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Agriculture FAQs
 

Q. What is the difference between an Agricultural Census and the Agricultural Survey?
Q. What is sampling error?
Q. How often, and why, are Agricultural Censuses undertaken?
Q. How many farms are there in Australia?
Q. Does the ABS collect financial data from Agricultural businesses?
Q. Where can Agricultural statistics be found?


Q. What is the difference between an Agricultural Census and the Agricultural Survey?

A. The Agricultural Census aims to collect information from all 'in-scope' agricultural businesses. Since the 2005-06 Agricultural Census the definition used to decide if a business is 'in-scope' of the Agricultural Census is;

  1. the business must be registered for Goods and Services Tax (GST) purposes and have an active Australian Business Number (ABN).
  2. the business must undertake some agricultural activity during the reference period
  3. the business must have an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) or a derived Business Activity Statement (BAS) turnover value of $5,000 or more.
An Agricultural Survey, unlike a census, collects information from only part of the population. Prior to the selection of the sample the 'in-scope' population is stratified (grouped) into categories based on the business' location, size and type of agricultural activity. Businesses which are known to be large and significant contributors to the data are included in the collection and a random sample of the remaining units are selected for contact. The businesses selected in the sample are representative of the 'in-scope' population and their data is 'weighted' to enable the release of estimates for the entire 'in- scope' population. The Agricultural Survey sample is about 1/5th of the 'in-scope' population.


Q. What is sampling error?

A. Sampling error is the difference between the estimate derived from the sample survey and the 'true' value that would result if a census of the whole population was undertaken. A measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE) which indicates the extent to which the estimate might vary when not all units in the' in-scope' population have responded. There are about two chances in three that a 'sample' estimate will differ by less than one SE from the figure that would have been obtained if all 'in-scope' businesses had responded, and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two SEs. Good sample design and a large sample size helps minimise the sampling error for the Agricultural Survey.

When the ABS undertakes an Agricultural Census there are small number of units that do not respond. Therefore the reported estimates may differ from those which would have been produced if all 'in- scope' businesses had responded. As a result the Agricultural Census estimates are published with an indication of the sampling error introduced by non-response.

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Q. How often, and why, are Agricultural Censuses undertaken?

A. A census aims to collect information from all members of the 'in-scope' population. For an Agricultural Census, the in-scope population includes businesses undertaking agricultural activity and where this activity is valued at $5,000 per annum or more. Agricultural Censuses are conducted every five years with large sample surveys (Agricultural Surveys) conducted in the intervening years. In the years where a census collection is undertaken, the information collected is released for smaller geographic regions, including Statistical Local Areas, river basins, irrigation regions etc. In addition, information collected in the Agricultural Census is used for benchmarking ABS and other agricultural surveys in the intervening years.

The large sample size and complex design of the ABS Agricultural Surveys ensures that, for the vast majority of information collected, the release of data at the National and State/Territory level has a low sampling error. For commodities significant to particular Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions, the sampling error is also low.


Q. How many farms are there in Australia?

A. The publication Agricultural Commodities, Australia (cat. no. 7121.0) provides the ABS' best estimate of the number of businesses, and locations, in Australia which undertake agricultural activity. As, in the annual agriculture program, the ABS only collects data from businesses whose agricultural activity is valued at $5,000 per annum or more, this estimate of businesses may not include some of the smaller 'hobby' farms.

Where a number of related businesses operate agricultural activity on one location (farm), for the purpose of the agriculture commodity collection, the operation is counted only once. In some cases, where a business has large agricultural operations in more than one location, each location is reported and counted separately. Therefore the estimate published in Agricultural Commodities, Australia (cat. no. 7121.0) as closely as possible represents the number of agricultural businesses in Australia.

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Q. Does the ABS collect financial data from Agricultural businesses?

A. The ABS collects financial information through its Economic Activity Survey (EAS) and through Business Activity Statement (BAS) data reported to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This information enables the ABS to produce estimates on a broad range of financial data from businesses which have reported their main activity as agriculture. This data is released on an annual basis and include; employment numbers, wages and salaries, income measures, expenses measures, capital expenditure, industry value added, operating profit before tax, and some business averages, industry ratios and business profitability measures. This information is reported in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0).


Q. Where can Agricultural statistics be found?

A. One way of locating agricultural and related statistics if through the Agriculture 'Topic @ a Glance' and linking to Agriculture Releases.

If the you require support, contact the Information Consultancy Service on 1300 135 070.

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