Publications

The Australian Farm Institute has a range of publications available for purchase. They include Farm Policy Journals, Research Reports, Newsletters and Occasional Papers.


If you are a member of the Institute (for membership information click here) you can access your free publication through the 'Library Access' here.


A selection of our recent publications


> August Insights 2019: Reorienting animal agriculture in Australia

Australia is great at animal agriculture. Between our past history of ‘riding on the sheep’s back’ and being amongst the greatest beef exporters in the world, we know how to do it well. Professor Sergio Garcia (Yani) and Katherine Teh give their views on future challenges for animal agriculture. Discussing issues of community trust; engaging with consumers about livestock's role in climate change; and the role for intensive animal agriculture systems in modern food production. (more)


> Research Report – Change in the air: Defining the need for an Australian agricultural climate change strategy

Climate change is a ‘wicked problem’ representing not only a threat to the Australian agricultural sector’s profitability and international competitiveness but also to our long-term food security and the viability of some regional communities. The agriculture sector is both vulnerable to and partially responsible for the heightened challenges brought about by climate change. To minimise the severity of projected impacts of the warming trend caused by increased greenhouse gas levels, the sector has an imperative to continue efforts in emissions mitigation and to accelerate cross-industry progress. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Winter 2019: A thirst for certainty: irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin

Irrigated agriculture has been one of the most contentious issues of 2019. Calls for a Royal Commission into the management of the Murray-Darling Basin are an indication of just how high emotions have been running on this issue. While it is arguable that when no-one is happy it is probably close to the correct outcome, it is nevertheless disappointing that the policy settings which deliver certainty to all stakeholders do not seem to have emerged. (more)


> Research Report – Reinventing Australian agricultural statistics

There has been a progressive degradation of the Australian agricultural statistics system over recent decades as the resources made available to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have diminished in real terms, and the focus of ABS activities has been directed towards the maintenance of statistical collections required as part of the national accounts. In the absence of a robust statistics system, Australian agriculture faces a very real risk that government policy decisions will be made that have an adverse impact on the sector, due to a lack of understanding of how the sector is structured and operates. This is a particular risk for the agriculture sector, given its dispersed nature and relatively small number of persons directly involved, and the difficulty participants face in seeking to influence policymakers. (more)


> May Insights 2019: Weathering the new storms: risks and culture in agribusiness

Climate, culture and risk are now mainstream governance issues in agriculture and natural resource management. In a recent risk and governance forum held in Australia, experts highlighted that organisations should undertake rigorous review of their non-financial risks, in particular those related to culture and climate. While some sectors – including banking and agriculture – were directly called out in terms of their impact, there were implications for all sectors of industry. (more)


> Research Report – Australian agriculture: an increasingly risky business

Risk is a fundamental feature of Australian farming and agribusiness, yet in many respects risk management systems in Australian agriculture are much less developed than is the case in other nations. This project aims to firstly develop a better understanding of the nature of risk in subsectors of Australian agriculture using available data. The research will then involve an analysis of the range of different options that are available to agricultural risk management. These will include the adoption of different business models (for example forward selling, contract supply arrangements, supply chain collaboration), and/or the use of either domestic or internationally traded soft commodity derivatives. The advantages and disadvantages of each will be identified and analysed, based on a combination of objective measures (where available) and insights gained from industry interviews. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Autumn 2019: Disruptions in agricultural trade

Australian agriculture is trade dependent. Around 65% of Australia’s agricultural production is exported and if the sector is to achieve the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) target of $100 billion of farmgate output it will mostly occur as a result of export growth. Yet there are many current disruptive factors to global trade which are impacting on the reliability of markets and creating uncertainty in forecasting where export growth may be achieved. This edition of the Farm Policy Journal explores the current environment surrounding global agricultural trade. (more)


> February Insights 2019: From sheep’s back to moonshot: meeting the 2030 targets

Big, bold targets provide focus, drive and purpose for an industry and lead to innovation and inspiration. When John F Kennedy announced in 1961 that men would walk on the moon and return safely to Earth by the end of the decade, the incredibly aspirational target provided a focal point for all those involved in the broad array of activities needed and success was achieved. Fiona Simson and JP van Moort give their views on the viability of NFF's vision for Australian agriculture reaching $100 billion by 2030. (more)


> Research Report – The impacts of energy costs on the Australian agricultural sector

As businesses involved in Australian agriculture intensify production systems and utilise additional digital technology, their dependence on energy inputs is likely to increase. This is already the case for irrigation farm businesses which have changed from gravity-fed to pressurised systems, and for the intensive livestock and horticulture sectors. The potential for energy users in Australia to face significant increases in energy costs over the short to medium term therefore has important implications for the future competitiveness of Australian agriculture, and the sector needs to engage in the debates associated with this issue to optimise outcomes. However, data on energy use in agriculture is patchy and haphazard, which will limit the ability of the sector to engage meaningfully with policymakers unless this is rectified. This project addresses this issue by compiling a comprehensive audit of energy use in Australian agriculture, and developing an Energy Cost Calculator tool to assess the potential impact of changes in energy prices on the sector as a whole and sub-sectors. This project is supported by Energy Consumers Australia. (Go to the Energy Cost Calculator & report webpage)


> Research Report – Enhancing Private Sector Agricultural RD&E Investment in Australia

Private RD&E is a key component of innovation and productivity in the agriculture sector. A crucial feature of RD&E is that benefits are not wholly appropriated by the investing firms. ‘Knowledge spillovers’ accrue to rival firms and consumers benefit from cheaper and better quality products. For a domestic agricultural sector, a thriving private research hub can also mean more jobs, investment, and more competitive local agriculture industry. All OECD governments intervene in the market by providing additional incentives for private R&D plus many more, including China. This project aims to establish the type of policy measures and resources Australian agriculture needs to boost private RD&E. The project includes a review of available private RD&E data and measures currently employed here and overseas. The main part of the project will include a series of 20 interviews with heads of agribusiness operating throughout the industry including chemical, seed and machinery suppliers, and processes. (more)


> Research Report – Determining the Right Level of Research, Development & Extension Investment for the Australian Agriculture Sector

R,D&E investment has long been recognised as a primary driver of productivity increase and in turn, the national competitiveness of the agriculture sector. However, determining the return on investment and the optimal level of expenditure has proven difficult. Current funding levels from levy payers and governments involve significant uncertainty and deference to wider opinion. The objective of this project is to develop a decision-making framework that can be utilised by industry to make decisions on appropriate levels of investment in agricultural research and development.


> Research Report – Precision-2-Decision digital agriculture project

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme. The P2D project involves all Rural Research and Development Corporations, and is focused on three main aims:

  • Facilitating the development of digital technology in Australian agriculture.
  • Fostering the establishment of appropriate legal frameworks, data systems and access to critical datasets.
  • Identifying the data communications systems required to deliver the benefits of digital agriculture to the Australia farm and agribusiness sectors. (Go to the P2D project webpage)

> Research Report – Review of Australia’s Agricultural Trade Performance

This project has involved the compilation of a database on Australian and world agricultural trade statistics, and the compilation of a review of the annual trade performance of Australian agriculture. The second review has now been completed and published, and the database updated. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Summer 2018: John Ralph Essay Competition 2018: Should society determine the right to farm?

Trust, or more accurately a general lack of trust, in government, business, media and NGOs continues to be a significant issue in 2018. Agriculture is not immune from this lack of trust and is exposed to significant change as a result. A non-trusting general population is enabling a political environment in which society is determining the right to farm. Farm practice and economic viability are already being challenged by social licence-driven regulatory change, as demonstrated by the imminent threat to live exports, changes to native vegetation and threatened species legislation and the focus on discontinuing the use of glyphosate for weed control. (more)


> November Insights 2018: A new climate for drought policy development

Pete Mailler and Michael McCormack discuss drought resilience and preparedness; there is an ever-growing divide between voters on the ground and their representatives encased in the ‘Canberra bubble’; research into risk management systems in Australian agriculture; and the imbalance between consumer perceptions and the reality of farming practice and the need to create best-practice evidence-based agricultural policy for Australian farmers were the focus of the Institute’s annual Roundtable. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Spring 2018: Tax and regulation for farm business sustainability

‘Nothing is certain but death and taxes’: it is appropriate that the proverb about the unavoidability of tax is attributed to many sources. Regulation (including tax) that impacts on farm business sustainability is a many-headed monster originating from multiple legislative agendas and political platforms. As is made clear in this journal, there are many tax and regulatory issues impacting on farm business performance, management and sustainability. (more)


> August Insights 2018: Growing collaboration and innovation within rural research and development

Garry Goucher from Garry Goucher & Associates and David McKeon from GrainGrowers discuss the continuing relevance of RDCs; determining the right to farm; China’s ‘digital journey’ into high value markets; and is the divide still dividing us? (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Winter 2018: Is agriculture ready for autonomy?

Autonomous and robotic applications are expanding rapidly into agriculture, and new uses of technology for agriculture are emerging almost on a daily basis. Papers included in this edition investigate aspects of the use of autonomous farming systems that will require different thinking and strategy – and potentially new regulations – to ensure that the technology is used to its full potential. (more)


> May Insights 2018: Why farmers must be involved in the animal welfare policy environment

Heather Neil from RSPCA Australia and David Jochinke from the VFF discuss Australian farm animal welfare practices and how farm animal welfare should be assessed; agricultural statistics; high value export markets push focus to provenance; and welfare concerns divide perception from reality. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Autumn 2018: SPECIAL EDITION: Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture

The Autumn 2018 Farm Policy Journal addresses how much digital technology will transform agriculture, the likely benefits and disadvantages of these technologies and the issues the sector must address to effectively implement a digital strategy. Papers included in this edition are abridged versions of the project reports produced for the Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture (P2D) research program. (more)


> February Insights 2018: Opening the GATE: Moving R&D into the future

David Littleproud and Joel Fitzgibbon discuss the key issues for ag in 2018; agriculture and energy pricing; future workforce captures Roundtable attention; anti-GM logic doesn’t add up; social media skyrockets, and staff update. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Summer 2017–18: Consolidation and competition in agricultural markets

The impact of increased market concentration in agriculture has been the focus of much research, discussion, and regulation over the past century. Finding the right balance between markets that are highly concentrated and markets that exhibit healthy competition is an enduring challenge that confronts agricultural policy-makers. (more)


> November Insights 2017: ‘Owning’ the value chain: Agriculture in the Asian century

Josh Frydenberg and Mark Butler discuss Australian agriculture’s role in future greenhouse emission reduction policies; also risk in Australian agriculture; strong public R&D systems grow private-sector R&D investment; hype and misinformation feed artificial meat story. (more)


> Enhancing Private-Sector Investment in Agricultural R,D&E in Australia

If Australian agriculture is to remain competitive, partnerships between private- and public-sector agricultural research, development and extension (R,D&E) investors must be fostered. In addition, better data on where agricultural R,D&E investment is occurring will help to direct public funds to ensure critical capacity is maintained. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Spring 2017: Getting regional infrastructure right

Infrastructure is often taken for granted and certainly doesn’t usually feature as part of impassioned policy debates – until it fails. Whether it’s a railway, bridge, road, airport, telecommunication system or energy transmission utility, as long as it is working then it goes largely unnoticed. However, a major failure of just one of these invariably generates a storm of media scrutiny and blame shifting, and serves as a reminder of the critical role of infrastructure in our daily lives. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Winter 2017: Twenty years on, the GM debate continues

The 20-year anniversary of the release of the first commercial GM crops in Australia in 1996 provides an opportunity to review the progress of genetically modified (GM) crops, the extent to which they have or have not delivered on their promise, and likely future developments in genetic modification. Papers included in the Winter 2017 edition of the Journal provide a variety of different perspectives on GM crops and their legacy and future in Australia. (more)


> August Insights 2017: Using agricultural land for utility-scale photovoltaic solar electricity generation

Senator Janet Rice and Senator David Leyonhjelm discuss the main reasons that Australian farmers have experienced such significant increases in their energy costs; and current debate about insufficient public investment in ICT infrastructure in rural and regional Australia. (more)


> May Insights 2017: Australian agricultural trade and the populism of protectionism

Andrew Broad MP and Cathy McGowan AO MP discuss whether the minor political parties are good for the bush; collaboration key to effective RD&E; the future of energy policy in Australia; and will glyphosate kill you? (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Autumn 2017: The changing agricultural workforce

The Australian farming workforce has changed considerably over recent decades, as mechanisation and technology have been substituted for labour, a specialist farm advisory and service sector has developed, and many low skill on-farm roles have been casualised. The changes that have occurred in agribusiness are no less significant, with the employment of unskilled labour declining in many businesses, and the roles of technical and managerial staff changing as automation and technology advance. (more)


> February Insights 2017: IoT in agriculture – how is it evolving and which policy areas need addressing to facilitate its uptake?

David Lamb from UNE and Tim O’Leary from Telstra discuss digital agriculture and connectivity; unlocking the economic potential of digital agriculture; is your farm business investment ready?; and policy success fails to be newsworthy. (more)


> November Insights 2016: Is the Black Sea a dark cloud over Australia’s grains industry?

Recent research reports from AEGIC examine the grains industry in Ukraine and Russia; main players in what is known as the Black Sea region. Also, Dr Peter Stahle (ADPF) and David Basham (ADF) answer questions about the dairy industry, following a very tumultuous year.(more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Summer 2016: Farm stewardship programs in Australia

The Summer 2016 edition of the Farm Policy Journal contains the two winning essays for the 2016 John Ralph essay competition, plus a selection of other meritorious entries. The topic of the essay competition this year was: Farm environmental stewardship programs are just subsidies in disguise and should not be adopted in Australia.


> Research report: A Review of Farm Funding Models and Business Structures in Australia

Australian farm businesses, unlike farm businesses internationally, continue to rely almost solely on bank debt as their main source of funding, and this reliance is likely to limit the future growth of the sector. The report explores trends in funding and business structures within Australian farming, and examines some of the alternatives to bank debt funding that will likely be required to support the future expansion of the sector.


> November Insights 2016: Is the Black Sea a dark cloud over Australia’s grains industry?

Recent research reports from AEGIC examine the grains industry in Ukraine and Russia; main players in what is known as the Black Sea region. Also, Dr Peter Stahle (ADPF) and David Basham (ADF) answer questions about the dairy industry, following a very tumultuous year.(more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Spring 2016: Can Australia’s biosecurity standards survive in a free trade era?

Biosecurity is at the forefront of Australia’s success as an agricultural exporter. Australia has an enviable biosecurity record due to investment in research, development and biosecurity infrastructure. However, as agricultural trade barriers fall and tourism and travel increases, there is an increased risk of biosecurity breaches in Australia, and these could have a devastating economic impact.


> August Insights 2016: The impact on Australian agriculture of Britain leaving the EU

Jaimie Lovell, NSW Farmers’ Association, and Roger Fletcher, Fletcher International Exports, give their views on the potential of inland rail. Biosecurity risks increase as Australian agriculture moves into premium markets, and beware the statistics in media reports on land clearing. (more)


> Research report: Review of Australian Agriculture's Trade Performance 2016

Trade remains as crucial as ever to the agriculture sector in Australia. Many commodity sectors are strongly dependent on overseas markets and domestic producers continue to seek viable export options. The research, which is the subject of this report, seeks to identify enduring trends in overseas trade and provide guidance to agricultural policy-makers aiming to improve Australia’s agricultural trade performance.


> Farm Policy Journal - Winter 2016: Understanding the value of agricultural land

Factors that affect the demand for, and hence the value of farm land are many and varied, and often poorly understood. Many farmers complain that land values are unsustainable relative to earning capacity, yet existing landholders are often the most aggressive purchasers of additional land. International and corporate investors often seem to place a higher value on farm land than existing landholders, but many question whether these investors ever generate viable returns.


> Research report: The implications of digital agriculture and big data for Australian agriculture

The use of digital agriculture systems enables farmers to change from paddock and herd average management, to square metre and individual animal management, with reported subsequent increases in farm productivity. Gains of the order of 10% to 15% have been recorded in cropping systems.


> May Insights 2016 - Graduate supply for agriculture – a glimmer of hope

David Williams and Tom Howard on the advantages and disadvantages of agricultural cooperatives; danger for agriculture when media can’t tell the difference between ‘advocacy science’ and ‘real science’; an absence of clear targets still hinders the work of many advocacy groups; and enhancing private-sector agricultural RD&E investment in Australia. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Autumn 2016: Switching on farm innovation

A critical challenge for policy-makers and industry leaders is finding ways to reinvigorate innovation and productivity growth, in order for the Australian agriculture sector to remain internationally competitive.


> February Insights 2016 - Some implications of the Paris climate agreement for Australian agriculture

Brent Finlay and John Connor see opportunity for Australian farmers from Paris Conference; the competitiveness of the Australian livestock export industry; research highlights trends in the use of private advisory services by Australian farmers; and productivity is put at risk when marketing values consumer whims over science. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Summer 2015: Australian agriculture, pursuing premium markets or productivity

Contains the two winning entries from the 2015 John Ralph Essay Competition - plus a selection of other meritorious essays, from over 60 entries. This year's topic was: Australian agriculture should forget about the pursuit of productivity, and instead focus on premium markets.


> November Insights 2015: Big data and the future of farming

Also, beef the big mover in Australian agricultural trade; be wary of simplistic indicators of ‘competitiveness’; judging the potential or pitfalls of digital agriculture for Australian farmers; and no case for zero tolerance in Marsh vs Baxter. (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Spring 2015: Will consumers stop agricultural technology?

One of the most perplexing paradoxes of modern life is that consumers will willingly ingest potent mixes of chemicals or submit to analysis by some of the most advanced technological instruments in order to sustain their health, yet baulk at the use of the same technology in the production of the food they consume.


> August Insights 2015: Look over the grain fence: greener on the other side?

Has the Murray-Darling Basin Plan delivered on its promises?; the optimal level of RD&E expenditure for the agriculture sector; and the role of a national brand play in the transition from a plain old commodity exporter to a more innovative consumer product exporter? (more)


> Farm Policy Journal - Winter 2015: Labour matters in Australian agriculture

A range of Australian industry experts address the different matters around farm workforce management


> Research report: Designing balanced and effective animal welfare policies

This research includes a review of national and international animal welfare science and policies. It also covers the current farm-animal welfare policy systems in Australia, including the main stakeholders and the principles which underpin this policy. Three case studies are discussed which expose the confusion and risks inherent in existing farm-animal welfare programs: live cattle exports; supermarket programs; and the role of the competition authority in defining farm-animal welfare in the egg industry.


> Farm Policy Journal - Autumn 2015: From little data big data grow

Will 'Big Data' be the killer of family farming, or the key to its renaissance?


> May Insights 2015: Australian farmers could remain years behind global peers due to NBN delays

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had access to a seamless flow of information via the internet. Whether you worked in a metropolitan area or a remote farming region, the software or data needed to keep your business running efficiently could be downloaded quickly and affordably. (more)


Research report: Review of Australian agriculture’s trade performance

This research aims to assess Australian agriculture’s recent trade performance, in order to gain a perspective of how competitive Australian agricultural products are in international and domestic markets, and just as importantly to assist in identifying factors or policies that may assist Australian agriculture to become more competitive in the future.


> February Insights 2015: Australian agriculture’s never-ending quest for ideal drought policies

Drought policy has vexed Australian policy-makers and farmers for the past 100 years - yet despite seemingly backward steps, there are signs that drought policy reforms are slowly resulting in better outcomes... (more) 


> Summer 2014 Farm Policy Journal: Brand Australia - Does Australian agriculture need a national brand?

Proximity to markets and historical good fortune is no guarantee of future success for Australian agriculture. Entries discuss the need for a common national brand.


> Research reports: Optimising future extension systems in the Australian grains industry

Part 1: Background, literature and demographics of the Australian grain production sector
Part 2: The public and private sector grain advisory systems in Australia
Part 3: International grains extension models and future directions for the Australian grains industry extension system

While much of the focus in recent industry discussion about agriculture has been on the level of investment in research and development, there is now growing awareness that the extension function – the process of communicating research outcomes and encouraging the adoption of innovations – is also of critical importance in improving productivity growth rates.


> November Insights 2014: Time to rethink farmland environmental policies

According to scientists and environmental groups, current environmental policy settings in Australia are inadequate to prevent accelerating and irreparable damage to the environment. Perhaps it’s time to consider a radically different set of policies, and not more of the same.


> Spring 2014 Farm Policy Journal: Setting the score for agricultural competitiveness

Where Australian agriculture stands on the global agricultural competitiveness ranking table depends on how you measure competitiveness, and experts are yet to agree on a ranking system


> August Insights 2014: Australian farm businesses could do better with different funding models

Will a drought of funding be the biggest future challenge for Australian farmers? Christopher Pyne and Kim Carr on whether deregulated uni fees disadvantage agriculture; and eating less meat will not result in less greenhouse emissions, despite official emission accounting numbers 


> Winter 2014 Farm Policy Journal: Can agriculture grow if food processing dies?

Can Australian agriculture really take advantage of growing Asian food demand if the Australian food processing sector continues to decline, and Australia is limited to exporting unprocessed agricultural commodities?


> May Insights 2014: The challenges associated with accelerating agricultural productivity in Australia

In this edition: Jackie Healing and Sharman Stone discuss country of origin labelling; will agriculture attract suitable future capital?; AFI is developing an Australian agricultural trade database; and  the myth of the ageing farmer


> Autumn 2014 Farm Policy Journal: Farmers fare well with better animal welfare

A balanced perspective on an issue needing more facts and less emotion


> Research report: Opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Australian farmers advocacy groups

A comparison of different advocacy groups in the world and in Australia, with a focus on farmers' advocacy groups and the best way they can address current issues


> February Insights 2014: Australia has an open door for foreign investment, but voters hold the keys

Barnaby Joyce and Joel Fitzgibbon provide opinions on the Agriculture White Paper – timely or time waster? Findings on the effectiveness of advocacy groups;  FarmGAS calculator upgrades; and upcoming events 


> November Insights 2013: Australian agricultural R,D&E systems under scrutiny

November Insights includes: an upgrade of the AFI FarmGAS Calculator in the pipeline; research examining agricultural advocacy in Australia; the launch of a Newsroom on the AFI website; and the Hon Brendon Grylls MLA and Senator Rachel Siewert examine northern Australia’s potential as a future food bowl. 


> August Insights 2013: Australia risks missing a big livestock export and animal welfare opportunity

August Insights, finds opportunity for leadership from Australian livestock industries; explores ways for farm lobby groups to improve their effectiveness; and Bill Shorten and Eric Abetz discuss workplace relations and competitiveness in the food processing sector.


> Winter 2013 Farm Policy Journal: Will the Murray-Darling Basin improve with age?

Read the most recent analysis on the future of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan


> May Insights 2013: Does proximity to Asia breed complacency for agricultural trade?

May Insights explores the projected boom in Asian middle-class food demand, and examines CSG facility approvals; transparency in the retail food supply chain; and AFI plans for an online Australian agricultural trade portal.


> Autumn 2013 Farm Policy Journal: Will supermarkets save or enslave agriculture?

Latest research and opinions on the relation between supermarkets and agriculture


> February Insights 2013: Farmers are awesome, but does it matter?

Our February newsletter looks back on last year's ‘Australian Year of the Farmer’, and wonders whether marketers should focus on Aussie farmers or their products? The newsletter also looks at the future of agricultural extension.