7105.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: Environment and Agriculture Survey Program Review, 2011-12  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2011  First Issue
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The Environment and Agriculture Statistical Program collects a wide variety of agricultural and land management data via annual and sub-annual collections. Intermittent surveys and responses to emerging information needs also contribute to data collections already maintained at the ABS. The Environment and Agriculture Survey Program has four main objectives :

  • to determine and analyse the contribution of the farm sector to the Australian economy;
  • to support the determination and monitoring of environmental and agricultural policies, for example drought relief, food security, water and natural resource policies as they relate to agriculture;
  • to support decision makers involved in producing, supplying, marketing and trading agricultural commodities and water used by the agricultural sector; and
  • to support the monitoring of issues affecting rural communities.
The ABS' current Environment and Agriculture Statistical Program is comprised of a five-yearly Agricultural Census, annual surveys in non-Census years, and sub-annual and intermittent surveys to meet specific user needs.

Current ABS Environment and Agriculture Collections

Annual Surveys
The 2011 Agricultural Census collects both commodity and land use data items to provide the majority of users with a continuous set of data that is comparable and coherent over time. The Agricultural Census supports the release of small area and flexible geographic regions such as Natural Resource Management (NRM), and Statistical Areas (SAs), as well as user defined customised geographies.

The Agricultural Census and Survey data are used to inform government and industry policy and decision making processes, and are also an input to the Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced (VACP), used by National Accounts to monitor the agriculture sector of the economy. Agriculture accounts for approximately 3% of Australia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and due to the volatility of the sector, there are downstream implications for the calculation of production, income-based estimates and expenditure-based estimates in the national accounts. The agricultural sector is instrumental in underpinning rural communities and contributes to socioeconomic and demographic factors such as income and employment.

The biennial Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) commenced in 2008 and was developed to collect specific land use information to assist with Government initiatives such as 'Caring for Our Country', as well as collecting critical commodity information. Agricultural commodity and land management practices data from both the ARMS and Agricultural Census and surveys are published in Agricultural Commodities, Australia (cat. no. 7121.0), Water Use on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4618.0), and Land Management and Farming in Australia (cat. no. 4627.0).

Sub-annual Surveys
The ABS' Environment and Agriculture Survey Program also collects data via other surveys conducted monthly, quarterly, and on a biennial or intermittent basis. The purpose of these surveys is to collect data for use in Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced (VACP), used by National Accounts Branch (NAB) to monitor the agriculture sector of the economy. Industry bodies and other stakeholders utilise this data in decision making processes. VACP data is published in Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia (cat. no. 7503.0).

The livestock sub-annual collections are comprised of the monthly Livestock Slaughtered Survey, a quarterly survey of Poultry and Game Birds Slaughtered, and a quarterly survey of Wool Receivals, Purchases and Sales. Data from these collections are released in ABS publication Livestock Products, Australia (cat. no. 7215.0).

The ABS has also collected viticulture data for use by the grape and wine industries since the mid-1970s. The Vineyards Collection has evolved into a biennial census collecting data on wine grape area and production. The output from the collection is published in Vineyards Estimates, Australia (cat. no. 1329.0.55.002) and is used to measure and inform the industry’s activities throughout Australia at National, State, and sub-state Geographic Indication (GI) levels.

The volume of wheat used and 'uncommitted' stocks in the Australian market was identified as an information need in 2008 and underpins the collection of wheat data via a suite of monthly surveys. Industry information is published on the ABS website from the surveys in Wheat Use and Stocks, Australia (cat. no. 7307.0).

The ABS periodically conducts one-off or intermittent surveys for clients to meet information needs. The Agricultural Land and Water Ownership Survey (ALWOS) has been the most recent of these, and collected information on a range of indicators including the percentage of foreign ownership of agricultural businesses, ownership of agricultural land and ownership of water entitlements for agricultural purposes. The results of the survey were recently released in Agricultural Land and Water Ownership (cat. no. 7127.0).