New survey data from Rural Aid shows consecutive disasters have forced most farmers to think about selling

A spate of consecutive natural disasters and associated financial pressures are cited as two of the key reasons why more than two-thirds of Australian farmers are considering selling their farms, the results of Rural Aid’s inaugural farmer survey have revealed.

The ‘Pulse of the Paddock’ report shows many farmers are in need of diverse support measures, particularly mental health and wellbeing, to continue to supply quality food to Australian and international tables and contribute to the overall health and prosperity of communities across the country.

Released today, ahead of Rural Aid’s major fundraising campaign tomorrow, Mates Day, the survey attracted responses from 680 farmers and delivered some sobering statistics, supporting the charity’s urgent call to acknowledge the importance of farmers.

The Pulse of the Paddock survey revealed:

  • 80% of farmers believe people do not value the work and effort that goes into producing food
  • 76% of farmers rate their mental health as poor, very poor or average
  • 70% have considered selling their farm in the past 12 months due to natural disasters and financial pressure
  • 45% say their mental health has declined in the past 12 months

Rural Aid CEO, John Warlters, said the survey raises issues he believed every Australian should take heed of, given 93% of food eaten in Australia is produced right here on domestic farms.

“Farmers form the first link in the agricultural supply chain that connects the producer with the consumer. If that’s broken, if we lose farmers and their families because they’re mentally and physically drained from trying to recover from extreme weather events and poor returns, then we won’t be eating locally grown food,” Mr Warlters said.

“The survey results speak to the toll consecutive disasters have taken on our farming communities.

“We need to take their fears seriously, and actively help them to stay on the land.”

Profit discrepancies a key driver of distress

In the Pulse of the Paddock survey, an open-ended question about improving food supply chains garnered the most responses, with the overwhelming majority of farmers suggesting cutting out ‘middlemen’ along the food supply chain as a solution to the narrow the gap between their returns and retailer profits.

Soberingly, the survey revealed the extent to which mental health remains a challenge for the farm sector.

Only 24% of farmers described their mental health as good or very good, and half of the respondents said they had been feeling worse over the past 12 months.

The survey corroborates the statistics from the Norco National Farmer Wellbeing Report released in March 2023, which showed the top three factors impacting farmer mental health were weather or natural disasters (47%), financial stress (36%) and inflation and cost pressures (35%).

Quantifying the impact across the country, it found that 88% of Australian farmers have had their business significantly impacted by natural disasters over the past five years, at an average cost of $1.4 million per farm.

Mr Warlters said he was pleased the survey results showed many people in rural and regional communities were grateful for the work Rural Aid was undertaking.

“Almost 100 per cent of respondents said Rural Aid was having a positive impact on their daily life and household, describing the support as ‘life-changing’, ‘amazing’, and ‘vital’,” he said.

Laura Geitz urges Australians to take notice

Rural Aid’s Mates Day Ambassador, and former Australian champion netballer, Laura Geitz, said most people had little concept of what is involved in bringing healthy food from the paddock to the table.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a conversation every time you sit down with a plate of food, about where that food came from? Most of us take it for granted that we can zip down to the shops, grab what we want or call Uber Eats, and the food just arrives,” she said.

“But strip it back a bit. Every plate tells a story. What do farmers have to go through to provide us with that meal, and what happens if they can’t?

“I think this is a great opportunity to support Aussie farmers on Mates Day, whether you have ties to agriculture or not.”

Mates Day is Rural Aid’s major annual fundraising campaign. All donations ensure the ongoing provision of critical economic and empathetic assistance to farmers.

To make a donation to Rural Aid’s Mates Day, visit

Rural Aid’s Pulse of the Paddock is available on the Rural Aid website

Media enquiries:
Kate Scott
0438 389 092

Stacey Wordsworth
0438 394 371

About Rural Aid 
Rural Aid is Australia’s most trusted rural charity. We stand with our farmers when they need us most. Rural Aid provides critical support to farmers affected by natural disaster through financial, wellbeing and fodder assistance. Rural Aid’s community programs help create more sustainable communities by building stronger futures for all Australian farmers. Find out more at