Research Reports

This catalog has no sub-catalogs.

Is Counting Farmers Harder than Counting Sheep?

Is counting farmers harder than counting sheep? A comparison of the agricultural statistical systems of Australia, the United States and France. Almost every decision made by government agricultural policy-makers, agribusiness organisations and farm business managers is underpinned by agricultural statistics, yet few stop to consider the reliability of the statistics used for decision-making. New Institute research set out to do this for the Australian agricultural statistics system. As has recently been observed for a range of different issues, agricultural statistical systems play a crucial role in informing policy and business decisions, and the absence of reliable statistics can result in considerable uncertainty and poor decision-making.The research report, Is counting farmers harder than counting sheep? A comparison of the agricultural statistical systems of Australia, the United States and France, involved a desktop study of the government agricultural statistical systems of Australia, the United States (US) and France.
Issues considered in the research included: the nature of statistical information collected; the way in which information is collected; the frequency of information collection and published; the cost of resources utilised in collecting and collating agricultural statistics; the ways in which the information is made available; any proposed future changes in agricultural statistics collection, collation or publication.
A key finding in the report was the varying levels of public expenditure on national agricultural statistical systems. Australia’s agricultural statistics service annual expenditure per farm business was A$19.62 in 2007/08 which is only 12% of French agricultural public expenditures and 6% of the US ones. In addition, a series of statistical products were used as case studies to further develop the comparison of the three statistical systems, and help identify their effectiveness.
The case studies related to: agricultural production statistics and forecasts; the national agricultural census; data detailing farmgate and supply chain prices; farm demographic and socioeconomic data;  agriculture-related environmental (water, climate change) data.
A specific objective of the research was to make recommendations about possible changes, if any, that could or should be made to the Australian agricultural statistical system to improve its accuracy, coherence, consistency, transparency, objectivity and comprehensiveness. The final recommendations made were as follows: Recommendation 1: The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and more specifically ABARES should be given a real leadership in agricultural statistics. Recommendation 2: DAFF and the ABS have to ensure suitable long-term funding arrangements so that the system more effectively meets government and industry needs. Recommendation 3: Appropriate statutory provisions should be implemented to reinforce the impartiality, objectivity and confidentiality of ABARES agricultural surveys. The statistical skills of the organisation are also key. Recommendation 4: To ensure that data and agricultural statistics in Australia are readily accessible to stakeholders, a unique interactive data warehouse has to be created. Recommendation 5: The various components of the Australian agricultural statistical system should be better integrated, and ABS, ABARES and state agricultural agencies should better cooperate. Recommendation 6: The ABS and ABARES should clearly identify the costs and resources associated with the Australian agricultural statistics system. The authors’ overall conclusions are that the Australian agricultural statistical system is not adequate to meet either the current or future needs of its stakeholders. Indeed, it is in need of major reform if it is not to fall into further decline and loss of utility.

Full report, pp. 1-83 (100 pages), March 2013
Australian Farm Institute
Authors: Potard G, Keogh M
ISBN 978-1-921808-21-0 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-921808-22-7 (Web)



You might also like:

Productivity Growth in Australian Agriculture - Trends, Sources, Performance

This report is only available in PDF
Full Report
March 2007, pp. 1 - 92 (92 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Author: Mullen, JD & Crean, J
ISBN: 978-0-9803460-1-5


Private Sector Investment in Agricultural R and D in Australia


There is wide recognition that for Australian agriculture to remain internationally competitive and to be able to take advantage of emerging international opportunities, sustained productivity growth will be required. While the  agriculture sector has one of the best records of any sector of the Australian economy in achieving productivity gains over the past three decades, all the evidence available at present indicates that the productivity surge that commenced in the 1970s appears to be tapering off, and increased efforts will be required to restore previous productivity growth rates.
A key driver of agricultural productivity growth is agricultural research and development (R&D) investment, but trends over recent decades indicate that public agricultural R&D investment levels are declining in real terms. There has been some suggestion that the private sector will increase agricultural R&D investment and become more important as a driver of agricultural productivity, but surprisingly little is known about private sector agricultural R&D investment trends, especially in a country such as Australia which has a relatively small and somewhat unique agricultural sector.
The aim of the research reported here is to investigate these issues through desktop research and an industry survey. By talking directly to major private sector organisations about their involvement in agricultural R&D, their relationships with public-sector R&D providers, and their perceptions of likely future developments, decisions about future levels of public-sector investment in Australia can be much more soundly based.

Full report, pp 1-71, May 2011
 Australian Farm Institute
(Web) ISBN 978-1-921808-06-7
(Print) ISBN 978-1-921808-05-0 (Web)


Purchase a
membership and gain
unlimited access to
our journal and
research library


Purchase our
latest report