Research Reports

Publication Date Project Title & Abstract Purchase
March 2014

Opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Australian farmers' advocacy groups

The farm sector in Australia has frequently been critical of decisions by government. Yet, farmers in Australia often appear to find it almost impossible to come together and present a clear voice to government and the wider community. In fact of almost all farming sectors worldwide, the Australian farm sector is the least ‘organised’, and has very few examples of successful collective action – either in pursuit of policy or commercial objectives. Existing farm advocacy bodies in Australia are facing shrinking resources and loss of membership, and finding it harder and harder to sustain their organisations. The research detailed here is an attempt to examine some of the factors impacting on farm advocacy organisations in Australia, and in particular to identify options that may be available help those organisations develop business models that are more sustainable in the long term, and which provide them with the capacity to advocate strongly on behalf of the farmers of Australia.

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March 2013

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.

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November 2012

Assessing the opportunities for achieving future productivity growth in Australian agriculture

It is widely recognised that in order for the Australian agricultural sector to remain domestically and internationally competitive, continued and perhaps even accelerated productivity growth is required. The need for domestic competitiveness arises because limits exist to natural and human resources in Australia, and agriculture faces increasing competition from other sectors for access to these. The need for international competitiveness arises due to the emergence of major new agricultural exporting nations that have a much richer natural resource base and much lower cost structures than Australian agricultural businesses, and which are becoming major competitors in global agricultural markets. While the need for productivity growth in Australian agriculture is well recognised, what is less clear is how that productivity growth might be achieved. The current ‘environment’ is not conducive to accelerated agricultural productivity growth, with declining real levels of investment in research and development, the progressive withdrawal of government services to agriculture, and increasing constraints on access to resources. On the other hand, Australian agriculture has a sound track record of innovation and superior productivity performance, and is not limited by some of the institutional and cultural constraints associated with the agricultural sectors of other developed nations. Some of Australia’s leading agricultural researchers were asked to contribute to this report, which explores the scope of the productivity challenge facing Australian agriculture, and seeks to identify specific technologies and initiatives that could realistically assist the sector to attain the levels of productivity growth that are likely to be required in the future. It is hoped that these papers will act as a catalyst for the sector and governments to redouble efforts on a wide range of fronts to tackle Australian agriculture’s future productivity challenge.

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May 2012

Does Australia need a national policy to preserve agricultural land?

Does Australia need a national policy to preserve agricultural land? This study provides a comprehensive review of what is currently known about the amount and location of Australian agricultural land, the rate of land use change occurring, and how governments make decisions both in Australia and internationally. Australia has the sixth largest land area and the lowest population density of almost any nation on earth, so the question of whether or not there will be sufficient good quality land available for agriculture in the future has not been a high priority issue for most of the past two hundred years.However, an increasing number of people are starting to express concerns that Australia is being too reckless with its best agricultural land, and future generations might regret decisions that are currently being made about the future use of that land. With urban, mining, CSG and environmental demands taking more and more land, and foreign investors also purchasing significant areas, it is legitimate to ask whether Australia can realistically plan to become the future "food bowl of Asia. Agriculture productivity is directly related to the quality of a soil and prevailing climatic conditions, and while Australia appears to have plenty of land, in reality only about 3% is actually suitable for cropping, and even less of this is considered to be prime agricultural land. Many of the current disputes about future land use are actually concentrated in specific areas considered to be some of the best agricultural land. This research finds that Australia currently lacks a consistent and comprehensive understanding of where this land is located, or how much of it is being diverted from agriculture each year. This report is a valuable review and analysis of the current extent of agricultural land use, and land use change. It also provides a benchmark for understanding how land use and land use change is currently monitored at the state and national level, and how these levels of government could better work together to clarify these questions.

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March 2012

Transport costs for Australian Agriculture

This research shows that the available statistics estimating than transport only represents  4% of the total Australian agricultural output are a far cry from the reality. This research finds that from the farm to a the foreign customer (delivered to the foreign port of entry of domestic central market), transport cost of Australia's agricultural products represent between 4% and 48.5% of the farm gate value, with an average of 8.75% for domestic delivery and 23.64% for international delivery. These results have been obtained through twelve different case studies and assess all the costs incurred to the different stakeholders of the supply chain (road freight, storage, handling, wharf fee...).

While these results cannot be extrapolated to respective agricultural industries as a whole, they demonstrate that for many products, particularly beef cattle and grain, transport costs are a major part of the total cost to produce and deliver the product to its destination. The work constitutes a benchmark against which changes in transport costs can be assessed and compared over time. It is also hoped that the Australian agricultural transport costs identified, as part of this research, will be able to be compared with transport costs incurred by agricultural producers in other countries.

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May 2011

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.

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October 2010

The Implications of Greenhouse Mitigation Policies on the Demand for Agricultural Land is a compelling review of the existing researchs and results regarding the possible impacts of carbon sink forestry. The topics covered are:

  • Current scale and rate of land use change
  • Models of potential agricultural land use changes arising from greenhouse mitigation policies
  • Potential impacts of carbon sink plantation developments
  • Carbon sink plantation approval processes

This report constitutes a needed reference for any further research on the topic and outlines the need of consistent policies and approval processes.

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June 2010
Towards a Better Understanding of Current and Future Human Resource Needs of Australian Agriculture aims to shed light on the labour situation in Australian agriculture and to identify actions that could be taken to improve it. The research, jointly funded by Horticulture Australia Limited, AgriFood Skills Australia and the Institute, involved a detailed examination of labour demand and supply statistics for the agriculture sector, an industry survey, and the development of future labour and demand supply scenarios over the next decade.
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June 2010
Making decisions about environmental water allocations
There are major changes underway in the management of water in Australia, with one of the most significant being the ownership of water entitlements by the environment. When announced water buyback programs are completed and promised water infrastructure investments are implemented, the environment will be the sole largest holder of water entitlements in Australia.
This research was initiated by the Australian Farm Institute to identify and discuss some preferred options for the future management of environmental water in Australia
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December 2009
Agriculture, Greenhouse and Emissions Trading Conference, 6 & 7 May 2009: Proceedings
The 2009 AGET conference took place on the 6th & 7th of May 2009 in Maroochydore, thanks to the sponsorship of the National Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industry (CCRSPI).

This report includes the speaker's presentations and panel discussion transcripts. It covers the topics related to climate change and agriculture especially in Australia after the publication of the White Paper of the CPRS in December 2008.

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November 2009
Essential Services in Urban and Regional Australia – a Quantitative Comparison
This research has for the first time quantified the extra costs faced by Australia’s non-metropolitan residents in accessing essential government services, and highlighted the need to find better ways to deliver essential services in regional Australia. The research, commissioned by the Australian Farm Institute and carried out by the National Institute of Industry and Economic Research (NIEIR), used census and other objective data to calculate the costs faced by all Australian residents in accessing essential services such as doctors, hospitals, schools, TAFE colleges and universities. These costs were then compared between metropolitan, urban and rural residents.
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September 2009
The Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – an introduction for farmers and agribusiness

The Australian Government is currently in the process of enacting legislation to introduce a greenhouse emissions trading scheme for Australia. The scheme, named the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) will have important implications for farmers and agribusiness; in fact much more important implications than climate change itself over the next few decades. This guide provides an easy to understand explanation of how emissions trading works, and what it means for agriculture.

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February 2009

Some Impacts on Agriculture of an Australian Emissions Trading Scheme

Under current Kyoto Protocol accounting conventions, agriculture is a major greenhouse gas emitter. If covered by an ETS, agriculture will face a significant cost impost through the need to purchase permits corresponding to its emissions. Agriculture will be affected both indirectly – through its use of energy based inputs – and directly through the possibility that it will be covered by the scheme. For these reasons, this research report provides critical and timely information that will assist the farm sector and policy-makers in future decision-making processes relating to this most challenging issue.

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September 2008

Preliminary Modelling of the Farm-Level Impacts of the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Trading Scheme

One of the biggest challenges in making decisions about future climate change policies for agriculture is the great uncertainty surrounding future technological developments to mitigate greenhouse emissions. Will new technologies suddenly emerge that dramatically reduce agricultures emission profile? Will new clean energy sources quickly develop? To what extent will the unleashing of market forces (via an Emissions Trading Scheme) accelerate these changes? The answers to these questions will become evident at some stage in the future, but cannot be predicted or modelled with any certainty.

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September 2008

Preliminary Modelling of the Farm-Level Impacts of the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Trading Scheme

One of the biggest challenges in making decisions about future climate change policies for agriculture is the great uncertainty surrounding future technological developments to mitigate greenhouse emissions. Will new technologies suddenly emerge that dramatically reduce agricultures emission profile? Will new clean energy sources quickly develop? To what extent will the unleashing of market forces (via an Emissions Trading Scheme) accelerate these changes? The answers to these questions will become evident at some stage in the future, but cannot be predicted or modelled with any certainty.

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July 2008

Estimating the Value of Environmental Services Provided by Australian Farmers

For some time the Australian agricultural sector has been subject to considerable public criticism about the impact of some industry practices on the environment. Issues of concern have included loss of biodiversity, diminishing water quality, reduced water availability, and increased soil erosion and salinisation.

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October 2007

The Implications for Australian Agriculture of Changing Demand for Animal Protein in Asia

The Australian Farm Institute, in conjunction with the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC), carried out research to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities arising from changing diets in Asia.

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July 2007

Developing a Good Regulatory Practice Model for Environmental Regulations Impacting on Farmers

For Australian farmers, who are increasingly operating in global markets where competitor products are always less than 24 hours away, the need to retain competitiveness is acute, and the impact on competitiveness of poorly designed and implemented regulatory measures can mean the difference between success and failure.

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June 2007

The New Challenge for Australian Agriculture: How do you muster a paddock of carbon?

National and international policy responses to human-induced climate change present Australian agriculture with both threats and opportunities. The future success of agriculture in Australia will depend very much on how adequately the sector positions itself in responding to this issue.

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March 2007

Productivity Growth in Australian Agriculture: Trends, Sources, Performance

Productivity growth has long been recognised as a very important factor in the continuing ability of Australian farmers to remain profitable and competitive, in spite of the long-term decline in real returns for agricultural products. Yet, despite strong recognition of its importance, the factors that contribute to increased rates of productivity growth are not well understood, nor are they easily quantified.

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October 2006

Enhancing the Customer Focus of Australian Agriculture

Two significant trends are evident in global agricultural markets. The first is the steadily increasing agricultural output of developing nations around the world. A second trend is the rapid growth that has occurred in sales of higher value produce, especially in wealthy markets.

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April 2006

Vertical Contracting and Australian Agriculture: Implications for Farmers and Policy-Makers

Marketing systems for agricultural produce have historically been the subject of a great deal of analysis and policy intervention. The current debate about the merits and shortcomings of vertical contract marketing systems for Australian farmers suggests that the issue is by no means settled.

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October 2005

Agricultural Development in Argentina and Brazil: Emerging trends and implications for Australian Agriculture

Australian agriculture has traditionally had a relatively high level of reliance on export markets, and the emergence of Argentina and Brazil as substantial and competing agricultural exporters over the past decade is a significant development that requires careful analysis.

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August 2005

The Australian Farm Sector: Analysis of Current Demographic Trends and Future Farm Policy Implications

The Australian farm sector is becoming more diversified, Australian farm businesses are steadily increasing in size and decreasing in number, and in future the sector will rely on more efficient use of land, water and human resources, and on finding ways to enhance the value of farm outputs, to achieve real growth in profitability.

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March 2005

Australia's Farm-Dependent Economy: Analysis of the Role of Agriculture in the Australian Economy

In 2003-04 the Agricultural Sector accounted for 3.2% of GDP in Australia, based on the farmgate value of farm produce. However, the economic contribution that agriculture makes in the Australian economy extends well beyond the farmgate value.

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