7105.0 - ABS Agriculture Statistics Collection Strategy - 2008-09 and beyond, 2008-09  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/12/2008   
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A review of the content and strategy for the Agriculture Statistics Program has been underway to address the increasing demands being placed on ABS for a wider range of economic, social and environmental information. The increasing diverse demand for information from Australian agricultural businesses together with escalating operational and field costs means the program, in delivering its traditional outputs, is not meeting the emerging needs of an expanding client base. A re-prioritisation of information needs was therefore required to inform future program development.

As part of the overall collection strategy for the agriculture sector, the ABS has in place an annual Agricultural Survey, a five yearly Agricultural Census, and a range of supplementary monthly, quarterly and annual commodity and pricing surveys. Agricultural businesses are also included in a range of other ABS surveys, including the ABS Natural Resource Management survey and the annual economy wide financial survey.

In conjunction with the review of the agriculture survey program, a review has also been undertaken of the Land/Natural Resource Management (NRM) Statistics program. The ABS has used a variety of instruments and questions over the last 20 years or so to collect natural resource management (NRM) / land management practices (LMP) data from Australian farms. The current Land/NRM program was developed in response to an increasing demand for the ABS to produce a more extensive range of environmental and NRM statistics, not just for the agriculture sector but for Australian lands more generally.

The demand for traditional commodity data sets remains high as the economy develops and the international position becomes more competitive. Commodity data at the national, state and regional/small area levels provide a base set of data which is useful both in its own right and as part of the 'industry demographics' for a region, industry, or community.

However commodity data only provides part of the picture, and demand for alternative data has been increasing over the years. Drought, climate change, the decline of rural communities, and the dependence on water are just some issues which have been driving demand for an expanded view of agriculture and related issues. The so called 'triple bottom line' view of social, environmental and economic characteristics of agriculture is high in demand by key users. This includes information about: farm management practices (vegetation management, weed control, stocking rates, fencing, etc); sources, use, quality and trading of water; land care practices; financial measures; details of off-farm income and assets; and details about farming community income, welfare and demographics.

The ABS work program in recent times has struggled to keep pace with the growth in demand. ABS has been able to focus on particular issues such as salinity and water from time to time. User funding has also been sourced to support a number of other, mainly one-off projects. It is recognised that some remaining priorities will be unable to be satisfied, principally because of budget constraints. It is also recognised that because stakeholders agree that a current or potential data requirement has high priority, that it does not imply that it should always be funded by the ABS. The challenge has been to look for ways to meet these needs, and to introduce new topics, without having to cut the content or frequency of existing topics, which continue to receive strong support.


This review is aimed at addressing the changing information requirements of users of agricultural statistics, focussing on the areas of priority for statistical data development. The review should also serve as a guide to other producers of agricultural statistical information as to how they may generate improvements to their own data holdings and thereby ensure their outputs have relevance and increased usability to the wider user group in this field of statistics. Preliminary information provided to date by key stakeholders in the agriculture field has been used to identify some of the priority areas for data development. This data development work will be necessary to ensure that statistical information supply is updated and improved and therefore better placed to inform the policy and research facing governments and practitioners in the field. This review will take into account the priority data development needs and associated development actions that have already been articulated in the new government initiatives, such as Caring for our Country.


The consultation associated with the Agriculture Statistics review will involve a number of steps. The first step, which has already been undertaken, was to define the key concepts and identify key policy concerns for the agriculture field, along with the existing data sources available (Appendix 1) to inform these concerns. This was achieved through synthesizing concerns gathered through existing consultation processes with federal and state government and agencies, and industry bodies.

The second step will be to consult with key stakeholders to identify their information needs. Consultation will be conducted in two rounds. The first round, which is already underway, will involve relevant federal government departments and agencies, as well as industry groups. During this round of consultation, the ABS has held already a series of bilateral meetings with senior staff, researchers and policy advisers. These meetings resulted in the identification of key issues, data deficiencies and data gaps in the existing data supply. In addition, information was also collected on data sources for which each agency was responsible, along with any initiatives planned or underway to improve agency data collections. The information gathered during the first round of consultation was used in the preparation of this paper. This paper will be used as a basis for discussions during the second round of consultation.

The second round of consultation will involve a wider group, which will include relevant state and territory government departments and agencies, non-government organisations and cross jurisdictional information management groups. The primary aim of this consultation round is to confirm and gain agreement on the key issues and priority area for data development. This round of consultation will ensure that the strategy reflects the interests and concerns of the states and territories. Comments on the strategy will also be sought from industry bodies. The second of the information papers, detailing the collection strategy for the 2008-09 Agriculture Survey program will be produced for this round of consultation.

A third information paper, detailing the longer term collection strategy, 2009-10 onwards, for the Agriculture Survey program will be released in 2009.


The Agriculture Statistics Strategy has guided the development of the 2008-09 Agricultural Survey collection and subsequent agricultural surveys and censuses. The ABS will monitor the progress of the development and implementation of the 2008-09 survey and subsequent surveys and will continue to consider the continuing relevance of the priority areas and data development needs.