John Ralph Essay Competition
John Ralph Essay Competition 2021: Should ag data be a public good?
There is no debate over the immense value of comprehensive agricultural data, whether used to improve efficiency and productivity, demonstrate sustainability credentials in an increasingly regulated market, or manage risk better. The Australian farming sector’s goal to become a $100 billion industry by 2030 will require transformational innovation which will be driven by data science and analytics.
However, as noted in the 2018 Autumn Farm Policy Journal, collection rates of various agricultural data (while improving) remain low due largely to mistrust – and little has changed since then.
The Australian Farm Data Code has been designed to overcome producers’ concerns about how their data is used, but is this enough? Respondents interviewed for the Precision to Decision project in 2017 displayed major concerns over aggregated farm data regarding privacy, financial advantage taken by other businesses, and the potential for it to be used to influence markets.
A ’public good’ is something which is non-excludable (individuals cannot be excluded from using them) and non-rivalrous (use by one individual does not preclude use by another). If ag data were a public good, could this fast-track agricultural innovation and productivity via improved decision-making or would it be detrimental by exposing market vulnerabilities?
The 2021 John Ralph essay asks authors to consider: Should ag data be a public good?
Authors are asked to argue in favour or to oppose the proposition with a clear and concise articulation of their position.
Entries are due on 20 September 2021.
Essays in both categories should be between 1500–4000 words in length and can argue for or against the topic question. The essay must contain factual information in support of the argument being advanced and must be properly referenced. Where appropriate, the essays should also discuss proposed policy changes that the author believes could address the issues raised.
Entries are judged using the following criteria:
- Completeness: entries must address all issues raised in the competition topic.
- Originality: entries should go beyond just repeating ‘common’ beliefs, and carefully and objectively examine the question posed by the topic.
- Comprehensiveness: entries should canvass the full extent of the issue, and carefully consider the positives and negatives arising from any proposed ‘solution’.
- Practicality: any proposals will need to find the right balance between being bold and practical – there should be a reasonable chance that proposals could be adopted.
- Clarity: entries should be written in clear, jargon-free language so that it is easily read and understood.
Past Competition Winners
- 2020 Open: Ash Salardini, Novice: Michael Wellington (TOPIC: Are competition measures delivering farmers a fair go?)
- 2019 Open: Jessica Ramsden, Novice: Matt Champness (TOPIC: What is the future for animal agriculture?)
- 2018 Open: Deanna Lush (TOPIC: Should society determine the right to farm?)
- 2017 NOT AWARDED (TOPIC: Consolidation and competition in agricultural markets)
- 2016 Open: Dean Ansell, Novice: Brendan O’Keeffe (TOPIC: Farm stewardship programs in Australia)
- 2015 Open: Tim Byrne, Novice: Alexandra Grigg (TOPIC: Pursuing premium markets or productivity?)
- 2014 Open: David Thompson (TOPIC: Does Australian agriculture need a national brand?)
- 2013 Open: Matthew Cawood, Student: Lauren (Xi) Yu (TOPIC: Do community perceptions of Australian agriculture really matter?)
- 2012 Open: Geoff Ball, Student: Edward Perrett (TOPIC: Can Australia become the food bowl of Asia?)
- 2011 Student: Nicolette Cameron (TOPIC: Food, fuel and climate change mitigation – can agriculture do it all?)
- 2010 Open: Daniel Gibbons (TOPIC: Are farmers and miners saving the day?)
WEBINAR - 2020 John Ralph Essay Competition
On 5 November 2020, AFI held an ‘in-conversation’ webinar on competition policy featuring finalists from the 2020 John Ralph Essay Competition in conversation with ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh and AFI Executive Director Richard Heath. Discussions focused on the key themes emerging from essay entries and the desired future direction for competition policy in relation to Australian agriculture.
- Mick Keogh – Deputy Chair ACCC
- Richard Heath – Executive Director AFI
- Ash Salardini – Open Category Winner
- Michael Wellington – Novice Category Winner
- Danielle Captain-Webb – Open Category Finalist
- Pete Mailler – Open Category Finalist
- Emma Scholz – Open Category Finalist
A selection of finalists (including panellists) were published in the summer 2020 edition of the Farm Policy Journal.
View the webinar below:
John Ralph (pictured) was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Farm Institute, becoming its founding Chairman in 2004 and continuing in that role until his retirement in June, 2010.
John has been CEO of CRA (now Rio Tinto Ltd), former Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, former Deputy Chairman of Telstra Corporation and previous Chairman of Business Council of Australia and Australian Mining Council. His outstanding contribution to the country was recognised in 2000 when he was appointed to Australia’s highest civilian honour, a Companion in the Order of Australia, having been made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1988. Involved in farm enterprises in southern NSW, John Ralph argued strongly for comprehensive and objective research as the basis for sound policy decision-making, particularly for the agriculture sector.
In 2010, the Australian Farm Institute created the John Ralph Essay Competition to acknowledge John’s ongoing support for sound research and debate in agricultural economics and policies. The competition aims to engage the community in informed debate about policy issues impacting on the Australian farm sector.