News and Media

This page showcases news items about the AFI’s work. Click the button below for a list of AFI media releases.

AFI in the news

MIKE FOLEY, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2021

Australian Farm Institute think tank manager Katie McRobert said Australian beef producers can make hay targeting Asian and Indian middle class consumers who are motivated by values as well as cost.

“These are discretionary spenders who care about whether forests are being burned to make way for their beef, or whether animals are pasture-raised in biodiverse environments,” Ms McRobert said. “The advantage for Aussie farmers won’t be a higher carcase price per se but instead access to a consumer class that other beef-producing countries may not be able to reach.”

ALLAN DAWSON, Manitoba Co-operator, 15 April 2021

“The (Australian) agriculture industry has really led this and has been pushing for these sorts of policy changes… ” Richard Heath, executive director of the Australian Farm Institute, told the Trade and Climate Change Virtual Conference April 7, organized by the Canadian Agricultural Policy Institute and Washington, D.C.-based Farm Foundation.

When it comes to pushing for climate change mitigation there’s a big gap between Australian farmers and their government “which has been resistant to significant change and embracing some of these more ambitious climate targets,” Heath told the online conference.

Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, 17 April 2021

In this session, panelists will discuss climate actions in their countries as well as various carbon pricing options adopted in other jurisdictions and potential border measures to prevent carbon leakage. Panelists will discuss what challenges and opportunities they foresee given new and evolving standards and expectations for factoring climate change into trade agreements, while ensuring food security.

Speakers: Joe Glauber, International Food Policy Research Institute (moderator); Liang Sun, China National Institute of Standardization; Wendong Zhang, Iowa State University; Jennifer Turner, Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum; and Richard Heath, Australian Farm Institute

MIKE FOLEY, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 2021

Australian Farm Institute executive director Richard Heath says “there’s world-leading water efficiency in Australian cropping”, generated by boosting organic matter in the soil, including carbon. “It’s astounding looking at our productivity compared to our rainfall,” he says.

Agriculture production that also reduces emissions is more resilient because “losing carbon out of agriculture systems is waste, no matter how it happens”.

MIKE FOLEY, The Age, 8 February 2021

Managing director of agriculture thinktank the Australian Farm Institute Richard Heath said there are “far more pros than cons in a net zero deadline”.

Agriculture production with net zero emissions is more resilient because “losing carbon out of agriculture systems is waste, no matter how it happens”, sustainable agriculture supports succession in family farming, and net zero commitments help ensure market access, Mr Heath said.

NEIL LYON, Grain Central, 8 February 2021

Speaking on the Australian Farm Institute’s ‘Conservation Agriculture in 2030’ webinar in December, the 2016 Nuffield Scholar [John Stevenson] said one of the biggest threats in Australian agriculture was wind and sun, and a lack of groundcover.

“We are trying to catch rainfall to produce crops. The worst thing we can do is leave ground exposed. We have moved into disc seeding and narrow row spacing in the last three years which is also helping with groundcover,” he said.

ANDREW MARSHALL, Farm Online, 6 November 2020

That’s the sobering assessment from an Australian Farm Institute forum examining if a federal government initiative five years ago which had aimed to boost agricultural competitiveness had actually achieved one of its primary goals – “a fairer go for farm businesses”.

AFI executive director Richard Heath said there was undoubtedly an anticipation in the community that competition policy should address issues it was not actually authorised to focus on, including social responsibility expectations.

SAMANTHA TOWNSEND, The Land, 2 February 2021

The findings from the AFI’s report, “Managing Farm-Related Land Use Conflict”, were central to the discussion, which included the next steps in managing the right to farm issue.

The AFI’s Richard Heath said there were a number of contributing factors in land use complaints, including a lack of communication, education, planning and a lack of compliance resources. “There is no silver bullet in terms of regulatory process or planning outcomes or change in planning procedures that will fix this … it requires a combination of broader strategies,” Mr Heath said.

Parliament of Australia, December 2020

Farmers for Climate Action noted research by the Australian Farm Institute which had determined beef production in Qld and the NT decline by 19 per cent by 2030 and 33 per cent by 2050; up to 70 per cent of wine-growing regions could be unsuitable for grapes by 2050; cotton yields could decrease 17 per cent by 2050; milk production could decline between 10 and 40 per cent, milk protein could decline and there would be increased risk of udder infection

National Farmers Federation, 13 January 2021

There are plenty of studies and data — albeit across different commodities, regions, and job types — about the size of the problem. For example in 2010, the Australian Farm Institute estimated the labour shortfall by 2018 would be 102,438 full-time equivalent workers.


Australian agriculture has benefited significantly from its focus on exports of raw agricultural and minimally transformed products. Value creation will likely continue to be driven by these exports but future opportunities across the value chain will rest on the ability to competitively trade on product attributes. This paper summarises findings and insights from Greenville, Duver and Bruce (2020), published in the Australian Farm Institute Farm Policy Journal.

NEIL LYON, Grain Central, 29 January 2021

Speaking on the Australian Farm Institute’s ‘Conservation Agriculture in 2030’ webinar in December, Mr Brownhill said the next generation of farmers would have to look at things very differently to what he had.

“They will have to because this land has gone from $500/acre to $5000/acre in my farming life, and I don’t think it is stopping there. The problem is it becomes very difficult to make a return,” he said.

IAN NEUBAUER, The Farmer, 11 December 2020

According to research by the Australian Farm Institute and Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, the cost of buying diesel and electricity to pump water, maintaining and harvesting crops accounts for up to half of input costs for cotton farmers. For poultry and sugar cane growers it’s 16 per cent, while dairy farmers and wine-grape growers fork out 13 per cent.

CORAL WYNTER, Green Left, 10 December 2020

Richard Heath from the Australian Farm Institute noted that the push was a huge risk to agriculture and was incompatible with slowing climate change. Heath said two jobs are lost in agriculture for every job in the gas industry, meaning there is a net negative benefit where gas exploration is allowed.

“There is a need to reduce farmers’ risks, not to increase it”, said Heath. “It is clear we have alternatives to gas for energy needs. The impact on the water supply to farms could be catastrophic if gas exploration goes ahead.”

NEIL LYON, Grain Central, 9 December 2020

Addressing the Australian Farm Institute’s ‘Conservation Agriculture in 2030 Online Conference yesterday, Ms Cassidy said there was a clear pattern of the tropics steadily moving south, pushing the dry centre of Australia southwards.

“So, we are seeing higher, more frequent rainfalls in the northern part of Australia, and increased frequency of drought conditions and a reduction in overall rainfall moving into the southern cropping regions. “The data is showing that the rainfall pattern is moving south at 60 kilometres per decade. There is a marked shift in the rainfall pattern,” she said.

Australasian Farmers’ & Dealers’ Journal, 2 December 2020

Briefing paper author and AFI executive director Richard Heath said, “The co-existence of gas production and farming comes at a compromise to agriculture. Above-ground impacts can range from minimal to severe, but the potential below-ground impacts to aquifers is very difficult to measure and could be catastrophic. Any decision that poses such a great risk to water security must be based on robust evidence.”

Farmers for Climate Action, 1 December 2020

This briefing paper explores the impacts of gas extraction on rural Australia’s natural capital, economy and social capital. It finds that increasing gas production in Australia creates obstacles to the agriculture sector’s economic viability, social cohesion, environmental stewardship and ability to meet sustainability goals. Wendy Cohen, CEO of Farmers for Climate Action, will launch the briefing paper. Wendy will be joined by Richard Heath, Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute, and Niall Blair, former leader of the New South Wales National Party.

JAMIESON MURPHY, Farm Online, 1 December 2020

A gas-led recovery would come at a cost to farmers by reducing agricultural jobs while increasing land use conflicts, a new briefing paper by the Australian Farm Institute says.

“Above-ground impacts can range from minimal to severe, but the potential below-ground impacts to aquifers is very difficult to measure and could be catastrophic. Rather than expanding gas production, we should be erring on the side of caution to protect our farm sector, especially when alternative renewable energy sources that carry much less risk for farming communities are rapidly maturing,” Mr Heath said.

DR JACQUELINE ROWARTH, Rural News (NZ), 4 November 2020

Australian research on resilience, defined as ‘stable income’, shows that farmers with no or low reliance on chemical inputs do experience more stable incomes than those who are farming conventionally.

However, the Australian Farm Institute has since shown that the low input farmers earned a quarter of a million dollars less on average each year over a decade. Their income didn’t fluctuate, but they weren’t adaptable enough to take advantage of good seasons to increase it. Return on assets managed annually was 1.66% for low input farmers in contrast to 4.22% for conventional farmers.

The University of Sydney Business School, Thinking Outside the Box 2020 Thought Pieces, 2 November 2020

The food industry, for example, identifies analytics as the key to advancement in productivity with a potential boost of A$20.3 billion in the value of food production.

Perrett, E., Heath, R., Laurie, A., Darragh, L., 2017. Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture – analysis of the economic benefit and strategies for delivery of digital agriculture in Australia. Australian Farm Institute.

The Poultry Site, 25 November 2020

AFI Executive Director Richard Heath, author of the report said during the consultation, farmers identified the complexity, cost and difficulty of assessing and participating in multiple programs, as barriers to participating in current stewardship programmes, including market-based initiatives.

“The diversity of Australia’s landscape and farm businesses means a one-size-fits-all programme is unlikely to work. Another key finding of the report was the absolute need for robust data and a consistent method by which to benchmark that data,” Mr Heath said

News Line Australia, 2 February 2021

Australian Farm Institute managing director Richard Heath said there was “no moralising about it” when agribusiness committed to emissions reduction.

“It’s a result of having a cold hard look at the short-term business environment as well as a longer assessment of business sustainability that is driving the change,” Mr Heath said.

MIKE FOLEY, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 2020

Australian Farm Institute managing director Richard Heath said some major international markets are “getting more stringent about demonstrating performance” in emissions reduction.

“We are already seeing large global food producers set emissions reduction targets and (farmers) could be locked out of those supply chains unless they have the evidence to demonstrate they comply with those targets,” Mr Heath said.

Discussion Paper 3: Social Licence Issues - June 2020

Richard Heath, the Executive Director of the AFI, noted that there are three ways to approach social licence-induced change: it can be fought – this approach requires an intimate understanding of how to communicate effectively to justify current practice, facts alone will not be enough, as studies have shown; it can be guided – industries that anticipate social licence issues have the ability to position themselves as drivers of change for good rather than clinging to practices which have lost public support; it can be embraced – change always provides opportunity and successfully anticipating new markets enabled by social licence induced change will provide opportunities for those willing to seek it out

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