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Title: The impact of farm workforce turnover in the cotton sector
Authors: Nettle, Ruth
Keywords: workforce
world views
human capacity
capacity building
cotton industry
economic factors
Issue Date: 30-Jun-2016
Publisher: University of Melbourne
Series/Report no.: ;UM1501
Abstract: The Australian cotton industry recognises the value of people and has a vision that by 2029 it will be an - an industry that “retains, attracts and develops highly capable people” (Cotton Research and Development Corporation 2010, p. 4). Implementing this vision is, however, difficult to do when the costs and benefits of human resources improvements are not well understood. For example there is a major gap in current knowledge in how employee turnover could be expected to the productivity and profitability of cotton production. A key challenge for Australian agricultural producers is to continually innovate and adapt in the context of a global economy, technological advances, and a more variable climate. The emphasis in research studies related to agricultural adaptation have tended to focus on bio-physical responses or technological solutions in farming systems with limited attention to the farm workforce and workforce organisation. Yet in Australia, changes in farm workforce organisation in the last decade have been a significant feature of broader agricultural change. Whilst family owned and operated farms are predominant, there has been a reduction in family members as a proportion of the total farm workforce, and an increase in casual (temporary), contract and seasonal workforces including those sourced from overseas. Further, some farm families are implementing ‘corporate models’ of work organisation involving farm managers and farm management teams. To effectively support agricultural adaptation, it is important to consider: How are farmer’s workforce strategies being formed? And, what are the implications of farm workforce changes for innovation and adaptation? This paper examines these questions through reporting on a study of farm workplaces in the Australian cotton production sector. A case study methodology was used involving 16 farm businesses and interviews with farm owners or managers and a survey of their employees (where possible). Data was collected relating to farm business analysis; farm workforce organisation and decisions related to workforce structures; employers’ attitudes toward employee engagement and retention; d) human resource management practices; and f) employee training, burnout and work engagement. An analysis of Australian cotton farmer’s workforce strategies was conducted by bringing together theories of livelihoods analysis and strategic human resource management. Decisions related to the farm workforce were found to influence, and be influenced by, adaptive responses to technological and climate change. The farm workforce can also be used as a strategy for farm adaptation. This has implications for assisting farm managers in their decisions regarding farm workforce strategies and workforce management as well as for a range of policy areas involving the intersection of technology and innovation, climate adaptation, agricultural extension and advisory systems
Appears in Collections:2016 Final Reports

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