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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On a global scale, environmental and agricultural statistics provide information on food, clothing, and fuel, and assume other roles, such as a tool in poverty reduction programs. Agriculture has also been recognised globally as a factor in climate change, and more specifically in the Australian context, as a key area in developing knowledge of carbon emissions. As well as National and State evolving information needs, the Global Strategy1 outlines the developments and challenges for environmental and agricultural statistics, considering the importance of agricultural statistics not only from the perspective of food production but also from the environment, biodiversity, food security, fuel production and globalisation perspectives in response to an overall decline in agricultural statistics.

The areas identified as international priorities in the Global Strategy1 are closely aligned with current policy priorities in Australia to address the impacts of climate change, drought, water availability, land use, and assessment of assets. The Environment and Agriculture Survey Program has continued to adapt and grow to align with these priority areas, undergoing review at critical junctures in the program or as a response to changing data needs. This survey review is similarly driven by changing circumstances and new opportunities for the environment and agricultural collections.

These opportunities include:

  • change in user demands for data;
  • new technology to collect data online from survey recipients. Successful utilisation of eCollection for the 2011 Agricultural Census provides potential opportunity to develop and tailor forms, granting greater flexibility for survey vehicles and to assist in meeting emerging data needs;
  • emerging new data sources, such as availability of satellite imagery. Evaluation and adoption of satellite imagery will provide a number of opportunities to add value to survey data; and
  • the recent Federal Government Clean Energy Futures (CEF) initiative provides the opportunity for ABS to work alongside other agencies to provide relevant data to inform actions arising from CEF.

This survey program review aims to provide concrete outcomes to assist in shaping the future of the survey program. The primary outcomes of the survey review are to:
  • identify administrative data sources with the potential to more closely align environment and agriculture data collection to minimise respondent burden;
  • understand the extent and complexity of existing ABS collections of agricultural and environmental data to ensure alignment with the global and national need for an Environment and Agriculture Statistical Program;
  • consider opportunities to explore data collection in potential new areas of interest and understand whether ABS priorities continue to be consistent with government policy directions and user needs;
  • form new channels of communication with our stakeholders and enhance existing relationships with external stakeholders, including government and non-government bodies, industry and interest groups;
  • ensure the design of a program that will be flexible and responsive to a dynamic policy environment;
  • provide a conceptual framework to assist in identification of a key set of core data items integrating emerging data needs and gaps; and
  • development of recommendations outlining a sustainable Environment and Agriculture Survey Program.

The intention of this discussion paper is to assist users in contributing to the review of the ABS Environment and Agriculture Statistical Program. Although emerging information requirements such as CEF have been recognised, the call for submissions in response to this paper is to ensure other emerging government, industry and consumer agricultural and environmental policy areas are also identified. Issues that require statistical information to achieve informed debate need to be considered by the environment and agriculture statistical program to ensure the program remains relevant and responsive.

Phase one of the survey program review is to conduct user consultations in the later part of 2011 (see below for further information). Phase two of the review will compile the information from the consultation rounds in conjunction with intelligence gathered from internal ABS stakeholders. From this a detailed understanding of user data requirements from both internal and external stakeholders will be developed to inform an Information Paper to be released in 2012. The information paper will outline the proposed long-term objectives and directions for the Environment and Agriculture Statistical Program.

1 For further information, see the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website, <http://www.fao.org>, Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics (pdf)