1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2017   
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During July 2016, the ABS commenced its largest business collection, the 2015-16 Agricultural Census. Around 104,000 businesses, ranging from beef cattle production to broadacre farming and vineyards, took part in the Census. Their continuing strong support is the foundation of the Agricultural Census and the ABS greatly appreciates the farmers’ time and effort in providing information.

The 2015-16 Agricultural Census reported on the 371 million hectares of agricultural land operated by Australian farming businesses, a 1 per cent increase compared to 2014-15, with results suggesting that climatic conditions were a strong influence on production and stocking rates through the year. While the total gross value of agricultural production reached a record high of $56 billion in 2015-16, warm dry conditions in southern Australia saw decreased production reported for Wheat, Australia’s most valuable crop. This is in contrast to more favourable conditions in northern Australia which allowed beef cattle farming businesses to commence restocking activities earlier than expected and supported a 14 per cent increase in the value of beef cattle production.

Nearly 35,000 businesses also completed the Land Management Practices Survey which is wholly user funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Together the Agricultural Census and Land Management Practices Survey described how Australian farming businesses utilised agricultural land and managed their natural resources. The 2015-16 Land Management Practices Survey showed that Australian farming businesses applied soil enhancer and fertiliser to larger areas of land than in 2014-15, up 6 and 10 per cent respectively, while the Agricultural census showed that Australian farming businesses also irrigated larger areas of land, up 4 per cent, but with 3 per cent less water.

This year, the Agricultural Census went through a series of reforms based on government, industry and community consultation. As a result, the Census content was refocused to better address the needs of key users. These changes also included raising the threshold used to identify businesses in scope of the collection, the Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO), from $5,000 per annum, to $40,000 and above. This brought the collection more in line with other statistical collections and significantly reduced the survey burden on small farming operations. With data released in four separate publications, the Agricultural Census provides an invaluable snapshot of the agricultural sector. It is one of the major sources of detail about Australian agriculture, and informs policy decisions in a range of different areas.

Image: 2015-16 Agricultural Census infographic