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Public investment in agricultural research and development in Australia remains a sensible policy option


  • Mullen, John D.


There is evidence that productivity in Australia’s broadacre agriculture (extensive cropping and livestock industries) has been slowing in the past decade. A series of poor seasons has been partly responsible, but an econometric analysis of structural changes in the trend of total factor productivity (TFP) indicates that stagnant public investment in agricultural R&D has also made a significant contribution to this slowdown in TFP. Related econometric analysis of the returns to public investment in agricultural R&D in the broadacre sector confirms that the rate of return to investment remains high. Despite these findings, a recent enquiry by Australia’s Productivity Commission into the financing of rural research suggests that the public sector may be ‘crowding out’ private sector investment in agricultural R&D and recommends a reduction in public support. In this paper I briefly review the econometric analyses to date and the trends in TFP and public R&D investment. While I have not been able to conclusively test the ‘crowding out’ hypothesis, there seems to be little empirical evidence to prefer this hypothesis to a more traditional ‘market failure’ hypothesis. Clearly, stakeholders in agricultural R&D in Australia have to do a better job in communicating the case for public investment in agricultural R&D. Other developed countries are experiencing the same phenomenon and it may become an issue in the future for developing countries in Asia.

Suggested Citation

  • Mullen, John D., 2011. "Public investment in agricultural research and development in Australia remains a sensible policy option," AFBM Journal, Australasian Farm Business Management Network, vol. 8(2).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:afbmau:122896

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christopher J. O'Donnell, 2010. "Measuring and decomposing agricultural productivity and profitability change ," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 54(4), pages 527-560, October.
    2. Sheng, Yu & Gray, Emily M. & Mullen, John D., 2011. "Public investment in R&D and extension and productivity in Australian broadacre agriculture," 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia 100712, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    3. Sheng, Yu & Mullen, John D. & Zhao, Shiji, 2010. "Has growth in productivity in Australian broadacre agriculture slowed?," 2010 Conference (54th), February 10-12, 2010, Adelaide, Australia 59266, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    4. Hughes, Neal & Lawson, Kenton & Davidson, Alistair & Jackson, Tom & Sheng, Yu, 2011. "Productivity pathways: climate-adjusted production frontiers for the Australian broadacre cropping industry," 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia 100563, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
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