This international article is a good summary of the last 20 years' experience of unsubsidised farming in our fair land. The Social Laboratory Syndrome strikes again!
I do remember a leetle anecdote about those last glorious days of Supplementary Minimum Prices in the late '70's, way down South in a tiny self-governed town called Otautau.
Y'see, SMP's were counted on certain days. And the basis for Price Support (gawd, what a totalitarian title That was...) was per live stock unit. $/sheep: nice and simple. Oh, and some more for the wool.
Only problem was that 3 days before Count Day, a major (150 year return period - we had 3 of those in 18 months...) flood went down the Aparima, and a lot of the SMP'able stock drowned. Or so you would have thought, seeing them in fences, under willows, and in the middle of paddocks, on their backs with their legs in the air, bloated like Michael Moore.
But by strange circumstance, as far as the SMP count went, the very same stock units had held their breath underwater for 3 days, and survived just long enough to pass Go and collect their $200.
They breed 'em tough in Southland.
Whoever said economic incentives don't work?