Australian Bureau of Statistics
Survey Participant Information - Agricultural Surveys
If you have received a survey form related to agriculture or land management practices from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), this page will help you understand the purpose of these surveys and will provide answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). A list of contacts is also provided for further information on any aspect of these collections.
2. Why are agricultural collections run so regularly?
There are a number of reasons why it is necessary to collect agricultural production and land management information every year. One reason is the variability of Australian climatic conditions which may cause significant annual variations in the types and quantities of agricultural goods produced and the practices employed in their production.
Another reason is the importance of agriculture to the Australian economy. Statistics on agriculture are used in compiling National Accounts figures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and it is essential that data is collected on an annual basis to ensure the value of agriculture is reflected accurately in these figures.
However, it is only once every five years that the ABS conducts an Agricultural Census of all agricultural businesses across Australia. This collection is particularly important as it provides statistics on agricultural production and natural resource management at the regional (sub-state/territory) level.
Periodically the ABS also runs collections targeted at specific agricultural industries or topics related to agriculture or land management practices, on a partially or fully user-funded basis. These include the: Wool Receivals, Purchases and Sales; and Livestock Slaughtered collections.
Data on livestock slaughtering is collected from the large abattoirs on a monthly basis with a number of small abattoirs approached annually. This collection provides the information necessary to assist industry to understand movements in the market.
Information on wool receivals, purchases and sales is collected quarterly and is used to inform the wool industry in addition to feeding into the compilation of the National Accounts.
3. Could I be selected in a survey every year?
In an Agricultural Census year (once every five years), all in-scope agricultural businesses are sent an Agricultural Census form (the most recent Agricultural Census was run in 2010-11). In non-Agricultural Census years, sample surveys are undertaken where large businesses that make a major contribution to production of particular commodities in their region or industry are sent a survey form. A stratified random sample of the remaining smaller businesses is then also selected in these survey years.
4. Why am I included in more than one agricultural/land management practices survey?
ABS agriculture and land management practices surveys cover a broad range of industries and regions. Agricultural businesses with diverse operations (for example, involved in cropping and livestock production) may find themselves selected in multiple surveys. Large businesses that make a major contribution to production of particular commodities in their region or industry are more likely to be selected in multiple surveys due to their significance.
If your agriculture business has been selected in more than one survey, a response to each is very important as your business has been chosen to represent similar businesses in that region and/or industry.
5. My business is small, why do you need my information?
Smaller businesses have different characteristics to larger businesses, and make an important contribution to the Australian economy, especially at state and territory levels. Consequently, the ABS considers it essential to include a sample of smaller businesses in a survey together with larger businesses to ensure comprehensive representation and accuracy of data.
If your small business has been selected in an ABS agriculture or land management related survey it will be representing a number of other businesses of a similar size. In a survey year when not all agricultural businesses receive a survey form, it is important that all business size ranges are represented so there is a fair representation of the target population and no bias introduced to the estimates.
6. Do I have to fill it in?
The ABS relies on the goodwill of individuals and businesses in Australia to provide accurate information as requested. The vast majority of farmers (and other businesses) respond to our requests for information. However, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician with the power, if necessary, to direct you in writing to answer the questions.
7. Why is the survey form I have received full of questions about activities in which I am not involved?
The ABS designs forms to capture the full range of commodities and land management practices undertaken across all states, territories and regions, and therefore, there will always be some questions on each form that are not relevant to some agricultural businesses. Form sequencing is used to ensure that businesses do not have to complete questions that are not relevant to them.
8. Who uses the data I supply?
Agricultural and land management practices data produced by the ABS is used by a variety of individuals and organisations in both government and private industry. The information is used by the Australian Government and state/territory governments for planning, budgeting and policy development. Industry organisations and other producer associations use the data to support submissions to government and to better represent their members. Agriculture service companies also use ABS data in their planning to improve their capacity to meet the needs of their clients in the farming community. Commodity data is also used internally by the ABS to compile the National Accounts.
9. Why wasn't there a question on . . . ?
Questions on agricultural and land management practices survey forms are determined in consultation with the major data users relevant to each collection. When determining what questions to include in a survey, the ABS considers a range of factors, including: whether information can be obtained from other sources; why the data is needed; how the information will be obtained; ability of businesses to provide the information; and costs.
Each year the ABS asks a number of primary producers to test proposed questions for the agricultural and land management collections to ensure they can be readily understood and easily completed. In addition, the ABS relies on information provided through your comments on the back of the forms. Your contributions are encouraged and valued and the ABS makes use of them where possible.
A consultation process is conducted each year to identify potential emerging topics for inclusion for the annual agricultural sample surveys and for the five-yearly Agricultural Census. For more information, please contact Katie Hutt, Acting Director of Rural Environment and Agriculture Statistics: firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. I have already sent you the information requested.
If you believe you have already provided the information requested by the ABS through a survey or other means, please contact us.
11. Isn't this an intrusion into my private business? Is confidentiality guaranteed?
The ABS has a responsibility to ensure that it provides a quality statistical service whilst also protecting the privacy rights of those individuals or businesses who provide information. Your completed form remains confidential to the ABS and statistics will only be published in the form of aggregated data. In some circumstances very detailed statistics could relate to agricultural production data for a single business. Agricultural businesses who can show that their information may be identified in the detailed statistics published by the ABS, can apply to the ABS to further aggregate the data to avoid such identification. The Australian Statistician and ABS officers are bound by the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to observe the strictest confidence in regard to the information supplied by providers. The Act provides for penalties of up to $5,000 and/or two years in jail, or both, against officers who breach this rule.
12. Why don't you pay people to fill in your forms and why can't we have more time to fill them in?
The ABS appreciates that considerable time and effort is required on the part of businesses to complete ABS forms. However, there is no provision within the Census & Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse businesses and individuals for the cost of providing statistical information. ABS relies on the cooperation of individuals, businesses and other organisations to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation. It is important that we receive data from providers in a timely manner so that the resulting information can be released as soon as possible after the period to which it relates. In the case of the annual collections, if you are unable to supply the certain figures because they will not be available for some weeks, you may ask for an extension of time. As timing is particularly important for monthly collections, the ABS asks that a careful estimate be provided to assist the timely release of data. We also encourage providers to contact us if they need any help in completing the survey form.
13. How accurate do the figures need to be?
The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The data supplied by your business contributes to estimates relating to all agricultural businesses (of a similar nature) operating in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the total estimate will be. However, if for some items exact data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.
14. Can't the ABS collect this data from other sources?
In deciding to undertake an agricultural or land management practices collection, ABS considers the range of other data sources available, whether the information could be collected via other means and the suitability of the topic for collection via an ABS survey. In addition, ABS business surveys must pass the scrutiny of the Statistical Clearing House (SCH), which must clear all surveys that are directed to 50 or more businesses and that are conducted by or on behalf of any Australian Government agency. The purpose of the SCH is to reduce duplication, minimise the burden on business and ensure that surveys are fit for purpose.
While there are other organisations that collect agricultural and land management practices data, ABS is currently the only organisation that provides an overall picture of the complete agricultural industry.
If you need help with any of our surveys, or wish to provide comments on the surveys or survey content, you can:
Phone the ABS:
National Information and Referral Service (NIRS)
1300 135 070
Land Management Practices Survey:
Free call: 1800 462 609
Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey:
Free call: 1800 647 011
Land Management and Commodities Survey:
Free call: 1800 281 656
Livestock slaughtering and wool receivals:
Free call: 1800 030 084
Write to the ABS, stating the name of the survey:
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Reply Paid 76746
Sydney NSW 2000
The ABS is grateful for the cooperation of data providers in returning their completed forms promptly to enable early processing and release of results from our survey collections. We look forward to your continued support.
This page first published 24 March 2006, last updated 17 June 2015