpecial type of dense vegetation consisting malnly of shrubby species of eucalyptus. The term .. .;r ap;Jlie_d w in_ wni:jh (.i_?,mina!lt. a

subdivision of the State was called ·â€¢ The 11aJlee ". In Au:stralw. an area. was ae:;i6Hal-e:; ' 1 ne .:_•,fJrra.y .. . 1ue soll3 v1 ty.v1cal ..;..lalleB dJdtrlCti

belong to a special group, the developmeat of whiull io more abundant in Australia than in oti1a: p;;rt.; of the world.


Each district has special features which are peculiar to it. Without a consideration of these features the local wheat industry will not be readily understood.

8. Western Australia.-In ·western Australia the wheat belt differs markedly from those of other prorts of the Commonwealth owing to special features of the rainfall and soil. Normally the annual precipitation is almost confined to the growing period of the crop. Fig. 3, illustrating rainfall conditions for typical districts in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and

Queensland, will explain this aspect more fully. Still more important, the varjability from year to year in moE't of the areas at present developed is less than in many wheat districts of the Eastern States. From the point of view of wheat cultivation bad seasons are those in which autumn rains are late or spring rains cease early.

Practically the whole of the Western wheat belt consists of gentle undulating

country with very marked soil differences. Over the major portion there is no general drainage system, the country consisting for tbe most part of an ancient land surface which has been subsequently eroded into shallow valleys and basins, some of which are very wide. The parts of the old land surface are confmed to the tops of ridges. These are covered by very poor 1ateritic or podsolic soils supporting a scrubby vegetation of "wodgil" or heath types. They are virtually useless for agricultural or pastoral development.

The lower slopes, and such of the ridges as bear podsolised soils are often covered with a very sandy formation low in fertility known as "sand-plain". This grows fair crops of oats and is o£ some use for grazing if superphosphate is applied to it. There are various types of sand-plain-some more fertile than others; on the better areas fair crops of wheat can be grown if they are only brought into cultivation occasionally. In dry seasons their average production may be actually higher than on the heavier types of land, but generally speaking, sand-plain is not very good wheat soil, for it seldom yields heavy crops. even in the best years. The good wheat soils are the light to heavy loams of the "forest" land which usually occupy the lower areas.

Wheat-growing loams, sand-plain and wodgil are scattered irregularly through the belt and have given it its patchy nature. A wise generosity in the system of land allocation has avoided many of the troubles found in the Eastern States. Consequently, although farmers often have large .1reas to clear and fence, they are seldom handicapped by having too small a cropping area for the efficient use of machinery. Once the developmental stage is passed wheat can be produced at fairly low cost. Another advantage lies in the fact that the timber is in many cases easily cleared, and, after ring barking, burns out to the roots, so that the costs of establishment of wheat farms were relatively lo'lv.

The system of land allocation in the wheat belt has been not on a basis of area per settler but rather on area of first class land per settler; naturally adjacent sand-plain has to be included in the blocks, but allowance has been made for it in determining the area of the holdings. The result is that paddocks are in many cases patchy, but the general result is satisfactory. Wodgil and heath are mainly left untouched because their enclosure would have been quite uneconomic. This has led to two disabilities. Uabbits tend to live in such areas and use the adjacent cropped lands as feeding grounds, thus necessitating either a considerable expenditure on netting fences or on control measures. Secondly, the wheat areas are bound to be rather dispersed, leading to relatively high expenditure on all public utility systems of transport and communication.

The northern third of the wheat belt is relatively narrow because the rainfall decreases rapidly after a distance of 60 miles from the coast is reached. Geraldton is the export centre for the wheat from most of this district. 'Ihere are considerable areas of heavy forest country but, generally, the soils are light loams v1hich can be readily worked with large implements. The harvest season begins as early as the end of October. \Vater supplies are somewhat uncertain,

bores being sometimes necessary ; ·where this occurs tractors used with effect and there is difficulty in running sheep. The central section is broader because of the easterly bulge of the rainfall isohyets ; in it the individual areas of " forest " land attain their -.,videst extent.

The rainfall increases in amount and reliability towards the Eastern fringe of the wheat belt which reaches Southern Cross. .Many of the farms in this easterly region are in the developmental staae and the fall in prices hs,s had a disastrous effect on the finances of the settlers, some of v.rhom not yet sufiiciently advanced to carry sheep. The well-established districts have heavier soils, and water can usually be collected in or tanks, whilst in some districts water supply schemes from the gold-fields' pipe line or from reservoirs fed from rock catchments have been installed. As a result, mixed wheat and sheep farming is usually practised. In recent years one soil type limited in extent has shown signs of salinity, but the areas concerned are relatively smaJl.


The southern third of the wheat belt also has a broad eastern fringe in the developmental stage. Apart from this it is a well-established area with diverse soils and early efficient rainfall. wet seasons there may be trouble from waterlogging. Water can nearly always be collected

m dams or tanks and sheep are reaarded as essential for effective arrriculture. The transport system is centred on Alban/ or Bun bury. o

There IS a small detached wheat area centred around Salmon Gums on the railway connecting Esperance with the south-eastern gold-field. Here the original vegetation was salmon gum forest and mallee, the former predominating in the southern end of the district. The rainfall is rather unreliable, and some of the soil types have proved very difficult owing to a to develop salt. This region has had a some,vhat disastrous history as far as settlement

IS concerned, and requires special consideration.

As already mentioned 'Western Australia has avoided the mistake of settling farmers on areas which are too small for modern large-scale machinery. The only exceptions are in the case of repurchased estates subdivided for closer settlement, and in areas where soil troubles have appeared and rendered parts of farms unsuitable for wheat-growing. Figure 1 shows that

the acreage under crop has trebled since 1920. This indicates that a large area of relatively new land has come under cultivation ; consequently there are n1any farms still in the developmental stage. Average yields have risen during the last few years and will probably continue to do so as the soil settles down to cultivation.

Still more important is the question of alternative production. Western Australian soils show an even greater response to superphosphate than those of most other parts of Australia ; consequently, as the residual superphosphate continues to accumulate in the soil the general herbage and grazing capacity will improve.

The sheep kept on the wheat farms in the State are in the main intended for wool-growing, although considerable attention has betn given to the production of fat lambs in recent

9. The Eastern States.--In general there is a contrast between the ·western Australian wheat belt and that of the other States both in age of agricultural developnient and also in soil variability. There are many different regions in thew heat belt of each Eastern State, but the local fluctuations within each region are usually less sharp.

10. South Australia was, as elsewhere noted, the major wheat-growing State for many years. The climate is of the Mediterannean type with marked winter incidence in the rainfall. The average amount of precipitation diminishes fairly rapidly as the coast is left. Heav; summer falls are scarce and usually depress the yields of the following crop.



Season. ! CentraL I Lower Northern. 1


Upper :'Iallee.

1 1 South-Jeastern.

I 1 1

-------- )------1 I , 1 1 1928-29 682 I 885 . 2\lt 8\Jtl i :no · 47 1929-30 639 I 895 282 1,088 . 1,031 II 50 709 I 934 357 1,264 1,171 72 I 1931-32 713 458 1,160 986 58 1932-33 692 951 432 ] '168 975 .55 1933-34 (estimated) . . e60 925 350 ] ,130 935 50 In the Central and Lower North Divisions there are areas of first-class \Vheat land on which high yields are frequently obtained. There are also areas in '.v hich the soils are heavier and tend to " run together " ; on these, cultiYation is more diftlcult. :Fallmving is generally practised, although in some districts, with high rojnfall and suitable soil, crops of peas are sometimes grown in place of fallow. Barley of high quality is produced in districts near the sea where soils are suitable and climatic conditions permit of the satisfactory maturation of the gram. The Upper North Division is definitely a " marginal " wheat area, its rainfall beii."1.g light and showing wide variations from year to year. Its south-western counties, Frome and . - l '1" f l - l '1 'l . 1' h' Dalhousie, show average ? aoout _ per o.cred'.ntn __ OL roug1l}h' 200 000 acres under cron. '1. c. rernaumg counttes to tbe east nOTth snow very muc less' satisfactory yields.*,_ The areas cultivated for \v heat in these latcer counties are, however, much smaller and do not usually exceed about 50,000 acres. The distribution and amount of the rainfall indicates that the practice of fallowing is generally essential i£ reasonable yields are to be maintained., although in occasional seasons fallowing may not lead to an enhanced crop. • This subject is treated exhaubtin;ly in the of the .._\grkultuml Committee c,f South Australia., 1931.


The statistical returns, however, show that the system of fallowing is pra.ctised widely only in the three southern counties. The inference is that wheat-growmg in the other counties is frequently a speculative venture.

The Western Division is extensive both in area and range of soil and climatic conditions. 'rhe 10-in. isohyet of April-September rainfall cuts across Eyre's Peninsula from Streaky Bay to a point about 30 miles south of Port Augusta. About three-quarters of the wheat acreage of this division is south of this line. The variability of the rainfall is less along the western side of the Peninsula than in the other sections. The soils all belong to the lVIa.llee group but they ohow a considerable range of types. In the southern part of the centre of the Peninsula they are heavy and good; over most of the rest of the division they are lighter, falling into the categories of sandy loams or sands. In some sections limestone is present in abundance near the surface. These lighter soils are to be found on half of the wheat area of the division. Yields are low except on the better soils in the better rainfall districts. Fallowing, though generally practised in the better areas, is elsewhere less frequently carried out. This is partly due to two causes; first, there are a good many farms still in the developmental stage with Mallee shoots only partly killed; on these most farmers consider it desirable to grow crops so that the stubble burn may assist in killing the scrub; secondly, there is some difficulty in working the lighter soils owing to drift during the dry season. Again, however, a good deal of the wheat-cropping is speculative in character.

The Murray .L}Jallee Division is also very variable. For the most part the surface soils are light loams and medium sands. 'rhe subsoils are either clayey or calcareous in nature, the former being far more satisfactory than the latter; roughly half the wheat acreage is put in on each type. Some of the areas have been settled for many years; others are more recent and still in the developmental stage. About 400-500 acres of crop can be effectively managed by one unit of machinery q.nd power. It seems probable that for satisfactory results wheat should not be grown more frequently than one year in three at most, and consequently a satisfactory farm area is from 1,200 to 1,600 acres. The actual size of the average holding is rather over 1,000 acres, but a large number contain less. Most of the farms carry sheep and in favorable seasons fat lamb production is a profitable side line. The yields vary very considerably from year to year, and also from soil to soil.

The South-Eastern Division is not a large wheat producing district except in the Keith­ Wolseley region where the crop is grown chiefly on loamy soils. Here rainfall is adequate and generally more reliable than in any other wheat-growing district of the State, although the seasons 1930-31 and 1931-32 were disappointing. Yields are relatively high and the general structure of the farming of the district is of a relatively stable order.

1929 19'10 1931 1932 19'33 1934


(In Thousands of Acres.)


Year Ended March.


Mallee. Wlmmera. Northern. Other Distr!ctl!.


I 1,792 950 744 233

.. ] ,828 844 658 236



2,.357 1,165 792 286

.. 2,004 942 462 157

.. i 1,548 862 619 201

.. i 1,516 828 555 153


The Wimmera DistTict is one of the most intensively developed wheat-growing areas in Australia. The chief soils which are used for the crop are of two main types, t.he

'lo-called " black " and the " red ". The former is inherently very fertile and produces high yields even when cropped in years if is cultivated sa;ncientlJ: often to

down weeds and prepare an eitechve seed bed. Durmg tne last 25 years tne techmque of farmmg this kind of soil has reached a high degree of etliciency. In early years the "black" ground was found to be very difficult, partly because its physical constitution was not understood and partly bec;1use in its virgin state it consisted " cn\bholey" not be

uniformly with s,1ccess and had to be gmd.1&,lly levelled by cultrvatwn unt1l1t settled down mto a fairly even condition. The Sllbsoil is calcareo1.


. "red 'j soils occur in patches through the district. They have a tendency to set

hard .m dry periods and are not quite as fertile as t he formeT t ype, though they require less They can usually be improved in texture by heavy top-dressing with gypsum, but

th1s process is only economic when wheat is at a fairly high price.

Other soil t:ypes also occur, the chief of these being the "Mallee fringe" type of country along northern edge of the district. A sma1l area of sandy type ncar Goroke was used extens1ve1y for \vheat production before the depression.

. . The rain mostly falls in winter and, although seldom wholly inadequate, shows considerable vanatwns from year to year . The crops are not sown before June, consequently early rain is of importance than in most other districts, a dry spring being the chief cause of low yields. Dunng the period 1919-27, when wheat prices >vere fairly high, the financial returns to farmers were sufficient to encourage both a high standard of farming and also the cultivation of a high

proport ion of the land fo r wheat. Incidentally the returns also justified a considerable increase m land values. The fall in wheat prices reversed the position w hieh was further aggravated by poor harvests in 1927-28 and 1929-30. \v'ith p.resent prices of wheat the logical adjustments are in the direction of longer rotations larger, farms and lower land values.

The Mallee.-The wheat areas of this district show a wide range of cm1ditions. They are roughly divisible into three regions, of which the oldest and most stable is bounded on the sou t.h by the Wimmera and on the north by a line extending roughly from Piangil through Mannngatang and Krilwin westwards to the South Australian border. This region was settled before the war and has a higher and somewhat more reliable rainfall then the other two. Its soils vary considerably ; they are mostly in the loam group and are fairly productive. The

average yields obtained under good farming methods are about 10-14 bushels per acre. The boundary of the region cuts across the boundaries of the statistical districts ; consequently an accurate analysis of production is not. possible without a considerable research into the unpublished registers of the Victorian Statist.

The second region eomprises the whole zone between the northern margin of the former and the River Murray wit h the exception of the third region described below. This section of the Victorian lVIallee was opened for settlement during the period 1914-26. The April­ September rainfall is about 6 inches to 8 in ches , and the percentage of variability is 35 per cent.

or higher ; crop failures due t o climatic vagaries are t herefore frequent. The soils are variable and mostly light in eharacter. In ma ny loealities the sub-soils contain rubbly limestone which lead to a very poor retention of moisture ; salt pans occur in a few localities. The areas of the majority of farms are generally between 640 and 1,000 acres and frequently areas of poor soil are contained within tbe farm boundaries. The result is that the area of good wheat land, pt! farm, available for cultivation is often less than that which can occupy the eapacity of one unit

of machinery and po\\er. This leads to the frequent cropping of land which should be used mainly for grazing. This is one reason for low average yields in the district. Another . cause lies in the fact that considerable areas are still in the developmental stage with Mallee shoots only partially cleared, and parts of such areas are customarily cropped without fallowing. A special financial trouble in tJhis zone is due to the time at which development took place. In the years

just after the war the prevailing sentiment was optimistic and all costs were high; consequently the development of the ia.rms vvas carried out on a scale which would now be regarded as somewhat lavish. Many fauns were just beginning to reach a devdoped condition about 1928. The seasons 1927-28 and 1929-30 vvere very poor while 1928-2 9 was on]y moderate. By 1930-31,

when weather favoured the crops, the price collapse had begun.

The third region is a small one in the extreme north-·w-est of the State. Its rainfall is rou(fhly the same as that of the preceding region, both in quantity and reliability, but the soils are in general less variable and better in q.uality. This region has been opened up the last t en vears. The developmental expend1tnre was on a rather lmver Reale nud yields, though very variable, have been somesvbat higher thr1n in the second seetion of the Mallee. The areas of t he {arms though usually over 1,000 acre3 are still somewhat small for the employment of ten-horse teams and large nuwhinery if a satisfactory rot ation of crops is used.

the Ivbllee and the Wimmera aclegl1ate \Yater supplies arc available either

through the stock and domestic supply schemes laid dow n by the State Rivers and "\Vater Supply Commission, or, in the case of most of the Ouyen-J'.Iurray,ille area, by bores; conRequently, stock can be carried on the far rHs provided the fencing is arnnged a.nd resen -es of fodder are conserved again st drought periods. In some areas where soils are light, sand drifts occur on a

widespread scale. F.3365.-2


The Northern District contains numerous more or less isolated wheat areas of a diverse character. On its 1;restern margin it merges into country similar to the red lund of the Wimmeru In the Mitiamo district there Me areas of "plain" country 1vith heavy clay subsoils often near the surface-on this type wheat-grov1ing has din1inished si::2ce tlJe fall in price in favour of grazing. Around Elmore and Colbinabbin there is a limited :1rea of rich loam producing very satisfactory yields. of the Goulburn Valley irrigntion areEt there is a further w heu,t belt of light to heavy loams, mostly in county 1\J:oir'l.. Near Dookie there is a small area of grey-black, self-mulching soil.

The rainfall in this sector of the wheat belt inmmves tuvrards the coast and is fairlv reliable. Some of the he;wier soils show definite tendm;cies to become waterlogged d::ring \Ve,t seasons. The grazing capD,city is high and sheep arc invariably carried on the farms. Much of the district has been settled for a long time e,nd the areas of many of the holdings are large except where estates have been repurchased and subdivided mainly f;:,r the purpose of settling returned soldiers.

In addition to the above main districts \Vhea,t is also grown in various other parts of thr State \vhere rainfall is high. Here other forms of ruml production, such as hay growing, barley. dairying and sheep industries. compete fairly effectively with \vheat and the acreage sown depends on the relative price levels of the various commodities. Only those areas vv-here rainfall and soil are reasonably suitable are used for the crop. The principal regions nrc in the northern part of the western district, in the plains to the north and west of Melbourne, and in a small area of relativel'' lo-w rainfall countn' near Sale in Ginpsland.

T'he present financial position of the wheat industry in Victoria, as in South Australia, has been aggravated by poor years-1923-29, 192£H30 and 1930

12. New South Wales.-Since 1912 New South Wales has in most vears had a hrger area under crop than any other State. The range of conditions under which "wheat is in this State is wide and extends from districts vYith a maximum distribution of rainfall in the ·,vinter to others in whiGh tbe rainfall is mostly of the summer type. l"1Veeds bec01ne incrcasingl.\ menacing to the success of the crop as the summer incidence of rainfall increases. 'The southern sections naturally link on to the adjacent districts of Victo:,ia.


BETWEEN 1928-29 AND 1933-34.

(In Thousands of Acres.)

South- Central Central Other Seaso11. Western Plain. Districts. Slopes.

1928-29 1,323 1,020 2M, 808 364 188 128

1929-30 1.328 935 285 804 330 149 125

1930-31 1,589 1,209 348 1,167 406 22t l7H

1,098 905 272 '747

3ql) Lh) 167 148

1932-33 1 ,417* l ,241* 347 980 :390 222 198

,. A pproxiraate.

The Riverina is a wide Division embracing a considerable range of conditions. The averaue rainfall is mostly of the winter type. 1t is leat:t in the Balramdcl district where about 7.5 are expected during the April to S0ptexnber period, while at Culcairn it i::; over 15 inches. Its variability decreases from about 50 per cent. in the former district to about 33 per cent. in the latter. The soils are equally variable ; in isolated regions, especioJly near Hillston, the soils are of Ma11ee type, but in genera} the wheat is grown on day loams, ut:w1lly red, but occasionally grty. The eastern half contains the best wheat districts, and, with the adjacent of .the South:Western Sl:opcs Divisi,on, forms one of. the n;ost effective

d1stncts m Aust:mha. ln adchtwn, practically the whole 1s goocl sheep country WJth goO<• carrying when superphosphate has been 1:secl on it for some years. The farms vary in size, thus in new settlements they compri,se about 1 ,GOO or more acres ; on the other hand recent settlernents on re,purchasecl and subdivided estdes have been of the order of 500 acres or less. The older established farms vary considerably in this respect, In 1932-33 about one-third of the holdings on which \Yhec.t was grmvn were less than 641 acres in extent, about one-third were between 6,11 and 1,280 r.nd tlle rem:1inder were Jarger.

The syst em of cropping varies according to the size of the farm . On the smalier h oiclings where t he area is n ot large enough to occupy the activity on one machinery and power unit, has been pressure to put in part of the crop on stubble; although ·the resulta.nt reduction

1n yield per acre is usually at least 30 per cent . Under such conditions few sheep can be carried. On larger holdings the fallowing is usually adopted and frequently the land is allowed to lie out as grazing for several years. ln some of the older districts there is definite evidence t hat soils have become more difllcult and a reasonable assump-tion is that this may have been caused by too frequent cropping in the past.

Many of the new settlers vvho started after the svar encountered fo ur bad years shortly after they had taken up the land, and at a time -..vhen they were expecting to be able to recoup themselves for part of their capital out lay.

T he South-lV estern Slopes Division is similar to the eastern section of t he Riverina in many respects, so far as its wheat growing area. is c.oncerned; while its north-westerly ext ension is more of the type developed in the southern parts of the Central P lain. The agricul ture of this and adjacent wheat areas is face d with a new trouble in the form

of the skeleton weed (Chondrilla j uncea ) which is spreading rapidly [md bids fair to be a depressant factor on futme yields. If, as seems probable, repeated cultivation tends to increase the intensity of the weed in t hen longer rotations will be an essent ial and small farms will be even less economic t hen they are to-day. The full investigation of measures for checking this weed is a matter of m gency.

The Central Pktin contains about 880 farms on which wheat is grown, t he great majority being in the southern t hird of the Division in vvhich the rain is about equally distributed between the summer and the winter. The variability of the rainfall in the growing season is considerable. 'L'he soils arc mostly loams, but they vary in fertility and in ea8e of working ; there arE- also

localized areas of the Mallee soil type. In the Lake Car gelligo-Condobolin region a great deal of new wheat settlement has taken place in the last ten years, and so far the experience of the settlers has been unfortunate. The foll owing yields in bushels per acre obtained by a good farmer of considerable experience dur ng t he las t seven seasons indicate t he variability of the district--0, 7 .9, 6.3, 6, 23, 18, 4.

T he Central Western Slopes Division contains many areas on which wheat is grow n. The wheat soils vr.ry widely, the best are rich red sandy loarns; some are heavier and more difficult to work, others are " tighter" and less fertile . There are also belts of " Gilgai" (crabholey) country, some of which are now being used for wheat production. In the northern section the

major portion of the ra,infall occms in tbe summer. The c:::op responds to superphosphate to an extent which varies wit h the soil type and with the seasons. Its use is definitely less essential than in the more southerly Divisions. The areas of the farms are mostly adequate for the employment of modem maehinery except in the case of estates subdivided for closer settlement in the post war period. Sheep are carried on about 86 per cent. of the farms.

The Central Tableland is one of the oldest wheat-growing areas in the State, and its farmers have, in many cases, been established for Inany years. I t is now really a mixed farming dist rict, but wheat-growing plays a fairly important part in the agriculture of its western sections. The area put under crop varies considerably ::tccarding to the season and its prospects. It usually

contributes about 5 per cent. to the State's total acreage. The area under crop on more t ha.D half the holdings which grew wheat in 1932-33 was less than 100 acres . The rainfall is we ll distributed and fairly high, so that summer and fodder crops form part of the aeneral system. The areas of the wheat farn: s are on the whole small er than in more

tynical 0 wheat districts. This is largely due to the possibility of deriving income from several other sources and also tn the need for fairly intense husbandry.

In the TV est S lopes and J.Vorlit-Central PLaius D£visions the mia mostly falls in the summer. The so ils vary considerably ; those ou which the crop is advantageously grow n fertile loams, often derived from i;peous rocks. f:! uperphosphate is not genemlly used an(l experimental results iadic3,te that its application on many of tlte s:;il types does not enhance the

yield. So far little has bec!l done in ttw cnlti-vation. of wheat on biayk soil plains wh.ich are characteristic of larcre areas of: the no rthern and wcstmn ;::ectwns of the .t'.orth Central Plam . 0 The mBthods of cnlti-..-,1tivn n.nd the critical bctors contributing t o success or fa il ure are similar to those described in the s::ction dealing \\' lth the Darling Downs 'Jf Q!ccenslancl .

Other is n.ho gruwn in a limited extent in other of the 8tate.

At Benanee, near Eustou OJ1 the it _ }hllc•; settlement, similar to those of

adjacent Vi ctorian districts, w::;.s in 1 D26-26. The ure, a .1 ,500

to 1,600 acres in extent. Unforkuuttely, bad seasons fo llo wed hy low pnces lm\'<; rm ht.atecl


against the snccess the area. Other attempts at pioneer settlement on a wheat-growing basis have been developed m a fevv other localities in the Western Division. In addition, the Northern and Central Tablelands and the Coastal Division have a few svheat-growers in isolated places, but these are beyond the boundaries of the wheat belt proper.

13. _Queensland:--In this State the wheat belt may be regarded as consisting of a fairly well-estabhshed zone m the Darling Downs and a much smaller fLrea on the plains towards and around Roma. In addition, small areas have been, and nre engaged in the industry on the country east of the tableland (e.g., the Laidley Valley) and in some of the valleys to the north, e.g., in the Dawson and the Callide. The followina table aives the results of the ten years operations ending in 1932 :- -


o •


Yield in Bushels per Acre.

Average Area under. Wheat


A •·erage Harvest .. ___ _ ______ _


Acres. m Bushels.



1 1

Highest. , Average. Lowest.

Darling Downs .. .. .. .. ! 168,936 I 2,633,635 [ 22.11 [ 15.59 I

Maranoa (i.e. Roma Section) 16,915 I 97,418 1 13.12 / 5. 76

All other districts 1,327 15,960 14.06 j 12 .03

----- ---------

4.59 0.66 9.08

The Darling Downs District consists mainly of very rich soils which are either deep red loams or black self-mulching clays. Superphosphate produces relatively little effect on the crop and is seldon used. From the point of view of soil fertility alone this is one of Australia's richest wheat districts. The fact that progress in cultivation of the crop has been slow is due to diverse factors. In the first place the district is icv-ell suited to dairying and as a general rule \Yill yield a higher return per acre when so employed; further, dairying does not require such heavy capital expenditure in either land or machinery as docs wheat-growing, and as returns are recei \'ed more regularly throughout the year less working capital is required. The climate also offers special obstacles which make wheat-grmv-ing a somei1·hat hazardous enterprise, consequently, unless a grower has suffieient financial b::wking to enable him to meet two successive bad sea8ons he may berome financially embarrassed.

The customary practice is to burn the stubble and plough o.c cultivate the land at once, before Christmas if possible. In seasons when the heavy summer rains start early there may be great difficulty in getting this work done, and often a second cultivation is necessary. During the summer and early autumn other workings are given in order to check weeds and prepare a seed bed. If rains aie very frequent it may be difficult to achieve this objective, but unless success is realized at this stage a poor crop ·will result. Seeding is normally carried out between the end of April and the beginning of July. Speed of operation is all important during the period of preparation for the crop. and consequently the farmers are faced with the altenw.tives of either employing a tractor and working veq long hours or else with the need of keeping their average acreage under crop low and within the limits which can be worked by their team.

The crops grow luxuriantly on the fertile >'i'arm soil, especially when planted early. During the winter they may becon:.e rank, in v,hieh case they are fed off with sheep or cattle, or sometimes checked by trampling. K ormally on properly ·worked areas there is sufficient subsoil moisture to germinate the seed and carry the plants on through most of the winter. Spring rains are uncertain; without one good fa ll in August or September the crops may wilt. ·when growr,h is luxuriant and the weather moist, rust is a definite menace to the crop, causing pinching of the grain and occasionally complete erop failure , especially in late sown paddocks. Modern varieties are more rust-resistant t h::m those formerly cultivated, but no variety is wholly immune. Late frosts occur and do much damage in some years. Harvest begins in October and must be hurried through before the summer rains begin. Occasionally hail storms occur and devastate small areas. The crops are often \cry beavy, and alehough modern harvesting machmery ha'l done something to reduce the losses through rain at harvest, yet in seasons of frequent falls in November there is no means of avoiding serious trouble from this source. Rapid cartage of wheat from the padtlocks to the sidings or to cover at the farm is essential.

This survey of the conditions indicates clearly that wheat-growing on a large scale in this district must always remain a speculative enterprise--very profitable in years and relatively or totally unremunerative in others. This is 1)artieularly the case on soih; w hieh are physically less amem1.ble to cultivation and in lower areas, which are more prone to frost than the undulating country. On the hand, wheat-growing as part of the operations of a rn;xed farm is well while, eqJec.llilly as t.he crop can be rPadily used as fodder in cert.ain seasons. The main obstacle lies in the cost of the necessary harvesting mach.i.nery.


The Maranoa division has soils which are light to heavy loams, but the climatic conditions are less reliable than those of "the Downs". It has the advantage of a State Research Farm at Roma, but the district nsults as shovvn in the above Table X. do not suggest that vvheat­ growing is sufficiently reliable to be widely practised. The results obtained on experim:mtal plots are higher than the district average, but unfortunately the layout of the experiments l1as

not been of such a type as to make critical analysis practicable. The average yield of these plots over t,he last 24 years was twelve bushels-and this was achieved only on plots which presumably were sovvn at the most favourable time.


l. The Commission has received many statements on this subject from Farmers' Organizations, from individual operators and from others interested in the industry. Inasmuch as the matter is one of the chief lines of inquiry entrusted to the Commission, it is necessary to explain the principles which bave been adopted in the investigations.

2. -Within the subject there are two important matters which require consideration apart from the mere analysis of the cost of the operations which constitute wheat-growing. The first is the question of the interest to be allowed on capital invested in the equipment and land necessary for the undertaking. The second has reference to the amount to be allowed for the

farmer's own labour.

3. The question of interest charges on capital invested in farming operations is a very vexed one. The simplest case occurs vvhen a man takes up a virgin block of land, clears the native vegetation, erects fences and buildings, arranges a water supply, buys implements and stock and develops his farm.

Various land settlement schemes have assumed that the farmer, if provided with the capital to carry out this development, would be able to keep himself and his family, pay interest on the borrowed money, and, still further, make small capital repayments so that in due course he would create an equity in the property. Unfortunately, experience in every country indicates that this result can only be achieved in times when the price levels of the commodities produced are comparatively high and rmnain so for a considemble period. Land settlement for wheat­

PTowincr on this basis was reasonablv successful during the decade before the war and until 0 b about 1924, during which periods this state of affairs obta,ined. Since then wheat values have been relatively lo-wer, while the cost of materials for land development has fallen more slowly. The gap between these price levels during the past ten years has usually put the "developmental" farmer in a. precarious or hopeless position. Frequently it has been impossible for him to meet

interest payments, and the deficiency being added to the capital charge has raised its level to an undue height. If interest were allo-vved on such capitalization in estimating production costs, then the latter would be unduly inflated.

In districts of older settlement the relatively high prices which were obtained for wheat between 1921 and 1928 enabled the industry to make headway and yield good profits to the operators. The wheat-farmers knew this and were prepELred to pay high prices for wheat-growing land. In some cases these prices were paid by men who had been share-farming and wished to start on their own account; in others, bnners on relatively small holdings were desirous of

enlarging the area under their control, that they might ernploy larger and more efficient machinery or in order to set up their sons as fanners. A third group comprised those who, having farmed successfully in small areas of land which bad become high-priced, decided to move fuither out on to larger areas of newer country. In such cases, whatever their origin, part of the

capitalization was usually provided in cash and part by loans from various financial institutions or private mortgagees. The proportion derived from these three sources varies widely.

One way of looking at capitalization is to take the outstanding debts and allow an interest charge on these alone when assessing costs of production. This means that the man who has been frugal and saving almost inevitably shows a lcnver cost figure than a similar man in the same district who has spent a large amount of money in the equipment or improvement

of his farm or who has not hesitated to be extravagant in his personal disbursements.

The comparison between the operation of a farm and of a city or manufacturing business is instructive when costs of production are under consideration. The farmer's secured debt is similar to mortgaae debentures, ·while his unsecured liabilities are somewhat akin to capital in preference shares his own cash invested in the undertaking resembles ordinary shares.


4. The Commission has endeavoured to meet this complicated state of affairs by recognizing that costs of prodnction for c:wh farm may he estimated on three separate bases- --(i) the basis of Cost No . l is the actual cost of the operations on the farm including a sum for the farmer's own labour (discussed below), but excluding all interest

charges. It therefore indicates the average price which the farmer rnust obtain at the siding if he is to continue in production, assuming that he is of all debt and has credit or cash to finance his year's operations.

(ii) the basis of Cost No . 2 is Cost No . l plus such interest charges as the fanner ho,s to meet. (1.1·1·,\ l b . f C . N I . h 1 " . l ., t w as1s o ost .d o. 3 1s -ost _:_ ·o. 1 pus an mterest c argc on t 1e notwna

value of the land and equipment. Sueh notional vah1 e wj)] have r elation to the value of the land for wheat-growing or for alternative production, such as dairying or sheep-raising. It is noteworthy that Cost No . 3 will be higher than No. 2 where indebtedness is sm all and alternative production is easy, while it will be lower \\··here land has been bought at high valnes or

wh ere the farmer has been in

5. The second debatable point bas reference to the sum to be charged in the costings for the farmer's own labour. :Manifes tly, this is a matter fo r serious consideration in Australia, because the fixat-ion of a standard of living for workers in Eheltered and secondary industries has become an aceepted r.rinciple of the national life . It is not likeJy that there will be any unanimity of opinion on surh a fundarnental Jnat.ter. The Commission considers that its duty is to investigate the eeonomie position of the industry, and has endeavoured to look at this phase of the pi'ob1em from every angle and to record the facts. The people of Australia must decide what standard of living their farmer members are to enjoy, and must implement their decision by making any necessary adjustments.

In connexion with this subject the following points require careful consideration:--(a) The farmer enjoys certain advantages which are beyond the reacJJ of the vast majority of city dwe llers-Any Tent on

of the farming

(j) his house is part of the property on which he lives. account of it is usually provided for in the costs operations ; many commodities are provided from the materia]s produced on the

farm, notably milk, eggs and poultry, usually cream, butter and mutton; frequently pork and bacon, and some vegetables ; and occasionallv fruit. If such are net available. t he n tl1e fann is not





a farm in t he true sense of the word ; ,

Shire or district rates, taxes other than income tax, and insurance, are defrayed by the business of the farm ; t.he water supply is also part of the farm organization ; where 'vater rates are payable, these have been included in the farming cost.

Fuel fo r the home is usually provided from the farm. reasonabl e telephone charges have been included in the costs.

(b) The farmer suffers under several serious disabilities which cause him to incur expenses to which the city dweller is not liable or is liable only to a lesser extent-(i) the cost of household articles is rather higher in the country than in

in the city ;

(ii) the cost of medica] attention _is naturally a great deal higher than it would be in the city ; (iii) the climate of the wheat districts varies, but during the summer it makes conditions of work ardous. This applies particularly to the women­

fol k who are usually unable to enjoy many comforts and conveniences available in the city. There is a good case for suggesting that every farmer and his family are entitled to a short holiday each year. (iY) Educational facilities at the primary stage are provided for the ehildren,

but in some eases there are difficult ies in t he way of obtaining secondary education. This is important if the standard of thought which has characterized Australian farmers in the is to be maintained ;


(v) Frequently the distance from the farm to the local township forces the farmer either to use a. mntor-car or, in those cases where he uses a horse-draw n vehicle, t o spend more time than he can afford in attending to the business connected with the farm. (c) Th ere is no that the farmn's occupation is a skilled one . Many city

dwellers have little idea of the amount of detailed knowledge necessary for success in farming. This skill must t ake several forms. There is the manual dexterity and me'Chanical sem;e needed for operating modern machinery, and the knowledge :required in dealipo· with horses and stock. And above

all there is thE judgment which decides the right moment to carry out this or tha.t operation on any paTticular aTea ot r ooil , and -the 1nanagerial capacity to armnge operations and materials in such a ,,,a.y that efficiency is obtained. The degree of forethought and skill demanded is much higher than is expected of the ordinary recipient of the ba.sic wage for unskilled labour. (d) On the other hand, it must be recognized that Australian wheat-farmers are

competing on the world markets, and the disabilities of our soil and climate are such that if the standard of wage is fixed at too high a level the industry must inevitably languish owing to competition from other countries with other standards and condit ions. Part of a cake is better than no cake at all. (e) Some farmers have expressed t he view that their life is a very hard one. Much

depends on the skill of t he individual in planning his work. Jt is agreed that at certain seasons the work is exacting, but on the other hand there are times when the pace is not so fast. The '-necessity of working under unpleasant climatic conditions at times is proba.bly compensated by the general sense

of freedom engendered by farm work and the genial climate which characterises most of the wheat belt during seven months of the year. It is the opinion of the Commission that men \Vho , apart from present financial worries, are dissatisfied with life on the land should leave it and seek occupations more

congenial to them. (j) Reference has been made under 5 (b) (iii) above, to the wives and women-folk of the farmers. In evidence many farmers spoke of the courageous support which has been afforded to them in their· fight with adversity by their wives

a.nd daughters, and the Commission feels that special reference should be made to the part which the women are playing in maintaining the industry during this time of depression. On the average their work is harder than that of their sisters in the city, and the activit ie.s of various organizations

such as the Countrv Women's Associations in the different States should have wider support in order that the home life of the wheat-farmer can be improved. It is almost a truism that the conditions in the home make a great contribution towards the determination and courage with which men face

their economic difficulties.

6. As already stated, the Commission does not consider that it is called upon to decide what is a fair remuneration to the fa rmer for his own efforts, but inasmuch as some minimum cash wage must be used in formulating costs of production, £125 per annum has been allocated for this purpose. In this coP ... nexion it must be pointed out that it is considered that the benefits

mentioned in paragraph (5), section (a), arc worth £75 per annum. In addition, the Commission has also estimated by how much costs per bushel would rise for every extra £52 added to the minimum cash \\ lJge. The Commission points oGt that in making this approximation it is not reducing all wheal>gTowers to the one level. lt is setting a standard which the average may

expect to reach. :Men with greater physical pmvers , or '.Y .ith bEtter financial resources, or with more managerial capacity, or who are farming better land, 1v.ill be able to obtain such better results as are the logical con sequence of their ability or good fortune.

7. One other concerning costs o!: production seems to be a subject of debate amongst those who have tendered estimatEs of cost. This is the inclusion or exclusion of revenue for items of production other than \\heat. The Commission holds that profits from other lines of production muF;t be l\eclu.cted fr om total costs of running the i:a n n before such costs are divided

by the average production of wheat in order to arriYe at the cost per bushel. There is an overwhelming consensus of opinion against single-crop farming, both to the fact that it causes slow but sure deteriCJTation in many soils, and also because i.t becomes economically unstable immediately the price of the particular erop falls.


The great majority of wheat-farmers in Australia are in a position to derive considerable revenue from wool, and mutton or fat lambs. In addition, smaller amounts can frequently be obtained from more diverse sources which vary with the district. Any attempt to analyse many of the overhead costs amongst the various side lines vvould be abortive because they in their turn often render valua_ble assistance to the 1vheat crop, although such assistance may be beyond accurate computat10n. The value of the action of sheep on fallows, and, consequently, on the subsequent wheat crop, is one instance of this state of affairs.

Having regard to these facts, there is 110 logical reason for not deducting profits of side­ lines from wheat costs.

As already mentioned, the value of produce from the farm consumed on the farm has been accounted for in arriving at the average cash wage.

8. The amount paid in wages and as keep to employees varies considerably. There have been considerable reductions in the wages paid during recent years, and farmers have on many occasions expressed to the Cornmission their appreciation of the way in which their employees have come to their assistance during the recent lean period by accepting such reductions in good spirit.

It is to be noted that any improvement in the prices of products will inevitably be followed by an increase in 1vages from their present low level, with a consequent increase in costs of production. The recent improvement in wool prices has already had an effect of that kind.

The Commission, when calculating costs, has accepted the statements of farmers as to the wages paid to employees. As regards family labour, the Commission has also accepted statements where such have been made, but where no figure has been mentioned the cash sum of 20s. per week has been allowed for each adult male member of the family employed on the farm.

9. The cost of using machinery on tbe farm is another somewhat vexed question. It is clear that, inasmuch as the farm is a working organization, an allowance must be made for replacement of worn-out machinery and for spare parts and repairs for prolonging the useful life of the equipment. The more expensive harvesters, headers and combined

drill and cultivators-wear out more rapidly than the cultivating implements and the wagon, but most farmers consider that ten years is a :reasonable life even for the former group. There are various methods for arriving at an estimate of the allowances which Ehould be made. The one which the Commission has adopted is to take the initial cost of tbe plant when landed new at the local siding and allow per cent. of that cost as a sum sufficient to cover the depreciation of the machines and also the provision of spare parts for them. This allowance is an approximation, but many farmers of experience have agreed that it s a reasonable one. It is considered that careful men will obtain better results than are here suggested. It is true that some will obtain worse, but there is no reason for supporting the inefficient.

It may be urged that in new areas, particularly Mallee, the wear and tear may be greater. This is so during early years, especially in the case of harvesting machinery.

10. Tractors are a special case requiring particular consideration. No other machine has a more variable length of life. Some tractors are used as a simple tractive unit doing about ten or twelve hours' work a day instead of the eight or ten hours which may be expected of a horse team. Others are used far more intensively during critical phases of the cultivation of tbe crop, such as seeding or checking weeds on fallmvs ; in bhese cases, by -vvorbng two or more shifts, the implements can be kept in for 22 a day; the annual

depreciation in such cases must be greater than m the first mstance. A th1rd case occurs when a farmer uses his tractor at special periods only, horses being the normal tractive unit ; here depreciation is lower than in. the instance .. A. group of farmers uses the tracto.t.' for odd jobs about the farm only, m w hwh case deprematwn1s very low.

Apart from this type of there is the even more important of the. human

factor. Some men are mechamcally-mmded and have a thorough understandmg of the mternal combustion engine; they .are alert to 1?-otice the signs of trouble and consequently not fall into the error of runnmg the machme out of adJustment. Others are not so well qualified, and as a result they fail to keep it in order and rapid deterioration with consequent excessive repair bills occurs.

A further complication due to the fact that the tractors have been impnnr?d very considerably during the last and makes of w}nch were fr:quently. m

trouble a few years ago have been modiiied m recent years so as to g1ve far more efficient serVIce.


The Commission has endeavoured to meet some of these difficulties by allotting different percentages of the " prime cost" of tractors to cover depreciation, spares and repairs according to the amount of service of his tractor normally expected by the fanner. Tractors \\hich are used for double work during rush periods have been allowed 25 per cent. for depreciation, spares

and repairs. Those which simplv replace a horse team are allowed 20 per cent. Others which are hut little used have been allr)\ved 10 per cent.

It is appreciated that this method will result in a higher cost than is warranted in the case of the more careful users, and may not allow enough where the farmer is inefficient at tractor management, but it is considered that the basis is a reasonable approximation.

11. The Commission has endeavoured to arrive at figures for the cost of production by using a, lengthy questionnaire. This form was sent to aU farmer witnesses who appeared before the Commission and they were requested to complete and bring it with them when giving evidence. In most cases the main part of the examination of the witnesses was concerned with

the detailed considemtion of the farmers' operations. In this vvay the Commission was able to obtain from the farmer under oath the actual details of his expenditure and of his receipts during the previous five years. In addition, witnesses were asked to produce income tax returns and snch account buoks as they had kept, and accountant o:fllcers of the Cormnission were able

to m21ke an even more complete analysis of the farmers' operations. Working on the data thus obtained the Commission has been able to deduce the cost of production in each case based on actual facts rather than on fanners' opinions. The same questionnaire was also sent through va.riolls farmers' organizations and banks and other financial institutions to other wheat-growers

1vho ftlled it in and returned it direct t.o the Commission.

In all, about 500 of these questionnaires have so far been received in cornpleted form. The Commission desires to express its appreciation of the trouble which has been expended on the compilation of these returns. It has been found necessary to reject about 10 per cent. of the returns on account of lack of all tbe necessary details or for reasons mentioned in paragraph

15 below.

12. The Commission is satisfied that the bulk of evidence obtained both from sworn witnesses and frorn others who returned the questionnaires direct has been compiled as fully as possible. It has verified the fact that the costs of production when worked out on the bases discussed in paragraphs 4 to 10 above, are approxirnately the same for those farmers who were

witnesses and for other farmers who have returned the questionnaire.

13. The Commission appreciates the fact that farmers' organizations, when nominating witnesses to appear before it, selected men of high type and good standing in the industry who were well able to put their facts clearly. The Commission is confident that its evidence has been derivecl from reliable sources and not from_ the inefficient sections of the industry alone. The

Commission has remarked that the average yields per acre obtained by those who have answered the questionnaire have, in general, been higher than those Tecorded as the average for their respective districts.

14. Questionnaire (C) was distributed to district organizations, banks and other financial institutions. The results of this questionnaire have not been quite so satisfactory as those of Questionnaire (B) for tvvo (a) There was a tendency for some bodies making the return to compute the costs

on the basis required for high gmde farming, whilst the returns were worked out on the basis of lmv grade farming. (b) The questionnaire asked for figures for a district. In general, farms are

either" one-unit" farrns or" b.·o or more unit" farms, and estimates obtained from data which are the product of averaging the two types are often misleading.

Where these pitfalls have been avoided the data supplied from the district Questionnaire (C) have afforded 9, useful check on costs of production as eomputed by means Questionnaire a close correspondence has been found in the result aehie\'ed by two methods of

mqmry. 15. In addition, detailed estimates have been drawn up independently by certain of the leaders in the industry and by district organizations. These have been ex'tmined carefully and, althoucrh in some cases there have been exacrcrerations and a refusal to face facts, vet in most (j . 00 .; instances the information afforded has been a valuable check reinforeing the conclusions reached

by the Commission in its own investigations. The number of valuable contributions of this sort bas been so considerable that it would be invidious to mention any particular case.



16. The labour of tabulating, classifying and correlating the information contained m the large number of replies received has been considerable, and vv-iU not he completed for sm·end v;eeks. It is, however, sufficieritlv far advanced for tlw Commission to be able to come to certain broad conclusions. ··

In dealing with the da;a on cost of production it has been somewhat difficult to define a 1vheat farmer. Every year a large number of farmers put a smaii acreage under the cro9 and rely on other forms of production for their chief source of income.* The Commission has concentrated its attention on the resultP of farmers who are either dependent on ·wheat as their major source of income or, in the case of those vvho carry on other farming operations, are large producers of the grain. Jn this way it has endeavoured to avoid the complication of introducing the figures derived from men who cultivate the crop as a sideline in their farming operatiollS. ·

In certain cases where the farming is of the mixed type characteristic of the regions of better rainfall, the proportion of gross income derived from side lines is considerable. As alreadv explained, the costs of running these sidelines have all been estimated and included; on the other hand, the receipts from these sources h2, ve all been deducted from the net figure before estimating the cost of producing wheat. Consequently, the final figure arrived at in the case

of the mOTe successful farmm·s in this class is very low because it has, in effect, been redtlced by profits derived from other sources. This extreme type is inevitable and unavoidable vvl1en survey is being made of the costs of one product in a husinesr.; which markets several commodities. The Commission considers that averages may be misleading in a study of costs of production. It is, therefore, making its exs.mination of the data 'lccording to their distribution (array) in respect to each factor. The army of costs of production so far completed comprises the cases of 452 farmers.

As regards No. l Costs these are distributed as follow"s :--8.9 per cent. are producing below Is. per bushel. 27.0 per cent. are producing between ls. and ls. lld. inclusive. :18.9 per cent. are producing between 2s. and 2s. lld. inclusive.

18. G per cent. are producing between 3s. and 3s. lld. inclusive. (:). 6 per cent. are producing between 4s. and 4s. 1ld. inclusive.

4. 9 per cent. are producing at 5s. or over. There are considerable differences in No. I Costs between the various States and betvveen the various distr-icts in each State.

17. As regards No. 2 Costs the data so far analysed suggest that a price of 3s. per bushel at sidings would enable about half the wheat farmers of Australia to meet their expenses and commitments under present conditions of costs and interest. H also appears that three-quarters of the pToduceJ'S would be able to continue without readjustment "hen the price is 3s. lOld. per bushel at sidings. That number would not be drawn proportionately from the various States. There would be a higher proportion from Ne\v South ¥Vales and Western Australia, and a somewhat lower proportion from Victoria and South Australia.

18. The Commission is aware of the fact that for various reasons wheat-growing has probably been pushed into certain less reliable districts where costs are inevitably high. H is also known that some farmers have small acreages which force them into inefficient practices and that others lack the capacity to manage farms ; consequently no plan can be expected to provide conditions which will rehabilitate every wheat-grower in the industry.

19. From the data covering the whole of t;he chief Australian wheat districts, compiled to elate, it appears that interest on actual interest-bearing indebtedness accounts for about 7. 5d. in the farmer's costs per bushel. This figure was calculated when the overdraft rate was 51 per cent. although a number of farn1ers were paying or being charged less than that rate. rrhe overdraft rate to primary producers has now been reduced to 5 per cent. or lower in all cases, so that a reduction of not more than . 7d. per bm·hel may be expected from this source in certain eases.

Although the No. 2 interest cost per bushel may average 7. 5cl., the variation in this respect is very wide indeed. In extreme cases it is over 2s. per bushel ; in the cases of farmers free from debt it is, naturally, nil. The interest charges which have to be met m<1)' be illustrated by the followingt abulation

of the results of the 452 farmers :---21.5 per cent. of the farmers luwe to pay an interest charge of :3d. or less per bushel. 25. 0 per cent. of the farmers ha Ye to pay an interest charge of between 4d. and 6d. per bushel. * In l'cw Sotlth in 1932-33 about 22 per cent. of the farmers who planted wheat had less than 100 under tho crop. The percentage would

rrobably he higher in Queensland and someT,d1at lo-.;ver in the other State3,



14. 6 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest eharge of between 7d. and 9d. per bushel. 14.4 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest charge of between lOd. and ls. per bushel. 9. 5 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest charge of between ] s. ld. and ls.

3d. per bushel. 5.5 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest charge of between Is. 4.d. and }'3. 6d. per bushel. · · '

2. 8 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest charge of between ls. 7d. and ls. 9d. per bushel. 6. 6 per cent. of the farmers have to pay an interest charge of between ls. 1 Ocl. or over.

In this respect the differences between districts and between States is wide. It follows that alterations in the interest rate are of more importance to some districts and States than to -

20. The figure of 7. 5d. per bushel makes no aJlowance whatever for the large amount of money invested in the industry by the farmers, only the interest on borrowed capital has been included. H those farmers who are without debt, or who owe only moderate amounts, are eliminated, the figures will be much higher. Approximately 30 per cent. of the wheat producers 1we confronted with interest charges of ls. per bushel or over.

21. The analysis of the data so as to indicate the effect of such factors as (a) size of farm, (b) income from side lines, (c) variations in the difference between price at sidings and price at port of shipment, (d) use of tractors, and other matters is being undertaken.

Jn this way a complete economic: survey of the indu:3try will be made. Hitherto such a study has never been attempted although many authorities have pointed out the urgent need for such surveys in Australia.

22. such a complete analysis of the industry by localities, it is impossible to

ascertain vvhat will be the effects of any particular adjustment on the welfare of the fa rmers in each of the widely differing districts.

23. The history of price movements in recent years, and their relations to costs of production and to railway freights on wheat, will be discussed in the Commission's later Report. Item (c) of paragraph 21 of this section is part of this study. For the purposes of reference in the interpretation of the various sections of this Report,

Table XI. supplies information with regard to wheat prices average differences between prices at local sidings and prices f.o.r. principal Australian shipping ports.


Year. I



I 1907-8 I

1908-9 ..


1909-10 .. I

1910-11 i

1911-12 1912-13 1913-14

1914-15 1915-·16 19H\-17 1917-18 1918-19 1919-20

l 920-21



1! J

s. 4








G 4






d. 1!



5J.. 2



1! 81 7

li li 1921-22

II Hl22-23



1923-24 ,11.1 1924-25

1925-26 1926-27 1927-28 1928-29 1929-30

1930--31 1931-32 1932-.?:1 1933

• To date (estimated).

i .. \ I

•• I


s. d.

5 5

5 2!



6 2!


[J 4!

4 9t

4 ::'l

2 41

:l 2

2 lOt

2 St

Prices do not include Lounties pai(t 1931-32. The between I!lices of wheat at local sidings and prices f.o.L prir:cipd Aus'mli&n shipping ports vary according to States ancl methods of handling. ArJrroximately the differences are from 4{d. t,o 7d. per bushel, being lowest in South Australia where the average had is lo'lv. The figures are based upon baggea wheat to make them comparable.



Possibly one of the most important and difficult tasks of the Commission is to investigate the financial structure of the wheat industry. The Commission has, consequently, devoted a considerable amount of its work and thought to this vital aspect of its responsibility. 2. It is estimated that there are a.t least 70,000 \Yhes,t-growers throughout Australia. Of these, approximately 60,000 make wheat-growing their principal source of livelihood. The difficulty and delay involved in collecting complete details from even a substantial number of farmers spread throughout Australia is obvious. The Commission vms constrained, therefore, to adopt the best means possible of obtaining expeditiously. accurate information in respect of representative sections of the wheat-farming population.

3. Questionnaires were in the first place issued to typical wheat-farmers throughout the whole of the wheat districts of Australia. The Commission examined a considerable number of farmers on their returns, both during sittings and during visits to farms. Moreover, a special series of questionnaires \Vas obtained by post from additional representative farmers 'Nith a view to obtaining a wide and helpful sampling. These were supplemented, in many cases, by

detailed explanation and information. The Commission has taken care to verify from various independent sources the reliability of the evidence submitted. 4. The Commission has also enlisted the assistance of the general body of creditors to whom many questionnaires were issued respecting the debt position of their wheat-farmer debtors

throughout all the States of the Commonwealth. 5. The Commission is indebted to the various Federal and State Departments and Authorities, financial institutions, trustee and assurance companies, machinery and fertilizer manufacturers, oil, jute and wheat merchants, shire and other authorities, as also to general storekeepers and other creditors interested in the industry for the confidential figures supplied.

The Commission has been materially assisted by information made available from the reports of various State Commissions, and from farmers' and other organizations. It is a,pparent, however, that there is a further substantial amount of wheat farmers' liabilities which it is impossible to ascertain withod a much more comprehensive investigation; notably that which

relates to private mortgagees. This section is not organized, and is spread over a wide number of individual units. Therefore, there 2,re special difficulties in aniving at the amount involved. 6. \Vheat farming in Australia is a business requiring a substantial amount of capital. Capitalizations vary from £3 to £20 per acre according to the yielding capacity of the land, and the district in 'ivhich the farm is situated. Typical amounts required are from £3,000 to £8,000

per farm. Farms range in extent frorn 300 acres in high production districts to over 3,000 acres in areas of lower acreage yield. 7. Large amounts of the capital required for wheat-farming have been borrowed. Loans to finance land purchase and fixed equipment have been obtained from Governments, from banks and other financial institutions and from private lenders. These have been supplemented by the farmers' own resources. Plant and machinery have been largely financed under hire­ purchase agreements. Live-stock and working equipment, together with current finance, have been obtained largely by cropping loans, secured by liens, stock mortgages and promissory notes. General merchants, wheat merchants and pools have advanced against unsold production.

8. The type of finance obtained has depended upon the degree of settlement in each area ; for exan1ple, during the period of rapid expansion of the industry, the initial development of many areas was financed primarily by Governments. vVhen the development had proceeded a certain distance arsas became attractive to banks and other financial institutions, and private lenders. In the more fullv develoned and older established districts the farmer's own interests had in manv cases been .. established. Many private first mortgages are in favcur of vendors, 1vho also accepted a second modg.age for the balance 'o( unpaid purchase money.

Again, the method of finance tends to vary with the different phases of boom and depression experienced. For example, additional calls on Govemment finance are usually made in times of financial stress, while the private mortgage predominates in times of easy money \Yhen property is turning over rapidly. Advances to farmers were usually 1nade on the basis

of 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. of the valuation of the security ; but developmental loans by Governments were frequently made on a less conservative basis. 9. The evidence before the Commission indicates that only those farmers who carried on with great frugality and with the aid of sheep or other sidelines d{uing the years prior to the lean

period 1927-1034, or, those who inherited freeholds or purchased at low values prjor to the boom period are free from substantial debt. In many cases, the original debt is now being periodically augumented by maturing interest, sometimes compounded, which the fanner is not at present able to pay.


10. There is evidence of extravagance of ex1)enditure in high-priced land, fanning machinery, tractors, motor cars and in other ways beyond the limits of prudence during the years of boom prices and good wheat yields. In this regard, wheat-fanners were not

umque. The generous terms of credit extended to settlers bv various State Governments in developing their policiec; of land settlement, the special efforts following upon the war to 1·epatriate soldier settlers, the reaciv financial hel·p available in \'arious sources in regard to land, stock, plant, machinery and esseu'tial materials '\vere all factors in the creation of. easy credit

and hibcrh debts, during those vears of rural and o-eneral pro;:;peritv. Time··Pavment systems . ,_ -if .. _ .J ..>... ... contributed seriously. ·

11. Evidence shows that, in tbt safer distTicts where the yields are higher, finance was easier to arrange; consequently a heavier debt per farmer exists in these good districts as compared with the low rainfall and less certain areas. Heavy debts generally have influenced additional sowing by farmers and have sometimes led to the abandonment of correct rotation. To some

extent, the increase in debts occasioned by falling prices has tended to rnake the fanner adopt more risky _practices. 'I'he " Gnnv More Wheat" campaign of 1930-31 also contributed to a general incnase in farmers' debts. Advances on stored wheat to an extent unfortunately not. justified by subsequent prices in the 1929--30 season W'aS a cause of embarrassment when cash repayments were required. Thus farmers' debts lmve been increased in the depression

from a varietv of causes.

12. The fall in wheat prices, notwithstanding the Tedurtions in interest and other costs, has occasioned an enormous increase in the burden of the debt expressed in terms of wheat. For instance-a debt of £1,000 represented 4,499 bushels of wheat \vhen the price was 4s. 6d. per bw•hel on the farm. 1Vhen the price had fallen to 2s. per bushel the same debt represented

J 0,000 bushels. If 7 per cent. be taken as the rate ot interest before the depression, 310 bushels at 4s. 6d. p2id the interest bill of £70. With a ruling rate of interest of 5 per cent. and wheat at 2s. the number of 1mshels required to pay the interest bill of £50 is 500, an increase of 60 per cent. H, however, the excess of the selling price over working expenses (No. l costs) is

considered, the increase in the interest burden is larger still. For example, if No. 1 costs were 3s. when wheat was 4s. 6d. the margin was ls. 6d. per bushel-930 bushels would provide sufficient surplus to pay the interest bill of £70. With wheat at 2s. 6d., howeveT, and No. 1 costs reduced to 2s., the margin is only 6d. per bushel, and to pay the interest bill of £50, 2,000 bushels are required, an increase of more than 100 per cent.

13. It is not surprising that the position has drifted from bad to worse and that, generally, there is a considerable increase in the debts of wheat-farmers over the past five years. The evidence of farmers' organizations has stressed the parlous condition of the industry as a whole -that evidence has fully supported by infor;nation obtained from other The

Commission regards it as proved beyond doubt that large numbers of the producer section of the industry are carrying a debt burden which is overwhelming under present conditions.

14. It is obvious that present day values cannot carry the loan debts of boom years. In all districts there are to be found a number of cases in which mortgage and other debts of the farmer equal or exceed the present day value of his assets. The repercussions of the situation are vitally important because the farmers' debts are the assets of other sections of the

communi tv . .. 15. Many instances of special assistance' and forbearance extended by creditors to deserving and capable fc=nmers have been noted, thus encouraging thern to hold. their properties aml carry on in the inteiests of all parties. Moreover, the amounts written off as bad have been

considerable. In :rnany instances Moratorium and Fann Relief lep·islation has been availed < 0 of by distressed fanneTs. It is, therefme, not surprising that, despite the extent and overdue of most of their debts, the bankruptcies of wheat-fanners are not especially

nun1erous. 16. Many properties have been abandoned in the newer \Vheat areas ::tnd the number wouldhave been greater but for the for bcamnce of creditors mentioned above, and for the assistance given by Governments and the community through bounties and otherwise, the operation of the exchange rate. and other protective measures.

17. Rates of interest charged to wheat farmers before the depression ranged in general from 7 per cent. to 8 per cent. on a,dvances and rnuch higher on other overdue for

machinery or rnerchandise. Substantial reductions were obtained under the Fim.nci<:d Emergency leuislation · further reductions have beea made from time to time in man v cases and tile general a ' . - -- .; market trend of interest rates has been clol'ill\\-a..rcl. Jhe over-draft rate to-day ranges from 4 per cent. to 5 per eent., and in sume cnses even less. These aclj i.lf:icments have given reliei· to some farmers, but in rnany eases farmers have been unable to pay 2-ny interest at <.dl.


18. Wheat farmers are not the only parties whose debts are embraced in the debt structure of the wheat industry. ]farmers' creditors represented by mortgagees, storekeepers, doctors and other professiona.l and trading concerns, are in turn indebted to their own credit.ors such ns warehouse.s, hanks and others. Consequently, there is wrapped np in this problem all the consideri'ttwns of an mterwoven and interdependent debt fabric involving complexities and characteristics not readily apparent on the surface. -

19. The Commission regrets that the limited t ime at its disposal and the many difficulties assJciat ed \Vith so lwge a task, have made it impossible to furnish, in t his first report, a complete statement as to the full amount and the distribution of the wheat-farmers' debts for the whole of Australia.

Not withstanding the fact that the figures available are incomplete, the Commission summarizes thern hereunder so as to indica,te the order of the amount of the debt and varim1s classes of creditors directly

Crown Debts Trading Banks State Banks Trustee Companies Assurance Compan ies Oil Companies Machinery Merchants Fertilizer Companies

Wheat Merchants Stock and Station Agents Other Traders

Storekeepers (estimat ed) Private Mortgages and Priva,te Loans (estimated)


31,000,000 35,014,212 18,264,383 0,121,281

4,261,836 1,172,365 2,508,683 1,455,054

422,251 331,92:3 2,725,707

106,278,595 2,000,000 30,000,000


The ascertained amount owing to the Crown is actuallv £30,497,803. It is known that this figure has to be increE"sed_ on account of returns yet. to be furnished. The final total of Crown debts will be in the vicinity of £31,000,000. The figures relating to debts due to Trading and Government Banks are complete.

Except for a few returns yet to come a,nd one or two others in regard to which queries have been raised, the i1gLues for Trustee Companies, including Diocesan Trm;tees, Assunmce Cornpanies, Oil Merchants, Machinery Merchants, Ji'ertilizer Companies, Wheat Merchants, and Stock and Station Agents, can be taken as reasonably indicative of wheat-fanners' indebtedness to this section of the business community.

The response of storekeepers to t he Commission's request for information has been disappointing and, for that reason, the amount of debts owed to storekeepers has had to be carefully estimated. The estimates have been prepared on the basis of information furnished in such returns as have been supplied by storekeepers, and also from information contained in q uestionna.ires returned by a. large number of ftmners. The Commission is satisfied that the fig ure of £2,000,000 is conRervativc.

- · The Commission has also adopted the individual fnrmers' rctun1s above referred to, as the basis for an estirnate of the amount of private mortgages and loans, and on this basis it is [!.t. present considered thnt the amount owing in this connexion will be found to be not less than £30,000,000.

The total wheat-growers' debts, therefore, seem to be not less t1HH1 £ 140,000,000 in round figures. .

After the applicittion of other statistical cbocks which have been applied , the Commission is satisfied that the margin of error '.Yil! probably not exceed 5 per cent. There are other facb> associated v,-ith the debt position of farmers which are significant and need emph:o.sis. Reserves in cash and in other fonns which prudent farmers huilt up in past

years have been seriously depleted. In an attempt to obtain the greatest cash returns from ·farming operations farmers have y;c:mnitted fodder reserves to become alarmingly Jo',L In order

t o avoid the necessity of increasing the amount of their debts, many farmers have not replaced ineffective and for the same reason essential irnpnJ\'Cmcnts on farming properties have be(;n neglected.


'PI ri . . . . . t" .L .L' t l l l t ' ' "1" . f 1 h' Lne \.;Ommisswu es ImatJes 0m1 a reasona>J v comp e e rebab11tatwn o.c tne mac mery and equipment of the wheat iadustrv would wobal)ly involve the exrJenchture of not less than (' . . . ,,.10,000,000. A8SlSTANCE HENDEBED TO THE lNDUSTIW.

li'or many years past it has been necessary for the Goventments of the States to assist vvheat-growers to rneet conditions of adversity, ineluding those consequent upon

drought m the destruction of crops. The amount and mtture o [ such assistance has varied from season to season according to the needs of farmers in particuhtr districts or areas. These conditions of adversity are necessarily incidental to the conduct of the industry, however, and,

as and when they recuT, the Governments of the States may find it essential to continue to render similar assistance to individueJ farmers. Hollowing upon the break in wheat prices and the general depression a stage was reached, however, when it became imperative to t2,ke action in regard to the industry as a vvhole, and to

render assistance of a character not previously contemplated or necessary. In common with other members of the community who had been affected by the depression, wheat-growers were finding it difficult to meet their obligations to mortgagees and other creditors. As early as 1929, the State of South A1wtTalia found it necessary to provide special

pTotection to farmers by means of the Debt Act 1929. In HJ30--a, general moratorium

-the llloratoriwm Act 1930, wa,s enacted in New South \Vales. Early in 1931, the general financial position was examined at special conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and later in that year in the States of Victoria, South Australia and \Vestern Australia, general moratorium legislation was enacted as a result of the financial situation, and measures were taken in roll St2,tes to effect reductions in interest charges rentals. \Vheat-growers shared with other members of the community in the v,dvantages

and benefits of this legislation. The circumstances of certain farmers, however, were such that the general momtorium laws did not provide a sufficiently full measure of protection, and there was a serious danger that a large number of them vvould be forced to leave their farms. States found it necessary,

therefore, to enact legislation to afford special relief to farmers, and for this purpose were passed--The Debt Adjustment and the Farmers' Relief Acts of South Australia (later in corpora ted in the Farmers' Assistance Act) ; The Farmers' Debts Adjustment Act of Western Australia ;

The :Farmers' Helie£ Act of New South \Vales, and The Unemployed Occupiers and Farmers' Helief Act of '{ictoria. These Acts, which are in effect specialized moratoria, enabled farmers to obtain a measure of protection more adequate to their needs than was available to them under the general moratorium legislation, hut as a condition of obtaining such protection they were required to submit to a

control of their affa.irs. Even this step was, of itself, insufficient to enable certain fanners to carry on, and some State Governments were constTained to provide financial assist2,ncc to enable them to remain in the homes which they had established on their farms, and to continue in production.

The State Governments also rnade valuable concessions to fanner debtors of the Crown by effecting adjustments of such a cl1aracter as to lighten the burden or repayments of principal and/ or interest.

l\Ieanwhile, the Government of the Commonwealth had been approached. \Vheat-grmvers' organizations represented that the industry could not continue to operate at the prices then ruling, v,nd strongly urged that only prompt would keep nm•q farmers on their holdings. State Governments also impressed upon the Uover.ilment of the Commonwealth the

for co-opero,tion in dealing with the gr;:,w situo,tion 1vhich hacl devclOJled in this im11ortant orirnarv industry. The of the Conmwnweal th agreed ·c some assistance \Yur,; J • . . . -· Decessarv from Commonwealtb funds. and . oYer the three veDr:' 1 \liJ 1--:32. 1 D32-:53 and I • -- ' . - ,) - . " , • (• .- .·' --·, ) _-- _' , ' • ' - • ·â€¢..; , r ; (' -1 . tt geantecl sums toTallmg fut the reliei oi the JL:cbstry. Jl:c (,CJvcn1ment or the State of Nev1 South Wales :-mnnlc:uentr>d ,i1c assi::;h;ncc 2:r:1nted Lv the Common\\ (h;rinr!· year 19::11--:32 by a st1m of £.)00,000. . ·

The cumulative cHcoct of the measur-es ;1 d0scribed has been ui C(Jnsider-ab]e

irnportttr1ce. ljarge I1Un_-l \Vh(;Sc creditors Y.,.e:·e UD_aLlc to theiJl anrl

who would have had no tenwtivc but to lcaYG the land. Lr,,c bceE rctainccl u:;; prodctccl·s: but, ll1lfortullntel-y, it bec·_n J11 C\rlc18:·_1ce thE.t; the Cxe:r'C1se o£- strict.

ocoilOl11)?', in the cLC\'eluvnlCilt siJc-lincs \\:-h_erc tlris \Vas

possible, the afforded bs nut "preYcnte(l ma]orit;· o( gru\Ycr:-; falling back

in their financial affairs.


Elsewhere in this Report the view is expressed that a serious situation has been reached in relation to the solvency of the industry, that comprehensive measures which can only be applied over several years are necessary to a "planned" recovery, and that, to maintain the industry during the next 'Wheat year and until the appropriate steps for the readjustment of the industry have been determined upon, further financial relief is essential.

For reasons immediately hereinafter stated, ho-wever, the Commission is firmly of the opinion that such financial relief would not be justified or effective unless steps are taken to ensure that farmers are not dispossessed of their farms during the process of re-establishment. The moratorium law's in the case of some States do not apply to certain classes of creditors, and in others admit of farmers being required, as a condition of the provision of finance, to exclude the moratorium. Many farmers have had to rely upon the forbearance of one or more creditors to ensure the undisputed. possession of their farms.

For the most part, it should be said, creditors have exercised commendable forbearance during the period of depression in the industry. M1:my of them, financially able to do so, have assisted their debtors by making further funds or credit available to them and some by waiving or reducing interest charges.

The fear has been frequently reiterated in evidence before the Commission, however, that there is a real danger that a gradual return to stability in the industry, vVhich would enhance the value of securities, would also cause creditors who, up to the present, may have felt it to be against their financial interests to do so, to exercise their rights. It has been suggested that dispossessions would probably be effected before the farmers would have had sufficient time to place their financial affairs in a satisfactory condition. The Commission feels that there may be grounds for these fears. The Commission recognizes also that the announcement in this Report that more comprehenGive measures will be recommended later may influence some creditors not subject to the moratorium laws to take action where such a course is open to them.

Either of the above possibilities would be contrary to public interest, which demands that the rural population should be maintained on their lwldings so far as this can be achieved with fairness to their creditors. For the above reasons the Commission is of opinion that, in consideration of the allocation of the financial assistance, the State Governments should take steps to protect from dispossession wheat-growers who are worthy of protection.


The surveys of the cost of production on the one hand and of the debt structure of the industry on the other, have revealed the nature and magnitude of the problem before the Commission. The possible remedial measures naturally fall into two groups. The first of these contain those schemes which aim at an improvement by lowering the costs per bushel of production. The second embraces those which ain1 at increasing the net returns. These remedial measures have been advocated before the Commission by farming representatives and others interested in the industry on many occasions. They are summarized here for the purpose of indicating the wide range of problems which the Commission is at present investigating.

2. The lowering of the cost per bushel may be achieved by one or more of a variety of different methods which may be grouped as follows: --(a) A diminution of fixed charges, such as the interest rates on borrowed money, State or Federal taxes, and the rates levied by municipal and other authorities

for social or Stlpply services. (b) The decrease of the working costs on the fan:n; under this sub-heading the costs of machinery, and especially of spare parts of machinery, takes a very prominent place in the minds of all producers practically without exception.

Other points raised have been the possibility of using cheaper fuels, such as producer gas for tractors, and the re-organization of areas coupled with a reduction in the number of farms so as to permit of a more economical use of machinery, tractive pmver and labour. Many farmers have attacked the tariff as a crmse of high costs of farm requirements. (c) The increase in the volume of production per unit area by better farming methods,

which usually involve other alterations, among which are the increase of farm areas so as to avoid stubble cropping, the provision of tanks, fencing and sheep on not fully developed farms and, less frequently, the provision of essential machinery ·which is lacking. (d) A decrease in the cost of handling the crop in var·ious ways. One way is stated

to be through the installatioi1 or extension of bulk handling equipment. Another vvay is by the concentration of all handling under one authority in each State. A third possibility is the reduction in freight charges on the railways and of port dues.


3. As regards methods of increasing net returns to growers the following points of significance have been made:-- ·

(a) It has been urged that the State either should provide a higher price for the whole or part of the crop, or legalize procedure by which the farmers could obtain such higher price. ·

(b) Other means of increasing the net returns ·which have been suggested have centred around the proposals for a compulsory pool. This would handle all Australian wheat and either sell it at ports or arrange its sale through agents overseas. It has been stated that considerable savings could be effected

by this means and further that a "stronger" selling position for Australian wheat would be built up. (c) Many witnesses have crit,icised the present, simple f.a .q. system of defining the quality of Australian wheat for purposes of sale. They have urged the

adoption of various grading systems which might be expected to enable better quality wheat to command better prices. It has been stated that the present quality of Australian wheats from the standpoint of the baking quality of their flour depresses their value, and that successful research into the possibility

of combining high yields per acre with high quality of grain would raise the world demand for the product and increase the price obtained. (d) As regards the overseas price, it has been stated by some witnesses that Australian :fiscal policy has placed obstacles in the way of selling wheat in some countries.

It has been alleged that there are nov.r serious doubts as to the practicability of disposing of large Australian cwps in the future in the event of a continuance of the present position of over-supply on the world wheat market. (e) In one or two cases, f;:mners have gone further and urged various policies of

restriction of production. One form of restriction of acreage which has been advocated in many quarters is the relinquishment of wheat farming in the less certain areas.

4. An increase in the present exchange rate has been recommended as a way of increasing the returns to the farmer, and of diminishing tbe ratio which interest and other fixed charges bear to other items in his costs of production.

5. One point worthy of note is the large quantity of wheat which is still held by individual farmers on their farms or at sidings, or which is stored on their behalf by m.illers or merchants. Authoritative estimates show that of the total crop of 176,000,000 bushels harvested last season about 70,000,000 bushels are still so held. As events have turned out the price has risen during recent weeks, and if the growers are able to sell their vvheat at present prices, this holding policy

will have secured for them an additional £1,750,000.


Accumulated surpluses of wheat, and the growth in many countries, of excessive economic nationalism have introduced complications into the industry of producing wheat in Australia.

Throughout the world and particularly throughout those portions of the world where industrialism is an important factor, the nu:!Jadjustmen.t of internal economic conditions and international relations have forced the Governments to extreme measures to keep their peoples employed and to reduce to a minimum the flow of credits to other countries in payment for primary products.

Import prohibitions and/ or quotas, summarily applied and lifted only for short periods of necessity, combined with price fixation within each country has reduced markets for wheat from the main wheat exporting countries, seriously.

Any forecast as to the possibility of abandonment or modification of the policy of maintaining high home consumption prices in European countries is impossible. Evidence has been given that the price of w-heat in certain European countries, calculated to Australian currency has been maintained recently at figures varying from 7s. to as high as 15s. per


Suggestions have been made to the Commission that a system which maintains unduly high internal prices, as compared with prices of the s2,me articles available from other countries, would break down under its own weight. Perhaps the same remark may have been made years ago regarding the prices of various products essential to Australian consumers, but so far the system has not broken down in Australia.



Pending an improvement in the general level of wheat prices as a result of international agreement or other causes, considerable aid to the industry is essential.

In the past three years, Australia has endeavoured to hold the position by financial contributions from the Commonwealth and State Governments which have been in the form of .annual grants based upon no particular policy or guarantee to the industry. Future assistance should be placed upon a systematic basis in justice to the industry and to the peace of mind of the community.

It is unthinkable that the industry should be left to find its own level. The industry is too important, and its collapse would be disastrous to the whole economic and social system.

In the other major wheat exporting countries-the United States, Canada and the Argentine-systems of various kinds have been adopted to assist the wheat-farmers. The Commission has not had full opportunit:y of examining all the details of these systems and is endeavouring to obtain further information regarding their effect, having in view possible application in Australia.

Lowered costs, adjustment of debts and interest rates, the rate of exchange and the problem of the amount of wheat that can be sold overseas in the future are, inter alia, being considered carefully as portions of this intricate problem, but meanwhile the wheat-farmers are entitled to know that the Australian community is prepared to assist on sound and organized lines.

New Zealand has had in operation for some years, a scheme which in practice establishes home consumption prices for wheat and flour, and which has operated successfully. The Honorable F. H. Stewart, Minister for Commerce, obtained full reports on the subject during his Tecent visit to New Zealand, and the Commission has had the opportunity of personal discussion with the administrator of the scheme during his recent visit to Australia.

The home consumption price for wheat presents considerable difficulties, associated with controi and with its effect upon other exporting industries.

Of the various methods by which a home consumption price or the effect of a home consumption price can be achieved, two in particular have been considered by the Commission, namely an excise on flour and a compulsory pool for wheat.

At the date of this report, the Commission is not prepared to make any findings or recommenda6ons on the broad and important question of a compulsory pool, the adoption of which has been urged so strongly by many important witnesses representing wheat-growers. At a later date, the Commission will submit its considered views and recommendations on this matter.

Australia uses annually approximately 30,000,000 bushels of wheat for making flour for home consumption. These 30,000,000 bushels of wheat represent only one-fifth or one-sixth of the total saleable annual production. And therein lies the difference between the value of a home consumption price to the wheat-farmers as compared with its value to the wheat-fanners of New Zealand, in which country wheat production approximately equals consumption. An increase in the price of wheat over world parity price for the wheat used in Australia, represents only one-fifth or one-sixth of that increase, when spread over the total annual production.

Having in view the necessities of the farmers, and recognizing the desirability of adding as little as possible to the cost of living in Australia, the Commission is satisfied that the "'heat­ farmers are entitled to share in the benefits accorded to other industries by the protection policy of the nation. This can best be achieved by contributions to be obtained by an excise on flour, vvhich excise should be arranged so as to provide more money as the world parity price of wheat falls and less money as it rises. The cost per head of population in Australia of an Excise on flour will be small, but the help to the farmer will be considerable and the adoption of this principle will the first step towards removing the _fa!mer from reliance upon gra!its of money. This method of annual grants has a distmct tendency to create a JUStified feelmg of resentment in the minds of recipients who are in distress through no fault of their own and in spite of their genuine efforts.

The Commission is of opinion t.bat the excise on flour cannot be expected to raise sufficient moneys to meet the present necessities of the industry. It follows therefore, that during the interim, whilst other readjustments are being fully investigated, a further grant of money from the Commonwealth to the industry is, unfortunately, inevitable.


. The Australian c?mmunity is paying to--day, excise, or the equivalent of excise or bounbes upon many artiCles of consumption including--Sugar, Wines,

Spirituous liquors, Dried fruits, Butter, Cheese,

Bananas, Rice, Ply wood and other wood products, Peanuts,

Pineapples, Cotton, Tobacco, and Maize.

\Vithout doubt wheat rm:;st be added to this list so long as the principle applies generally to so many other primary products, which principle, after al1 is only the application of thE policy of protection to the primary industries.

The Commission cannot emphasize too strongly that the Secondary, Sheltered and Ser;rice Industries of Australia cannot be prosperous unless the great primary industries are prosperous, and their prosperities are inter-related. For instance, the wheat-growing industry of Australia is debarred by the present disastrous conditions from spending several millions of pounds annually in replacement of old machinery which has become, or is becoming seriously inefficient. The absence of this expenditure means the non-employn1ent of coal-miners, steel-workers, agricultural machinery manufacturers, railway employees, salesmen and others to the extent of many

bhousands of bread-winners, to say nothing of the indirect employment which would be given by these people if employed. The Commission is satisfied that the small effect upon the cost of living caused by the excise on flour for home smaller than the effect of other rises in essential

commodities which pass unnoticed--will be more than compensated to the cor.nmunity by the consequent improvement in the position and mental outlook of the wheat-farmers of Australia.


In the Second Report which will be presented later, the economic position o:f the industry will be discussed more fully.

Since the taking of evidence was finished less than three weeks ago, time has permitted only the preparation of this First Report vvhich submits recommendations of an urgent chu,mcter.

The basis for the recommendations in this First Heport are the following findings :-­ (i) The industry of growing wheat is in a serious financial position. (ii) The measures of financial relief provided by the Commonwealth gnd State Governments, and the protection afforded to debtor farmers by legislation

enacted by State Governments, have, in the majority of cases, merely helped farmers to reduce their losses. (iii) Notwithstanding the financial assistance given by the Commonwealth and State Governments, and the fact that the production per acre over the last three

years has been higher than can be regarded as normal, the growing of wheat has been unprofitable at the average of the prices which have ruled since 1030. (See Table XI.) (iv) The costs of producing wheat vary with tLe infinite variety of circumstances of

individual farmers and farms. Approximately 50 per cent. of the 'ivheat­ growers can produce wheat at a cost of 3s. per bushel, or less, at their local sidings, while a further 25 per cent. can do so at costs up to 3s. JOid. per busheL (See paragraph at end of 'l'able XI.)

NoTE.-These figures a,re based upon an examination of tho working costs of nearly 500 farmers distributed over alJ the chief wheat-gro\ving districts. The Commission, after a. detailed review of the industry, is satisfied that the costs revealed by this survey are, in general, representative, but

they are subject to a further review when the Commission has completed its analysis of all the information now under examination.




(vii) (viii)








'l'he above costs include a minimum maintenance wage for the farmer and his assistants, all expenditure necessary for the production of the crop, interest, rates and taxes payable by the {armer. They do not include any return to the farmer for his capital invested in the undertaking and have been reduced by profits from ali side JineB produced Oil the farm. 'rhe earnings from individual effort in the industry haiYe been for some years out

of conformity with those in most other industries, and, in a large number of cases, farmers have been enabled to continue to work their farms by reason only of the assistance-usually unpaid--which has been rendered by members of their families. lVIany wheat farmers whose main source of livelihood is the growing of wheat

have at present little or no margin of assets over liabilities. In many cases, interest payments are not being and cannot be made. The financial difficulties o£ wheat-growers t:tre producing serious f.inancial difficulties for traders, storekeepers and others who are dependent upon the

industry. The situation is especially serious in the areas of light rainfall and variable soil conditions, for the development of which Governments have been responsible and in which they are now the principal creditors. The reserves of fodder, which prudent farming requires as a safeguard against

unfavorable seasons, have been, in many areas, seriously depleted. In a large number of cases farm plant and equipment haos either reached, or is reaching rapidly, a state of serious disrepair. l\Iany farmers are unable to find the finance to replace or even reasonably to maintain their plant and implements. 'Wheat farmers in all parts of the Commonwealth are becoming discouraged, and

this discoumgernent has been accentuated in many instances by the fear of dispossession. The practice of selling wheat for consumption in Australia at approximately the world parity prices for export wheat has been of benefit to the Australian

consumer to the extent of approximately ls. per bushel as compared with the prices which would have been paid for wheat imported duty free. Although there have been some compensations to the wheat-growers from the community, the wheat industry is in marked contrast to certain other primary industries in that there is no controlled price for that portion of its product which is

consumed in Australia ; and the industry has suffered in consequence. The wheat industry has an undoubted claim to assistance from the community. This claim is the greater because--( a) the industry probably provides more direct employment than any other

single industry in Australia; (b) the industry provides almost 20 per cent. of the freight earnings of, and approximately the same percentage of the total tonnage of goods carried by the railways of the four principal wheat-producing


(c) numerous towns and townships throughout the four principal wheat­ producing States are dependent in a larger or smaller degree upon the industry for their existence ; (d) the industry contributes a substantial proportion of Australian credits


(e) 13,622,358 of the 23,978,157 tons of cargo shipped from Australian ports in the period from 1927-1928 to 1931-1932 was provided by the wheat industry (vide Commonwealth Year-Book 1933).


The Commission submits the following recommendations:-(i) That the policy applied to most other rural industries of ensuring better returns by means of the principle of a home consumption price of that part of the product consumed within the Commonwealth should be applied to the wheat


(ii) That in respect ?f the_ coming_ season the Commonwealth Government provide financial assistance for wheat-growers who have sown wheat for gram during 1934.


(iii) That such assistance be provided as to part by an excise on flour used within the Commonwealth and as to the Temainder by a contribution from other Commonwealth moneys. (iv) That on the basis of present conditions, including the present prices of about 3s.

per bushel for fair average quality wheat free on rails at the principal Australian shipping ports, the amount of such assistance should be £4,000,000. 'rhis amount should, however, be subject to review when the quantity of wheat likely to be produced from the coming harvest is at least approximately known and there is a better indication than is at present available as to the prices likely to obtain in respect to the coming crop.

NoTE.-The Commission will make a final recommendation on this matter before the coming crop is harvested. (v) That the rate of excise which should be imposed on flour used within the Commonwealth should be variable in order to provide progressively more

funds as wheat prices fall and progressively less funds as wheat prices rise. Such rate should, therefore, be based on the world parity price of wheat free on trucks at the principal ports of shipment. The excise should be imposed, however, with due regard to its effect on the price of bread. (vi) That action should be taken to impose or vary customs duties on wheat and flour

in order to render the operation of the excise effective to maintain the assistance to the industry. (vii) That portion of the amOlmt provided for the assistance of the industry should be distributed by the Commonwealth as a bounty per bushel of wheat

produced. NoTE.--In view of the present uncertainties as to the coming harvest, particularly in some States, and as to the price likely to be realized, the Commission is not prepared at this stage to recommend either the proportion

of such total amount which should be applied to the payment of the bounty or the methods which should be adopted for the distribution of the remainder. A further recommendation will be submitted later. (viii) That the Commonwealth Government should urge upon the Governments of the

States the necessity of taking steps effectively to protect against dispossession wheat-farmers who are worthy of such protection. NoTE.--With reference to Recommendation (iv), the phrase "the present prices of about 3s. per bushel" is used intentionally because of the differences between the simultaneous f.o.r. prices at different principal Australian shipping ports.

The Commission has not attempted herein to deal with the industries of handling and marketing wheat, nor does the present Report cover a number of important matters which materially affect the industry of growing wheat.

A more comprehensive survey which is now in course of preparation will deal with these subjects and will be submitted in a later Report.

The Commission emphasizes the fact that the increased prices of wheat now in evidence do not, as is sometimes supposed, indicate that the difficulties of the industry have been overcome.

30th July, 1934.

We have the honour to be,

Your Excellency's Most Obedient Servants,




Printed nncl I>ublishcd for the of the Cmnro:,;>YEALTH oi ArsTRALL\ hy

L, F. JoHXSTOX, Conm1omn·alth GoYernment Printer, ·






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