7100.1 - Agricultural Census: Nature and Content, 2015-16  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/02/2016  First Issue
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Traditionally the scope of ABS agricultural surveys, including the Agricultural Census, has been defined as all businesses undertaking agricultural activity recorded on the ABS Business Register (ABSBR) above a minimum size cut-off applied to the value of their agricultural operations. Since 1993-94 this cut-off has been set at an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) (or equivalent) of greater than $5,000.

In the lead-up to the 2015-16 Agricultural Census and in light of the findings of the NASR regarding the need to reduce respondent burden, improve the timeliness of data release, and improve coherence of key statistics, the ABS reviewed this scope cut-off. As a result of this review the ABS has decided to raise the minimum scope cut-off value for the 2015-16 Agricultural Census, and for the Land Management Practices Survey (LAMPS) which will be run concurrently with the Agricultural Census, to businesses with an EVAO greater than $40,000. The raising of this scope cut-off value has the effect of reducing the number of businesses included in scope of the Agricultural Census and LAMPS. This change in scope will achieve the following benefits:

    • Improved usability of data – The scope change will align the ABS definition of an agricultural business with the definition used by ABARES, with significant benefits to users of data, allowing comparability and integration of agricultural data collected by both agencies;
    • Reduced burden – The reduced scope decreases the number of agricultural businesses to be surveyed, significantly reducing the overall reporting load and particularly reducing the burden for smaller agricultural businesses (below the $40,000 cut-off). ABS estimates that this reduction in burden represents a saving of approximately $3 million in businesses’ time, making a significant contribution to the Government’s Deregulation Agenda target of reducing the cost of red tape on businesses by a net $1 billion each year;
    • Improved efficiency – The reduced scope will also improve the efficiency of collection processing, and the timeliness of outputs, enabling Agricultural Census data to be released from early 2017.

It is anticipated that the increase in the scope cut-off will have minimal impact on the quality of the 2015-16 Agricultural Census and LAMPS estimates. Analysis has shown that agricultural businesses above the $40,000 cut-off represent the vast majority of agricultural production activity and land on the survey frame (representing the majority of the total area of agricultural land and the majority of total agricultural value nationally).

The ABS is currently investigating methods to ensure the 2015-16 Agricultural Census and LAMPS data is still comparable and coherent with historic Agricultural Census and survey data. This will include modelling the impacts of the change and assessing methods for enabling users to effectively compare data from the 2015-16 collections with earlier agricultural surveys and censuses based on the previous scope cut-off. More information on this methodology will be provided as an update to this paper in early 2016.

The definition of agricultural businesses in scope of ABS collections will be reviewed again in the future in partnership with ABARES and other key stakeholders to ensure ABS data remains relevant and coherent with other business-based collections.