ABARES work centres around its remit to provide robust and objective data, research, analysis, and advice that informs government policy and private decisions affecting Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and water resources.
Before setting our research priorities for the year ahead, we consult with stakeholders within and beyond the department to identify current and emerging issues over the next three-to-five years. We use this process to shape and focus our near-term research and other activities, including the development of new research and analytical capacity where required. This also helps identify opportunities for collaboration with our stakeholders and other research organisations.
This work plan sets out the key activities across each of the areas of focus to be completed in 2022-23. ABARES will also continue to make investments to be future ready to drive enhanced outcomes for government and industry.
Agriculture and land
- Forecasts: Publish quarterly Agricultural Commodities Report and the Australian Crop Report which provide short- and medium-term forecasts of production, gross value of production and exports for the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors. This provides an evidence base to support domestic trade policy, including monitoring drivers of change in agriculture, as well as public information for industry decisions. These capabilities are also used to provide analysis of topical issues in the agricultural sector, such as ABARES review of Rice Vesting arrangements.
- Climate conditions: Regular monitoring and reporting on climatic conditions that affect agriculture including the Weekly Australian Climate, Water and Agriculture Update.
- Outreach: Conduct national and regional Outlook conferences and convene the issue-specific Perspectives seminar series online. Inform and engage a wider audience through a new quarterly newsletter, ABARES Essentials, and an improved social media presence. These public activities allow private and public sector stakeholders to engage with our work and discuss emerging and key sectoral issues and for us to gain their insights on key challenges.
- Data collection: Undertake surveys covering the broadacre, dairy, horticulture and some irrigation sectors in the Murray-Darling Basin. New work includes seeking to develop a unit level data sharing agreement with Dairy Australia that will enable ABARES to design and use their survey data for ongoing research. ABARES farm survey data is a key resource for DAFF in measuring and understanding industry performance, the impacts of major events and for evaluating policy responses.
- Farm performance and productivity: Publish statistically robust farm performance data such as farm cash income, return on capital, debt and total factor productivity using interactive data visualisations. There will be increased focus on farm innovation practices, agricultural land values, natural resource management practices and agricultural R&D.
- Drought Early Warning System: In collaboration with CSIRO and others, develop tool for forecasting effects of drought, other weather conditions, and commodity prices on farm outcomes including profit/loss.
- Agricultural labour: Publish data and analysis associated with surveys of labour use on farms through interactive tools. Build new capability in forecasting farm labour demand and quantifying the off-farm agricultural workforce. This information will help the Government and industry better understand agricultural workforce issues.
- Fishery Status Reports: Produce the annual Fishery Status Reports (FSR) 2022. The FSR provides an independent assessment of the biological status of fish stocks and the economic performance of fisheries managed by the Australian Government. It provides transparency on the performance of Commonwealth fisheries management.
- Science engagement for Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs): Lead the science elements for Australia in five RFMOs. This includes scientific analyses, briefing, advice and development of Australian positions, including in relation to stock status, harvest strategies, reference points, allocation negotiations and management approaches; fulfilling Australia's obligations with respect to science and data; and contributing to Australia's broader geo-strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific.
- National Recreational Fishing Survey: In partnership with the University of Canberra, ABARES will deliver a national social and economic survey of recreational fishers. Results from this project will be published in 2022 and include a description of the social and economic value of recreational fishing around Australia. This information will support resource sharing discussions.
- Shark Assessment report 2022: Deliver on the Australian Government’s requirements under the UNFAO’s International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks and in support of review of Australia’s National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
- Fisheries and aquaculture statistics: Provide data on the gross value of production (GVP) of Australian fisheries as well as trade, employment and recreational fishing information. The GVP data is used for the determination to calculate the Research and Development Corporation (RDC) levies for industry.
- Fisheries policy advice: Provide scientific and economic analysis and advice for the upcoming reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Commonwealth Fisheries Bycatch Policy.
- Forest extent and use: Ongoing updates of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) as the authoritative national repository on Australia’s forest data. The NFI supports forest related policy development, decision making, monitoring and reporting.
- Forest reporting: Development of a new approach for Australia’s state-of the-forests reporting that will be web-first and regularly updated to provide more timely and accessible information on Australia’s forests. Indicators to be updated and published first include those on genetic resources, areas managed for protection of biodiversity, forest burnt, forest species and their threats, and change in forest area.
- Sustainable forest management: Provide advice to the department on Australia’s sustainable forest management and forest-related issues and trends.
- National and international engagement: Engagement in national committees and international forums relevant to forestry to connect with and understand our stakeholders, partners and communities. Key examples include the National Forest Inventory Steering Committee, Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia, Forestry and Forest Products Committee, United Nations Forum on Forests and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- Forest industry data and outlook: Publication of data and analysis of the forest sector including the Australian Plantation Statistics, Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics, gross value of production estimates, Forests at a Glance and forecasts of production and exports for major forestry commodities. This information is used by policy makers and industry representatives to assess the current state of industry and to inform decisions on trends and drivers of change.
- Land use mapping: Continue the ongoing process to produce updated national land use maps and datasets in partnership with the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program. These describe the use of land for conservation and natural environments, production from dryland or irrigated agriculture and plantations, intensive uses (including urban) and water features.
- Groundcover reporting: Apply metrics developed with natural resource management (NRM) groups, CSIRO and NSW DPIE to time series of fractional vegetation cover. These are used for reporting on agricultural land protected from erosion for the Regional Land Partnerships (National Landcare Program) and as an environmental indicator of drought esilience for the Future Drought Fund.
- Multi-criteria analysis software: Develop a new version and data pack for ABARES multi-criteria analysis software (MCAS-S). MCAS-S allows users to overlay different spatial layers to help decision making. For example, helping to target surveillance efforts for a disease or pest incursion by analysing where the vulnerable crop is grown, the preferred climatic conditions of the disease or pest or other factors.
- Agricultural statistics: support the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as it seeks to significantly transform the collection and reporting of ABS agricultural statistics. ABARES will work with the ABS to make these changes while working to ensure that our department retains access to the data needed to perform key functions. These functions include monitoring and understanding trends in industry performance; measuring the impact of natural disasters and other significant events; and evaluating policies and programs. This work will involve assessing and providing recommendations regarding the use of the levies data as an alternative data source and supporting efforts by the ABS to develop alternative data sources.
- Developing modern infrastructure and analytical resources: ABARES will seek to bring together its significant data holdings into a data warehouse which will improve the efficiency in generating reports and business intelligence. Focus areas also include modernising the Farm Survey System including survey data collection software and transforming the Agricultural Commodities and Trade and Fisheries Economics data systems.
- Climate policy and agricultural trade: Assess the impacts on Australian agriculture from other countries’ domestic support and trade policies. This work will include examining the implications of major markets adopting trade-related climate and other policies on Australia’s agricultural trade. Further work will explore the connection of production and trade distorting support and global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This will inform discussions on agricultural support occurring in a range of international forums.
- Regional trade policy analysis: Analysis of issues related to regional trade agreements to support the department’s engagement with industry. Communicate the benefits to the agricultural sector from participation in regional trade agreements.
- Bilateral trade policy analysis: Analyse bilateral markets through exploring the potential implications to Australia. This will include looking at changes in agricultural market and trade policy settings. This analysis will aid in continuing the development of a methodology for quantifying the effects of non-tariff measures that will assist the agricultural sector and the department’s trade negotiations priorities.
- Surveillance design and analysis: Development of tools and methods to support Compliance Based Inspection Schemes, within consignment sampling, and surveillance design.
- Eradication decision-making: Development of models to inform eradication decision-making for plant and animal pests and diseases.
- Invasive and established pests and weeds research: Data collection and analysis to provide an understanding of the distribution of established vertebrate pests and established weeds; improve current estimates of the economic, non-market and social impacts of established vertebrate pests and established weeds; update landholder pest and weed management information based on the third national landholder Pest Animal and Weed Survey.
- Resource allocation and cost-benefit analysis: Decision support through the analysis of the economic impacts of emergency animal and plant diseases, as required.
- Effective community engagement to support biosecurity outcomes: Research to better define and identify practical implications of what effective community engagement for biosecurity involves in different circumstances and how it could be best measured.
- Marine pest research and analysis: Support implementation of an updated domestic ballast water risk assessment. This will help determine whether ballast water needs to be exchanged on domestic voyages and assess the implications of the changed approach to the shipping industry, including general support to marine biosecurity areas in the department.
- Water market outlook: Publish two water market outlooks for the southern Murray Darling Basin. This provides forecasts for water allocation prices, inter-regional water trade and irrigation activity based on different likely scenarios of water availability.
- Hydro-economic model development: Start work on developing a new integrated monthly hydro-economic model of the southern Murray Darling Basin. The model would allow for feedback between hydrological and economic outcomes, enabling more sophisticated analysis of changes to water management rules such as inter-regional trade limits, carryover and water accounting rules, and long-term climate change scenarios as they relate to the agriculture sector.
- Irrigation microsimulation model: Extend ABARES FarmPredict model to cover the irrigation sector to allow for analysis of irrigation farm productivity and profit under future climate conditions. The results could indicate which regions/industries/farm types will be under pressure to adapt to climate change.